Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to Top

To Top

Writing tips

30

Oct
2017

No Comments

In Writing tips

By admin

Enlightenment Reached Through an Awful First Draft

On 30, Oct 2017 | No Comments | In Writing tips | By admin

Hemingway once said “The first draft of anything is shit.” But how on earth would he know?
Wasn’t Hemingway considered a Godfather of American Prose? Could such a consummate craftsman ever produce… in his own words… shit?
He could. He did. And so should you, if you know what’s good for you.
Let’s take this apart:

It’s time we dispel this ancient, potentially toxic myth that good art — hell, good anything made by man — simply pops into being, fully formed as Athena leaping from the cracked-open noggin of hoary old Zeus.

As almost everyone knows, Hemingway published in a plain, direct style considered arresting for its lyricism and sparseness. But the key word here is “published.”
Most people don’t know it, but that Hemingway “voice” we’ve come to know — the crisp, unadorned prose that made him a literary icon — didn’t come naturally to him. An obsessive revisionist, Hemingway could only produce his “voice” at the end of a long and arduous process.
In other words, Hemingway only became Hemingway over the course of many drafts. And sometimes many, many drafts.
Consider these examples:

 

  • “I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times,” he told aspiring writer, Arnold Samuelson, in 1934.
  • His novel, The Old Man and the Sea, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Nobel Committee cited the book when they lauded Hemingway with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. All well and good. But remember: Hemingway rewrote The Old Man and the Sea more than two hundred times before approving the book for release. Actually, it started out as a much longer novel, which Hemingway called The Sea Book. But the damn thing never seemed finished, event after it ran more than 800 pages, which the author revises obsessively. So finally, he decided to publish the book’s epilogue on its own. That portion we now call The Old Man and the Sea.
  • In 1956, Hemingway was interviewed in The Paris Review. Here’s a snippet of what got published:

 

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last
page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that
had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.

 

So what does this prove?
It’s time we dispel this ancient, potentially toxic myth that good art — hell, good anything made by man — simply pops into being, fully formed as Athena leaping from the cracked-open noggin of hoary old Zeus.
In my experience, many fledgling and even some journeyman artists invest in this myth too readily. They protest that a project will look or sound “overworked” if you so much as glance at it more than once. Howling and thumping their chests about the importance of spontaneity, they refuse to consider that real spontaneity can only ever be rendered in art after serious planning and work.
Think about it.
Did your favorite film simply drop to earth from heaven above? Of course not. It was mapped out over the course of years, during which it went through various phases: development, script drafts, location scouting, casting, pre-production, principal photography, second unit shooting, post-production, distribution, and so on.
What about your favorite performance by your favorite actor in that favorite film? Quite likely, that scene you love so much was one out of dozens of takes the director shot from various angles. It may have been the one your favorite actor hated the most. It may have been added last minute to fill in a gap, or cut down to nothing from 2 or 3 pages.
Dare we go on?
How do you think your favorite song, TV show, book, play, or opera were produced? By immaculate conception?
You see where I’m going with this. These days, most people have no appreciation for process. They don’t want to learn how a sausage gets made, they’d rather bite down on the casing and chew.
In our instant-gratification society, the myth that brilliance comes easy has never been so ubiquitous, nor so damaging to artists. I know many young actors and writers, for instance, who became disenchanted with their craft for the unlikely reason that it wasn’t easy to master. And yet they still called themselves artists, which of course is inappropriate.
Imagine how that principle might play out in other disciplines:
  • Would you take your sick child to a “doctor” who, as a medical student, attended one autopsy, hung out his shingle, and set himself up in a practice?
  • Would you trust your important legal suit to an attorney who never went to law school or passed the bar exam, never cracked one textbook nor glanced at so much as a page or two before diving into case work?
No.
We learn by doing. Always, always. Mistakes must be made for success to take root. That rule holds true both in life and in art. No lasting understanding of craft can be gained by nailing something the first time around, even if you should be so lucky.
Which is why we must grant ourselves the indulgence of writing a raucously shitty first draft. Enduring an righteously shitty rehearsal. A fight with a loved one. Bad day at the office. The list goes on and on.
To call yourself a craftsman in any discipline, you have to imagine the finished product, then let it go and embrace the process of reaching it, staying open to changes along the way.
As the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, wrote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.” Translation: nobody leaps from nothingness straight to completion. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The tortoise won that race, not the hare. Slow down. Commit to the learning, instead of the knowing. Commit to the road rather than the destination. The work is the means, the end, and the joy.
Do this over and over again, and who knows? You might surprise yourself.
Whatever you end up producing — a book, a play, a scene, a song, or a life . . . well, it might not be what you first imagined it would be. But who knows?
In the course of your exploration, you might discover something better. ■

 

Follow Damon on:

Twitter: @yesiactandwrite
Facebook: Damon DiMarco’s Facebook page

27

Jun
2016

In Essays
Event
Writing tips

By admin

On Copyright and Kewpie Dolls

On 27, Jun 2016 | In Essays, Event, Writing tips | By admin

In early May 2016, Damon participated in round table discussions hosted by the U.S. Copyright Office at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.
The subject: whether or not the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is working, and if so, for whom.
Damon and fellow author Hilary Johnson were tapped by the Authors Guild to represent written content creators.
Also in attendance were musicians, photographers, and filmmakers.
Why the latter? Because digital piracy involves more than the theft of e-books; it also covers the theft of digitized music, images, and films.
The Authors Guild quoted Damon in their informative summary of the roundtables.
The full article Damon prepared for the Authors Guild Bulletin is printed below.
*************************************************************
ON COPYRIGHT AND KEWPIE DOLLS
by Damon DiMarco
 
Friends, we’ve got trouble.
As you probably know, Internet piracy of books and other media has skyrocketed. Raise your hand if you’ve had your copyrighted materials inappropriately monetized? I sure have. In fact, a while back, I programmed Google Alerts to ping me each time a free link to one of my books was posted to the web. Which is why my email account now sounds like a boardwalk arcade game.
PING! Lookee here! A pirated copy of [Insert Title]. PONG! It’s a pirated copy of [Insert Another title]!
At present, Internet pirates post at least forty links to my stolen work per month. What can I do about it? That depends.

Internet piracy of e-books and other media has become a grand example of economic disparity. The current system only protects intellectual property when wielded by those who can afford protection. Please note that the Mafia runs by the same dynamic.

 

If the pirates posted a book I’ve done with, say, Penguin Random House, I’m in luck. Big Publishers can afford to contract Internet security firms. I log into their author portal, submit the offensive link(s), and voilà! The links get removed …usually. They’ll reappear in a couple of days, but hey. Life is a treadmill, right? At least for a few hours, I can rest easy knowing my royalty stream is protected. Sort of.
But what about books that I do with small to mid-size publishers? Since they can’t afford Internet sentinels, the burden falls on me to submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice. Which is sort of like saying, “Oh, you nasty pirates! Pretty please stop selling those books you stole from me!”
Internet piracy of e-books and other media has become a grand example of economic disparity. The current system only protects intellectual property when wielded by those who can afford protection. Please note that the Mafia runs by the same dynamic.
So imagine how excited I was when, recently, I was selected to represent authors at the Section 512 roundtable hearings held by the U.S. Copyright Office. I went to assure representatives of the federal government that, from an author’s perspective, Internet piracy is hurting our industry, destroying the incomes of middle-class authors, and eviscerating the time honored notion that copyright can protect intellectual property.
Now imagine my shock when I found myself seated with representatives from multi-billion dollar conglomerates, some of whom stated that e-book piracy isn’t a problem, and any attempts to stop piracy would infringe on their freedom of speech. I couldn’t make that up if I tried.
I had no idea that certain entities want Internet piracy to continue. Why? Suppose you’re a Internet service provider whose profits are tied to the scale of web traffic. A bigger, richer Internet means you have bigger, richer coffers. Would you care that authors’ books are getting stolen if your profits were soaring? No, you’d hire lobbyists to ensure the status quo.
For these reasons and so many more, the current DMCA policy places authors in an existential game of Whack a Mole. Take one copy of your work down, three more pop up. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Meanwhile, our industry’s ecosystem withers from the bottom up. If the powers that be were this lax in enforcing instances of car theft, stock market fraud, and homicide, we’d all be riding bicycles, impoverished, or dead.

Sadly, internet piracy isn’t nearly as fun as the classic boardwalk arcade game, and try as you might, play as well as you can, you’ll never win a Kewpie doll. 

Meanwhile, our industry’s ecosystem withers from the bottom up. If the powers that be were this lax in enforcing instances of car theft, stock market fraud, and homicide, we’d all be riding bicycles, impoverished, or dead.
Sadly, internet piracy isn’t nearly as fun as the classic boardwalk arcade game, and try as you might, play as well as you can, you’ll never win a Kewpie doll. Meanwhile, our industry’s ecosystem withers from the bottom up. If the powers that be were this lax in enforcing instances of car theft, stock market fraud, and homicide, we’d all be riding bicycles, impoverished, or dead.
Grim new from the trenches, I’m sorry to say. But that’s pretty much all that I took away from my meeting with the Powers That Be.
Now please excuse me. My e-mail just pinged. I have to go plead with more pirates.
 

Follow Damon on:

Twitter: @yesiactandwrite
Facebook: Damon DiMarco’s Facebook page

02

Jan
2013

In Writing tips

By admin

Why blue ink for editing? And why Notability?

On 02, Jan 2013 | In Writing tips | By admin

I’ve been asked this question three times in the past two weeks.

“Why do you use a blue pen when you edit your galleys? It’s supposed to be red ink, right?”

No. Not traditionally. Three reasons.

  • First, red pens are a cliche and writers try to avoid cliches.
  • Second, red pens conjure the image of hard-nosed grammar teachers (or at least they do for me).

I respect grammar though proper grammar and good writing are hardly synonymous. They don’t always take each other to the dance. It all  depends on which band is playing.

  • But the third and most important reason for not using red ink is Read more…

Tags | , , ,