next_to_normal: (Amanda S laughing)
Icons inspired by this article, which [personal profile] lirazel linked to yesterday.

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next_to_normal: (willow ooh)
1. Spending a year on "Ringer" - So, SMG's latest TV outing was... not the best. OTT, completely nonsensical, soapy, guilty pleasure, perhaps. But if you're curious what was going on in the writers' room, here's one account. Unfortunately, it does not explain what on earth they were thinking with some of those "plot twists."

2. The "Raiders" Story Conference - A 125-page transcript of the original brainstorming session for Raiders of the Lost Ark with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan is available for download. If you're an Indy fan (I, coincidentally, just rewatched Last Crusade this weekend) or if you want to see how the masters develop a story idea into a movie, check it out. And if reading a 125-page transcript seems daunting to you, you can just check out the linked post, which gives the highlights.

3. "Friends" Oral History - If you missed the print article in last month's Vanity Fair, it's now available online. (Er, I have also been watching a lot of Friends reruns on Nick at Nite.)
next_to_normal: (i heart tv)
* Casting news: Lauren Ambrose is going to be in Torchwood: Miracle Day. Although my Six Feet Under (re)watch got stalled after season 2, I still kind of love her. Man, between this and Dichen Lachman, it's like they're trying to make me watch it or something. I suspect I'll do what I did with Children of Earth - wait for everyone else to watch it first and heed the warnings. :)

* If you're looking for Office spoilers (or just morbidly curious how the show will survive without Steve Carell), Alan Sepinwall has the deets. I am cautiously optimistic. I mean, there's always the chance a show will crash and burn with a major shift like this, but The Office has gotten terribly stale the last couple seasons. If they must persist in making new episodes instead of quitting while they're ahead, I am more than happy to see some new blood coming in to shake things up. And honestly, Michael Scott hasn't been a character I enjoy watching in at least two years, and he was never my favorite part of the show, so I doubt I'll miss him very much. It's really just a question of whether the writers can find a strong new direction for the show, or if the writing ends up being the same tired stuff, but with a Carell-sized hole in it.

* From the IDEK file: How on earth do you make a reality show out of Pac-Man? I suppose it has the potential to be unintentionally hilarious, but I'm expecting just plain awful. For real, they will make a reality show out of anything these days. (Personally, I am still holding out for the "Celebrity Gets Eaten By a Shark" show.)

* Random writing advice: When and how to use flashbacks. 

next_to_normal: (victory is mine)
Paper is DONE. Semester is OVER. Time to finish my Christmas shopping wrap presents bake cookies PARTAY!

Class, Chelsea, and cooking under the cut! )
next_to_normal: (Buffy in class)
  • Less IMDb (which I'd mentioned before) is now available for Chrome and Firefox.
  • Paul McCartney went on Jimmy Fallon and they sang the "original lyrics" to "Yesterday." Oh, have you tried the waffle fries? :)
  • Word count on my paper: 3,912
  • Days until paper is due: 3
  • Things I intend to write posts on as soon as I'm finished my paper: yummy recipe, Connie Willis books, Being Erica, possibly other TV?
  • Christmas presents bought: 9
  • Christmas presents still left to buy: 7
  • Days until Christmas: 13 (this one's almost over!)

next_to_normal: (punctuation)
For those of you who are writers, you may be interested in this fun link I found (via [ profile] jongibbs): The Wasteline Test. It's a promotional thing for a book called The Writer's Diet, which I have not read, so I can't endorse it, but the test is pretty clever. It analyzes how lean your writing is by identifying problematic parts of speech and tells you if you're overdoing it in any areas, like too many adjectives or adverbs, "be" verbs, etc. You'll get an assessment in each word category and an overall assessment telling you whether or not you need to trim the fat from your writing.

I tried several different samples of my writing, and they all came out either lean or fit & trim, so clearly this test is brilliant. :) It kind of makes me want to test published authors and see how their stuff comes out.

100 days

Aug. 14th, 2010 04:37 pm
next_to_normal: (Darla smile)
A while back, I realized that I had been on a streak of posting every day, and decided to set the goal of posting every day for 100 days straight. Today is the 100th day of my streak, for a grand total of 147 posts! Yay me!

It was easy at first, since I was doing the 30 Days of TV meme, so I knew I'd have something to post every day. After that, it got a bit more difficult, but it was interesting to challenge myself in this way, seeing as how I'm no longer really using the journal for the purpose it was created (writing fic), and I have at times angsted over what to do with this space, what sort of things to post that people might actually be interested in reading. (If you're curious, male feminists and fandom monopoly were by far the two most popular posts.) There were a few times when I was like, "Crap! I haven't posted yet today! I need a meme!" but most of the time there was enough going on to make legitimate posts.

I have agonized a lot over the lack of fanfic in the past year or so, both in what it says about me as a writer and what it means for my contribution (or lack thereof) to fandom. I have a pretty high threshold for writing fic - it takes a magic combination of characters and universe and interesting "what ifs" to make it happen, and only a few shows have ever inspired me to write - and so as much as I miss writing, it becomes nearly impossible when I'm not as interested in the show as I used to be and when I'm very frustrated with fandom. It's still hard, though, not to see it as personal failure, not to compare myself to other people and come up short (yes, I am a neurotic perfectionist, nice to meet you).

Part of my quest to watch as many new TV shows as possible is to see if I can find other things that inspire me in that way, but it's so rare that I don't expect much. I have watched many brilliant shows (Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica, Dexter) that didn't inspire fic. At the very least, it gives me things to talk about as I post reactions to each new show.

Anyway, I'm curious what you, as readers, thought of the posting experiment. Did I drive anyone crazy by posting so much, lol? Are there things you want me to keep talking about? Things you wish I'd shut up about? Things I haven't mentioned, but you want to see discussed?
next_to_normal: (punctuation)
Just a few blog posts I spotted this week that I thought were interesting and/or helpful.

Finding Tips on Self-Editing at The Blood-Red Pencil: This is a round-up of many posts from the blog with lots of good editing advice, some of which you've probably heard before (adjective/adverb use, dialogue tags, habit words). I particularly liked the one on identifying a dragging narrative. (via [ profile] start_writing)

Finding Your Voice: Also from Blood-Red Pencil, I thought this was appropriate since [ profile] angearia was talking about voice not too long ago. There always seems to be confusion about what "voice" actually means whenever the subject gets brought up, and this is one of the best definitions I've seen. (via [ profile] jongibbs)

Presentation and readability for LJ and beyond
: This is a handy reference guide for basic html and CSS coding for those of you who can never remember how to do that stuff. (via [ profile] fanficrants, of all places)

Also, just a reminder that John Rogers is talking about Leverage episodes as they air again this season (he's one of the creators/writers of the show).


May. 23rd, 2010 09:34 pm
next_to_normal: (punctuation)
I could use some. But that is not the point of this post.

Not too long ago, [ profile] cleolinda posted a clever and useful expansion of the glass of water metaphor, (you know what I mean, how the essence of all plot conflicts is that a character has to want something, even if it's just a glass of water) and in the process creates some hilarious summaries of popular movies.

Anyway, today she posted a follow-up more generally about writing process and how to use the glass of water to improve your story. Both posts are very good reading.
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This is an excellent article on Writer's Voice, which serves as a timely follow up to Emmie's recent post on the subject.

What do we mean when we talk about "voice"?

Voice, at its most basic level, is the sensibility with which an author writes. It's a perspective, an outlook on the world, a personality and style that is recognizable even out of context.

The article also talks about the essential elements that make a voice effective and how to cultivate your own.
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I want to point you all to this post from John August about using acting techniques to improve your writing. In a way, it's just a further extension of the old adage "write what you know." It's not that you can't write a character experiencing an emotion or mental state you've never experienced, but it sure helps to get into their head if you can somehow evoke that in yourself as you're writing, either through sense memory or by drawing on a related experience.

John specifically mentions crying, and his experience writing the end of "Big Fish" by crying in front of a mirror. One of the commenters brought up the Robert Frost quote, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” And it makes sense, right? Because if you can't even make yourself cry, then how can you expect to make other people cry? That really struck a chord with me, because I usually make myself cry when I write something that's intended to be a tear-jerker. It's usually unintentional - my eyes just sort of well up as I get into the writing of it. But there are a couple fics I've written where I was totally immersed in that emotional state, and I drew on my own feelings to convey the angst I wanted. And I cried my eyes out during the writing of those stories. Is it effective? Well, you tell me, but those fics still make me cry when I reread them.

I really like his mental image of pressing the "record" button on your brain whenever you have remarkable or intense experiences that might inform your writing. Perhaps a more concrete way of doing that is to keep a journal? Even if you're not doing it every day, when you come across an experience like that, write it down. Put into words how it felt. Then when you need to find that place again for your writing, you have a reminder.

And I definitely recommend acting classes, if you want to be a professional writer. Or just in general. They're fun!
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I was thinking some more about my post from the other day. Specifically, Hanson's point that you can't make a lot of money by writing television that aspires to be art, and how that creates a divide among writers - those who write for the mass audience and want to draw in as many viewers as they can, and those who write shows that will never appeal to more than a niche audience, but the result is a better quality TV show. And it reminded me of a song that I tend to think of as the unofficial Joss Whedon anthem, "Nine People's Favorite Thing," from the musical [title of show]:

next_to_normal: (Toby writer's block)
I stumbled across this transcript of a keynote speech by Hart Hanson (aka the creator of Bones), and I thought he had some very interesting things to say. Some of them I agree with, some of them I don't (namely this: "My entire audience wants them [Booth and Bones] to get together." Um, not all of us, punk. Personally, I think you're killing the show by forcing UST where there isn't any).

Read more... )
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5 Steps to Surviving an Edit is great blog post I saw linked at [ profile] start_writing. It's directed toward professional authors who submit their manuscript to a freelance editor, but I think it works just as well if you go through the whole thing, change the word "editor" to "beta," and apply it to fanfic (except for the part where betas don't get paid, of course!).

Just to pull out some quotes I think are valuable:

But deep down inside... you are also kind of hoping that editor will deem your work “brilliant as is” and return it with only a few typos changed.

I think this is what a lot of authors expect when they send their work off to a beta - especially new authors - and it's a huge blow to them to see it come back covered in corrections and comments. But that's not what the editing process is all about. It's not about confirming your brilliance; it's about making your story the best that it can be.

Marks on the page ≠ “I am a bad writer.”
Marks on the page = your editor is doing what you paid her to do.

Dude. Words to live by. For both the author and the beta. Authors, obviously, don't be upset by lots of marks on the page. It's not a personal indictment of you as a writer. It just means there's room for improvement - and improvement is GOOD! Don't we all want our fics to be the best they possibly can be?

But betas, too, don't hesitate to mark things up! I've had betas who were actually afraid to make edits to my chapters, because they didn't want to overstep their boundaries or presume they knew better than me or some nonsense like that. Look, if you're not going to make the damn thing better, why are you betaing for me at all? I know not every author thinks that way, but if you're holding back on your corrections because you're worried the author won't take it well, then you need to find a less sensitive author (or direct her to this post, because she doesn't understand the purpose of a beta).

Rather than brace yourself against your editor's comments, open yourself to their possibilities. Allow a week or two to digest them so whatever truth is there can sink in.

I know that a lot of times, when you get criticism, your first instinct is to say, "But! But! You're missing the point! You're reading it wrong!" Especially when it's something that you think is really necessary or important, and your beta completely disagrees. I know that my tendency is often to explain why I did what I did. Which can be helpful - if your beta knows what you were trying to do, then perhaps she can help you rewrite it in a way that more accurately conveys what you meant to say (but clearly didn't, or she would've gotten it the first time, without the explanation). But resist the urge to get defensive - always keep it open-minded ("This is what I was trying to say. Does it work if I clarify it by changing X?") rather than simply trying to argue your side.

“If I were an agent I would have stopped reading here” is not an easy thing for you to read or your editor to write—but its very honesty is a gift.

Honestly, does anyone want to post something that no one will want to read? Probably not. You want to post the best story you can, you want people to read it, and (let's face it) you want people to like it. Who doesn't like getting good reviews on their fic? Your beta is like the canary in the mine, an early warning for when something goes wrong, so you can fix it before it's too late. If she reads your story and goes, "Meh," then chances are, a lot of your readers are gonna have the same reaction. If she thinks your dialogue is OOC, chances are, your readers will, too. If she can't follow your incomprehensible plot, chances are, your readers can't, either. See where I'm going with this?

When I was starting out in Buffy fandom, this was the most important thing to me. Even before I discovered the wonders of editing and collaboration and improvement, I knew I needed a beta, because I needed that test opinion. I wanted at least one stamp of approval other than my own before sending my fic out into the great big world. (That's not a rubber stamp, mind you - a beta who does nothing but tell you you're wonderful is utterly, utterly useless.)

Anyway, I recommend checking out the original post. And while you're over there, take a look at Things That Drive an Editor Crazy. All things that have been covered numerous times, but definitely bear repeating.
next_to_normal: (Whatever)
Remember a few days ago, I posted a link to an article entitled "I Will Not Read Your F**king Script"? Well, as always happens whenever anyone says the word "fuck" (and I'm not sure why I've been bleeping it out of the article title... the author sure didn't. Guess it's just to preserve the virgin eyes of my flist), people got cranky. In particular, this response.

Now, I'd like to present the appearance of impartiality and let you draw your own conclusions, but... well, I already recced the original article, so I think we know how I feel about it. And I think this response completely misses the point. Josh Olson isn't talking about being pissed off that people ask him to read scripts. I would think this is obvious from the reference to the pile of scripts from good friends that he's agreed to read.

What he's talking about (and what, I think, all the commenters on my post understood, possibly because I cherry-picked the quotes *g*) is people he barely knows asking him to read scripts, and then being unreceptive to the constructive criticism.

I would guess that anyone who reads that article and thinks, "What an asshole," has never been on the receiving end of a truly awful piece of shit on which the author was expecting feedback, only to receive a blow off - or worse, an angry, indignant rant - in response to the time and effort they put into critiquing it. Those of us who have know that Olson's scenario is all too familiar, and exactly how many times do you take that risk, only to be ranted at again, before you give up on newbies altogether?

Laurell K. Hamilton, of all people, gets it and expands on it in her blog.

And if you're interested in a slightly different perspective, [ profile] cleolinda has some links, as well as her own thoughts, on the "cuz I might get sued" aspect of not reading other people's work.

next_to_normal: Cordy praying, Willow watching; text: ask for some aspirin (Ask for some aspirin)
As an illustration of why you shouldn't ask professional writers to read your stuff, this is really only halfway relevant to fanfic, but there are just so many bits that I want to quote and say "Word!" Plus, it's just an interesting post: "I Will Not Read Your F**king Script." Relevant excerpts under the cut.

Read more... )
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I'm a little behind the times here, since this blog post is from almost two weeks ago, but over on edittorrent, there was a post about epilogues and then a follow-up, which naturally produced thinky thoughts.

Read more... )

next_to_normal: (James rar!)
Good post from Neil Gaiman for when you get those reviewers who leave comments demanding the next chapter of your fic, or who email/comment on unrelated posts to ask when you'll be posting an update. (Because nothing gets the muse going like someone tugging at your metaphorical sleeve asking, "Is it done yet? How about now? Well, what about now?")

"People are not machines. Writers and artists aren't machines.

You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you."

Even more so since, with fanfic, you don't even pay to read it.

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I was reading another screenwriter's blog (as I am wont to do), and found this post. The point of it isn't so much relevant to me, since he's talking about why you should take a writing job on a crappy show and not worry about having a crappy show on your resume, but the reason he recommends it is really interesting:

You can't learn from something that's done right.

It may seem counterintuitive, but I've found it to be true in fic writing. I can't count the number of times I've read a really awesome fic and said, "I wish I could write like that," whether in reference to the prose itself, or the storytelling, or the plot, or the literary device used, or whatever. But the problem is, it gives me a benchmark without any real way of teaching me how to reach that benchmark. What makes a good story work? Often, it's not something you can explain - it's just that everything clicks and things come together perfectly and it's not really something you can replicate. And I've found myself endlessly frustrated in trying to do things I've seen other authors execute flawlessly, when I really don't know how they did it, and thus, don't know how to do it on my own.

(This was also an issue I had early on with dialogue. I knew funny lines when I heard them, but I didn't know what made them funny, so the only way I knew how to write funny lines was to steal jokes from other shows and adapt them for whatever I was writing.)

On the other hand, you CAN learn from a fic that gets it wrong. You can look at their mistakes and figure out how you'd have fixed them. You can see where they went wrong and vow never to do that in your own writing. It's often much easier to learn what not to do than it is to learn how to recreate the best story you ever read. (It's also why concrit is helpful, because then someone is pointing out your own mistakes so you can learn from them.)

Maybe this is striking a chord because I just read another fic last night that didn't go the way I wanted it to, and much like with He Will Come For Me, thinking about how I'd have made it more interesting gave me a fic idea of my own (not that I'll ever write it, but that's a different issue).

next_to_normal: (Thinky James 2)
I saw this article at asking "What's the difference between story and plot?" I'll admit, I'm tempted to agree with one of the commenters that this is some kind of social experiment to see who can get through the entire article without being distracted by the half-naked women in the graphics, lol, but as I read through the article, I did kind of find myself wondering what the difference is. My first instinct is to define plot as getting from point A to point B, and story as a broader concept, tied to theme, emotion and/or characters, but the more quotes I read from authors on the subject, the more confused the two concepts get. Thoughts?

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