End of the Week Odds and Ends

Jambalaya Writers Conference

I’ve been asked to take part as a presenter in the Jambalaya Writer’s Conference in Houma April 2. I’m pretty excited about it. I have no idea why they asked me, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

I’ve been asked to present on marketing. I know a bit about that, although not knowing about a topic has never slowed me down before. And I will educate myself all the more in the next month. It’s not a paying gig. They’ve got a hotel room for me and my wife, Tori for the Friday night, and she gets to attend for free. Mostly it’s a chance to get myself out there, and to sell some books.

Good Will

Filled a chink in my cultural armor recently. Finally saw “Good Will Hunting.” I know, the movie is almost 20 years old and it’s not like it was a big secret. But somehow I just missed it, then never got around to catching up.

What a terrific movie. I really loved it. The story, the performances, everything. It’s not just a good story. The story about it is a good story. Two young guys trying to make it in Hollywood and not getting very far, so they wrote their own movie and somehow got it made. And it was so good they ended up winning the screenplay Oscar.

It’s a movie that makes you feel like, whatever you’re doing, you can do better. And you should. It was inspiring.

(It was also the first Minnie Driver movie I’ve ever seen. Seriously. Seen her on a couple of TV things, but never seen a movie with her. Isn’t that odd? But now I have.)

Not A Sociopath, Please

On the Killzone blog, they have a regular feature where people submit the first page of their work in progress and get it critiqued, first by one of the bloggers, then by readers in the comment section. It’s always kind of interesting, but this week’s critique had a kind of horrifying fascination. Unlike most of the submittals, this one was really bad. My rule in making any comments is to find something positive to say before I suggest any areas for improvement. It was impossible with this one.

You can take a look at it here and see if you agree with me.

It suggests a rule for writing: You should make your main character someone who, if not necessarily likable, is someone the reader at least will be willing to share a couple of hundred pages with. Failing that, at least make the character believable. A character, purportedly some kind of private detective, who slaps her client in the third paragraph for “back talk” and threatens to punch his teeth out when he refers to her as “Ms.” isn’t quirky. She’s a sociopath.

Progress and A Thought

I like where my WIP is going, but I recognize there may be a problem, the kind of problem that would get ripped up in first-page critique. No, the main character isn’t a sociopath. I save the sociopath for third chapter.

No, it’s a style thing. I know why it “breaks the rules” but I also know why I want to tell the story that way.

Anyway, what I’m thinking of doing eventually is posting the first couple of pages here and getting feedback. Not right away. Not until I’m sure that the beginning of the story is solid. Then it’s always interesting to get some insight, to find out if a reader thinks the same thing that you thought when you’re writing.

I used to belong to a critique group at the local library. But they’re schedule changed, then my work schedule changed, and it became impossible for me. Too bad, I really enjoyed it.

That’ll do for now.

Help Is Out There

We all have our regular websites and blogs that we visit as part of our morning routine. Sort of like reading the morning paper over your bowl of corn flakes, only now the morning paper is a news feed and the paper has no paper, just electrons glowing on your computer screen.

If you’re a writer, you probably follow several blogs by other writers. One that I highly recommend is the Killzone. It’s a dozen mystery writers who take turns posting tips on the craft, and while it’s sort of geared toward that genre, the advice is  usually applicable to writing in general. I don’t write mysteries, but I’ve gotten a lot out of the site, especially when it’s Joseph Scott Bell’s or Joe Moore’s turn in the biweekly rotation.

Bell is a very successful writer who also teaches the craft at workshops and in many excellent books. He often talks about how to make it as a writer (the long tail, is how he puts it.) And Moore has good advice on both writing and life, and he’s a funny guy.

In fact, I was prompted to mention this today because of Moore’s post this morning, which dovetailed indirectly with my post yesterday. I was talking about the travails of selling your book, and how you have to be willing to get out there. This is hard for a lot of writers because so many of us became writers specifically so that we could have a way to express ourselves creatively without having to deal with all those – you know – people. Moore talked today about “dressing for success.” Not sartorially, but about how acting successful can lead to success.

Anyway, it’s a good post. You can read it here.

Another thing I like about the site is that when you post a comment, whoever’s turn it was to write that day usually responds, sometimes surprisingly quickly.

The Killzone is a great place for advice and inspiration from people who have already achieved what we’re all after – success as writers. And they’re taking the time to give back.