Genius Indeed

Anyone who knows me knows that I read more than I watch movies.  It’s not that I have anything against movies, there are some excellent ones out there, but I love the place reading takes me.  A little prose to tantalize the senses, characters with whom I can relate or debate, description that draws me in:  I lose myself in the writing to the exclusion of everything around me.  But when a fellow book-snob recommends a movie, I seriously consider watching it.  Such was the case with Genius starring Colin Firth, Jude Law, Laura Linney, and Nicole Kidman.  The movie chronicles Scribner’s editor, Max Perkins, as he oversees the careers of Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway with the emphasis on Wolfe.

The first three actors immediately caught my attention because they are among my favorites.  Turns out Nicole Kidman portrayed Aline Bernstein, Thomas Wolfe’s unofficial patron and jilted lover, with an incredible amount of skill.  She’s matured quite nicely as an actress beyond being a pretty foil for Tom Cruise’s macho-man roles.  When she asks Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe if he knows how hard she’s worked to look at him and feel nothing, her strength radiates from the screen.

As for Laura Linney, who never fails to please, I thought she was underused in this film in her role of Max Perkins’s wife, Louise.  Her character was strong when she stood up to her husband, demanding he spend more time with his five daughters and less with his author, Thomas Wolfe, but she seemed a titch on the peripheral.  I understand the movie focused on the relationship between Perkins and Wolfe, but why waste Linney’s talent on one impassioned plea and nothing more?

Colin Firth as Max Perkins appealed to me as a writer.  Firth’s portrayal was solid, marching steadily on as an editor, drawing lines with his red pencil through a writer’s work with the precision of a scalpel.  I thrilled and cringed all at once watching those scenes.  But the one that delighted me the most was when Firth/Perkins sat on a train reading Wolfe’s manuscript that would become Look Homeward, Angel and realized it was worthy of publication.  Again, I was drawn into the movie by Firth’s slight smile, drawn into his head to the point I could see the wheels turning because he knew he’d hit upon literary genius.  Ah, to be a writer in those days when the relationship between editor and author meant hashing out the chapters line by line while secluded in an office.

The first thing about the movie that caught my attention was the cinematography in the opening scenes depicting the 1920s.  Usually pictures or films from this era are shades of gray or sepia.  Such was the case with the movie until it slowly faded to color past the opening credits.  Only the coloring didn’t change all that much because the streets of 1920s New York were rather gray and brown anyhow.

Now think beyond the splash of color implied by jazz and flappers and you’ll realize this was a great technique to employ in a movie about writers.  You’ll see it throughout the movie from Max Perkins’s cigarette smoke-clouded office slanted with rays of sunshine, to Perkins’s white home against a plain background, to scenes of men in breadlines during the Depression.  This may sound rather boring, but I believe it was a skillful attempt to capture black words on a white page, i.e. writing.  In fact, the whole movie was so brilliantly black and white, that I must give high praise to whoever thought of transitioning the written word to the viewed image in such a way.

Make no mistake, however; the movie was anything but colorless.  Jude Law as the larger-than-life Thomas Wolfe was so over the top with his portrayal.  Clearly Wolfe was a genius, but I flinched every time he opened his mouth, romping around scenes like a Great Dane puppy, and baying his slightly crazy, writerly musings.  I could see why Wolfe needed reigning in and taming by Max Perkins.  Law was at his most unsophisticated, un-Jude-like self; I forgot that he was acting and not truly Thomas Wolfe.

Guy Pearce as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dominic West as Ernest Hemingway provide two nice cameos of the authors.  More exciting was the camera panning what looked to be first edition novels by said authors on the shelves in Max Perkins’s office.  Even if they weren’t, I’m sure I wasn’t the only writer salivating at the dream of getting my hands on a first edition of any of their works.

One small sidebar to the Perkins/Wolfe drama was the tiny restoration of my faith toward F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with F. Scott and banged him up pretty bad on my blog.  (F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Short Stories, Dear Scott, Sincerely HL, Under the Influence).  The viewer is given a small glimpse of F. Scott as the tender caretaker of his mad wife, Zelda.  For me, this persona never came out in Fitzgerald’s writing.  To see him as something other than the money-grubbing, mad-for-fame author in pursuit of the “top girl” was refreshing.

I’ll not spoil the ending of the movie as it delivers more emotionally impactive word-to-image scenes, but I’ll close by saying it was the best movie I ever read.

Short But Sweet Information

I love finding valuable resources for writing, but even more than finding them, I love sharing them.  One of my goals for my blog is to provide another place where fellow writers can find gems such as the two I’m featuring today.

In addition to writing novels, I churn out a short story from time to time.  Now that I have a few stacked up like firewood, I thought I might as well submit them.  Ah, but how to format a short story when I’ve been focusing on how to format entire manuscripts?  Turns out it’s not all that different, and it’s actually quite easy.

The first link I’m providing is How to Format a Short Story Manuscript for Submission: a Checklist by Joe Bunting.  Who doesn’t love a good checklist, right?  In addition to this is a wonderful visual resource called Proper Manuscript Format:  Short Story Format by William Shunn.  Mr. Shunn is brilliant when he not only tells us how to format our short fiction, but he shows us what it should look like as well.

I hope you find these helpful, and that you’ll pass on the useful information.

Welcome to my Author Blog

Welcome to my author blog, Friend. I am so pleased you found me.

I’ve been hanging out here for two years with an amazing group of followers. It is because of them that my blog is going strong, and I want to take this opportunity to say, “Thank You!”

The overall purpose of my blog is to familiarize you with my writing, most specifically my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. I am currently seeking representation for my manuscript. In the meantime, I’m working on my second novel as well as a collection of short stories.

Following me is quite easy. Just click the +Follow button hovering in the bottom right hand corner of the screen or take advantage of the sign-up directly on the Home page. In addition to my blog, there are various ways for us to become better acquainted. I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us. I look forward to getting to know you better.

HL Gibson, Author

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the TradeAt this month’s Critique Group, a fellow writer said that he thought he’d done everything correctly when writing his novel only to find that it had to be double spaced with one-inch margins, Times New Roman 12 point, starting a third of the way down the page—

“Wait, wait, wait,” I said when I noticed panic widening the eyes of another new member. “What you’re talking about is a manuscript submission copy.”

We had a discussion on how to write a story and touched on plotting versus pantsing, writing by hand versus typing on a laptop, etc. The first point I want to make is just write the story. As Will Shetterly said, “It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.” I’m also fond of “Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head.” There are many such encouraging quotes, but I’m sure you understand what I’m saying. Get that story written.

With that being said, the second point and true purpose of this post is to offer another resource where new writers can find the information they require to turn their manuscripts into acceptable submission copies. I’m all about giving back the information I discovered and/or processes I learned.

These steps are for formatting a novel:

  1. Set 1″ margins on all sides.
  2. Prepare a title page with your name and contact information in the upper left-hand corner of the page (some sources say include the word count here), title in ALL CAPS about one-third of the way down the page, skip a line, followed with a novel by, skip a line, and your name.
  3. Don’t number the title page. Begin numbering (1) with the first page of the text of the manuscript, usually the introduction, prologue, or chapter one.
  4. Use a header on each page, including your last name, the title of your novel in ALL CAPS, and the page number. Remember to make the font of the header match the font of your manuscript.
  5. Start each new chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down the page.
  6. The chapter number and chapter title should be in all caps, separated by two hyphens: CHAPTER 1—THE BODY.
  7. Begin the body of the chapter four to six lines below the chapter title.
  8. Indent fives spaces for each new paragraph.
  9. Double-space the entire text.
  10. Use a standard font, 12-point type. Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier is fine.
  11. Alignment should be to the left, not justified. The right edges will not be uniform.
  12. Indicate scene breaks with a blank line and five centered dashes or number signs.
  13. End your manuscript with the five centered dashes or number signs or simply type THE END.
  14. Use 20-lb. bond paper.

The guidelines for a manuscript submission copy may vary a titch based on which websites you reference and/or who you talk to. The steps presented above are the basics and will ensure that your manuscript doesn’t get rejected because it is sloppy.

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