Monday, September 15, 2008

The Writing Week part 37

Some weeks can be really great weeks, even if the writing wasn't one hundred percent consistent. This was one of those weeks.

On the down side, there were a few days when I didn't write. On the plus side, though, I: began a new project (finally), polished and sent out query letters, and had a writers group meeting. Not a bad accomplishment for one week's time.

Everything the group and I did this past week goes back to something I've been mentioning a lot recently: the need to be driven. It's too easy for me to decide that "tomorrow, I'm going to start a morning exercise routine" or "next month, I'll begin teaching myself to play the harmonica" or "I'll slack off tonight, but tomorrow is the beginning of a new writing regimen." (All of those are things I've said to myself. A lot.) This week I decided to put it into action.

The query letters were a big thing. I wrote last time about working on them, and sent out a single, lonely message. I sent out a handful this week and, while I don't want to beat a dead horse, there is one more thing I'd like to say about them now. I can't recall the site where I read this, but some of the best, yet hardest to follow advice on queries was this (essentially):

Send them and forget about them. You're likely not to hear back, but if you do, send your script and forget about that, too. Otherwise, you'll drive yourself nuts.

Too true. I've resisted the urge to check my email when I'm usually not online, but when at my computer all day, it's so easy to just roll the cursor over the email window to see if there's anything new and exciting hiding in my inbox. There isn't at the moment.

Changing topics, I find I'm embarking upon another writing experiment. Zombie's mentioned that he's done some recently, Onyx did too, I believe. We all seem to be working on things that are new for us. For me, this will be my third this year. I tried 1) not using an outline, 2) writing a cross-country journey pic, and now 3) using VOICE OVER.

Voice over is one of those things that every student I know (and many books agree) is taught not to do. At NYU, most of the faculty treated voice over like the ugly cousin who'd try to molest you if you got too close. You were told from day one to just stay away. Avoid it like the plague. Yet, I happen to really like voice over in some instances. It just really draws me into a movie and the characters when done well, I guess perhaps because it makes the writer's job a bit easier - don't know how to tell it in the action? Voice over.

I know that my next project will use it. Right now, I'm still working on writing an elaborate back story for my protagonist (another first for me). I've written a paragraph here or there before, but never the nine solid pages I've done so far. What I'm hoping to accomplish from writing the back story, besides having a much more solid protagonist and first draft when I begin writing the actual pages, is that I'll figure out who the voice over comes from. Will it be my protagonist or is it going to be some omniscient third-person narrator?

Has anyone out there used voice over before? How'd it turn out?

Trunk Music

Over at Rolling Stone, the online version of the mag lists their favorite 'crime' songs.

It's a painfully obvious list, and it seems most are on there because they have some iteration of the word 'crime' in the title. Some blatant omissions: Cash's "I Got Stripes," The Stones' "Heartbreaker (Doo Doo Doo Doo)," Ice-T's "Cop Killer" and a few others that aren't immediately popping into my head (I'd have to scroll through the Stones, Clash and Cash libraries to find better examples, and that's not happening now). Click on the link to see the full list.

More importantly, this post got me to thinking about what music is most conducive to writing. While I listen to a lot of different genres of music (and find myself listening to music most of the time), it's a little bit trickier when I need to "split my brain" and focus on more than just the music, like when I'm reading or writing. Usually for reading on the train, I usually just have the music at a lower volume, allowing me to focus on the words on the page. Writing is a bit different and I find that instrumentals work best. Jazz, particularly Mingus and Charlie Parker really get my hands typing, especially with SILENT CITY.

What do you listen to while writing?

Three points for those that get the crime fiction reference in the post headline.

Do you write with certain actors in mind?

Might not be the best idea, according to Alex Epstein, over at Complications Ensue, a pretty entertaining screenwriting blog. His advice:
Don't get cute with the character names, it'll be distracting.

One danger in writing for a specific actor is you might not make the character strong enough. Knowing that Will Ferrell can make lots of unfunny things semi-funny, you might not sharpen the gags up enough for the read.

Another is, what if they're looking for a vehicle for Seth Rogen?

I would just write the strongest comic character you can, and let them figure out who it would be great for.

Or, if they ask "Who are you thinking of?" you can tell them.

I'm not sure I totally agree, at least from a prose perspective. Hell, I've cast SILENT CITY in my head, with Ms. Monaghan, above, in a starring role (because I enjoyed her in both Gone, Baby Gone and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang -- both modern and noir-ish stories that matched some of the things I want SILENT CITY to do, in an ideal world).

I find it helps to visualize certain people doing certain things. I think as long as you use it as a tool to further you writing, and less about hoping Will Ferrell will actually be in your movie, then you're OK. Once the fantasy starts to alter the course of the reality -- of writing, and telling a functional story, that is -- you've lost it.

On a related note, this post got me to thinking about how other people read their fiction. I know that I often "cast" actors while I'm reading a novel, unless there's already a pre-existing movie or TV adaptation that I can reference (and, of course, agree with). For example, I always picture Ed Harris as Connelly's Harry Bosch:

Do you do the same? Curious to hear some examples.