Sunken Treasure by Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton publishing a book via Lulu is one of the better developments in self-publishing.  It further helps to legitimize self-publishing for those who don’t have such quick name recognition, and could spark new interest in self-publishing among people who do.  Most celebrities wait out for their huge advance and write one major book, usually with another writer.  Given the huge interest in everything celebrities do, you could imagine well-known people releasing compilations of their writing periodically.  Publishing could become the new blogging – in which private thoughts are packaged for people to read.  That’s a possibility, at least.

But then, Wil Wheaton is not any celebrity.  He’s totally open to new media, being an active blogger, and being totally open about his journey from actor to writer.  One of the hallmarks of his blog and other writing is his openness to, well, everything.  This is what makes Wil Wheaton such an effective, and infectious writer.  He’s just so positive about life and about learning.  Both enthusiastic as well as showing vulnerability – he’ll admit that he’s got a lot to learn about writing (as every writer does), which may not always be the case with other famous people, who may be more intent conveying a kind of unbreakable myth about themselves.  But not Wil Wheaton: he’s accessible and he’s honest.

One of the great things about Twitter and other social media is that it makes everyone relatively equal.  Stephen Fry or Warren Ellis will comment and reply to someone on Twitter who has three followers.  Wil Wheaton, in some sense, is a pioneer in this sense of openness and it’s what makes his writing so enjoyable to read.  He doesn’t elevate himself above other people – as would be easy to do for someone who was a part of the cultural phenomenon of “Star Trek.”  He shows pride, but never arrogance.

That feeling is throughout Sunken Treasure: a kind of compendium of Wil Wheaton’s writing throughout the years.  It collects pieces from other books, such as The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Dancing Barefoot, as well as including new material.  It offers a good introduction to Wil Wheaton, the writer.

One of the better reads in Sunken Treasure is his description of his time working on the show “Criminal Minds.”  He writes:

I realize that I keep making comparisons to being a kid at Christmas.  The writer in me wants to go back and edit most of them out, but in this case, I think it’s the exception that proves the rule: there is no better way to describe the overwhelming joy and excitement I felt while shooting the show.”

Sometimes in Sunken Treasure he’s enthusiastic to a fault.  He’s so wide-eyed and enthusiastic about the shoot that sometimes you’re left thinking, someone on that set had to be a prick.  But it’s such an earnest appraisal of his time there, and close to what most people’s experience would be if you dropped them into working on a TV show: Holy shit, I’m going to be on TV.  So you feel you’re reading an account of a friend who happened to get a part on a TV show and he’s relaying the experience.

At the same time, Wil Wheaton’s been acting for most of his life so you get a real sense of authority about the acting process.  My favorite pieces in the book are the inside stories of working on “Star Trek,” being carted around to auditions as a kid, and the piece about “Criminal Minds.”  I grew up in Hollywood myself – both my parents worked in the industry – and the book I self-published is a Hollywood novel.  I’m fascinated by the place, as most people are, and Wil Wheaton offers an inside view of the acting process, as well as a view of someone who is both struggling and succeeding at becoming a writer.  It’s a great combination.

Some of the best work about Hollywood are those that show that all is not perfect at the top.  The movie “Lost in Translation” comes to mind.  Sunken Treasure brings that to mind in the sense that it reveals some of the self-doubt of people you might think have it made.  But above that, Wil Wheaton’s writing is all about expressing the joy of working, creating, collecting, and living.  It’s what makes him such a fun and gifted writer and Sunken Treasure such a good read.

  • Wil

    I’m really happy that you enjoyed my book, and that you grok the potential of POD and self-publishing. I love the parallel you drew with blogging, and I think that you’re right.

    I wanted to address something you brought up in this post: I know that reality television and celebrity-obsessed media have conditioned us to be suspicious and cynical when someone is as enthusiastic about a show as I was with Criminal Minds, but when I worked on Criminal Minds, I did not encounter a single person, in any capacity, who wasn’t completely awesome. It was the same way when I worked on CSI a few years ago, and it was one of the reasons I miss the cast of Next Generation as much as I do.

    It’s rare, but it’s not unheard of, for a cast and crew to come together and form a giant family that genuinely cares for each other, and that’s what I found when I worked on Criminal Minds. The production diary I included in Sunken Treasure didn’t come from selective memory or careful choosing of words; it is the absolute truth.

  • Thanks so much for stopping by. The reason I wrote that about the set of Criminal Minds was because I’ve worked on a movie set once in my life, as a P.A., which was a fairly harrowing experience. Everyone seemed to be bitter and grumbling at each other. I was left thinking: how could good movies possibly be made in this environment? It was really heartening and interesting to read how you wrote that the A.D. has a major impact on the mood of the set. The A.D. on the movie I worked on was, uh, tense. So I can believe the opposite is true.

  • All movie/tv sets are crazy in some way – to end up on a “good crazy” one is truly a great time.