Friday, June 24, 2011

The HAECOF Method

It's been a good week for TV writing. I'm happy to report that the words for my new pilot are flowing -- over 30 pages worth. I even have a title for the episode: "Twouble." I have big plans for this pilot. I'm going to produce a trailer for it and submit it to the 2012 New York Television Festival. This is a big deal for me. It will force me to stop hiding behind my computer and really make something, add an actual thing to the creative cosmos.

If I had to sum up my show by way of comparison, (picture me in a short skirt pitching 15 HBO execs) I'd say it's The Office meets Gossip Girl meets Sex and the City. While I normally dislike these kinds of comparisons, thinking about my own show this way has served one important purpose: it reminds me when I'm getting too close to what's already been done.

I don't know about you, but when I'm writing -- a novel, a movie, a tv show, anything -- I normally steer clear of its "peers," meaning any book, movie or tv show that resembles my own even in the slightest. It's a method borne out of fear, mostly; my fear of being compared to someone else and falling short, not my fear of ghosts.

When I'm in between projects, I fuel up on as much of my "peers'" work as I can. But during my own creation phase? No way. I was reminded of the importance of adhering to this method of mine -- the "How to Avoid Eating the Contents Of Fridge" method (HAECOF) -- when I did something really stupid yesterday and watched the pilot for the maddeningly amazing BBC series Pulling. And now, because I did not follow HAECOF as my protégés pictured above have been doing, I am in need of a larger HBO pitching skirt.

What about you? When you write, do you look to the works of other "similar" writers for inspiration and creative, um, lubrication? Or do you feel dragged down by their amazingness?

Speaking of inspiration, I read a very good short story this week by Elly Zupko called "Fixed." Check it out here. It contains swears and sexy bits so if you want something to read to your kids or puppy, click here instead.

Friday, June 17, 2011


There are a few "successes" that we, when we were young, celebrated that our parents did not. For example: “Yay! I got into film school!” And “Yay! I got into art school!” And “Yay! I’m going to be on 16 and Pregnant!” And when I had mine – “Yay! I got a $24,000 a year writing job!” – I knew that mom and dad were not about to take me to Red Lobster.

In fact, although I’m 30 years old and I’ve managed to make a living as a writer, to this day it is my mother’s greatest wish for me that I “go back to school and learn a trade.” Yes, my mom wants me to be a plumber. Please understand, I am not dismissing this trade or any other. It is highly skilled and well-paying work. But a plumber I am not.

This being the case, every six months or so, when she throws plumbing into the conversation, I feel the need to remind my mom that writing is a real job, too. And that, as a matter of fact, the two careers have much in common. So, when my mom figures out how to use the web cam on her computer, here is the poster I will show her the next time trade school comes up.

(For those of you who check it out, I have no idea why some of the letters near the Atwood photo have disappeared. Guess I should have gone to design school, too.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adorable indifference

From today's National Post: "Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle’s debut novel is to be published for the first time in September, nearly 130 years after it was written."

The way my book is going right now, 130 years sounds about right... if it ever gets finished (let alone published) at all. Why you ask? Because I'm just not that into it any more.

Why you ask? (Jesus, you're nosy.) Because I've developed a serious case of indifference made worse by my new TV pilot idea and a deflated interest in literature for which I blame on summertime, various magazine subscriptions and a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Anyhoo, if my passion for my book ever does return, here's the timeline I'm looking at:

August 1, 2011: Emily opens manuscript to tackle latest round of revisions.
August 2, 2011: Emily gives up because writing is hard.
August 3, 2011: New crop of track marks appear on Emily's left arm.
August 4, 2011: Emily disappears without a trace. (Her Kelly Clarkson collection also goes missing.)
July 7, 2012: Emily returns to Toronto, 15 pounds heavier, with blue hair and an Angolan accent.
July 10, 2012: Emboldened after watching old Susan Powter laser discs, Emily shaves blue head and throws herself into revisions once more.
November 3, 2012: Emily finishes revisions. Eats soy ice cream (strawberry) + cone (gluten-free) in celebration.
November 6, 2012: Emily lands new dream job, rocks a size two, feels fabulous and finds perfect happiness. (Thank you, Susan!)
January 5, 2013: Emily re-reads latest revision.
January 6, 2013: Emily admitted into psych ward at Toronto General.
June 8, 2141: Emily's novel gets published (posthumously) by Mars-Made-Editions, a new imprint of intergalactic publisher, Books by Dead Earthlings.

What about you, dear reader? Have you ever lost interest in your own writing project? How did you handle it?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nacho average reader

I’ve been so hot and heavy with TV writing lately, that I completely forgot to blog about the freelancer! You know, the editor I hired to look at my manuscript? Well, we met up over a month ago and here’s what went down.

She liked it, mostly. Although she didn’t get it, mostly. At least until the end. She said I need to drop more hints throughout about what’s to come, about what’s the point. She said I need to make the fantastical realism a little more fantastical so the reader doesn’t confuse it with what’s actually real. She said I need to change up the way I write certain elements of dialogue because an “experiment” I was toying with just didn’t succeed. She compared the whole thing to Edible Woman. She said it was “brilliant.” (Okay, that last one sounds amazing, but don't get excited: she’s British and they throw that word around a lot.)

All in all, having a non-friend, seriously-credible pro edit my book was very useful and well worth the $400 bill. She was very honest and brutal and generous at the same time. She answered all the questions I had been posing only to my overly agreeable Nacho Libre bobblehead for the last two years. And even though she thought I was wrong sometimes, she made me feel right. Because, turns out, I knew what was wrong all along.

I left our meeting with far fewer wounds than I anticipated. Today, I feel only empowered by her feedback, fully aware of how I’m going to address certain areas that need work, and more confident about the ones I stood up for. In the end, of course, my opinion matters most. But after five years of toiling away, someone else’s is nice, too.