Friday, July 30, 2010

What we can learn from crappy movies

I watched Legion last night and it sucked. I think the only reason I sat through the entire thing was to deconstruct where they failed from a storyteller’s point of view.

What they did in the movie that we should avoid in our novels:

  • Don’t have too many characters – When you lock nine characters in a diner, I already know that hardly any of them are going to make it out alive. I also know that the only two that are going to live are the only two you spend time developing at the movie’s opening. And if you have to kill everyone off to finish their story, you might have a problem. Unless you’re writing splatterpunk.
  • Avoid cardboard characters, no character arcs and clich├ęs – The snotty rich lady who stays snotty, the slutty daughter who realizes she’s a slutty brat, the hoodlum with a heart of gold and glock, the dad struggling with the loss of his wife and…never getting over it the entire movie, the pregnant girl who doesn’t want her baby but changes her mind when he is going to be the messiah, the guy with low IQ who’s helpless in love with the pregnant girl even though its not his baby that becomes the hero, the husband of the rich lady who acts like a prick and dies first, and the one armed cook who…uh…does something? Oh, and the angel who cast off Heaven to save mankind and the baby. Hm.
  • Make your rules and stick to your rules – If an angel can cut off his wings with a butter knife, the other angel cannot have bullet proof wings. Nuff’ said.
  • Be consistent in your world building and setting – If an angel looks all Old Testament and shit with a giant skull crushing mace of biblical proportions, it’s really hard for me to believe that it also has a motor that changes the mace into a giant drill.
  • If you think you’re really cool, have someone verify that you are really cool because you might be very, very wrong – Ice cream truck driving down the road playing the ice cream man song with an possessed ice cream man who gets mowed down by machine guns in his yellow ice cream man suit and paper hat? No. Not cool. Possessed person standing in the crowd with a birthday hat on, that you focus on for three minutes to add “tension?” Not cool.

Though the movie sucked, I did get glaring examples of what NOT to do as I write. As my writer friend Gary said, it’s sometimes nice to just absorb a little art from time to time. Or watch a trashy movie, I guess.

Oh and yesterday I wrote one new scene. Not my best day’s work, but progress!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On not being an asshole at a Writers Conference

We all have heard about how pitching to agents in bathrooms, running around your chair in circles during your two minute pitch to an agent, or showing up in sweatpants are sure fire ways to make a complete ass out of yourself to agents and editors at a Writers Conference.

But I think people get so excited about agents and editors, that they forget that going to a Writers Conference, particularly a local one, is a great way to network with other writers in your area. So I’m going to give you two tips, free of charge, on how to avoid being considered a complete dickhead by your peers!

1. If a fellow writer asks you about your novel, the correct thing to do when you're done answering the question is ASK THEM ABOUT THEIR NOVEL IN RETURN.

In critique groups, beta reading, manuscript swaps, networking, and just about every other writing organization that you get involved in (in which you are not PAYING someone for their services) the name of the game is reciprocity. If you can’t even ask me what my novel is about after I listened to you ramble on about your own for fifteen minutes, I’m pretty damn sure you’ll be a shitty critique buddy. I’m not going to hand someone my business card when they’ve proven they’re only interested in furthering their own work and not being an interactive part of a writing community. Besides that, you’re just RUDE if you don’t do this, even if you aren’t interested in anything else but a brief chat at the local conference. Every writer that comes to a conference is there because they are excited about their own project and want to share it with the world. So share the love and share the courtesy, and avoid burning bridges before you’ve put down the first brick.

2. If you walk up to two or more writers introduce yourself to EVERYONE present even if you only are interested in networking with one of them for a particular reason.

My friend Maggie was a finalist in the literary contest for the PNWA conference. As a result, she got to wear a ribbon on her name badge that said Finalist, which was awesome. And I got to hang out with a finalist, so awesome for me, too! Well, when writer Joe Smoe, who was also a finalist, walked up to rub shoulders with Maggie based on her awesome status, not only did he interrupt our conversation, but he completely ignored me. Lesson here? The first thing Maggie did when he left was turn around to me, her friend, and comment on the fact that Joe Smoe was a complete dickhead for not even acknowledging I was alive. Take a moment and think people. If you snub the friend of the person you want to network with, do you really think they’re going to give you a ring to hang out when you’ve just proven that you lack the most basic level of manners? No. You’re going to get mocked when you walk away for being a pompous prick.

See how easy that is? All you have to do is remember those brilliant lessons you learned in kindergarten.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Revisions! Come on now. Did you really expect something else? ;)

I think I'm due for another revision update for my manuscript, HOUND IN BLOOD AND BLACK.

Last update I had hit the half way point, chapter 17 out of what I'm guessing will end at 33 chapters.

Right now, I have various chapters spread out over my "revision folder system."

It looks like this:

0 - Rough Draft
This is where I cut a chapter out of my complete document (from before this draft started) and give it its own word doc. Then, I turn on track changes and GO ALL MACHETE ON ITS ASS.

1 - Major Revisions Done, Needs Minor Edits
After I finish machete-ing (verb, ftw), I accept the changes and print it out. I edit once on paper, then put the changes in. When that's done, it goes to the next folder...

2 - To be read by text reader
...and the chapter sits here until I listen to it via a text reader called NaturalReader. I pause and correct typos/mistakes/weird wording/anything else I notice as I go. And when that is done...

3 - Read by text reader - DONE!
IT GOES IN THE DONE BUCKET. YESSSS! And then I shut the folder, and refuse to look at it again. If I think of anything to change or add, I make notes for myself on paper when I go back for my house cleaning draft. I call this done, because unless something goes insanely wrong, I feel confident this is going to be my last major draft. I know I'll need one final pass for tweaking, but if its in here, I'm pretty much finished with it.

Right now I have six chapters spread over folders 0-2. Chapters 18, 19 & 20 are waiting for a text read. Chapters 21 & 22 are waiting for me to input my paper changes, then they will be moved on. I have chapter 23 started, which includes writing a new scene that I'm about halfway done.

So. We has progress.

I've also spent a good deal of time working with my writing group on pitching, which I will be doing in a week (insert sound of panic here). Good news is I've gotten my story down to a manageable length. Bad news? I SCARED!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thumbdrive implosion and dropboxing

Oh yes. Thumb drive went belly up earlier this week, and as bad as it actually turned out okay.

I ended up loosing only one scene of revisions - about three pages - and only about an hour of work. Also, it wasn't one of those gut wrenchingly difficult writing sessions.

Despite my relief that I'd transferred three full chapters worth of work only two days prior from said devil drive, it was a wake up call. I'd been getting a little lax in my backing up. Instead of transferring files to all my back ups every day, I was only doing it every other or even every three days. I also hadn't done my extra, extra back-ups in quite awhile.

Here's all the places I'd need to remember to update my work on HOUND:

  • thumb drive (which is now dead and a defiler of tender trust)
  • desktop pc (main writing computer)
  • netbook
  • external hard drive system
  • Erik's (my boyfriend) computer
  • gmail

Lots of places to update, right? Pain in the ass, right? Easy to get lazy, right?

Well, worry no more. And if you have a huge amount of locations like me, consider checking out dropbox. This is a file syncing system that keeps a copy on any computer you have, provided you download the software, and keeps an online copy. The dropbox is located in "My Documents" and acts just like your normal windows file system. Every time you save changes, the dropbox syncs up across all locations (as long as you're connected to the internet).

And, since Erik also uses dropbox, I shared my folder with him. Now I have a copy on his hard drive and his web storage that auto syncs. Now every time I make a change, my files are saved in/on:

  • online storage
  • Erik's online storage
  • Erik's PC hard drive
  • PC hard drive
  • Netbook hard drive

And I never have to move files via thumb drive or email them to myself. And even if the dropbox website crashed, the files are still saved on my computer, not just stored in the interwebs ether. I encourage everyone to check it out.

It's free for 2GB and you can "rent" more space for a fee.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New blog template

Meh, felt like mixing it up and checking out blogger's new stuff. I'd imagine many other writers will choose a layout just like this but...

It's cooler than my old layout at least! :D

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

That pesky voice thing

Trying to figure out what exactly "voice" means when it comes to your writing?

Read Beth's post on what was missing from The Last Airbender for an excellent example.