I (May) Have A Problem

bookproblemcolourediteduseI’m reorganizing my writer’s dungeon (I mean office) to suit a makeshift home photography studio temporarily and I had to move the bookcases around. I have at least two and a half more tall bookcases plus some books in line for room on the shelf. In consideration of this awareness I will be adding book reviews more regularly to this blog. I can’t however promise I won’t keep buying new books (and old ones). It’s both a passion and a hobby of mine.

writersmug

In the meantime time to get back to writing book #3 #MustardSeeds #siblingrivalry #twosisters #oneplaceinthespotlight #thestakesarehigh #childcaughtinthecrossfire #WIP

Advertisements

Afraid of Commitment? The reason may surprise you.

After publishing newspaper articles, creating this blog, releasing my first children’s book and producing and writing scripts for Sparta 2016 I am not ready to settle down into any particular genre of writing. I am in fact thinking, my next great adventure might be writing a script for the stage. Watch out GCTC, my writing may be headed your way by the New Year.

The commitment of putting all my energy into only one genre or area of writing when the spectrum is so broad and there is so much enjoyment to be had from them as a writer with a versatile writing style doesn’t parse with my muse.

It wasn’t that long ago someone who had their feet deep in the movie industry told me there was no making a success of yourself as a screenwriter unless you were only writing screenplays. Only writing screenplays? But where I wonder do many screenwriters learn the basics of story structure first? Elementary school my dear Watson? Reading picture books and YA novels and learning about plot and character, story structure, syntax and the beginning principles of proper use of grammar?

Of course it could go back to high school English where grammar classes and writing essays were much of what English teachers spent their time assigning when not molding future great literary minds by strictly telling them to read the classics. Books by great authors like King, Atwood or Munro come to mind.

Michelle Berry’s book Interference is phenomenal. I also recently enjoyed reading John Green’s enchanting novel The Fault in Our Stars. It was hard to put down all the way to the last page. I digress. Read on! Emma Donoghue’s ROOM is a compelling read too.

So it is important for screenwriters to understand basic English grammar and story structure before they can begin crafting their scripts. But here’s the catch, the structure of the story is different when discussing novels and screenplays.

I digress, if I could choose writing just one genre and be satisfied I might be short changed in the experience of reaching out to different audiences and understanding the needs and interests of one group of readers to another. I like the challenge that writing so diversely brings. My five cents, don’t limit yourself. Write widely and wildly. Learn about the craft of writing that goes into a horror story compared to the challenges of writing a successful drama. (Or whatever genre floats your boat.) As for me, I’m just going to keep stringing words together and let them take the form of whatever genre they please.

 

 

So You Want to Sign Your Life Away (sort of)

 

What I learned attending authors’ book signings:

  1. Come with an army of books to sell. You never know how many sales you will get in those few hours.
  2. Have something to offer your customers. Whether it’s a treat or bookmarks show your readers you appreciate them taking the time to come out to see you and hopefully to buy your book.
  3. Smile and acknowledge everyone who approaches your table. If you are caught up in conversation with one of your readers, take a moment to acknowledge the people still in line waiting to see you. Their time is precious too.
  4. Have a stack of business cards and other contact information available to your readers. This will establish a personal connection between you and them that will encourage them to look you up and read more of your work when they get home.
  5. Have a banner or signs with bold printing showing the title of your book and your name as the author on the display table. It is meant to attract their eyes to your table and hopefully they will be curious enough to approach you.
  6. Be prepared for the unexpected. To quote Depeche Mode, “People are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully.” Not every fan who approaches you is going to have a conversation with you that interest you or meets your expectations. You may find yourself talking for what seems like ages with someone you find utterly annoying before getting to the next reader. Suck it up buttercup. Next!
  7. Remember your manners. You know those things your parents taught you were the lifesaving social graces to getting your way with things in the world? Well, maybe not your parents did, but certainly someone’s parents out there. Thank people for coming to see you and remember to that one person your words with them in those moments may make all the difference in their lives. Authors have been known to have that impact on people. (This is especially true when you write books on topics that people can relate to themselves.) Say, “Please take the time to check out my (book, blog, Instagram account) and thank them in advance for doing so.
  8. Bring a friend or your greatest support buddy. It can look like a zoo with a sea of people crowded around the table hoping to get a selfie with you or maybe awaiting your autograph. It’s great to have a second person around to socialise with other readers waiting to speak to you. But in the same breath, don’t wait twenty minutes to acknowledge the next person in line. I can’t emphasize this enough. It could cost you a sale or worse, a reader.
  9. How would you like me to sign that? Best wishes and X’s and O’s are nice, but not everyone is going to want a standard inscription. Making it a personal experience by asking what they’d like you to write will impact how they think of you.
  10. It’s not all about you. Well, it is and it isn’t. The reader wants to feel that you see them too and that you are not just awed by their recognition of your presence in the room. When you greet them, ask their first name, take a moment to learn something about that person. Make it a moment that person will (hopefully) take away smiling.

Did I mention I’m gearing up for my first author signing? Stay tuned for times and locations.

I’ve done my homework for the day. This is me signing off.

#amwriting #coffee #writerslife #workingonadeadline.

 

 

Fall Calling

So I’ve been hiding out for a while. I have been busy learning. I’m studying screenwriting, taking on writing challenges (BlueCat Screenwriting Challenge) and editing other authors’ work.

It’s interesting to me how in dec0nstructing writing for its core elements while editing: story structure and plot consistency, diction, syntax and character development to name a few, I can better identify where the work could use improvement or rewriting in my own prose.

In every other moment of my waking life I am dedicated to my family and meeting their needs as best as I can. The life of a writer can be so ordinary at times. Picking up toys off the floor between sentences, sneaking away from the computer more often than not to build castles out of blocks with my daughter. Taking art lessons from my six-year -old son. Seriously, I cannot draw a convincing stick person to save my life.

I hope to get back to blogging more regularly in 2017 but for now, its all about creating fresh material to draw inspiration from and finishing up old writing projects.

Going to brew a cup of coffee now and try to prepare for my interview at 3:30 with Paperback Radio.(Interview airs August 30th between 1 and 2 p.m.).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make it Memorable

I have submitted countless articles over the years for publication and yet every time I write something new and hit ‘send’ on the keyboard I still get butterflies in my stomach. Id’ve thought after almost two decades in the writing industry the anticipation of hearing back from editors would eventually grow old, common place even, but I’ve expanded my writing skills to include other genres of writing, more recently, including scriptwriting and in-between I’ve covered myself with researching how-tos on self-publishing and marketing in the writing industry for my latest book, Loved Like Me. (Oh, how I loathe marketing.)

If I could do without it I would just keep plugging away at WIPs, like a literary novel I started about four years or so ago, I can’t remember what was going on with the protagonist anymore but she and her sister were having a seriously hard time getting along, sibling stuff, nothing based on real life experience) for those of you who were just dying to know if I used events from real life).

From what I understand, you can, but it’s not something advisable, and at times even worthwhile, unless you are writing a memoir. (I would recommend asking someone who has written and published a memoir or two).It is my experience that the best conflicts to resolve in fiction writing are the ones that are not yours when you are also away from the keyboard, although some people argues that experience breeds plotlines, and they draw from real life, so I leave you to decide.

I love how easy it is in the process of freewriting to get lost in the hullaballoo of things you could write about and have that take away from what you are writing about, like I just did. Oh , and then to do another faux pas, which is to go back and read the first two paragraphs you wrote, edit and then keep writing. Did I just do that? You be the judge.

So tonight I submitted to a producer for the second time in my screenwriting career. It is different from submitting to an editor for several reasons, for one thing, there was no query letter. I answered a call for spec script. (For reference to screenwriting terminology I recommend The Screenwriter’s Bible, by David Trottier.

Submitting and selling scripts are a completely different publishing avenue than freelancing short stories and articles. The rules for writing (and formatting) in screenwriting are completely different. (If you want to make life easier for yourself as a screenwriting software is, I find, a worthwhile investment.

When you finish and have removed yourself from your work for a period of time (unless you are working on a deadline) there are a few things you should ask yourself before submitting the piece.

Why should the editor of such and such a paper want your story? What are you offering the reader? The viewer? What makes your story unique? Why will it appeal to people? Is there a familiarity that readers and viewers might recognise in themselves? Is there a time bomb, a clock ticking and something has to be resolved in an urgent matter? Will something horrible happen to the protagonist or someone the protagonist cherishes dearly if the matter is not resolved? In other words, what hangs in the balance?

I know why I think my story should sell, but unless I have presented the set up and hook clearly no producer or editor is going to bite. I may throw many finished articles and scripts into the publishing sea, but unless my story sticks out and is memorable to the person reading it and grabs their attention right away, all I have are a bunch of pretty words strung together.

I have been on both ends of the writing spectrum in many genres. I have work that will forever rot on a zip drive (somewhere) and more polished work that I am waiting to hear back on.

One thing about life doesn’t change, there is always a story to tell, you just have to ask yourself if you are going to be the person to tell it and sell it, how you are going to go about making it…memorable.

Here’s to a Memorable 2016!

My writing goals for 2016 (albeit late) Get writing, keep writing, love writing, live writing, breathe writing, and oh yeah, gotta keep that coffee brewed. Now, back to writing.

 

Published in the New Yorker 2016 edition

 

Everyone wants to be published in the New Yorker. The glory, the circulation, working with prestigious editors and oh, let us not forget the publicity. But, they haven’t taken notice of the short stories I’ve pitched yet. And, so what? There are plenty of other ways to get your name into print. They are a drop in the literary ocean of periodicals and newspapers. Let them find me and my work someday. Wouldn’t that be something?

I remember in the days before J-school, I pitched an article on a famous rock musician to a widely circulated local paper. I had minimal experience writing for papers at that time, all of it volunteer. The Arts Editor was really good to me and within a short time I was holding my first cheque from a well-circulated local newspaper. Those were the days…fast forward almost 20 years.

Between reporters writing stories and freelance reporters pitching ideas they hope to sell competition is fierce in the writing industry. If you are fortunate you either know someone who knows someone in the business, you work at the paper itself or you’ve got a really great hook for the story you query. Papers accepting freelance work were on the decline for a while and with all the digital newsrooms and people flocking to the internet one could easily see why. Still, there’s nothing quite like holding that hard copy of your local newspaper first thing in the morning with a steaming coffee to boot.

I remember the first time I was offered a “real” assignment and I blew it simply because I didn’t see the story the editor saw. Something about prostitutes and politics, red light districts and stuff I think. Hard to recall so many years later but the blur that it is, I wish I had sucked it up and taken the assignment. Who knows, I might have been Editor in Chief by now. I at least would have learned a bit more about municipal politics.

Instead, I plough through endless digital files of articles and short stories, novella drafts and a children’s book that I wrote which was recently released and I wonder what difference walking away from that prostitute story really made, if any at all, for where I am right now as a writer.

There’s something about having one’s own eye for news, what is considered by some as news worthy and what a great story is that makes being a freelance writer a better idea for some than others. As for stories that should be left in the dark, well, that is really subjective. I have to say, I would have found taking direction from behind a desk pushing paper and typing stories other people wanted me to tell a helluva lot harder than throwing my own ideas out there and offering work that means something to me. So that’s what I do.

But hey, I digress. I never worked on staff at a community paper and I think it did me good. I learned the important traits that all freelance journalists, I think should have. How to network. How to nod your head, smile and say yes when really mean $%& you. Then I learned where to pitch my articles and how to write shorthand, how to get interviews with agents and publicists and when to simply say no to story ideas.

Do you prefer writing for yourself or someone else? Do you think, if you had the opportunity you would work for a local or international paper, or maybe you already do, are you happy? Is the life of the freelancer appealing to you for the fact that you can take your own sick days and write whatever the hell you want to write? (That’s not to say it will all or ever get published, but at least you’re doing things your way, right?)

It also gives you a great excuse to delve into practising your photography skills so you can accompany photos with the articles you pitch. Editors like writers that can source their own photos.

I don’t advocate for this ‘vicarious’ professional writer lifestyle if you want a steady income to depend on but rather if you have a steady income and you can afford not to be as invested in what editors think of the work you send them. Not everything you pitch will get published. C’est la vie.

But hey, every now and then, like today for instance, I pitch something to the New Yorker and I wait for them to carpe diem and send me a letter of acceptance. It hasn’t happened yet but that’s not to say it won’t. I believe that every great (and even some not so great) writer/s will see their/her day. In all honesty I have to up my submissions to literary magazines and now that I’ve wrapped up producing my first short Say It Once More With Feeling, I likely will. I’d better get back to work, I have plenty more editors to query while the night is young.

 

 

Writing is for Pizza as Pizza is for the Writer

 

At almost 5:30 at night I was out the door and headed for a spectacular night of minds and musings with other writers involved in Ottawa’s experience of NaNoWriMo 2015. I walked into the McArthur Lanes and quickly realised I had undershot the original destination. Louis Pizza; the food smelled great and the service was splendid too.

I crammed in all my photography equipment (left the laptop at home, after all, this was a social event) and prepared for hours of social interaction and intelligent conversation with writers most of whom I never met. What happened was ironic and yet enlightening. I found myself sitting with someone who A) didn’t share their writing with others and B) had no inclination to be published. I was puzzled for a moment, there they were in the midst of us all, others whom also had gathered just to discuss the pleasantry of it all, the writing life I mean. The book deals we dreamt of, the stories of agent agonies, the rewriters, the abandoned scripts the scripts we were behind and some were thousands of words ahead of deadline, writing. Writing as a business, as a lifestyle as life and was it possible that it, the business of writing wasn’t everything there was to the pursuit of the craft after all. What?!?!

Not all writers spend their days sitting at their desks pounding at keyboards looking for the right verb or adjective to put in that sentence. Some, in fact a lot, find they have something to say. They just only want it shared with themselves at the end of the day. They don’t need to worry about grammar, sentence structure, diction, editors who just don’t understand (I’ve heard stories in my time). These writers, these people who write for the sake of writing really exist. They are a rare and therefore are awe-inspiring.

Each writer I think has something they want to share with the world, their message to be heard, acknowledged or at least to have a life of its own. Some writers are never satisfied with their work, others can’t find the right ending, some are tied up in other writing pursuits and fall behind in a project they were once so passionate about but it doesn’t matter to them because they are passionate about whatever they are writing now. Read that last line again. Are you passionate about your writing or is it all just business? I have been all business for the longest time, until last night.

I feel like Peter Pan in Hook and I feel like my metaphorical wings are learning to fly again. Writing as a hobby, a personal pursuit, a pleasure. And I conclude that this writing is both enjoyable as well as it is some peoples’ proof that they have done something tangible with their lives that no one but them knows about so no one can take that accomplishment away. Ever. No matter what anyone says.

Writing, when you have written, anything at all, a love letter on a bathroom mirror (I don’t advise it unless the mirror is your own and you write with lipstick) or write entries in a diary, a 120 page script or a 90 page novella. These pages; page one, page two, page two-hundred; these are just pieces that make the writer a writer. It is the words, the will of creation from nothingness into something that make being a writer a calling and not just something made to be a hobby. Although to be truthful it is a wonderful hobby to have.

I don’t know how many times I have heard someone say, I didn’t know what to do with my life so I started writing. To which I say great for you! It’s never too late to become rich or famous. Although it would be nice to be both.

Although writing anything, as I have often thought, or liked to believe, is a great success that should be celebrated and shared when possible with supportive people. Writing and encouraging new writers has been my life’s calling, second only to motherhood. I have always written with the goal to be published. While I’m published I want to add to my portfolio and to attain success in the writing and film industry which I am involved with now. Finally, I want to be able to say that I have become a published author, while I can only dream of becoming famous. That not only takes commitment to the craft but time away from family,( which I am not prepared to give while my kids are so young).

I was enlightened by this person who helped me to see that it is not to have millions of books in print or their screenplays developed into feature films, although for some that is always the hope. It is to release something from within yourself and put it in tangible form, however indecipherable and this shows that you, whoever you are have done something wonderful by sharing your words with the world, your world.

Writers don’t always write. Sometimes they sit, observe, laugh, cry, drink coffee, decaf, hell, sometimes they just eat pizza. But whatever they are doing it is presumed they are doing it to the utmost of their God-given ability that is within every one of us, I think.

To the writer who told me your writing will never see the light of day; your words may never be in print or on bookshelves or available on the web, but look at the message your keeping your gift to yourself has created for me to share. Your writing created something, inspired someone else and unless you are reading this blog, you will never know what a difference words, your words about writing as a personal endeavor, made to me.

After all, that night I sat with a bunch of great peeps and talked about what all writers talk about, pizza, and the Group of Seven.