Thursday, March 29, 2012

Revision Decisions

When I'm crafting my novels, I write for myself and my characters.  Do I like the them, the conflict and plot?  Am I moved in some way by each scene?  Am I satisfied with the pacing, flow of chapters and word choices?  But when working on a revision letter, I'm also writing for the editor who asked for changes.  I'm keeping in mind what she wants and the expectations of the agents who are waiting for the updated version.  Because in the end, what I like won't secure representation or a sale.  What matters is what they like and believe is marketable.  What makes them willing to put their names and reputations on the line, to invest their time and effort.

Usually when I write, my characters guide the story.  I see things through their eyes as if I'm watching a movie.  When I'm focused on what industry professionals have asked for, it's more of a challenge to stay in my characters' heads.  I'm often in mine, wondering if this or that is what she meant. 

Have I changed/cut/added enough?  "I really like this scene, does so much of it have to go?"  "Is this new scene as good as the others?"  In the end, it's still my decision.  And on occasion, it's exciting to come up with something I think is even better or is a fabulous addition. 

How much revision is too much, whether it's for a novel, blog entry or letter?  I want to feel confident about my writing, not worry I've reworked a chapter so much that my voice gets lost.  A friend says I'm too picky about spelling, grammar and avoiding typos.  Another peruses then re-peruses each email before sending. 

How do we know when we've spent enough but not too much time, when we're done, when to let go? 

WSJBooks That Are Never Done Being Written

Endless Revisions

Last Minute Revisions

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anatomy of an Audition

There are three main casting agencies in Chicago: O'Connor CastingPascal Rudnicke Casting and Claire Simon Casting.  They book the vast majority of commercials, TV shows and feature films.  Actors want these casting directors to know who they are, relish the opportunity to be called in and hope they give a great performance at each audition. 

Most of the time, you can't get called in to audition unless you have an agent.  On occasion, opportunities such as The Great Danish Adventure come along or the search for the new voice of the Afflac duck, and they'll hold an open casting call.  Sometimes they'll seek a specific kind of person, such as those who take a certain medication.

The business is fairly fast paced.  Yesterday just after noon, I was driving to a indie film audition when one of my agents called to say I had a TV commercial audition at one of the big three the next day at 10:50am.  Yay!  (You can ask for something later or earlier if  you have a conflict with your assigned 5 or 10 minute time slot, but usually you don't get to choose.)  If you're not available for the callback or the shoot date(s), you probably won't get to audition. 

I'd be doing two short spots.  The scripts didn't arrive until 5:15pm.  I had a class until 9:45, so I couldn't prepare before then. 

Deciding what to wear can be a challenge, whatever "nice casual" or "business casual," etc., means to you.  Basic rules of solids over busy patterns, simple jewelry that doesn't distract, apply.  On occasion, people will truly dress the part.  When I had an audition to be a nun, I wore a black sweater over a white blouse, as did many auditionees.  But a few showed up in full nun's habits.  I bought a lab coat because I was going on so many pharmacist/doctor auditions, and the coats provided at auditions were far too big and baggy.  I haven't had a single opportunity to wear it...yet.

In the waiting area, you fill out an information form.  Headshots/resumes used to be mandatory, but with online casting services they aren't always requested.  Sometimes more than one audition is taking place, so it can be crowded and hectic.  I almost always run into someone I know, and enjoy catching up.

In the casting room, you often have the opportunity to do a rehearsal with the session director.  There may be others watching, from interns to clients.  And those who watch don't look at you, they look at you on the monitor.  Then you get two takes, usually with some guidance in between.  Nerves can set in because a lot is on the line.

Afterward, I try to let go of how I think I did and when the callback is.  Because you never know why you didn't get chosen. You might have done a fabulous job, but you're blond and they want a brunette.  They chose a tall husband, and you're too short to be his wife.  Instead of worrying and wondering, I look forward to the next opportunity.  


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Learning Curve

When it comes to learning lines, songs, choreography or talking points for a presentation, I’m a fairly quick study. But when it comes to learning new software, I often get stuck and/or frustrated, especially when I know what task I want to complete but can’t find the answer.

While many help options are available, the information I need may not be there or is a challenge to locate. User guides aren’t always thorough, and online Wikis, forums or video tutorials can take time to wade through and still not yield the solution.

I’m sure many programs have features I’d love if only I knew what they were. Many of us never had formal computer training. I picked up Word on the job. And from the descriptions of some classes I’ve read it seems the topics covered are too basic. I don’t want to pay for, go to and sit through an hour of class for one or two useful nuggets.

There’s always the trial and error method. Sometimes that works, other times, I get frustrated trying to figure out a workaround.

Just when we think we know a program or a site like Facebook, it’ll probably change again. Sometimes the changes are improvements, other times commands we liked are harder to find or buttons are moved.  Not only that, many of us customize and with a new version have to set up our personalization all over again.

I’m working on changing audio editing software, from Audacity (which is free) to Sound Forge (which is $64.95).  A friend helped me figure out a few things, but performing the tasks I'm accustomed to means different shortcuts and terminology. 

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Being Patient

What are you waiting for...the cable guy to show up, to hear if you got the job, the release of the next iPhone, a friend who's late to lunch?

Because feelancers have so many irons in the fire, we're often waiting for news about many things--whether our manuscripts or articles will be requested or bought, if we'll get that new client or assignment, when our agents (literary or talent) will call.  Everyone's waiting for something, but some handle it better than others.

Why is waiting often so difficult, so frustrating?  You're not actually doing anything.
One reason is sometimes you can't make plans until you find out, say, if you're booked on a given day.  Another reason could be that we want good things to come our way, our efforts to pay off.  Maybe we don't like the sense of power or control others seem to have over us as they make decisions that impact our incomes and future.  Sometimes closure, even if the result isn't what we'd hoped, is preferable to not knowing.

Those of us whose lives often revolve around waiting need to find ways to enjoy and appreciate or at least tolerate the journey.  Logically we know sitting by the phone or checking our e-mail every five minutes won't make responses come any faster, yet the urge is there. 

What seems to help is keeping busy, focusing my energies and time on other projects instead of dwelling on when news will arrive.  Some may choose to sit back and think that fantastic job, book deal or national TV commercial is just around the corner, so there's no point working all that hard now.  Others move forward with what is and keep creating additional opportunities.  They don't rely on supposition--what if X or Y happens.  If they get some sort of windfall, great, but they know they can't count on it.

About a year ago I wrote a related post on Anticipation

They say patience is a virtue.  What can you do to make waiting easier?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Find Your Inner Fabulous

It’s been a long time coming!  My co-authored
self-help book, Find Your Inner Fabulous, is finally available on Amazon, in print and Kindle editions.

Veteran therapist Mindy Gold and I wrote FYIF to help women achieve greater self-esteem and contentment.  We offer seven principles and an eight-step roadmap that combined with empowering exercises and suggestions provide readers with concrete methods for creating positive change in their lives. 

Do you feel fabulous?  If not, and/or if you think you're not good enough or pretty enough, we hope FYIF can help.

To learn more, visit