Today a good friend sent me an email saying he was giving up, at least for a while, on a project he's been working on. It just wasn't coming together. And later this evening I ran across a great little item, the kind of thing that people send each other on the internet, in the book, "Don't Compete...Tilt the Field!" by Louis Patler. He said his assistant sent it to him, and the heading was "If your horse dies, dismount!" It then suggested what people often do instead of dismounting:
A new article by Frank Rose at Wired.com reckons “Hollywood has finally figured out how to make web video pay.” In the spotlight is a new production for nbc.com, “Gemini Division.” The elements are pretty familiar: woman in jeopardy in a sci-fi thriller plot. The star is Rosario Dawson (“Sin City”). The short trailer shows lots of intense frowning people, a few explosions, and guns pointing in various directions.
One difference is the budget: $1.75 million or so for three 50-minute episodes (on network tv, the budget would be two to three times that for a show without big names). A lot of the money is coming from product placement. The director, Stan Rogow, calls it “a self-financing marketing vehicle.”
Another is the writing. “Gemini Division” chief writer Brent Friedman compares it to writing for interactive games:"When the story begins, you're in-world — you have a gun, all hell is breaking loose, and your job as a player is to stay alive and figure out where you are.” He’s using the same strategy with this show: "We're starting every episode with Anna on the run," Friedman says. "She's already in the second act — the part where everything goes wrong."
There will also be an interactive component on the website where viewers can get additional information and users who are recruited as secret agents will be able to talk to each other via webcam.
Is it really a departure? Rogow says they want to do what television can’t do. From this account I’d say they’re not that far off what shows like “24” have done successfully already—but time will tell.
(screenshot courtesy Electric Farm)
(If you want guidance for writing your novel, non-fiction book, or script, please take a look at "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey and available in the US & UK from Amazon and other online and offline sellers. And if you want free tips every month on how to be more creative and productive, subscribe to my Brainstorm e-bulletin. Just send an email request now to BstormUK@aol.com)
UNO, or Universal Organizer, is Paul Borzo’s simple way of graphically organizing information for just about anything you want to write (although most obviously for non-fiction). It’s kind of a cross between outlining and mind mapping. It’s a lot easier to illustrate than to describe, so if you’re interested, check it out at the Metropolitan State University Writing Center, here. You’ll find a printable (pdf) illustration and simple instructions in two pages.
I’m currently working on my next book (“Creativing Marketing for Entrpreneurs,” to be published next year by Pearson) and am finding UNO useful for organizing the content.
(for tips and techniques for being more creative and productive, subscribe to my free monthly Brainstorm e-bulletin. Just send an email request now to BstormUK@aol.com)
I'm always fascinated to hear what inspires artists and writers, especially when they may feel blocked. Here is what works for artist Andrea Kobayashi (who sells her artwork at www.akjapan.etsy.com):
The Avacado Papers is selling first-time novelists opening paragraphs at the rate of $1.75 a word. You have your choice of a number of them, several of which seem to be based on the insanity or at least extreme eccentricity of their protagonists. The average price comes in at around $300—and that’s non-exclusive, so several novels could start with the same paragraph.
It’s a fun little wheeze that will get the blog some publicity, but if you’re really in need of an opening paragraph I can save you some money. One free method is to mash up opening sentences from several novels, like this:
“”The lift is lined with mirrors, with many Cassies. Once again, he woke up screaming. Four in the morning, the dead of December. A warm sour cloud wafted across to Tommy’s side of the bed as his wife rolled over in her sleep.”
(from: “As Far as You Can Go,” Lesley Glaister, “Gideon,” Russell Andrews, and “The Distant Echo,” Val McDermid, and “Blood Brothers,” Richard Price.)
Or you can have this one, with my compliments:
“He was in need of inspiration…but where to find it? Then he remembered Jurgen Wolff’s blog at www.timetowrite.blogs.com. There was always something interesting there. He typed in the web address, his stubby fingers stabbing the grimy keyboard. Damn! He got it wrong. He ended up at www.timetowrite.com, Jurgen’s website, instead. Still, it was full of useful information, too. Suddenly a shot rang out.”
Please send me a copy of the novel when it gets published. J
The July issue of The Writer features an interview with novelist Diana Gabaldon ("Dragonfly in Amber," "Drums of Autumn"). She was asked why writers often don't get villains right. Part of her reply:
In her Writing Show Newsletter, Paula B. combines her own tips on writing dialogue with some from the book, “Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue” (Gloria Kempton). Here’s one I find especially useful:
Consider using description instead of a tag if it sheds light on character or moves the story forward. Here's an example from Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars:
Her voice was turning brittle again. "We can't read the Martian, Hanny."
Niven doesn't say, "'We can't read the Martian, Hanny,' she said brittley." He indicates the nature of his character's voice using description: "Her voice was turning brittle again."
Here's another example of description substituting for a tag, this one from Dean Koontz's Forever Odd: He let out a low sound of abject misery. "You're gonna think I'm such a loser."
Rather than saying, "'You're gonna think I'm such a loser,' he said miserably," Koontz eliminates the tag and gives us a bit of narration to describe the speaker's mood: "He let out a low sound of abject misery."
You can sign up for Paula B’s newsletter and find her useful podcast interviews at www.writingshow.com.
(For lots of tips on how to be more creative and productive, sign up for my free monthly Brainstorm newsletter. Just send an email request new to BstormUK@aol.com)
At a The Bookseller conference, Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur,” has lashed out against the tyranny of free content. Keen warned: “The content business is in crisis, if you want to look at the way it will go take a look at the music industry and newspapers, these sectors have really been on the front-lines of a perfect storm: the problem is that content has become simply an adjunct of advertising.”
He noted that this is a bad time for creatives because direct access to the audience also means “when you take away the gatekeepers everything becomes crap. Writers don’t get rich and famous on their own.”
His suggestion is that publishers fight back. “The future is the expert,” he said, adding that the challenge is no longer just selling the book but managing the talent and nurturing them through live events.
My guess is that another major implication is that we authors will have to take ever more responsibility for our own careers—a two-edged sword!
(Regardless of what happens in the future, being more creative and productive will help. For tips and techniques, sign up for my free monthly Brainstorm e-bulletin now--just send an email request to BstormUK@aol.com)
In an article by Wendy Fry in the San Diego Union-Tribune, prolific novelist Janet Evanovich reveals how she got into writing when she was in her 30’s:
“In college I was a painter, and all my life I've drawn pictures and painted. It was while I was drawing with my daughter that I realized that every time I was drawing a picture or painting something, I was actually telling a story in my head about what I was drawing,” Evanovich said. “It was like a thunderclap went off in my head and I decided to try writing the story I was drawing.”
That quote gave me another idea for how to deal with the occasional feeling of stuckness that most of us encounter at one time or another with our writing. Even if you’re not much of an artist, why not try telling your story with simple drawings first? Or if it’s a specific character who is eluding you, maybe draw him or her first. Could be a fun way to get your brain buzzing again, ready for you to return to the keyboard.
(one reason writers get blocked is that they have a harsh inner critic--if you do, too, you may be stopping yourself from achieving the success you deserve. For information on how to tame your inner critic, click here.)
Canadian writing teacher Biff Mitchell has an unusual approach, according to an article in The Daily Gleaner. Instead of teaching in a classroom, he takes his students to coffee shops, art studios, and even hot tubs. He says, "The rationale for this is to constantly change the setting to keep the right side of the brain fired up." At these locations, he asks the students not only to look but also to listen, touch, and even taste.