May 29, 2005

Already wishing it was Fall

What the heck happened to tv this year? It was good. I mean REAL good. This has to be one of the first years in I don't know how long when I've actually had too much to watch (thank you, whoever invented the DVR) and not enough time to watch it. I've always had a roster of a few shows I liked to catch when I could, but nothing like this. And almost all of the shows that claimed such high ratings and critical acclaim this year (Lost, 24, House, etc.) owe their success to the same thing -- damn fine writing.

I actually started thinking about this about halfway through the season, wondering what the deal was. The conclusion I came to was that almost all the shows, aside from being tightly written, had an underlying mythology. A sort of "night time soap" feel to them, but without getting melodramatic about it. They also raised the stakes. No fewer than 5 shows knocked off regular cast members. And popular, well-liked cast members, at that. I think this speaks well of how serious television producers/writers are taking their projects right now. Risks and highly dramatic actions are becoming the norm. Finally!

Of course, what's a good season if it ends like a wet firecracker? I was really concerned we were all headed for a couple of weeks of groaning and remote-tossing, but I have to say I was pleasantly proved wrong. Almost every show I spent time with this year ended on a note that made me wish it was September next week. No mean feat! (The notable exception was, of course, ENTERPRISE. But I'm still too mad to even try talking about that yet.)

In the coming weeks, I'm going try assembling a few lists associated with the fine television I've been privy to this year. Things like "the 10 best characters now on tv" or "the top five lines of dialogue" or "the top 3 easy-outs that were never taken". You get the idea. In the meantime, feel free to tell me yours!

May 28, 2005

How to write a novel

I came across what seems to be a pretty cool "How to" site today. The Snowflake Method is another approach to bashing out those tomes we all want to be known for. While the analogy to a snowflake is new, the underlying ideas really aren't. For instance (off the top of my head) I can think of two other sites which talk about the same thing in pretty similar terms. Holly Lisle's website has a similar approach as well as a ton of how to articles on the writing life. Another site, very similar to the snowflake, uses something called the Jungian Novel Writing approach. The Jungian approach, and even Holly's site to a certain degree, are much more long-winded about giving you the information available from the Snowflake Method's site. Based on that alone, I'd recommend you check it out.

If you're too tired to click any links, let me sum up what these sites talk about. There's no secret formula for writing a novel. Oh, you'll have lots of people try and sell you on a formula for novels, but that has nothing to do with the actual work of getting the sucker on paper. Those snake oil salespeople are talking about the structure you should use: "put hero A through these paces and then put Heroine B through these paces and make sure a baby is born at the end". Even if that did work, I would surmise that the writing would get pretty stale and damn boring after a while. What the sites I mention above are talking about is basically how to chop up the work of writing a novel into itty bitty, digestible pieces and then approaching each piece on its own. They put it into different contexts (i.e. snowflake, Jungian, etc.) but in the end, it's all the same in my eyes. Of course, that's never stopped me from fooling myself into thinking I've stumbled across the next sliced white bread and applying the principles to something I'm working on. After all, organizing things isn't really writing, but it can sure seem like it with enough beer and lack of sleep.

A colleague recently said that what these kinds of approaches are best for are stalled novels. You know, when you find yourself on page 300 and you still have no idea what your book is about. Getting your ducks in a row, no matter how you do it, seems a pretty logical way of figuring out what you're doing and whether or not you want to stop it or continue on. Whatever your reasons or current state, if you try these approaches I wish you the best of luck.

And if by some whim of fate, they actually help you, drop me a line and let me know. If I'm still on page 350 and on my way to the store to buy more index cards, I'll try to curse softly so I won't interrupt the signing of your movie deal.

May 25, 2005

Writer on the move? Don't forget this.

I moved about three years ago and thought I'd taken care of all the little details. You know, the relatives, the bill collectors, junk mail producers...all the important stuff you want to reach you in your new digs. The one thing I didn't do, or even think of, was to let the publishers who had bought some of my stories over the years know where I was going. Who would? At that time, it had been a couple years since I'd sold anything, so you can't really blame me for not thinking of it.

Well, over the past few weeks I re-did my website (ain't it purty?) and in the process of doing up a new Publications page, I decided to nose around the online bookstores and such. Maybe I'd find a nice picture of the books I could use on my site, or maybe they had a nice write-up from the publisher I could use, putting off my carpal tunnel meltdown by a day or two. So, I hit the usual spots: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. And I couldn't believe what I found!

Most of the publications my stuff were in not only had new editions out (which means new royalty checks that were going to my old address), but one of them actually had an audio cassette version! Somebody out there had read my story and people were listening to it. The mind boggles, I tell ya. Just boggles. There was also a new UK edition of one of the books with a supercool new cover. Kicks the US versions ass by a mile...er...kilometer.

Anyways, so I've gotten the publishers current address from one of my co-authors in a couple of the books and I'm in the process of straightening this all out. The part I try NOT to think about is how many anthology invites and such I missed out on. Let's not go there.

So the moral, I guess, is if you're a writer and you've ever had anything published, NEVER EVER MOVE! Or, if you want to be all rational and stuff, include your past publishers in your change of address card deluge. I know I will from now on!