Valerie’s Blog

Sneak Peek!
Chet Baker: Always Looking for the Light

(previous working title Chet Baker: The Later Years)

In this short excerpt from the upcoming 2nd volume of memoirs by bop drummer Artt Frank, he offers an insight into the virtuosity of Chet Baker’s style.
Renaissance

“Ready?” Chet asked, and called out to us and counted off the tune, “I Remember You,” in a medium up-tempo, and sang a chorus while Sal (Nistico) stood off to the side listening with a look of admiration on his face. Chet finished singing and just sat there, eyes closed, left leg crossed over the right, with his head resting on the hand holding the trumpet, listening and drinking up every note that Sal was laying down. We did another six to eight tunes and took our first break.

Read More…

WGF Panel – 01/13/2017

WGF Panel - 01/12/2017
Panelists (l-r): Monica Macer (Quenn Sugar, OWN), Shernold Edwards (Hand of God, Amazon), Dawn Kamoche (Sharp Objects, HBO), Dee Harris-Lawrence (Star, FOX), Valerie Woods (Soul Food, Showtime)

The Writers Guild Foundation event, co-sponsored by Stephens College MFA in Television and Screenwriting on January 13, 2017, was a great success. The panel, moderated by writer and BooksEndependent publisher, Valerie C. Woods, engaged the participants with their wisdom, humor and real-world advice on the evening’s topic – “Writing Outside the Color Lines: Women Writers of Color or Storytelling and Perspective”. A lively Q&A following the discussion extended the evening past its scheduled ending time.

Thanks to Chris Kartje and Enid Portuguez at the WGF, and Ken LaZebnik and Khanisha Foster of Stephens College for a wonderful evening!

Writers Guild Foundation Panel

Writers Guild Foundation

Writing Outside the Color Lines: Women Writers of Color on Storytelling and Perspective

Fri, January 13, 2017
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

WGF / WGA Headquarters – Del Reisman Multi-Purpose Room
7000 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Valerie C. WoodsThe Writers Guild Foundation, in partnership with Stephens College MFA in Television & Screenwriting, hosts a dynamic panel discussion moderated by BooksEndependent founder, screenwriter and author, Valerie C. Woods. Join television writers from such shows as “Shameless,” “Hand of God,” “Star,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and “Queen Sugar”, as they answer questions on writing authentic stories and characters outside one’s own cultural identity.

 

Buy Tickets Now!

The RoughWriter

There it is. The blank page. Or screen. It’s perfect, pristine, shimmering with possibilities. You want the words you impart on this perfect canvas to be worthy. To flow with lyrical, righteous, and passionate… stuff. No, scratch that, not ‘stuff’ – it must be classic Oscar, Emmy, Tony award winning scriptness. Wait. What? ‘Scriptness?’ Ok, perfect prose, poignantly profound… stop! Scratch that, too. And now it’s ruined. The blank page, which was once so full of hope, is now ruined. Crumple paper, or delete, delete, delete. Time for coffee.

Such pressure, the blank page. Why is it so hard to allow for imperfection? It’s not called a rough draft because it’s perfect. So go ahead and be a RoughWriter!

In his book,”Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” Syd Field put it very bluntly, “Let yourself write sh*tty pages, with stilted, direct, dumb, and obvious dialogue. Don’t worry about it. Just keep writing. Dialogue can always be cleaned up during the rewrite. ‘Writing is rewriting’ is the ancient adage.”

This advice applies to ALL writers, not just screenwriters. It is the only way to get through a novel, a play, short story, or novella. I know, because I’ve written at least one of each in that prior list, and Syd Field’s advice got me through each project.

Currently, I am a Mentor for a group of very talented MFA screenwriters. In the first semester, each student selected the topic of their screenplays, wrote beat sheets, and narrative outlines. At this point, two writers decided they no longer wanted to write the stories they’d chosen, and switched – went through the earlier process again and then began writing script pages. Then a third writer decided her pages were awful, her story was stupid and it was boring. One of the first two writers, worried that well, maybe the new idea wasn’t good either.

To clarify, none of the stories were boring. What I was hearing from these students was doubt, resistance… you know, fear of failure. They had each done great work. But the Inner Critic had moved to the foreground and was doing its best to get them to give up.

What to do? It was time for the talk, as follows:

Where Does It All End?

In a previous post, I wrote about what indie authors could learn from indie filmmakers. As my writing often alternates between writing novels and screenplays, there are also screenwriting tools that can assist novelists.

One of the most valuable “oh, I get it!” moments studying with screenwriting mentor, Syd Field (1935-2013), was the first time Syd spoke about his groundbreaking Paradigm. More specifically – Syd stated that the first thing needed to begin was to know the end. As a young writer, this was a bit of a surprise.

At the time, my writing process was something like “wow, this is a good idea! The character would be this, they would do this and there would be a love interest, and they work at something amazing, etc. etc.” Dialogue and scenes would sprout and I’d write them down and generally let the story tell me what it was. Which is not such a terrible thing… at first. Getting the first flush of inspiration out and onto the page as quickly as possible is important, because I am so easily distracted.

However, there always came the time when I’d have to stop and ask, “so where does it all end?” Where am I going with this story? What is the resolution? And that’s when I go back to the Syd Field Paradigm and the four things the writer needs to know to begin writing:

  • The End
  • The Beginning
  • Plot Point I
  • Plot Point II