Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What I'm watching

After accumulating 10 episodes of the TV show Lie to Me on my DVR, I finally started watching. The premise, the acting and the writing instantly hooked me. I wish I'd paid attention to this well-written show sooner, but at the same time, I'm excited that I have eight more episodes to look forward to, and then the new season will begin. Suddenly, the void left by the season finale of The Closer several weeks ago has been filled.

The premise: Dr. Lightman, played by Tim Roth, can spot a liar at 10 paces. Well, maybe not 10 paces. But by closely watching a person's face as he or she speaks, Lightman can tell if he or she is lying. At times, his observations seem a bit of a stretch, but this is a drama, after all. And there are way too few of those on the schedule now that Jay Leno is hogging NBC's lineup at 10 p.m. every night of the week. But I digress. Sometimes, Lightman seems a little slow--I knew right away that an older professional woman grieving her daughter's death wasn't emoting properly because of Botox. All you had to do was look at her forehead. It wasn't moving! But, still, I like the twists ... as well as the fact that the episodes I've seen so far have subplots that make good use of the secondary characters, one of whom is played by Kelli Williams. I enjoyed her as Lindsay on The Practice, so it's nice to see her back. Where's Bobby? (Yes, I know he's on Dark Blue on TNT. Haven't checked that out yet.)

So, anyway. Long story long: I have a new TV show to watch that is sure to inspire the writer in me as much as The Closer and the shows I miss so much, such as Buffy, Angel, Six Feet Under, The X-Files (in the early days), NYPD Blue, Farscape and Battlestar Galactica. Of course, now that Leno's parked on NBC, I know I won't be finding any new inspiration there. Not that I'm bitter. Disappointed, though? Definitely.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What to do, what to do

November, also known as National Novel Writing Month, is fast approaching. That means I'm waffling daily on whether to participate.

In case you've never heard of NaNoWriMo: In November every year, writers around the world risk their sanity by committing to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in 30 days (that's 1,667 words a day). I've participated three times in NaNoWriMo. Twice I prevailed (that's my winner's certificate for 2006 up there) -- with novels that may some day be published. Once I've done substantial (substantial) work on them, of course.

The beauties of NaNoWriMo
1) Your muse is forced to stay front and center all month. There's no going back and futzing (Joyce-speak for editing). For some writers, this is critical for moving forward. NaNoWriMo gives you permission to let the previous chapter suck while you move on to the next sucky chapter.

2) Anything goes. Aliens can land during the sagging middle of your version of the Alamo, and no one is allowed to say, "That would never happen." It's your novel, damn it. Of course it can happen.

3) It's a wonderful bonding experience with other writers. By the middle of the month (the real-life version of the sagging middle), everyone's in the same boat: bleary-eyed and in need of a shower. And the boat is sinking. It's like living in the college dorm again (with slightly less drinking), where everyone has the same stress and gets exactly what you're going through. Who knew 1,667 words a day would be so frakkin' hard one minute and so incredibly exhilarating the next?

4) When you're done, assuming you're not wearing one of those super-long-sleeved jackets you can't get out of without help, you can say, "I wrote a novel." No one has to know about the aliens at the Alamo. Or the guy who took down a dragon with a martini olive. (I already mentioned the drinking, right?)

There are other NaNoWriMo bennies, but those are the ones that appeal the most to me. One of the rules is that you write a complete novel starting on Nov. 1 -- in other words, you don't pick up something you've already been working on. I'm considering doing my own version of NaNoWriMo to finish a first draft of my current work in progress. That would give me December to whip the WIP into shape in time for its deadline. Not sure if this would even be feasible, but it might be worth a try.

For more information on NaNoWriMo: www.nanowrimo.org

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why critique partners rock

I will never be able to say enough about how much critique partners rock. You can never have too many, though some would invoke the "too many cooks" adage. I'd agree with that if they're the wrong cooks. But I'm a firm believer in "the more opinions, the merrier." Of course, you have to be able to focus on what works for you and what doesn't. Helps when your CPs are on board with that. :)

That said, I've been lucky enough to snag the perfect critique partners. Not only does my group, which meets face to face somewhat regularly about once a month, help me tremendously, but I have some online critiquers as well. Here's an example of how my online critiquers helped me strengthen the start of my WIP (called True Calling, the third in an upcoming paranormal trilogy from Berkley Sensation). Mind you, they kind of contradicted each other about the opening lines, but I managed to combine their suggestions for a stronger start. The changes are subtle, but I think they make a difference in both the emotion and the action.

BEFORE:
Zoe was dead.
Dead.
Samantha Trudeau battled back the wave of grief and forced herself forward, one foot after the other. Don’t think, don’t think.
But she couldn’t help but think.
Zoe was dead. Her closest friend.
And Sam would be dead, too, if she didn’t focus.
Blinking cold rain from her eyes, she squinted into the growing dusk, trying to get oriented. The cabin was around here somewhere. She was sure of it.
Unless she’d become so disoriented that she’d gotten herself lost.
No. She wasn’t lost. She knew where she was going.
Just like you knew where you were going when you ran away from home ten years ago?
She closed her eyes, gritted her teeth against the throb of pain in her shoulder.  
Focus, damn it. It’s what you’re good at. What you’re trained to do.
Soldier on. Accomplish the mission. Get to the cabin. Hunker down. Hide. Get warm. God, she couldn’t wait to get warm.
Opening her eyes, she blinked away the rain running in rivulets over her forehead and into her eyes. She couldn’t see a damn thing. Just towering trees decorated in gold and red and orange. The same red and gold and orange squished under the soles of her Nikes, her feet cold and wet, like the rest of her. At least she still shivered, the body’s way of creating its own warmth. But, crap, she’d been shivering for so long and so hard that she should have generated enough heat to warm a small house. If she didn’t find the damn cabin soon, she was toast. And not the warm, golden brown kind.
Hell, she was probably toast anyway. No way were they going to let her go. They’d hunt her down like an animal. Shoot her down like they’d shot down Zoe—
Don’t go there. Don’t go there.
Then she saw it. The Trudeau family cabin. Materializing out of a copse of gold and orange trees. An honest-to-God log cabin.

AFTER:
Zoe was dead.
Dead.
Samantha Trudeau closed her eyes and gritted her teeth against the throb of pain in her shoulder.  
Focus, damn it. It’s what you’re good at. What you’re trained to do.
Soldier on. Accomplish the mission. Get to the cabin. Hunker down. Hide. Get warm. God, she couldn’t wait to get warm.
Blinking cold rain from her eyes, she squinted into the growing dusk, trying to get oriented. The cabin was around here somewhere. She was sure of it.
Unless she’d gotten herself lost.
No. She wasn’t lost. She knew where she was going.
Just like you knew where you were going when you ran away from home ten years ago?
Don’t think. Focus.
She peered through the rain running in rivulets over her forehead and into her eyes. She couldn’t see a damn thing. Just towering trees decorated in gold and orange and red. The same coppery red that spattered her Nikes and the leaves squishing underfoot. Her feet were cold and wet, just like the rest of her. At least she still shivered, the body’s way of creating its own warmth. But, crap, she’d been shivering for so long and so hard that she should have generated enough heat to warm a small house. If she didn’t find the cabin soon, she was toast. And not the warm, golden brown kind.
Hell, she was probably toast anyway. No way were they going to let her go. They’d hunt her down like an animal. Shoot her down like they’d shot down Zoe—
She battled back the wave of grief that tried to steal her breath and forced herself forward, one foot after the other. 
Don’t think, don’t think.
But she couldn’t help but think.
Zoe was dead. Her closest friend.
Don’t go there. Don’t go there.
Then she saw it. The Trudeau family cabin. Materializing out of a copse of gold and orange trees. An honest-to-God log cabin.

Thanks, CPs!!! :)