In praise of Miss Snark and William Goldman

Sunday, November 05, 2006, 9:45 PM

If any of you (there is a you, isn't there? Surely someone will read this...) want to learn more about writing then you can do no better than visit a certain Miss Snark. There's a link over there on the right - no, don't click it yet, read this first. Miss Snark is a mysterious literary agent who dispenses wit and wisdom, and occasional cruelty, in her oft updated blog. I feel this may be the Internet's greatest resource for aspiring writers. I don't exaggerate. Her postings have been invaluable to me. In fact, it was her observations that prompted me to scrap September's project and start again with my current idea. So, it's all her fault.

Another wonderful resource for writers is a pair of books by William Goldman, the legendary screenwriter. They are Adventures in the Screen Trade and More Adventures in the Screen Trade. You might notice that I cadged those titles for my own blog. Although those books deal primarily with writing for the big screen I believe his principles can be applied equally to the printed word. Also, if you're like me and obsessed with cinema, they make an entertaining and enlightening read.

In the first of those volumes, Mr Goldman summed up Hollywood with three words - "Nobody knows anything."

If I may share a personal anecdote, a similar sentiment was once expressed to me at a well known film festival. I was attending said festival as a movie I had scored was receiving its premiere there. I was at one of the festival's many schmoozing events where hundreds of hopeful film-makers were forcing their scripts into the hands of anyone who stood still long enough to be snared. I came to this event with the idea of selling my compositional services but instead found myself standing in a corner feeling frightened, inadequate and hopelessly out of place.

I was considering just skulking out the door when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see a certain well known director smiling at me.

"It's alright, son," he said. "We're all charlatans here."

If I find myself needing to justify my attempts at writing, if I feel I have no business putting words on a page, I remember those two brief sentences.

Conversely, when I feel a little arrogance creeping in, I go and see Miss Snark. She kicks it out of me right and quick!


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