Yes, I’m a Writer

September 3, 2009

…I’m having one of those moments were I realize, I’m a Writer. Not just a dreamer. I’m throwing my life into this and I love it. I may not get “Lightning Spliced” published, I know it’s rare to get a first book out there, but I’m working my ass off to make sure it does. And if not, the second draft of Deep Within is looking beautiful and the brainstorming for Sierra’s story is glowing like a supernova. One day this will be my career even if I have to work part time at another job to support my travel addiction 😉 It’s there. I’m in.

I’m Zellie, I should understand the power of names–how many do I go by? ^_~ But after how many years, it’s not until now that I’ve changed LS’s MC from Amy to Analee. It’s a transformation. Suddenly everything I held against her fades away and I see her as someone real. I realize that losing perfection is not a tragedy because it’s not real enough (duh). I’m 19 pages from the end of my hardcore edits before I do my last read through.

I just read a note to myself about Zcythe’s last scene. “Oh wow, that’s brilliant! I don’t even remember writing that!” ❤ great moments when I can compliment myself.

————-

The above was written about 1:30pm

It is now 5pm

EIGHT PAGES LEFT HOLYCRAP~~~!!


Critique Worksheet

August 14, 2009

We had an epic mess of a meeting that started with Metro Coffee House dropping off the face of the planet in the pouring rain and ending with us playing musical tables in order to find a power hook-up for Tammy’s laptop. My tea was also four freaking dollars. AND HAD NO BUBBLES. And it had a shot of caffeine since it came from Starbucks which means I was passing out on the way home (yeah, caffeine puts me to sleep…seriously. Part of why I avoid soda is because it knocks me out!)

ahem.

A few of us did eventually fall back to B&N aka The Arctic and got through our critiques but didn’t get to our topic of the night, how to critique. I made up an outline of what I usually look for because I’ve been getting feedback that I critique well, yay! It’s tough to outline it though because I’ve developed so much over the years that I write what I notice, I don’t actually go by a work sheet.

A good suggestion Sheila made was that we make a list of the main points of the critique so we can keep organized, move quickly, and give something to focus on so we don’t get overwhelmed with the little details.

Below is my worksheet.

General
#1 – ALWAYS find something positive to say! Comment on what works just as much as what doesn’t work—authors need to know what to keep too, sandwich principal (start and end with something positive = tasty)

Explaining WHY something doesn’t work is more helpful than just saying it doesn’t work

When explaining your critique to someone while a group is present, focus on issues that may be beneficial for others to hear (for the most part, no need to comment on grammar/punctuation as those will be in the hard copy critique and are self-explanatory) *sometimes the situation calls for it…. we had a great discussion today passive voice and on the punctuation for “and the amount of chores they asked him to do was ridiculous” – “and the amount of chores they asked him to do, ridiculous” “do–ridiculous” “they asked him to do? Ridiculous.”

Is the author effectively showing or telling?

Is the tension natural and exciting?

Is anything redundant? Authors like words but less is more!

Is the POV clear? This seems to be a pet peev of enough agents that it’s something to be very careful of. Some don’t like ANY point of view switches

Tune out your personal bias – instead focus on what works or doesn’t work given the author’s choices. What could make their choices more effective?

Balance – is there too much or too little of any element? Dialog?

Narrative? Romance? Even action can be dull if there’s too much

Texture – is the author invoking the five senses? Or are we only getting visuals?

Plot

Pacing – does the tension pull you forward? Do you have questions that urge you to read on to find out the answers?

Logical structure – do the events make sense, is the movement of the plot natural?

Chronology – does the flow of time make sense in relation to the events that happen? Character reactions over time?

Setting
Is it clear when and where we are?

Is the setting meaningful to the character? – tying the setting to specifics the character knows, feelings, memories, etc can help make it meaningful

Character
Consistent personality

Are there traits we can relate to or can you at least understand the character’s motivations?

Defined appearance – is there something really memorable about the character?

Logical character arcs – let the plot help the character grow

Vivid traits – do we want to read about this character compared to any other person who could be in this situation?

Dialog

Is there subtext?

Are these conversations exciting enough you’d want to eavesdrop on them?

Does it move the plot forward? – even character building can be mixed with plot to create a balanced story

Is there conflict? – each character has their own opinions, goals and perceptions about the other

Does it show characterization? Are dialog lines interchangeable or are they so unique to the character that you don’t need tags to distinguish who is speaking?


“I’m writing, I swear!” she says, holding a Playstation 2 or xbox controller

August 13, 2009

As a writer, is it weird that I reference Bioshock instead of like, Charles Dickens?

I wonder how I survived my English degree given that I consider most classic lit that I’ve read good primarily as a paperweight.

In one of the critique meetings, we talked about the target audience and how it’s evolved given new media. Best sellers from years ago could afford to take up hundred of pages with nothing more than setting with a hint of character development. People had nothing better to do. Now we’ve got the immediacy of youtube and the constant explosions in Transformers.

It can be hard enough to use only words to compete with the visual medium, let alone the instant gratification of the internet where there is something for everyone 24 hours a day.

So maybe it’s not so bad that I look to newer media for inspiration and writing tips.

One of my favorite storytellers is Ragnar Tornquist, the writer for the Dreamfall and The Longest Journey games.

Some games rely on their interactivity and skimp on story (I’m looking at you, platformers and generic RPGs!) but those games that really develop the story as any other writer would become memorable–iconic even.

I just finished playing Final Fantasy 7–it’s a legend in the gaming world, almost a crime if you haven’t played it. Despite the ancient graphics and glitchy system, the story shines as a rite of passage in the lives of many gamers and I now understand why.

Well-scripted games are just another type of literature. How many writing books have you read that suggest starting off in medias res? FF7 does exactly this. You are thrown into a group of people in the middle of blowing up a reactor, the whys trickle in. Since storytelling is limited to dialog the writers can’t fall in that trap of narrating things like character relationships–the dialog must say it all and it does. Within moments, I understand that Barret is the tempermental leader impatient with me (Cloud) because I’m just a mercenary while Barrett is passionate about the rebellion.

While there are some instances of telling that extensive backstory the game has, the writing really shines in every moment where the backstory comes through directly in the present action of that game.

Portal is another great. It’s experimental even in the gaming world. There is only one speaker in the game–imagine trying to write an interesting novel full of tension and conflict when you only have one character and the environment as your storytelling tools. Portal does it and does it brilliantly. It helps that the voice actor is very talented! The writers manage to make a cube something you feel affection for….and guilt too. Each moment of humor builds your sense of dread and desperation to escape the test center. You wonder–am I jumping through GLaDOS’ hoops or am I really on my way out? You find hints of other employees who tried to escape…cans of food, and writing on the wall in red: the cake is a lie.

As a hobby, I voice stuff online for fanworks…radioplays, flash animations, etc. Since I’m a writer, I’m really picky about writing quality. I can figure out in two sample lines of dialog whether a character will be interesting to voice or not. I ran across one project recently called “Cracks in the Armor,” based on the Metal Gear Solid games, and instantly fell in love with the original character Olivia. Lucky for me, the director (who just so happens to live in Savannh!) also instantly thought I was perfect for the role 😀 She has finished putting the project together so I thought I’d share it.

I’ve been really impressed with her writing. She’s mostly done fanfiction, but she already has a strong grasp on some writing essentials. Every line was a blast to voice because there was so much subtext, each personality was very vivid. She started out with a bang–not just literally but through the relationship between the characters as well. She leans more toward character building than plot so sometimes it feels slow but most of the time she keeps that thread of tension going.

I’m proud, and not surprised, to be able to say that the project has gotten 13,000 downloads on itunes! You can find it there by searching “Cracks in the Armor” or you can access it here.

Going back to the games topic, as thanks for being in the radioplay she gave me the three Metal Gear Solid games since I’d never played them. I’m about halfway through the first game and already I’m seeing why she’s developed into such a good writer. She’s spent a lot of time obsessing over these games–obsessing over these incredibly well-written games.

One of my issues as a beginning writer is that I’ve read some ‘okay’ books, some outdated market books and I learned things to do from those ‘okay’ books not realizing that they were handicapping my writing as ‘just okay’ when I could write differently and be more ‘GREAT!’ She’s been exposed to this top notch writing and it shows in all her work.

There are no wasted words in the Metal Gear games and every character, even if you meet him only for a boss fight, has a depth of history that has made him who he is and he shows it, not by telling you about his childhood (…too much) but in his reactions to you. And for a story about a betrayed soldier, there’s a ton of humor in it. it’s never cheap, always woven naturally into the personalities of the characters.

Video games are an art just like any other form of writing and I feel privileged to learn from them.


Writing Effectively

August 13, 2009

30 pages left to edit of The Resistance! (lul, before I do a read through from start to finish, anyway 😛 SIGH)

So close and yet so far! I’ve busted ass over Nighthawk’s battle with Gandon so I doubt much of that will change (THEN AGAIN…)

I always loved Jack’s meeting with Maria. The writing has changed dramatically over the years. Like today. I literally deleted the chapter and rewrote it, keeping only the best lines from the previous versions (of which there were like, three) But despite that, the soul remains the same. That’s what learning how to write is about–not learning how to change your ideas into sell-out formulas, but learning how to most effectively get the heart of your story across to your readers. CRITIQUE MEETING TONIGHT AT THE BUBBLE TEA PLACE WHOOO WHOOO


You want more? Really?

July 25, 2009

Yesterday was the deadline to post a chapter for the upcoming critique meeting. Standard practice is if you want a critique, you’ve got to critique everyone else’s and show up to the meeting. If you’re not planning to go to the meeting you have no obligations.

After I posted, I got an email from one of the members saying she’d been looking forward to reading the next chapter but wouldn’t be at the meeting and wanted to critique it anyway!

Score! 😀

Although there’s no accounting for taste… I do have a few hardcore fans of Lightning Spliced who originally read it 2-3 major MAJOR rewrites ago. I’m kind of afraid to look back at what they read 😛 And oh man… the fanfiction. OH THE HORROR! I wrote Zelda fanfics in high school and shared them with the kids at the after care program I worked at. I remember Jillian’s father coming to pick her up and telling me how she read them daily–had him read them to her at breakfast. I hadn’t really thought of writing seriously but he told me I should look into getting published. Yikkkkkkkkes….those fanfics are now an embarressment!

I’m hoping though, that that speaks of the quality of my imagination…that no matter how poor the writing, the ideas are coming through and catching people’s attention. Then the more I learn, the more effectively I communicate my ideas….. great writing + great ideas = career writer, yes yes? 😀


10 hours, methinks it’s time to stop

July 24, 2009

I’ve been working on CH3 of Deep Within since 1pm…it’s about 10pm…had a break for dinner and bellydance via youtube (well, dinner was not via youtube but might have tasted better had it been).

I kinda knew it was too ambitious to finish the chapter in a day. I did get up to the last few pages but still have to do those and do a review. I was hoping to submit it to critique group tonight but oh well it can wait until tomorrow.

I don’t want to stop. I still have ideas churning. But my brain is soo fried…nothing is coming out of my fingers except “He looked up. She looked up too. Then Bones ran over to Jadziya.”

Interesting what changes happen from draft to draft… Zoe’s been cut, Tiber is now a townsperson instead of a gypsy, and oh no I cut the firelizards too ): I kinda want to change Jadziya’s name and use it as an MC somewhere down the road. But there’s something about three syllables that just feels too much for an MC’s name. Despite (or because? 😛 ) BOTH my MCs in this story have 3 syllable names.

I wonder how I can write this and yet I can’t get the rest of the chapter out! 😛

I have some FF7 to beat!


Doh! moments

July 21, 2009

….of all the times I’ve read the threat Nighthawk carves on the outside of Gandon’s basement…. of all the times people have critiqued and said the wording was confusing….. none of us picked up on the fact that he’s BLIND. HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO WRITE 😛

-_-;

I’m doing an adverb / passive voice scan and today I LOVE my novel. Days like that can be rare when editing.

I’ve also found a pen in my glass of milk.

So I may just be crazy.