Category Archives: Writing

Thoughts on writing, sometimes even my own.

Sometimes you gotta rant

My last post was rather full of the emo-ness. It happens. Strangely it actually seems to have helped.

I’ve been working on outlining several of my projects. I figure that, since I plan stuff in the office, I might want to try planning things when I write. We’ll see if it works once I get back to the writing. It has caused me naught but grief in the past.

I’m using the Snowflake Method with some modifications. The method has one of the first steps being to say more about the story than I usually know when I start. However, I seem to have found a weakness in my screenplay, which is that the hero didn’t really have anything he was striving for. (Or if he did, it wasn’t compelling enough to me, and since I’m the author, well, that’s just not good.) I have since identified something that will breathe life into some of the scenes that have needed it. I haven’t yet figured out how the rest of the plot is going to go.

One of the things a lot of writing guides say is to have the try/fail thing happen at least twice before they win. Thinking about it in this way has never been helpful for me. So I need to come up with a way to accomplish the same result. Or else figure out how other movies do it.

I did a breakdown of Pride and Prejudice, and if you look at the Lizzy/Darcy romance as the thing that’s being tried and failing, the Rosing’s proposal is the 1st attempt, and Pemberly is the 2nd. I was quite impressed, because it’s not like Ms. Austen had writing books to read, yet it’s clear why this story is so often made–it’s got a very clear story arc there. (The Jane/Bingley romance has another arc of two fails before success.)

I’ll need to re-watch some of my favorite movies to see if I can break them own into the structure and see how others do it.

Working and writing

No solutions in this post, just frustration. I’ve been reading about several of my favorite authors and how they do it. It seems that most of them were able at the start of their careers to dedicate themselves to writing full time. I’m not. I’ve got a full-time job. At least 8 hours a day. And they’re not easy hours. Lots of mental work, which means that the last thing I want to do when I get home is write.

So I don’t.

Not the way to get things done if I ever want to make a career out of this writing thing. Some days, I just want to chuck it all in and say I’m not as good as I think I am anyway, so I should just stick with managing projects. Other days, I’m more optimisitc, but it seems the bad days outnumber the good. There’s gotta be a way to deal with this, but I haven’t found it yet. Keep on trying, I suppose. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, nose to the grindstone, every silver lining has a cloud…

We apologize for this brief interruption

My domain name expired, but for reasons best left unspeculated upon, the email address that was the recipient of the renewal emails was set to something that hasn’t worked in over a year. Somehow they managed to get me on an address that works, though, so all is now restored. (Though it may take longer to propegate for some readers than for others. I have now fixed the registration for all my domain names, so all should be smooth sailing.

In other news, I have my first rejection of the year! I’ve been on a stress-induced hiatus until recently, so in theory, I’m behind schedule. However, it feels good to be “back in the game,” even if I’m striking out. I have a feeling I know why it didn’t win, not being quite as dark or freaky as the judges wanted. Or at least, that’s what I’ll tell myself. 🙂 Now to find a different market for it. It’s a short, which seems to be more common in the screenplay contest realm. It has some not-so-subtle religious tones, which will narrow the interest. I’m still rather proud of it, though.

I have yet to figure out how to convince my roommate that it’s a good thing that I got a rejection letter. I have been in contests to see who could get the most rejection letters, which has helped take the sting out of it.

(Well, most of the sting. *sniff* So misunderstood!) 😉

Review of “Bubba Cthulhu’s Last Stand” in combination with some authorial musings

I have been obsessively stalking occasionally visiting the Amazon page for Cthulhu Unbound Vol. 1 in hopes of seeing a review of my story. I’m pretty new to the Cthulhu mythos, so I don’t have a strong feel for the size of its fandom. However, there’s a review that specifically mentions my story and in a very positive light. “This was a grandly entertaining read,” said this reviewer.

Yay! I am now experiencing a happy authorial buzz, which might help to counteract the grim frustration of realizing that, however tightly my prose fits, because it didn’t really do a good job of characterization, I need to suck it up and rewrite it, not revise it. I find I often end up rewriting things that I would prefer to revise. It’s a strange feeling when I go back and read something that I want to add more personality to. I look for places to add a word or phrase, but whatever I pick, it upsets the flow of the prose, so I can’t just do a little rewiring, but have to start again.

Several people have told me to just set it aside and keep going, then come back to it later. I’ve done that a number of times, though, and it doesn’t help, because I know that, when I come back, I’ll be as out of ideas on how to fix it as when I left it. Instead of being able to move forward with the confidence that I will be able to fix the problem, it lurks in my psyche, distracting me from the writing process. It’s not a huge weight, but as a fan of Getting Things Done, I’m learning that any weight at all can be a problem.

The scene that started this whole angst is likely to be rewritten, because I realized that I could get more across if the characters were already nodding acquaintances, rather than meeting for the first time. (Introductions are always so awkward!) I can probably keep some of the dialog, but most of the background stuff is going to get shoved out. (And I think I’ll finally cave in and kill the “darling” turn of phrase that makes it a darker bit that I want it to be. Worry and concern is good, but the anger is out of place. All I’d get from it is a little shock value from the readers.)

All this angst about a piece of fan fiction! Yet in some ways, all this angst is only about a fanfic, so I can get it all out without the pressure that, in the end, some mighty editor sitting at a desk high in the clouds will be looking at it through glasses perched precariously on the tip of their nose and deeming me unworthy of publication. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about writing just for fun, for me, because I want to see a story happen. This might be a clue as to why I keep taking breaks from writing. It’s not that I get burned out, it’s that I get overwhelmed by the unrealistic expectations I put on myself. Since I would love some day to be able to write full-time, I need to find a way to deal with this recurring pattern that will let me be as prolific as possible. (Though I don’t think I’ll ever match the sheer churning-out-of-amazing-quality of the likes of Terry Pratchett and Brandon Sanderson.)

So, likely you will find more such ramblings from me as I try to deconstruct the psychological barriers between me and putting pen to paper. For some people, getting over it and writing might seem the more straightforward approach, but I have too much psycho-baggage as it is. (That sounds like my luggage is more insane than the Luggage!) Best to clear out the cobwebs so I can focus with a clear mind.

Also, somebody I’ve never met liked my story! 😀

Next?

I got the screenplay off to the contest. I sent it priority mail not because I had a deadline to meet (it just had to be postmarked the 1st), but because I didn’t have an envelope with me and had to use one of the post office’s packages. Heh. I have envelopes at home, but I was at work, so it did me no good. Gotta plan that better next time.

Now it’s time to decide on what I’m going to work on next. Finishing “Heroism Incognito” seems like the best idea, since I have finally come up with an “aboutness” to the story that won’t turn it darker than I want it to be. But I am itching to do some prose, too. And there’s an amusing fanfiction project I’m working on, though that is mostly to give me something to do while waiting the half-hour after my allergy shot every Saturday morning.

While I’m deciding that, you should purchase a copy of Cthulhu Unbound, Vol 1, available from Permuted Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Amazon.de,  and many others. And no, you don’t have to buy a copy from each place if you don’t want to. (Though I certainly won’t stop you!)

Almost done

Barring some typo-checking and the whole packet preparation process, my screenplay for the Twilight Zone contest is done. I think I like it. It’s probably too soon to say for sure. I feel like it’d be a good, if terribly cheesy, fit for the Twilight Zone. I hope the judges like it.

My brain has a trick of not letting me know how I feel about something until after the fact. This has been helpful, as it meant I was mostly able to hold it together until Sheryl’s funeral. But sometimes, I’d like to know a bit sooner whether or not I liked something. *knocks on skull* What a silly brain.

On a more serious note, I’ve found that, since the night before the funeral, I’ve had a strong desire to write again. In many ways, this contest entry is done in Sheryl’s memory. I don’t know if this will pass or will finally be the driving force I need to get something substantial done. I hope the latter, as I could use that motivation, and I know it would make Sheryl happy to have made that kind of a difference. I think of her stories that will never be complete, and it makes me sad, but also more dedicated to my own craft.

If only, as they say, we didn’t have to lose people to get this sort of insight.

Good news/Bad news

Good News: Cthulhu Unbound Vol 1 (home of my short story “Bubba Cthulhu’s Last Stand”) is available for pre-order from Amazon.

Bad News: Fellow CVSer and friend Sheryl Fowler passed away this last week. I was out of the country when it happened, which means it didn’t really hit me right away. I don’t know if it fully has, except when I think about the fact that I’ll never see the end of the stories she’s been working on. It makes me think about the fact that there’s a lot of my stuff not finished. Am I okay if they never get finished? In the end, after a lot of thinking and feeling, if the time I have spent instead of writing has been on good things, like helping friends and making the world a better place, then yes. But how much of my time is spent like that? How much time do I waste in my life? What can I change?

So often this sort of thing only comes to mind when someone passes away. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we thought about this more often. Sheryl was a very tender and caring person. What can I do to be more like that? I don’t know yet, but I promise to keep an eye out for opportunities.

Learning from a master

I am not much of a classic movie buff. I don’t watch many movies in general these days because of the time commitment, unless it’s for “research.” But “Dial M for Murder” was on, and I was curious, and my TiVo has lots of room, so I plunked my headache-y self down on the bed and watched it. I was amazed.

I thought Grace Kelly did a really great job with her role, much better than her male counterparts. She sold the story for me.

What always amazes me about Hitchcock, though, is how nothing is wasted. Camera angles, little fidgets, everything — it combines so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It was truly amazing to watch it all unfold, to know somewhere in the back of my mind that so many people gave something to this production, and that Hitchcock was able to mold and craft all that into this emotional and intellectual experience.

No, I don’t want to direct. Managing a program is more than enough of being in charge for me. But it’s been good to imagine that, some day, I might be part of a similar experience.

Interesting tool

One of the fine-tuning aspects of writing is finding those words you over-use while writing, the written equivalent of a nervous tic. “Sort of” and “only” are two culprits I’ve seen other people try to conquer.

Wordle: Better or Worse

It would appear that mine is “back.” This was one of the words I overused in Bubba Cthulhu’s Last Stand, which I excised before submitting. I will have to black-list the casual use of this word from my writing. It should definitely NOT be appearing more often than “said.”

I like this tool. There are several other tools out there on the web that will list the words used most often in your work. I used one of them on Bubba, which is why I knew there was a problem with “back” to begin with. However, the Wordle tool puts it up there in big, colorful letters. When “back” is bigger than “said,” you know there’s a problem. A nice, visual representation of it.

Story accepted!

Permuted Press, publisher of horror and apocalyptic stories, has accepted “Bubba Cthulhu’s Last Stand” for one of their Cross-Genre Cthulhu anthologies. Judging by the cover art, the anthology inspired a wide range of story moods. In Bubba, an angry unicorn takes on the evil Bubba Cthulhu and his brother Scooter.

I’m not sure yet which of the anthologies I’ll be in, though I think Bubba fits much better under the second cover. Still, I’m so overjoyed and excited!