Friday, June 28, 2013

Writing Exercise- The Final First Draft and Darling Cutting

The Final First Draft 

This is a deceptive phrase as it leads you to believe you are done writing. Nay, Dear Scribe, this is just a starting point. Although this is the first time you pull your story together placing 50,000 words in order, there is nothing final about a First Draft.  That is to say, enjoy this time creating. When you are done the left-brain will take over and edit. Edit and rewrite until you want to throw the story away like a teen smoking pot in your den.

Let us focus of the process. You have done all the work creating the structure of your story (summary, plot, outline, character) now it is time to put up the walls and see what this castle in your imagination looks like.  It is a pleasurable and exciting journey as the story drags you along as fast as your fingers can type (or scribble if you are a pad and pen writer). This is the longest part of the process, but one filled with a creative discovery that will thrill you. 

Like I advised before, write every day at the same time for a determined amount of time. Leave when the time is up, even if you are mid sentence. I like to daydream about the story all day long, letting different scenarios germinate and grow (or disgust and humor me). The most important thing to remember in this process is to try NOT to be perfect. In fact try to be imperfect as much as you can.

When I read Stephen King’s On Writing- he was the only real novelist at the time making a living writing books, so I took his counsel seriously. He discusses at length about the imperfect First Draft and the magic of letting the work not rely on flawlessness. Then he shares a First Draft of his work (that was already a popular novel) and I was delighted to read it was pure drivel! You could see the nuggets of genius that survived the cuts and edits, but in between was word mud. I felt for the first time freed from my perfectionist brain and that is when my writing genuinely took off.

When I write a 1000 word column, the First Draft typically is 3000-4000 words. I type, pontificate, use the thesaurus like a sacred book and literally play narrative scrabble with my First Draft. Then I edit, looking first for ramblings (which I excel at), points that go nowhere and engage the grammar police. That will cut it down to 2000 words. Then the hardest work begins, cutting the Darlings. All those big words that you thought made you sound so smart, now just look like I crawled into a virtual thesaurus. Some of the words actually work, but if I love it so much it makes me squeal with glee when I read it, that is my first cut. Then I cut my favorite paragraph. I know this sounds crazy, but it really does make your writing much stronger and poignant. If I doubt the cutting of them, I use this test. I throw the sentence up as a Facebook post. I am sure each one will weigh down my page with multiple up turned thumbs “Like” –ing my prose. But that NEVER happens. It is always crickets and then I know I was right to make the cut. I still save it in my “Darlings” file, because it is fantastic and I am sure I will use it later (never happens). I had one Darling about my dog chasing the shadows of butterflies while the actual meaty morsel flapped above his head as he chomped at the pavement. I was sure would be the first paragraph to win a Nobel Peace Price. I copied and pasted that story into hundreds of projects and then cut it out. I finally found a story it would take wings in, only to have my editor ask me not so politely to cut the absurd thing out.

Writing Exercise

 Select a random topic, like the African Bush or Dolphins or Godzilla and look it up on as many reference sites as you can find.,, and are some research sites to begin.  Write an essay on what you just learned. When you are done with at least 500 words, edit the piece in half. Take out ½ of the words to make a better story. The writing will be easy as you just learned a bunch of statistics and anecdotes, the editing not so much. Do it anyway and send me both the first draft and the last. Have fun!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Writing Exercise- Final First Draft- Your Writing Space

Mark Twain's Writing Space

You have done your outline, plotted your plot and filled out detailed character evaluations for your characters. It is now time to set up your writing space and get down to the business of tapping the keys.

First your writing space. Make sure it is a welcoming area that invites you back and makes you feel comfortable. Even if it is a crawl space under the stairs, make it yours. Find art, lighting and aromas that suit your senses. Make it comfortable and make sure you are using good posture as you write. 

My friend, Tony Peckham (Invictus, Sherlock Holmes, etc.) tells a story of when he was on location in England shooting Sherlock Holmes and his hotel room had only one small “ledge” for him to place his laptop. 8 to 16 hours a day he wrote and rewrote in that nook. On the 11 day, he couldn’t get out of bed as his back had locked up from Quasamoting over the keyboard. He was bed ridden for a couple days while he received straightening exercises from an English chiropractor. Besides being in agony, he missed days on the set. Anything you didn’t like about that film happened while Tony was staring at the ceiling.

Your writing space should be one of joy and introspection. One where you can fill the walls with file cards and lay about dreaming up scenarios, but also get down to work without interruption.  

Make sure you have water and snacks, so there is not an excuse to leave. I go to my writing space at a set time every day and stay there for a predetermined amount of time without leaving, taking calls or checking emails. When it is time to go, even if I am in the middle of writing the most spectacular sentences ever created, I stop and leave. That way you are always excited to come back. It also develops a biorhythm of your body that makes it tranquil to create.

With each new project, when it is time to start a new First Final Draft, I place on the wall:

1.   3 x 5 note cards of each character. A family tree of sorts. This helps to make sure that no character is forgotten or left out. Each character is color coded (pink for girls, blue for boys, black for bad guys, white for good guys, etc.) One each one is the characters full name, age and a 2-10 word sentence of their purpose in the story.

2.   A one page of the plot and subsequent logline. This should be in at least a 30-point font as a reminder not to get off track. Writing this in sharpie or crayons makes it more inviting to your eyes.

3.   An erase board on the wall is where the story line resides. If it is a movie, it is time coded (15, 30, 45, 60, etc. minutes up to 120 or less). On top of the line is the description; below the line is the event. Example- inciting incident is on the top; “he falls off the waterfall” is on the bottom. Use this to fill in smaller plot points as well as big ones. The use of color-coded ink can help you plan multiple character journeys.

4.   The full character evaluations should be printed. Each character should have a different color paper. You print them all, punch one hole in the left top corner and place them on a key ring that is hung on the wall. That way they are available for you to flip through when you need to know a character trait.

Now your writing area is ready for you to create the world’s best Final First Draft.

Today’s Writing Exercise: (at least 500 words)

Imagine a room that is the most inspirational room you have ever been in and this one hosts a famous writer (dead or alive). I want you to write what advice that writer would give you and what advice you would give him.

Example: I am in the Bar Habana in Cuba drinking rum and smoking cigars with Hemmingway. He tells me to write gritty and scary, but with the simplest of language. I tell him to stop imbibing and go fishing (and I time travel back with Prozac so he won't kill himself). 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Writing Exercise and a bit of Shameless Self Promotion

A bit of self-promotion for my other class- bear with me there is a assignment at the the end. Please forward this to every businessperson you know and I will reward you with high praise and candy.

Class Offered to Teach Businesses Social Media Marketing Tips

This award winning class will teach you how to enhance your business and bottom line using social media. We will cover every Social Media site with tips and tricks to get the maximum exposure for your business.
“A 3 hour class with Teri Bayus could change your life for sure. As a teacher she has excellent content and provides a performance as well as a presentation”. Stated Judy Salamacha, Director of the Central Coast Writers' Conference. Shari Pearl, of Mother’s Tavern stated,  “I found the class very informative and interesting.  I appreciate your insights and recommendations and always enjoy learning more ways to improve our online presence and expand my skills.”

Whether an owner or employee, this class will make your marketing succeed.
You will learn tips for success and more on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Pinterest, You Tube, Fancy, Blogging and much more.

Every student receives a 50-page booklet to help guide him or her after the class. Class is July 10, 2013 at Exploration Station in Grover Beach from 5:30pm – 8:30 pm.

Sitting is limited so sign up today.

More info at or by calling (805) 305-0579.


Your writing assignment:  Write the best and worst thing that has happened to you because of Social Media. Make sure you contrast and you can use copy and paste for proper syntax.  I want at least 300 words for this so make sure to set up why each incident happened and how if affected you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Writing Exercise- List of Best Non Fiction Writing Books

"Write brutal. Write without shame.  Don’t worry about those silly grammar rules you learn in school.  And ignore the need to construct a basic sentence. You don’t need any of that bullshit where we’re going".

Every writer needs to read and part of that reading should be on the art of writing. Here are my pick of absolute favorite books to have if you want to take your writing seriously.

These are in order of importance to me, but then they take a decidedly “screenwriter” slant. I would read them whether you aspire for the lights of Hollywood or the front window at Barnes and Noble.

My favorite and one I reread every year is:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

This will inspire you like no other writing book. It is not just about writing, but pure life advice taking the painstaking work and making it digestible in small doses. This book motivates and encourages. 

It gives you the permission to be you and that first drafts do not have to be perfect (or even good) the point is to keep going.

A couple of gems:
* One-inch picture frames: big ideas can engulf you; write about a moment in time, one short scene, something that would fit into a one-inch picture frame.

* Writing is putting down one word after another (the best advice for a writer is to...write). 

* You have to give your best stuff to your current project and not try to save it or hoard it; sort of a 'use it or lose it' attitude. 

* The myth of publication: if you weren't enough before publication, you're not going to be enough after publication.

Buy it here:  Bird By Bird

On Writing- a memoir of the craft, by Stephen King

On Writing is where the aspiring novelists will find inspiration. Mr. King gives short lessons in the mechanics of prose here and there. What he mostly offers to the aspiring writer is the inspiration, the cheerleading, and as some have already suggested, after reading it makes you want to sit and write something. He actually allows you into his writing routine, when and where he writes, how many months it takes to write the first draft, and even how he goes about editing the second draft.
Some very original thoughts I found quite interesting:
1. Story is a fossil you find on the ground, and you gradually dig it out slowly.
2. He doesn't plot his stories. He puts "a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free." In fact he even goes as far as to say, "Plot is shift, and best kept under house arrest."
3. Write first draft with the "door" closed, and the second draft with it open.

Buy it here: On Writing

Story by Robert McKee

Story is the best book on the mechanics of narrative writing not screenwriting, but any kind of narrative writing I’ve ever read. It breaks the art of storytelling down into its most basic components: conflict, character, plot, climax, etc.; all of the things you’ll hear about in any writing workshop–but McKee explains them with unusual clarity and depth.  Structure and Setting, Act Design, Scene Design, there’s no superfluous chapter, and the dictum's delivered are widely applicable.

Story offers sound concepts that can save any storyteller hours of frustration. Story is simply first rate as a tool for diagnosing that horrible sinking feeling we all get when we know something isn't quite right with our tale...but we just can't figure out what. This book will cure that problem forever.

Buy it here:

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

By Natalie Goldberg

With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write.  Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach will inspire anyone who writes—or who longs to.

The Elements of Style – William Strunk and E.B. White
It’s true that a lack of grammar and punctuation can be the specific style of your story. It’s also true that more than likely you’ll have an editor who can correct these types of things for you.  But if not, then please, for the love of all that’s holy, stop using commas in place of periods. Remember that names should be capitalized. Unless you’re writing poetry, stop hitting the ‘enter’ key in the middle of a sentence. And I’m begging you to proofread.

Buy it here:

If it is making movies you want to do, you must read:

Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade
By William Goldman

From the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride (he also wrote the novel), and the bestselling author of Adventures in the Screen Trade comes a garrulous new book that is as much a screenwriting how-to (and how-not-to) manual as it is a feast of insider information.

If you want to know why a no name like Kathy Bates was cast in Misery-it's in here.  Why Clint Eastwood loves working with Gene Hackman and how MTV has changed movies for the worse-William Goldman, one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood today, tells all he knows. Devastatingly eye-opening and endlessly entertaining, Which Lie Did I Tell? is indispensable reading for anyone even slightly intrigued by the process of how a movie gets made.

Buy it here: Which Lie Did I Tell

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need
By Blake Snyder

This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!

Buy it here:

Screenwriting From the Soul: Letters to an Aspiring Screenwriter

By Richard W. Krevolin

How often have you gone to the movies and come out of the theater thinking, "I could have written that!" Many of us believe we have what it takes to turn out a Hollywood blockbuster, if only we had the right tools to help us do it. Screenwriting from the Soul is that tool. It simplifies the process, and at the same time acknowledges that writing, especially screenwriting requires a great deal of patience, stamina, and faith.

There are many books on the art of screenwriting, but none approaches the subject from the unique perspective of a dialogue between expert and novice. Screenwriting from the Soul is geared to instruct the user in the practicalities, discipline, and emotional resources required to produce that winning screenplay.

Buy it here:

I will post a Fiction must-read reading list in the coming lessons.

Your exercise for the day:

Write your book jacket (or movie log line). Must be less than 200 words as this practice teaches you the art of brevity.  Please send them to me, print them and post them on your writing space and then write your masterpiece!