Writing Advice from a Top Gun

I was starting to feel kind of worried about how long it’s taking me to get my Painters book to where I want it to be. Then I saw last Thursday’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon interview with Val Kilmer.

Val Kilmer as Mark Twain in his one-man show Citizen Twain.

Val Kilmer as Mark Twain in his one-man show Citizen Twain. Doesn’t even look like Val.

While talking about how he took a break from acting in big movies for a while so that he could write a screenplay about Mary Baker Eddy and Mark Twain, Val Kilmer said, “After ten years of blood sweat and tears of writing the screenplay, I’m still about five years away from making it…I didn’t think it would take ten years…but then when I finally got the screenplay together I realized that I hadn’t put the character together.”

I was like, “Wait! That’s what happened to me too.” I’d gotten the plot pretty much sealed, but when I looked at the story again I realized the characters—Zanny especially—just sort of petered out partway through the book. Since the characters are one of my favorite parts of the story, I knew I had to remedy that situation. I’ve been working hard on making them live on the page in the same way they live in my mind, and that’s taking time to do.

I don’t have to feel bad about that. It’s taken genius pants Mr. Kilmer ten years to do his screenplay. If it takes me a few more months or so to get my book to where I’m happy with it, I’d say I’m in pretty good company. I can take the heat.

Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Val Kilmer as Gay Perry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He’s so stinking cool.

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4 thoughts on “Writing Advice from a Top Gun

    • Rose Card-Faux says:

      “That’s right, Ice Man. I am dangerous.” I know that isn’t Val, but it’s the quote that always comes to mind. Thanks, btw! Putting time into perspective is a lesson I have to teach myself over and over.

  1. Mitzi says:

    You’ve got it right. You tots shouldn’t even think about time. Just enjoy the process and smear all your genius all over the pages. At some point you’ll have a finished product and a lot of fond memories of the time you spent with your characters. You should have lotsa conversations with them. (I know, I know. I’m saying to enjoy the process and I’m the least patient person in the world. Just pretend all that was coming from Mark Twain.)

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