Bursting at the seams

Have to be careful not to overdo it

Overwriting has always been an issue for me, at least when it comes to first drafts. I tend to put a lot more on the page than is probably necessary, which of course, increases the number of pages.

Case in point – while progress is moving along nicely for the pulpy adventure spec, and I’m faithfully adhering to the outline, scenes throughout the first act are running longer than expected, so the inciting incident will be occurring somewhere around 10 pages later than anticipated.

If things continue at this rate, I may end up with a script that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 pages, which is way too long.

Keep in mind that I don’t make a point of strictly adhering to certain feline-influenced rules/guidelines of a “THIS MOMENT IN THE SCRIPT MUST HAPPEN ON THIS PAGE” nature; it’s really more of a suggestion.

The good thing is that I can just keep pushing forward, knowing there will be some major editing and rewriting in store when this draft is finished. It’s a lot easier to go in and cut, as opposed to scrambling and struggling to add in material. And as evidenced by past behavior, I’ll probably continue to occasionally go back and tweak something I don’t see as sitting right.

For now, the very-helpful process of plotting out the beats of a scene and writing them as such will, but it wouldn’t be surprising if a subconscious effort to tighten things up a little begins to develop.

One brief sidenote – I’ve been making a real effort to reduce the amount of time spent with casual netsurfing and replacing it with actual writing. It’s made quite a difference, and the results have been most productive. I heartily recommend it.

Hey! Long time no (preferred form of communication)

A hard-at-work pre-Internet server keeping things up and running

There’ve been several previous posts here regarding the benefits and necessity of networking. It can’t be stressed enough how incredibly helpful and effective it can be, especially if you’re not in Los Angeles or somewhere you don’t have a lot of in-person access to other writers.

But it’s not enough to just make a connection. An effort needs to be made by at least one of you (most likely you) to maintain that connection and keep it healthy. And it’s not as hard as you might think.

While it can be extremely easy and tempting to get sucked into the never-ending rabbit hole of the internet, designate a portion of your non-writing time to be just as productive and try to get some networking stuff done.

Are you connected to another writer in your area, but you’ve never actually met in person? Ask them if they’re up for a get-to-know-you coffee or lunch chat.

If you’re limited to online communication, send them an email or tweet asking how they’re doing, and how their latest projects are coming along. Be helpful, or at least offer to help. They might just take you up on it.

*Important – if it’s been a while since you’ve been in touch, don’t start things off by straight-out asking for something. Would you want someone to do that to you? Didn’t think so.

If something good (career or otherwise) has happened for them, send a note of congratulations. Likewise, if something not-so-good has happened, express your sympathies accordingly.

Cliched as it may sound, keeping the lines of communication open really can help you out. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have established strong relationships with several local writers and filmmakers, and exchanged notes with writers scattered across the globe.

I reconnected with a consultant I hadn’t been in touch with for several months, and that conversation led to them offering up coverage (which I still paid for) that proved to be quite helpful.

A writer I know who works in TV and film emailed me, wanting to discuss her latest concept because she thought I was a good match for it.

None of these would have happened if I hadn’t taken the time to keep each relationship going. Rather than taking a “how can you help me?” approach, I go in with the mindset of “maybe I can help you?”

One of the things you hear so often when it comes to establishing a screenwriting career is “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. I’ve found both parts to be true. You definitely have to know what you’re doing in terms of craft and writing ability, but it’s equally important to establish and maintain solid, professional relationships with as many people as you can.

Because you never know who’s going to suddenly be a person of influence willing to help you out because you did the same for them.

So here’s your voluntary assignment:

1. Contact five of your connections.
2. Ask them how things are going.
3. Take it from there.

Good luck!

From asking to being asked

Nothing like a receptive ear (and the person connected to it)
Nothing like a receptive ear (and the person connected to it)

Compare the most recent thing you wrote to the very first thing you wrote. How much of a difference is there?

One thing’s for certain: it no doubt took a lot of hard work and learning to get you from your skill level then to what it is now.

But you didn’t do it alone, or in a vacuum. You had help along the way from countless resources. It might have come from a book, a class, a writing group, or the occasional someone with more experience willing to help out.

When I started out, that was me. I got my hands on as many books as I could (the one I still recommend – Story Sense by Paul Lucey). Classes weren’t really an option, so I read a lot of scripts and attended a few seminars and expos when I could. I also had the good fortune to be involved with a few writing groups. A lot of this was also in the early days of the internet, so online resources and networking were nowhere near the levels they are now.

But what definitely helped the most was getting notes and feedback. The more fresh eyes you can get to take a look at your work, the better the end result will be. One stipulation: it depends on who you ask. Specifically, someone who really knows what they’re talking about, and whose knowledge and opinion you trust.

This has made a significant difference for me, such to the point that I now have a core group of trusted colleagues I can rely on for quality notes, and I’ve done my best to return the favor to many of them when possible.

And in recent months, as my network has grown and I connect with more writers, I’ll occasionally get an email asking along the lines of “If it’s not too much trouble, would you take a look at this and let me know what you think?” A script. Some pages. A logline. What have you.

I honestly never expected to be on the receiving end of that question, but, schedule permitting, am always happy to help out when I can. It’s the least I can do. Hopefully my notes will give them the help they need.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but it’s kind of nice to think that I might be able to help somebody in the same way others did for me in the past.