Sunday, April 26, 2015

Writing with Clabber

By Laura P. Valtorta

The best thing about filmmaking is the collaboration it requires. Shooting a scene correctly requires an experienced crew – director, cinematographer, lighting specialist, and sound person. Without those elements, the production values suffer. The audience notices distracting mistakes.

Screenwriting is also a team effort. “Workshopping” a screenplay can help, but the best thing is to write with a partner. Clabber and I work well together on screenwriting because we are so different. He has solid ideas. Mine are crazy. He prefers a polished effect. I like to take risks. The differences between us never end.

Clabber worships GOD and DOG. I’m an atheist who can’t abide animals in the house.

Clabber is short; I’m tall.

Clabber loves horror films; I can barely deal with Alfred Hitchcock.

Clabber takes five years to write his horror scripts. I take five months.

Recently Clabber and I sat down to make changes to Quiet on the Set. We only had 90 minutes. Everybody is busy. And Clabber had brought in a co-worker to give a third perspective on the script. Or maybe John was there to protect us from killing each other.

Either way, the meeting went well. I sat back and listened to Clabber’s specific ideas and John’s general thoughts on changing the script. Before that meeting, I was convinced the screenplay was finished. Now I realize that I need to edit. The polishing may take some time.

We’re headed in the right direction.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Intensive Workshop at Rock Hill

By Ginny Padgett
Next Saturday, April 25, is the ninth annual Intensive Workshop presented by the Rock Hill Chapter of South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. Each year the workshop has grown in number and strength. Last year after attending, our own Fred Fields reported it was the best deal going, $5.00 for day-long quality instruction and lunch. I plan to be there. Register now. It’s not too late.

To sign up and get details on the Intensive classes and instructors, go to

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Latest Addition

Meet a New Columbia II Blogger


Julia Rogers Hook comes to Columbia, SC after almost 30 years of life in Los Angeles where she worked as a journalist in radio, television, magazines and newspapers. She covered local politics, community events and national news such as the 2000 Alaskan Flight 261 plane crash off the coast of Ventura, CA and the 911 bombings. She also taught courses in broadcast writing at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA.

She has long had a burning desire to share the misadventures and wrong directions of her misspent youth to the reading world in book form and is currently working on her first book and possible syndicating her local column in “The Columbia Star” newspaper.

She is unbelievably happily married to the man of her dreams, Marty Hook and enjoying learning to be a stepmom to his son Van. While Van has his own apartment, Julia and Marty share their home with Whitman, a 95-pound standard poodle and two cats, Molly and Scrappy. They will all have their own stories in the book.

Grout vs. Greatness

By Julia Rogers Hook

Becoming a writer is not an easy task.

Oh sure…people will tell you that you “tell great stories” and that you should write them down.

“You should write a book!”

“You are soooo funny! You should write a book.”

“Did that really happen? You should write a book!”

I probably SHOULD write a book. I WANT to write a book. I also would like to learn to play the piano but I hate practicing my scales. Is it the same thing? Sort of. 

When the general public meets a published author, they tend to think it’s all been an easy ride ending with television shows and book signings with wine and cheese and photos in the local (and sometimes national) papers. It’s not.

As any writer will tell you, before the glitter and the glamour, it’s hours and hours and days and weeks of sitting alone in front of a computer screen and living in a world of your own making. Instead of having dinner with your spouse, your mind is somewhere in some anomalous place running for your life from the bad guys created in your imagination or engrossed in whatever story line you've created.

If you’re really into it, I've known writers who say they can go as far as to stay in their pajamas or sweatpants for days. They put signs on the door ordering their family to leave them alone. They cut off their phones and emails fall by the wayside, ignored and unanswered. Their only concern is what’s happening to the people in their pages.

OR…if you’re like me, you don’t sit at your computer and force yourself to write. You clean your house. You dust, you sweep, you mop, you get out a toothbrush and clean the chrome in your bathrooms. While you’re doing all this excessive tidying, you are definitely thinking about your story but you just can’t get those fingers on the keyboard until there’s no stain in your bathroom grout.
And therein as they say, lies the rub.

We all want it. We all want the fame, the fortune, the glamour and the glitz. But it’s the really true writers that persevere through the distractions and the interruptions that finish a project, whether it be a novel, a play or even a short story or a poem, who actually grab the brass ring on the merry-go-round of becoming an author.

A very wise published author once told me that the secret of writing was simply to write. He said to do whatever it took to write. Get up early or go to bed later. Whatever inspired you to write, he said to do it. As long as the words get from your mind to the page, that will be the day you become a writer. I've been trying to live by that advice and most days I manage to eek out a page or sometimes twenty.

Other days, the grout in my bathroom really does need a good scrub.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

When to Research and When to Revise Part II

By Kasie Whitener

Once you’ve nailed down the historical details and familiarized yourself with the conventions of the genre and criticism, it’s time to revise.

I’m a pantser which means I write everything “by-the-seat-of-my-pants.” I simply sit down and create. This is as opposed to planners who outline first and then write. Being a pantser is fun because the characters really can take over, hijack scenes, and turn stories into something completely unintended.

During revision, though, I tame the pantser and take a more organized approach. I’ve written about revision before so this blog focuses on revision within the scope of the research I’ve conducted.

Adding Historical Details

Many writers commit the crime of fact dumping, or pouring all of the historical information into a single passage. The location, political climate, costumes, and manners are all thickly embellished and saturate the story. Fact dumping is boring.

Including historical accuracies takes finesse. My approach is to write the passage as if it were happening today and then provide the historical accuracies only when required.

For example, my time-traveling vampires frequently smoke cigarettes. I explain how they light them using taper candles in 1816. I explain costumes when my narrator sees someone for the first time, or when he struggles with the intricacies of 19th century dress.

I used Lord Byron’s club foot to show the advancing trust he had in my narrator, Blue: at first Byron hid his limp, then he pronounced it to gain favor, then he showed the deformity completely, without shame, in an intimate moment.

Including Literary Research

The 1816 vacation at Villa Diodati is usually described as having included a storytelling contest. I included the literary research I’d done by having Byron read from Fantasmagoriana, a French translation of German ghost stories. Blue, the primary storyteller, declined to read the text because he does not speak French.

Byron’s sister translates as her brother reads and the intimacy of her whispered translation in Blue’s ear creates sexual tension between the two. Had I not chosen Fantasmagoriana in its French translation, I would have lost the opportunity to bring my lovers together.

Blue is a story teller. The framework for the novel is his recognition of the five types of stories vampires tell: origin, demise, transformation, redemption, and journey. Reading vampire fiction is what revealed four basic types. Blue is a student of literature and  the novel is his (and my) literary criticism of vampire fiction. The journey story is an original addition to the genre.

Understanding where my fiction fits in the spectrum of existing literature and criticism helped me identify a new position for my work. To have an idea of the landscape, I read deep into the genre and criticism. If I hadn’t, I’d have written just-another-vampire book. Snooze.

Revision is where I add depth and breadth to the story my pantser-self generated. Research helps determine the right details to include and the critical approach to take.