October 27, 2009

Some Pointers Direct From Pixar

Hello Folks!

So guess what? November's here, and with it the opportunity to do more. More writing that is :)

And not just novel writing (yes, yes, I'm still working on my novel, finishing it up--I'm shooting for the end of 2009 to get it completely done, till an agent or editor makes recommendations, that is), but other forms of writing as well. My goal is to work on a few short stories, and... screenwriting.

Yep, you read it right. Screenwriting. I'm excited and anxious to start on this project at the same time. Nervous because I've never seen a movie script before (though I've seen my fair share of movies) and have NO idea where to start (no worries, I'm gonna do a little bookshopping ^^ More quivers to my arsenal, you know?). Excited because I know I'm going to have a lot of fun writing this too and developing this story (remember the time I told you about this friend of mine who'd made fun of me, well, it's the idea that spawned off that!). Of course, I'll let you know how it goes, what I learn from the process and all that. Most definitely will be asking for help too :)

Ah-nyways, I just read this article which describes how the people at Pixar go about developing their awesomely-wonderful movies, and here are a few tips from the big guys themselves:

1. Empathize with your main character, even if you don't like all of his/her motivations or qualities.

2. Unity of opposites: each character must have clear goals that oppose each other.

3. You should have something to say. Not a message, per se, but some perspective, some experiential truth.

4. Have a key image, almost like a visual logline, to encapsulate the essence of the story; that represents the emotional core on which everything hangs.

5. Know your world and the rules of it.

6. The crux of the story should be on inner, not outer, conflicts.

7. Developing the story is like an archeological dig. Pick a site where you think the story is buried, and keep digging to find it.

8. Only tell what's vital.

And with this advice, I shall let you go back to your devices. Yay for writing! \(^.^)/

--The Writing Apprentice

October 26, 2009

Preparations to World Fantasy Convention

Good Evening Everyone,


Not much to say today, just got Very Busy. Now getting ready for the World Fantasy Convention coming up at the end of this week. I am both excited and anxious. I have no idea what to expect of this trip, I'm just hoping it's all good, or even better, GREAT!


One of the highlights will be that I will finally be able to meet Ken Scholes, the writer of the fantabulously contorted Lamentation, which I loved (I kept on trying to figure out what was going to happen only to get my theories flung back in the face--Awesome!).


I will let you know what happened, who I got to meet, things I got to do or not... When I get back. Which will be beginning November (already T^T time sure flies by, doesn't it?).


Until then, make sure you make plenty of good stories of your own (filled with laughter...laughter's always a must!).


--The Writing Apprentice

PS: If anyone has any tips or pieces of knowledge on this convention, please feel free to share them. I can tell you they'll be GREATLY appreciated :)

October 20, 2009

How to Stay Motivated?

Hello all. I know, I’m a day late. Apologies. Huh, looks like I’m doing that a lot lately. Well, to tell you the truth, this past month has been pretty hectic, what with me trying to finish my novel and . . . and that’s it. Sigh. It’s pretty sad, isn’t it?

Yes, the thing is, I’ve realized that motivation comes to me in cycles, and not all of the same length. Which makes things pretty difficult.

Granted, that’s a nice way to say that I have a major Lazy Gene that’s part of my DNA, and I’m having the toughest of times eradicating it (I mean, seriously, how can ANYONE resist watching Korean drama, huh?).

But now it’s back on, and right on time to put the (I hope) final touches to my bebeh before the World Fantasy Convention. Yep, I am pretty much looking forward to that one.

But let’s get back to our sheep, shall we (sorry, couldn’t resist doing a literal translation of a French expression a teacher of mine used to say all the time, back in the olden days) . . .

Motivation. That one’s a slippery suckah. If I don’t concentrate, it just escapes me and I have to hunt for it all over again.

But there are some tricks to catching it (Motivation is a Very Wild Beast, I have found, and thus not easily tamed), and I figured I’d share a few of them with you:

1) Think about the final goal you want to achieve and break it down into smaller parts that are easily and realistically manageable. Then you won’t feel so Sisyphus-sy.
2) Find a point about the task at hand that you find really exciting and focus on that.
3) Think of the hard parts as mini challenges and you are a mighty night of the round table about to bring that beast down. Boo-yeah!
4) Surround yourself with positive people who give you energy instead of taking it--this step is VERY crucial and constantly plays a major role in my life. (Yes, I thank you ALL so very much for being so supportive!).

Well, that’s all folks for today. If you have any other ways you can come up with that help keep you motivated, please share in the comments section.

--The Writing Apprentice

PS: I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a “research” article in here. It’ll come, but probably not till November as I find these Quest Posts way easier to write than the others (I take it it probably means these are also a lot easier to read, huh?).


For those of you who are stellar procrastinators, like me :)

October 12, 2009

Apology

Dear Blog Reader,

Tonight I'd like to make an apology--I am sorry for disappointing you, as I won't be posting anything more meaningful than this tonight.

Reason: tonight is critique night and I'm not busy revising my manuscript according to the comments I received (all of which were awesome, by the way). I have a lot of work still to do, and I have to be done with my book by the end of the month (self-imposed date, in case you enquire).

I do hope to see you next week (and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will be an insightful post and not a meagre excuse like tonight).

Still, I appreciate your patience and understanding, dear reader, and will do my best to make sure my manuscript makes up for the disappointment you're feeling now (and if you're not disaapointed at all, well, no need to let me know^^).

Your ever-trying-to-be-diligent,

Alessa

October 5, 2009

Writing Diet

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague
.”
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"


Yep. That’s where I, the almighty Writing Apprentice am standing regarding my novel. Editing’s friggin’ tough work.

Before I started writing, or writing seriously let’s just say, my idea of being an author was of someone spending 75% of his/her time daydreaming, and the rest of the time putting words together in an easy, pleasant atmosphere (hmmm, how about by the crackling fire when it’s pouring outside?).




Reality: Totally. Not. It.

Writing’s more about re-writing. And, in my case, (re^25)-writing. Yep. Currently am on my 12th draft. Over half of them was about me finding how I wanted to bring about the story (example: points of view, which characters to put in, etc), and how I wanted the story to develop (yeah, I know, a minor detail).

And what does this draft consist of? Cleaning. Yeah! I’m my own manuscript’s maid! I’ve never been that fond of dusting or doing the dishes (except for the soap bubbles that come out of the bottle--I always have fun with those) or vacuuming or doing the laundry, but writing cleaning is turning out to be fun!

Don’t believe me? Well, it’s true. Why? I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA. Trust me, it’s hard work, and there’s (sadly) still a lot for me to do to tighten up my novel, and to give you an idea of what lexical calories I’m shedding I’ve decided to give you my recipe (gathered from various sources over the internet).

1. A good word should only be used once in a book. Same goes for an expression or a turn of phrase, no matter how enamored you are with it.

2. Try to avoid repetitions, they do get noticed.

3. Flat writing is a sign your story's dragging.
Red Flag: you’re bored with your own writing. I’m not kidding. That actually happened to me in Draft 2. I was so bored with my own story I couldn’t come up with what to write next. I’d killed off my muse.

4. Be brief.

5. Be specific: don’t use “it,” “someone,” or “something.” Generalizations are annoying and can turn into clich├ęs (yes, I’m guilty of that as well).

6. Avoid passive verbs/‘To be’ words. Passive: The gun was taken up by the meanie and the poor princess was shot. Active: The meanie took the gun and shot the poor princess. Which one do you like best?

7. Resist using too many adverbs. These are most of the ‘-ly’ words. I’ve noticed that in most cases dropping the adverb is more effective than leaving it in there. Sometimes, this requires finding a better verb to describe the action (note: having a thesaurus at hand is recommended). Ex: He walked slowly and with difficulty through the mud vs. He trudged through the mud.

8. Other types of words to use sparingly:
a. “-ness” words
b. “-ize” words
c. “-ing” words
d. “-ingly” words

9. Avoid intensifiers: very, so, quite, extremely, really, absolutely. . .

10. Avoid qualifiers: just, sort of, quite, somewhat, usually, always, never. . .

11. Avoid lists.

If you decide you’ve arrived at a good point to give a good description of the place in which your hero stands, pretend you’re him and describe what HE would see. Would he notice everything? What details would he find striking? Which ones would his eyes glaze over?

12. Show, don’t tell: makes for longer passages, but these are so much more dynamic as they allow us to feel like we’re really there too. Hence think about how your senses would be affected if you were to be in the character’s situation. Showing can also be done through dialogues.

13. Dialogues shouldn’t be phony.

Try to make your main characters distinctive through their speech as well. Even then, however, you want to use short sentences, avoid pleasantries (how do you do? Well, and you? Awesome, this is such a beautiful day! -- Bleah, oh-so-boring!).

Don’t overuse names (I totally have the habit of doing that!). And they’re an awesome place to bring in tension too, as characters can come directly into conflict here.

14. Have people take action: don’t have them “begin to” or “decide to” do things. Even scratch “knew that”, “sees/saw that,” or “ seem.”

15. Reduce speaker’s attributions (helps reduce the “-ing” words at the same time. It’s like buying 2-in-1 shampoo!).

And it’s by following these guidelines that I’m purging my own writing. A lot of work but, in the end, doesn’t it feel better to have a shiny, nice-smelly, smooth-touchy piece of work?


--The Writing Apprentice


When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. “ ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela