Still a thing?

That little paper box full of extra cards is tucked away somewhere

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the Telling The Show podcast to talk about networking as it relates to screenwriters.

Over the course of the discussion came this question: in pre-COVID times, it wasn’t uncommon for a writer to have a business card. Does a writer still need one?

I thought it was a great question, and had to really think about it.

My initial thought is probably not, especially due to how most networking is now done online, and most writers have their phone with them, so contact – or at least reaching out – can be practically instantaneous.

What good is having a card to hand out when you’re practically isolated and there’s nobody around to hand it to? These days you’re more likely to connect with somebody via a social media platform, so you’ll probably do everything via email and/or texting in order to set up meeting one-on-one.

A lot of writers now have a strong online presence – websites, blogs, an account on Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, etc., so it’s significantly easier to get in touch with somebody to strike up a conversation, or at least establish a professional relationship.

Keeping that in mind, in-person interaction is slowly coming back, so if we get to the point where you show up at a venue where you don’t know anybody, and then have some nice conversations with people, would you want to have a card to hand out, or be comfortable asking for their email address?

There are exceptions, of course. A majority of writers tend to be on the introverted side, so dealing with a real live person can be somewhat intimidating. This makes online networking easier for some people. Somebody quiet and shy in person might be more involved or outgoing on a Zoom call or on Twitter.

Just as an example, I recently tweeted a compliment to the hosts of another screenwriting podcast regarding the interview they did with a high-profile manager (I also included the manager in the tweet). Both hosts and the manager liked it, and another writer friend of mine added in his two cents, leading to a brief discussion among all of them.

I didn’t do it because I was trying to suck up to the hosts or hope the manager would offer to read something; it was because I liked what I’d heard, and wanted to let them know that. Would I have achieved the same results if this had been done in person? I’m going to go with “slightly maybe, but probably not to the same extent”.

Online interaction is one of the things I encourage for writers seeking to expand their network. Nobody’s going to get to know you if you hang back and stay quiet. Become involved. Join conversations. Just make sure to be polite, civil and respectful.

There are forums and group chats to take part in, as well as lots of screenwriting groups on Facebook. I find the smaller ones to be better because the members tend to be more experienced, more mature, and of a more rational temperament.

Networking and interacting has really changed, especially over the past few years. But one thing remains the same: online or in person, business card or no, be the kind of person you’d want to know.

I (and others) will not hesitate to help

Unless you’re collaborating with a co-writer, the actual process of screenwriting is for the most part a solitary process. All of the work involved depends on you, and you alone. It can be tough and frustrating.

And that’s just the writing part. We haven’t even touched on dealing with notes, rewriting, or marketing your script.

It’s an uphill climb. Practically vertical, even.

“Argh! It’s too much for one person to take on by themselves!” you might exclaim.

Never fear. You are most assuredly not alone. Every other screenwriter has gone through the exact same things you have, and will continue to do so.

And one of the most powerful weapons to help you get through it all is easily at your disposal: those other writers.

I can honestly say both my writing and my career (such as it is) would not be at the level they are today if it hadn’t been for other writers lending their helping hands over the years.

Whether it was notes, leads, or connections, my network of writing associates has proven to be an indispensable resource.

The writing community wants to see writers succeed. Sure, we all want it for ourselves, but if you can give somebody else a boost, why wouldn’t you?

I get all the usual “scripts wanted” emails. About 98 percent of the time, I don’t have a script that matches what somebody’s looking for. But due to interaction with all my fellow screenwriters, I might see something and think “Hey! I think _____ has a script like this.” I’ll then forward it to that writer, saying I thought of them when I saw it. Sometimes they’ll have already seen it and applied, or it’s totally new and they’re very grateful for the lead.

Additionally, because I’ve spent so much time cultivating relationships, a lot of these writers know me and what scripts I have, so they’ll send me a listing. Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s still more results than I would have gotten by myself. Like with the writing, any progress is good progress.

And speaking of the writing, after I think a latest draft is ready to show, I’ll go to my usual circle of reliable note-givers to get their feedback, and they’ll do the same with me. Every once in a while a writer I’ve only interacted with via social media will contact me, asking if I’d be willing to take a look at their script. If there’s no deadline, and I can squeeze it in, I’ll gladly tell them to send it along.

There will also be those times where you’re feeling low; like nothing’s going right. Guess what? This is definitely another one of those “it happens to everybody” scenarios, and believe me – everybody can relate to it. Want to talk about it and get it off your chest? Writers are willing to listen – and offer a solution if they can. Just getting it out of your system can be helpful.

Also very important – return the favor. Somebody’s helped you out? Offer to do the same – in any capacity you can. When I ask somebody for notes, I make sure to say I’m more than happy to return the favor – because I am. They were willing to put in the time and effort to help me, so the least I can do is the same for them.

A big part of all of this is to accomplish any of this, you have to become part of the community itself. Fortunately, even that’s pretty easy. There are so many ways to get to know your fellow writers.

My recommendations:

-screenwriting groups on Facebook, but mostly the smaller ones. The bigger ones tend to be a lot of egos and sniping.

-Script Pipeline’s #PipelineWriters on Twitter. 5pm PST on Fridays. Especially helpful if you like mugs.

-#scriptchat on Twitter. 5pm PST on Sundays

Regarding all of these, groups and communities overall, you get out of them what you put into them.

Leave your ego at the door. Be nice to people. Treat them the way you’d want to be treated.

Ask questions. Make it about them, not you.

Establish relationships. Be supportive for good news and bad news.

You may be working on your scripts by yourself, but you’re most definitely not alone.

A little help from your friends

boost
We’re all in this together

Bit of a shorty today – lots going on around Maximum Z HQ, but I wanted to post some items to show writers trying to break in that you’re not alone, and there actually are people out there willing to help you out.

-There’s been a lot of activity on Twitter to help non-WGA writers work on dropping the “non” from their status (as well as connect and network with other writers), and some positive results are starting to develop. Seek out hashtags like #ForYourWGAConsideration, #PreWGA, #WGAFeatureBoost, #WGAStaffingBoost, and #WGAmegamix.

-Read a phenomenal script by another writer? You can help give both it and them a boost by listing it on the Spec Script Shout Out site. It officially launches on May 31st, but you can sign up and register now. You’re also more than welcome to register yourself and your own projects. Bonus – it’s free.

The WRAC Group is a great way to help yourself out when it comes to personal accountability. It’s good, solid, and effective. Also free.

A few simple rules to keep in mind while you’re doing all of this:

-Be nice. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated.

-Be willing to help others out (leads, referrals, etc.). It makes more of an impression than you realize.

-Don’t whine. It’s tough for everybody. We all get frustrated.

-Don’t lie. The truth will always come out, and your name and reputation may not recover.

-Somebody else has something good happen? Offer some congratulations.

-Don’t be afraid to tout your own accompishments. You’ve worked hard to get there.

-Everybody has their own path to success. Some take longer. Don’t compare your progress to theirs.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is, as it is with screenwriting – YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK! Dedicate whatever time you can spare each day. Make it part of your routine. Productivity yields results.

Good luck, chums. Now go write something.

A support staff of one

multitasking
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.

 

Networking: more than just a group thing

“Working on the rewrite while I wait to hear from that manager. How about you guys?”

Despite the fact that writing, for the most part, is a solitary activity, a lot of us take great pleasure in being connected with other writers.

They can be the invaluable support, guidance and motivation we sometimes need to give us that little extra boost. Having a problem and being able to tap into this kind of resource in order to find a solution is priceless.

We get access to all the goings-on, good and bad, that happen among us and our peers.

While I’ve seen my fair share of both, I’m glad to say that a majority have been of a positive nature. This person got a manager. That person finished their latest draft. That other person began working with another writer on a new project. I’m thrilled for all of these developments, and offer up congratulations and words of encouragement. Each and every one of these people has worked hard to reach this particular milestone.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. That sense of longing and wondering “Will I eventually/ever get to announce some good news of my own?” keeps nagging at me, so I continue to buckle down and redouble my efforts in the hopes of making it happen a little sooner. Some days it’s really tough to be patient.

On the other side of the coin are the not-so-great things. This person’s script got a pass from a high-profile agent. That person is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block (or worse – depression). That other person is going through some tough things in their personal life. These also happen to a lot of us, resulting in messages of sympathy, understanding and moral support.

I’ve experienced this too. When times are tough, you find out who’s really in your corner, and are glad to know it.

But I wouldn’t have any of this kind of support if I hadn’t sought it out. There’s a reason it’s called “social” media. I’ve been able to connect with so many awesome people because of what I’ve read or seen about them online.

Is there a writer (professional or peer) whose work you enjoy? Someone whose tweets always make you chuckle? Send ’em a note telling them that.

Even better – are they in your area? When I learn about a local writer, I’ll offer up the opportunity for a face-to-face chat over coffee or lunch. I’ve also done this with folks just visiting the Bay Area. This has resulted in some great ongoing working relationships.

Everybody’s career advances at its own pace, and all the fantastic help and support we get on days good and bad are major pluses. Many writers are introverts at heart, but you have to make the effort to put yourself out there and get to know somebody.

It gets easier the more you do it, and you’ll be glad you did.