(Note: This opinion/rant is from an incomplete “reading”. I’m not done. You can say more accurately that I’m reviewing the first 2 chapters for now.)
I’ve come to notice that I do better in my writing when I focus my thoughts on writing. Right now I do this by listening to writing podcasts (as you know, I’m a big fan of Mur Lafferty’s ‘I should be writing’ and Writing Excuses. If you aren’t listening to them yet, go! Go listen! This post will be here when you get back.). I’ve looked around at a few more but none really do anything for me and some are downright atrocious and very monotone.
It goes to show, writers do not always make the best speakers.
I have a substantial commute (almost 2 hours daily) to listen to these podcasts, but Writing Excuses is once a week and 15 minutes long while ISBW is anywhere from 20-30 minutes to an hour and also just over once a week.
That’s a lot of dead time I fill with just music. I’ve come to notice that while I enjoy music, on those days where I don’t listen to those podcasts (or really read anything interesting that’s related to writing) I tend not to write at all.
This is not good.
So I caved and decided to give Audible.com a try
For the few who don’t know, Audible.com is an audio book service. You sign up and either just buy the books you want or get a relatively cheap subscription which basically lets you get a free book monthly. Since books can be anywhere from 10 bucks to 30-40 bucks, this can save you some money. They also have a 30 day free trial which means you get a free book of your choice. You choose and download and that’s it. Easy.
(Note: Dad, if you read this, go check it out.)
So I figured, if I can’t have writing podcasts on a daily basis, I’ll see if I can download books that are writing related (Stephen King’s On Writing is available and I might pick it up next).
The one quibble I have is the iPhone interface is clunky to navigate and browse for new books. It’s a minor thing. I also can’t download them at work, which sucks if I’m stuck.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see “The Successful Novelist” by David Morrell come up in my search. I wasn’t previously aware of the book, but I know David Morrell.
David Morrell is the author of “First Blood” which gave birth to the Rambo franchise. Now, make fun of the movies all you want, “First Blood” was well written. He’s also written another book I’ve quite enjoyed called “Fraternity of the Stone”. It’s your basic action/thriller type of stuff.
So I chose that as my free book and after fiddling about and downloading, I started to listen yesterday and so far I have to say, I’m thoroughly disappointed.
The narration wasn’t my cup of tea, so I might keep an eye out if anything I’m interested in lists Patrick Lawlor. He’s not terrible, but the folksy reading voice isn’t doing it for me.
The first chapter is Mr Morrell’s background, this was mildly interesting but frankly, it didn’t grab me. It’s your basic disenfranchised boy makes good by working hard and having inspiration. I congratulate him on his success, but I failed to be interested. This isn’t because it’s badly written, it’s mostly me and my mood. I was eager to get to the writing discussions. Mr Morrell has experience has an english professor and has given many seminars on writing and taught workshops, so I was eager.
The second chapter, ah, here’s where we’re going to start right? He wants to discuss motivations. The second chapter is called “Lesson One: Why do you want to be a writer” and I groaned.
In my opinion it’s complete and utter crap. He begins with a story example in one of his many classes where he asks this question of his students: “Why do you want to be a writer?”
Of course, the right answer is “because you need to be” that’s fine. Debatable, true in many cases, but it’s fine.
In the next chapter he then goes on about the WHY do you need to be a writer and borderline pontificate on why you SHOULD need to be a writer. According to Mr Morrell it’s all about trauma. That’s the end all be all of writing according to this lesson, trauma. He was traumatized in his youth because his father died before he was born, in WWII and his writing is his way of coming to terms with this. Hemingway was a great writer because he was wounded in WWII and had PTSD. Writers need to write because they have secrets they need to tell about themselves even if they do not know it, therefore, to write, you should have trauma. He pulls out the old tired anecdote that Hemingway once told an interviewer that a wannabe writer should go and hang himself so he’d have something to write about. There’s also some talk about experiencing your unconscious and how you have no control but that it’s your “inner writer” and allowing yourself to daydream (both nice and dark daydreams).
Oh bullshit. Are you trying to tell me because someone’s parents didn’t die when they were kids or they haven’t been in a major accident or been diddled by a stranger as a toddler they can’t write?
Are you seriously telling me I can’t be a writer because I’m NOT the goddamn Batman?
If this is true, I’m very impressed because there’s a lot of friggin Batmans in the world…so why is crime still around? Oh yeah, they’re writing instead of putting on the tights.
He even goes so far to suggest that those of us who want to write but have no admitted traumas have them, we just don’t realize we have them.
Look folks, trauma is fine and dandy if you want to write. If you have PTSD and writing helps you work out your demons, that’s awesome.
Is it essential to write? Heck no. It’s not even the best reason to write in my opinion! What about the joys of storytelling? What about wanting to be heard? A writer could have a desire to say something, anything at all without having been traumatized first.
I love writing, I love telling stories and having people enjoy them. I want to move someone with what I write the way Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss moved me when I was a teen and I first read the Dragonlance novels.
I assure you fine readers that my parents are still very much alive and well (they are some of my readers) and that no one abused me as a child.
Although there was that one time I didn’t get that present I wanted for Christmas.
Damn…maybe I am a writer. Heh.
Anyway, I really enjoyed David Morrell’s novels, but I think he’s mostly full of it so far as to the motivations for people wanting to write. I have nothing else to listen to as I drive home tonight, so I’m going to listen to see if the more technical chapters of this opus are more stimulating and useful to me. I do not have high hopes.