The Write Place…

A booth at a diner in Jersey, the knee knocker seat on the LIRR, or on my lap sitting in a chaise on the beach in Puerto Rico, even in a hotel room at a writer’s conference. All these admittedly non-romantic settings in which I have penned much of my 6 published novels, 4 number ones, and three pending manuscripts, have one thing in common. A space that, beyond everything else, allowed me to write, compose, imagine, edit, polish, and author a manuscript. That space can best be visualized as a box with its four corners drawn from my left ear to the left edge of the screen and from the right side of the screen back to my right ear. Everything outside that “thought rectangle” dissolves away, goes out of focus, and becomes the comforting background lullaby that has underscored my “performance” whenever I wrote.

For me, when the idea is breaching in the birth canal, there’s an immediacy to getting it out, regardless of the purity or quiescence of wherever I happen to be. I have even knocked out a few paragraphs on my iPhone in the back of a funeral parlor during a wake. Even in my home, I may be out on the balcony, on the kitchen table, or with my laptop on a snack tray, usually with a TV, radio, or some other background noise that has accompanied my workspace all the way back to homework in elementary school.

I am lucky enough to have met and conversed with some of the most well-known and prolific authors on the planet or listened to them interviewed at writer’s conferences. Question 5 or 6 is always, “Do you have a place, or time or routine when you write?” and some have elaborate ceremonies and rituals and others the simple; “my desk every day from 10-2.” Some need a fresh pot of coffee or progressive jazz on the stereo, or in one very famous case, toke up on prodigious amounts of weed. (And he is at the very pinnacle of a successful author!)

Again, just last night, a vintage episode of the Dick Van Dyke show aired in black and white. The one where Rob, a head writer for a TV show, is driven to become a novelist. The setup is that he can’t get to writing because of all the domestic distractions of his suburban New Rochelle home, which are frustrating his efforts. The solution to the marital friction that this occurs results in a suggestion from his wife Laura that he go to a cabin in the woods for a few weeks and concentrate on his book. Well, of course, he winds up doing all kinds of foolish things which delay and get in the way of his writing. Finally admitting that it was him, not the setting, that is the problem, he puts the idea of being an author on the shelf having learned that his novel just wasn’t ready to come out yet.

I find that notion to be paramount amid all the reasons a writer can’t author. In my class, From Writer to Author, at the online Academy of Creative Skills.com, I address the ‘internal space’ that we need to create in order to satisfy that need to create.

Rob does write one thing in all those days, the only line he could manage, the dedication, to his wife expressing his love and admiration of her. His line after she reads it and does her trademark, “Oh, Rob…” he adds, “Now all I have to do is write a novel to hang on the end of it.”

Aw, 60’s TV, where everything works out in 28 minutes and 30 seconds, including commercials.

By the way, I wrote this at 6:30 in the morning, on a snack table, with the sun coming up over the skyline of New York splashing over the Hudson River to my right, – the iHeart radio from my iPhone on in the background.

Ready to embark on your journey From Writer to Author? Check out my online course for 15 steps to elevate your writing craft!

Happy Belated and Joyous Birthday James!

Yesterday was James Patterson’s birthday. He is a monster author. And why not? I know where he came from. Same place I did. Advertising. We both were creatives in the New York ad biz. I understand the approach to story that comes from the discipline to get a message out in only 75 words or less. Thirty seconds of broadcast time that educates, motivates, and ends with a call to action, while wrapped around a USP device.

We shook hands once, at a Borders conference when my first book and his 14,345th title was coming out. I exaggerate, but like I said he’s a monster. But in point of fact, he’s a brand! Good for him!

I spend a lot of time helping good writers to become authors. Ultimately the next stop after author is BRAND. And if your brand gets big enough, your style can take a back seat. You may continue it or freely move around the literary Ouija board, without fear of rejection because your brand sells the book. He has been successful in many genres: romance novels, historical fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and science fiction. 

But for the rest of us mere mortals, hammering out 85,000 words or so, into a compelling, satisfying manuscript is the immediate task before us, on the way to potentially becoming a brand. To that end it helps to find the common ground with those whose names are above the title, we all face the blank page. We all have no idea if what we are composing will be a great symphony or a one hit wonder. Branding aside, every book stands alone, even those in a series. So how to succeed in authoring a novel? I believe the answer is…

“I guess I write four or five hours a day, but I do it seven days a week. It’s very disciplined, yes, but it’s joy for me.” – James Patterson

That’s one more thing that I share with Mr. Patterson, and I am sure with nearly every successful author, we both consider writing a joy. Finding joy, is the key to facing that page, working out the plot, defining and building character and tying out the resolution of a brilliant conflict. Sheer Joy!

I can’t teach Joy. But when I see it in a student, I know we are more than halfway along to a better, manuscript. In a word, the whole process becomes a… joy!

Oh, one more thing, the New York Ad shop where I was a creative director/senior VP for 40 years, was Sid Paterson Advertising. No relation, and only one ‘T.’

New Year’s Resolution – then conflict, then plot, character, and setting.

If you recognize the above as the five essential elements of a novel, then you’ll appreciate the writer’s resolution. For many, it’s “I resolve to finish that book!” For a thousand times that many, it’s, “Start that book!” And for a much smaller group, it’s “Write a better book!”

If any of that sounds familiar, here’s mine, “I resolve to help writers become authors.

Not just a “gonna get to that someday” affirmation, but the train is already leaving the station, which is an appropriate analogy since I devised the following on the subway. I’ve created a series of online lectures to help writers of any level elevate their craft and get to the next plateau in their careers.

Followers of this blog for the last ten years know my story well, but to encapsulate it: I stumbled into my first manuscript, which became my first published novel and my first number 1 bestseller…by accident. Hence my handle as The Accidental Author. I am, quite literally, the last guy on the planet to have 4 number 1 bestsellers. The route I took was practical, empirical, and devoid of traditional literary frameworks.

Admittedly, what I will be sharing with those who take the 15 classes that I am offering at The Academy of Creative Skills is my journey to the satisfaction of being a published author many times over. This unique perspective on the craft of writing will have many touchpoints and resonant notes for writers who are heading towards authoring commercial fiction, screenplays, and even non-fiction. After all, it’s always about a great tale well crafted. 

As a premier to the course or as a standalone compendium of tidbits, nuggets, and cues, based on my experiences and lessons in developing my craft, I’m offering an ebook on Amazon entitled, Intentional Thoughts from the Accidental Author. Chock full of lots of handy dandy insights and goodies about the art we love so much.

Episode 6 of The Accidental Author

After the holiday break we are back with the last two episodes of the WESU series. Here in Episode 6: The cardinal rule for authors • Authors who outline versus those who write by the seat of their pants. • The greater opportunity of Non-fiction. • And the best description of a good ending… Enjoy.

Don’t miss an episode!

Episode 1 click here
Episode 2 click here
Episode 3 click here

Episode 4 click here
Episode 5 click here

Accidental Author Episode 4

Click on the video for Episode 4 of the Accidental Author. In this show; writing in the dark. How much drama or action is too much or how little is not enough? The sensuality of literature… If you missed any of the previous episodes click below
Episode 1 click here
Episode 2 click here
Episode 3 click here

The Accidental Author – Episode Two

In the window above is the next installment of The Accidental Author, some real heartfelt confessions in this one plus an homage to one of the finest authors living today. If you missed episode one, click here.