Certified DGA – 11/30

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Vernon Time

Saturday night I had the honor of playing a villain in the ongoing web series Vernon Time. It’s a really dark, unique show that features incredible cinematography.

That’s right, contrary to popular opinion based on the shitty POS I posted on Saturday, I’ve decided to go ahead and take acting a little more seriously. This has always been a back-burner dream of mine, but something I’ve occasionally wanted to do. It beats the shit out of the accounting homework I’ve been doing all day, tell you that much.

One of the great benefits of being involved with film productions(regardless of the size of their audience) is that they allow you to connect with a group of people working toward a common goal. Many of us love to write because it allows us unlimited freedom and independence. Unfortunately, this also makes the journey to traditional publication/high volume of sales extremely difficult. For instance, when I set out to write I never imagined I would:

  1. Spend 2 months learning the rules of grammar.
  2. Type like Melnyk plays piano.
  3. Post in a bible forum where I thought I might find readers for a particular story.
  4. Steer clear of that bible forum from that day forward
  5. Spend a full day learning the game of “Go” for a scene where someone looks in a window and sees two people playing Go.
  6. Make so many changes to my query letter I found myself pitching a novel that was 10 times better than the one I’d actually written.
  7. Get an “A” in my English Composition course.
  8. Discover that most pompous asses who use big words to sound smarter than the general population are actually committing felonies while on the run from the grammar police.
  9. Realize that using big words to impress people is a great way to practice abstinence and isolation.
  10. Second guess myself every time I claim to have DGA (decent grammar awareness) because I swear there’s so many intricate little rules you could spend your whole life studying them but the first time you write “It’s been a pleasure” some little imp will pop out of the nearest bush and say, “Oh, really? It is been a pleasure? I bet you you can write good, too… moron.”

Below is the first episode of Vernon Time.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Author of Master

 

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Number 1 Deadliest Sin for Writers

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Writers Group… or maybe it’s just a pic from Thanksgiving that seemed more convenient to include, but who knows?

I’ve been writing for a while now and have had the pleasure of connecting with a large number of amateur writers who share hopes and aspirations similar to my own. During this evolutionary journey, I’ve realized their is one common trait that hinders nearly all of us from realizing our dreams:

Egoism.

Don’t get me wrong, maintaining confidence in pursuit of your goals is crucial. It takes an enormous amount of stubbornness to believe you can become a published author when so many realists jump to criticize your chances.

The ill-side of ego I’m referring to here is the tendency of writers to fall so in love with their own unique concepts and ideas that they disregard the story-saving input of others.

I spent one full year working on the same book everyday without allowing anybody else to glance at it. One. Full. Year. In my mind, this book was so incredible I actually worried about people breaking into my Tacoma just to steal my USB flash drive(spend too much time in your own head, you will go crazy).

When I finally allowed people to look it over, their obvious indifference to the material shocked and defeated me. Somehow I summoned the courage to rewrite the entire book, but my ego took even more of a hit when I found my drastic alterations did nothing to sway the opinions of my readers. I wound up rewriting again and again, and even revised the first chapter over thirty (!) times before accepting the fact that I was missing something.

For the first time in my writing career, I decided to study writing. The book that changed me was called Story Engineering. This book describes rules and structures that all good stories abide by, essential tools I never could have found on my own. Though I’ve since read books that discuss more advanced topics, Larry Brown’s work laid the groundwork for my writing education.

The only way to grow as a writer is to learn. It is impossible to learn something you already know. Therefore, if you wish to improve your craft, it is absolutely vital that you listen to readers who criticize your work. You will be amazed at how quickly criticism can turn to praise.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Author of Master

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving for Book Reviewers!

superboy!

Gee-wiz, this makes me laugh!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let me start off by saying a full night of rest really does do the body good. I’m back at it, promoting my book to interested parties, and reaching out to new book bloggers. My primary goal is to garner 100 reviews for Master.

The number appears staggering, but then again I never expected to have 10,000+ views on WordPress, either. The key will be to consistently reach out and form new bonds with book reviewers (who are guardian angels for us writers). I like to think that they will be excited to review a good, unknown book.

There are many ways to sell books – you can contact readers directly, purchase advertising on sites like Facebook, and/or reach out to friends and family who love to support you. The two most effective ways, however, are through reviews and word of mouth.

What’s great about these methods is that they cost the writer nothing. Not only that, but they require no effort (no, you can’t force people to rave about your book). I can’t think of a clearer metaphor for the age old saying “get the ball rolling” than to have people hyping up your book through reviews and conversation.

Of course, in order to attain this coveted momentum, you’re going to have to put in the legwork. That’s what I’m doing now – reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers, and posting an annoying amount of links to Master in the hopes that more people will give it a look… it cost less than 2 cups of coffee, people!

A really cool feature on Twitter is that they include a button on every tweet to check its analytics:

twitter analytics

Here you can see exactly how many people have scrolled past the tweet, clicked on the tweet, and liked or retweeted the tweet.

Every time a tweet is retweeted, you can plan on receiving twice the amount of views you normally would have received (often times more). The exposure is exponential with every retweet.

What’s this have to do with the rest of my post? Well, my thinking is simple. For every reader who purchases Master and discovers it’s actually a pretty damn good book, there is a good chance they will either:

  1. Tell a friend about it
  2. Write a review on Amazon
  3. Write a review on Goodreads
  4. Write a review on their blog
  5. Check out my other works.
  6. Do more than 1 of the above, or maybe even all 5 of them.

This is why book reviews are so important. It’s a form of social proof when a third-party with no agenda verifies you’ve put together an enjoyable work of fiction. Not only that, but some book blogs have an enormous following of avid readers, who are eager to discover the next great novel.

That’s all I got for today, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the states! And have a nice Thursday to everyone else!

  • Thomas M. Watt

Author of Master

 

 

 

What is a Premise?

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I know I told many of you I’d be discussing the indie script I’m working on today, but with all my illusions of grandeur I’ve decided I’d be more comfortable discussing the importance premise holds for storytellers.

According to grammarabout.com,  a premise is: A proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn.

This term is thrown around a lot in literature and screen-writing circles. If somebody asks you what the premise of your story is, they’re basically saying “What’s it all about?”

I remember when I spent a year working on a book series that never saw the light of day. I knew nothing about plot, 3-act structure, or even what makes for good conflict. I knew I had a brilliant idea that I was obsessed with, and that’s it… No wonder the books sucked.

I attended a writers conference eager to pitch my first book to agents and publishers. Enlightenment struck when I sat down to explain my story. All I could do was discuss the interesting events and characters, while maintaining the confidence of a reality star interviewing for a position as a brain surgeon.

When you understand premise, you’ll understand the concept of your story and be better able to explain it. A premise should include:

  1. The protagonist
  2. The antagonist
  3. The inciting incident
  4. The obstacles faced by the protagonist
  5. The stakes of the quest.

Here is a cliche premise I’ll make off the top of my head to give you an idea. I’ll link each subject with its corresponding number from the list above.

A chiseled ice-cream driver’s(1) ride is turned upside down when Harry(2) and his cronies bust into the back of his truck(3) with axes. If he doesn’t defy the laws of rush hour traffic(4) and get the ruthless pre-teens to Disneyland within 30 minutes(5), his understanding of a banana-split will take on a whole new meaning(5 again).

Ok, that wasn’t exactly cliche. Weirdly horrific would be more apropos. But when you can condense these elements of your story into one paragraph, you’ll be making leaps and bounds of progress. For one thing, this is what agents and publishers are looking for when you query them. Secondly, understanding how much these elements impact your story as a whole will help you put something together that readers will enjoy before you even set pen to paper. To make a premise stronger, and a story more appealing, turn up the degrees of each element.

  1. chiseled ice-cream driver – sounds like a strong, capable man. A good story features an antagonist who is more capable than our hero. So let’s make this a sixteen year-old girl with braces (regardless of your opinion of stereotyping, readers will always assume qualities about your characters from the moment they are introduced. You may not like it, but you’re better off accepting it)
  2. Harry – Any kid with an axe scares the shit out of me. Why don’t we give throw in a free black-eye with some bruises. Sounds like his dad beats his ass and he’s probably got some psychological issues that make him more dynamic than before. Also, let’s upgrade his axe to a chainsaw.
  3. Bust into the truck – Nah, how bout they planned this shit? At a red light they come sprinting from all corners of the neighborhood and make a tactical play at breaking into that ice-cream mobile.
  4. Rush hour traffic – Well, this is an easy one. How bout we have her driving on the wrong side of the highway, just for the hell of it?
  5. The banana split joke is out, and we might as well kick the random 30 minute thing to the curb. How bout the gas tank is on low, and Harry tells our protagonist she’s dead if she can’t get them there before… the Peter Pan ride closes.

And here’s the new story description:

Lacey ‘the brace-face’s summer job takes a horrific turn when a black-eyed bully and his loser friends use chainsaws to infiltrate her ice-cream truck. If she doesn’t get them to Disneyland before gas runs out and the Peter Pan ride closes, she’ll die before ever telling Brad how she feels. But demanding she drive on the wrong side of the highway is a tell-tale sign that Harry is in the mood for murder.

Wow, that would be the most brutal YA novel I ever heard of. Anyway, I hope you get the idea (and noticed the added romance that is ALWAYS a benefit).

One big takeaway from this experiment should be that the most effective alteration I made between premises was giving Harry a black-eye. This doesn’t make him any more menacing, but does suggests he has some internal conflicts of his own, making him dynamic and more than just a standard ‘bad guy’. This story could then be made quite effective by reflecting his abusive upbringing with similar struggles that Lacy has experienced… Or contrasting them with the ones she hasn’t. An effective resolution to this story would demonstrate how Lacy overcame her childhood trauma through ‘X’, which a good writer would use as the overarching theme throughout the entirety of the story.

I brought up a lot here, and wouldn’t dare elaborate on the more complex subjects in this post. Just remember that when you know the premise of your story, not only can improve it exponentially, but you will be capable of describing it to others without feeling like a drunk explaining the meaning of life to a sober person.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Author of Master

 

 

Saturday Special – My “Se7en” Monologue

 

This monologue marks the first time I’ve bothered memorizing lines for my acting class. I have to say I’m pleased with the result, but I’ll let you be the judge.

*This monologue is an excerpt from Se7en. The lines are delivered by a character named John Doe, who is played by Kevin Spacey. It is a great horror film and features one of the greatest movie endings of all-time.

MASTER – 10.2 – FINAL INSTALLMENT!

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Click here to start from the beginning!

Ch. 2     Ch. 3     Ch. 4     Ch. 5     Ch. 6     Ch. 7     Ch. 8     Ch. 9    Ch. 10

Click here to own MASTER today!

“No!” I jump back, then shove the handgun into my pocket. I whirl around. That gunshot

could’ve been heard for miles. I’ve got to move! I turn and run, back to the mustang. I reach the parking lot – car’s gone. I have no ride. I’m a wanted man, without any ride.

I don’t have time to think, and I sure as shit can’t afford to stand out here like a dumbass. Not after my finger pulled the trigger on the shot heard around the woods. I turn and head into the hotel, rushing back through the side entrance. I sprint up the stairs, and go to the only hiding place I can think of – big boy’s hotel room. I swing open the door, rush into the bathroom, and wash my hands.

“So you killed him.”

I turn the faucet off, and stare back at my haunted reflection in the mirror. Somebody is in the room.

***Unfortunately, I will no longer be posting excerpts from Master.  But if you’d like to complete the story, you may read the full book here!

  • Thomas M. Watt