OH GREAT. NOW IT’S INTERRACIAL PORN

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/beth wareham

In about three weeks, my book releases. I’ll save the title for it’s explosive debut, but it’s subtitle – AN INTERRACIAL COMEDY – gives you an idea of it’s contents.

In the course of online research, I first needed to understand the competition: There was none. That’s good and bad. Everyone clamors for originality but few in the creativity business –  film studios, publishing companies, museums, etc. – walk the walk.

It tends to be too much of a financial risk in inherently  expensive endeavors. So, let’s just say my book is a cross between The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills and American Gangster. It’s silly cinematic intercourse but I don’t care: All I want you to see is a blonde housewife and Denzel. I’ll take it from there.

Unfortunately, everywhere I go on the internet to investigate “interracial couples,” I end up on a porn site. Not that I mind porn. In fact, interracial porn happens to be my favorite.

These porn sites have sticky little porn things that travel with me and open up in places on the internet usually reserved for my friends, the churchgoers. Suddenly, Aunt Adda was confronted with a black male and a white female engaged in anal intercourse. I feel bad.

Smart internet people tell me how to stop this and I do it and the little sticky porn things find me again, shocking my friends and relatives and making them wonder just what I’ve been up to.

Nothing, Aunt Adda. Nothing. I’m just publishing a book.

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Make The Words Go Faster

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/beth wareham

In my long, lonely corporate publishing career, I read way too much. Some of it still haunts me, strange sexual longings and random violence that popped up in the strangest of manuscripts and proposals. But most of it just bored me silly. I remember reading this long passage of a Hollywood “Dermatologist to the Stars” who rushed to a starlet’s house to pop her pimple with a Q-tip so it didn’t read on the camera the next day. And we wonder why movie folk get so infantilized.

But that pimple was a good day. I still remember it, right? What I don’t remember are long, meandering stories with little plot and lots of author ego. I remember novels (my colleagues’ favorites) whose prose had been picked clean like a European forest. Perfect. Beautiful. Bloodless.

Give me blood. Give me fast and raw and take me somewhere. I don’t want a perfect 2 hour moment of strolling though the Vienna Woods, I want to feel, move, challenge, fight, fuck, love, retreat, surge forward, and maybe win, maybe not. I want life.

How to convey that speed, that rawness? First, get the right story. Only you know what the right story is. It’s the one that gets your blood up, the story you want to rise to and conquer. Next, read other stories  you admire. Watch how writers write raw and fast. It’s plot, word choice and length of sentence, graph, chapter, book. If you can’t get it done in 60,000 – 80,000 words, rethink it. And, I’d even shoot for a shorter book: 50,000 sounds good these days.

Get real. Your competition is Homeland on Showtime and Fargo on FX. Your competition is 24 hour war coverage, the weasel that dances atop Donald Trump’s head, and all the shiny things the internet throws up that keeps you surfing for hours.

Here is a short list of books that changed the way I thought about the velocity of narrative. Or, as my husband says, “they know how to write clean.”

My Traitor’s Heart by Rian Malan

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

The White Album by Joan Didion

There many more. I hope you tell me some of your favorites because I’ve been watching way too much on-demand. And just as I had to change for my health and eat clean, my brain needs a’washing and I want to read clean. Help me.

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What Thriller Writers Know

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…and how you can use it to make your writing go from good to great. (Yeah, I stole that last bit. So what?)

I am obsessed with thrillers. It’s part of my “write short” sickness that many loathe but I require. I never read Proust and boast about it. Henry James makes my skin crawl, except the one about those two kids turning a screw.

Only a handful of the greatest of greats – Tolstoy, F. Scott, Marquez, Markham, Salter – keep me from yelling “oh, get on with it!” as I read.  These guys are so good that if they are trying to stun me with adjectives, clauses and descriptions that go nowhere, the writing is so great and surprising, I don’t mind. I refer you to Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illych which contains the sad cold hearts of civilized humanity in one thin book. Or Marquez’s Memories of His Melancholy Whores which boils down the nature of love and lust in human beings to the thinnest of powerful reads.

Quite writing so much, everybody. Everything will read better: your emails, social media posts, notes to your lover, anything. Get to the point and do it with these simple tips:

  1. Noun, verb. This is the easiest to remember of all the writing short tips. He ran is a perfectly fine sentence. He ran around the rose bushes that Aunt Mae had planted all those years ago in the summer rain is not a that great of a sentence. Those rose bushes just take out the punch and slow a sentence about speed: He ran.
  2. Focus. Thriller writers fly low to the ground, adding detail only as                                     absolutely necessary to give the reader information about the plot. If the detail that an agent is terrified of snakes comes up, you can bet there will be a scene where snakes come into play. NOTHING IS WASTED.
  3. Cut adjectives and adverbs.  You can’t tell people anything; you need to show them. It’s the same in parenting, teaching, writing and leadership. You are the Supreme Leader of this Book. But don’t wear a weird jumpsuit and designer sunglasses when you type.
  4. Pick a detail like you are shopping for a diamond ring or a new car. One little word, a tiny flick of your typing wrist, can set a scene or character alive and indelibly imprinted into the mind of your reader. She walked into the room versus She walked into the room in an orange dress and stockings with a hole running up the leg. Feels like a different woman, doesn’t it? And you’ve only used 12 more words.
  5. Surprise. Surprise gets attention. Take the readers mind in one direction: They will anticipate a certain word, analogy, response, event, ending, whatever, and you give them something else. It is in that “something else” where your core message might lurk. The mind of the reader will be off balance and it’s a perfect moment to strike.

 

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Beth Wareham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOO MANY CRITICS

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Penny Dreadful, loyal canine to my business partner in film at Running Steed Productions, decides that Joshua Warren’s Gringo Maniac Murder Spree is delicious.

We, however, hope you’ll read it before you do this. (Penny didn’t.)

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