Do you know what you don’t know?

May 24, 2016
scarecrow

I’m no ThD (Doctor of Thinkology), but I try

Throughout the online writing community, among the many forums and networking groups, there will always be someone, most likely just starting out, who asks a question along the lines of:

“How do I go about accomplishing THIS?”

The variations on this are endless (as are the number of possible answers, but that’s another subject for another time).

A lot of the time, the question stems from a simple lack of knowledge; they just don’t know. Most likely, it’s about a subject which the more seasoned of us have an answer, probably having lived through it ourselves. Hoping to pass on the benefit of your experience, you provide an answer.

Is it what they were expecting to hear? Maybe. Maybe not. But you are giving them THE TRUTH.

With any luck, the question-asker is grateful and appreciative. A win for both sides. They learn something, and you fulfill the mentor role. Even if you just told them “For God’s sake, DON’T DO THAT!!”

And sometimes they don’t like the answer, possibly even getting angry and resenting you for telling them what is, in essence, THE WAY THINGS ARE. How dare you shatter their illusion in which they can do no wrong? They probably don’t realize how petty and thin-skinned they’re acting; two traits which will doom their potential writing career before it  even gets started. Hey, at least you tried to help.

(Side note – this process is a two-way street. If somebody asks you a question straight out of the first day of Screenwriting 101, don’t insult or belittle them for asking it. You were in that exact same situation once too. Plus, it makes you come across as a total dick.)

If you’re among those just starting out, remember that nobody’s first script is at 100 percent. Mistakes will be made. Don’t be afraid of making them. It’s the only way you’re going to learn.

If you’re among those who’ve been down this road many times, be willing to take on the role of patient educator and help when you can.

Even though writing is for the most part a solitary activity, we’re still part of this community, and all in this together.


Ride that positive wave

May 20, 2016

surfing batman

Let’s face it. This is a business of severe ups and downs, and given our druthers, we all prefer the ups.

But it doesn’t always work out that way, hence the downs. Which also significantly outnumber the ups. By a lot.

Who among us doesn’t have a story where something seemed like a sure thing, and you’re thinking “This is it! My big break is just around the corner!”, only to find out that that break is actually forty blocks away, there’s a transit strike and the Indian food you had for lunch is drop-kicking your lower digestive tract?

Yep, been there.

But I’ve also been fortunate to have had a pretty good share of ups.

Some moderate contest success. Management come and gone. The ultimate goal getting a little closer each time, always seemingly just out of reach with no sign of changing.

Used to be I would get all upset and distraught, and filled with self-doubt.

Not anymore.

I’ve become that dangerous combo of talented, patient and determined.

My writing’s improved, so I’m very confident about the quality of my scripts and the skills I’ve developed to get here. My scripts may not be the absolute best, but if anything, they’re damned entertaining.

There are going to be bad days. There are going to be shitty days. Accept it.

But there will also be good days. There may even be phenomenal days. Days where you feel invincible and unstoppable. These will be few and far between, so enjoy them. Hold onto that feeling and feed off it for as long as you can. It’s definitely not easy to maintain a positive attitude, especially when everything around you feels so negative.

This is just part of the neverending obstacle course we all have to work our way through. At first, it seems impossible, but the more you do it, you’ll find it gets a little easier each time after that.

Surf’s up, chums.


Returning to the sprucing-up stage

May 17, 2016
painting

It’s going to take just a little bit more than a new coat of paint

It all started with a “Scripts Wanted” listing.

A small prodco with an even smaller budget was looking for a particular kind of script. I felt that one of my earlier efforts was a perfect match, so I sent it in.

A few days later came the response “Just not what I’m looking for.” A bit disappointing, but that’s the way it is. No big deal. I’ve moved on.

It was at this point I realized it had been quite a while since I’d actually read the script. As far as I could remember, it was in good shape.

So I read it.

The result? It’s better than I remember, and a lot of the jokes still work. But what it really needs is just a good, solid edit/polish. There’s definitely some fat in need of trimming, and a lot of that is just extra and/or unnecessary words.

The draft I’d been using for years was 109 pages, which is a little excessive for a comedy. I’ve completed the initial edit, which brought it down to 105. A more thorough red pen edit is underway, and after going through the first third, another page has been cut out, bringing the current total to 104. The hope is to cut out at least another 2-3 pages.

There are at least two sequences (so far) that need rewriting to accommodate some of this editing, and the solution to one of them (a key part of the story) came to me a lot faster than I was expecting. That’s always nice. There’s no reason I couldn’t be done with a much more presentable draft in a week or less, which is also nice.

Since this script is from way back when, it was quite the experience to look at how I used to write with the advantage of having all the knowledge and skill I’ve acquired since then.

Go through your own catalog of completed scripts. Almost-completed and first drafts are allowed. When was the last time you looked at one of your earliest efforts? How does it compare to your most recent project?

I bet it’s super-easy for you to spot the differences between then and now. You might be surprised at how much you’ve improved, or possibly even laugh at how bad you used to be. Happens to everybody.

Whenever I would pass this script along to another writer, I would always precede it with the caveat “This is one of my earlier scripts, so the writing’s not as good.”

After this edit/polish, I don’t think I’ll be saying that anymore.


The bulletin board returns!

May 13, 2016
bulletin board 2

No need to crowd. Plenty of pushpins to go around.

Today is once again all about promoting the projects of some very savvy creative folks, each one definitely worth checking out.

-Author/podcaster/friend of the blog Justin Sloan has released an audiobook version of his book Creative Writing Careers 2. Justin is also one of the co-hosts of the Creative Writing Careers podcast, which examines careers in writing not just screenplays, but also books, comics, and video games.

-Writer/filmmaker Luke Oberholtzer has a new proof-of-concept trailer (somewhat NSFW) for his proposed horror-comedy DRAIN BABIES. Contact Luke at Luke@LegacyEntertainmentFilms.com for more info.

-Writer/author/script consultant/friend of the blog Howard Casner has launched a crowdfunding project for his short film 14 Conversations in 10 minutes. Donate if you can! Howard is also offering a great new service for screenwriters – $20 to review the first 20 pages of your script.

-Filmmaker Scotty Cornfield‘s crowdfunding project for his short film Goodbye, NOLA is going strong! They’re getting closer to reaching their goal, but can still use a little help. Donate if you can!

Got your own project you’d like to promote? Drop me a line.


Take us along for the ride

May 10, 2016
roller coaster.jpg

Hang on tight.

Here’s a two-part question for you. Pencils at the ready, please.

Up first – Are you enjoying the actual process of writing your script?

Sure, we all like “having written”, but what about getting there?

Do you get a thrill from figuring out your story? Mapping out the plot? Developing characters and crafting dialogue?

Do you get so engrossed and involved in your writing that when you check the time, you discover a lot more time has passed than you thought?

If you’re really excited and enthusiastic about your script, you’re going to feel that way even before you start writing it.

Now for the second part of the question:

Is all the aforementioned excitement and enthusiasm evident on the pages of your script? Could someone read it and think “Wow, they really like this stuff.”?

While it’s often said that you can gauge a writer’s grasp of the craft just by looking at the first page, you can also tell if they’re really into their story by how it reads.

Does it grab you from the get-go? Is the tone of the writing a solid match for the tone of the genre? This is not a case when “good enough” will cut it. What would you think if you read a horror that was “sort of” scary, or a comedy where all the jokes fall flat?

Exactly.

You want the reader to be as thoroughly entertained as you were in putting it together. You want them to be as compelled to keep turning the page as you’d be if you were reading it yourself.

A lot of the time you’ll hear a writer wrote something because “they had a story they had to tell”. That story was so strong and powerful inside them, they had no alternative but to write it out.

As creative types, that level of excitement and enthusiasm exists in all of us. We’re all eager to tap into it, but need to take the time to learn how to do it properly so it can be done in the most effective way possible.

Pencils down.


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