Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle and I am proud to announce I have joined a timed writing group and am busily working on my memoir…
I’m in it! I’m in it!
Introduce yourself, imbecilic cur!
I am Tucker the Maltese and I am in Gigi’s memoir!
Okay, yes, yes. Tucker the Maltese is in my memoir. I must tell you I got the idea to write my memoir when my novelist decided to become active in an online timed writing group. I therefore have joined as well. My rational on composing my great work is simply I have lived a rich and fulfilling life and my experiences need to be shared with the masses. My exquisite prose will thus make the world a more cultured place. That announcement out of the way, here is my novelist.
I am closing in on the publication of the first installment of my book series and things are getting exciting! There’s going to be a couple of extra bells and whistles surrounding it that are going to be a hoot and I’ll be sharing them with you in the coming weeks. This series is the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything and I hope it will be entertaining for the reader as well. I wrote it for the audience to have a blast. Who can’t have a blast with a comedy about sex, drugs, rock and roll and television?
That said let’s talk about a book every writer should own. I never thought I would ever say this…ever. But Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I chose it as one of my books for the library’s reading challenge this year where you must read ten books in one year each one fulfilling a different category. I was apprehensive at first because I am not a big pop fiction fan and even less of a horror fan. However, On Writing is one of the most insightful writing books I’ve come across. Maybe the most insightful.
I agree with just about everything Mr. King had to say in the book from writing and reading books being your best teacher to taking out adverbs and finding more concise ways to make your sentences pop. Writers can be indulgent. That is not to say they are all narcissistic. However, they can get wrapped up in their own world and lost in a sea of overwritten schlock. Writers can forget we are not here to just write about our own little worlds. Our main goal is to entertain (and occasionally inform) an audience. The smoother and more accessible the story the better. I am not certain however, how Mr. King is able to do his writing sessions listening to heavy metal (I work better with near silence). But hey, obviously it works for him and who am I to judge? The man is worth half a billion dollars.
I appreciated (like many writers will probably appreciate) him saying that writing groups and writing classes are not as useful as one would like to believe. I agree wholeheartedly with him. My only exception would be timed writing groups and getting up and reading your work in front of an audience where you are not critiqued. For myself I think those can and do help writers. But those groups where you read and listen to other writers and everyone critiques one another I find those to be daunting if not dispiriting and I do believe one should steer clear. They are just social clubs and they suck. I’ve been in them and never got anything positive out of them. I didn’t even like who I was in them.
However, this does not include universities. If you want to be a writer, you should go to and graduate from a university. That said I think colleges should take note of the comments in the paragraph above. From my own experience (and maybe things have changed, or other colleges do it differently) there is way too much reading your writing to other students and the professor and having your work torn to shreds. Who does this help really? No one. It’s just a cesspool for covert narcissism. Providing positive feedback for what does work in a writer’s story is more useful to the writer than constantly focusing on what doesn’t. Because now you know what is working and you have a springboard to go forward. Or just having the writer read their work out loud to an audience helps the writer hear what is working and what is kafuffle.
On Writing is also beautifully written and accessible to non-writers. Whether or not you are a Stephen King fan or whether you are a writer this is a book worth having on your e-reader or bookshelf.
While you are waiting for my next blog post and the release of the first book of my new book series you can check out my novel Chicane available on Amazon.
Tomorrow’s Free Class Friday offering from ScreenwritingU is Analysis of The Godfather. You can register for the class here.
STREAM OF THE WEEK: MOVIES ABOUT NEVADA-HARD EIGHT & LEAVING LAS VEGAS-Amazon Prime
I am proud to recommend both these incredible films as this week’s streaming choices. I thought films about Reno and Las Vegas would be great summer film choices.
Hard Eight (1996) is Paul Thomas Andersons first full-length feature film and it is my all-time favorite of his. Set in Reno it is the story of Sydney (brilliantly played by Philip Baker Hall) an aging professional gambler who “stumbles” upon young John (the wonderful John C. Reilly) whose mother has recently died. John needs six thousand dollars to pay for her funeral and went to Reno to try and win the money gambling but ended up losing instead. Sydney offers him his assistance as a gambler. At first John is reluctant but having nothing to lose takes Sydney’s proposal and learns the tricks of the trade. But after a couple of years they meet a cocktail waitress named Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) forcing Sydney’s sketchy past to be revealed.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995) is one of the most beautiful love stories ever filmed. Set first in Hollywood and then in Las Vegas it is the story of Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage in his much-deserved Oscar winning role) who is a Hollywood writer and a drunk. Ben’s wife has left him, and he is spiraling out of control. When he is fired from his job, he decides to move out to Las Vegas…and drink himself to death. Watch how beautifully Cage makes the decision to commit suicide by shifting his final check from one hand to the other. He throws out and burns most everything he owns including a child’s bike. Pay close attention to the bike which is both in the book and the film because it is the reason Ben has decided to kill himself. Most people miss it. Ben reaches Las Vegas ready to complete his mission when by chance meets a prostitute named Sera (Elizabeth Shue in the role that should have won her the Oscar. I am extremely bitter about this by the way. Susan Sarandon won for her role in Dead Man Walking that year but should have won for Lorenzo’s Oil (1992). Elizabeth should have won here for her brave and flawless performance) and unexpectedly falls in love. John O’Brien who wrote the novel Leaving Las Vegas (one of my favorite books) committed suicide by gunshot wound two weeks after he found out the book was going to be made into a movie. His father said the novel was his suicide note.
SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: THE KARATE KID (1984)-Netflix
The Karate Kid was Elizabeth Shue’s second major motion picture and it is a classic. It was directed by Academy Award winning director John G. Avildsen (Rocky (1976)). Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and his mother Lucille move to California to start life anew. They move into an apartment building with an eccentric Okinawan handyman named Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita in his Oscar nominated performance). Daniel starts attending the local high school and finds himself smitten with a cheerleader named Ali (Elizabeth Shue) who happens to be the ex-girlfriend of wavy blond-haired Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Johnny, as it turns out has a black belt in karate and is the star pupil at the brutal Cobra Kai dojo. Johnny is none too pleased with this scrawny new guy sniffing around his former squeeze. So, and he and his karate buddies start beating him up on Halloween…until Mr. Miyagi sees the fight and hands the Cobras their asses. Impressed with Mr. Miyagi’s extraordinary skills Daniel attempts to employ him as his Karate Master. Mr. Miyagi in turn puts Daniel to work painting fences and cleaning windows.