First Draft Rush, and then…

Last week, I completed the first draft of UNDERTOW, my first solo screenplay! I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes when a major project is finished, and I hope, finished well. Of course, there are still the rewrites, but that’s another major project.

However, I’ve found something strange when the draft was completed – an emptiness that is not entirely pleasant. UNDERTOW has been living inside me for 7 or 8 years, and now it’s become more than the ephemeral flow of creativity. It is solid. It is striving and horror and sadness and faith – on paper. And though the protagonist, Megan, still lives in my thoughts, it’s not the same as when she whisped around my head, tugging at me to tell her story.

Thank goodness, the emptiness is abating. I am getting into my next project: ANGEL’S FLIGHT, a novel I set aside last September to complete a juvenile novel. I’m catching the spirit of that new old story again. I’m seeing from behind Vashti’s eyes instead of Megan’s.

But I miss Megan. I know it’s pathetic, but I miss her.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius

So I’m back after too long away. On the up side, I have lots of stuff to share.

To start, a friend sent me this link: Elizabeth Gilbert giving a TED talk on genius. Much food for thought. Here’s the info:

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Enjoy!

 

An Awesome Ten Minute Exercise

Set your timer for ten minutes. Write down FIVE novel or movie concepts  in logline form (one sentence describing each idea). You must get down five ideas within the time allotted. Polishing the loglines afterward is optional.

I did this recently and came up with the following:

  1. Comedy/Coming of Age: A teenager drops out of high school and heads out to find the Dalai Lama and ask him the meaning of life.
  2. Action/Adventure: An amnesiac woman in a bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers shows up on Dave’s doorstep – but she isn’t what she appears to be, as the gunmen who soon follow confirm.
  3. Action/Comedy/Fantasy: The Sonoran Desert trickster, Coyote, takes on a man’s form to halt the urban sprawl invading his environment, but only endangers his home further as spiritual seekers gather to ask him existential questions.
  4. Comedy/Action: Ellie’s father died years ago, or that’s what she thought until he shows up at the reading of her mother’s will – as a zombie.
  5. Action/Adventure: Deep in the forest, a lost hiker comes across a strange civilization, a group of alien “grays” running from persecution.

I’m not sure if I’ll use these, though I’m very intrigued by a couple of them, especially #3 (it may even be my next movie project), but this exercise shows how when pressed, the mind can come up with all sorts of crazy ideas, ideas that might turn out to be unique and promising.

Also, each idea could go a number of different ways. For example, I put Action/Adventure on #5, but what if I changed that to Comedy? It would be a completely different movie.

If you have time to give this exercise a try, I’d love to hear how it worked for you!

Poetry as Inspiration

When I was a kid, I loved to read, and one of my favourite books was an old leather bound copy of Sir Walter Scott’s poems that I found in the attic. Being a kid, I had little idea of what I was reading, but that didn’t matter. What I liked best was the sound and rhythm of the words, and the feelings they created within me.

This morning, in need of inspiration, I turned to a tiny, very old book that I found in London a few years ago, A Book of Narrative Verse.

My inspiration to write comes from Horatius, by Lord Macaulay. 

And, like a horse unbroken
When first he feels the rein,
The furious river struggled hard,
And tossed his tawny mane,
And burst the curb, and bounded,
Rejoicing to be free,
And whirling down, in fierce career,
Battlement, and plank, and pier,
Rushed headlong to the sea.

How I love these old poems! And this one captures the feeling I get when out on a boat in rough water. It exhilarates me in the same way as riding a racing horse.

And now, bolstered by the magic of words, I go to write–and hopefully to create a little magic of my own.

You know you’re meant to be a novelist when…

You know you’re meant to be a novelist when:

  1. You haven’t written anything for two days, and you fall into the pit of despair.
  2. Your spouse says they’re leaving you, and all you can think is “I can use this.”
  3. Listening to the bickering couple seated behind you on the bus is completely fascinating.
  4. You get entire story ideas, complete with characters, theme, setting, as you sit in the dentist’s waiting room…
  5. … and said story never makes it onto the page because you didn’t have any paper with you and you got an even better idea while your teeth were being cleaned.
  6. You finally get time to write in the afternoon, and minutes later, when you stop, it’s dark outside.

Do you have some more? I’d love to hear them.

A Great Review!

The writing life is full of ups and downs. Earlier this week, I received this email regarding one of my unpublished short stories:

Dear Angela, Thanks for giving us the opportunity to consider this one. After reading and discussing it, and then holding it for further consideration, we’ve decided to pass on it. We like it, but in the final analysis we receive far more stories that we find likable than we have the space to publish. Good luck placing it elsewhere, and by all means, send us another story.

An awesome rejection, but still a rejection. Sigh…

And then this morning, a lovely email was waiting for me in my inbox informing me of a review done on the first three novels in my Whinnies on the Wind series. Thank you Books, Mud, and Compost. And Horses for the awesome review! I’m feeling much better now. 🙂

Quick Quote on Protagonists

Know what your protagonist wants, know why she wants it, and know why the thing she wants isn’t the same as the thing she needs. If you know those three things, the rest of your protag’s characterization will fall into place. ~ Xander Bennett

Symbols in Fiction

Why symbols are important in fiction, from the book Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway:

People constantly function symbolically. We must do so because we rarely know exactly what we mean, and if we do we are not willing to express it, and if we are willing we are not able, and if we are able we are not heard, and if we are heard we are not understood. Words are unwieldy and unyielding, and we leap past them with intuition, body language, tone, and symbol.

“Is the oven supposed to be on?” he asks. He is only peripherally curious about whether the oven is supposed to be on. He is really complaining: You’re scatterbrained and extravagant with the money I go out and earn.

“If I don’t preheat it, the muffins won’t crest,” she says, meaning: You didn’t catch me this time! You’re always complaining about the food, and God knows I wear myself out trying to please you.

“We used to have salade nocoise in the summertime,” he recalls, meaning: Don’t be so damn triumphant. You’re still extravagant, and you haven’t got the class you used to have when we were young.

“We used to keep a garden,” she says, meaning: You’re always away on weekends and never have time to do anything with me because you don’t love me anymore; I think you have a mistress.

“What do you expect of me!” he explodes, and neither of them is surprised that ovens, muffins, salads, and gardens have erupted. When people say “we quarreled over nothing,” this is what they mean – they quarreled over symbols.

Pg 275, Writing Fiction, 4th Edition

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Have you heard of the The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest? I hadn’t until a friend (thank you, Stan!) sent me the link to their 2012 contest winners. To give you a flavor of what the contest is about and why the winning entries are definitely worth reading, here is one of the Dishonorable Mentions in the Romance category:

“Chain-smoking as he stood in the amber glow of the street lamp, he gazed up at the brownstone wherein resided Bunny Morgan, and thought how like a bunny Bunny was, though he had read somewhere that rabbits were coprophages, which meant that they ate their own feces, which was really disgusting now that he thought about it, and nothing like Bunny, at least he hoped not, so on second thought Bunny wasn’t like a bunny after all, but she still was pretty hot.” – Emma DeZordi, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec

Check out the winners for more gems here.

CONCEPT with Scott Myers

I’m thrilled. I just got a spot in Scott Myers class on CONCEPT, starting on Monday. Here’s what his website says about the course:

In this 1-week online screenwriting class, you will delve into the mindset of Hollywood studio executives, producers, agents, and managers, and learn time-tested ways to generate and develop story concepts, as well as the means to evaluate them to help you know when you find a winning script idea.

  • Hone your ability to think like a script buyer and see what they look for in a story concept.
  • Workshop your own story concepts through writing assignments targeted toward improving your brainstorming and critical analysis skills.

Scott comes highly recommended as a teacher, so I’m thrilled about being accepted into this class. And I certainly need the help when it comes to understanding concept!