Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

bummed, but taking it in stride

The results are out for the GotYA blog contest. I am not among the winners. Le sigh.

However, the winning entry, courtesy of Margo, ROCKED:

Monday March 10th, 4:30 pm

I just didn’t anticipate that it would be this difficult. I thought that Cooper would do a Kool-Aid man through the wall to come get me when he heard the mere suggestion of sex. Apparently my sex appeal is on the fritz.

I could talk to him about it.

Monday March 10th, 4:32 pm

Okay, clearly I’m going senile in my old age. What am I thinking? I can’t talk to Cooper; he might say something unpleasant. What I need to do is think rationally. Problem solving. Research.

Off to buy Cosmo!

Monday March 10th, 6:00 pm

I’ve been researching for basically hours. My friend Molly has a subscription, so I took a ton of her old copies and looked through them.

According to Cosmo, so far I have to be… elegant, down-to-earth, funny, caring, comfortable, aloof, available, coy, honest, confident, constant, serious, fickle and loyal.

So basically Gandhi in a wig.

You know, before I read the Cosmos, I was feeling pretty optimistic. Now I’m convinced that only Mary Poppins in Megan Fox’s body could achieve the enlightened feat of seducing a man. Still, I strive on tirelessly.

Monday March 10th, 6:05 pm

Tired.

i can haz contests!

Busy, busy, busy: that’s me. As of 5pm yesterday, my second contest entry is now in the hands of the USPS.

I spent most of yesterday morning revamping Tucker. AGAIN. I know, I know. But it’s better this time. Honest to dog. Check it out. Not bad for a morning’s rewrite, am I right? I actually meant to have dealt with it long before this but I totally slipped on a puddle of ennui and when I finally regained my feet, I realized the deadline for the Heart & Scroll Magic Moments Contest was a little over 24 hours away.

Oops.

Feels good to have accomplished just that small thing (actually, it was quite a bit more than small. Note to self: next time, don’t wait until the last friggin’ minute). Of course it would feel best to win, but I’m not holding my breath. Most of my contest frenzy this past week comes more from taking steps that clearly show to myself (and possibly the IRS next tax season) that my writing is focused on career rather than hobby. If any of this harvesting yields actual fruit, shiny.

Ok. Off to fold laundry. Then I get to reward my hard work with… more hard work. Writing. Note to self: career, career, career…

ps – I ended up posting a second entry on the GotYA contest (the rules didn’t specifically say one entry per person – I double checked). I mentioned frenzy, right? It’s an excerpt from Tucker, one of my favorite bits.

“You gonna ask her out or what?”

Startled Josh blinked at Emma. “Sorry?”

She rolled her eyes and pointed her fork at him. “You haven’t taken your eyes off my mom for more than a few minutes since you got here. So either you like her or you’re stalking her.” She frowned. “Stalking’s not cool. She’s got enough to worry about.”

“Does she now,” he murmured. He cleared his throat. “So let me get this straight: you’re asking my intentions toward your mother?”

She chewed thoughtfully. “Yeah, I like that. What are your intentions toward my mother? You gonna ask her out or what?”

He laughed and shook his head. “Afraid not; I go back to Los Angeles on Monday.”

“So?”

Josh stopped laughing. “What do you mean ‘so’? Your mom doesn’t strike me as the one night stand type. And am I really having this conversation with a mathematically challenged eighth grader?”

“Hmpf,” she said. “Technically, if you’re leaving Monday it would be a two night stand, Mr. Wizard. Looks like you’ve wasted all this time checking out her ass and not paying attention. Typical.” She turned back to the magazine she’d been engrossed in, dismissing him. “Have a nice flight.”

wip: making progress

Mostly. Ugh. According to my “Sent Items” folder I emailed the last scene I worked on to JB on 3/8/10. 12 days ago. But who’s counting? And I haven’t gotten anything written since. (ack!) But, that scene was the end of the first act which currently weighs in at 9 scenes, 11,258 words. And that ain’t too shabby. The first act really needs to be closer to 15k… but I’m hoping to correct that in revision. The Powers That Be keep telling that I can’t write the beginning until I’ve written the end and since this is basically a whole new story, I’m hiding behind that wisdom until I absolutely have to come out.

So act two. I’m stalling. There, I said it. Do I get a cookie now? I’ve mapped out the basics that will get me to the Midpoint, all I need to do is start writing, but… you know. What if I can’t get past the midpoint? Very frightening. Deep breaths. Ok, time to get back into it.

Wish me luck.

Revision with Lani Diane Rich Or: How I Learned to Let Go of Useless Infodump and Find the Plot

Once upon a time in a suburb far, far away there lived a mid-level-peasant girl with delusions of grandeur (hi mom!). One day her BFF casually said, “You know all those trashy romances you read and then complain about how you would have done it differently? The ones that I can’t actually read because the plot holes are so, so… words fail me? You should totally write one. How hard could it be?”

Famous last words.

And so the mid-level-peasant girl toiled day and night, hatching and abandoning stories like baby chicks the Monday after Easter, and she began to despair that she could ever do this very simple task. And then one day she found an idea that stuck. For eighteen(ish) months she slaved to get her story from point A to point C with the expected pit stop at point B along the way, when a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum: she learned that her BFF was full of shite. This was, in fact, much harder than it looked.

One infamous day she typed “The End” into her manuscript, which was just shy of its 50,000 word goal. Birds sang and small woodland creatures cavorted in joy. She’d done it. Holy crap on a cracker, she’d actually done it! And there were celebrations throughout the land. And they were good. And the day and the night and the yadda.

Now, the mid-level-peasant girl with delusions of grandeur knew deep in her heart she hadn’t made it yet to the Royal Ride Share to Publication Castle. Her ms had some… wrinkles that needed ironing. What she did not expect upon reviewing her work was that the story she’d woven with golden strands of Pulitzer worthy prose would unravel before her eyes. In short, it sucked. She allowed herself one small moment of mourning (ok, more like a month long pity party) and then sighed and buried it deep on her hard drive to languish ignored in favor of other more sparkly ideas that would be better, stronger, faster and most assuredly work the first time out.

A year or so passed and while our peasant girl kept hacking away at ideas and slowly (oh so freaking slowly) but surely honing her craft. Not one of those stories ever got finished. She kept telling herself she hadn’t found the right story yet. But what if she had? What if the story she’d buried and left for dead was The One?

It could happen.

So she dug it out and attempted to resurrect it. Many times. With no discernable luck. Dr. Frankenstein had much better luck with his monster than she was having with hers. Maybe he had better funding? Who can know for sure, really? And then, from deep within the internets, a seductive whisper arose, “Got revision issues? I got the l33t skilz.”

Now our intrepid wannabe-published-princess had heard this promise before and had plunked down many (MANY) hard earned coins on guides and seminars to getting it right, none of which had actually worked for her. But there was something about this voice, something that told her this time it would be different. She experienced a strange flutter in her chest that was later identified as hope.  “What the hell,” she said. “It’s only credit.” She whipped out Lady Visa and charged full bore into the forest, her ms tucked tightly under her arm.

The End?

Not by a long shot. However perseverance, hope and debt are beginning to pay off.

Lani Diane Rich’s Revision workshop has been one of the best investments I’ve made so far in my quest to become a published author, if only for the single lesson of learning I ain’t alone out there in the woods. As of January 2010 there were at least 40-ish other people stomping around in the dark out there with me. And now we had a guide.

With students from all over the globe (literally, I had classmates tuning in from France and Australia), Lani uses a neat combination of a web-based classroom for the lecture itself and private forums for after class Q&A. Very accessible. So the basic set up is tune in once a week at a designated time for the lecture complete with slideshow, real-time chat and streaming video of our valiant instructor. Between classes, the real action is on the forums where Lani spends an inordinate amount of time answering questions, holding hands, wiping tears, or kicking asses. So awesome (drink!).

The lectures revolve around structure – how to identify it and how to bend your story to its will*. I’ve been through more than my fair share of “THIS structure will SAVE your story” books and seminars in my time, so a lot of what she was teaching wasn’t new to me. But something about the way she was teaching it, that was the trick and what finally clicked a lot of things into place for me. Let me explain.

During week two (or was it three?) the lecture focused on the overview basics – the points you need to hit and when you need to hit them – and she was using fairly well known movies as examples. It was during her breakdown of Happy Gilmore (yes, Happy freaking Gilmore) that I had my “ahaholycrap!” moment and I knew what I needed to do to fix the ms I’d brought to class. Just like that. I’d been banging my head against every wall I could find for two years and Lani pops up to offer me an epiphany on an Adam Sandler shaped platter. Who knew?

While the lectures were informative and a great deal of fun (live interaction with everyone was just too cool), the best part for me was/is the forums. Everyone tossed their plot breakdowns up then ducked for cover waiting for tomatoes to fly, which miraculously never happened. So much good feedback from not only Lani but from our peers who were in the same boat. And I’m not talking Pollyana-everyone-is-brilliant sunshine blowing, but really solid “this doesn’t work for me for these reasons” and “have you thought about trying X” feedback. Invaluable.

Would I recommend this workshop? In a heartbeat. You truly need a finished ms to get the most out of it, but you will not be sorry.

*I’m not going to go into specifics here and give away the store – the woman has mouths to feed. Take the class, it’s worth every penny.

Tucker: Opening Scene (2.0)

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Well… not exactly. In fact, the names and basic set up are the only things you’re likely to recognize in this new and (I dare hope) much improved version of Tucker’s opening scene. It’s rough – really rough – but overall I’m very excited about its potential. And the fact that it opens a big can of whoop-ass onto an unsuspecting Tucker, something Professor Lani insists is necessary. “Torture your protagonist,” she says. This is her call to arms. Who am I to disobey? So suit up! We’re going in.

“This year, your brother Jack will be two years from being twice as old as your sister Jen. The sum of Jack’s age and three times Jen’s age is sixty-six. How old is Jen?”

Tucker Smith spared a glance for her daughter as she pulled another pitcher of Coors for the trio of suits at table three. “You’re an only child, the question is moot.”

“Nice,” Emma said flatly. “I’m sure Mrs. Garcia-Shapiro will be totally impressed by that logic. When should I have her schedule your parent-teacher conference for?”

Tucker sighed. “Duckie, you know that I would do just about anything for you, but I draw the line at eighth grade math word problems.” On autopilot, she switched out the nearly empty salsa crock in front of Emma with a fresh one and a new basket of tortilla strips. “I did my time. You’re on your own.”

“Thirteen point six.” Continue reading

Tucker: Opening Scene (version 3-ish)

So, sometime last fall I decided to dust Tucker off and take another whack at it. 5 whacks, actually. The results are… not going to be shown here. 3 are incomplete and the 4th is an experiment I was attempting – a hybrid of prose and screenplay formatting. Not pretty. Though I’m not convinced it couldn’t work in a different setting… but I digress.

So, Tucker. Thing wasn’t working so I whined to JB who came back with something to the effect of, “Change your setting for the opening scene. Just because you want it set in the bar doesn’t mean that’s actually where it has to start.” In other words: kill your darlings. Oi.

New setting and POV (and the 5th whack), enter stage left:

Tucker Smith snapped rubber duck yellow latex gloves onto her hands and prepared to do battle. Hands fisted on hips, she surveyed her enemy – a precarious pile of crusted dishes and pots to the left, sink-full of hot soapy water in front of her, gravity defying stack of empty chinese take out containers and pizza boxes to the right above an overflowing trash can. Doable, she decided. With a hazmat suit and a flame thrower.

Continue reading

Tucker: Opening Scene (version 2)

Headline: September 2008 the DLD* draft of Tucker is DONE. (insert rain of confetti here!)

I was deliriously happy, but under no illusions as to the worthiness of my newly finished product. Almost immediately I began the beta draft for Tucker. Now any chef worth his santoku knows when you pull a steak off the grill, you set it aside for a few minutes to “rest”; it needs that chance for all the juices to get back to where they belong so that the steak doesn’t become a dried out lump of cow.

I should have followed this same path for Tucker. I got stuck, right off the bat, confused about how I wanted to fix the mess up front. As a result I wandered away to chase around the first shiny new story idea that caught my attention.

Here is the opening scene on that abandoned beta draft:

It wasn’t everyday a man found out he was cursed with a devastating weakness for a woman who smelled like beer and cinnamon.

Up to now he’d kept her at a necessary distance, a professional distance. For three months he’d been her shadow and she hadn’t made his tail. He was very good at what he did; it wasn’t by accident he could demand ludicrously high compensation for what boiled down to borderline illegally detailed back ground checks and discreet photo editorial surveillance.

But that had changed when he’d decided to play the hero, wandered into her gin joint and bellied up to the bar where he was now nursing an iced tea and trying to find the right moment to approach her.

Continue reading