Sunday, February 23, 2014

Simple Competence

Now Playing: IT NEVER ENDS by Bring Me The Horizon
Just Read: GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens--A good story, though there were parts I thought could be happier. I don't like rooting for the MC only to have him lose. Usually I don't like the old English classics, and there were definitely parts were the language bogged me down. Overall, enjoyable.
Reading Now: A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R.R. Martin

Got two rejections back this week from hopefuls. I send all my stories out with hope, but some of them I feel have a much better chance than others. I read the magazines I submit to, and when I write something I think fits along their vein, coupled with being a good story, I can't help but get my hopes high. 

Rejection is part of the writing career. I've always known this, and it's never yet held me down, nor will it. But getting these rejections is a cause for some introspection. What held those stories back? Why didn't they reach publication? Why might I get a note that says my story is good but not great? 

It's where I am on the ladder of a writer's progression. I am confident in labeling myself a competent amateur writer. I understand what makes a good story, and I can recognize when it's done well. It's executing it that still presents a monster challenge. 

My stories are still too simple. I get letters that describe them as predictable. Others, incomplete. Some I think are ambitious, and fall short of what I want them to be, because I don't have the skills yet to hammer them out. I am like a sketch artist who has a beautiful scene in front of him and when he looks down at his canvas sees only a pale ghost of the beauty he attempted to capture. 

The remedy? The only answer I can come up with is practice. Read a lot, write a lot. I don't have enough natural talent to do it any other way. I don't mind, necessarily. I don't mind paying my dues if it means that one day I will climb to the top. Delayed gratification might be the toughest part of this career. I mean, I have SO MANY stories in my writing folder, and none of them will see publication because they are merely competent. The kid who wrote them knew words and knew plots, but not to a degree to earn himself a place in a professional's table of contents. 

Being a writer is like being trapped at the bottom of a deep dry well. You have to produce all this junk, all these stories that will never see the light of day, pages and pages and chapters and whole novels, and eventually you have enough trash to stand on that you can climb out of the well. Only when you reach the top will your stuff be good enough to publish in a pro magazine. And the well is deep and dark and lonely. Only the toughest make it out. The others, well . . . they just sit and stare at the sky and wish and wonder. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Limb Less Traveled By

Now Playing: SKYRIM SOUNDTRACK by Jeremy Soule
Just Read: THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon--A great read. A bit slow at parts, but definitely one of the best written books I've read in a while. His prose is masterful.
Reading Now: GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens

After a slow January (see previous post), February went off like a rocket. I got into my groove, got excited about something, and spit out thousands of words in a matter of hours.

One of my best and oldest friends in the world, Spencer, had this dream about a stranger in a hybrid land of old west and science fiction. He imagined this stranger being the main character in a television show, one done well like a Starz or HBO original series. Spencer is a great idea-man, and a great actor, but he came to me for thoughts on how to write it.

When he first told me the idea I knew it was a winner. It's original, complex, deep, and rated R. February's W1S1 piece was Episode I, and I'm incredibly excited about it. My kitchen table is overflowing with papers bearing jotted notes, character sketches, and episode plans. I am eagerly awaiting Spencer's thoughts on it, because I can't wait to dive into Episode II.

I didn't have the first clue about writing a screenplay when I started (and, let's be honest, I still don't, really). Apparently there's a very strict format, much like standard manuscript formatting in prose fiction. I had to research all those rules and configure Microsoft Word to work for me. Then I had to read a few examples, get a feel for it, and take off. I still don't know what we're ultimately going to do with it. It's called a "Spec Script" I believe, meaning we could submit it to someone like HBO on the speculation of them liking it and wanting to produce it. Way in the future, sure, but I want to know where, ultimately, we'll take this thing.

It's always been a dream of mine to have my novel turned into a movie, but this screenplay idea is really taking hold. And the best part is that it jump-started my creativity, and now I have a few other projects ready to be tackled while I wait to hear from Spencer. So wish us luck! And if you have some insight into screenplay submission, leave me a comment! It will be much appreciated.