Tooting My Own Horn

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Despite a morning which got way off track, I have passed the 25,000 word half way mark of National Novel Writing Month.

Also, I’d like to thank the Northbrook Public Library for hosting a weekly Write In. I’ve gone the last two Sundays and I always write more at these events. I like how I’m part of a writing community. I never knew there were so many writers in my hometown.

I’d keep going, but I need to get the ingredients for the Chinese stew I’m making for dinner tonight. I hope the recipe I found is like the one I ate in Jinan.

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A Kindred Spirit

By serendipity, I just discovered this smart, engaging woman’s vlog on books and writing. Farah lives in the UAE and is articulate, perceptive and oh so knowledgeable about current books.

After the first video I watched (above) I immediately subscribed. Then I watched her talk about writing and bonded with her because as a screenwriter, I am concise with description and context and get right to the dialog.

According to her Good Reads account she reads 100 books or more a year. Wow. I envy that. I have to update my Good Reads, but I aim for 26 books a year.

Above Farah talks about the 5 classics she wants to read this year. Some she probably finished by now.

Here’s my list of classics I have read this year:

  1. Dante’s Inferno – a reread and a delight. I got a lot more out of it.
  2. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington – just started so watch this blog for a review.
  3. His Excellency by Émile Zola – the third book I’ve read in the Rougon-Macquart series.
  4. The Kill by Émile Zola – my goal is to read all 20 of these Rougon-Macuart books.
  5. Prometheus Unbound by Aeschylus – It was a classic I missed though I knew the legend.
  6. The Lady of the Camilias by Alexander Dumas, the Younger – it reminded me of The Kill.
  7. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I reread this and discussed it online with a friend, with whom I try to read a classic and discuss it online each summer.

 

NaNoWriMo: I’m In

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 10.39.23 PMI almost forgot that I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). So I’ve decided to write a novel in a month. I’m sticking with my plan to adapt a screenplay I’ve written, which is a girls’ adventure story.

Today after my library class I remembered I meant to sign up. So I had to hurry to get my words done. I got 1700 or so, which is a good start.

What I wrote today was all new. I’mm too tired to elaborate, but watch this space for more updates.

Who else is joining the challenge?

My Writing

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I’m vowing to really get going with my writing. I want to push my career as a writer forward. I’ve gotten several television and film scripts in good shape. Now it’s a matter of getting them out into the world in spite of the Catch-22 that producers don’t want to read material from writers who don’t have an agent and agents don’t want to read material from writers who haven’t produced any work yet.

Yikes! What’s an aspiring writer to do?

In the past I wrote lots of letters and made lots of cold calls. I had some success because I did get a few agents to read my work and did get invited to pitch for a top sitcom, but that was years ago in the ’90s pre-Internet and pre-social media. Things are different now the Catch 22 remains.

I have gotten invited to pitch to producers via Act One’s Upfront program and will submit again once they open up submissions.

I’ve also entered contests, but there are few for television writers. I’ve written some producers and sometimes it’s hard to find the addresses of producers, who do want to limit submissions. One thing I’m glad I did was use my local library to get some addresses. They were able in a few hours to get the address for Reese Witherspoon’s company, Hello Sunshine, and to PBS. Their help saved me from wasting further time. Hello Sunshine, while incorporated, just didn’t show up in any business directories I had access to. So I’m grateful for the librarian who found something I couldn’t.

In addition to writing to producers who seem like a good match, I’m going to start writing a play. Tonight I’ll start an online course on Playwriting given by the Chicago Dramatists’ Workshop. My subject is a vibrant character from Chicago’s 19th century history.

 

Secrets to Getting Published

My public library had a great talk about getting published. They got a good crowd of aspiring writers who want to write fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and poetry. The talk was led by an editor and a writer, who does both self-publishing and publishing through an established publisher.

I don’t think I should share all the secrets as their handout was copyrighted, but I’ll share some facts and tips:

  1. Know why you want to get published. Have a clear vision of what you consider success to be. (Getting published, wining an award, getting good reviews or what?)
  2. More non-fiction books are written by first time writers.
  3. Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies, and most of those copies are bought by the author. Ugh. ;-(
  4. Learn to “eat rejection for breakfast.” So develop a thick skin and remember that major writers often got dozens or hundreds of rejection letters.
  5. Adequately test your idea by seeing how people, not just loved ones, think about your idea.
  6. If you do self-publish get your books into different sorts of shops. In a book shop your books is one of many, but in a florist or hospital shop there’s only a handful of other books.
  7. The average new writer spends $3000-$5000 of their own money on preparing their books. Both speakers stressed that you should hire a professional editor. Someone who’s an English teacher or reads and edits professionally is required not just a pal.The cheapskate in me balks at spending so much money, but I’m mulling this over. I do have people whom I trust as good writers and grammarians read my work as a favor, but should I be paying someone? What do you think, readers?

Masterclass with Aaron Sorkin

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I’ve just finished a screenwriting class taught by Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing, Social Network, Steve Jobs, Sports Night, etc. fame. Masterclass offers the class for $90 and I found it to be a good deal.

Sorkin knows what he’s talking about and is frank about how some aspects of writing can be taught and others can’t. Even though he’ll sometimes go off on a tangent, I found the tangent worth the ride. He admits to non-linear conversational style up front so students are prepared. He shares the classic approaches to writing and swears by reading Aristotle’s Poetics. Some of what he said in the 35 lesson course, I’d heard before, but that didn’t bother me. I was glad to hear the wisdom reinforced.

After several sessions of lecture, eloquent, wise lecture, the course featured students working with Sorkin on story development, brainstorming, and pitching. I was disappointed by the homogenous age range in the group. I doubt anyone there was over 33. Some of these sessions lagged for me, but I did appreciate how respectful Sorkin was to the students. It would be easy for him to act supercilious, lesser teachers at say UCLA Extension sometimes do, but this Academy and Emmy Award winner did not. Kudos to Mr. Sorkin.

I think the class is best for those who’re a bit familiar with screenwriting so I advise people to either take a short course (nothing expensive is needed) or read a few screenwriting books. I will say I wish he’d offer suggestions on how to overcome the difficulty in getting a script read by people empowered to buy it.

I tried watching in China and Indonesia. The buffering was awful, while Coursera, TED and Lynda.com don’t have such a problem. So if you’re overseas, think twice before paying for this course.