what's going on. My name is Dan Black. Welcome to the writer's life now
have no fear. All you writers you can stop you can you can stop reading. You can stop scribbling in that journal. You can start reading books. You can quit thatM.F.A. program. You can forget about all the seminars all the conventions everything that you have done up to this point to become a writer is you say has beenuseless you might as well not of done it your entire writing life has been a waste of time. Why. Because as of today and sometime this week
you can take a master class with the fuckin master. That's right
you want to sell or don't you don't you want to be a millionaire. Well you can do it on your own by learning how to write. Now
instead of that
you're an idiot. What you need is someone to tell you the secrets the formula Now if only I were a person on the planet
who would do and who teach a master class who would
I want to sell one hundred eighty million copies in the span of four and a half days. How do I do that. How do I do that I don't like capture the hearts and minds ofthe lowest common denominator you can argue. I tell you what you can do. Friends
stop trying to learn how to write.
OK stop reading books. Sign up for the master class given by none other than the one and only James Patterson. Now
this offering can last forever. Just imagine if James Patterson were to continually give a class on writing I mean the wealth of literary knowledge this man musthave
the evidence. There's a picture of him in his maddest masterclass advertisement. Pretty
fucking arrogant picture of him so I know when his ideas is not his fault. But the guys putting on the master class have him sort of looking up into the camera andbelow him. He's sitting in a chair and then behind him below him are all his best and is laid out like a rainbow of wealth
and such an arrogant ass picture. I'd rather have I'd much rather see the author with one eyebrow lifted you know reading a book you know. Oh you caught me ina picture. I do happen to be reading here. There's one of John Updike on the back of one of his books and he's holding a teacup. He's alone in the room in a chairand he's holding a teacup with the saucer in his other hand. And John Updike like you caught me having tea in an empty room. That's the picture
now all of that I think that's that's funny and I think he meant it to be funny. This is not a point this is meant to show you how successful he's been and I do notbegrudge James Patterson his success. I'm sure you know he was a writer's book now but at the beginning he didn't need. He worked hard to be busted his ass todo it. The thing that bothers me is not the James Patterson exists it's not the genes pensions of a lot of books. There is of the vast majority of the planet is full ofpeople who are indeed entertained by such things. God knows I was too you know when I first started reading he sort of grow out of it. That's not my problem myproblem is
is there a reason James Patterson to teach in the fuckin masterclass. I mean let's take the violin should we have the third chair of the National SymphonyOrchestra teach the master class. Or should we get you know it's a problem and or Joshua Bell. There's absolutely no reason to have James Patterson do thiswhen there are countless stars of literature who may not have sold as many books but he would know how to write a book. I mean that if you can take it. AnthonyDon't worry we can take an penchant she's still alive. She's still writing. She sells a lot of books if you know how to write there are so many people out there whoknow what they're doing who can teach as something of value about literature. But no nobody would pay for that. I mean maybe you and I would. What are theygoing to make you know fifty thousand bucks and suckers like us. Now the kind of do it use passion because he sells a lot of books and then there's these peoplewho have to operate under the illusion that you are going to be convinced that you are going to sell seventy million books eight hundred million. Our many bookshe sold. You're going to be able to do that too for a mere ninety bucks in a few hours of your time. You too can be a best seller. Does anybody buy that shit. Oneday you're going to be the writer you want right.
You should believe that if you don't you need to stop because you're just burdening the rest of us with your shit. So if you do you need to believe it some day.You're going to be the writer you want to be. Whatever that happens to me for you
and when you get there can you imagine yourself saying you know what I really didn't have to read all those books. I really didn't have to do all that writing. I didn'thave to really start breaking down literature and start being a close reader. If I would have just done that M.F.A. program. If I would have just taken a master classwith James Patterson I could have been here a lot quicker. Yeah but that's all I had to do. No there's no way first that you would subvert or rather degrade youryour own path to your success. First of all and secondly you can not
you cannot replace the drudgery. You can't replace that those feelings you have alone in your room.
You can't do anything except for struggle your way to where you want to go. Now you say well you know these M.F.A. things in these master class those can reallyhelp and I'm sure they can and you can.
There's a will there's a way for you to get to where you want to go a little bit quicker for some people it's an M.F.A.
for some people it's doing these retreats or these seminars. I'm not sure
how helpful they are in the long run because even if you go to these things and then there's not a big deal if you do. But when you go to these retreats and things.What exactly are they doing that you can't do for yourself it's it's one of the reasons I dropped out of college. Why would I go to school and pay you ask loads ofmoney to teach from a book I could just read myself. I'll just read the book. And by the way I'm not interested in seven eighths of the things you're talking about.Why not spend the time on the things that I'm interested in. So if you could just read James Patterson's book any one of them they're all the same just pick one. Ifyou could read any one of his books outline it and just sort of figure out the tricks you know the.
The misdirection the the the rise and fall the plot. You can figure all of that out without having to pay ninety but you can do it for twenty five bucks buy his booksnew if you're going to buy him. Yeah even him. But look all of that stuff is there for you to figure out yourself. It takes longer and it takes a little bit of effort and youryour brain might be stretched a little bit but it's going to be worth a lot more than Patterson just telling you what he did it you are not going to be able to replicatewhat he did. If he tells you how to do it you've got to go through and do the work. The brain work for yourself and you know that the small amount of brain workthat we take
in of crafting on Patterson because that's not my point my point is not what to think you by the way someone said that to me Bradford Bradford and I can't standhim
but thank you for sending that to me and I was very entertaining by it. Look the point is not that Patterson is a bad guy that he doesn't deserve every penny that hehas. That's not the point. I'm I'm a little bit more irritated that writers and anybody who aspires to just about any you know an actor or even a business owner andeverybody on this planet if they have some kind of dream you are like you are the target of somebody else just trying to
trying to convince you that they have what you need. They have the formula they have. At the secret in for a mere In some you know ninety to ten million dollarsyou too can have the secret
and there's no secret there's work. They're sitting alone in a room. Becoming a close reader becoming a writer that you envision yourself to be all alone in yourroom crying your eyes out in the fetal in the corner swimming in a pool of your own feces and vomit wondering why on earth were you put on this planet if not towrite. And why on earth is it so easy for everybody else it is so difficult for but you have to undergo that torture that's all part of it. And I think you're going to get outof it on in the thing you please. I'm sensitive to this too. To think that you're going to escape some of this for a mere ninety to ten million dollars If if only you wouldpay the price. Then you can sort of save yourself some of this pain and you know if you save yourself some of that pain you will be sparing yourself from some ofthat reward as well. And yes it takes longer. Yes it can be maddening. But you want what you want and you have to get it the way that it happens. That was sovague I can hardly go back and defend it. But I mean is
that when you have something in your mind that you're chasing and you have to have that thing the shortcut doesn't make you feel any better. The shortcut mayindeed work by the way. It could absolutely happen for you you could get that M.F.A. and when you're done you will be immediately published. But you've onlydeferred the suffering
you've only put off a little bit. What you would have done anyway had you spent those years
not listening to other people because they still had all them a phase they take years to write their novels they end up having because they end up having to findtheir own voice still they already have the talent. Obviously they got accepted into the M.F.A. program anywhere you can imagine you know they're all fairly similar.Some are held in higher prestigious but they're all similar. You can go do all that and then still have to spend ten years finding what works for you when youcould've spent the previous ten years finding it works for you and it's almost it's almost backwards. But it's like anything else you can go to school for it but you'rejust going to have to relearn everything once you get on the real world. And why not just shove yourself out into the real world and try to learn it. There are acouple exceptions you know like doctors and things like that. But everything else man fuck it just go do it. Just go do it and don't look for any shortcuts. And thisissue of Time interested me when they made me ask the question what's the difference between someone like James Patterson and someone who comes outwriting literature you know a guy like me who I'm reading now Kafka on the shore he wrote a book and I'm halfway through that and I love that no one could'vewritten a book but him
and that gets at the essence of literature a little bit better. Then when like harbor Harlen Coben or any of these other suspense writers. So I want to take a look atthat couple of examples of I want to show illustrate the difference I like I love reading the first lines of the first paragraph of things so I'm going to do that and I wantto sort of draw out my own opinions about what what is literature and what is you know I'm just a book to sell. What is the difference what makes somethingliterature and I have a theory about that and I will get to it. When I come back. Hey everybody I want to take a moment and talk about Amazon Prime. I love myAmazon Prime stream movies stream shows and you get fried two day shipping. I watch Deadwood on it continuously I love Deadwood. Love did what fantasticshow. That's why I watch it and watch movies too. And listen man the savings you get on the free shipping alone will pay for itself probably every month dependingon how much you buy it on Amazon so you can go to a W.L. Show dot com click on the prime banner and click through and get yourself some streaming moviesstreaming shows in free to day shipping A.W.L. Show dot com.
what makes literature. I don't have any answers. Sorry folks
over the trumpet pipe down
the con tutti everybody everybody blare it
take on yet.
getting into what makes literature. Like I said I'm not sure that I have any answers but I have an idea of what it means to me. The line is wide it's grey and you mayenter into the space of being between literature and being some sort of you know popular entertainment. I think that's where I'm aiming. I'm aiming somewhere inthere and I think all of us are. Except for the people who are trying to do who are doing experimental stuff we sort of take their cues from Beckett or something likethat.
I think the rest of us are trying to fall in this gray area which at one point I thought was pretty wide. But it turns out this margin is really is really thin because it beliterary. And to be read and to be understood is you know is that is the point is the object. I don't see myself writing books as entertainment. And because I want tostay out of that realm that genre of
being a purely suspense writer or a pure mystery writer I don't have any problem with that so I like reading those books sometimes I like reading Stephen Kingonce in a while.
There's nothing wrong with those things but it's not my it's not what I want to be and if it is what you want to be please don't take any offense I am I'm not here tooffend anybody and that's not quite true. I am not here to discourage anybody. I should say from writing what they want to write. I just want to be sure that I'm sortof spreading this message of if you if you are going to write it why not write it only when I write it the way only you can write it if anybody else could have writtenthe sentence that paragraph that story but then do it at this point. People who are better than you and I at writing James Patterson books
his name is James Patterson. He let him write the James Patterson books. Let's all let's everybody else kind of forget about the money. This is not a whole lot ofmoney in writing and the chances of you becoming a millionaire are so small from writing. So let's put that out of our head and think about the way we spent ourtime the way we spend our time writing. Just trying to make that dollar but I have to say Darla when I do that. So are we out there just trying to make that dollar
or are we trying to do something only we can do and that's sort of the reason you know I get a little bit upset at these things that that
beggars to be like everything and everybody else. They they really can only make money if you buy into the concept that you can do it this exact way too. And mything is one do you want to. And number two can you and I would hope that the answer to both of those things is no. I want to do it my way because these storiescan only be told by me and can only be told in this certain way. Yeah. Look man you're going to have trouble getting published if you do this and it's going to takelonger. You may have to write ten books to find that one that will sneak in to the market and get sold and you go into it knowing this and you have to be OK with it.If this is what you're going to do if you're going to write books in your own style in your own voice book that nobody else could have written then yeah that's goingto take longer it's going to be a little bit more painful. But the sweet reward. Right. You will have something out there that you're proud of. So what exactly is thedifference. So I pulled out four books. One popular in my estimation they are popular. And one thing that I would consider literature in the whole thing in my opinionthat makes a difference between something I don't know what else to call it. I say it may be popular sure I don't know what to call that end of it the thrillers the puremysteries all that stuff I don't know what to call it so I'm just going to call it you know popular books or popular literature. As opposed to literature. So what is thedifference. We all know the difference exists but in my mind it's time and minutia
time and minutia makes the difference to me. How long does it take for things to come about. How deep are we getting into the situations in the psyche before wesee any you know action event. Is the action the driving force or is it the state of mind of the people is at the point of view and the point of view. And if you if youare that kind of writer who sort of issues the action for the point of view the character the things in the situations that happen to that character. If you are that kindof writer that takes time
and when you have time you have you know time to develop a style to develop a voice. Mainly because you're not committed to making the reader turn the page.If you know a pretty you know what's happening what's happening every page you have to turn. No literature makes you want to stay on the page to drinkin
to savor the words
and to be patient. It forces you to be patient and it makes you love it. That's in my mind what literature is. So here are a couple of examples I got. Please don't sueme I don't have any money. I'm going to read the first one now I'm just going to do a line. Now we're running a little over so we're going to do a line from The GirlWith The Dragon Tattoo and here's the first line. It happened every year was almost a ritual and this was his eighty second birthday when as usual the flower wasdelivered. He took off the wrapping paper and then picked up the telephone to call Detective Superintendent Morrell who. When he retired had moved to LakeSiljan on the line now. OK now. Anything wrong with the writing. Absolutely not. It's clear and I know I know what's going on. It's happened every year isintentionally hiding something from the reader and I hate that crap. But you forgive it because it's the first line that's what people are going to read it people in itcreates it fabricates rather a question. What happened every year it's so silly but there's nothing wrong with the writing there's and I know a lot of people like thisbook. And there's you know I always feel like I have to qualify these things because writing is a tough thing to do. So when you go around criticizing something Ifeel bad you know took a lot of effort to write that line as plain as it is. So here's the next piece I want to contrast it with and I'm going to tell you who the author isbecause quite honestly you should be able to pick it out. Well that's right. And these are well known. So here's the first line of this book through the fence betweenthe curling flower spaces I could see them heading they were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by theflower tree. They took the flag out and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and when they went to the table and he hit and the other hit then they went onand I went along the fence. Lester came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fencewhile Luster was hunting in the grass. Holy shit. Right Faulkner man sound and the Fury.
Now you could read that in several ways I read it rather poorly because I just need to get through it and I do not read aloud well so I was just trying to get throughit. There's some things going on here. You could read it. Several ways
and I don't mean several meanings what I mean is you could read it purely for the love of the poetry of the words the way they go and they're in my head obviouslyday so much better. You could read it for the purity of the words for that structure of it and if you you've ever attacked this book the sun and the fury you will haveprobably read that three or four times when you first started reading this book if you like what what is going on
but you will figure it out. Look up patient the lines are and he's not concerned about repeating words. Look at that. All I'm saying is a look at the difference now.You and I are in a fog. You and I both understand this but it doesn't keep us from aspiring to to something near it. Do you know what I mean in the in The Girl WithThe Dragon Tattoo. Anybody absolutely anybody could have written no sentences the two or three that I read there is no hint of proficiency there's no I don't knowI don't know how to say there's no way you need to miss it. Anybody could have written it. Anybody
The Falkner could anybody have written that but Faulkner. And that's the point the point is not to become Faulkner. The point is that he was himself and nobodycould have written a little
mentally deficient kid watching golf. Nobody could have written it like that but him
and that's what I aspire to and it's what I hope a lot of people aspire to her too. Now to me it wasn't boring. And when you look at the sentence there's no. Novagueness there is simply what the character observed
here. The author did not make himself present by holding back information. So is the difference between writing a first line that says it happened every year ithappened. Why can't you form a sentence that tells me what happened. And here's why. The plain writer can't do that because if he gives you the purity of theinformation he feels that he is not holding you in suspense and to some degree he's correct because if he gives you all the information he's removed the elementof
I guess of suspend It's not what I meant to say but
he's taking a piece of the equation out because you have to not know something in order to create suspense. There has to be a missing element in literature. It's alittle bit different and I'm not going to get that second example
because here's here here's where I'm going with this. It takes time to develop these things and Faulkner tells us what the character saw. I could see them headingnow. You may not know what they were hitting
but he tells you right the next sentence they were coming toward the flag and I went along the fence. OK so now we have Henning and now there's a flag and nowLuster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. We have a bunch of hands but the suspense is not holding back the spirit. The suspense is in you know whoare these people and what are they doing. It's not. Where is this missing element and not quite getting it across. You know what. I'll go to the next example andsee if we see if I can make it a little bit more clear. This is a book called Isabelle by Kate really popular book I think it did really well. But here's the first. Line or so.Ned wasn't impressed. As far as he could tell in the half light that fell through the small high windows the saints of war cathedral of ion province was a messoutside or his father's team was setting up for appreciated and inside where he was entirely alone in the gloom. All right so we have that now I has this other thismodern popular book thing like the first times Ned was impressed that one of the programme I
just know is going to sit in the next sentence but the next sentence is just a little bit. There's no reason for that first sentence except to get you to ask a questionand that's the entire point of that first and is to get you to ask a question and that to me makes me feel tricked. I don't I can't stand it if you want to read your bookplease. I'm not impressed with the first line. Impress me with the first line. Tell me something about your proficiency. Tell me that this is a story that I'm going to getsome depth then don't tell me that he wasn't impressed. Why would you why would you start off with a negative statement anyway. But describing what somesomebody wasn't
that that's not a description to say something wasn't something when we have no context doesn't give us any clue into anything except for the first name of thecharacter isn't it. So what is the point. Or why the quip if you when I write a sentence like that. Here's my fantasy that we would question that goal. Ned wasn'timpressed anybody could have written and why don't we want to we tweak it to say what what's really going on here. In fact you could cut that first sentence outand just start as far as he could tell in the half light that fell through the small high windows scenes of the place was a mess. Now that's. It's far more and I don'teven know you know this may not have been this and this may have been the editor sentence when the Who knows. But they give you a clue. These first lines areso critical that is why I kill myself over the first line in the first paragraph of everything I write because it really means that cleanliness we're not looking for. Makingyour lines. Seeing when looking for uniqueness and a clue into the voice of what's going to happen so we have that book and I'm going to contrast it with anotherone this isn't a very small I mean Zoltan of Ella called Underworld by Don De Lillo what it's going to be three or four pages
for those a you know it's like a thousand pages huge. Here's the first line of that book. Don De Lillo he speaks in your voice American and there's a shine in hiseye that's halfway hopeful it's a school day sure but he's nowhere near the classroom. He wants to be here instead of standing in the shadow of his old rust hulk ofa structure. And it's hard to blame him. This metropolis of steel and concrete and flaky paint and cropped grass and enormous Chesterfield packs a slant on thescoreboards a couple of cigarettes jutting from each. Now aside from my terrible reading of that
could anyone else but the little have written
or are we seeing the difference here in how we open up our narrative and I mean open as in the beginning lines I mean as in our flowering. You know our narrativeshould flower. It shouldn't grab
I you know that's that's kind of gets what I'm saying
I don't believe that your narrative should grab people. This is against ninety nine percent of the advice that you're going to get out there and you can take it orleave it. And I mean. I publish my novel novel until I'm sixty but when I'm sixty my opening will flower it will not grab. We want the opening to take time. We want tosee and understand the minutiae of the characters World
me. This is what I prefer again. But the qualifying but it happened
knocking shit around over here. Your narrative. I hope my narrative I hope flowers. It's sort of like a funnel coming out from you know the small the smallest point ofwhich is pointing at you and your narrative is widening out. Your world is being created from a single point in space and a widening widening out from there. It isnot a circular world in which you know everything in your story happens. No it is widening so that anything can happen when your book exists in a circle you havedowned trees. When it widens out it goes for infinity and anything anything that you can possibly imagine will happen in your book might happen in your bookbecause you've begun it and you continue to open it up in a certain way. And yes it takes time. And yes you're going to get a lot of rejections if you do it this way alot
more than three K. going to get more than three rejections if you decide to write this way. Now this sort of comes down to what I always come down to on justabout every show is what do you want out of this. And if you want to be a best seller don't do this. Don't open your narrative like this because this demands theattention in a time of the reader. And quite frankly most people don't have time for that shit. Unfortunately not in today's. World of you know the ear buds and thecommercials flashing a different image every two seconds and nobody thinking from in South and nobody daring to spend more than three minutes alone in aroom with their own thoughts. Nobody does that anymore because they're terrified of what they might find inside themselves and the kind of person that will readyour book that hour we will read a book that opens up like that is the kind of person that is rare. It's the kind of person who sits down and gives his full attention toa book and who doesn't expect to read a movie. He expects to be taken. He expects to step into a universe. Only you can have it only you could have created.And so everybody has to decide is that what you're going to do or do you want to build some suspense book with a little bit of a formula may have a twist here andthere and sell your hundred thousand books and get your hundred thousand dollars of which by the way you're going to have to pay off your advance shove overfifteen percent to your agent and you know your foreign rights agent and then if you you know you might get a movie deal of which all the cuts will be taken andthen after all that's done when you get your pile of fifty percent that's already been taken and it's his. So there's another thirty five percent so anything you make isgoing to be
far less than you probably expect now. Not a winning enterprise financially writing. So if we're not going to be millionaires anyway we might as well do what wewant what we want to do. We might as well try to do our best because of the financial reward. It's going to come another way. It is not going to come from writing. Idon't think it does for some people. You may make a hundred thousand bucks and then that's going to last you. Three years and guess what. That's a thirtythousand dollar a year job. And that's only if you have a bestseller. It's not looking good out there for us folks. So is money is not the point. We have to find anotherpoint. We had to find another way to go. And in my estimation in my cynical world and yes it's very cynical it's very ugly sometimes. But I think what I'm not goingto get the money anyway. Why wouldn't I just create something that only I could do. And you know unfortunately it's not the mindset of a lot of writers so then weget the Amazon stuff and that's what we get. That's what we deserve because everybody is just looking for a little bit of eye candy.
And yes I'm a little bitter about it
because I would hope I would hope that as we read it as a society as weak row as information and as art becomes more widely available that people would narrowtheir tastes they would get better over time because they can weed out a bunch of stuff and use your artistic preferences
get better. You know they keep rising because you keep expecting something a little more. But our society isn't developed that way and there's any number ofreasons for that. And this show is not the place to discuss those reasons. Everybody has their opinions. I do too. But the fact is in our world of writing we havecertain things to deal with and one of them is financial. And one of them is creative and you know again unfortunately those things intersect and it's not like youhave the job of choosing the economy and society will choose for you.
I mean the level of success of your book will be chosen by those things. So really the only thing that's up to you is what your going to write you cannot even controlhow it's going to be perceived how you know how many units are going to sell and none of that is controlled by you. All you can do is make sure that you've writtenthe best thing you can possibly write
and sort of hope that by the time you've done the agents are going to be tired of the vampire stuff. Agents are going to have had enough of the
suspense bring the fat ladies like you. She's distracting issues really loud batty
trying to copy and show
her take it easy. I don't think I can control it but I can it's already in that frickin computer anyway. Yes maybe by the time you're done it will have gotten a little bitbetter and I'd like to believe and I think
people are becoming a little bit more discerning that were sort of used to all the stuff on Amazon I'm going out. Can we stop with the free books trying to hook meinto the second one from and is this what I really want to do with my life. Or if I'm going to spend the time reading a hundred thousand words can really speakgood words
and I think the American tastes at least I hope to freaking right. I hope that our tastes are elevated and literature kind of makes a comeback. And guess who'sgoing to be there to swoop right in with our literature when everybody decides that they want to be smarter
and you're right you wouldn't need rather a whole Colgan Air only brother. We're going to be there with a product that we're proud of and we will not have seen itas a product. We were not a student as even a financial enterprise will have seen it as something that brought a light but I did hear. Let's get out there and I thinkyou will agree with you and I think the publisher will agree with you and you will be able to narrow in on that quote mark kit if you want to call
it. That's all I have to say about that. My name is Dan Black This has been a writer's life you can reach me at Dan at a W. Ell Show dot com Brevard Doolittle thatwas his name. They gave me the article about
Patterson. So thank you. BRADFORD Do I appreciate it. And if I don't get off this Mike is that what you're going to eat me
answers to not all away from me well so dot com is where you can
download the episode I've been writing stuff periodically there are
like things that don't make it on to the show you know like the things that I think about that are more in passing
I'm a see you probably next week if not sooner. So they have it. Thank you. She
quieted down. That's nice that's nice fat lady that sounds great. You should take this shit on the road. Yes right. All right thank you but I got
showing us you that you don't need to do that. I know you can sing
for him. Yes.