Posts tagged writing
Posts tagged writing
This is the full version of Elizabeth Hirst’s Sheridan College Bachelor of Arts Animation Capstone Project. I’m sharing it because it really speaks to the power of books and writing.
Film made and written by Elizabeth McLean, score composed by Dean Burry, score performed and sound editing by Bruno Degazio, narration by Trevor Rines, sound recording by Rick Andersen.
I think my fave Words for Writers are the ones where I get to answer specific questions. I got this great question and with the asker’s permission, I’m posting my response to him, with personal details omitted.
My question isn’t so much about writing as it is about self-confidence. I have a background in non-fiction writing, as well as broadcast which I think gives me a bit of a leg up in terms of honing my craft. But at the same time almost every interview I read with an author or filmmaker says “well, I’ve been doing this since I was 10” followed by “it will take you at least 10 years to get anywhere.”
All of which would be great if I was in my early 20s, but I’m 42. I know I can write….but at my age I find the “10 years of struggle” thing really, really daunting. I’ve done a fair bit of non-fiction stuff over the last 20 years and learned quite a bit about filmmaking….but I feel like somewhere I missed the window of opportunity that I needed (that might just be an irrational feeling on my part.) I will likely write anyway (because really, what choice do I have, it’s either that or endless regrets) but I was wondering if you could recommend any coping mechanisms that you used along the way, or groups you joined to keep you from giving up.
Also, you’ve mentioned your love of fan fiction. Where would be a good place to start posting fanfic?
Anyway, thanks for reading this. Hope everything is going well for you!
Wow, complicated question.
You’re right, motivation is difficult. I was lucky that I started in fanfic young, so there was always a built-in critique and support group when I started to think about being a writer. People had offered praise, comments, critiques, and I learned how to work with an editor/beta.
If you do want to post fanfic, I suggest Archive of Our Own; I really respect this site as its run by the absolutely splendid Organization of Transformative Works. Fanfiction.net and Livejournal host fanfic too, but from what I understand, a lot of those people are migrating to Archive of Our Own. I think a great place to start posting your fanfic is Tumblr, actually. There’s a growing fanfic base there. Just tag the crap out of your posts, and break up the chapters to serialize the story.
The nice thing about fanfiction is that there’s different ways to engage with the community. Some is on mailing lists, some in community journals, some in personal journals, and some on online libraries and archives. There are even still some hardcopy newsletters.
As for the “fanfic” experience without actually writing fanfic itself, there is Wattpad,and Fictionpress. Those are fanfiction-like communities (readers searching for new fic to follow, writers who post a chapter a at time/ post serialized stories, and feedback/commenters) for original fiction.
Just be aware that there may be flammers and trolls. No matter where you share your fiction (original or fanfiction), you’ll get asshats, so don’t let them get to you. I’m professionally published and I still get asshats. It’s part of being a person who shares your creative works with others, unfortunately. Luckily, you can block people on websites and in social media!
I would also carefully read the Terms of Service for any site you post your original fiction on if you plan on later pulling down the stories and sending them out to agents/publishers. I don’t say this to be paranoid, but just because I don’t personal know what’s in the TOS, which is why I’m cautioning you to read them. I don’t use either site.
For other places to put up full books and receive critique and possibly agent/publisher notice, check out Figment, Authonomy, and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. How useful each may be to you depends on how you engage with the community, and how much you are willing to do so. The first two are very community driven and people do read and comment on one another’s books.
I also recommend Miss Snark’s First Victim; Authoress has great contests that help you hone your craft, your pitch, and your writing. As of two days ago, nearly fifty people have either sold a book or signed with an agent through this site.
So there are some ways to find a critique group, and/or fast track the process beyond my other suggestions on my FAQs post.
But the thing is, there really is no way to fast track anything. By the same token, there is no guarantee that there will be a “10 years of struggle” either. A lot of that “10 years of struggle” that people are talking about is a) maturing as a person and a storyteller, b) writing shitty books that will never see the light of day in order to learn HOW to write and what kind of stories they want to tell, and to find their voice, c) learning about the industry.
And the thing is… you’ve already done some of that “10 years of struggle”. You said you’re a non-ficiton writer and a screenwriter both. So, you know how to write - you know how to construct a sentence, edit punctuation, the mechanics of writing which, believe me, is a big part of a beginning writer’s learning curve. And you know how to tell a story, because you’ve screenwritten.
Think of writing fiction like taking a university course - you’re switching majors from NonFic with a minor in Screenwriting to a major in Fiction. You have course credits that you can transfer.
So really, you’re way ahead of the game.
All you need to do now is write the novel.
Well, how to be motivated about that? I have already written a Words for Writers post about that, but if you have any more questions, feel free to ask them.
Lastly, you said that “almost every interview I read with an author or filmmaker says well, I’ve been doing this since I was 10 followed by it will take you at least 10 years to get anywhere.”
This is not always true. What they’re really talking about is putting in the work.
I know some twenty year olds who sold the very first book they wrote. I know some fifty-five year olds who sold the very first book they wrote. I know some sixty year olds who have agents and haven’t sold a thing in twenty years. I know some people who sold a book they wrote, edited and polished in a year, and I know some people who sold a book they wrote, edited, and polished over ten years. I know some people who signed an agent with their first book, and never sold that book, but sold the next six.
This has nothing to do with your age or where you are in life, and everything to do with whether you’ve written the best book you can write. If you write a damn good book, and you hone it, and craft it and polish it, what does it matter if you get it done in one year or ten?
For comparison - Triptych was about 8 months of writing, and about a year and a half of editing because I’d never done it before, and then another four months of editing with the publisher. The draft that you can buy in the store is #64.
One of my new books is over two years old. I wrote it in three months and have been editing it ever since. We’re on draft #74 and my agent hasn’t signed off on it. We haven’t submitted it together anywhere. There will probably be a few more drafts, in fact, before it is submitted anywhere. And I haven’t started writing the sequel book, save for a few scenes here and there that I didn’t want to forget. That’s okay with me. The book isn’t ready yet.
And yet again, I started another book last August, finished it in November, edited it over the holidays, and my agent is shopping it right now. The draft editors are reading is #4. It all depends on the book, and how it comes together, and not your age.
One more thing: Publishing is very hurry-up-and-wait. Even if you wrote a whole book and got it perfect tomorrow, signed with an agent the next day, and sold it to a publishing company the day after, it still wouldn’t come out until mid-2014. There’s too much marketing to plan, a cover to design, edits to do… it’s a slow process which involves a lot of people who have many different projects they have to turn their attention to. So there’s really no rush. And it’s not like you have to retire from writing when you retire from your job at sixty-five, right? You can keep writing, welp, right up to the coffin.
As for things I did to keep from giving up…
Well, I cry sometimes. I throw books at the wall and walk away. I start novels and never finish them. I won’t deny it. Some days it gets overwhelming and I want to give up.
But then I think about the thrill of seeing my book in my hands, on shelves, in other people’s hands on the subway. I think about the way I’m opening people’s minds with my stories, the new thoughts and ideas I might give them, the stories mine might germinate in them. I think of the pride in my grandmother’s eyes. And yes, to be crass and honest, I think about the royalty cheques.
I still have a day job, I don’t make ends meet with writing, but I also write in the hopes that one day I will make enough on my myriad of novels that I will be able to quit the day job and spend my days being an actor, being a writer, and touring to give talks.
I also made a point of making authorly friends (met them at local book launches, meet ups, by answering ads in local bookstores, etc.) who have all felt what I feel when they’ve been low. They get it. I can go out with them for coffee or beer or goddamned vodka and talk it out with them. It also helps, I find, to make yourself accountable to friends and family.
I tell people about my books as I write them, and their enthusiasm (“When can I read it!?”) helps me get energized and positive about the story. I give them chapters to critique as I finish them, or bounce ideas off them. I let some of my friends name a lot of my characters.
My Mom is also really, really good at scolding me if I miss self-imposed deadlines, and once when I was like, 10k behind on NaNoWriMo, she made me sit at the kitchen table and gave me that patented Mom-Glare every time I got up to pee. She made me dinner and tea and let me talk through issues with her. It was the exact kind of tough-love I needed.
I impose deadlines on myself and try to stick to them. I do NaNoWriMo. I got Scrivener and it made the whole process much quicker and more streamlined for me (because I construct novels like a jenga tower).
Anyway, I think I’ve run out of advice to give….
I think you’re right, it’s irrational to feel that you’ve missed a window of opportunity. And yet I’m not dismissing that fear, because I feel that way sometimes, too. I wonder if I went with the right agent, the right publisher, if I shot myself in the foot by publishing like this instead of like that, for taking that deal and not the other one, for talking to this person at the party when I should have been talking to someone else instead… maybe it’s not a comfort to know that the second guessing and the self-doubt don’t ever really go away. You just get better at telling it to eff off; especially when you surround yourself with people who help you to remember that you want to do this for a reason, people who support you.
The thing with writing is… you can start whenever because there’s no special course you need to take, or age you need to be. All you have to do is write.
I wish you all the luck.
More WORDS FOR WRITERS Posts
First Drafts: My Advice for NaNoWriMo: Be A Bit Crap
Hard vs. Soft SF: The Balance Between Science-Telling and Story-Telling
Genre: Why Do I Write Sci Fi?
Format: How To Structure A Story
World-Building: Culture-Building, Character-Building, and Finding The Story
Abandoning A Manuscript: Bidding Farewell
Copyright: Protecting Your Work
Have a question you want me to answer?
Authors need fans, right? Sure we do – we need people who like our books, our writing, who recommend them to other people, who spread buzz and vote for them, who defend them and squee over them, who recommend them to their librarian and give them as gifts. We need fans, at the most basic, to buy and read our books or we couldn’t afford (financially or emotionally) to write more.
But what about fans? I’m talking the come-to-every-event-you-do, attend-every-signing, write-fanfic, build cosplay, analyze-the-crap-out-of-your-work kind of fans. Do we need those?
Yes. YES WE DO.
And I love you, too. I love you guys a lot.
Let me tell you why I love you – and why many authors love you too.
One of the points on the
non-official checklist of You Know You’ve Made It As An Author When is someone getting a tattoo of your work.
So, this is what I’m doing this afternoon. I’ve officially returned to #TheMaddeningScienceWIP . Yup, this is the novel based on my short Maddening Science, which appeared in When The Villain Comes Home.
I am SO looking forward to being Olly again. I missed this guy. He’s so delightfully, horrifically honest.
Xed talks with SF/F author, fanthropologist, pop culture scholar, and voice actor J.M. Frey!
i know i usually do humor but these wallpaper are just
Some incredible fantasy landscapes. Some of these are dead on for my vision of the Kingdom of Hain.
Happy #BoozeAndABook Day!
To celebrate, here is a drink recipie that I think would go very well with The Dark Side of the Glass, if that’s what you’re reading.
Don’t forget to post pictures of yourself enjoying your favourite beverage - boozy or not, as you choose! - and your favourite book on Tumblr or Twitter (or wherever!).
The Vampire’s Revenge
by Darlene Michaud
3/4 ounce Absolut vodka
1/2 ounce Jose Cuervo gold tequila
3/4 ounce Jagermeister liqueur
1 ounce grenadine syrup
Splash of raspberry liqueur
Shake all ingredients (except the raspberry liqueur) in a cocktail shaker with 3 or 4 ice cubes and strain into a chilled martini glass. Add a splash of raspberry liqueur on the top. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Happy BOOZE AND A BOOK DAY (#BoozeAndABook). To celebrate, here are two drinks recipies that I think would go very well with Triptych, if that’s what you’re reading.
Don’t forget to post pictures of yourself enjoying your favourite beverage - boozy or not, as you choose! - and your favourite book.
Midnight Kiss (From An Alien)
10ml blue curacao
1 tsp lemon juice
Champagne to fill the rest of the glass.
As I dislike lemon juice, I’d add a splash of gingerale.
Kalp’s Osap Daquiries
1/2 oz strawberry schnapps
1 oz light rum
1 oz lime juice
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 oz strawberries
Kalp, of course, uses Osaps instead of strawberries (and rather a lot of them), but as they’re not available on Earth, add a blueberry or three to the mix, and a few raspberrys, just to get the sweet-tart combination.
I’m probably going to get rotten produce thrown at me by other authors for saying this, but revisions are one of my favorite parts of writing. So the input from talented authors, editors, and well-read friends are incredibly valuable to me and something I’m always enormously grateful for. I won’t say I don’t have a moment of soul-crushing embarrassment when someone else points out places I went wrong, especially when I should have known better. But I get over it pretty fast, mostly in the excitement of knowing that now I can get it RIGHT and it will be so much better for the effort.
As an author you’ve got the story in your head and you feel a connection to it maybe no one else can. But according to the cliché, love is blind, and it’s that way with a story too. You’re too apt to overlook or simply not see the flaws in your own creation. Outside input is vital, no matter how long you’ve been writing or how good you are.
I didn’t set out to write a queer-anything story, it was something that developed from the unfolding events. It took me by surprise and, quite honestly, scared me. I live in a very conservative area among very conservative people and a very conservative culture. I didn’t feel like I had the knowledge or even the RIGHT to address the struggles the LGBTQ community faces today.
But I learned along the way that the experience of being an outsider, of being judged and even condemned for your differences is much the same from group to group, no matter what the reason.
The reception has been INSANELY more positive than I expected. Perhaps that’s just because I connected with the right audience. Perhaps it’s the changing times. Who knows? But it’s been such a heartwarming experience that it makes me hopeful for all of us.
I stormed back to my room, kicking over a chair in the sitting room. Jonathan stood nearby, silent.
“You know what?” I said, rounding on him. “He’s not the only one who can play these games.” Jonathan’s eyebrows went up.
“Have an encounter with Duke Blaine, Your Highness?” It didn’t surprise me that he knew exactly who I was talking about.
“I can kick his ass any way he likes.”
Jonathan stared at me, wide eyed.“No. You can’t.”
It was my turn to stare. “Umm, what?”
“You can’t play his game. You’re completely wrong for it. You couldn’t be subtle if your life depended on it.”
“Oh, come on. Like he’s so subtle.”
He frowned in thought. “Not to you, perhaps, but he can be. When you two clashed before, he wasn’t. He didn’t have to be. He was one of the most powerful, richest men in the empire and he knew how to throw his weight around. But this man has been playing politics from his cradle. You have no idea how connected and involved he is; what he knows and what he can make happen.”
Jonathan shook his head. “Have you considered the role he might have played in your banishment? How convenient it was that the things Blaine knew would be damning in that specific conversation?”
I felt like he’d punched me.
“Yes! That’s what I’ve been saying for years, but you’ve never agreed with me.”
“I’ve never disagreed either. I might have focused more on your own contribution to that disaster, for obvious reasons.”
“But don’t you see? He manipulated me into a situation I couldn’t win. He was going to get me banished, one way or another.”
“He didn’t force you to punch the emperor.”
“You know,” I said, breathless, “I really wish you wouldn’t talk about that.”
“Which is why we should. You cannot play Blaine’s game against him. You prefer an ostrich approach to problems, which only works when you bury the rest of you as well. You certainly can’t plot and scheme with your head in the sand and expect it to be anything but a disaster. You can’t engage him in this.”
“Well I’m not going to sit back and let him do whatever he wants, laughing about it while I act like his kicked dog.”
“You could try talking to the emperor. Your husband.”
I grimaced. “No. I mean, I have.”
“You could try again.”
“No, that’s not what I need to do right now.”
Jonathan stared at me. “Don’t you trust him?”
Sometimes I almost forgot that Jonathan and I weren’t one person. He worked so hard to fade into the background that he’d become incorporated into my experience of life, an extension of me. As he stood there talking about the things I tried very hard to hide from myself, I suddenly hated him. “Of course I trust him. I trust him to do whatever he can to protect me and defend me. The problem is that his view of the situation and his idea of how to handle it are very different from mine. This is a stupid water gun fight. I’m not calling in the ISS. Besides, I can handle myself. Blaine’s just a bully, and I know how to handle bullies.”
From the look on Jonathan’s face, if he had been anyone else, his mouth would have fallen open.
“Your Highness, if you can compare engaging Blaine in the game of politics to a water gun fight then you have made my point. You have no idea what you’re doing. He would eviscerate you. He wants to get rid of you. Was that so pleasant last time he succeeded that you’d like for him to do it again? He’s not going to stop at Resettlement this time.”
“How do you know so much about him?”
His face went blank in a way that, for a moment, almost scared me. Then he said, in a flat, even tone, “No one knows the powerful better than the servants. Not even the other powerful people. That’s why, other than the ISS, we’re the only ones who can be executed just for telling our employer’s secrets.”
My mouth fell open. “You can be what?”
Stark fury crossed his face. “This is exactly what I mean about you having no business playing his game. How can you have been with the emperor this long and not know that? Do you mean you’ve let me see your deepest, darkest secrets and you just trusted that I’d keep them?”
“I don’t—Of course I trust you. What are you talking about?”
He looked like he wanted to pull his hair out. “No wonder—” he mumbled, glaring at the floor. He locked eyes with me. “If a servant is convicted of telling his employer’s secrets, he’s not fired or Resettled, he is executed. It’s why we’re allowed in your bedrooms and to stand attendance while you share confidences. You don’t have to trust our conscience or our loyalty. You know that if we don’t keep your secrets, we die.”I blinked. “Stars and planets and all the space in the heavens, how you’re not dead already must be one of the greatest mysteries of the universe.”
My face was hot. I turned away from him, embarrassed and angry but not at all ready to concede my point.
“OK. So I don’t know some things I need to know.”
“But that’s why I asked for your help. You know all the things I don’t. You can help me plan this and not screw it up.”
He threw up his hands. “How you can be so smart and so stupid at the same time?”
In spite of myself, I laughed. “Aliana says my brain is so full of physics that there’s no room for thinking.”
He huffed a reluctant laugh. “The Grand Duchess is wise.” He turned to me. “Talk to her. If you won’t confide in the emperor, seek her advice. She knows these games better than anyone.”
I shook my head. “She’ll just tell Pete.”
I think he was gritting his teeth. “Then why won’t you tell him?”
There was no good reason, and there were a million good reasons, and there was one, very, very big reason that crowded out all the others. But I wasn’t going to talk about that. Not with anyone at all.
His jaw locked, his arms crossed, and he turned his back to me. He stood there, silent and rigid until, finally, he relaxed his stance with deliberation, but, without looking at or acknowledging me, he righted the chair I had kicked over and then started to tidy up an already tidy room as if I wasn’t even there. I watched him, angry and hurting.
“Are you mad at me, Jonathan?” I asked at last.
He froze. Then resumed his pointless cleaning. “Yes.”
“Look, I’m doing the best I can.”
“No, you’re not.”
My jaw clenched. “OK, I’m doing the best with what I know.”
“Prince Jacob,” he said, which was the closest he ever came to calling me by name, “your best isn’t good enough. And that frightens me.”