And for an interesting assessment of TG's opinion of the Vachss book, read the comment section at the end of the blog.
Friday, November 27, 2009
And for an interesting assessment of TG's opinion of the Vachss book, read the comment section at the end of the blog.
Friday, November 20, 2009
(And click on the comments to hear what other writers have to say.)
I cheerfully admit that I have a lot of hate. It keeps me going. We all draw our strength and creativity from somewhere. I get mine from anger. (Also from absurdity, but that’s a different story.)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split." Kurt Vonnegut
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Commentor writer-maven Marlene chimes in with a few more writing pet peeves. TG was relieved to have passed muster (to measure up to a particular standard) when correcting his mistake with the passive voice in the original Robert's rules blog, which can be found two down from this one. Let's hear from Marlene.
“Ouch, Marlene! But you are quite right, and TG hangs his head in shame. It should have been: “Robert, write in if you feel wronged..., Others, send us your tips..." At least I think that's correct. Marlene?”
“Yes, you are correct! In the interest of credibility, I should mention that I too am a professional writer, and also teach writing to college journalism students.
They get tired of my constant hammering about the passive voice and other favorite nit-picks, such as:
- don't use ``over'' and ``under'' when you mean ``more than'' or ``less (or ``fewer'') than''
- don't use ``that'' when you mean ``who''
- don't use nouns as verbs (such as ``impact,'' or ``network.'')
I know much of the above is quickly becoming common usage (as my students so often tell me) and eventually may become acceptable. But it still is not acceptable in my classroom - or in my own copy! (if I can help it.)
Having recently completed a graduate degree, I became crazed with the frequent use of passive voice (as well as the use of first person) in academic scholarship. (A decades-long career in newspaper journalism made me sensitive to both.) I vowed to respect syntax in my own dissertation, while striving to make it reader-friendly. It was quite a challenge! I could go on and on about academic writing - but that is for another day, and another (non-thriller topic) blog.
OK, Marlene, rest assured that TG will never agin use the passive voice. Listen up, thrillerwriters, think about it, what place does “passive” have in our work? None, exactly. Oh, and Marlene, lets watch the overuse of the exclamation point!
So let us bid a fond goodbye to writers tips and usage. At least until someone else out there sends in their very own favorite peeve.
Oh, what the hell, TG can't resist one more rule from Robert. This one is about those morons you see in Starbucks, the ones with their laptops, writing away, or whatever the hell they're doing. Here's Robert...
“Starbucks is where writers who want to be seen in the act of creation go, who treat writing as if it were some sort of performance art. They want to be admired, they want to be soothed by the ambient noise and the occasional glance from an attractive patron. They want to be asked, “What are you working on?” so they can sit back and talk about it.
When if they really and truly wanted to be undisturbed they'd stay home in the first place, make a cup of Folger's instant (for about a nickel) and concentrate.
I know the problem. I know the temptation. Nobody wants to lock himself up in a room and write. Neither do I. Most days I trudge into my office like a guy on a chain gang. It's lonely in there – even the dog goes downstairs. And it's scary – I know I'll have no one to amuse me but me, and what if I can't think of anything all that good? Sometimes, at a total loss, I just stare out the window at the guy in the apartment across the way, he's got a plasma screen TV the size of a picnic table, but lately, I've noticed, he's taken to lowering his blinds.
Still, it's in my own little office that the actual writing gets done.
In solitude. In silence. With no cappuccino machine in sight.
And no living witnesses to the act of creation.
When I go to Starbucks it's to reward myself for doing a good day's work.
Never mistake Starbucks for your office – and leave your laptop at home.”
We've all seen these people. OK, confession time. Once TG decided to take his laptop to the coffee shop and give it a try. I mean, it looks so cool to be working away while hogging a table. It was ridiculous. Too much noise, too many distractions... well, Robert has already said it better.
If anyone has written anything decent while sitting at a Starbucks, TG would like to hear about it. Chime in. We promise to be open minded. Really.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Several comments have come in concerning the entry directly below (if you haven't read the entry, shame!) concerning Robert Masello's clever little book, Robert's Rules of Writing. TG has found that most folks don't bother to click on the comments button at the end of each piece, so we'll address these issues here.
First of all, Mr. Masello has learned that TG has been talking about him, and sent the following:
"I'd like to express my gratitude to the Thriller Guy for the fantastic, and unexpected, plug of Robert's Rules of Writing. But TG -- you are too kind. While I do meet my deadlines and write everyday, I have refused to take on some work, and I do bitch from time to time. (Ask my wife.) Once or twice, I turned down jobs ghost-writing books for obvious charlatans (one of whom claimed to be the head of an institute, which was, in fact, her empty storage shed) and on another occasion, I passed on writing a roll of toilet paper -- each sheet was to offer its own very brief anecdote. Even then (I think I was twenty-two) I considered myself above such stuff and hoped to preserve my name for later fame.
“As for the bitching . . . if there's a writer who doesn't, I haven't met him or her. (Nor, in all probability, would I want to.) If a writer's career has gone that smoothly, and if he or she is above sniping, moaning, quibbling and cursing, then that writer is far too good to know the likes of me."
You misunderstood, Robert, TG meant that you seemed to be a guy who didn't bitch to those who have hired you to do a piece of writing. Those of us who are continually scrabbling around for writing gigs know that the client may not be right, but if he/she is giving notes on a piece that he/she is paying for, a real working writer should smile politely and then do anything he/she can do to either address the client's concerns or trick the client into thinking their concerns have been addressed. In other words, shut up and rewrite the piece. As for regular writer bitching, well, have at it. TG is known for bitching about the writing life and encourages anyone else who has a peeve or gripe to send 'em in and we'll all join in the fray. (Say, Robert, just between you and TG, do you still have the address for that toilet paper gig?)
Another commenter, eagle-eyed Marlene writes:
“TG wrote: “Robert is encouraged to write in if he feels wronged or abused in any way. Other writers are encouraged...”
First writing rule for TG and everyone else: Never write in the passive voice!”
Ouch, Marlene! But you are quite right, and TG hangs his head in shame. It should have been: “Robert, write in if you feel wronged..., Others, send us your tips..." At least I think that's correct. Marlene?
A good discussion of passive voice can be found here.
In short, don't use any form of the pesky “to be” (is, was, are, am, were, etc.) followed by a past participle, unless you want Marlene on your ass, pronto.
And this in from Anonymous: “I hate to say this, but regarding rule #2: Pen pals? That's so old school. Isn't that just an old-fashioned reference to what's now referred to as "blogs"? Aren't you just writing to all your "friendly pen pals" out in the ethernet?”
Hmmmm. I think there's something of a disconnect here, and yet Anonymous makes an interesting point. If I can speak for Robert, (Robert, if you're out there, feel free to speak for yourself.) Robert's Rules ( at least it seems to me) are structured so that the tips sort of start from a new writer's beginning efforts and work toward a new writer's finished product. Many times when fledgling writers (they're so cute) gather at TG's knee, they always ask some variation of that eternal question: “Where do you get your ideas, sir?” By which they mean where do you get your ideas so they can go there and get some ideas of their own. Robert is suggesting when he says write a pen pal, that one should write someone they like about something that has happened to them, or something that they are interested in, and by doing so they can find themselves a subject that might be interesting for them to write about in other venues.
So lighten up, Anonymous!
But there is the interesting point Anonymous brings up about bloggers. When blogging, one writes, in a public way, about things that one is interested in. And by extension, doing so would point up themes that the blogger might exploit for more economic outlets. (Anyone out there have any tips how TG could make some money off this blog? Advertisers are welcomed.) We've all read stories about how various bloggers have been able to expand their blogs into published books. Robert Masello, when you write the next edition of your Rules will you include blogging in some way?
And to answer Anonymous's snarky question, “Aren't you just writing to all your “friendly pen pals” out in the ethernet?”
I certainly hope so.
Monday, November 2, 2009
TG was in a bookstore the other day and a small table with four books in stacks caught his eye. They were books on the craft of writing. These self help writing books are of great interest to TG, who owns a large collection of them from the standards in the genre: Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction, by Robyn Carr, Writing the Block Buster Novel by Al Zuckerman, to a host of lesser known examples, some of them hauntingly obscure. TG always counsels those youngsters that gather at his knee, asking their inevitabele question, “I want to be a famous writer, sir. How do I write a book?” The answer is always some variable of the following: “Sit down and start, write two pages every day, and obtain by any method all of the how-to-write books you can find . You'll learn at least one thing from each of them. Add up all those one things and you'll have a store of useful knowledge.”
One of the most valuable of these books is Robert Masello's, Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know. Masello is the author of many books, articles, screenplays and scripts. He fits TG's definition of a Real Writer: a guy who takes on any kind of write-for-hire work, (well, maybe not every kind) does a professional job, rewrites to specification without bitching, turns everything in on time or before, is always pleasant to clients, never throws hissy fits or acts superior or pretends to be “Literary.” TG can't abide writers who act Literary. He's also the author of the very fine, highly recommended, recent thriller/horror novel, Blood and Ice.
There are a number of reasons why Robert's Rules is a valuable writing aid, among them three stand out: it's short, it's funny, and Masello cuts through a lot of bullshit. Each rule gets a couple of pages, max, which is all you really need. TG contacted Robert and asked for permission to feature a few rules in a semi-irregular series of blogs. He, being a pleasant fellow, agreed. What he probably didn't know, because TG neglected to mention it, was that in discussing the Rules TG will shorten them and chime in with comments, Agreeing, Disagreeing, or some variation therein. Robert is encouraged to write in if he feels wronged or abused in any way. Other writers are encouraged to comment on Robert's Rules, TG's Rules, or offer any of their own Rules.
Since it would take many years to work our way, irregularly, through Masello's 101 Rules, readers are encouraged to click on the title of the book above or buy it here from Amazon. Or any other bookstore. Sit down, read it straight through and get to work on your writing. That's the point, isn't it?
Robert's Rule #1: Burn your journal. “Writing in a journal is just a stall, a waiting game, a way to tell yourself that you're working when you're not, that you're doing something of value when you're just using up paper, that you're a writer when if fact you're just going through the motions of one. Look at me! I have blank paper in front of me –and now I'm filling it with words!
Thriller Guy loves this rule and wholeheartedly Agrees. And would expand it by advising that you throw out books that encourage you to fill out any workbooks that the author has included or is selling as an adjunct. They're just trying to make extra money or pad out a too-short book. Writing time is valuable, don't waste it on pointless exercises.
Robert's Rule #2: Get a Pen Pal. “Instead of writing the stream-of-consciousness twaddle that generally fills those blank pages [of a journal] do this instead – write a letter to a friend.”
Thriller Guy Agrees, with some reservations. Robert goes on to explain that writing to a friend puts you in touch with your ideal audience and at the same time tells you what you're interested in writing about. “Are you ranting about the next-door neighbors? Are you seeking comfort for a broken heart? Are you telling a funny story about the perfectly awful job interview you just went on? Whatever it is, that's what you're thinking about, that's what's on your mind. And if you wanted to, that's what you could be writing about for others too – the broken-heart story might be right for a woman's magazine, the dismal job interview could work as a humor piece for the local paper, the rotten neighbors could be characters in a screenplay.”
TG would add that if you already know what you're interested in writing and have established your “voice,” the style in which you want to write, skip the letter and move straight to the work itself.
How about it Robert? If you're out there: Agree or Disagree?