Books, books…

I remember a conversation I had with a friend almost 15 years ago. “Ray, what’s your favorite TV show?” I asked him.

“I don’t watch much TV, Richard,” he said. “I prefer to read books. Non-fiction and biographies are favorites.”

Ray’s words gave me a lot to think about lately as I perused the channels. Golden Girls. Conan O’Brien. Goodfellas. NBA Basketball. Seinfeld. An episode of Big Bang Theory I’ve seen several times already.

In other words, nothing was on.

I have somewhere around 750-1,000 books in my apartment. I’ve read maybe a third of them. I also have a nasty habit of adding to my collection each time I visit a thrift store. Sometimes it’s a book I want to read, have another copy of, or one I want for sentimental purposes.

So, here I am, currently reading Michael Crichton’s Timeline. I also am trying to listen to Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep on CD when I’m not too tired. And next on my list are books I’ll probably have to return to the library and then check out again: Volume 1 of Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, along with a biography of Ray Bradbury.

If only I had the ability some have–reading several books a week.

Post comments here or email them to richardzowie@gmail.com. 

Visit to the library today, will write fiction soon

I checked out Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia. Am also current reading President George W. Bush’s Decision Points and am about halfway through it. Also placed an order at the library for Julia Child’s book My Life in France.

Came very close to checking out a book on my current reading list: Karen Robards’ Shattered. I love what I have read about this book, but a very quick skim reveals it looks like it might be along the lines of a trashy romance novel. Will try it out in a week or so to see how it works. Besides, I’m curious to see if there is a way to write love scenes in a tasteful way or if I should give only what is absolutely necessary for the plot. I wonder because one current project includes a man snared into a trap through the oldest trick in the book–a voluptuous woman who happens to be his type; he has gone without female companionship for some time and foolishly gives in.

So much reading and writing to do…

Richard Zowie is a writer who knows you have to read a lot to develop into a good writer. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Thoughts on the ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’ chapter ‘The Joy of Writing’

Please keep in mind that this is not a critique of Mr. Bradbury’s book Zen in the Art of Writing. This blog posting is simply what I’ve gathered from the book and how I think I can apply it to my own fiction writing career. It’s also my motivation to finish this book and to move onto others.

I’ve often wondered how to best describe Bradbury as a writer to those unfamiliar with his work (my two favorite Bradbury books are The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451). Perhaps Stephen King said it best: with Mr. Bradbury, everything’s green and wondrous and seen through a lens of nostalgia.

“The Joy of Writing” chapter

Mr. Bradbury believes it’s imperative to write with zest and gusto. Writing should be pleasurable, so have fun with it. This type of mentality helps a person put out 2,000 or so words a day. If you find it a burden, then you may have a problem. The same rings true for other professions. To be a successful chef, Gordon Ramsay has said you must a passion for cooking. Actors have told me that getting in front of a camera or on stage requires a love for performing; if your motivation is fame or fortune, forget it.

What should a person write about? Things that you love or hate. One example Mr. Bradbury references is seeing a photo in Harper’s Bazaar that used Puerto Ricans in the background as “props”. Upset by this, Mr. Bradbury wrote a short story where a Puerto Rican man taunts such a photographer by always appearing in his photographs and making some type of gesture that ruins the picture. In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King recounts working at a mill and hearing a crazy story about how giant rats lived in the cellar of a decrepit building. Wheels spun and soon King wrote the creepy short story Graveyard Shift.

Sometimes we write about our fears. One short story I’m working on focuses on one of my worst fears: having an automobile breakdown in the summer heat in the middle of nowhere. The main character is on the run from the police but has his car break down in one of the more rural areas of the country: West Texas.

Sometimes, Mr. Bradbury feels writing a story can be as simple as finding a character who wants or doesn’t want something with all their heart. Give them orders, let them go and follow them and write what you see happening. Darn the outlines and character profiles, full speed ahead!

Writing also requires a person to read voraciously and diversely. Books, magazines, anything you can get your hands on. Myself, I suspect much can be learned even by reading bad prose. You learn how not to write and what doesn’t work. For me, what comes to mind is one particular sci-fi novel written by a scientist who simply wasn’t a good writer. Another involves a curious delve into trasy western paperbacks where the methaphors are so bad they’re comical. Obviously, this is best kept at a minimum while energies should be focused on good writing and what does work.

Finally in this chapter, Mr. Bradbury reminds us that life is indeed very short. Write. A writer writes now. Procrastination is the death of writing. This is indeed something I can relate to: my twenties flew by and now, at 37, I’m beginning to wonder what happened to my thirties. If only we lived on a planet like Pluto, where the days are six days long instead of a measly 24 hours.

Up next, the chapter “Run Fast, Stand Still”.

Richard Zowie is a professional writer. He’s worked as a journalist and columnist and also blogs and writes fiction. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.