writer’s rust

Do you ever feel like you’ve forgotten how to write? Like, it’s been so long away from the keyboard (or pen and paper for the old school) that you think everything you write is simply straight-up crap? Well, maybe not straight-up crap, that’s a bit harsher than reality; It’s something greater than writer’s rust, but less than dog poop, you know?

That’s how I feel. I feel that my writing skills have long been neglected and now are less than what they were a decade ago. I think I’ve known this for a while, even when I transitioned into writing screenplays rather than novels. Writing a novel is a challenge, a greater challenge for me than a screenplay.

  • A good novel requires endurance.

The endurance required to complete a novel is phenomenal, so my hat is off to those who have completed one…even a finished draft of one.

  • A good novel must be descriptive.

A good novel has to be descriptive, painting a picture with words, but without going on and on about something the reader doesn’t give two shits about. Pardon the language. When I write I think in scenes. For example, I see people in a military airport hangar waiting for their loved ones to arrive from the approaching C-5 galaxy taxiing down the runway.

Now, a novelist sees the patriotic bunting decorating the interior of the hangar, the music from the band and the sounds of the army choir singing. The people in the hangar are primarily women and children waiting anxiously for the husbands and fathers to step off the plane so they can run into their arms.

  • A good novel has rhythm.

A novelist must ensure that the story has the proper rhythm, and even a flow to the writing itself. They can’t simply write “The army band is playing in the hangar and choir is singing.”

However, the screenwriter can write it that simply.

So, it’s so much easier to write a screenplay then, right? Well, hold your horses for a minute there. If you’re a novel writer imagine trying to convey everything you see in a 2-hour movie in just 120 pages. You think cutting and editing a novel is difficult, try taking your novel (or any novel) and knocking it down to 120 pages and still tell the story.

  • A good screenplay requires strength in dialogue.

Screenplays lack descriptors in detail, and the dialogue requirements go way beyond what is required in a novel. In a novel the author is allowed to tell the reader about a character. “John, who sat in the back of the class in his leather jacket, was a bully since he was 8 years old and in the third grade.”

In a screenplay you don’t get to write that. You get to write “JOHN sits in the back of the classroom wearing a black leather jacket.”

Since it is important that John was a bully since he was 8 that information must be conveyed in dialogue. In this example, the information can be easily conveyed by having another boy help John’s next victim up after a fight and saying “Don’t be embarrassed. He’s been beating people up since the third grade. I know, because I was his first victim.”

  • A good screenplay develops characters through action and dialogue.

Another tricky problem with writing a screenplay is character development. In the above example, John is wearing a black leather jacket because it is important to establish the visual effect while introducing the character. (You can tell the character is introduced for the first time because his name is in all caps). After establishing the character you no longer describe his clothing unless it is absolutely necessary to furthering the story. If John is suddenly wearing a pink polo shirt and slacks because he’s dating Muffy, that would be important. However, if he’s just walking around campus, let the costume dept. and director dictate what he wears.

So, what’s the point of this article (or whatever we want to call this piece of prose) I’m not sure. Perhaps in a convoluted way it’s to say that I have experience writing both and can appreciate the challenges of each. I’m also considering a foray back into the novel writing arena and feel my skills are substandard, worse than they were before. So, if you start to read the tidbits that I post, whether they be short stories, chapters or something in between bear in mind that I’m still learning and re-learning. I’m still sharpening my sword and putting myself out there. Every story I write is a piece of me. The villain, the hero, the victim are all pieces of me….exaggerated. Certainly, I identify more with one person over the other, but they are still all me.

I hope you enjoy my stories and I wish all of you every success with yours. If you’d like to know more about screenplays just give me a shout.

Peace be the journey.

Signature-Mike

writer wednesday: challenges

Writers have it hard, though we revel in the thought of being a “glutton for punishment”. Why? It may have something to do with the expressions which fall over (or glaze over) the target of our conversation. It could also be the fact that, as a writer who has seen her share of happy and unhappy endings actually make it to the page, we know we are a misbegotten few.

It’s a pleasant thought, knowing “see it through to the end” writers are a rare find.

But back to my initial point: we have it hard. Not because we are furiously determined to write tales and adventures, but because we are gloriously “trapped” by our own imagination. Not be bombarded by character tales and “what ifs” on a daily basis? Impossible! Watch a movie or read a book without being inundated with possibilities, tangents, and continuations? Inconceivable! (Yes, I had to say that….)

As many of you know, my mother passed away suddenly in December of 2014. She was 68. Since her death, I allowed myself to become enclosed in a room of shadows. Imagination, stories, characters… none were allowed beyond the door to rescue me from the misery of her loss.

But no more. Now I struggle to push through the cobwebs and weeds and make good my escape. It will mean reawakening my diligence, my determination, and my desire to revel in being a “glutton for punishment”. The danger is trying to shoulder too many challenges before I am ready.

Challenge #1: Balance editing time with creation time.

Too often I get into the revision/editing stage of a manuscript and forget that I also need to allow myself the time to create new tales; find new characters and new worlds. Playing with new ideas is essential! Even if it’s just a brief doodle, at least it will be a possibility that is now free and waiting for me to weave into something more. It is even okay to let it quietly slip into a pleasant memory.

Challenge #2: Don’t give yourself an unattainable goal.

What I mean is, don’t start writing a rough draft and give yourself a complete date/goal for a FINAL DRAFT. Goals are best done in stages. Set a goal for an outline. Set a goal for a rough draft. Set a goal for a second draft. See the pattern? Of course, if you’re the type of writer that needs the pressure of a final completion date, try and limit it to a Quarter or a Year and not an actual date. At least, not until you have completed draft #2 and have a better idea of how the storyline is coming to fruition.

Don’t sabotage your success by setting an unrealistic expectation.

Challenge #3: Partner with someone you trust.

After struggling through organizing/writing this post, I will send it out for review to my husband and partner Michael King. This is something new and different for me, but I trust his insights, especially since he is a talented mentor and understands – to a greater extent – how to present leadership/mentoring material in a helpful way. Not only that, in regards to my fiction I know I can trust his ability to keep me on the straight and narrow, including the necessary torturous events for our faulty hero.

When we have access to someone we trust who challenges us in a healthy way, that enables us to grow. Growth is the key, and it should always be the target.

That’s all for now. Here’s hoping I will continue to have something to say as my reawakening continues.

Blessings,

Nona King

Have you had similar challenges? What did you find most/least helpful?