"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: December 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Other People's Books

Well I suppose the holiday period is nearly over and it's time to think about getting back to work. 

I know you may be already there. 

It's a tricky time of year - what with the largely self imposed pressure to re-evaluate things and perhaps set new goals for a new year.

My feeling is that if we're sure we know what we want and work towards it a little every day, we shouldn't need to overly beat ourselves up. 

Just get on with life and our goals will take care of themselves. 

Assuming you know what you want of course, which can, for some of us, take a lifetime to work out!
Click on the link below to get today's New Year offer.

Ultimate Writing Package


Other People's Books

Rob Parnell

For a struggling writer, there's nothing worse than reading a great book.

Finding an author who is patently superior to yourself can be a most humbling and depressing experience.

What more confirmation do you need that you'll probably never reach the heights - or, it seems, even be able to put a decent sentence together without embarrassment.

One such superior author is Dennis Lehane.

I just spent the last week reading Mystic River - a work of fiction so profoundly brilliant I decided at one point I was never going to write another word.

Why should I bother when this guy has got the whole writing thing down pat...

I mean, not only is the characterization consistently awesome, the plot is multilayered, complex yet simple in all the right ways. It's also superbly written with an understanding of the English language that seems effortless and divinely inspired by equal measure.

I've read interviews with Lehane and he's no slouch when it comes to writing. He's studied it profusely, endlessly debated its merits with writer friends and made a determined effort to be the best he can be - something he is clearly achieving.

All well and good. Just as it should be. But where does that leave the rest of us?

What's clear to me is that brilliance at writing is not a fluke.

It takes a heap of work and a keen, vigilant intelligence to be able to write well. Something that the majority of wannabe writers are blissfully unaware of - or refuse to accept.

Just as well sometimes. Ignorance is strength. Naivete a boon.

I guess that's the thing. If we knew how hard something was going to be before we started, we'd never start anything.

Come to think of it I know lots of people who never do anything because they guess (rightly) it's going to be really hard!

We actually need to believe some things will be easy - or that we can rise to the challenge, otherwise nothing would ever get done.

Everything would end up in the infamous "too hard basket" as they say in Australia.

Having been suitably chastised by reading Lehane - who seems to be saying to me: Give it up, lad, I've got this covered, I went in search of more novels - from the bargain bin of course.

Glad I did.

I found a couple of authors I'd never heard of. Both of whom had written about eight novels apiece and, according to their blurb, wrote full time.

Though the writing was not on Lehane's par, it was at least encouraging. Because, reading them I immediately felt happy. 

I had that nice reassuring sense of: I can do better than this.

This is the way I want to feel when I read other people's novels. Because it gives me a reason to write myself!

I won't name these other authors - because I don't want to seem mean spirited. Besides, they're doing well as far as I can tell. They write full time. They have agents, pets and loving families.

They, I assume, live idyllic lives getting paid to write novels that people are actually buying and reading. And despite living this enviable lifestyle they have the added advantage of being completely anonymous in the eyes of the public.

They don't need to worry about being recognized or mobbed in the street - and they can live with the calm satisfaction of knowing they got the dream.

Plus, if they thought about it, they should know that they're inspiring new authors everywhere - to emulate their success and know that it's entirely possible to make a good living as a writer without necessarily being a household name.

And without necessarily being the greatest writer in the world.


I'm feeling a new novel coming on already.

Till next time. 

Keep writing!
 rob at home

"A professional is someone who respects his trade, tries as hard as he can to perfect his work, and realizes that one failure isn’t the end of the world. Or two…or three." Nathaniel Benchley

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Write From the Heart

Write from the heart - that's all you really need to do.

Never try to second guess the market or try to be clever with your audience - or those who would help you achieve your aims.

Be true to yourself and be honest with your readers - because that's the only way to create anything of value and to sustain an artistic career of any kind.

It's easy to get fooled by the system into thinking that you work to get paid, therefore you can write anything for money - but it doesn't really work like that.

Not with art anyway. Not with anything creative.

Creativity requires more than just turning up and punching the clock.

Writing, painting, sculpting, playing an instrument, making movies, anything that requires personal expression, needs a soul at work.

Your soul - your time and passion and commitment.

That's what creativity of any kind demands:


It's intimidating, sure, when you see so much finished stuff around - you know, finished books, completed movies, and mastered songs that just glow with semi-perfection - all neatly packaged and oozing confidence and, well, some kind of stature.

And all available for sale...

It's hard when you want to be one of those people who has a book out there or a song or a film - and you know you haven't even started or worse actually, you're half way through something that feels like it's never going to be completed let alone recognized and available as a finished product.

It can be extra intimidating to see so many people with finished products who are social networking constantly - trying to get themselves and their own books, films and music seen and taken seriously.

Especially when on the same page some fabulously famous people are doing exactly the same - and they have the fame, the kudos and the riches to do it well!

How can you possibly compete in a world where just about everyone is shouting, "Look at me, look at me!"

Thing is, it's not about competing.

It's just about being there - and being yourself and being honest.

People might criticize you (but actually they rarely do).

Most likely people might appear to ignore you.

But that's okay too.

How many times have you seen people online and not said anything - just stored away their image or their 'thing' in your brain and moved on?

That's pretty much what everyone else is doing.

They may never contact you or involve themselves with you but they know you're there. 

And there is just where you need to be.

You gotta be in it to win it, as they saying goes.

That doesn't mean you spout bollocks all day though.

People respond best to sincerity.

Consistent sincerity - the kind you can't fake.

Do what you do, feel what you feel, and write what you write...

Love what you do and do what you love.

And get it out there.

And the world, my friend, will know.

Trust in yourself and your dreams.

And write from your heart.

Till next time.
Keep writing!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On Writing and Making Movies

Dear Fellow Writer,

Click on the link below to get this year's Santa Stampede specials!

Digital Disposal
Keep writing!


Current Thoughts On Writing

Rob Parnell

You've probably realized that recently I've been shooting my latest horror movie.

It's called First Cut - and is kinda like a cross between Amityville and The Shining - but without the supernatural elements. I think the horror is more scary because it's reality based.

The story is constructed on the idea that a failing relationship doesn't take much to push it over the edge.

We've all been there.

At the end of a relationship nothing we say to each other works. Everything rubs us up the wrong way. Our goals are misaligned and we have difficulty connecting.

In the movie, Jess and Doug are living separate lives and hate each other with a passion. Every comment is meant as a barb to bait the other - until eventually Doug snaps.

In fact there are only eight lines of dialog in the entire film - the rest is taken up with the lead characters 'terrorizing' each other.

I wanted to make a movie where it wasn't necessary to have lots of people talking all the time - like much of American TV drama.

Film is a visual medium and requires a different way of telling a story. Writers often forget this and fill their screenplays with lots of talking when an image - as the saying goes - is often worth a thousand words.

We all had a blast during the shoot, working quickly with the two actors, a tiny crew and a bucket-load of fake blood, we managed to create 700 shots in just four days, using my beautiful Canon XF300 and a whole bunch of new light and sound gear bought specially for the occasion.

The whole project's in HD and broadcast quality. I wanted to make it as professional looking as possible. You never know where it might end up being seen.

When it's ready, early next year, probably February, I'll be putting the movie in to film festivals around the world.

I want to use the movie to raise money for the next one, a 'kids confront a monster in the desert' feature called Resolution Falls, currently in development - as the saying goes!

I have this idea that kids these days, what with technology and the feeling we have when we're young - that perhaps we'll live forever - that there's an emptiness of sorts in young people's lives. I want to play with this idea in Resolution Falls.

The heroine is Gina, a 19 year old who is trying to find meaning in a world she's grown bored with. 

When she's on work experience with a bunch of young engineers in the desert, she's forced to confront a monster (half vampire, half zombie, all demon) which makes her question the nature of humanity - what it means to be alive, in other words.

As a long term writer, I have to say that, to me, making movies is the ultimate in creative expression.

You start with an idea, which you then have to develop into a script, which, even after all that work, becomes a mere template for the shot list.

Then all the hard work starts to get everything into the camera you need to tell your story.

Then, the really hard part comes when you have to put it all together into a coherent narrative with pictures, sound and music.

All things I love to do!

I must say it's great to be making horror movies in particular. 

It's a dream I've been working on for about five years now. 

After a lifetime of writing horror and loving the genre, I feel I'm finally giving back! 

All those apparently wasted hours watching horror movies and studying how it's done are now bearing fruit.

To me, horror is not about the scares. 

In fact I think one of the reasons why horror doesn't have the credibility it should is that much of the stuff we get in the cinema is all about the scares.

This is the reason I think why The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw are still voted the best horror movies ever made. Even though they were both produced over thirty years ago! 

They're not actually 'scary' movies in the modern sense, they're true 'horror' stories.

I'd like to think I'm not making mere 'scary' movies but in some way bringing back the 'horror' movie - as in telling stories about real people facing the extraordinary - and not necessarily the supernatural, CGI created silliness we see so often these days.

Anyway, I know that horror isn't everybody's thing, so I won't bore you any longer - even though many of the horror conventions fill our screens all the time nowadays.

They're just called different things like dark fantasy, superhero movies and action pictures!

If I sound a little obsessed I've done nothing this last three weeks but edit First Cut, day in day out.

As with writing, I believe you have to get obsessed with perfection to really create something of value.

Till next time. 

Keep writing!
 rob at home

"A professional is someone who respects his trade, tries as hard as he can to perfect his work, and realizes that one failure isn’t the end of the world. Or two…or three." Nathaniel Benchley

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "Fostering Inspiration"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Inspiration - How To Tap Into It

You can wait for days, weeks, months sometimes for it to strike.

It seems you can’t will it, force it or otherwise pluck it out of the air.

It’s actually hard to know exactly what it is!

But when inspiration strikes, it hits hard.

Excitement fills you. You’re convinced – there’s a surety inside you – you are on to something.

You’ve just had the most original and enlightening thought anyone in the world has ever had.

And then what?

Do you act? Do you rush for a pen to jot down the idea?

You should.

Sometimes even the best and most profound ideas are fleeting. But sometimes not.

I’ve noticed over the years that when you get a really good idea, it tends to stick. Not only that, it can literally change the direction of your life.

Think about this:

You’re an author.

One day, a character occurs to you – someone you like and think could be a good focus for a story or two. You write about him/her, your story becomes a novel, your book gets published and suddenly your character is out in the world.

Isn’t that just an amazing concept? That a single moment of inspiration can create so many consequences?

Now you can see why good ideas should be considered precious – you never know how valuable they could be to you – and you never know where a good idea might lead.

So where do you find these ‘good ideas’?

Well, if you’re not used to being regularly inspired, you may have to work at it.

But it’s not so hard. It’s just about practice.

Many of the seasoned authors I know complain they have too many ideas – and not enough time to act on them.

It’s because they’ve spent so many years expecting inspiration to come that it does – and all the time.

Try this:

Write down 5 ideas for magazine articles. Now.

How long did that take you?

Ten minutes – an hour?

Good but someone used to writing articles or regular columns could come up with ten in probably less than thirty seconds.

They’ve gotten used to thinking up ideas on the spot. They’ve trained their minds to do it.

You can do the same.

Before you go to bed at night, tell yourself you’re going to get some really good ideas tomorrow. In the morning wake up and tell yourself how much you’re looking forward to the good ideas you will have later in the day.

Whenever you’re inspired by something – or receive a flash of insight, write it down, promise yourself you will work on it – and move on.

Be consistently aware that good ideas are everywhere.

Most often it’s just seeing the norm from a slightly oblique angle – or making a connection in your mind between two apparently disparate objects, ideas or concepts.

From a writer’s point of view than can no better starting point for ideas than the ‘what if’ question.

What if chickens wore clothes?

What if an ocean liner overturned?

What if there were real witches, or vampires?

What if the sun didn’t come up tomorrow?

These are the sort of questions that will train your brain to think in this way – to reprogram mind and re-invent it as an ‘inspiration creator’!

If you like this article, you'll love this.

Keep writing!
Rob Parnell
The Writing Academy

"True power is an individual's ability to move from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." — Winston Churchill

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!