Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Moving Pictures

Reading and writing go hand in hand…with the cinema.  An author has a great idea for a story and writes it down.  The book is published.  A lone reader picks it up and enjoys it immensely…then another and another until finally the idea to make it into a movie is broached.  Soon, scripts are written, roles are cast, tickets and popcorn are bought and the story springs to life before the eyes of audiences around the world.  Sometimes the movies are far better, but other times the story is done a great injustice by poor acting or changes to the plot.  That is always disappointing.    
Either way, I can’t help but wonder what sparkle in a story ensures it will make a good movie?  Drama? The “triumph of human spirit”?  Suspense?  Blood and guts?  Romance?  Humor?  Can any good read make a great movie? 

My love for reading is only slightly overshadowed by my adoration of a good flick.  I don’t have a top ten list, because there are far too many greats.  But, a few notables are as follows:
~The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies are pure eye candy.  I haven’t read all of the books but can sit down and watch any of the movies, at any part of the movie, and be swept away from the real world.
~Stephen King movies (Less Lawnmower Man.  Blech!  What were they thinking?!  Thank God he sued.)  All have not been award winning film making.  But, because I love King, most were worth my time and money – some more than others – especially The Shining, Carrie, The Dead Zone, The Green Mile, It, Misery (I'm your biggest fan!)…
~Here is an assortment of my personal favorites in no particular order.  Don't analyze me, please: Full Metal Jacket (adapted from The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford), The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck), Imitation of Life (Fannie Hurst), A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan), and The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk).   
Now, it's time for you to buy some Jujubes and tell me which adaptations have moved you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Kingdom for a Typewriter

I cannot seem to stay on task.  I get ready, get set, and go…tapping out my story on my red laptop (red is my favorite color – especially since I’m a Buckeye fan).  But then I pause while I think…and scrooooll back a page or two and see a misplaced comma or three uses of the word “walk” in the same paragraph…and now I’m rewriting something I should ignore…at least for the time being.

A typewriter would stop this bad writing habit.  I’m certain of this.  I would be barred from instantaneous copy, cut and paste.  I would largely have to ignore my mistakes until it was time for a rewrite.  I would have to STAY ON TASK.  Too bad typewriters are few and far between with the ribbons even farther.  I probably could still find one on e-bay… 
When I was in high school (“back in my day”) we were all required to take typing.  Those who improved beyond 60 wpm on the old ka-chunk, ka-chunk black manual typewriters were promoted to one of the zippy slick electric models in the front of the room.  In my Navy days, we used typewriters for everything and woe was anyone who made a typo because the entire form or document had to be rewritten from the start.  Funny too, when I lived in Japan (arguably the computer capital of the world), at the dawn of this millennium they still used typewriters in every government facility I visited.
Alas, I am cursed with this modern “convenience” of the electronic age where spelling mistakes are detected in a moment’s notice and a pop-up thesaurus is only a click away.  Bah…maybe I’ll keep my lovely laptop and instead look online for some sticktoitiveness.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I swear it’s research for a book!

Since I’m creating a work of fiction and only personally know a bit about what I am writing, I depend heavily on library books containing pertinent subject matter.  However, I am starting to wonder if my research is going to earn me a spot on an FBI watch list.  So far I’ve read books pertaining to serial killers, terrorists, land navigation, enhanced interrogation techniques, wilderness survival, booby traps…oh, and trees of the Pacific Northwest.

I’ll have to say, my favorite and one of the most useful was also what I would call a Good Read.  I have to recommend it…if this is your style…or even if it’s not.  Check out How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq by Matthew Alexander (his pen name for obvious security reasons). 

The story endeavors to prove so-called torture (enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation, and more) is not as effective as simply outsmarting the terrorist.  You’ll have to read it to find out what happens…and to form your own opinions.  Just don’t read it on the airplane like I did…I got some funny looks.       
Not only have these books provided a wealth of information, but I am also fascinated by the content.  No, my attraction to these does not alarm me, as I’ve always had a somewhat gruesome taste in entertainment – but my husband may be starting to worry… 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Discipline!

I occasionally peruse the Writer’s Digest website (www.writersdigest.com) and happened across a great article titled, “10 Disciplines for Fiction Writers.”  In the wake of yesterday's poignant “how much and when” question, it was much appreciated.  You should read the whole thing - I recommend it - but this is my rough interpretation:
-Write early and write often.   Write first thing in the morning AFTER (or with) my coffee and BEFORE I can make excuses.  And, write every day.

-Just write!   The devil may be in the details, but he’s also trying to distract me with them.  In other words, I need to stop obsessing about commas and colons and work only to crank out relatively lucid sentences/paragraphs/chapters each time I sit down to the keyboard.

-Quota.  Set a daily or weekly (or both) word count goal and stick to it – oh, and record it somewhere to document progress.

-Writing Wednesday.  (Or Typin’ Tuesday, Fabulist Friday, or whatever) Dedicate one day a week to writing and nothing else!
There are many more gems in the below link (including taking walks to keep mind and body supple), but this is certainly enough to get me started…or give me a “A kick in the rear!”

Monday, August 22, 2011

So many excuses…

…so little time. 
I need to write.  I want to write, but I keep finding reasons to distract myself.  If writing were my paid occupation, I would do it and not let myself be sidetracked by laundry, kids, cooking, garden, turkeys and all the rest of my 101 excuses.  But it’s not my job (yet).
I recently read that those who do not make writing their priority will not succeed.  But I want to.  Succeed, that is.
Set a goal.  One hour a day?  Three?  What is right for me?  What is right for you?  How do you stay focused?  Do you give yourself breaks?  Should I give myself breaks?  Weekends?  Time off?  Or should I write something, even a little, every day.  On the computer, in a journal, on scraps of paper, napkins or Post-Its?
This weekend we had company and the next two will probably be spent camping or swimming at the lake cabin – or otherwise enjoying the last bits of summer.  Do I take time during these to write?
I know one thing.  Unless I make a plan, I won’t ever finish.  But I want to.  Finish my story, that is.  So, I need to stop making excuses.
According to my good friend Ben (Franklin), “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Help, assistance, aid

When I write, I find I have the problem, trouble, misfortune of reusing the same old words over and over again.  Thankfully, my dictionary (I am also a terrible speller) and thesaurus are always, constantly, forever by my side.  But, if I were only permitted one writing tool, implement, utensil, my dog-eared paperback of synonyms would be it.  I absolutely love, adore, worship this book of similar words.  Recently though, I was introduced to an alternative, different, substitute option.  A fellow member of my writing group recommended, suggested, proposed Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

Available new from amazon.com for $13.72, it is billed as the handy, useful, practical guide for those writers who know what they want to say but not how to say it.  A look, peek, glimpse inside shows 704 pages of common and uncommon word replacements (as well as lists of topic oriented terminology.)   
Is it as wonderful, brilliant, amazing as all of the five-star reviews state?  (A couple do argue, counter, debate it is no more than a "reverse dictionary.")  Will it really, truly, honestly suggest a wider range of substitutes for my many typical repetitive words like certainly, relax, and decide?  I look forward to, count on, anticipate receiving my copy next Tuesday.
I will let you know if it is a resource worth purchasing, buying, acquiring.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I need it

Twenty years in the Navy, my peon years spent making the extra thick coffee for the Chief Petty Officers, the last four as a Chief Petty Officer, but not once drinking the stereotypical Lifeblood of the Navy.  Now, I need it.  Every single day.  Extra strong, extra thick.

I especially crave the caffeinated chrism this morning because I fell asleep way too late (the kids camped in the yard last night), slept like crap in the living room lounge chair (to stop chainsaw killers from getting to the kids first), and woke way too early (the neighbor’s rooster and text messages from my mom).

I made a seven cup pot as my wish was to be alive and alert for my second writer’s support group this afternoon (at a coffee shop…go figure).  This meeting is important for two reasons: writing support and mental support. 

When I met these men and women (all ages, most published, some not) last Wednesday for the first time, they didn’t once reinforce my own too frequent, discouraging thoughts:
“What makes you think you can write?”
“What makes you think anyone wants to read what you wrote?”
“Just because your  (A. College professors  B. Aunt Carol C. Grandfather the Newspaper Editor D. All of the above) said you should write, doesn’t mean you should!”
“You never finish anything!”
Nope…I walked in and they said, “Who are you and what do you write?  Have a seat and join us.”  No judgment, no opposition.  There was nothing but quiet encouragement…and I need it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thrilled to death

I’ve decided to quit talking about writing and just do it.  Maybe I can get these crazy stories out of my head by putting them on paper.  Well, not paper, but you get my point.    
For instance, a few months ago I was out for a walk on a lonely dirt road when the same car drove back and forth past me four times.  It was an old Ford LTD.  It was creepy.  My wicked imagination proceeded to concoct a story about a woman finding a severed body part in a ditch while walking alongside a deserted road.  Then, the killer finds the finder and tries to stop the finder from reporting the find.    
45,000 words later, I am thrilled to still be writing this thriller.  This killer thriller. 
To what end, I do not know.