Finding Why: in Life and in Fiction

There is nothing wrong with being an ambitious woman. No matter what sexism and misogyny tells you. No matter what other women might say to your face or behind your back. Your place is wherever you feel right — it may not be in the home, the kitchen, the office, the schools.

But I have to admit, even though I know this is true — I live and breathe this mindset – lately, I’m struggling to find the why of my ambition. And I need to explore that, because as a writer, knowing why is where you start. In story, WHY is better known as MOTIVE or GOAL. It is the driving force behind the protagonists struggle forward. It is what keeps the main character fighting when all the odds are stacked against them, when everything seems lost, when finally they have their big chance.

It’s no surprise to me that I am also struggling to find the why for my main character at the moment. That sounds about right, since life imitates art, art imitates life, and both myself and this shiny new character need to get to the true motive for our actions.

Earlier this year I started a YouTube channel(Books, Booze and Bitches, for anyone interested). At first it was very loose, free — just a thing my sister and I were doing to chronicle our adventure to Comic-Con. It was a release and escape from the pressing matter of what the hell am I doing in my life and career. And it was FUN. It was MINE. Anyone could watch and like or dislike, but they weren’t in control of it. And for someone trying to make it in both publishing and film, two highly-competitive, highly-controlled fields, having my own thing was like growing wings.

But then I got ambitious. I wanted it to grow wings, too. It was fine, I said, to want more from this thing than just an outlet. I could do well on YouTube. It could explode. But then it stopped being quite so fun. I started getting pissed if everyone didn’t watch, and then I started getting sick of it a little.

Ambition has tried to rob me of the fun of creative pursuit. YouTube is not the first near victim. Earlier this year I wrote about my anger toward the publishing industry, how it was killing my desire to write, ruining my stories, and giving me wrinkles. I wrote about how I was going to take a step back so I could rediscover the reason I loved writing books.

Hint: it’s not about a book deal. That is insignificant to the love of writing. The magic is in creation. If you ever think you do a thing for money or acclaim, that thing will end up souring before you can ever savor it.

Last night, after I posted my video to YouTube and Facebook, I didn’t feel happy to have it out in the world. I felt irritated. I felt like I was screaming in a room full of people and somehow no one could hear me. Because even though it always gets views, I can’t figure out how to WIN. I want to conquer the Internet. I want to crack the code to success.

But WHY? What am I hoping to achieve from YouTube? Or writing, really? What am I doing it for? I sat on my couch last night and I couldn’t even answer that question. What, existentially, the hell do I want?

On the surface, of course I want publication, or my screenplay made into a film, I want to entertain people through YouTube, and somewhere not too far below the surface, I want validation and acceptance of my creativity.

What do I have to prove? As competitive as I am (do not play me in a board game, I will crush you), I don’t care about being the best. I like to win, but my definition of winning has nothing to do with other people. I care about being the best version of me. I don’t compare myself to others often. I compare myself to the woman I think I should be by now. I look at how successful I believe myself capable, and I shoot for more. I’m not happy if I’m not winning against me.

But I will never begrudge another person’s success. I will never be jealous. I will always support someone I believe in. I’m a Gryffindor, Loyalty and Chivalry are kind of our thing.

When you’re writing a story, you always start on the surface. Getting to know a character is like getting to know another human being. You ask them questions, and they give you true but shallow answers. The reason your character MUST survive the Hunger Games cannot be just because she doesn’t want to die. That is primal, and truthful, but it is not deep. Now, winning so she can give her sister a better life, that sells. That is something we as feeling people empathize with.

You don’t reach your goal because of external wants. You reach your goal because inside you have something worth fighting for.

So…what is my WHY?

I am compelled to be more than I was yesterday. I am fighting for success, but I am also striving for excellence. I need to show my son he can WIN if he never gives up. I need to prove to my nieces that bravery is just as important as beauty. I need to prove to the little girl that had the dream to become something when she grew up that she is something already.

In the story of your life, you must be the hero. You must define for yourself what your goal is, and you must make a promise to fight through all the obstacles until you get there.

Find WHY and your character, yourself, can win it all.

Ready. Set. Write! Update 5

RSW4

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

*I missed last week because it was the day after San Diego Comic Con and I was on my way to LA.*

How I did on last week’s goals:

Well, last week I set no goals because I was still out of town. HOWEVER, I was meeting with my screenwriting consultant, so that was very Goal Oriented.

I wrote a blog about Comic-Con, which you can read here if you are interested.

I also began posting video recaps of the Comic-Con experience, and if you are interested, you can click here to watch my YouTube channel.

My Goals This Week:

Writing — Incorporate the feedback from my consultant into my outline and then crank out 20 screenplay pages. This script is REALLY coming together. And after everything I experienced at Comic-Con, I feel like I have a pretty strong grasp on that world.

Reading — Finish the ARC of Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett. You guys all need to put this book on your TBR.

Workout — Get back to my daily cardio, twice weekly strength building sessions.

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Since I didn’t really write last week, and didn’t post an update from the previous week, here is something I wrote the week before I left for Comic-Con:

ABIGAIL (CONT.)

We keep our shit to ourselves. We stick to the list.

JACK

You know, Abbie —

ABIGAIL

Abigail.

JACK

Abigail. You know, you will have to trust me just a little if this is going to work.

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

I didn’t write this week, but I didn’t plan to. The thing I struggled with this week was accepting the reality that Comic Con is over. 😉

Something I love about my WiP:

I feel like this is a story worth telling, and I think that is so vital when you are working on a passion project. Believing in your project’s merit, especially when it’s in the revision stage, keeps you pushing through the fear.

Ready. Set. Write! Update 4

rsw9

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

How I Did on Last Week’s Goals:

Writing — I was able to get 25 pages on my screenplay last week. So I wrote most days, at least 5 pages. This is me accomplishing my goal.

Reading— I didn’t have any time this week to read. But I did make a video about being an American woman and get to go on a date with my husband. So, I am okay with my choices.

Workout — I did two sessions with my brother the Personal Trainer, as well as the elliptical everyday. Yay exercise.

I also wanted to knock off some get ready for SDCC things off my list and not panic. I did both, with some concerted effort.

My Goals This Week:

Writing— I’m leaving for San Diego Comic Con on Friday morning before the buttcrack of dawn, so I this week is going to be kind of nuts already. I’d still like to add 10-15 pages to my screenplay, if possible. Dreamers gotta dream.

Reading —I plan to start A Court of Thorns and Roses at least once i get on the plan to San Diego. It will be too early to drink, so I will need something to distract me from my nerves. Plus, Sarah J. Maas will be at Comic Con

Workout — I will workout Monday through Thursday this week, at least two maybe three session with Personal Trainer and Asgrdian, brother Isaac.

I may not be able to post on Monday of next week, depending on how dog tired I am and if I remember there is a life outside Comic Con…oh, wait, that’s the title of my screenplay…

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

INT. THE EXHIBIT HALL – STILL MORNING

Abigail and Kate stand at the edge of the Exhibit Hall. Abigail has her nose in the MAP of the Exhibit Hall. Kate has her eyes on the massive crowd.

KATE

May the gods of Comic Con grant us patience and strong immune systems.

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

I struggled to find time to write during my usual writing time with all the OTHER things going on. One of the things that really helped was scheduling some night time sessions with my CP Susan (she’s a participant in Ready. Set. Write! too) because it helped me make up pages. Plus, it was fun!

Something I love about my WiP.

This is where I talk about the necessity of plotting the hell out of a screenplay. Doing that work upfront, and not moving forward until I felt satisfied with the scenes I had planned, has made a massive difference in this revision.

So, how did you do this week on your goals?

Ready. Set. Write! Update 3

RSW7

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

How I Did on Last Week’s Goals:

Writing- I began work on my screenplay revision on Thursday and was able to get 9 pages that day. I also finished the BEAT SHEET for the other screenplay I’m working on. It’s still a rough draft, but I love the idea and where it’s going.

Reading – I finished Things We Know By Heart by Jessie Kirby, but haven’t had a chance to start any new reads yet. I plan to start A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas next.

Workout – I kept up my exercise routine, and added in two sessions with my brother the personal trainer. This week I would like to do the same!

My Goals This Week:

Wrting:

1. Get between 5-15 pages on my screenplay every day this week. I won’t have a full finished revision before I leave for Comic Con and Los Angeles, but I’ll be more than half way through.

Reading:

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas next.

Life/Workout:

1. Start knocking stuff off my “getting ready for Comic Con list” and don’t panic about the fact that it’s almost here.

2. Workout every day, do two sessions with my brother this week.

A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Line of Dialog from one of my characters, Simon.

But here, we can be anything. Here, maybe there’s way to save the damsel. Even if the damsel is you.

The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

Focus. I have a lot going on right now, like everyone, and focusing on the task at hand without getting distracted with future tasks, other tasks I should be dealing with, was a real hurdle this week.

Something I love about my WiP.

I love that by the end of this revision I will have a largely different story than I had at the end of the first draft, but will still feature all the same characters, just deeper versions of themselves. The power of revision in action!

What are your goals this week?

Ready. Set. Write! Update 2

RSW4

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

I missed updating last week, but I’m here this week. Even though I missed updating last week, I did not miss meeting goals. Here’s how I’m doing:

1.  How I did on last week’s goals:

Writing: I’ve been working steadily on the Beat Sheet for my screenplay revision. In the last two weeks I have executed a major overhaul on the plot and dug down deeper in the main character’s motives. I finished a new draft on Friday and I’m pretty sure it’s the One. I also began a new Beat Sheet for a new screenplay and I am really excited about it.

Reading: I read Just One Day by Gayle Foreman and LOVED it so much. I know I’m a bit late to that fan club, but man, what a wonderful book. I am heavily into reading The Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby, and it’s already ripping out my heart.

Workout: I’ve kept up my workout routine, and even added in some sessions with my brother, Isaac, who is a personal trainer. I almost died on YouTube last week when my sister-in-law and I did a workout to prepare for Comic Con. If you enjoy laughing, you should check out our video!

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

Writing:

1. I need to finish this Beat Sheet for the new screenplay because it’s due to my screenwriting consultant before Thursday.

2. Start the revision of the Comic Con screenplay!

Reading: Finish The Things We Know By Heart!

Workout: Do at least two sessions with my brother!

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

Satisfying Character Arcs — one of the things I have struggled with a lot on this Comic Con screenplay is making the three main characters (because it is more of an ensemble) all have satisfying arcs that happen at the right time in the story.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

Juggling. Like most of y’all, I’m sure, summer is insanely busy. I have a lot going on with my son, my husband, my dogs, and my own stuff. Keeping all the things in the air is kind of distracting.

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

I love that, after working so much on the plot, I really feel like I know these characters inside out, and even with all their many flaws, I am confident that each of them is worth following on their journey.

Ready. Set. Write! and My Goals

rsw2

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing.  This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself. All the details are HERE.

This is (I think!) my third year participating in RSW, and I can promise that it is worth the commitment. Accountability and community are key to the solitary life of a writer. We need each other more because so much of being a writer means being inside your own head, warring with fictional characters and sorting out plot and stakes and getting words out.

So, I am excited to join in. And here are my goals:

  1. Get my BEAT SHEET finalized for my screenplay There’s Life Outside Comic Con. Now that I am working with a consultant, I am not allowed to move forward until the Beat Sheet (from Save the Cat!) proves this script will hit all the high notes.
  2. Begin the Revision on that screenplay, with the hope of completing another draft by the middle of July. (When I will be at San Diego Comic Con!)
  3. Start a revision of my manuscript Of Blood and Promises. I had back burnered it for a while to focus on screenwriting. I am moving slow with this, and need to be right now since that’s not my #1 priority. So, just knowing how to start and starting is my goal for the summer.
  4. Do a Beat Sheet draft for at least one more feature.
  5. Read the books I want to read, as many or as few, and let myself be moved, take time, stay up all night.
  6. Continue to work out every weekday. I have been exercising for the last six weeks and am seeing happy-making results. I am doing nothing for diet, but don’t want to. My goal is strength and stamina and feeling good about my body. That’s it.

Next week (Monday, June 15th) we’ll be posting our first update using these headings…

1.  How I did on last week’s goals.

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

I hope you join in! I’ll be cheering you on if you do. 

Ready. Set. Write! #8

RSWcloudpolaroid

Ready. Set. WRITE! is an online writing intensive to help stay accountable with your writing goals over the summer and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on whether planning, drafting, or revising! Your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman. Find the rest of the details HERE.

Last Weeks Goals:

1. Revise three chapters

Done, plus I had two write NEW chapters. 

2. Rewrite the scenes in my screenplay and add three more.

Done! and I added probably six more with plans for more and inspiration for more. I have 60 pages on the Screenplay, and I loved it so hard. 

3. Read 100 pages on a manuscript I’m beta reading.

*hides* 50 pages, so halfway. 

A favorite line from my story or one word or phrase that sums up what I wrote or revised:

“I have been patient with you, Aiken,” his voice comes from the darkness. I see the sweep of his pa’u in a thin streak of light. “With your ambitions to join the guard, your lack of interest in what I am about…,”I cannot see his face, only the outline of his shoulder and arm, but he pauses and his whole body stills.

“I have done whatever you asked of me,” I say. We both know that is a lie.

His fist flies out, a moving shadow I cannot dodge. With a crack, his knuckles dig into my ribs and smack the air from my lungs.

Biggest Challenge:

As summer draws to an end, and I prepare to send Sam to school, I also seem to be falling back into the habit of thinking about writing all the time. This is a challenge because for the next couple weeks, I really won’t have much extra time. So, being inspired is actually a bad thing right now.

Something I love about my WiP:

Screenplay: The characters feel like real people, and I feel like I am doing them justice.

This Weeks Goals:

1. Revise three more chapters.

2. Write three more scenes on the screenplay and fill in the scenes I have skipped over.

3. Read

 

Ready. Set. Write! Update # 5

RSWcloudpolaroid

Ready. Set. WRITE! is an online writing intensive to help stay accountable with your writing goals over the summer and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on whether planning, drafting, or revising! Your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman. Find the rest of the details HERE.

Last Weeks Goals:

1. Write 15 Screenplay pages.

~ I wrote 18 pages. Yes. 

2. Read 100 more beta pages.

~ Done! Phew!

A favorite line from my story or one word or phrase that sums up what I wrote or revised:

Kate looks annoyed and nearly stops in the aisle.

KATE
Since when does my flirting bother
you?

ABIGAIL
Since your husband still has a
pulse.

Kate’s face tightens. Abigail sits. Kate stands for a beat, waves once at Thor, and then sits.

Biggest Challenge:

About halfway through the week I really had to fight doubt, frustration, and general life fatigue. Time is always a big issue for me this summer, too.

Something I love about my WiP:

It’s not a fantasy, which is what my YA novels are, but it is about living in a fantasy world. And it’s a lot of fun to let my nerd flag fly.

This Weeks Goals:

1.  Put together a workable plan on how to revise based on some awesome feedback for one of my manuscripts.

2. Finish pages for my CP and get her notes.

3. Write 5 screenplay pages.

 

Ready. Set. Write! Update #4

RSWCoffee

Ready. Set. WRITE! is an online writing intensive to help stay accountable with your writing goals over the summer and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on whether planning, drafting, or revising! Your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman. Find the rest of the details HERE.

Last Weeks Goals:

1. Screenplay – 15 pages

~ Done! I am 43 pages into this SCREENPLAY and it is right where I want it to be plot wise. So exciting. Also, remembering how hard writing screenplays are. You have to come at the story in a very different way than writing a novel. 

2. Beta Reading – ONE MS

~Ugh. I read about 50 pages on an MS and 20 pages on another. Do not take this as me not enjoying the reading, I AM!! It is just slow going right now. 

A favorite line from my story or one word or phrase that sums up what I wrote or revised:

Simon and Alexa emerge. Alexa has her iPad out and is
filming Simon.

ALEXA
B-role.

SIMON
Did you grab the waters?

He faces her as he shuts the door.

ALEXA
(Turns camera to self)
Backpack.

Turns camera to Simon.

SIMON
Granola bars and other sustenance?

ALEXA
(Camera to self)
Loaded up like a hobbit on her way
to Mordor.

Biggest Challenge:

Not having a lot of down time to read. Exhaustion.

Something I love about my WiP:

Sometimes you have an idea for a story and you start writing it and it just doesn’t work like you expected it to. This Screenplay is working better than I anticipated. So. Excited.

This weeks goals: 

1. Write 15 Screenplay pages.

2. Read 100 more beta pages.

3. Continue having an Epic Summer with Sam. (This is one goal I have had no problem achieving so far!)

 

What’s Up Wednesday

whats up wednesdayWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s.

I want to preface this by saying, it’s been a hell of a week.

What I’m Reading

I finished Throne of Glass. I would like a moment of silence to relive some of the spine-tingling feels this book delivers. (Closes eyes and thinks about Chaol, Celeana, and Dorian. Wanders into daydreaming where I am an assassin with killer hair and cat-like reflexes who captures the interest of two beautiful men.)

OK, I’m back. I then decided to read Austenland by Shannon Hale. I love Jane Austen, and Mr.Darcy is still possibly one of the most swoony literary men ever, so this book naturally appeals to me. In much the same way I adored and devoured Bridget Jones’s Diary, I fell headlong in love with Austenland. It’s a quick read at 208 pages. It’s laugh-out-loud funny at times, and it delivers the romantic goods. I haven’t read an “adult” book since The Rules of Civility last year, but this book was exactly what I needed in the midst of my crazy week. It was an escape, just as Pembrook Park is for the heroine Jane, and one I was grateful for. 

The film adaptation was recently released, and it looks like a blast!

What I’m Writing

Hmm, what am I not writing? Last week we wrapped the first installments on our web series, now officially titled SUPER TV SHOW. Riding the high of this, the crew and I decided to take a chance on producing our own short film. This film project is one I have had in the works, in varying and evolving forms, for almost seven years. It’s a project I very much believe in. Next week we will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. I will share all that information as soon as I have the link for it. I am ridiculously excited. Along those lines I’ve been writing proposals, rewriting the script for filming, and sending emails to contacts in the locations we need permission to film in. For instance, we want to use a historical cemetery as one location. There is a Cemetery Board that must approve. It’s morbidly fabulous.

I also made some progress on my WiP, bringing in another 1500 words. I love this story, and now I am doing more in-depth research to flesh out the world-building. I also have some alpha readers who want to know where the hell my next pages are. Sorry!

What Inspires Me

We went to a small town to scout locations and shoot our Kickstarter video on Sunday. We ended up drinking wine in an eclectic antique store with the shop owner, a film buff who studied molecular science, and talking about Fellini. We also caught most of it on film.

The support of the writer community here and on Twitter. When I shared my experience with rejection last week, the response was overwhelmingly encouraging  and edifying. I am always impressed by you.

What Else I’m Up To

My son has been sick with swimmer’s ear and some kind of stomach bug. He also seems to be going through some sort of terrifyingly early pre-adolescent hormone surge. He screams, cries, and pits his will against mine at regular intervals throughout the day. His birthday was today — but his party is Saturday — and for the most part it was a lovely day. I made him a special breakfast, took him to a playground, and spent the afternoon watching Power Rangers Jungle Fury (only available through random vendors on Amazon, so it was a birthday present) with him at my mom’s house. I also had to threaten him repeatedly with time outs and loss of privileges if he didn’t put on his listening ears and get in the damn car. (I did not cuss at him, but in my head there was a string of expletives.) Children are a blessing. And so is alcohol.

I entered the “Agent Inbox” contest through author Krista Van Dolzer’s website. You should all visit the contest, which should be up some time today, and tell them how amazing Post #9 is. Plus, if you are at all curious to find out what my book is about, this is a good opportunity. I have never shared this much information about it on the internet. It’s feels scary.

Last night I went to the midnight release of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. First of all, wow, I am a major fangirl and really too old to be out so late. (Though, when I lived in NYC I spent quite a few wild nights out until 3am. But I was an idiot.) Second, the movie was a little disappointing, but Jace Lightwood in the flesh wasn’t.

mortalinstruments

The most fabulous part of our late, late night was during the previews when this happened:

kitharringtonpompeii

I honestly can’t tell you anything about the teaser trailer that followed this shot. Pompeii comes out February 28, 2014, and I’ll be there. I have already exstensively searched the internet for the teaser trailer from last night with no luck. If you happen to stumble upon it before I do (and I promise, you will know when I do) please Tweet me or post in comments.

Happy Wednesday! Now, if only I could take a nap.