Week Seventeen: Transcribing Notes and Judy Blume’s Influence

April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

April 29, 2012

I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing again. Sitting at my kitchen table, I cracked up over the chapter about how he wrote, printed, AND distributed a satirical high school newspaper he called the Village Vomit. “As all sophomoric humorists must be, I was totally blown away by my own wit,” King begins his hilarious recount of the second time he got in trouble because of something he had written. Once the principal got wind of it, King got two week’s detention, which “turned out to be not so bad.”

I began the fun task of transcribing into the computer all of my feverishly handwritten notes from the past three weeks. The “fun” part is trying to decipher what I had written while in a hotel room, or before the coffee kicked in at 5:45 a.m., or late on a Friday night as the wine was making its way through my bloodstream.

“You’ve got to go into that room and you’ve got to get rid of the censor on this shoulder and the critic on this shoulder, or you’re never going to write anything that matters.”—Judy Blume

Photo of Judy Blume in 2009

Photo of Judy Blume in 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judy Blume was interviewed on the Tavis Smiley show in honor of the 40th anniversary of her famous book Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Judy Blume was a major influence on my writing from age twelve through sixteen. “Imitation preceded creation” Stephen King writes. The style and genre of Blume’s Forever and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t inspired my own penciled adolescent writings, which are still tucked safely away in a turquoise accordion file on my bookshelf. That is more than I can say for my copies of Blume’s books, because, like a whole slew of other books and comics that I love, they went the way of one of my many adolescent freak-out purges that I don’t remember. My favorite Judy Blume book, Tiger Eyes, is first on my list to buy, again. Tiger Eyes is being made into a movie, it is directed by Blume’s son, and it was filmed right here in New Mexico!

Book Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Fury by L. J. Smith (Book #3)

April 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

It’s a good thing Elena Gilbert kept that diary. Elena has woken up, not dead after all, and who is she? Blinded and dumb with bloodlust, she attacks her true love Stefan, and is devoted to the dark, enigmatic Damon. Only when she gets a hold of her diary, that she knows is important somehow, does she remember everything that happened before, and realize what’s happened to her. It is not a pretty awakening.

The action begins when Elena attends her own funeral. Meredith gives a cryptic eulogy that is actually a covert, hopeful message to Elena, Bonnie goes into a trance in front of the entire town and utters a dire warning, and the town dogs attack their own masters outside the church. A greater evil is stalking the town, and Elena tries to pull everyone together to stop it. Will Stefan be able to put aside his centuries-long rivalry with his brother long enough to hunt down the Fell’s Church evil? Can Damon, the cold, dangerous hunter, be trusted to protect the humans?

In contrast to the previous books’ foreboding dread and horror,  The Vampire Diaries: The Fury,  reads more like a mystery adventure. The action and danger are interspersed with amusing clashes between the wary, reluctant members of the gang.

Bonnie lurched up with a gasp, knocking the reading lamp off the nightstand and plunging the room into darkness. Cursing, Meredith worked to get it righted again. The curtains fluttered madly in the flickering light that emerged, and Bonnie seemed to be trying to scream.

When the bulb was finally screwed back in, it revealed Damon sitting casually but precariously on the sill of the open window, one knee up. He was smiling one of his widest smiles.

“Do you mind?” he said. “This is uncomfortable.”

Elena glanced back at Bonnie and Meredith, who were braced against the closet, looking horrified and hypnotized at once. She herself shook her head, exasperated.

“And I thought I liked to make a dramatic entrance,” she said.

I enjoyed how the different characters play off of each other, after having gone through their own hellish journeys in the previous two books and now have to work together. Once I got past the initial hurdle in the beginning where Elena is transitioning and acting completely unlike herself, I became engrossed in the quest to find and destroy the evil force threatening Fell’s Church. Everything propels forward to an unexpected yet inevitable reckoning, and everybody reveals that there is more to them than originally met the eye. As Bonnie herself said, “No one is what they appear.”

Week Sixteen: Halle-freaking-lujah!

April 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

April 24, 2012

“Readers care more about the characters than the plot.” —Paula Paul, Author
That must be why I kept reading The Vampire Diaries: Nightfall, despite the fact that huge chunks of it were so all over the place I wondered if it was written by the same author of the previous four tightly plotted books. But I finished it, all 586 sometimes painful pages of it, only because I wanted to know what would happen to Stefan and Elena and Damon and Bonnie. A plus—this makes book eight of my Goodreads challenge.

“It’s good to have goals.” —My boss, of all people
Last night, sometime between 11:00 p.m. and midnight, I finished the second draft of my book. I came in three weeks behind my overly optimistic schedule, but what’s three weeks compared to, say, years? I stayed in for two weekends in a row, barely talked to my friends, and didn’t get nearly enough sleep, but it’s done. Well, nothing’s ever done, I have a rigorous rewrite ahead of me, but I cleared a major hurdle. Now I know what it feels like to cry tears of joy.

Not a whole lot of stimulating activities this week, but I still had to eat while watching some TV. Scandal continues to be deliciously addictive, and this week’s The Vampire Diaries, “Heart of Darkness,” was the best episode I’ve seen in, like, forever. I loved the contrasting plot lines of Stefan stuck in the Salvatore dungeon, trying to bait Alaric’s evil alter ego, while Damon gets to take a cross-county trip with Elena. Sure, Damon got beaten by one of the Originals with a baseball bat, but he was still having a better time than his brother. And speaking of Damon and Elena, how about that kiss?? Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Week Fifteen: Staying In

April 16, 2012 § 4 Comments

April 15, 2012

“I drew comfort from my books. Oddly enough, it was Louisa May Alcott who provided me with a positive view of my female destiny.” —Patti Smith, Just Kids

Cover of "Just Kids"

Cover of Just Kids

I am reading two books for my Goodreads challenge now, The Vampire Diaries: Nightfall and Just Kids, the National Book Award winning memoir by rock singer Patti Smith. I know, about as different as two books can get. I like to think of it as balance. It took me awhile to get into Nightfall, but things are picking up now. I have to say that the Damon in the book is a lot more compelling to me right now than the Damon on the TV show.

“You start with who and what you know . . . and then you begin to lie about it, you tell one lie that turns into a different lie, and after awhile those models lift off and become their own people.” —Wally Lamb, on PBS’s Harper Lee: Hey, Boo.

This really is true. Even after all this time I’ve spent with these characters, just this week they veered off of the actions and emotions I had originally planned for them. And it actually is better that way. As for my progress, I’m now two weeks behind my ridiculous schedule. It just takes longer to write scenes than I think it’s going to take! But the end is in sight. And I got my taxes done.

I was supposed to go to the Midnight Movies for a showing of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas this Saturday, but I got too caught up in my writing. Which is my bliss, so that makes sense. I was up until 2:00 A.M., not partying, but writing and then reading. Ah, the sacrifices one makes for one’s art.

On Scenes: Tidbit from Screenwriting Instructor Rick Reichman

April 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

“The most important element in a  scene is emotion. You have to get the audience to feel what you want them to feel.” —Rick Reichman.

The question is, what do I want them to feel?

Screenwriting instructor Rick Reichman gave a one hour workshop at Bookworks bookstore in Albuquerque, NM. According to Reichman, the American movie is the most popular type of movie in the world, and the reason is what he calls the “Hollywood Script Structure.” This structure is all about scenes, self-contained little stories in and of themselves that are centered on a particular theme or action and contain a beginning, a middle, a climax, and an end.

Each scene contains 7 elements:

  1. Bridging In—Where and when is the scene taking place.
  2. Conflict—Person vs. self, person vs. external, person vs. another person.
  3. Set up—The  direction that the audience initially thinks the scene is going.
  4. Characterization—A little more that is revealed about the characters in the scene.
  5. Exposition—Characters’ backstory, relationships, baggage.
  6. Reversal—Surprising, yet logical turn of events or emotion.
  7. Bridging Out —Once the reversal has caused the emotional reaction, get out.

A lot of what works in a screenplay works in a novel, too. I thought about the scenes in my novel and asked myself, do they contain conflict?  Most of them do, except for a couple of scenes that had been bugging me, and I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know why: no conflict. The scenes had been exciting for me to write because they are about experiences that I have never had before, and would really like to have, but that’s my conflict. Not my hero’s. So I’ll be fixing those scenes, in the next rewrite.

Rick Reichman is the author of Formatting Your Screenplay and 20 Things You Must Know To Write A Great Screenplay, available at Bookworks, http://www.bkwrks.com, and on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com. Visit his website at http://www.rickreichman.com.

Reichman will also speak at the upcoming Writers Conference at UNM Continuing Education, April 21st, 2012. Visit http://dce.unm.edu.

Southwest Writers Meeting Tidbit, Events for Writers in April

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

“There comes that time when you go from I want to be a writer to I have to be a writer.” —Shirley Raye Redmond.

Yeah, I think I’m there.

Author Shirley Raye Redmond spoke at the Southwest Writers Meeting in Albuquerque about “The Top 10 Worst Mistakes a Writer Can Make.” A successful writer, said Redmond, must be as smart as the successful cat burglar, á la  Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Both must have plenty of nerve and choose their targets carefully, among other things. My favorite tip from Redmond’s talk of what not to do: “Not setting aside specific time to write.” I have found it imperative to block off time in my day planner every day for “write,” just like I do for “go to the gym” or “meet ‘T’ for lunch.” Otherwise, “write” is out of sight, of zero priority, and just doesn’t happen.

Some other great writing events coming up in Albuquerque in the month of April:

April 12th, 2012: Screenwriting Workshop With Rick Reichman, Author of 20 Things You Must Know To Write A Great Screenplay, 7:00 p.m., Bookworks on Rio Grande Blvd. Visit http://www.bkwrks.com

Cover of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:...

Cover via Amazon

April 13th–15th, 2012: Poets and Writers Film Festival, Guild Cinema in Nob Hill. Includes showings of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Barton Fink. Visit http://www.guildcinema.com

April 17th, 2012: Inspiration, Responsibility and Troublemaking, Southwest Writers meeting with talk by poet Stewart Warren, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., New Life Presbyterian Church, Members free, guests $5. Visit http://www.southwestwriters.com

April 21st, 2012: Writers Conference, UNM Continuing Education, Meet agents and editors, learn from successful authors, 8:30am – 4:30pm, UNM Continuing Ed building on University Blvd, Tuition $150.00. Visit http://dce.unm.edu

April 29th, 2012: I’ll Drink To That, Poetry and Music series, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Nexus Brewery, http://www.immastar.com

Week Fourteen: Writing While on Travel, ABC’s New Show Scandal

April 9, 2012 § 5 Comments

April 8, 2012

I took my next Goodreads Challenge book on a business trip and had plenty of time to read—on the plane, during the three-hour car ride. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really get into the book and it went straight into the Friends of the Library donation pile when I got home. But I finished the Rolling Stone issue with Bruce Springsteen on the cover, where he talks about the incomparable, late Clarence Clemons, and I relived that time in my tween years when I used to listen to the Born to Run album over and over.

Even during my business trip, I wrote every day. I secured my notes in a CVS folder and tucked the folder safely in my satchel that never left my side, and at night pulled it out the minute I latched the hotel door shut behind me and deposited all my luggage on the floor. I never used to write when I was on a trip, so now I know I’m serious about all of this. I’m still one week behind my planner-inked schedule, but I am on the home stretch. I just keep in mind the advice I’ve gained from Southwest Writers instructor Kirt Hickman: don’t stop to edit, don’t stop to research, don’t stop to find the perfect word, just get it all down.

The new TV show, Scandal, is my new obsession. Created by Shonda Rhimes of  Grey’s Anatomy fame, it premiered last Thursday on ABC and I am totally addicted. The lead character, played by Kerry Washington, is based on real-life crisis manager Judy Smith. This show has everything I love: compelling story; fast-paced action; sharp, witty dialogue; exciting reveals; lovable, distinctive, flawed characters; surprising twists; and themes that dovetail beautifully into the characters’ internal struggle in the resolution. Check it out!!!


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