Play Review: Vietgone by Qui Nguyen

Vietgone by Qui Nguyen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Qui Nguyen does it again, UGH!! I LOVED THIS PLAY!

Vietgone was so touching and poignant, and also simultaneously hilarious. And real. I really enjoyed reading it, and I’m pretty sure Qui is one of my favorite playwrights now. I LOVED the way he turns language on its head and subverts our understanding of “the outsider”, by allowing us to hear what Americans sound and look like in stereotypical translation. It was great hearing how I might sound speaking Vietnamese really poorly and to be caricaturized; it’s literally something we NEVER see in mass media, and I love Qui for that.

The rapping sequences also gave me LIFE.

I love how there is also an entire generational language happening here, which I LOVED. LOVED. Between Tong, Quang, Huong, and Nhan, we see them as fully-realized human beings living their lives in as much color and feeling and expression as possible. Then when we see the Playwright with Quang in the end (the Playwright being Quang’s son), we see Quang re-characterized from the Playwright’s perspective: as annoying, slightly out-of-touch, old-fashioned… everything we see immigrants characterized as on television, but not ever fully human. This juxtaposition of perspectives was so powerful to me; to realize that our parents lived lives that were just as real as our own is also super subversive in many ways.

The very real way that Qui expresses the horrors and losses experienced during war really resonated with me; my heart just broke at all the flashbacks and the very real ways in which these families were torn apart by the war. It really hurt too to see that Quang had to finally face the truth about not being able to go back to his family, and I felt both really tortured and uncomfortable with the not-knowing anything about his family’s fate. The only thing that gave even the slightest comfort about him not being able to go back was that his children never really knew him; so there wasn’t much of a loss for them there. But not knowing what happened to his wife, children, and family was pure torture. Same with Tong’s brother, Khue and Pham.

I guess we are supposed to get closure from the fact that Tong and Quang end up together, but there’s still a huge hole for me (in my heart) at the end of the play. I cried. At the same time, Qui does an amazing job of humanizing everyone, subverting stereotypes and expectations, and of giving everyone a deep and abiding motivation for who and how they are. Even Nhan, who doesn’t have much of a character arc, still serves a really important purpose to the overarching story. The themes about the American perspective on the Vietnam war hit home for me pretty hard, because Qui taps into a social consciousness that Americans (myself included) have never really interrogated; he brings some real talk to our armchair summary of the war, especially because we only talk about the Vietnam War as it pertained to the loss of American lives, glory, and legitimacy. But no one ever talks about what was really going on on the ground level, and Qui minces no words as he sets us completely straight.

There’s a lot going on here, and way more than I have time to parse out; there are SO many layers that are easier to discuss in person than on a written review. Sorry my thoughts are so all over the place, but WOOOOOW. This play really blew me away. So authentic, funny, grounding, and real. So SO good. Loved it.

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Rock on, READ on,

<3 Colby

Play Review: Two Trains Running by August Wilson

Two Trains Running by August Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this play for my Playwriting class, so read this review with that in mind.

This play is so on point, and also just so damned delightfully BLACK. Definitely something to add to the “Stay Woke” syllabus, especially because, unfortunately, the social zeitgeist has not changed much, it seems. LOVE IT. I also felt as though I was sitting around a bunch of my uncles, listening to them talk about life, love, spirituality, and politics. But what I love the most about Wilson’s piece is that it is not only honest with a racially-divided society, but it’s also really honest with itself and with Black people about the state of Black people.

But what I love the most about Wilson’s piece is that it is not only honest with a racially-divided society, but it’s also really honest with itself and with Black people about the state of Black people.

The character I connected with the most, strangely enough, was Hambone. His function as the “soul of Black folk” was super powerful for me in the play. The very perseverance of getting what one is owed, because he worked for it and was swindled out of it, and trying to reconcile society’s debt to you is super powerful. At the same time, Wilson seems to also be making a counterargument via Hambone, that if you wait on another (even if he owes you) to give you your due, you’ll not only be waiting forever, but you may just collapse in on yourself. It’s surprisingly segregationist and nationalist in a sort of “reverse” way.

Loved this. OBVIOUSLY would love to produce this.

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Rock on, READ on,
<3 Colby

Play Review: “The River” by Jez Butterworth

The River by Jez Butterworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

** spoiler alert ** I read this play for my Playwriting class, so read this review with that in mind.

*** READER BEWARE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN! ***

This is another piece that tricks you into thinking it meanders… and then it punches you right in the face as the playwright shows you exactly where this is going. A really lovely and poignant story of love, loss, and patterns of pain that are acknowledged, but somehow remain unbroken. I really appreciate that the playwright felt no need to wrap this up with a blow and slap it upside the cheek with a happy ending. The man’s journey and fate is very real: his search for love, his failures to find it, and his de-evolution into what his uncle used to be… or is this more of a “to be continued” / “he’s still looking for real love” kind of ending?

Not sure, but either way I enjoyed the ambiguity of it all. That in itself was my entry point / human portal into the piece among all the wonderful imagery and mythology. The ambiguousness of life and the weird journey it sends us all on.

What really struck me too were the craft and methods used here: the metaphors with the fish, the Nordic (?) mythology, the poetry and the singing (which I loved), and the emotional realness of the characters. At first blush, the characters feel like Mary Sues and a John Doe, more like avatars for the human experience rather than humans themselves. In some ways this works, and in others, it limits my connection to the characters. In how they represent our emotional and existential struggles, however, the playwright is spot on (imo).

The thing I loved the most about the playwright’s craft here, though, is that he plays around with time, continuity, and emotional temporality in an interesting way. Instead of creating a realistic timeline of events, he instead chooses a variety of focal points: the scarlet dress, the reflection in the bowl, the dive into the freezing water. All stark, striking, and tactile images that really activate, engage, and bewitch the senses. As far as plot goes, The River didn’t do it for me, but as for the other things that comprise a theatrical experience (especially on the emotional level), I was super engaged and touched by the end.

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Rock on, READ on,
<3 Colby

Play Review: “Bethlehem” by Octavio Solis

Bethlehem by Octavio Solis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As an FYI, this is yet another play I read for my Playwriting class, so read this review with that in mind. Some very gutty gut reactions here, and there are spoilers. Ok, cool. Let’s get it on!

*** READER BEWARE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN! ***

Seriously. Reading this was triggering and traumatizing AF.

OOOOKAY, now that I’ve reacted, I’m going to attempt to discuss Bethlehem from a dramaturgical perspective, lol. This play was masterfully done, and the playwright’s command of unreliable narrative was mindblowing to say the least. I really loved the amorphous, transcendent nature of characters in the play, and Solis makes sure to build a world built around the language and context of the field of surgery– organs, autopsy language, etc. There are a lot of craft-centered things done here that work so well.

As for the story, I was sick to my stomach. In the end, I honestly have no idea what happened to who in the play, not because it wasn’t clear necessarily, but because I just simply did not want to know who raped who’s sister, got raped by his father, butchered yet another innocent woman, strangled his girlfriend, raped a corpse, and then murdered yet another person, cut his heart out, and put it in a bag.

Wtf.

Am I the only one who was just so completely overwhelmed by the content that wading through the craft and analysis of it feels like a monumental task? Anyone? Bueller? (Did I spell that right?) Anyways… those are my thoughts. I’m so glad I don’t have wine on deck, because I’d totally just climb into the bottom of the bottle and just never come out. That’s how this play made me feel.

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Rock on, READ on,
<3 Colby

Play Review: “The Long Christmas Ride Home” by Paula Vogel

The Long Christmas Ride Home by Paula Vogel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, Vogel does it again, y’all. This was honestly one of the most beautiful plays I’ve ever read. Maybe this is just my perspective as an outsider (and feel free to check me if I’m wrong), but I loved the intentionality and care with which Vogel synthesized Japanese imagery, color, movement, and sound into the piece. My favorite part of this collage was the dance that brought Stephen back to life.

Most of all, though, I admire Vogel’s craft– how she fused setting, imagery, and story to show us a really bright and simultaneously dark cross-section of this family’s life. I really loved how she played around with narration and dialogue, character and avatar. She essentially built three layers of character– one with the puppets, one with the avatars / puppet masters, and then the last with the actual voices of the characters as they spoke for themselves and to each other. She also seems to transcend time pretty seamlessly without losing story or continuity, which I found really impressive.

Um, basically? I was jealous. Why, Paula Vogel? WHY can’t I have your brain?!

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Rock on, READ on,
<3 Colby

Play Review: “Luna Gale” by Rebecca Gilman

Luna Gale by Rebecca Gilman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

NOTE: The following is response feedback that I wrote for the class I read LUNA GALE for, so take this “review” with that in mind!

Also? ** SPOILER ALERT!!! **

I have to say that Luna Gale has really influenced me to focus on a project that has been nitpicking at me for a long time. Since 2012. It’s called “The Right Hand”, and it delves into the question of religion, faith, and God in a different way. It’s a genre piece, but also sort of a philosophical wandering”, I guess.

Not to make it sound more important than it is, but I think working on “The Right Hand” feels apt.

This is especially true because I really struggled with the morality compass in this story. Everyone felt pretty deplorable and untrustworthy; Caroline is certainly not innocent here, but I really felt as though she was completely outnumbered. Not only that, she was fighting some sort of secret cabal at the very same time that she was fighting all of the bureaucratic issues at work. Religion is not an issue, but when your co-workers and key members of a case are banding together based on faith, to the extent that they ignore clear-cut state policies, well… Houston, we have a problem.

Religion is not an issue, but when your co-workers and key members of a case are banding together based on faith, to the extent that they ignore clear-cut state policies, well… Houston, we have a problem. At the same time, Caroline was operating on a faith of her own, which was also super dangerous, especially considering the potential fate of Luna Gale. I mean, her parents almost killed her via neglect and stupidity, and Caroline believes that “they’re good people”? Well guess what? Babies aren’t little rewards that are given out to “good people”; and Caroline was treating Luna Gale as just that, prioritizing her “good feelings” about Karlie and Peter over what was really the best for Luna.

It just seemed as though, as was brilliantly said in class, that everyone was so high off their own faith-based beliefs that they ignored the facts. Thankfully, we have a somewhat happy ending, but we reached this point with very little faith it would turn out that way.

As for the actual “quality” of the play, Luna Gale knocks us down and out of the park. 🙂 I really loved reading it because the characters with very multifaceted and we never really knew what their motivations were. The playwright is masterful in hiding the “real” play that she is writing, which kept me in some serious suspense!

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Rock on, READ on,
<3 Colby

Play Review: “Mangdragola” by Niccolò Machiavelli

Mandragola by Niccolò Machiavelli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting farce comedy that essentially reinforces what Machiavelli’s been saying all along: “The ends justify the means”. Being that I read this in class, I wrote a required Play Reader’s Journal for this piece, and so I’m just going to use that as my review.

** SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON!!! **

Play Reader’s Journal for Niccolò Machiavelli’s Mandragola

I. Vital Statistics

1. Title: Mandragola (The Mandrake)
2. Playwright: Niccolò Machiavelli
3. Date of Composition: 1504; also 1524-1526
4. Period: The Italian Renaissance
5. Company/House of Initial Performance: Performed during the Carnivale in Florence
6. Setting of Play: Florence
7. Genre of Play: Comedy

II. Characters and Action

Characters
1. Callimaco Guadagno: a dastardly fiend who is “in love” / in lust with Lucrezia, and who desires to sleep with her.
2. Siro: Callimaco’s servant
3. Messer Nicia Calfucci: an old, “simple-minded”, and rich judge, who is also Lucrezia’s husband. He wants a son and heir.
4. Ligurio: a marriage broker and hack, who now hustles food out of people for a living, He helps Callimaco to get into bed with Lucrezia
5. Sostrata: Lucrezia’s mother, who doesn’t see anything wrong with her daughter having a lover, and a baby, along with a rich husband. (Is she the early incarnation of feminism?)
6. Friar Timoteo: a corrupt friar and man of the cloth who Callimaco convinces (read: pays) to play an integral role in the deception of Lucrezia and Nicia
7. A Woman: a person who introduces Machiavelli’s idea of women and introduces the themes they represent (I think)
8. Lucrezia: a beautiful and very virtuous woman, whose reputation for both precedes her. She is controlling of her husband Nicia

Action

While living in Paris, Callimaco hears of the famed beauty and virtue of Lucrezia, the wife of a rich judge, Messer Nicia. He is so enamored with her that he returns to Florence to find, court, and sleep with Lucrezia. He cannot do so, however, because Lucrezia is married. Still, there is a loop hole for Callimaco: Lucrezia and Nicia have yet to have a child and heir, and Nicia wants a son more than anything.

So Callimaco, his servant (Sirio), a marriage broker (Ligurio), and a corrupt friar (Friar Timoteo) devise a plan to help Callimaco get into bed with Lucrezia. Callimaco will disguise himself as a doctor and prescribe Lucrezia the mandrake, a potion that will increase Lucrezia’s chances at having a child. The downside, though, is after Lucrezia takes the potion, the first man to sleep with her afterward will die. This isn’t true, of course; this is all a ruse that Callmaco throws onto Nicia so that Callimaco will be allowed to sleep with Lucrezia.

After a lot of scheming and plotting, Callimaco use Friar Timoteo to convince Lucrezia that having an affair on her husband is actually not morally corrupt, but is Lucrezia’s divine duty. Lucrezia, being the morally virtuous woman that she is, is very against this entire plan. In the end, however, her mother (Sostrata) and the Friar convince Lucrezia that this is her duty and she need not feel corrupt or ashamed. Reluctantly, Lucrezia agrees to the plan.

When Callimaco (disguised as the supposed sacrificial lamb who will sleep with Lucrezia and die from the mandrake) finally goes to Lucrezia and reveals his true identity, they sleep together. Lucrezia now knows that this entire mandrake deal is a farce and that she was set up and used by all the corrupt people in her life. She decides that she will then take her own piece of the pie, and so takes Callimaco as her lover. The plays ends with everyone essentially getting what they want while disregarding their piety altogether.

III. Themes and Resonance

Machiavelli certainly does not hold back in his critique of the church and of the Bible, both of which are deliberately misinterpreted in order to further the ends of evil. This particular quote from The Friar really stood out to me “As for whether the act is a sin, that’s easy: because it is the will that sins, not the body; and it’s a sin if it displeases the husband, whereas you are obliging him; or if you take pleasure in it, whereas you find no pleasure” (21). The Friar also tells Lucrezia that “her purpose is to fill a seat in paradise and make her husband happy” (21).

Here, Machiavelli shows us how easy it is for men to be swayed to the side of evil when what they desire is close at hand. Nicia wants a son, but is pushed into this crazy situation that he knows is wrong (morally and biblically), all because he wants an heir. The Friar is getting paid off with crazy coins to engage in this deception (the very act of which is a major insult to the Church and their system of exchanging morality for money). And of course, Callimaco, the scoundrel, is totally revamping the idea of “monogamous marriage” and introduces polyamory into a once pious household. This is an episode straight out of Days of Our Lives… the Italian Renaissance version.

The theme that stood out most to me is the one that was realized through Lucrezia: that, even though we may have an instinct of right and wrong, sometimes external power dynamics can exert such force on us that we are led astray from our own morals. I found it pretty amazing (and daunting) that though Lucrezia knew that laying down with another man was wrong, she gave into the religious preachings and proddings of the Friar to do “God’s work” and fall pregnant with another man. Machiavelli makes an interesting point about man abandoning his own inner compass for the sake of religion and allowing true evil to befall himself and his household as a result.

Another interesting take on this play is that one can say that Machiavelli has succeeded in demonstrating the viability of his own philosophy, “the ends justify the means”, above and beyond that of the Church. Can man truly be saved? Is the Church potent enough to really led men into the hands of God? Or is Machiavelli truly the only one who understands man’s true nature, and does man’s nature always win in the end, even against the omnipotence of God? All questions I considered when reading this piece.

In conclusion, though the points raised by the piece are interesting, Machiavelli’s overstated theme felt a little forced and unconvincing. This was mainly due to the style in which he told the story, mainly by using the Prologue and a lot of exposition. I think that if Machiavelli’s bitterness weren’t coming across so clearly, he could be more convincing on the page as to the Church’s corruption. While the Prologue was really entertaining and brazen, it pretty much killed any hope of subtlety and subtext. Therefore, the playwright’s intentions were made painfully clear. From a stylistic standpoint, I personally tend to be more convinced of a play’s message when I’m not being beaten over the head with it, where I can fall into the “showing” aspect of the piece more so than the “telling” aspect of the piece. On my part, I’m dying to know how the audiences reacted to this play in that time.

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Rock on, READ on,
<3 Colby

NaNoWriMo Kick Off! Plans & Day 1-2 Progress

So after becoming a mama and going through the typical first month hell with my newborn, things are finally starting to level out. I think of the first few months as the original “take-off”, and now I feel as though I might finally be reaching a cruising altitude (I’m hoping, lol).

Having said that, I am ecstatic to be back on the blog and comin’ atcha with this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge!

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My 2014 NaNoWriMo Challenge

Soo, I’ve got three major (and impossible) writing tasks ahead of me for this month:

1. Get through the rest of “The Final Page: The Second Book of Ezekiel”. I have over 76,000 words at the moment, and I realize that that’s already a full length novel, but believe it or not, I have more to write in! I’d had nearly 150,000 words at one point, but ended up tossing half of it out for a much needed revamp. Phew! In any case, this month is the push to fill in the gaps!

2. Write another 60,000 words for “Ronin / Hegemon: The Third Book of Ezekiel”. Okay, so for this one, I already have over 83,000 words. Still, I need the story to make sense, lol! So I’ll be working on this book too, and I admit: this book is so much less pressure than The Final Page. Not sure why… maybe because nanowrimo2014I’m not ready to publish it quite yet? In any case, I like working on this one because it reminds me how to actually enjoy the writing process. Ah, the preservation of a writer’s innocence… we underestimate how important that really is!

3. Stay on top of my blogging! This month not only am I challenging myself to set a strong habit of writing fiction 2000 words per day, but I’m also trying to keep up on my blogging. In addition to THIS blog, I also have two other websites (with blogs) to build / run (yeah, it’s a lot, so I’m taking my time with it), and I’m trying to make a daily habit of posting SOMEWHERE four times a week, even if it’s a teeny post saying “hi” or whatever. Yeah, I know… but support this foolish endeavor anyway! 😉

4. Make a writing habit of writing AT LEAST one freelance article a week. As I’ve mentioned a million times, my freelance work has picked up significantly, and there are so many cool articles that I’d love to write and share on my blog! So we’ll see how this works out, lol.

So, considering my goals, by next Sunday I should have a righteous update, right? I should have written at least 14,000 more words, have posted at least 4 blog posts, and have written (and submitted) a freelance article… right? Lol, oh Lord… Pray for me! And also, feel free to track my daily progress by checking out my NaNoWriMo widget in the bar on the right!

So how about you, dear readers and writers? What are your goals for NaNoWriMo? Also, are you trying to use NaNoWriMo to set a daily, consistent habit for your writing? Shout out your plans and dreams here! Happy writing, good luck, and as always…

Keep it indie!
<3 Colby

Colby’s Creative Achievements in January 2014!

smart goal setting conceptSo, usually, I save my self-assessment for the end of the year. But this time, I decided to take a monthly inventory, not only because it makes the end of the year assessment easier to write (copy and paste, anyone?), but also because taking inventory on a short-term basis keeps me accountable. In public!

I can also check these updates against my 2014 goal list and start in on those goals I haven’t quite picked up on yet! So check out my creative achievements and steps forward I made for January and share yours too!

January 2014

january

Theme of the Month: Massive Change, Massive Launches, MASSIVE Endurance (in the face of uncertainty and chaos)

1. Moved to California! It was a really exciting, treacherous, challenging, and exhilarating two weeks, but my boyfriend and I finally made it. Originally, we planned to move to Los Angeles, but we adored Long Beach and decided on that instead! No worries, though, it’s still only 30 minutes from L.A., there’s a train that goes from Long Beach right INTO L.A., and we’re still living in L.A. County. Plus, we’re three blocks from the beach and oceanfront, so no complaints from me!

2. Released the PRINT version of Ghosts of Koa! Which was a huge challenge due to spotty internet access, being Ghosts of Koa Cover WEB-MEDIUMon a super tight budget, and being technically homeless for two weeks (was totally living at a campsite ::CRICKET::). Feel free to pick up your copy today though at Amazon! Also, it’s “matched” with the Kindle version, and you’ll get the Kindle version for FREE if you pick up the paperback!

3. Officially launched the production of the Ghosts of Koa AUDIOBOOK! With the amazing talents of Michael T Bradley on my side, we have entered into a Royalty Share agreement for this version of my novel, and he’s also looking forward to narrating the other novels as well! I sent him the manuscript at the end of January and am super excited about the forthcoming product!

4. Began to explore Los Angeles and Long Beach. There are so many resources for writers and creators here, and I unearthed quite a few! Check out my comprehensive, ever-growing list of writer and creator resources in Cali!

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KX Cotch, resident sociopath and assassin for the Alchemic Order… and he’s getting his own novella series!

5. Began working on the novella spin-off series to The Books of Ezekiel saga! So clearly, while there are many main characters in The Books of Ezekiel saga, Ezekiel is the star (hence the title). I wanted readers to spend more time with the other main characters, time that was unrelated to Zeika and her journey. And so, here it is! All of the main characters that I LOVE– Caleb, Cotch, Manja, and many others– will have their own novella series that chronicle their paths through the world of alchemy. Caleb’s and Cotch’s full seasons will be released in early 2015. Stay tuned for the others, which will be released as the main Books of Ezekiel saga progresses!

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Rebel Ragdoll’s growing one step at a time!

6. Relaunched my work on my tv and feature script portfolio and… I GOT A WRITING PARTNER! Once again, the lovely Claire Zhuang and I thought it best to combine our talents and come up with some script hotness. We’re pretty excited about what we’ve got going on, too! It’s nice to have a partner to keep you in check!

7. Started penning many other creative projects, including, 1. the next installation of The Books of Ezekiel Saga, “The Final Page: The Second Book of Ezekiel”, 2. the inaugural novel in my sci-fi thriller series “Ryden’s Lot”, 3. and SIX other seasonal installment novella series! All of these novellas will be turned into pilot scripts as well, so writing these series does double work for my novel-novella backlist and for my tv script portfolio. 😉

Assassin's_Creed_III_Liberation_Cover_Art

I’d love to not only write a character like Aveline, pen an awesome story like Assassin’s Creed, but also DESIGN a game for both! Making this dream come true one step at a time!

8. Re-launched my work as a Freelance Writer and Casting Producer with Demand Media Studios. Being new to L.A., I needed a job, and then I remembered that I actually still have one, lol! Since taking up the part-time job at the Westchester wine shop, I had let the Casting Producer gig fall to the wayside, but now it’s time to write and produce full-time!

9. Began studying video game design and SFX for films and video games. Super excited. 😉 Hopefully by the end of 2014, I’ll be pretty well-versed in lots of aspects of video game design, SFX, and film post-production… we’ll see! Excited, nonetheless!

10. Stepped more firmly into my career as a creative entrepreneur! In addition to starting a ton of projects, I kept up with my blogging (as promised), am catching up with my vlog tv/movie review series again, got more involved with writing book reviews (terribly overdue, and I apologize to my reviewees!), and I actually started a monthly newsletter!

wgf11. Started volunteering for the Scriptwriter’s Network and the Writer’s Guild Foundation! Also trying to wedge my way into the Writer’s Guild of America! You gotta start somewhere, and the best way to start is by giving back. I’m really excited to get to know people at the events I’ll be volunteering at and to finally start getting to know my industry.

12. Joined some screenwriting meet-ups, and I’m intimidated as hell, lol. Community is important. Especially one that will hold your ass accountable for the pages you were supposed to turn in a week ago, lol. It’s also a little nerve-wracking meeting new folks for the first time, but I also really look forward to it. Can’t wait to join the community of folks who are trying to go the same direction I am! 🙂

baby!13. And last, but certainly not least… I found out I was PREGNANT! Holy. Cow. Five weeks and I didn’t have a clue. Talk about a creative achievement, lol! There really is nothing like *literally* CREATING a life inside of you, and I’m thrilled to be having a babe on the way!

And for those of you who are wondering, YES, you CAN have a career in Hollywood as both a mother and a writer-screenwriter-producer or what have you, and I mean to show you how. Men do it all the time, so why can’t we? 😉 So please stay tuned for another month of moving forward, life lessons, and creative ass-kicking, and I hope to hear some of your stories too!

So what are your personal and/or creative accomplishments for January? Are you making progress towards your ultimate goals? Share them below! 

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

Achieve Your 2014 Goals! Action Plans and Systems for Type-A Creatives

action planI hope you’ve partied it up for the New Year and have ended your glorious celebrations with a laundry list of things you want to do for 2014! Goal lists?! Bring them on! And yet for us Type-A folks, having a goal list is exciting but isn’t quite enough to keep us motivated. We need a way to achieve our goals as well, or as James Clear says, we need a system, a step-by-step daily habit that will allow us to look up in the end and say, “Oh snap! Guess what? I actually achieved my goal!”

In addition to daily regimens and systems, however, we also need action plans. How will we achieve our massive goals, exactly? What are the smaller steps to doing so? For example, writing and publishing a novel isn’t just about developing a daily writing habit and system. There are different stages: writing, editing, finding reviewers, product positioning, distribution, marketing, and more! For me, I need an action plan to get all of this done, and you may want one too! I have a couple of ideas that I list out below, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How to Create an Action Plan to Achieve Your Goals

1. Create your goal list

goal3We need to know what we’re aiming for first and foremost, so get your goal list ready! Here’s a sample list of my goals, with a full list here:

  • Write, polish, and publish the 160,000-word second book of my dystopian-urban fantasy series, “The Books of Ezekiel”
  • Write two feature film screenplays (110 pages each)
  • Write four teleplays (tv scripts) (65 pages each)
  • Write, polish, and publish the first book of my sci-fi / fantasy middle grade detective series, “P.I. Sleuths”
  • Get more experience as a Line Producer, Unit Production Manager, or Assistant Director

2. Rank-order your goals and then set deadlines for each one

prioritizeOkay, based on the goals you just listed, we need to define some sort of order of priority! The three main questions you should ask yourself are: 1. Which goal is the most important to me vs the least, 2. Which goal is the most time consuming, and 3. Which goals have enforced deadlines attached to them?

For example, if you want to write a screenplay and also enter it into a contest this April, the contest deadline will influence you immensely in how you rank the screenplay on your priority list. The contest would rank pretty high, as an April deadline is early in the year, quickly approaching, and you must get out a polished screenplay before then (which is a challenge in itself).

On the other hand, your list might be rank-ordered with regard to how important or time consuming your goal is. For me, deadlinegetting the second novel in the Books of Ezekiel series is THE number one priority, one because it’s super important to me and my career and secondly, because it takes the most time. The novel is followed by the teleplays because they have March, April, and May deadlines attached to them. So this is what my task list now looks like, WITH deadlines attached:

  • Write, polish, and publish the 160,000 word second book of my dystopian-urban fantasy series, “The Books of Ezekiel” (December 15th, 2014)
  • Write four teleplays (tv scripts), 65 pages each (Rough drafts deadline: March 15th; Final version: April 15th)
  • Write, polish, and publish the first book of my sci-fi / fantasy middle grade detective series, “P.I. Sleuths” (December 1st, 2014)
  • Get more experience as a Producer, Line Producer, Unit Production Manager, or Assistant Director (Flexible, work on at least three projects this year)
  • Write two rough draft feature film screenplays, 110 pages each (December 31st, 2014)

3. For each goal, create a sub-task list with sub-deadlines!

tasklistFor some of us, it’s not enough to have a prioritized list with deadlines. For some of us, it’s helpful to have a sub-list of things we need to do for each goal, supplies we need to have, or a schedule we need to keep.

These mini-milestones help us to gauge where we are in achieving our ultimate goals, and help to keep us on schedule. Take my first priority, for example, “writing the next book in the Books of Ezekiel series”, and check out how I’ve created a task list for it.

GOAL #1: Write, polish, and publish The Final Page, The Second Book of Ezekiel. 160,000 words, four volumes. DEADLINE: December 15th, 2013

  • Research, worldbuild, plot story, and develop character arc and POV. DUE: February 15th, 2014 

    tasklist2

    task list… in FRENCH!

  • Finish plot beat sheets for each volume, and character beat sheets for each volume. DUE: March 15th, 2014
  • Finish first draft of volume I. DUE: March 31st, 2014, 40,000 words (2,500 words per day)
  • Finish first draft of volume II. DUE: April 15th, 2014, 40,000 words (2,500 words per day)
  • Finish first draft of volume III. DUE: April 30th, 2014, 40,000 words (2,500 words per day)
  • Finish first draft of volume IV. DUE: May 15th, 2014, 40,000 words (2,500 words per day)
  • Let draft sit on shelf for two months. DUE: July 15th, 2014
  • Re-work into a second draft, getting it to the best place possible. DUE: August 15th, 2014
  • Send to my developmental editor. DUE: September 15, 2014
  • Get it back from my editor. DUE: October 15, 2014
  • Make significant changes according to his feedback. DUE: November 15, 2014
  • tasklist3Do a final line edit of the novel, two chapters a day. DUE: November 30th, 2014
  • RELEASE NOVEL, DO PRE-SALES, and BREATHE, lol! DUE: December 15th, 2014

So yeah, it’s a lot. I made this plan with the hope that my two months of beat sheet making and plot work will make my writing go a LOT faster than before. I know myself and my process now, so I need to repeat it with greater efficiency. Who knows if I’ll be able to bang out my deadlines, but I have a plan that I’m willing to follow and execute!

If you choose, you can do this for each of your major goals and break your task list down as far as you want. Don’t spend too much time on this, though. If you become obsessed with planning what you need to do, you might neglect actually doing what you need to do! This leads me into my next point, which is to…

4. Actually DO what you set out to do.

justdoitIf you’re super type-A like me, you probably love task lists. I practically had to keep myself from making a task list about the task list. But at some point, we need to stop making lists, stop trying to anticipate every minute of every day, stop trying to itemize our task lists to the letter, and actually apply ourselves to our tasks. An action plan isn’t an action plan without actual action! So take action today!

You’ll never finish that novel or script by making endless lists about what you have to do to finish it. (That’s called procrastination, by the way.) You’ve gotta dive in and actually write the darn thing, tackle that creative task, make mistakes, re-prioritize, meet blockades, and strategize around them, which leads me to my last step in creating a system…

5. Be flexible and relax!

relax

reward your hard work!

Life happens. As much as we as creatives and artists sometimes love to shut out the larger world for the sake of finishing or perfecting our art, if you are anything other than a zombie, you have a larger world to contend with. You’ve got family, or a lover, or a wedding, or networking events, or a job, or bills, or all of the above and more.

Working out the details of these tasks and “life stuff” can be time-consuming, but necessary, and you can’t be continually frustrated that your perfect bubble of quiet time has been disrupted for the umpteenth time. Be flexible. Realize that there are goals you may have to change, delay, or expand. Understand that there may be unforeseen obstacles, tragedies, changes, or successes that might lead you in other directions.

Stop and smell your success!

Stop and smell your success!

Don’t fight it, flow it.

Embrace life, and most importantly, stop to smell the roses occasionally. We Type-As constantly sow the seeds and toil the land, but rarely stop to see our work blossom. Breathe. Love. Create. Be. And at the end of 2014, not only will you have achieved wondrous things, but you would have made the time to enjoy those wonders as well!

That’s all I got for you, but I hope you find the talk of systems and action plans helpful! I’d love to hear the systems you plan to use to achieve your goals for 2014! Godspeed, and in the meantime…

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby