Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speaking of Editing...

I just read a good post about editing on The Blood-Red Pencil. Some of the tips are obvious, some aren't. All of them are good. I'm going to be thinking about the 3-Act breakdown as I work on Cass some more. I'm a bit stuck and I think breaking it down this way will help me get over the sticky part.

Problem Solving

Today feels like a good day for a piggy back post, so I'm going to go off of Deb's post about last night's CWC meeting. One of the best things about a critique group that works is that problems get solved. There are always problems in drafts, whether it's a character, a scene, or bit of dialogue, there are things that need fixing. That's why it's called a draft, right?

Last night I was on the chopping block for the 2nd submission of the Cass book, and I knew the gang was going to comment on one particular thing. As part of getting people where they needed to be, I had to figure out a reason for them to be at a funeral, despite it being dangerous for one of the characters to be out in public. I thought about it, and played around with it, and tried so hard to figure out a good reason to get them all there. The best I could come up with wasn't really a good reason, but I couldn't figure anything else out.

When it came to my turn to get critiqued, Jenny started. Basically, she said, "Yeah, this part... it's not working."

I said, "Tell me about it."

Then Shane said, "Well, what if..." And there it was, exactly what I needed. It was simple, it was perfect, and I never even got close to figuring it out on my own. Writers groups can be a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

WPW Roundup

Deb's got hers up. Where's yours?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WP Wednesdays: Barfight Sarah

Hi gang, and welcome to the second Writing Prompt Wednesday. I'd love it if you joined the game. The rules are simple. Read them here then go find a prompt. Happy writing.

Barfight Sarah
Her nose was broken during a tavern brawl, but she was too drunk to go to the hospital and have it set. The scar on her cheek was from a broken chair leg, and her left eye had a tendency to list to the side, thanks to the fist of a particularly beefy motorcyclist she called a lightweight during a drinking contest.

At that particular moment, she stood an inch away from a forty-something man in a business suit. He tried to lean away from her, but the solid oak bar digging into his back refused to budge. "Look, lady," he said. "There are plenty of other seats in this place-"

She closed the distance between their faces and her crooked nose touched his. "And you're in mine."

The invasion of personal space had gone too far, and the business man snapped. He put his hands on her shoulders and shoved her hard enough to toss her on her butt. The expression on his face spun from satisfaction, to regret at shoving a woman, to sheer horror when she bounced up on her feet. She was coming straight at him, her nose pointed to the right, her eye drifted to the left, and a delighted smile on her face.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Under the Chopping Block

A while back, I announced they were doing line edits over at Edittorrent, and today they did mine. It feels pretty cool to have gotten a once-over by a pro, even if it's just a paragraph. ^_^

Thursday, June 18, 2009

WP Wednesday

Deb's in the gaming spirit and has joined the first week's round with a short piece of her own.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writing Prompt Wednesdays: Test Run

Dr. Horatio's office was not the office of a typical university professor. No, as the office of the university's head of the Hypothetical Math department, it had molded to its occupant in the same way an old mattress molds to the specific curve of a person's butt. It just so happened that Hypothetical Math is a very peculiar sort of curve. Everyone in the department knew that, in Dr. Horatio's office, space-time as it was popularly conceived, dared not go in, but instead turned back around and kept walking down the hall to more hospitable territory.

For, inside of Math 253, time lines didn't always make sense. Laws of physics were broken. On one notable occasion, an undergraduate student had foolishly walked into the office, alone, in search of Dr. Horatio so he could turn in a paper. Not only did the student fail to find Dr. Horatio, he also failed to escape the office until the following semester. He walked out, dazed, clothes torn, and babbling incoherently about having gotten tangled up in a web of string theory. He had only managed to break free when the quantum spider that had woven the web got sucked into a herd of feral black hole. The student had clearly gone quite mad, as everyone knows feral black holes are strictly solitary creatures.

In the wake of this incident, the university administrators granted the undergraduate a free ride scholarship in a mental institution and gave strict orders for the installation of a mailbox for Dr. Horatio on the wall outside of his office. Dr. Horatio himself, of course, failed to notice either the incident or the mailbox, but his doppelganger assured the administration that he would take charge of checking said mailbox. This conclusion satisfied everyone involved. Well, except for the undergraduate. However, at this point, he tended to be satisfied with purple crayons and applesauce so nobody gave him much mind about the matter at all.

A Game: Writing Prompt Wednesdays

I'm in the mood to play a game and I'm going to invite anyone who reads this blog to join me. For now, I'm calling it Writing Prompt Wednesdays and the rules are pretty simple. Here's how to play:

1. Find something that snags you online, (a blog post, news story, whatever), that's been published in the past week or so, and pick a quote from it.
2. Use the quote as a prompt and write something (anything, a scene, some dialogue, a haiku, it's up to you)
3. Post the result on your blog with the prompt bolded and a link to the blog post you pulled it from
4. Let me know you've done it - respond to my Wednesday post
5. By Thursday, I'll post a list of links on this blog to showcase the results
6. You get bonus points for putting up a link on your blog to the showcase

Friday, June 12, 2009


Writers get compared to other writers all the time. Jenny even once compared me to Neil Gaiman (I love you Jenny!).

In the process of revising my thesis based on Katherine and Ted's comments, I'm doing more reading. Part of that reading includes some short stories that Juan has recommended to me because he sees similarity between me and them. I've read almost all the recommended stories, they come out of an anthology titled Story Matters.

It is strange, to say the least, to read these and think, "This is how Juan sees my writing." Some of them make sense to me, like the story by Ha Jin. Some of them make me wonder where he sees the correlation. Either way, it's an adventure.

The stories:
"River of Names" by Dorothy Allison
"After I Was Thrown into the River an Before I Drowned" by Dave Eggers (he was the first writer who came to Juan's mind when he gave me the recommendations, and I think it was more for the author interview than the story itself)
"Going" by Amy Hempel
"Love in the Air" by Ha Jin
"A Temporary Matter" by Jhumpa Lahiri
"Bobby Jackson" by Joan Silber
"Father Returns from the Mountain" by Luis Alberto Urrea

Monday, June 8, 2009

This is Nifty

Just want to let y'all know that they're doing something cool over at Edittorrent. If you post a couple of paragraphs of your work, they'll edit it. The idea is to show folks what professional line editing looks like. How cool is that?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Movies Are Supposed to be Escapism, Dang It

I should know better by now, I really should, but somehow I'm having trouble with my learning curve. I got some DVDs from the library. Independent/Artsy Films. Almost every time I watch independents, I'm disappointed. The pattern holds true for the most recent two.

Waitress: I had high hopes for this one, because, well, it has Nathan Fillion in it. But, it's a classic example of the previews mis-representing the actual film. Previews = quirky romantic comdey; Film = not rom. com. in the least. Instead, it's kind of depressing and complicated.

Lars and the Real Girl: Ditto on the previews vs. film disconnect. Ditto on the rest, too. It irritates me when the film company doesn't think the actual film is going to draw in a crowd, so they cut the previews to make it seem like it's something it's not. Makes me feel all deceived and mislead.

It's also strange to me how both of these movies had great comedic potential, but seemingly decided comedy wasn't worthwhile enough, that they'd rather go for serious. But, if only they'd done it Joss Whedon style by playing up the funny to highlight the sad, both films would have been more compelling. But, they tried to be too high-brow with the humor. Too dry. Didn't work for me.

Synecdoche, New York: Watched this one because of a blogger's recommendation and because I liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind okay. Yeah... about that.

My problem is all about perspective. Often, I feel like these types of movies come at life from almost a "too realistic" perspective. Life is quirky, complicated and messy. Of course, we get it. Life is also hilarious, charming, and lovely. These films stick with the first bit and skip the second. They try for funny, but the timing/tone/delivery is off and it becomes that joke that doesn't work. Though, I'll admit, there are oodles of people who'd disagree with me on this. Fair enough. Suffice it to say, these films are generally not my cup of tea.

The bottom line for me, is if I'm watching a movie, I want to embrace a more optimistic point of view. The good guy wins, the conflict gets resolved, and the conflict is big - not just about the banality of the everyday, blah, blah, blah. I want story, not reality. That's why I watched a movie instead of sitting on a street corner watching people.

We all know what life is, and we all know there's plenty of tedious, depressing stuff that goes on in it. We all know the score. It's not about life, it's about telling a story.

Anyhow, enough of the rant. On the flip side of the coin, there are some times when the Independent thing really works for me. I guess that's why I keep watching them - sometimes they're awesome. So, I'll add to this post a list of my favorite low budget/obscure/Independent flicks:

The Amateurs
Little Miss Sunshine
Smoke Signals
Blow Dry
Danny Deckchair
The Darwin Awards
Friends and Family
How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog

P.S. I know you could argue some of these are actually mainstream flicks, but I'm going off of the criteria that, for many, if I mentioned the movie in conversation, people wouldn't know what it was.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You, Me, and the Power of We

This month, in honor of working with my committee to revise & defend my thesis, is all about collaboration.

Writers, as Jenny has often commented, are strange creatures because we like to form these critique groups which means we get all excited about actually helping our competition, other writers. Of course, the more we critique others, the better we get at our own writing, so it's not entirely selfless.

In any event, this month I challenge you to step up your collaboration. Go above and beyond your normal level of getting other people engaged in your work, and vice versa. Maybe now's the time to try co-writing something. Maybe now's the time to have someone who's never read your work offer their thoughts on it. Or, speaking of critique groups, now would be the perfect time to recruit someone new to join the critique group you belong to.

Think about it and find a way to get more people involved. You never know who will be the person to come up with that great idea that totally fixes your novel's conflict and turns it from blah to brilliant.