Write on Wednesday – Gratitude – November 21, 2018

This week I finished the first revision of my novel. I am full of gratitude to Mary Ann who read and commented on all the things that needed to be fixed. The plot points that never went anywhere, the parts where I was writing in “screenplay” and forgetting that my reader can’t see what’s in my head, and, especially, for letting me know what worked. If you’re a writer, you know the importance of that last thing.

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The stack is almost two inches tall. Four hundred and twelve pages in fifty-two chapters.  It is going to be set aside for a time while a do an editing project for my husband. And travel with Laura Ambler to our Christmas shows in Indiana, Minnesota and Maine. And bake Christmas cookies. Then I will dig back in and read the manuscript with fresh eyes for changes, deletions and polishes before it goes to Mary Ann again for another pass.

Tomorrow I will be taking appetizers and two apple pies to our family Thanksgiving get-together.

I wish everyone safe travels and a lovely holiday. Hug those you love and even the ones you don’t because of what they post on FaceBook. Remember the ones not at the table this year and be grateful for family — even when that’s hard.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Lyrics In Books: Your Questions Answered – November 12, 2018

A couple of years ago Laura Ambler and I wrote a movie script about Adam Lambert and his time on American Idol in 2009. It was Season 8 and Adam was the runner-up that year.

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The script was about some Glamberts who were determined to attend the final show in the competition and meet Adam. As we researched the songs he sang on Idol we were stunned at how the lyrics spoke to the personal issues in our characters lives. So we put some of them in the script.

Later we realized we couldn’t shop the script unless we had permission to use the song lyrics. And we never could quite figure out the rules. Until this weekend when there was a blog post on BookBaby that tells you exactly what you can and cannot do in your writing.   Kudos to Scott McCormick  for pulling it all together and making it clear.  I printed out the post and put it in my file with the script which will probably stay in the drawer. (I’ve published a number of our scripts on Kindle, but not that one. We’d get sued.)

P.S. While I was trying to find a photo of Adam Lambert I could use (this one came from his FaceBook page) I discovered that Adam has been touring with Queen for the past six years as the band’s frontman. I guess if I was a Glambert I would have know that.

Laura and I had just seen the movie Rhapsody this week. It was amazing! Adam is a great singer but no one will ever be as good as  Freddie Mercury.

Adam played a cameo in the movie. The blink-and-you-miss-it moment happened during a scene where Mercury (played by Oscar deserving Rami Malek) is at a truck stop on Queen’s first-ever North American tour. He calls fiance Mary Austin (played by Lucy Boynton) from a pay phone for a quick check-in while a suitor (Lambert) is waiting for a public restroom hookup in the background.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Countdown – October 31, 2018

A FaceBook post from a cast member in the new play, A Christmas Wedding, that blocking for the play was complete got me thinking about how playwrights turn their babies over to directors, cast and crew.  It’s an open adoption of Laura’s and my work. We’ll get to see how the baby is raised but someone else is now doing the heavy lifting. Getting the show on its feet and ready for the curtain to go up. It’s a thousand details and, I expect, some sleepless nights for the director.

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When I think about those details a wave of anxiety (okay a small tsunami) washes over me before I remind myself that every single one of the people involved in the new show and the original want each performance to be the best it can be.

We, the playwrights, have a vision and the words we’ve written must stay the same. That’s in the contract.  But that’s where any control we might have ends. Each director has a vision, an interpretation of our words and how they instruct the actors to say them. The blocking can make a difference and put a slightly different spin on the characters. The set and costumes are part of that spin. Every production is different and that makes each unique.

Of course my writing partner, Laura Ambler, and I are going to see the shows. We have a busy December planned. On Friday, November 30 we fly to Indiana. That night we’ll see the opening performance of The Santa Diaries in Crawfordsville, Indiana produced by the Sugar Creek Players and performed in the Vanity Theater. Directed by Keith Strain  and produced by Kym Bushong.

On Friday, December 7 we fly to Faribault, Minnesota and that night will see the premier of A Christmas Wedding: Santa Diaries Two performed by the Merlin Players at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Julianna Skluzacek is the director.

And on Friday, December 14 we fly to Bath, Maine to see Chocolate Church Arts Center’s opening performance of The Santa Diaries, directed by Dennis St. Pierre.

At each venue we’ll see two performances. It will be exciting to see our babies all grown up. Laura and I are filled with gratitude to all the people involved in producing our plays, and humbled by the dedication of time and talent that goes into each production.

To paraphrase Tiny Tim, “God bless you, every one. You are awesome!”

 

Write on Wednesday – What You See Is What You Get – October 24, 2018

An establishing shot in a movie or teleplay script tells where the subsequent action takes place. What you see is what you get. The New York City skyline shown at the beginning of Blue Bloods lets the viewer know the action takes place in New York City. Because I watch this show, I also know that when I see a shot of the brick facade of a traditional style home in an upscale neighborhood, the subsequent action is taking place inside Frank Reagan’s home in an unnamed suburb of the city.

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In a novel, if there is a Welcome mat and a wreath on the front door, you must tell the reader. Is the door painted an unusual color? Is the mat clean and new or ready for the trash bin? Is the wreath on the door seasonal, letting the reader know it’s Christmas or Halloween or Spring?  Does the shrubbery outside the front door indicate Spring while the wreath on the door says Christmas?

In narrative fiction you tell or show the reader where the action is taking place. If you don’t the reader gets confused and readers don’t like that. If they get confused too many times they’ll give you a bad review on Amazon.

In the revisions of my novel this is coming up over and over again. Apparently when I wrote the novel draft I was in screen play mode. I knew where the action was taking place — in my head. But sometimes I forgot to tell the reader.

In a screen play or teleplay you write in the words Establishing Shot: New York City and you’re all set. The viewer will get visual cues.

In narrative fiction you establish the setting with words. The visual cues are in the authors mind and must be put into words. This also provides an opportunity to expand information about your characters. Here’s an example:

“Martie wrestled a bag of groceries from the back seat of her vintage Candy Apple red Beetle–an expensive custom paint job she had come to regret. As she headed for the suburban home’s front door she noted the weeds in the flower beds along the brick walkway and realized she needed to call the gardening service in her sister’s address book. She opened the door with the key Julie gave her six months ago. Just three days before her sister disappeared.”

In a screen play the director figures out how to show the information in this paragraph or the writer puts it in dialogue. Phone dialogue between Martie and the detective assigned to her sister’s case could fill in some details. There could be a close-up shot of a calendar with the date of Julie’s disapearance circled in red.

As I revise my novel I have to keep reminding myself that what the reader reads is what the reader gets. It’s my job to make sure they have enough, but not too much. Enough so they can be in the scene, but not so much that it makes the writing ponderous.

If the paragraph above was the beginning of a novel I’d better make sure that a Candy Apple red beetle is important to the story. As I reread what I wrote I immediately began spinning off into another story. Focus your squirrel brain, Mala. Focus! You have a Caribbean novel to finish.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Wattpad – October 3, 2018

I’ve been seeing references to Wattpad as I look for ways to plan marketing for my upcoming book. Here’s information I pulled together from Google and Wikipedia. It sounds interesting.

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“Wattpad is a community for readers and writers to publish new user-generated stories in different genres, including classics, general fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fanfiction, spiritual, humor, and teen fiction.  It aims to create social communities around stories for both amateur and established writers.”

“The platform claims to have an audience of more than 65 million users, who can directly interact with the writers and share their opinions with fellow readers. Although available in over 50 languages, 77% of its content is written in English. A number of Wattpad users are translating stories to continue to build the platform.”

“Founded with Ivan Yuen in 2006, Wattpad is removing traditional barriers between readers and writers and building social communities around stories. Wattpad asserts it is the world’s largest community of readers and writers.”

“All the stories on Wattpad are free. Readers don’t have to pay to join the site (or download the app), or to read any of those 3 million stories (which can also be read on any computer, laptop, or tablet). But they’re not just reading, they are writing too.”

“Wattpad Premium is a subscription-based version of Wattpad. It’s the same Wattpad you know and love, without the ads. Premium users will also unlock a fresh new theme within the app.”

“As per the Terms of Service, Wattpad is only available for people who are 13 years of age or older.”

“Through the Wattpad Futures program, interested writers can supplement their income with little effort. The program helps writers earn money by inserting ads between chapters of their Wattpad story.”

I also found a blog post about how one writer decided Wattpad was not a good idea for him.

Wattpad may be a good tool for some writers, so check it out to see if it might work for you. I’m on the fence.

Write on Wednesday – My Brain Is a Many Storied Thing – September 26, 2018

Lately I’ve been thinking about my brain as a department store with multiple stories. It has an elevator with an operator who takes me to different floors.  If you’re not old enough to remember elevator operators in their perky uniforms, you’ve probably seen them in movies. Second floor – Ladies apparel. Third Floor – Men’s Haberdashery. Fourth floor – Home Furnishings. The elevator operator knew what was on all the floors and was happy to answer questions. Something was lost when escalators and self-guided elevators became the norm.

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I’ve realized that while I am doing all the other things I do during the course of my life, my brain is navigating the department store that is my novel revision. The store has a lot of floors, one for each of the many characters in my book, and the elevator is whizzing up and down trying to keep details straight. It’s best if that happens when I’m at my computer. If I’m not and I wonder if what Yvie said in Chapter Two is consistent with what she tells her twin sister three scenes later, I have to stop what I’m doing – like folding laundry – and go to my computer to find the two relevant places in the text.

Folding laundry is easy to stop and restart. Searing scallops for dinner is another matter.  That requires me to hold a thought until I can write it down. Scallops do not wait. And my brain elevator may get stuck between floors.

Those niggly details pop up at unexpected times and demand attention.  Sometimes the scribbled notes I made don’t make any sense. Why can’t my  elevator operator take notes? Which makes me wonder — is this the sort of thing I could tell Alexa, if I had one?

My department store brain also has a basement, but the elevator operator – his name is Bob – doesn’t like to go down there. Bob says sometimes the elevator goes there all on its own and weird stuff gets on. I have known that to happen.