writing tagged posts

“The Everything Screenwriting Book” Review

Of all the books out there on screenwriting, this on one not to waste your money on.

Because it was published in 2003, it contains a lot of unavoidable “errors.” For example, author Robert Pollock could not have foreseen the death of the video rental store or the rise of video streaming or social media. We can forgive and ignore these and other things and move on to the more serious problems with the book.

First, it’s easy to wonder why Pollock was hired to write the book in the first place. He has only one screenplay that was turned into a movie to his credit, a generally panned 1981 film called “Loophole...

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Critique Technique Table of Contents

Here’s a Table of Contents of all of the Critique Technique posts to make it easier to go directly to the post you want to read.

Introductory Posts

Part 1: Critique, Technique, and Procedure

Part 2: Series Overview

Reader Response

Part 3: How Do You Feel?

Part 4: Authorial Intentions and Tracking Your Own Responses

Beginnings and Endings

Part 5: Weak or Missing Hook

Part 6: The Wrong Beginning

Part 7: Scene and Chapter Endings

Part 8: Story Endings

Characterization

Part 9: Characters and Conflict

Part 10: Poor Characterization

Part 11: Lack of Character Development

Part 12: Showing and Telling in Character Development

Part 13: Timing the Reveal

Part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior

Part 15: Unclear Character Goals

Part 16: Unclear or Insufficient Obstacles

Part 17: Dialect, Foreign Languages,...

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“The Elements of Grammar for Writers” Review

3-star rating
"The Elements of Grammar for Writers" book cover

This little book is outdated in some ways, yet it has certain charms and retains some value.

Written in 8 BG (“Before Google”)—that is, in 1990, when BG still referred to the Brothers Gibb, personal computers were a new thing, and the internet was mostly a gleam in technologists’ eyes—it’s amusing to see references to hand-written student papers and reminders to make sure you use a new typewriter ribbon when getting a paper ready to turn in.

It was also clearly written primarily for college student writers facing the near-future prospect of having to write papers for employers, not just professors...

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Critique Technique, Part 17: Dialect, Foreign Languages, and Jargon

This is the last post in the series on characterization. Next time we’ll move on to setting.

Confused person
Photo by Jeroen van Oostrom, via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’ve traveled around the country, or watched TV or the movies, or done just about anything other than live under a rock, you know that people speak differently in different places. They have different accents, different slang terms, and different styles of speaking. Compare the laconic Mainer or cowboy to the fast-talking New Yorker. And that’s just in the United States! Canadians, Britons, Scots, Irish, New Zealanders, Australians, and some Indians and Kenyans (to name just a few) speak English, too.

And they all do it differently.

England’s WWII Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill famously described America and ...

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Critique Technique, part 14: Out-of-Character Behavior

Comedy has been defined as “ordinary people in extraordinary situations, or extraordinary people in ordinary situations.” But what if the piece you’re critiquing isn’t comedy—or isn’t meant to be comedy? When a character you’ve come to know suddenly acts in a way that makes you stop, scratch your head, and say “huh?”, maybe there’s a problem.

Maybe. That’s an important word. What does the story’s context tell you about this new behavior? If Alice suddenly starts screaming, which she’s never done before, but it’s because the car she’s riding in just went off a cliff, that’s reasonable...

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Book 3, Starting Draft 2

One of the things writer Anne Lamott is famous for is her advice, “Give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft.” To me that’s a kind of liberation theology for writers, but that’s a subject for another time. Today I’m going to continue to pull back the curtain on my writing process, at least as it relates to getting all the scenes in order for the second draft of this book.

So: “Give yourself permission….” Done.

“Write a shitty first draft.” Done.

OK, maybe “shitty” is a relative term, but while my read-through of the first draft got a “not bad” rating, as I wrote last time there were problems with the timeline, that is, the sequence of events in the plot. Timeline is especially critical for this book for two reasons.

  • One, it needs to end at a certain time of year in order to t...
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Book 3, Draft 1

Woman reading a book

Image courtesy of Marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last night I finished my first complete read-through of the first draft of book #3 (working title, Guardians, although I’m considering Wild Spread as an alternative). (No, that’s not me over there on the right. My ideal reader, maybe. At least her interest level looks right.) I’ve got almost 10 pages of hand-written notes of things to check, fix, delete, etc.

Overall verdict: not bad.

There are some scenes that are way out of position. There’s a place where one of my secondary characters chrysalizes, then a few chapters later appears again in her unchanged, original form, as if the chrysalization never happened. Oops. Well, that’s the sort of thing that happens in a first draft...

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Critique Groups: Saying Good-Bye

The Cochise Writers’ Group, which I co-founded with Cappy Hanson, has gone through phases of growth and contraction, as every group does. We’ve been as small as four members, and as large as 17! We hit that number about a year ago and it became obvious very quickly that if we didn’t do something, the group was going to be unmanageable. The first thing we did was close the group to new members.

Our only saving grace was that not everyone in the group was submitting work. A lot of the new members did initially, in that burst of enthusiasm that comes with being new at something, but that tapered off over the months. Now we’ve got about half a dozen members who submit work more or less regularly, and that makes things easier to handle, both from a critique standpoint and from a management one.

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Tucson Festival of Books, Day 2

Got home late from TFoB yesterday, so now I’m catching up.

Did I say yesterday there were crowds at the Festival? Let me show you.

TFoB crowds

Did I say there was food? (And crowds)

TFoB food

That’s just one side of one of the two food courts.

And there were panels. LOTS of panels. From one on the “first folio” printings of all of Shakespeare’s plays, to Kick-Ass Women of Sci-Fi, to Surviving the Future (panel below),

L-R: Austin Aslan, Paolo Bacigalupi, Charlie Jane Anders, Jonathan Maberry

L-R: Austin Aslan, Paolo Bacigalupi, Charlie Jane Anders, Jonathan Maberry

to Ask a Sci-Fi Editor, to My Hero Can Beat Up Your Hero (panel below).

My Hero panel

L-R: Paolo Bacigalupi, Greg Bear, Sam Sykes

Did I have a good time? Writer-pal Lisa Vogel and I did, even standing in line.

Lisa & Ross

Yeah, definitely going again next year.

Save

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2016 Tucson Festival of Books, Day 1

Day 1 of the 2016 Tucson Festival of Books is in, well, the books. (Sorry.) (Not really.) Hosted on the University of Arizona campus, it’s the fourth largest book fair in the entire country, and 99% of it is FREE! (Pictures tomorrow, I promise!)

Check out this (very) partial list of authors in attendance: Paolo Bacigalupi, Greg Bear, Terry Brooks (yes, the Sword of Shannara creator), Jared Diamond, Diana Gabaldon (yes, the Outlander creator), Tucson writer J. A. Jance, Jeff Mariotte, Sierra Vista’s own Yvonne Navarro and Weston Ochse, cartoonist Stephan Pastis (creator of the Pearls Before Swine strip), R. L. Stine (creator of the Goosebumps kids’ series), Chuck Wendig, and over 100 others...

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