Writing

Modern Mantras in Aged Fiction: Crichton’s Formula for Success

Hidden away in a forty year old (mainstream) fiction novel—a potboiler, a seemingly shallow tale, prime facie—lies the secret formula for life’s success. I almost couldn’t believe it when I read it. It was so simple, so perfect. See, I’ve perused business books and self-help guides, written by CEOs, millionaires and pastors; all these people with too much time on their hands, penning “how to succeed in life.” And I’ve read them, too, because that’s what leaders do. We read books and make mantras and talk about them on our blogs. But the lessons learned in business books often dissipate faster than tweets, and we’re again left with just ourselves, curious and conspiring.

But these two sentences said everything—articulated in a cold, simple language, a language that only Michael Crichton, the master of logical and academic science fiction, could accomplish.

You went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and your instruments, but in the end your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work.

Take a second, and read it again. For me? And take it slow, because these are two damn-good, well-constructed sentences. Drink them like you would an overpriced glass of wine, and when you’re done, close your eyes to impress your friends. (more…)

How I Write Right (or, #ThisThatAndTheOther)

The other day I was asked to participate in a “How I Write” blogroll by my friend Tony from A Way With Words. He wrote a great post called “Brewing a Fine Story: My Writing Process,” and he nominated me to keep the blogroll rolling. Unfortunately, Tony overestimates my ability to keep my word, and I haven’t had any time to appropriately nominate any other writers. Nevertheless, I have highlighted a few writers (at the bottom) without their foreknowledge. Whether they keep this going will be up to them.

SIDE NOTE: Check out their blogs if you can.

In Tony’s blog, I thought he hit the writing process on the head: “1. Read 2. Steal. 3. Repeat.” I’m tempted to just stop there. But I won’t because research suggests you’re willing to read up to 500 words. So I’m going to write 600 and cut 100 out. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Kevin’s Awesome Writing Knowhow Process for Blog Domination

When it comes to short story and fiction, I’m still very much finding my groove. And let’s be honest, no one wants to see my groove. Below is an ordered list that reflects my nonfiction writing process.

For my blog, there are two writing tracks: a) Inspired b) Needful

Inspired

1. An idea hits me from one of many sources (e.g., my wife’s wisdom, a recent life experience, any time I’m in church, a bat in my bedroom)

2. If I can’t write it in the moment, I’ll put a note in my iPhone Notes app

3. As soon as I can, I’ll jump on the computer at home and write directly in to WordPress

4. Though I wish I could say I wrote without stopping and saved the editing for the second draft, I just simply don’t. I go line by line. It takes forever. However, if I’m inspired, I usually can’t stop writing, and the best stuff rarely requires much tinkering. (more…)

Smorgasblog—My 200th Post!

Well, well, well. What do we have here? Blog number 200? Watch out, The Simpsons.

Bloggers who post everyday probably hit 200 in their sleep, but for part-time posters like myself, I like to pause and reflect upon arbitrary three-digit milestones.

(Pausing…)

Mmmm. Nice, isn’t it?

(Still pausing…)

*Checks watch*

I think that’s enough pausing.

When I last hit an arbitrary three-digit milestone, I was living in California, working for a music education company, enjoying citrus off the tree, and smiling a lot. Since then, my wife and I have abandoned familiarity in favor of fundamental, paradigm shifting change. We traveled the country and moved to upstate New York; we were attacked by an evil bat in the middle of the night; my face froze off due to something called Polar Vortex; I wrote a play which won an award; we broke veg to eat haggis. It’s been good and bad.

Forward!

And so life goes. Personally, I’m still figuring out what the hell my life is all about–and further, as an extension, what this blog is all about.  (more…)

Famous Writers in Hell, a recap

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Famous Writers in Hell, a one-act play I wrote and submitted to the 16th Annual Rochester One-Act Festival. What an experience! I’ve said this so many times now it sounds cliche, but there is no stranger (or awesomer) experience than seeing written characters come to life.

The festival was written, directed, and produced entirely by University of Rochester students. The quality of production and acting was to be a surprise to me, being unfamiliar with UR theater besides one performance. I had no idea what to expect! Just to be safe, in the months prior to the festival, I convinced myself everything would be awful and that I should prepare for the worst.

“Probably be poopy!” I would say. Or, “Oh yeah, that’s coming up?”

Also, I thought it best to stay away from the production team as much as possible. The director seemed both capable and passionate; besides, I wanted to see someone else’s interpretation. Since I’m busier than a vacant badger, it wasn’t very hard to keep my distance. I’m glad I did. The surprise of the performance was an experience I doubt I’ll soon (if ever) forget.  (more…)

5 Lessons for the Workshop Writer

Now, my darlings, a quick lesson on workshopping. Every writer must seek feedback on his or her work. It’s imperative. Thirty minutes in a workshop table can fuel you for an entire week. Don’t accept the adage of “All work and no play make Johnny a dull boy,”—a writer by himself going crazy from the lonely craft. Writing is, or should be, a team effort.

Last semester I had a playwright workshop course; currently, I’m in a short story workshop. Because I’m nice, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. You’re welcome, America (and possibly Croatia).

Fair Warning: This blog post was not workshopped. I know, I know.

Here’s my top 5 lessons from the workshop table.

1) Prepare for the worst. Sorry, but your first draft wasn’t perfect. Embrace what’s coming. Get into the habit of looking forward to the edits. (Edits are your friends. They take you to new places and introduce you to new things.)  (more…)

Becoming a Playwright, Old Moldwarp

Good news, friends! My play, “Famous Writer is Hell” was selected and will be performed at the 16th Annual Rochester One-Act Festival. Woot! The play is about, as you can imagine, famous writers in hell. For their eternal punishment, Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Plato are forced to listen to undergrads misinterpret their great works. Insanity ensues.

“Famous Writers” was technically my first complete play. I thought the idea was pretty good, so I ran with it. I used every resource I had to refine the play, and in the end, my characters will come to life on stage. Pretty neat.

This achievement is especially gratifying considering that, last year, after my first playwright class, I came home terrified, insecure, and intimidated. The level of writing ability my classmates exhibited was well beyond my own. To quote myself, “Crap. I have some work to do.”

But if I’ve learned anything since moving to Rochester (other than how to keep the Polar Vortex from freezing your face off), it’s that good things happen when creative people surround themselves with other creative and more talented people.

Challenges emerge. Feedback fosters. Inspiration happens.

There’s a stigma of loneliness attached to writing: a lonely dark road, a closet with desk, just sit down and give yourself to the loneliness. Give me a break. Writing doesn’t need to be that way! Creative communities, I think, should be emphasized more in writing curriculums. These last few months, the workshopping and feedback processes have been just as key as the actual writing and editing part.

SIDE NOTE: All this said, I usually only write when I’m by myself. Writing, however, should never act as an excuse for loneliness, but as a motivator to experience life. (more…)