Method to Madness

For those of you who may not know this already… I’ve spent the past few years writing fulltime in a yurt.

For complete clarity (and because some people just don’t know) Merriam-Webster defines a yurt as a circular domed tent of skins or felt stretched over a collapsible lattice framework and used by pastoral peoples of inner Asia.

Now, why in the hell would any respectable writer want to spend her days inside of a yurt? And, what’s it like inside?

Well, I’ll tell you… Here’s a peek inside the yurt and the method to my madness.

The Battle Worth Fighting

FUNNY FARM, Chevy Chase, 1988

I have flashes of this movie that I saw when I was little. In it Chevy Chase plays a writer who moves to a small town for the tranquil environment in which to work. I mean, that’s what writers do – right?

I think I’ve kept that image in my head ever since, that that is how it is meant to be, and I KNOW other people have the same image. You know the one, where writing is this peaceful endeavor in a serene environment and fingers just magically move across the keyboard as easily as they would when writing an email. Come on, how hard is it to write an email? Everyone writes. It’s easy. And, my personal favorite, “Just go type it up.” (Yeah, that’s a whole other blog for another day).

I have come to realize, after many years of struggling to create the perfect environment (yes, the yurt is pretty cool) and waiting for the peaceful magic to float across my hands as I type with pure joy emanating from my heart and a smile on my face, that writing is NOT like that. In fact, it’s more like dressing in camouflage and going to war… every day.

Think about it, ever hear the term “bleed onto the page?” There’s a lot of truth in that phrase. It can be painful as fuck. Yanking the words out of the depth of your soul, in a just-so order that will somehow, by the grace of God, elicit emotion in the reader. We let each character invade us in order to make their feelings and experiences authentic, allowing their pain and turmoil to become our own. AND we all know putting your character through every kind of hell you can possibly imagine is storytelling gold – right? We make them suffer, and suffer ourselves in return.

Seriously, some days I crawl out of the yurt broken and in tears. Literally. These battles can be tough – on the mind, body, and soul. Think about it, you know those movies that are kind of painful to watch… but are still done amazingly well and you’ll never be the same because of that two-hour experience, yet seeing it once was enough because you don’t EVER want to live through that again. Yup. Now, imagine what it was like to live it daily, for months, maybe even years, as it was in development. But, it’s not just those movies either. Comedy is heightened drama! That’s what makes it so fucking funny. It’s so crazy awful and so real that we have to laugh. Seriously, that can be a whole other kind of battlefield – and you better make sure it’s funny – which adds another layer that I won’t even get into here.

So, why do we do it? Other than because we’re out of our fucking minds?

Stories are exciting! When a concept moves from the seed of an idea, to fully realized characters and they’re interacting with one another… OMG! When you don’t even have to close your eyes to watch the scenes play out in your head. And you’re fully immersed in the world and you love every second of it. It totally rocks and can make your whole body vibrate with excitement. It can be better than sex. Until…

You sit down in front of the computer and suddenly – swear to God – the most important thing on the planet becomes figuring out the perfect playlist to match the emotions of the story. Seriously, you can’t even think about typing the first sentence until THAT is SORTED. This is important stuff.

And suddenly… just like that, you’ve become the antagonist. You, yourself, are the challenge that must be overcome for your protagonist to achieve his/her goals. It is here that you step into one of the hardest battles in the war. Lose this one, and it’s time to look for another career. Everything is on the line. That force of evil is going to give you every reason in the world to avoid the page. I mean… it has been too long since you cleaned the fridge after all.

This is the moment when it’s time to see what you’re made of, soldier. The future of your characters’ lives is at stake. Their very existence requires your willingness to get in front of your computer, pull up your sleeves, take out your knife, and bleed onto every page. And then, the next day, do it again, and again, and again until you’ve given it everything you have.

It’s a war, fought one battle at a time, every day, page by page.

And it’s worth every moment. Every. Single. Moment.

There is nothing in the world quite like holding that final printed version of the story that once burned inside of you. Giving birth to the lives and journeys. Helping your characters find their way and finally grow into who you always believed they could become.

That’s where the magic is. It’s just that, more often than not, you have to fight for it.

I mean, sure… there are times when the muse shows up with lightning up her ass and your fingers can’t type fast enough. We’ve all had those moments when we bang out a script in ten days (my friend, Aza, banged an award-winning one out in three… 3… days! Hate him). But most of the time, for a significantly large percentage of the stories we tell, grab your gear, cuz you’re going to war. And you’re gonna love it.

Directing Chops

The time has come to step back into directing. Truth be told, I’ve spent the past several years focused on writing and producing, so this is going to be fun.

The focus this month is simply to pick a scene from one of my previous works to direct. After reviewing several of my short works, I decided to go with the opening scene from “Soul Skin.” I chose this scene because it tells a complete story with a clear journey for the protagonist.

Over the next month, I will be posting weekly as I share the process of honing my directing chops.

The Holding South Adaptation

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on an adaptation of my flash fiction story, “Alone.” I decided to take the basic elements and characters from that story and adapt them into a broader, potentially on-going, story in a comic book format. 

My fascination with the art of comic book and graphic novel writing hasn’t been a secret here, so I was overjoyed to dive into this process. 

“Holding South” takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where monsters threaten the survival of humans. At its center, however, it is the story of fifteen-year-old, Mae, recruited for the Guard because they’re in desperate need of bodies to defend the southern border. 

In the original story, Mae was also a soldier in a post-apocalyptic world full of monsters, however, we knew nothing about the southern border or the fact that soldiers were getting younger and younger as the Guard grew more and more desperate.  Additionally, the comic expands on Mae’s relationship with her mentor, Hank, through flashback sequences. 

While a flash fiction story captures a specific moment in time, the comic book series will allow me to open up that world and explore all the various components of it. What I discovered, through the process, is that “Holding South” is actually a coming of age story, which never crossed my mind when I penned the original. It’s always fascinating to me, how a world and its characters can reveal all kinds of secrets if you dig deep enough. 

A Time of Doing

This past month has been one of those months where the stars align and everything makes sense… or a meteor falls on your head in order to get your attention – either way, something happened to make me wake up.

I started the month off by attending the Film Independent Forum. Having attended so many of these conferences before, I found myself drawn to some of the more unusual panels – wanting to hear something new and different. I was not disappointed – there were so many fascinating discussions! Two of my favorites were on fiction podcasts (totally have to play in that arena soon) and on creating webseries.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that, in this day and age, with the access we have at our fingertips, creating your own content is the way to go. Creating a lot of your own content is an even better way to go – we are in a time of doing, and the do-ers stand out.

The following week, I was fortunate enough to hear Lisa Ebersole speak, again, which is always a treat. Last time, she spoke about her webseries, 37 Problems; the journey she went through to make it and how it opened doors for her. This time, Lisa spoke about writing from your “authentic lens.” I tend to write a lot of action/sci-fi including places, times and aliens that I will never go to, experience or meet, but that’s not to say that I can’t or don’t already write from an authentic place within those spaces. However, Lisa’s words got me thinking about playing with something new…

That same week, I was asked to create a new premise for a web-series. What perfect timing! I decided on some boundaries for myself – it had to take place on Earth, in modern times, with humans, who had real jobs and families… and, okay, I added a ghost. Some habits die hard…

It was such a fantastic exercise, and I have completely fallen in love with these characters and the possibilities within the world. So, since we’re in a time of doing… I plan to move forward with this webseries. I’m going to write out the rest of the season one episodes, and then push it forward into production! Very excited about this one.

All it took was being hit over the head all month to know – on a soul level – that it’s time to join the do-ers, and get my stories out there right now – in my own way, and on my own terms. Of course, I will continue to work on the multiple features and television shows I have in development, but I think it’s time to play in alternate storytelling fields as well. (I’ve shared my previous passion for comics and graphic novels – which by the way – I am now adapting a project into graphic novel format – yay!) But it’s time… time to make this webseries and get it out there. Time to create a fiction podcast. Time to play with more transmedia. Time to direct my own short films. It’s time to get shit done that doesn’t require months or years of pulling together multi-million dollar deals (which I am still all for and totally working on), but in the meantime, I’ll be over here getting my stories out to the world through every possible avenue – cuz, honestly, they all rock!

Upping the Ante

As a working screenwriter, I write every day.

Today, I was asked to look at ways that I can add even more writing into my life/career. After taking into consideration what is actually possible to add into my already hectic workday, I came up with the following list of items that have been on my mind and decided to make a commitment to follow through on all three:

ONE:

Morning Brainstorm Session

I used to write twelve new story concepts every morning (thank you Hal Croasmun), but life happens and I fell out of the habit. This is my commitment to return to it.

TWO:

Creating a blog on the creative process.

I have been wanting to create a blog on the creative process of writing and producing that explores moving multiple projects up hill and everything in between. I think it’s about time that I put some sweat into it and get ‘er done.

THREE:

Graphic Novels

I discovered a real passion for writing comics and graphic novels (as you may have noticed with my post about Comic Draw). There is one specific project that I currently have in development that the team wants to turn into a graphic novel. No more waiting! It’s time to write those scripts and lock down an artist. Super excited about this one!

There you have it. The commitments are out there. It’s time to up the writing ante.