Saturday, February 28, 2015

To Rush Your Editor

Have you ever read a book that felt like all or part of it had been rushed? I have. There's a difference between ramping up the drama of things like a fight scene and a car chase, and simply rushing through a scene, skimming over the details with only the ending in sight and no care given to the journey to get there.

But there's another rushing you should really avoid, and that is trying to rush your editor. I know how anxious you can get when you've finally written those final words - The End - and then you ship your baby off to the editor. Some marketing strategies aim for certain holidays in the hopes to catch those shopping for Christmas or Valentine's Day because the content of the book is relevant. But if that is the issue, it would be better to hold off till the next year than to rush your editor.

I recently took a job where publication was aimed for Valentine's day. The writer told me that from the beginning. She was aiming to be done with the first draft by the end of January. Knowing that it can take 3 or 4 days to see a paperback up on Amazon, that didn't give me much time. I did try. she was asking for chapters almost every day. It was a good thing she had another reader to go through it, and with screen shots, things I'd were pointed out to her.

Me, I'm a stickler for picky so I was utterly mortified at the list - crazy little things like missing words and extra words left over from sentence adjustments. Now I will admit that there were a couple there I might have missed no matter what. Those annoying words that look very similar and are even pronounced alike but with a slight spelling variance making it mean something entirely different. I'm not perfect.

Anyway, she sent the document back to me, even offering to pay me for a second round, but I won't take pay for a document I've already been paid for. Now six months after the fact might be a different issue.

At any rate, I have a wonderful trick I discovered way back when I had my first computer. Back then - seven years ago now - my PC would read a pdf if you told it to. On a later computer, I could tell my computer to read whatever text I selected. I'm sorry, I don't have a PC anymore and I don't remember how I did it then. There should be a text to speech option for selected text. On my MAC I had to set up a key command, and if you're a computer whiz you can figure out how to do that too. I had to be talked through it by a tech over the phone. I'm sure, even with a PC, you can call up someone who can help you too. I'm having my computer read this document and I've found much more than just those caught by her other reader.

I encourage you to try it out. You'd be surprised the little things this trick will help you find. For me, other than those annoying words that look so close to something that should belong in that sentence, this helps me with coma placement and sentence rhythm. It's a rhythm that the brain puts in there most of the time, but with a little literary help, the end result is less work for the reader, affording them more enjoyment in the content of the story. Try it - you'll like it - I'm sure of it.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chapters Seven and Eight

According to the book, before going any farther, I should haven written up my script. However, I have other goals I need and want to accomplish before taking that step. First is to get my next book, The Trials of the Youngest Princess, polished and off to a critical reader, and hopefully published very soon. Also before actually diving into this particular script, the book itself need a facelift. I simply don't want AuthorHouse to claim any credit for the movie in any way, shape, or form. They may have gotten me my book, but they did nothing to help me thereafter, and despite the top dollar I spent on the project, I have yet to recoup my losses. I'm sure, under a new cover, and with an accompanying script, it will do much better. I have to admit, I learned things from AuthorHouse, but mostly I learned what not to do.

Even though I am not writing this script at this time, the last two chapters were just as informative and the rest of the book.

Chapter Seven is another polishing checklist. Sometimes you just can't see things until it's all written out.
  1. Does the lead character actually lead? Well, in my case, no he doesn't, not until he figures out that the bad guy is actively searching for him. Only then does he take charge, but it's also part of his character arc. Will I be able to pull that off? Only time will tell. Somehow I have to make Harris likable enough to keep those who decide engaged.
  2. Is the script showing or telling? Just like in writing fiction, showing is vital, maybe more so. And back-story can be the worst to deal with. NEVER have your characters tell us all about how sorry he is about breaking momma's favorite cup. You get my point, I think.
  3. How bad is the bad guy? Blake says make him (or her) as bad as possible. Have you noticed how evil blond women are? Good thing my demented queen has black hair (I pictured Cher with her long black hair when I wrote her), but she's not the real bad guy.
  4. How does your plot progress? Your plot needs to do more than simply progress from point A to point B, it needs to spin and intensify, rather like a dust devil that turns into a tornado.
  5. How emotion-ridden is your movie? Have you ever noticed that the best movies leave you wrung out and exhausted? That's what you need to strive for. Just like in writing a book, if you can make your reader laugh or cry (cry is the hardest), you're on the right track. And if you can do that to yourself, especially if you're not really the emotional type, you're really on a roll.
  6. How lively is your dialogue? You don't want your watchers to fall asleep over your what your characters say. Make sure what your character says is more than merely a place holder, or a means of taking up time until the next page. 
  7. Has your characters actually made a journey through the movie? Don't get so wrapped up in reaching to the end that you forget about getting there.  Remember, all books or movies are about the journey, not what the ending will be. When I start writing a book, one thing I plan is an ending, more often than not, I don't always hit the mark. My Princess book is a good example of that. I'd planned that the book would end when she killed the man who killed her father and her brothers. Needless to say she still had to find and eliminate his army.
  8. Can you tell the difference between your characters? If you were blindfolded and someone read dialogue of different characters to you (you can't cheat and remember what this or that character says), could you tell the difference between them? Does the girlfriend sound exactly like the father? There is a point in The Ghost and the Darkness where two different people say exactly the same thing. I can't remember exactly what the phrase is just now, but it was such a blatant fopah, when two people from very different backgrounds and pasts talk the same, it just blows the entire thing.
  9. And of course, as throughout the rest of the book, is it primal? Primal emotions drive us all, and in a movie it has to be intense. There's just no time for subtleties.
The last piece of advice for this chapter was to take a step back. Give it a rest. Good advice for your book too. Put it away for a while

The last chapter is all about tips and pointers on how to sell your finished product, to include some resources that I'll probably get at some point. Herein is another example of how living out here in the middle of nowhere is a liability. Selling myself, whether to a producer or to an agent, is every bit as important as the script itself. This goes for selling books too. I know my books would sell much better if I could get out there and do book-signing. I can't count the number of books I've sold simply because the person met and liked me, even if only online. I can't imagine how many I could sell if I could get out among people. salesman I am not.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Chapter Six

Now that I have a rough outline, and now that I have plotted out my scenes (I hope), chapter six is rather like a checklist to the final polish. Blake Snyder lays out a list of ironclad laws he has developed over the years.

Let me clarify:
  •  Save the Cat is that moment very early on where the viewer gets to see why your main character is likable. It's that moment where, no matter what bad-ass thing he or she might be doing, he or she takes a moment to do some tiny good thing. A good gesture isn't the only way to get your viewers to like your character; humor works too. you might go this route if your characters are somewhat less than likable. 
  • Pope in the Pool is a way of showing us the back-story without boring us with dialogue. Just like in writing, you need to decide what is vital and figure out how to show it efficiently. This tactic is to make the scene interesting enough that we don't really notice the back-story being fed to us.
  • Double  Mumbo Jumbo is the unbreakable law that says you can only have one kind of extra ordinary something per movie. For instance, if your movie has cyborgs as a fairly common ability, you can't also have super-heroes like batman to combat them. In other words 'keep it simple'. Now Blake admits doubling up on the mumbo jumbo is done all the time in comic books, they are really in bad taste for any serious movie.
  • Laying Pipe is another way of saying you're laying the groundwork leading to the gist of the story. When you sit down to a movie, how much of this movie are you going to tolerate if the start-up drags? It's the same consideration when writing a book. I'm sure you've all read books that just don't get interesting until half way through; I've read a few basically never 'got into it'. This is why Blake limits his scripts to 25 pages to lay the pipe. Can I do it? I hope so.
  • Black Vet or Too Much Marzipan is kind of like a tiny inside joke. Most people might not get it. The description he gives in the book refers to clips made for Saturday Night Live. The clip showed a black man cavorting with animals but he was also ex-military, so he was a veteran who was also a veterinarian. Like eating Marzipan, a little goes a long way. I don't get the joke as outlined in the book, nor have I ever had Marzipan, so this made little sense to me. Another example was to name a character Lefty. The moniker was to be a reference to his leftist political leanings, likely hinted at here and there through actions or comments, however, others decided to try to take it farther. They wanted to also make the character left-handed, and then they decided they'd make him an ex-boxer as well. Just pick one. It's better that way.
  • Watch Out for that Glacier is about approaching danger. You know it's there, but too many clues with little or no reaction is making your viewer want to kick in the TV and yell at the movie. "There's danger just around the corner, you idiot. Get ready already!" These glaciers are things like a volcano, or an impending asteroid, or some kind of plague. It's there, hanging in the background waiting until the very last minute to be dealt with. 
  • The Covenant of the Arc is another way of talking about character arc. Characters need to change. I watched a movie yesterday where this kid was thrust up front in one of our nasty wars (WWII I think). He wasn't prepared for all the killing. His sergeant forced him to kill a captured soldiered, and it was as if whatever humanity that was in him just melted away, or maybe he was losing his grasp on his sanity. I don't know, I found the change too fast, too abrupt. It was, to me, unbelievable. That's not to say it wouldn't happen; I'll blame it on the script writer or the director. There wasn't enough arc between one end and the other. Character arc in a book is hard enough. Knocking down to a movie script, and it's a lot harder.
  • Keep the Press Out is exactly what it says. Once you insert the press everything gets defined by news releases. If you keep the press out of your story, it can remain personal and private - a problem one has to deal with. Once the press is involved, well then the problem is happening to everyone and therefore not a problem at all - and there goes your story.
Have I included all this? The only one I can see I need to work on is that I need to Save the Cat. I gotta think of some scene where Harris saves the cat in some way. Anyone have any ideas?


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chapter Five

This chapter was the hardest for me, but that's not the only reason for the delay of this post. My waited-for editing job came and has gone; she had a deadline of 'by Valentine's Day' so I devoted all my time to that project. The timing was tighter than I like, so I hope I didn't miss anything. I'll go through a section, and then I'll go back and read through it again with the changes in place.

But enough about that job.

Chapter Five was all about 'The Board'. The board, in movie making is the bulletin board where all the scenes are mapped out. This is the ultimate outline for movies. Hard for me because I don't generally outline my work. Harder still because of all the things I wanted to have in and plan around all the things I needed to leave out. Ooohhh what a pain.

But I did it.

Every script is broken into four parts: Act One, the first have of Act Two / mid point / the second half of Act Two, and Act Three. According to Blake Snider, you have ten slots per section to fill up, and no more, and you absolutely must fill up at least nine of them - the tenth is there for just in case.

As it turns out, Act One is pretty much Chapter One of the book.

The first half of Act Two gets me to page 23 - slow going but expected. Things got rearranged a little from this point on. Every vital incident had to happen before reaching the home castle, whereas in the book he was able to winter there and we get to meet the queen and see how delusional she is. I still might be able to work her in somewhere; we'll have to see.


The second half of Act Two gets us to the border, but before we can get that far, three different armies must be assembled into one. At the end of Act Two I inserted an attack that came after the winter layover, but we can't fill up a movie with a winter full of pacing and waiting for the snow to melt.

With Act Three we need to see just how destitute the home country is, so after Harris recovers from nearly being killed, they find a refugee family trying to scrape a living without it all being stolen by the collectors. This jumps us to page 158 in the book. And then we need to jump to page 319 for the rest of it.

Meeting all the lords who used to manage the districts that made up his country have all been left out. I hope I can still assemble them in a believable manner; they need to be there for Harris to be properly crowned.

It's not going to be easy. I seems each part can have only a couple pages devoted to it, give or take one or two here and there. Wish me luck.


The Board
The Crown of Steel

+/- = emotional up/down or -/+ down/up
>< = conflict
ACT ONE [p. 1-25]

1. Harris on the roof
+/- curiosity frustrated 
>< empty but lush landscape

2. Fredric, the librarian
+/- hoping to find out what a king does/ unable to locate any
>< during a game of chess, Harris asks what a king does. Fredric gives him a lecture on family bloodline

3. Balion, the arms master
+/- love of the music of the sword/Balion interrupts with his version of a lesson
>< Balion trying to play tricks to ‘teach’ him to expect the unexpected

4. Duff, the stable master
+/- Harris disliked the man, but had to deal with him if he wanted to go riding
>< Duff seldom allowed Harris to ride the first horse he picked

5. conversation with father
+/- curiosity vs. fear
>< father believes things are fine – Harris can’t see how

6. watches his father be king
+/- father tells of betrothal offer – Harris is appalled
>< questions father about papers signed without reading

7. Jonathan arrives
+/- meeting someone new/learning he’s being sent away
>< won’t allow himself to protest

8. Harris and Jonathan compare worlds
+/- Harris getting excited/Jonathan determined to whip things into shape
>< quickly become best friends

9. Harris and Jonathan go to the stables
+/- beginning to suspect he is nothing but a figurehead
>< Harris is told what he will be taking

ACT TWOa [p. 25-55]

1. Harris heads south
+/- dreading to go/ determined to conduct himself with pride
>< seeing his father standing at the door – realizing he’d never seen his father outside before

2. after river crossing
+/- wonder at seeing the farmsteads and herds
>< wonders about goat’s milk and wool – learns where it comes from – Jasper getting low on patience – Harris asking questions like a curious child

3a. Harris meets his new family
+/- hard to get used to many brothers and sisters
>< Kandice sticks her tongue out at him – doesn’t like him at first

3b. Harris meets with the king who outlines his expectations
+/- eager to start – appalled at the requirements
>< wants to go home – no not really

4a. heads out again
+/- happy lessons will be put off – only they aren’t
>< not at all used to be in the saddle day after day

4b. Jonathan is bored
+/- was determined to learn more about the country/ can’t even find a map
>< sends a messenger home with news and request – the man gets waylaid

5. training for the military
+/- eager to set aside lessons/not so lucky
>< arms master starts to teach him military management and strategy

6. working his way up the ranks
+/- new rank/more responsibility
>< corporal in charge of 4 men

7. patrol – meets ‘the enemy’
+/- his men very serious about the exchange/the enemy laughing as if it’s all a game
>< only some wounded – Harris watches enemy vanish as if into the dust of their trail

8. camp ravaged
+/- tired from the patrol and fight – eager to get back/finds home camp has been breached and ravaged.
>< brought to Sorsha’s cabin for questioning

9. nightmare
+/- happy to be going home, seeing father again/sees giant cage closing in on him.
>< tells Sorsha the dream - pack up to go back – changing of the guard

ACT TWOb [p. 55-85]

1a. battle
+/- Harris, still dusty from patrol, sees a very sorry train of wagons and mounted.
>< tries to bolster morale riding up and down the line. Spells a wagon driver with a concussion from afternoon sun

1b. battle
+/- surprise / tries to defend
>< Attack comes and overruns the train. Harris’s wagon is overturned.

2a. Magg
+/- at death’s door / Magg heals him and then gets him onto his horse and away
>< Magg must get Harris away but realizes her little donkey isn’t nearly enough.

3a. Sorsha - battlefield
+/- enemy killed / bitter victory
>< calls for report – can’t move – Harris unaccounted for

2b. Magg
+/- arrives home / Sholeh there to help
>< drag Harris inside – heal more – begin to recover

3b. Sorsha - home
+/- worried about Harris / reports say her post the only one attacked
>< goes to royal medium to find him

4a. Jonathan
+/- meets the queen for the first time
>< the queen sends him home – supposed to be to his death

5. Harris
+/- needs to learn more but can’t leave everyone hanging
>< sends his horse home with a message

4b. Jonathan
+/- makes it home with another message from the queen
>< the message wasn’t for Harris at all

6a. Harris
+/- into the desert / no way of knowing if he’ll ever find anyone
>< meets Juan – they fight. Treacherous blindside shot puts Harris under Juan’s protective wing.

6b. Harris
+/- meets with clan leader, Duncan
>< witnesses the punishment dealt out for treachery.

6c. Harris
+/- Convinces the nomads to tell him who his enemy is. Their honor commits them to his cause.
>< messenger is sent home to arrange supply lines – first learns of shapeshifters.

7. Evan
+/- finds the castle. Finds Kandice
>< Evan is shot out of the sky

8a. King Carroll
+/- reads the message Evan brought
>< questions him extensively

8b. King Carroll
+/- discussion with Kandice
>< Kandice heads off in search of another fairytale. Brings back the truthsayers. King calls for an assembly of military forces.

9. Harris
+/- arrives home
>< meets his first truthsayer bodyguard. Safi??? Kanon???

10. Harris
+/- at the head of his unusual army
>< at the border, an insane group attack, trying to hit Harris personally. Almost succeed.
ACT THREE [p. 85-110]

1. Harris in a coma
+/- choice – live/die
>< vision – Kandice dancing around the Maypole = unite the people.

2. Harris wakes - blind
+/- learns of Kain’s capture/ learns of death of his bodyguard
>< funeral – new bodyguard – Saarloq

3. paces camp – vision blurry
+/- wants to start marching again - has to defeat Kain’s monopoly
>< time is short – winter is closing in

4. Servern and Claire
+/- learns things
>< battle with collection team

5. divide and conquer
+/- sends messengers to districts asking for reinforcements/can’t wait
>< Jonathan leads Harris to the back door.

6a. taking Castle Penn
+/- finding hostages inside in the rooms
>< finding opposition as well

6b. taking Castle Penn
+/- finding hostages outside in the tents
>< finding opposition as well – sending wolves ahunting

7. verbal battle with Kain
+/- learns that no enemy can touch him with harmful intent.
>< must get close enough to touch. Saarloq won’t let him touch yet.

8. wedding and coronation
+/- says it all
>< lords swear fealty

9. turns Kain over to his lords
+/- Harris’s touch removes block
>< lords pull the struggling man out to his fate

10. final image
+/- the town is abuzz with business
>< sees off wedding guests