On the Writing Front

Lest you think Laura and I aren’t writing any more, we sort of aren’t. But that doesn’t mean we’re not working.

One of our scripts made the quarter finalist list on Scriptapalooza’s Screenplay Contest. We didn’t get to semi-finalist, but we keep trying. Sometime in December we are supposed to get some feedback about the script from the people who read it. That will be very helpful.

We also entered the same script in Final Draft’s Big Break contest and made the quarter finalist list. We didn’t get to semi-finalist in that contest either, but someone who was one of the judges for another category asked to see the whole script based on the log line. We sent it off that Friday afternoon (people read scripts over the weekend) but haven’t heard anything since.

We had been asked to write that movie script by a producer we know. It was on spec (we didn’t get paid to write it) and we liked it so much we registered it with the Screen Writers Guild of which Laura is a member. That means we own that script. We had another idea about how the script might be tweaked for TV and pitched it to the producer. He liked the idea and pitched it to some other producers. That project has generated some interest and now we have more research to do.

I can’t tell you any more about the project at this point, but if something begins to happen, I’ll let you know. It’s exciting, but we’ve been excited before so I haven’t bought that expensive bottle of celebration wine – yet.

Note: We thought our play, The Santa Diaries, was going to be produced by The St. Michaels Community Center this year, but despite a lot of hard work, they weren’t able to cast the male lead. Everyone else was in place.

Dancing Santa

They’ve got a year to find someone to play Will for 2017. They really want to do the show and we really want it to be back home in the community that inspired the original idea.

Work Hard, Play Harder

Laura and I have started a new project. We are taking the script of #Santa and turning it into a novel — probably Chick Lit if you need a genre classification. And we decided the story arc won’t be focused on Christmas. It’s the wacky characters that will keep the story going.

Anyway, we spent three days last week figuring out what we wanted to do. We took the script, which is essentially dialogue, thought about where scenes needed to be added, and how we wanted to expand characters. A novel gives us so much room to explore inside characters’ brains.

The challenge is to put in the details that novelization requires. In a movie script you give some broad strokes and the director and his staff make the decisions about what a room looks like or the kinds of clothes a character wears. Now we have to make those decisions and write the descriptions. I actually like this process since when I’m writing I’m watching a movie playing in my head. I just have to write down what I see. And both Laura and I have learned that what’s really important is to get something written. You can tweak, rearrange, or delete later, but getting the ideas down on “paper”, even if you think what you’re writing sucks, is what you have to do.

We made enough progress that we will be able to meet for lunch this week and assign scenes we will each write. Our process is that we then pass them back to one another and overwrite. Because our writing styles are quiet similar, this makes for a fairly seamless product. I don’t think readers can tell who wrote what. When the first draft is completed we’ll start moving things around. Sometimes you just have to read the whole thing to see where the problems are.

At noon on the third day we finished what we had set out to do and decided to play. We went to lunch and then explored consignment shops and antique stores. Laura was ready to buy a pair of love seats for her house and asked the price. “They’re sold,” she was told. She thought they were kidding until two big guys walked in and walked the love seats out of the shop. If we’d been there an hour earlier, they might have been hers.

IMG_0945

We had fun trying on shoes, hats and clothes. It’s the kind of thing our husbands don’t like to do, but was a perfect guilty pleasure for a couple of gals on a ramble after doing some creative work. Don’t you just love this hat.  I’d love to know its backstory. Who the heck wore this and where? Hmmm…that could be the beginning of another novel.

 

 

Dialogue When a Character Can’t Speak

Before Laura and I worked yesterday she showed me the photo of the Easter eggs she and her husband made. She said they organized all the necessary components for dyeing eggs she’d boiled the day before. They had a pizza delivered, and then they made martinis and started coloring eggs. I imagine just about any activity is more fun with martinis. She said next year she’s having an Easter Egg Party. That sounds like fun.

Easter eggs don’t really have anything to do with script writing, but we usually spend the first ten minutes of each work session bringing each other up to date on what’s happened in our lives.

eggs - Laura

Yesterday we worked on a script after lunch, tweaking dialogue according to notes we got a week ago. We’re making progress.

A challenge with this script is that one of the characters can’t talk because he lost his tongue to cancer. Mute characters make dialogue tricky. The notes we got wanted us to ramp up the conflict between two of the characters; when one of them can’t speak we have limited options. He can write a note or someone else can speak for him. Or he can act his ass off. Maybe we can give him a bell or buzzer like that character in Breaking Bad. If this gets made into a movie, it will be a fabulous part for somebody.

We should probably watch The Piano, a film in which Holly Hunter plays a mute woman. However, she can sign. I remember that as being one of the most depressing movies I’d seen. Everyone came out of the theater silent and downcast. It won three Academy Awards out of ten nominations. So much for my discriminating taste.

Writing In Between Life Happening

All of us who write have other commitments in our lives. Finding time to write is a pressing problem for those of us who have full time jobs, and families. I consider my volunteering a full-time job. This is what I will be in charge of this week.

2014 sale photo 2Consignment Capers is a St. Michaels Woman’s Club fund-raiser that funds our annual 6K scholarship to a St. Michaels High School Senior and other civic outreach programs. We like to think it’s several notches above a flea market. Pictured above are just some of last year’s sale items.

People bring their unused things and the club sells them at a two day event. 50% to the consignee and 50% to the club. It’s a win-win. De-clutter your house, get some money and help send a kid to college, fund the local food bank, etc. My co-chair says it’s like waiting for D-Day. Perhaps a little perspective is needed.

I am a full-time retired person. Retired doesn’t mean I don’t work; it means I don’t get a pay check. I seem to be busier than ever, but on the plus side I have the luxury of being able to schedule my time. Volunteer activities intrude on writing, however, often as much as a paying job.

Like most writers, Laura and I have to shoehorn writing into our busy lives. Lunch times when Laura can get an hour or two away from the office and weekends if her husband is flying. My schedule is more flexible.

The planning of this Consignment event has taken up a lot of my time for the past month. Laura is busy with her business, but we are on to a new project – turning our scripts into e-Scripts and putting them up on Kindle. The idea is that you can read a script almost like a book, and in a lot less time. The reader can visualize her own movie.

Laura is having way too much fun designing covers and I’m turning the scripts into epub files on Calibre. A new skill set for me. We have a total of seven scripts and one play that we can put on Kindle. We might as well get them out there since no studios are knocking on the door – yet!

After Consignment Capers is over, shoehorning in time to write will continue as Spring is on the way and soon I’ll be back in the garden.

If you’re a script writer, have you considered putting your scripts on Amazon’s Kindle? We’d love to know about your experience.

 

My Critique Group

Last night was the monthly meeting of my critique group, the Working Writer’s Forum, that both Laura and I belong to. It’s where we met and started working together. For the last five years almost all of my writing has been done with Laura and most of it has been screenplays.

script notations

Since Laura has been very busy with her day job, I recently pulled out the first chapters of the third novel in my Caribbean series. I last worked on it almost seven years ago, but like to think I am a better writer now, so I submitted the first 25 pages to the group.

One of our rules is that you have to say some nice things before you make helpful suggestions. So my writing friends said some nice things, and then pointed out that I had forgotten some fundamental rules and made some beginner mistakes.

“I don’t know what these characters look like,” one of my critique group said. Of course I knew what they all looked like. They’d already been in two books. How could I have forgotten to describe Lissa and Yvie except to say they had green eyes?

Another reminded me that “she said” suffices most of the time. Descriptions of how someone says something is not usually needed.

“How about something more exciting in the first couple of pages, a hook for the reader,” a third person suggested. I thought I had a hook, but obviously it was too many pages into the first chapter.

As we went around the able, a number of the group noted some problems with dialogue so I went searching for help. The Writer’s Digest had some suggestions on their website.

“If you want to learn how to write effective dialogue, study the best plays and films. If possible, study dialogue both in performance (live or video) and in print. Read plays and screenplays to get the feel of writing on the page.

And, in the best scripts, what writing it is—pure dialogue unadulterated by music, actor expression, pictures, or narrative transition supplied by an author. Read it aloud to get a flavor of the emotion contained within the word choice made by the writer of the screenplay. Playwrights and screenwriters who succeed at their craft are probably the best writers of dialogue you can study. By looking at such refined gold, you can learn more than from any ten books that tell you how to write dialogue.”

Well, duh, Laura and I have been writing dialogue for several years now. I should be able to do this better. I am grateful to my critique group for letting me know there are things I need to attend to. The pages I sent for last night’s meeting were a reworking of what I had written all those years ago. I need to scrap that version and start from scratch.

When our moderator called for submissions for our next meeting, I said I’d like to submit a reworked draft of my novel’s opening pages. That gives me a goal with a deadline…thanks to my critique group the Working Writer’s Forum.

 

 

At Christmas We Believe

I have a Santa decoration that lives in my kitchen year round.

At Christmas I Believe

The wine cork ornament was a gift from the mother of the little boy who played Timmy in The Santa Diaries premier in Easton, Maryland in 2012. For Christmas last year Laura gave me the Believe ornament which I immediately hung on Santa’s hand. We believed that our movie script would get bought in 2014. Didn’t happen, but we continue to believe that it will happen at some point. Einstein told us time is fluid… in Hollywood.

When we went to Faribault, MN to see the third production of The Santa Diaries I came home with several additions to hang on my Santa.

Santa I Believe for blog

The red ball was a handmade ornament by Stephanie Weiss who played Martha in the Merlin Players production. The Santa riding a reindeer hanging below the red ball was a gift from the local thrift shop. Laura and I were perusing their wares and the gal at the counter was so thrilled to meet us she asked us each to choose an ornament to take home as a remembrance. The big Santa hanging on the right was in the large basket of Minnesota goodies that the Merlin Players Board of Directors had put in our room at The Loft.

The only problem now is that it is getting difficult to open the cupboard to the right of the Santa. It’s where the plates and bowls are stored so I am in it several times a day.

Any inconvenience is worth it, however, as I see these reminders every day and remember the joy of each production of our play. It’s a way of celebrating every day of the year.

As Josh Shankman says in our play, “Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Feliz Navidad, Happy Kwanza or whatever politically correct holiday you people celebrate. It’s all good!”

Laura and I send our wishes for joy, peace and love in this very special season of the year. Re: selling a movie script…there’s always next year. At Christmas we believe.

We Talk to a Brown Bag

Last week Laura and I gave a talk at a brown bag lunch at the St. Michaels, Maryland library, a branch of the Talbot County library. We had been asked several months before to speak about how our book, The Santa Diaries: Memories of a Small-town Christmas, had been turned into a play and then a screenplay. Usually these talks seem like a good idea at the time we’re asked, but the week before we always wonder if we were nuts to agree. This talk, however, was different.

Santa Diaries Cover JPEG

Preparing our notes helped us remember the writing path we’ve been on for the last couple of years. All things Christmas. And we loved sharing the story of this writing journey which has been full of creativity, occasional angst, and a lot of joy.

We put together photos and slides of the journey and Shauna Beulah, the librarian, managed the computer for us, making sure the right ones got on the screen at the right time. We even were able to play The Santa Diaries trailer that Laura made on Animoto. It always makes me tear up.

The brown bags are held once a month and usually feature a local topic. It might be local history, an environmental issue, blue crab recipes, and the occasional author. This is Laura, me, and Shauna.

Laura, Mal, Shauna

The library takes good care of the people who show up. I didn’t see anybody with a brown bag lunch, but there was coffee, tea and somebody had baked goodies. The St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Library system is my local library. They take good care of us.

refreshments

There were thirty copies left of The Santa Diaries book that we did for Christmas in St. Michaels. Once they are gone, there will be no more. I sold 13 of those 30 copies at this talk. All the monies go to the charities supported by Christmas in St. Michaels. Now I am shamelessly carrying the last few with me everywhere I go.

We had a great time remembering the writing work we’ve done the last few years and sharing the journey. No angst. Just joy!