Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Story and Calendar Management

It's been a long few weeks, Lurkdom. I've reread my WIP about six times and now have 13 pages of revision notes to implement. In addition to the crazy amount of notes, I also have a 3 page long task list of things this revision must accomplish.

My revision process will hit the triple digits hours-wise.

The first thing on my task list was to create a timeline of events. This step may sound like a procrastinator's task, but when your story includes a ticking clock device, it's important to make sure that everything works within that time frame. (It's also important that events that happen on a Friday actually do happen on a Friday.)

What PHOENIX RISING currently looks like.
Here's a snapshot of my timeline as it currently stands in my WIP. Not all the dates/days are specified within the story, so I had to guess a few things. The problem with that is that there's way too many unknowns. Then you develop the problem of large gaps in time. (If you don't believe, continue to look to your right.)

All events are written on post it notes. On days when there are multiple events, I used flags to write the events in. On the flags, each color represents a different character.

By putting my story's events on a timeline, I can see that way too much is happening in one spot. The entire novel is supposed to be over a seven-week period; there's no need for so much to happen in two weeks straight.

Now that I know what my current timeline looks like (and I've had a good cry over it), I can look to see what can move and what needs to be included. After a few hours, I've come up with a more evenly spaced out plot.

What PHOENIX RISING *may* end up as.
I still have the same time frame as before, but I moved the bulk of my events around. The addition of the dark blue post it notes tell me where to adjust time within the manuscript or ask me what else can happen in the white space. (The first two blue notes in September ask me this.)

There are still some events that are chunked together, but not as bad as before. Now when they're chunked, there's a legitimate reason. (I'm looking at you top right hand square.)

Of course, while working on this, new scenes popped up. I have no idea where they are supposed to go just yet so I grabbed another post it note (in white) and stuck the scene ideas on it. Then I slapped in on top.

Is this the final fall of all the scenes? Probably not. I have a lot of work cut out for me, but having a revised framework is useful. With the calendar, I know what happens on a particular day and whether or not it's feasible. I know where there is some wiggle room and if a particular character mentions the deadline is X amount of days away, I can double check.

Does anyone else use this technique as part of revision? What else do you do?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Behind the Zombie-- Doug Jones

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

Hello! And welcome to another edition of Zombie Thursday! Today I want to profile another cool actor. He's not especially famous for playing a zombie, but he is incredibly famous. He's been in over 90 films and television shows, and even though you have most definitely seen him, you may not even know or realize who he is!

Around my birthday back in February, I was watching the Disney Channel. I'm a huge Disney fan and watch it rather frequently. I'm not embarrassed by this fact. It just so happened that one of my favorite movies of all time was on, and one that features a zombie! A zombie in a Disney movie? On the Disney Channel? Not as strange or out of place as you might think (Disney has produced some f@*ked up movies... I love them! But they are messed up. Something Wicked this Way Comes, anyone? But I digress...) Anyway! The movie I'm referring to is Hocus Pocus! But, Miranda, that movie had witches and a cat. I don't remember a zombie...

Enter the character Billy Butcherson! The dead ex-lover of Winifred (Bette Midler) who is brought back to "life" through some black voodoo magic and chases around the poor children. But he changes sides and at one point is referred to as a "nice zombie." Great character, fantastic makeup job (Billy has his lips sewn shut by Winifred; he eventually rips them open as have the thread still hanging there), and wonderfully portrayed by actor Doug Jones.

Doug Jones is an incredibly talented actor and body contortionist. While he does play characters that are very human and normal looking, more often than not he is hidden behind layers of makeup and prosthetics. Some of his more notable roles have been Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies, the Faun in Pan's Labyrinth, and roles in Mystery Men, Men in Black II, Tales from the Crypt, The Fantastic Four (the Silver Surfer), and so many, many more! In fact, one of my absolute favorite roles he has protrayed, and one that still freaks me out *every time* I see it... He plays the lead "Gentleman" in the silent (and Emmy winning) episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 'Hush.'

Just like our character actor last week, I've heard nothing but amazing things about Doug Jones' personality and attitude toward his fans. He is a regular at fan conventions and is always there to give an autograph or hug (lots of hugs, or so I've been told). If you're a fan of Mr. Jones, what movies have you seen him in and which are your favorites? I'm also going to have to throw Tank Girl out there, as well. Love that movie and I love the Rippers!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Hiatus, of Sorts

Dear Blog,

This is to let you know that you and I won't be seeing each other as much over the next few weeks. Please know this has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with revisions. I'm five weeks behind my self-inflicted revision schedule. (My original plan was to use EdMo to revise my NaNoWriMo '11 project.)

Don't worry, Blog. This isn't goodbye and I'll come back when something inspiring strikes. Most likely this will be when I have more brain power to do so.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Today's Revision Angst Fueled by Diet Cherry Coke

If you've been following me on Twitter or have seen my life via Facebook, you know the following things: I'm still unemployed, I'm still revising, and I've developed an unhealthy addiction to several Facebook games.

The first thing isn't related to the last two things, though I'm using my unemployment-ness to my advantage. Example: A revision that would have taken me several months of nights only took a month and a half to complete. True, it could've taken less time if I didn't play as many rounds of Tetris humanly possible, but revisions are hard.

Let me repeat: revisions are hard.

Now that I've completed revisions on my contemporary, it's time for me to put my focus back on my urban fantasy. This is harder to do than I originally thought, partially because I'm approaching revision burnout. The other reason is shifting gears from one world to another is a challenge.

The thing that sucks is that I have to revise: the urban fantasy will not revise itself. Also, I'm one of the administrators and regional coordinators for NaNoEdMo; it would look horrible if I couldn't complete fifty hours of revision. These factors don't change the fact that I don't know how to begin this revision.

How do you change revision gears from one project to another? I'm desperate for suggestions.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rest in Peace, Bill Hinzman

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

Writer's Block. Terrible, horrible writer's block. I've been plagued for weeks. Have you ever had so much stuff going on in your mind that you feel like you creatively have room for no more stuff? That's how I felt all last month. I'm still on a bit of a block. And as someone who loves writing, it really sucks. Since most people who read this blog are writerly types, what do you guys do to get past writer's block and periods of non-creation? This problem is a real first for me. Thank you for your patience with my absence!

I've been thinking of things to write for weeks, and it hasn't been easy. I've had some pretty long and heated Walking Dead debates at work, but unfortunately those topics would be so riddled with spoilers that they're something I couldn't even talk about here on the blog (although contact me privately for some good old fashion debate/show talk).

So today, I took a step back and decided on something that I don't think I've ever put in the spotlight before, not officially. I've spoken a lot about good zombie stories and the awesome special effects artists and directors that bring these horrific characters to life. It's too easy to just think that any type of actor can get some blood and gore and prosthetics put on them and shamble along to make a convincing zombie, but it's so much more than that. It takes an amazing actor to really bring these creatures to life...er, death?

Recently, the actor who portrayed one of the most famous zombies of all time passed away from cancer. Bill Hinzman played the very first zombie seen in the cemetery in the original Night of the Living Dead. He was 75 years old. And while his name may not have stood out amongst the films stars, what an iconic character! There are a lot of memorable scenes from that film, but when asked, I bet most people will recall with absolute clarity the moment the old man in a beat up suit comes walking toward the heroes of the film. At first the audience doesn't know it is a zombie, but then he attacks! I know that moment always frightens me, no matter how many times I've seen it!

Hinzman wasn't originally supposed to be an actor in the film. He was an assistant cameraman and when George Romero needed a zombie in the cemetery, Bill was old enough, thin, and had his own beat up suit (a film producer stated in an interview with Reuters). I have a few friends who were lucky enough to meet Bill Hinzman at some fan conventions and they said he was a very nice man and always happy to sign autographs and take pictures. From such humble beginnings to a horror and pop-culture legend!

A director, designer, or makeup artist can only do so much. At the end of the day, it's the actor's movements that really make or break a character. Kudos to the late Bill Hinzman for accomplishing what so few can do-- create a character that will live on forever in the minds of filmgoers!

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