Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stranger than Fiction -- you betcha!

I see Emma Thompson is in a new movie called "Stranger than Fiction," playing a writer suffering from writer's block whose thoughts/writing are suddenly in Will Farrell's head, while he's apparently a character in her book.

Now, wacky as this scenerio sounds, that's not what got my attention during the commercials. It's the fact that the writer is still using a typewriter.

I don't know a single writer who uses a typewriter, and in fact, unless she pays somebody to input her manuscript onto a computer disk, I don't know any writer who could use just a typewriter. My publisher requires a diskette. In fact, people are shocked to discover I still send in a hard (paper) copy of my manuscripts along with a diskette. Believe me, I wish I didn't have to. That's a lot of paper to FedEx, and costs accordingly. Many people are also gobsmacked to learn I don't submit electronically. To them, publishing is still in the Dark Ages, one step away from monks with quills.

Also, our gal Emma is apparently a social nincompoop. Ah, yes, we writers are a weird, lonely, anti-social bunch with bad hygiene. Volunteering at our kids' schools, working as nurses, lawyers, teachers, etc., going to writers' groups meetings and conferences, having booksignings... Doesn't happen. Nope, we sit in our offices fighting writers' block all day. Then we imbibe to excess while feeling sorry for ourselves.

Writers in movies also never make typing mistakes ever. They are all keyboard whiz kids! Not this writer, let me tell ya. And I've been making a living using a keyboard for nigh onto 15 years.

About the most realistic depiction of a writer's life I've ever seen in the movies is in Sunset Boulevard. Granted, William Holden is using a typewriter, but that's because PCs were a long way from being invented yet. I just know, if his character were alive today, he'd have a laptop. Also, when he's revising Gloria Swanson's manuscript, he has an editing pencil behind his ear, and he uses it. It may not be his own work he's editing, but at least he's editing. He doesn't just sit and type perfect prose the first time through. Yes, some authors do only one draft, so no, they don't edit on hard copy, but this is closer to my writing experience. Also, William Holden has friends and goes to a party, very nattily attired, too (albeit on Ms. Swanson's dime). Even at his most down and out, it looks like he cares about personal hygiene. He gets together with other writers at Schwab's to gripe about his career, or lack thereof. Anti-social? Not a bit.

The other fantasy about life as a writer is that writers can/must go off somewhere isolated to write. They rent a cabin in the woods (Misery) or a hotel suite somewhere and become hermits as they work on their magnum opus, presumably because they can't handle the interruptions/distractions of life and write at the same time. As one of many writing mothers I know, I believe the appropriate response to this is a snort of derision. Many writers I know have families, full time jobs and successful writing careers.

Generally, I find movies and TV shows depicting writers pretty much play into the happy fantasy that writers are glorified typists. We sit, we type out a perfectly drafted novel first time through, then drink ourselves into oblivion sucks? Trust me, if I could just sit down and type out a perfectly drafted story the first time through? I wouldn't be sitting around drinking. I'd be out celebrating.

Either that, or the writer has such terrible writers' block, it's hard to imagine they ever wrote anything ever. Maybe if the writer didn't have to write a perfect draft the first time, with no typos, they could relax and then bye-bye, writers' block.


MaryF said...

LOL - what got me about the preview was that she was using omniscient POV. Does that mean I've been listening to too many workshops? :)

Margaret Moore said...

I think it means you know your stuff. :-)

I'm so on the fence about going to this movie....