Someone Told Me to Give Up

Trying to get work in a creative field may well be the hardest career choice there is. Not the most traumatic by any stretch of the imagination. That title would go to soldiers and doctors. Not the most important, which would be scientists and politicians. But creative work, books, movies, video games, it may be the hardest career ever to pursue.

It’s something you need a lot of encouragement to get through, encouragement you don’t always get.

This has been an interesting week for me, thankfully in an interesting way as opposed to a cruddy way. My hunt for the next story related position has yielded a few promising leads, plenty of dead ends, and a sea of frustrations.

I decided to take the advice of a friend of mine who works at one of the major film studios, Paramount to be exact. He told me how he got his job, that he hit up connections who worked there on a job networking site and eventually that lead to a position. Since I was part of the same site, I did the same.

It was a day of sore thumbs. I must have sent out some 500 messages over the course of a few hours, all from major film studios. As of now, 30 have responded, and I’ve had one phone call. But that’s not the one we’re here to talk about. One messenger lamented on how things had been difficult for them, and left me with these parting words.

“I’m working very long hours and don’t have time to chat and my advice is go to law school. I’m sure that’s not what you want to hear but those are my thoughts.”



This was going to happen sooner or later. It does to every aspiring artist. It either comes from someone who has made it and doesn’t think anyone else has a shot, or from someone who tried and never got their break.

As you all know, I’ve been suffering from a pretty nasty depression, and have been trying to keep it from getting as intense as before. Because of that, I dreaded this message. I honestly thought when it came, it would leave me in tears.

None were shed.

“Did they really just say that?” was more the reaction I got. It was more of a quiet shock than devastating blow.

Funny thing, getting this message was a lot like getting a shot. We all remember those times as kids when we get vaccinated or have our blood drawn. We always worry abut getting the shot because of how much it will hurt, but then it comes and its absolutely nothing. Just a little pin prick. This was like that.

Just a pin prick.

Honestly, it was even a little funny in retrospect. Me going to law school isn’t a very good idea. I’d probably be as good at that as Groucho Marx was running Freedonia.

Keys to a Successful Action Finale

The climax of any story is one of the most difficult elements to conceive, let alone execute successfully. It takes up the bulk of the third act, contains emotional highs and lows akin to a Cedar Point trip, and through it all needs to hold the audience’s interest. If you fail in this goal as a writer, you lose your audience at the point where it’s all supposed to come together.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on more action oriented finales. The conclusions of stories like tragedies, romances or any number of comedies typically have free reign to do whatever, but action requires a little something else. As the conclusion of a comedy should be funny, action or adventure stories should be, well, exciting.

There are many examples of climaxes that fail. I for one am not a terribly big fan of the Bay TransFormers films in part due to their climaxes.

The endings of any TransFormers movie suffer from common issues. There’s a lack of variety in their set pieces, and the stakes aren’t high enough. Yes, the heroes, metal and cardboard as they are, are trying to prevent the destruction of the world. This is the plot device sometimes referred to as the Countdown.

We’ve all seen or read those parts of two characters fighting while a clock ticks lower in the background. The characters need to prevent something from happening, but are inhibited from doing so in order to create suspense. We watch the fight go on while being constantly reminded that this bad thing that shouldn’t happen is edging ever closer. This works when we believe when that clock runs out, our worst fears may be realized. That’s why it doesn’t work in TransFormers.

In a series like TransFormers, does anyone really think the creators are going to let Megatron push the button and kill everyone? Of course not. That would pretty much drive away its audience of young boys looking for jaws getting smashed. In stories, the world is not enough. So what you have to do is hold another threat over them, the threat of losing something or someone that may actually be sacrificed.

To continue my endless love for the Alien series, Aliens has one of the most successful final acts of any story ever. It knows how to threaten its audience. The character of Newt is taken by the creatures to be implanted with one of their ilk. In an R rated horror film dealing with interspecies rape, we have no guarantee that won’t happen. It’s already been established that the monsters kill indiscriminately, so the audience is unsure if Newt will be saved, or if this will very quickly become about avenging her death.

Long story short, when you make a threat, make sure your audience believes you may go through with it. Since they don’t know what will happen, that will keep them coming back.

While we’re on that topic, lets discuss variety.

If you don’t love Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, you’re wrong. You’re just wrong. Hate to break it to ya, but this movie rules. It knows how to keep the audience invested in what amounts to 20 minutes of none stop action in its hair raising third act. It does this by giving its climactic escape so much variety, it almost has three acts in and of itself.

It begins with the rescue of Willie from the lava pit, then goes into a conveyer belt fist fight, then moves on to the movie’s trademark mine cart chase, and finishes up in a great action scene on a rope bridge. It goes on and on, but no sequence outstays its welcome. Your battles can be as spectacular as anything that has ever been put on screen, but without variety, it won’t take very long to get dry.

Another key to delivering a successful conclusion to stories like this is the structure that goes into it. This is what the entire thing has been built up to, so it better deliver. What I’ve seen in some of my favorite climaxes is, as mentioned above, they’re divided into an entire three act stories themselves. It contains all the emotional highs and lows of any given narrative, though a little more condensed.

Three Act Structure Graph

As this structure works for an entire story, it can also be applied to your final act, with all the built in peaks and valleys to keep your audience strangling the armrests on their chairs. You have your set up, build the action, things go well at first, then go wrong, a low point comes up, and when it looks like your audience won’t take a breath until you finish things, you grant them relief or despair. Think of it as a short story or film that goes into the whole. It should have a solid enough framework to stand on its own.

In my opinion, those are the big three elements that go into a successful action climax. Your threat should seem credible, the action should have variety, and the entire movement should be well structured. Because without a credible threat, there is no suspense, without variety, it gets dull, and with no structure, all you’re left with is a loud noisy mess. It may seem simple just to keep someone excited, but action and adventure are as difficult as any genre. It’s one thing to get an audience excited. It’s a whole other story to keep them there.

Time of Day Influences Writing

Hello everyone. I wish you a great Sunday. Forgive this article for being brief, but it’s a Sunday and I work Sunday mornings. Do not weep for me, for it is better than working Sunday evenings.

Seriously, the closing shift sucks.

Since we’re on the topic of the time of day, one of the lessons I learned working on my various books and scripts is that time of day has a big impact on how someone writes in both quality and quantity.

It varies from person to person. Some work best in the mornings while their minds are still racing from the melodies of REM sleep. Some work best in the evening watching the sun go down and contemplating the day’s adventures. Others like to find their middle ground between the two.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of choosing when to hammer something out and just take whatever hours we’ve been given, unless it’s a day off.

Though there are many self help articles on this topic, I didn’t expect it to be that truthful until a pattern started to emerge in my own work. I would procrastinate and insist on getting some work on the book done in the evening, then the evening would roll around and I’d find myself more in the mood to hit the hay than hit the books. In the morning though, the words just seemed ready to burst out like the breaking of a dam in a bad action movie.

I write this post for example at 5:50 in the morning my time, and it seems to be going well.

So here’s a simple top for all you aspiring wordsmiths. If you don’t know it already, find the time of day that works best for you. This will take some experimenting. Crack open your word canvas at various times of day and see which one had the most of that special magic. Once you’ve found that, that will be your time.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should exclude writing at all other times of day. Sometimes your story or poetry will power up the jackhammer to chip out of your head whenever it feels like it. But those are the times when the words are giving the orders. Your time of day is when you are at your best to give the orders.

You may not be able to write everyday, as is the case with most people. However, if you find your right writing time (teehee) you can see your output increase dramatically.

Outlined Writing vs. Free Writing

Writing is a very interesting art form. Like any art, there are any number of ways to complete it, longhand r typing, improvised or planned, as fiction or non-fiction and so forth. The biggest distinction I make when it comes to writing is whether it is outlined or done freely.

An outline is a writing tool, similar to a bullet point, where you map out your story and/or points from beginning to end, so you know precisely what goes where in your work before you even begin. This streamlines the writing process in many ways in that it becomes a journey of getting from point A, to B, to C and so forth.It is a tried and true method that helps keep your thoughts organized during the creative process.

Free writing is a different thing altogether. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Sitting down and just letting it all go without any organization or restraint. There are many great things about free writing, better improvisation, it helps with brainstorming, and generally is more energetic for the artist than outlined writing.

So, which process is better?

I’m not going to lie, but like so many things there is no clear black and white answer Different styles work better for different writers. Rowling for example had each of the Harry Potter books carefully planned by the time the first book hit the presses. Each plot point was carefully set up and foreshadowed in advance. Sometimes though, this planning comes at the expense of spontaneity, and the process of writing may suffer.

An outline can be a terrific road map for someone who is nervous about filling in that blank page, so that is personally the method I prefer. When the points are out before you, it allows you to keep things better organized in your head. When that happens, you can do a good deal of writing without ever stroking the keyboard.

Writing is mostly thinking, because there can be no words without a clear cohesive thought. I’m a very visual thinking person, and the organization of the outline makes it much easier to remember. With that tool, you can contemplate and elaborate on each point one at a time. By the time you do sit down, you’re overflowing with ideas that you can’t wait to put into words.

In spite of my love for the outline, there is a risk. Sometimes it prevents you from thinking outside of the box. My outlines are very specific, so when it comes time to sit down and actually write, I sometimes forget that venturing beyond them is also an option. In simpler terms, it can unintentionally put you in a box. In your outline you may have your hero rush into a burning building to save someone, so you may forget to consider what may happen if they don’t.

Free writing doesn’t have that unintentional effect. You just sit down and let it all go. I’ve taken part in free writing, mainly as an exercise, and it is surprising just how quickly the ideas and inspiration come sometimes. The spontaneity is quite refreshing after the sometimes dry  process of outlining. It’s also a very exciting process since you don’t know just what is coming next half the time. Writing free of an outline frees both you and your characters, and allows them to wow you in a variety of interesting ways.

The casualty of this spontaneity is organization. Good stories are, for the most part, very well structured. You look at classics from the Shakespeare plays to the Indiana Jones movies, and all of them have that certain organic flow that makes them work as cohesive narratives. Work like that requires a lot of careful planning, writing and re-writing, and time off to let your work fester.

There is no black and white answer as to which one is better overall. Perhaps it depends on what mood you’re in. Some days the planning may be the most effective way to get your creative juices flowing, while other days it may be best to just do a jiggy on the keyboard without any planning or foresight. Maybe outlining is a good place to get started and free writing is a good way to finish, or maybe it’s best to free write a first draft and structure it into a cohesive narrative later on.

I read so many articles saying one way is right and the other is wrong, but take my advice as someone who has done both. Ignore those. Nothing in the world is black and white, and this is especially true for art.

I’m personally more of an outliner because the stories I make are complex with a lot of layers and plot points that need to be sorted out, but I also enjoy the freedom that free writing has to offer. Find the one that works best for you, and should the day come that you find yourself stuck, consider trying the other way, if only to get yourself started.

Just keep writing: believe in the story, believe in yourself

I was fortunate enough to be one of the authors featured on blogger Timothy Pike’s series about overcoming doubts in writing. Be sure to check out his blog and see his content as well as many other talented up and coming authors.

What Inspires Your Writing?

Today we meet Eric Hanson, and hear about what inspires him to keep writing in the face of severe depression. Many thanks to Eric for passing along his wisdom. If you’ve got some inspiring advice to share, please send it in!

My name is Eric Hanson, and I’m a 27-year-old writer living in Los Angeles. I’ve been suffering from severe depression, and it has affected my personal and professional life. It most often manifests itself in a persistent and overly critical voice that ridicules every misstep I make, even in my work.

Writing is something I love as it is the one practical skill I believe I possess, so I feel very pressured to turn out quality work. This makes me write a lot. This last year I wrote a full-length novel, three feature scripts, three short scripts and two short stories, along with untold essays and blog entries…

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Working with Writing Editors: Why and How

Getting an editor for your writing can seem like a waste of money. Such editors often go for around two to four thousand dollars if they have been working in the field for a number of years. Also, why should someone need an editor? What do you need to worry about other than typos?

The answer is a lot. A lot can go wrong when writing a book or a script, and if you find the right editor, you have an opportunity to fix those mistakes. I have been working with my editor for roughly a month now and can say that her input in my project has been most insightful. Working with an editor can help expose your shortcomings as an artist, and this can be a gut punch. But instead of taking it that way, you can accept those weaknesses and take it as a challenge to make your writing better.

First things first, don’t have someone you know be the editor unless you’re sure they can view it objectively. You can have such a person sweep for typos, but if they know you will it is hard for them to take a step back and provide an honest opinion. They know who you are, can pick up on little in jokes that a general audience probably won’t, and will often do their best to be encouraging. You won’t get an honest critical evaluation from your own mother. Think of your writing like a pool. Those you know have already waded in and are comfortable with it, but most people are going to be jumping in cold. If it’s uncomfortable, they’ll just leave and move on to warmer waters.

The best editors are ones you don’t have extensive connections to, because they can come into the story cold from the point of view of your audience, as someone who doesn’t know you, is meeting your characters for the first time, and just getting ready to explore the world you have made. This brings us to the problem of objectivity, not just for them, but for the writer.

Objectivity is a big one for writers, myself included. When delving into your story, you often feel a flood of emotions and are aware at any given moment what your characters’ innermost thoughts and secrets are. Nobody knows the story better than you. That is a big risk since you know the story so well, you may not communicate what you feel because you already know it.

Unless your audience is also aware of those things, a character’s actions will probably not have the same impact for them. Editors, like your audience, offer an objective point of view. If they are unable to get the ideas you are trying to put across, chances are your audience will be the same way.

Take me for example. I’m not terribly fond of depressed or angsty characters. I just have a difficult time connecting with someone who complains about the meaningless of life on a regular basis. While editing my book, my editor made the comment that my protagonist seemed angsty at times. When she revealed this to me, I was somewhat distressed. I was going for more a gruff and angry kind of character who complained, but did it in an intimidating or even funny fashion. Since my editor didn’t quite get that, it doesn’t mean she didn’t ‘get’ the story. It just means I didn’t communicate my character properly.

So my editor and I arranged a meeting where she addressed her feelings, and I told her what I was going for.

Her response was something to the effect of “Ah, yes. I can see that now.”

Then I said “Okay. So how can I communicate that better?”

The tips and examples she offered me after that meeting were most helpful, and helped me improve my manuscript greatly. Lines of dialogue and certain actions now stuck out as being against everything I wanted my character to be, so a few strokes of the keys and they were fixed. That’s what you should do. If something doesn’t work for your editor, talk to them, tell them what your goal is, and ask for tips on how to help that come across.

This brings us to another advantage of having an editor. They can be a good partner to work with, and even make the editing process very fun. A good editor will talk to you, try to understand who your characters are and ask you what you want your story to be. Once they know that, an editor can be a lot like a coach or personal trainer. They’ll be over your shoulder and offering input and criticism, but it’s all to help you build those writing muscles. Eventually, you will work those common mistakes out of your system, and you’ll be a better artist for it.

This doesn’t mean you should listen to everything an editor says. Sometimes you’ll have a strong idea in a story that means a lot to you and you want to keep. My editor has suggested the deletion of passages or lines that I find it difficult to part with. Sometimes they’ll suggest deleting something, only to go through the manuscript and see you were trying to set something up before, then tell you to go ahead and leave it in.

If something means a lot to you and not to the editor though, you can take that as another sign that it doesn’t quite work. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it. It just means that element needs some fixing.

Now, not every writer needs to work with an editor. Sometimes it is a more comfortably process to work on something alone to keep any distractions from clouding your thinking. Sometimes every word just means so much to you, it is impossible to part with any of them. If however you are insecure with your work or want to go through a test run with it, I would suggest seeking an editor out. I can say for my first time working with an editor, this has been an enjoyable experience that has helped my manuscript get re-energized. There are not many joys greater than seeing a manuscript you already love come to life as your ideas leave your head and become words on the page. You work with a good editor, that joy can be yours as well.

When Do You Kill The Kid In Your Story

You have to look a good long while to find a work of fiction where someone doesn’t die. It happens all the time, from the most blood soaked of Goodfellas style movies to the most seemingly innocent of Bambi like stories of fluffy animals frolicking through the forest. Inevitably, someone is going to take anything from a tumble to a bullet. But there are a few no-nos in such stories, namely that killing a child is generally frowned upon.

It’s one of the things that most fiction writers try to steer clear of, be they screenwriters or novelists or anything in between. Generally there’s a fear that doing something like this will turn off one’s audience, and often this type of thing is used for no other purpose then to stir controversy. Sometimes though, taking that extra step can help a story, and be used as a great dramatic device. Let’s start with the death of a child in something relatively well known, like Jaws.

Jaws, both the book and film, has a child getting horribly killed before the closing of the first act. The film is especially graphic in its depiction, a fountain of blood surging out of the water as the child is torn to pieces by the shark. I’m honestly surprised it didn’t get an R from this scene alone.

The scene does help the film though. The unexpected violence of the scene puts the audience on edge, and the stakes are raised immediately. The film’s hero, Chief Brody, has several children, and now their safety is not guaranteed to him or us. More interestingly, the aftereffects on Brody become an important part of the plot, him getting angrily confronted by the dead child’s mother, and sinking into an alcoholic stupor afterwards. The death of the young boy does serve the story well. Alligator is not nearly as good an example.

Alligator is nothing special, a Jaws knock off from the 80s. There’s a scene where the monster is hiding in a backyard swimming pool during a child’s birthday party. Seeking to bully the the toddler, his older brother pushes him into the pool, where he is killed in a geyser of gore in front of horrified onlookers.

This scene fails for a number of reasons. One, it should be horrific, but unlike Jaws, it comes across as laughable. Worse yet, it in no way effects the plot. The leading characters are never aware of this attack. It doesn’t clue them in to the monster’s location, and afterwards it’s never mentioned again. What could have been a terrifying and even poignant scene is but a brief aside in the story. Cutting this element out of the film, it moves just as smoothly with no sense of anything being lost. It has no effect on the plot, so it has no place in the narrative. While the scene in this film is useless, it doesn’t come across as insulting and is actually good for a laugh. That isn’t the case for Aliens. vs. Predator Requiem.

Words cannot express how much I despise this picture. Not only does it ruin my two favorite science fiction icons of all time, but it contains some of the most shameless and exploitive violence ever put on film, and all for the purpose of garnering controversy. The film gets off to a poor start when a child is attacked by a facehugger and gives birth to the chestburster inside of him on camera. It is well known to fans of the series that the facehugger is a rape allegory, so using it on a child, and onscreen, was incredibly ill advised. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the film sinks to new lows when we witness one of the leading monsters massacre a nursery and a ward filled with pregnant women.

Now, the previous films in both the Alien and Predator series are not family material by any stretch. Aliens for example does kill many children, but it’s off screen. When either series was at its best, they were tense, suspenseful and well made films with well rounded characters that didn’t need gore or violence to sell themselves. There is no such tact or skill to be found in Aliens. vs. Predator Requiem. The above mentioned scenes are not well made in any sense of the word, and are blatant attempts to sell the film by stirring the pot. It’s only appropriate that the film failed. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t have something in bad taste and still have it serve a story. Arguably the best example on this list is one of the most disgusting sequences ever put to film.

John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 is an underrated gem that serves as the first in a series of incredible films from the talented director, and is easily one of the best action films of the 1970s. The plot concerns a team of police officers and convicts who try to fend off an attack on their precinct by a violent street gang.

In the film’s most famous sequence, a child is shot with a silencer by the head of the gang. It is sickening, in bad taste, and absolutely brilliant in how it’s executed. You could teach an entire class on editing from this scene alone, but lets take a look at how it effects the plot. After the little girl is killed, her father takes revenge on her killer, retreats inside the titular precinct for safety, and is followed by the gang bent on revenge. In one fell swoop, Carpenter both gets the plot of his siege thriller started, and removes any sympathy the audience might otherwise have for the gang. The entire story hinges on this horrific scene, for it creates the conflict that the characters must resolve.

In closing, killing a child in your story doesn’t have to be purely exploitive. It can be a very potent, dramatic, even tragic device. It can get your plot rolling, let your characters know how serious a situation is, or just put your audience on edge for the rest of the ride. There are however many other ways to do this. Use this dramatic device as you would any other that could be controversial, and use it responsibly.

Books or Movies? Evaluating My Career Path

In these two years since I got out of college, a lot has happened in my professional life to give me pause over which career would be best for me, film or books.

When I was a young boy of around six years old, I saw Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom. The movie was so rich with imagination, action and creative imagery, I fell in love with it right away. Looking at what was playing out on the screen, I asked a question that changed my life forever.

“How did they do that?”

I had never considered the question before when watching a movie. I had always assumed these wonderful things just winked themselves into existence. After that question, I watched documentary after documentary on how these works of art were created, and made the declaration when I was 10 years old.

“That’s what I want to do.” So I went to college for it, aced my grades, and learned everything I could about the elaborate and complex craft of filmmaking, from conception to the screen. I was going to be the greatest director ever. Now 27, I have only made a few short films, no features, and have a small job in a film company. They are good achievements to be sure, but not my greatest. My greatest was that I wrote a book.

Over one hundred thousand words, over three hundred pages. I sooner saw myself directing a massive budget epic then I did writing so much as a short story, but here it is. Locked away in my external hard drive is a book, and I had the time of my life doing it. It has made me wonder which art form is more right for me as a career path.

Two questions go into choosing books or film, how each works as an art form, and what goes into making either one.

Movies are an art for that interest me a lot more than books, because they are every art form rolled into one. They have writing, acting, music, digital and painted art, architecture, everything. Whenever a new art or technology comes along, movies absorb it, growing as humanity grows. They are in many ways the universal art form. Not everyone has the time or the patience to read a book or play a video game, but with a movie all you need to do is sit back and take it all in.

Books by contrast only deal in writing. There is no music, no acting, no effects work of any kind. They are just words on a page. Unlike movies, books ask a lot of their readers. They ask for time, concentration, but greatest of all, they ask for imagination. That is the one thing books will always win at. A book is different for each person, and on each reading. The words change and grow with you, and you are in control of it all. How the sunset looks, how the birds sing, how the couple kiss under the moonlight. Movies have the personality of their makers, while books have a lot more of their readers in them.

Movies and books are both wonderful, beautiful things. Thing is, I know much more about movies than books as I’m a very visual thinker. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about the great authors of our time, but you ask me one question about any film from a Hollywood blockbuster to an 80s slasher film and I can spew out more trivia than your average google search.

As for reading books, I’ll freely admit my guilt in not reading some of the best ever written. The Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, Slaughterhouse Five, 1984, the list goes on and on of great books which never graced my unfortunate eyes. Perhaps it’s because I better process the auditory and visual information in movies. I like seeing and hearing all these things, looking at a good piece of cinematography or hearing a great score to go along with it. With books however, you get to make your own. Chose your own actors, write your own music. You could have Dumbledore played by everyone from Gregory Peck to Harrison Ford.

Harrison Ford as Dumbledore. How kickass is that?

What about what goes into making either one? That perhaps is where the two differ the most. Though I always dreamed of being a film maker, the actual making part always filled me with dread.

Movies require many things. They require money, untold numbers of man hours, crew, safety regulations, you name it. These are all things one must consider when making a motion picture, because movies do have limitations. A first time director isn’t going to get a job directing a megabucks movie.

Also, as much as this pains me to admit, you don’t have that much creative freedom in movies, especially a big studio film. Studios give you the money, and they want a product they can sell. I suppose this does make sense. If I shoveled that amount of cash at someone, I would want them to follow certain rules also. Studios won’t give you that kind of money to see your dreams come true. Movies are art, but they’re expensive art, and expensive art has to sell.

With a book though, there is no crew, there is no limit on budget, and there is no person looking over your shoulder whispering yay or nay. You just set your fingers loose on a keyboard and watch them dance. You can do this anywhere you want. On a lake, in the few hours before work, on a vacation to Universal Studios, wherever your fingers can meet those keys. If something goes wrong, just erase it and start over. No time to reset the effects and actors. It’s ready to go as soon as you are.

Best part about a book though, is there is no waiting. No waiting for someone to green-light a passion project you’ve been wanting to make for the last twenty years. No waiting for a bigwig to take a passing interest in that baby that means so much to you. Whatever project you want to do, whichever one is most in your heart at that moment, that’s the one you make.

You can do whatever you want, whenever you want when writing a book, and that’s the dream of any artist. You want to sink an entire continent into the sea? Have an entire city fly to the moon? Whatever you can imagine, it only costs the ink to print it and the paper to put it on, available at any fine retailer. It takes only two things, your patience, and your time.

Still, making a movie is an experience. It’s collaborative. You meet and work with a lot of people. You make memories while making a movie, of late nights and early mornings, hanging out and trying the catering, all the things that have gone wrong and all the things that went right. It may be stressful, but it’s the stuff memories are made of. When all is said and done, it’s a mountainous achievement.

Making a movie is much more challenging than writing a book, but in the end, both are just as rewarding for the artist and their audience. Honestly, I’m not sure which is better for me now. Film has made a much greater impact on me. They were my focus on college and in my dreams for almost twenty years. But the writing of a book was such an enjoyable and free process, it was the first time in my life where I felt free of any limitations. Whatever story I wished to tell, I could just get started.

I’m still working on both careers. I have a meeting with someone who’s wanting to work together on shorts and features, and you better believe I’m completing my fantasy/adventure book series. The question now is which one I find more fulfilling, the challenge of filmmaking, or the freedom of book writing.

It has given me a lot to think about.


The Perks of Hearing Criticism

Since the hiring of a professional editor for my first book, the project has been moving in very interesting directions. I have always said on this blog that receiving criticism is one of the most important parts of the writing process, and that has certainly applied here.

Chapter 4 of my book is a brief vignette where the characters swing by a city in order to establish it. The city in question serves as the location for the climax of the story, so it seemed appropriate to set it up as well as several of the characters in it beforehand. As it was written, it served as a brief action scene where my main character, a dragon, intimidates the residents of the town.

Writing the scene, I couldn’t help but feel it was very tedious. True there was some colorful description, but the scene of fire and mayhem lasted two pages without a line of dialogue to break the action.

Upon completing her edit of Chapter 4, my editor and I held a meeting on Skype. We talked about some of our issues with the manuscript, with me talking about my concerns and ideas I wanted to get across. While discussing chapter 4, she made a very interesting point.

“I really enjoyed this city you set up, but was disappointed we didn’t get to explore it.”she said.

Hearing that small phrase created a flood of questions and ideas. Why does this have to be an action scene? Why can’t it be more based on exploration and dialogue? How does the action help establish the characters? And so forth.

The flood of creativity that came next was like a dam breaking. After applying her suggested edits to my work, I went back over the chapter, deleted the entire action scene out of the chapter and replaced it instead with a scene of quiet intimidation. There is much more to enjoy this this newer version, a fair bit of humor, seeing more of the town and its culture, and focusing more on character as opposed to spectacle.

It was longer, more detailed, and a lot more fun to write as well as read.

I honestly don’t know how I got an editor as good as this for as cheap as I got her, but she has been amazing, and her input on this project has been nothing but beneficial.