Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's a Great Day!

It's raining in LA... and that should be enough for us sun-worshipers to be depressed... maybe even mildly insane. But not me... things feel right.

I made pancakes for the family...

Drank an espresso while I slaved over the range...

Served the creation... with Nutella :)

Had a latte... I was nearly certain that I had skipped coffee ;)

Yes, the twin towers -- before LA, we lived in NY for a year

Only the best espresso beans will do!

Illy brand coffee... Don't cheap out!

Watched the not-so-LA-type weather...

For those in Syberia, this may not seem like much... but it is!

Cuddled up with one of my cats... That's Leo... Pete was taking a cat-nap (or do they call it just a nap)... not sure...

And got ready to read my final revision of ACES before I send it off to the Proof Reader

Scrivener's export to eBook format... LOVE IT!

Yes. You heard me right... we're hitting the proof reader next. The Great Michael Levin and I are in agreement that my novel Aces is ready! It's a bit odd. When someone like Michael--who has written 90 books, and has helped thousands of aspiring novelists--tells you we're ready to hit the agents, the feeling is a bit unreal... like an out of body experience. How can I get that stupid grin of my face? My kids are getting scared of me!

If all goes to plan, my manuscript will be with the proofreader on Monday. Two to three weeks and I'm ready to find that one agent that will partner up with me to bring the characters and the story to life... But I'm jumping the gun. Oh! Here's Leo again... he wants me to give him some love... how can I say no?

Fight the good fight... because it's worth the fight!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Music Makes Pictures

"When I heard the music, it made pictures in my head. These are the pictures." ~Walt Disney

The role of music in my work cannot be ignored.

I've been following the blog and tweets (@JMTohline) of JM Tohline. He had two posts on the topic of music, and the playlists we create to accompany the literary work we do (here's one... and the other).

Ara's Tangents: His twitter short stories are fantastic. Here's one: The debutante scratched her butt. The end. Here's another: She put on a Bill Clinton mask and came out of the bathroom. She had never looked better. The end. You owe it to yourself to follow him. His first novel, The Great Leonore, will be released Summer of 2011. I'm looking forward to it.

I wanted to share my madness with you. I'm a picture-driven type of person. If I can't see it (biological eyes or mind's eye), I can't create an effective scene. Music, like actual images, creates very real images for me. It is not an underestimation to say that some musicians have forever altered me--I am haunted by their words and their melodies.

When the seed for my story, Aces, was planted, I was in Paris on a business trip. I immediately took out my iPad and found some music that seemed complimentary to the type of story that was growing in my head [for those wondering, it's a love story]. As soon as I had the music going, I started mind-mapping the opening scene.

The music was from Colbie Caillat's Break Through and Coco CDs (Break Through, Oxygen, The Little Things, Realize and Bubbly). As I listened to those songs over and over (and over... 11 hour flight-- give me some slack here!), the personalities, the conflicts, the possibility all rushed at me. I was not able to write and draw fast enough. Needless to say, that as soon as I was back in LA, I bought everything Colbie I could find on iTunes (54 songs if you're keeping track).

With that, my play list started. I added about three dozen Chris Issak songs. About 80 Beatles songs, and then a bunch of one offs that felt right to me. If I heard something at the beach while hanging out, or at the market, I bought the song then added it to my playlist. My playlist includes songs from P!nk, Billy Joel, Kelly Clarkson, Sarah McLachlin, Sting... and more.

Ara's Tangents: If anyone knows Ms. Caillat and Mr. Isaak, can you ask them to collaborate on an album for me? Thanks. I owe you one!

My story starts in Paris, then travels to Malibu, then to London and finally ends in Barcelona. When I reached the Barcelona scenes, I had to tap into memories of my youth when we lived there. I found songs from Julio Iglesias and Peppino Galiardi that at the time were very popular. The music brought back memories, scents, faces.

Ara's Tangents: Peppino Galiardi? Who dat? The first person who can name that tune from Peppino that was popular in 1978 will get an autographed copy of a blank piece of paper... if I had something more valuable I would sign that.

A couple of people told me that my novel reads like a movie script (undoubtedly under the influence of expensive vodka). They can see the places, the faces and the storyline. If the Book Gods smile on my novel and it gets published, and if said book became a movie, I would ask the Director to remember the music that brought it all together. Since dreaming is free, I might as well dream big!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Waiting Game - Part II

My manuscript is back out for review with the pro! Nervous anticipation rattles my brain.

What to do with all this free time? Sleep is one option. But I think a retrospective is appropriate at this stage of the game.

  • I completed the first cut of my manuscript Aces back in early October. My wife (my first reader) loved it.
  • I elected to get a professional to read my manuscript and give me a full helping of reality. I wanted to know if what I had was really good, or was I about to end up like those pitiful souls we see on American Idol? When we watch those auditions, we laugh and ask, "Don't these people have friends or family in their lives who can tell them the truth?" I really didn't want agents to use my manuscript as the "what not to do" example. Yes, I am sensitive... don't be hatin!

  • The feedback that I got was the reassurance that I needed. I can't tell you how an objective opinion, from someone who is a best selling author, does for the ego. Each time I questioned my words, I could remind myself that objectively, my work is good.
  • I spent two weeks on the rewrites: one week to outline my plan of action, and another week to make all the changes. The net effect was that two full chapters were completely redone, one chapter got dropped, some themes were crystalized and the word count went up to 95,000. More importantly, the ending changed. And in my humble opinion, the result is a great ending! I got to say, that I see now how I had short changed my characters. Gemma and Andre deserved better, and they got it now. When I was pushed to think down a different path, the paths opened up.
  • A couple of nights ago my wife finished reading the revisions. She was elated with the result. That's got to count for something :)
  • After some final edits, this afternoon I compiled the new manuscript and sent it off to Michael Levin... and now, we wait.
Writing... what a powerful medium! With a few clicks on my keyboard, the characters suddenly behave differently, say different things, and more often than not surprise me. They say things that I never expected, and behave in ways that makes me bubble up with excitement. 

For their dialogues to sound true and crisp, I spent a lot of time formalizing these characters. So much so that I am nearly certain that if I was asked to put them in different scenes, I would know exactly how they would react without much thought. It's a bit unnerving. Split-Personality Disorder is alive and well in my head!

I never thought that I would enjoy, absolutely love, the editorial process. Maybe it gets old after many months, and revisions.... maybe. But I must say, I enjoy my characters so much that each time I revisit them, they come to life. And when there is an opportunity to make them better, I am ready to hit the keyboard. My wife hit the nail on the head. "I miss them," she said. Yeah, I hear you.

Now, instead of catching up on some sleep, I think I'll start brainstorming a new idea that was born when my wife and I were enjoying lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. But before I start, I need to get the brain juices flowing. And there are two ways that my juices flow: music and exercise, P90X style! I'm a glutton for punishment!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 Things I Love About Scrivener

I spent the last week finalizing the rewrites to my manuscript. The entire work was done in my tool of choice - Scrivener 2.0.

[Legal Disclaimer #1: just because my blog's name has the word "scrivener" in it, I am not affiliated with the developers... unless they want me to be... call me... we can do lunch!]

The good people at Literature & Latte have released the much anticipated version 2.0 of their tool. Let me be clear, they've always had the best tool... but this release put me in a poetic mood:

[Legal Disclaimer #2: some of this content is stolen from the developer's web site... it's for educational purposes!]

1) You keep me honest: What's your word count goal? Set it, achieve it.

2) You keep me on track: Set your daily goal and beat it... (don't judge me... I'm in rewrite mode)

3) You let me change my mind: Snapshots rule! Version control? Compare documents? Scrivener does that on steroids!

4) You let me play around with cards: I like being able to storyboard my ideas, move the scenes around and see the flow of the narrative

5) You let me look at my work on my iPad: ebook output is phenomenal! The formatting is spot on. Calibre? Fo'get about it! Write it at night, ebook it to my iPad before I go to bed, review my previous day's work while drinking coffee in the morning (double espresso Illy brand coffee).

6) You let me get inspired while I write: Import pictures of locations, people, etc. Side by side, look at image and translate what you see into words

7) You let me synch with dropbox: Love that cloud thing

8) You let me synch with SimpleNote on the iPad: Edit on the train, plane or automobile (hopefully while someone else is driving...)

9) You let me compile the whole thing in a beautifully formatted manuscript: I find that I don't need to do much formatting (at least during this stage of my writing) or export to Word. I am self-sufficient on one tool.

10) You read to me, when my eyes are too tired to read: Ok. So maybe you feel that I should have ended with more umph... I'm tired okay. But, this is a big deal for me. Hearing my novel read back to (granted by a funny voice who can't pronounce my heroine's name properly) is very powerful. My story is driven by conversations... hearing it out loud helps me improve the flow

Great tool. Great support. These guys get it. I better go. I'm getting emotional again :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I'm a big proponent of value creation. Anything you do should generate value. Said differently, are you being active or productive. What is it that you need to produce? Be absolutely clear in your head. When it comes to the art of creating something like a novel (while still gainfully employed) you better be effective with every ounce of time that you have.

For me there are a handful of things that I do everyday to make sure that I have a comprehensive approach to the craft:

  • Read, read, read! I read a minimum of two, up to four novels per month. Two are always audio books ( I'll pick up a paperback or two during the month. Being able to see how the author structured the narrative, the beats, the pauses, the sentence structure is an important element of my writing.
  • Write, write, write! If you don't write, you can't be a writer (I know, I'm brilliant--no need to send me gifts). When I'm writing, I have a minimum quota of 1,200 words per day. But I'm so competitive (with myself at least) that I do my best to hit the 2,500 mark. As I've posted in the past, I only write after 9 or 10 pm at night for a couple of hours. So I need to be ready, in the right mindset to let the story accelerate out of my fingers. Scrivener, my application of choice, does this simple but critical function with grace.
  • Right brain activity... I never mix right brain (planning, plotting, resolving issues, ...) with left brain activities (writing). In fact, I find that if I don't separate them, my writing slows down and the dialogues start to fall flat. I'm thinking too much while I write, as opposed to let the words come through. During the day, before I start, I think about things that bother me. I have a little Red Moleskine journal that's always with me. I will jot down thoughts, ideas, lines, names of characters, as the day unfolds. Before I start writing, I review what I have there and now the juices are flowing.
  • Blogs and Tweets... It's somewhat cathartic to blog and tweet. It's also inspiring to read the blogs and tweets of others. There are so many generous people out there -- authors, editors, agents-- that want to share. I have been around various industries, and I can't say that this industry is packed with caring and generous people who want to help others. How cool is that. I therefore feel that the least I can do is contribute. I'm a nobody. But if I get signed, then my manuscript is picked up, maybe I'll give some beads of hope and guidance to other aspiring novelists.
Currently, I've spent time on revising and developing the approach to resolve the areas of improvement that was raised by my writing coach. I'm really enjoying the process by the way. He has raised such great points, that I can already see will enhance the overall experience from the reader's perspective.

I read this great post by Ed Hogan (@edhoganderby) on "What Editors Do". Since I actually enjoy this editorial process (so far), then maybe, when the day comes that my novel gets picked up (envision a positive future!), then I'll be loved by my editor :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...