What makes the muskrat guard his musk?

My medal is metaphorical
My medal is metaphorical, yet still bulky

The rewrite’s done, and all of a sudden, I’m nervous. Like, ridiculously so.

I’ve sent scripts out before, but this time something is making it a lot different.

A fear of failure.  Of rejection.

What if nobody likes it?

What writer hasn’t gone through this?

But as I tell K every once in a while – the only way I could fail is if I stopped trying, and I don’t plan on doing that either.

It may be that after all this time, the idea of possibly being that much closer to actually achieving my goal is kind of overwhelming.  This is where that internal voice kicks in.

Do I have what it takes? Is the script just about ready to be sent out?

Damn straight. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this script and my writing ability.

I can and will do what it takes to make this work.

I wrote this a little over 3 years ago after finishing the final draft of my fantasy-adventure. That script went on to some moderate contest success and got me a manager.

Now I’m getting ready to repeat the whole thing with the western. I like to think my writing’s improved since then, but every word still applies today.

The fear never really goes away. I’ll always be nervous when I send out a script, but I’d be rather be nervous sending out a script than not even trying.

I’ve been doing this for quite a while, and each draft gets me a little bit closer to reaching that goal. Is this the time that it finally happens? I certainly hope so, and if not, I’ll just keep trying.

For all the fear and trepidation I feel during this part of the process, it’s my drive to want to succeed that always wins out and keeps me going.

And a very hearty thanks to everybody who’s helped me along the way to tell this story about a girl and her train.

Can’t wait to show you what comes next.

The end is nigh. Near. Comin’ up fast.

An apt metaphor if ever there was one (unless you're a manager, agent or producer, in which case we can talk about it)
An apt metaphor if ever there was one (unless you’re a manager, agent or producer, in which case we can talk about it)

A self-imposed deadline is fast approaching.

At the end of this week, all operations on my western will stop. The time between now and then involves one last edit/read-through to really tighten it up, but when I close the file in a couple of days, that’s it.

Mostly because I’ve been working on it for so long, and toiled through several major rewrites, that I’m simply feeling burned out on it. Plus at this point, it really feels like doing any more extensive work on it would probably have the opposite, negative effect and do more harm than good. And I like this script too much to have that happen.

As it reads now, it’s a pretty solid example of my writing style. Even if it only ends up being a calling card that results in some assignment work, that’s perfectly fine with me.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Is it above average? So I’ve been told; excessively so, according to more than a few people not related to me. Is it a rousing tale of thrills and adventure that puts a new spin on an old genre? You’re darn tootin’.

I couldn’t have gotten to this point without all the helpful comments and support of some very talented writers and consultants. All of it has helped me make the script as good as I think it can be. For now. I also like the idea of coming back to it in a few months to get it ready for next year’s Nicholl or PAGE.

But the time has come to bring down the curtain once and for all. It has been an amazing experience that I honestly believe has made me a better writer and definitely upped the quality of what I write. As one of my reliable note-givers said to me, “As good as your writing is on this one, your next one is going to be even better.”

I sure hope so.

I’d wager this is you/me/us

The thrills and glamor of writing a screenplay
The thrills and glamour of writing a screenplay

Wouldn’t it be great if every single time you sat down to write, you produced something just flat-out jaw-droppingly incredible?

It would also be great if you could eat an entire pie by yourself and not get sick, but that ain’t gonna happen either.

You work hard and do the best you can, and that’s all you should ask and expect of yourself.

You know what you’re capable of. You set goals, and make the effort to accomplish them. You push yourself to keep getting better.

You might hit the target on the first try, or it might stretch into double-digit territory. Every victory moves you forward.

What separates you from someone who “has been thinking about writing a screenplay?” You are ACTUALLY DOING IT, and even though you know firsthand what a frustratingly aggravating and slow-as-molasses-in-January process it is, you soldier on.

Just finished a draft? You both dread and look forward to the inevitable rewrite.

You do not suffer writer’s block gladly. In fact, you challenge it. With a vengeance.

Faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, you think your way through/around it to a solution. You practically thrive on your ability to keep going, despite how high the odds are stacked against you or when it feels hopeless.

You want this so bad it actually does hurt.

That spark of creativity burns blindingly bright inside you, and you fan the flames as often as possible.

You write because you can’t imagine doing anything else. Coming up with ideas, stories, scenarios and characters brings you a special satisfaction that only a select few can relate to.

A lot of us go into this with dreams of making a career of this. Some will succeed, many won’t, but we don’t let that deter us.

We all have a rocky road ahead, so make sure you keep doing whatever you have to in order to stay on it. The final destination is well worth it.

Happy travels, chums.

Turning your characters into people

Make each one of these a distinct individual. And...go.
Make each one of these a distinct individual. Ready? Go.

One of the notes I occasionally get (as many others have as well) is that my characters are good, but could use some more depth.

No matter how big or small a part a character plays in my stories, I try to make them seem like real people. Sometimes it works, and most of the time it needs more work.

I don’t go through the whole “create a detailed character history” thing, but as I work progresses on each story, I get more of a feel for what kind of person that character is and hope I can transfer that to the page.

So today’s post is going to be a little different, and involves audience participation.

How do you develop depth in your characters?

There’s no one right answer, and everybody has their own way of how they develop a story and its characters, so it would be great to hear what works for you.

And now for the rebuttal…

And a big shout-out to the Madison Avenue boys for making me look so good!

In the previous installment, I’d written about receiving the following email in response to a query letter sent to a manager:

“Dear Paul,

My friend and business associate XX (the manager) forwarded to me your query (SCRIPT TITLE) in case you might be interested in my consulting service (website).  XX and I worked together (I as a studio executive at XX, XX as the producer) on the film XX, starring XX.  My service offers you my experience having worked with countless writers during my 35 years as a studio executive.  Here’s what I do:  I analyze what you have written – in this case your screenplay – from a creative standpoint to start with, and if I feel its quality and potential are apparent and strong, I will try to attract for you an agent or manager.  I will also develop a strategy to sell your work and will offer it to producers, a director or cast in order to position the material for acquisition by a financing entity such as a studio.  My fee for this is modest by industry standards, and it will depend on how much time I judge it will take to do my job.

Please let me know if this triggers any interest on your part.


I had a lot to say about it, mostly based on skepticism and suspicion from receiving letters of this nature in the past from “consultants” with questionable qualifications.

I then received this email from the same person.

“Dear Paul,

First I do want to tell you that my fee is $350, which is about the median for script consultants.  I feel that I would be giving you the benefit of my long years as a buyer at Universal and Paramount, offering more than just script notes but a strategy for selling your work.

One thing I can assure you is that I am honest.  When I say I will “try” to get you an agent or manager, this is what I will do.  For me to guarantee landing representation for you would be dishonest, simply because today these people just don’t read.  Yet I know enough of them going back many years, so I have been successful getting clients agents.  (MANAGER), by the way, does not manage writers, only actors.  As for the testimonials I’ve been at this for only a couple of years, and setting up movies is a long, long process.  Hence, clients only talk about my help with their screenplays.  You should know, however, that one of my clients is now being represented by the United Talent Agency and another has a screenplay currently being considered for financing by Warner Brothers.

I wanted to set the record straight with regard to my email to you and my website.

My best,

I happily stand corrected.

So the consultant in question is Peter Saphier, and his website is saphiermediaadvisors.com.

I wrote back and told him how much I appreciated him following up with more details to reinforce his qualifications (he played a key role in getting JAWS made!), experience and what he can offer. I mentioned to him, like above, how there are a lot of scam artists out there more than eager to take advantage of naive writers.

So if you’re a writer who thinks their script is ready, contacting Peter might be something you’d want to consider.