A long (train) ride comes to an end

March 3, 2017
caboose

Fittingly apropos

A good number of years ago, I came up with an idea for a script.

“Write something you would want to see.” This definitely fell into that category.

There were so many angles and aspects to it I found appealing. The concept kept drawing me in, compelling me to tell the story in the most entertaining way possible.

To say I’ve really thrown myself into it during all this time would be an absolute understatement.

I couldn’t even tell you how many iterations and drafts this story has gone through; let’s just say a whole freakin’ lot.

Notes? I’ve probably received enough to make two books, or at least a really long pdf. Some were good, some weren’t, and some seemed to exist in an alternate dimension where opposites are the norm.

I’d finish a draft, thinking, “Okay. This is IT.” And if you’ve been following this saga, you know how it turned out each time.

There were lots of times of feeling totally burned out, thinking there was nothing else to do. Or receiving comments like “Why keep messing with it? It’s good enough as it is.”

But something kept nagging at me, saying “This can still be better. Keep going.”

So I did. My faith in the story was still strong. I knew I could make this work.

The tweaking/fine-tuning continued, aided by a few more sets of notes courtesy of very qualified readers. My red pen was working on overdrive. Cut this. Move this. Switch these around. Expand on this. Changes and fixes were made, until…

“The End” had once again been reached. But this time it felt different. I won’t say “complete”, but you get the idea.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in connecting with a lot of exceptionally talented writers over the years, and there’s one whose critiquing ability I hold in very high regard. I asked them to look over the script, adding that this was for the most prestigious screenwriting contest of them all.

The last time they read it was two years ago, so there was some extra intrigue regarding what they’d think of this draft. Approval from one’s peers plays a bigger-than-expected part in helping a writer develop.

They liked it.

A lot.

I’ve been writing screenplays for quite a while, always striving to improve both my skills and the quality of my material, all as part of the effort to become a working writer. Reading their notes helped solidify my belief that this could actually happen.

Final preparations are being made to submit the script to the aforementioned prestigious screenwriting contest. Is this draft better than previous ones? Definitely. Has its chances for this contest improved? God, I hope so.

Even if nothing happens with this or the other high-profile contests, I still have a script I consider well-written and exceptionally entertaining. At this point in time, I don’t think there’s any reason to do any more work on it. So now it enters into that category of “calling card scripts”, ready to be sent out at a moment’s notice.

In the meantime, my attention is currently being split between several other projects in various stages of development. And based on how much my writing improved working on this script, I’ll speculate that the quality of these newer ones might just end up being pretty darned good.

 


Finding my forte. Mining my milieu. Spelunking my specialty.

October 21, 2016
e-ticket

A reference only a select few will get. (85 cents?? Truly a bygone age)

While engaged in a very engaging conversation about screenwriting earlier this week, the person with whom I was conversing with asked the simplest and most straight-forward of questions:

“What do you like to write?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, I proudly stated, “Adventures.”

You can’t even say the word without implying the thrills and excitement it entails. Hands on hips, chest out, shoulders back, and a firmly-set jaw are automatically included.

I’ve enjoyed dabbling in other genres (such as drama and comedy), but nothing really grabs me like thinking up and writing out some sort of heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster ride of a scene or sequence.

Those really never get old.

They say “Write what you know,” and although I’ve never actually fought monsters, manned a runaway train, or flown a space-faring vessel, years of reading and watching material of that type and nature has taught me an effective way of how to effectively inject adrenaline into what I’m writing.

More than a few readers have commented that my love and appreciation of the material and genre are boldly evident on the page, which is what I’m hoping  to accomplish every time.

My mantra has always been “Write something I would want to see”, and my list of future projects is jam-packed with numerous ideas and concepts that neatly fall into that category; each one a variation on the topic of discussion.

If these are the kinds of stories I was meant to write, you’ll get no complaints from me. I get a real kick out of cranking this stuff out. There’s no reason to think this can’t develop into what I build a career on and eventually become known for (he said, his fingers firmly crossed). My scripts. Rewriting someone else’s. Contributing to another. It’s all cool as far as I’m concerned.

Until then, all I can do is keep writing and making my readers feel their pulses quicken as they eagerly turn the page, absolutely spellbound to find out how the hero gets themselves out of this particular pickle, and, more importantly, what happens next.

Strap yourselves in, chums. This is going to be one helluva ride.


Nothing a little maturity wouldn’t cure

June 7, 2016
tantrum

You’re so mean!

Okay, I admit it. I daydream about being a successful screenwriter. Who doesn’t?

“That mega-hit blockbuster? Yeah. I wrote that.”

It’s nice to think about, but again, it’s still just a daydream. I’m not counting on it. I’d be happy just to make a decent living at it, and that’s what I’m working towards.

I try to be realistic about this, learning from my mistakes and missteps. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to ask advice of writers with more experience than me, and I have heeded that advice to the best of my ability.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a lot of activity online involving writers (usually in the early (read: uninformed) phase of their careers) asking questions regarding a wide variety of topics.

A majority of the time, they get quality answers from seasoned (read: informed) writers. In theory, the original askers respond with “Thanks! That really helps!”, or “So glad you told me!”, or even “Great to know!”. These do happen. On occasion.

And then there’s the other response.

“You’re just trying to kill my/their dreams!”

“What do you know? You only have X credits on IMDB!”

“You just don’t want the competition!”

“I’ve never heard of you, so your advice is worthless!”

“What makes you so important?”

Sigh.

People are going to believe what they want to believe, or are more likely to believe advice that works in their favor, rather than the cold, hard truth. And if that cold, hard truth runs counter to the answers they want (despite them claiming to “seek” them), the harder they’ll reject it.

You may not like the fact that there’s not a snowcone’s chance in hell a major studio/agency/prodco will look at your script, let alone greenlight it for production, even with your without-a-doubt absolutely certain belief they’d grab it in a second if they’d only read it to see how totally awesome it is, but getting angry (and even berating) at somebody who tells you “that’s how it is” makes you look foolish and amateurish. And you’re also setting yourself up for continuous disappointment.

One of the things a screenwriter needs to accept early on is that there are certain truths about the industry and how things work within it. Unless people are completely blown away by the sheer genius of the writing in your first or second draft, (which they will not be. Trust me on this one.), you and your script are not going to be the ones that “change all of that”.

Learn the way things work. Ask questions of those who know better (and more) than you. Accept the answers and adapt. You need to. The industry has no interest in and will not be adapting to you.

No matter how many tantrums you throw.

**Shameless self-promotion! I had the good fortune to be interviewed by my pal Justin Sloan, who hosts The Creative Writing Career podcast, which covers a wide variety of fields and types of writing careers. We had a great time discussing trying to make it as a screenwriter. You can listen to it here, or subscribe to it on iTunes. Thanks for listening!


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.


Looking back (and a peek ahead)

December 29, 2015
sleeping

Me around 10:30 on New Year’s Eve

As the end of the year gets closer, one can’t help but be a little reflective of how the past 12 months have gone, and in this context, it’s all about the screenwriting and its related subjects.

-My western. A labor of love finally put to bed once and for all. This script has gone through A LOT of changes, and both I and it could not have gotten to this point without the sage feedback received from many of my trusted colleagues.

-Other scripts. Over the course of this year, I completed a first draft and two outlines (with a third in its final stages), all for separate scripts. I may not be as productive as I’d like, but think this is still pretty good. I’m hoping that at least two of these will be completed scripts by this time next year.

-Establishing a career. I’ve always said that each draft of every script gets me a little closer to accomplishing that dream of being a working writer. 2015 saw some strong progress on that front. My writing’s getting better, I discovered I’m pretty good at pitching, and found out the hard way what should and shouldn’t go into a query letter. It’s an ongoing learning process, but I’m getting there. Hopes are high of moving to the next level or two in 2016.

-Networking. The number of writers I’ve connected and interacted with has definitely grown by leaps and bounds. Some have been in person, while most have been via social media, but the benefits have been tremendous all around. From exchanging script notes to being a sounding board for ideas to plain old moral support, you couldn’t ask for a more helpful bunch of folks. Hopefully they got as much out of it as I did. Highly recommended.

-Running. After involuntarily taking a year off, I got back into the habit of going for runs and took part in four half-marathons this year. Didn’t set any new records, but stayed within my realm of expectatins. Really glad I did them and already looking forward to the ones next year. How does this relate to screenwriting? Well, apart from the standard quote of “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon (or half-marathon, in my case)”, it’s about determination, endurance, perseverance, and setting a goal and working towards achieving it. All necessary elements involved in writing a script.

-The blog. This year saw the wrap-up of my series of interviews with scripts readers and consultants. I still keep in touch with a lot of them, and happy to say that a lot of those posts continue to get hits. Thanks to all of you for that. In the meantime, no big changes planned for what you read around here, but I’ve got a few ideas.

Thanks for reading, happy new year, and may we all get some kickass writing done in 2016.

 


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