Tag Archives: writer

It’s a brand New Year…Again

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. "Omar Serif" and "They're taking the robots to Alderaan" are jokes I haven't gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. “Omar Serif” and “They’re taking the robots to Alderaan” are jokes I haven’t gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

It’s nearly the end of the first week of January, and this is the first post I’ve managed in 2015, which means I ought to be talking about Resolutions.

But, as you may know from last year, I don’t do so well with resolving to change. I need a list every day just to get through the things that keep the house running, so adding grand aspirations to that list has been somewhat problematic in the past.

However, last year, I decided to just write more stuff. This was a simple enough idea that I could keep it in mind, and even put it up on my white board above my desk. “Write more stuff” translates easily into whatever project I feel like doing, and as long as there is more stuff at the end of the year, then it’s working. That’s a measurable goal, that is.

And last year I produced more plays, a new ebook and a lot of sketches. I found that the break of fifteen minutes at work is just long enough to eat a sandwich and write a page and a half of sketch, resulting in a sketch every week. That’s a sketch each week written at work, plus the stuff I can write when I’m at home. Like every published writer is fond of saying, there IS time to write, you just have to choose to use it for writing.

Like last year, most of what I plan to complete and publish won’t reach the marketplace until the later half of the year, so I’m not going to list my projects here. I will post about them when they’re complete, and then put up reminders with links when they get published. I’m hoping the Appraisal Service continues to keep me busy, and that life at the Library remains as fulfilling and entertaining as it had proven so far.

What are the big projects for YOU this 2015? Are you going to write that novel or sequel? Are you going to try writing something that’s outside your comfort zone, like a romance, or a horror story, or a poem? Are you thinking of writing for the first time? Because I have a really good feeling about this year. I think it’s YOUR year. I mean, obviously that’s bad news for everyone else, but we’ll cope, honest. Don’t feel bad for us, you just go on and make the most of it.

We’ll be over here. In the corner. Maybe crying just a little bit.

Advertisements

New Year, New Project

2013 was a quiet year for TLC Creative, though I kept myself busy by producing a couple of scripts and some e-books, as well as a record-breaking year for the Appraisal Service. This year TLC are back with a vengeance, planning to write TWO pantomimes and a bunch of other stuff.

I also have plans, and they begin with a project I mentioned last year. Fascinated by the volume of “Harlequin” romance novels that cross my desk at the library, I decided to investigate the appeal. On the 2nd I booked out 10 novels, chosen pretty much at random from the stacks, and am working my way through them, taking notes.

There’s a perception that these novels are written to a formula, that there’s nothing clever or noteworthy about them. The readers themselves will often be dismissive about them, calling them a “guilty pleasure”, like they were junk food.

I’ve only read four so far, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The stories hold up well, and the characters are more than just sketched in. The prose is a little flaky at times, but overall is better than some other professionally produced books I’ve endured.

And I haven’t found a “formula” yet. You’d think four books would be enough to spot a pattern, but there doesn’t seem to be one. The only constant is that in each book the lead male and lead female are introduced right at the beginning and there’s a mutual attraction. Sometimes that attraction is welcome on both sides, sometimes it isn’t. But it’s always there. Whether that feeling gets acted upon sooner or later, whether circumstances or personal duties get in the way, that’s the stuff that varies from book to book.

I imagined this would be a relatively easy challenge – read a bunch of books (something I’d be doing anyway) and throw down 35,000 words or so (something I’ve already done several times.) Yes, the deadline might make it harder, but simply because of the logistics of getting the words down. I didn’t think WRITING the story would be difficult.

But now I’ve read a few it’s clear the bar is higher than I thought. I’m still going ahead with it, still running some potential storylines through my head, but it’s going to be a tougher job than I expected.

The lesson I’m hoping to learn here is about determining what I write for myself. I’ve mentioned before my desire to be a Sci-Fi author, and how I feel it’s stymied by the stories that turn up in my head. If I can write a Harlequin Romance, then I can write ANYTHING. And I think I can. These stories are all about love, about two people feeling an attraction and working through whatever is preventing them being together. I can think of dozens of other stories where the same is true, but they’re spy stories, adventure stories, space stories…. Love is a constant theme in most tales, when you come down to it.

I mentioned this challenge on G+ and a friend came up with the suggestion that this might be a good challenge to formalise. Are there any authors out there who might be willing to take on a genre challenge in March? Spend February reading books from a genre you don’t normally tackle, then produce your own in March, with cover artists taking on the illustration during April? Let me know in the comments below.

Why writing is like Lego

WP_002805

The basic components are the same for everyone, simple and easy to put together.

Some people set out create entire worlds,

WP_002734or cities or streets,

WP_002792other people just want reproduce a small slice of everyday.

WP_002775

It’s fun, and anyone can do it, but some people treat it as a hobby and others get really intense about it.

Some people work from a detailed plan,

WP_002759

while others make it up as they go along.

WP_002757

Sometimes your project doesn’t come out right, but you find you can use big parts of it in a new project.
Some people will tell you there’s rules or the right way to do things, but there’s nothing to stop you doing it your own way if you want. Of course, your house may fall down, or the wheels might come off your car, or you might make something entirely new and wonderful.

WP_002806

Most of these images come from the awesome builders at the Seattle Brick Con. I apologise to them for not including their details, but praising each one would imply the many, many others whose pictures did NOT get used were somehow inferior. I wish I wrote stories as intricate and detailed as the models produced by these dedicated artists.

Guest interview – Lucy V Hay of Bang2Write

For this post I’m asking some questions of Lucy V Hay – a novelist, script editor,  screenwriter and blogger who helps writers. A trained teacher, script reader and script editor with ten years’ experience, Lucy is also one of the organisers of London Screenwriters’ Festival where she is the Head Reader & Educational Director for its many contests and initiatives.

Her book, “Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays” is available for pre-order now, here. German speakers can order her debut YA novel, “BAUCH-ENTSHEIDUNG” (Gut Decision) published by Rowohlt, Berlin from Amazon, here.

Her script editing credits include Brit Thrillers Deviation and Act of Grace, as well as The Fingerspellers and Hands Solo.

Lucy, you have written for the screen, produced, and worked extensively as a script consultant, not to mention presenting and organising for film events and writing your own novel. Does “Writer” still fit you as a label, or are you unwilling to be placed in one pigeonhole?

Just a writer? No way, I am a GODDESS. No really: I am a writer, at heart. And writing novels is what I truly luuuuuurve. All the other stuff is great; I love to be involved in the industry and help writers and make movies and all that. I’m so lucky to enjoy my work. But novels is where it’s at for me.

You have some favourite mistakes that blow a script in the first ten pages: what’s the most overused one?

Cliched openers. Nothing makes me lose interest faster than a script that opens with a cliche. ‘Cos your script can be ANYTHING — so why do something we’ve seen before?

You mentioned a few times that writing your novel was hard work – was it harder than you expected? Or was it harder in different ways to the challenges of screen writing and script reporting?

Writing a novel was hard for me for two reasons. The first was the sheer size: you end up writing three, four times as much as a feature script. The second was the raw emotion because novels are driven by the psychological. That’s not to say screenwriting can’t be emotional ‘cos it totally can, but for me getting right in a novel character’s head really affected me and not always in a good way. One chapter really upset me to write; I wasn’t right for about 4 weeks.

How has writing for a different medium affected you as a writer? Should all writers try different media to shake things up?

I think it depends. I’m a better script editor I think because I no longer tend to write screenplays. I like the partition between my editing brain and my writing brain. But others like to mix it up – and why not? I believe you should say yes to everything, as long as you have a strategy and make it work for you.

Women in film is a big subject at the moment – Felicia Day included a piece on her blog that started as a review of the latest Star Trek but became a …well, rant, about the lack of visible female characters in the movie and then in the movies in general. You’ve made your views about female action heroes clear in the past – what’s the ideal for women in film? How do you have a female lead who’s engaging to the male audience and still a woman?

Let’s be frank. A good female character should be a good character who just so happens to be a woman. That’s it. There is no big secret. Yet we see female characters in so few roles, our perceptions have become skewed as to what female characterisation even means – so whenever we see a female character who’s not what we expect, people analyse it to death. We need to let this go. We need to move forwards and forget about “strong women” or archetypes or whatever and just write GREAT characters – who happen to be female – who are not defined by their bodies; the men in their lives or their kids. Women are people, not representations of “issues”. Boom. Done.

Finally, if they make a movie of your book, how involved would you want to be?

6) I’ll do whatever these mythical people making my novel into a film want, including staying the f*ck away Haha! 😉 Seriously. I like to think people like working with me because contrary to popular belief, I am not difficult to work with – as long as you don’t piss me off. And c’mon, who isn’t the same?

You can hear more from Lucy by bookmarking her blog (http://www.bang2write.com/) where you’ll get the latest news about the London Screenwriters’ Festival and tons of useful tips on writing for the screen. You can also find Lucy’s rates for getting her script reading services, which I can personally recommend.

10 reasons why being a writer ROCKS!

Forget the Hemingway image of the writer, bearded, drunk and slumped over a typewriter filled with cigarette butts. Being a writer need not equate to misery, alcohol abuse and blinding headaches. Being a writer ROCKS, and here’s why:

  1. You can do it all the time. Don’t tell me that the happiest Chartered Accountant or Quantity Surveyor can do their job when they’re not at work. That accountant needs his spreadsheets and accounts, and that Quantity Surveyor needs…er…quantities of stuff to survey. But writers are writing ALL THE TIME. We walk around and our characters tell their stories in our heads. Walking the dog, we are striding the worlds we create. The part of the job that is done at the keyboard is only the culmination of the process. How cool is that?
  2. Your job, your rules. Yes, there are guidelines about plot, and character development, and first person viewpoints and on and on. But the truth is, those rules only apply until they don’t. You can use them to tell your story, but if they aren’t getting the job done, you can cast them aside and try something different. That doesn’t go so well, for example, in a Pharmacy…”Ah, Mrs Williams? Still getting those headaches? Try this, I just sort of bunged a load of stuff together in a pot….”
  3. Reading. You don’t HAVE to love reading to be a writer, but let’s face it, you probably do. To write, you have to love words, and reading is a ready source. But look, it’s not like you have to fill your mental fuel tank with a fresh supply of words in order to create your own sparkling prose…Really, you don’t. But reading stretches your imagination, reading good books gives you hints and tips subconsciously that you will use later. It’s not plagiarism, it’s style.
  4. It’s the best time to do it. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, being a writer is not the solitary depressing experience it once was. There are hundreds of online communities out there. Through social networks like G+ you can meet and talk with other writers of all levels. You may not get face time with JK Rowling or Tom Clancy, but with patience, manners and sensible commenting, you can get in touch with published authors (like John Scalzi, or Chuck Wendig).
  5. The gates are open. Now, this may be a good thing or a bad thing, but the fact is, right now you can be published only minutes after finishing your draft. The new ebook publishing programs mean that you don’t need an agent or a lucky meeting to guarantee your book is published, but beware: Just because you can publish instantly doesn’t mean you should. Check your draft, get it read, give it a break and read it again yourself. Get a good artist to design your cover. Unless you’re just in it for the cachet of dropping “I published my book the other day” into conversations…..
  6. You are part of an immense heritage. Storytelling may not be the Oldest Profession, but it goes back millennia. Watch how young children crave stories, how adults rush to buy the latest recommendations. Stories speak to all of us, fill a need that everyone feels from time to time. YOU can fill that need, and be one with Plato, Homer (not the cartoon, get a grip) Shakespeare, Faulkner, Dickens. And yes, Tom Clancy, ok.
  7.  (Via Jenn Thorson, after an appeal for help) “I love how transporting it can be when the writing is going well and everything around me disappears; the story and I are alone as the scene unfolds. It’s what Stephen King, I believe, has called “falling through the page.” It feels like the perfect balance of work and amusement, and time loses meaning. It’s a great feeling to be that at-one with creativity.”
  8. (Via Amy Knepper) “Writing rocks because I can play with my imaginary friends, and kill them if they make me angry.”
  9. (Via Laurie Laliberte) “Chicks dig writers
  10. The big one. Because everyone, at some time in their life, wants to be a writer. Everyone dreams of holding a book in their hands and saying “This is mine, these words are mine. I wrote this.” People may dream of it for the success that comes to writers like JK Rowling, or the fame that clings to Salinger despite comparatively little output, or just to see something they made in a shop window. But everyone has dreamed of being a writer, and if you write, then you ARE a writer. And that rocks.

Don’t give up the day job!

Mark Niel - Poet, Writer....Wordslinger!

That’s the advice you’ll hear most often when you tell people you’re a writer, and to be fair, it’s good advice. Writing is, as my friend Lucy V Hay pointed out today, a gamble – there’s no pension attached.

But giving up the day job is just what Mark Niel has done. You can find his blog – Pawhouse Boy – in the blogroll at the side of the page, and that’ll describe him and his endeavours better than I could. Mark is a poet, and a very successful one. He’s won awards, seen off other dedicated wordsmiths at slam poetry events up and down the UK. There’s very little I can say that will convey my utter respect for that ability, let alone the faith that allows him to make the jump from mainstream employment to freelance writer.

As a playwright, I like to think I choose my words, but in reality, they rush out. I think in paragraphs, hear waterfalls of dialogue. To put it another way, when I turn out my script, I’m not facing my audience, I’m hunkered in my bunker behind a .50Cal manuscript, battering the audience with a stream of words, hoping one or two will penetrate and be enough to knock ‘em dead.

The poet, particularly the Slam Poet, picks their words with care. They are the gunslingers of the writing world. The wordslingers. They use their ammo sparingly, making each word count, finding the target again and again with a scary precision.

If you don’t believe me, see Mark in action here. Try not to be deceived by the apparent simplicity of the words – think about the time and effort it took to assemble each line, to make it fit the meter and subject and the signature refrain. Poetry is hardcore. Respect!

 

Behind the curtain in Oz….

Some of my favourite books about writing

Firstly, apologies to fans of the Emerald City. This is not going to be about Frank L Baum’s fantasy world, nor about God’s Country Down Under. Today is about lifting the curtain that hides the machinery of the Wizard. The books about writing books. More specifically, it’s about “On Writing” by Stephen King. The wizard metaphor came to mind because the books we see on the shelves are the finished article. They glow, from their pristine covers to their polished prose, each word within (hopefully) considered and read many times before publication. These mighty tomes are the wizard, set forth to dazzle us with their brilliance, while behind the curtain, feverishly working to maintain this illusion, is the author.

Authors are real people. They have hopes, dreams, and only twenty four hours in the day. That’s why, for the would-be best selling author, the biggest secret we want to learn is “HOW DO YOU WRITE YOUR BOOKS?” We don’t want to know where ideas come from. We know that, we have so many ideas pounding around our mental jogging track that we can scarcely remember the shopping list. No, we want to know the physical news. When do you write? Do you get up early and work until the day begins? Do you write late at night? Do you have a separate office, or work on a laptop in a cafe?

What we’re asking is “Is there a secret to it? What do you do that I can do to get my book out of my head and onto the page?”

Stephen King may not write your brand of fiction, but I would recommend you take a look at his short story collections (Skeleton Crew, Four Past Midnight, Everything’s Eventual, Full Dark No Stars, Danse Macabre) because he lifts the curtain. Almost more than I loved the stories (he does write MY brand of fiction…) I loved him talking about why he wrote them, how they came to mind. Sometimes it’s the birth story, sometimes it’s the why that story is the way it is, but each explanation tells you about the crafting involved. So when he wrote “On Writing” his book about how he writes and what he thinks about the craft of writing, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Again, I urge you to ignore the voice saying “But I don’t like Stephen King books.” This book is not a gore-fest, it’s about writing, and it’s written by a man who is a phenominally successful author. The first half talks about his life, and that’s important, because a lot of the detail in his books (a lot of the truth, I like to think) comes from his memory. He talks about songs on the radio, he talks very compellingly about being a child in the fifties. So compellingly that I love those portions of “It”, though I grew up twenty years later on a different continent. When you get to the second half of the book  he talks about writing, but he’s talking about REAL writing. He’s not talking about writing the Great American novel, something so literary and metaphysical that the critics cry and schoolchildren will hate you for having to study it. He’s talking about writing books that people buy, love and recommend to their friends.

My secret confession today is that, all too often, I am like Writer Bob : I grab a “How to” book from the library, and sit down, determined to follow the instructions to the letter, ending up with a complete novel/screenplay/knitted model of St Paul’s Cathedral. But the truth is, unless you invest the time and effort, reading the book won’t get it done.

Which are YOUR favourite writing books? When you write your guide to new authors, what’s going to be the biggest tip?