Friday, July 30, 2010

Heading off to Motor City

Well, I have a business trip to go to, in Detroit. I'll be gone for about 10 days, and I'm not sure about the wifi situation in my hotel, so I may not get to posting for a little while. (Listens for weeping, hears crickets, shrugs, moves on)

I'm pretty excited about this trip, though. It's the National Fine Arts Festival, an annual event that celebrates and encourages the various artistic talents of Jr. High and High School students. There are awesome scholarship opportunities for students from various colleges if they receive a high enough ranking in their categories. Categories range from writing, film-making, instruments, vocal performance, puppetry, speech, and dance. I've been involved as a coach for years now, but this is the first year I'm working behind the scenes as a staff member. I do still have a vested interest, though, one of the drama groups is performing with a script I wrote. My fingers are crossed.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be posting pictures and awesome stories when I get back.

Off to Motown!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let the Strings Arise!

I love to find new stories of people using art to benefit others. That's why I was so thrilled to read about the Thrive City String Academy. Founder John Littlejohn is doing an amazing work in empowering young string musicians to find the mentorship and opportunities to rise above their circumstances. Bravo!

If you're looking for an opportunity to donate some money, this would be a great one for you. A tax right-off that promotes musical literacy, talk about a win/win!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Ah, the beauties of revisions!

I finished my first draft a few days ago, as you know (right?), and I felt really good about it. I started doing revisions, generally minor stuff, and it was coming together. It genuinely felt like I could see the end of the tunnel. I was proud of myself, and wondered to myself why so many people found the revision process so stressful. It just seemed so easy.

Then a friend chimed in. Blasted. I was talking about my novel with one of my writing buddies, and he was getting into the story. So much so that he started asking questions. And he had to ask this one ding-blasted question, asking if I was going to tie something in to the whole thing, something I'd thought about but had rejected for many different reasons, which I voiced to him. He quickly dismissed my reasons and suggested that my story would be a bajillion times better if I added this one single element.

He was right. Ding-blast it.

So I started rethinking. I went to another of my writing buddies, he also loved the new idea and added a few more suggestions to the mix. Then I went to my alpha-reader (my wife), and she fell in love with the new direction, gave me a few more suggestions, and I was left with a rather unsettling realization.

All of these people are smarter than me. And they saw something in my story I didn't see.

Ding-blast it.

The cool thing is, though, that they were more excited about this new direction than I was. It seriously felt like some of the talks I used to have with my friends when we'd talk about LOST. We'd speculate about where the story was going, and what exactly Locke was going to do when he finally met Jacob, and so on and so on. And I realized, having fans of your work is absolutely awesome.

So, instead of a simple revision, I'm going in full blast into a rewrite. An awesome rewrite, inspired by people who love this story as much as I do. It's going to be really good, I am confident of that. But it's going to be a lot of work.

Ding-blast it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Melia’s Miracle

I use Google Alerts to keep me abreast if any of the topics/names/locations I use in my stories comes up in the news. The other day, I got the alert about little Melia Cargill, 4 years old, who is training for a marathon. Read it here.

Did you read it? No? Go ahead, I'll wait.

You did? Ok, awesome! Then you know that she was a recipient of a kidney transplant, and she's joining the 2010 NKF US Transplant Games, right?

Good. Here's the deal, transplant stories always solicit an emotional response from me. Whether it's the movie John Q, which a lot of people didn't like, or the numerous examples on House, MD, which everybody loves, I'm a sucker for those stories. Why? Because I feel a tinge of guilt, to be honest, that I have all perfectly good working organs, yet there are over 100,000 people currently waiting to receive a transplant. In the first quarter of this year, there were less than 10,000 successful transplant operations. At that rate, by the end of this year, only 40,000 people, including children, will receive the transplant they need. And the number of those in need will continue to grow.

So, if you're like me at all, how about doing something about it? Why don't you become an organ donor? If you have some questions, check out the website for the Transplant Games above, consider it, and make a decision. You can donate to that group as well, and give them your support on Facebook and Twitter.

Who knows, maybe you can be another Melia's Miracle.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Revision: Saving your Garbage or Shining your Jewels?

Book Revision Progress: 2 Days, 15 Chapters.

I am furiously working on revising my manuscript. And I mean furious. I've already broken three bottles of grape soda and used the jagged glass as a weapon to get my dangling participles to tighten up. They don't like to listen.

There are about as many views and methods for revising a manuscript as there are published books. And I'm including E-Books in that equation. Oh yeah, that many.

Sometimes a story is so broken and jagged that the revision process is kind of like redemption. Like you're snatching your book out of the flames of rejections and covering it with your super cape.

Other times, the story isn't that bad. Revision is more polish than full on salvation.

My revision is somewhere in between. I wouldn't say the book is a pile of spaghetti, nor would I say it's a classic waiting to happen. It's cohesive, coherent, compelling, and comfortable to read. But it needs work, they all do.

So, what's my method? Well, I'm approaching the revision process as though my book is a movie and I am the full production company. The initial manuscript and the first revision are the screenplay. From there, I cast the movie, scout out settings, shoot the darn thing, then edit out the chaff. This method makes the most sense for me.

I'd be interested in hearing any of your revision techniques!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

That’s the breaks.

I haven't blogged in a week. Since I'm certain that you have been biting your nails, checking anxiously every hour to see if there has been an updated to this little shanty I call my outlet, I decided to clue you in on why I took a break.

I finished it.

Are you intrigued? Are you asking yourself, "What did he finish that would force him to pull away from us, his loyal and loving readers? Could it be that he finished his second round of experimental treatment for some unmentioned brain issue, or a face transplant, or some other earthshattering medical procedure? Or perhaps he finished his marriage, out with the old bag, in with the little hot-to-trot foxy he met on Omegle that will somehow swindle him out of his currently nonexistent fortune amassed from selling a million copies of…"

Let me stop you there. No. I finished something way more important.

I finished the first draft of my novel. Let me add the necessary "!"

80,000 words, 300 pages, a monumental effort on my part. This coming from the guy who still hasn't finished college, didn't finish high school, never quite completed most of his other projects, and has mountains of unfinished songs/artwork/ideas looming in the back of his brain. You might be able to grasp how life changing this is for me.

I finished the biggest project I've ever undertaken in my life.

So, I took a week off. I celebrated. I went swimming, went to movies, and experimented with Crystal Meth. No, that's a lie. My wife wouldn't let me. J

But now, I'm back in the saddle. It's time to go on from celebration, roll up my sleeves, and start polishing and fine tuning the first draft of my novel. Why? Because it is crap. Because all first drafts, no matter who writes them, are crap. It might be beautiful, fine smelling, incredibly appealing crap, but it's still crap. It's not until you've dug around in the crap that you find the engagement ring your dog ate (thank you Marley and Me), and that's why it's time for me to get down and dirty with this little tome I regurgitated. Hopefully, something will emerge that is appealing, life changing, entertaining, and, oh yes, marketable.

And, no, I would never really try Crystal Meth. It's too expensive a habit. That's why I write.

Toodles!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Macro Madness

Emma Davies posted an awesome macro tutorial on how to compile your word documents into one giant document. Great if you're saving your chapters as individual files, like I am. Here's the link:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Target Locked: Writing With an Audience in Mind.

Rick Riordan is an absolute genius. I mean that. Stacey over at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management highlighted his story a while ago. What I love the most about the Percy Jackson series is that he created his hero to share the same learning disabilities his son had. It's this focused creativity that, I think, made "The Lightening Thief" and the subsequent novels in that series the chart busting best sellers they became.

Non-fiction writers and academic writers have a mantra: "Know your audience." But fiction writers don't talk about this subject with the same veracity. Of course there are the YA, Middle Grade, Children's, and Picture Book writers who have to understand the developmental stage of children and adolescents, but when it comes to adult Fiction, writers don't take as much time researching the kind of people that will be reading their stories. By doing this, they are missing a valuable doorway to creating stories that have a powerful impact and become indispensable parts of people's libraries.

So, my question to you is, who are you writing for? (And you aren't allowed to say, "I write for myself!" Feel free to write for yourself, but don't complain when you are your only fan.) Your target audience may look like one of these options:

  1. Genre Fans: You write for fans of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, etc. You know that these fans expect certain things from stories in the genre, and you would do well to include those elements. In other words, if Sci-Fi fans expect and enjoy reading about aliens and robots, maybe including those elements in your book is a good idea. If you're target is fans of the genre, that is. (This is a prime explanation for the influx of Vampire, Werewolf, and Greek Mythology storylines)
  2. Age Groups: Obviously in the aforementioned age specific genres of YA and KidLit, this is absolutely an element to consider. But I believe it's just as necessary when writing adult fiction. A book that is popular among 50 - 60 somethings will look much different than a book popular among 20-30 somethings. And rightly so. With a vast array of differences in life experience, tastes, and cultural background, to write without a consideration of the age of your audience can be literary suicide.
  3. Author Groupies: You love J. K. Rowling, and you know how to sound just like her when you write. Chances are, there are people out there that will buy your books if your voice is similar to their favorite author. If you utilize similar elements in your stories, you may be able to tap into an already established fan base. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Ok, so in all reality, this is probably a very bad idea. Everybody loves a successful trailblazer, but nobody loves a copycat, at least not for very long. Have you ever wondered why celebrity impersonators never go on world tours? It's because fans aren't stupid.
  4. Collective Background: My opinion, this is the target to lock in on. I'm talking here about people who have their own similar stories, similar life experience. There are a million people out there whose stories have never been told, or not in a way that they find appealing. Create a Fantasy about a Dragon that struggles with Bulimia, a Sci-Fi about a literal illegal alien, a mystery involving the kidnapping of someone's child out of their Florida time share villa. You just might tap into a powerful commonality between your characters and your readers. If readers can buy your characters, they will buy your book/movie/play/etc.

Can you think of any other target audience groups I didn't mention? Or, maybe you think I'm way off, go ahead and (nicely) clue me in!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back from a holiday

Ah, the beauty of being a U.S.American. July 4th is a spectacular holiday, one so huge and intense, everybody takes the 5th off to recuperate. At least, that's what happened this year.

It was during this time of rejuvenation that I realized how much of my life has been put on the back-burner for the past few months, to make way for the grueling regimen of writing. Like what, you ask? Like:

  • Sports: Unbeknownst to me, my favorite Baseball team, the Texas Rangers, are #1 in their division, #4 in the American League. Of course, there's still a lot of baseball left to play, but still. Also, I haven't kept tabs on NFL news, partially because last year was so disappointing, and partially because I just haven't had the time.
  • Comic Books: So, Superman is walking around now. And Batman has already been a caveman and a puritan. These are HUGE happenings, and I was so far out of the loop, it took me twittering about Wonder Woman's new costume to even hear any tremors of these earth-shattering events.
  • School: Apparently some news finally broke from last year and I was placed on the Dean's list. W00t, w00t. J
  • Music: The last time a attempted any writing/recording was for a school project in April. Yeah, that's right. April. It struck me yesterday that what might have been a cutting edge sound I was writing six months ago is becoming commonplace now. SIGH Oh well.

The greatest thing about this weekend was watching fireworks with my four year old. I've never seen anyone as excited, thrilled, or ecstatic as she was. In fact, her reaction has officially become the benchmark definition of those terms. Watch me never say I'm excited about lunch again.

Well, there it is. What a wonderful weekend. Now, back to the grindstone.

Go Rangers!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

a poem

Death.
You have no victory,
But it seems
You have your trophies.
The scalps
Of those I've loved
Now hang
Off of your belt.

Notched
Upon the handle
Of your gun,
You have tallied
The fallen
Among the ranks
Of men
Your bullet fell.

Stung,
Yet felt no pain,
Your victims
Rest in peace;
But we
Who now remain,
Remain
To give you glee.