Throwback Thursday #1 : Articles on Screenwriting

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

Ages ago, I shared this article from Script, a site for screenwriters, called Notes from the Margins: Every Article on Screenwriting You Never Have to Read Again by Danny Manus. I have read and saved a number of articles in my pursuit of becoming a professional screenwriter, and this one, in particular, reiterated how contradictory so many of them are. It will make you think twice before clicking on another.

How is a newbie ever to make heads or tails of it all? Sometimes, it’s just too much.

This year I decided to clean up the folder with said saves because some of them are years old now, and while probably still worth reading, at this point, I’ve most likely come across the information elsewhere. Plus, as the article above makes clear, most of what’s out there is bullsh*t.

Screenwriting is an elusive career path. There is no direct, one-way only entry. It’s not like any other creative pursuit, let alone traditional ones. A novelist can write a book and seek out a publisher or self-publish. A painter can create a work of art and put it on display. If a screenwriter wants their work “out there” we’re often told to make a short.

I don’t want to be director. I don’t think. So that means I have to find a director…?

I barely have any writer friends as it is.

So those already in the know share what they’ve learned, what trends they’re “seeing”, and basically utilize their position to further their own careers via writing guest posts, pushing their screenwriting books, classes, or services, and offering “advice” on how to break in.

Yes, I’m using quotes to reiterate how inconsequential so much of that advice truly is, especially when you keep scrolling and read advice to the contrary, as the above article highlights.

Like any advice, good or bad, take it with a grain of salt.

I’m also learning that the more time I spend reading the “should and should-not” posts is just more time taken away from doing what I actually should be doing – writing.

If you’re interested in researching a particular subject, like screenwriting contests, of course, seek those out, from reputable sources, but maybe be more discerning with the content you subscribe to and how much time you spend on subjects that don’t currently relate to your situation.

How’s that for advice? Some I need to follow myself. I’m off to delete!

So now that you’ve read my post about articles and their potential uselessness, thank you very much, by the way, close this window and go write! 😉

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #139

I’ve been considering, for a while now, the idea of renewing my scuba certification in an effort to aid in the oceanic cleanup projects happening. I love the water, always have, and realized that this is something more I can do for the environment. So when I saw this image of an underwater forest, it reaffirmed that idea (because how awesome would swimming through a forest be?), and became the inspiration for this week’s Writing Prompt.

Does this give you fantasy or apocalypse vibes? Maybe a little bit of both? What story idea does it inspire in you?

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

Pearl S. Buck

The last couple of weeks have been a bust. With a work schedule change I’d have to get up even earlier to get my morning routine done, and that’s asking a lot of a night owl, and then, inexplicably, I got a head cold…how?! So there has been no writing, of any kind, because by the time I get home, all I want to do is snuggle my pups and enjoy a hot toddy.

So you can imagine my frustration these past weeks since having found that newfound desire to create. I’ve come home and stared at the screen and just felt tired and foggy. So annoying.

And because of the congestion, only a few days of yoga in all this time. I feel so off my game.

In the folly of my youth, I used to think you had to be inspired to write. I should have known better since I had to learn to crank out a script in college for a couple of semesters. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike. I had to deliver or fail the class. And I was never going to fail a writing class.

As writers, we only have ourselves to rely upon. We show up because we want have to. Like any new habit, or part of any routine, we have to rewire our brains (and our bodies) to understand that at a certain point in the day, it’s time to write, whether we feel like it or not. Whether we’re inspired or not. It’s the only way to make progress, and maybe feel a sense of accomplishment for the day.

This week is going to be a two-for because I think this quote by Neil Gaiman sums it up best:

Neil Gaiman

Some people think that they’re writing is crap if they force it, but they should be in draft mode, and until we get into editing mode, it’s all sort of up in the air anyway. Well, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to along the way. Trying to make a first draft (or maybe even the 5th, 10th, what-have-you) perfect is generally not going to happen (although that draft exists and is wonderful for that reason alone), so put in the time, and then reward yourself when you complete your task. Maybe after a few treats, you’ll trick yourself into that new way of thinking. (Oh, look at that, unintentional Halloween humor. 🙂 )

Happy Writing!

Writing Tip (Almost Tuesday) #4

I recently met a young man who wants to be a screenwriter. I was delighted to meet someone with whom I might be able to talk “shop” and bounce ideas around with, potentially.

I was surprised to learn he doesn’t write, let alone read.

I was confused. And slightly disappointed.

“How do you know you want to be a screenwriter?” I questioned with a raised quizzical eyebrow.

“I have an idea that I think would make a cool tv show. Do you have any advice on how to begin?”

Uhh, yeah. “Start writing. Anything.”

And then I wondered at what else a young, hopeful writer should know.

The writing bit seemed fairly obvious as one needs to find their voice, so I encouraged him to try his hand at a variety of styles.

The second piece of advice I gave him was to read. A lot. I recently discovered the unique writing of Ursula K. Le Guin via her novel, The Wizard of Earthsea. She has her own way, and I’m kind of sad I only just found her because I’ve had her books on my shelf for years and she’s different from anything else I’ve read.

I suggested that he could start doing research on the topic and that it could lead him to have a better understanding of the story he wants to tell. So far it was just a specific time period because, I think, he likes the idea of the set dressing.

Finally I advised watching shows that are thematically or genre specifically similar to his so that he knows what’s out there. There’s this idea among new writers that they might be unduly influenced, but any professional will tell them that in order to market their own material, they must be familiar with the competition.

I definitely wanted to encourage the spark of creativity to grow, but I had that sense, the one so many of us, as writers, have encountered before – he’s just another random person with “an idea”.

You know the one.

But he is still young, although if you don’t read or write, how do you decide that this is the path you wish to follow?

It’s like…I don’t know…wanting to be a chef because you watch cooking shows even though you don’t cook.

I want to believe that this could be the beginning of his journey, and like I said, I wanted to encourage him, so I asked questions to get him thinking in greater detail of the overall story he may want to tell, and offered other tips, but what it comes down to, and this is the scary side of becoming a writer, is that it is truly about finding your own way.

I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age. It’s just taken me a long, and rather winding path to finally get here. Maybe this spark of an idea is enough to propel him forward into becoming a writer, himself. Either way, we all find our calling in different ways, and it’s up to us to pursue it.

I didn’t tell him about the struggles we face, there’s no reason to scare him off in the early days. I’ll leave that for him to discover in his own time, like we all did 😉 because when I think back on all I’ve learned and experienced – the years of research, the articles and books read, the years of tv and movie watching, the sleepless nights when I was on a roll (or when I wasn’t), the writing droughts, the rejections, the few and far between hints of encouragement, finding inspiration in the waking moments and when you’re drifting off to sleep, the trying to stay positive, and taking dead-end jobs (too often) to keep the dream alive – goodness, that’s probably best kept to myself.

Such is our life.

So on that note, fellow writers, what other advice would you give a newbie?

Writing Prompt #135

As per usual, I went with the first image that struck my fancy.

Ottavia Odd Reverie

I still haven’t had an opportunity to sit with any of the writing prompts I’ve been inspired by…hopefully, the ideas will keep until after this current rewrite I’m in. Until then, I look forward to living vicariously through your words.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #134

I was looking for something a little unconventional for this week’s writing prompt. I think I succeeded.

I’m not working on my sci-fi pilot at the moment, but this image is stirring some ideas. How about you? Feeling inspired?

I look forward to reading your creations, so don’t forget to share! Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #133

I don’t own a lot of candles. I’d like to, but they’re a bit pricey, so instead I just enjoy images of them. They offer a feeling of a connection to the past with their warm glow, especially when they’re placed within an antique candelabra.

Placing them in a window had special meaning. They’re used in magic rituals. They’re always the only light source in an old house in a horror movie. The offer a great deal of inspiration, so you can imagine why I found myself drawn to yet another image of a candle for this week’s writing prompt.

Feeling inspired? Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

Art First

That’s it. That’s the quote.

For many of you, you know how I love my routine. I’ve talked about it a lot. It has to be tweaked every so often, given the circumstances, but with the current job, I’ve found a routine I enjoy, one that makes me feel productive and satisfied with my day.

I now wake up early to write. I know. I used to be the late night/middle of the night writer. I now wake up, make my cuppa and write for about an hour before doing yoga and heading off to work.

I even stick to the routine on my days off, and I’ll tell you why.

When you know you have time, you put it off. On your days off you think, “I should clean this or that first.” or “I’ve put this off all week so that should be the priority.” or ” I just want to sleep in and binge the new season of (insert title), then I’ll write.”

Nope.

The day gets away from you. There will always be a house project that needs doing. Bills to be paid. Shows to be watched. Books to be read.

Art first.

Last week, I planned on writing a blog before working on my story and I ended up spending the day scrolling through Pinterest. Like the whole day. In part because I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to post, so I went into seek-out-content-idea mode. The other part, I didn’t feel good, so it was easy to sit on the couch, snuggled with my pups, and aimlessly scroll, but I didn’t work on my story, and I didn’t post anything. The day escaped me.

I’ve always read about these authors who would wake up early to write and I thought, “Well, that’s not going to happen. I’m not a morning person.” And now here I am. Offering the same advice.

Be creative first. Get it out of the way, so to speak, and start your day off knowing you’ve already done the one thing you wanted to do. Many of us have to endure day jobs that leave us uninspired, so feel better about your day knowing you began it by working toward your goal.

Obviously, find a routine that works for you. If your work hours don’t offer you such freedom, or your kids schedules conflict, etc. it’s not always easy to work around, but give yourself permission to be creative, to do something for yourself, even if it’s only ten minutes a day. It adds up, and you’ll feel a bit better knowing that you did.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #132

I’m giving myself a week to finish the first draft of the story I’ve been working on. I can feel it. I’m near the end, and I’m so ready to work on some other things…like writing prompts. There have been so many recently that I had an immediate idea for, I just haven’t been able to focus on anything beyond “the story”.

Are you feeling inspired?

I hope you’ll join me in this week’s challenge! Happy Writing!

Writing Tip Tuesday #3

There are a lot of reasons a writer’s life is frustrating. I think we can all agree that one of the more disheartening moments for us is when the muse has shown up, we’re writing tenaciously, and then suddenly, our mind goes blank in regards to what should happen next.

The mind becomes a barren wasteland of inspiration. The fingers hover over the keys. The eyes stare off into the distance in vain hope that the answer will reveal itself. A minute passes. Dread sets in. Self-doubt creeps up our spine. Frustration grows until we finally give up.

What a delightful path we’ve chosen.

The other day I was on a roll with my story when I suddenly got caught up in a moment and didn’t know how to proceed. I knew the scene I wanted to go to next, so instead of stopping the flow, I made a note of what I wanted to happen and continued on.

I don’t know where I learned this, but it’s one of those tricks I’ve picked up along the way, sometimes fail to remember its use, but appreciate when I do, so I thought I’d share.

If you don’t want to lose your momentum, but are stalling because of a scene, or dialogue, or what-have-you simply do something like this:

[fight sequence]

* bittersweet farewell

(convo about the past and sudden realization)

I often color code text that needs to be revisited. I’ve even written short paragraphs so I don’t lose the idea or feeling I want to impart. It’s like a sticky note, and it’s a simple trick, one I wish I had learned about years ago – this has been a more recent discovery – because I have wasted a lot of time staring in vain.

Watching that little blinking cursor remind you that it’s waiting can genuinely ruin your productivity, so when you have more time to sit with the difficult, time consuming passage, you’ll have a clue as to what you wanted to write about without having lost your rhythm.

Because if the faucet is on, let it flow.

I hope you find this useful. Feel free to share any tricks of the trade you’ve picked up along the way.

Happy Writing!