TGIM - The Unexpected Days

I woke up on Saturday, not knowing what the day would hold. I'm not much of a planner in general, but I was especially limber on Saturday, thinking I'd forego dodgeball (which I hadn't played in about 3 weeks) to sleep in, be lazy, and then spend the afternoon and evening writing.

Instead I woke up and went for a run, decided dodgeball was the place for me, and got an unexpected text from Filip asking what time open gym was. Two hours of dodgeball later, I was at Smoothie King (which I probably haven't been to since 8th or 9th grade in Dunwoody) having my second smoothie of the day, and discussing plans for the evening. That's funny, I didn't know I was going out.

Met up with friends new and old, first at a house in Westwood, then ended up at the newly remodeled Trader Vic's. I know, I know, it's new as of about two years ago, but I only went to the original once, and that was probably a few months before it closed. It's all new to me. The poolside atmosphere is nice, but it's not really the vibe I want from a tiki bar. Ah well, the drinks were stiff as hell, so that works.

Hit up Busby's and then popped into a bar down the street (can't remember the name), then ended up back at the aforementioned house. Found out a pair of writers totally stole my pilot idea, and theirs is already optioned, so that was slightly sobering.

And I was getting entertaining texts throughout the night, including pictures...

Sometimes both not having a plan and saying yes to opportunities yields an amazing day. Saturday was just such an occasion.


Kody Chamberlain & Creator-Owned Blogging

Kody Chamberlain is one of my favorite people in comics. In fact, he's probably one of my favorite people amongst people as well. I've had the pleasure of knowing him for the last few years, and I'm proud to have worked with him and call him a friend.

At our very first meeting, he told me about an original story he was going to write and draw. While primarily known as an artist, Kody is one of those guys that's just too damn smart and too damn good to not be writing his own stuff as well. The story sounded cool then, and after several years of building his name in the industry, he's embarked on the actual creation and production of the book, SWEETS.

I've had the pleasure of reading the initial series manuscript and it's really good. Exactly the kind of story you want to see from Kody, with some surprises to keep it interesting and awesome. He'll be blogging about the process as he continues, and I'll definitely be keeping up with it.

I've put a link at right, but you can also check it out at the link below:


TGIM - Hard Work Paying Of

Not sure how much I can say right now, but the last 7+ months of busting my hump are finally starting to pay dividends. I'm officially moving forward on two projects writing wise. One is a WFH miniseries, details to come as I know it's okay to talk about, the other a story in an upcoming special for one of the Big 2.

I may not have arrived just yet, but months of pushing in many directions has finally started to yield some results. Things are looking up, and I'll hopefully be finishing up a draft of the screenplay this week.

Life is good. How are you?

(And yes, these TGIMs are getting posted later and later. I'm both busy, and not enjoying Mondays.)


The Invisible Man

Via Kody Chamberlain, stumbled across a link to a gallery of photos by Liu Bolin, who camouflages himself in virtually any surroundings for the sake of photos.

He's amazing.


Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

I didn't know this existed. Was catching up on the always solid crime fiction blog, Do Some Damage, and Scott Parker happened to mention that he always keeps a copy of Elmore Leonard's 10 rules whenever he's working on something. Could it be, I didn't even know this existed?

A quick google search later and I'm staring at them. Originally a short article in the New York Times, then expanded into a book, now mine to peruse.

Here's the originally article (via Modem Noise), plus a few extra rules culled from Leonard's site:

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing
Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle

from the New York Times, Writers on Writing Series.


These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories “Close Range.”

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character—the one whose view best brings the scene to life—I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in “Sweet Thursday” was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1” and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2” as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”

“Sweet Thursday” came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

Additional rules:

- Never use a colon or semicolon in dialog. It may be grammatically correct but doesn’t look right.

- Tell your editor to tell the copy editor not to mess with your punctuation.- as long as it’s consistent. Incomplete sentences are okay.

- Don’t ever write to critics , and don’t show your manuscript to anyone outside the publishing business when you are satisfied with it.

- And if you ever work in Hollywood take the advice of Raymond Chandler who said, “Wear your second best suit, artistically speaking and don’t take things too much too heart. Do the best you can without straining at it. And when you have had enough, say goodbye with a smile, because for all you know you may want to go back.”


TGIM - Health

I got sick on Friday while working on a pitch. It began with shortness of breath, became a fever, and then some lower back pain. Saturday I became super-sensitive to temperature, got pulled over by the police for speeding, and woke in the middle of the night with uncontrollable shaking. I couldn't get warm. Sunday brought a cough, and today brought plenty of phlegm. I think I'm on the mend, but who knows.

Being sick reminds you how great it is on the days you're healthy. Every time you want to complain about something minor in your everyday life, just remember how much worse it is to be sick or injured. I especially miss my 100% cogent mind. Had to put the screenplay on hold with the pitch Friday, and my brain isn't back to normal to start again. Not an excuse, I just know how tough the day-to-day is, don't need the added frustration of negative progress.

Hopefully I'll be healthy soon enough to knock this thing out, and for my birthday later in the week. No idea of plans, but we'll figure it out. Can't wait to get healthy, back up to speed. Hopefully some cool work announcements soon.



Another day, another 10 pages. For those keeping score, that puts us at 81 pages. And yet, I'm not happy. I feel like the whole thing is spinning out of control. I'm off the beat sheet, pulling things out of my ass, and it's just not quite where I want it to be.

Here's what the last (almost) two weeks have taught me about screenwriting:

Screenwriting is easy. Good screenwriting is hard.

Progress is progress, that's about all I know. Tomorrow I'm definitely going to go back through the last 15-20 pages and see what I want to throw out. Things really got out of hand, to the point where certain scenes I know I want/need to have aren't really appearing on the horizon. This isn't a kill your darlings situation, this is a "fix this mess" kind of deal.

I'm tired, definitely need to start earlier tomorrow. And yet, I have potential paying work due first. Which I should put some more time in on now. No rest for the untalented...


Had a hard time with things today. Meeting early got postponed, ended up spending more time on editing than I planned. Said the wrong thing on an IM and got chewed out (in an encouraging manner) by Fialkov for a bit. I needed it.

Really been struggling with a pitch. It's not that I don't have ideas, I just don't think they're there yet. Got another couple days, and an idea of how to get closer to what's wanted. We'll see how things go tomorrow. I feel better whenever I talk to Hill about it. I know we have yet to get actual projects rolling together, but we've been baking things for a few months now and it's really refreshing to be in the same wheelhouse (almost exactly in some cases) but come at things from different angles. Really opens up my thinking and lets me tackle things in ways I wouldn't normally try in order to get to the place I'm trying to get. Bryan Hill is the truth, people. You heard it here third.

As a result of pitch issues, editing needing to get done, and WeHo Dodgeball playoffs (we did not win, thus ending our season and winning streak), I didn't get started on the screenplay until late. Should have gotten going around 11, but wanted a smoothie. And then I should have gotten going at 11:30, but Nelson and I started talking. Careers, the pitch, art, etc.

Got rolling at 12:30 am. Wrote about one page in the first hour. Kept distracting myself with twitter responses, refreshing email for no reason, etc. Finally got in a groove, just finished up a couple minutes ago. Again, I have no idea if it's good. In fact, the main scene I worked on didn't play out at all how I planned (ended in the same spot, but that's about it).

I haven't been warming up by revising previous pages, so I think I'm gonna just keep plugging, take a day off just reading screenplays with a good style, then come back through and revise the whole thing. Then I'll give the first round to the only readers I trust to not abandon me when it's terrible, do their notes, and cast the net out wider.

10 pages done, sitting halfway through 71 and right in the middle of a scene that'll write itself. There is no more can't in my vocabulary when it comes to this screenplay. Given 2-3 hours (or preferably more), I can consistently make 10 pages of progress. If I can keep that up, work on quality, I'll be a beast in no time. Now, sleep...

P.S. I randomly found an email from an artist I want to do an original thing but couldn't find any contact info (or name) for him. Combing through old email for something else, the email just appeared. Just dropped him a line. Could be cool.


Roger Ebert on The Gathering Dark Age

An excellent article by film critic and historian Roger Ebert on the state of movies, education, and America.

If you're not game for the article, scroll down and check out the videos. The food lady is officially the dumbest person I've ever seen speak.



Since I didn't mention it earlier, I ended up taking the weekend off from the screenplay. Don't know if it did me good or bad, because I managed to get my ten pages done today. And just a hair before midnight too, not that it would matter if I finished at 3pm or 3am to me.

It is now, at 51 pages, the furthest I've made it into a screenplay (previous mark was 47 pages, which I wrote in two nights sophomore year of college). Not an accomplishment until it's actually done, but a sign post along the way to mark my journey.

I don't know where this thing is going right now. I have the overall story and I'm about to hit the midpoint which changes things and should help me tighten up, but the journey there has gone unexpected directions and I'm really doing my best not to edit as I go. Had a couple scenes I know I'll be revising tomorrow as a warm-up (which I did not do today due to getting going very late, probably to my own detriment), but the pages keep ticking and the story keeps moving. Fair enough.

Today's quota met, time for a little bedtime snack (been incredibly hungry since eating at 7pm tonight) and an episode of Dead Like Me. Tomorrow will be another ten pages, and hopefully hammering out a pitch for some cohorts to get feedback on until it's live to the world.

TGIM - Synergy

I'm not talking about the corporate buzzword, when various aspects of a company come together to co-promote itself in a never-ending orgy of cross-platform marketing and exploitation (which I actually think is a good and brilliant thing when handled correctly). I'm talking more about when everything in your life starts to gel at the right time, and one good thing begets another.

I feel like everything is headed in a really good direction for me right now. Work is good, the screenplay is flowing (as of this writing I need another 5 pages for the day, but considering I wrote 5 in about 90 minutes, I think some time after dodgeball will get me to the safe zone), and even my personal life is looking like the hot fire. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun at both work and play in a long time.

Parties, good friends, baseball games with my hometown Braves, etc. And I'm writing. So often in life, especially during my time at Top Cow, I was choosing areas to focus on. I always had work as the big chunk, and I often sacrificed personal projects. I had some fun at times, and I forgot to have it at others.

One of the things I've learned since leaving Top Cow is how to better use my time. I still get everything I need to done (for freelance editing, pitches, writing, etc.), but I also make time for me. Me the person, me the writer, me the couch potato. I'm oddly living a richer (not monetarily), fuller life in funemployment than I ever did with a great job.

And I think it's all because of synergy. When it all comes together, sometimes there's magic.

Sidebar: Little known fact, I first heard the word synergy on some MTV special. It was during a phase in which I wanted to be black, rock a flat top, and thought that Chain Letter was a great book.



Finished my first official week of SCREENPLAY OVERDRIVE.

One day of planning, four days of writing. The cursor calmly sits mid-way down on page 41, waiting for me to write more. I guess I'm about a third of the way done, though I have a feeling this first draft is going to come in long.

I sat down today with the nagging feel that the first half of Act II still sucked. I looked at my cards, thought about the story, and decided I would introduce a new character to help my character out. When in need, invent something or someone. New character, quick backstory, long scene to make him a vital part. But the question is, how does he fit in with the later things I'm still using? That remains to be seen...

Today's ten pages kind of sucked, but overall its longer than the previous attempt (41 pages to the previous 39), and I think the opening and general thrust of the story works better. I'll call that a win.

Again, the one thing I'm really working toward here is finishing. I know there's good stuff in the story, it just might not be as tight as I want it to be when I get done with a first pass. So I'll do another. For now, just finish.

Let that be a lesson to all neophyte (and veteran) creators out there. Finishing is one of the most important aspects of the game. Can't finish, can't submit, can't produce, can't get paid, can't move on. Now, quality is obviously a major factor, but sometimes your creative brain needs to vomit, then you piece through the mess and keep the good stuff. Like the corn and beans that never got properly digested.

Hello, weekend. Treat this writer well. He has more in store for you...


A Day Without Tweets

This morning's twitter outage has me worried. What am I to do when I can't offer random wisdom, aphorisms, and general nonsense to the world? Whose lives will I follow? Must I live my own?

A scary proposition indeed...



It's an unofficial term that I'm using to describe my progress on the screenplay that will carry me into the promised land of actually getting it done. Seems to make sense given that 10 pages a day is a lot to ask for if you think about getting 120 pages done in 12 days, but really not that much on its own.

Yesterday was all about getting the Board in shape to see if anything was missing, and today was about getting back to work. Get 10 pages done, no matter what. Procrastination ruled the day, but then around 4-something I finally managed to shake off the funk, let Blake Snyder's passing push me to do something rather than feel weird, and get some work done. I wrote my ten pages, which are largely similar to the first 10 pages, but with a revised opening sequence, and I can rest for the day. And of course, I didn't look at any of the cards I made for the board. Typical.

I'll be mulling some notes I got on a comic project, hopefully discussing them with one of my collaborators as well, but mostly taking it easy with dinner and perhaps a movie whilst I pontificate.

Tomorrow will see pages 11-20 written, as well as polishing up 1-10 as a warm-up to get the neurons firing and fingers flowing across the keys. Hopefully some progress on the comics side, as well as some work on new pitches with Mr. Hill. We've got at least one stellar one, just a matter of giving it the fleshing.

Lots of blog today. Hmm...

RIP Blake Snyder

I'm not a complete devotee of Save the Cat, but I think the book and its method have a lot of merit. So imagine my surprise to see a tweet from Blake Snyder (@Blake_Snyder) that read:

passed away earlier today. Please visit blakesnyder.com

I assumed it was truncated, missing the name in question, but instead... He was the one gone, notifying the world via a posthumous tweet and a goodbye blog from someone. I don't know why, but finding out about death in this way seems really odd to me.

And selfishly, I'm now going to have an even harder time writing and not procrastinating today.

RIP Blake, I'll use your wisdom for years to come.

Do Some Damage Covers 'Writer's Block'

I'm never really sure how I feel about writer's block. I think it exists, in a sense, when certain things won't come together. But I've never felt (being the immensely talented and creative fellow that I am) that there was a time when no words or ideas would come on anything. I've struggled with projects and pages, paragraphs and lines, sometimes even punctuation. But my brain never shut down to the point where nothing would come at all. There's always something left in the tank.

But anyway, here's a solid article from Jay Stringer, one of the members of the new crime fiction blog, Do Some Damage. Haven't had much time to check out the site yet, but did read and enjoy this article.


TGIM - Back Against the Wall

Here's what I like to do:

Sleep. I mean procrastinate. Hell, if I can do both together, that's just gravy.

I don't do much for myself. Make someone (a person or a company) dependent upon me and I'll hit deadlines, come through in the clutch, and do whatever is needed. But me, working on a screenplay just to get one done, tell the story I want to tell, and not having anyone waiting on it... I procrastinate. I let other things get in the way. I even take on other work (paying or not) to avoid doing it.

All because of Parkinson's Law. And as often as it's failed me, it's proven true countless more times. Look at pretty much every paper or school project I've ever written, or the first few comics I did where artists were in need ASAP and I had to get something done yesterday. I got it done.

But, as my friend Sean Chen pointed out at SDCC, I've been blowing a lot of my self-imposed deadlines. He asked me why and I didn't have a good answer. Still don't, to be perfectly honest. I think fear of doing something bad (even though I've already dealt with this) is still holding me back. But I also keep in my mind something Brian Buccellato told me. He said his writing career really turned a corner when he finished his first screenplay. Not because it was amazing, but because it was done. There was no longer any reason to think that he couldn't do it, because the proof was sitting right in front of him.

So I'm eliminating excuses. I'm eliminating goals. I'm just going to work, with no other options. I've got my editing stuff on a good track so that it won't get in the way of my scheduled writing, and the writing plan is reasonable if intensive (10 pages a day, thanks to Tony Gilroy's method via Bryan Hill). I've already blown every deadline I've set for myself countless times. I've tried shame (shaving my beard before SDCC) and grooming tweaks (not getting another haircut until I finish) and nothing has really led to much progress.

So I'm just going to sit my ass in this chair and write. No bullshit, no excuses. I've realized, thanks in no small part to my roommate, that finishing this screenplay is more important than any job I might take, project that might get approved, etc. It's holding me back from everything I want to do. The only choice is to finish it if I want any semblance of a career, or it'll forever be a stumbling block that keeps tripping me up.

Not many guys let their first screenplay put their career on the line. But I'm already there, in a fucked up in the head sort of way. So my back is against the wall, whether I want it to be or not. And sometimes that's not a bad position to be in. Like now...

Does this even count as a TGIM. I say yes, and notice the period indicating a rhetorical question. Grammar saves the day again!

In other news, been finalizing my "Board," for those familiar with Save the Cat. I hate the process. I don't mind outlining, but taking this thing the whole way has me bullshitting through the +/- emotional change of some scenes, ditto for the <> conflict in each. It feels really inorganic to me, and more like busy work (which he swears is not the point). I have enough faith in my sensibilities and storytelling that I like to think I can borrow and dip my toes into the method without actually going through it like an automaton. I'm mingling my stuff with his, and trying to find harmony. If it helps me get this thing written (and help it shall, since there's no other choice), I'll go and do The Board properly next time.

After all, "If what works for you isn't working, try something else." Say, there's a screenplay idea in there (not the next one, but the third one)...


McGinnis does Stella

My good friend and collaborator Kody Chamberlain was the first guy to turn me on to the paintings of Robert McGinnis. He's all kinds of amazing, and has recently done a job for Stella Artois.

Here's an article on on his work featuring finished pieces and process sketches. Enjoy.