Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holiday Post

There are a few interesting things to report this week in my writing life.

First, the non-fiction article I wrote for an industry trade paper was released in print and I was surprised to receive a number of positive comments from readers, most of whom were effusive in their praise. My editor congratulated me and told me she loved my writing - and that I had an open invitation to write any time. I was quite flattered, to say the least.

I printed off the revised SP #1 and posted it on again, replacing its predecessor … the one that conflicted with a major studio's planned movie which basically is exactly like mine. Even if no one gets interested in this version, at least I'm not in conflict with anyone (that I know about) - and I reserved the domain name this time to try to protect it even further. Nothing's guaranteed, though.

I made the final pass on SS#2 and sent it to my folks for their input. Leia never got around to looking at it, so I bypassed her and went right to my parents. Meanwhile, I finished the first draft on SS #3 today. Another good thing, I have the beginnings of SS#4, this time more in the Stephen King genre, I think (from the start of it, it appears that's what I'll be doing … sometimes these stories take to you to places you aren't planning). I decided I want an even dozen before I consider putting together a collection for self-publication.

I started going through the Writer's Market 2007 to see where I can start pitching these short stories I’m writing. There are a number of literary magazines that pay a little money, but more importantly, are willing to publish new authors. I'd love to develop a following and then be given "commissioned" work to write.

I returned to SP #2 and plan to complete the first draft of that no later than January 31st. I'd like to get it posted on by March 1st, but that's only if I can get someone to make a read through / comment for me. I may have to hire someone to do that!

I have yet to start designing either of my two websites devoted to writing - one will be my "professional" writing calling card and the other will be a writer's forum. Maybe this weekend, since we don't have any holiday plans to speak of. Dinner at our favorite restaurant for Christmas Eve and dinner at home on Christmas Day. The best part - A Christmas Story marathon all weekend long!

And so, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rainy Day Writing

It's been raining on and off all day, a good day to sit down and write. We don't have many days like this in Southern California and since I have outside chores beckoning, the inclement weather comes as a welcome friend.

This morning I was able to finish the fourth draft of SS#2. I'm quite please with how I changed the ending. I hope it will leave readers thinking a bit.

I put the finishing touches in SS#1 and now I'm going to sit down and figure out to whom I should pitch it for commercial publication. I just joined the Writer's Digest Book Club and among my initial book deliver was the Writer's Market for 2007. I ordered this in order to have access to the most up-to-date information on the publishing literati. Now that I'm armed for battle, it's now time to figure out how to fight!

Oh, I'm not too surprised that my parents liked SS#1. After all, I'm their "little kid" (47 years old and more than a tad paunchy these days, so neither little nor kid applies). Nonetheless, their comments were very encouraging, even if they lack objectivity.

No work this week on SP#1 or SP#2. Sometime this weekend, I'm going to head over to Kinko's to print the former so I have a new hard copy to red line.

On the non-fiction writing front, I saw the web version of the industry article I wrote this week. I should get the print copy next week. I already have an article for my third article for this professional magazine, my most controversial yet and will most likely be the one that will be rejected by my bosses as being too negative. We'll see.

I just dug up a mini-autobiography of an interesting fellow with whom I became acquainted through a friend who lives on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. While I never met the man in person, my friend gave him our phone number a couple of years ago and he called me out of the blue to chat. It seemed that he wanted to get some seed money to start a business and figuring I was an American, I must be rich enough to fund him.

While I wasn't able to satisfy his request for money, I did let him bend my ear to tell me the brief story of his interesting life. I was so taken with the tale that I suggested he write it all down and send it to me. If he did that, I told him at the very least I would transcribe it for him and perhaps even use it as a basis for a book or screenplay. Naturally, if something like that came to pass, I would share the profits with him 50/50.

Through all the moves over the last several years, I misplayed the story he wrote, but found it in this last move. I plan to keep my promise of transcribing it for him, though I have enough on my plate to turn it into a major work. Just rereading it, though, makes me want to go back there. Eleuthera is beautiful, as are the people.

Okay, that's all from here, folks. Please feel free to comment if you are so compelled. One way or the other, I will be keeping these weekly updates coming.


A Brief Respite

Since my last post, I completed the first draft of my second short story (SS#2) and the first redline of my first screenplay (SP#1). I needed to let them sit for a while so that I could go back to editing them fresh. SS#1, draft 4 has been with Leia for a couple of weeks now and I decided to take it back because I need to finish it before pitching it to some magazines. I completed the initial sluglines for SP#2; with that project, I just need to start writing!

While many writers dread the editing project, I happen to enjoy it. Every time I draft something new, I look at the result like an unfinished blob of clay. It has some form, but it is so raw and unfinished that it cries to be molded into something wonderful. Every stage of editing remove unnecessary lumps of the useless stuff, some huge, but most small and strategic. The end result: something I can live with and hopefully for others, it's something to enjoy.

I decided that I have enough ideas for short stories to (at the very least) publish a collection at some point down the road if I can't sell them individually. There's no market for short story collections, so it will end up being self-published. I'll hold off making that decision until I see how they sell as articles.

I came up with a great idea for a children's book (or even a series of them). I already have sketched out an idea for another children's book already - the earlier one is for younger kids. This new concept would be for kids 8-12, I think. I've been fleshing out the basics on the characters and such over the week.

Leia (my wife) and I outlined an idea for a screenplay over dinner a few months ago. She's been researching related facts in her spare time for this project. Meanwhile, we already came up with a treatment for a reality show - actually, hers was the basic idea (including the title, which is brilliant for the concept), but I wrote out the whole treatment. We submitted it to the Scriptapalooza TV project. The winners will be announced in February.

TV writing is the only genre that doesn't interest me, at least now. I understand that sitcoms are particularly easy to write - very formulaic - but they're hard to sell because so many of them get pitched and discarded just as easily.

I estimated that if I could write full-time, I would be occupied for at least 10 years with all the ideas I have on the books. That's why OneNote has been so useful to me. Without it, all of my thoughts, writings and such would be difficult to keep straight.

OK, back to the drawing board (my other blogs have been neglected long enough!).

Best to you and yours,


Finally, the Next One

It's been a busy week, writing-wise. The big news (in my little world) is I finally mapped the outlined scenes in my Mind Map program for SP #2, then started writing the dialog! I actually thought up this script's concept shortly after I finished SP #1, but it was only after we moved into our house that I finally got it together and laid out a detailed scene description for the entire movie.

Writing a screenplay is very much like watching a movie, at least for me. I have to envision real actors that I imagine will play the roles and then have them act out the scenes. The first draft is usually just to get the whole thing down on "paper." The second draft is usually where I punch up the dialog, fix grammar errors and such. The third draft is where I reconcile any inconsistencies, tighten up weak plot points or enhance any other part of of the draft that needs work.

After that, I try to get someone to do a read through and give me their honest critique. My wife would be a good choice, but by her own admission, she lacks the attention to read anything of more than a paragraph or two at a time. In my last screenplay, she was able to get through half of it only, mostly with my working with her on it.

Meanwhile, I've started the second draft of SS #2. As is my modus operandi, this draft is to spice it up a bit, correct obvious errors in grammar, etc. Drafts 3 through the final are to reread and rewrite as needed, concentrating on flow, consistency and tenor.

I sent SS #1 to my parents to read and give me feedback, since Leia has yet to even complete skimming of the thing. Fiction just doesn't interest her - and she went to college on a creative writing scholarship!

Speaking of my wife, I was able to get her to send me her notes on the screenplay we informally outlined a few months ago. That one will prove to be a thriller in the same vein as The DaVinci Code or Déjà Vu, I think.

Meanwhile, on the idea front, I came up with a great idea for a comedy to showcase Will Ferrell, one of my favorite comedic actors. I wrote the synopsis for a plot of a murder mystery (this one will be kind of violent, not my usual genre). However, if it works out, it will be a difficult whodunit to crack. A concept for a children's book appeared one morning before we drove to my office. This place we live in is such a creative inspiration for me.

I swear, if I could only make money doing nothing, I'd be writing all the time!

OK, that's all for now. The other blog has been updated, so it's time to get to other assignments. I hope you have a great week.



I decided to stop procrastinating this weekend and start redlining screenplay #1. The goal is to incorporate suggestions made to me by the producer/director that originally expressed interest in my screenplay and to try to edit the script to distinguish it from the Fox project that is so like mine.

I've had friends tell me that I was ripped off and should take some sort of action. What I tell them is that if Fox hadn't registered the domain name before I wrote my screenplay, I would approach Fox with an offer. After all, I have the forensic proof that I wrote the script first. As it stands, though, I really have no case and Fox would eat me alive.

So the red lines are coming along. I'm making a few passes - pass one is to handle the obvious changes. Hopefully, by the final pass, I'll have come up with a sellable title like my original one was!

A note on specifics ... because I wish to stay anonymous until I sell something big, I won't be mentioning any titles or premises of my projects in this blog. I'll come out of the "closet" (so to speak) if it looks like I'll have a published major work as a result of my efforts.

I finished draft #4 of short story #1 and gave it to Leia to read. Meanwhile, I continued the first draft of short story #2. This has been keeping me busy this holiday weekend.

That's all for today. Have a great rest of your weekend!


Next Move

So, how does one pick himself up after being dealt with such a blow? First, you rationalize the hell out of the situation. You tell yourself, hey, I must be on the right track because a big film company like Fox thinks the idea I also had is marketable. In fact, they attached a big name to it, so it's as good as made, right?

Then, you note that it was only a pitch that was announced (no script) and then you delude yourself that either they will drop the project because the two women who are assigned to write it can't do it or you'll pitch your script and hope they like it better.

Or you decide to rewrite your darling, taking into account the suggested changes made by the production company you originally spoke to - including changing the title, which seemed to be the primary hook in the first place.

I decided not to pitch my script to Fox because I'll end up getting in some copyright conflict with them at their initiation (even though I can clearly prove I had the completed script long before December 2005).

Meanwhile, back at the creative mill, I have a lot going on - so much, in fact, that I could get overwhelmed if I'm not careful. I'm on the fourth draft of my first short story, one that I plan to pitch to some appropriate magazines. I picked up where I left off on my second short story and I'm trying to finish that first draft by the end of the month. I just posted an essay I wrote a couple of years ago on a writer's forum and on the same board, I uploaded a poem I just wrote, the first one since high school.

On the longer work front, I just completed the detailed outline of my second screenplay. I decided to break down my 800 page novel into component parts and start character dossiers to get back into the story (with the idea of completing the first draft by April 1, 2007).

I already wrote two articles for a professional journal, the second one to be published in December. I intend to write articles for the same journal in the New Year, at least to keep my name out there.

Since I do web design, I decided that I will finally get my website up and use that as my vehicle from which to pitch freelancing work. One of my New Year's resolutions is to join some freelancing websites to get some business and hone my chops; having a website will help "sell" me as an entity and keep my name out there.

Another website I have planned is my own writers' forum. I already reserved the domain (it stands for "Yet Another Writers' Forum").

On the blog front, besides this one, I write a weekly article for one blog, mirror posts from a popular web forum to a second blog and on the third blog I started, I comment on world events as I see them. This last one has been the most neglected, unfortunately.

With all this going on, I have a large number of ideas for novels and screenplays - so many, in fact, that if I could write full time, I would have ten years worth of effort ahead of me.

In my next post, I'll reveal my reasons for this late career change and the "master plan." Stay tuned ...


Early Holiday

I decided to take vacation from my day job today. Thankfully, I'm in a position to take time off with little warning, something I need to do in order to keep sane. Instead of office drudgery, I decided to do some "housekeeping" with respect to all my writing projects.

Recently, I spent quite a bit of time organizing my Microsoft OneNote file so that all my different types of projects contained all the properly related files I've had in various formats. I even decided to break my 800 page (and going) novel into separate chapters to include in OneNote, then add a character section for expanded descriptions. I'm quite pleased with the way the whole OneNote project has turned out (thanks, Microsoft!).

So, why did I seriously decide at 46 years old to start developing a career as a writer? Simply put, I've been working in technology since 1981 and in law firms since 1993 and I've had enough. There are those lucky people in the world that get up excited about their work every day and I want to be one of them (instead of so many others who dread another day at the office). I find that I really get a charge when I write and feel like something's missing when I don't do it.

The master plan is for me to build a writing career - freelancing, screenwriting or authoring fiction - for the next ten years. Once I get regular money coming in (or even better, when I get books published or movies made), retire - hopefully at 55 or so. The wife and I will retire to Palm Springs where I can spend the rest of my life writing to bring in some cash. If things work out, we'll be able to do it even sooner. THAT'S what's so upsetting about my first screenplay being back-burnered … I allowed myself to believe that everything was falling into place sooner than planned.

I spent part of the morning on my day off scouring the Internet for some early writing I did that got published on (before they got bought out by The Gartner Group is took me off their freelance payroll). I was finally able to find all the missing pieces and captured them in OneNote. I'm trying to develop my portfolio for when it comes time to present clips for magazine articles I write.

On that note, I'll end this blog entry early. Thanksgiving's tomorrow and it will just be my wife and I enjoying the Honeybaked Ham and sides. I have lots to do between now and 2016 and I need to make the most of the time I have.

Best holiday wishes to you and your family,


Hello and Welcome

My name is Michael and I decided to start this particular blog with Bloglines to chronicle my writing life and hopefully a new career that will get me to early retirement. I write "this particular blog" because I have three others that I maintain, two of which contains original material.

I first tried my hand at writing fiction shortly after college. I wrote about 100 pages of my first novel which was based on college life (highly invented, of course) and though I got great reviews from my friends, I realized that the only thing I was enjoying typing on my Smith-Corona typewriter were the sex scenes. Hence, the book that began as a racy college tale (in the same category as "Animal House") quickly became pornographic. I suspect that's why my (male) friends liked it so much!

My next writing adventure was a result of an post I did on a technology forum. I took the author to task and apparently they liked my style enough to pay me to carry on an email debate with this guy. This brief war of words (which never got nasty, of course) was followed closely by many, but eventually ran its natural course.

Soon after, the same website asked me to write a weeks work of articles chronicling the daily life of a tech manager. I complied, but made the mistake of not clearing it with the big kahunas. A few months after the articles ran, I got called into the front office and had a stern talking to about my literary exploits. I wasn't too sad when eight months after I quite that organization that they went out of business. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to settle into a regular writing gig with this website because they got taken over by a huge publishing empire and fired all their freelance writers (including yours truly).

In 2002, I started writing my second novel on my commuter bus trips to and from home and my office. This time I was using a laptop and was enjoying the experience a whole lot more. Unfortunately, I got blocked at the end of Chapter 9 and the 800 pages I already wrote got put on the shelf for a while. Here it is, almost at the end of 2006, and I barely looked at that work since 2004.

Last August (2005), I decided to try my hand at screenwriting and in four weeks time, wrote my first script. I posted it on in hopes of catching an insider's interest and started outlining my second screenplay.

I didn't hear about my first effort until this past summer when I got a call from a producer who wanted to talk to me about the script. I met with her and her husband (a known director of cinematography) to discuss their taking on the screenplay to pitch to the studios. Naturally, I was thrilled. With draft option contract in hand, I retained an entertainment lawyer and my wife and I celebrated. That's when the writing gods rained on my parade.

One night in the early fall, I was watching TV and after I saw a movie trailer, I realized I never checked to see if my script's title was available as a domain name. (I HAD checked to see if there was such a movie by the title in IMDB when I wrote the script, but never checked the domain itself.) Sadly, the domain was reserved in July 2005 by Fox Films. A quick Google showed that a movie of the same title with a very similar premise had been announced as a pitch in December 2005!

I was pretty upset about the whole thing, but came clean with the producer and her husband. Even though they were nice and commiserated with me, they basically walked away from the project. There went my first chance to break into the screenwriting business.

All's not lost, though. In my next post, I'll be discussing all of my writing projects that are in progress.

Best wishes,