Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ALA Winners Announced

...and I haven't read any of them. I don't tend to buy hardback books any more. I have too many sitting my shelves, waiting to be read. But I'm intrigued by Libba Bray's nutty sounding Going Bovine, have gotten a ton of recommendations to read When You Reach Me, and am mesmerized by the illustrated lion in The Lion and the Mouse.

You can see the complete list here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prep for Writing Action

I'm getting ready to write the big final action scene in my novel, and one of the things I do to prep for it is sketch out a map of the area in which the action takes place.

That's the map for my action scene, above. You can't see much detail, (I snapped it with my camera phone) but it'll give you the idea. I like to know the layout of buildings, terrain, and the location of characters in the scene before I write it, and a map is the easiest way. You can see I've got a road, a parking lot, and a bunch of buildings drawn very poorly here. But who cares if I can't draw a proper rectangle? As long as I know where the warehouse is in relation to the landing strip, I'm good.

Part of this comes from my training as a Game Master (or GM or DM) when I play Dungeons and Dragons or other roleplaying games. Whenever the players encounter a monster and a big battle ensues, I usually sketch out the terrain for them, including buildings, roads, position of the monster, and anything else that their characters would be aware of. That way they can decide where to move. If they want to have cover, they can point to the corner of a building and say "I hide behind that corner." Then we all know whether or not they'll get burned when dragon breathes fire.

So first thing I do for an action scene in a novel is to sketch out the area - in pencil. (More on why later.) Then I decide which characters will be in this scene - protagonist and her allies, antogonist and his allies, any innocent bystanders, etc. Then I decide where to place them on the map before the battle begins. Looking at it from the bird's eye POV helps me figure out who needs to go where and do what in order to achieve their goal.

In this case, the protag and her allies are trying to rescue someone, so I marked where that person is on the map, figured out what obstacles lie between him and them, and then imagined it like a movie, listing (yes, that's my awful handwriting in the picture above making a list) the events as they progress in the scene while I look at the map.

Usually that first list of events doesn't quite cut it. This one sure didn't. so I flipped this page over and made another list, then another. I insert other actions, subtract others, and sometimes even revise the map to make the scene work better. (Hence the use of pencil.)

Once I have a map and a series of events in decent shape (not visually decent, obviously, since that's not possible for me, but decent story-wise) then I feel I can start writing the scene. Keep in mind, this map and the list of events are a sort of outline. As I go in and actually write the scene, I often realize I need to make changes and do. don't get too invested in the map and list of events. They are tools, not a mandate.

More on the things that make for a good action scene in the next post.

Happiness Diary

I've been trying to write down the things that make me happy - just jot them down in my calendar thingie. It's a way to help augment your happiness, supposedly. So far the list looks something like:

Research ideas for spec pilot.
Watch puppies on livecam on internet. (Check them out here. So soothing and fun.)
Discuss how to make scene for pilot-in-progress better.
Reread scene that seems to work well in novel-in-progress.
Run in the rain.
Laugh my butt off with friends.
Logging off after writing four pages that aren't half bad.

So - writing in all its various phases seems to be a large part of the moments that make me happy. Good to know.

Yet it's still so fricking hard to write at times. But turns out to be worth it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti - Donation Recommendation

There are many ways to help the people in Haiti, devastated by yesterday's enormous earthquake. Please consider donating to Doctors Without Borders. Reports are that every hospital in Haiti has been destroyed. The offices of Doctors Without Borders itself has been horribly damaged, and they may have lost people. The need for medical help there is urgent. You can go here to donate directly online.

Imagine a world where we didn't have to spend on war. Where all that money could go to people who need it in times like this.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Today's happy discovery is a blog called Curious Pages, described as "recommended inappropriate books for children."

It's a complete delight, and a reminder that we can be a bit too protective of kids when it comes to their reading material.

No, I'm not in favor of siccing books filled with violence and sex on young kids. But I'm often amazed at how parents won't let their eight year old watch, say "Snow White" because it has a scary scene near the beginning. Books that mention Tommy has two dads get taken out of libraries, and YA books that feature gay characters or realistic depictions of sex, abuse, drug use, or neglect are also banned.

Yes, parents must use discretion in what they throw at their young children. But don't be scared of a depiction of loss, in say, Bambi. Stop worrying that your seven year old will be converted to Christianity if they read the wonder Chronicles of Narnia. And let your teen read what he or she wants. Once they are teenagers, kids reach for what they need to read, and they can handle just about anything.

Meanwhile, revel in "Boners" by a young Dr. Suess, or "The Dead Bird" by Margaret Wise Brown and Remy Charlip. Inappropriate? Or juuuust right?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stick with the Old

A new idea is threatening to keep me from finishing my novel. Gah!

It never fails. I can see the very faint light at the end of my first draft tunnel. Then a new idea (for a screenplay) invades and occupies my brain.

It was looking like Iraq inside my head. I didn't want to keep writing my book. I wanted to brainstorm the new thingie.

Beware this tendancy, writer babies! It's something your writer-brain does to keep you from finishing things. The old stuff pales and you think, meh, no one else will ever love it, and now that I think about it, it's kind of dumb... and oh! Shiny pretty new idea over here will solve all my problems.

It's like buying new make up when you've got three half-used blushes in the drawer and five different lipsticks that are all the same color.

Stick with the old! Finish that last pinky brown lipstick before you buy a new one. Scribble down your thoughts on the new idea real quick so you don't forget it, then Finish Your Novel.