Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Get your DVRs ready. The fall TV schedule is upon us, and there is some good stuff on—or soon to be on.
By “stuff,” I mean football and the final episodes of “Breaking Bad,” of course. As we lead up to kickoff and the no-loose-ends conclusion
to the Walter White saga, there’s plenty of writing supporting those events—and plenty of challenges to go with it. After all, football players and TV writers are people, too.
On another point, would/should you workshop your writing?
Writing “Breaking Bad”:
The end of “Breaking Bad” is probably the biggest television series event since “The Sopranos” went off the air in 2007. I’ll be watching, so like a lot of people, I’m wondering what the writing process on the show must be like. This interview with “Breaking Bad” writer George Mastras gives a look into that, as well as the interesting path Mastras took to landing a job on the show.
What stands out is that the hard part about writing an Emmy-winning show is the same challenge in writing almost anything—the requisite research. Mastras describes researching a scene (for which he earned an Emmy nomination) that involved knowing water versus chemical weights, the proper tools to use in a train heist, and other arcane facts.
However, like a blog post or magazine story, leaving out a small detail that might take only a sentence can unravel the whole story. So, remember to do your research.
These photos from inside the “Breaking Bad” writer’s room are worth a look, too, especially the reference library containing books about the meth trade and money laundering.
Writing about failure:
In recognition of the upcoming football season, I wanted to highlight this story from the Kansas City Star
about Kansas City Chiefs player Austen Lane, a writer when he’s not playing football. He recently wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated
’s website in which he discussed what it was like to get cut from an NFL team (written just days after it happened).
It’s tough to write about failure or disappointment, especially when it’s your own and it has just happened. Lane’s story points up why it’s helpful to write something beyond what you’re normally paid to produce:
“It was a hard thing to write,” Lane says now. “Because you’re writing about failure. And I was hesitant at first to do it. But eventually, after writing it, I felt a lot better. It was almost therapeutic.”
Read Lane’s SI
[RELATED: Learn to write smarter at our PR Writers Summit.]
Workshopping your project:
In the middle of a piece of writing, do you poll your friends or colleagues for their thoughts on your work? Do you go so far as implementing their input?
A piece in The New York Times
’ Draft column walked into the minefield of responses to a writer seeking encouragement for a current project. Toward the end of the piece, writer Mark Slouka wonders why anyone workshops his or her piece with a bunch of outsiders, concluding:
“Writing, I figure, at least any writing worth reading, isn’t done by committee, and though I haven’t always been strong enough to live by this precept, I’ll stand by it nonetheless: Your vision is your own, for better or worse.”
Nearly all the writing we do is for someone else’s publication, but it’s a proprietary task whether you’re writing a blog post or a novel. Should what’s in the finished product be yours, as much as it can be? Maybe. But a nudging in one direction or another from a trusted voice isn’t a bad idea, either.
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.