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.

Being Rejected Never Felt so Good

It happened. My book The Painters got it’s first rejection from a publisher. Duh duh DUH!

I don’t know, maybe I should be more upset about this? There was a while right after I got the letter where I did feel like shedding a few a tears (of course, I get teary-eyed about EVERYTHING now days–maybe that comes with age?), but then I just started feeling really proud of myself.

I mean, I wrote a book. I wrote a whole stinking book. And then I didn’t just get it into the hands of a publisher, I went right up to him and looked him straight in the eye and said, “Marry me!” (Just kidding. Arrested Development reference.)

Anyway, the point is that I had the guts to put myself out there and I’ve got no regrets about it. If I’m honest, I don’t think I was ready to let the book get published yet anyway. I didn’t realize it then, but I’ve realized it since and now I have the time I need to really make this book what I want it to be.

Funnily enough the rejection ended up just motivating me something crazy, and I’ve been working harder than ever on this little baby of mine. I’ve never BEEN so excited about it. And I can’t wait until it’s truthfully all grown up and ready to take its first steps into the world.

I have no doubt that when the book is ready, I’ll find the right publisher. I just have to keep trying. Which is something I happen to be pretty good at.

Dying When You’re Not Really Sick is Really Sick, You Know?

No, I’m not dying. Over the past couple days there’ve been moments when I thought I might—well, okay so it wasn’t even that bad. But, yeah, I AM sick, so the title of this post has nothing to do with what’s really going on here. It’s a quote from one of my favorite movies, Better off Dead, and it’s what popped into my head so, you know, whatever.

I was worried about getting sick. I thought, “Oh great. Now I really won’t be able to get much writing in.” But turns out lying with my face smushed into my pillow and the lights all out while listening to intensely beautiful music like the soundtrack to The Chorus made for some of the most productive “writing” hours of my recent life.

I worked out so many of the kinks that have been worrying me in my Painter story. The ones that were just hanging over my head in the most daunting way, daring me to tackle them. And I did it—lying down!

Oh man. I’m so giddy about it. Huge weight off my shoulders, getting rid of those kinks. Now I can go back to simply enjoying myself as I write.

It just goes to show that sometimes you have to stop staring at the words on the page and let your mind wander.