Archive for the 'Candace’s Posts' Category

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 by Candace Havens
So Long

I’m a little teary right now. This is my last post for Genreality and what a great ride it is has been. I’ve enjoyed hanging out with this great group of writers, who write such wonderful, thought-provoking blogs. I’ve learned so much from them, and I’ve enjoyed my time with all of you.

If you take anything away from my posts for the last couple of years, I hope it is this: Never give up. This business is tough and it can beat you up at times. But remember why it is you write. You love it. If you do it for that reason, none of the craziness that goes into getting a book published can take that away from you.

This is a great time of year to reflect and to see how far you’ve come, and where you want to go. Make yourself accountable to someone. Let the universe know your intention, and then go about making it happen. No one is going to knock on your door and ask to read a book you haven’t written. No one is going to knock on your door and ask to see a manuscript you haven’t submitted. OK, so let’s face it — no one is going to knock on your door. But they might call if you submit your very best work and keep at it.

Thank you for sharing your advice and stories through the years. I hope you guys have a wonderful holiday, I will miss you all.

But Sasha is bringing some incredible writers to keep the blog fresh and as lively as ever.


Thursday, December 1st, 2011 by Candace Havens
Watch More TV

My friend, and fellow writer, Kate Cornell has a great post for you guys today!

There comes a point in every project where I hit a brain shift. My perception of the world changes to mirror my protagonist’s. Euphemisms, cuss words, food orders, music taste; you name it, I am in sync with my main character.
It’s a manageable condition. My prefrontal cortex holds on to the personality I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating while my imagination is unclipped from the leash and allowed run free.
This poses an intriguing conundrum when it comes to writing a television spec script. I need the brain shift moment to slip into the sitcom and sneak onto the set, but how do you sink into the persona of a character they did not create? The same way you always do.
Hours and hours of meticulous research.
That’s right. You’ve got to watch a lot of TV.
I recently wrote a spec script for The Big Bang Theory. It sounds easy. Nerd life, cultural references, and social ineptitude define my normal life. All I needed to do was browse on and Wiki a few physics articles to master Sheldon and Leonard’s world.
It didn’t work out that way.
A week into the research phase, my life revolved around BBT. Seasons 1-4 played in a steady rotation. I didn’t watch any other TV, fearful that another sitcom might slip in. I was lulled to sleep every night by a chorus of “Bazingas” and “Soft Kitty”. I printed and brass-brad bound every script available on the Internet, noting the changes between drafts and final on-screen edit.
Even my parents started watching the show. Our dinner conversations turned into: “Did you see the one where…”
After plotting my A-story, I thought maybe, just maybe, I might be on to something. Maybe I can take something that isn’t mine, immerse myself in characterization, and create something both unique and familiar.
Watching television with such singular attention isn’t easy.  There is a fine line between work and entertainment.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentions the 10,000 hour rule, the necessary time required to gain expertise based on a study Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson. I may not have reached the 10,000 hours to accomplish Big Bang expertise, but I’m willing to take it to that level.
I’m watching TV.
For research.

Bio: Kate Cornell is a struggling faux-hemian who lives at home with her parents. Her current project is scraping together the cash to move out to Los Angeles and work as a writer in television. She has worked for Sony Pictures Television, Grapevine Star Entertainment, and the Soundtrack Channel.

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 by Candace Havens

Hey Gang,

It’s Thanksgiving and I hope that you are spending time with your family and friends, and that you aren’t sitting around reading blogs. But just in case you are… :) I think this would be a great day to put out in the universe what makes you feel grateful. Here are some of mine:

1. My family. I’ve the greatest kids and a mostly understanding husband. And I have a supportive mom and dad and extended family that is so amazing it makes me cry sometimes thinking about how great they are.

2. My friends. I have the most AMAZING friends. Truly incredible people that it is my great honor to know.

3. My writing. I’m so grateful that I can follow my dream of being an author. I get to write books that I love and it really doesn’t get any better than that.

4. My dogs. That’s right, Scoobie and Gizmo rate high on this list. They are my office mates and hang out with me all day every day. And they give me unconditional love, which is really hard to find in this world.

5. The Jobs. I’m grateful for my jobs writing about TV and film. I love talking on the radio about the latest movies and I adore going out to L.A. to talk to the TV peeps. I like using a different part of my brain than I do for writing books.

These are just a few of the many things I’m grateful for and I hope you’ll share some of yours.

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 by Candace Havens
The Change Up

A few weeks ago I talked about reverse engineering, which was something I learned from Matt Nix the executive producer of Burn Notice. I have to say, beginning at the end does make things easier. I’ve done this for years, but never so purposefully. I’m working on two different projects at the same time. One I wrote more or less chronologically, but the other one I wrote the ending first and I seem to be back tracking from there. It may be a messier draft than I usually do, but it’s working.

I think sometimes we get into ruts and think we have to do things a certain way. That isn’t true. I’m teaching Fast Draft and one of the students posted that he tried my technique of just moving to the next chapter where you do know what’s happening. It worked aces for him. He said it was so freeing and that the words just fell onto the page. He wondered why he’d never thought to try it on his own.

We do get caught up in how we think things should be done. The truth is, there is no one technique that works for everyone. And we should be open to new ideas and concepts about how we work. That’s what is so great about this blog. You have several authors, from all genres, who offer up ideas on how they write. I don’t care how long you’ve been writing or how successful you are, there is always room for improvement.

What are some of the techniques you’ve picked up from classes or blogs that make your life easier?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 by Candace Havens
No Whining

I’m teaching Fast Draft right now and one of the biggest rules is that there is no whining allowed. That’s something important for writers. We have tendency to talk about writing or whine about how we don’t have time to do it. What we need to do is take that whining time and sit down and write. You do have time, but you have to make it work.

This last weekend was one of the first free ones I’ve had in months. I have two novellas due before the end of the year. A thesis to do and a day job that requires I write at least 5000 words a week. I don’t have time to whine. If you’re serious about writing, you don’t talk about it. You sit down and do it. It’s that simple.

Last Saturday I wrote 10,000 words. In one day. It took me eight hours, but I finished my first draft. I used the time I had, and that’s what it’s all about. You have to squeeze out those moments to write. Most days I don’t have eight full hours to write. I might have 30 minutes before a movie preview starts to jot down words in a notebook. I might have 20 minutes before the next conference call. I might have 45 when an interview runs late. Those little bits of time add up.

The next time you’re tempted to whine, use that time more productively just sit down and write. Do you have a long commute where you have to drive? Put a digital recorder in your car. My phone has an app for that and I use it all the time to write get down scenes or ideas I might have.

If you ever feel like you don’t have time to write, email me and I’ll send you my daily schedule. It will make you feel better about your life, I promise. But I don’t whine because I don’t have time. But I’m also grateful. Writing is what I love to do. It is my escape. It’s my job, but it is also therapy. As my friend Ann Aguirre says, “If you have to force yourself to write, maybe it’s time to find a new hobby. Write because you love it.”

What tricks do you use? One of my favorites is 1k1hr on Twitter. Talk about motivation!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by Candace Havens
Reverse Engineering

A few weeks ago I spoke with Burn Notice executive producer Matt Nix about his writing process. The writers on that show are so good at backing the characters into corners that seem impossible to get out of, and then they have a perfectly plausible way of getting them out of trouble. They do it brilliantly every single week.

Nix says that he uses reverse engineering for his stories. He begins in the corner and writes himself out of it. “The really wonky answer is that if you’re talking about the season arc, that basically stays the same,” Nix says. “What happens in the individual episodes is that the endings tend to be very specific. They are sort of more complicated than people realize. If you think of all the things that need to happen at the end of a Burn Notice episode – you need to answer the question as to why the bad guys aren’t always coming after Michael (Jeffrey Donovan); you need to solve the client’s problem but you can’t let the bad guy go so he can do that to other people. Ideally the problem is solved in some spyish way and not with Michael just whacking someone over the head with a baseball bat. The end needs to feel satisfying, and whatever happens to the bad guy needs to fell appropriate.

“The problem is a lot of times, when I’m breaking episodes myself, I usually come up with the ending first. I kind of know how the problem is going to be solved, and then I kind of reverse engineer it from the end so I don’t back myself into a corner. That happens to be how my mind words. When other people come up with episodes they think of it from the front. They pitch it to me and we’ll get to the end of the third act and I’ll say, ‘Great. What happens next?’ And they’ll say, ‘I don’t know. I was hoping you could help with that.’ My response is just because you can get Michael up a tree, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can get him down.’ We have to think of some clever way, that we haven’t done before, of getting him out of trouble and it’s a lot easier to think of those from the back end of the story. Otherwise you paint yourself into a corner and you realize your bad guy’s plan is too good and you have no way out of it.”

When I’m teaching Fast Draft, one of the tools I use for writer’s block is to write your ending first. It works the same way as Nix says. It does more than give you a fixed point of reference in your story, it frees you up to be more creative on how you want to get there. There are times when I write a book and the ending is the first thing that goes on the page. I’ll write the last chapter first. When I know where I have to go, it’s easier to get there.

It doesn’t always work that way. My current release, Model Marine (on sale now), began with a first line. “The male models are in jail.” I wrote the next five chapters, and then I had to write the end. I think, for me, I need to know that ending so I can be clear about my characters’ motivations throughout the rest of the book. Knowing the end game, gives you an idea of what your characters are trying to accomplish and how it is they need to get there.

The Demon King and I and Dragons Prefer Blondes are books where I wrote the ending first. My Charmed & Dangerous series begin with prologues, but those prologues are pulled from scenes at the end of the book. So this is something I’ve been doing from the very beginning.

I’m a pantser (write by the seat of my pants), so you plotters may be thinking that you already know where it is you need to go. But as you and I both know, that can change. While you may think you know the end game, writing it down is quite a different story.

I’d like to hear about some of the techniques you like to use when it comes to writing yourself into corners. How do you get yourself out?

And remember, when you comment here your name goes in the hat for an e-reader and lots of gift certificates. Someone who posts today will receive an autographed book.

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 by Candace Havens
You Never Know

In August I had an email from a fellow writer who told me about a young adult anthology where they needed 13 ghost stories from various authors. She asked if I might be interested in donating story. Mind you, this was in the middle of my TV Critics Press tour, and I was a little busy working 18 hour days. And they needed the story in less than a month.

I’m Candy Havens, so of course I said yes. First of all, except for a short bit in one of the Charmed & Dangerous books, I’ve never written a ghost. That was a challenge I was excited about. But I had to write a 6000 word story in less than a month and I had no idea what I wanted to write about. They had requested that perhaps I write about something in a different culture. That was something else that was exciting.

But what culture? I investigated Egypt, various Asian cultures and could have spent the next month doing research. But my oldest son told me he had been talking with one of his friends who lives in Finland. Boom! I started researching various mythologies in Finland and Norway. Well, Norse mythology has lots ‘o fun stuff to play with and that’s how I ended up writing a story set in Finland about a young girl from Miami who sees ghosts.

Of course, I twisted the mythology to fit my story but it involves the girl, a Viking, a scary dead grandma and a hot guy named Riku. It’s a story I enjoyed so much, that some day I hope to turn it into a full-length novel. While it almost killed me to get it done by the deadline (don’t forget I’m working on a thesis,  taking my last graduate class and working full time as an author, TV columnist and film critic), I’m glad I did it.

The thing is, pushing myself to do that story helped me creatively on some of the other projects I was working on. I felt stifled with one project in particular. Writing that story and coming up with something completely new, helped me to get a second wind with that other project. It also, in a weird way, gave me a different viewpoint with my heroine in that other project.

I’m the first one to admit that I take on too much at times. But here’s what a lot of you don’t know. I’m easily bored with life, so it is important that I always have many irons in the fire. I like switching hats fifty times a day. I’m never bored. Exhausted. Overwhelmed and sometimes sick, but never bored.

I’ve done that with something new I’m working on that I can’t talk about. Something that is due on Dec. 15. But it is an opportunity that is so exciting, I will make it happen. And as soon as the contracts are signed, I will tell you all about it.

This is my long-winded way of telling you to step out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. Those scary roads you are afraid to traverse could result in amazing opportunities.

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