Writing Tip (Almost Tuesday) #4

I recently met a young man who wants to be a screenwriter. I was delighted to meet someone with whom I might be able to talk “shop” and bounce ideas around with, potentially.

I was surprised to learn he doesn’t write, let alone read.

I was confused. And slightly disappointed.

“How do you know you want to be a screenwriter?” I questioned with a raised quizzical eyebrow.

“I have an idea that I think would make a cool tv show. Do you have any advice on how to begin?”

Uhh, yeah. “Start writing. Anything.”

And then I wondered at what else a young, hopeful writer should know.

The writing bit seemed fairly obvious as one needs to find their voice, so I encouraged him to try his hand at a variety of styles.

The second piece of advice I gave him was to read. A lot. I recently discovered the unique writing of Ursula K. Le Guin via her novel, The Wizard of Earthsea. She has her own way, and I’m kind of sad I only just found her because I’ve had her books on my shelf for years and she’s different from anything else I’ve read.

I suggested that he could start doing research on the topic and that it could lead him to have a better understanding of the story he wants to tell. So far it was just a specific time period because, I think, he likes the idea of the set dressing.

Finally I advised watching shows that are thematically or genre specifically similar to his so that he knows what’s out there. There’s this idea among new writers that they might be unduly influenced, but any professional will tell them that in order to market their own material, they must be familiar with the competition.

I definitely wanted to encourage the spark of creativity to grow, but I had that sense, the one so many of us, as writers, have encountered before – he’s just another random person with “an idea”.

You know the one.

But he is still young, although if you don’t read or write, how do you decide that this is the path you wish to follow?

It’s like…I don’t know…wanting to be a chef because you watch cooking shows even though you don’t cook.

I want to believe that this could be the beginning of his journey, and like I said, I wanted to encourage him, so I asked questions to get him thinking in greater detail of the overall story he may want to tell, and offered other tips, but what it comes down to, and this is the scary side of becoming a writer, is that it is truly about finding your own way.

I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age. It’s just taken me a long, and rather winding path to finally get here. Maybe this spark of an idea is enough to propel him forward into becoming a writer, himself. Either way, we all find our calling in different ways, and it’s up to us to pursue it.

I didn’t tell him about the struggles we face, there’s no reason to scare him off in the early days. I’ll leave that for him to discover in his own time, like we all did ūüėČ because when I think back on all I’ve learned and experienced – the years of research, the articles and books read, the years of tv and movie watching, the sleepless nights when I was on a roll (or when I wasn’t), the writing droughts, the rejections, the few and far between hints of encouragement, finding inspiration in the waking moments and when you’re drifting off to sleep, the trying to stay positive, and taking dead-end jobs (too often) to keep the dream alive – goodness, that’s probably best kept to myself.

Such is our life.

So on that note, fellow writers, what other advice would you give a newbie?

Writing Tip Tuesday #2

I write sci-fi and fantasy. I remember hearing people say that there wasn’t any “truth” to be found in such genres. This always confused me, and I presumed it was said by people who didn’t enjoy those types of stories. They are among my favorites which is why, after some time, I embraced it.

When I was younger and first starting out, I was drawn to historical romance because in an effort to get me back into reading, my mother introduced me to the genre. Somewhere between middle school and junior high, the forced reading assignments had turned me off. So at fourteen, fifteen years old, I’m reading these sweeping, epic romances and falling in love with these fictional men, to whom no real man could ever compare, and I thought, “That’s what I want to write.”

Ridiculous, I know.

My circle consisted of high school boys and they were no inspiration.

And back then, I didn’t discover any hidden “truths” in such stories, and so it became this sort of elusive idea. What books consisted of it? How would I know when I found it? Until I wrote my own story, and then, not until years later, was I able to see that my tale of a woman kidnapped by pirates was really an allegory of my secret hope – that one day, my “real” father would come rescue me.

It’s easy to glorify the idea of someone you don’t know.

I never finished the story. Sometimes I think it would be fun to revisit it now that my writing has changed. And that’s because as we continue to evolve and experience new things, experiment with our creativity, that we discover our voice, our truth.

I don’t know who said this quote that I have above my desk, but it changed a lot for me when I first discovered it.

Fantasy insists that the writer address the cultural, societal, and political times in which they live.

It took some time to understand that I could incorporate all the things I loved – period pieces, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, art, music – into my writing while subtly using it as a vehicle to explore deeper meaning. I could include my concerns about the environment in a story about fairies. I could blame the state of the world on the past mistakes of the Greek gods. I could use a spy story as a way to convey worry over the machinations of men and technology.

I still wonder sometimes what the “truth” is that those people thought I wouldn’t share by writing in magical worlds. All writing is magic. We create people and places from our imagination. We share in their triumphs and their losses. We cheer them on. We love to hate them. If that isn’t some sort of truth…

So I suppose the tip I wanted to convey today is…write what you want. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s supposed to be this way or that. Writing is a freedom and you don’t have to conform to anyone’s ideas of what it should be like. Let it be a mashup. Let it be weird. Let it be whatever you want it to be. It’s your story.

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

MM029 - whatever you can do or dream you can, BEGIN IT. boldness has GENIUS,  POWER AND MAGIC in it! - Quote Only - FB 1200x630 - DTK Coaching - Master  Life's Work

We, as writers, have an opportunity, unlike many others to use our voices to say whatever is on our minds in unique and creative ways. We can use allegory or alternate universes to explore ideas or expose unspoken truths.

When I began my writing journey, I wrote fluff. I wrote romances without any substance, or real world experience. I tried writing mysteries without any true suspense. I was young. I didn’t know what I wanted to say or why I wanted to tell a particular story. I just knew I wanted to tell stories.

It wasn’t until I returned to university, after a decent hiatus (from both education and writing), and discovered screenwriting, that I realized I needed to use my words to convey something; that the stories I was investing my time on needed to have depth, purpose.

Whatever creative medium you are using to express yourself, be bold! If you’ve been debating whether to begin something new, marvel at the magic such an idea carries with it. Sometimes, I’ve found that the excitement of a new project brings with it a renewed sense of purpose, and in these trying times, it’s nice to have something to look forward to. And with that energy, perhaps new ideas will form for yet even more stories, or lead you to finishing an abandoned piece, or fixing a plot hole that’s long troubled you. The possibilities are endless.

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

I’m part of a writer’s group where I’ve seen members question whether or not they think readers will be interested in the subject matter they are writing. I’ve never, personally, understood this way of thinking.

We are our first reader.

We should be engaged by the characters and the world we’re creating. The stories we’re writing should be about topics we’re interested in and want to explore. If we’re not attracted to the idea, why would we waste the time? And if we’re not passionate, the story will read as such.

And if we are, the story will find an audience.

Chasing fads or trends in the tv/movie world is an effort in futility. By the time your story is written and read, the tide will have most likely already turned. This is why many experts suggest avoiding this way of thinking. If you’ve been inspired by the current state of entertainment, then by all means write the story, but write it because you want to, not because you think it’s what you should be.

C. S. Lewis Quote: ‚ÄúWrite about what really interests you, whether it is  real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.‚ÄĚ (12 wallpapers) -  Quotefancy

This all boils down to finding your voice, and C.S. Lewis said it best. Writing is already a bit of an uphill grind so we should do what we can to ensure that we enjoy the journey – by writing about what you want.

Happy Writing! ūüėČ

Quote of the Week

It’s been a rough few months, and for those of us in the US, there doesn’t really seem to be any relief in sight. At least not for the next 42 days.

There’s a lot to be said. There’s a lot to be done. Let’s use our voices. Let’s work together.

Be well!

In Search of a Silver Lining

silver-liningI’ve been wondering for the past few days if I wanted¬†to talk about the election and¬†the ramifications. ¬†As you all know, I’ve tried to make this blog a positive place where I hope you’ll find inspiration and, when I actually sit down to write, tips you’ll find useful. ¬†This blog also serves as my diary, in part. ¬†I try to limit the scope to the writing sphere, and although it may not appear so, at least not in the beginning, I’ll get to that bit by the end.

So yes, I’ve decided to talk about it. ¬†At least a little.

I’ve been trying to find a way to remain¬†positive and to find the right words to share here, with you. ¬†Even as a writer, this has been extremely difficult. ¬†I’ll be honest, I cried when the votes were tallied and discovered that a candidate whose entire platform was built upon some of the most deplorable things I’ve ever heard had the audacity to walk up to the podium to accept the presidency and say we needed to come together…the word “hypocrite” came¬†crashing to mind.

I was, in a word, horrified.

I’ve never been politically inclined, or evidently overly patriotic. ¬†Since I was 19, I’ve been trying to find a way to move to England, and I had only become a US citizen two years before. ¬†Did I think about reinstating my Canadian citizenship? ¬†Yep. ¬†Will I? ¬†Well, in my desire to travel and live around the world, it is easier to do so as a Canadian, sooo maybe. ¬†(And no, I was not one of the many who crashed the Canadian immigration website.)

The night of and the following morning, my eyes were glued to social media as if I were witnessing the carnage of an accident. ¬†I couldn’t look away. ¬†But then the gloating started. ¬†The “stop whining” started, and from people I considered “friends”, well, at one point in my life, I mean we’re just Facebook friends now, but still.

Were they so oblivious to what this meant to so many? ¬†Were they just ignoring all the threats made? ¬†The insults? ¬†The blatant lies? ¬†Or were they under the impression that his whole persona was just for show? ¬†That underneath all the “isms” is an actual decent person? ¬†Do they really believe that someone who had aided in dividing the country so greatly is actually the one who will bring us together?

And this is an honest question –¬†Is this what they believe?

Talk about delusion.  There are a number of quotes about the actions of people vs their words, and in either case, the president-elect has shown us his true colors.

I have worked a long time in the food service industry.  I have been assaulted by men at least a dozen times, both physically and verbally, because in their minds, their tip for me providing them with food and drink also included a grope, fondle, grab, or enduring a disgusting string of insults under the guise of a compliment.  Only a couple of weeks before the election, these two older white men who have become regulars at one of the restaurants I work for had the nerve to say that all women would happily allow a man in a position of power to grope them, as if it were some sort of special commendation.

I looked at them aghast and said, “No, we wouldn’t!”

It is not a compliment. ¬†It is not welcomed. ¬†It is not acceptable. ¬†We are not asking for it. ¬†For many of us, we’ve had no avenue to defend ourselves against such behavior. ¬†And when we do speak up, we’re bitches and being difficult, and the assailant gets a slap on the wrist. ¬†And if you’re wondering why we’re feeling even less secure, it’s¬†because¬†the chosen leader of our country not only condones such behavior, but has also perpetrated it (and on minors, no less).

This is just one example of one of the “isms” you think we’re being cry babies about. ¬†There are a number of groups who have been trying to make strides in the direction of equality that now feel an even greater upward battle is just beginning.

Then the voices of rational people started to join together and grow louder.

No, we¬†don’t think all his supporters are hateful people. ¬†No, we do not want him to fail. ¬†That was never even a thought. ¬†He will be our leader, and there is a great deal riding on his “broad shoulders” and his leadership. ¬†We’re all counting on him to be successful. ¬†We’re all hoping for that, even amidst the fear many of us are feeling.

The irony of it all, I suppose, is that for a man who wanted to break down the political system, he has shone a bright light upon it and made a lot more people want to get involved. ¬†Well, maybe not so much irony as a blessing. ¬†Perhaps this is that¬†silver lining we’re looking for. ¬†I don’t overtly share my beliefs. ¬†I try to find quiet ways to do things for the causes I believe in, but that quiet side is done with sitting in the shadows. ¬†She is beyond incensed and ready to find an outlet. ¬†There’s just been too much.

And this is where we get to the writing.

As writers, we have our voices. ¬†There is a great deal we can do. ¬†Whether you write a non-fiction essay about the ramifications of this decision, or you write an allegorical fantasy¬†that thinly veils these contemporary times, we have it within our means to say so much for so many. ¬†We don’t have to stay silent and wonder what we can do to make a difference.

pinWe have our voices. ¬†Let’s use them!

And on a side note, I truly appreciate the safety pin movement¬†created during Brexit, and offer my support to any who need it. ¬†I’ve added my email to my About page. ¬†Feel free to use it if you ever need a friendly ear or a word of encouragement.jossquote

Keep your chins up, my friends! ¬†Let’s do what we can to stay positive and to bridge the divide. ¬†Let’s be kind and open-minded. ¬†Let’s stand against all the “isms” and find a way to help one another. ¬†We’re all in this together!

xx, Rach

Finding Your Writing Voice

TypewriterFontWriterI hate, that as screenwriters, we are often told that our first screenplay is rubbish. ¬†No one ever says that about a first time novelist. (Although, obviously, there are exceptions to that rule in either case.) ¬†It’s an infuriating statement. ¬†I’ve been writing something since I was eight, of course, that was all rubbish and I had no idea what I was doing, but when I wrote my first screenplay in college, I was in love. ¬†That’s when everything changed.

Now, the premise of that screenplay has sort of remained through subsequent drafts, but it has seen a major overhaul of story and characters a number of times. ¬†So yes, that first screenplay was terrible in comparison, and I would never have considered sending it out, but I don’t believe that’s what “they’re” talking about.

Regardless of how many revisions a screenplay has seen, I think “they”, the elusive industry people, believe that a first screenplay is just a starting point. ¬†They don’t believe we have found our voice, learned enough about structure and pacing, and all the other technical screenwriting terms we’re supposed to know because writing a screenplay is nothing like writing a novel*.

*I’m currently reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. ¬†Gracious. ¬†If a screenwriter wrote like that, we’d be blacklisted. ¬†For those who have read it, you know what I mean, for those who haven’t, eek, it’s a tough read.

As a screenwriter, I have not focused on any other writing styles as part of my portfolio or tried my hand at being a¬†freelancer. ¬†I wouldn’t even know where to begin. ¬†Whenever I tell someone I’m a screenwriter, the next words out of their mouth are almost always in regards to having anything published. ¬†Nope. ¬†I don’t write the kind of stuff that can easily be published, anywhere. ¬†And then I feel like a failure. ¬†Although, in all fairness, I’m not going to hone my screenwriting skills writing an article on cats, or what-have-you.

Reading Stephen King’s On Writing didn’t help morale either. (Now, I learned years ago not to compare myself to others, not in writing or in success, but, and this is a BIG “but”, he currently has 50 titles to his credit, in addition to so many other things¬†while I’m sitting proudly behind my 4 1/2 full length features, which I round up to 5 to sound better and the immense TV show floating around in my head. ¬†Ugh.) ¬†He started writing when he was a kid too, influenced in a completely different way than I was. ¬†Where he enjoyed the horror movies of the 50s, I was drawn to princess stories and the fantasy films of the 80s. ¬†He was encouraged to create his own stories, but honestly, I don’t remember having that same sort of support. ¬†Here’s that discrepant part of my memory. ¬†I don’t remember really sharing anything I had written until my senior year in high school when I took a creative writing class. ¬†That was the first time I had ever read my words aloud, and although the feedback was positive, I didn’t feel compelled to send my work out. ¬†Again, I didn’t even know where to begin.

I continued to write in the privacy of my room, taking a variety of English classes, playwriting, and creative classes along the way, but nothing satisfied the way screenwriting did, and I wouldn’t find that for many years. ¬†I remember I wrote this one-act play that my teacher loved. ¬†She said I should have it put on by this theater group that performed at a¬†coffee bar across from the university. ¬†I never pursued it.

It was these early mistakes that I think stunted my growth as a writer.  Without proper encouragement, I was left flailing Рnever to develop my voice, never to see my work in print or on stage, never to pursue a career with any fervor.  Now here I am, all these years later, finally getting it together.

So, here’s the point.

If you truly want to be a writer, you have to work at it. ¬†That’s how we develop our voice. ¬†We have to read. ¬†We have to write. ¬†Everyday. ¬†This has been reiterated by every writer throughout history. ¬†And it is absolutely true. ¬†I am not the same writer I was when I was 8, at least I hope not. ¬†I’m not even the same writer I was in my 20s, and that is due to exposure. ¬†When we are exposed to other voices and styles, we see what we like, what we don’t, what works, what doesn’t (at least for us), and that makes us better writers by adding to our toolbox. ¬†Another lesson from On Writing.

It is through trial and error that we develop our writer’s voice. ¬†We have to practice everyday. ¬†Find new ways to explore our voice. ¬†That’s why I started writing the flash fiction pieces, and the fan fiction, for that matter. ¬†This blog has helped me tremendously as well. ¬†I thought that if it wasn’t screenwriting, it didn’t matter. ¬†How wrong I was.

Don’t make my mistakes. ¬†Let my errors be a lesson or a cautionary tale. ¬†Find avenues to get your work out there. ¬†Attain feedback. ¬†Find a writers group. ¬†Find a beta reader. ¬†You can be your own cheerleader, most of the time we have to be anyway, but find someone who will encourage you. ¬†You may already have this person in your life, or maybe they’re a friend waiting to be made in a writers group. ¬†They don’t have to be a writer, but only other writers understand the life. ¬†It’s tough, it’s lonely, and often thankless, but we do it for the love.

We love to tell stories, and hopefully one day, others will love reading them. ¬†As for that first screenplay, I’m still going to send it out. ¬†I love it…now. ¬†It doesn’t remotely resemble the first version all those years ago in Screenwriting 102, and that is in part because I have written and rewritten and written some more, not nearly as much as I should have by now, but I like my current voice and style, and that is reflected in it’s most recent rewrite.

Although in the real world, by which I mean Hollywood, I would not be allowed to keep rewriting my script 10+ years later. ¬†Oh my gods, if someone doesn’t buy it soon, I’ll be known as the George Lucas of rewrites. ūüėČ

If you ever need an encouraging word, you know where to find me.  Wishing you all the very best!