A Little Screenwriting Insight

HelpfulTipsI thought I’d share this useful insight with my fellow screenwriters, or for those of you who may be interested in embarking upon this crazy journey.  Script Magazine has a regular column entitled Meet the Reader, and this was their recent post.  The quick overview is – 18 specific things this reader looks for while reading a script, which includes everything from the page count to the feeling that remains after they’ve read it.  I don’t think we should curb our writing with premeditated perimeters, especially during the first draft, but in this tough business, it may be useful and proactive to set ourselves up for success by getting past the gatekeepers aka the readers by understanding what it is they’re looking for.

I hope you find this useful!  And good luck!

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Writer’s Groups – To Join Or Not To Join?

TypewriterFontWriterLast week I sat down at my computer and planned on writing at least two more posts, but some how, each time I looked at the screen, I lost the spark to write.  The first thing I had planned on discussing was an article I read about why writer’s groups are useless and should be avoided, and the second was the mixed emotions I felt after attending a writer’s social.  I had something planned each day last week, all part of that plan to get “out there” and advance my career, but with each passing day, I felt less and less inspired.  I’m not sure exactly why, but it all culminated on Friday night after the mixer (which ironically circles back around to the article).

First up, the article from ScriptMag and it’s quick synopsis: “quit groups”.  At first I was a little annoyed with this writer’s take on writer’s groups, but by Friday I had partially changed my stance.  As I recently wrote, I like my Monday night group.  2 hours of silence.  It’s really nice and useful for its productivity.  I need (nay, crave) more of these quiet moments.  We may share our work, but the feedback we do offer is that of encouragement and support for just having the courage to write if nothing more.  It’s a different premise from most groups, I guess.  We have published authors and people who are paid for their work, professionals, so there are people in attendance who can offer real world advice.  I recently joined some groups as part of my New Year’s resolutions for a couple of reasons.  I (let’s say “foolishly”) believed they would offer networking opportunities, which they have, but maybe not exactly to the extent I had hoped, but more importantly, as a writer, an opportunity to get out of the house.  Yes, I’m going to say it again – writing is a lonely vocation.  As I do not work outside, how else am I to meet anyone?  Let alone industry people.

So this leads to topic number two.  I attended a writer’s mixer/social/networking opportunity that was not exactly what I thought it would be.  Over 80 people were scheduled to be attending, so I had high hopes of meeting someone who might offer some sound advice or be a potential writing buddy.  The venue was a good space, open for mingling, but the music was too loud, so I had nearly lost my voice by the end, and it was too darkly lit, as if we were out for a night of clubbing.  There was this slightly raised area, where three people fell down the stairs because they couldn’t see.  I guess the part that left me wanting was the fact that everyone I spoke with was in the same boat, maybe even in another boat, further back.  I had a larger portfolio of work, most people had only written one thing.  When I discussed the necessity of multiple ideas, I got dazed look responses.  And I got hit on a little.  Really not why I was there.  On a positive note, I did meet some very nice people.  Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but other than being proud of myself for facing such a crowd on my own, I left thinking I had just wasted my time.  Working writers most likely would not have the time to attend such an event, nor would they have the need to.

On Saturday, I listened in on a teleconference about rewriting and discovered I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me on the script I thought was nearly ready.  This knowledge compounded with the “time-wasted” recent events brought everything back to the article I had read.  Maybe joining all those groups is not the best use of my time.  So what if I’m a loner?!  I have friends, none of whom live within a reasonable distance, but who are always just a phone call away.  I have my sister and my furkids for companionship, and who could ask for more than that?  What I learned this week was that as good as my intentions were (although a great opportunity for me to shed any timidity), a lesson of trial and error, did nothing to advance my career.  I wasted a lot of time getting ready and driving to events, I barely wrote anything, and I didn’t meet anyone on “the inside”.

I don’t regret the last week, because I wouldn’t have learned so early on the lesson that not all opportunities are the right ones.  I made the goals, I’m doing my best to keep them, but the point is to learn what you can and move forward.  The goals are meant to be evaluated and rewritten.  My rewritten goal – be more discriminating in regards to the events I attend.   I’m torn at the moment of attending another mixer, part of a series that I’ve never gone to before, or going to my group and being productive.  Yea, when I write it out like that, it’s clear which is the better of the two options.

I hope you’ve been more productive than I have!  Here’s to the start of a better week!  Best of luck!

All About Being Helpful

Writing-Clip-ArtSo I’m done moping.  Although I felt a slight indignation last night, today I only wanted to send out positive energy.  As writers, we are always striving to better our writing by continuously reading and learning.  In this vein, I am attaching a handful of, hopefully, helpful resources…do with them what you will.  I have a dozen or so pages to read (oh, yes, again), and will share what I learn from all of those next week.  I suppose this is a good way to accumulate a blog inventory.

Although mainly for screenwriters, Script offers tips and advice that all writers can take advantage of.  If you haven’t taken a look at their site yet, besides their own blogs and information, they offer free downloads on a variety of topics, such as query letters, editing, dialogue, networking, etc.  I’m taking a look at a couple of them this weekend that I’ve already downloaded to test their value.  Here is the list of available downloads.

LitReactor is another useful site.  If you’re a fan of Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club, and my personal favorite, Invisible Monsters), you’ll be happy to learn he regularly contributes.  My favorite article from him is about Thought Verbs.  He reassures the reader that it will make for better writing and who’s going to argue with a writer like Chuck?  I also follow them of Facebook so I don’t miss anything.

A site I came across today, Daily Writing Tips, has loads of information on everything from grammatical errors to proper punctuation to proper word usage.  This would be a good one to bookmark as a reference tool.  I also like the site by Grammar Girl, Quick and Dirty Tips.

I’m also a fan of the site, The Write Life.  I’ve attached articles multiple times from this particular page and follow them on Facebook as well.

Well, that should be enough to get you started.  *Wink.  Please feel free to share sites you find useful as well!

Have a wonderful and productive weekend!

*Image from megrosoff.co.uk  

Preparedness (The State of Being Prepared, For The New Screenwriter)

I’ve read that the best time for a screenwriter (and actors) is in the spring.  The holidays are over, it’s a new year, and the television industry is in pilot season and finding new writers to add to their staff.  So it’s best to be prepared ahead of time.  I already feel that this is going to be a two-parter.  As a “new” screenwriter, there are quite a few steps to getting your career off the ground.  You can’t, in all honesty, have only one script ready.  It is due in part to one major follow-up question that will inevitably be asked, “What else do you have?”  According to screenwriting career coach, Lee Jessup, you should have a well rounded portfolio that includes: 2-3 well crafted scripts all in a similar genre, 1 tv pilot or web series, at least 5 more ideas in your genre, and 2 more strong ideas outside your brand*.  *Brand, for a screenwriter means that we (our image), along with our work, are a product, and when you initially make your mark on the industry, it is how you will be recognized.  I currently write (mostly romantic) stories with fantastical elements, so my brand is the fantasy genre and I plan on wearing a lot of pink.  At first it might seem like a pigeonhole, but from what I’ve read, it’s an asset — you could be the one the big-wigs come to for help when a screenplay needs a rewrite in a similar vein as your own style.  Many screenwriters fill their time and make additional income by being script doctors, reliable rewriters (look up Carrie Fisher).  Tip #1 – Keep writing!  Tip #2 – Start developing your portfolio!

So you have your portfolio, somewhat in order.  Then you have to write a query letter and find an agent.  If your networking has been successful, you may already have a lead on an agent.  You’ll quickly learn it’s much easier to get through the gatekeepers (assistants) if you have an “in”.  I have a friend who has referred me to his agent, and as soon as all my little ducks are in a row, that phone call will be more effective.  If you don’t have any contacts, the next best thing is a well written query letter.  There are numerous sites with useful information available, here’s one from Script.  Then there’s the research into finding an agent taking on new clients.  The Writer’s Store offers a directory, updated a few times year, with just this information for a small fee.  Finding an agent will have to be a whole other post or three.  Tip #3 – Craft a query letter!  Tip #4 – Generate an agent/producer/manager list!

And then here are a few more things to be aware of:

5. Your image

6. Become an expert (It’s the ace up your sleeve – be it dialogue, genre, character development, a time period, what have you…)

7. Read the trades (be aware of what’s happening in the industry – Variety & The Hollywood Reporter)

8. Create a list of writers you like, their work, and writing tricks/storytelling techniques they use

9. Find networking opportunities

Okay, that should get you all started.  *Wink.

Have a great weekend!