Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reader Letter: I'm a Teen; How do I Find Ideas for Writing?

Another great reader letter:
 Dear Jason-
 Hey! I'm Amber from Killeen, and i love your books. I couldn't put your books down; I was completely intrigued with your writings. I was upset when i finished book three. I hate finishing good books. I am becoming a writer myself and was hoping you could shed some light on writing and what to do when at a loss for ideas. I write action and adventure books similar to yours, although I will write some Christian books as well.
I know you probably have hundreds of people emailing you but i hope you could help me. I would greatly appreciate it. AND are you writing an Alex Van Helsing Book Four? And are you making them into movies? PLEASE DO THAT-- IT WOULD BE AWESOME!!!!!!!!
- Amber 

It's great to hear from you. You know I used to live in Killeen, right? I was in middle school there. I really hope to do more Alex Van Helsing books someday. My plan for them could have them go on forever. So you never know! Amber, there are some great books I recommend-- as I've mentioned to a few others, I love the Writer's Digest books on plot, characters, etc. And I really recommend Stephen King's On Writing. Also, Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey is VERY useful, although it's aimed at screenwriters. I really love books on writing and read a lot of them.
There's no magic formula for coming up with an idea other than to allow yourself the peace with which to find an idea. You might get a great idea from immersing yourself in a general area, like watching a bunch of circus movies because you want to be inspired about a circus-situated idea.
But the main thing is to remove useless things from your mind. Get your notebook and go out to a park or library and turn off the internet, and let the ideas come without the easy offramp of distracting yourself with email, TV, whatever. Pick a general area and go deep into it until you unearth an idea.
Now, I know that sounds crazy! Jason said watch media-- but also don't? What? My point is: consume media to grow your art, not to distract yourself from it. Just as you should make friends who grow you as a person, not friends who pull you away from yourself. Does this help?

Reader Letter: I'm 15 and Need to Prove I'm a Writer

Hey gang!
I got this great letter from a reader:
 Dear Jason Henderson- I have been very busy with high school and working had to keep my grades up so I can go to college and be come an author. Though I have been very busy with school, I am still writing stories. I have finally moved from writing short stories to a full book-- I have just started writing it. What I was wondering is do you know an agent that would take a fifteen year old author as their client. I want to prove to everyone that this is not just a phase in my life. Hope to hear from you soon. - Kylie, a reader and writer

 I'm so sorry I missed this! I understand exactly what you're talking about as far as wanting to prove something's not a phase. To tell you the truth, I've grappled with this my whole life and I'm published multiple times.
Here's what I've learned-- what makes people know it's not a phase is that you keep working and keep trying. I wouldn't even worry about the agent now; what I'd do is look for markets for your work. Do articles for local papers, go interview people and sell the interview.
But as to books, I think it's a GREAT idea to write a book. I think you should write the whole thing, and then when it's ready, I'd use a resource like the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market to find someone to submit to. Along the way there are some great resources for improving your book, your writing and your selling. I recommend any of the Writer's Digest books on plot, character, etc. I also love Stephen King's book On Writing-- the second half after the (great, but less necessary) memoir in the first half. You should also research queries and query letters. And on twitter, I recommend the very harsh but great hashtag #queryfail.
Kylie, I've written full time and also written at night after a day job. It doesn't matter what anybody else thinks. Carry water, chop wood. Write because you write and because you want to.
I'm so happy you wrote-- good luck! -Jay

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Gustave Dore on Poe's The Raven

Courtesy of Brain Pickings, check out these amazing paintings from Gustave Dore on Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reacher will Return with Cruise in the Role, says Lee Child

Bleeding Cool has that Tom Cruise will return as Jack Reacher for a second Reacher movie. I'm actually thriled by this news because I love the Reacher book series and thought that the first movie portrayed the material really well. But beyond that, this news is an example of a studio being willing to try again when a movie catches a bad break: if you recall, JACK REACHER suffered enormously in the jittery days after the Newtown Massacre

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher

*Note-- originally I'd written that the Reacher movie release was affected by the Aurora, Colorado massacre of 2012, but in fact it was the Newtown, Connecticut shootings of 2012 that waylaid Cruise's movie. I regret the error.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The 8-minute Castle Films Dracula is the best version of Universal Dracula you'll ever see

Here's a blast from the past (a TBT)-- back in the 1960s, a company called Castle would routinely take famous movies and release edited-down, 8-10 minute versions for use in schools and libraries. These whittled-down movies were a lot of kids' first exposure to movies like Dracula and Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein. You could check them out at the library and take them home-- actually take home a movie!-- and watch it on your home projector. 

Here are a couple, but there are many more. 


The cover of the Castle Films version of Dracula, from the Retroist blogA shot of the Dracula reel the way you'd get it (from Retroist blog)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Progress

The book I'm writing-- which for the first time in my career I've written entirely by hand-- has turned a definite corner. I've outlined from where I am all the way to the end and realized I only have 11 more beats in this first draft left to write-- basically 11 chapters, more or less. Then comes a rough part: I plan to take two or three weeks of not looking at it while I finish up another project, and then when I return it will be the hardest project I have ever undertaken: the revision from page 1 of an entire novel as I type it in from my longhand draft. So that will be a lot of work, but I am more excited about this book than I have been in years.
A note about process: I write on cheap spirals, which come in two major varietys. The first three spirals I filled were 70 pages long, 26 lines each. The final spiral has 33 lines per page and about 100 pages. I've been hand-writing on a spiral

Friday, August 8, 2014

The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride was awesome

Not long ago a friend posted a shot of one of the Nautilus submarines from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at Walt Disney World. I rode this ride at Disneyland and was always captivated by it, and am convinced that it would captivate anybody today. (Who cares if they don't know the movie. Most kids haven't read Tom Sawyer, either, but the pirate caves are incredible.) This article from 2004 tells a wild story of the strange demise of this amazing ride.