Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looking Back at 2008 - The Year of Writing

A self indulgent look back...

January - I had a car accident (his fault, not mine!). My first YA novel began to take shape. My faithful friends and fellow Wire groupies gathered to watch at my house as the best television series ever wound to a fabulous finish. "There Will Be Blood" shook me up, and I took a friend to Disneyland. I began another year of gaming with a group of like minded geeks. Yes, I game. So sue me for having an imagination.

February - my novel's plot got clearer. I planned my trip to Europe with my friend Wendy. Our pick - Prague and Budapest in October. The flu laid me low, and I finally got the car fixed. I passed the time with a couple of very nice gentlemen.

March - more writing! Took a screenwriting class from my fabulous friend Pilar, applying the ideas generated there to my novel. I really got under the skin of my main character. My critique group gave great feedback. I underwent extensive dental hell, but it all ended up costing less than I thought. Phew! The schmoozing reached unprecedented levels at various writing and media-folks gatherings.

April brought the beginning of my 12-week YA novel writing class. I refined my plot drastically, rewrote chapter one three times, and finally started to feel good about it. I endured a root canal and rewarded myself with wine tastings, good company, and watching friends perform in front of appreciative audiences.

For May, my calendar has "WRITE!" written in nearly every day of the month. And I did. I churned out pages and got great feedback from my class, which gave me incentive to keep going. May 8, I scribbled: "rewriting like a maniac" in my worst handwriting. Along the way I had a few rum drinks at the Tonga Hut.

June brought the final chapters of my novel, which I managed to churn out in spite of five fabulous days spent in Hawaii not writing. I reconnected with some of my closest friends and acted like I was 16 all over again.

In July I finished my writing class and the first draft of my novel. Hurray! I fell for "The Dark Knight," and attended the SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Los Angeles, where there was much schmoozing, attending of lectures, and writing.

In August I stepped back from my manuscript for a few weeks, supposedly to give myself perspective. But mostly I was lazy and hated my writing and figured I was doomed. My lovely mother came to visit and the latest dentist appointment revealed that I now have fabulously healthy teeth. I spoke on a panel at work about working as a creative exec assistant in Hollywood.

September brought me back to my book, and I rewrote and tightened and honed and felt the love again. I put together a website with help from a fabulous friend. Okay - so I have nothing to sell yet, but what the hey! My friend Diane visited and completed a triathlon - yay! I played poker at work, and started sending out queries. My bathroom flooded, and I hit a few Tiki bars because life is short.

From here on, I can't really discuss the query/agenting process, but let's just say so far so good. In October I ventured to Prague and Budapest with Wendy at marveled at how those countries are recovering from Communism. The men in Prague? Gorgeous! A Polish man told me that Hungarians are more passionate. Duly noted. I made notes in case I need to use those locations in a novel.

In November I rewrote a spec TV pilot I'd begun last year, and it actually got a lot better. Hey! Maybe I am learning something along the way. There was much feasting on turkey with loved ones, holding of newborn babies, and listening to live music.

December - I finished the rewrite on the TV pilot, and the beginnings of a new novel begin to appear in my brain. I start to jot stuff down - and signed up for another class, to begin in January.

So yes, I wrote more in 2008 than I ever have before, and I had my share of heartbreak, frustration and fun along the way. And I plan to write even more in 2009. The more I write, the more likely it is that something concrete will come of it, right?

I hope your 2008 was even more productive, satisfying, and delightful. Here's to a creative, adventurous, fearless 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Racoons - All Grown Up!

The little bandits aren't so little anymore!

Back in May I posted photos of five baby raccoons and their mother here, ignoring the advice of friends and family scared for my safety to venture outside to take those shots. The masked critters did not swarm me, but instead crunched in perfect concert on the dry cat food I'd left out for Miss Kitty.

Now it appears Mom has gone elsewhere, and the babies are now grown - but still together, like a furry Brady Bunch trapped in a variety show after the sitcom has died. They're bigger, they're badder, and they still all crunch in concert.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Hard to Type When You're Cold

And there's no heat in your apartment, so the cats have draped themselves over your lap and arms, and the laptop is your only source of warmth.

I'm just saying.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Do I F*%&ing Start This Thing?

Is there a proper way to begin a novel?

Can you just sit down and write the thing? Some people claim to do this. They sit down with no outline, no character sketches, no idea of where there story is going, and they just write until its done. A few revisions, and - voila!

I'd hate them if I didn't think they were lying.

They may not have a laboriously worked out an outline, a calendar of events, and collected photos torn from magazines that remind them of the characters in their heads, but they fricking have more than a vague idea! It's been percolating in their brains for weeks/months/years, and by gum, they do so have an idea of where it's headed!

And the real, evil, fabulous truth? Most of them do LOTS of revising.

Don't get me wrong. Unless you're Aaron Sorkin, all writers do lots of revising. But those who do not outline/blah blah blah do LOTS of revising. (And Aaron Sorkin perpetrated Studio 60 on us, so maybe he should look into this revision thing.)

So I advocate starting with a plan of some kind. You may not have all 8 acts or follow the Joseph Campbell hero's journey, or whatever. But figure out who wants what and where they end up with it first. It'll save you grief later.

That said, I wrote the first three pages of a novel over the weekend without a completely worked out outline. It was fun! But I have been working on the character, my world's mythology, and have a vague outline of the story in my head. I just skipped ahead a bit to remind myself of the fun to come so I can finish outlining with a lighter heart.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to Write the First Book in a Series

Want to write the first book in a fantasy series that will sell and keep the readers hooked? Tune in tomorrow for the live internet chat with several writers who have done it. Check out Fangs, Fur, and Fey's podcast/livecast here. Successful fantasy series writers like Jenna Black and Rachel Vincent will share their secrets.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Writers are strange; humans are strange

Great post by the author of YA novel Graceline, Kristin Cashore over at her blog This is My Secret, all about her writing process and the insanity that goes with it.

If you're a writer, check it out. You'll realize you're not alone in worrying, obsessing, procrastinating, and thinking your writing sucks. There's comfort in knowing you're not alone.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Vampires: Target Women

As Twilight-mania continues to dominate the world of YA fiction and mainstream movies, I continue to struggle with the amazing appeal of these storeis.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for vampires and fantasy stories and hot romantic this-and-that. But the girl in Twilight is just so passive, so uninteresting, so unable to think and act for herself that she bugs the heck out of me. The male lead is described over and over again as "perfect," until I felt all "she doth protest too much"-y.

But who cares what I think? Teens sure don't. They're sucking down the books and swooning at the movie. Heck, a lot of middle-aged women are swooning too, and probably breaking their hips when they fall.

To help us understand this phenomenon comes the hilariously gifted video reporter Sarah Haskins from Target: Women at Current. Check out her funny and slightly disturbing investigation below:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Don't Write the Sequel Until They Pay You

Here's some good fundamental advice I got from a published author. I was wondering how best to spend my writing time now.

Should I plunge into an outline for the sequel to the book I just finished? Or should I launch into something totally new. The argument for the sequel, in my head, went something like: well, once they buy the first one, I want to be ready to go with the second!

This, of course, assumes someone will actually buy the first one. Blah blah blah, assume makes an ass out of, well, me, mostly.

So don't plot or plan or write your sequel until someone buys the first book. Yes, I do have a strong idea of where the story should go. I figured that out before I wrote the first book. But it could very well be a big fat waste of time if I spent more time on that storyline if no one else likes it the way I do.

So I'm doing research and making up stuff for another book, and I'm in that happy stage where the world is jampacked with possibilities and I can do whatever I want with anyone and everything in the world. Structure and limitations come later.