Thoughts on Writing: Movies About Novelists
As an aspiring novelist, I recently couldn't help thinking about movies about novelists. There are a lot, as you might have guessed. And I can safely say I haven't seen a vast majority of them. That said, there are quite a few that I have seen, and I've picked my favorites of them, and added some thoughts on writing that each movie got me thinking about. The Shining
I totally get the idea that a few months of isolation would be fantastic for a novelist to be able to work without distractions and interruptions. But an empty hotel miles away from civilization might not be the best idea. Still I love this classic Kubrick film and enjoyed it more than the novel it was based on.
I recently came back from a short camping trip. Not completely isolated but definitively away from the hubbub of normal life. I honestly didn't get much writing done (okay, zero) but I got some important reading in. In retrospect, seeing as life inspires writing I think total isolation takes you away from your greatest source of material.
Another movie based on a Stephen King novel. The novel is better, I must say, but this movie does terrify me. As much as it be nice to have devoted fans one day who anxiously await my next novel, there are limits. This movie is well done, and brilliantly cast. I own the DVD, but have only watched it once in full and that is enough.
Is writing just about ones desire to tell a story, or to have it read? I go back and forth on this. It would be the best job ever to be able to live off of your own writing, but would that stop me if I couldn't make a few bucks off of a novel I wrote? Probably not. If I have a story to tell, I'll tell it and hope people read it. I won't stop of no one buys my first novel. So having readers would be great, but is not a requirement for writer who just wants to write.
Still, I think having hardcore fans would be a great motivator, even if there are only a few and not thousands. I've read some crappy books from authors who used to be good but got terrible after commercial success. Yes, James Patterson, I am talking about you.
I need to watch this movie again because it has been a few years since I have see it. I first saw it when I was much younger and probably didn't appreciate it during my previous viewing as an adult since I hadn't yet started writing my own novel. This movie has all sorts of elements that writers can appreciate.
I don't necessarily think that for a novel to be good it has to follow a formula. Plot twists are great when the story needs it, but as M. Night Shamalayan has proven, they don't always enhance the story if the story was weak to begin with.
I guess this counts since the main character, Jo March, writes an autobiographical novel. I'm not one for using my own life as source material for my novel. I can't see how even a fictionalization of my own life would be remotely interesting to anyone. My novel's plot has absolutely no resemblance to my own life. I know that somewhat contradicts something I worte earlier, but let me explain. Bits and pieces maybe have been inspired by incidents or people I know, but there's nothing autobiographical about it. In fact, the main character's family make up bears zero resemblance to my own. I am the youngest of three kids, the main character is the oldest of two. My parents are still married, but my character's mother is divorced from his dad, and widowed by her second husband, who is the father of his younger sister. Nothing like my family a all. It makes for an interesting problem but one that I think forces me to explore things beyond my realm of familiarity, which I feel is good for my creativity.
A true favorite movie of mine. Not only does it have a reclusive Pulitzer Prize winning author, but a young aspiring author who is taken under his wing. Who wouldn't want such tutelage? While I can't think of any Pulitzer winners I would love to learn from directly I'll love the opportunity for some one-on-one writing instruction and guidance from Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, or Rex Pickett (who incidentally has given out some great writing advice on Twitter).
Speaking of Rex Pickett... the last movie on my list os based on his novel. This may be a movie about wine, but it is also about a struggling writer hoping to see his novel picked up by a publisher. I first saw this movie about five years ago, and since read the novel it is based on, as well as the sequel (which has yet to be adapted for big screen) and is probably in my top five movies and novels.
I anticipate self-publishing my novel when it is complete, so I won't go through the hell that Miles Raymond does as he awaits word from his agent about whether his novel will be picked up by a publisher, but at least the depiction of what the process is actually like is based on reality. It's no secret that there are more books being written than publishing houses actually publish. Today, things have changed on that there are more opportunities for authors to bypass traditional publishing routes and self-publish—and succeed.