Joe Lansdale
The Special Page

On this month's Special Page:

Joe R. Lansdale tells The Horror Zine about learning to write


W.D. Gagliani
Tim Waggoner
Jay Wilburn
Simon Clark
Ellen Datlow
Gerald Sanford
Joe McKinney
Ramsey Campbell

Learning to Write

by Joe R. Lansdale

Learning to write, and trying to find advice that is helpful, is a major concern to beginning writers, but most of the answers are within reading itself. You most likely have a passion to read or you wouldn't have a passion to write.

For me, mysteries taught me structure and plot, though I have written very little that could be called a true mystery. Many of my novels fit crime or historical or other labels if a label must be fastened to them. But, of those labeled works, mysteries teach you structure better than just about anything.

Horror fiction taught me a lot about mood and atmosphere; suspense taught me pacing, and Westerns gave me a feel for place and time. These are generalizations, and I'm referring to the books I thought were the best of their respective genres. When they were the best, like Raymond Chandler mysteries, they transcended the idea of genre.

Now, it might be argued, and successfully, that I haven't learned much, but what I can say with confidence is this: what I did learn I learned from reading, not workshops, and not writer's groups. And I'm not cutting those down. They are helpful as well for some. But there is only one way to be a truly good writer in my view.

Read. And write.

I rarely think about a project directly. They seem to hunt me down and present themselves. This really means I just relax and my mind becomes like fly paper, pulling in all manner of ideas and influences. I never wait for inspiration, but when I have time off I am wide open to almost anything, and in a few days time, a week now and again, I just relax. The stories are waiting on me.

All that said, I don't believe in inspiration in the classic sense. If I have nothing I write anyway, sort of see where it leads me, and there always seems to be something. If you don't write regularly you lose the fire. Write a lot and you're always throwing wood on the fire.

You can let it smolder for a bit, but if you go too long, the fire is out and it's hard to rebuild. I always keep a bit of tender burning, meaning a story or novel or something going in the background, a thing I pull out now and again and work on. I'm doing that this morning.

Burned out on what I was working on, and really tired, I said, “Well, just play today.”

And then of course, instead I wrote three pages on what might be a future work. I enjoyed myself and will be back at it tomorrow. It’s something that isn't my main work, but I'll be working on it just as hard as if it were, as if it's a promised story. A few days on this one will allow the main project to collect its breath and invite me back.



































About Joe R. Lansdale

Joe Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale is the multi-award winning author of thirty novels and over two hundred short stories, articles and essays. He has written screenplays, teleplays, comic book scripts, and occasionally teaches creative writing and screenplay writing at Stephen F. Austin State University. He has received The Edgar Award, The Grinzani Prize for Literature, seven Bram Stoker Awards, and many others.

His stories Bubba Ho-Tep and Incident On and Off a Mountain Road were both filmed. He is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan, and has been in the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame four times. He lives in East Texas with his wife, Karen.

His much-beloved Hap and Leonard novels have been commissioned by the Sundance Channel for a TV series HERE

Visit Joe R. Lansdale HERE

See all of Joe R. Lansdale's books HERE

Honky Tonk



See behind the scenes HERE

See the trailer HERE


Hap and Leonard is an upcoming television drama series based on the characters and adapted by his series of novels of the same name.Six episodes will premiere on the American cable network SundanceTV in early 2016. The series was written and developed by Nick Damici and Jim Mickle.

Filming of the show took place in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, although the series is set in 1980s in the fictional town of LaBorde in East Texas, Lansdale's home state.

See a teaser HERE