Jul 27

The downside of collaborations… from a reader’s perspective.
 
When two writers get together and write an amazing story, they forget about one thing.
 
How difficult it is for us readers to get an autographed book. I mean, it’s hard enough getting an author’s signature, but two? It’s not like they usually live in the same city. Or even state.
 
So a few years back I got a signed copy of My Heart for Yours (MYFY) from Steph Campbell. Her co-author was Jolene Perry. And my book felt so lonely sitting on the shelf with only one autograph. And then one day, the book got packed up into a suitcase, boarded an airplane, and landed in Salt Lake City. All to accompany me to the Storymakers Conference.
 
MHFY was overjoyed when I, the lowly owner, presented the book to Jolene Perry and asked her if she could sign it. And she did, cause she’s cool like that. I mean, I didn’t even have to beg or anything. :)
 
And now my book is happy.
 
But then… while there, the generous Cassie Mae gave me a copy of her collabs with Theresa Paulo, King Sized Beds & Happy Trails and Beach Side Beds & Sandy Paths. And of course she signed them too.
 
Now those two books are unhappy because they do not have Theresa’s autograph. And now I’m going to have to hunt down her down to get her to sign it because I don’t want those books to be unhappy.
 
Unfortunately Theresa lives half a country away, but fortunately, she offered that if I ever came to New York, I could stay with her for a week or two. And she’s feed me and clothe me and show me all the sites of NYC. Right, Theresa?
 
Um, Theresa?
 
:)
 
So I’m hoping I don’t have to wait too long before I can get her to sign it. But by then, they’ll have the third story out, Lonesome Beds & Bumpy Roads, and I’ll just bring that one along too. But then it won’t have Cassie Mae’s autograph and then I’ll have to go to Utah again. And they’ll probably write more books together.
 
And this will never end. See, you collaborating authors, what problems you cause for us readers?
 
I guess I should stop complaining because I actually have those autographs, huh?
 
Do you have books that are collaborations, and you got it signed by one or both of the authors?

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May 18

  Last week I had my friend , Pepper Langlinais, on to talk about writing novels versus movie screenplays—and what makes a good one. Today is more about the content of those screenplays, and what they look like. If you haven’t read last week’s post yet, click here.
 
Thanks for coming back, Pepper. So how does a screenplay differ than a novel?
 

There are technical differences, of course. While in a book you might take several paragraphs to describe a room when someone first enters it, in a script you must do it quickly, efficiently, and without flourish. You’re not writing a script so that everyone can picture the place; you’re writing it so the art department and director know how to build and dress the set. A screenplay is a blueprint; a book is a finished product. In that way, the pieces of writing serve two completely different functions. And a screenplay is subject to change—the director, the actors, the producers may all decide to make changes to it, and as a writer you must be open to that. It is collaborative. If you don’t want anyone to touch your precious words, write books . . . And then your editor will probably change your words anyway.
 
Screenplays are generally written using special formatting software; the industry standard is Final Draft. It’s easier to use software than to try and format it yourself.
 
The first line that gives the location of the scene is called a slug. It tells the crew whether the scene will be inside (INT.) or outside (EXT.), which set/location will be used for the scene, and whether the scene is day or night. Slugs are key for pre-production because all scenes set in one location will generally be shot at the same time. So it’s important to know how many scenes happen in any one place, day or night. The first time a location is introduced in a script, it should be followed by description so the art department can find a suitable location or build and dress a set that will work.
 
Description and action are written in long paragraphs. Dialogue is tabbed in on both sides and headed by the character’s name.
 
(O.C.) means “off camera.” Meaning we hear the dialogue but don’t see who is speaking.
 
(CONT’D) means “continued” and shows that the character who had previously been speaking continues to speak.
 
Any time a character is seen for the first time in a script, his or her name appears in all capital letters in the description or action. After that it will appear in regular form for any additional description or action. (But this is only true in movie scripts; in television, it is usual for the characters’ names to continually be treated in all caps in any description or action. Way to make it confusing, guys.) Characters’ names are always in all caps when over dialogue. For film and TV.
 
And here is a page from a screenplay. If you’d like to see a more extensive example, Pepper has one posted here.
 

 

I can definitely see how formatting a screenplay could be a nightmare. Too many paragraphs to deal with. :)

 
Thanks again, Pepper, for sharing with us. And come back next week to find out the differences between querying screenplays and novels.
 
Have you ever seen a screenplay or was this totally new to you too?

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May 11

Many writers dream of having their books made into movies, but most have no clue about the process. Today I’ve got a friend, Pepper Langlinais, who actually knows about that because not only does she write novels, but she also writes screenplays. In addition to poems, plays, novellas and short stories. Whew—that just makes me tired. :)
 
You’ll have to check out Pepper’s blog to read more about her because she’s got a ton of fascinating stuff to say about screenplay writing, and I want to jump right into it.
 
So I’m just going to hand it over to Pepper.
 
Thanks, Suzi, for asking me to be a guest on your blog. It’s interesting being both a prose writer and a screenwriter (and a playwright, but that’s something else again), and you have a lot of valid questions about the differences between the two. Some stories can go either way or both ways, but I think we’re all aware of books that shouldn’t be made into movies, or books that are “unfilmable,” or books that were made into movies that turned out to be awful. And then there are plenty of movies that wouldn’t necessarily make for great reading, either. I’m sure there are novel tie-ins for things like Rambo, but I don’t really want to read it.
 

So what makes the difference? And how can you tell whether something should be a book or a screenplay (or both)?

 
If something needs to be told primarily from one character’s point of view and you’re mostly in his or her head, it should be prose. A person’s thoughts and feelings are largely unfilmable, so unless there are a lot of actions to go with this story (plot, things that are visually interesting), you’re going to have a dull slog of a screenplay on your hands. And you’re also going to have an actor who has to be on screen the entire length of the film. You have to think about things like that when writing a screenplay.

 

Generally speaking—and there are always exceptions, of course—screenplays are plot-driven and have a lot of dialogue and action. You don’t go into characters’ backgrounds unless it’s in the dialogue or it’s something you can show (example: photos on a fireplace mantel). Prose can be more thoughtful; descriptions and internal character motivations have a place in prose. It’s possible to find visually interesting ways to show things like thoughts and feelings, but then you’re leaning toward the avant garde.
 

You can put a lot more into a book than into a movie, too. And here I’m talking about length. In a screenplay, when properly formatted, each page equals roughly one minute of screen time. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it should even out in the end. And so—largely dependent on genre—a typical screenplay is 110 to 120 pages (80-90 for comedies and children’s movies, maybe longer for dramas, but only if you’re already a known writer or director, else they’re not going to buy your 140-page script). And if you look at the sample screenplay page, you’ll see that’s not actually a whole lot of writing. If there’s too much writing on a script page, we call it “black.” And that’s a bad thing. It used to be very common back in Hitchcock’s time, but now it’s considered a sign of a slow script, and with today’s audiences being very short of attention, the script needs to move fast. But you can put as much loving description in a book as you like . . . And your editor will probably cut it anyway.
 

Hmmm. I don’t overwrite and put a ton of details in on my first drafts, so maybe I’d be a good screenwriter. But then again, I do too much internalization, so maybe not. :)
 

So when I’m trying to decide whether to write something as a book or a screenplay, I have to ask myself: A. Who is the audience? Book readers or movie goers? There is some crossover, but the answer will usually lean one way or another. B. What’s the best way to tell this story? If it’s a thoughts-and-feelings kind of story, it won’t make much of a movie. If it’s a plot-driven story, then it might make a good movie. And in either case I’ll want really great dialogue.
 

And yet . . . I’ve had some good luck turning my prose into screenplays. Even though “St. Peter in Chains” is a character-driven story, I found ways to turn it into an award-winning screenplay. And that just comes through knowing what will work on the screen versus the page. Even if it’s riveting in prose, it may just fall flat and bore people to tears on screen. If the actors are just sitting and talking . . . That’s not a movie. (Actually, it’s not much of a book either, so in that case maybe it should be a stage play.)
 
Although I’ve thought about how cool it’d be to have a book made into a movie, I’ve never really spent time thinking deeply about it. Unless it’s for a bloghop, I don’t analyze who’d be the best actor/actress to fill the rolls or whether it’d make a good movie or not. But now I’ll have to look back over my stories and think about it some more.
 
After hearing from Pepper, do you think your novel would make a good movie? Why or why not?
 
(Come back next week for Part II from Pepper.)

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Apr 20

I’m sure you’ve been seeing all the other writers doing The Writing Process blog post lately, and I was nominated by my friend Chloe Banks, who did her post last week. So now you will know all about my writing process.
 
What I’m working on: I have so many manuscripts that need work. I did a lot of writing before I knew how to do it. So these manuscripts will need a ton of work, and eventually I’ll get to them. But right now I’m working on a contemporary YA about two foster kids. I just gave it to two more betas and hope to start querying maybe by summer time.
 
How my work differs from others in its genre: I usually go for stories that are about the struggles of teens, whether it’s by their doing or someone else’s. A lot of time in these kinds of stories, the parents are not ‘good’ parents—which of course leads to those problems, or they’re blind to what’s going on with their teens. With my current story and some others, even though I have those bad parents, I also have ‘good’ parents who have a big impact on the main character’s life.
 

Why I write what I do: I just love to see how my characters grow. Their struggles are real, and they often make bad choices at the beginning, but usually… by the end, the new choices change their lives in a positive way.

 
How my writing works: I’m more of a pantser. I start off with a basic premise and write. More often now, I start thinking about character traits at the beginning, but I don’t necessarily have it all plotted out. Sometimes I’ll have the turning points, but other times I don’t know until after I start writing. Sometimes I won’t have the ending planned out yet.
 
It’s different for all the stories, and since I write fast, I end up spending 10x the amount of time editing.
 
So that’s about it. How about you?

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Feb 28

Today is the movie blog hop where my MCs can be stars! I may be wrong, cause sometimes that happens, but I think this was the first blog hop I ever participated in, 2 years ago. And I pulled it together like last minute.

Not this time. I started early. So thank you to Kyra Lennon and Rachel Schieffelbein for hosting this blog hop.

So the point of this blog hop is to show the actors/actresses you’d cast in one of your WIPs. I’m going back in time to my very first YA story. I still love it today and will probably be going back to work on it. Maybe when I start querying my current WIP.

This novel is called Beyond the Wake. Here’s a short blurb—and I apologize because it’s not query ready and therefore, may suck.

Seventeen-year-old Jason is invited to spend the summer at the lake with his buddy Mack. He looks forward to the skiing, partying and girls. But when Jason unexpectedly falls for Mack’s younger sister, he has to decide if he can give up his partying ways to be the guy Alexis needs.

Fifteen-year-old Alexis looks forward to swimming, the sun and catching up on her stack of unread books. When Jason shows an interest in her, she’s flattered and pleased that her brother, Mack, hates the idea of them dating. When Alexis learns Jason leads a different life than her, and she must decide if she’s willing to surrender her values for the guy she’s fallen for.

And here are my choices for actors.

Abigail Breslin is Alexis. She just has a sweet innocent look to me and is perfect for the roll.

Julian Morris is Jason. This guy is probably a little old to be playing a teen, but he’s got the right look.

Logan Lerman is the brother, Mack.

So that’s it. Now go check out the other participants by going to Kyra’s site.

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Oct 15

As many of you know, today is the release day of (Never) Again by the fabulous Theresa Paolo. And to celebrate, she’s doing a blog hop where you share something that you swore you’d never do again, but did.
 
But first. If you’d like to see how I first met Theresa and all the fun things we have in common, go here.
 
Now on to the blog hop.
 
Well, I hope I don’t disappoint anyone today because I have nothing shameless or salacious to share. Instead, my example is rather innocuous, perhaps mundane. (Can you tell I went to the thesaurus for interesting words?) But hey, when I try come up with examples to questions like this, my mind always goes blank.
 
First: I am not a slave to fashion. I prefer comfort over style.
 
So back in the 80s, clogs were the in thing. I had one pair. I hated them. They were big and stiff. Clunky—wasn’t clog just the perfect name for them? Kinda ugly. And they didn’t like to stay on my feet.

I said I’d never wear them again.

But then a few years back, my mom gave me a pair of hers she didn’t want anymore. And because she doesn’t buy Payless Shoes like me, the black pair she gave me lasted over three years of regular use. And I loved them. So now I’ve even bought my own. Something more like this.

From Zappos.com


These shoes from Zappos.com are cute. Their $150 price tag, not so much. Oh, and when I said I’d buy something more like this, I meant style wise. I’d choke over paying $150 for shoes. (Remember, I like Payless.)
 
So even though they’re not the most stable shoe, I now like them. And there are so many cute styles.
 
Even though I gave in to the clog, I will never… never wear flip flops. I’ve weathered through this fad for the second time without giving in, so I’m fairly confident I’ll keep my word. Flip flops suck.
 
So check Theresa’s site to see the other blog hop participants.
 
And congratulations to Theresa on your big debut!

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Aug 04

 
Last week, I mentioned that I’d decided to stop doing one of my blog features: Sloppy Writing. If you want to find out why, just go back to last Sunday’s post.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


So then I started thinking about what direction I’d like my blog to go, and I asked myself what I like best about other blogs. There are tons that have great writing information, and often times, I don’t even read those author’s books, but I love their blogs.
 
And of course, a lot of blogs I read are my writer friends, and it’s a great way to keep up with what they’re doing.
 
But what I figured out was, that some of my favorite blogs are the ones that make me laugh. And they’re usually writers because those are the blogs I frequent the most.
 
Anyways, here are a few that give me many laughs.
 
Cassie Mae: She is so open and silly and fun, how can you not love her and her posts?
 
Kellie at Delightfully Ludicrous: She takes articles from around the world and humorously points out the ludicrousity (I like that better than ludicrousness) of things people do and say.
 
Eileen Cook: I love her blog. Whether it’s the little cartoons or posts about her writing life, the always make me laugh.
 
AuthorLife: Okay, this is tumblr, and I’m not sure if tumblr is really considered a blog, but this writer posts gifs with their added caption and not only does she make me laugh, but I can also often relate. (Although not always, because obviously this author is published, but I still get it.)
 
Andrea at Maybe It’s Just Me: She does these random posts about her life and family and they always make me laugh. And I love her title because I have that thought often: maybe it is just me.
 
To sum things up, I would like to write funny things and make people laugh. But this puts a lot of pressure on me, because what if people don’t think I’m as funny as I think I am. I mean, that’s totally possible.
 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


So maybe I’ll try something like the writer Mindy McGinnis, who was one of the first writerly blogs I started to followed. Her Thursday Thoughts are small random musings about whatever, but once again, they make me laugh. And maybe if I just try go for that once a month, that’d be a good way to test the waters and see how funny I really am. I will not put pressure on myself, so if I don’t have any funny thoughts, I won’t worry about it.
 
What do you prefer to read on blogs? Funny? Serious? Writerly tips? Politics? Personal stories? Anything? Everything?

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Jul 21

 
Last weekend I went on my first writers’ retreat. It was just so much fun, and yes, I got a lot of writing (actually editing) done, but more importantly I finally got to meet (in person) so many terrific ladies: Rachel, who put the whole weekend together, Theresa, who drove all the way from New York City to Minnesota with Cassie Mae, Jessica, who along with Rachel lives within a reasonable driving distance so there’s a good chance I’ll see her at a conference or something sometime, and Mandy, who I’d never met before, but who gave us some terrific insight on being an editor.
 
One other very important thing we did that weekend was to learn how to pronounce everybody’s last names, because a few of us have names that could be pronounced multiple ways. For instance, none of us knew how to say Rachel Schieffelbein’s name. Now I know, (shuffle-bine), thanks to the suggestion (sorry, I can’t remember whose) of linking it to shuffleboard.
 
So you know how we (society) complain about teens today and how they’re so immersed in the digital age they don’t know how to have regular conversations? Well it’s kind of funny to be sitting in the same room with someone and talking through e-mail or Twitter or Facebook and not saying a word to them aloud.
 
Now I wouldn’t do that that all the time, but trust me, we got plenty of regular talking in too.
 
And it was so nice not to listen to any children complain that I was on the computer too long. Or hear the line, well if you’re on the computer I can play my video games too. You know, cause to children, everything should be equal and it doesn’t matter that you’re an adult and they’re a child.
 
But that’s a totally different post.
 
And I never got a sore butt even though I was sitting on it most of the day. Must’ve been the comfy couch.
 
Anyways, I wish I could’ve extended the weekend, but alas, everybody had to go home, and well… it wasn’t my house. And now I can’t wait to see everybody again, and I hope we can make this a yearly thing.
 
Have you ever done the writers’ retreat thing?

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Jun 16

 

Are you one of those people who get annoyed when you find grammatical errors in a novel? (Or novella, short story, newspaper/magazine article, children’s book… :) )
 
And do you get annoyed a lot? Or just a little?
 
I fall into the I-don’t-get-annoyed-much category, with the exception of if it’s a mistake that happens consistently throughout the book. But sometimes I get into a story that has style issues I don’t like. Of course that’s a totally personal thing, but I’m gonna talk about the ones I don’t like. Actually, I’ll only talk about one today because:
 
1. People tend to skim posts when they get too long
2. I want to drag this out into two posts cause it’s one less posting I have to create. :)
 
So have you seen any novels where the author didn’t use quotation marks?
 
A few years back I ready LABOR DAY by Joyce Maynard. I loved the story and would still recommend it to others, but one thing about it frustrated me. Her lack of quotation marks. She used dialog tags, but still, sometimes it got confusing. In the end, it took away from the enjoyment of the book.
 
It was just weird. I’ve never read anything else by her, so I don’t know if she’s used that style a lot, or if LABOR DAY was the only one. But it is the only novel I’ve read with no quotation marks, and I’m sure there are others. It won’t stop me from read a book, but it will slow me down.
 
Have you ever read a book that didn’t use quotation marks in their dialogue?
Did it bother you?
Have you read LABOR DAY? (If you haven’t, you should.)
 

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May 19


Recently I received two Liebster awards, which means I get to answer a bunch of random questions.
 

The first set comes from Kate at My Next Life. Here are her questions.

 
1. If you were an animal, what would you be?
Dolphin maybe? That’d be fun swimming across the ocean, jumping out of the water and playing around.
 
2. What is your favorite book of all time?
The Outsiders has been my favorite since grade school. Haven’t read it as an adult, but I should. Also loved the movie, as any girl would.
 
3. What’s your biggest fear?
Dying without seeing kids grow up.
 
4. If you could have any talent, what would it be?
Singing would be cool. Not that I’d want to do it for a living; I just wish I could carry a tune.
 
5. If you could invite 3 famous people to dinner, who would you choose?
Emeril Lagasse: he’d have to cook dinner
President Obama and Rush Limbaugh: just to see what would happen

 
6. If you had a time machine, where would you go first?
For fun: medieval times. Take the place of a princess or queen. That’d be cool to live in a castle.
 
7. If calories didn’t count, what would you eat today?
Shrimp and scallops fettucine alfredo with a side of the most tender filet wrapped in bacon. Brownies (no nuts) and vanilla ice cream.
 
8. What book do you wish you’d written?
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
 
9. What antagonist do you most relate to?
I have no idea. I’m not very antagonistic. :)
 
10. If you could relive any day of your life, what would it be?
Wedding day, probably. So I could remember more of it. It goes by too fast.
 
11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Paris
 

The second set comes from Dani at Entertaining Interests. Here are her questions.

 
1. Which urban legend freaks you out the most?
The person in the back seat of your car with a knife. Yet, I don’t always check my back seat like my mom always said to.
 
2. If given the chance, which dream celeb would you have asked to your prom?
Back in the day, it would’ve been Corey Haim or Kirk Cameron… what dreamboats. I think Kirk turned out okay, unfortunately Corey did not.
 
3. Who would you “Freaky Friday” (switch places) with?
Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. Maybe she’s not a princess or a queen, but maybe duchess is the next best thing.
 
4. Why?
I don’t know. It’d be cool to be a duchess.
 
5. If you could claim any novel as your own, whose would it be?
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
 
6. Is there any skill you’d like to learn?
I always wanted to learn fencing. I should’ve taken a class before the kids were born. I don’t see myself doing it anytime soon.
 
7. What movie would you like to star in?
Any of my novels made into movies. I’d even take just a little cameo instead of the starring role.
 
8. Which book/series would you like to see made into a movie?
I think Shine by Lauren Myracle would make a good movie.
 
9. You just crashed into the back of Ryan Gosling’s car, what do you do?
Grab my camera. And not to take pictures of the damage.
 
10. The zombie apocalypse just broke out; besides family, pick 1 movie star, athlete, weapon, and one other person or object, who/what would they be?
Movie star: Charlton Heston. I figure he’s got a good stack of guns somewhere. Even though he’s dead himself now.
Athlete: Whomever is the last winner in the UFC championship.
Weapon: Crap. I don’t know what all kills zombies. If I can have unlimited bullets, a gun, but otherwise a samurai sword.
Person/object: Magic zombie killing powder. (The question didn’t say it had to be real)

 
11. What is your dream day?
Sleeping in to a quiet home. Doing some reading in a quiet home. Doing some writing in a quiet home. Eating what/when I want in a quiet home. Basically I want a quiet home. :)

 
Thank you to Dani and Kate for the fun award. And as usual, I’m backing out of the passing it on to other, because I hate that part.
 
So go check out their blogs to learn more about them.

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