09/26/07 | General, My Writings | 0 Comments
My university has all 4-credit classes, and we usually take four at a time, for a total of 16 credits a semester. This semester I’m overloading and taking 20 credits so that I can graduate on time (my credits got screwed up because I transferred here after going to school for a year in PA). And, besides the additional class, there seems to be an unusual amount of work due for each class every week, much more than normal. I’ve been working. I’ve also been having money issues, where I was owed money from three different sources and none were paying up, to the point where I was almost in the red for most of the month, sometimes not eating or eating very little to get by. I also haven’t had a weekend to myself or a day off for about three weeks.
Why am I telling you this? To try and give some sort of background to my next statement: I haven’t written anything in about three weeks.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve written, but for classes, or for this Journal (which I guess is better than nothing). But I haven’t written any short stories, and I certainly haven’t written anything for my novel.
What the hell is wrong with me? I love to write, it should be a time I covet for myself. I have an agent who is interested in seeing my book when it’s done! All I have to do is finish the second draft and send it out to her, and hopefully I’ll get a good response back. I have a new support system from a number of my fellow Maui writers, who keep asking me how my writing is going, and making me feel guilty when I have to be honest and say, “Nothing new to report” (which they should continue to do!).
I don’t know, I’ve been in some sort of funk. I get into them every once and a while, where I can’t dredge up the will to write. It’s not writer’s block; I have plenty of stuff to write about, and I know exactly how to do it. There’s just no push for some reason.
Sometimes I impress myself and write a 10,000 word story in one week, averaging about 2,000 words a day. I’ve had 5,000 word days before. I like those days.
Hopefully it has just been the things on my mind keeping me from writing. It’s definitely not a lack of passion. I just need to reinvigorate my mojo.
I have made a conscious decision to take more time for myself. Usually I read 3 books a month, and I haven’t even finished one in the month I’ve been back from Maui. In the past couple of days, I’ve read about 200 pages of that James Rollins novel I mentioned in a previous post. I watched the first season of Grey’s Anatomy last night (it was only nine episodes, but I couldn’t stop for anything!). So, hopefully, writing will come next.
Kyle W. Kerr
Okay, so I heard about this a while ago and never thought it would ever come into being. I was wrong. And I’m glad I was.
Terminator 2 is one of my favorite movies of all time. In fact, it is one of my favorite stories from my parents: they claim they named me after the character “Kyle Reese” from T1. I don’t know if that’s true (the dates match up, but they could still be lying), but it’s just cool to be able to say!
The show is scheduled to air on Fox, and according to IMDb, they have already filmed 12 episodes. Included in the cast is Lena Headey as Sarah Connor, who played Queen Gorgo in 300; Thomas Dekker as John Connor, who played Claire’s friend Zach in last year’s hit TV show Heroes; and Summer Glau as Cameron (a good cyborg sent to help them, named in honor of James Cameron, who directed the first two Terminator movies), who played River Tam in Joss Whedon’s short-lived but brilliant TV show Firefly and subsequent film Serenity.
It looks like it’s going to be a wild ride. I’m definitely going to be on board!
Kyle W. Kerr
09/20/07 | Books, General, Genius Mode, Maui, On Writing | 0 Comments
Throughout the years I have looked for help in many different places: books, magazines, websites, from authors, workshops, the list goes on and on. I’m going to list a few of the things that really help(ed) me.
Half autobiography, half book on style, Stephen mixes up one of the best books on writing available today. Why is there a section where he talks about himself? Because you need to know where he’s coming from in order to know why he does what he does best. The story of his life, his vices, and the success of his first book, Carrie, are inspirational (something all of us novice writers need!), and the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing. Read through the book, do the samples, and watch your talent soar.
Okay, who the hell would ever read a book on punctuation, let along write one? You guys, this is an amazing book. I don’t claim to be the end all of punctuation knowledge (in fact, I tell everyone who will listen that most of my knowledge is actually instinct based… which usually works, but not always). You couldn’t find a more boring topic, but Lynne handles it with grace and—dare I say it?—a little wit as well. (Also, if you’re in the mood to laugh, check out her book on rudeness, Talk to the Hand).
Both are monthly magazines, and both cover a wide array of writerly topics: from how to get an agent, to writing better emotion, to lessons on column writing, and so on. Also included in many of the issues are current markets out there searching for new material, information about contests and competitions (including some of their own), as well as first-time novelists’ success stories (which are always great to read).
I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to Tess on two occasions, but more importantly I am able to connect with her on a much more regular basis through the blog on her website. She actually reads every comment, and personally responds to them when necessary. Not only is she an immensely gracious author by taking the time to connect with her readers in such a way, but her blog is actually a very useful tool to novice writers like myself. Tess gives us the inside scoop on the publishing industry, both the ups AND the downs. Most importantly, she brings herself down to our level, reassuring us that we all have doubts and worries, and even she, after 20+ books and a level of über-success most of us only dream of, still gets nervous whenever she begins a new project or when her books go on sale. And, as shown by this entry, she really cares about us beginners.
This is a peer-to-peer critiquing site. Basically, in order to have someone critique your work, you need to do the same for someone else. Once you read and review one story (you write up an actual review for the author, as well as scoring the piece on several categories, including plot, theme, characters, language, etc.), then you are able to put your own piece up for review. This is a great tool for anyone who gets nervous presenting their work to groups, and it works out fairly well. The only problem I really have with this is that you can’t regulate who reads your story. It could be sent to someone who doesn’t like your genre/theme, and your rating and review will reflect that. Also, you lose a little when you’re not able to actually talk to the person about what they thought. All you get is a little snippet. Still very enlightening and useful.
Okay, I know I’ve talked about this a little in previous posts (considering I was just there!), but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate all of this. The conference is nice because you get to go to seminars and hear from some of the best authors in the world, including NYT and internationally bestselling and Pulitzer winning authors. They tell you their stories and insights about what has worked for them, including some tips and tricks they’ve picked up along the way.
BUT, the best thing about the whole experience is if you go to the week long retreat before the conference. This is where you are able to learn, this is where you are able to delve into the depths of your writing and uncover what lies beneath. I can honestly say that the retreat changed my life—and my novel—forever and for the better. You learn about your weaknesses and try to improve upon them. You learn about your strengths and try to broaden them. You learn by doing, by writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again, because there’s no better way to learn than by doing.
EVERY BOOK I’VE EVER READ
This is something I can’t stress enough. Every time you read a book you are learning how to write; plot, structure, interesting and realistic characters, dialogue, theme, everything you would ever need to know about writing has been laid out for you for centuries, all you have to do is pick one up and read it. I am flabbergasted when wannabe writers tell me that they do not have time to read—they’re too busy! Well, how are you supposed to know how to tell a story if you never read one? Don’t know what to read? Go to the library, go to Barnes & Noble and browse, or even email me if you need some suggestions; I’ve read hundreds of great books.
Hopefully some of this information will help you can write one (and me, too!).
Kyle W. Kerr
09/16/07 | Books, Movies, My Writings, Procrastination | 0 Comments
This weekend, I saw two new movies… one new, and one a little older. Plus, a little on a book I’m currently reading.
Okay, I don’t know where to begin on this movie. We all know that Jodie Foster is a brilliant actress. Terrance Howard is good as well. This movie was freaking amazing. Though very brutal at times (you see about a two minute long beating scene, as well as a number of murders on Jodie’s part), there is such raw emotion behind it all. I don’t know if that is the work of the three writers behind the script (two of them are credited just for “story”, so I don’t know if they did any of the actual writing or not), or because Jodie and Terrance are in their element, but it is surely a sight to see. AND, it has one of the most satisfying endings to a movie than I have seen in a good long time. Our ENTIRE theater was in an uproar by the end, which only shows how quickly and deeply you get attached to these characters. Definitely a must-see.
I wanted to see this movie since I first saw the trailer (however long ago it came out). Renée Zellweger hasn’t been one of my favorite actresses, but she has grown on me as of late (I recently saw the first Bridget Jones’s Diary movie, which was cute… and I have liked the ever classic Empire Records since it came out on video), and the movie looked like I might enjoy it. Not to mention the recommendations I got from people telling me to see it (including the writer of Frida). So, I caved and bought it. I think I have to give it a 4 out of 5. This movie was so engaging, and to touching, that I was totally prepared to love it. And I did, but only up to a certain point. The last half hour of the movie completely dragged. For some reason, they (the filmmaker and writers) felt it was necessary to showcase her purchasing 4000 acres of land, working said land, and doing little, if any, writing or drawing/painting. I know this movie is supposed to be about her life, but the main pulls were her books and her love; I didn’t need to know that she was responsible for conserving 4000 acres of apparently prime English real estate property (though highly noble on her part, it doesn’t make for very interesting movie watching!). They should have cut that last 20-30 minutes and expanded the other sections instead. Still worth the watch, though.
I’m actually in the middle of this right now. I decided to read this because, well, I bought it in Maui so he could sign it and I needed something to read on the 14 hour trip back to Boston. Not that I got much reading done on the plane (I actually SLEPT, which is something I rarely do on planes… I like being on planes too much to sleep!), but I have made a slight effort to read it now that I am back. It’s actually quite good so far, and he’s freaking me out by having albino tarantulas attacking a group of archaeologists. Again, only halfway through, but it’s good so far. I’ll let you know if I like the ending!
(Note to self: Come up with some sort of cool rating system.)
So, now it’s time to get back to writing. It’s amazing that I have been back for two weeks already, and I’ve only worked on ONE chapter of my novel. I need to finish the rewrite of said chapter later today, and then start moving on to the next ones. My October 31st deadline for completion is approaching more rapidly than I could have ever expected, so I need to buckle down and WRITE! I am very excited about all of the changes, though, and I can’t wait to be able to read through the whole manuscript at the end (and to hear what everyone thinks about it!). GENIUS MODE!
Oh, for any of you who are interested:
Kyle W. Kerr
09/11/07 | General, Maui, My Writings | 0 Comments
I’ll admit that it’s been hard these past seven days without my ‘Ohana of writers. I think it’s hard for anyone who hasn’t gone through a similar experience to understand the depth of the relationships that were formed over our week-and-a-half in Maui. At the beginning of the Retreat, the organizers spoke of this bond that grows amongst the groups and I remember scoffing at the idea. Boy do I sure have a big foot, let me tell you.
Over the eleven days that I was there, I got a lot of encouragement and praise from the group, almost to the point of embarrassment. The writer in me still doesn’t know how to take compliments, and they were being thrown at me left and right. Oh, it wasn’t all praise, you know. My group absolutely hated the ending of my book, as well as a few other crucial scenes (I was going for a modern day tragedy, and they want something a little more satisfying!), and I’m not even going to mention the title…! But it’s the compliments that I remember, because they were unexpected.
Don’t get me wrong, I have great faith in my work and my ability as a writer. As you may remember, though, I wasn’t feeling all too happy about my novel when I went into Maui. Yeah, I had decided on a restructure, but there was still something nagging at me. The group definitely showed me what was lacking in the plot, but they considerably boosted my feelings for the project by recognizing the work I put into creating a truly genuine voice for the main character. They really got what I was going for, and that thrilled me to no end. In part, mission accomplished.
Now on to the rest of the edits. There are a number of chapters that need to get completely rewritten, but I’m not scared of them anymore. I know that I have a solid foundation to build on and a strong support system in my fellow writers (who will make sure I never lose sight of my vision… As one of them put it, talking about the theme, “This is a huge book!”). I’m not scared anymore.
I’d like to thank all of my fellow group members, who I really do consider my ‘Ohana. (I’m going to go around the table so I don’t miss anyone!) So, to Dawn, Ginny, Carol M., Carol C., Jon, Roland (and Kathleen!), Rocky, Millie and Charles, thank you for all of your support and encouragement. You are all talented and brilliant, and I can’t wait to see your books alongside mine in Barnes & Noble someday. And a special Mahalo to Gary, our leader and mentor, and wish him all of the success he deserves and a thousand times over. We wouldn’t be where we are without you.
Back to writing...!
Kyle W. Kerr
09/5/07 | Genius Mode, Maui, My Writings | 0 Comments
...or should I say begins? The Maui Writers Retreat and MW Conference are officially over, but now the work truly begins.
I’ll start off with the great news, and you can decide if you want to read more or not. An agent requested my novel…! The bad news? It’s not finished… *smacks self on forehead*
Okay, here’s the deal… I “finished” the book about two years ago, and it’s sat since then. Recently, I picked it up again and decided to fix all of the things that bothered me about the original draft. A whole restructuring was going to happen, things were to be rewritten or cut, and everything was to be updated. That’s definitely still the case, but after talking it over (a LOT) during the retreat with my teacher (Gary Braver) and my fellow students, I decided to rework the ending of the novel. So, the book is no longer as complete as it once was. I’m not simply updating anymore, but writing brand new scenes.
That being said, I told the agent I could have it done in two months. Oy. I will get it done in two months or die in the process, whichever comes first (hopefully the former!).
BUT, that also being said, the agent sounded genuinely intrigued by the work. A couple of the other retreat students (who stayed for the conference as well) and I noticed that a lot of people were having what looked like successes with various agents and editors. However, we realized something else. Those people were only asked to send the first 3 chapters, or the first fifty pages, or the first chapter and the synopsis, things like that. These are very general submission guidelines for any agency, things they tell everyone to send them for consideration. Few people seemed to be getting much more than that.
So, how do I know that the agent I talked to is actually interested in the work and not just trying to placate me? She asked me to send her the whole book. That’s the difference, and something I am very proud to be able to say for myself. Oh, I got one of the above requests, too, but it only takes one person to take special interest to get your foot in the door. And I’m proud to say that most of my Retreat ʻOhana (that’s Hawiian for ‘family’) have had similar successes. Hoʻomaikaʻi ʻana, ʻōlelo hoʻomaikaʻi! (I don’t really know if that means ‘congratulations’ or not, but the dictionary website told me it was!)
I don’t want this entry to be insanely long, so I’m not going to talk about everything I WANT to talk about in just one post. So, I’m going to talk about my week and a half on Maui over the next few entries, and I’ll go into further detail about my experiences during the retreat, and even share some really important information I picked up along the way.
The bottom line, though… would I ever come to Maui again? Absolutely. It was the best investment I’ve ever made, and I can’t wait to be back next year (which I will).
One note before the end of this post… You’ll notice that I have ONCE AGAIN changed the name of my book. It started out as A Life, Less Living, but I decided to change it once the overhaul began. It became A Song of Sad Lamentation. Guys, my group absolutely HATED that title! I could have died laughing (and not even to keep from crying… I thought it was really funny!)… They said it sounded too sad, and real life is sad enough. No one would ever pick up a book that said it was going to be sad right in the title! Two people in the group (I say two because they literally blurted out the title at exactly the same time) suggested Simon’s Song… which—erm—I hated. Did not like it at all…! (Sorry Carol and Charles!) So, after a lot of soul searching, I have finally come up with a title I think fits perfectly with the plot of the book, and has a double meaning to me as well (which I love doing). The new title of my book is:
Kyle W. Kerr
09/5/07 | General, Idiot Mode, Maui | 0 Comments
This was my Monday:
Woke up around 7AM Maui-time, took a shower, and packed up my hotel room. This included going through a weeks’ worth of retreat papers (copies of my chapters and synopsis with notes on them), and attempting to stuff all of my clothes into the suitcase without it dying. Then I met a few friends who were doing last minute agent/editor consultations to show some moral support (what can I say, I’m a good guy that way!)… From 11-12 we attend the closing ceremonies for the Maui Writers Conference, where my friend Dawn won third place in the Rupert Hughes Writing Competition (which is a big deal, because it is judged by some very big name authors, agents and editors, not to mention the $500 prize money [add another 0 to that for first place!]).
Noon rolls around and it’s time to check out of the hotel. I’m supposed to get a 1:45PM shuttle to the airport for a 4:30PM flight.
As I’m checking out, the girl behind the counter says, “Are you sure you’re checking out today? We have you scheduled until tomorrow.”
To which I reply, “Of course I’m leaving today. I have a 4:30 flight!”
She nods to placate me, though was surely inwardly scoffing (it’s all in the eyes!)… She checks me out anyway, being sure to radio someone to say something about an “unexpected departure.”
I go to lunch with my friends Dawn, Jamie and Rocky, where we end up inviting big wig St. Martin’s Press editor Charles Spicer to eat with us, since he was going to eat alone. The conversation was really great (I wasn’t nervous to be around him because he doesn’t represent my genre… I didn’t have to worry about impressing him), and the food was good (though expensive! $18 for a cheeseburger, fries and can of Coke!).
Finally, we realize it’s 1:30 and almost time for me to leave. No one’s really talking because we’re so sad that we’re not going to be together anymore.
The shuttle comes at 1:45 on the dot, but the driver says he doesn’t have my name on his list. “What do you mean, you don’t have my name on your list?!” I say. “I have the voucher right here… It’s already paid for!”
He calls his dispatcher, asking about my reservation. I hear her voice come over the cell’s speakerphone.
“Pick-up for Kerr is scheduled for the 4th.”
“Today’s the 4th,” I exclaim.
“They’re saying it’s the 4th,” the guy says into the phone.
I really hope you’re laughing, because I still wasn’t getting it at that point.
Thinking quick, I look at my phone. It’s September 3rd. Guys, I checked out of my hotel a day early! I packed up my room, defied the girl behind the counter, and was close to yelling at the driver for losing my reservation. Can anyone say dumbass…?
As I shuffled back up to the front counter with my best impression of a puppy dog grin on my face, I could see the I-told-you-so smile the girl behind the counter was wearing. I try and laugh it off, and in the process learn that I am the first person to EVER do that at the Wailea Marriot Resort in Maui. Go me. Oy vey.
(For those who care, Wailea is pronounced Why-Uh-Lay-Uh.)
This is what I make of the situation, though: Had I not been a complete moron, then we would never have had such a great lunch with über-editor Charlie. So, I’m not that miffed about it. (Who am I kidding? I was mortified when it happened! Charles is just the nice spin I like to put on the situation to make me feel better.)
Oh, and here’s a taste of what I saw in Maui…
And, yes, I did take them myself!
Kyle W. Kerr