Monday, June 29, 2015

My Personal Writing Class--Songwriting



From Kate’s Writing Crate…


          Songwriting without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises for Finding Your Voice by Pat Pattison is set up as a two-month class. I’m three weeks in and I highly recommend it.

The first two weeks are timed writing exercises. Each day, one exercise lasts for 10 minutes, one for five minutes, and one for 90 seconds. In less than 17 minutes, you can meet your daily writing goal—a fantastic feeling—and it’s fun! It’s also easy to double up so you won’t fall behind when you have a busy day planned.

          The point of the exercises is to put your five senses to work, along with body and motion, when writing about objects or characters. You can read other writers’ descriptions for inspiration before you write or you can read them after you write to see which senses were stronger for them.

          The exercises seem easy. For example: describe an elevator (what writing), a sailor (who writing), six in the morning (when writing), a park bench in the city (where writing). It’s capturing all your senses in your answers that is hard. The pressure of a timer, especially one that ticks, helps squeeze words out.

          If you have kids old enough to write, you can include them in this class. Look at Taylor Swift—songs she wrote in her early teens became hits. You never know. Plus it’s fast and fun!

          Week 3 moves on to metaphors.

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.

–Orson Scott Card

 

          After a discussion of different types of metaphors on pages 49-51, you start with Adjective-Noun Collisions. On Day 1, the adjectives and words are given to you in the ten 90-second exercises. (example: Lonely Moonlight) On Day 2, you are given the adjectives; you get to choose the nouns. (example: Boastful _____) Day 3 you are given the nouns and have to provide the adjectives. (example: ______ cottage)

          The more you do these exercises, the more writing you can fit into the 90 seconds.

          Even if you aren’t planning on writing songs, these exercises would be useful to complete when you are having a hard time starting your writing day. Three or four exercises will jump start your brain.

          Writing is writing. Trying different genres gives you a new perspective—always a good thing for writers!
 
 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reads for Writers: Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin Provides a Masterclass



From Kate’s Writing Crate…


As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

          Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.

 

          Breaking facets of time into thirteen categories in his book Time and the Art of Living, Robert Grudin shares thoughts that make you reconsider how to spend your hours. Some of these thoughts are only a sentence or two, some almost fill a page, but they all make you ponder your perspective on the past, present, and future.

          This is one of my favorite books. I have underlined and marked many passages over the twenty years I have been rereading it—and this is a book meant for rereading.

While Grudin’s thoughts reveal time to me in new ways, I don’t remember these insights when overwhelmed by daily chores and deadlines. Habits are hard to break. Rereading is the best way for me to retain these life lessons that are essential as life equals time and how you choose to use it.

Chapter IX “Achievement” and Chapter X “Time and Art” are especially meant for writers and artists. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

·        IX.8 The list of time management hints, especially: Ensure that every important activity receives a large and uninterrupted period of time. (page123-124)

·        IX.30 Anyone who applies himself regularly, lengthily, and energetically to a single project is certain, no matter what else happens, to encounter days of profound delight or unprecedented inspiration. (page 133)

·        X.22 If you are planning to write fiction, do not sit around too long trying to think up a good story. If you work hard, the story will come to life as you are writing it. Remember also that all decent fiction has the same inner story: the story of discovery. (page 143)

·        X.25 [Journal of This Book]…shares Grudin’s thoughts and writing schedule as he worked on this book including:...Now, after about 500 entries and six months, I am still in the confused beginnings and have successfully cultivated an oblivious attitude toward writing in which one day’s work is immediately forgotten, and each day the whole book starts anew.

 

However, there are many other thoughts in other chapters that apply, too, including:

·        II.10…Learn the art of planning and, more generally, the art of extending will through time. (page 21)

·        II.23…For although minutes spent in boredom or anxiety pass slowly, they nonetheless add up to years which are void of memory. (page 27)

·        VI.30…We have gotten so used to looking at time’s rear end that we no longer realize that it has another side as well. We rightly see life as a series of challenges but do not see that, in a more profound sense, it is also a series of preparations. (page 89)

 

The lesson I most need to learn is:

VII.20: Every time we postpone some necessary event…we do so with the implication that present time is more important than future time…Disrespect for the future is a subtly poisonous disrespect for self, and forces us, paradoxically enough, to live in the past. (page 101)

What do you think of Robert Grudin’s thoughts on time, art, and living?

Monday, June 15, 2015

My Personal Writing Class--Screenwriting


From Kate’s Writing Crate…

 
The fun has begun. I picked the books I’m using as textbooks and I’ve read the two books I’m using as reference guides.

I read Story by Robert McKee a while ago so I could review it. It’s inspiring so in the back of my mind I decided I would try screenwriting at some point. I have it on my desk for reference along with The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby which I read recently. The overview information from these books helps clarify my thoughts as I complete the exercises in my textbooks.

I started my personal screenwriting class with 90-Day Screenplay: A day-by-day guide through the process of getting your screenplay onto the page by Alan Watt. (I enjoyed following his 90-Day Novel workshop even though I’m not a novelist.) He makes writing entertaining and challenging. All the questions he lists makes you dig deep and discover surprising things about your characters.

As Watt points out on Day 7 on page 39: We are less interested in our protagonist getting what he wants than we are in seeing how he gets what he needs.

The exercises on page 42 ask you to write as your protagonist from six different points. If you let yourself go, your character will “speak” telling you things you didn’t know, hadn’t considered, and/or that explain his/her motivation.

One of the prompts is “The last time I cried was when…” Well I had never considered my protagonist crying. As I started to complete the exercise, I realized he had teared up while driving on the main road back into his hometown after almost a decade away which is at the beginning of my screenplay, but he had cried when he left suddenly without explanation to some important people in his life then, people he wanted back in his life now. I may or may not put that he cried in the screenplay, but it gives me insight into a vulnerability of my character.

I will be honest and share that sometimes I do the 90-Day exercises for two or three days at a time in the beginning because they are short (20-30 minutes) and engaging. This makes me feel I’m immersed in my project quickly. As the exercises take more time, I may only complete the exercises for that day.

I have a notebook dedicated to this book so I can see my progression. It also makes it easy to refer back to my answers as I move forward.

I’m alternating reading chapters from Now Write! Screenwriting with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson and Writing the Romantic Comedy: From “Cute Meet” to “Joyous Defeat”: How to Write Screenplays That Sell by Billy Mernit.

I’m using one notebook for the exercises in these two books. Each entry is headed by the initials of the book and the page number of the exercise. I’m also using blue ink for the exercises in Now Write! and black ink for Writing the Romantic Comedy. This makes referring back to answers a bit easier.

My favorite section so far (I’m on page 38 on May 31st when I wrote this post) from Now Write! is on pages 3-5. Mardik Martin, who wrote Raging Bull, discusses that audiences identify more with the conflict than the character. Observe people around you as they deal with conflicts. Collect anecdotes. But he also states on page 5: Remember, you can only steal so much from real life. The great writer uses ingenuity to combine characters and their situations.

On page 25 of Now Write!, Paula C. Brancato, who wrote Subterfuge, discusses that writers have many more ideas than they use. I enjoyed the exercise on page 27. There is a story setup then you are asked to jot down as quickly as possible 20 possibilities of what happens next. Find out how creative and clever you can be.

Writing the Romantic Comedy is more of a big picture viewpoint of your screenplay at the beginning. Lots of details and examples about screenplays: Point of View, Characters, Plot & Structure, Dialogue, Settings, etc.

Exercises start on page 29 and they are all about your screenplay so you need to have a good idea of your plot and characters by this page.

My screenplay plot and characters are taking shape.

I hope your projects are going well, too!

 

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Personal Writing Classes: Schedule & Preparation



From Kate’s Writing Crate…


          I’ve set up two personal writing classes for this summer—one for screenwriting and the other for songwriting—just for fun. I’ve never tried to write a screenplay before so new territory, but it seems a good summer-sized project. The earliest writing pieces I completed (age seven or so) were songs. I’m going to try and recapture that “magic.”
          First, my plan is to be in class 2 to 4 hours every day which includes reading my chosen textbooks, completing exercises, and writing. I hope to complete my work in the morning, but by midnight counts.

          I’ve chosen three books for my screenwriting class textbooks and two reference guides:
 
Now Write! Screenwriting with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson;

 

Writing the Romantic Comedy: From “Cute Meet” to “Joyous Defeat”: How to Write Screenplays That Sell by Billy Mernit.

 

and 90-Day Screenplay: A day-by-day guide through the process of getting your screenplay onto the page by Alan Watt.

 

          I’ll be using Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee and The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby as reference guides. I’ve read both of these books.
         
I’m using one notebook for the first two books in my sceenwriting class. I will alternate Now Write! and Writing the Romantic Comedy books after each chapter. The 90-Day Screenplay contains daily exercises so it has its own notebook.
In preparing for this class, I read two published movie screenplays to see how they are formatted. Pick one or two that appeal to you. Since my screenplay is for TV, I also spent several hours replaying a TV movie a moment at a time copying down all the lines so I could see how many words/lines fit into the time frame as well as understand scenes, settings, and characters.
                                                ************
          I’ve chosen two books for songwriting textbooks:
Songwriting without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises for Finding Your Voice by Pat Pattison;
and Writing Better Lyrics: The Essential Guide to Powerful Songwriting Second Edition by Pat Pattison.
          I’m using only one notebook for both books in my songwriting class. I’m going to complete Songwriting without Boundaries first then work on Better Lyrics.

          I'm always thinking of six-word memoirs. It is a useful exercise to distill thoughts so Six-Word Memoirs edited by Larry Smith is a great book for inspiration.
          I plan on writing with a pen most of the time. When I write on the computer, I’ll print out my work and either staple the pages into the notebooks or keep them in a folder nearby—depends on the number of pages.
          I’ve always believed writing in several genres helps improve my writing as well as strengthens my voice. I dabble in poetry (for my eyes only). I write articles and essays. I want to write a screenplay and songs. These personal classes help me achieve my goals.
          I hope you choose a genre and some writing books that appeal to you.
Have fun in class!
 
 

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Writer's Summer Plans: Personal Writing Classes



From Kate’s Writing Crate…


         If simply planning time to write isn’t enough motivation, if you are not going to Paris to write, or if you need some structured writing time, look into writing groups or classes.


If you cannot find any that work with your writing schedule, set up a class for yourself. Simply pick a genre. Find two or three helpful writing books in that genre that speak to you. Choosing the writing books will take some time and effort as there is no one perfect writing book for everyone so start looking now. Then decide on either one notebook for all your work or one notebook for each book.


You can work with one book at a time or alternate after each chapter. I recommend at least two books to get different perspectives on the genre.


Here are some books I recommend. (If I’ve written a review on this blog, the date appears after the author’s/editor’s name.)


         


For overview:

The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction edited by Stephen Koch (8/5/13);

The Writer’s Home Companion: An Anthology of the World’s Best Writing Advice, from Keats to Kunitz edited by Joan Bolker, Ed.D., (12/3/12);

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (6/2/14; 3/3/14; 9/17/12);

 

Lots of writing exercises:

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt (12/31/12; 1/7/13; 2/4/13; 3/4/13; 4/1/13);

The 90-Day Screenplay: A day-by-day guide through the process of getting your screenplay onto the page by Alan Watt;

The Writer’s Home Companion: An Anthology of the World’s Best Writing Advice, from Keats to Kunitz edited by Joan Bolker, Ed.D., 222 exercises on pp. 56-66, (12/3/12);

The five book series Now Write! with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers includes these topics:

Fiction edited by Sherry Ellis;

Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism, and Creative Nonfiction edited by Sherry Ellis;

Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror edited by Laurie Lamson;

Mysteries: Suspense, Crime, Thriller, and Other Mystery Fiction Exercises edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson;

and Screenwriting edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson;

The Weekend Novelist: A dynamic 52-week program to help you produce a finished novel…one weekend at a time by Robert J. Ray (11/5/12);

The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery: From empty page to finished mystery in just 52weekends—A dynamic step-by-step program by Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick (11/5/12);
 
Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse by Mary Oliver;
 
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (Cheryl recommended it on 2/28/13);

Six-Word Memoirs edited by Larry Smith (9/10/12).

 

          Useful tools:

                   The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale (6/9/14);

                   The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (6/9/14).

         

For novels:

The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt (12/31/12; 1/7/13; 2/4/13; 3/4/13; 4/1/13);

Now Write! Fiction with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis;

You Can Write a Mystery by Gillian Roberts;

You Can Write a Romance by Rita Clay Estrada & Rita Gallagher;

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Laurie Lamson.

 

For poetry:

Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge (4/7/14);
 
Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse by Mary Oliver;

Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry by Sandford Lyne (9/23/13).

 

          For memoirs:

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart—who recommends many other books, (8/26/13);

Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism, and Creative Nonfiction with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis.

 

          For screenwriting:

Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (12/17/12);

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby;

Now Write! Screenwriting with Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson;

90-Day Screenplay: A day-by-day guide through the process of getting your screenplay onto the page by Alan Watt;

Writing the Romantic Comedy: From “Cute Meet” to “Joyous Defeat”: How to Write Screenplays That Sell by Billy Mernit.

 

For songwriting:

Songwriting without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises for Finding Your Voice by Pat Pattison;

Writing Better Lyrics: The Essential Guide to Powerful Songwriting Second Edition by Pat Pattison.



Six-Word Memoirs edited by Larry Smith

   
I’m setting up two classes for myself. I’ll be writing a screenplay and several songs this summer. You can read all about my preparation as well as how my two classes are going and some recommended screenplays in my next four posts.

Pick your genre. Choose your books. Set a schedule. Time to write!
 
 
 
 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Reads for Writers: A Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel Provides a Masterclass



From Kate’s Writing Crate…




Eric Maisel has penned a fabulous love letter about Paris and all her charms to every writer in the world. After reading A Writer’s Paris: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul, most of us will want to jump on a plane leaving for France immediately. Maisel makes us believe it’s not only possible, but essential for all writers to go there and write.


If you can plan, save, risk, and believe, Paris is yours….you can not only go to Paris—you can make your writing dreams come true. (page 96)

Who doesn’t dream of sitting at an outdoor café table writing for half the day then picking up your notebook and pen and heading for a bench in a tiny park square known only to locals or the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore for more inspiration? Generously, Maisel shares his favorite writing spots all around the city.

 Each time I arrive in Paris I head directly for the Place des Vosges, the most beautiful square in the world…Once discovered, it becomes a place to be remembered. A working artist can spend whole days there—writing, soaking up the ancient and the contemporary…it is lively, quiet, shady, safe, inviting and gorgeous. (page 5)

 …I like to write at the Gallieni bus station…Every few minutes a drama unfolds. (page 34)

 If you are serious about going to Paris, a Planning Checklist is thoughtfully provided on pages 195-200. Published in 2005, some of the information will be out of date, but it includes goals, costs, and housing tips to ensure a “perfect” visit. (See also pages 91-97.) Locations for bookstores, markets, cafés, day trips, museums, parks (see also pages 85-90), and fun places for children and families are listed on pages 201-210, (more family fun is discussed on pages175-178), followed by Resources for Planning Your Trip on pages 211-213. Researching Paris Online information is listed on pages 98-101.

 While partially a guidebook to amazing sites, A Writer’s Paris really guides you to go there to write.

…Paris is the place you go when you mean to put your creative life first…Paris feeds an artist, motivates her, galvanizes her…Paris is the place to write. Since it is the perfect place to write, it is the perfect place to commit to writing…make Paris one of the stopping points on your creative journey… (pages 1-4)

Come to this perfect park [the Jardin Saint Gilles Grand Veneur]—not to have your heart broken, but to write poignantly and well. Perhaps, close to tears, you will conjure up something beautiful… (page 88)

I love A Writer’s Paris although readers may not agree with all the author’s opinions. However, his passion for writing in Paris shines through.

The black and white illustrations and photographs are eye-catching on the heavy-stock, glossy pages. When I read it, I’m transported to Paris ready to write. I only wish the cover and monochromatic splashes of color inside the book had been more tailored to the City of Lights. Instead of the dull mustard gold, why not a vibrant green representing springtime in Paris or an electric French blue? The beauty of Paris is one of the author’s themes. A lovelier color would have better complemented his vision in this otherwise gorgeous book many will reread any time they feel the need to get away and write—or use as a guidebook should they be lucky enough to find themselves writing in Paris.

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Plan to Write!




From Kate’s Writing Crate…


Summer means more sunshine and, therefore, longer days. Does this equate to more writing time? Only if you plan for it.

          If you have children, maybe they’re going to day- or sleepaway camps. At the very least, hopefully, they will be playing outside more. There’s some good writing time during the day and some at night as the kids should be tired and go to bed earlier or maybe they will sleep in.

I read in a magazine about three couples who rented one cabin for six weeks. All of their kids stayed at the cabin for the entire six weeks. However, the couples stayed one at a time spending their two weeks’ vacation in fun chaos there, but the other payoff was a month at home childfree—plenty of time to rest, relax, and write!

Now plan a summer writing schedule taking into account your significant others and your responsibilities. Your writing schedule should be reasonable. You can always write more, but you don’t want to over plan and then feel like you failed.

Your writing time is your own. Write using a laptop or notebook on a deck or patio, or under trees, or on a beach, or poolside, or at cafés, or at your desk—whatever feels right for you. The important thing is to write.

I highly recommend having a copy of The War of Art: Breakthrough the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield nearby. Having trouble getting started? Randomly open and read this book until you are inspired. I have a copy in every place I write. (See posts on 8/30/12, 12/2/13, and 12/17/12.)

Plan to write!