Category Archives: Writerly Musings

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.

There should be a #WackyWednesday!

First of all, I have to admit I’ve been living in a ‘Quil haze this past week.  My usual solid steel immune system has let me down. While my blog has been neglected, nothing else has been. The Very Worst Man is up for preorder with a release date of February 28th. Unfortunate, Daggart’s fate, is at the editor’s, as is Undeniable, getting its makeover in round two of edits. The Very Best Man is getting another polish, too. When writing advice says “Sleep on it,” believe them. You’ll find mistakes from way out in left field.  Also, weigh a good editor, on a scale, and give them that much in gold because they’re worth it. Mine is, and if I earned it, she’d be paid double.

You did catch that The Very Worst Man is up for preorder, right? In case you’re not convinced you NEED this book, here’s a little teaser. Available now at Amazon, everywhere else by the 28th, maybe before then.

TVWM Teaser 2

Notice how I’ve not mentioned Uncivilized? Shhhhhh. I’m finishing it in a marathon session as soon as I can quit snorting Benadryl. Kidding about the snorting, but wish I wasn’t. Mass quantities of meds at this point can only help. I’ll look back on this post and think TMI. Or not. I tend to look forward.

Something in the fun and procrastination department is I’ve started a personal Learning from the Masters series where I take a billion selling book and give it my own what if. Like, what if Christian Grey was a dollaraire instead of a billionaire?

Thus, I present, 50 Shades of Gremlin

He rolled up in the Gremlin and my breath caught. Was it his cold steel eyes or the exhaust fumes choking me? I couldn’t tell. All I knew was my heart raced, seeing him get out of his car. Most of the paint still clung to life on the vehicle, discolored to a light grey from what I assumed had been navy blue.

“Miss Steele,” he said, holding open the door. “You’ll have to slide in from the driver’s side, my passenger’s side is broken.
The sexy growl in his voice convinced me as much as his muscles as they flexed under the tattered flannel shirt he wore when he continued, “I’m good at driving backwards through the drive through, since your window rolls down better than mine.”

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.

Before You Hit Publish…#MondayBlogs

I’ve been reading a lot of indie published books and short stories in the past few weeks and months.  The one thing I’ve noticed across the board is that every single author needs an editor.  Yes, even you, the English major.  You need an editor.

You know those optical illusions, the one where you pick a C out of a billion O’s?  How about the one where you count the number of ‘f’s but miss the one f in ‘of’ because it sounds like a ‘v’?  Exactly.  No matter how careful a person is, their brain will fill in the missing words or switch back the dyslexic sentences during their own proofing.  Even worse?  Spell checkers go only so far.  Otherwise, the world wouldn’t be full of your/you’re and to/too errors, never mind the beloved their/there/they’re.

If your editor becomes a friend, that’s great.  Just don’t hand over your document to a friend and expect them to edit it.  Your priorities are not their priorities.  Plus, if they’re friends, you’re probably not paying them and they’re not as serious about your deadlines as you are.  Editing is one place where you suck it up and pay the man or woman to do their job.

There are several types of editors out there.  Developmental editors, line editors, proofreaders, copy editors.  Some people offer more than one type of edits with their services.  My own editor does line editing and proofreading.  She’s invaluable to me and makes my writing so much better.

Here’s a link to more information.  The article is very much worth your time to read before publishing.  Note to Hampton Roads authors: Don’t cut the editor

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.

PSA-Show, don’t tell! #amwriting

I’ve been reading for review a plethora of indie authors’ works.

Please, please SHOW me the story.  Don’t tell me or I’ll start skipping pages.  I read books to immerse my imagination into a different world, not to be a passive receptacle for your story.

I have three examples and will only name names on the positive one.

First up is a little story, a romance, about two people who’ve found their way back to each other.  We’re told why she’s in the place she is, we’re told why he’s suddenly there.  Tell tell tell, blah blah blah. Don’t care.  The story doesn’t even start until their eyes meet because it’s a romance.  Can’t the author just use the characters’  conversation to tell us the backstory the author just told us?  Can’t we see and feel what it’s like for the couple to link up after a decade or so apart and pining for each other?  Nope!  The author needs to tell us every little thing, which was blah and “Make it stop!!”

The second is a good sized book that I sampled and am not interested in buying.  It’s very erotic so that’s fun, but is way heavy on the tell.  Every little detail of their surroundings, people, everything, is described and most often in passive voice.  The only time this isn’t going on is during the goings on.  Sex is the only show in this tale of tell.  Which could be a great literary device if the author wanted only the sex to be exciting and all that character development stuff to be dull filler as contrast.  I skimmed it because blah blah blah.  I was relieved to reach the end of the sample that it was over at last.

The third? It’s a first person memoir that by all rights should be dull.  Something you read to fall asleep.  I’ve been writing and going to writer events for twenty years and have had many many people tell me “I’m writing my life story because it’s soooo interesting.”  99% of the time, no.  No, it isn’t.  Unless you’re Chuck Yeager, Richard Branson, or a Red Bull addicted spokesperson, don’t.  Just don’t.  Your mother does and even then she’s pretending.

Or so I thought until Thomas Sartain began telling me his story.  He had not only me but everyone at the conference enthralled, making my “Not another life story!!” thought obsolete.  I had the privilege to read his somewhat rough draft and it was amazing even in the rough.  He’s since published Thirty Days and a Wake Up, and it’s a wonderful book.  Told in first person, the story unfold in a shown way.  As the reader, you’re there when Thomas witnesses his first murder, when he leads his first robbery, and when he is first sent to prison. You feel what he feels and see only what he sees, not told about every single thing in his environment.  If you want to read a true, gritty, and gripping story, click the link above and at least read the sample.  It’s really worth the effort.

I could spend the rest of the post explaining exactly how and when to show versus tell.  Plus, there’s times when the story is better with a bit of telling instead of the constant show.  Instead, I’ll link to an article that creative writers really need to improve their work.  If you’re an author who truly wants to be the best you can be, go read the information.  I’ve skimmed through the first half.  When I hit publish on this post, I’m reading all of the article to see if there’s anything more I can learn and I’m pretty sure there is something I’ll need to know.

The Show Versus Tell Debate

#MondayBlogs Post on Creating Cover Art

I thought it would be fun for today’s post to feature how I paint the Cover Art for my Oregon Trail series. My free prequel, Unavoidable, needs a cover so here we go!

First is a sketch.  I have my misgivings already.

Scribble

Scribble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goop

Goop

Next is getting together the paints I might need.  The  season is mid Spring, so there’s not a lot of green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umm...

Umm…

 

I’m not feeling the love for this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yech

Yech

 

Ok, this is a no-go.  The trees are off, I don’t like the cabin.  Just no.  So I tore off the canvas and found…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voila!

Voila!

 

 

This!  An earlier reject that I can salvage.

 

 

 

 

Much better!

Much better!

I like it so much better!  I’m not totally in love with this.  It’ll either have to grow on me, or I’ll state a do over.

How bad do I think my reject is? This bad.

Out.

Out.