January 01, 2002
Friends, Family, Readers, and Writers,
I don't know about you, but 2001 has proven to be one helluva year for me and those around me. This year has featured some of the highest highs and the lowest lows I've experienced in years. In a couple of cases, the highs and lows happened simultaneously.
A quick look back:
* Had to lay off part of my team in February, which was a very low point. Pulled the remaining members of my team together for a wonderful few months... then my team was re-orged out of existence. Left the company shortly thereafter.
* Applied to and was accepted into Clarion West writing workshop. Six amazing instructors and sixteen fantastic fellow students, not to mention great support staff and copious opportunities to meet some of the biggest names and coolest folks in the field. Many, many highlights, with a few requisite bumps along the way. It was wonderful.
* Found out we were expecting. A very high point. Then miscarried. The worst of the lows.
* Travelled. Reunited with friends in Boston. Spent a very white Christmas with family in Buffalo and in upstate PA. Hosted a reunion in Seattle. Ventured to the World Con at Philadelphia in August. Wedding anniversary in Ithaca, NY. Immediately after the September 11th attacks, three of us found ourselves driving 3,000 miles to a wedding because we couldn't fly, and because we thought it would be a worthwhile adventure. It was.
* Finished the Commercial Fiction Writing course; made great headway on my novel. Submitted my first short story for consideration; a rewrite of my last Clarion West story. Still haven't heard back yet on that, but at least I've started to get my work out there.
* Reconnected with friends I haven't spoken with in years. Managed to offend another friend I hadn't spoken with in years, which continues to bother me.
* Kept a secret for a couple of months (so far).
* Took over hosting responsibilities for RASP, a monthly open-mike (open mic?) event.
* September 11th, which has had an impact on my life in ways I'm still learning about... and still trying to figure out.
It's been one crazy year. I managed to achieve some of the plans and goals I'd laid out at the end of 2000, I failed miserably at others, and still other accomplishments and setbacks came from out of the blue.
I expect 2002 to be wilder, yet. But more on my plans, hopes, and expectations for the New Year in my next entry. In the meantime, I wish you all the very best in the year to come.
January 02, 2002
At one of my former employers, there was a semi-annual ritual of establishing "SMART" goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-specific. And so, in lieu of New Year's resolutions, allow me to establish my SMART goals for calendar year 2002:
* The Do Over: finish my first complete draft of The Do Over by the end of January; finish my revision of Chapters 1, 2, and 3 and send those to my first agent of choice by the end of January; keep sending it out to agents and publishers if and when it is returned to me.
* The First Exile: begin outlining The First Exile (my next novel, which is completely unrelated to the first) in February. Start writing scaffold scenes in February. One new scene per week for the rest of the year. 40,000 words by the end of the calendar year.
* Send out five short stories throughout the calendar year, one each during the odd numbered months, starting in March. Per Connie Willis's advice, immediately send 'em back out to other venues any time they are returned. Write six more new ones (to be sent out the following year, as appropriate) in the even numbered months, starting in February.
* Send a submission to the Writers of the Future contest every quarter this year until and unless I make it to the finalists circle. Notice that this SMART goal can be neatly overlapped with the short story goal above. :)
* ****** * ******, ******** ** ****. More details on that in a couple days. But, trust me, it's specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific!
* Earn money as an emcee or in some similar public speaking capacity at least once this year!
* Lose weight. Specifically, drop 25 pounds by July 4th. That's five pounds per month, with a month "slop time" built in. :-)
* Travel to see family in Florida at least once this year.
* Attend World Con in San Jose this year.
Some of these goals are a bit aggressive... but, nonetheless attainable. They may not *all* be attainable, insofar as they'll be vying with other goals (like paying the mortgage) that are not explicitly stated but are nonetheless time sinks.
Clearly, this is a year devoted to two things: writing, and *** ****. Oh, sure, I have other goals and intentions... like, bringing in enough money to pay the bills, keeping in better touch with family and friends, and winning the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. But in keeping my eye on the prize this year, it's writing and *** **** that I'll be looking at. What happens this year sets the tone for many years to come.
What are *your* plans for this coming year? Do you have any SMART goals? Samantha Ling, a fellow Clarionite at this year's writing workshop in Seattle, has posted her intentions on her website. Are *you* willing to publicly declare your goals? Let me know, and I'll post your link here, too. (A dubious honor, to be sure.)
Happy New Year!
January 04, 2002
I managed to start making some headway today on my SMART goal of finishing the first complete draft of my novel The Do Over this month. Keep in mind that most of the novel is already written... but, it's written as a series of scenes that need to be connected, smoothed over, and polished. So, while it's a lot of work to pull 6,000 words together like I did today, it's not the same as writing them all from scratch.
Each of the scenes I've written (I think there's about 110) has been critiqued at least once. As I go through to complete my first draft, I am:
* incorporating feedback from critique (or ignoring it), as appropriate
* polishing obvious rough spots
* writing transitions between scenes and grouping scenes into coherent chapters
* writing new scenes, or re-writing scenes, as necessary
Today I worked on the collection of scenes that has become Chapter 6. None of these scenes appeared to require major revision and there were no major holes to fill. So even though this was a longish chapter, I was able to get it sewn together within a few hours.
Thus far, I'm over 33,000 words into the complete first draft out of a likely neighborhood of 100,000 for the expected final total. By tomorrow, I'll have passed the "one-third of the way there" mile marker.
Many people ask me what that means in terms of pages. The reason authors don't usually talk in terms of pages is because the number of pages can vary greatly depending upon font size, font type, page size, double-space or single-space, and other constraints that have nothing to do with the actual length of the book. That said, the general rule of thumb is that you'll get roughly 250 words to a page. In my particular case, with my current settings for fonts and margins, I'm on page 107 of the first complete draft out of a likely 350 pages.
Tomorrow's chapter is probably going to be shorter than today's was, but it will also require me to write a new scene completely from scratch. Still, I'll be happy to put Chapter 7 behind me, as that will close the first act of the story and set some fun new story lines into real motion. Gotta get that one nailed tomorrow.
Since the chapter after that launches so many things at once, I'm expecting to have to take both days of the weekend to get it under control. After that, it should be smooth sailing for a week or so as I stitch together pieces that have already been baked for a while. Yee-ha!
January 06, 2002
Just a quick update.
Still haven't finished Chapter 7 of The Do Over, even though I'd hoped to have it done on Friday. Minor slippage, but still annoying. Grrrr.
Received my first rejection letter since I resumed writing. (I think my last rejection letter was sometime around 1984.) Too bad, but not amazingly surprising... this is also the first submission I'd sent out since I resumed writing. I'll be sending this one out again THIS WEEK, just to keep it out there and in circulation.
On the plus side, hosted RASP last night and it was a good show. Now that I've taken over the reigns of coordinating the monthly readings, it's up to me to find the Featured Artists for the coming events and also to find others who can host in my place. I think I found a good candidate to be my first guest host, which is also exciting. As for finding the Featured Artists for the next several months... I'm working on it!
I'm thinking of attending Campaign Manager school next week so that I may become a campaign manager for a local representative. I think I'm not quite overcommitted enough, yet. :-)
January 11, 2002
Well, I can finally report that the first completed draft of Chapter 7 of The Do Over is done. A week behind schedule... and, given that my hope had been to get everything in this draft ready to roll by the end of the month, that's not a very happy thing as far as the schedule is concerned. My arbitrary schedule.
But at least the thing is finally done. In the end, the scene I'd been dreading writing only took about 500 words, and it really wasn't that tough. I just had to sit down and do it. Grrr.
In other news, I'm going to "Campaign Manager School" tomorrow and Saturday. All day, both days. No writing for me on those days. There's a possibility that I'll be bringing in some of my mortgage payment this year by managing a local representative's campaign to retain his position. An odd foray into politics for me, if it happens, but I'm expecting this to be an odd year in more ways than one.
Speaking of odd, I was offered the chance to add another potential revenue stream to help pay the mortgage. However, it entails considering working as a contractor for a group with which I used to be a full time employee. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, as a contractor, my job's boundaries would be a little better defined. I'd be compensated for overtime. The project has a defined end date. And this is a different job from what I'd held before, and this particular work is a lot less stressful. Drawbacks abound, however, including: the scheduling would conflict with other paying projects I'm working on, it would interfere with the novel-writing (or having a life at home... one or the other would have to go for the period of the contract), and then there's the old pride problem. I'd already left once, for very good reasons. Returning would certainly feel like a bit of a retreat, even though I'd be returning under circumstances that might be more to my liking.
I don't know. Then again, I haven't actually been made an offer yet, so I don't have to decide anything, anyway. Yet. But, the fact that this has come up, along with the possibility of being a campaign manager (the two projects may or may not be mutually exclusive... then again, they might also both fall through.), and along with my growing list of consulting clients, I'm certainly experiencing no shortage of interestingness.
But I don't desire interestingness, necessarily. Time to write my novel and ability to make the monthly payments (food, shelter, clothing, and maybe a yacht) are really my two big concerns right now. I mean, I don't *mind* interestingness... it just doesn't top my list at the moment.
It's been said that life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. I look at my "SMART goals" that I'd made just a couple of weeks ago, and I can certainly see the point.
January 16, 2002
My Fellow Americans,
I should be working on my novel-in-progress right now, but I've been chastised for not updating my web journal often enough. Far be it from me to let down The Public, so let me tell you what I've been up to when I haven't been writing The Do Over.
Last weekend, I attended "Campaign Manager College", which was actually targeted at both political campaign managers and candidates/hopefuls. There were a lot of charts and graphs about what kinds of voters in this part of the country dwell upon what kinds of issues; there was some excellent advice on how to manage a campaign and how to develop one; and there were many dubious interpretations of the available data.
You'll recall that about a month ago I had posted a satiric note about how we (mis)interpret data... which ended up getting me in trouble with the very people I least wanted to offend. And, so, allow me to be direct rather than clever:
One of the points that came up during a poll was that residents of the area indicated that they don't like negative ad campaigns. WELL, DUH. Issue number one with this assertion is: what would *any* self-respecting American say if a poll asked them, "Does a negative ad campaign appeal to you?"
But, the problems of polling aside, there is also a misinterpretation of cause and effect. Most campaigns do not start out negative; in general, there is a perception that negative ad campaigns should be avoided. Thus, negative campaigns are only attempted as a last resort, WHEN A CANDIDATE IS ALREADY LIKELY TO LOSE. As a result, you can see a correlation between negative ad campaigns and losing elections. But which one is the cause and which one is the effect? My contention is that the negative ad campaign may not be the cause of the loss; but, rather, that a campaign that appears to be losing is more likely to attempt a negative approach. Once a campaign goes negative, it holds that label as if it had been so right from the beginning.
I spent my high school and undergraduate years in New York State, where a certain governor ran every single one of his campaigns as target practice against his opponent from Day One. (Jeff Bezos loves to say "Today is Day One", which is why I've taken to capitalizing it.) Governor Mario Cuomo never in his political life stood *for* anything; he always ran *against* someone else, or *against* a particular platform. I even remember how he cackled with glee to the press about how one of his opponents had finally had to break down and resort to negative campaigning after he (Cuomo) had successfully managed to derail every attempt by his opponent to actually bring *issues* into the race.
Yeah, yeah, we all hate negative political campaigns, but I'm not convinced that they don't work.
Amazon.com now puts up pop-up windows when you visit their site, advertising one special or another. Pop-up windows are as annoying as telemarketer calls during dinner, but they use this annoying tactic for one reason and one reason only: pop-up windows increase sales. It's true. It's a bona fide fact.
So, market research shows that customers hate pop-up windows. Serious analysis of the data also shows that pop-up windows increase sales. Do voters hate negative ads? You betcha. Surveys show it time and time again. But, as Mario Cuomo (and George H. W. Bush, et al) and others have proven, they can and do win elections.
I have no intention of setting up an e-commerce site that uses pop-up windows. I also have no intention of ever running or being party to a negative political campaign. But I remain unconvinced that neither of these is a viable tactic, when push comes to shove, for achieving one's ultimate goals.
It's a weird, weird world in which we live.
Next post, I'll keep you updated on how The Do Over is going....
I received the following text in an e-mail today, author unknown (but sender definitely known):
January 21, 2002
Actually, I finished Chapter 8 of my novel-in-progress last Friday; I'm just getting around to mentioning it now because I've finally got a free minute to update my web journal.
Tomorrow (Monday), my goal is to crunch through Chapter 9. Think I can do it in one day? It's the biggest chapter in the book so far, and there will be some re-writing of some scenes involved as well as minor revision for other scenes. We'll see.
Oh, and last Friday I also put the polishing touches on the final chapter in the book. Having written the scenes out of order, it doesn't seem like such a crime to polish the chapters out of order, too.
Today I got some excellent feedback on Chapter 3 from one of my critique groups. I'm excited by the feedback, because it has given me some good ideas on how to make the chapter work even better as I ready this to send to my agent-of-choice.
It's slow progress, really, but steady.
January 23, 2002
rousselle.com/allan does not sell e-mail addresses, and it never will... unless, of course, the buyer is willing to pay lots and lots of money. Since rousselle.com/allan does not actively collect e-mail addresses, however, the point is probably a bit moot.
Interactive portions of the site (such as the comments feature, to name but one) provide visitors to this site with the opportunity to post their opinions, preferences, and/or contact information. This information is not deliberately tabulated or sold by the site management (which would be me). Still, the user who posts his/her opinions and/or contact information is doing so on a public forum, and should be aware that other people see what you post... with all the risk that may entail.
Oh, and that reminds me. I reserve the right, since this is *my* website, to remove content -- whether written by me, by you, or by anybody else -- as I see fit, when I see fit.
That's it. There's your stinking privacy. Now, let's talk about rousselle.com/allan's privacy:
Material on rousselle.com/allan -- including text, images, and the HTML that tells your browser how to render them -- is copyrighted by the author. That would be me. Please feel free to cite this site or link to text and images on this site as you desire. However, all rights to the copyrighted material are reserved by the author. For permission to use this material, feel free to drop me an e-mail.
That said, you are certainly free to read and view whatever I post here. I mean, hey, this is a publicly accessible site. If I wanted this to be private, I'd have password protected it or charged admission or something like that. So, I guess that's pretty much it for my privacy, too.
Why do I need a privacy statement on my site? Why does anybody? Do you need reassurance that I'm not an e-mail address vendor? Okay. I'm not going to sell your e-mail addresses. So there.
Speaking of which, have you signed up to be on my book update list? If not, drop me a line and I'll add you to my list of people to whom I'll e-mail information about progress on The Do Over... assuming I ever make any progress on it. :-)
(updated April 14, 2002)
January 29, 2002
Saw parts of Rose Red on TV. The first hour of Sunday's installment, and maybe forty-five minutes or so of Monday's.
I dusted off the rabit-ears especially for this event. Our reception is pretty bad here, what with the mountains and all, and we kicked the cable company and the satellite providers out of our house with a vengeance. As a result, we don't watch much TV, and that's just fine with us.
But, as I said, I pulled out the rabbit ears and managed to tune in the ABC station across Lake Washington to get a somewhat fuzzy broadcast of ABC's televised premiere of Stephen King's Rose Red. I was under no delusion that it would be the pinnacle of television movie making. Rather, I had worked as a backgrounder during the filming in Seattle, and wanted to see how the final product of all that work. Not all my work, of course: I was just a backgrounder. But, after seeing all of the work of the cast and crew toiling away to make Pioneer Square into a believable 1907 version of Seattle, well... I was curious as to how well they pulled it off.
For all that, the flashback scenes to 1907 Seattle looked just fine. It was also nice to see my friend dressed up as the constable who clubbed a man in front of the saloon where I, dressed as a workman, was loading a coach with crates and barrels. Note: I do not appear in the final cut of that scene. But, it was still kind of cool to see three seconds of that footage finally make it onto the television screen after going through take after take after take. My friend the constable looked right good and menacing, so there's something.
(It's possible I appear in other scenes; I recognized many of the shots in which I was a backgrounder, but the reception was so fuzzy, I couldn't tell if I actually appeared in any of them.)
Given how little the flashback scenes in Seattle added to the final production of the mini-series, I'm curious as to why they bothered at all. Those were VERY expensive shots they took, and the computer work necessary to eliminate some of the buildings in the background and add some others, well, that couldn't have been cheap. Yet, those scenes felt like an afterthought, and it's hard to imagine why they thought they added to the telling of the story.
But that's not my big beef with what I saw of Rose Red. My big beef is: it's just plain awful! The character development for which Stephen King is known? Completely absent. The acting talent? Missing in action. Originality? None to speak of.
None of this surprised me in the least, of course. Previous ABC movies based upon Stephen King works -- including those with a screenplay written by the man himself -- have been near universally weak. Still...
We know that good movies can be made based upon SK's work. The Shining (Kubrick's version), The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Misery, Dolores Claiborne, and even The Dead Zone worked quite well. I'm told Stand By Me was also excellent, but I haven't seen it. Creepshow had some fine moments, even if it was primarily camp. Carrie remains a classic. And, as television mini-series go, the original Salem's Lot wasn't half bad.
Yet ABC manages to turn out one weak turn after another. The Tommyknockers. It. The Stand. The Shining (remake). Storm of the Century. All of these had the potential to be excellent. All of them failed.
(Although, truth be told, none of them are as bad as some of the worst theatrical releases made, such as Christine, Pet Semetary, Sometimes They Come Back, Children of the Corn... well, okay, there was one big stinker. The Langoliers. That one was pretty awful.)
So, what's the deal? If ABC is intent upon blowing the money to make a big production of a Stephen King story, why don't they do it right? One would think that The Stand or The Dead Zone or Hearts in Atlantis would make for excellent mini-series treatment.
I don't have an answer to this question. I don't know enough about how television movies are made, nor do I think it would matter even if I knew. But, sometimes, it's kinda nice to think...
What if Peter Jackson (director of the Lord of the Rings) filmed a trilogy of movies based upon The Stand?
What if Frank Darabont (director of The Green Mile) took a stab at a multi-part Hearts in Atlantis? (note: the recent movie "Hearts in Atlantis" is really only the film version of one of the five shorter works that comprise the book, "Low Men in Yellow Coats." It doesn't even contain any of the elements from the title short story.)
What if M. Night Shyamalan (director of The Sixth Sense) attempted The Dead Zone?
How about James Cameron directing The Running Man?
Mmmm. Those could be good.
Then again, what if Woody Allen directed Needful Things? Ack!
When I sell the movie rights to The Do Over, I'll have to be careful... to go to the highest bidder, of course.
January 31, 2002
I had a couple bad weeks there. Wasn't getting any writing done. Somehow, this past Monday, I managed to start developing a little positive momentum going in the right direction.
Worked on the first half of Chapter 9 of my novel-in-progress on Monday. Completed the second half of Chapter 9 on Tuesday.
Today (Wednesday... well, I still think of it as Wednesday, even though it's well past midnight) I've managed to do an awful lot of work on the first half of Chapter 10. This has involved the most re-thinking and re-writing since the first chapter.
Today I have also crossed a major threshold, insofar as I have just passed the half-way point through the manuscript as it currently exists. I realize that as I continue to add and delete scenes (let alone phrases here and there), the half-way point is going to move. Nonetheless, I have crossed the threshold where it is currently drawn, and am now starting down the other side of the hill.
The word count for the manuscript currently stands at 98,000 words. As I've mentioned before, the typical length for a commercially viable first time novel is 100,000 words, plus or minus 20K. I still have four or so key scenes to write from scratch, and there will be a lot of editing and compressing once I finish my first complete pass. Nonetheless, I'm happy to be in the right ballpark.
"Yes, but how many *pages* is that?" I am often asked. Well, set in Times New Roman with one inch margins all the way around and double spaced, the novel currently clocks in at 337 pages.
In other words... it's a typical-sized novel.
Now, as I've said many times, "I hope to have the first completed draft done by the end of this month." Clearly, January is not going to be that month, however, since I'm only half-way through. There is still hope for February, however.
If I keep working at this every day.
Much more news to post. Tomorrow. No, really!
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