Monday, May 28, 2012

Reevaluating Your Goals

We're all really good at giving ourselves crap and I'm certainly no exception. Take for instance, my writing goals.

My Current Goal
I set a goal to write 2,000 words per day, every day, for a grand total of 14,000 per week. (With this goal, an average of 300 words per page, 8 pages per chapter, would give me almost a chapter a day.)

I was able to make this goal once upon a time, so it's reachable, right? Apparently not.
Super Genius

My Reality
What I'm currently writing is 700-1,000 words per day (new word count including words cut during editing), 3-5 days a week, for maybe 3,000-5,000 per week. That means, every day I'm failing by half. And every week I'm screwing up by even more than that.

Fail. *Sigh* Fail, fail, fail.


Be Prolific or Die
Kevin J. Anderson, one of the most prolific writers I know (of), said he writes between 300,000 and 500,000 words every year. Presenting the LDStorymakers keynote address this year, he said, "In today's market, you can't make a living writing one book a year. If you want to make a living as a writer, you have to be prolific or die." (I'm really hoping he didn't mean 500,000 per book. Next year, he has seven books coming out. Dude would get an aneurism.)

So I thought, "I'll bet Kevin J. Anderson does at least 14,000 words per week."

Yeah... Have I ever mentioned how bad I am at math?
14,000 words X 52 weeks = 728,000 words
Whoa. If I was making goal, I'd be schooling Kevin 'Wordsmith' Anderson.

As it turns out, 500,000 a year comes out to about 1,380 per day. So WHY am I beating myself up? (Someone check my math because I'm feeling pretty cool right now.)

Why Goals Are Important
Every week in the real world, my boss and I have a goal that I'll work 40 hours every week (okay... okay... it's an expected result, but stick with me). My boss and I may disagree on what 'work' entails, but I like cash and he likes production, so we make it work. There are even some hefty penalties if I don't make my goal.

Goals set a requirement for something we want to attain. Regardless of the type of goal, it all boils down to your target. And usually, your goal will need to be broken down into smaller goals. 

Want to be a certain weight? Maybe you should drop drinking 44oz of pop a day and watch your portion sizes. Want to run the Boston Marathon? Watch your diet and start timing your mile (really, I have no idea how you prep for a marathon...). Want to write a book? Remember, writers write, so start writing and keep a list of what authors you like do in their work.

Some Famous Things To Keep In Mind
Tracy Hickman said at CONduit 2012, "Everyone has to find their own way, but its never the same way. Everyone has to pay their own dues, but they're never the same dues." YOU have to find your way. You are responsible for whether you succeed or not. If something isn't working, then try something else. Just keep MOVING!

Poet Kathleen Norris said, "Before you begin a thing remind yourself that difficulties and delays quite impossible to forsee are ahead.... You can only see one thing clearly, and that is your goal. Form a mental vision of that and cling to it through thick and thin." A lot of things will come up that will interfere with your goals, but if you're going to be a functioning human, you have to do as Laura Hickman said, "You have to give yourself permission to do something you love." Even if its only tiny steps forward (250 words per day, or 100, or even 50!), do what you love.

Attainable Goals
So, I'm changing my writing goals to something more realistic (but still challenging): 1,000 per day, 5,000 per week, 20,000 per month. And since I prefer to write YA (Young Adult), that's a rough draft (70,000 words) every three and a half months! Almost four a year!

Writing Avengers
One of the most critical things in making successful goals is making them achievable. With my new goals, will there be days when I nail down 3,000+ words a day? Of course! And those will be VERY good days, but it's not fair to set my 'high water mark' as my everyday goal. Doing that only sets me up to fail and that just makes me beat myself down. When I feel good about what I'm achieving, I'm looking forward. And something tells me, all of us are like that.

So... heads up! Set some attainable goals, and remember, as James Broughton said, "The only limits are, as always, those of vision."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Castle Contentions

cxgaf.jpg castle and beckett
Beckett and Castle
I'm a huge Nathan Fillion fan, which naturally makes me a huge fan of ABC's Castle. My wife and I sit up Tuesday nights (as soon as I get home from work) and watch new episodes on Hulu Plus. We were particularly excited to see this years season finale (titled 'Always') because of the sneak peak we'd seen.

So we watched the episode and loved it.

And yet... I felt something in the episode didn't work for me. Something that made me feel like the writers botched the character's motivation at the finish line.

** Spoiler Warning ** Spoiler Warning **

Hot and Bothered
I've talked about it with a few people and I think they went where the writers wanted them to go. (To see the conclusion of 'Always', click on the link below and watch it on YouTube -- It's just under three minutes).

As the clip shows, Castle and Beckett finally make their connection and begin kissing heavily. Castle opens her shirt and touches the bullet scar over her heart before holding her hand and walking into his apartment.

My whole problem is that I think the shirt thing is too sexual. Everyone I talked to thought it was as well, but they thought that after four years of being friends, they were just ready to rip each others clothes off.

So after watching it again, I think the writers were going for the connection with how close Castle came to losing Beckett when she was shot in season three's finale. But regardless of whether they were ripping their clothes off, or whether Castle wanted to touch her scar, it came off wrong for me and here's why.
Click to watch conclusion of 'Always'

Castle and Beckett's relationship isn't about sex.

In four years, Castle hasn't opened Beckett's clothes in any sexual way. In four years, they've never crossed the line from friendship into something more. Have there been times when they thought about it? Of course! But when you love someone so much that you just want to be in the same room as the object of your affection, sex (while a wonderful part of a healthy relationship) isn't what you really care about. And I believe Castle and Beckett are definitely deeper in their relationship than just wanting to push each other over and bump uglies.

I think Hollywood has a major problem because they feel sex equals intimacy. You would almost wonder if anyone on the West Coast ever fell in love without jumping into bed first. It does happen in the real world, crazy but true.

The writers do try to redeem 'Always' by having Castle and Beckett hold hands and walk into the apartment together, but even that feels like they are heading straight for the bedroom (nudge-nudge, wink-wink). Why not have two or three tentative kisses, the smile, the hand holding, and then Castle leads Beckett into the apartment? Intimate with the smoldering passion we've come to expect.

The Mirror Cracked 
Click to watch Conclusion of The Limey
There is one other episode this season that cheeses me off with what I feel is bad characterization.

 In the episode titled, The Limey, Castle realizes that Beckett has lied to him and begins pursuing other meaningless relationships. My beef with this episode, as the clip shows, is that Beckett, after being rejected by Castle, goes out with the handsome detective from Scotland Yard.

I'm not saying she can't go out with whoever she wants, but how many episodes have we seen where Castle swallows his pride and goes home alone after seeing Beckett heading out with another man? If Castle is man enough to know that if he can't have Beckett and he'd rather be alone, then why should Beckett be written so shallow that she wouldn't go home alone because she's not going with Castle?

It was a total misfire with me and breaks the mirror image that Castle and Beckett were finally getting into the same mindset. This is just one of several episodes where Castle's writers do something that resets the emotional balance between the two characters, ultimately making their connection in 'Always' even more surprising/unbelievable.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury
Anyway... all this nitpicking at these episodes made me remember something David Farland said at his Writers Death Camp. He said people don't like watching movies and T.V. with him because he likes to tear apart the scripts and analyze them. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, I'm obviously starting to do the same.

So what do you think? After watching the clips, is my interpretation correct or am I just up in the night? Do you tear apart movies and T.V. shows to find what you don't like? Do you find times when you wonder why characters act like they shouldn't?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Problem: The Core of Story

Me with author John Brown
I love writing conferences. They give me an excellent opportunity to rub elbows with authors of all levels, working hard on their craft. But even more important, I have the chance to be inspired by motivational lessons from published authors.

One of my absolute favorites is John Brown, author of Servant of a Dark God.

The first presentation I ever saw John give was at LTUE 2011. It was so impressive, I went to his lecture called, "Lessons on Story from the Hunger Games." Apart from being a huge fan of the series, I'd also been studying how Suzanne Collins crafted her amazing series, so I was really interested to hear what John had to say. Well, it was one of the best presentations I saw and made a serious impression on me.

At this year's LDStorymakers conference, I saw that John was giving a presentation on, "Problem: The Core of the Story." Having already been impressed with John's classes, I knew I had to get into this one.

Lemme say, it didn't disappoint.

Hope & Fear
Without putting down my entire two pages of notes, John talked about how important problems are to our stories. I've heard other authors talk about it as conflict, but what ever you refer to it as, if you remove the problem or conflict in the story... well... you have no story. As John said, if you take the problem out of Jurassic Park (dinosaurs eating people) you're left with a trip to the zoo. Take the problem out of Les Miserables and all you have is a travel log to Paris.

You have to create a logical problem that makes the reader hope and fear what the result will be.

"Problems beg for scenes."
One of the absolute priceless gems John said, was that "if you don't know what to write, you're missing a problem." He said that when he's found his story floundering, it was because the problem wasn't there and when he found the problem, writing the book took off. "Problems beg for scenes."

He then went on to discuss the Story Cycle and how conflict and surprise power the entire cycle. But without going into a HUGE discussion of what he said, I'll just refer you to the SFWA link below for his presentations on Key Conditions for Reader Suspense.

Ultimately I just have to say that I wish LDStorymakers had this as a two hour master class, because I could have easily listened to John talk about this for another hour.

To read and see more from John Brown, visit the links below. And be sure to check out the various writing lessons on his website.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Summer Blockbuster Picks

When it comes to movies, I really don't make it to very many of them in the theater. Why?

Tickets           $8.50
                             X 6
Munchies    $30.00
Argument over which movie we're seeing -- Priceless

(Anyone notice the munchies are almost as much as the movie?)

So here's my pics for movies I'm willing to fight over this summer. But bare in mind, the top five are probably the only real contenders for being seen outside of a Redbox.

Oh... and number ten. Definitely.

1 - The Avengers

Come on. Does anyone not want to see this one?
The Avengers Poster - 2012 Movie Promo Flyer - 11 X 17 - Shield Collage Teaser
Click to Watch Trailer

2 - Prometheus

Alien was the first movie that scared the crap out of me and this prequel looks just as hot as the first two Alien movies.
Click to Watch Trailer

3 - Brave

Pixar is always good (I haven't seen Cars 2) and this one looks as sweet as pie with a strong female protagonist.
Click to Watch Trailer

4 - The Dark Knight Rises
I'm a little concerned over how they'll portray Bane, but the other movies in the franchise have been so much fun, I'm not terribly worried.

 Click to Watch Trailer

5 - The Amazing Spider-Man

I've been a Spidey fan since way back. I think it all stems from a geek being the hero.
Click to Watch Trailer

6 - Snow White and the Huntsman

I'll admit it. I like the fairy tale films like Red Riding Hood. And besides, I'd be Charlize Theron's mirror-mirror any day.
Click to Watch Trailer

7 - Battleship

I'm hoping this one has a good storyline, but really, I want to see this one because seeing conquering aliens getting their butt kicked is my idea of a good time.
Click to Watch Trailer

8 - Dark Shadows

I'm not a huge Tim Burton fan, but this vamp tale looks pretty funny.
Click to Watch Trailer

9 - Chernobyl Diaries

Radioactive zombies. Yum.
Third Chernobyl Diaries Poster
Click to Watch Trailer


10 - Not too much else I wanna see this summer especially since The Raven is already out. Umm... I'll save my money for The Hobbit in December.
Click to Watch Trailer

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Huzzah! A Win!

My Third Place prize for the LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest
I entered the LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest several months ago. I wanted to do it last year, but just didn't get around to it. I blogged about the whole process back in March, but the results were finally announced last Saturday.

Huzzah! I took third place in the Young Adult Speculative division!

After the brutal process of cutting the chapter from 5,000 words down to 3,000, and then the thumbs down on the new revision from my writing group, I had no aspirations of winning anything. At best, I was looking forward to hearing what the judges liked and didn't like for a final, pre-submission revision.

The YA Speculative division had a rumored 175 entries and was the largest division out of the eight available. Regardless, when my title and name popped up on the screen, I was floored and just a little bit surprised! Sure everybody wants to win, but actually doing it, has an unnerving sweetness all it's own.

So, with the kick-butt reviews I got on my prologue during the boot camp, and the judge's suggestions for my first chapter, I'm having a strong feeling of encouragement to make it to the submission process!

To the bat cave!~

Monday, May 7, 2012

Crap... My Vampire Sparkles

I've always wanted to write comedy. Unfortunately I'm too scared to do it because think I would offend someone and quite possibly everyone. At the very least, it's quite possible that what I write wouldn't be funny at all.

Comedy is a fine line and it's hard to hit. When I took a script writing class at Utah State, we discussed it quite a bit. One comment that stuck with me was the reason Bill Cosby was so successful. You see, Cosby made fun of himself before he ever made fun of anyone else. It essentially gave him license to rip on anyone because he'd already made fun of himself.

So, in the spirit of making fun of myself, here's a little secret about my writing that my writing group will verify as true.

Here's what I think my villain/vampire looks like:

And here's the way my natural inclination is to write said villain:

Notice the similarity?
Me either.

Sadly, I'm not Gail Carriger writing the Parasol Protectorate series where you can have a hilariously funny gay vampire. My vampires are true monsters. They kill for the fun of it and view people as nothing more than cattle. So why is it my natural instinct to write a vampire overly obsessed with his ruff? I want a threatening bad guy, not some fop that speaks with a lisp!

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