Thursday, November 1, 2007

NaNo Prep - Plot Cards

Originally posted 9.23.2004 on Limes with Orange

I know I said that I would start on the character sheets today but, as often happens, I have been distracted by shiny objects. The shiny object in this case is Holly Lisle's Fast Plotting technique.

As part of my attempt to "plot the plot" I've broken down my book into 30 chapters, partly because that's the number of days in novel writing month (aka November) and partly because that's the approximate number of chapters in the thriller that I just finished reading (Acid Row by Minette Walters... a compelling read, two thumbs up). So I'm planning on writing a chapter a day. I generally aim to write 2000 words a day, rather than the 1667 words that satisfies the "50,000 words / 30 days" equation; I like the luxurious feeling of a few extra words. If I anticipate 2 or 3 scenes per chapter, we're talking about something in the neighborhood of 750 words per scene. (Keep in mind, 50,000 words is far shorter than a finished novel. A NaNoWriMo "novel" is really a "half-draft" or a well padded outline. So I can either approach my breakdown ... plot, not nervous ... as having certain scenes omitted or as containing brief sketches of every scene. I'm opting for the latter. Otherwise, my scenes would average closer to 1500 words each.)

Total number of scenes = 67.

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Now, using Holly Lisle's notecarding technique, I am going to write one line descriptions of scenes that I would like to include in the book. To give myself the option of tossing some scenes, I should come up with something like 75 scenes in total. Starting with the obvious "candy bar" scenes (the ones I'm itching to write, like the first spellcasting or the heroine's confrontation with the killer) and going from there. Once I have my 75 notecards, I can start putting them into some kind of order. And voila... I'll have a plot outline! (Gee, I make it sound so easy... now come the endless days of torment while I attempt to make this outline a reality.)

So off I go to buy index cards. And maybe I'll stop by the coffee shop on my way home and do some writing practice. (I can't do it at home because Emma, my youngest cat, tends to chase my pen... not very conducive to the writing effort.)

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NaNoWriMo Prep

Originally posted 9.22.2004 on Limes with Orange

I've started giving some thought to my NaNoWriMo goals. The book that I want to write this year is more ambitious than the one I wrote last year, so some preparation might not be amiss. (This year's Hollywood-style pitch is "Mary Higgins Clark meets Charmed"... it's a supernatural thriller with a hint of romance; last year I described "Being Zoe" as "Bridget Jones' Diary for the intelligent woman.") Anyway, I thought I'd start with a list of things I want to do before November 1:

1. Getting to Know You: Write character descriptions for (a) main character (name yet to be determined... thinking she'd be played by Sandra Bullock in the movie), (b) romantic interest (cop... don't know yet who'd play him... maybe Dylan McDermott?), and (c) serial killer (need to determine his MO, among other things... possibly a Billy Bob type character, but not sure yet). Not sure if I'll bother with descriptions for any other supporting characters. I found a character chart that I think I'll try out this time 'round. I won't try to completely fill them out right away, just do the bare bones and add the other stuff as I get to know the characters better. Maybe tomorrow's project?

2. Plot the Plot: I know how the story starts and I know how it ends, with only the sketchiest idea of what happens in-between. Would like more of a plan to get started with it, even if I end up deviating from it once I start writing. There are some good suggestions in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's article on Being a Storyteller. Other sites I'll be using for reference are: Holly Lisle's Forward Motion for Writers and the Tameri Guide for Writers. I may even break down and read a book or two on the subject of plotting, since I feel like it's the weakest aspect of my writing. The Writer's Bookshop has some reasonable suggestions.

3. Keep the Pen Moving: I used to do daily timed writing practices à la Writing Down the Bones, but I've been remiss in the past several months. If I'm going to expect to write 2000 words a day in November, I'd better get used to writing every day again. Not to mention the fact that it will help prime the creativity pump.

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4. Supernatural Romantic Thriller: I know that I can't really read fiction during NaNoWriMo because I too easily lose my voice and start writing like whomever I'm reading. But if I read a few books before November in the genre that I plan to be writing, I think it'll put me in the right mindset. Dream Man by Linda Howard looks like it might work and possibly something by Connie Willis, though I think she's more sci-fi than I'm looking for. Anybody have any suggestions?

5. Shopping, Occult Style: Since my story starts with a visit to an occult shop, I thought it was high time that I popped into a real one myself. I found a list of Alberta Pagan Shopping & Services that should give me a good place to start.

6. Susie Homemaker: Don't need to worry about this stuff until closer to November, but I intend to have cupboards full of groceries and clean dishes, a freezer full of nukeable food and a closet full of clean clothes before November 1st rolls around. Because laundry, dishes, groceries and cooking might not will not be happening in November. (Oh yeah, must not forget to stock up on Scotch, too... mmm, liquid inspiration...)

Oops... almost forgot...

7. For Your Listening Pleasure: Must make songlists to suit the moods of various scenes: quiet moments, action, spellcasting, love scenes, etc. (I already know that I'll be listening to Heather Nova's "Sugar" for the first spell cast... that's kinda how this whole ball got rolling. And hey, while we're talking about it, check out this video clip of "Sugar.")

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NaNoWriMo

For those of you who think the title of this post is gobbledygook, I guess you haven't heard of National Novel Writing Month. Well, it starts on November 1st. Yep, as in the day after tomorrow. I've done it three times. The first time I literally found out about it the day before and I managed to write a full 50,000 word manuscript that I hated and which will never, ever see the light of day. The second time around I prepared thoroughly and also managed to write a full 50,000 word manuscript that I'm quite pleased with and would like to go back and turn into a screenplay someday. The third time around I dithered and couldn't settle on a plot or even a character and I think I was feeling restless with the novel format, already having an urge to write a screenplay but lacking the knowledge and tools. I didn't participate last year because I was just too busy and had thrown myself fully into film at that point. This year, I'm planning on doing it again... in a way.

I'm not writing a 50,000 word manuscript. I'll be completely up front about that. I'm using NaNoWriMo as motivation to complete a second draft of my feature length screenplay. (I really meant to write about my process while I wrote the first draft but I realized that writing about your writing process while you're trying to write is senseless... much like this tongue twister of this sentence.) So I will go back and talk about the first draft later on. During November, I'll try to post wee updates on my progress. I know this project would be more appropriate in National Novel Editing Month which happens in March, but I don't want to wait that long. Why bother with NaNoWriMo when I'm doing something so different? Because the support, the information and the opinions on the forums are so worth it. Resources and motivation, baby!

So here's my plan...

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I figure that I have about 45 pages of writing still to do. At approximately 200 words per page for a screenplay, that leaves me with 9,000 words to write. Piece of cake, right? Except that I also have some substantial restructuring to do, so let's set aside 10 hours for that. Then there's some research required for some of the new writing, so let's set aside another 10 hours for that. So instead of striving to reach the 50,000 word mark, I will be striving for 20 hours of work and 9,000 words. Not your conventional approach, but I think I can make it work for me.

I'm also planning on posting some of my old NaNo posts from Limes with Orange, the personal blog I was writing while I participated in previous years. So check back.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The 3-Day Novel Contest

I've participated in National Novel Writing Month twice and "won" once (i.e. met my 50,000 word count) but I don't know if I would have the nerve to try writing a novel in three days. But for those of you with nerves of steel (and a little time on your hands), you might be interested in this 3-Day Novel Contest over Labour Day weekend.

Grand Prize: Publication (summer 2008)
2nd Prize: $500 cash
3rd Prize: A great literary prize pack

You have to register for the contest by August 31, 2007 so if you're interested, you'd better hurry up and sign up. And be sure to check out their Survival Guide and the Community Forums... I would imagine that both of them are probably essential if you're to maintain some shred of sanity during this event.

For those of you who decide to do this: Good luck! And may whatever gods of writing you worship be with you during this period of temporary insanity.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Write Wild

There's this fantastic site for screenwriters and filmmakers called WildSound. They currently have a three part article on How to Write a Screenplay, as well as a weekly column entitled The Writer's Way that has various articles written by Jen Frankel (a Toronto screenwriter and novelist) along with guest authors. I particularly enjoyed Write From Your Dreams, since that's what I do a lot of the time. What made the article interesting to me were the practical examples she gave of a dream that she had, the story that she wrote from it and some commentary on that story. Definitely a site worth checking out.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Think Like a Poet

This is an excerpt from a something I wrote a while back:

As poet Gwendolyn MacEwen writes:
Poetry has got nothing to do with poetry.
Poetry is how the air goes green before thunder,
is the sound you make when you come, and
why you live and how you bleed, and
The sound you make or you don't make when you die.
(From "You Can Study It If You Want", Afterworlds)

So this exposition has nothing to do with the study of poetry, nor is it a how-to-write-poetry manual. It is about knowing (in a deep down remembering way) that words speak images and images speak words... it's about casting aside controlled, censored, logical thought and looking at the world in an unexpected way. Askew. It is about what is out there in the large dark and the long light. Breathing.

So how do you unleash your poet's heart?

For my answer to this question, read: Think Like a Poet

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Screenwriting 101 - CSIF Workshop, part II

Originally posted 6.16.2006 on Limes with Orange

So here's the very awkward second person, second section of my writing assignment to get to know my main character better. I opted to write it as two very short vignettes, rather than one cohesive piece. So here goes:

You walk into your first year anatomy lab, looking lost in your oversized blue lab coat, nose wrinkling and eyes watering as the formaldehyde fumes hit. You examine the cat and dog cadavers that have been assigned to your group and pronounce, to no-one in particular, that their names shall be Fluffy and Spot henceforth, even though they are neither fluffy nor spotted.

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You then move over to the horse. Or, more precisely, a section of a horse. Each of the large animals (some groups have a cow) had been cut down the middle, so that one animal could be shared between two groups. Each half was further divided into front and back, one half to be dissected each semester. So there you stand, looking at the front, right section of your horse.

"I guess we've got a quarter horse," you deadpan.

Your remark elicits startled laughter from a few students and sour looks from others who seem to find it tasteless.

"I think I'll call him Trigger," you say quietly as you stroke the lifeless neck with tenderness.

~~~

You look up at him with your big, blue eyes, the dark circles underneath them like bruises against your pale skin. His surfer boy good looks are all but obscured by his bulky firefighter's gear. Pushing your hair off your dirt-streaked face, it never seems to occur to you that he might find your damsel-in-distress vulnerability attractive. Or that the obvious hero worship in your eyes is more powerful than any aphrodisiac.

You thank him for saving your life, your ironic half-smile showing clearly that you realize how trite that sounds. He smiles back, the sort of smile that typically melts women into puddles. And you are no exception. Your own smile broadens in response and finally reaches your eyes, something that doesn't happen often but is rather devastating when it does.

Had anyone actually been watching, the moment between the two of you would have been obvious. But the bustle of firefighters, vet students, faculty, paramedics, et al merely swarms around you, oblivious that your life just changed.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Screenwriting 101 - CSIF Workshop, part I

Once again, I have signed up for a screenwriting workshop at the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. This year, it's a long format that spans both the spring and fall sessions of the CSIF workshop schedule. The intention is for us to finish the first draft of a feature length screenplay. So I've dusted off the screenplay that I was working on last year before I got sidetracked into filming shorts.

So, since it's still the same project as last year and I'm planning on moving a certain number of my writing posts off of Limes with Orange, my personal blog, I figured I'd start with my posts about last years course.

Originally posted 6.14.2006 on Limes with Orange

I've been all wrapped up in my screenwriting workshop that I took through the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF). It finished tonight, so I thought I'd share some of the results of my writing exercises. My homework assignment was to get to know my main character better. To that end, I was supposed to write for one hour (the sort of timed writing that I always associate with Natalie Goldberg and Writing Down the Bones).

The first third was to be written in third person as an outward description of my character. The middle third was to be written in second person (holy crap, that's hard!) as I step closer to the character. The final third was to be written in first person, from the character's point of view. That last part flowed really well. My instructor, Jason Long (co-author of Turning Paige), said that he hears that a lot about this exercise. The third person stuff may be dry or judgemental or somesuch, the second person stuff is hard for almost everyone, but those are the necessary hurdles for the first person stuff to just flow and allow you to discover things about your character that you never knew before.

So I decided to be bold and post the various sections of my writing assignment on this here blog. Today's post shall be the third person section...

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Katrina Jones walks down the hall in her blue scrubs that identify her as a vet student, distinct from the green scrubs of a faculty vet or the red of a volunteer. Her mousy brown hair is in a convenient ponytail and her mildly pretty face is devoid of make-up. Her expression is pleasant but just distant enough to deter anyone but her closest friends from more than a casual hello.

She tugs at the long-sleeved T-shirt that she wears underneath her short-sleeved scrub top, even though the building is well-heated and nobody else appears cold. That long-sleeved shirt is the only thing about her that stands out. It's as if she's perfected the science of being average.

She walks past a lecture hall where first year students drowse in the darkened room as the physiology professor writes incomprehensible notes on the overhead. Past a group of third year students huddled around a bulletin board, searching the notices for the perfect summer externship. She nods a polite greeting to two of her fellow fourth years heading in the opposite direction in their blue coveralls, coming off of a large animal rotation.

Kat pushes through the swinging doors of the small animal surgery suite, then through another set of doors into the scrub room. She again nods her standard polite greeting to a vet and two other students who are already scrubbing up. Stepping up to one of the sinks, she removes her watch from her left wrist and an elastic band from her right. With a quick glance at the others to make sure no one is watching, she pulls up the sleeves of her long-sleeved shirt enough to allow her to scrub properly. Then she begins the meticulous process of scrubbing for surgery, one side of each four-sided finger at a time. A slight smile turns up the corners of her mouth, almost as if she were enjoying the feeling of the hard plastic brush on her sensitive skin.

Once finished, she enters the operating room, back first through the swinging doors, hands clasped together and held up as if in prayer, carefully not touching anything. One of the technicians helps her gown and glove up before she steps up to the table to perform her first feline spay. The instructor that she's assisted so many times before is now there to assist her.

He hands her a number 3 scalpel to make her first incision, which she does with none of the hesitation typically shown by students performing their first surgery. Something else about her that isn't average. This unexpected confidence is evident throughout the rest of the surgery.

Afterwards, she celebrates her first successful surgery in the cafeteria with Lorne, her best friend and fellow fourth year. They "clink" their Styrofoam cups of bitter coffee as Kat relates the details of the surgery. As she talks, Lorne notices a rare, unselfconscious animation of her features that is really quite becoming to her. What a pity he was gay.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Introduction to Weirdgrrl's Words

Welcome to the brand new redesign of the WeiRDgrrl website. Links to the Writing, Editing, Research and Design business are in the navigation menu to the left. The rest of the page is now devoted to Weirdgrrl's Words, my new blog about writing, poetry, language and related topics.

For my inaugural post I'll simply recommend "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. This is one book that should be in every writer's library, regardless of genre. Both inspirational and practical, this book is a must have.

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Film Screenings

Coda in G Minor

July 22, 2009
CSIF presents ImagineNATIVE
The Plaza Theatre
1133 Kensington Rd. NW
7:00 p.m.
Calgary, AB

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Weirdgrrl

Calgary, Canada

1 part shy intellectual, 1 part edgy chick, 1 part sophisticated woman, 1 part mental patient (after all, sanity is a type of conformity)... what's your mix?