A support staff of one

At least you’re a shoo-in for Employee of the Month

When it all comes down to it, you know who’s going to do the most to help you and your career?

That’s right. You. Nobody else.

Sure, there will be others who might be able to give you a helping hand now and then, but the responsibility of getting stuff done falls squarely on your shoulders.

This goes beyond just writing and honing your craft. You need to build up your network. Establish connections. Get to know people. Chances are a majority of these will be online and via social media.

Seeking representation or someone who might be receptive to your script? Do your research. Find out who’s looking for what. (And for crying out loud, DO NOT take the “Does somebody have a list I could use?” route.)

“But I’ve got no time to do all that!” you might protest.

Of course you do.

The key element here is time management. You already set aside time to write, don’t you? Well, you have to do the same for everything else. If you can devote part of your day to work on your script, then there’s no reason you can’t dedicate a few minutes to focus on your career.

A surefire way to give yourself more time – stay away from casual websurfing, or at least ration it. So much online material is nothing but a big time-sucking rabbit hole. “Just five more minutes” can easily turn into “Where’d that hour go?” Funny videos are all well and good, but probably won’t do much to help you get your career going.

On Twitter? Connect with 5 people a day. Interact with them. Ask about their projects. Make it about them, not you. If they ask about you and yours, keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm them with details.

Part of some online community forums? Take part. Ask questions. Start discussions. Get to know the other members. A lot of these folks will probably have more experience than you, so learn as much as you can. Very important – don’t be a troll.

Is there a professional writer out there whose work you admire? Send them a note saying just that. DO NOT ask for any favors right out of the gate. Establish a relationship. You’ll eventually know if they’re open to helping you. Sometimes they might even offer it without you asking. It happens.

All of these are going to take time to not only accomplish, but also to develop. Be patient. It will take time. You wouldn’t rush through getting your script done, so apply that same logic to developing and advancing your career.

It’s all on you, so make the most of it.


Run at your own pace

It's the total opposite of a sprint
It’s the total opposite of a sprint

For the past couple of days here at stately Maximum Z HQ, yours truly has been doing everything possible to fight off a nasty viral infection (Note to self – invest heavily in Kleenex and Halls cough drops) because I’m doing my first half-marathon in over a year this weekend. I do expect to be well enough to run. Fingers firmly crossed hoping to at least break the 2-hour mark.

As a result of being sick, I’ve been home from work the past couple of days, which means a little more time than usual to work on the western rewrite. Latest update: page 38.

When I have a lot of time to write, I’ll give myself a short break after reaching a milestone, such as the end of a scene, or x number of pages written or after a certain amount of time (this also helps prevent premature burnout). Sometimes break-time involves perusing social media or screenwriting forums, just to see what’s going on out there.

What’s been going on this week has been a flurry of activity among my peers. One got a manager. Another finished their latest draft. Another had an agency request their script after a pitch.

And there’s me, filling a wastebasket with snotty tissues, coughing up things of a color not found in nature, and hoping to get to the bottom of the next page before the day is done. Slightly disheartening, to say the least.

But, like when I run a race, I remember that it’s different for everybody. I’ve been working on this rewrite for quite a while, and have confidence that it’ll be done sooner than I think.

I’m also overseeing all of the “Ask a…!” interviews, and have now added this into the mix.

Oh yeah, and training runs.

When you finish a race, you get a medal, and you wear it with pride. You’ve earned it. You finished an hour behind the winner? Big deal. Chances are you didn’t do it to win. You did it to test yourself, to see how you could do with this self-imposed challenge.

When you write a script, yes, you are going up against every other writer out there, but you do it the way that works best for you. You can only manage 30 minutes a day? That’s fine. You tell yourself you’re going to write at least 3 pages a day, and you actually do? Fantastic.

Will others get done before you, or accomplish things faster than you? Of course, but that’s nothing for you to worry about. Focus on you, not them.

I think it’s absolutely phenomenal that these other writers have each reached a certain point with their writing and careers. And so will I. Maybe not as fast, but it’ll happen.

Just gotta keep working at it.

See you at the finish line.

The fastest route out of Sore Loserville

Get out and get out fast
Get out and get out fast

There’s been a disturbing trend on some online forums regarding the results of some recent high-profile screenwriting competitions. While the writers who advance receive and exchange congratulatory messages, some of the ones who don’t seem to be looking for some kind of explanation as to why their script didn’t do better.

“They don’t like this genre.” “They’re only looking for stuff they can market.” “They just didn’t get it.”

Hate to break it to you, but that’s not it.

This is: you and a few thousand other people entered the same competition, so the odds were already against you. Chances are pretty good that some of those scripts are better than yours. It happens. Accept it.

And this may come as a shock, but maybe your script just isn’t as good, let alone as perfect, as you think.

So rather than gripe, complain and avow “Those rotten bastards are never getting my money again!”, use this as motivation to make your script better. Rewrite it. Get feedback from your inner circle of trusted colleagues. Pay for one or two sets of professional notes. Some contests offer feedback for an additional fee, so maybe that’s something you might want to consider.

I was disappointed my western didn’t do better in some of these competitions. Frustration and depression were the dominant moods for a couple of days. That’s when reality smacked me in the face and said “You want to do better? Then get to work.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I’ve completed the initial edit, so the script is now 6 pages shorter. There’s still some work to do, but it already feels better and tighter than it was before. I’ll be following my own advice (more rewrites, feedback from friends and pros, etc.), all while planning ahead for next year.

What about you?

Just call me Dante, because this sure feels hellish

Seems pretty appropriate at times
Seems pretty appropriate at times

I wanted to rework the logline for my mystery-comedy spec, so, never one to totally learn from previous experience and hoping for best possible results, I took the plunge and posted it on a few forums, seeking potentially helpful feedback.

Thus did the floodgates open.

It’s me and my story out there in the open, waiting for the world to let itself be heard.

And it did. Oh boy, did it.

One response was a literal interpretation of the words, and why it didn’t work. My assumption that certain details were implied was apparently incorrect.

Several focused on presenting the story in a way I repeatedly explained just didn’t apply. No matter how much I emphasized it was THIS kind of story, they just could not get away from thinking it was THAT kind of story.

Then there’s the omnipresent “I can’t see this being a story” and “It doesn’t sound solid enough.”

Well, I can and think it does.

My words, meet deaf ears. I got similar responses when I was starting the western, and that turned out pretty well.

It’s my sincere belief that everybody’s intentions are good, and they probably don’t mean for their comments to come across in such a “why don’t you know better?” and “THIS is the right (read: only) way to do it” manner.

Even if I totally disagree with somebody, I still appreciate the fact they made the effort to read it, analyze it and create what both of us hope is a helpful response. That doesn’t mean I have to take their word as gospel.

And unless I’ve actually met the person, I have no idea how much legitimate experience or expertise they have. For all I know, everything they say stems from reading SAVE THE CAT a couple of times.

Putting together a logline is an exhausting process. Some people are better at it than others.

As it so happens, I’m not one of them.

The me business – a 24/7 operation


The friendliest staff in town!
We’ve got the friendliest staff in town!

What may have been my biggest mistake with my old manager was not doing enough.

I’d toil away on the new script, and send him an occasional email asking if there had been any responses to the first one. They were minimal, which is putting the best positive spin on it.

Why weren’t we getting the results we’d expected? Mostly, I blame myself.

Looking back, I realize now that it was me who wasn’t being the more proactive one. He was a busy guy with other clients to handle. Instead of handing off the material with the instruction of “I’ve got a script to write. You do what you have to,” I should have been making his job easier by doing the research, finding the names and providing the contact info so all he had to was send off an email.

Lesson learned. Behavior modified. Jump to the present.

Now being representation-free, I’ve no choice but to be the proactive one. Nobody’s coming to me, so I’m exploring numerous avenues to get to them.

-query letters. A few managers have requested the script, with more being targeted.

-researching producers and production companies who’ve made films similar to my scripts

-expanding my network and connecting with writers on community sites, which includes face-to-face meetings with those in the immediate vicinity when applicable

-publicizing my scripts and their loglines on said sites and public forums, which has resulted in not only more connections, but offers to read the scripts. Feedback is always invaluable, and somebody’s status in the industry can change overnight, so any connection is a potential good one.

My former m.o. was to devote as much time as possible to writing, rewriting and polishing. But for now, that’s just not an option anymore.

Time for a little diversification.

It’s just as important now to set aside some time each day to find some potential recipients for my material. Even if it’s only 20-30 minutes of researching names on IMDBPro, that’s still a few small steps in the right direction.

Even if something may feel like the longest of shots, I remind myself I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose, and the worst that can happen is somebody says no.  If that happens, I shrug it off, move on to the next name and try again.