Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sometimes the insecurity angel is right.

Neil Gaiman says that if an author picks up a brand new copy of her/his book, it will fall open to a page with a typo. This always happens. Fact of life. I agree with him, it's a law of the universe, like Reavers are bad, the enemy's gate is down, and ghosts can't cross salt.

Even though I knew it was past the point of no return and I was letting myself in for nothing but heartache, I opened my contest entry and looked at it again. I knew it was a bad idea. I fucking knew it.

What did I find? I didn't put a character name in ALL CAPS. That's right, you heard me. On page nine I introduce one of the minor characters and I DIDN'T CAPITALIZE HER NAME. WTF? I got a professional to help me with my formatting, she even flagged it, and I still managed to screw it up!


The worst part is just before I hit send I had a wild flash of terror, 'Maybe I should read it through just one more time...' and I ruthlessly squelched it. I thought it was just my insecurity angel weighing in. Y'know, the little voice on my shoulder telling me that everything sucks and no one will like it and I better just quit before I humiliate myself in front of the whole world? That voice I've learned to ignore, but it still just won't shut up?

Seems I've learned to ignore it too well.

'No!' I says to my insecurity angel. 'You're just being paranoid.

Insecurity angel whined, 'No really, you really should give it just one more last read through! Trust me! Always quadruple check! And check again! In fact, why don't you sit on it another few weeks and check again?'

I ignored my insecurity angel and sent it in. Why didn't I listen? Why why why???

Now I'm in agony. Am I going to get disqualified for that? I've read story after story about contest readers looking for a reason to bounce scripts. What if that's it? I messed up that one little thing and that's it, it's over? It's within the first ten pages even. What if they're not totally loving it, and right when they're making the decision if they want to keep going they see that and round-file it? ARGH!

They don't even announce the semi-finalists until the tail end of July. I now have three months to beat myself up over this. Three months. I don't know how I'm going to function. I could barely sleep last night.

I could go on their facebook page and ask about it... but that would make me look even more needy and neurotic than ever. The insecurity angel would win if I did that. But it would give everyone else a boost, they could see my post and say gleefully to themselves, 'Well, at least I didn't screw that up! What a hack!'

What if by some supreme miracle the reader didn't notice and all I accomplished was pointing it out? 'Oh hey, you did make a mistake there, better luck next year!' Thunk goes the script as it hits the recycle bin.

I just have to suck it up. I wanted a new and more creative mistake, but not like an actual mistake. More like a... creative difference that I could argue my way out of. Yeah, that's what I wanted. I long for the good ol' days when I was agonizing over commas. Life was easier then.

I really should be careful what I wish for.

Damn it.

I must distract myself with something else. Horror. Lots of people dying gruesomely, that should do nicely. I finished Draft 0 of the Horror movie, printed it out, and left it on the shelf in the office. Which turned out to be a bad place for it because every time I walked in there I wanted to pick it up and start editing. Which kind of defeated the purpose of letting it marinate for a week. 'You'll never get a good sear if you keep poking at it...'

Nope, nope, nope, gotta leave it alone for a full week! It was like trying to leave a tray of chocolate chip cookies alone. Or not picking up the edge of a steak to see if it was time to flip it yet. I'm not sure where I'm going with the food analogy. I blame blogging while hungry. Where was I? Oh yes, letting the draft rest. So it's juicy and tender instead of dry and chewy.

It was a struggle, but I made it, and settled down seven whole days later with only a minor lapse or two to start editing, which... was strange. I thought when I put the draft up that all the characters were unique little snowflakes with a unique little voice and when I got the draft back down... that wasn't so. 

Fixed that, and now I'm at the craving feedback point.

I asked a few beloved, cherished, (un)lucky friends and family to read it. So far the only feedback I got was from my husband, and I totally did not arrange the evening so he had absolutely nothing else to do and stand over him to make him finish the story in one sitting. 

All he said was I've reached Stephen King levels of fucked up.

Awesome. I can just take that to the agents and production companies, 'My husband says...'

I tried to get him to be a little more specific. "Was part of it confusing? Was part of it boring? Was the ending obvious? Did the characters feel like unique people?" All of that is vital, vital information!

Him: 'Naw. It's okay."

Yup. I'm not sure how to began the next draft because I know it's not okay. Hopefully the others will weight in with something more specific. There's two parts I think I'm going to cut entirely and a few other things that if even one other person brought that scene up... I would know for sure that there is something not working. I just want validation, okay?

Between my insecurity angel being right (for once) and my gut twinging 'something isn't working' with the horror... I guess figuring out which one to trust is part of being a writer.

That and drowning my typo sorrows in a very nice pale ale, medium rare steak and a bucket of ice cream. I need comfort food right now. 

Unfortunately that probably needs to be followed by a swift kick in the pants so I'll quit wallowing and get back to work. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

English doesn't always equal English. Mind=Blown

I got my script back from the lovely editor lady! My ego is shockingly unbruised! She even said nice things about it! But she did mention my overuse of the exclamation point, which I will take under advisement. It could possibly be that she's on to something. I may tend towards over-dramatic on occasion.

I managed to produce two whole pages that didn't have a note on them somewhere. I feel justifiably proud of myself for those two pages with no mistakes or typos. They weren't consecutive pages or anything, but that's a goal to shoot for next time.

My mistakes were a few confusingly phrased sentences, formatting errors and as always.... grammar. I've always struggled with commas. Suprisingly enough, I used to be really good with commas when I was a kid. Then I got to the second grade. We had to use them according to actual rules... and my comma ability just went straight downhilI. I just want to sprinkle them in everywhere because it looks right.

There was much pondering and soul searching about why I've been vanquished by punctuation. Honestly, it's embarrassing, but I think I figured out the reason. I blame Garrison Keillor. He's one of my early literary influences. (I couldn't even type that with a straight face, I sound like such a pretentious asshat.) Perhaps 'blame' is too strong a word, but the point remains. He's one of the first authors I read and couldn't get enough of. I wanted to write like him when I was a grown-up.

Have you ever read anything he wrote? You should. It's hilarious. The news from Lake Wobegon, where all the woman are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average. He writes like he's sitting right next to you telling you the story of his hometown while you both wait for the bus. Or you're on the bus going to his hometown and he doesn't want you to miss a thing.

It isn't until you're a full page into the story that you realize there's only about six periods and thirty seven commas on that page and furthermore, you don't care because you've been sucked into the world of Lake Wobegon like Alice tumbling down through the rabbit hole, if the rabbit hole was Minnesota.

I decided that a childhood infatuation with Lake Wobegon was just an excuse for not doing it properly so I sat down and consulted the internet. Where do I always turn for advice? Google (mostly) taught me script format. It wasn't going to fail me now. This comma thing was going to get sorted once and for all. Never again would I have multiple people telling me I'm doing it wrong.

Seriously, nine year olds can do this! There's no reason for me to struggle along pathetically.

Turns out... British English and American English have slightly different rules. I did not know this. So if I'm getting American people and British people to comment on the same story... they're never going to agree and I will always see, 'add a comma here/delete a comma there' notes!

I'm not defective! It's the Laws of Grammar! It's not my fault! I can stop being frustrated I keep making the same mistake over and over! I hate that, I want to make new and more creative mistakes. Exciting new and more creative mistakes. Old, familiar mistakes are just boring.

I feel like singing. Well, if I could sing, I would sing. You'd probably pay me to stop if I did sing, and I don't want to inflict that on you. I like you, you read my blog.

Now that I have defeated the comma... I turn my attention to my overuse and abuse of the exclamation point.

Stay tuned for the epic battle.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pesky pesky plotholes

Well then. I finally took the plunge and had a few friends read over my Scriptapalooza contest entry before I sent it off to a for-real, professional, gets paid to do it, script editor. I thought it was just perfect as it was and they would be singing my praises because of my own magnificence... and... no.

First there was the expected debate over proper use of the comma. Seriously guys, do we really need twenty-three different rules about commas? Does anyone ever actually say, "Golly, I want an actual logical reason to put a comma there besides 'it just looks right'?" Don't even get me started on the semi-colon. I know proper capitalization is the difference between 'helping your Uncle Jack off a horse' and 'helping your uncle jack off a horse', but myself and the comma just don't get along.

Survey says... two fairly major plot holes. The first one I could just be lazy and hand wavy away, but adding two lines to explain why two characters were in a very unexpected location made it easier to read. No, you perverted minded people, they were not in bed. One is a minor. Shame on you! Don't you feel bad now for assuming things?

The other plot hole... what I meant to happen and what I actually wrote down ended up being two totally different things. Worlds apart totally different things. I've got one character answering a question that wasn't actually asked. A question was asked... but not the one he answered.

Hahaha and lolz, why the hell didn't I actually notice that?

The answer he gave was completely brilliant, stunning, it moved me to tears, I wept into my keyboard, it was an absolute work of art- except it had nothing whatsoever to do with the conversation. Damn it. So I changed the conversation. Again, once I kicked my own flaming ego out of the way, it was much improved.

One thing I really wrestled with is the language differences. It's a UK show, right? Torch, not flashlight. Car park, not parking lot. But the contest is American and if I got a reader that is powerfully confused then I would just be screwed, and not in a fun way. 'Why is he using a piece of wood with a flaming, oil soaked rag on one end... indoors? This character is dumber than a box of rocks. Doesn't he know about carbon monoxide?'

Nothing for it but to seek professional help. I asked the lovely script reader lady what I should do and her advice was to pick one or the other. The rules just say that the entry has to be in english, and it doesn't get more english than English english. Decision made. Bring on the torches!

I'll keep you posted on what the lovely script reader lady says when I get it back. I have a feeling my ego is going to be battered and bruised. Oh well. Some bruises turn really pretty colors around the edges. I'm especially partial to the purpley-blue ones.

On the horror front, I'm up to sixty pages. Thirty more to go, and I feel bad every time I work on that script because it's kids, I'm doing horrible things... to kids. But that's the point of horror, isn't it? To take the audience on a roller coaster of emotions and leave them feeling like they've been punched in the throat while they fight back tears? That's how I feel anyway. I have high hopes for it.