DANCES WITH WOLVES -Book Review


DANCES WITH WOLVES

Book Review – Natalie Bright

DANCES WITH WOLVES sold over 3.5 million copies and was translated into 15 languages. The 1990 film, which Kevin Costner directed and starred in, won seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Screenplay for Michael Blake. He also won the WGA Award and Golden Globes for his script. Local writers were treated with an unbelievable opportunity to meet this amazingly gifted writer.  You’ve probably seen the movie, but I highly recommend the book as well.

Michael Blake shared a heartfelt and grippingly honest reflection in the creation of his book, DANCES WITH WOLVES, during a visit through Amarillo many years ago. After becoming engrossed in Indian history, his long-time friend Kevin Costner, encouraged him to write a novel rather than a screenplay. Mr. Blake told us that he struggled with the ending. The L.A. atmosphere did not lend itself to the inspiration he craved. He moved to Arizona where he lived in his car, worked as a dishwasher, and completed the book.

What a treat to meet Mr. Blake and learn about his struggles and process. I wrote as fast as I could, trying to make note of every word. Following, are some of his best quotes that resonated with me personally from his talk to our Amarillo writers’ group.

  • “Writers are driven to create something from our heart and soul. This is in direct conflict with the agent, producers, and editor’s side of the business,” and for this reason he encouraged us to not be afraid of rejection.
  • “No matter what, keep writing at a level that people will want to read, and keep reading,” he said.
  • “American Indians knew things about the world that we had forgotten. Modern life has moved us away from life on earth. We need balance between earth and our existence.” This belief inspired him to write a story.
  • “Inspire with your writing.”
  • “It’s all about finishing. Power through and get it done.”
  • “Writing must convey feeling. Be different and devastating in terms of feeling.”
  • “Make every conceivable effort to put good words on paper.”
  • “Stay at it!” says Michael Blake. “If you remember only one thing from my talk, this is the thing I want you to take away—never give up.”

 

Advice for Writers from Michael Blake!


Advice for Writers from Michael Blake!

By Natalie Bright

In May 2015, Michael Blake, best known as the author of Dances with Wolves, died. I didn’t hear about it until much later, and now, over a year after his death, I finally found my notes from a talk he gave in Amarillo in 2009. While in the area, he talked to the Panhandle Professional Writers, did a presentation at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, and also attended an event at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Dances with Wolves sold over 3.5 million copies, and was translated into 15 languages. The 1990 film, which Kevin Costner directed and starred in, won seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Mr. Blake also won the WGA Award and Golden Globes for his script.

Mr. Blake shared with Amarillo writers a heartfelt and grippingly honest reflection of his successes and rejections as he toiled within the L.A. movie crowd. After becoming engrossed in Indian history, his long-time friend Kevin Costner, encouraged him to write a novel rather than a screenplay. Mr. Blake told us that he struggled with the ending. The L.A. atmosphere did not lend itself to the inspiration he craved. He decided to move to Arizona where he lived in his car, worked as a dishwasher and completed his book.

Based on my notes from his talk to the PPW group in Amarillo, I thought you might like to know his advice for writers. Following, are some of Mr. Blake’s best quotes that resonated with me personally.

§ “Writers are driven to create something from our heart and soul. This is in direct conflict with the agent, producers, and editor’s side of the business,” and for this reason he encouraged us to not be afraid of rejection.

§ “No matter what, keep writing at a level that people will want to read, and keep reading.”

§ “American Indians knew things about the world that we had forgotten. Modern life has moved us away from life on earth. We need balance between earth and our existence.” This belief inspired him to write a story.

§ “Inspire with your writing.”

§ “It’s all about finishing. Power through and get it done.”

§ “Writing must convey feeling. Be different and devastating in terms of feeling.”

§ “Make every conceivable effort to put good words on paper.”

§ “Stay at it!” says Michael Blake. “If you remember only one thing from my talk, this is the thing I want you to take away—never give up.”

“Be devastating in terms of feeling”—I love that! If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, Dances with Wolves, I highly recommend this great story set in the American West. As a writer, I feel extremely blessed to have been present for such an inspiring talk from a true visionary and gifted man.

R.I.P. Michael Blake. Thank you for sharing your passion with the world.

LEARNING ALL ABOUT SCRIVENER


LEARNING ALL ABOUT SCRIVENER

By Natalie Bright

Re-typing 15,000 words for Book #2 of a middle grade adventure series set in the Wild West into Scrivener this week. At present, I write everything in Microsoft Word, including this blog post. It’s going to be a huge learning curve to retrain my brain.

SCRIVENER

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.” http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

I heard about Scrivener when I discovered a great podcast for indie authors: thecreativepenn.com Thriller author, Joanna Penn and several of her guests, claim to have greatly increased productivity by using this writing software.

Here’s what I really like about Scrivener:

The price! Only $40.

The ability to see my entire novel in a notecard format on the corkboard view. Each notecard can be labeled by chapter or scene, with notations for that scene or plot point. Attached to that notecard can be images, links for research, and the scene or chapter manuscript itself. Since I’m adding a mystery element to the WIP book, it helps me plan where I need to take the story.

I also like the project outline view which shows chapter and word count.

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Image Credit: Tinted index cards on the corkboard view from http://www.simplyscrivener.com

Editing Your Story made Easy

Scenes rarely come in sequential order. My writing brain has never worked that way. If you’re like me, elements of your current work in progress can hit you at the worst possible times. My brain is a swirl of images as the story plays out in my head. It’s usually coming faster than I can stop whatever I’m doing to jot a note. I’ve scribbled notes on lunch napkins, bank deposit slips, and grocery check-out receipts. Everything else in my life is structured and planned, but I’ve never been able to write a book from point A to point B to point C and so on.

With Scrivener, it’s really easy to find the place where that additional imagery or dialogue needs to be added. I can gather up all of my notes, and using the corkboard view, I can find right where the edits will fit. No more scrolling through a 60 page Word doc or sifting through stacks of printed pages trying to find a particular scene.

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes and what I’m learning.

Is anybody out there using Scrivener? Please share your thoughts, tips, likes, or dislikes.

Writing onward…