Just pick one already

It's that time again. 

No, not Christmas. Not the vernal equinox. Not Loehmann's massive year-end clearance sale (isn't that all the time?).

It's time to decide what to write next.

My pilot is 89% complete. I just threw my first full draft at the mercy of my writers' group, but I've rewritten the first four acts a couple of zillion times in the past few months, so I feel like it's close. Plus, I need a break from it. It's in the 'yeah, whatever' zone at the moment.

My Bones is probably 96% done. But I want The Group to read it, too, since they're all remarkably clever and kindly helpful and will only make it better.

So, what's next?

I've got another, much darker, pilot idea I'm itching to try out. My first pilot is pretty light family fare. I wouldn't mind writing something with swearing in it, you know?

Then again, it's time to think about Disney and Warner. Should I be writing something sparkly and shiny to use in my application? A Pushing Daisies or a Chuck? I like the wordplay in PD and Chuck has lots of opportunities for the action-comedy one-two punch which is always impressive when you get it right. 

Then again, with my Bones, Ugly Betty, and my pilot, I have three solid specs. So, is it time to branch away from TV?

I could write a feature, but do I really want to spend the next eight months or so in features-land when it's not really where I want to live? I've also always wanted to write a YA novel. I know I said in my last post that I didn't want to write a novel, but I'm an unreliable narrator. Deal.

Oh, and there's also that idea I had for a possibly very funny spoof/novelty spec. No, I'm not telling you, or you'll want to write it. Get your own ideas. Geez.

I was also thinking of a blovel (if things start getting strange on this blog,  you may find I've swerved into the land of fiction), an online comic (note to self: learn to draw), a play (naaa, that's far to esoteric), then there's that album of silly love songs...

Thing is, I want to write all of these. Do I really have to pick just one? 

Artery Cloggery
The Write Girl monthly workshop, with a focus on screenwriting, was last weekend. There were about a dozen super-cool actors who performed scenes the girls had written. But this is about sweet stuff. All the volunteers brought dessert. Check out these pretty cupcakes someone made.


Putting the resumé on a diet

In my last post, which was  total downer (sorry about that!), I wrote: 
It's easy to be frustrated that there's no one who'll just read your damn resumé and a sample script already. Wouldn't that be nice?
The very next day, a very good friend* sent me word of a rather rare position being faintly advertised. All of a sudden, I could just send my damn resumé with the vague hope of it not being immediately deleted, cast aside, or spat upon.

This business continues to surprise me.

Of course, having to send off my resumé for what amounts to an assistant position opened a whole new can of beetles. (If worms can come in cans, why can't beetles? They're black and crunchy and fun. Not like worms at all.)

It took me about three hours to successfully un-pad my resumé** (which I'm going to call a CV from now on, so live with it). Not that my CV was padded before. All the experience on there was legit. But it was not the kind of CV that screamed "I'm perfect for your assistant role!" It was more like, "I'm perfect for your Senior Information Architect or Web Producer role", with a side of "I'm also excellent if you need some great copy written". 

So I cleaned out the whole dang thing, de-emphasizing experience in such things as creating Interactive TV applications, and emphasizing my ability to type. Really fast. I also added in a TV Writing Accomplishments section, in which I listed my one competition almost-win and the specs I've written thus far. I don't know if they'll care, but it seemed like a good idea. It shows that I'm not just a dreamer, that I'm actually working toward my goal.

It's unlikely I'll ever hear anything back from them. I mean, hey, I'd hire me, but they probably have 1,000 emails in their inbox right now. Still, for some reason, just being in the running for a decent starter job has me feeling 100 times better.

*Yep, it's still all about who you know.
**Do you Americans use the accent aigu in that word, or do you just hope people are smart enough not to think you're sending them your 'start again after a pause or interruption'?

Artery cloggery
Does hot honey-lemon-ginger homemade tea count? That's about all I've been consuming, since this miserable cold refuses to die.


You never know what might happen on the third day

It's easy to get down about Hollywood. It's easy to be frustrated that there's no one who'll just read your damn resumé and a sample script already. Wouldn't that be nice? It's easy to think that nearly impossible is the same thing as impossible.

Especially when you read things like Jane E's post on the three-track approach, or Amanda's post on (not) getting an agent. Um, sorry, but I don't really want to become a cop or write a novel. I want to write TV.

It's easy to feel discouraged when you have bruised ribs and a bad cold and you start having fevered dreams about meeting Joss Whedon who knows your name but doesn't like your attitude. 

It's hard to remember that NOT GIVING UP is half the battle. At least. 

Three great specs and a crapload of tenacity. That's all you need. So hang in there. You never know what might happen on the third day.

Artery cloggery
Well, it's Easter, so you'd think I'd be into the Easter Cream Eggs. To be honest though, the creamy center kind of creeps me out. What do they have to put in there to keep it all gooey? I'd rather not find out. And I'd rather not eat it, too.


"This thing is just like that thing!" she cried

What's in the picture below? You get one guess. Go.

Wrong! It looks like The Board, doesn't it?

But it's not. Keen Information Architects in the audience will have noticed that this also looks very much like a Card Sort, because that's exactly what it is.

I don't mention it very often, but when I'm not writing for pleasure or untold riches, I am an Information Architect. I was working on this card sort a few weeks ago and noticed that it looked a lot like I was breaking a story. I was even sitting on the floor and everything.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that IA and TV Writing are practically the same job. This is how you get a website off the ground:
  1. Decide why you (or your client) want to build a website. [That's theme, kids.]
  2. Work out what pages, features, and functions your website will absolutely need in order to accomplish your client's goals. [Those are your major beats.]
  3. Brainstorm all the little nice-to-haves. The things that will make your website exceptional. [Those are the rest of your beats.]
  4. Card sort. It helps you decide how to organize all of those wonderful features. You want to give your users exactly what they're looking for up front and then entice them to stick around for other unexpected pleasures. Sound familiar?
  5. Put all those ideas down on paper in the form of a site map. [That's the outline, I hear you cry!*]
  6. Finally, you tackle the unending process of adding and arranging details on every page. These details make the difference between a disaster (which users will stick with for approximately 7.6 seconds), and an enjoyable, informative, and exciting web environment (which users will want to return to again and again and again). You will never be finished this step until your deadline says you are.
After the IA job is done, you turn over your documents to whomever hired you. You'll probably get notes. Lots of notes. If you have an employer like the one I'm working for at the moment, most of the notes will be brilliant. If you have a typical employer, most of the notes won't make any sense or they'll be downright stupid. You still have to be nice. Diplomacy is the key if you ever want to get hired again. You also have to keep the nonsensical notes from killing your site. If users don't like the site, you'll get the blame, not the guy who gave you the silly notes.

After notes and revisions, the documents get copied to a whole team of designers, producers, coders, and executives who can do with them what they will. If you're lucky, you'll have some say in the development process. If not, you just hold your breath and hope for the best.

Now, here's your homework. Think about your own day job for a few minutes. How is it helping you become a better writer? Are you a waitress or a barista? Then you get to listen to people talk all day long. Your dialogue should kick butt. Are you an accountant? Then you know how the tiniest detail can change the outcome of the whole. Your stories won't have any plotholes and you'll have no trouble spotting typos. Dog walker? What better time to dream up fantastic characters and plots? Construction worker? You won't be tempted to hang the paintings before you've built a solid foundation.

Once you have your little list, keep it in your wallet or stick it to your forehead. When your job is driving you nuts, pull out the list (or look in the mirror) and remember all the ways that job is preparing you for the writer's life.

Artery Cloggery
Told ya my health-food kick would be short-lived. We went to Auntie Em's on Eagle Rock Boulevard for breakfast yesterday. We left with a box of 13 cupcakes. I don't even like cakey sweet things, but man, I am a sucker for these little two-bite sugar highs. Try a Red Velvet. Then run away before you decide to bring a baker's dozen home with you.

*I was just reading a scene in Emma in which everyone was crying. Not in the teary sense, but like: "I'll have coffee," cried Mr Knightley. "Coffee! You can't have coffee," cried Mr Woodhouse. "I'm sure it is not good for you." "Oh, Papa," cried Emma, "Of course Mr Knightley shall have coffee if he wants it!" Hilariously overwrought.


Greasy elbows and a ground-up nose

I'm applying myself, I'm buckling to, I'm taking the bull by the horns, putting my shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone, and elbows to the grease. I'm knuckling down.

I'm ignoring the call of the troubadouristic lifestyle (for now) and getting on with my pilot.

(Oh no! As I write, yet another musician has walked through the door. He's talking about mixing his latest album and their upcoming tour. Ahhh, nooo. Do not tempt me, Mr. Musician, with your dissolute ways.)

Things accomplished since last blog:
Plots conceived and added to script: 1
New scenes: 7
Silly love songs written (lyrics only): 4

So I'm not yet fully able to ignore all distractions. But I'm working on it. Where's the sage advice, everyone? Clearly I could use some.

Artery cloggery
Still on the health kick. Won't last long though, since our next house guest arrives tomorrow and there will be trips to Yum Yum to come.



I've been hanging around with musicians too much lately. The problem is, that instead of making me want to sit down and fix my pilot (some members of my extremely demanding writers' group insist that I include a plot!), musicians make me want to:

a) Sit down and write an album full of 3-minute pop masterpieces in the style of The Magnetic Fields.
b) Grab a few fellow musicians and run away on tour, forgetting all about the responsibilities that bind me to home.

This kind of thing can only be a detriment to my writing, not to mention my sanity. My logical mind realizes this. Still, I wrote the lyrics for the first track this morning and that's only the beginning.

I am infamous (in my own head) for getting distracted mid-stream. When I was a kid, I played trombone. Yeah, I was good. I rocked that frickin' thing. But, instead of working harder to become the best trombonist that ever lived, I decided to learn the French horn, the tuba, the baritone, and the trumpet. So now I can play them all to a fairly good level, but I wouldn't say I excel at any of them. Work has been the same way. After three or four months, any job just seems to repeat itself indefinitely -- yawn. When I lived in Vancouver, I had seven different apartments in three years, and then I moved to Victoria, London, LA...

All very amusing, since among my various groups of friends, I'm always known as The Responsible One.

The thing about writing is, it's been pretty constant in my ever-changing life. I've always done it and I hope I always will. Writing lets me, at least vicariously, be an expert in so many fields, become a different person every day (or every scene), and keeps me entertained and engaged. The fact that none of it is real -- I'm not sure that really matters.

But the question is, how do we, as writers, keep from being distracted? Writers are, by nature, interested in people and the world and all it has to offer. How do you stick with this one thing, despite the thousands of other opportunities opening up around you?

Artery Cloggery
Running around with rock bands is also very bad for one's arterial health. Now that the musicians are gone, so are the fatty foods. Which is fine by me. I actually prefer lightly grilled veggies and tofu anyway. But I do miss the musicians!