Reworking a Draft

when do you just have to let it go?

Everyone knows nothing’s perfect after the first draft.

But how many drafts are you supposed to write? Where is that fine line between honing a work and polishing a turd? When do you accept something as a failure–nay, a learning experience?

I think the answer is when it is holding you back.

Perhaps you’re too focused on that one piece that you’re neglecting to think of others. What you imagined was your opus is now your albatross. Something a colleague once said to me in the editing room, “You just have to let it go, man.”

Let it go.*

Sounds easy, sure. But, wow. It’s not.

Continue reading “Reworking a Draft”

On Keeping a Log-Line Book

I keep tiny notebooks of log-lines. These are brief kernels – nay, seeds – of a story. This something I picked up from film: the need to pitch a story in a single phrase. It has been an invaluable trick not just for getting to the heart of an otherwise complicated story, but for brainstorming writing prompts.Continue reading “On Keeping a Log-Line Book”

Triangulating the Text

So a while ago I started posting chapters of a genre mash-up, satirical novel online before I panicked and took them down after realizing that they (a) weren’t at the calibre I could achieve, and (b) were not going to be produced as expediently as I hoped.

I’ve since been working on it again.

I decided to shift the tone of the book (first in a series maybe?) when I stepped back and started examining what sort of genre satires and parodies I enjoyed myself. And I realized that I preferred riffs on genre that don’t make fun of the genre in as much as they exemplify it.Continue reading “Triangulating the Text”

The Importance of Just Getting it Done

After extensive note-taking and a few false starts, just over two months ago, I actually sat down and starting writing that young adult subterranean fiction piece I first thought of more than half my life ago. (it is now best described as *bracing myself* a dystopian YA novel-meets-Jane Austen.)

I’ve learned through this project the importance of persistence.

I learned how to effectively deal with something that’s not working. Rather than just giving up or sitting around waiting for it to get better I learned to change my approach.

I started writing this story just for fun, just to write and see what happens.Continue reading “The Importance of Just Getting it Done”

Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling

Each writer has a different approach to rules. For some, they’re made to be broken, others they are mere guidelines, and even others, they are cliches to be avoided like the plague (guess which one I’m not). 

Anyway, advice in general is like excerpts from the bible: people cherrypick what works for them and ignore the rest.

But when you get stuck, you never know what it is that might help get you unstuck. So it’s good to have something to go to. Who knows? Therein may lie your answer.

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The Granny Square Approach

Momentum, like Mr. Darcy’s good opinion, once lost is lost forever.

Or so it seems.

Something like a particularly nasty cold that lasts a week (especially when it is followed by Husband spending the whole next week sick with said cold) can wreak havoc on my momentum.

Like coming back from vacation, or from an illness, or from a mental rabbit hole of writing on one project, returning to the status quo is difficult. You feel like the Campbellian hero, returning to find the world the same but himself drastically different.

Continue reading “The Granny Square Approach”

State of the Union

Since about 2010, I’ve been keeping writing notes in Blueline notebooks. I go through two or three a year. I’ve just started my fifteenth.

It’s remarkably arbitrary when I finish a notebook; I simply run out of pages. From there, I have to plan a trip to Staples, select a notebook. Sometimes they’re all out of my usual model, so I adapt.

blueline notebooks

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The Winter Months

Sometimes I feel like an asshole for complaining about the winter when I live in Vancouver. I see photos posted by friends who live elsewhere in Canada and they deal with Real Winter.

Real Winter, to me, is snow and toques and leaving for work half-an-hour early to navigate the ice. Real Winter only really lasts a day or two – a week, tops – in Vancouver. The rest of the season is characterized by grey skies, rain, and just… darkness.

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The Rubbermaid Tub of Broken Dreams

In a fit of nostalgia-fueled panic, I dug with gusto into this blue tub I keep in the closet that houses all the old poetry and scripts and stories I wrote in my teenage years.

This is not a metaphor. I hope.

That blue tub contains horrors and treasures in equal measure. Like some kind of acne-speckled Cave of Wonders.

But the reason for this spelunking expedition seemed straight-forward enough at the time. My ambition for my own work was starting to frustrate me. I felt like I couldn’t start to plot something out or brainstorm without trying to add complicating layers. I’d come up with a plot-point or character tic and then my mind would spiral off into a million tangents, like light through a prism. But it was neither that beautiful nor that cliche; my mind just felt… overwhelmed.

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Am I really writing about space pirates again?

After some downtime in the first half of this year (during which I moved house, settled down, watched a lot of Community, basked in the glow of a new relationship, and forgot about life for a while), I haven’t really written much. It’s strange how quickly six months can pass.

Am I finally experiencing that horrid trick of the mind they always warned me about? The one where time speeds up and the years whizz by like the landscape outside when you fall asleep on the train?

Continue reading “Am I really writing about space pirates again?”

Editing with a Cutlass… in Space

So I’ve finished the first draft of the yet-to-be-titled novel about pirates in space.

Now the editing begins.

As difficult as the writing itself can be, editing is its own little beast.

It is the shellacking together of various materials; the severing of arteries; the repackaging; the re-pasting; the smoothing over of cracks; the varnishing; the thick coats of paint over the primer.

It is the endless decisions: cut this; add that; “over” or “under” or “for” or “to” or “on” or “above”; this name that name his name her name.

It is riding the wave of the narrative as it rises and falls and ultimately breaks against the shore.

It is pinpointing the details… as a television detective strings together locations on a map on the wall in order to find the crux of it all.

It is seeing the forest through the trees; it is watching the forest grow and then trying to camp out inside it; it is trying to find your way through a tangled maze you built yourself.

It is exhausting.

It is fantastic.

The Board: Day Three

Some progress. Very little of this is noted on The Board. My first act is kicking ass and taking names. (It is also taking numbers, so when it has sorted out its interpersonal issues, it will be making a round of apologetic phone calls.)

UPDATE (MAR 31, 2011): It might seem remarkably apparent that this is a wee little board. The truth is… I can rarely dedicate myself to one project at a time, so I have about 7 boards on the go right now (at last count). They are stacked against the wall like some would-be artist’s canvases. I can’t afford the money/time/space to purchase a large board each time I have a new idea strike me down. I usually get a small board for keeping all the preliminary work on like this; that’s my laptop underneath it, if you need scale. Once the project is in full-go, as in, once it is taking up the majority of my writing time (which won’t happen until pirates in space is done), then it can graduate onto a bigger board.

Just thought I’d clear that up.

The Board: Day Two

Further progress results in colour-coding and work on “structure.” All this hard effort will surely fall by the wayside once the actual writing commences.

The Board: Day One

In a well-intentioned effort to continue work on pirates in space today, I was mulling over the ideas in the back of my mind of a road movie / buddy comedy. I was able to push it to the back of my mind at first, but during a quick jaunt to the store, my brain took over.

CUT TO: Later this afternoon.

I have the spine of the story already mapped out on a board.

Future Roommate* said that I should take a photo of the board each time I work on it and track my progress over the construction of a feature-length screenplay.

Here we go. Day One:

Please don’t ask my what the story is about yet…. Please.

*As of May 1st, we will be taking over the entire house and are having more roommates move in. Claire is one such Future Roommate.

Five AM and All is Well

I was up at five this morning. Intentionally, which is strange. I had a conversation yesterday which let me wander back down that awkward little garden path of memory to the time I came home from Europe, and, with no work for two weeks and jet lag, I was awake every morning at 5 am. I got so much writing done before the rest of the house even woke up.


So this morning, I woke up, wrote about 800 words, and here I sit. Not too shabby, considering I’m not even usually up by this time on a Saturday. Your head enters a weird place when its overtired. Most times you’re too tired to do anything, but in the morning you feel like you should be waking up, so it’s… bizarre. Perfect for being creative, if you can concentrate.

Perhaps I will get a lot more done before Canzine West this afternoon and the NPODW party tonight!

*Issues Insane Demands*

Since officially relegating My Funny Valentine to the ‘done’ drawer of my mental filing cabinet, I’ve got my metaphorical “shit” together and am ready to start writing again. For the past eight months, I’ve done naught but scroll miscellaneous scribbles in the margins of notebooks; ideas that have stayed just that… miserably pencilled in my journal between to-do lists and how-to references. I have a lot of momentum behind me, and as such, I quoth to thee the proverbial snowball rolling down a hill. The momentum continually picks up, but there’s always the queasy feeling that you’re still going downhill at an alarming rate, am I right?

Continue reading “*Issues Insane Demands*”