On Writing: Missed Deadline

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Writing frustrations are about in my life.

The sheer stress and workload of my day job is consuming a portion of my life as expected. After moving, having to find a new place to live in a new state as well as learning a new job and new people and new responsibilities has interrupted my writing.

My tweeting is down.

My blogging is down.

My planned youtube series is pushed back.

And as a result, my stats have collapsed on twitter and wordpress. Additionally, my submissions to agents have stopped and my writing contest submissions have been impacted.

This is a difference than 3 months ago. I had a quasi-agent who had agreed to submit my stories, although on a conditional basis with a weird plan to submit to half the publishers, then get feedback, then to revise and submit to the other half. My blog was taking off. I had up to 800 views a day at a certain point. I was interacting with other writers. I had hired a freelance editor to proofread my completed manuscripts. I had submitted two short stories to writers of the future and a screenplay to The Blacklist. I was editing and curating the Midnight Traveler story collaboration with other writers. There was some minor cost to all of this, but generally, I was only out a couple hundred bucks, mostly through website hosting fees. I balanced all of this with my daily life and a full time job.

Then, I moved, while starting a small company on the side. This side business generated income so fast (up to $4k a month in gross sales) that I spent more time on that after my day job. The money was too good, especially after I moved. The art would have to wait.

My writing essentially stopped. I was making $0 from writing (maybe losing money and time). Some people I know in the new business make fun of writing in a way. They say Amazon publishing is dead. That was in maybe 7 years ago. The first mover advantage is gone. It is yet another industry where 1% get 90% of the income.

I don’t know. I have dreams. I want to do everything and don’t want to waste time.

Then my phone got destroyed by batteries plus and I lost 100 outlines to stories.

I could have given up. Why chase the writing dream?

For most people the answer is simple; because I enjoy it.

No. I fucking love it.

I was a weirdo who daydreamed stories in school instead of paying attention. I get bored watching movies knowing what will happen next. I get annoyed when things are dumbed down and exposition is there to spoon feed audiences. I read novels that are utter garbage. I get annoyed at big name authors who have every damn story ghostwritten for them because they don’t give a shit anymore about anything but the income stream. I get really annoyed at estates and publishers who pump out ghostwritten stories of dead authors.

I began writing again a few weeks ago. I had a few weeks to hit the quarter deadline for writers of the future. Out of the gates, I wrote a solid outline and wrote the first few thousand words like it was nothing. Then the story expanded. New characters were introduced until I reached a point a week ago that I admitted there was no way I could fit the entire story in 17,000 words. I spent a few days trying to deconstruct and simplify but it was all for naught.

The deadline was Friday night and I missed it. I spent Friday night playing XBOX and drinking Guiness because I deserve it.

I might have lost the battle, but I hope to win the war. I’ll keep my full time job. I keep my side business. I’ll be more efficient with my time and make a few hours for writing each week. Stories will get finished.

Deadlines will come and go; keep charging ahead and writing. Write for yourself. Write for your dreams. Write to bear your soul. Write to get famous. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is, just don’t quit. If you see other writers struggling on twitter, maybe spend a second away from spamming your self published kindle story and say hi to someone new. Share some trials and tribulations. They are not the competition. They are fellow writers with dreams like you.

I Lost 100 Story Outlines

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The biggest setback in my writing happened 3 weeks ago. I took my iPhone 5S into a Batteries Plus to get the battery replaced and the technician messed up my phone. It began going into a perpetual reboot cycle every 3 minutes. After a few days with my phone, including a trip to another location for another technician to fix it, the phone was determined to be broken by the “trained technicians.” At first, the they blamed it on not being updated to the newest version, however, after updating it, it didn’t work. They then said if I did a hard reboot, it would correct itself.

Oh shit.

I lost all my story pre-draft outlines.

Since the phone was constantly rebooting, I couldn’t download all the data. It would only get ten percent in the process or so each time.

You see, as a writer in 2016, I have a ton of ideas, but very few drafts. This is because I go through a pre-draft stage of outlining details of 3 act stories, and then constantly refining it on my phone until it reaches an insatiable stage of needing to write the first chapter, which results in very quick beginnings to stories. I almost never have writers block. Sometimes I change my mind with characters and have to figure stuff out halfway through a book, but more often than not, I follow “writing to an end.”

I had maybe a 100 outlines on my phone. Some of them were garbage, some of them were so-so, and a few were good. Luckily for me, some of the good ideas will always be in my mind. Unfortunately, all of the 2am plot ideas formed before I fell asleep in bed don’t always manifest itself again. Some of the quick lunch time notes I get while people-watching is gone forever.

And this is ok.

I’ll come up with another 100 fresh ideas soon. I can probably do it in a week. I could probably write 1000 outlines in a few months.

Outlines don’t matter. Spending the time to write full drafts do.

I’ll keep pressing forward, as should you.

We can’t dwell on the fast, only focus on the future and imagine the possibilities.

I now have a new iPhone with a bigger screen.

And my notes page on my iPhone is empty, but not for long.

TV Writing Contest: The Black List (Part 10)

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As promised, if you want to see how The Black List works, look no further than my evaluations. The average Black List rating is currently 5.9, so giving me an average of essentially 4 is pretty much slamming my TV pilot. The reviews came in 6 weeks after I purchased them ($100) and based off this, and how far the opinions diverged, I’m not sure if I would go back ever. My Pilot was called NO RETURNS ALLOWED. It was a caper show that was a cross between Alias and The Thomas Crown Affair. Below is the first review of a 5, which actually sounded like a bunch of strengths based on the write-up. The weaknesses that are pointed out seems more movie based, in showing behind the scenes before a plot reveal to make the audience get the inside joke instead of being surprised by the reveal (which I disagree with in a pilot). Oddly enough, they also said I should show the expensive stuff like the explosions and action (which is opposite from he second reviewer). 

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The second reviewer below obliterates my pilot, for confusing reasons. They actually write up their own plot and tell me how they would have written it, however they use a movie trope/plot instead of a TV plot. It’s so bad, they copied Rambo III, Commando, and other bad guy/good guy movie plots. They then get the genre wrong. They wanted to compare it to Ocean’s Eleven, when this wasn’t a Casino heist movie. A TV Pilot and film screenplay are two different narrative structures and this person clearly didn’t know what the difference was. At least they didn’t tell me I should give Sarga an “Uncle Ben” and have him die in the first act.Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 8.15.25 PM.png

My final opinion is confused. I think the first review was so-so, while the second review was non-sensical. What I found unusual was the lack of discussion on my second review on the diverse cast like the first one had. You see, Sarga, my protagonist isn’t the typical TV hero. He is an African-Asian guy of style and smarts and is the best at what he does. The entire cast is more diverse than most. And it is pretty bullshit the reviewer wants me to give the characters “distinct” voices, instead of making them all sound normal and smart (one sounds a little crazy, but that’s another story). I know exactly what the reviewer is saying, and I don’t agree; I don’t need to make my character “more street.” Sarga can be smart as hell and smooth and secretive. I know this reviewer deep down really wanted Danny Ocean, for whatever deep rooted reason, but that’s not my story. They can flip in that DVD any day of the week. If people wanted something diverse and different and distinct, they could follow my story. As a final note, notice the second reviewer said this would be an expensive hour to produce (despite the fact I intentionally used a ton of interior scenes to disguise stuff) while the first reviewer said I needed to show the blowing up of a building (which I did offscreen to make it cheap to make). 

So what happens now? I guess I shelve the script. If I would have been rated 7 or higher and the script would show up on results (anything under the average gets puts in digital no mans land on the site, so it is nearly impossible to search and find) then I would have kept it up. Now I don’t know. It’s not really worth writing a novel version unless there is a fan base for it, so I’ll leave it to you. If 500 people want to read the script, I’ll upload here. Just like my blog. If 1000 people want to see it in a novel, share it with your friends and like this post and I’ll write it as a series. 

POST COMMENTS IF YOU WANT ME TO SUBMIT TO ANOTHER SCREENPLAY EVALUATION SITE. I HAVE ANOTHER ALMOST COMPLETED. OTHERWISE, $125 IN GETTING THIS TYPE OF FEEDBACK ISN’T WORTH IT FOR MY BLOG. (Cost more than many annual web hosting cost). 

 

Writing Rant: Chewbacca Mom & Another Low in Publishing

 

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The Chewbacca Mom, Kristina Hagman and Another Pathetic Low in the Publishing Business

Comparatively speaking, like the movie industry that is saddled with reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels, due to desperation for big tent pole franchises to battle for box office supremacy each weekend in order to make enough money to offset the money losing movies, the publishing industry has fallen into the same trope. The majority of books lose money in print. The big name authors and movie tie-in books tend to make the majority of profits each year to offset all the debut and shrinking mid-list authors that didn’t sell well enough through the channel to take another chance.

In essence, with only a few major studios and a few major publishers left, they are in a business of risk aversion.

There have been countless autobiographies of unimportant people. With that, I mean those who don’t have a meaningful impact on the world in any way. I would argue politicians and thinkers (usually mutually exclusive) should have autobiographies to better understand their life’s work and achievements.

Over the last 30 years, there has been an evolution to make an instant buck by pre-empting the autobiography, for more of a “Here I am now” book. You know, celebrity autobiographies; usually actors and musicians and athletes/coaches, some with only a single “achievement” on their resume. Win a gold medal at 21? Let’s make an autobiography. Get 1M fans on youtube? Let’s make an autobiography. I’m sure agents have run down the Chewbacca mask lady begging her for her autobiography.

You see, I’m not naive. It is now about capitalizing while the iron is hot and making most of people’s 15 minutes of fame and temporary fandom.

But today, I saw something on yahoo news that showed just how much farther the publishing business has fallen. St. Martin’s Press (part of one of the big 5), published an autobiography of Kristina Hagman. Who the fuck is she? She is the daughter of Larry Hagman. Who the fuck is he? Well, he was on a TV show called Dallas, and was famously shot as JR in a cliffhanger. So let me get this straight, this was a publishable project because she is the daughter of Larry Hagman, a deceased celebrity from a TV show from the 1980s that few people remember, and she has more insight to him (Let me guess, it will touch upon abuses of sex/drugs/alcohol, because this adds just so much insight and helps the world cope in a meaningful way).

I was going to classify this as a new evolution of celebrity autobiographies, as the “relative of a celebrity autobiography” until I looked at the cover and was flabbergasted.

Kristina didn’t even write the book.

A new, ugly literary beast was created. They published a “ghost written, relative of a celebrity autobiography.” I guess it was too difficult for Kristina to write about her father, so she scribbled some notes for someone else to fill in the blanks on her relationship with her father. Yes, I know most autobiographies are not written by the person, but at least the source of interview material is from the actual person with the achievement or fanbase.

It is unbelievable that they killed a living tree for this book.

What’s next? An autobiography of the woman who sold the Chewbacca Mom her mask, ghostwritten of course. Imagine it … 225 pages going over the 2 minute transaction, starting with a slow replay as she put the mask in her cart and tried it on (maybe she did or didn’t, maybe dramatize it a bit) and walked few passes near the register (maybe she did, or didn’t) down the aisle and inter-splice a breakdown of the security camera footage at Kohls like the zapruder film. Maybe there can be interviews of everyone in line that day, especially the important toy clerk who brought out (a 60% chance he brought the mask out, because Dave and Shirley were on break, but let’s not get into facts) the Chewbacca mask that she bought. Maybe there was a bag checker at the door who was the last guardian for freedom.

To you authors out there struggling to get your Great American Novel sold to a publisher, don’t fret, there is still a chance you can track down a relative of someone famous 30 years ago.

Back to Kristina. Remember the book cover above? Do you see something noticeably different than the one below? Guess what Kristina removed on her website … yep, she the “Wood Block Print Artist, Painter, Writer” removed the ghostwriter name from the version on her site. Riddle me this, how would you fill in this blank: Kristina is a ____ Artist.

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The Black List (Part 9)

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So I do have an update. Approximately 6 weeks after I uploaded and requested 2 paid reviews from the Black List, I finally got assigned readers. They sent me the below email when the script was finally assigned a couple days ago. Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.44.49 AM.png

How doe this feel? I don’t know, a little anti-climactic to be honest. There is not much time before the festival I entered this for to get consideration. I’m a person that follows through with everything, so I wanted to see this through. I’ve been told my novels are well constructed (I plot everything similar to a film) so was curious what someone who reads a ton of scripts thought.

One curious thing to note is how many views I received in the last week. I pretty much went from 2 views for 5 weeks, then jumped to 8 views on the 6th week. This is one thing I learned about the website, yes, it provides a way to submit your material for consideration, but it is unlikely you will get read unless you get 2 reviews, because only scripts with ratings get sorted and filtered to see what is the cream of the crop. I assume established writers in the writing guilds or with representation might get looks, but from what I saw, many of those were protected. (If you want to see the script, contact ___ agency for a copy).

So I continue to wait. It can take up to a week to get a review. I’ll share it with you folks so you can see what type of feedback they offer. What I am curious at this point is after getting reviews, will my reads increase dramatically, or will it not make a difference?

PART 10

 

 

TV Writing Contest: The Black List (Part 8)

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It is looking more and more like a dead end. Another 21 days has past and my teleplay has still not been evaluated (I am assuming another free month of hosting is coming). The ATX festival begins in 2 1/2 weeks, and I’m sure the 10 selections have already been made. This kind of feels a bit disappointing. The rules clearly stipulated that the script needed to be up on the website for a week by April 15. I clearly made the due date, and even went ahead and paid for 2 script evaluations, but so far, I feel like I am some high plains drifter out on a long journey. I do see on future contests, they have been posting a “submit for evaluations by” date on the press releases which alleviates confusion. I wonder this is why my email to the system administrator when unanswered 5 weeks ago.

How long will I be out here? I have another screenplay in mid-draft, but as each day goes by, I find myself working on my novels more and more (I have a bunch of projects in various stages of draft). I looked up my stats today, and so far, I have 5 views of No Returns Allowed. I checked early last week and I had 3 views, so there were at least a couple clicks this week. I had gone, well, well over a month with nothing happening as the script sat in the wilderness. I try not to complain, as there is always the next opportunity.

What about my two paid script evaluations? Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 10.37.50 AM.png

If I read this correctly, it is still awaiting assignment. Wow. So I don’t know. It would be ironic if the evaluations don’t get done until after the ATX festival. I don’t see any other TV submission contests as most seem to be film oriented, so I would have a couple options. First is to pull it from the site and upload it again next year. I am not sure if the evaluations would stick or not, but if rated 7 or lower, that means I should probably take it down to revise anyway. If the evaluations are great, I guess it would be worth it to keep it up for the next round. I could also make movie version, however, I would have to completely change the script. I would have to condense the pilot to 40 minutes and flip around plot points, then change the antagonist. I would essentially take the planned reveal at the end of the season and make that the second act, and then resolve it. It can be done, but it really was constructed for TV.

I do still plan to post the evaluations if they ever do come. Although I had fun writing the script and it was surprisingly easy to outline a pilot and a 5 season story arc, I do want a little feedback with it so I can learn what to improve. I’ll probably be writing a hundred scripts in the future, regardless of how this escapade turns out. Max Landis posted online that out of a 100 scripts he wrote only 3 got picked up. One of them was for like $3M, so his journey was eventually worth it financially.

PART 9

Mad skills at Photoshop: A Vader Tutorial

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A couple weeks ago, I didn’t know a damn thing about photoshop. Now, I can do all sort of snazzy things and you can to. Don’t pay some scammer “artist” or “graphic designer” when you have it in you to make art yourself. I have the artistic talents of a 5 year old, but with some quick youtube tutorials, I can just about create whatever I want. The below graphic was drawn using the above picture as a guide. All of the coloring and tracing is pretty easy to do, but a little time consuming if you have OCD. If you want to make a bunch of Hope posters, you can create all sorts of variations using what I show you below.

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Now, this wasn’t easy nor was it fast. In total, I think I spent around 2.5 hours making this work. This is because even though I mastered the concept of layering, to do something of this detail, I had to do a ton of layers. How many?

52 fucking layers.

It was tedious as shit, but if you are making a unique book cover, or decorating your website you can pretty much do the same thing if you have the time and patience. After spending this much time, I will be retiring ol’ Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China for a while, and letting Lord Vader do my greetings on twitter. (If you haven’t followed me on twitter, I recommend you do so to catch in all the weird shit I say all day long).

STEP 1: Lasso Vader out of the pic. You have to then use the eraser tool, and set the size to small and zoom in to erase all the extra shit you got. This will take a little time if you want it to be perfect.

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Step 2: You then use the pen tool, and zoom in again, and trace an outline around the helmet and interior of the helmet, and then the neck. The three different depths should be separate so you can put closer parts of the helmet using a different color. This takes a little time to zoom in and ensure you get rounded edges. Then, I added a red background with a slight color gradient because I’m a baller like that. Be careful to recognize light colors on the edge that should be traced in another layer.

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Step 3: This is where the detail work comes in. Using a slightly lighter color, I traced interior shadows on his helmet to give it a little depth. Each area is a new layer to add and name. (By the way, name your layers otherwise it is confusing a shit to find which one you want to tinker with later). Adjust the colors and tones to get the color you want. I kept using a color overlay with an opacity adjustment in the 60% range to get it where I wanted.

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Step 4: Keep adding layers and adjusting the colors. I came to the conclusion that to get it perfect meant doing around 200 layers, which I didn’t have time for. This was merely a beginner practice session.

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Step 5: Boom, this is the easy final step. You add the lightest colors closest to your perspective (you know, the light gleaming off of Lord Vader’s helmet) and you color that in  on the highest layers with the lightest colors you can, all using the pen tool. A key thing to remember was to get the brim correct, and then to remove the basic picture underneath. I used the spray can and a light texture to match the underneath helmet shade in the picture. The final step is text, which is easy as shit. You just type the font and change it to what you want. I simply downloaded the Star Wars font (hopefully I didn’t get a damn virus).

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NOW SEE ANOTHER PHOTOSHOP TUTORIAL

Make comments below on what you want me to try next. Ask your friends what they want to see.