Monday, June 23, 2014

Post-Disney-Internship: On Character

My Disney internship ended a few weeks ago. This didn't really rock the boat, as I was hired on immediately as a consultant, carrying a few projects with me. However, I still want to do a summation post. Here's at least a part of that.

The biggest thing drilled into our heads in Disney entertainment is preserving character. At all costs, we are to preserve character. Why? Because people don't love Disney for the stunning animation or fun worlds or timeless stories. People love Disney for the characters. Even if you don't love the protagonist--even when Olaf steals the show--it's the characters that keep us going back to those movies.

We wear the characters on our t-shirts, put them on our notebooks, outfit the small children in our lives in their clothing. We pretend we are Ariel, under the sea, or Aladdin, with a "Friend Like Me."

I recently gave a super secret presentation that involved social media (it went awesomely, thanks for asking), and one of my major points was that consumers connect to characters. If you're reading this blog, I assume you feel like you know certain things about me (that I am rambly, have a casual voice, tend toward parentheticals). Even more so if you follow me on twitter. It's called "brand," but I think it's more than that. It's the PERSON (not the thing) that your followers expect you to be.

We hear this a lot in publishing. You could have the greatest story in the world, but without those compelling characters, everything falls flat.

In the Disney Parks, it's my job to take the characters that are already beloved and give them a new life in a show or a parade or an event that stays true to who they are and why everyone loves them. Because of this, I've learned a lot about what is essential to a character's, um, character.

One of the things that stuck with me the most from a very early assignment was this: I was writing a script where a princess did a quick appearance, greeted the audience, then left. The next week, a different princess did the same thing.

The princess's opening line the first wee was something very general like "Why, hello there!" so I left it for the second week. Our Character Expert (yes, that's someone's job) wrote back that princess #2 wouldn't say it like that, and I ended up changing the line to something like "Hi everyone!" (Ten points to whoever can guess those two princesses based on their greetings!)

Character is the #1 most vital thing to creating an experience. Mickey and the Magical Map, one of our big productions, is this really immersive, magical (ha) show full of song and dance and backflips and physics-defying bubbles--yet the cheers are never as loud as when Mickey and Stitch come on stage. (King Louie, Mulan, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Flynn, Tiana, and Sebastian are also in it, but for some reason, they don't get the overwhelming roar from the audience like Mickey and Stitch. I understand Mickey, but Stitch? Sure.)

I've learned so much about character while interning here. I'll leave you with this. I'm very close to these characters, for some reason . . .

any guesses?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to Plan Your Story Like a Vacation

Here's another writing metaphor for you! While they may be a dime a dozen (dollhouse, phlebotomist), they're prevalent because they're useful. Metaphors make us look at things from a different angle, an angle that just might make sense. I was recently working with a wonderful client, and the metaphor of the map came to me.

We hear "map your story" or "have a story map" a lot. But my interpretation was a little different. A map is PART of the process, but here's my metaphor:

Your story is a vacation.

Premise: choosing that vacation destination.

When you choose this, you're looking at elements of this world. If you love the heat, a ski trip is probably the wrong decision. Similarly, if you gobble light hearted romances, you might want to stay away from horror.

Plot: deciding the landmarks to hit.

If you decide to go to Florida, there's still a lot to do. Theme parks, ocean adventures, nightlife...now you need to narrow down the journey. Same thing with your plot. What's important to hit? Why is it important to hit? How are you going to get between points?

Pacing: figuring out how relaxed or packed your adventure will be.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Or Eat Pray Love? My mom is the type to plan a minute-to-minute itinerary, for example, so my vacations were always fast-paced.

Scenes: choosing the best way to present each building block of your vacation.

You don't want to waste time! Pack as much into each stop as possible. Enter when the fun starts; leave before it's over.

Characters: deciding who to take with you.

Is this a romantic weekend? A girls' vacation? A family affair? Who goes on the journey determines a lot of things about it, so make sure you have the right cast of characters coming along.

Bonus: how does a freelance editor fit in? Why, I'm your travel agent! You know generally where you want to go and what you want to do, but it's my job to help set you up to get the most out of this adventure.

So where are you going this summer? Both literally and metaphorically.

small Taryn & family, ready to fly away

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 Things Every Writer Should Do before Being Really Truly Ready to Pursue Publication

10. Let go of the first book you wrote. Maybe you’ll come back to it in the future, but don’t dwell on it forever. You’ll be surprised how much better your next first draft is than that old book’s.
 
9. Do something fun with your rejections. Play Query Bingo. Have a drinking game. Make a collage.
 
8. Go to a writing conference. Show other writers your query. Be the one to ask the agent the stupid question. Follow the editor to the bathroom and think a little too long about slipping your manuscript under the stall (but don’t actually do that).
 
7. Find critique partners who become your BFFs. You’re totally discussing your character’s love life with them. Wink, wink.
 
6. Be there for a CP who gets an agent and/or a book deal. Though you will likely feel a bit of jealousy, be overall happy for them—and brag that you knew them when.
 
5. Contemplate quitting, if only to remember why you love writing.
 
4. Realize you totally ripped off your idea from that bestseller. No, that author ripped you off. No, wait, your book is TOTALLY different. Actually, it’s the exact same. Oh, well, there are no new ideas, right?
 
3. Cry over feedback, whether from a CP or an agent.
 
2. Re-read some of your manuscript and realize hey this actually is pretty good. Did I really write that line?
 
1. Realize this book does not determine your worth. You're not a worthless person or a bad writer because the book goes nowhere. Internalize that, because this journey? It's not easy. But it is rewarding.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Query Bingo!


Offer!
“a response within 3 months”
“a response within 6 weeks”
“a response within 3 weeks”
Full request!
“current market”
“personal taste”
“Dear Author”
“we have received your submission” auto-response
“would like to see future work”
“subjective”
“this impersonal note”
Form Rejection (Free Space)
“not the right fit”
“too much telling”
“didn’t connect with your MC”
“thank you for sharing/querying”
“did not connect with the writing”
“other agents feel differently”
“synopsis”
Partial Request!
“shows potential”
“query widely”
“will contact you if interested”
Partial upgraded to full!

 
Um...enjoy?

Seriously, though, I pulled this together by going through some old rejections, and wow. There are a lot. (The stats below include both query and partial/full rejections)

10ish for a horribly misguided attempt on MS A.
75ish for MS B.
20ish for MS C--for which I signed with my first agent.
And like 2 for MS D, but nobody wants to hear about that.

Have fun querying--I miss it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Girl with the Green Pen Got a Makeover!

Hi guys! If you've been more internet-aware than me these past few months, you might have noticed a brand spanking new Girl with the Green Pen website! Since I've been settling in/dealing with a broken laptop/sick, I haven't officially launched...until today!

Today is the official launch of The Girl with the Green Pen 2.0!

Check it out here!

While I loved the old look (the one that matched this blog), I decided to do this for a few reasons. Most notably, I graduated, and I wanted a slightly more professional look for a slightly more professional me. I love the scrolling book covers and rotating testimonials, and I love that you can see pretty much everything without going down the page. It's SO easy to navigate and to maintain.

Like it? It's the work of Robert Hoffman, whom I met through my fantabulous client Lyuda Mayorska.

I am currently accepting clients and can't wait to work with you!

ALSO: should you see an error/typo/confusingly-worded-sentence, PLEASE bring it to my attention!

CLIENTS: I want to celebrate you! So if you have a book cover that is not in the banner (even if it's not a book I worked on), send it to me, and I will add it to the rotation. Also, on a more self-serving note, if you haven't given me a testimonial, I would love to add you to that rotation as well.

Create Freely

*peeks up* *waves shamefully*
 
Hi. I’ve been bad. Of course, I’ve been bad for a good reason, but it still stands that I’ve been bad. In case you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t have twitter), I started working at Disneyland two months ago. And while this would generally be exciting, my job is pretty much a dream job for a lot of people: I work behind the scenes as a show writer, where I participate in the creation of all the live entertainment for the parks. As a writer, my job is to write concepts and scripts and the like, but as the low man on the totem pole, I do a lot of other things as well.
 
I’m not sure what I’m allowed to tell the internet, so I’ll keep things vague, but I’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of fun projects (and I already have some scripts that have just been written by me!), and just being in this environment is exciting and full of creative opportunities.
 
Today, I want to talk about something I heard during my first (or second?) week, before I was really doing anything. And that’s this line:
 
“You have to be okay with really great ideas never seeing the light of day.”
 
In my department, creative entertainment, it’s our job to have a zillion great ideas in case 99% of them don’t fit the exact theme the boss-person is going for. (Who’s the boss-person? That depends on the project. The bigger the project, the more important the boss-person.) There’s a project I worked on from the very start that has involved writing a bunch of different pitches, all different angles to come at a crossroads of two concepts. That project isn’t even funded. If it does get funded, we’ll still have to pick one pitch. If it doesn’t get funded, all those great ideas (seven pages per pitch) get put away.
 
And it has nothing to do with the idea not being good idea. It has to do with the idea not being quite right for a particular opening, or (of course) for the financial side.
 
One of the things I’ve loved about working here is that the focus is so much on the audience. It is all about the guests. In publishing, we sometimes forget that. There’s nothing wrong with writing for an audience of one, or writing for yourself, but keeping in mind the appeal of a story is so vital. Here, I'm writing to create an experience, and the most important part of that experience is where the vantage point is: in the Guest.
 
So when you write, what is your Guest experiencing? Is it what you want them to experience? How could the experience be more full?
 
"But, Taryn," you say, "didn't you just tell me to be okay with great ideas never seeing the light of day? Doesn't that mean you're writing for yourself, in a sense?"
 
The act of writing is for yourself. Creation should always be something done for what you get out of it--not for the fame or for the money or whatever compensation, but for the joy or freedom or intellectual stimulation that comes with it. Creating within parameters--those contests with word count, genre, and scenario stipulations, for example, or in my case, creating for the Guest--isn't limiting. In a way, it makes you more creative. Find a way around the problem you see without leaving the box.
 
My earlier post about why I wanted to work at Disney--for the atmosphere of creativity--was spot on, and I wouldn't change a word of it.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Editing Stats - for SCIENCE!

Here is 2012 for comparison.

But this year I am too busy moving to California to make graphs.

***My numbers may be off.***

Total manuscripts, not including queries, synopses, first chapters: 107

Age breakdown:

Young adult: 73
Middle grade: 23
New adult: 6
Adult: 3
Chapter book: 1
Other: 1

I'm actually stunned that things were so heavily YA this year. I felt like it was closer to 60% than 70%, and I definitely thought I worked with more NA. Technically I don't work with chapter books or adult fiction, but there were circumstances in both cases, and I'm glad I got a chance to read those projects!

YA breakdown:

Contemp/romance: 17
Fantasy: 15
Sci-fi: 15
Mystery/thriller: 8
Paranormal: 5
Other: 13 (historical, memoir, etc.)

Nice spread of genres.

MG breakdown:

Contemp: 6
Fantasy: 9
Other: 8 (sci-fi, adventure, paranormal, etc.)

Oh, MG fantasy. I'm not surprised.

The NA was all contemp romance except one mystery (yay, mystery NA!), the adult was all sci-fi, and the chapter book was fantasy.

I had the most projects in January (17), followed by a bunch of 13 project months. The lowest months were May (3--I was travelling Europe) and November (4--550K NaNo).

23 clients signed with agents.
9 signed book deals.
6 self-published.
2 clients who signed traditional book deals in 2012 had their books come out this year.

All those numbers add up to one happy editor. Stay tuned for the launch of The Girl with the Green Pen 2.0!