Thurs. March 12, 2015: Post-Birthday Adjustments

Thursday, March 12, 2015
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and mild
Will

Busy few days, but good ones. I had Saturday off, so we ran errands. Those included going to Country Gardens and buying a primrose, a hyacinth, and a new aloe plant. And a yoga frog.

The books arrived for judging. I’m judging three categories: mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and novella. Most of them came in print, but nearly a dozen of them, this year, came as digital files. I sorted them, double checked them against the submission sheet, and have questions on the whereabouts of a few. I got started on them.

Here are a few tips: If your title runs 17 words, it’s a blurb, not a title. They serve very different functions. No one’s going to remember an overly long title, and you won’t be able to hold their attention long enough to care.

Get a professional to edit, or, at the very least, proofread. When there are a dozen typos in the first five pages and the sentence structure makes no sense, you’re putting up a barrier between the reader and the story.

I realize we all have pieces we’d like to do “in our vision” based on someone else’s world, but if you’re going to do that, at least make it original enough so it doesn’t scream “fan fiction”. Changing names is not enough.

Start at the beginning of what’s interesting to the reader, not where you had to write your way in. You needed to write it. Your readers don’t need it. Learn about structure, so that when you deviate, it’s clear that it’s a choice that strengthens your work, not just ignorance or laziness.

Read William Goldman’s WHICH LIE DID I TELL? and ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, both of as much or more value than attending film school. He talks about the realities of screenwriting. Although the industry is changing, many of the caveats are the same. And a well-written screenplay still requires the same structure and commitment. Film is a visual medium. Yes, you drive it with dialogue and character, but the visuals are important. That doesn’t mean a ton of description and camera angles — you don’t do the director’s and DP’s jobs for them. But it means thinking in terms of action as well as dialogue.

The more I work across formats, the more I realize the importance of understanding the format in which you’re telling your story. Prose is vitally different from stage play which is different from screenplay which is different from hour-long TV format which is different from half hour. Each has different needs. If you can’t meet those needs as a writer, you don’t get hired (or at least hired often).

Had lunch with a friend at the Dolphin in Barnstable on Monday, which was a lot of fun. We always have plenty to talk about. Ran into someone with whom I work at the library.

Finished watching Season 6 of WEST WING and started SEASON 7. Watched AUSTENLAND, which was a lot of fun, and PAGE EIGHT, the first Johnny Worricker (David Hare wrote and directed the whole trilogy), which I think is my favorite of the three.

Did the second and third drafts of the radio play, LIGHT BEHIND THE EYES. I still have to cut a page and a half. My instinct is to cut it out of the dance lesson scene and lose a beat where he talks about church. It worked the way I had the scene before, but with the beats I cut from the scene, I feel it weighs the scene down.

It goes off to readers today and sits for two weeks, then I do another pass, register it with the Guild, and send it off. It’s in BBC format, which takes up more room on the page than any of the US formats, hence the extra cuts, since the place to which I’m sending has strict page requirements.

I have to finish a student manuscript this weekend and tackle both the screenplay and BALTHAZAAR. I pick up the microfilm and microfiche machines on Monday, and then I’ll spend a good portion of next week with the Pinkerton case file films, researching the history play.

I have two Board meetings next week, library meetings, and a training session. It will be busy.

The snow is shrinking, which is better than melting into a big puddle of goop. The skylights on the deck are clear, and the street is almost down to asphalt. The town finally sent a truck to do some scraping on the ice ruts yesterday.

Yesterday was my birthday. I had the day off and was very self-indulgent, although the cats woke me early. I read a lot and ate too much. We had lunch at Siena, one of my favorite places, and then steak dinner. And, of course, chocolate mousse birthday cake. I’m in a much better place this year than I was last year, and I’m grateful. But there’s still a lot to do.

I have to get back into library mode for the rest of the week. Lots to do, and programs to promote, and the like.

It’s been warm enough to sit on the deck and read in the afternoons, which I love. We’re supposed to get another cold snap next week, but then, I hope we’re done with winter.

Devon