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?