November 28, 2015

Movie Review: Too many movies, too little time...

A few of the movies I've seen in recent weeks.

Spotlight *****
Great acting, great story, lots of tension, characters you root for...this film has it all.
5 stars out of 5 for Spotlight.

Trumbo **
Very disappointing. Interesting story, good performance from Bryan Cranston, not so good performance from Diane Lane (who didn't have much to work with). I didn't know a lot of what went on with the blacklist, only from history, so it was fascinating from that point of view. But this script has no tension, no characters who seem in dire straits, no one to root for. You watch with a sense that everything will turn out fine. Which, mostly, it does.
Also, a little preachy.
2 stars out of 5 for Trumbo.

Room *****
Brie Larson is a wonderful actor. I loved her in The United States of Tara - she was a presence I knew I would see in the future. She's a natural.
It takes too long to get this mom and son out of "the room" but once they do the story begins in earnest.
I tried to read the book this film was based on and didn't get very far, but I thought it would make a good film, and it does. Which is unusual, when the film is better than the book.
The humanity of the story comes when they have to live in a world they've never known.
Great performances.
5 out of 5 stars for Room.

The Martian *****
Matt Damon is fantastic.
A manned mission to Mars and an astronaut is presumed dead after a major storm. How do they rescue him? It's a lot of detail, a lot of technical information (which is not my strong suit), but there's so much tension and so much humanity.
I read the book, which is not my thing at all - way too much detail (I'm a cut-to-the-chase kind of person) - and loved it.
Loved the film.
5 out of five stars for The Martian

Saoirse Ronan is luminous and expressive, and a reason to see this film, but she's mis-cast in the part of a frightened immigrant, who's all alone in a foreign country and out of her element. She never seemed frightened to me - in no time at all she's confident and sophisticated, so there's not much reason to root for her.
This film is getting great reviews but I found it slow, and the story contrived, and at least twenty minutes too long. A gratuitous sex scene (and don't get me wrong, I'm all for gratuitous sex) could have been cut - it was so completely uninteresting and unnecessary - and the entire set up to it. There's much to cut in this film.

Antman ****
Paul Rudd is so funny and appealing that you don't even care how stupid this premise is; a superhero who can shrink himself to the size of an ant. It's a fun film with great performances and a lot of heart.
4 stars out of 5 for Antman

November 10, 2015

Writing Tip: Editing is Like Housework

I'm an evangelist for having your manuscript edited. Crucial, if you're self-publishing. Here's another great article about the value of having a good editor.


Editing is like housework, it goes unnoticed unless it’s not done. Here are five reasons why professional editing is a necessity for your writing.

Novelists love stories and are often motivated to write by the effects a story can have on a reader. There’s a real power in being able to touch the emotions of someone, a stranger, who lives far away or even far in the future. Most writers have felt this long reach that words can have. It has changed their lives. It has made them writers. And what better reason is there to write than to inspire others to follow their dreams?
And yet, too many authors waste that opportunity. They confuse their reader with awkward phrasing, distract with careless typos, or turn off a potential buyer with a poor quality product.
A well-edited novel, on the other hand, will have that power to reach the reader. It will attract attention, seep into the reader’s thoughts and emotions, and might even cause them make a change, to make a tiny difference. And a good quality product will always sell better than a cheap fake.
If you’re not already convinced, here are five more reasons why you need professional editing for your novel:

1. Investing in a professional editor is money well-spent

Editing is like housework, it goes unnoticed unless it’s not done.
Professional editing is an indispensable, not just a desirable, part of a novel’s journey to publication. Editing can make your good novel great, get readers talking, reach the ears of professional publishers, and catch the eye of movie producers. An editor will make sure the reader remembers the dazzling plot and characterization, and not the problems with grammar. It takes teamwork to craft a polished and captivating novel that could become tomorrow’s bestseller. In short, authors need editors.

2. Honest, objective feedback

Lots of authors ask friends and beta readers to take a look at their novel. Most people are flattered by the request and are happy to help.
While any feedback is welcome and can help improve the manuscript, friends tend to give a lot of positive encouragement. They can gloss over some of the novel’s shortcomings to avoid causing offense. And there could be those who are just a little bit jealous and who will gladly recount a whole list of failings.
However, professional editors are experienced at giving criticism. They are systematic and thorough, covering not only familiar issues of grammar and punctuation, but also matters of style, pacing, dialogue, plot twists, and fact checking (to name but a few). Above all, the feedback they give is honest and objective.
Like the author, editors want readers to focus on the narrative and not the misspelt words and absent apostrophes.

3. Editors work together with authors

Authors are proud of their work. They have spent many hours perfecting the text, gone to great lengths to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and reacted to comments and corrections from their beta readers.
But that’s unlikely to be enough.
Friends and beta readers will do their best, but they have their work, family and other obligations to consider. They can probably only get to your book in their spare time, reading a chapter or two a night.
Professional editors spend entire working days, even weeks or months, on a single novel. They work until they have a thorough understanding of the story. They are, therefore, in a much better position to point out contradictions in characters’ behavior, inconsistencies in syntax, and irregularities in the flow and formatting.
None of this is done in isolation. Editor and author have to work together. It’s the editor’s job to be honest with the author when suggesting improvements (such as rewriting, restructuring, or cutting sections) while respecting the author’s message, meaning, tone, and style. Both author and editor have a shared interest in producing a work that gets¬ – and keeps ¬– the reader’s attention. What’s more, with experience and knowledge of the book-selling market, an editor can suggest ways to take the novel in a direction that might better attract the eye of a publisher or agent, if that’s what the author wants.

4. An editor is a sounding board

Authors often pour their deepest feelings, and even secrets, into their novels. And, for that reason, they are often cautious about who reads their early drafts. They put a lot of thought into selecting beta readers, and they do this with some trepidation: friends could spot some of the more autobiographical elements in the novel, or they might think they recognize aspects of themselves in the characters (however tenuous). Some might even wonder why they’re not featured.
In such cases, authors can benefit from the impartial opinion of an editor. An editor takes a bird’s eye view of a novel, and can identify the elements that work and those that don’t and suggest the necessary changes. While editors often get to know authors well throughout the editing process, especially in the case of full, substantive editing, they are not concerned with your private life. They won’t be annoyed or flattered if they appear or not in the final version (although a credit is always nice).