Category Archives: Screnzy

2012 Recap

It’s that time of year again, the time when people sit back and reflect on everything they hoped to accomplish over the year and compare that to what they actually accomplish. I will be writing another post soon about what I hope to accomplish in 2013, but for now I will reflect on my goals for this past year.

1. Find a job that doesn’t make me want to murder all those around me.
Yeah, this didn’t happen. I still work as a school photographer. However, I did complete my first semester of grad school, which means I’m one semester closer to getting certified to teach high school English. Not a new job, but a step closer to getting a new job, so it’s not as bad as it could have been.

2. Finish the novel I wrote for 50k weekend.
That would The Story of Em, which is still unfinished. I have an outline for the rest of it, and I actually really like this story, but I’ve been working on other novels, so I haven’t finished this one.

3. Edit both novels that I finished this NaNo.
Those novels would be Tilt Your Head and Smile and Learning to Lie. I rewrote Tilt once, so I will consider that a partial success, even though I only got halfway through the edit of the rewrite. I also haven’t edited Learning to Lie. I still like the idea of that trilogy, but I’m still not sure where I want it to go, so I’ve decided to shelve that one for now while I work on the novels that I actually know how to write.

4. Win Script Frenzy.
Yes! Finally I did something that I said I was going to do. And, okay, sure, I wrote a huge part of those 100 pages on the last day of the month, but I still finished. RIP Script Frenzy. I’ll miss you.

5. Win both sessions of Camp NaNo.
Didn’t win either. I finished a novel for the June Camp (about 48k) and gave up halfway through the novel for August Camp.

6. Keep a blog going for an entire year, writing at least once a week (if not more).
I’m going to count this as a success. There were a few weeks where I didn’t write at all (mainly during NaNo and the beginning of December), but this will be my 125th blog post, at least 100 of which have been posted in 2012, so I consider this a success. This is actually my most successful blog ever, so I’m happy with it.

7. Build up a portfolio so I can actually apply for writing jobs.
This didn’t happen, either. Since I decided to become a teacher, I’ve sort of stopped looking for writing jobs. This probably won’t change, as I plan on spending most of my time next year working on my Master’s degree and writing/editing/reading novels.

8. Read 52 books in 52 weeks.
If I read 1 book a day for the rest of the year, I will achieve this goal. It’s not impossible – especially considering the fact that I read one book in 5 hours today and only have a few chapters of the next Dresden book to finish, as I’ve been listening to that one in the car – but I’m not all that sure that it will happen. Still, 47 books in 52 weeks is still respectable, especially considering how many books I read in 2011. I hope to do better next year, but I’m not doing to beat myself up over it.

Okay, so I didn’t really accomplish as much as I wanted to this past year. Still, I’m happy with a lot of what I did accomplish. I wrote more than 242k for NaNo. I wrote 2 novels and 1 novella in a month. I ended the year with 5 completed novels, 1 completed novella, and 3 short stories. I submitted some short stories to contests. I wrote a query letter. I entered my query and novel into a contest. I didn’t win any of the contests, but I learned a lot, and I got over my fear of letting other people read my stuff. I still have a long way to go, but I’m putting myself out there and taking risks, and that’s a huge step for me.

I’m not making as much progress as I would have liked, but I’m still making progress, and that’s the important part. 🙂

What about the rest of you? Did you accomplish everything you wanted to in 2012?

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Older but not wiser

Today (yesterday, if you want to get technical, since it’s after midnight) was my birthday. I’m 23 now. Been out of college for a little over two years. Been out of high school for a little over five. It’s a weird feeling, especially considering I haven’t really done anything with my life so far and am still living with my parents, but I suppose this isn’t the place to complain about my life. It is, however, the place to complain about my writing, so I guess I’ll settle for that right now.

I still don’t have a completed outline for Keep Going yet, but I’m making progress. I understand the characters more, and I know what the overall plot is going to be – I’m just working on the details. It helps that I have two started drafts of this one already. I first attempted to write this novel for NaNo 2008. I hit 10k and stopped writing. Then I tried it again in 2010 as a sort of pre-NaNo exercise. This time I got to 4k and stopped.

So here I am now, trying to figure out which parts of each draft I want to keep and work into the new one, and I can’t help but notice that my writing was a lot better back then. I knew what the characters were doing with their lives. They interacted with other people. Sure, Samantha spent most of her chapter scowling at her boss and thinking of ways to kill him, but she was still out of her apartment. Chloe was at an acting class and then picking up her sister from school. Natalie was complaining about her English teacher (which was so not a passive-aggressive way for me to get back at my incompetent TA, no, not at all). Is it perfect? Of course not. I’ll have to take out Natalie’s whining scene completely and tighten up Chloe’s chapter a bit, but as a whole I still really, really like what I have.

The same goes for the version I started in 2010 (or 2009 – I honestly have no idea anymore). I like the opening chapter so much more for that one and will probably end up keeping that whole thing (except for the line about the Vikings game, as I have no idea what sport they play but I don’t think it’s played in March, when that scene is now taking place). That version opens on election night 2008, and that would really just require a bit of tweaking to fit with my new plot line – or at least the bits of one that I have planned thus far. The characters are amusing and interesting (at least in my opinion), and I think my writing there could actually stand up to some of the books I’ve been reading lately.

And yet the stuff I’ve been writing lately isn’t anything like that. The stuff I’ve been writing lately is pretty horrible. Yes, there are parts of Degeneration and Tilt Your Head and Smile that I like, but for the most part, they need serious work. As in I probably need to rewrite most of them, or at least add another 20k to each so that I can show who the characters are more.

I really just need to figure out what changed between then and now. I was a good writer a few years ago. Now I’m just mediocre, and I don’t really know what changed. I lost it somewhere along the way. Maybe I’m just trying to be too serious. The further I get into this blog post, the more I’m realizing that that’s it. Keep Going is about a group of roommates who get to know each other and confront their problems. There’s serious stuff happening in there, but I still manage to have fun with the characters.

I don’t do that with April and Adelyn. I think I put too much of myself in them to be able to distance myself from the novels and just enjoy myself. I was trying to show how much unemployment sucks with April, and I was trying to show why you shouldn’t automatically respect people just because they’re family with Adelyn, and somewhere along the way I got too caught up in the bad and stopped making the characters interesting. There’s divorce and abuse in Keep Going, too, but that’s not all that the characters are about. They learn about themselves and each other along the way.

April and Adelyn don’t really learn anything. Well, April learns that she could have tried harder and that she’s mostly to blame for her unemployment, but that’s about it, and even that I just sort of ghost over near the end. I rarely show her interacting with people. I just show failed interview after failed interview. I got so bored writing them, and then I wonder why it’s not fun to read.

I keep thinking about those writing classes I took in college. They all focused so much time and energy talking about what you were and weren’t allowed to write about. You couldn’t say that someone was a jerk – you had to show them being a jerk. So for the last two stories, I haven’t summarized anything. I showed everything that happened. My characters don’t just get up from the table and fix themselves a cup of coffee. They get up. They get a cup from above the sink. Then they pour themselves a mug. Then they add the cream and sugar. It’s ridiculous. I know I’ve talked about this before, but apparently I haven’t fixed it yet. It’s like I’m so afraid that someone’s going to read over my shoulder and tell me that there’s not enough detail, so I put in too much, as if that’s better.

It’s like I’ve forgotten that you can also get to know a character by listening to their thoughts. While it’s important to show that one character likes another character better and not just say it, it’s all right to say it sometimes, too. There needs to be a balance. I knew what that balance was in 2008. I just seem to have forgotten it. My boyfriend got me two writing books for my birthday – perhaps one of them can help me get back to where I used to be.

In other news, I got a huge ice cream maker for my birthday, so that’s pretty exciting. What’s not so exciting is the fact that Script Frenzy has been canceled. Most people probably already know that (I think I got at least three emails telling me that, not including the one they sent out to the MLs), but I figured I’d mention it. I decided to get a Script Frenzy shirt and keychain now, while they still have them. They came in today, which was a nice little birthday surprise. I’m sad to see it go, but it’s not really much of a surprise.

April projects bring writing lessons

So, it’s been a while since my last post. I’d like to say it was because I was writing so much, but that would be a lie. Most of my time has been spent reading vegan websites and on weight loss forums. The good news is that I have been cooking a lot of plant-based, whole foods and have lost about 5 pounds. The bad news is that I didn’t write the 30k I was supposed to this month. But I’m okay with that, because I did learn a lot in the past few days.

First things first, though: I wrote 4,604 words yesterday, which translates to about 20 screenplay pages. I won Script Frenzy with an hour and a half to spare, which was exciting. I still have 7 scenes left to write (including the super long climax scene), but I’m hoping to finish that either today or tomorrow.

It’s funny – for the past year or so I’ve thought of myself more as a pantser than a plotter. Sure, I spend most of my time planning stories, and I usually have at least a basic outline when I start writing, but I generally toss that outline fairly soon into the writing process and just write what comes to me. I always have to start out with a basic overview of what will happen, but if I get too specific in the outline, I either don’t finish the story or completely ignore the outline.

But I realized something yesterday, after I spent a fair amount of time staring out the window and writing a new outline for the end of Degeneration: I wrote more of my screenplay in one go after writing that outline than I had the rest of the month, and I like what I wrote yesterday more than I like the rest of the script. I’m realizing that it’s not the outlines that were hindering me before – it was the fact that those outlines were horrible.

Take my first outline of Degeneration – I have at least one bullet point for each scene, but there are no real specifics. I thought this would help me write, since I would have more freedom, but I just ended up spending a ton of time staring blankly at my screen, trying to figure out what to do next, how to get from one bullet point to the next. It would be like trying to drive from Georgia to New York without a map – or, rather, with a map of Georgia and a map of New York. Sure, I might know where I want to be at the end, but if I don’t know how to get there, can I really be surprised when I end up way over in Kansas? It’s not that maps aren’t helpful; it’s just that I didn’t have the right maps.

What else happens when I don’t have the right maps? Well, I stall for time. I hate being lost, so I’m not going to speed off at 70 mph in what could very well be the wrong direction. So, instead, I’ll spend a lot of time right where I am. I’ll take a walk in the park. I’ll visit each store in town, examining every single knickknack in the place, prolonging the moment when I’ll have to leave and actually make a decision. That’s why I was at page 45, and they had only just arrived at her grandparents’ house, even though that scene was supposed to occur between pages 20 and 25. That’s why, when I was writing Learning to Lie, it took me almost 20,000 words before something interesting happened. I didn’t know where I was going, so I just rambled for a while, hoping that by the time I stopped rambling I would know where I was supposed to be going next.

That’s not to say that outlining is the only way to write. There are plenty of people who are gifted at just jumping in the car and knowing instinctively where to go. There are also others who set out with no destination and just sort of drive around for a while, enjoying the ride. I admire these people, but I am not one of them. I need an outline, especially when it comes to the second draft.  That was my biggest mistake with Learning to Lie: I wrote draft 1 with only a basic plot idea, and I learned a lot from it, but I didn’t then stop and take the time to plan the whole series. I just planned the first one, and now I’m going to have to rewrite a large part of that one once I finally figure out where it’s going long-term.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a screenplay to finish. 🙂

Book 14: The Ultimate Vegan Guide by Erik Marcus

Just a bit of background on me first: the first time I became a vegetarian was the last month of my freshman year of college. I took a nutrition class that fulfilled my environmental science requirement, and I learned about how terrible meat production was for the environment. It takes 5 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat, and 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat. There were many other facts that I knew back then, and I decided to stop eating meat. I lasted for a year before I met my boyfriend. His parents didn’t invite me over as much because I was a pain to cook for, so I stopped being a vegetarian.

Fast forward to the beginning of April. I was looking for ideas that my characters could fight about, and someone on the Script Frenzy forums mentioned that she was a vegetarian and gets made fun of for it. I realized that that was a great thing that my character could be, so I decided to make my main character, Adelyn, a vegetarian. I decided to look up some facts for Adelyn to mention when she gets made fun of, and that’s how I ended up on the PETA website. I ended up watching a terrible video on the de-horning of cows, and I almost cried. I looked up more facts (though no more videos – the horrible pictures were enough), and I decided to become a vegetarian. My plan is to become a full vegan, but I’m doing it in stages. Right now I’m focusing on making as many vegan meals as possible while I read as much as I can about the lifestyle. This was one of the first books I read:

Title: The Ultimate Vegan Guide: Compassionate Living without Sacrifice
Author: Erik Marcus
Page Count: 186
F/NF Non Fiction
Genre Health/

Rating: 10/10

Summary:
A short, easy-to-read guide to becoming a vegan. The book opens with several different reasons to become a vegan and then lists various tips and tricks to becoming and staying vegan. He lists places to go shopping, restaurants where you can get vegan-friendly food, and tips on how to get yourself in the right mindset to stick with your commitment to become vegan, even when it starts to seem too hard.

Opinion:
To be honest, I was a bit worried when I started this book. Marcus starts by talking about multiple reasons to become a vegan, though he points out that the “it’s healthy” and “it’s better for the environment” reasons aren’t as black and white as most people think. He acknowledges that you can be healthy and an environmentalist and still eat meat. While I think that makes him more credible to people who are reluctant about this lifestyle (like my boyfriend), it made me feel a little like he was trying to talk me out of being a vegan.

And then he started talking about the cruelty to animals reason, and I felt like I was justified in my decision again. I read this book quickly, and it definitely made me feel more excited about becoming a vegan. I thought the best part was that he didn’t try to make me feel guilty about the fact that I wasn’t ready to give up all animal products just yet. Instead, he provided tips on how to slowly wean yourself off of them. He also provides links to many other sites and lists many other books that provide interesting information. I highly recommend this book for everyone who has ever considered going vegetarian or vegan.

“Something’s scratching its way out…”

It’s the first day of April, which means that it’s the first day of Script Frenzy! The minimum daily page count this month is 3.3. I’m already at 11 pages, and I still have almost nine hours left today to write. Granted, that’s only about 2,000 words, but that’s still more than I’ve written in about two weeks, so I’m going to be excited about this.

I think I just need to take a break from The Story of Em and Natalie. The latter was started on a whim (and was really just supposed to be a short story), and the former was meant to be my 50k-weekend novel. I never really thought it would take me this long to write it, and now that I’ve thought about it some more, I’m not really sure I’m qualified to write about that sort of relationship. Maybe I’ll return to those stories eventually, but for now I have too many other ideas that actually interest me, so I’m going to focus on them.

My screenplay this month is titled Degeneration. It follows 17-year-old Adelyn Carter as she tries to survive her favorite aunt’s wedding and decide which college she will attend the following fall. I wrote this story for my first Screnzy back in 2008, but I wasn’t happy with the draft at all. I’m hoping a complete rewrite will help me figure out where I want this story to go.

So far I’ve written the first scene, which was really all I had planned on writing today. I was hoping to hit the minimum word count last night and finish the scene at our write-in this afternoon, but I got lucky and got lost in the scene last night and ended up writing ten pages in the first hour of Screnzy. 1572 words an hour is terribly slow compared to my NaNo average (which I got up to 3k in 45 minutes once), but I’ll take it.

My new goal is to write 30,000 word in April, which comes to 1,000 words a day. I highly doubt my screenplay will be that long (at my current rate it will come to about 15,000 words), but I’m determined to keep writing. Maybe I’ll write a few short stories to make up the difference or something. I haven’t decided yet. All I know is that I’ve taken some time off from my writing goals, and now it’s time to get focused again. Work is going to start cutting back (in fact, aside from a 3 hour meeting tomorrow morning I’m off all week), and now I can finally concentrate on what really matters to me: writing. I’ve been thinking about different novel ideas a lot recently, and it’s time for me to start getting them down on paper.

In other semi-related news, the Script Frenzy kickoff party went well yesterday. We had 8 people total instead of the 12 that I expected, which means that I really didn’t need to make 15 goodie bags, but otherwise it was a lot of fun. The other ML, my boyfriend, and another participant we hang out with a lot got there early and tried to hold a few tables. We ended up playing a few plot games (including one that lead to several interesting plot ideas, such as “Babe meets Citizen Cane,” “Hunger Games meets Lifetime Original Movie” and “Arrested Development meets PBS Documentary”), and we got to know a few of the participants. One of those people is also at our first write-in of the month, which is exciting. We had absolutely zero regional events last Screnzy, and I’m hoping we can start building participation again. I know Screnzy will never be as big as NaNo, but hopefully we can still make it fun.

And now that I’ve finally updated this blog after a far too long absence, it’s time for me to get back to my screenplay. I’m hoping I can finish the next scene today, the one where Adelyn learns she has to go to her aunt’s wedding. There will be lots of screaming and protesting. I’m looking forward to it already. 😀

Where did March go?

I can’t believe there are only ten days left in March. I knew this was going to be a hectic month, considering work picked up dramatically this month, but I didn’t think I would this tired all the time. Part of my problem is that I’ve been distracted with my new Nook, I know, but a decent part of why I’m behind is that I’m tired all the time. Well, that and I just can’t get into my story anymore. I paused in the middle of writing a romantic scene, and now I can’t get back into it. They’re just sitting there, kissing, and it’s rather awkward. I’m having trouble trying to get myself to focus on it.

The good news is that I’ve managed to write the first outline for Degeneration, which I’m going to write for Script Frenzy. I have about 22 scenes, which means I should be able to hit 100 pages easily if each scene is at least 5 pages. I’m not too worried about it. I’ll try to come up with a more detailed outline sooner, but if this is the only outline I have going into it, I still think I’ll be all right.

For the past few days, I’ve been rather preoccupied with two things. The first thing is that I’ve started doing my first read through of draft 2 of Tilt Your Head and Smile. I’m somewhere between half and two-thirds of the way through, and I’m actually enjoying it. I’ve already made several notes of big things to change, and the words definitely need some polish, but overall I’m enjoying it. I was so afraid I was going to hate it when I read back through it. I’m glad that’s not the case – at least not yet! I’m trying to just mark major things that need to be fixed (like plot inconsistencies or notes about scenes to add) right now. My next step will be to fix those major things on the computer and then to print everything out and edit a hard copy. Or maybe I’ll try to fix up the prose first and then print off my fixed version. I haven’t decided yet. Since work will most likely be over by the time I finally get that far, I’ll probably just do most of it on my computer.

The second thing that’s been on my mind is this: I’m going to be one of the Atlanta Script Frenzy MLs! For anyone who doesn’t know, MLs are the people who organize regional writing events. One of the NaNo MLs and I have been talking about where to have the kickoff party and what sort of events we want to do. It’s been pretty fun. We haven’t been listed on the website yet, but I’ve been told we will be soon. I’m excited. Our region was pretty dead last April, and I’m hoping we can encourage some people to get out and write this year. We have one of the biggest regions in the nation when it comes to NaNo, but participation during Screnzy drops tremendously. It’s rather sad, really.

I’m about 12k behind where I’m supposed to be for March. I need to get caught up on that. I also want to finish reading Tilt Your Head, and I have to write 2-4 pep talks for Script Frenzy. I also have to figure out where to have write-ins and when the kickoff will be and other things like that. Plus my boyfriend’s father just gave me the Mistborn trilogy to read, so I want to start that. I actually bought him that series for Christmas, so I’m glad he likes it enough to recommend to someone else. I feel bad because his parents are always giving me books to read that I never do, so I actually want to try to read this one soon this time. Oh, and The Hunger Games comes out tomorrow at midnight. I’m probably not going to the midnight showing, but that’s definitely going to take up most of my evening on Friday.

At least I won’t have to work as much in April. After next week we drop from like 60 cameras a day to 10, so they’ll be laying a lot of people off, and those of us who remain won’t be working as often as we used to. I’m sort of looking forward to that since a) I know I’m one of the ones they’re keeping (since I signed up to work proms) and b) I don’t have any bills to pay, so I can afford to cut back on work a bit. That’s good because if I’m going to be writing and MLing, I’m going to need all the time off I can get.