BY RAUL HERNANDEZ
Ernest Hemingway once said: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I’ve been busy slicing my wrists in front of my computer screen for years, and quite frankly, I love it. Self-mutilation? Perhaps, but there is the joy that comes after crafting a great story.
I have written four books. Two — Stepping on the Devil’s Tail and “The Dead Sea Bar and Grill” — were published on Amazon and Kindle.
I’ve been very busy lately.
I am doing the final, final editing on my third book, “The Serape Notebook.” It is about two brothers growing up in El Paso during the time of the Vietnam War. It is a love story that will be published late this year or early 2018.
And, I just dug up an old screenplay, “The Dead Sea Bar and Grill” that I wrote in 1995 and want to revive. There has been interest lately in the screenplay, and I’m excited about it.
The screenplay has a story of its own. In 2001, it got as far as the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles.
In working on the rewrite, I found this gem on Youtube. It is a lengthy interview with UCLA Professor Richard Walter about writing. It is honest, and what I was impressed the most was his choices for examples of great writing — “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos” — were also my favorites.
(It’s All About Story And Nothing Else – UCLA Professor Richard Walter [FULL INTERVIEW)
MY FRIEND RON
I was able through friend and developer Ron Smith get my screenplay to the William Morris Agency. Ron had a relative who worked there. I was elated about having some honcho at William Morris look at my screenplay.
Before writing the screenplay, I read and re-read at least six books about writing screenplays. I bought copies of several screenplays including “Platoon,” and “The Sting.” I heard the movies without looking at the films.
It was months of preparation.
Several weeks after I signed the William Morris Agency release form, which I still have, the rejection letter arrived by mail
The agency’s letter was constructive criticism, including ways to improve the story and rewriting and resubmitting it.
I remember thinking, how could they reject this?
Two weeks ago, I dug up this screenplay. It was in a large plastic box at the bottom of a pile of papers and files. I thumbed through the pages and concluded that I would have rejected it too. It needed a lot of work.
It needs a lot of work.
But while reading it, I was surprised at just how much work I put into learning how to do proper screenwriting, plotting, dialogue, and formatting.
The character dialogue is solid, and the action is steady.
I decided rather than to spend more years rewriting the screenplay. I would rewrite the novel instead. I spent years and countless hours working on it.
I sent query letters and sample chapters of my novel out to agents and got dozens of rejection letters.
Some said they liked the story but they didn’t handle this kind of novel and then, the usual: “Best of luck in publishing your novel.”
I tried going to publishers and most made it clear that they only allow submissions from literary agents.
When I was getting pummeled with rejections, there was one that ended up on the door of my refrigeration and is still there. It came from a major book publisher Simon & Schuster.
It stated that I came within one board member vote from getting published but they liked “my voice” and rejection was full of encouragement.
Most of the rejection letters I got were tossed or deleted.
The Simon & Schuster letter is there for the sole purpose of jump starting my mind when I’m hemorrhaging, down to a pint of blood and the computer screen and my mind are blank.
The rejection letter is near a quote on the refrigerator by a person I admire, Winston Churchill: Never, Never, Never Give Up.
THE BEST NOVELS
Writing, good writing, takes a lot of patience, practice and time along with reading many novels, not just any novel. Only those, as Hemingway said, that are the best.
The best novels, for me, are John Grisham’s and Daniel Silva’s books along with books by Steinbeck, Twain, and Dickens. I consider these writers the Rembrandts of writing. They are the deep blue fountains of knowledge about what a great novel is all about.
Basically, a great story captivates the imagination and seduces the mind into traveling to fascinating places even if they are courthouses or dark spots where spies gather. And, along the way, the reader meets colorful, despicable or intriguing characters.
BTW: I recently learned one of the most interesting facts about John Grisham. He was a small-town lawyer when he began his writing career, and he was pelted with rejection letters like most writers. Grisham sold his first books out of the trunk of the car, and he did so to pay the publisher.
More than two decades ago, I told a group of Middle-School youngsters at a creative writing seminar, “writing is like being a Sculptor, a Roden. You start out with this humongous rock, and each day, you chip away, bit by bit. Years later, you step back and look at what you’ve done and say, ‘nice.’ And one day, many years later, you step back again and look at your creation, drop your jaw and say, ‘Wooow.'”
I am still sitting in front of my computer and committing self-mutilation with a smile on my face and joy in my heart as I continue taping on the computer keys.
Still standing back and saying, “Woooow.”
I plan to post my screenplay, “The Dead Sea Bar and Grill,” on my website after I give it an overhaul.
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