Archives for category: writing

I’m just going to drop this in here. A Brainpickings article about Timeless Advice On Writing . Those of us who write need more little gems like this right now. It can be difficult for me to write sometimes, when I’m stressed out. These difficult times we’re all feeling our way through are certainly stressful. We don’t know from one second to the next what announcement may burst out through the news. A new death toll. A dreaded lockdown. Some new vector that scares us all into pretending we’re not as afraid as we are. Sometimes we may take a breath between those ticking seconds and think of other things. Better things. The writing life whose normal state of chaos may give us moments of peace and even joy, and hope for days to come when we can see our precious world in its new now, as it emerges from the dark clouds. Famous writers giving us advice from the distant past or the present that is so very close to us right now that they seem to be reaching out to hold our hand, give us comfort, renew our strength. Reach. Write. Hope. The future lies tantalizingly close.

Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers

After sitting 2018 out, from all screenwriting competitions, then being back last year to become a Big Break Semifinalist, I’ve gone for broke in this year’s Nicholl. I’ve pushed right up to the limit, with three drama entries. My life’s in a good place this year. Better than in a long time, in fact. This leads me to hope that if I get three emails with disappointing results, perhaps in a grocery store parking lot as has been known to happen in the past, those blows will be easier to withstand. I love screenwriting and entering competitions just as much as ever, but that’s now colored through through a lens that makes screenwriting and writing in general an important part of day to day existence, but an integrated part of a broader whole. It’s as if the landscape of my life has flowered into something different, with familiar landmarks joined by new ones of enticing promise. Promise, hope, anticipation of things yet undiscovered…life, screenwriting\writing…faith that the best is yet to come.

I’ve come hard up against a writerly situation that I can’t quite figure out. This comes from the part of my life that’s as a published author, not the write, submit, rinse, repeat part. When one of my stories was published by a prominent magazine, reactions by reviewers and regular (as opposed to irregular?) readers were split right down the middle. The first review I read was negative, and to me seemed mean spirited. It basically accused the story of using dialogue to info dump, annoy, and offend the delicate sensibilities of discerning consumers of fine science fiction. The half that were positive reactions mean the world to me, as they were lovely and insightful. If only human nature would always skew toward the positive. Instead, while I treasure the wonderful reactions, the negative ones nag at the back of my mind.

The major nag is an almost subconscious stream of consciousness pondering of the process of short story writing and aftermath–ing. The way I see it, there are two ways to project story from the writer’s mind to the readers’. One is exposition. I’m of the less is more school on this one. The idea of subtlety allowing…forcing…a collaboration between the imaginations of writer and reader is so appealing to me. I’ve always loved that experience as a reader, though I enjoy the more wordy authors too. One of my favorites, Virginia Woolf, wrote prose of great beauty, using her particular kind of magic to still leave room for reader imagination participation in among gorgeous foot long sentences. But we can’t all be Virginia Woolf. In fact, none of us can. Which is as it should be. We can only be ourselves. Write our best. Leave the rest to collective imagination. And hope for the moments when one instance of meeting of the minds or a collective experience reaches near zeitgeist status…in a good way.

The other way of expelling story from one brain to another is through dialogue. I’m big on that one. Some readers love it, others apparently really don’t. The beauty of dialogue…is the opportunity to create beautiful dialogue. I’m far from claiming that my characters’ conversations are always like jewels dripping from their papery tongues. Or often. But sometimes…sometimes…. The things characters say to each other can do so much more than move story along. They tell their own stories of personality, hardship, joy, courage, and honor. You can either have characters express themselves as only they can or sometimes clumsily try to force your vision of their lives into a reader’s head. The reader may resist. The character may as well. Then nobody is happy, fictional or flesh and blood.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to just carry on, writing what I want and how I want, and trust that the readers who get it will enjoy what they’ve read so much that they think about it long after the last word has drifted across the bridge from my mind to theirs. The ones who don’t get it aren’t going to suddenly stop looking for things to dislike. They’ll be the way they are whether I try to change my weird, wonderful way of writing by instinct or write the way I love and keep loving it. So I’m who I am, they’re who they are, and that’s fine.

I think that maybe when you write fiction for long enough, you come to care about your characters as much as you care about the real people that pass through your life. You listen to them. You watch them. If you’re lucky they don’t judge too harshly. And if you’re really lucky they build their own bridge between minds. And hearts. Then you know you’ve done your job as a writer, and what critics say fades into the background. If, sometimes, it doesn’t, it makes you more determined to do the best you can. Better than you can. Being better than you think you can is like armor. Armor that creaks and sometimes rusts, but stands strong. Just be prepared to fall while wearing it. Getting back up is a nightmare, but the entire process of the writing life can be the stuff of dreams.

Very happy to announce that my 2019 Big Break Screenwriting Contest entry has made the cut to Semifinalist! I just realized I’m smiling as I type. Screenwriting is such a cool thing to do. Being recognized for it is even cooler.

Grateful.

I’m very happy to announce that my drama feature entry is a 2019 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest Quarter-Finalist.

As I’ve written about in some previous posts, it’s difficult to deal with the years when nothing happens. In 2017 nothing happened, because I decided to sit out the screenwriting competitions to destress. It helped and this year I entered the Nicholl and Big Break. Not getting any positive reads in the Nicholl was disappointing and discouraging. So I seriously braced myself when the Big Break QF email came. It was such a wonderful feeling to get that reassuring, validating, thrilling moment of seeing my name and title as a Quarter-Finalist.

As the saying goes, I can dine on that for quite some time. I never stop believing in myself, but that belief gets shakey sometimes depending on how hard the winds of defeat try to blow me over. I really like this place where anything can happen and if I go right back into the doldrums that’s okay too. I’ve had the reminder that I know what I’m doing and love doing it. 

Now, I get to look forward to the upcoming Semifinals announcement. Whatever my result in that, I’m so proud to be a 2019 Big Break Quarter-Finalist.

This is one of those years that make me want to just pretend I didn’t enter the Nicholl, maybe even pretend it doesn’t exist. No entry, no results, no blog post.

But, it does and I did, so here it is. 2019 is one of the rare times when neither of my two feature length screenplay entries moved the needle at all. Not a single positive read. There’s usually at least one, often more.

There. It’s out.

This blog is intended to not only cover the good things that happen to me, but also the not so good to out right bad. The good for obvious reasons. The bad so someone else dealing with something hard in their lives may stumble across it and feel a little better being reminded that we’re not in whatever it is alone. Sometimes just thinking of even one stranger sharing our pain or disappointment from afar can make enough of a difference to actually help. From Alzheimer’s caregiving, to grief, to the events that take peripheral positions to that kind of thing, we all carry burdens. Even if the “only” burden you carry today is a disappointment, a setback in your writing life, don’t ever forget that’s a legitimate thing to deal with. In some ways it’s actually a grief within itself. We put our whole selves into our scripts and stories and novels and poems. Of course the setbacks are hard to deal with.

This year I have an “advantage”. A compressed sciatic nerve is pretty much consuming my life. That kind of physical pain can outscream just about anything else. So, I was upset about my screenplays performing so poorly, especially after doing so well other years, for a few hours, then shrugged it off and carried on, as must be done when you’re addicted to screenwriting competitions.

We carry on, while running an internal question-with-no-answers session involving a loop of “why?”, “how?”, and “when will things turn back around?”. We think and hope and wonder, and keep on writing and learning and dreaming. That’s the writer’s life. Sometimes we curse it . Hopefully, briefly. The rest of the time we love it. We live it. We make happen whatever we can. If all we can make happen is our writing world, that’s enough. Where else would we want to be?

After sitting out last year’s screenwriting competitions, I’ve entered two this year. I have two dramas in the Nicholl and a drama in Big Break. 

It’s interesting how deciding to forego the stress that comes with waiting for, then getting the responses for a year sort of rebooted the experience for me. For whatever reason, some years I do better than others. I can’t make sense of the very real fact that the same script can do really well, even several times in a row, then suddenly tank another year. It may well get a good response the very next year. Or not. 

Eventually, the see saw burnt me out to the point that removing myself from it seemed like the best move. Takng care of my mom for so long, then finally getting us both through the end of her life introduced an element of deeper stress than I’ve ever experienced. It will be three years since her death in July. I’ve realized that recovering from all that will take me as long as it takes me. Basically, I need to rest. A lot. I have and I do and I can feel it helping. 

I can also feel that taking last year off from screenwriting competitions helped too. I feel more normal now about anticipating whatever happens, and accepting it as part of the experience that’s mostly enjoyable. So onward, hopefully upward, and always loving screenwriting.