Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cinematic Inspiration

Okay, I'm going to stop watching Academy Originals and write this blog post. Which means, of course, this blog post is about the YouTube channel Academy Originals.

(From Brent Zupp)

I'm watching their series "Creative Spark" which shows mini interviews with members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The first one I watched was with Eric Roth (screenwriter for "Forest Gump" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"). The interviews are in short clips that give you a very brief view of what it means to have their job and be them.

This series features a movie costume designer, a film composer, director, and a ton of others I haven't watched yet.

(From SMN)

One that really touched me was Paul Haggis (writer-director of "Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash") letting us see that he really has to struggle to create. It's almost a little painful hearing him talk about how he struggles to write, but for me, that makes it even more moving.

(From Brooke Atwell)

Then, for something fun and different, there's two best friends who write together (it wasn't explicitly stated that they were best friends, but, I'd say it's pretty obvious). They wrote "Legally Blonde" and "10 Things I Hate About You." Their video gave a little more detail on how they write than some of the others, and they're quite an adorable pair. (One looks like a character out of Legally Blonde.)

Anyway, it's a fun little series, and I hope you check it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Starting All Over Again (Ugh)

Last week I mentioned my completed first draft but I didn't mention the MG fantasy I'd been querying and revising for the past year. That's because I'm going back to the drawing board.

Okay, so it's not quite as desperate as that. The plot is staying mostly in tact, but I am basically re-writing it only using bits and pieces of my much revised, much sweated over current draft.

I mentioned some very helpful advice I got, and that advice extended beyond how to write better description and to add in a "want line". The feedback I got made me feel like it'd be a good idea to start all over with the writing process, eliminating a large number of the first chapters, combining one or two more characters, and generally overhauling everything.

It's discouraging to know I've got that much work ahead of me (again!) but I think it'll make for a much better book, so I'm going to plow ahead with the changes. I've been devoting a lot more of my time to writing lately because I really want to make this happen and I'm sick of waiting, and the only way I have to speed the process up is to devote more time to writing (or, in this case, re-writing). Here's hoping it pays off.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My New First Draft: Narnia Meets Game of Thrones

This weekend I finished a 71k first draft. I'm certain it still needs a ton of work (as all first drafts seem to), but still, it's something of an accomplishment to plot everything out and get it all down into that first draft.

Photo credit to slynkycat.

I went for drama with the description in my blog post title. I don't know that my YA sci fi can really compare to Narnia or Game of Thrones, but I've got talking (robotic) animals, human-animal (mutant) hybrids and a few other elements based on a somewhat distorted sci fi version of the Narnia world. One of my villains is even loosely based off of the white witch.

Photo credit to Ronel Reyes.

And then, when I was writing the ending, I ended up killing off a few more characters than I'd expected (three total, which is quite a lot for me; I was only planning on killing off one). I've got two point of view (POV) characters, and they've each got their circle of acquaintances, friends, and enemies, and there's definitely some conniving going on. All of that plus the bloodshed led to the Game of Thrones comparison (in my head anyway).
So. Now I've got a first draft. I'm going to let it sit and forget about it so I can come back later to revise with fresh eyes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fun Writing Links And Stories About Rejection

I've been writing away, implementing some of the advice that Holly Black gave me in editing my last book, and trying to finish off my first draft for another book (because I know that if I don't finish it, I'll just have those last few chapters hanging out there, taunting me).

So I figured it was a good week for some links I enjoyed about writing.

Photo credit to Hartwig HKD.

Here's an article on writing quotes from authors George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobbs. There's a lot of fun stuff in there, but my absolute favorite quote (because it made me laugh) was about creating fantasy names. George R.R. Martin says that those fantasy name generators really did not help him. They promise fifty fantastic and fresh fantasy names, and every single name they spit out was "Grisknuckle." I probably should have let you read it for yourself, but that's freaking hilarious. And oh so true.

Photo credit to Nicolas Raymond.

Martin mentions Robert A. Heinlein's rules for writing. Heinlein was a much-admired and influential sci-fi author who won the Hugo Award four times! Here is a link to just his rules. Here is a link to author Robert J. Sawyer's take on the rules, plus his additional sixth rule (which I liked). Heinlein's fifth rule is one that I don't completely agree with (the rule: keep your work on the market until it's sold) because sometimes you need to give up on a book or short story or whatever because sometimes it's just not as good as what you'll write after you've gotten a little more experience. On the other hand, some people don't realize just how long it can take and just how many rejection letters you sometimes get before your work gets published. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series was pretty famously rejected quite a few times before Bloomsbury Publishing took it on.

Speaking of which, then there's this Cracked article about famous books that got rejected. Just for fun.

Photo credit to Steven Bratman.
In case you're wondering what this photo has to do with anything, this is Colorado.
Two guys made a little town in the Colorado mountains famous.

And because, somehow, rejection has become the theme of this tale, it should be noted that Tray Parker and Matt Stone had a very up and down sort of start. Sure, once they got South Park it was all million dollar contracts and adoration, but they had some success, moved to L.A. and then spent the next two years living in poverty until  . . . they made a Christmas video (in which Santa and Jesus fought it out) which led to South Park. Anyway, the point was, they actually give some cool writing advice in this video.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So I Got Some Writing Advice From Author Holly Black

I recently got to sit down and talk to the amazing, best selling author Holly Black. It was a truly wonderful experience. Unfortunately, just by touching her sphere of amazing, I didn't automatically turn into a princess, a pixie, or a celebrated author, but I did get some good writing advice.

And since I've got this blog about writing, I figured I'd share some of that advice in hopes it helps some of you too.

I couldn't find any good pictures of Holly on the Creative Commons, but she has a great book titled White Cat, so I went with a picture of a white cat instead:

Photo credit to olavgg

Set The Scene With Description

Pull back and describe the scene before plowing headlong into the action or conversation. This description gives the reader her footing. Use this description to set the mood for the action that is about to happen.

Ex. Is this an ominous scene? If so, emphasize the shadows and the towering buildings or reaching branches.

Photo credit to Jyrki Salmi

Describe Through the Eyes of Your MC

Use description to show what is important to your character and what her station in life is. How your character sees the world can tell a reader a lot about her.

Ex. Is your character obsessed with clothes? Well, then she'll notice them. If she doesn't have the clothes she wants (maybe b/c her family doesn't have the money for them) she'll notice this and bemoan her fate.

Photo credit to Solarbotics

Follow The "Want Line"

Your main character (and, really, every character) should always have something she wants. It should be evident in almost everything she says/does. If everything your character does is aimed toward achieving her goals (even if those goals change), you amp up the tension and the reader wants to keep reading. Also, when the character does NOT get what she wants, it makes the scenes more interesting and builds sympathy.

Ex. (Sorry, this gets a little long, but it's a fun example.) Say your character's main goal is to have a sleepover at her house. For whatever reason, this hasn't happened, but now it's on the verge of happening, and she is SO EXCITED! The character's initial goal is to host this sleepover, which is sure to be the best sleepover ever. But then the book's plot gets in the way, everything goes to hell, and the sleepover's off. Her goals shift, but if you can later echo back to that goal, it adds a lot of interest. Maybe later everything is only getting worse, but it just so happens that she's having a sleepover with a friend while they plan to escape this hellish nightmare that they've landed in. And on some level she's actually still a little excited about finally getting to have that sleepover. That's payoff.

Not sure why, but I love this photo.
Photo credit to Tim (and Julie) Wilson

The Big Reveal

It's always nifty if you can add a Big Reveal.

Ex. "Luke, I am your father."

Photo credit to Stéfan

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Editing My Painting

So, last week, I posted my Dead Leaves Painting (much more accurately titled Autumnal Leaf In A Forest, but that's just far too long). And then I pretended to pull writing advice out of the painting process b/c this is meant to be a writing blog. Well, this week I'm leaving the writing inferences up to you.

I finished my painting! Now it's titled "Dead Leaves and Live Cats." I didn't want any mistakes about whether or not "dead" also described the cats. Ugh. That sort of painting would NOT make a great wedding present for my doctor friend (or most anyone else).

I figured it might be fun to see the middle stage and the finished (edited) stage side by side. To be perfectly honest, it's fun for ME to see them side by side, so that's what we're gonna do.

Stage I:

Analysis: too flat, too much white space, too unfinished looking. It really just needs a little more work to feel finished. (The poor lightning may confusing things, but anything that's not brown, black, orange, or gray is pure white).

Stage II:

Analysis: Done!

I added some black/gray into the background to make it look like a foggy forest, and it really did give the little wavy tree shapes in the background more depth. And, of course, I added in the two cats.

The doctor who the painting is for really loves her cats. She may or may not have hired a pet therapist to council her and her fiancé's cats into getting along better. Hey, she's a doctor. She can afford it.

All I really needed was a little more atmo and a little more paint to make it look finished. The cats are just pure bonus. There are definitely still things I'm not happy about with the painting, but I now think it's Wedding Gift worthy.

I'm sure there's writing lessons there. I'm just too busy staring contentedly at my painting to pull them out.

And, Camilla, another bonus is that the cats add scale and make it seem much less likely that the rocks/sticks are piles of poo! Although I did love that you were critical of my husband's (helpful) criticism and then go one to tell me about the poo problem. I swear, the people I surround myself with just cannot help but mock me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Painting Dead Leaves

Did you know it's actually rather hard to find a cool picture of a skeletal oak leaf? Specifically one that's decayed away into a skeletal version of itself but still shows the overall shape of the leaf.

Because that's what I intended to paint, but then I couldn't find any really good pictures (I really would have liked one still attached to a branch), so I went with a more autumnal leaf instead: 

I was painting this last night when I should have been writing my post for this morning. Consequently you did not get a post this morning.

(Side note: "consequently" is a rather awesome word, isn't it?)

The purpose of this particular painting is to have a nice, personalized wedding gift for a doctor who can afford to buy anything she really wants. I've been consulting with my husband, and I don't think this painting is really quite to "Wedding Gift" status yet. As my husband says, "Too much white space." I concur.

So now I've got to figure out how to add a lovely background without mucking up the foreground. And, because this is a writing blog, let's pretend like I've actually been talking about writing the whole time:
You can come up with a very pretty picture, but sometimes you need to put in that extra time and effort and comb over your work to improve it in just the right places.

Unfortunately, with a painting, if you screw it up, you can't just press "undo" and start over. Well, you can start over, but it's a rather annoying form of starting over that involves sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper.

Thus concludes my Philosophical Musings On A Dead Leaf. Tune in next week for more random jibber jabber.