My mettle is being tested, and then some

Some days can feel like this...
We’ve all been there, Spidey.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.

A week after receiving my query letter, an agent responded, asking for a one-page synopsis.  Fortunately, I had one ready to go and sent it, trying hard to not get my hopes up.

The response came just under an hour later, including this:

“Sorry to say it doesn’t promise a unique storyline with surprises that would appeal to the young audience.”

Okay…

Not sure I would necessarily agree with most of that, but then again, I’m slightly biased.

What could have made them say this? Was my synopsis bad? Did the gist of the story not come across? Is this just another way of saying “Thanks, but not what we’re looking for?”

Hard to say.  Oh well.  Nothing else I can do about it.

So with my hopes temporarily dashed on the rocks below, onward I continue.  (Don’t worry. My hopes are pretty resilient, and should be back on their feet relatively soon.)

Probably like a lot of writers, there’s always going to be that dreaded feeling of second-guessing myself. Did I do enough? Is this right?

I could (and do) ask myself these questions, but the more time I spend worrying about them, the less productive I am.

It all comes down to doing the best I can, putting it out there and seeing what happens. Hopefully, it’ll yield positive results. If not, I’ve got no choice but to fix the problem where I can and see if that works.

They don’t call it a never-ending process for nothing, you know.

I’ve been working at this for quite a while, getting a little closer to success each time. The goal is obtainable, and I can do this. This long, drawn-out part can be pretty frustrating, but I’ve made it this far. A little longer won’t be that bad.

-Movie of the Moment: CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)  I don’t really care for horror, but this was fun. If Joss Whedon is involved, you know it’s going to be written smart. I’d heard there was a unique twist to it, and there was (no spoilers here).

What was most impressive was how they took a lot of horror movie tropes and made them integral parts of the plot, including the all-important setting up and paying off.

Going for that streamlined look

No, no. The car.
No, no. The car. Aw, never mind.

With most of the querying out of the way, I’m now focusing on two things: getting the podcast up and running, and fine-tuning the western outline.

There’s not much to say about the podcast, except it just hasn’t been a priority. I could have spent more time on it, but opted to get the queries out, which was very time-consuming. It’s looking more likely now to be a February launch.  Stay tuned for more details.

Regarding the outline rewrite, although I had a pretty solid outline already done, it still needs a lot of work.  Up first: tightening things up.  There are just too many scenes.

Using the existing outline, I’m now figuring out ways to move story details and plot points around so everything moves along faster.

For example: the earlier draft didn’t really introduce the villain until around page 17 (he’d been lurking around in the shadows up until then). I’ve since moved things around and now he shows up around page 4, which also includes a follow-up scene to show just what kind of a bad guy he is.

There was also the decision whether or not two scenes could be combined into one. I’ve gone back and forth on this. Scene 1 advances the story/continues to set things in motion, while Scene 2 provides some backstory about the connection between the hero and the villain. Although each has merit on their own, I’ll probably remain undecided up until the end.

Happy to say I’m still enjoying the whole thing.

-Movie of the Moment Two-fer!: THE OTHER GUYS (2010)   I don’t really care for a lot of Will Ferrell’s films, but this caught me totally off-guard. It was actually funny and had a good story. Surprisingly entertaining.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011) Another clever film from Woody Allen. Probably doesn’t hurt that I love Paris too. Kind of wish he’d write characters other than those from the upper classes.

Hi there. Nice to meet you.

First impressions count, even online. So be nice.

I’ve made it a point to really work on expanding my network, especially in ways that could help me achieve my writing goals (this applies to both craft and career).

Since I don’t live in Los Angeles, I have to find alternate ways to connect with other writers and folks in the industry. And thanks to living in the digital/internet age, there are lots of helpful options.

These are the ones I belong to, mostly because they were free and matched what I was looking for. I’m aware of Tracking Board and It’s On The Grid, but as far as I know, you need to pay to subscribe to them, and that’s just not an option for me right now.

Twitter. I like it, but don’t monitor it all that much. If somebody mentions me or sends me a DM, I try to respond in a timely manner.

LinkedIn.  Split between screenwriting, social media and writing projects. I’ve connected with lots of writers around the world, as well as more people at agencies and management firms, but unsure whether to send them queries (if applicable). Your thoughts?

Done Deal Pro forums.  I’ve posted loglines (got some good feedback) and am considering posting pages.  There’s a lot of helpful info in the comments of most threads, but a handful of members sometimes come across as a little full of themselves.

Stage 32. Joined earlier this month. Still building my network. Will explore further.

Talentville. Joined last week. Still figuring out how it works.  Something about earning Talent Dollars?

TriggerStreet. Haven’t used this in a while since being criticized for giving honest feedback on scripts.

Something else to keep in mind – blogs. A great way to network! I contacted just about every person behind the blogs over there to the right to tell them how much I enjoyed reading them, and would they mind if I posted a link. See? Not too hard.

One of those unwritten rules about screenwriting is “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

When I started writing, I knew absolutely nobody. But in the years since then, I’ve tried to get to know a lot more people, and as a result, a lot more people know me.

Cleaning up after all that dirty work

Yeah, it kind of felt like this...
Yeah, it kind of felt like this…

Well, that’s that.  The queries have been unleashed, and the process of getting it done was truly exhausting.

Most of the work was research. Lots and lots of it.

Equipped with a few lists of potential recipients, I scoured IMDBPro (signing up is highly recommended) and Google to check the status of each name, agency, management firm and prodco I had.

Are they still in business? (a good percentage were not)  Do they accept queries?  Is the person still there? If not, where are they now? What about that place?  Do they even handle screenwriters? Would they be interested in my script’s genre?

Some of the major houses (CAA, WME, etc.) don’t list any contact info apart from address and phone number, so unless you know somebody there, you’re just plain out of luck. A lot of them also have a disclaimer somewhere on the website stating they don’t accept unsolicited materials anyway. Better to focus on the ones that do.

Proof these lists are not entirely accurate or up-to-date – one listed office info for somebody who apparently died in 2009.

Believe me when I say this is not a small-scale project.

Something else to keep in mind – depending on your determination, you’ll be sending out an immense number of queries, and most likely the responses, positive or negative, will be few and far between. If you hear back at all.  Remember – these places are getting bombarded with queries from writers just like you every single day.

Not getting an immediate response can really be quite a blow to your self-confidence, but unfortunately it’s the way things are.  All you can do is send it out and move on.  Like I wrote last time, use this as an opportunity to redirect your attention towards something else of a productive nature.  Write something. Read something.  Exercise. Whatever it takes.

So while I wait, I’ve got an outline to improve, some podcasting equipment to master and a pumpkin pie that needs baking.

Eyes front, mister!

The solution isn't on somebody else's paper
The answers you seek won’t be found on somebody else’s paper. Which sounds a little more ‘zen’ than it should…

The emailing of queries continues, as does the struggle to force myself to stop checking my inbox on a too-often basis.

Wait! A new email just came in! Did somebody respond? Nope. Groupon for a bikini wax. How about now? Nope.  Screenwriting newsletter that seems to come every two months. I really should just unsubscribe from that. Now? Nope again. Netflix confirming they received my disc of JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM.

Over and over and over.

The more this scenario plays out, the more frustrating the whole thing becomes. Why isn’t anybody responding?  I sent that two whole days ago. Doesn’t anybody check their email?  Oh no! What if nobody wants to read my script? All that work for nothing! I’m a failure! Doomed to gnash my teeth every time somebody sells their you-call-that-an-original-concept spec for low-to-mid six figures! Aaauuughhhhh!

*collapses on floor in fetal position*

And….scene.

It would be so easy to fall into this kind of trap, but it’s also easier than you would think to just take a deep breath and let it go. I’ve done my part. The rest is up to my query recipients. All I can do is hope they’re interested and want to read my script.

If so, great. If not, no big deal. Comes with the territory. It took me a long time to accept this.

I’m a writer, so writing is what I need to focus on right now. It’ll satisfy my need to be creative while drawing my attention away from the queries. Hunkering down and diving into the outline is good for what ails me.

And it’s a western, so how can I resist the call to immerse myself in a world I’ve created loaded up with cowpokes, shootin’ irons and yellow-bellied sidewinders?

Added bonus – in the event somebody likes my first script and asks the all-important “What else ya got?,” I’ll be this much closer to having something ‘else’ to offer.

Hold on. Another email just came in.  Back in a sec.