Here is a quote attributed 1 to the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky (“Solaris”, “Stalker”, “The Mirror”):
“An artist will never, ever have ideal conditions to create, so don’t ever expect them.”
Do you believe that you need ideal conditions to create?
I know I fall victim of that fallacy every now and then. Surprisingly, I also realized that the times when I feel less inspired, or less motivated to write, I end up with some really good ideas if I only force myself to just write.
By forcing yourself to write when it feels most uncomfortable, you will push against those barriers in your minds that block your progress. Use that resistance as creative juice and push forward.
Here is Tarkovsky’s full quote extracted from the documentary “A Poet in Cinema”:
“An artist never works under ideal conditions. If they existed, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist. The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”
As I write my first book and look at all the work ahead, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. When my motivation goes down, what works best for me is to answer the question: Why do I want to write?
In my case there are two clear reasons:
So that’s it in a nutshell for me. When I’m low in motivation I remind myself that I have to work like as pro if I want to be a pro, and that there is value in sharing my ideas and experiences.
So, what is you’re motivation? What is the driving force for your work? What is at the core of your desire to write and create? If you know it, congratulations. If you don’t, think about it, write it down and come back to it whenever you need that extra push to keep you going.
This is the first book I read about screenwriting. You would think that an advanced book is probably not the best place to start but this one book was very accessible. You don’t always get your first choice when shopping in used bookstores, but sometimes you discover gems you weren’t expecting.
Advanced Screenwriting is a book for experienced writers as well as novices. It skips over the very basics and covers topics that are specific to screenwriting. Most of the ideas are covered in short chapters and require little background. Despite not having read other books on the topic I was able to follow along everything. It probably helps that I have read other writing books, specially on the topic of the hero’s journey.
Screenwriting books focus strongly on structure and plot, character development, not so much on writing style. After all only dialog may survive rewrites during filming. Structure is one of my main tools as a way of communicating ideas. My favorite topics covered theme (one of the things I found most attractive about writing), opening scenes, sensory references, etc.
This book is great about discussing ideas and showing examples. Moreover, since the examples are movies as opposed to books, they can be covered more quickly, they are more universally known by most audiences and are easy/quick to research if one needs a refresher.
I’m fully convinced that learning screenwriting will be a great way to expand my knowledge of writing by focusing on the areas I know I am stronger at (themes, plotting, symbolism, ideas, etc)
Just to finalize, one other highlight of this book (and likely of many screenwriting manuals) is the focus on writing a story that’s accessible and that pulls the reader along. If your story doesn’t generate interest in the audience, they won’t follow along. Successful writing is not about Art, it’s about Storytelling.
Gene Doucette on publishers marketing their dwindling ebook sales—caused by their prizing strategies—as a positive sign:
It should come as very little surprise to you that after jacking up the prices of their ebooks at the start of 2015, the Big 5 sold fewer ebooks.
Now here’s the fun part, the part that just makes me shake my head and giggle and wonder how I can live in such extraordinary times. After six months of depressed ebook sales, the Big 5 announced that the ebook market was slowing down.
Not: “we priced ourselves out of the market and stopped selling as many books”. No no no. The ebook market! Is slowing down!
This was celebrated!
–The collective madness of the publishing industry
An different look at novels that highlights their particular composition (eg: dialog vs exposition):
Here is a comparison of some other books — notice how large a break A Farewell To Arms was from the past. There almost no commas, just sentences, dialogue. How refreshing and wild that must have been! Look at how spartan Blood Meridian is compared to everything. Pay attention to the semicolons which seem to have disappeared from writing.
—Punctuation in novels
Lindsey Brouker, who has published excellent advice on launching a new pen name from scratch, writes the following about earning figures and the opportunity for independent authors.
The good news is that you don’t need to be anywhere within sniffing distance of the Top 100 on Amazon to make good money. Really good money.
If you find an indie author who has several full-priced ebooks (not 99 cents) in a series under a 10,000 sales ranking on Amazon, and they’re there consistently from month to month, that author is probably going to clear six figures this year. The more books you have out (that are selling at least moderately well), the easier it is to make that kind of money.
—Lindsey Brouker: Are There Really “Secrets” to Self-Publishing Success?
Lindsey shares the 101 of succeeding in the publishing market today:
I’m going to assume you’ve already read blogs and forums or have listened to podcasts and know the basics: write in a series, have awesome cover art, have a blurb that appeals to the target audience, have entertaining and well-edited stories, and pay attention to what’s working right now in the marketing world.
Lindsey also adds to the list developing your own voice, publishing consistently and marketing your books. As she puts it “your six-figure (and more) indie authors of today are people who have been publishing the kinds of books their readers want regularly for years.”
Writing Science Fiction And Fantasy is a little book of 200 pages and an ugly cover that truly took me by surprise. The lessons in the book go straight to the point and are founded on literary theory and criticism (Northrop Frye, Joseph Campbell, etc). Crawford Kilian’s writing is accessible and entertaining, as well as direct and clear.
The first part of the book “Knowing your genre”, it’s mostly needed for those not familiar with Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. I learnt about Connecticut Yankee the genre.
The second part really got my full attention and won me over: “The Craft of Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy”. Killian covers every aspect of how to engineer a story. Notice I say “engineer” because his approach is very methodical covering all aspects of storytelling without leaving anything to chance. He is also aware that rules as meant to be broken, but only after you know, understand and master them. In this second part he covers: plot structure, scene building, story arch, character archetypes, etc, etc.
The book focuses particularly on the symbolism of writing and the importance of every piece of the plot (characters, location, etc) as supporting element for the main topic of the story. Repeatedly Killian encourages the writer to thing what the story is about, and to echo those ideas in every segment of writing.
The last part might be less relevant for independent writers today since it focuses on traditional publishing (mass market, trade paperback, etc). This book was originally published in 1998 (although this edition was from 2007), so it makes sense that it doesn’t cover self-publishing or ebooks.
Overall a great book for analytical minds, writer who like to plan ahead, and those who appreciate the subtleties of symbolism and connotations in writing.