Last week was another experiment in my *~*~*~influencing adventures~*~*~*. It still feels very silly, but dressing up my new Bunnicula shirt from Out of Print was kind of fun. It’s odd. I’m still having some issues accepting my recent weight gain; part of me is miserable about it and part of me is coming to terms with it. Taking pictures of myself helps, but it’s still hard to look at myself sometimes.
And it scares me, which means I should keep working at it.
This is my favorite time of year; the transition from summer to fall. It’s not quite autumn and the summer heat is fading and the anticipation of Halloween and the holidays is just around the corner. The desire to get cozy is creeping up, and like a bear getting ready for winter I’m feeling the urge to cuddle up and hibernate.
And my birthday is in October, which is a nice perk. In San Francisco, the first week of October is always inexplicably sunny after months of the summer fog. Furthermore, it’s Fleet Week where the Blue Angels fly over the Bay. All around a good time. Even though Hardly Strictly Bluegrass isn’t happening in the park this year thanks to COVID19, I’m sure the time around my birthday will be pretty rad.
But that’s still a month away, and while that one week out of the year is nice in SF, the rest of the world is gearing up for the chilly autumn. Are your fingers too cold to work on your screenplay? Can you see your breath in front of you as you try to work out your plot and dialogue? (Probably more a sign you need a space heater than anything else). Well, read on for some of the coziest autumn essentials to make your writing and life much comfier as the days grow colder.
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I’ve learned one really important thing when it comes to writing, which is entirely different than editing. This trick makes a world of difference whether you’re writing a screenplay or a TV pilot or a novel or memoir or blog or ad copy. If you’re writing, you need to be doing this one thing.
In fact, you might already be doing it.
I call it the “fuck it” draft. Other people have different names like “scratch,” or “ideas draft” or something else, but I like the irreverence of swearing, so it’s “fuck it.”
It’s a draft that’s even rougher than your rough draft, and it definitely bears no resemblance to what your final draft will look like (that’s why we edit). Rather than trying to get a decent draft on the page, you just say, “fuck it!” and have a grand old time. If you’re anything like me, you flit between writing normally to bullet points to doodles that just sort of getting the idea of what you’re going for. No details, no rules.
Having a “fuck it” draft is a great way to get your words and world out of your head and onto the page. There is no necessity for perfection, and in fact, perfection is deeply discouraged. A lot of the “fuck it” mentality is to channel what you want to say about your world, and to have fun with it! That’s the point of writing, right? It’s supposed to be fun!
Now, that said; writing is the fun part, editing is the hell part.
My computer died. (It was so dramatic. It froze, and then the start up disk disappeared. I was texting Apple tech support for about three hours before they decided it was better to just send it in to be repaired.) It’s been a little hard to try and get anything done with my phone, and very ancient iPad, so I’m foregoing a main article this week. I can kind of type stuff but it’s just like pulling teeth.
But I’ve got some article ideas for you to look forward to! Are you excited?!
Cozy Autumn Essentials; great products to make writing more cozy and comfy in the coming months!
Finding Your Voice; exploring some of the super unique voices in cinema (think Joss Whedon’s works and shows like Hannibal). And how to balance between making your voice your signature and telling your story.
A review of the podcast, Dead Eyes! I’ve been listening to this and it’s a really interesting, funny look into the actual reality of Hollywood.
That’s what I’ve got so far. Anything pique your interest? Is there anything you’d like me to write about? Comment below and let me know!p
As if this year wasn’t bad enough we lost a great one. He didn’t even let the world know he was sick, choosing to slip quietly back into the universe. It’s devastating.
In my most basic fan-girl state I’m sad about the loss of T’Challa; a monumental force in the world of superheroes. But he was also Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson; he brought his all to so many good roles (made better by his talent!) and it’s just tragic that he’s gone.
As a writer still trying to break into the industry, it’s not like I knew him. His loss doesn’t affect me as much as it does his family and friends. But more than once I was writing characters thinking that Boseman would be a good fit for the role (as if I’d have any say). His talent was beyond measure and the world is just a little less bright without him.
RIP Chadwick Boseman. A true light in the darkness has gone out.
In the past few years, I’ve had a myriad of jobs; service-oriented, administrative and editorial, and a few weird things in-between. Working full-time (while also balancing depression, anxiety, and PCOS, ugh) made the idea of coming home from work and writing seem utterly ludicrous. I imagine it’s the same for many of you.
Balancing life and a passion for writing is so freaking hard.
As I reflect on my past, working full time and writing, I’m surprised by how much I was able to get done. (Right now I’m living at home and not working and feel like I’m getting nothing done! Thanks, Covid-19 angst!). I had a whole slew of projects and was pretty productive on all of them. I realized that I had worked out a few little systems to balance my writing life with my work life. Again, it was hard; I wasn’t having the best time, but I knew I had to keep going up that mountain.
Here are some things I’ve learned that make the climb a little easier;
Write 100 Words (or 3-5 screenplay pages) before work.
(or after work, it’s your life)
Every day, sit down and try and write 100 words. It’s that simple. Usually, by the time you hit 100 words, you’re on a roll and can keep going until you lose steam. It’s not a lot of words, I get that. In fact, it’s a downright negligible amount of words if you’re trying to write a novel. Even then, sometimes 100 words can feel like pulling teeth. If that’s the case, hit your 100 and walk away; you’re still 100 words richer. (And if you’re one of my screenplay audience, 100 words is comparable to 3-5 pages of screenplay. If you can get 3 pages of screenplay done a day, you’ll have a 90-page screenplay in a month.)
It doesn’t have to be good either. Just getting the words on the page is an accomplishment. You can edit later
(And look, this section was about 130-ish words! See? it’s not that bad!)
Anger is a weird emotion. It’s very basic — compare it to envy or trepidation or love — but that does not mean it is necessarily easy to write. It can be both basic and enormously complex. Anger sucks. Being angry is hard and raw and weird. As with most things, even though the concept of anger is a simple one, the execution of it on the page is complicated and people often fail.
Translation: A lot of times dialogue that’s supposed to be angry comes off as flat. Oops.
Why is this though? We all know what anger is. We’ve all felt it at one point or another. Furthermore, we have all experienced many of the various shades and forms anger can take. Everyone over the age of ten has probably felt various nuances of anger. The anger you felt as a young child when your sibling was being a jerk is different than the anger you feel when a professor critiques your work in front of the class. This, in turn, is different than the anger you feel when you believe a partner may be cheating on you. Maybe all these things make you scream, but they’re all different and all stem from different places.
Here’s the weird truth: anger itself is not a base emotion.
Let’s talk about the differences between writing children in screenplays and novels, versus writing adults!
This post is part of the Dialogue Doctor Series, where I talk about writing effective dialogue!
I wish I could say writing child characters was the same as writing adults but I’d be wrong. Further still, I wish I could say that writing children was an easy task. That’s even more wrong. We’ve all seen movies with children in them, which means we’ve all seen movies where the child’s lines are either exceptionally on-point or awkward and stilted.
(Note, this has nothing to do with the performance of child actors, but rather the lines they’re given within the script. Sure, sometimes children aren’t very good at acting, but that doesn’t mean they deserve bad dialogue.)
Oftentimes you can tell if someone has interacted with kids or not based on the dialogue they give their child characters. Frankly, being around children makes writing children’s dialogue easier, but sometimes we just can’t hang out with kids for no reason other than to hear them talk; that’d be weird.
Read on for a few key tips to focus on when it comes to writing children’s dialogue.
I’ve been trying my hand at ‘influencer’-y things (ugh) and trying to get over my massive amounts of self-consciousness. It feels futile; I’m not influential. My 75 followers probably don’t want any influencing. It’s just kind of a silly experiment. Especially since I can’t go out and see things and take pictures in cool locations, considering the current plague going on.
But one of my favorite Instagram users mentioned that they were self-conscious sitting down. It’s a challenge to be sure. I must’ve taken like forty pictures and these were the only three I was happy with. But also I can see what I actually look like — overcoming the huge disconnect between my mind and body (the dysmorphia is real), as well as being a plus-size person in front of the camera. It’s interesting to challenge myself this way. I’m pretty good at writing, and I’ve always been good at moving my body (I’ve got a black belt in karate for Pete’s sake), but looking at myself and being in front of a camera is a completely different hurdle.
But I kind of like it.
I kind of feel good about this, flub and thunder thighs and all. I’m never going to be a size two. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t celebrate my body for all the gifts it’s given me. I’m cute. I’m pudgy. I sit down and look okay doing it!
The thing I’ve gleaned from this more than anything else is just keeping trying things that scare you. I was terrified of posting these pictures to my instagram, but it all worked out in the end.
Try something terrifying. Try something that makes you a little apprehensive. It’ll work out, I promise.
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I read and edit scripts professionally (as well as for my other writing friends, because that’s what friends do), and I’ve noticed some mistakes that happen over and over again, especially with new writers. These common mistakes cripple a story! Screenwriting and the film industry is a brutal business. Avoid these common mistakes to give your screenplay a leg up from the competition.
1. No conflict.
One of the main tenants of screenwriting —literally something drilled into every class meeting in my screenwriting program at UCLA — is, “add more conflict.“
What does that mean though? The phrase ‘adding conflict’ is almost like a shibboleth within the film industry. Conflict does not mean the dictionary definition of conflict, it means challenge.
But it’s still true that the best way to make a screenplay better is to challenge your character’s goals and motives. All characters want and need to do* certain things throughout their story arcs, and making it harder for them to achieve those things makes your story better. This applies to both screenwriting and regular novel/short story writing.
To come about it another way, think of your favorite movie. Is there a scene where ‘nothing’ happens? I imagine there isn’t, (unless it’s a really artistic piece.) If there is one character in the scene, they’re trying to get something done (the ’trying’ is the challenge/conflict). If there are two characters, they are having a conversation or interaction with their unique wants and motives (their motives and interaction is the source of conflict).
Adding conflict is what makes a scene a scene. Again, it’s not adding fights and fisticuffs; if anything, it’s adding ‘story.’ The best stories happen in the conflict.