Why Noah Hawley is the Guy

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Noah Hawley is the ultimate in creative cool and Before the Fall proves it. (Click on the title to order: Noah needs a little more dough.)  He is a polymath of form, creating Fargo the television show for FX.  He’ll also produce and write the pilot of FX’s Legion, based on the Marvel comic character. He signed a deal with Universal for a film in their monster series and will write the screenplay for Before the Fall for Sony.  He’s about to direct a film by a first-time screenwriter. Noah is a busy dude.

Before Before the Fall, however, Mr Hawley published four books with four different publishers. Why, I can’t imagine. If I got my hands on a writer with the Porsche engine of Noah Hawley, I would have never let him go.  (As an editor, sillies.) I don’t know what the history with those 4 books and those 4 publishers was, but I doubt it was that great. Writers stay where they are supported. They move on if they are not.

But his publishing past is moot. What Noah did was extraordinary, a gift I’d been waiting for, praying would happen. Noah fused the wild velocity and back and forth time travel of the best of on-demand storytelling.  He surprised at every corner, keeping you endlessly off balance (kinda like the world).  He even turns his ending on end: It’s the petty and mundane that kills in the end.

Noah Hawley is the guy. The velocity of his writing is spectacular and all I can think about is,  When will Fargo start up again? When is Noah publishing his next book? Can I see his directorial debut yet? 

Velocity.  My company – www.LisaHaganBooks.com – has some. It’s not Noah Hawley, but it’s fast. Try some of it out sometime:  Hair Club Burning   The Gringo Maniac Murder Spree   Women in Black

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Make The Words Go Faster

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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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