Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saying for Writers #157 - William S Burroughs

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” — William S. Burroughs

Burroughs' breakout novel was Junkie. The author of over twenty-five other novels, short story collections, essay collections, and interview collections, he was one of the most prominent figures of the Beat Generation. Some consider him the most innovative writer of the past century.

This is a photo of Glacier National Park, snug against the Canadian border in NW Montana. The air is so pure there, scientists use it to compare environments across the rest of the planet. You should come visit - and then go back home.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Saying for Writers #156 - Ray Bradbury

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.” — Ray Bradbury

Living in Montana within sight of the Continental Divide, I never tire of views of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. This photo was taken by local friend Sherri Gerek.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tip O'Day #433 - Surprise!

Guest blogger Edward McKeown on how your characters can catch you unawares.

The Fenaday Trilogy was a constant source of surprises to me. The first and biggest was that it was a trilogy. I set out to write one book, the story of as ordinary a man as I could plausibly use to accomplish the adventure I was setting before him. Something immediately became apparent; if he was an ordinary man, he would need motivation to leave his homeworld and plunge into danger and death.

He was not a professional hard case, a military officer or true mercenary, not a thug or an adrenaline junky. So why would he do this? The thing that struck me as being the most believable motivator for such sacrifice was love. His wife, a naval officer, had gone missing and his love for her was such that he would throw aside any security he had and search the stars as a privateer for her. So now we had Robert Fenaday, son of a wealthy merchant family, with the resources and know-how to start this adventure.

How would my everyman survive the adventures of Was Once a Hero, Fearful Symmetry and finally Points of Departure? He was not born to, or well-suited to the quasi-criminal world he was descending to. The answer came in the first of many surprises, a genetically engineered woman warrior named Shasti Rainhell. She was fleeing her past and her own homeworld. They would shelter each other, he with his ship for her, and she with her deadly skills with him. Together they would run the Starship Sidhe through its initial perils.

More surprises awaited me. Shasti demanded to be more than a sidekick. She was a powerful voice with her own realities. This demanding past became the backdrop to Fearful Symmetry, the second book. Fearful was a book of intrigue, adventure and self-awakening as Robert and Shasti sought to free themselves of their pasts so they might embrace a future that held each other.

But the past has a way of reaching out for you and some ghosts are not easily laid to rest. That gave rise to the third book, Points of Departure, which is due out later this year. As for that tale…well, no spoilers here. Hope you enjoy the work.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tip O'Day #432 - Singin' Them Rejection Blues

Guest blogger Faye Rapoport DesPres on “Submitting to Literary Journals? Expect, then Conquer Rejection.”

Rejection and discouragement: if you are submitting your work to literary journals, chances are you will experience both. There’s no way around it – rejections happen, and they happen a lot. Not every editor is going to love your work, and the chances of hitting the right editor on the right day at the right journal are slim. However, those chances improve greatly if you research the journals you are interested in, get to know the type of work they publish, send your very best work, and pay careful attention to the journal’s submission guidelines.

Even after you get hardened to the process (which is likely after you’ve been submitting for a while), it can be tough to read those dreaded words: “Thank you for sending us your work. Unfortunately, it does not suit our present needs.” Each time you get this message, as hard as you try not to care, it will probably feel like a kick in the gut. After a while you might get so used to this feeling, in fact, that you’ll do that odd thing that writers do – distinguish “bad rejections” (form letters) from “good rejections” (personal notes from editors, rejections that invite you to submit again, or, let’s face it, anything that isn’t a form letter).

I started submitting personal essays to literary journals about three years ago, after I completed my degree at the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing. The first year of submitting was torture; after one acceptance from a magazine, I received rejection after rejection from literary journals. I used to write to my former teachers in despair, only to have them respond by saying something to this effect: “Keep writing and keep trying.” Remember, they said, the only way to guarantee failure is to give up.

The first time one of my essays was accepted by a literary journal, I nearly missed the news. I was so sure I was receiving another rejection that I had to do a double take and re-read the editor’s note. I was riding in the passenger seat of our car (my husband was driving), and I put my hand over my mouth and said, “Oh, my God, one of my essays was accepted!” I think I was in shock.

Thankfully, over time, more acceptances arrived. For me, as for most writers, there continue to be many more rejections than acceptances. I maintain a spreadsheet in Excel to help me remember what piece I submitted where (and when). The sheet is color coded: plain black for submissions in play, red for rejections, blue for rejections that invite more work, and green for acceptances. Red far outweighs every other color (although the blue is getting more prominent with time). Green is the least common color on the sheet (when a submission turns green, I happily allow myself put the type in bold).

Like many writers, I have very thin skin. I can’t deny that it has been a huge challenge to stay confident in the face of all of those “Thanks but no thanks” rejections. Occasionally I even give myself a break from submitting just so I can catch my breath.

I once read a piece of advice from Joy Castro (www.joycastro.com), one of my faculty mentors and the author of several books, including the recent crime thriller, Hell Or High Water. Joy wrote: “You wanted this. You chose it. Get back up.”

Stick with it. I’m rooting for you.

Faye’s website is www.fayerapoport.com and her blog is http://blog.fayerapoportdespres.com/. Her essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, and reviews have appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines, including Ascent, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Eleven Eleven, Hamilton Stone Review, Platte Valley Review, Prime Number Magazine, Superstition Review, In the Arts, Fourth Genre, and The Writer’s Chronicle.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

One-Sentence Writing Tips, Part VI

This is Day Six (and Last) of One-Sentence Writing Tips Week, with Facebook writers and other book lovers sharing writing and publishing advice with a dash of panache and a pinch of brevity.

Jennie Gardner Spallone: Hire a developmental editor, not just a copy editor, to look over your manuscript before you submit it to a publisher.

Mark Terry: Think more, write less.

Troy Wilkinson: Write about something you dreamed of as a child, before you knew it wasn't possible.

Kristen Wood: Only in humility can we ever truly learn and only in learning can we ever truly write.

Finally, my favorite one-sentence tip from last year, by RomCom author Kathy Dunnehoff: Say ‘yes’ to caffeine.

Thanks to all the kind folks who participated this week. Hope you had fun.

Friday, March 22, 2013

One-Sentence Writing Tips, Part V

This is Day Five of One-Sentence Writing Tips Week, with Facebook writers and other book lovers showing they can be both profound and concise.

J.T. Sather: Writing a book is the easy part, selling it however...not so much.

Paul M. Schofield: Write, write, write...right?

Laura Schultz: Pay close attention to everything and everyone around you, as some of them could become great characters.

Literary agent Michael Snell: Eschew obfuscation and sesquipedalian anfractuosities.

Screenwriter Mike Snyder: Most writers are banned from TV or movie sets because they insist every last word is deathless prose; that's just not gonna happen, at least not in North America.

Unless your genial host gets flooded by last-minute submissions, these one-sentence tips will end on Saturday. Tomorrow’s scheduled tipsters: Jennie Gardner Spallone, Mark Terry, Troy Wilkinson and Kristen Wood.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

One-Sentence Writing Tips, Part IV

This is Day Four of One-Sentence Writing Tips Week, with FB writers and other book lovers combining advice with brevity.

Jackie Pelham: It will never see daylight if you stick it in a drawer, so submit, submit, submit.

Jimmy Pudge: You need at least one asshole in your story for it to be good.

Freddie Remza: Read dialogue aloud to be sure it sounds natural.

Dixon Rice: Find ways to get extra eyes on your work before it’s submitted or published – but not anyone you sleep with.

Linda Robinson: How to cook a novel: stir together a house of lives, a lot of love, tons of troubles, wonderful words, and a rash of revisions, then 'beat' well and bake until done.

These one-sentence tips will continue Friday and Saturday. Tomorrow’s featured folks are J.T. Sather, Paul M. Schofield, awesome Laura Schultz, lit agent Michael Snell and screenwriter Mike Snyder.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One-Sentence Writing Tips, Part III

This is Day Three of One-Sentence Writing Tips Week, with FB writers and other book lovers offering concise writing or publishing suggestions. (I’m going to let Lucinda slide on the extra periods, just because I’m that kinda guy.)

L.C. Hayden: Never say never.

Danny Johnson: Go ahead and leave that manuscript in the drawer -- your children will sell it when you're gone.

Vickie Johnstone: Set your imagination free.

Fifi Leigh: Expose the truth through an educational but fictional story.

Lucinda Hawks Moebius: The. Best way. To be a better writer is to write.

These one-sentence tips will continue all week. Tomorrow’s glory belongs to Jackie Pelham, Jimmy Pudge, Freddie Remza, Linda Robinson and yours truly.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One-Sentence Writing Tips, Part II

This is Day Two of One-Sentence Writing Tips Week - Facebook writers and other book lovers boiling down their writing or publishing suggestions into one simple sentence. Okay, sometimes a compound sentence.

Jonnie Comet: No good writers are purely Romantic since they believe in the hard work of critiquing, editing, and revising; all art is deliberate and that’s what makes it 'art.'

J.M. Cornwell: Read, listen, write, and read some more.

Valerie Douglas: Just write!

Jacquelynn Gagne: Books are judged by their covers and writers by our words.

Linda Lee Greene: Get your head out of your arus and use your thesaurus!

These one-sentence tips will continue all week. Tomorrow’s turn in the barrel: LC Hayden, Danny Johnson, Vickie Johnstone, Fifi Leigh and Lucinda Hawks Moebius.

Monday, March 18, 2013

One-Sentence Writing Tips, Part I

I invited Facebook writers and other book lovers to share their concise suggestions for achieving literary glory. Or at least getting published somewhere, somehow. Whatever. Their one-sentence writing tips will appear here all week.

J.C. Andrijeski: When it comes to writing, don't listen to other people...except when you really need to listen to other people.

Maxine Arnold: Finish, finish, finish.

Greta Burroughs: There's more to being a writer than just writing a book.

Lynne Cantwell: Read – a lot.

Connie Travisano Colon: Never let the reader detect you or it will bring them out of your story.

On Part II tomorrow, we’ll hear from Jonnie Comet, J.M. Cornwell, Valerie Douglas, Jacquelynn Gagne and Linda Lee Greene.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tip O'Day #431 - Look Out Below!

Guest blogger Gerald G. Griffin on two categories of writers within the third group of writers. Ouch, my head hurts.

"A lot of people think they have a book inside them, but for those who try to write it, they usually fail," a friend once commented to me. "Why is that?"

I shrugged, giving him an are-you-kidding look. "Hell if I know!"

If answering him now, I'd probably say this: Let's start by dividing novice or would-be writers into three groups. First, there are those novices who can write great stuff immediately, as though born to it, and have little trouble getting published. Second, there are those who haven't a chance in hell of ever writing a book because they lack the creative aptitude, imagination, passion, dedication and discipline to do so. Third, there are those who fall in between the first and second groups.

Let's divide this third group into two categories. The first involves those who might squeak through a book, but it won't be published, and they skip the Indie route. The problem with these writers is that they write as though they are part of some freakish high wire circus act as he or she leaps haphazardly from the swing, twisting spasmodically into thin air, then frantically grasping outward toward his or her catcher's hands just at the moment their partner is suddenly seized with severe dizzy spells killing any semblance of timing.

"Look out below!"

The second category is a crazy one. These novice writers manage to finish their books. Then, by hook or by crook -- including the Indie route -- they have their books published. Their work is usually mediocre but the writers are convinced it's fantastic and will sell big if only it has the correct marketing. So enter the marketing scene, with all its madness! These writers are likely to be totally unprepared to deal with it but leap into it helter-skelter, the marketing madness enhancing their delusions.

Subsequently, these writers are prey for promising marketing schemes invariably failing to deliver, including social networking and engines leaving them in a mire of their own delusional madness. These novices are forever seeking that elusive, flashy review of their book that will turn that formidable trick leading to literary glory, never realizing that glory is beyond their reach.

Finally, for most of these writers, after suffering through all of this, their books not selling, their book signings a bust, libraries and book stores not carrying their works, their exhaustive madness having worn them down to the bone, they are left glassy-eyed, their literary salvation gone, leaving them with the stifling prospect of a mind numbing, everyday job.

Oh, what could have been!

To learn more about Gerald G. Griffin and his novel, check out this link. Among other things, it discusses the making of Of Good And Evil into a movie, and where the book can be ordered. The book can also be ordered on Gerald’s blog at http://geraldggriffin.blogspot.com/ or from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saying for Writers #155 - Leigh Brackett

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion — that’s Plot.” — Leigh Brackett

The Montana Rockies captured by friend Sherri Gerek.

One-Sentence Writing Tips from my Facebook friends will be featured here on the Wredheaded Writer blog all next week -- if you feel inspired, there's still room for more.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Interview of SciFi author Mary Fan

The genial host of Wredheaded Writer blog, Dixon Rice, interviews author Mary Fan about Artificial Absolutes, her newly released SciFi novel.

Dixon Rice: Mary, I love that you originally developed the Jane Colt character as a protagonist in another genre. When that didn’t work out the way you wanted, what made you decide to send her into outer space?

Mary Fan: I’ve been a huge fan of science fiction for ages, especially space operas, and I always knew I wanted to try my hand at the genre. One thing I noticed about most space operas is that they tend to center on either a well-trained, experienced fighter or a Chosen One. Meanwhile, we never really get to hear about the not-so-special people who occupy the rest of the galaxy. They are treated as extras—props, almost. Still, every person has a story. I was thinking about all this, and meanwhile, I had this relatively ordinary character without a story. I thought, why not combine the ideas?

DR: The kidnapping of Jane’s friend seems to be the key that starts the story’s engine. Caring for a friend - that’s a surprisingly personal trigger for a SciFi tale. What made you pick that event, rather than a more typical “saving mankind” premise?

MF: When I set out to write Artificial Absolutes, I knew I wanted to write a different kind of space opera. Like you said, saving the universe is a pretty typical premise. I’ve always wondered about the lives of those who weren’t out to stop the apocalypse, those who inhabit the expansive and fascinating worlds of the future.

I also wanted the story to be more personal than a lot of what’s out there. In the grand scheme of things, the stakes in Artificial Absolutes are pretty low; it’s one girl’s life out of trillions that’s being affected. On the other hand, in her personal world, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Those are the people she cares about who are in danger. That the rest of the world will go on turning while hers falls to pieces is a source of great aggravation for Jane.

DR: After Adam is kidnapped, Jane’s older brother Devin is framed for murder. Hmmm, another relationship trigger. How important are relationships in your life?

MF: Relationships are, of course, important to me. Our experiences lose significance without people to share them with. Relationships drive the things we do and the way we think. Even the most independent people are influenced by the people around them, often subconsciously. The things people say have the ability to invade our thoughts without our notice. These kinds of influences are at the core of Artificial Absolutes. What the characters do influences those they interact with, often in ways they don’t realize.

DR: Transplanting Jane Colt from another genre into SciFi – one might say you wrote a SciFi story by accident. Do you intend to repeat that mistake?

MF: Oh, definitely. Science fiction is one of my favorite genres, both to read and to write. It transports a reader to a different world and allows a writer to explore the infinite what-ifs. I wouldn’t say I wrote a SciFi story by accident, but the story I ended up with is rather different from what’s expected from the genre.

DR: The concept of artificial intelligence has been around since the robot stories of the 1950s, maybe earlier. What’s new and fresh that you bring to AI?

MF: I can’t say too much without spoiling Artificial Absolutes, but I can tell you this: much of what I write concerning artificial intelligence has little do with technology. I use the idea of artificial intelligence to explore broader themes, such as consciousness and the nature of artificiality, as well as influence and perception of self. The more we learn about neuroscience, the more philosophers and scientist debate the nature of consciousness. If so much of who we are is printed in our genes, controlled by chemicals in our brains, and influenced by external forces, then how real are any of us? How many of our thoughts can we really call our own? Artificial intelligence is used as a metaphor as well as a plot point.

DR: What’s with all the musicians and songs? Do you whistle while you work?

MF: I love music. So much, in fact, that I studied it in college. Music wasn’t part of the original plan for Artificial Absolutes, although the struggle Jane faces about whether to pursue her passion or to take the smart career path was in the earliest versions. I found music to be a more natural subject for me to write about than her original dream job (painter). Once I made that change, music just wove itself into the fabric of the novel. It’s a part of Jane, and so it became a part of her story.

And while I don’t whistle while I work, I do find myself staring off into space and humming when I’m stuck on a particular passage.

Mary Fan’s SciFi novel Artificial Absolutes is now available as paperback and eBook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Saying for Writers #154 - Annie Dillard

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.” — Annie Dillard

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tip O'Day #430 - Fighting Past Rejection

Guest blogger Elizabeth Hoban writes on the turning points in a writing career.

One percent inspiration and 99% perspiration was originally scribed by a writer, had to be.

For many years, I perspired when it came to writing. After what seemed like forever, I submitted my clever thriller over and over, and was rejected enough times to compile a lengthy book with Sorry-not-for-us letters. I didn’t understand this disconnect. Mine was a perfectly polished manuscript from the moment I typed The End. Hadn’t I spent enough time on this? Every favorite word and riveting sentence that ever ran through my mind was in that tome. I had whole sections memorized verbatim. I didn’t need to revisit it until I received the galleys, right? I had completed the writing of a book and I deserved to see it published.

When a well-known agent at a prominent writers conference announced to her audience that the odds of winning the lottery were better than getting your first book published, the audience gasped. I may have cried. Before I requested a conference refund, the author/speaker went on to explain that surprisingly the odds in favor of publication grew dramatically with the second novel before a first novel saw publication, then the third before the first two, and so on. My novel, my opus, my first born had taken me ten years to finish, meaning I’d be taking the dirt nap before I could write another book. After condemning everything from my second grade teacher to the alphabet, I begrudgingly put my opus in a drawer and began a second novel. After all, I had raised two kids, owned a second home. In fact, I was a second born and writing may be my second career, so why not, why couldn’t I write a second book?

Two years later, I was amazed to realize how much smoother the entire process went with this child. Like an athlete or musician, I was becoming quite practiced at writing. My grunt work was getting done while I enjoyed the creative process. Dare I say I was becoming a seasoned writer? My therapist thought so, when amidst the conclusion of my second novel, I started a third. Say what?

All writers who persevere have had that moment, that career turning point when they want to sit and rest on their laurels and someone pulls the chair out from under them. Here I wanted to pitch my great book to agents and turns out they were only considering second book ideas at that conference. According to the pitch boss, publishers wanted writers with more than one idea. Needless to say, that conference was my wake-up call. Sometimes the advice that’s the hardest to take is the exact advice you should take.

Both my first book and second book are traditionally published. My second book was the first to receive a publishing contract. Coincidence, I think not. Write on!

Check out Liz Hoban's hardcover true WW2 tale, The Final Mission here and The Cheech Room, her fiction suspense-thriller here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Saying for Writers #153 - Sandburg

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Beware of advice — even this.” Carl Sandburg

Sunrise in Montana, captured by my friend (and fellow soccer nut) Sue Haugan.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tip O'Day #429 - The Numbers Game

Guest blogger Jacquelynn Gagne of Ambrosia Arts on “numeric numbers versus alphabetical numbers in fiction.”

Have you ever read a novel published by a big publishing house such as Penguin or Random and seen a lot of numeric numbers?

Unless the book is about numbers somehow or an educational book, then you rarely will. At most, you will only see a numerical number if it is a year (even then sometimes it may be written out alphabetically) unless it is a ridiculously long number such as 86,346,249. Writing out eighty-six million three hundred and forty-six thousand two hundred and forty-nine can just be confusing. One other exception is when it is in reference to a sign or a time of day. (Times we will discuss in a moment)

Take for example a road, such as I-149. However this could also be written as interstate one-forty-nine, and written as such is perfectly acceptable. Using numerical numbers may be considered unprofessional in the case of a standard novel. It can be considered lazy. It can be difficult to remember if you are already in the habit of going for the number key.

Let’s take a moment and discuss how to properly write times. If we are giving a general time of day, we would write it alphabetically every time. Eight o’clock in the morning, five o’clock in the afternoon, three o’clock in the morning - the time was seven a.m., the hour was two p.m. If you are being specific you can write this out alphabetically but depending on the type of book it may be accepted numerically as well but it is always advised to write your numbers alphabetically in a novel. Example: 4:39 a.m. Example four thirty-nine a.m.

On a side note, since we are discussing times I constantly see a.m. and p.m. written incorrectly as am or pm, You must include a period (dot) after each letter. If your sentence ends with a.m. or p.m. you do not add an additional period dot. As you can look in the paragraph directly above, the last two sentences are examples of this.

This may not seem like a big deal and I am not trying to say that it is. However it can make a difference in you looking professional or amateurish. If that doesn’t concern you, then you may wish to reevaluate your priorities and decide how you wish to be viewed, not just by readers but in the literary community as well. Our words are how we are viewed as writers. Books are judged by their covers and writers by our words. The plus side of this is that unlike a bad hair day, we have complete control over our writing.

You can follow more writing tips with a subscription to Ambrosia Arts e-magazine at http://www.ambrosia-arts.com/index.php/more/subscribe or learn more on Facebook.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saying for Writers #152 - Orson Scott Card

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

"Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be." – Orson Scott Card

Dixon says: When meeting for the first time, people often ask: "What do you do?" A few years before I'd even finished the first draft of The Assassins Club, I started replying "I'm a novelist."

After a while, I started to believe it myself.

Local friend Sue Haugan captured this snowy Montana day.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tip O'Day #428 - Bite Your Lip...

Guest blogger Mike Snyder on “A Cautionary Tale.”

Someone once said, "Writing is the loneliest profession." Let's not kid ourselves, so are accounting and nuclear physics. We just like to feel more tortured because we're creative. Well, maybe...

As authors, writers, bloggers, screenwriters, doodlers, dreamers, what-have-you, we are the masters of our fates ... much like that Seinfeld episode (and often, amounting to the same thing). For any of us know who have come up against editors, publishers, producers, directors, our moms -- name your poison -- it suddenly becomes a lot more crowded up in here!

I'm primarily a TV & film writer, but a lot of my friends are novelists (or recovering screenwriters, as I like to think of them). Some of them have had, or are in the process of having, their novels turned into films. One has even reverse engineered the process: she wrote a script that no one wanted, turned it into a best-selling novel featuring a winning heroine, which became a three-novel deal, which became a further three-novel deal, which then brought Hollywood sniffing around her door wondering if she'd "ever considered turning her novel into a script."

Ah, karma is so sweet sometimes...

I've been fortunate enough, and curious enough, to develop a skill set in other capacities on movie sets, which offers me a more unique insight into the screenwriting process, so I'm rarely asked to stay away when it's my script that's being eviscerated.

In other words, though it's often painful, and occasionally I still get bruised and battered, I know how to play the game. Novelists may have editors, but screenwriters are fair game to everyone who comes down the pike, so you may as well just relax and enjoy the ride. Filmmaking is the most collaborative of professions because everyone feels entitled to a kick at the cat, as my Canadian friends say. The producer who buys your script, certainly, especially if he's putting up the money and has a particular direction in mind for the project; the director, who wants to put his creative stamp on it; the actors, who want to make it their own (which is a whole 'nuther blog); and various network, studio or assistant underlings who need their presence known to justify huge paychecks.

All this requires that you bite the bullet. Hard. You're not going to win every argument and a lot of your darlings are going to be gutted, so choose your battles wisely and have *really* good reasons when you dig your heels in. Most writers are banned from TV or movie sets because they insist every last word is deathless prose. That's just not gonna happen, at least not in North America.

So, you've gone through development - a euphemism for obliterating anything creative from your script - and your Precious is going into production. Now you have every other department, down to the guy in crafts services, whispering in the director's ear because 1) they have an idea to make the script better, which is usually because 2) they have a script at home that's ten times as good as yours and they're obviously much more creative.

At this point you've suddenly begun praying the director has a strong vision, even if it's not *yours* simply to keep the wolves at bay.

Lonely profession indeed...

So, your bottom lip raw from biting it so much, you've managed to remain on the set as, day after day, you see something begin to emerge and take shape that may or may not have anything to do with your original piece.

Huzzah, consider yourself a true survivor. Out of hundreds of thousands (really, seriously, hundreds of thousands) of scripts that get submitted each year to studios, networks, production companies, producers, directors, actors, et al, yours was chosen. It was strong enough to withstand the vagaries of development and is being filmed. Or taped. Or pixeled. Whatever, it's getting made!

So whenever that little voice in the back of your head begins whining about your lovely vision and integrity to self and other silly, non-filmmaking words, sit on it. Hard. Stomp it down somewhere deep in the recesses of your soul where it will remain until you begin to write your next script.

Because ... this time it'll be different.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Saying for Writers #151 - Bradbury

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.” — Ray Bradbury

Drove from Kalispell, Montana, to Helena for soccer scheduling meetings last weekend, and saw about 100 deer alongside the road, plus a family of four elk. Was happy not to pick up any fur on my fenders.

How many deer do you see in the photo?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tip O'Day #427 - Fictional (?) Characters

Guest blogger Carolyn Wall on “Characters – Real and Not.”

Constantly, I am set-upon by fictional characters. It was a pure wonder I didn’t go into acting. As a writer, however, I can create my own folks. In the case of my second novel, Playing With Matches, I began with Harry. I have four kids of my own, and five grandchildren plus three, so I knew how devastated his mom, Clea, was when Harry stopped talking. And how she and Thomas fell in love, once-and-forever, with little Maria-Luz. In the book, Luz looks like my own beautiful teenaged granddaughter.

Other than working through characters -- their love, sex and family problems -- my favorite part of the writing of Matches was the setting, especially a block of scenes that I had to omit from the final copy.

I love Belize City, which is just as Clea describes it in the book – the fish market in the canal, children playing in ditch water, the ocean lapping at the ends of the streets. For Sale by Red Carpet signs fronting shanties. Staircases that lead nowhere. Lush lawns of government buildings, the mayor’s brick house along the highway. City Park where the grass is dead and the trees stripped of leaves, weedy Mortuary Lane, parlors promising fast funerals because of the heat, women sitting alone in upstairs windows.

Speaking of setting -- my apologies to the people of Lousiana for snatching up their False River – actually a lake – and plunking it down in Mississippi.

Clea loved teaching the incarcerated to write, just as I did. For several years, I exhausted some friends and worried others as I prattled on and on about how incredibly much offenders had to say.

Which brings me back to characters.

I was attending a conference recently when the speaker asked a roomful of writers to jot down a childhood memory. I remembered my mother calling me in from outside – I was eleven or twelve – to teach me about the birds and the bees. She told me young ladies carried a handkerchief at all times and said – “Here, read this book.” In Matches, as I wrote the character of Bitsy, my heart ached for her lack of knowing, so I gave her the soft pink memory of Felicia to hold onto.

Carolyn’s latest book, Playing With Matches (Random House, 2012) and her first novel, Sweeping Up Glass (Random House, 2009) are available in bookstores everywhere. You can learn more about her on Facebook or at www.Carolyndwall.com.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Saying for Writers #150 - George Singleton

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop — H2O. The reader will get it.” — George Singleton

Dixon says: Novelist and screenwriter Dennis Foley used to teach writing at UCLA, and now shares his wisdom with the Authors of the Flathead in northwest Montana. One of his most frequently repeated acronyms is RUE – resist the urge to explain.

Gone are the days when, in the first chapter of a novel, a woman would enter a room, only to have the author completely stop the action while he spends half a page describing the carpet, drapes, furniture and wallpaper. It is helpful for the author if he can visualize all that information. However, all the reader needs is a few telling details in order to understand the essence of the setting. If I mention an ornate Chinese rug, doilies on wing chairs, and yellowed lithographs of dead relatives on a mantle, you might think, “That’s just like my elderly aunt’s parlor.” If I give you another half-page of description, it all becomes a jumble of confusing details.

So resist the urge to explain.