Keep Digging

I spent most of the last week musing on, researching, and coming up with new concepts.  I need to pitch an original comic property, and I really need to get a spec screenplay written by SDCC.  I put a decent amount of work into this over the last week, and yet I don’t feel like I’ve made progress.

I fired off the 15 concepts I had usable paragraphs for to Bryan Hill before I went to sleep last night.  Some I was happy with, others I wasn’t, and often the ones I wasn’t happy with were the ones I saw myself writing the most.  In general, I wasn’t sure I had made any progress.  Working in a vacuum of your own ideas doesn’t give you much room for feedback.  After you do your thing on your own, I find it really helpful to tag in your Trusted Council and find out if you’re digging anywhere close to the right spot.  You might love something and find out you’re full of shit, or alternately hate your ideas and not recognize that there’s gold in them thar hills.

I don’t think I’ve found any gold, but we’ll see  for sure in a couple of days with feedback and some fresh eyes.  The problem is that I haven’t found that one idea that’s clawing at my insides and waiting to get out.  LYP, my on-hold for nearly a year now screenplay, was one of those ideas.  It hit me like a flash and I stopped what I was doing (getting dressed to go out) and wrote it down.  It was raw, unformed, and totally something I needed to write.  In a lot of ways I did.  I sat on it for a few months, mulling it over in my head and stretching it to a story.  When I nailed the beats, a part of me felt like it was written, and the execution of the screenplay felt like something I had already done.  Of course, this was my mind sabotaging me from finishing, but I often feel like once you break a story, the drafting and execution is the (sometimes) easy, (often) dull part.

Things happened and I put LYP aside.  The further out I get from it, the harder it feels to go back.  For various reasons I need to get a spec done, so the hope is that starting from scratch will loosen me up and allow me to actually finish this time.  I can already tell, based on the ideas I fired off last night, that I’m putting myself in a box.  I’m writing to fill a quota.  The ideas are all designed to show off a particular skill set or position me in such a way that it’ll help open doors for future work.  And while a spec is meant to do that, and often never gets made, I still want to tell a story that I must tell, not one I’m doing to further an end goal.

There are parts of every concept I like.  I could conceivably write any of them.  But I’m going to keep thinking about it and keep digging until I discover one that defies me not to write it.  That’s how I’ll know I’ve got a winner.

For what it’s worth, I do really like an idea I came up with for one of my comic pitches, but it’s a super hero thing (of sorts).  It’s a really tough market for super hero books, and I’m not particular drawn to them.  The more I think about this story, the more I feel like I may just have to tell it though…

The Move is On

In addition to my move to a new apartment (and destroying my hands), I’ve finally updated my web presence. I’ve begun transferring things to this new domain, and I’ll have a new landing page soon when people want to get at me and know the score.

More soon.

My Next Invention

I’m going to create something that I can implant in every writer (and blogger/journalist/web type) so that they receive an electro-shock “suggestion” every time they perform the same typo or grammatical flub.
Some examples of repeat offenders include:
intact/in tact
overuse of commas (of which I use plenty, but I’m largely correct)
And more!
There will be pain…

I Really Need My Domain Set Up

Spent most of the morning attempting to get some mid-level blogs set up. I’ve reserved accounts with both tumblr and Posterous, and have yet to start using either. My goal is to set up a personal one – random pics, fun stuff, life – and a work one – reference, links, research, etc. Problem is, I don’t know which option is the best long term, so I’m attempting to set up all, use Posterous primarily, and have it update everything else.
But get this, I can’t have two Posterous sites update the same twitter (@roblevin), and @authenticimpostor is too many characters to have on twitter, so I’d need to create another name… But tumblr lets me update one twitter from two sites.
Why am I doing this again?
Bad enough I have a blog that’s been in place of setting up a real website for almost a year, but I’ve made zero progress on the logo (Bernard did a sketch of my nipple, so technically that’s some progress), hosting, and site design. So why would I want to create two more medium blogs?
1) I want to have a place I can dump photos from my life (twitpic style), quotes, and other stuff. I don’t think that necessarily has a place on either a full-on blog like this, or on a business site once I get it fully up and running (beyond this blog).
2) I want to keep things separate. A work tab and a personal tab. Sure, I could use tags, but that adds a whole other wrinkle.
3) I have an inflated sense of self-importance.
4) I apparently never want to get anything done ever again, so’s I can help the Internet. It would be so lost without my love and nurturing.
If I was smart I would either a) abandon this foolish endeavor altogether or b) just use tumblr which has way better themes and customization. But the nagging suspicion that Posterous is better, and newer, will gnaw at me.
If anyone is reading this (I’m looking at you, KODY CHAMBERLAIN), I could really use some help setting up my domain ( I don’t have hosting right now, just the domain registered and pointing here at the blogger blog. I need hosting and to do design a fully-functional site. If anyone wants to help me get my pro site up and running (ideally for trade, as money isn’t something I’m familiar with), please get in touch at authenticimpostor AT gmail DOT com.
This has been yet another waste of time and cry for help presented by the Internets.

Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing

I didn’t know this existed. Was catching up on the always solid crime fiction blog, Do Some Damage, and Scott Parker happened to mention that he always keeps a copy of Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules whenever he’s working on something. Could it be, I didn’t even know this existed?

A quick google search later and I’m staring at them. Originally a short article in the New York Times, then expanded into a book, now mine to peruse.

Here’s the originally article (via Modem Noise), plus a few extra rules culled from Leonard’s site:

Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing

Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle

from the New York Times, Writers on Writing Series.

These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
2. Avoid prologues.
They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.
There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .
. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories “Close Range.”
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
And finally:
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)
If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character—the one whose view best brings the scene to life—I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.
What Steinbeck did in “Sweet Thursday” was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1” and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2” as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”
“Sweet Thursday” came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.
Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

Additional rules:

– Never use a colon or semicolon in dialog. It may be grammatically correct but doesn’t look right.

– Tell your editor to tell the copy editor not to mess with your punctuation.- as long as it’s consistent. Incomplete sentences are okay.

– Don’t ever write to critics , and don’t show your manuscript to anyone outside the publishing business when you are satisfied with it.

– And if you ever work in Hollywood take the advice of Raymond Chandler who said, “Wear your second best suit, artistically speaking and don’t take things too much too heart. Do the best you can without straining at it. And when you have had enough, say goodbye with a smile, because for all you know you may want to go back.”

RIP Blake Snyder

I’m not a complete devotee of Save the Cat, but I think the book and its method have a lot of merit. So imagine my surprise to see a tweet from Blake Snyder (@Blake_Snyder) that read:
passed away earlier today. Please visit
I assumed it was truncated, missing the name in question, but instead… He was the one gone, notifying the world via a posthumous tweet and a goodbye blog from someone. I don’t know why, but finding out about death in this way seems really odd to me.
And selfishly, I’m now going to have an even harder time writing and not procrastinating today.
RIP Blake, I’ll use your wisdom for years to come.

Things I’m Enjoying on a Wednesday

In lieu of updates (been busy), I figured I’d just let you know what I was enjoying today.
Lethal Weapon script by Shane Black
Party Down (via Netflix Instant), as recommended by Erik Tillmans. How did I not know that Paul Rudd, quite possibly the greatest actor of this or any generation, was involved in this?
Bruises and Black Eyes – Lee Bermejo’s blog, and quite possibly my favorite pro blog on the Internets. Of course, I have a major man crush on Lee, so…
And, you know, life… Dodgeball later, I’ll post some stuff this week. Writing has been non-existent, but I’ll push that boulder up the hill soon enough.