Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Just one more read through, and then...

I can’t believe how nervous I am about the next step I need to take with my MS.  I’m about to use the C-Word.
No, not that c-word, the other one: Critique.
I’ve been through some hefty revisions over the past year, and hacked a lot of words out, added a whole load more when I realised that I’d missed out entire chunks of the MC’s development arc, and finished with a few minor plot tidying tweaks.  And now, (after one more read through), I have to take the next step. 
I think that the main issue for me is that my CP's know what they are lookin for, and what makes a good story.  My Crit Team have probably volunteered because they think that they are going to get a good read.  What happens if it’s not one?  The fear of letting them down is quite tangible, and it's hovering there, waiting to say:  I told you they’d be disappointed.
Then again, if I don’t let them read it, then I’ll never know how much work I’ll need to do to make it the best I can.
I guess I’d better start that final read through now...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Team Crit

A friend asked me the other day if I'd got my Crit team assembled yet.
A simple question, you might think, BUT, I didn't even know that they came in kit form!

Now I have extra worries...
Can I get them ready made?
Do I have to paint the pieces before I glue them together?  I hope not, they will all have axe wielding maniac smiles if I do.
Will I have to file off the little plastic knobbly bits before I glue them together?
What if I glue the wrong bit in the wrong place?  If I do, will they end up as Evil Crit Partners and try to take over the world?

I knew getting your work critted was a tough experience, but I wasn't prepared for this!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Unexpected differences.

It turns out that writing a stage play is quite a different kettle of fish to writing a book.  It's probably easier if I list the the differences that I've experienced so far:

1) There's a deadline.  Yes, I know that once you get a publishing deal that deadlines start to appear, but for me this is a new thing. I know it's a year away, and that I should have the first draft in place well before then, but it's still there, popping it's head up over the horizon, shouting "Cooee", giving a little finger waggling wave and then dipping back down again.  He's an odd little thing, and I'm sure there's a more menacing side to him that will become apparent as he gets nearer.

2) The pressure of high expectations. I'm actually writing this for people that I know.  The whole of the cast will received their copy of the script and then be judging it against previous productions to see how good (and funny) it is.  When I write a book, I try and make it the best I can, but it will be someone who doesn't know me who will deciding whether it has publishing potential.
To add to the pressure, several people have told me that they are more excited about this script than any previous Panto script.  It seems that they think that I'm funnier than I really am.

4)  Where's number 3?

5)  Being funny on demand is not easy.  When I'm with friends, feeling relaxed, and with no expectations for me to make them laugh, (I like to think that) I can be quite amusing.  I can make jokes about incidents, or a comment that someone makes, and run with a theme.  If something doesn't work, I'll get a small amount of humorous abuse, but it's forgotten quite quickly.  
This, however, is a bit more clinical.  I can't just write a load of jokes, and hope for the best.  I have to make the characters funny, and everything needs to work.

6)  The characters are a lot different.  They are all a bit shallower, but the traits that they have are larger than life.  There are about ten main characters in my story.  The cast of actors is around twenty five!  This means that I have to find a further fifteen characters, give them lines, and make them interesting.  They have to pop up a few times, so that they feel a part of the whole production.

3)  Ahh, here it is.

7)  Writing for an audience reaction.  When I'm writing a novel, I find that I can build up the story line as I go along.  With Panto, the characters have to illicit cheers or boos from the audience, and interact directly with them.  It's odd writing something to get an instant reaction.

Have you tried writing for different mediums?  Was it odd for you too?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Commission! (of sorts)

Before I start, I fear that this post is going to be a little bit long winded.  Can I ask that you try to bare with me while I ramble on, and eventually get to the point.  Hopefully, it will be worth trawling through the waffle to hear the news at the end.  (For those of you who can't wait for the news, or can't cope with me bleating on, then I won't hold it against you if you just scroll down.)  Now that I've cleared that up, here's the post:

Some of you may know from earlier posts, that I belong to an Amateur Dramatic Group.  The productions that we put on over the year follow the same pattern.  In the summer (June/July) we put on a sensible(ish) play, and in the winter (January), we put on the annual pantomime.
The Pantomime is one of the more surreal British traditions that hasn't really made it past our shores.
Knowing that a fair few of you guys are not in the UK, I feel that an explanation (with the assistance of Wikipedia) of what a pantomime consists of is required:

Pantomime story lines and scripts are almost always based on traditional children's stories, like Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Cinderella.

While the familiarity of the audience with the original story is generally assumed, plot lines are almost always 'adapted' for comic or satirical effect, it being common for characters and situations from other stories to be interpolated into the plot. Certain familiar scenes tend to recur, regardless of plot relevance, and highly unlikely resolution of the plot is common. Straight re-tellings of the original stories are rare in the extreme

There are a number of traditions that a Pantomime follows.  Here are a few (with pictures from some of our past performances.):

The leading male juvenile character (the principal boy) - is traditionally played by a young woman, usually in tight-fitting male garments (such as breeches) that make her female charms evident.

An older woman (the pantomime dame - often the hero's mother) is usually played by a man in drag.

Risqué double entendre, often wringing innuendo out of perfectly innocent phrases. This is, in theory, over the heads of the children in the audience.

Audience participation, including calls of "He's behind you!" (or "Look behind you!"), and "Oh, yes it is!" and "Oh, no it isn't!" The audience is always encouraged to boo the villain and "awwwww" the poor victims, such as the rejected dame, who usually fancies the prince.

Music may be original but is more likely to combine well-known tunes with re-written lyrics. At least one "audience participation" song is traditional: one half of the audience may be challenged to sing 'their' chorus louder than the other half.

The good fairy enters from stage right (from the audience's point of view this is on the left) and the villain enters from stage left (right from the point of view of the audience). This convention goes back to the medieval mystery plays, where the right side of the stage symbolised Heaven and the left side symbolised Hell.

Sometimes the story villain will squirt members of the audience with water guns or pretend to throw a bucket of 'water' at the audience that is actually full of streamers.

A slapstick comedy routine may be performed, often a decorating or baking scene, with humour based on throwing messy substances.

The Chorus, who can be considered extras on-stage, and often appear in multiple scenes (but as different characters) and who perform a variety of songs and dances throughout the show. Due to their multiple roles they may have as much stage-time as the lead characters themselves.

Are you still with me?  Phew!  So, why am I telling you all of this?  Well... last week, we decided the title of the January 2014 panto.
We then looked for volunteers to write the script.  Yes, you guessed it.  I got the gig.  I now have a year to produce the first draft of a full length (minimum 90 minutes) pantomime, and a polished script by May/June when we start auditions.
At the moment, my head is full of plot lines, one liner jokes, and silly situations.  Excited isn't the word!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Gone visiting...

I'm sure most of you already know what a fantastic blog Leigh Covington has.  Well, today, she's invited me over for an interview..
Can you vbelieve it?  My first interview!
If you've got five minutes, pop over there and see what brilliant questions she been asking.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Group nouns, anyone?

I’m have to admit, I’m fascinated by collective nouns.  The way that they don’t really make any sense, but are somehow fitting.  Personally, I think that these could probably all fall under the catagory of  ‘lots’, or ‘many’ as part of my new counting idea (see previous post).

A couple of examples that amuse me are:

A murder of crows.
A gaggle of geese.
(Sorry, I’m going to have to do the joke:
Q. What’s the collective noun for Cattle?
A. Herd of cows?
Reply. Of course I’ve heard of cows, that’s what I’m asking about!)

Right, back to the original idea…
It’s got me thinking whether there are collective nouns for the writing world.  From what I can gather, there aren’t, so here’s my stab at a few:

A Pen of Authors.
A Disappointment of rejection letters.
A Forest of Manuscripts.
An Elusive of Agents.

Please feel to add your own.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Is my number up?

Is it just me, or are numbers becoming more meaningless these days?
£22 Billion of Government borrowing
The nearest star with an exo-planet is 63 trillion miles away
I have a 2 terabyte hard drive
When I dropped a cup the other day, it smashed into hundreds of pieces.
Do you read these numbers and immediately have a clear picture of the exact amount involved?  (This is where I’m hoping that you say no.)
With this in mind, I have decided to use a new numbering system:

One, two, three, lots, many.

Seriously, this is all you need.
When you come back from the shops, and realise that you’ve spent far too much, you don’t need to tell people exactly how much you spent, you just say that you’ve spent lots of money.  They’ll know exactly what you mean.
When arrive somewhere after being stuck in a traffic jam, all you need to say is that you spent many hours sitting in a jam.
Now we come to the point where you'll really appreciate the versatility of this new system.  When you feel that Lots or Many doesn’t quite do the values you are trying to convey, you can combine them:
For Christmas, I received lots and lots of presents!
There are many many reasons why I won’t visit Uncle Betty :o|

Now, I’m off to write lots of many words in my new MS.
Have a funfilled day.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Feeling like I've received more than I gave

I’ve been (probably far too slowly) critiquing a friend’s YA MS over the past few weeks.  The experience has been incredibly rewarding for me.  Apart from my own MS, I think that this is the most in depth analysis I’ve ever done on a book.  This is probably because when I’ve read a book I’ve bought, I’ve looked for the major things like Plot, characters, style and how they’ve made the story active as opposed to passive.  Invariably, I’ve been drawn along by the story and not looked as deeply as I should.  But, from the next book I read I know that I will be delving a lot deeper into it.
Sorry, I seem to have gone off plot and started rambling.
Ahem… Right, now where was I?  Oh yes. My critiquing...
Because I needed to provide some (hopefully) good feedback, it made me look a lot deeper into this book.  (I can honestly say that the story blew me away.  If she doesn’t get a deal, then there really is no justice in the world.) and it’s made me wonder whether my MS is really a YA book.  It’s probably at the bottom end of YA, bordering on MG.  Looks like I’ve got a bit of working out on where this fits in.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Does this mean I'm growing up at last?

In all the time I’ve been writing, I’ve always struggled with revising/editing part.  I’ve understood the need for it, but just couldn’t get enthused about trudging through the text looking for issues and faults.
I think that I’ve tended to find myself immersed in the world in my head, and became carried away with exploring the story as the details flooded out.  Re-visiting something that was no longer fresh and exciting felt like treading water, and was holding up all the new plots and ideas queuing up and banging on the door for attention.

That was until I started on my current WIP.

This story has been different.  Although I know that it probably  falls well short of what makes it a ‘page turner’, I’ve felt compelled to keep re-working it to make it shine.  I don’t know if it’s the culmination of everything I’ve learnt over the past year, or whether it’s that the previous stories weren’t quite right, but with every little change I make, I get excited.  When I find a big improvement, I have to refrain myself from jumping up and down.
I still have the little voices whispering away in the darker corners, pointing out that the characters are probably not deep enough, or that the twists and rug pulling moment aren’t twisty and turny enough, but I’m going to ignore them and let my Crit pals confirm if that really is the case.

For the moment, I’m just going to enjoy the feeling that when someone else finally reads my MS, it’ll be the best I could get it.