faith… no, not that kind of faith

Though maybe the argument could be made that faith is faith is faith. I don’t know. I’m talking about faith in each other, though. Faith in someone else, not a Divine.

How many times must a person disappoint before you lose faith in them? How many times will you screw up before someone stops believing in you? Then again, maybe they never believed in you, and that’s okay. You don’t really need anyone’s validation, anyway. It’d just be nice to have, is all…

I have goals. Some of them are pretty ambitious. Attain a steady (paying!) career as a writer. In film, television, books, any of those. I’ve put in a lot of time and effort, and it’s the only thing I really care about anymore. I’ve made a lot of silly sacrifices in the pursuit of that. It’s clear this is no passing whim. But I come from a practical family, real meat and potatoes sort of people. My parents worked with their hands, worked hard jobs. My aunts and uncles did, too. Auto work, metal work, desk work, working with people and kids. Working in a concrete environment that produced tangible, evident results. I was the first in my family to… I guess, get starry-eyed. I think I wanted to be the President when I was younger. Then a doctor. My mom wanted me to be a lawyer. I can’t remember what my dad wanted me to be. A pro baseball player, I think. But I want to be a writer. I want to be a storyteller. It took so many years to figure that out. Years.

My family, I think, has finally come to accept that I won’t settle for anything else. I could work a 9-to-5. Hell, I do currently work a job like that. But it’s to pay the bills and keep me occupied when I’m not writing. There was a time, though… when my family didn’t know what to make of it. When my mother looked on in disbelief and… just a little bit of anxiety at the path I’d chosen. She believes in me, and I would say that she always has. I’ve been blessed that way, to always have her in my corner, even when she doesn’t totally understand what I’m doing or talking about. My dad. Well. He died long before I sorted things out for myself.

My friends, my classmates, other people, they haven’t always had faith. Oh, most knew that I wrote and I was good at it. (I edited a lot of papers for my buddies back in undergrad.) But few–if any–had faith I would get anywhere. I think with my classmates I did myself a real disservice, too, by not really investing much time in developing stronger ties with them. I was too… stuck inside my own head. I still am, in many ways, working things out in my head when maybe I should be paying more attention to the things and people around me.

I’ve let a lot of people down over the years. School was one very long, very expensive series of disappointments before I finally got my act together. Suffice to say, I even lost faith myself for a while. I despaired. I doubted. Faith was hard. I made it through, but faith is still hard. And I’m not sure who out there still believes in me.

Why is this important? I think… it’s very important to have hope.

It’s a key theme of my book. Hope can save. Hope can provide purpose. Hope can overcome the impossible. It’s a powerful thing, and it’s intricately tied to faith. I think the idea is quite similar.

I received some strong encouragement this past week. From my friend Liz. From my writer’s group. And yes, from my mom. It was all very well-timed. This past week has been especially difficult concerning my depression, and for a while my faith disappeared.

I’m not really sure where I stand on it all now. Do I have faith? Do I hope? Do I believe I’ll make it? I don’t know. But I won’t give up, that’s a certainty. Will anyone still be with me by the time I get there? I don’t know that, either. But I’m determined to get where I want to go, regardless of how difficult or impossible it may be.

I’m going to always pursue the goal. But things like hope and faith… they can definitely make the road a lot less lonely.

when characters attack… and one other thing

You’ve written the bios. You’ve completed an outline for your story. All the pieces are in place. Then your characters turn against you.

It happens sometimes, and it’s a good thing. It means you’re in the zone. It feels that way, anyway, like the scene is writing itself. And in a way, the characters are also writing themselves. You’ve created something good, something real. The characters feel authentic and living, and they begin to behave that way, whether you want them to or not.

I am pretty good at creating an outline. I sort of excelled at making them. Then came a period when I stopped doing outlines and just wrote on the fly. Most of my scripts during film school were produced without any kind of outline beforehand. Since I’ve been working on a manuscript, though, I’ve depended heavily on an outline. It’s reassuring.

I had never written a character sketch before film school. Those classes taught me how important it was to know your (main) characters’ ins-and-outs. What they want, what they like, what they look like, where they come from, everything. After I started getting into that habit, writing my characters became much easier. They really did seem to start writing themselves, and for the most part, I was okay with that.

Sometimes, though, your character goes off on a tangent you didn’t expect and you’re not really sure you like. It’s happened to me a couple times. A few of the characters in my book have taken unexpected turns. Maybe it’s best for the story. It definitely seems like the most organic result. I’m working with a writing buddy on a script, and we’ve been surprised a couple times by our characters. It’s not a terrible thing. But it may require some adjustments to the story elsewhere.

On another topic.

Unfortunately, time got away from me, and I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to get done with my search for an agent. I did lock in two choices, but as I reviewed my query letter again, I somehow turned it into a mess. Not sure how. But I did. It’s a mess. So I’m definitely going to spend the next few days trying to work that out. One of the agents I’m going to query also requires a synopsis. I have one, but it’s not very good. It meets the basic requirements. It synopsizes the story by scenes, but it’s not really a compelling read, and I think a good synopsis needs to also communicate my writing style. So… that’s gonna take a little work, too.

So new goal for the end of this week! Finish my new query letter. Send it out to at least one agent–the one that doesn’t require the synopsis.

over the hump

Part of me wonders if this should’ve gone along with my thoughts about fear, because I suspect it has a lot to do with fear. And perfection. And the fear of not creating something perfect.

Btw, I ended up sort of taking a break from writing. Instead, I’ve been stressing about writing.

We all want to write our best, and we want people to read our best. We want it to be perfect. (At least I do.) Maybe for pride, maybe for self-respect, I think maybe to convince us that all the hell we went through taking our story from beginning to end was worth it. Why else spend weeks/months/years toiling over something?

I’m having some trouble pulling the trigger on my book. The reasons appear to be valid, and yet… I wonder if there are always going to be reasons. I mentioned my problem to a friend. She took some time and helped me work through it. I feel a lot better.

Now I just need to do my research for an agent/publisher. It’s deceptively complicated. In some ways, it’s as simple as visiting writersmarket.com (if you have a subscription), querytracker.net, or agentquery.com and finding someone that’s looking for what you’ve written. But I think it’s more involved than just spamming your search results with a query letter. Over the last couple months, I attended a few seminars on the various stages of writing and publishing. Some of the success stories were too unlikely to model my own pursuit after, but I did gleam some wisdom from them. Finding an agent is like finding a significant other. It’s a committed relationship you’re looking for, built on the trust that the other person wants what’s best for you and will strive to help you achieve your dreams. So you could try to speed-date your way to a successful match. Or you could be more deliberate and reach out to those you feel might really understand what it is you’ve written and what you hope to do with it. Last year I sent out two query letters. They both met with standard rejections. Before I tried, I was worried how I’d react to a rejection. Well. I was fine, and I got the proof I needed to realize I will be okay if/when I get rejected again. That fear is over.

There are a lot of websites describing the incredible perseverance of many popular, critically-acclaimed writers to make their first sell. Go look them up. It’s crazy, but I find it encouraging. Don’t give up, right? That’s the moral of the story there. The writer that gives up never gets published, produced, or representation. For those of us who’ve gotten as far as finishing a book/script, we soon realize that that was the easy part. Selling it is the hard part. The research, the query, the waiting, the rejection. Sometimes even hearing that someone else we know achieved success. (I’m not bitter, honest.) You know, the whole “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” thing.

It’s really tempting for me to set all that aside and just start working on the next book. My brain definitely wants to go to that creative well again, dive in, swim around… you get the metaphor. And if I hadn’t decided to get really serious about making this my career, that would be fine. But doing that won’t help me keep moving forward. My screenwriting partner likes to give me a lot of grief for, what he believes to be, wasting time on trying to get published. He much prefers I focus on scripts, and I can understand where he’s coming from. But as long as I’m actually pushing myself forward, as long as I’m querying agents, I’m never going to see this as a waste of time. When I stop trying, when I go back to doing manuscripts just “for fun,” that’s when I’ll realize it’s time to let go and get back to scriptwriting. And since I’m not there yet, I really need to put my money where my mouth is. I need to get cracking on agent research. I need to send out those query letters, pronto.

So wish me luck. The goal? Have an update on this by next time. 🙂

something about fear

So I finished my book.

A few years ago, I said the same exact thing. And it was true at the time. I had finished my book. And then I went back to work on it. It’s completely different now. It’s shorter, more streamlined. It’s better. And, I think, in all the ways that matter most, it is done. I started trimming my word count a while ago. It’s a tedious process, and one that’s still ongoing. If I were to continue that, then I guess it’s not finished. But it’s done.

Why am I repeating myself? I think it’s because I’m a little scared about what comes next. What comes next? I’m not sure. I mean, I know most of what I’m supposed to do. Shop it around to agents and publishers, shop ’til I drop. Start working on the next thing, be it a script or another book. I’ve been dragging my heels with a few other projects in my mad rush to get this done. So it’s not fear from not knowing what to do. Not exactly. Maybe a little.

I’ve spent years developing, writing, carrying this story from start to finish, after numerous edits and beta-reads. And my writer’s group. Aside from the word trim, I am done making cuts, adding stuff, reshuffling scenes. It really is time to send out query letters.

I think I’m scared that, in a way, this chapter of my life is coming to a close. My journey with the book isn’t over, no. There’s still the oh-so-wonderful adventure of trying to sell it to someone. But the brainstorming, the fixing, the discussing problems and such, it’s over. It’s time to move on to the next thing. I used to know what the next book would be about. I don’t know anymore. That scares me. The query letter stuff scares me. The unknown kinda scares me.

Maybe so much that I ended up freaking myself out with questions about the validity of my book! Maybe it’s not done! Maybe it’s the wrong book! I even entertained the notion of giving up the goal of becoming a writer. (The fact that one of my best friends and I argued about whether I could, in fact, call myself a writer didn’t help things. Whatever, that’s for a different day.)

This book has consumed most of my waking hours for the last four years. I stayed up into the wee hours working on it. I spent most of my time at work (whatever job I had) thinking about it and jotting down the occasional note. It was sort of like being in a relationship.

Another friend wondered if I was afraid of success. I’d heard of this. I’d learned about it in undergrad. It didn’t make sense to me, and it’s not like finishing the book was the success I was really after. But it felt true. I guess it’s not so rare. I’m hesitant to take another step. I have a decent query letter. I’ve gotten some good feedback on it. I feel good about it. Research is something I’m pretty good at, too. I don’t know. It’s just… I don’t know.

Fear can get in the way of a lot of things. It can get in the way of living. Turns out I’m afraid of a lot of things, and none of them were things I expected to ever fear.

Maybe I need a few days. Maybe even a week. To detox. Take a break from writing. Recharge and get reinvested. I hope that’ll do it. Because fear or not, I am ready.

TV blog extravaganza! (part 1 of 2)

So here’s the online chat Steph and I had about some of our favorite TV shows. During this discussion, we cover story arcs, characters–particularly the anti-hero, and a crapload of spoilers for the following shows: Castle, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, NCIS, Once Upon a Time, The Originals, Person of Interest, Psych, Revenge, and The Vampire Diaries. So… don’t read too far in if you don’t want to know some of what’s happened!

Also, we admit this is a pretty long blog post, so Steph and I split it into two parts. Read the first part below, and head over to the Vindicator Artists blog to get the rest of it!

Stephanie is in blue. I’m in red.

 

Hello, Steph!

Hello.

So I know that we had talked about doing this last week, but you had an exciting shoot to do!

Which was great for me, too, since it gave me a chance to do some last minute catch-up on some of the shows I’ve slacked on.

Yeah, it was a great shoot. Really excited about it. Martial arts film. Woo-hoo! It was great to be back on set with my film family. I’ve really missed it. I love writing and enjoy my solitude, but I’m always glad to be back on set. I really miss it when I don’t get to be on set.

That is exciting. I’m extremely jealous.

Yeah, it’s really hard, when you first get out of film school, where you were so busy with more projects and schoolwork than you could handle, and then you graduate and your classmates that you’ve been making movies with for the past three years scatter all over the country, and everyone is trying to make ends meet and still do what we love which is telling stories on screen.

Matching up content with funding is ridiculously hard. Especially in an economic environment in which nobody is really excited to invest in anything.

True. Wow, yes we could even spend a whole blog about that topic and Kickstarter, Zach Braff, Spike Lee, and Veronica Mars and what it means for indie filmmakers like us. And maybe we’ll do that, too! But this evening we’re going to focus on television–a topic which as you know, Steph, is near and dear to my heart. Much more, in fact, than feature filmmaking.

Did you ever see Veronica Mars when it was on TV?

No.

I saw an advertisement at Walmart and got it confused with Veronica Roth, the author of Divergent series.

That was my bad.

Huh. Yeah. No. Totally different… everything. I’ll spare you my opinion of Veronica Roth and her trilogy, though.

That’s what I get for staying too much in my writer’s solitude. I have no idea with what’s going on with the rest of the world that I’m supposed to be writing about.

We need to boost your television literacy!

I know. It’s embarrassing.

But it’s funny, since when you and I first talked about doing this dual blog thing, we discussed what shows we watched.

About how many shows did you say you watch? Religiously?

I watch about eleven throughout the year. Some of them have short seasons.

And I spend time catching up on some shows on Netflix.

For example, I just finished Dr. Who episodes that are available on Netflix. Picked up the first season of Fringe and working on fourth season of Sons of Anarchy.

And a couple of episodes of Into the Universe with Steven Hawking.

Ahh. So you like a little education with your entertainment.

Yes.

It makes me feel better for the hours I spend, haha.

Well, I remember I started listing off the shows that I watch, and then we discovered that I may watch a lot of TV. Maybe more than is healthy for a sane human being.

At the close of this spring season and as we head into summer, I watch about forty-eight shows, of which thirty-seven will be continuing sometime next fall, winter, or spring.

And it never really seemed like a lot to me, but apparently I’m a couch potato/TV junkie.

Let’s be clear, though. I don’t have a problem. 🙂

Haha.

I just think there’s a ton of great content out there now. In fact, I daresay that television is the place to be if you want to write, create, produce, or even act really compelling stuff.

Exactly. I mean, I’m not diminishing film at all. I still enjoy the big summer spectacle and the Oscar darling. What I mean is that TV was once considered a stepping stone toward a film career, but I’d say it’s really become part of the cultural consciousness just as much as features, maybe even more. You’ve got Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, True Detective.

Yeah, I still love movies, but I think in television you have a greater opportunity to develop long character arcs and develop more subplots and have more of an ensemble of compelling characters than even franchise films where you only get the audience for two hours a year or every other year.

It seems like communities are built around TV shows more so than films that have a few weeks in the theater, and then in a few months they are out on DVD and there are so many choices on Redbox and Netflix that it’s hard for a film that doesn’t have a community behind it to compete with the other content.

I think Marvel is trying to fix that for themselves, but they are having to spend so much money to pull it off and so much depends on the audience keeping interest in superheroes.

That said, I would be heartbroken if I didn’t get to go to the movies.

I might feel that way, too, if I hadn’t spent almost two years working at a movie theater. That almost killed my love for films. But you’re definitely onto something, pointing out TV’s ability to do longer story arcs, to really build and deconstruct fascinating characters. I feel like this TV season has been especially brutal, though, to some of our favorite characters. What do you think about that?

Brutal, downright cruel. I understand the need to up the ante to maintain audience interest, but I don’t know. I think some of the shows have pulled out too many stops.

At this point, I’d like to warn the readers that we will be diving into some of the specifics of this past season’s TV shows.

So… SPOILERS AHEAD! You’ve been warned.

I know that you watch more than a few shows I haven’t really gotten into, Steph. Any particularly painful moments you’d like to share/relive? 🙂

I have been dying to talk to someone about The Vampire Diaries!!

I have to emphasize the word dying.

Alright. I’ll be honest. I have not been keeping up with that show this season. But I did read some articles a couple days ago and essentially spoiled myself. Go ahead.

Depending on whether or not Damon is actually dead or not, I am either really excited to see how they are going to bring him back or I am ready to burn down the studio which is in Georgia, so not too far from my clutches.

Don’t get me wrong. I like most of the characters but there is no way Enzo can replace Damon.

You little pyro. So are you saying you didn’t see this coming?

I had heard that Damon dies in one of the books, but I never dreamed they would write him off, so I’m assuming there is a way to bring him back from the “dead” or “undead dead.”

I don’t think the show would survive without Damon.

If they were wanting me to totally believe that Damon was really dead, I don’t believe it.

It seems to be the curse of the onscreen/offscreen romance. But you seem to think they didn’t actually kill him… permanently. Which is already weird to say, since he plays a vampire on the show.

Well, they’ve been building toward Damon accepting the ultimate act of heroism which is to die to save everyone else, but he was acting under the belief that Bonnie could bring him back. So I knew that when he went to the Other Side, I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to make it back.

Also, it seems nobody on TVD ever really stays dead.

I know. So I don’t know how they could really make Damon and Bonnie and Lexi stay dead forever.

Especially now that Alaric is back. Damon is his drinking buddy. So of course Damon is coming back.

Now, I did watch TVD from the beginning up until about halfway through this season. In some ways, he’s really developed a lot as a character. Four+ years, and I guess a character should show growth, or they start to get a little boring, right?

Damon has come a long way.

Stefan even makes the comment when Damon dies that Damon had just gotten everything he wanted and he was happy.
So I guess the moral is as soon as you get everything you want, you die.

Misery is the secret to life, is that it?

I guess you can’t be accepted into whatever the other side of the Other Side is if you still have unhappiness holding you back. The other side of the Other Side can’t be contaminated with the tragedy of human experience.

Bottom line: if the studio has made Damon dead to me, then TVD is dead to me.

Amen and Amen. I agree, Damon is the lifeblood (har-har) of that show.

Haha.

Now, this isn’t the first show that’s tried to pull a death-that-is-not-death on you, is it? I heard something similar about Castle…?

Well, the network kind of spoiled that one when they went to commercial break and said Kate and Castle will return next season, so obviously he’s not really dead. And pretty much the only way to kill a main character is to show the body with the eyes open in the death stare. Even then, I still held out hope that Matthew Grantham could possibly still be alive.

Matthew, no. Ugh. Why’d you take me there? The pain is still too near.

Damn you, Downton Abbey!

But, and I feel bad about this, but a new romance for Mary sounds fun.

True, but in a way I feel like maybe they should’ve retitled the show this season to The Many Men of Mary. But Matthew’s death was last season, not this season. Not a single death for the Granthams this year (which is the UK’s last year, but whatever), proving that TV is not all doom and gloom after all.

At least Psych ended on a somewhat good note. Jules’s engagement ring got stolen just as Shawn finally proposed, but that led into a fun car chase.

Shawn and Gus are still together.

To be fair, though, Psych never really went to much of a dark place, did it? I don’t know. I didn’t catch the last season and a half.

Yeah, it never got too serious. A couple years ago, we thought Henry may have died, but he survived.

Shawn and Gus almost die every episode, but we always know they will get of it by some bizarre occurrence in the universe.

Or Shawn’s smart mouth.

Well, clearly they couldn’t kill Henry (Shawn’s dad). It would’ve irrevocably changed the characters of the show.

Yeah, the show is more about how unchangeable the characters are.

It’s one of the key differences between Psych and The Mentalist.

I mean, that and the fact that Psych is pure awesome, and The Mentalist is obnoxious and should be put out to pasture. 🙂

(Okay, that’s not fair of me. I’ve never watched a whole episode.)

Haha. well, some people like the show even if they think Jane is a jerk.

Jane is good and highly entertaining as a jerk, so it works for him.

He fits well with the rest of the characters, kinda like Gibbs on NCIS. Gibbs is a jerk sometimes but you can always depend on DiNozzo to lighten the mood.

Yes, and like Jane, DiNozzo is also obnoxious–but in a much more lovable way.

Exactly.

So what we’re really saying is Jane is a combination of Gibbs and DiNozzo…

Hmmm. I guess you could make that suggestion.

I love DiNozzo, so I’m very protective of him, haha.

Okay, now I haven’t watched this show much since the fourth season. Did I miss anything? 🙂 I didn’t, right?

Well, Ziva isn’t there, but I don’t remember which season she came in. Pretty much the characters are the same. DiNozzo has matured at infinitesimal increments, and he has had some serious moments.

What season is it in, anyway?

11, I think.

But the success is not because of the change in the characters or the storylines. It’s because we can depend on the NCIS team to be the same every week. We know what to expect. They never let us down by changing into someone else. I would be devastated if Tony DiNozzo got all serious and stopped being an overgrown frat boy.

Funny you mention that. Now if I remember right, NCIS got in pretty much at the beginning of the forensic drama craze, didn’t it?

Yes, I think so.

One thing that helped the show was that it was in the same universe as JAG, which was a popular courtroom drama that had similar who-dun-it aspects to it and a good ensemble of characters.

In fact, if I may add, I have been waiting for years, for NCIS to have Harm and Mac make a guest appearance, haha.

Hm. I never watched JAG, except for the backdoor pilot that introduced Gibbs. Long time ago. And like I said, I gave up on NCIS years ago, mostly I guess because I sorta lost interest in the procedural thing. But maybe you can speak to that. What do you think separates NCIS from other shows with a similar premise, like CSI, Criminal Minds, and Law & Order?

 

go to Vindicator Artists to read the rest!

holding pattern

So I don’t really have much to say this week (yet), because my good friend Steph over at the Vindicator Artists blog had a great conversation about the last season of television. We talked about a ton of shows, from The Vampire Diaries to 2 Broke Girls and from Revenge to Game of Thrones. We’re still in the process of formatting it, (it’s long!) but we hope to put up the first couple parts tomorrow. It’s gonna be split between my blog and hers, so if you want to read the whole thing, you should definitely hop on over to her site for a look (after tomorrow).

We discussed character arcs, plot twists, who died and who clearly didn’t. Yes. It’s gonna have a lot of spoilers. Just keep that in mind in case you haven’t caught up on the shows we talk about.

So… be sure to check in tomorrow!