Wednesday, March 27, 2013

No Longer Following "The Following"

That sound you heard at about 9:59 Monday night was anyone who's been watching "The Following" on Fox – the creepy Kevin Bacon serial killer show – shouting "Bullshit." That's sure what we did.

But there's a lesson to be learned. I guess, that applies to writing. There's always a lesson to be learned, whether you're watching people, or reading something really good, or watching something on TV that's really shitty.

We like Bacon, so we gave "The Following" a look, and at first it was OK. But about four episodes ago, when the female cop suddenly shot the FBI agent so the psycho bitch could get away with the kid, because the female cop turned out to be – gasp! – part of the serial killer's cult army of devoted followers, I thought, "That's pretty cheap." In fact, right before it happened, I turned to Tori and said, "She's gonna shoot him." It was pretty obvious, and obvious is what TV does best. It's the show's signature. The villain has a never-ending supply of devotees who can outgun the FBI and out plot everyone. In other words, "shocking" things happen not because they make sense, but because the writers wish it so.

Last night was the last straw. Nothing in the episode made sense. If you thought about it, the whole episode was superfluous because it involved Bacon's character trying to save the woman from being captured by the psycho army, only to have the woman decide to go ahead and go off with them on her own. And she'd already done that once, a month ago and it didn't work then, so there was no way she'd do it again. That was just dumb. It was the arbitrary actions of a character under the command of shallow writers.

Monday when the "big shocker" happened – or what the writers obviously thought would be the big shocker – happened right at the end – you could just hear the writers saying to themselves, "This'll be so cool. It'll make them scream!" All it did was make me and Tori shout simultaneously, "Bullshit!" Not "Holy smokes!" or "Whoa! Didn't see that coming." We shouted "Bullshit," and "Bullshit" is what we meant.

When the writers let you see how clever they think they are, all it does is piss you off.

I don't care any more. I'm done with it. Kevin Bacon is on his own. We're not following "The Following" any further. But there was a lesson for us as writers – There's a big difference between being clever – for instance, watch the BBC's "Sherlock" – and being smugly manipulative

Respect your characters, and respect your readers. Don't waste a lot of time showing off.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Back Up and Try Again

Interesting Saturday. I don't write as much on the weekends, partly because I "work" on the weekends, I have the copy editing shifts for the Source Saturday and Sunday evenings, and also becase the family is home and there are different things to do, family things.
But I did get a chance to write for a little while and it was interesting. I got a head of steam going and had almost 600 words written when I got up for a few minutes. It was during that time I realized I had made a wrong turn – literally, because the characters are slogging across an island in the dark, in the rain, trying to avoid pursuers. I literally had taken the wrong turn, they weren't ready to go down the ravine yet, there was something else that needed to happen first.
So I sat down and backed up. Literally. Chopped about 200 words. Didn't "delete" them, because they weren't bad and they might work a little later. But they had to go, because something else needs to happen to the kids first. Depending on how they react to it, the bit with the ravine might work. If not, something else will.
But sometimes you just have to back up and try again. Which is what I did. 159 words later I was back on course.

For the day I got 551 words, not bad for a Saturday, I guess, and even better if you count (and I don't) the roughly 200 words I chopped out. Story now stands at 32,341.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Now we're rolling!

It's been a good week. A damn good week, working on Scurvy Dogs. That's the trick, I guess, making the work your priority. Life keeps trying to get in the way – and I'm sure it will continue to, and sometimes you have to let it. But it's been a good week, I'll leave it at that.

It started Wednesday when a character suddenly did something I didn't expect her to. Completely out of the blue. I had to adjust accordingly, but when your character insists in doing something, you have two choices – either ignore it and force the character to do what you want regardless of the kind of personality you've created, or accept that you've created a character with real wants and needs, and you follow them because what you'll find is a story worth telling.

How many stories have you read where the characters talk one way and act another, because it was clear that's what the author wanted them to do, regardless.

That's not news, of course. Anyone will tell you that. So when Jessie got up and did what she did, I got out of her way. She's a tough little kid anyway.

Similarly, I hadn't expected the wild pig to show up Thursday until he did, snorting and rooting with his razor-like tusks. Good thing he did, too. It was a colorful incident.

Maybe the best thing that happened was after I finished writing Thursday. I got up, ran to the bank and the grocery store, came home and made spaghetti. (Not the best spaghetti I've ever made, but really, really good.) All the time I was browning the sausage and cutting up the pepper and onion and mushrooms etc., stirring the sauce so it wouldn't burn, getting the water for the noodles ready – all that time, I kept wanting to jump back on the computer and write a little more. It was calling to me. The story's gotten hold of me again and I couldn't wait to get back at it.

I'm glad I didn't. I think you can only go so far in one stretch before you start to flag and your attention falters, your writing suffers. It's like performers say – leave 'em wanting more. I got up this morning and couldn't wait to get back to it. I'm tempted to push a little farther today, but I think I'll stop for now. Gotta leave something for tomorrow.

Today – 2,233 words. Total – 31,790. Looking at what still has to happen, I think It'll come in right around 50,000 words.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Good Morning's Work

If I do say so myself, that was a good morning's work.

1,498 words, brings the total to 29,557. Chapter 16 is a LOT of fun. At least it was a lot of fun to write. Never underestimate the value of a wild pig plunging into middle of the action.

Need to be able to do more words in a sitting, but if the action's that good I'll settle. And since I have to run to the bank this afternoon, two buses there and the same two back, it's just as well. Interrupting the writing to earn the money is one thing. Getting the check and getting it to the bank ASAP is just as important, and a lot more fun.

So I'm pleased with where the story stands, where it's going. I know where the next chapter has to end, and it sets up something I had always envisioned, then forgot to put in the first draft. So I'm starting to feel pleased.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Someone else a lot smarter than me

Great quote on writing. Really good. This describes exactly what it's like for me. 

Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way. -E.L. Doctorow

So today – 1,115 words today, and that included running out at midday to run errands, which required two miles of walking. Had to be done.

So a total of 28,014 words now. And we're right at the point where peril starts coming fast and furious, so if I can keep focused and get the momentum going, I should make good progress now.

I can only see a little ways up the road, know what's coming next and I think I have an idea what comes after that, but until I drive/write a little farther, of course, I can't be sure. Sometimes I'm surprised.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Back to work

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by. – Douglas Adams

That's me. I was supposed to have the second draft of Scurvy Dogs done long ago. I don't. The self-imposed deadlines keep whooshing by. (The story is that Adams had missed many deadlines for The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy and finally the publisher called and said, "Look, finish the page you're on. We'll send someone over to get it in half an hour.")

Mostly I blame work. Gotta pay the rent, right? And it's hard to get a head of steam going when you're constantly stopping to write something for pay. It's that old conundrum.

But really I have no one and nothing to blame but myself. I mean, I could just not take on so many assignments. It would make things a little tough at rent time, but we could manage it. I choose to do other things – write pay copy, meet with friends who visit New Orleans, get blisteringly drunk as I celebrate Mardi Gras with a Pirate Krewe.

And not working regularly on the book – some weeks no more than a few hundred words get written, and because I have no momentum they mostly suck – means what's the point in working on this blog? So here we go.

Even when I haven't been able to work on it, I've thought about it constantly, and really like the story. Just have to get it written down. It's very, very different than the first draft, and I'm happy about that. I'm choosing to finish this story. It's a good one.

I'm aiming to be done at the end of the month. Possible? Yeah, but frankly not likely. I've got about 30,000 words to go. But if I get close, and get the ball rolling again, I'll feel good about it. I'll have to put my head down, ignore work, ignore distractions. Get it done. Then see where I am.

Scurvy Dogs! Let's go!