Archives For Writing

Creatio Ex Nihilo

Dan Baker —  June 30, 2014

When I’m writing a screenplay the blank page scares me. Why? If my screenplay is a reflection of what’s inside of me, then a blank page reveals that inside of me is nothing. At least that’s how it feels.

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Great things come in small packages, right? That’s what our culture is certainly telling us. Attention spans are getting smaller. And our writing reflects that. Nobody has time to read an entire paragraph! Give it to me in one line.

It’s true in writing and it’s true in life. There is so much noise going on around us. So many distractions to take away from what’s important.

It just so happens that this is also the mysterious and horrifying world of the logline. Any unnecessary words will distract from what’s important about the story. A badly written logline could sink a movie before it even gets made. And a life with too much clutter can take away from what’s truly important to you.

Thus begins my logline/life comparison…

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A few days ago my good friend Avra and I were talking about our love/hate relationship with the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. If you fancy yourself a writer, they’re the kind of stories you inexplicably love, but – in Avara’s words – leave you “very jealous…and a little insecure.”

What fascinates me is these stories quickly, often within the first sentence, put a tight knot in my gut, one that lingers long after I’ve put the book down. How does O’Connor do that? What magic does she breath into her words that twists my tummy ’round sideways?

To get some perspective, I thought it might be fun to examine the first sentences of some of my favorite O’Connor stories. Lets see what we can find.

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Avarice and the Timid Monster team will be making an appearance at UtopYA Con 2013 in Nashville, TN June 28-30. UtopYA Con is for “female writers of paranormal fantasy and the readers who love them.” So we’ll fit right in!  Held at the Hogwarts-like Scarritt-Bennett Center, the convention will be a perfect setting to celebrate female writers of fantasy.

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The first time I heard independent feature films typically take 4-5 years to complete my mind was boggled. After all, we turned around a pretty successful short in under two months. How hard could it be?

Turns out, pretty dagum hard.

Officially we started writing the John Gray feature film September of 2011, which puts us at about the 16-month mark. I sometimes wonder if I had known how utterly frustrating and maddening this writing process would be, if I would have even started.

Fortunately, I discovered these difficulties gradually.

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I’ve been on a bit of a journey lately. My life as a storyteller continues to be stretched, challenged, toughened, and reshaped. I’ve written before about how my attitude as a writer can either sweeten or spoil my stories, but today I want to share how I learned to love my audience.

That’s a hugely important lesson to learn, too. Between social media, crowdsourcing, new technology, and shifts in the industry, the gap between artist and audience is quickly closing (and in some cases, it’s even closed entirely). If you’re going to do business in 5-10 years you need to learn how to not just connect with your audience, but love them as well.

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Have you ever worked and worked and worked on a project, only to hit a dead-end? I have. More than once. There’s nothing more frustrating than  investing huge amounts of time and effort into an idea, only to discover you don’t know what the characters and plot want.

There’s a million tips and tricks out there, but what I’ve discovered recently addresses the problem at its root: often the quality of your writing is negatively affected by your attitude. That’s not a major revelation, sure, but I think you’ll be surprised at how I learned this.

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Writing has to be one of the most difficult things in the world. At least it is for me (granted, I’m my own worst critic). Any little help, tip, or trick I can find is a boon, sometimes triggering a little mini-breakthrough.

Over the years I’ve discovered a number of writing resources that I turn to time and time again. If I’ve missed any here, please share what you use to get the words flowing.

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Every screenplay I’ve worked on has demanded very different things from me. Sometimes I need to be home blasting some Derek Webb, other times I need to be out and about, writing wherever I can find a quiet spot.

I need the flexibility to move at a moments notice, and that means having the right iOS apps on hand to keep the creative process moving. I’ve complied a collection of apps I’ve found useful while writing, a few of my gripes, and a new alternative that could transform the way people write on their iDevices.

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One of my favorite iPad apps, Index Card, was released as an iPhone app today! Horay!

Every writer will tell you how important it is to plot out your story before you start writing, and many do so on index cards. That’s exactly what this app sets out to do. Index Card’s straight-forward and uncomplicated interface gets out of the way so you can focus on what’s important: the story.

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