A Million Words a Year

…that’s roughly the rate that the incredibly prolific James Reasoner is writing. Amazing. On his blog today, he notes that in 2005 he published 13 books (under six different names) and wrote 14 books, which translates to 5524 pages and 1.1. million words. But this isn’t even his personal best. That was back in 1998, when he had 14 books published.

I sometimes hesitate to talk about how much I’ve written because some people always think that if something is written fast, it can’t be any good. My theory is that all
writing is words on paper, and if the right words are on the paper, it doesn’t really matter how they got there.

Amen to that, my friend.
By the way, in that same post, he kindly lists my book as one of his ten best reads of the year. I am honored.

Wisdom from MacDonald

To celebrate the new year, novelist Alison Kent posts an excerpt from John D. MacDonald’s terrific introduction to Stephen King’s NIGHTSHIFT. The introduction is full of great advice for writers. Here’s a tiny bit:

Story is something happening to someone you have been led to care
about. It can happen in any dimension -physical, mental, spiritual –
and in combinations of those dimensions.

Without author intrusion.

Author intrusion is: ‘My God, Mama, look how nice I’m writing!’

Another
kind of intrusion is a grotesquerie. Here is one of my favourites,
culled from a Big Best Seller of yesteryear: ‘His eyes slid down the
front of her dress.’

Author intrusion is a phrase so inept the
reader suddenly realizes he is reading, and he backs out of the story.
He is shocked back out of the story.

Another author intrusion is the mini-lecture embedded in the story. This is one of my most grievous failings.

TV: The Last Hope for Dying Franchises?

The release of the flop WALKING TALL TV series on DVD got me wondering about something…maybe you can help me. 

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an instance where a theatrical franchise (ie a series of films) that has played itself out on the big screen has successful re-invigorated itself on TV.  PLANET OF THE APES, SHAFT, WALKING TALL, GIDGET, and POLICE ACADEMY, for example, all failed as TV series, lasting a season or less (SHAFT and WALKING TALL even had the stars of the movies in the series). Even TV series based on busted franchises in name only, like  NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13th, also tanked.  Can you think of a movie franchise that successfully made the transition to TV and found a second life?

The only one that comes to mind is INDIANA JONES, but even that doesn’t count. The INDIANA JONES franchise hadn’t played itself out and wasn’t going to TV for one, last-gasp chance at resurrection. THE SAINT, TARZAN, LASSIE and THE LONE RANGER were all a series of movies before jumping to TV, yet I don’t think they were really direct continuations of the theatrical franchises…though I could be wrong.

When It All Comes Together

I came up with my story for Bob Randisi’s new anthology at the oddest time and the oddest place. I was getting a haircut, tuning out the incessant yammering of the lady cutting my hair, when all the pieces that had been swirling around in my head finally clicked together — my experience in traffic school the other day, a newspaper article I clipped six months ago, a scene from a story I never wrote, a bit I saw on Court TV some time back, and my curiosity about the life of  a guy I see on public access TV. Suddenly, in about two minutes, I had my story. Today I am off with a notepad and a digital camera to do some "location sc0uting" for the story, I’ll do some googling for some facts I need,  and then I’ll start writing it. I want to get it done before I start writing the third MONK book next week.

UPDATE: I got back around noon, copied my photos to my hard-drive, then spent an hour or so on Google, looking up facts on different subjects. I also emailed an "expert" in a particular field for some additional background info. I’ve just finished up a one-page, bullet-point outline for myself — not that I’ll necessarily stick to it, but so I have a road-map in case I have to set the story aside for some reason over the next few days to work on something else.

Now it’s time to procrastinate — which is why I’m updating this post — and then start writing.

Movie Hell

My wife dragged me to RUMOR HAS IT tonight. It’s the first time in ages I’ve seen a movie on a Friday night (usually I see bargain matinees or, during the holidays, get in free with my WGA card). Now I know why the movie business is in trouble.

Let’s talk about the theatre experience first. The movie tickets were $20. The popcorn and drink were $10 (we shared). That’s $30.  You can rent a DVD for $3 or buy one for $18…or wait until it shows up on HBO or Showtime.  I was gouged and I didn’t like it. But hey, you can’t beat the movie-going experience…the big screen, the stadium theatre, and the great sound. Like hell.

My local stadium theatre is one of the crown jewels of the Regal chain. The theatre was packed. The film was scratched (and it’s only been out a week) and the screen was stained. The woman next to me passed gas, coughed, and sneezed her way through the entire movie. The couple in front of me wouldn’t shut-the-fuck-up, even though I asked them politely, and then not so politely, to please shut-the-fuck-up.

Let’s talk about the movie. I can’t remember seeing a movie with so many matching errors. Nothing matched from master to coverage. His hand are around the cup in the master, not in the closeup. She’s got her arms crossed under her chest in the coverage, not in the master. The couple is sitting behind them in the master, not in the coverage. We’re over Shirley MacLaine’s shoulder and she’s talking but her mouth isn’t moving. AHHHHHH!  Perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed the unbelievable number of continuity and other matching gaffs if the movie wasn’t so dull. Shirley MacLaine was wonderful, and over-the-top, and cartoonish — but whenever she wasn’t on screen, the movie died.

I couldn’t wait to leave the theatre… and get away from the flatulent germ bag next to me, the loudmouth couple in front of me, and the over-priced popcorn and coke and the movie itself. Why pay $30 for that experience? Buying or renting a DVD, making my own bowl of popcorn, and buying my own coke, sitting in the comfort of my own home, suddenly seems like paradise.

Now before you write me off as a curmudgeon, I like going to movies. Or I did. But more and more often, the experience is like the one I had tonight.

Looking for the Short Cut

Screenwriter Paul Guyot offers some great advice for aspiring writers for the new year:

A huge problem I see with people wanting to write for a living – more
screenwriters than prose for some reason – is that they are so
completely focused on getting an agent, or getting their script to a
producer or studio, or dreaming of that one spec sale that will solve
all their troubles, that they don’t spend any energy on becoming a good
writer.

…Try something new this year. Just for 6 months. Forget completely
about trying to get your scripts or books to agents or producers, or
trying to enter contests, or suck up to the rich producer/editor at the
party, or meet the "right" people.

And just concentrate on your writing. Making it better. I promise
you, on my granny’s grave, that your writing can be improved upon. That
script that you think you can’t do any more with – it can be better.
That manuscript you’ve tweak four or five times and think is your best
work ever – it can be better.

He gave this advice, and a whole lot more, in response to a question from a reader of his excellent blog. That reader didn’t take the advice very well and, basically, told him to go fuck himself, essentially underscoring the point Paul was trying to make. The reader thinks he’s owed a career simply because he can type stories in screenplay format — he hasn’t grasped the concept that being able to write actually counts, too.

But this attitude isn’t limited to screenwriters — you see it a lot with aspiring novelists who, rather than hone their craft, send their half-baked manuscripts and checks to iUniverse, lulu, and the like and expect this will lead to being a bestselling author. Too many aspiring writers these days are looking for short-cuts to success, a way to avoid all the hard work and rejection,  and there simply aren’t any.

1-800-Golddigger

Torispellingdownpants
Back when I was doing MISSING, and it was still called 1-800-MISSING and starred Gloria Reuben, Dean McDermott was one of the stars. I liked him. I thought he was a nice guy. And he was close friends with the two writers who created the show. But one of female story editors got an immediate, bad vibe from him.

"He’s a sleazebag," she said.

I was shocked. "Did he say or do something that offended you?"

"No, but I’m telling you, he’s sleaze.  Scuminess radiates off of him. He’s going to cheat on his wife and run away with her money or something."

I shrugged off her comments as ridiculous. Well, it turns out she was mostly right. A few months later, Dean dumped his wife (Canadian TV personality Mary Jo Eustace, the mother of his 7-year-old son and his recently adopted baby daughter) and ran off with Tori Spelling, who he met on a TV movie.  Dean and Tori got engaged over Christmas.

Obviously, my friend’s sleaze radar is stunningly accurate. I may bring her along to every network or studio meeting I have from now on.

Hot Sex, Gory Violence

Newsweek published this My Turn essay of mine back in mid-1980s, while I was still a college student and writing books as "Ian Ludlow."  I stumbled across the essay again today and thought you might enjoy it:

HOT
SEX, GORY VIOLENCE

How
One Student Earns Course Credit and Pays Tuition

My name is Ian Ludlow. Well, not really. But that’s the name on my four ".357 Vigilante" adventures that Pinnacle Books will publish this spring. Most of
the time I’m Lee Goldberg, a mild mannered UCLA senior majoring in mass communications and trying to spark a writing career at the same time. It’s hard work. I haven’t quite achieved a balance between my dual identities of college student and hack novelist.

The adventures of Mr. Jury, a vigilante into doing the LAPD’s dirty work,  are often created in the wee hours of the night, when I should be studying, meeting my freelance-article deadlines or, better yet, sleeping. More often than not, my nocturnal writing spills over into my classes the next morning. Brutal fistfights, hot sexual encounters and gory violence are frequently scrawled
across my anthropology notes or written amid my professor’s insights on Whorf’s hypothesis. Students sitting next to me who glance at my lecture notes are shocked to see notations like "Don’t move, scumbag, or I’ll wallpaper the room with your brains.

Vigilante1
I once wrote a pivotal rape scene during one of my legal-communications classes, and I’m sure the girl who sat next to me thought I was a psychopath. During the first half of the lecture, she kept looking with wide eyes from my notes to my face as if my nose were melting onto my binder or something. At the break she disappeared, and I didn’t see her again the rest of the quarter. My professors,  though, seem pleased to see me sitting in the back of the classroom writing furiously. I guess they think I’m hanging on their every word. They’re wrong.

I’ve tried to lessen the strain between my conflicting identities by marrying the
two. Through the English department, I’m getting academic credit for the books. That amazes my Grandpa Cy, who can’t believe there’s a university crazy enough to reward me for writing "lots of filth." The truth is, it’s writing and it’s learning, and it’s getting me somewhere. Just where, I’m not
sure. My Grandpa Cy thinks it’s going to get me the realization I should join him in the furniture
business.

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