Category Archives: Plans

Why Don’t Writers Have Screenplays Ready Already?

Here’s some Friday fun!

You’ve read a novel, loved it, and heard there’s a movie in the works. There’s some cheering you do before circling the film’s release date on the calendar. As the credits roll you notice there’s a screenwriter AND the novel’s writer.  Two different people? What gives? Why didn’t the novelist write the screenplay? Why pay extra for another version when one writer is as good as any another?

In a word, specialization. Like a mason doesn’t install windows, a brain surgeon doesn’t do gastric bypasses, and a software programmer doesn’t assemble computers, novelists don’t often write screenplays. Sure, there can be some crossover and salsa dancers could learn how to tap dance while a baker barbecues your brisket. People can do anything.

For me, I “see” my books as I write them. They’re already movies in my mind and that’s why scriptwriting comes easy to me. It’s actually my format of choice.

But how are the two forms different? I’ll show you! Here’s an excerpt from what I’m working on at the moment. I’m literally switching from  Safari to Word to get this, that’s how fresh it is.

Uncivilized-novelized

“I do. Now, if you can stand, we need to get going.” He went to his horse, opening a saddlebag for the blankets.

She tried standing, unable to get her legs to cooperate. After a little bit of struggle, Ellen rolled to her side, then stomach. She did a push up from there, to on her knees. Bracing herself and with a little grunt, she pushed herself to stand. The sound of Del snickering caught her attention. She faced him, grimacing. “I suppose you think this is funny?”

“I’m trying not to, but…” He shrugged. “Can I help that you are so adorable?”

Ellen stared up at the sky. “If I could walk, I’d go over and show you how lovely I don’t feel this morning.”

Uncivilized-script ready (I’m rusty on exact format)

EXT IDAHO MOUNTAIN FOOTHILLS-MORNING

The landscape is blue from the east sun being above the horizon but behind the mountains. Pomme the horse is saddled and ready. ELLEN is on her bed as DEL opens the saddlebag.

DEL

I do. Now, if you can stand, we need to get going.

ELLEN struggles to her feet as DEL snickers.

ELLEN

I suppose you think this is funny?

DEL

I’m trying not to, but…. Can I help that you are so adorable?

ELLEN

If I could walk, I’d go over and show you how lovely I don’t feel this morning.

 

In reading the two, you can see how the novel writes out everything for the reader. I could probably add in more sensory information like the morning chill, Pomme’s snort, maybe the smell of dew in the air. Not a good idea to add all that in the second example. Only when a new character is introduced or a current character is changed in a script is there some description of their looks. It’s handled like the description of the setting. Not long, but enough to give the casting person some direction of who could play the part. The script must be far more sparse with words and rely on the director and his film crew to fill in the blanks.

A screenplay shows everything with action and dialogue. It tells as little as possible to the people that need to know. A script’s paragraphs need to be concise, descriptive but not overly so, and must be vital to the story in some way. A novelist gets to wallow around in examining feelings, smelling the flowers, feeling the touch of sandpaper along with other sounds and sights. Sure, a screenplay can show all the senses with audio and visuals, but a novel can use as many words as necessary. And that’s the crux of it all. For a lot of writers, leaving out all that sensory information is tough. Tough enough that Hollywood would rather hire it out to tried and true screenwriters than risk a flop with a first time novelist turned screenwriter.

Not many writers can take their own work and cut it down into 120-145 minutes of screen time and not every writer wants to. Who better to adapt a book into a movie than someone who hasn’t poured their heart into their words? Bottom line is your favorite writer could transfer their work to the big screen, if they have the skills and thick skin to cut deep into their work.

What if I didn’t write? What would I do? #MondayBlogs

Good questions, right?

I’ve been writing fiction off and on since 1990.  I’ve submitted works to major publishing houses and received rejection form letters with a few personal rejections thrown in.  I’ve tried to be ‘normal’ all my life and obviously not well or I’d be a big name in the traditional published writer world.

Back when I first started submitting, there were independently published writers.  They sold their ‘books’ out of the back of their van, truck, or car.  Most of their works had those plastic ring binders, while the shorter works were stapled.  All of them had covers with ‘original’ artwork scribbled by the author.  Ninety nine percent of the time, these authors had to self-publish via vanity press because their subject matter was way too esoteric for a major publisher to consider.  The history of a now extinct town in West Bumfuk Egypt?  Yep, esoteric.  Publishers aren’t in it for their health or for the benefit of art and the author.  They’re in it to make money and lots of it.

So how does this history lesson apply to today’s world of literature and why writers write?

Today is very different.  With one click and a document, anyone can be an ‘author’.  This fact is both wonderful and horrific.  People who were subjectively rejected by the Big Five are now able to publish and letting readers enjoy works written outside the boundaries.  Me, personally, I’ve wallowed in this like a pig in a mud hole, enjoying the ability to read works outside of the romance formula.  There are authors I one-click who have never been traditionally published.  They’re the ones I’m sitting around like a word junkie and asking “You done with that paragraph, yet?  Can I be your alpha reader?  Don’t care about editing, just gimmie gimmie gimmie.”  You know who you are.

Traditional writers have always…how to write this…looked down their nose?  Thought less of?  Didn’t take seriously? …the self published authors and with good reason.  I’ve been through four Warrior Dashes and each was much easier than getting traditionally published, even the Dash I didn’t train for AT ALL.  Plus, there is NO instant gratification with traditional publishing, and I’ve heard one multi published author, Jodi Thomas (who is wonderful!! I’ve worked with her husband at a college and both of them are great people!), who has said you’re being paid to wait, not write.  As an impatient control freak, I more than admire the traditionally published authors.  They do what I am mentally unable to, which is wait.

Which all leads us to the bottom line and answering the question of what if I didn’t write and why continue to write, especially when considering 2014’s bust after 2011-2013’s boom.

Being personal, here are my bullet items.

I write because I must.  There are so many stories in my head, they need an outlet.  Plus, I can’t help inventing new characters and plots, and even if it’s garbage.  I truly have no choice in this.  Some of what I imagine is fit for publication, others you’ll never see because no one wants to read a Mary Sue about Data from Star Trek:TNG.  Yes, I feel shame and no, you can’t read it.

What went up and came down will go up again.  This is a certainty to me because I’ve endured many booms and busts.  From the oilfield, to the dot coms, to housing markets, and now to self-publishing, I’ve seen days of making tons of money to making just enough to keep the lights on and ramen noodles stocked.  This downturn in ebook sales doesn’t scare me.  It reminds me of what my true goals are and that is to write the best story possible, every single time.

My mother taught me a long time ago that there are no even numbers in art, so here’s a third.  What would I do if I didn’t write?  I’d keep reading and I’d be more aggressive about scheduling knitting classes to teach.  I might even go back and see what it would take to update my computer science degree from client server skills to web guru.  Not a problem because I’d already went from mainframe to client server.  I can do all this for the money, but writing? I do it for my heart and soul.  Cliche’?  Yeah, but still very true.

Now back to work!  My editor is expecting The Very Worst Man in her email on January 2nd and it’s going to be fun to deliver.

#MondayBlogs for the Readers

I’ve had a lot of feedback from readers in the past week and thankfully, it’s all been great.  It’s super hard for me to take compliments and I find praise both wanted and difficult.  Whenever someone is gushy over my work, I have to take a deep breath and say thank you.  Then nothing else.  No deflecting or saying I’m not worthy because doing such will dilute the compliment and who wants that?

That’s my thoughts on the past week.  Back to you, the reader.  In that ‘Fine’ voice you get from your mother when she’s been worn down by your pestering, I say, “Fine.”  There’s been enough ‘eh’ reviews about The Very Best Man’s ending that I’ve decided to add another chapter.  This last bit of the book is inspired by Kung Fu Fighting.

I think most of the readers who didn’t like the current ending are those born after 1985.  They’re too young to remember the non-endings of movies made in the early and mid seventies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Did they die?  Or did they survive and live out their lives in Bolivia?  We can only guess because that movie’s end didn’t tell us, just hinted.

I’m currently mired in the thing that is National Novel Written in a Month.  The word count is good and I’m using the month to write The Very Worst Man.

In progress!

In progress!

It’s wonderful so far.  I’m having the best time ever writing it.  The dialogue is a blast.  Plus, there’s already a secondary character trying to take over and I’m having to back off from letting her do so.  Can I just drop her and go on?  Of course not!  She’s my heroine for The Very Poor Man.

Most of my readers will probably be wondering whose blog they’re reading.  Like, am I not the author of that whole Oregon Trail series?  Yes!  I am and Uncivilized is in progress.  When I hit the word count goal on The Very Worst Man, I go back to the 1850’s and hang out there.  I thought when starting the contemporary Worst Man that intense research could take a break.  Nope!  Thanks to writing Hayden and Alexandra’s love story, I know a lot more about Wyoming law, prisons, and prosecuting attorneys than I had planned.  Something else that’s been a surprise?  How much of the villain’s crime I need to know.  So much for my idea of writing a few sex scenes and calling it good.  The best thing is how all my research makes it a better book for you, the reader.

#MondayBlogs for the writers

Readers, especially mine, I love you.  I do.  Even the readers who find I’m not their cup o’ tea, thank you.  You’ve invested time and money in my work and that is amazing and humbling to me.  The readers who love or even just like me?  I make sure every work is better than the one before and that’s totally due to you.

But, alas, this post isn’t for you, it’s for my writing friends.  Here’s my lecture for you.

I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about being a successful author.  Everything.  All the lists have a few things in common, like write the best book possible, have a great cover, get the professional edits, and write the next book.

Let’s go over the last item again.  Write the next book.  I could tell you about SEO and Amazon’s algorithms, how they want to see you publish something, anything, in a 30-90 day time frame.  When you do that, it makes you and your work more visible.

Why do you want visibility? I think that’s obvious.  The more visibility an author has from automations like the algorithms and SEO’s, the less they have to self-promote.  Time spent posting over and over in Facebook forums, tweets, or Google+ posts is time NOT spent on your next novel.

Time for the tough love part.  Are you wanting your writing to pay the bills?  If you answer no, then keep doing what you’re doing by posting links to your only book.  Some people only have one novel in them and there’s NOTHING wrong with that.  Just like there’s nothing wrong with people who have an entire library in their head.  For the people walking around with an untyped opus, this is for you.  Stop telling us about your first book published a year ago.  Do you and your sales a HUGE favor by finishing your next book and publishing it as soon as it’s polished to near perfect.  Not only that, but have your next idea ready to write even after that.  It’s called feeding the beast and if you want a living wage, get the chum bucket ready and start scooping out the words.

Why do you want to listen to small potatoes like me?  Because I’ve seen the results that come with publishing within the 90 days Amazon seems to loves.  My first book had tiny sales until I published my second in the series.  When that happened, the second book had a good run in sales and took the first along for the ride.  Now, three months later, they’re still selling neck and neck.  Essentially, I’ve doubled my sales in the historical romance genre.  Sure, the sales are still small, but they’re double and I’m good with that.  Check them out for yourself on The Oregon Trail tab above.  Free samples are out there and who can say no to that?

Bottom line to my beloved author friends in a handy bullet list?

I’ve done the research and have a summary for career writers.

  1. Write more and make it great.
  2. Publish.
  3. Promote everywhere.
  4. Repeat step 1.

It takes a lot of time and work to be an overnight success.  When it happens for you, have those books written and ready for your adoring public to buy.

THE Secret to Hitting 50K Words for NaNoWriMo. #MondayBlogs

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve heard of the National Novel Writing Month.  Every November, writers of all kinds begin typing or scribbling the Great American Novel.  Only this is worldwide and not necessarily American.  No matter, many will begin and many will finish the 50,000 words.  You’ve won when you have 50K verifiable words.  There are no rules about which words are used in a winning document, that’s up to you.

Enough of that.  What exactly is the secret to winning?  Having won NaNoWriMo three times, the secret is Planning.

That’s it.  Planning.  Plan what?  I have the answer to that, too.

1. Plan on this being a team effort. Let the people who live with you in on this endeavor.  If you live in a supportive environment, this may be all you need to do.  If they’re the sabotage type, maybe don’t tell them.  Plan on it being an anti-team effort.  Letting others know what is going on will help explain it when things slide due to you working on your word count for the day.

2.Plan ahead on errands and appointments. You’re going to have things in November that will take you away from writing.  This will be true if you have 8 minutes a day or 8 hours a day to write.  Be aware of days where you can’t get in enough words to goal so you’re prepared and not pressured.

3.  Plan your daily word count.  With 50K divided by 30, you’ll need to write 1,666 words a day minimum.  If you’ve done step two, you’ll know what days will need 1,666 and which will need double that.  In my three times of winning, I didn’t have a laptop.  Plus, every Thanksgiving meant at least 35 hours of driving in that four day weekend.  I wrote longhand what I could in the first year.  The next two?  I adjusted my word count so I was done with NaNoWriMo by Thanksgiving weekend.

4. Plan your Plot.  Start now.  Don’t wait until November 1st to think about your story.  No, you can’t write a word until that day, but you can research, invent, and plot out the novel.  Are you a die-hard pantser?  You can still plot and pants.  Just know your beginning, know your end and have some idea of the middle.  Then pants to your heart’s content.  Have an extensive backstory and world to create?  Do it now.  When November arrives, you’ll be ready to write, not research or wonder what genre to pick.

5.  Plan to ignore your prior day’s work.  I’d read the last page of my work, maybe let myself edit it, and used that page to get into the flow for writing the next page or hopefully several.  When you’re done writing, you’re done.  No going back over to edit.  If you have the time to edit, you have the time to write. If you have the time to write, then write and get ahead of your goal. Why?  Because no matter how well you plan ahead, things will happen. You’ll get behind or be close to doing so.  Edit to your heart’s content when the clock strikes 12:00am December 1st.  Write until then.

Fun fact?  All three of my Oregon Trail novels were NaNoWriMo winners.  I started Undeniable in 2008 and when the hero’s brother kept taking over, I ‘promised’ the next NaNo book to him.  Undesirable in 2009 is his story and wouldn’t you know?  Another secondary character wouldn’t stay secondary, so I promised him his own story in 2011.  I’m still writing on it, Uncivilized.  These all started life as a 50K novel and needed another 50K each for the story.  Want to know more about them?  Click the above tab “The Oregon Trail Series” to see.

#MondayBlogs Post and You Want Me To What??

Howdy #Mondayblogs fans!

 

My book, Undesirable, hit Amazon on the 14th.  Since then no less than four people have asked me what’s next.  Sure, I know what’s next on my plate, but it might be a while.

Secretly?  I like the impatience and curiosity of my friends and family.  It means they like what I do well enough to want more.  That’s never a bad thing and I’m thrilled.  So while I’m writing a prequel to my Oregon Trail series, get started reading Undesirable or maybe Undeniable first if you’ve not read it yet. Out of order is fine, too, and you won’t be lost, it’s just not what I’d prefer.  Meanwhile, I’ll be planning arguments, fights, and love at first sight.  When that’s done and I get to type the last line, my next task is to paint another cover for Unavoidable, the Oregon Trail series prequel.

After that, there’s a lot more down the road. The last book in the series, The Very Worst Man, three more American West novels, some paranormal romances, and some science fiction.  There’s be mysteries, romance, and all sorts of plot twists in these.  I’m so excited at the projects hovering on my horizon and hope my readers are, too!

This is not the MondayBlog you are looking for.

Yes, I had plans for this post.  Maybe.  Sort of.

Ok, I’ll ‘fess up.  I’ve been so focused on Undesirable, wanting to finish the last chapter and a half already.  Some authors experience grief when typing ‘The End’ to their books.  Not me.  When this is done, I’m moving on to Uncivilized, which has its bare bones typed in already.  Even after that, there’s the Santa Fe Trail, Orphan Trains, and either the Pony Express or the Mormon Trail.

Then too, I may take it in a totally different direction and go all science fiction on everyone.  I know, logically, that I’ll be more likely to see superstar success if I stick to and build up one genre of my work.  Emotionally and as a reader, I never read just one genre.  How can I write only one?

So my question is, if anyone chooses to answer, are you a laser focused reader or writer?  Or are you more of a shotgun, reading or writing everything and anything?  Answer in the comments and don’t be shy!

A quote for #MondayBlogs

“Now I know the full power of evil. It makes ugliness seem beautiful and goodness seem ugly and weak.” – August Strindberg

Villains.  Who doesn’t love defeating a good bad guy?  Who doesn’t love seeing a bad good guy struggle with his inner demons?

Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for Undesirable, planned release is July 4th, the characters for The Very Worst Man have already started giving me their witty one liners.  Their quips bubble to the surface like those mud volcanoes shown on the Science Channel.  Snippets of mean things run through my brain from the bad guy soon followed by clever retorts from the good guy.

I should probably stick to talking about Undesirable, book two in my Oregon Trails series.  I should talk about how Sam and Marie deal with a huge confrontation that’s happening in a few thousand words.  Maybe blog about how fun it will be to write an emotional reaction and how the event spreads ripples through their little community.  I should do that with the subliminal message of “Buy my book.”

However, Alexandra and Hayden’s story is nagging me to no end.  The Very Worst Man picks up a little of where The Very Best Man left off, though both are stand alone.  There’s been some, what, critique?  Complaints?  Suggestions?  Requests, maybe, to have a bit of a WWE smack down on Dave and Jane’s part.  That’s not the kind of people they are, and yet anyone is capable of anything and it might just be fun to write a courtroom fight scene.  I’ll have to see what’s boiling up from my creativity’s depths.

I have a ton of them in paper form and several more bookmarked on my web browsers.  Some were hand drawn and now available via Google, while others are the latest in tourist roadmaps.  Still more are from National Geographic with infinite detail of every mountain and valley in our country.  I have more maps than those of just the United States, of course.  I’m trying to ignore them in favor of finishing the Oregon Trail series. After this project and all its intensive research, I’m totally in favor of writing something either present day or set in the far future.

“What?  That can’t happen!  You just pulled that out of your butt!”

“Why yes, yes I did.”

So back to the maps and why I have access to so many.  Well known landmarks in the 1800’s aren’t the same as the ones we take note of now.  In some places, the original trail crisscrosses highways.  In others, it runs through privately owned land.  Is every single step along the way to Portland vital to the story?  Yes, and no.  Sure, I could have a character die by falling down a steep cliff into the river below.  Could it be the Green River, or would it best to use the Snake River?

 

This is Green River.

green_river_valley_wy

 

 

 

 

 

A bad place for a cliff death. That might be a good thing.  So, the victim will have to wait until the Snake River.  Even then, the banks aren’t steep the entire way.  Landscapes like this is why I study the topography of my settings.  It’s also fun to see what surprises the terrain and weather can bring to my characters as well.

Fun fact about the Oregon Trail!  You could have left Independence, Missouri, near where I live, and maybe reach Oregon before October.  If nothing tragic happened, other than a death or two, it would be possible.  But if you waited to leave next week?  It’d be a whole lot better if you just waited until next April.  Otherwise, you’d risk a catastrophe of Donner proportions.  Read here for more information.