Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Don't...don't...don't...don't...don't p-p-p-panic!

A few people saw my list of assignments and went EEEK! I even got a phone call (hi Y!) from someone who wanted to join us who can only do 1/2 hour per day and didn't know how she could complete all the tasks.

My answer is: this is your writing time, your commitment, and I wanted to make the assignments as flexible as possible. It's sort of a build-your-own program.

I created 4 exercises for the folks who are writing many days per week for an hour or more so that they wouldn't run out of exercises to do. I wrote for an hour yesterday and only made it through #3 myself.

I suggest you do #1 each time you sit down to write this week, and then pick which ones you'll do next. You can do #2 one day, #3 the next, #4 the next. Or mix them up or whatever. Again, this is about focus and commitment and creating a ritual for yourself through which you fulfill your promise to yourself. If it takes you 6 weeks or 10 weeks or 6 months to complete your first draft, it doesn't matter. It's the steady ritual that will get you there.

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."
~Dorrie, Finding Nemo

Monday, May 28, 2007

Week One Addundum

A few things I forgot to mention:

1) Write your exercises in a notebook by hand, not into your computer. I won't go into all the various reasons why you need to do it this way, just do. If you don't have a notebook for the first day, hand write on something and transfer it into a notebook later (or staple or paperclip). A brand NEW notebook is best, one that you dedicate to this project alone. I use a giant hardback artist sketchbook because I like the freedom of unlined pages. For each of my scripts I have a notebook for exercises and a binder for anything else (such as research, typed and printed notes, outlines, etc).

2) Write in one colour and when you are done with all your exercises for the day, read what you've written. Take a different coloured pen and mark things that you like and/or make notes in the margins. Anything. Could be a name you just made up that you want to keep. Could be an idea on how to end the story. Could be an image you want to include. Could be something you want to explore further. I use black for the exercises and red for the notes and underlining simply because it stands out. When I think I've written something that will later become a scene in the script, I circle the whole paragraph in red and star it.

3) If you ever freeze up (usually cuz you switched from your gut back to your mind), simply repeat the opening start line. So if you started the exercise with "This is a story about..." write that and it will kickstart you again. If it doesn't, write anything! Keep a handy phrase that you jump into. I like to write "I'm so grateful that..." Just because I like feeling grateful.

4) Get yourself a timer for your writings. Don't depend upon a clock or watch (unless your watch has a nifty timer-alarm on it). You can get one from any kitchen store. I use the Pillsbury Doughboy Magnetic Digital Timer (Item #962), which has lasted me for years. When I say write for 5 minutes without stopping, I mean write for 5 minutes without stopping. But Danika, my hand hurts! Tough love, baby. Tough love.

5) Someone asked me what happens if you miss a day. My answer: you don't.

Assignments Week One (plus tips and clarifications)

Time to jump on in! Woo-hoo!

So, now you have committed to your IDEA and your writing RITUAL. We're off to a great start.

No matter how many days a week you've committed to, this format will work because the assignments come WEEKLY. So, if you've committed to writing every day, you'll work on the assignments every day. If you've committed to 3 times per week, you'll work on them that much, make sense? See how accommodating I can be?

Also, if you lose track of the assignments, or begin late and want to catch up, at the bottom of each blog entry you'll see a category "label" for each post. I'm filing these under "Start to Finish." If you click on that label, it will bring up anything labeled "Start to Finish." Also, I'm posting all the assignments on the right hand side of the blog under "STF Assignments."

Now let's get started...

This week I've created several assignments to warm up your writing mind.

1) This is a story about...

Each time you sit down to write this week, I want you to warm up with this exercise. For at least FIVE minutes you will do a spontaneous riff on this line in what I call "wind up" technique. For those of you familiar with the tag team of Jack and Bob, some of this will sound familiar. They were a great inspiration to me at the University of Washington.

TIME YOURSELF and DO NOT STOP WRITING until your time is up.

Start with short, repetitive sentences, simply off the top of your head, until something clicks. You'll know what I mean. At that point, you switch to long sentence release. In LSR you write without punctuation, connecting everything together with conjunctions (almost like how a kid tells a story).

e.g. This is a story about love. This is a story about brotherly love. This is a story about a Monkey named Howler. This is a story about a guilty monkey. This is a story about the harshness of the jungle. This is a story about a Monkey who needs to go to the underworld in search of his brother because he feels responsible for his brother's death because he was not listening when his tribe called him on their moving day and his brother stayed behind to make sure...... (and so on)

2) Protagonist Research

Decide who your protagonist is and make a list of as many things as you can about him/her. Anytime you come up with something you don't know, put a blank space so you can find out and/or come back to it later
e.g.
He is a young howler monkey
He lives in South America
His name is Howler
He is stubborn
He is playful and a trickster
He hates being told what to do
He has an older brother
His tribe is moving due to deforestation
His predators include _________

Each time you sit down to write this week, pick at least one item from this list and expand on it for 10-15 minutes. You can work slower than the last exercise, but I recommend you keep a steady pace.

If you must do research, now is a great time. After you've done the research, do your spontaneous riff. For instance, I did research and found out that main predator of the Howler Monkey is the Harpy Eagle. Great! Now to riff on that:

Howler is deathly afraid of Harpy Eagles and for good reason. They are the largest eagles and the most powerful birds of prey in the world. When he or anyone else in their tribe hears their clicking sounds, they hide quick as lightning. One day... (and so on)


3) What if...

Lastly, this week, each time you sit down to write, do at least one "What if" riff. You can start out each time by doing a timed list if you'd like.

e.g.
What if the tribe's forest was being destroyed and they had to move?
What if Howler's brother was taken by Harpy Eagles?
What if Howler got left behind?
What if Howler had to travel to the underworld to find his brother?
What if Howler's parents were dead?
(and so on)

Once you've decided upon your What If question for the day, complete a spontaneous riff on that. If you feel like really challenging yourself, make it a CHAINING riff. This is when the first word of each sentence is the same as the last word in the previous sentence.

e.g.
What if Howler's brother was taken by Harpy Eagles? Eagles as endangered as the monkeys. Monkeys who have to move due to the destruction of their forest. Forest through which Howler yells and yells to no avail. (and so on...)


4) Bonus Writing

If you have any extra time left, try any of these start lines (and do any riff you want - short sentence, chaining, long sentence release - just keep your pen moving):

-The wound that shaped my protagonist's life happened when...
-My protagonist's deepest secret is...
-My protagonist's greatest fear is...
-When my protagonist is alone he/she...
-My protagonist's greatest wish is that...


This should be a warm-up week. Don't worry about writing any scenes. Next week I will teach you my guaranteed scene writing formula (inspired by the infamous Jack and Bob and tweaked with my own special sauce).

Please write your questions, comments, concerns directly into comment section of the blog and not privately to me via e-mail so that everyone may benefit from the conversation.

Good luck and have fun!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

STF - Prep Assignment #2

The two things that have catapulted me forward on my literary path have been FOCUS and COMMITMENT. I completed four drafts of my most recent screenplay, four drafts of the novel version, and then a fifth draft of the screenplay in four years. The first two years I was only about 60% focused and committed. When I decided success was non-negotiable, my focus and commitment increased. I finished the novel itself (all four drafts) in 15 months. I didn't quit my day jobs, but I didn't work full-time either.

You've already been given your focus assignment. To pick an idea by Monday. A few people e-mailed me to say that they were working on other writing projects right now and I say to them DO IT! Don't start a new script; opportunities can be obstacles no matter how fun and inspiring they might be. Don't get distracted. Join us on the next challenge.

So, your commitment assignment is to decide how many days, at what time, and how much time you will commit to writing. Here are some tips:

1) Doing ANYTHING every day increases the likelihood you will stick with it. How often do you brush your teeth? Most likely every day. You are committed to brushing your teeth. So, ideally you should write every day. It's better to write one hour every day than 3 hours every 3 days. I've noticed it's easier to get started if it's a daily habit. If you can't commit to every day, try to commit to 5 days per week if possible.

I know this may seem scary to some, to promise to write every day. But you will feel terrific and empowered for having done it. That's a promise or your money back.

2) It's also easier to get started if you do it at the same TIME each day. I was a night person for 25 years, so this comes from experience... first thing in the morning is best. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. I now get up 1 1/2 -2 hours earlier than I used to. 25 years of habit changed the instant I made the commitment. I also started going to bed before midnight, which helps.

3) I've also noticed it's easier to stay committed if I write in the morning BEFORE I do anything else. I don't answer the phone, I don't check my e-mail, I don't even get dressed. Every time I do any of these things, I end up getting distracted. I do make coffee.

But even if you are writing at night or in the afternoon, commit to that being your writing time. No, honey, I can't watch Survivor with you, I'm writing!

4) After all is said and done, you always want your goals to be doable, winnable, and in your control. So you decide what will work for you, but I do request that you challenge yourself in some way. If you have to get up 1/2 hour earlier to add it to your day, then do it. If you have to cut out your favourite TV shows, then do it.

And then promise to stick with it. Write it out like this:

I promise to write ____(# of days per week)____ for _____(amount of time)_____ until my screenplay is finished.

Here's mine (you can post yours if you want, it's easier to keep a promise if you share it with others. It keeps you accountable.):

I will write every morning, starting Monday, May 28, for at least one hour until the first draft of my screenplay Howler, Come Home is finished.

Funny enough, I've been having second thoughts about which screenplay to work on. But I'm taking my own advice and just picking one! The others will have to be patient.

That's all you need for Monday. On Monday, I will give you your first writing assignment. See you then and have a great weekend!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Start to Finish preparation assignment #1

It's a beautiful day in Vancouver. I love spring.

On the Reading Pile: I've started reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which is the precursor to The Secret and all other similar books and films. They've just started marketing the ideas better. Or perhaps the world wasn't ready for Hill in 1937, which is when he first published the book. I'm tickled reading it, though, because I keep thinking, "wow, all the newer books took all their ideas from Hill!" He did all the reasearch - 20 years of it. He even uses the exact phrase THE SECRET... only he says he's not going to give it a name, that the reader must deduce it. But all the concepts are basically the same. In any case, it's just more ammunition for me. And I'm sure he would be excited to know that his work inspired more books on the subject. A glut even! You can't swing a dead cat in this town without hitting someone who knows about the Law of Attraction. (my apologies to Victor and Albert)

START TO FINISH... GET READY... GET SET...

Okay, so here's the NEXT BIG THANG you've all been waiting for. A brand spanking new screenplay from START to FINISH. We'll take it one day at a time, so don't panic.

Actually, it's not entirely from scratch on my part, because I've already done some work on the script I'm going to develop. But not enough that you can't catch up with me. I'll even do some of my exercises over again and review my work so that you can have the full on experience.

So, we begin on Monday because that's as good as any other day.

Are you ready for your first homefun assignment? Believe it or not, this is where many people get hung up. And I'm not just talking about writing. I'm talking about life in general. We are often paralyzed by ideas. We don't know which direction to go because truly the options are infinite.

Your first assignment is to PICK something to write about. Pick ONE thing and commit to it. Decide by Monday which idea you will use. Sure, you've got that musical horror idea, that romantic comedy about the bus drivers, or that golf western and you're equally fond of them all. But you must pick one.

I'll tell you a secret... come closer... after you follow one of your ideas to completion, the others will still be there waiting for you! Just plop them into your idea file and let them ferment for a while. If you get another idea (and yes, you will, and you'll think it's better than the one you're working on), thank the Muse, plop it into your idea file along with the others and tell them to play nice while you're away.

You must practice commitment and completion. We don't leave things 1/2 done around here. Those won't serve us. You can't do anything with 1/2 of a script, 1/2 of a novel, or 1/2 of a painting.

Your finished product may look nothing like you originally thought. That's creation for you. It will become what it becomes.

So the first assignment is due on Monday, as are a few other assignments. Awww, Danika, homework over the weekend?!? Now, now, quit your whining. I'm only giving you the tools you will need to start fresh and ready on Monday.

Tough love. Tough love.

P.S. Someone asked whether they could use this process to write a novel instead of a screenplay. I think the tools will definitely be helpful, so you are welcome to join us. Just don't expect the pace to be the same. There's no way anyone, not even Stephen King (who writes 10 pages per day on his novels) could finish a novel as fast as we are going to write our screenplay.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Polly Papers

I pause now for a brief background on The Polly Papers.

The original Polly Papers were written on consecutive mornings at 3:15 AM during the month of August 2003 as part of The 3:15 Experiment.

For those of you just tuning into the program, The 3:15 Experiment is an ongoing collaborative writing experiment. Since
1993, a shifting menagerie of poets scattered across the globe has been waking every August morning at 3:15am to write. An exercise exploring hypnogogic and hypnopompic states (between sleeping and waking), The 3:15 Experiment provides insight into the collective sleeping/dreaming mind.

Two anthologies have been published (one by The Owl Press and the other by en theos press) and we have had two 3:15 "gatherings" where participants met and performed. The experiment continues to engage, inspire, confound... and piss off lovers, husbands, and wives across the planet. This year, we are relaunching the website and preparing surprises for the 15th anniversary (2008)!

In August 2003 I was working on a screenplay called The New Mrs. Polly Dearborne. I decided it would be intersting to write about the protagonist (Polly) at 3:15 in order to discover/uncover more about the character. I used the screenwriting slugline terms Int (interior) and Ext (exterior) in each title, although their application seems a bit random.

I ended up really liking the results and have always wanted to edit them as a series. However, the trick to rewriting them is how to maintain that surreal dream-like quality while making them more accessible and cohesive. You can check out the original poems HERE.

Below is another one I was working on today. I kinda like the way it's shaping up. I'm just not satisfied with the ending yet.

Int. Polly and the Dream of Horses

She is looking for an exit
wound big gaping hole in the center
of the universe

She pays attention
to all the people on the bus
that could be me
in that ambulance one
small hot dog choke later could
be me next lifetime mouse
w/ missing eyeball cat tortured
all night could be me
banana leaf jumping grasshopper
could be me unread book on shelf
could be me CPR nurse w/ a thousand
patients
(ha-ha)
could be me
deaf angel handing out cards
on the street for a dollar bus
drivers off duty
man on the corner w/ an agent
and no town friendlier
could be me
girl w/ green hair
could be me momma
raindrops falling on her head
my head
(our head)

could be me movie director
obsessed
w/ suicidal rock and roll singers
shaved heads and vows of silence

The Polly Papers (aka What to do before the NEXT BIG THANG)

I completed my 10 day challenge... but actually it was more like a 14 day challenge as I didn't want to stop until my screenplay was completed. And now it is. Agent D has it and is sending it out this week. Fantastic.

Wow! I can hardly believe it. Brigitta the novel and Brigitta the screenplay are both done. Four years and nine total drafts of the story. No more editing! Well, until a producer or editor tells me to, but only if they pay me first!

So, what's next? The possibilities are endless... first draft of the 2nd novel? Edit an old screenplay? Something brand new? I love starting new things...

Actually, I took a break yesterday to celebrate (I'm a hard core Victoria Day observer). And today, I started editing a series of poems from almost 4 years ago. I've always wanted to finish them and it feels like a nice change of pace.

If you don't write poetry, I highly recommend it. You can write or edit a poem in an hour. You can finish it and feel complete. That doesn't happen as often with scripts or novels. Short stories are good for that too, but nothing beats dashing off a poem. Well, okay, getting paid a lot of money for dashing off a poem would beat that.

The project is called The Polly Papers for reasons I won't explain just yet. And since you've been so patient with me, I'm going to share a draft of one of the Polly Paper poems I worked on today. It's still pretty raw, so be gentle with me (see? even seasoned - salt & peppered - writers get nervous about sharing their work-in-progress). And I have no idea if blogger will keep the line breaks correctly. Ask my editor / publisher how anal I am about my line breaks. Grrrrr.

Ext. Polly and the Sun

Polly becomes a measurement
Something besides the waxing of the
moon to tell time
She doesn’t want this kind of
responsibility

Someone will discover something about
themselves, she thinks
and blame it on me

A hungry seagull catches a crab in
the water w/a quick dive
brings it to the beach and swallows
it whole
still snapping in its belly

Things often gnaw at her
from the inside
like at the Last Hour of existence
would she know where her
Significant Other was?

Today the egg section at Safeway
was empty a strange reflection of
the Last Night on Earth when everything
was up for grabs: cheap wine, cars,
girlfriends
No one wanted to die alone
Except one young gentleman who had
loved once and lost

Polly could relate to that
not the loved and lost part
the alone thing
controlling how you go

Eventually she will leave

Right now
she “accidentally” turns her laundry pink
so she can throw it
all away

Last Night

As if she needed any more pressure
behind her sighs


Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Sad Day in the Blog-o-Sphere

When I logged on to Miss Snark today I found this message:

Miss Snark is Retiring

At first I thought she meant from the agenting business. But what she meant was from blogging.

I am truly saddened, as she was the only blog I turned to on a daily basis.

What she said was this: "Two years; two million hits; yes, Miss Snark has run out of new things to say."

I guess it could happen to the best of us.

The blog itself will stay up, as will my link to her site, because it is a fountain of information.

What to do now? I suppose I could go back to the beginning of her posts and read (although it just won't be the same). I could find another blog to check in for my daily inspiration, there are plenty to choose from. Perhaps you might recommend one?

Or I could use the time to write. In her honour. Haha.

If you've never been to Snark Central, I encourage you to do so.


Disapproving Victor is pensive after hearing the news of Miss Snark's retirement. (either that or he's thinking about which bug to eat for lunch)

More Disapproval (because it's addicting)

Albert can disapprove from any angle.

Friday, May 18, 2007

serious news for writers' rights

From the Author's Guild

Simon & Schuster has changed its standard contract language in an attempt to retain exclusive control of books even after they have gone out of print. Until now, Simon & Schuster, like all other major trade publishers, has followed the traditional practice in which rights to a work revert to the author if the book falls out of print or if its sales are low.

The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.

The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it’s available in any form, including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.

Other major trade publishers are not seeking a similar perpetual grant of rights.

We urge you to consider your options carefully:

1. Remember that if you sign a contract with Simon & Schuster that includes this clause, they’ll say you’re wed to them. Your book will live and die with this particular conglomerate.

2. Ask your agent to explore other options. Other publishers are not seeking an irrevocable grant of rights.

3. If you have a manuscript that may be auctioned, consider asking your agent to exclude Simon & Schuster imprints unless they agree before the auction to use industry standard terms.

4. Let us know if other major publishers follow suit. Any coordination among publishers on this matter has serious legal implications.

Feel free to forward and post this message in its entirety.

The Authors Guild is the U.S’s oldest and largest organization of published book authors.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Art of Patience

Okay, so B&F took Brigitta to the Book Fairs about a month ago, so of course I'm getting overly anxious like some newbie writer. I should know better!

It's just that I've been working on this idea for so long and to have this much movement and be this close... well it makes even a seasoned writer get impatient.

Seasoned writer... hmmm... I always think of someone sprinkling me with salt and pepper. Or growing branches with leaves that turn red and fall...

B&F wrote to tell me that the fact that no publisher has gotten back to us yet is a GOOD thing. I hadn't thought of it this way. First of all, and this is how ego-centric I am (let's face it, we all are at times), the publishers probably took meetings with 50 agents over the course of the fair and quite possibly requested 25 or more manuscripts.

I kid you not, I actually hadn't thought about them requesting other manuscripts. Oh, yeah, other writers... right. They didn't just pick mine and say NO MORE, we have found the most brilliant idea here, we can leave the fair now.

Second, something I also should have known, the first read is done by a junior agent. If she likes it, she sends it up the food chain to the people who can actually green light the project. They talk amongst themselves, and then contact us to tell us they will lose the desire to live if they can't publish this book. That takes time.

In the meantime, I've still got today and 2 more days to complete my 10 day challenge. By that time, I will have finished (FINALLY!!!) adapting my novel back into a screenplay.

After that, I've got another project up my sleeve. AND another idea for those of you who would like to write a screenplay from scratch. You heard me! If you need a coach, I'm here. We'll do it together. You will join me in the process of HOW I write a feature screenplay from start to finish of first draft. I will post the exercises I use so you can follow along.

More on that later... time to write!

The Bees Knees

The pressure's on. I just realized that there are people I don't even know reading this blog. Now I feel it necessary to either say something clever, funny, or profound with each entry.

Either that or teach something completely arbitrary like how the phrase BEES KNEES came into existence. I just used this phrase today and thought… huh… that’s a strange phrase.

Actually, the origin is debatable, but here are some of the most popular theories:

-The bee's knees may be a humorous pronunciation of "business."

-"The Bee's Knee" is a term indicating excellence -the highest quality. Because bees carry pollen back to the hive in sacs on their legs. The allusion is to the concentrated goodness to be found around the bee's knee.

-The bee's knees is a development from something that was originally stated as "The be all and the end all of everything." This being rather long, was shortened to "the B's and E's" which eventually became "the bee's knees"

AND, my personal favourite:

-On a bee, knees are strictly a luxury. The phrase originated in 1920s
U.S. slang, which had a whole slew of such phrases: "the eel's ankle", "the flea's eyebrows", "the clam's garter", "the snake's hips", "the elephant's instep", "the kipper's knickers", "the cat's pajamas", "the canary's tusks", "the sardine's whiskers". The fact that "the bee's knees" rhymes may have assisted its survival.


I SO want to bring back some of those old phrases. Won’t you help me? I love the SNAKE’S HIPS, FLEA’S EYEBROWS, and THE EEL’S ANKLE. We could even make up our own... the octopus' birkenstocks?

How about the writer’s sleep? That’s a luxury.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Disapproving Cats

To all Disapproving Rabbits, we would like to pay our respects and join you in your disapproval. We Cats (not kitties, we disapprove of that term) were born to disapprove. We believe we come from a fine family of disapprovalists, like the disapproving giraffe and the disapproving owl. We are experts in the field and are committed to daily disapproval.

(Dogs, by the way, are not inherently disapproving. Oh, sure, someone's going to write in and send their disapproving canine photo. And yes, they have fleeting moments of disapproval. But in general, dogs are pleasers. They look FOR approval, so therefore may not be disapproving.)

Yours Truly,
Disapproving Victor Gato
Disapproving Albert le Chat

Local News

My friend's husband seemed to be shocked that I didn't know someone had been shot a few miles from my house.

Hmmm, I said. Hadn't heard.

You have to pay attention to the local news, he exclaimed.

I do pay attention to the local news. The very local news. Did you know a pair of birds built a nest in the corner of our neighbor's roof and that the chicks have hatched? They greet me with little peeps every morning. Did you know there are no less than 6 mattresses and 5 TV sets in the rubble of the abandoned house down the street? Not to mention several folding chairs.

In May Sarton's book The Fur Person the protagonist is a cat. He calls staring out the window "reading the paper." My cats call it that, too. They read the early morning, mid morning, late morning, early afternoon, mid afternoon, late afternoon, early evening, mid evening, and late evening editions. They are very informed. They were the ones who told me about the birds.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A word (okay, many words) about the BEST agents ever!

I have to say something about my agents at Brubaker and Ford because I sincerely hope that all writers may acquire such a fabulous team and such great support.

I read the blogs. I hear the rants and rumours about other agencies and I can only speak from my own experience. But I want to encourage people out there that those rumours are not always true and I'm sure it depends upon the agent and agency.

I often read blogs where writers with agents ask industry questions of the blog host and I wonder - well, why don't you just ask your agent, silly? Perhaps I'm naive or overly-optimistic, but it does seem that some authors don't want to "bother" their agents or are afraid of appearing stupid. Hey, if you're a new author, you're bound to have questions! I've had many.

And I'm not afraid of appearing stupid or silly because one has to step out of one's comfort zone to learn something new.

First Rumour:
Don't expect your agents to get back to you any faster than 30 days when you have questions or sometimes at all.

I know this sounds ridiculous, because in what other business would you say such a thing? Yet I've seen it posted on agent's and author's blogs. Perhaps those agents have 100 clients and don't want to be pestered with questions. I can imagine if you were overloaded like that, some overly anxious newbie might get tiresome.

The longest B&F have gone without returning an e-mail or phone call has been about 3 days, and that's only because they were out of town at a book fair. Usually they get back within 24-48 hours. And they never make me feel silly about any of the questions I ask. I try not to pester them, but I do have an honest curiosity and absolutely want to learn how all this works.

Second Rumour: Authors never have a say in the look of the book, as a matter of fact, they probably won't even see the cover until the book is released. The will not be involved in the packaging or marketing of the book.

Also, not always true! I think B&F are exceptions because they are book packagers as well as agents, but even so, they enjoy working closely with authors on all aspects of the process, especially first time authors if you can believe that. They love the enthusiasm new authors have.

B&F and I have spoken extensively about what look we're going for. They have told me that they will not pick and artist without my approval, let alone design a book cover without my input. Of course, I completely trust them and their vision, but it's great to be included.

Third Rumour: Agents are not your friends. Maintain a cordial business relationship. They don't want to hear from you, they don't care if they ever meet you. Do not bother them with personal matters unless it is something that effects how fast you can finish your next book.

Horse nuggets! If B&F are the only agents who share personal stories, get excited about the idea of meeting each other, and even exchange photos, then I feel sorry for every other writer out there. People are people and we are social creatures. We live to exchange stories and ideas. I try not to overburden them with the details of my life, but they know about Baby, our 2 Disapproving Cats, my love for yard sales, and my ambition to build an empire.

Fourth Rumour: Be wary of agents who are over-enthusiastic about your work.

I think this is a strange one, but I've heard it a few times now. Sure, if they're promising things they can't deliver (i.e. a million dollar advance, 5 book deal, 100,000 books sold) then a red flag should go up. But I want my agents to be enthusiastic about my work! B&F share their excitement with me and it makes me excited all over again.

I am so grateful that I found the perfect home for my personality and for Brigitta. The relationship turned out exactly how I had envisioned... but we know how good I am at manifesting what I want. I am grateful that they explain every part of the process so that I know how it works and how long things take.

I also want to say that is IS hard not to call them every day to find out what's going on, but I resist. I do trust them, I know they'll contact me when it's important, and I don't want to take time away from them doing their job.

Discipline. Commitment. What do those REALLY mean?

Something that has frustrated me over the years (and I'm truly the only one responsible for my actions, so I’m not pointing blame at anyone else) is the fact that people don't take Writing Time seriously. What I mean is that if a friend invites you to lunch and you can't go because you're a dentist and you have a root canal to perform, or you're a teacher and you’re teaching a class, or a firefighter and have a shift to cover, no one is ever going to be offended. Sure, you've got your job to do.

But if you tell your friend you can't do lunch with them because you're writing, you sound ridiculous, right? Because why can't you just move your writing time back a bit? Or you're being selfish or self-centered or whatever. And perhaps you buy into it and say... well, just this once because it was her birthday last week or she's getting a divorce and needs my shoulder. Or you put it off for some other reason, because this is easy to do… sound familiar?

Now I consider myself fairly disciplined, but still find that most things that “come up” in my day tend to take precedence over my writing. Actually, scratch that… IN THE PAST, I often found things to take precedence over my writing. Important things like checking my e-mail, watching episodes of 24, and organizing my spice rack.

I've just recently put my foot down and it feels great. I want to make my livelihood by writing, it is my passion and my career choice. So, if a day goes by and I don't write, it means I haven't been to work. I absolutely know that if I remain disciplined about it (try Stephen King's On Writing and you'll learn that he writes 10 pages PER DAY before he does anything else) I will succeed. I'm getting too old and have been doing this too long to procrastinate any longer. It's time to poop or get off the pot.

I don’t care if you’re a chronic night bird. I was one for 25 years. I used to have marathon reading and writing sessions into the wee, wee, wee hours of the night. But I’m here to tell you that first thing in the morning is best. Before you do anything else. Before you allow anything to take precedence.

And DON’T open your e-mail and DON’T answer the phone until your hour, your 5 pages, your 3 poems, your morning pages, etc are DONE. That’s what gets me into trouble, e-mail and answering the phone. Because I get pulled into everyone else’s drama, people want things from me, and it’s hard to say – hey, I’d love to get that report to you by noon, but I’m writing.

But Danika, you’ll say, I get up at 7 AM already! I don’t have TIME to write.

So what? Do you really want this? Are you really committed? Then wake up at 6:30 AM. Or figure out two things you do during the day that you could either cut out or cut down on. Do you really need to watch Desperate Housewives? Do you really need to read all your favourite blogs every day? But Danika, I check YOUR blog every day! Well, then, there’s one thing you can cut out! Go write!

BTW - I'm on DAY SEVEN of my 10-Day Challenge. I had my writing done before 11 am today. An hour per day (or editing 10 pages, whichever comes first). AND I just started a 100-day challenge with a friend: to do Treatments every day for 100 days. A Treatment is basically affirmative prayer. Our treatments mostly focus on the GRATITUDE part. I'm grateful for creative challenges. :-)


Wednesday, May 2, 2007