A Masterful Flop

It’s a catchy title – “Flop Masterpiece” – and enough to make you want to see it. “An ambitious, budget-busting adventure-thriller set in a South American oil refinery town and its surrounding mountainous jungle, Sorcerer was intended as a loose remake of Henri-Georges Cluozot’s undisputed 1951 classic Wages of Fear. It was also well-poised to be a gargantuan flop when it was released the same summer weekend as George Lucas’ much more straightforward blockbuster Star Wars.” [source: BBC]. So, until Star Wars came along and took the limelight, Sorcerer was a masterpiece? I love the oxymoron, but I guess that, at the end of a long day, I am NOT inclined to want to see a “flop masterpiece.”

Which raises the question, “how do you know if your book is going to be a best-seller?” And, as an author, should I care? The key here, is to touch a nerve—a major social nerve; a nerve shared by millions. And that, my dear reader, is the nerve I hope to touch ever so lightly in my new thriller, or perhaps not so lightly. A masterpiece will be viewed as artistic and enduring; engaging across generations and genres. A masterpiece is never written by a young writer; it emerges from decades of experience and discovery, and years of refined editing? A masterpiece may be forgiven for having a simple plot, stretched to breaking point. Hemingway writes about an old man catching a big fish, but it is more than a well-written fishing story. The Old Man and the Sea goes beyond the sea, which helps its immortality. To quote a comment, “(The Old Man and the Sea) succinctly presents a challenging question while exploring several themes that provide insight to man’s role, suffering without complaint, and humanity’s place in the world.” Perhaps exploring the human condition is what elevates writing above the ordinary and helps it soar into the heights. 

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

This quote by Ernest Hemingway has an element of truth, although I certainly don’t ‘write drunk’. What rings true for me, though, is that you don’t have to be fully ‘with it’ when getting the rough story down. It might be a matter of grabbing a few minutes between meetings or, in my case, while waiting to teach a class. Some of my better writing seems to happen when I am mulling a plot or ‘what’s next’ while trying to sleep. In this case, I have to put the light on, get up and type the inspiration, just in case I forget when I wake up in the morning.Or, I might overhear a conversation while out and about and need to jot a thought down, ready to take back to my computer to bring into the story. For my second novel, I also set aside regular, early morning times to write. And, in the most part, I have kept to this schedule, even if the word output varies. On a good day I will type up about 800-1200 words and, on a bad day, 400-500. But, even the bad days can be good writing!

However, the editing needs time and concentration, plus a critical analysis of words, sentence structure/length, etc. Therefore, Hemingway is right—it is best done while ‘sober’. Incidentally, Hemingway also has a cameo part in my new novel, when two ladies meet an old man on the Croatian coast in a bar in Dubrovnik—the kind of place that Hemingway would, I am sure, have enjoyed!

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