Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stick To Your Guns

Not one word of social criticism…has ever changed one word of any story I tell.  I believe in what I’m doing.” - Quentin Tarantino
 


Love him or hate him, you can never accuse Quentin Tarantino of fitting anybody’s mold.  He sticks to his guns (literally and figuratively) and tells the stories he wants to tell.  If you look at his body of work, there’s no real rhyme or reason to it; from a gory, two-part revenge epic interspersed with Japanese anime and spaghetti Western imagery (“Kill Bill”) to a clever (if convoluted) caper about a flight attendant (“Jackie Brown”) and a whole lot of blood in-between, Tarantino does what he wants and if you don’t like it…well, you can imagine what choice words or hand gestures he would use to tell you what he thinks.

Among the best advice I’ve ever been given is to write the kind of book you like to read (just like Tarantino makes the kind of movies he wants to watch).  If you want to write a Western, but think you have to write about vampires because that’s what “sells”…write a Western!  Unless you have an urge to write a book about cowboy vampires. J 

For every ten people who love "Pulp Fiction," ten people hate it. 
 
On the flip side, if you’ve got an idea for a legal thriller burning inside you crying out to be written but you think the genre is too crowded… John Grisham didn’t let that stop him.  You could put a twist on it like no other.  If you write anything other than what you’re passionate about, your lack of enthusiasm will shine through.  Suspense books are close to my heart, so that's what I write.  I may love “The Twilight Zone,” but it would be silly for me to write a science fiction book.  It’s just not my thing.

As a writer, self-doubt is a killer.  You spend a lot of time wondering if readers will “get” what you’re trying to say, whether or not you’re going “too far,” or not going far enough…the list goes on.  When I was writing “Live and Let Die,” I was plagued with insecurities.  It’s not your “typical” suspense book.  It’s not a procedural, there’s no DNA or forensics at work or a detective who’s on the trail of the truth.  Not to mention it’s a standalone, not part of a series. 
 
Ultimately, I had to get over those doubts and just concentrate on telling the best story I could the way I wanted to tell it.  While I carefully considered the criticisms of the draft, I only changed what I knew in my gut had to be reworked -- all the critiques did was reinforce it.  You know what’s working in your story and what isn’t. Go with your gut.

Not everyone will like what you write or the way you write it, but there are plenty of people who will. For every ten people who think “Pulp Fiction” is brilliant, there are ten people who think it’s terrible.  I doubt those ten people who hate it cause Tarantino to lose any sleep at night.

Stay true to your vision, tell the story you want to tell, write the kind of book you want to write.

Now, back to writing.

 


 

 

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