From the archives: My brain’s helping hands are ready to go

No job too small! (schedule permitting)

There’s been a slight uptick in my recent coffee chats with connections new and not-so-new. A majority of them have been of a more “just catching up”-type nature, but a few have included the exchanging of script notes and related items. That prompted the re-posting of this gem from July 2018. Enjoy.

Thanks to my ever-expanding network of savvy creative types, I get lots of chances to be on both the giving and receiving ends when it comes to reading scripts.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to get exceptionally helpful notes from a lot of really talented folks. All this feedback has somehow managed to influence my writing for the better, and for that I am overflowing with gratitude.

So the least I can do when somebody asks me “Will you read my script?” or “Can I pick your brain about this idea?” is to say “Of course.”* Maybe I can offer up a few scraps of advice that might somehow work to their advantage. If anything, I can at least point out where a fix in spelling or punctuation is needed. For a script, anyway. That counts, right?

*caveat – it’s taken a lot of work spread over a long time for me to build up my network and establish connections, so I don’t mind if somebody I actually know drops me a note with such a request. If our only connection is being connected on social media and we’ve never interacted – at all, you’re little more than a total stranger to me. So heed that one word and be social. It makes a difference.

I had the pleasure of such an experience this week. I’d connected with another Bay Area creative, and we’d been trying for a while to arrange a face-to-face meeting. After much scheduling, cancelling and rescheduling, we finally made it happen.

This person had an idea for a project, wanted to talk about it, and see if I was interested in being involved. I stated at the outset that I had enough work on my own for now, but would be open to giving notes – time permitting.

After the initial introductions and our thumbnail backstories, we focused on their project. I won’t go into specifics or details about it, because those aren’t the important parts.

What was important was:

-this was a story they’d had inside them for a while, and even though they knew it needed A LOT of work, they were still happy with simply having written it all out

-they were totally open and willing to listen to my suggestions. Some they liked, some they didn’t. Totally fine.

But the more we talked, the more the seeds of ideas were planted in their head. Even though a lot of the details we came up with, including possible paths the story could take, ended up being totally different from their original incarnation, it was easy to see that spark of excitement reignite inside them.

Seeing that happen with somebody you’re trying to help is more satisfying than you can possibly imagine.

We parted ways, with them really rarin’ to go and start developing the latest draft. They added that they really appreciated me being so willing to help out.

I just like doing that sort of thing. I never had that kind of person-to-person help when I was starting out, so why not do what I can for others? Granted, the internet and social media didn’t even exist then, so it’s a lot easier now.

I got a few emails from them the next day showing me what they’d come up with since our meeting. Same concept, but a totally new approach (and, in my opinion, provided the opportunity for a lot of new possibilities). This also included a more thorough write-up of “what happened before the story starts”.

Even though it can be tough to read emotion in text, it was easy to see the spark was still burning strong within them. The way they talked about their plans for what comes next, I could tell they were actually looking forward to working on this.

It was nice knowing I had a little something to do with it.

We exchanged a few more emails (mostly me asking questions about story and characters and them providing sufficient answers), and I wrapped up with “Keep me posted.”

Their response: “Definitely. Thanks again. You’re a good dude.”

That was nice too.

From the archives: Lattes, lunches & kindred spirits

coffee
“And then he actually asked, “But what’s your Save the Cat moment?””

Had a really nice in-person get-to-know-you coffee chat with a writer this week, which are always a pleasant experience. I highly recommend doing them, whether you’re the inviter or the invitee. (Iced sugar-free vanilla latte with oat milk for me, please.)

I’ve written about these more than a few times, including this classic post from August 2016.

(And a friendly reminder that my book is now available)

It’s been a busy week around here, and not just in terms of writing.

I’ve had some great in-person meet-ups with three other local writers over the past couple of days. Two were first-timers, the third was someone I’ve known for a couple of years. Each one was great in its own way. This really is one of my favorite parts of networking – actually meeting somebody else and getting to know them.

Because of my work schedule, lunch or early afternoon coffee are ideal. I prefer a nice little cafe because it always makes for a better one-on-one environment: quiet, sociable, pleasant. Larger networking events, usually at bars, tend to be pretty crowded and noisy, which makes it tough to establish a solid rapport. I’m not too keen on having to continuously shout and not be entirely sure either of us can hear the other.

The first meeting usually involves the exchanging of “here’s my story” mini-bios, and then moves on to what’s going on for both parties. Over the course of about an hour, we’ll share and discuss our individual journeys as writers. Everybody’s journey is different, and I always find each one quite fascinating.

We often share many similarities: our constantly working in the hopes of eventually succeeding as a writer (or filmmaker), the noticeable excitement while discussing our latest project(s), wondering how it’ll go and how it’ll be received.

We are also allowed free rein to vent our frustration about whatever’s currently sticking in our respective craws. Bad experiences, lack of funds for a project, feeling stuck with developing a story, dealing with lousy notes, and so on. One of my new connections even stated, “It’s nice to know I’m not the only one this has happened to!”

That may be what’s at the heart of all of this: knowing you’re not the only one trying to do this, and that somebody else totally understands what it is you’re going through. Simply being able to chat about it in a casual social setting can do wonders; one might even call it therapeutic.

I also make a point of offering to help out in any capacity I can, which tends to usually be either giving script notes or suggesting potential contacts and strategies, and just about everybody is more than happy to reciprocate. Who can’t use a little help?

If you haven’t done so already, I heartily recommend reaching out and connecting with somebody in your area, especially if both of you are within close proximity to each other. Chances are they’re seeking to do the exact same thing.

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, this not only applies to breaking in, but also to helping you work your way towards that. Building up your personal network of fellow creatives is easy, won’t cost you that much (just what you’d spend on a cup of coffee or a meal), and is a definite plus for all involved.

Temporary self-isolation. Caffeine optional.

coffee writers
That’s a lot of screenplays being developed

Nice to be back. Hope you enjoyed the interviews over the past few weeks. Despite the absence of my personal anecdotes, I’ve been pretty busy with a few assorted projects, with rewriting the dramedy spec being first in line.

Earlier this week, Ms V had a soccer-related activity a little farther away than usual, so rather than schlep all the way home and back again, I opted to stick around and do some more work on the rewrite.

Fortunately for me, there was a coffee shop nearby with the always -welcome free wifi, so I ordered my latte, sat down, and dove right in.

Yes, it’s practically the ultimate cliche to work on a screenplay in a coffee shop, but honestly? It ended up being a pretty productive evening. Did some major rewriting of several sequences, cut a few pages, and came up with some new approaches to scenes earlier in the story. Definitely a solid use of my time.

Even though I have an actual office space for writing at home, sometimes being outside of the house proves to be just as beneficial. Maybe it’s the ability to focus squarely on the writing. No distractions like laundry or having to take the dog outside.

I also find that when I work somewhere else, I’m a lot less likely to screw around and waste time online. Social media and email get put on hold, and all attention is focused on the work. It helps you get a lot more done than you realize.

This is also where the wifi angle factors in. Listening to music while I write helps me think. It acts as a kind of a white noise and counters all the potentially distracting sounds being generated around me. Being able to stream it comes in mighty handy.

Another benefit – the coffee. Sure, I can make it myself at home, but a barista-prepared drink always seems to taste a little better.

No matter where you get your writing done, the important thing is to find a location that works best for you (and there might even be more than one) and provides you with the best opportunities to get the work done.

I don’t usually ask other writers about their actual writing habits and situations. Some might thrive in their home work space, while others wouldn’t think of ever writing anywhere but at the local library or their neighborhood coffee joint of preference. But I’ll admit to being curious about it. Feel free to mention it in the Comments section down below.

(Need a last-minute gift for that screenwriter in your life? How about a gift card to their local coffee shop? National chains or local, doesn’t matter. It would be very well-received.)

Percolating. Always percolating.

Image result for coffee POT GIF

As writers, we fully realize that inspiration can hit at any time, and in any situation. And it’s what you do when it does that really matters.

Late last year, I was taking the dog for her last walk of the day. Something about that particular moment triggered a story idea. I won’t say the floodgates of creativeness opened wide; more like the squirt from a water pistol. It was just a sentence, maybe two, but I immediately saw so much potential in it.

We got home, I created a file for it on my computer, and I wrote down the tidbits of story I’d managed to come up with.

And in the hard drive it sat, practically untouched for months on end.

In a manner of speaking.

As is usually the case, even thought I may not actually be writing, I’m always thinking about the writing.

Although I’ve worked on several other scripts this year, every once in a while, a new detail about this story would pop up and I’d add it in. It’s definitely an ongoing work in progress, moving at a glacial pace, and there’s no rush to get it done.

It’s actually very beneficial to not put any pressure on yourself and just let the ideas show up at their convenience. And sometimes it pays off when you least expect it.

About a week ago, I came up with an idea for a short, but then realized the location would be a perfect setting for the climax of this script. Determined to hang onto that idea, I reopened the file and figured it was as good a time as any to to move things forward a little, so I started organizing the plot points. There are still a few blanks to be filled in, but it’s slowly coming together.

When the’s next time I’ll work on it? No idea. It’s still very, very early in the development process. A few other scripts currently have priority over this one, but I highly suspect the trend of occasionally adding a few details will continue.

As it should. And then when I finally get around to focusing all of my attention on this one, chances are I might be further along than I expect.

So keep on working on whatever it is you’re currently working on. But feel free to let your imagination wander about once in a while into something else, particularly something you plan to eventually work on. See what you come up with, and if you like it, stash it away for later. Hold onto it even if you’re not that crazy about it; you might find a totally unexpected use for it later.

No matter what you do, Future You will really appreciate everything Present You is doing.

Lattes, lunches & kindred spirits

coffee
“And then he actually asked, “But what’s your Save the Cat moment?””

It’s been a busy week around here, and not just in terms of writing.

I’ve had some great in-person meet-ups with three other local writers over the past couple of days. Two were first-timers, the third was someone I’ve known for a couple of years. Each one was great in its own way. This really is one of my favorite parts of networking – actually meeting somebody else and getting to know them.

Because of my work schedule, lunch or early afternoon coffee are ideal. I prefer a nice little cafe because it always makes for a better one-on-one environment: quiet, sociable, pleasant. Larger networking events, usually at bars, tend to be pretty crowded and noisy, which makes it tough to establish a solid rapport. I’m not too keen on having to continuously shout and not be entirely sure either of us can hear the other.

The first meeting usually involves the exchanging of “here’s my story” mini-bios, and then moves on to what’s going on for both parties. Over the course of about an hour, we’ll share and discuss our individual journeys as writers. Everybody’s journey is different, and I always find each one quite fascinating.

We often share many similarities: our constantly working in the hopes of eventually succeeding as a writer (or filmmaker), the noticeable excitement while discussing our latest project(s), wondering how it’ll go and how it’ll be received.

We are also allowed free rein to vent our frustration about whatever’s currently sticking in our respective craws. Bad experiences, lack of funds for a project, feeling stuck with developing a story, dealing with lousy notes, and so on. One of my new connections even stated, “It’s nice to know I’m not the only one this has happened to!”

That may be what’s at the heart of all of this: knowing you’re not the only one trying to do this, and that somebody else totally understands what it is you’re going through. Simply being able to chat about it in a casual social setting can do wonders; one might even call it therapeutic.

I also make a point of offering to help out in any capacity I can, which tends to usually be either giving script notes or suggesting potential contacts and strategies, and just about everybody is more than happy to reciprocate. Who can’t use a little help?

If you haven’t done so already, I heartily recommend reaching out and connecting with somebody in your area, especially if both of you are within close proximity to each other. Chances are they’re seeking to do the exact same thing.

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, this not only applies to breaking in, but also to helping you work your way towards that. Building up your personal network of fellow creatives is easy, won’t cost you that much (just what you’d spend on a cup of coffee or a meal), and is a definite plus for all involved.