Friday, October 30, 2015
For the last month, I've flip-flopped on whether or not I want to try my hand at National Novel Writing Month again this year. I used to do it like clockwork every year while I was in school, but I think I'm going to sit back this time.
The thing I've noticed about myself is when I'm focused on sheer numbers and an 'enforced' deadline, I get sloppy. Not just inconsistencies and 50-word-sentences sloppy, but sloppy in the "I'm going to write as much ridiculousness as I can just to hit my word goal" kind of way. That often results in fourth-wall breaking, thinly veiled fanfic sections, and a jumbled mess of words that doesn't make sense as often as it does.
That works for some people, who can go through and pick out the gems and polish them up into something usable. But I have yet to find a way to fix a NaNo mess that I've created. I re-read the stuff I desperately wrote in that month and cringe and spend days trying to figure out what story I was telling. Not exactly the best kind of editing out there, and it's always more frustrating that it's worth.
If you can create something polishable from a NaNo piece, I salute you. And if you're participating this year, good luck! Keep writing!
Emily is currently wishing her fingers would warm up so typing wasn't such a problem. She's looking forward to not stressing about hitting an imaginary deadline and taking her time with the story she's working on. Once she finishes the short story that's on actual deadline, of course.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
The story follows Victor Thetherson, a late-middle-aged accountant with a weight problem, receding hairline, and aversion to blood. He's also a vampire. I didn't know what to expect from this book when I started out, but I found myself laughing at the jokes, cheering for the hero, and cringing every time the clumsy villain appeared on the page. The characters I was supposed to like, I connected with in a good way. The characters I was supposed to hate made me want to punch someone. Specifically, those characters.
As I said in our interview with the authors, the writing reminded me a little bit of John Grisham. If Grisham wrote vampire humor novels instead of courtroom dramas. The pacing and suspense kept me intrigued, and I found myself up late several nights to find out what happened next.
All in all, Harris Gray crafted a solid story with a satisfying conclusion, which is a daunting task for many writers (including myself). I'm impressed with how much effort they put into the project, and next book (which I'll review next week) is set up well by this one, though Vampire Vic could stand alone (a key requirement, in my opinion, for any book that begins a trilogy). I'm curious to see what Harris Gray comes up with next!
Monday, October 26, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
Anyway, we're thrilled to be attending MileHiCon for the first time this year. We'll have a space with the fan tables where you can come bother us, tell us jokes, hear our terrible jokes, and pick up Beyond the Trope stickers. They're pretty sweet. Just saying.
We'll also be at the Writer's Networking mixer tonight, so come stop by
If you're coming to MileHiCon, come say hi! I promise we don't bite. Much.
Emily is already exhausted, so this convention is going to be a fun, loopy ride. She's slightly disappointed she's missing the Avistrum events this weekend (Enigmus pride!), but is certain she's going to have a blast forcing stickers onto everyone who stops by our table.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
I know our episode this week is about writing education, but that's not where this is going. As a general rule, I think it's important for people to continue to seek out education, no matter what they want to do with their lives. Yes, it's a cliche, but when we stop learning, we start dying.
At my day job, this is helping me get a leg up on my future opportunities. For a while, it appeared that we here at Beyond the Trope were going to have a few other opportunities, as well. That may still happen, but I don't want to spoil the surprise (or brag about something that may not happen).
This may be a short post, but that's because it's a quick point. Go back to school. Either by picking up a book at the library, taking podcast courses (or iTunes U!), or finding YouTube/Netflix seminars. Even if it's not something directly related to your life right now, it could open up real opportunities. And even if it doesn't, what do you lose from learning something new?
Monday, October 19, 2015
- I will totally write 1,000 words after I watch an episode of [insert TV show here].
- This. Is. Gold.
- I am never, ever, ever going to finish this manuscript.
- It’s so perfect I don’t even need an editor!
- This. Is. Crap.
- Agents and editors are scary.
- I’m the only one who needs to understand what I mean.
- Just one more round of edits and it’s done.
- My computer will never crash while I’m writing the final chapter.
- I’m going to be rich and famous!
- If I watch more than one episode, chances are I’ve given up on writing for today.
- My critique group is going to have fun with these pages.
- Maybe I should start writing according to a word count calendar.
- I need an editor. Two editors. ALL THE EDITORS.
- I need encouragement, a walk, chocolate, and a puppy. Also, my critique group is going to have fun with these pages.
- Agents and editors are people.
- If this confused people, I should rewrite it.
- If all I do is edit, I’ll never move forward.
- Backup. Backup. Backup.
- I’m going to make enough money to buy a movie ticket once a year!
Friday, October 16, 2015
Obviously, this is a problem. How can I possibly expect to be a writer if I don't finish the things I'm working on? So over the last year or so, in between writing short stories, I tried to turn myself into a planner. I wrote a full outline for one story and a relatively detailed synopsis for another. I convinced myself it was a great feeling knowing where the story was going to go and that I could still change it if something felt wrong while I was writing it.
Neither of those stories went very far. I'm not entirely certain if it was the time spent on planning or taking pages to critique too early, but I lost interest in/got frustrated with both of them very early on. But I was still convinced I needed to try something else, since I haven't finished anything.
Last month, I gave up on planning for now and went back to pure pantsing for a new story I'm working on. I'm not entirely certain how long it's going to be, or what the actual central conflict is, or how any of my worldbuilding is going to come together into a coherent piece. But that's okay. That's what a shitty first draft is for, right? All of those things (and, you know, the tone and voice) can and will get ironed out once I have a better feel for the story I'm actually telling here.
And, you know what? I'm actually having fun writing again. That's the important part.
As of this blog, Emily is 6,000 words into her new story, which is further than she's gotten on something longer than a short story in over a year. She's quite proud of this fact, even if all of those words are total rubbish. At least they're words on the page.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Disclamer: I gave SHIELD three episodes to hook me. If a show fails to grab me the first two weeks, like SHIELD did, I'll give it a third, just to make sure the creators aren't trying something new that will pay off. But with my limited time and all of the awesome shows I could watch, that's all they get. I've heard (from some fans) that it's much better, now, though many of my friends who binged their way through the first season have said that the second season kept them going for a little while, then fell flat again. For that reason, I think this post that originally appeared on my other blog a few years ago is completely relevant. Still. Because The Blacklist is still SUPER AWESOME!
I was as excited as anyone when I heard Joss Whedon was creating a TV show based on Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. I've never been huge into comics, but I love heroes, adventure, and ensemble casts with great chemistry.
The Blacklist has all of that. There's a clear protagonist with a supporting cast of sidekicks, a mentor, the armorer, bodyguard, and obvious antagonists. Agents doesn't have one clear-cut protagonist to attach to as a viewer. Yes, we're supposed to cheer for the team, but why do I care about the team? Sure, they are "the protagonist," but what makes them special? Aside from the fact that they work for a secret organization that's trying to save the world?
In The Blacklist, the stakes are clear from the get-go. For that matter, it was the same with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and even Dollhouse. And I guess Agents has clear stakes, but they're not enticing enough. Save the world, but from what? Or from whom? Villain of the week isn't good enough for a story of this magnitude.
The first episode was quite a letdown, too, because in the previews we saw someone with "superpowers." And then the creators specifically told the audience that this show wouldn't be about superheroes. So right off the bat they told us, "This is going to be awesome, but it's not what you think." And the one character with real stakes, the one the audience wants to get attached to, is sent on his way.
I hope you're following me on this, and if not, I'm sorry that I'm not being clear. But let me make another example from Whedon's most successful show: Buffy. We have Buffy. A vampire slayer chosen by the Powers That Be to kill vampires and protect the world from invading evil. She has a backstory, complex emotions, and friends who support her in all of her efforts. It's the same with The Blacklist. But the only character in Agents is someone without any discernible personality. He's bland, dry, deadpan, and not at all engaging. Despite the fact that he got stabbed in Avengers. The ONE person we have ties to is the hardest to connect with. And the rest of the characters so far have so little going on that it's nearly impossible to care.
To turn this to a writer's perspective, when creating characters, make sure they have several important traits that make them engaging. Not necessarily likable, but engaging. And give them friends. Foils to enhance and reflect their personality. No lone-wolves with a secret past.
Now, I'm not sure if I'm in the majority here, so I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts. Discuss!
Monday, October 12, 2015
Beast: You do not believe me then?
Beauty: Well - no. Any number of mirrors have told me otherwise.
Beast: You will find no mirrors here, for I cannot bear them: nor any quiet water in ponds. And since I am the only one who sees you, why are you not then beautiful?
every day. But, I beseech your grace, pardon me: I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.
You can find Jo March in Little Women, Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre (duh), Beauty in Robin McKinley's Beauty, and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.
Friday, October 9, 2015
My self-depreciation about this little blog post wound up leading to an interesting conversation about talent. It's easy to think of something you're good at as being easy, or unworthy of praise, or any other number of things that allow you to sweep it under the rug. It's easy to look at something you made and find its flaws, then use those to try and convince other people that the thing is absolutely awful. I think creative types in particular do this a lot.
But maybe we shouldn't.
Maybe we should all take a step back from whatever it is that we've made--a little blog post, a big novel, a song, a painting, whatever--and look at it from the point of view of someone who doesn't have the skill set we do. What would someone who isn't aiming to be a professional writer think? What would someone who doesn't have a fine arts degree think? Can we find the shining bits as easily as they could?
Looking at your work like someone else, trying to find the bits beyond all the flaws we immediately see, can help us not hate our own work so much. We as creative people tend to be entirely too hard on ourselves when, sometimes, we really need to actually take stock and appreciate our own talent and hard work.
Emily has a really hard time thinking of herself as 'talented,' but she's trying to get over that and bolster her ego a little bit. She's also in the midst of working out ideas for a new cosplay, because reasons.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Monday, October 5, 2015
When these tactics don't work and the emotion in a scene just isn't working, Michelle turns to movies and film scores to get in the right mood.
"The villain is coming!" = score from Princess Mononoke
"I love you" = The Holiday
"Intense fight scene!" = scores from the Dark Knight or the Bourne series
"I'm brokenhearted" = anything fromÉ
ponine's lips in Les Misérables
Friday, October 2, 2015
But we need your help! Michelle, Giles, and I all have lots of trunk novels we can go through, except that we know it's boring to hear our words over and over again. We want to record a trunk novel segment during our recording session tomorrow and, if you don't want to hear another one of ours, you need to send us some of yours!
We already read a fantastic (or horrible, depending on your point of view) trunk novel from Veronica R. Calisto, and we want to read more from listeners. Take the first few pages of any old story you've written that hasn't seen the light of day in a couple of years and send it to us at beyondthetrope (at) gmail (dot) com with permission to read it on the air, and we'll help you dissect it. Who knows, you might even figure out how to fix all of its problems! And don't worry about it being the worst thing anyone's ever written in the history of stories--we all have that one book, and some of us have shared it already.