Sunday, September 11, 2022

Robert "Iceberg Slim" Beck: How to Rule an Audience as a Writer

Robert "Iceberg Slim" Beckafter spending over twenty years of his life as a pimp, became a famous and bestselling writer in the African-American community. Subsequently, his novels made him the most notorious (former) pimp in America. His most famous book, Pimp: The Story of My Life, is an autobiographical novel that was published in 1967 by the notorious Holloway House and sold millions of copies. Ironically yet unsurprisingly, Beck saw little of the money.

Like Nabokov, Beck visualized his characters in his head, he wrote for long hours (e.g., sometimes up to 18 hours per day), and, like Proust, Beck was a recluse. 

Justin Gifford's Street Poison, The Biography of Iceberg Slim and Ian Whitaker's Iceberg Slim The Lost Interviews sheds some very interesting light on Beck's writing habits and his views on writers and writing. 

For example, Beck opined that being a writer is better than being a physician or an attorney:

Writing books is better than pimping. In fact, it's better than being a doctor or a lawyer. I don't have to go to court, I don't have to go to the hospital to perform an operation. I have no equipment...I don't even need paper; I'll write on the walls. All of my equipment [tapping his head] is in my noggin. And another thing; writing has been a wonderful boon for me, psychologically. The vacuum of ego that existed when I could no longer pimp has been filled most adequately.

And Beck posited that to command an audience, a writer must be bare and confess:

[...] I've been able to do what any artist must do if he's to rule the greatest possible audience - and that is to bare his emotional structure to the bone [...] That is, I have overridden my inhibitions so I can confess. It springs from the soul, brother. So many people are dying and crying out to confess. But they lack the courage. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Do you HAVE to live in New York to be a Writer?

Like aspiring actors who, for obvious reasons, move to LA, a number of aspiring writers move or desire to move to NYC to be near other writers and (potential) agents and publishers, but, per Nebraska born novelist Willa Cather, storehouses of literary material can be found anywhere - even in Nebraska or a pigpen. Cather reportedly advised:

Of course Nebraska is a storehouse of literary material. Everywhere is a storehouse of literary material. If a true #artist were born in a pigpen and raised in a sty, he would still find plenty of inspiration for his work. The only need is the eye to see.

However, it must be noted that Cather moved to NYC at the age of 33 and lived here until she died at the age of 73. 

Monday, August 1, 2022

A Writer's Goal(s)

What's a good goal for a writer? Well, per Anne Marie Pace, a writer's goal should be to write a good book and not to win an award and/or be a New York Times Bestseller.

Anne Marie Pace advised:

"Set goals that you have control over—you can’t set a goal to win an award or to reach a certain level of sales. You can have a goal to write the best books you can."

And I would add that, like Seth Godin related, an additional writer's goal should be to be an altruistic writer: 

"[...] marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority [via writing]."  

Thus, go forth and write good books that spread beneficial ideas.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Writing: Talent vs Grit


Previously, we shared in a post that being a gritty writer may be more important than being a talented writer, because, as Duckworth spelled out in Grit:

talent x effort = skill 
skill x effort = achievement 
Thus, without effort, one's talent may not (fully) develop. And like the writer Gordon Lish reportedly said:
[...] talent [without effort] is quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application [...] will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Writers Should Write - Not Talk?

Previously, we posted that Vladimir Nabokov shared in the foreword to Strong Opinions: "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child." Thus, Nabokov considered himself a good writer but a poor speaker. So much so, that his lectures and interviews were pre-written. Nabokov related:
"Throughout my academic ascent in America from lean lecturer to Full Professor, I have never delivered to my audience one scrap of information not prepared in typescript beforehand and not held under my eyes on the bright-lit lectern."

"The interviewer's questions have to be sent to me in writing, answered by me in writing, and reproduced verbatim. Such are the three absolute conditions."
And Becca Rothfeld posted on Gawker that "WRITERS SHOULDN'T TALK: Stop encouraging them", because writers are "isolated" "amenders" whom delete "[...] unsatisfactory variants of a single sentence for upwards of an hour". 

For one thing, authors are often poor orators, inept at the most basic mechanics of verbalization. They hum and halt and hesitate, interrupting themselves, appending caveats to their caveats, thrumming a chorus of tentative “ums.” They are drafters and amenders, if not by vocation than by profession, and in conversation, their strongest pronouncements tend to be timid, as if they were editing in real time.

Who in their right mind would want to talk, much less listen, to a person who has contrived to spend as much of her life as possible crouched over her computer in isolation, deleting unsatisfactory variants of a single sentence for upwards of an hour?

Therefore, how can writers be expected to speak well when they're used to carefully crafting their sentences? Although, there are some exceptions (e.g., Rothfeld posted a link to an exceptional conversation that David Foster Wallace had with Charli Rose), in the end, it may be best to follow Rothfeld's advice:

Most writers are not talkers for a reason. Stop encouraging them to humiliate themselves in conversation so that they can return to the impossibly difficult business of perfecting themselves in print.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Why Your Writing Sucks

If you're confused about why, in your very own words, your writing "sucks", then Kim Addonizio, the poet and novelist, may have the answer. Addonizio reportedly said:

Maybe you’re one of those people who writes poems [and novels], but rarely reads them. Let me put this as delicately as I can: If you don’t read, your writing is going to suck.

Thus, to improve your writing you may want to avoid writers' workshops but read a lot of well written books, and write a lot. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Read Like a Writer

Samuel Johnson reportedly said:

"The greatest part of a writer's time is spent reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book."

But addition to reading prolifically, a writer should note the literary techniques used in the books he or she reads. Like Sarah Waters advised: 

"Read like mad. But try to do it analytically [too]"

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Stassi Schroeder: Double-Fake NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller?

Kelly Conaboy asked on Gawker "Did Stassi Schroeder Buy Her Way Onto the 'New York Times' Bestseller List?" (May 9, 2022)

Schroeder's lasted book, Off With My Head, has a dagger (†) next to it on the New York Times Bestseller list. 

# 8 Off With My Head w\ (†)

Schroeder's previous book, Next Level Basic, had a dagger (†) next to it on the New York Times Bestseller list. 

# 3 Next Level Basic w\ (†)

And what does the dagger (†) mean? Per Erin Bartnett's "Are Conservative Titles Using Shady Tricks to Get Onto the Bestseller List?" (May 25, 2018), the dagger 
(†) indicates:

"[...] that a book cracked the top sellers thanks to bulk orders. In other words, people are buying several dozen or more books at a time."

Of all people, the New York Times reported that the: 

"R.N.C. Spent Nearly $100,000 on Copies of Donald Trump Jr.’s Book: “Triggered,” published Nov. 5, topped the best-seller list thanks in part to a big order from the Republican National Committee."

Schroeder "Reacts" to, "You're a New York Times Bestseller!"

Did Schroeder have someone like Donald Trump Jr buy her onto the Bestseller list? Is Schroeder a double-fake New York Times Bestseller? #rhetoricalquestion

Wait, have you even heard of Stassi Schroeder? If not, she's a (former) Vanderpump Rules (reality tv) star who was fired for racist actions

It appears that Schroeder and Don Jr have a lot in common. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

"I" or "Me"?

Some grammarians prefer to teach this topic based on subjects versus objects, but I prefer to use verbs when determining when to use "I' or "Me".

For example, if the verb comes first in the sentence use "Me". (e.g., "The chef made delectable burgers for Noor and me.")

Otherwise, use "I". (e.g., "Noor and I are going to the Fanelli’s in SoHo for burgers."

Monday, April 11, 2022

How a Writer Deals with Criticism

Especially on social media, but even in an Amazon review, there will be readers who, often unfairly, criticize your writing. 

For example, Joseph Mutizwa gave me a one-star review for The Allure of Nymphets because, as he wrote, my book was "Not quite what I expected." Really?

But John Lescroart, the New York Times bestselling author, has given us some advice on how to deal with (unfair) criticism. Lescroart shared with Advice to Writers that a writer should continue to have faith, continue to improve, and continue to produce:

There will always be people who criticize your work, but if you continue to believe, improve and produce, you will win out in the end [إن شاء الله].