From the archives: May I be of some assistance?

info booth
“Be with you folks in a minute.”

Seeing as how we’re in the season of giving, I thought this post from July 2019 regarding helping out other writers in multiple capacities was rather appropriate.

Enjoy.

For the most part, working towards making it as a screenwriter is a solitary effort. You’re the one who has to write the script and get it out there. It’s a tough journey, but you don’t have to go it alone.

Hence – networking.

Making that initial contact is great, but you should also strive to make it worth the other person’s while as much as you are for yourself.

Once you start to build up your own personal community of Other Writers, and those relationships gradually develop beyond the “Hi. Nice to meet you” stage, you’ll naturally seek out some help in the form of feedback – your latest draft, a query, a logline, what have you.

And that’s all well and good, but it’s equally important, if not more so, for you to return the favor. Rather than just popping up and saying “Hey, would you read my script?”, try “Hey, we’ve known each other a while, and you seem to know what you’re talking about, so would you be open to reading my script? And I’d be more than happy to reading one of yours.”

Helpful tip #1 – don’t be the person who asks for notes but isn’t willing to give them.

Helpful tip #2 – even if you don’t like what their notes say, you still need to hold up your end of the bargain and give them notes – especially if you’re the one who asked in the first place.

Sometimes the best kind of help is when it’s unexpected – either from you or from somebody you know.

A few years ago, a producer friend of a friend was looking for a certain kind of project. I didn’t have anything that met their criteria, but offered to post the listing on a few social media platforms. At least 20 writers responded. I sent their info to the producer, who then contacted a few of them (as far as I know).

What did I get out of it? Just being happy to help and the appreciation from all the writers – even the ones the producer didn’t follow up with.

I’ve also been fortunate to be on the receiving end, with friends sending me emails and messages about listings seeking scripts like mine.

A little effort really does go a long way – anything from forwarding a script or job listing to a few words of encouragement, or even offering congratulations for somebody achieving some kind of accomplishment. Don’t you like when somebody does that sort of thing for you?

As much as we’re all working towards our own individual success, we’re also part of a community; one where each member should help support the others in whatever way they can.

It may not pretty, but at least it’s something

This isn’t saying the Mona Lisa isn’t pretty. It was just tough to find a picture of people looking at art.

Some exceptionally helpful notes continue to come in on the latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy spec. For the most part, very supportive and encouraging, along with some great suggestions for small fixes here and there.

But one note really hit home – not because it was overly negative, but because it touched on something that I’d been uncertain about.

I won’t go into too much detail, but it involves how in one sequence the focus shifts from my protagonist to set up the backstory of some important supporting characters. Even while I was putting it together, it seemed kind of odd and I wasn’t entirely sure it worked, but felt it was “good enough for now”.

Nevertheless, something about it still didn’t seem right.

Numerous options rolled around in my head as I strained to come up with a solution, but still nothing. Also not helping was that constant trepidation when dealing with a rewrite. Would I be able to come up with something that works the way I need it to?

So I decided follow one of the most important tips for writing, screen or otherwise:

I just sat down and started writing. I knew what I wanted to accomplish – have the protagonist be part of it, which helped guide things along.

And thus the words did flow.

Revised and totally new scenes were churned out over the next 60 minutes or so. As is my usual m.o., there’s probably more in the new stuff than I’ll need. Trimming the fat later shouldn’t be too challenging, but I’d rather have more than I need than come up short.

I also managed to come up with a few details that I could plant early on in the story that would pay off later, and came up with a joke that actually made me laugh out loud. Hopefully others have the same reaction.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. Confidence and enthusiasm for this script continue to build.

But don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely more work that needs to be done, but this is a pretty encouraging step.

A friendly reminder – just two weeks to go until the Maximum Z Winter ’22 Script Showcase goes up (Dec 2), so make sure to send in the details about your spec screenplay or TV script ASAP.

All the info is right here: https://wp.me/prjnO-8yJ

The next mountain awaits

Wrapped up the latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy earlier this week and sent it to a few readers.

Notes have begun trickling in.

Overall responses: very positive, but could still use some tweaking. Points were awarded for creativity, originality, dialogue, and the jokes.

I appreciate all of those very much.

But…it can still be better.

I’d estimate it’s maybe one to two drafts away from being where it needs to. Waiting for a few more notes to come in before diving into that.

What’s also helped is that a lot of the changes don’t seem to be of a major overhaul type, but I suspect it won’t be a few minor changes here and there either. Somewhere in that nebulous middle.

It’s been quite encouraging how fast and effectively things are playing out for this one. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but all the time spent writing, rewriting and constantly trying to make previous scripts better are yielding the desired results for this one in a more timely manner.

Another thing that’s different about this time around is that confidence levels were already pretty high about the script, and getting comments about what still needs work hasn’t diminished them. Many times in the past I would get notes and think what a terrible writer I must have been, which was not the case.

I’m quite psyched about this one, and can’t wait to get back to work on it.

**SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION!!**

I was the featured guest on some recent podcasts:

What Are You Watching? with Chris Mancini (who has a q&a on this blog)

The Successful Screenwriter with Geoffrey Calhoun (a 2-time q&a on this blog – here & here)

Struck out in contests, but…

A lot of the major screenwriting contests have wrapped up, or are in the process of, and once again, yours truly did not achieve the desired results.

A big fat goose egg on all fronts.

Disappointing? Very much so.

Frustrating? You betcha.

Making me wonder if my writing must be ridiculously bad? Without a doubt.

I wasn’t just in a hole of depression. I’d felt like I’d fallen into the deepest hole ever dug on Earth.

Fortunately, I wouldn’t be there long.

Encouragement from K and more than a few members of the screenwriting community reminded me of several very important things:

First – CONTESTS ARE ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE. Sometimes your script clicks with readers, sometimes it doesn’t.

Second – CONTEST SUCCESS IS NOT A GUARANTEE FOR INDUSTRY SUCCESS. You can claim the top prize, but that doesn’t mean you should quit your day job. The road to an ongoing career is long, twisty, and loaded with uncertainty.

Third – THEY ACTUALLY MAKE FILMS FROM SCRIPTS THAT HAVEN’T DONE WELL IN CONTESTS. If a producer likes your script and wants to get it made, they’re not going to be as worried about how it placed in a contest.

Fourth (and this one really hit home for me) – SCREENWRITERS SHOULD NOT LIVE BY CONTESTS ALONE. Doing well in a contest is a potential boost to help you establish a career, but that’s it – potential. It’s only one of numerous paths.

As was pointed out to me, I may not have done well in contests, but I should also consider:

-I’m currently writing the script for a microbudget feature. The producer really likes how it’s all coming along, and has been completely ego-free since we began.

-I self-published 3 books about screenwriting this year (a great gift for screenwriters, yourself, or both. I got a kid in college, so anything helps).

-I continue to be the co-host of a podcast that’s all about writing. Fortunately, both my co-host and I know A LOT of writers, so there’s always somebody interesting to interview.

-I got to be on the other end of the microphone by being interviewed on a few screenwriting podcasts.

-I took part in a few panels about screenwriting at a writing conference, which led to being invited to give a lecture about screenwriting next month. (more on that another time)

-I still get the occasional email asking me to give script notes. It might take me a little longer to get to it than expected, but I enjoy doing it, and the writers seem to really appreciate what I have to say.

-there’s been progress, albeit the really slow kind, in making my short film. I was hoping to film it before the year was over, but looks like early next year might be more realistic. It’ll happen yet.

So my losing streak in contests may continue, I’ve got a decent number of other irons in the proverbial fire. And a few other fires, for that matter.

I may get knocked down, but I get up again (and again, and again), and they’re never gonna keep me down.

Consider me in this for the long haul.

The journey continues…

Hope you have an excellent pre-Halloween weekend. I will happily lay claim to any leftover plain M&Ms and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that manage to stay out of the grubby little hands of trick-or-treaters.

Enjoying it – while it lasts

Slight shorty today.

The latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy spec is in the hands of some beta readers.

One has already gotten back to me with some suggestions of minor fixes, but overall very positive comments.

Which is really, really nice.

And they also liked a lot of the jokes, which is definitely nice to hear.

I can’t really explain it, but there’s something about this script that’s giving me a real positive vibe.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way about a script this early in the process, so like the title of the post says, I’m riding this wave of positivity as long and as far as it’ll take me.

I’m sure it’ll require at least another pass, maybe two, until it gets to the quality I want it to be, but for now, I really like how it turned out.

Like with each of my scripts, I had fun writing it, and hope the reader has an equally great time reading it. This is something every writer should experience. It really does make a difference.

As the wait for the remaining notes continues, the focus shifts to cranking out pages for the microbudget feature, which is coming along nicely, thanks for asking.

Hope you have an exceptionally productive weekend.