Thursday, February 21, 2013


The last two weeks have been strange and crazy, which is perhaps no excuse for my forgetting to post, but may explain why.  Firstly, I have decided on a career change.  I will be keeping up the blog, once a week, but it will likely be about acting and writing since I am pursuing acting more seriously.  I will continue to write, but as I have time and as a secondary means of creative outlet instead of a primary income source (which did not work for me at all).

Personally a lot of things have happened, not to me directly for the most part, but to those around me.  Since those stories are theirs to tell or not I won't share them on here, merely say that they've played a part in my absence as the real world was far more important in these cases.  Outside of those things, I'm also auditioning for a training program tomorrow that will run for six months.  If I get it (hopefully when, but I don't want to get ahead of myself), I'll be very, very busy for the next six months.  Ideally the film industry will have sorted itself out by then.  If not, well, I suppose I'll try and get an agent who looks globally for work, not just locally.  I want to work after all, that's half the fun of this career!

I have found that choosing to follow this path has actually relaxed my expectations on my writing, which perversely is making the thought of writing much more bearable.  I don't have to worry about it being done now, I can put the time and effort into it to make it really, really good.  It's a huge relief that I didn't even realize I needed until I did it.  As for the chocolates, I have decided I will still play with them and learn about them, and may one day open up a business with them, but for now, I am just going to make them for people I love on special occasions or when I'm asked to by those who have tried them and liked them.  (And yes, you will probably have to pay me for those lol).

All in all it's been a crazy but overall okay couple of weeks.  we'll have to see how everything plays out once I've done the audition tomorrow.  As to my personal friends and family who are in the midst of great troubles, know that my prayers and my thoughts are with you all and to any of my readers who are inclined to do so, if you think of me, then think of these people I mention so vaguely and send your prayers up for them.  God will know what they're for and who and will take care of the rest.  Many thanks.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why Should We Care?

It's kind of an evocative title considering my post last week of a letter I wrote to the BC government of Canada.  I could easily write another one this week and go really politically based for my post today, but I'll refrain from doing that.  The letter is now a page as well for easy access for anyone who wants to read it.

Instead, I have been considering an interesting question with one of my writer friends.  Why should we care? When you pick up a book and start to read, that's often the unacknowledged question in the back of your head (feel free to disagree with me, but I feel that's accurate).  You want to know why this story, why these characters, why should I choose this book over that one?  Basically, why should I care?  Story is important, the way it's told, the people it's told about, all that stuff (which will lead to another one at some point about plot vs. situation that was sparked by another blog post from someone else which I have sadly misplaced).  But when we talk about "pulling the reader in", it's more than story.

A truly talented writer will be able to pull the reader so far into the world, the characters and the story itself that when they finish reading it you get Memes like the ones that say "I finish a good book and the rest of the world goes on, not knowing that it just ended".  it's suggesting that the story, the reason that we care about the book and the people it's writing about is so strong that when it ends it carries over into your real life.  Some readers don't want the sadness as an ending (of course there are a variety of different endings to leave you with joy as well as sorrow), but to some extent they need to care about the people and the world to care about the book and to pick up the next one.

As much as we might not like to think about it as writers, our job besides telling story is to draw the reader in and make them are about the book.  If you can't answer "why should I care" with something besides "because" you've got a serious problem.

A good start to judge this is if you as the writer care about the story.  The more you care about it the more time and effort you're going to put into it and the better final product you often end up with.  Sometimes it doesn't work the way we plan, but quite frequently this factor helps a lot in the actual writing and completion of the novel or story that is being worked on.  Sometimes there are other factors and we care so much that we overlook things, or we overemphasize or under emphasize or any number of other contradictory thoughts to the story, but in the end it comes down to that for whatever reason, the reader just doesn't care.  Sometimes it's something as simple as the opening of the story not being strong enough to motivate the reader to keep reading.

I had that problem with a book in high school.  I unfortunately don't remember the title or the author and have no way of finding it easily again.  (All I remember is that it was sci-fi and had "green" in the title somewhere... I think.)  It was a slim little book, adult, not youth, and was in the science fiction, paperback section.  I picked it up and looked at it several times before I actually borrowed it from the library, and then ended up borrowing this thin little book another four times just to try and finish reading it. I still had not finished reading it when I found it for sale at a library book sale, but the dang thing kept popping across my path so I kept picking it up and looking at it.  Here's a book that had done well in the sale.  The cover art made it look interesting, the synopsis on the back made it sound interesting enough to open, but the book itself could not hold my attention.

At that point I had no idea why this book was so hard for me to read, let alone finish.  I was a very fast reader at that age (have been pretty much since I started reading) and it bothered me that I had met a book that I simply could not finish!  It became a challenge, I had to finish this book.  Not because it was a particularly good book, and not because I was invested in it (which was what made it so hard to read, but I didn't know that), but because it was a challenge and I simply had to work my way through it.  I have a suspicion that every time I started reading it I read to about the same spot and lost interest for something shinier.

Looking back at it now and thinking about that book (the challenge of which has stuck in my head more than the book itself), I realize that I couldn't finish reading it because the author hadn't done their job in holding my attention.  The world was pale, the characters not quite as interesting or dynamic as they could be, and it could not hold my attention away from its competition except by pure stubborn determination to keep wandering across my path.  Now though, i couldn't tell you what it was about, but I remember the cover, and I remember that it was science fiction.

I have a lot of books, well over one thousand, packed into boxes in my mom's basement (which we intend to unpack the moment we have space for the shelves), and there have been more than one that I never finished reading for one reason or another, but usually they sag in the middle, even if they should be interesting and I just never finish them.  One was so badly written (that, and I wasn't expecting erotica as it was not properly labeled which was another story), that i couldn't make it past the first 20 pages, which is too bad since the free short story that made me buy the book was pretty good when taken alone.  Fortunately it wasn't very expensive (though when I finished I felt it wasn't even worth that price).  Another one wasn't bad, and the story concept was really interesting to me, but the story itself wasn't executed well enough to hold my attention (I do remember the title but can't find the author and it's not even listed on the bookstore's webpage to give you an idea...).  That one made me very disappointed by the end.

So when you're writing your book, working on your novel ask yourself with each scene.  "Why is this important"?  Because that question can help you with the reader's "why do I care"?  If it's not important then why are you putting it in?  Why waste the time and energy with a scene that doesn't move the story forward, doesn't reveal something about a character or a situation or would not make a difference to the rest of the story if it was cut?  (important scenes make a difference, I promise).  The only thing including unimportant scenes will accomplish is losing your reader.  If you're having people not want to read through, or struggling to continue, or who only read it because they know you, you have a problem.  I just hope your friends are nice enough to tell you the truth and not do the "oh, yeah, it was good." thing.  That just sucks and makes you feel like you're on American Idol finding out your friends have been lying to you.  I know I expect the truth from anyone I send my work to, if I don't get the truth I can't make it better, even if it's hard to hear.  If you have trouble with criticism go take an art class, that's about the hardest critique you're going to get.

Good luck and don't forget to make your readers care by asking yourself why is this important?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Letter to the BC Government
Dear BC Government:
I think this plan is wonderful. It will hopefully give many young people an opportunity to grow up and appreciate the arts so that film and every other career in the "arts" will not only be appreciated but will be supported in the future. I think that it's about time that the children got some funding for extracurricular activities that went outside of sports teams. Sports are great fun, but have been very highly focused on in the past, to the exclusion of all else.
I think it's admirable how you have planned to focus on the future of the arts in British Columbia and put so much time and attention toward these children. I think it's wonderful that you plan internships for them so that they can get real job experience and will better be able to break into the industry. Most of all I think it's generous of you to prepare so many for a career in the United States. Will you be contacting LA to make the process smoother for them to become American citizens? That would be truly kind of you as the majority of your plan surrounds them and their education.
The rest of us who are too old for high school or who have been in the industry for years and have no reason to go back to university, hope that there will be many internships in Toronto and LA for you to send students to while they are pursuing a career in the arts.
The amalgamation of the arts into one group is brilliant of course, it will really allow the arts to be centralized into one place. Hopefully that will make it so that the government will never forget about us again while focusing on other industries who yell louder that their jobs are being cut, or that their pay is not enough. I wonder when the last time the film industry went on strike because their wages weren't enough, could you tell me when that happened last? I would genuinely like to know when we last complained about our declining wages.
Thank you again for the $24 Million dollars that you are promising to the development of young people in the arts. And for the $1 Million toward the research and development of the rest of the community. Do you know how long that research and development and Marketing will take? I would really like to be working again right now, on anything, but so far it looks like it's all into competition. It's funny, the only work I've had lately has costed me money, but that's alright. That's pretty much how it is here. You only get experience if you're willing to work for free so maybe those internships for students really will be a nice bridging gap. Do you think that I could get in to one of those internships or will they be age dictated?
Emily Carr is a wonderful school for the arts, it's very kind of you to extend your attention to them. I hope that the new building will make their entrance requirements a little easier, but then I'm reluctant to wish that considering that the small class sizes are far more desirable for teaching the arts, they're one of the few schools who try to keep them small too, so that they don't' get overwhelmed by students.
I wonder where all the young people who benefit from the increased funding into the arts programs are going to go when they graduate. I wonder how high the competition will be or how many jobs will be taken by free internships from those who already work for free just to gain experience. I wonder if there will even be a possibility for internships by the time they get there or if five years will be too late. I wonder too if there are any truly creative thinking individuals in jobs outside of the "arts" or if people still don't understand what creative people are worth. So far a concentration on the 'youth' of BC seems to be the fall back state for a great many things the government doesn't want to deal with.
I am worried that you are only focusing on the children because you do not know how to help the Artistic community in any concrete terms. I am worried that you throw money at our young people, while looking at the crowd and yelling that you are doing such a wonderful thing to distract them from the lack of results that you are coming up with in terms of what to do for those who are already in the arts. I am worried that your grand schemes will come to nothing but pretty words and wasted dollars in the long run.
Where are the strategies to help the arts community who are not "young" anymore? What should we who are already experienced or who have already finished school do to work in our chosen fields? How should we proceed if we are not young but we are just starting out in the industry? What are we to do as the jobs that should be there decline? The idea of jobs in BC seems to be a hot issue right now, but instead of coming up with a plan to build more jobs for the economy this plan seems to focus on building more people for the jobs that aren't there. Why is that?
Why don't we have plans for the future that start with what we already have in the industry? Why do we always have to go back to the 'young' people and assume that they are our future? What about the people who have helped to build the industry who are no longer young? What about those who are already passed "youth" and who are struggling to find their place in the industry?
These plans ARE wonderful for our young people, and when I decide to become a parent, I think I will be even more pleased about the subtle shift in our focus to include the arts as a much bigger area of study in the schools and after school programs that you are helping with this move. That is of course, IF I can afford to have a child or two because I am able to find work. That is IF I stay here in BC because there IS work. That is IF I can find even a regular job outside of my chosen industry.
It's a good start, this plan of yours. It has good things in it. The only thing I don't understand is how you can side-step the outcry of so many, and tell them that they don't matter. How can you take a cry of people wanting to work and say that you are dealing with it only to offer something that will just create more competition in an already too crowded industry with not enough jobs to go around?
Isn't that a little counter productive?
A Concerned Citizen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beg, Borrow and Steal

Want to know what you should be begging, borrowing and stealing?  Time.  For yourself, for your writing.  I've come to realize in the last couple weeks that it doesn't matter how much time you think you have, it doesn't matter how little time you think you have either.  If you're serious about this craft and about finishing anything that requires a little patience, time is one thing you need to have to devote toward it and it's never about finding time either.

I've realized that "finding" time is a misnomer.  If all you do is look for time, ironically you'll probably never find it.  You'll always have something more important to do and something that will take priority over your writing or you just won't feel like it because that time could be equally useful in resting or in doing something else that you really want to do because you don't really feel like writing.  Often it's because it's just one more thing in your day to do, just one more thing to keep you tired that's all too easy to shove off to one side and let it go for a day.  There's always "tomorrow" right?  When you're writing your first novels especially this can be hard because you're not likely to have a deadline or an agent waiting for your book and keeping you to task to get it in on time.

This is a problem even when you have loads of time.  In fact, it might be more of a problem when you have lots of time because your sense of "i can do it later" is somewhat true.  Trite sayings like "never put off what you can do today until tomorrow" are painfully true in this situation.  If you want to write the words need to get on the page.  If you're never "finding" enough time to write, re-evaluate whether you really want to be writing or not.  If you don't, go do somethign you're rather do and don't waste your time, but if you do, make that decision and do it.

A good author friend of mine (who will know who she is when she reads this I expect), has set a goal for herself to write 500 words every day.  It's not a lot, but when you're dealing with two kids in the 2-3 year range that suddenly becomes a mammoth task, and yet more times than not she manages to make time to write it.  I suggested to another author friend of mine (who will also probably know who she is) to try just 100 words a day because she was feeling particularly burdened with time and with the writing.  She was doing something I'm terrible for doing, she looked for time but couldn't find it and then spent a lot of time feeling guilty that she couldn't do it.  The small word goal and a determination has been enough to see her in front of the computer and she's already written two chapters up from not writing at all!

I'm the worst culprit for spending too much time "looking" for time (and yes, it's active so you can waste time while you're looking).  I've written two novels (that will likely never see the light of day because they're not up to my standards and I don't think they can be PUT up to my standards, they're terrible), and I'm working on my third.  The biggest differences come in my ability to time manage.  The first two novels I wrote I wrote the biggest chunks of them in under three weeks.  Partly due to a deadline and partly due to not being able to find "inspiration" or "time" or whatever other excuse I could think of.  I found reasons to put it off and procrastinate and even as I was doing it I felt guilty because I KNEW I could spend all that time writing instead.  If I had spent as much time writing as I had trying to find time to write I probably could have written six novels already!  (and believe me with the number of "idea's" folders sitting next to me that I've come up with over the course of the novel I'm writing right now?  It wouldn't be hard!)

When I wrote the first two I didn't have enough time, but it was a priority, I wanted to get it done and I had to get it done and instead of putting it off I begged, borrowed, stole whatever moment I could to get it done and it worked.  Now, writing my third, I have too much time, not enough to fill my space and perversely it's even harder to make myself sit down and type anything, let alone my novel.  It's too easy to feel discouraged and then guilty about the time I've 'looked for' and then ended up wasting.  If you're serious about it, make a decision, set a small goal that will be really, really easy to reach and set it for every day, don't  miss a day and the thing you're working on will get done.  Maybe not as fast as you would like, but it will get there and that's part of the beauty of doing it.

There's an ending to the cliche I mentioned earlier and the whole thing put together makes me smile and think that's exactly what I've been doing with all my "free" time.  Never put off until tomorrow the things that you can do today, because today is just yesterday's tomorrow.  It's good advice when you hear the whole thing, and it's all about making time to do things, even when you maybe don't feel like it.  But don't kill yourself with guilt either, just recognize why you didn't do it and if you are still serious about writing, change it.  It's always going to be one step at a time, regardless of what you're doing and writers need to remember that too.