Flashback Friday #1: Routine

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My post on “writing a TV pilot” was my 500th; a milestone I should have reached some time ago. I sort of feel like Bob from the Bob’s Burgers episode “Sacred Cow” (S1E3) in which they celebrate the sale of the 100,000th burger, which should have happened long before, as evident by the dot matrix banner used to commemorate the occasion.

Having reached such a marker, I thought it might be nice to reflect on the posts that have come before, not only as a reflection for myself but also as a learning tool, because as the title of my blog suggests, I have a terrible memory and it would be nice to remember what I’ve come across and shared in the past.

Writing tips are always helpful, and if forgotten, necessary to revisit.

So starting back in the earliest days of my blog, I wrote about routines. As I stated just a few posts ago, I’m working on a new one. How things do come full circle.

September 6, 2013:

In 1932, Henry Miller, the famous writer and painter created a work schedule that listed his “Commandments” for him to follow as part of his daily routine. This list was published in the book, Henry Miller On Writing.

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can’t create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

This is what worked for Henry Miller, so keep this in mind when creating a schedule for yourself. You know what parameters you need to work efficiently, so build a plan with those in mind.

I cannot write first thing in the morning. I’m not alert until after my second cup of tea, and then some. I used to write at night, after the world was asleep, but now I’m realizing that my home world is quiet earlier in the day so I need to rethink my plan so that I can be more effective.

Try a new schedule. Tweak where necessary. Try again.

Keep at it and Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

I’m part of a writer’s group where I’ve seen members question whether or not they think readers will be interested in the subject matter they are writing. I’ve never, personally, understood this way of thinking.

We are our first reader.

We should be engaged by the characters and the world we’re creating. The stories we’re writing should be about topics we’re interested in and want to explore. If we’re not attracted to the idea, why would we waste the time? And if we’re not passionate, the story will read as such.

And if we are, the story will find an audience.

Chasing fads or trends in the tv/movie world is an effort in futility. By the time your story is written and read, the tide will have most likely already turned. This is why many experts suggest avoiding this way of thinking. If you’ve been inspired by the current state of entertainment, then by all means write the story, but write it because you want to, not because you think it’s what you should be.

C. S. Lewis Quote: “Write about what really interests you, whether it is  real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” (12 wallpapers) -  Quotefancy

This all boils down to finding your voice, and C.S. Lewis said it best. Writing is already a bit of an uphill grind so we should do what we can to ensure that we enjoy the journey – by writing about what you want.

Happy Writing! 😉

How to Write a TV Pilot

Writing a teleplay is quite a bit different from writing a feature…or so I’m learning. With the ever expanding television market in need of fresh content, a screenwriter looking to break in must have a well rounded portfolio.

I hadn’t really given writing for TV much attention prior to the new “golden age” because none of the story ideas I had felt like they could be sustained for multiple episodes over multiple seasons. That was until The Demeter, my sci-fi/space/family drama. As I dug in and got to know my characters and the new world(s) I was creating, the more I realized it could not be contained to a single film, or even two.

I suppose that’s a good measuring stick for a story’s place and purpose.

So I gave my idea a go and wrote a pilot.

After what I was hoping would be my last rewrite, I asked one of my AFF friends to give it a read and offer some feedback*, and goodness, did she deliver. The most useful note I received was that my protagonist had become passive halfway through the script.

I did not see this. And this is why it’s useful to get an outside perspective.

There are a lot of points to hit in any screenplay but in a pilot, it needs to happen quickly. You not only need to introduce your characters, the world, the plot, your voice, where the story is going to go, and your characters’ desires but you also need to do all this in anywhere from 30 to 60 pages. Roughly.

And all while making it unique and interesting and coherent.

When you write a feature you still have all the same boxes to tick but without the need to sustain the story long term, the information given is precisely chosen, and therefore the story is streamlined.

Among the feedback, my friend also sent me this graphic from writer, David Steinberg which is both helpful and maddening.

According to the graphic, there are 10 things your pilot must do or set up in addition to some of what I listed above. Take one of your favorite tv shows and compare the pilot to these necessary elements. Does it hold up? Is anything missing? In light of these elements, or lack thereof, are any of these the reason you tuned in each week?

If you’ve been considering writing a pilot, and you find yourself overwhelmed by all of this information, don’t be put off, like I was initially. Discovering my protagonist had stopped being proactive makes a major rewrite the inevitable next step, and while a crushing blow, a necessity. This is why rewrites are considered the actual writing. They fine tune and make us aware of what’s needed to create a well rounded, compelling story.

I’ll have more tips on this topic in the coming weeks, but if you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to ask!

Happy Writing!

*With any feedback, it’s important to note that you should take it with a grain of salt, at least until people are paying you for your work. And then you may have to pick your battles. Your story is yours, and while feedback is helpful, pick and choose what best serves your story.

Quote Monday

I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself this year. Having quit my job a year ago, I had grand plans for how I was going to handle the few months I was giving myself before The Sis and I moved and we started our lives in a new town. Fast forward to nearly a year in a pandemic, and the pressure has only grown more intense.

If I was not going to go back to work, as we were teetering on the constant see-saw of should we/shouldn’t we move, then I better have something to show for all the time I had been given. After a number of false starts, blindly staring at a computer screen job and house hunting, writing easy-out blog posts, finding busy work to distract, and using a number of other excuses, the months passed and I was no closer to accomplishing any of the goals I had set for myself.

It’s not as if my goals were so lofty that they were unattainable, but not using my time better, because I was trying to do too many things each day, consistently left me feeling bad about myself and perpetuated the unmotivated side that used excuses for the lack of progress rather than confronting the fact that what I was doing everyday was the definition of insanity.

It has taken some time, but I have come to the conclusion that I need to format my time differently. The old writer’s adage “Write Every Day” has stressed me out, so much so that I’m lucky if I’m able to write even once a week.

A sad state of affairs.

I have chosen to create a weekly schedule that allows me to write on certain days and utilize the other days to accomplish the other tasks I want or that I defer to to distract me. It sounds so simple and yet it has taken me all this time to discover it. Instead of trying to do everything everyday, I’ll do at least one thing each day and make incremental progress on each. This way I don’t feel guilty on Tuesday for not writing because I’m supposed to be working on my Etsy shop. I will have written on Monday and will again on Wednesday.

Is this the right course of action? I don’t know yet. But I’m looking forward to finding out.

How do you schedule your time to ensure you accomplish all that you want to do?

Quote Monday

Everyone’s posting year end reviews and goal updates, and even as I, myself, am doing some reflection, if you’ve followed me for a while, you know I don’t like resolutions, one can’t help but look back on what’s been accomplished in the course of a year.  It’s also the end of a decade, so there’s even more to think on.

While the beginning of a new year is a great jumping off point, you can start something new or achieve a goal at any time.

Start where you are quote

I’m sure I’ve used this quote before, but as The Sis and I begin to prepare for a new journey, this quote seemed rather apropos.

Happy Monday!

Quote Monday

InspireLast week I wrote an entire blog post after learning that my pilot had not advanced in the second contest I had entered.  I was sad and the overall tone was not the happy-stay positive-reach for your dreams-vibe I try to maintain here.

So I didn’t post it.

Rejection, in any form, is tough to take.  People say all sorts of things to put a positive spin on the situation, but when it comes down to it, rejection plain ol’ sucks.

I was already struggling with the third act of one screenplay, and I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to get everything in order for the conference in October, so this news struck a blow.  I was down for the rest of the day.  But that’s part of the process.  You take the hit, get back up, and show ’em.

It’s hard when so much is in our hands as writers, and so much that isn’t.

It’s not like I didn’t know this going in, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.  The whisper of doubt that sneaks its way in about the possibility that no one will ever like what I write and I never become a professional screenwriter grows louder with each rejection, but then I think of the people that were once just like me.

Every writer ever.

So no, I’m not giving up.  On the contrary.  I’m just getting started.  So here is the “stay positive-reach for your dreams” tip of the day:

Wear that rejection like a badge of honor because at least it shows that your striving towards your goals.  How many people do you know that are unwilling to even try?

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

Today’s quote is continuing in the theme of goal setting from my last post.

sacrifice

When I thought on this for just a few seconds, I didn’t care for the feeling, meaning I had already been sacrificing what it is I really want for myself.  I need to hang this on my wall.

What are you willing to give up to achieve your goals?

2019 Goals

set and reach goal conceptAt the beginning of every year we each decide what we’d like to accomplish, what we want to change.  The dreaded New Year’s Resolution – gyms are overcrowded for a month, a flurry of spending happens while we’re excited for a new hobby, mentally we prepare for the first of the year as if it were a magic reset button, but usually it’s all in vain.  We say things like, “This year, it will all be different.”  “Kiss last year goodbye and say hello to the new one and all the newness that comes with it.”  We set goals, we make resolutions, only to lose momentum a fraction of the way through the year.

Some years are better than others, but it’s because of this I’ve never been one to make resolutions.  The looming (potential) failure.  And I don’t like the feeling.  The reflection at the end of the year at how little I accomplished.  It’s not that we’re lazy, I think it’s just that we lose passion or focus and the reason why we wanted whatever “it” was to begin with amidst the chaos that makes up our daily lives.  An elusive goal with a slow payoff will usually take a back burner to the things that require immediate attention.

Maybe it has something to do with that mid-life crisis I talked about previously, but I’ve started to make some changes by redirecting my focus.  Side note, I did cut my hair off, and it’s kind of fun and different.  I’m not sure how long it’ll last just due to the sheer amount of work it requires but at least I was finally brave enough to try.  Last year I let a lot of things slide.  I let my focus shift to unimportant things, things that didn’t require the value I placed on them, and the year passed with little to show for it…again.

Price

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t make any resolutions. 😉

I like my day job (most days), but I realized I’m giving it too much attention.  I allowed it to gain too much space in my life, and for something I don’t want to do long term, I needed to shift my focus.  Coming home feeling tired, both physically and mentally, causes me to waste the number of hours I have left in my day to accomplish more.  Reading, writing, watching a movie – there have been too many days when none of those have happened. 

EveryNewDaySo, nearing the end of 2018 I started to reevaluate my situation, and like serendipity my general manager gave me a book, “The Coffee Break Screenwriter” by Pilar Alessandra and a tee-shirt that says screenwriter for Christmas.  

I think it was the the push I needed, and I have thanked him again since the holidays because I’m over half way through the book and I’ve already had some ideas about one of my scripts that needs a rewrite, I submitted my pilot to a competition, and I’m planning on attending my first ever screenwriter’s summit.  I’ve watched at least one new movie a week, I’m reading more, and I’ve decided to do the thing I fear – write down my goals.  It’s my hope that visualizing what I’d like to accomplish, in addition to having some sort of accountability, may help me actually reach them.

Discipline

I’m one for lists, so by creating a path to accomplish said goals, I may find it easier to navigate throughout the year when I start to wane or lose focus.  In the past I wrote about finding external deadlines to help in goal setting.  This was not my genius idea but one I had come across from a number of sources.  It’s one thing to say I’d like to rewrite my script by such and such a date, but having a competition to submit to with a hard deadline will definitely add the pressure, so I’m finding those as well.  

It’s about using my time wisely.  More wisely.  Finding the balance between the day job and the dream job, family, other interests, and the mundane will take some effort.  So here’s to a new year and the newness that comes with it. 😉  

How do you plan to achieve your goals this year?  Want to help each other be accountable?  Share your goal and let’s have regular check-ins to make it happen!