Bit of a mishmash, but it works

goulash
Try it. You’ll like it.

The overhaul/revision of the sci-fi adventure outline continues, with some significant progress being made – especially over the past few days.

There’ve actually been a few rough spots just to get here.

One being letting go of how the previous drafts started out, story-wise, and not letting those details affect the new one.

Another has been being able to present important and relevant details and backstory without things being way too expository.

Still another has been figuring out how some, but definitely not all, of the story details could be reorganized, restructured, pretty much rebuilt from the ground up but still have it all work within the context of the story.

It’s been quite the challenge, but the gears have been constantly and consistently turning during the search for a solution.

Took a while to get there, but looks like it’s yielding some results.

But first – a little background info.

I make a point of holding onto previous drafts of outlines and scripts, because you never know if part of it will come in handy for a future draft.

Thus was the case here.

There were sections of the story that were going to stay, but some others simply weren’t a solid fit for the new draft – but there was something about them that still worked and that I wanted to keep.

Getting them to that point took several attempts, approaches and revisions. Took a while, but I got there.

Despite being a slow and somewhat drawn-out process, the new story is gradually coming together. I’m not one to impose deadlines on myself, but once I get all of this a little more organized, the outline should come together relatively quickly.

I like the idea of having a completed first draft, possibly even a revised second draft, by years’ end.

No pressure, but we’ll see how it goes. Probably helps that I’m really enjoying putting this one together.

A few words from the gentleman from Salinas…

Steinbeck
Didja know he wrote the story for Hitchcock’s LIFEBOAT? But he also didn’t like some of the changes Hitch made to it.

Big thanks to author/blogger Chad Schimke for inspiring today’s post.

John Steinbeck is one of, if not my absolute, favorite authors. I just love the way he writes, and many of his works occupy space on my bookshelf. If you haven’t read him lately – or at all, I highly recommend it.

I’m also very fortunate to live relatively close to his hometown of Salinas, California, where the National Steinbeck Center is worth a visit.

Here are his six writing tips, as originally published in an interview with The Paris Review from 1975.

-Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

-Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

-Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

-If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

-Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

-If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

Now these are all great, but the really interesting part is that in 1963, a full 12 years prior, after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he wrote this letter of “Advice for Beginning Writers”, which includes the following:

“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”

True, screenwriters should read a lot of scripts, but that’s not all you should read. Books. Plays. Comics. So many choices. Whatever floats your boat.

Take it all in. Read. Enjoy.

Writer, promote thyself (part II)

flyers
You’ve got a lot of competition, so how do you stand out in the crowd?

Used to be that you’d need help promoting your own material. Agents, managers, editors,  publicists, etc.

Not as much anymore.

With the worldwide reach of the Internet, a creative individual can present themselves and their endeavors to a global audience, via a website or blog, ads, tweets, and so on.

Having seen more and more of my writing associates taking the initiative and becoming their own promotions department, I was curious to find out more about HOW THEY DID IT and the results.

Some of the responses are presented here, with the rest coming up in future posts. (And if you’ve done something similar for yourself, feel free to drop us a line to be included).

In today’s spotlight:

Mark Gunnion (MG)
Boomer Murrhee (BM)
Diana T. Black (DTB)
Craig Griffiths (CG)
David Hal Chester (DHC)

What projects are you promoting?

MG –  I’m pretty much promoting my last four screenplays for spec sales, and myself as a writer for assignments and re-writes.

BM – A one-hour TV Thriller/Drama titled HELLBOUND HEROES.

DTB –  I have three completed features, and one of my teleplays is being rewritten as a feature.

CG – at the moment “The Hostage” 

DHC – I’m actively promotiong my two female-driven dramas, TILLIE and BIG SISTER. TILLIE is an adaption of a long-forgotten American book, and BIG SISTER is based on a tragic family event. Both screenplays have placed multiple times as finalists, and feedback has been consistently good. I’m also promoting a Netflix-style comedy PRINCESS. IN REVERSE. It’s based on my co-writer’s book, published by Simon & Schuster, about her unique experiences as a young American wife in Nagoya, Japan in the 1990s.

Do you have a website for your material, or do you post each project on an individual basis?

MG – I use a variety of posting sites to post the full scripts and loglines, and for sharing  – MovieBytes, FilmFreeway, InkTip, Coverfly. And I have my own “Screenwriting Services” page, 500Haiku.com, to post my awards, the posters my wife has made for my scripts, a bio, photo, and my log-lines. I’ve also just joined a new site for writers to swap reads and reviews, attached to Twitter, called SpecScriptShoutOut.com, where you can post similar info. I maintain profile pages and loglines at most of those, to varying degrees, when I can get around to updating them. I also have a LinkedIn page that is split between my day-job (naming new products and companies) with my screenwriting services and news. I also host a Screenwriter’s group on Facebook where I mostly learn from people with more experience, and where I try to make a welcoming place for writers to swap war stories and strategies.

BM –  I post each project individually. However, I may consider a website in the future.

DTB – I have a website but it’s still under construction and I need to do a rethink, because it’s getting spammed via the ‘Contact Me’ page… not sure what to do about that. As I’m also a professional actor, I may have to split the current website and have two … warming up to that idea.

CG – www.griffithscreative.com.au is my site. I don’t do social media. I used to focus on social media. However, that is a stream. A stream needs maintenance. My website is a resource. I intend to start a twitter and instagram for each film. For a few months leading up to release.

DHC – I have a website dedicated to not only my original screenplays, but also my short films and produced screenplays that I was commissioned to write. https://www.davidchester.com/

How do you put your promotions together?

MG – Any time I have anything plausible to announce – Finishing a first draft, or advancement in a contest, or a new poster, or something in the news that makes reference to something in one of my scripts – I’ll do a LinkedIn posting, with some kind of exciting, eye-catching picture (since LinkedIn is visually so boring). When I have a good result at a contest, I’ll often do an email blast to prodcos and managers with the win in the Subject line. I am beginning to work the #Writers and #Screenwriters angles on Twitter, and have made a few interesting connections there. 

BM – Once I complete a project and have gotten feedback from peers or coverage I will focus on a succinct logline, query letter and a one-page synopsis. For a TV project I put together a series bible. I begin by sending queries to contacts in my network who may be interested in this type of project. I then expand my network and research IMDb-Pro for producers and show runners. I entered several TV Pilot contests. I am currently planning on another trip to LA/Burbank for face-to-face pitches.

DTB – I have to go back and complete/review the marketing modules for ScreenwritingU’s MSC and Binge-worthy TV Bootcamp…and get marketing, but until I have this body of work ‘licked into shape’, I see little point. I’ve heard that creating buzz  regarding a specific project via Instagram/project is helpful. I’m yet to explore that option. 

CG – I focus on developing my personal brand. This will work across all projects.

DHC – I create mock film posters for my projects, which includes mentions of placements in contests, and create a page for them on Facebook. I also promote them via Twitter and sometimes on Instagram. I also create a 2-page written pitch, a 1-page written pitch, and 1-paragraph pitches, which are made specifically for including in query letters. I also connect with screenwriters on Twitter and writing groups on Facebook and do subtle promotion on those sites. 

How have the results been from your doing this?

MG – Nada. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I have a response rate to my cold queries around 1-2 percent, not atypical for cold-calling type emails, and similar to what I get from my day-job promotion. Only difference, that approach in my day-job has generated a living wage for over 20 years! While after seven feature specs, I’ve only had a couple of no-pay options, and no sales. I have some interactions with a couple of movie-makers via LinkedIn, and I assiduously work on expanding my contact list there.

BM – I’ve had over 20 script requests. However, this has not resulted in an option agreement at the time of this writing.

DTB – I know when I do get around to marketing, it must be a concerted, documented effort and with timely, professional follow-up.

CG – I used to have thousands of twitter follows. I just stopped. I am releasing a podcast on writing which is also a great channel and less cluttered than other channels.

DHC – Perhaps the best thing to be said is that I’ve connected with fellow writers, some of whom have proved to be incredible mentors for pitching and some whom give notes that are better than anything I’ve received in competitions. I have not received any responses to queries, but I will continue to send them out. I personalize them, and that takes a lot of time.

Do any formats seem to work better than others?

MG – None of them have had much impact, as far as I can tell. I still feel like one voice in a stadium full of writers, all screaming for the attention of someone on the playing field – but pretty much just contributing to the general roar.

BM – I’m looking to personal pitches. I will know more after I’ve pitched in person.

DTB – My greatest success (potentially) has been through LinkedIn via industry connections.

CG –  I focus on helping people. I avoid self promotion. People will want to help you as a source of thanks.

DHC – Posting quick blurbs on Twitter and connecting with certain other writers and following specific hashtags puts me on people’s radar and I get the sense that when the time is right, it could be productive. 

What’s the link for people to find out more about you and your projects?

MG –  Please check out my Screenwriting Services website at www.500Haiku.com, or my LinkedIn page at /markgunnion, and my Twitter feed at @Gunnion – and you can search for my name and see my pages on InkTip, Coverfly, MovieBytes, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten about already (Hi, Stage 32!).

BM – https://www.linkedin.com/in/boomer-murrhee/

DTB – https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianablack1/

CG –  www.scriptrevolution.com and www.griffithscreative.com.au

DHC – My homepage is https://www.davidchester.com People can also find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davidhalchester

Writer, promote thyself (part I)

sandwich board
From the pre-viral era

Used to be that you’d need help promoting your own material. Agents, managers, editors,  publicists, etc.

Not as much anymore.

With the worldwide reach of the Internet, a creative individual can present themselves and their endeavors to a global audience, via a website or blog, ads, tweets, and so on.

Having seen more and more of my writing associates taking the initiative and becoming their own promotions department, I was curious to find out more about HOW THEY DID IT and the results.

Some of the responses are presented here, with the rest coming up in future posts. (And if you’ve done something similar for yourself, feel free to drop us a line to be included).

In today’s spotlight:

Phillip Hardy (PH)
Marlene Sharp (MS)
Manda Pepper Langlinais (MPL)
Jon Kohan (JK)
Robert W. Jackson (RWJ)

What projects are you promoting?

PH – I’m not specifically promoting any project. I’m more about filling a need. Which means looking for producers looking for scripts. Currently, I’m deciding whether to work with a producer who has a first look deal with Netflix. He’s looking to do a family picture surrounding a rodeo star. Recently, I was working with another longtime associate who was shopping a gangster television pilot I wrote. So far, he’s pitched the material to Warner Brothers, Scott Free Productions and Blumhouse. He’s also shopping another true story film project to a foreign production company. I’ve shopped several other projects this year including science fiction, action and comedy. 

MS – My award-winning backdoor sitcom pilot script: BORN IN LA: DOLLS AND ALL is a high priority. I also have several starring vehicles for my dog-child Blanche DuBois Sharp in development.

MPL – I haven’t really been actively promoting anything for a while now. My most recent book was FAEBOURNE, from last October, and though it started out strong, I’ve been struggling to get it reviewed and spread the word. To be fair, I haven’t put as much into that as I could, though. I’ve had writing and marketing fatigue.

JK – A consistent thing I always promote is my screenwriting services. When I have important things to promote, like a new project, maybe a blog post, new video, I make sure I also promote those things as well.

RWJ – My Karistina YA series, Hester YA series, and my memoir Running Scared.

Do you have a website for your material, or do you post each project on an individual basis?

PH – I don’t have a website dedicated to my screenplays. I only have a website for my occasional script consulting activities called The Script Gymnasium. http://www.thescriptgymnasium.com. 

MS – I have a website for my overall consulting services: www.pinkpoodleproductions.com.  Some of my original projects are represented there. Other (non-original, 3rd party) projects on the site are those on which I served in a variety of roles, such as development executive, producer, writer, business advisor, or some such. 

MPL – I have a site/blog and I post about all my work there. It’s easier than having a bunch of individual pages or sites, and it allows people who are interested in one book or story go on to discover others by me. I also keep a Twitter account. I had a number of other accounts but they were time sucks and weren’t giving me good ROI.

JK – I have my own website where I put information about all my projects on. There are many times when I place things on social media or third party sites but I always try to mention it on my own website as well. I think it’s good to have a good “homebase”.

RWJ – I do not have a website. I include a link to Amazon so people can click and go see the books. 

How do you put your promotions together?

PH –  For leads, I submit a two-page query letter with a logline, synopsis and main character arc. I used to do Power Point presentations but nothing recently. Here’s one on YouTube I thought was pretty cool. I also occasionally whore my wares on Facebook, Twitter and Stage 32 using posters I create with Power Point. This includes new projects and announcing film festival placements and wins.

MS – I am a LinkedIn micro-influencer with nearly 10K followers! As such, I post a lot on LinkedIn, plus get involved in many film festivals, trade events, and competitions. I also meet people in person. Because I live in LA, it’s relatively easy for me to connect with folks online, and then continue conversations in person. Face-to-face time is important in establishing lasting relationships!

MPL – Not very well, probably. I have a list of review sites, and I promote on Twitter and spread the word on Facebook as well as my own site. I tap fellow authors for swaps, too (meaning we post about the other’s work). I’ve used Amazon ads in the past, and those did pretty well but I ended up spending more than I made.

JK – When it comes to promoting, I usually do things as simple as sending out a few tweets, Facebook statuses, etc. One thing I learned when I was crowdfunding a short film: don’t be afraid to post a lot of Facebook updates and Twitter posts! Because of those sites’ algorithms, you might share something ten times a day and a friend might only see it in their feed once.

When I want to gain viewers or I’m launching a big project, I’ll usually come up with custom images that I can post on Instagram, send on Twitter, and so on. I will also spend some money to run Google ads, Instagram ads, Facebook ads, etc if the project is big or important enough.

RWJ – I made thirty ads and thirty loglines for Running Scared. I have only three for Karistina and Hester. I would post all of them on Pinterest, Stage 32, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

How have the results been from your doing this?

PH – My query letters have done fairly well. To quantify, I say about a five percent response. The other stuff I do really only gets me noticed by other writers. However, I’ve made some good friendships with other screenwriters.  

MS – Mostly an emotional rollercoaster. I try to think of the process as planting seeds that might grow big and strong at some future date.

MPL – Some better than others. I’ve found that genre works with established audiences do the best. My Sherlock Holmes stuff, my Regency romances – those have dedicated readers who are easy to find and tap into. (FAEBOURNE deviated from the traditional Regency romance formula, which has made it a harder sell.) Having Publishers Weekly BookLife pick one of my books for a review definitely helped boost my profile. The one they reviewed has become my best-selling book ever.

JK – These are things I’m still learning and teaching myself. The biggest thing to learn is when to post things. Every social media app has better peak days and times to post. Some people are more engaging (at least in my experiences) on Instagram and Facebook then they are on Twitter.

So if I’m doing a promotion where I want feedback, I probably won’t waste my time on Twitter. Instead, I’ll do something on Facebook or Instagram. And when posting content on those sites, I’ll promote in the middle of the afternoon on Instagram but at night for Facebook.

RWJ – I have a project called NO REST FOR THE BRAVE. I posted on Stage 32 offering a screenwriter the story rights for $1. Hundreds turned me down, but Gustavo Freitas said yes and took the risk. Now, the movie is in development.

Do any formats seem to work better than others?

PH – Whatever you do, keep it simple, make it easy to read, and don’t bore people with inconsequential details.

MS – Being proactive, thinking positive, and targeting potential partners seem to be helpful tactics.

MPL – I notice a slight uptick when I post on Twitter; the trick is not to overdo it because then you lose followers. Also, you want to have already established yourself within the Twitter community. No one wants this newbie who walks on and just starts peddling their wares. Facebook returns are almost nil; I ended up getting rid of my author page because it did so little and took up so much time. Again, the Amazon ads got some attention, but I ended up paying more than I made back. I’ve heard Amazon has changed how they run them, though, so I might try them again at some point.

Reviews in targeted online magazines and on sites that get good traffic have definitely helped (when I can get them. Reviewers are buried, making it tough to get a coveted slot, or if you do it takes months before they get to your book). I’ve run ads in some of those magazines, too, and seen upticks from those. But it’s always temporary. The BookLife review is the one thing that seems to have boosted my signal. Also, paying to be in the Ingram catalogue (if you do your paperback version through Ingram Spark, you have the option to pay to be featured in the catalogue that goes out to booksellers). Thing is, I used the BookLife review quote to promote the book in the catalogue, so I don’t know if it was Ingram or the BookLife quote that boosted my sales.

I’m super-popular on Quora these days, but so far haven’t been able to parlay that into sales. Need to figure out how.

JK – When it comes to all the different ways I try to promote my work, the best I’ve come across at this point is working through Instagram. If I do a pay promotion, I can really target an audience and go after them. Plus, I can see all the analytics and how many pageviews and web traffic I’m getting.

RWJ – The best thing that worked for me was creating the ad and putting the primary logline on the ad itself. Then I would post my header with a link to the memoir on Amazon.

What’s the link for people to find out more about you and your projects?

PH – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5338286/

MS – There are a few: www.pinkpoodleproductions.com; www.linkedin.com/in/marlenesharp; www.imdb.me/marlenesharp

MPL – I’m online at http://pepperwords.com and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sh8kspeare

JK – You can check out my personal website at www.jonkohan.com or my Patreon page where I’ve been slowly building up a list of supporters: www.patreon.com/screenwriterjon

RWJ – No link. I’m quiet now. Lee Roth and MPMG are slowing rolling the project out.

Same destination, different route

hot fuzz

Even though I got some great notes back on the previous draft of my sci-fi adventure spec, one aspect of the script had always bothered me.

As much as I loved the opening sequence, it still felt out of place.

Its primary goal for existing was to establish and set up several plot elements and story details. It does that, but something just didn’t feel right.

Would the story still work if I took it out? Sure, but finding new ways to present all the relevant info would require some major rewriting and revising. Time-consuming (to a point), but necessary.

But that got the gears turning…

The more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. Trust me, it killed me to even just consider killing all those darlings, but doing so would definitely force me to find new and original ways to tell this story.

Added bonus – a new opening would also enable me to do a better job of establishing the protagonist AND set the tone of the story.

So out all those pages went, with an ever-expanding list of all sorts of new ideas regarding How To Do It currently in development.

A writer may know what they want to happen in their script, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. The characters might unexpectedly guide you in a different direction, or maybe you realize what the story really needs is to take a sharp turn off to the side, or you decide that this is the perfect opportunity to go in a totally opposite direction.

Nothing is set in stone. You’re the ultimate creator. Everything that happens is under your control, and you can do with it what you will.

Something not working for you? Change it. Give yourself options.

Follow-up to that – go with options that still work within the context of the story and characters. Your characters still want the same thing they did before, but now you’ve drastically altered how they get there.

It’s a savvy writer who eagerly anticipates taking on the task of devising these kinds of changes. And once they’re all implemented, you’ll barely remember how it used to be because EVERYTHING WORKS SO MUCH BETTER NOW.

Suggestion – no matter how or when you come up with a new idea, WRITE IT DOWN. IMMEDIATELY. Even if you’re in the middle of working on the same script. Everybody says “Oh, I’ll remember that later.”

You won’t.

Do whatever you have to in order to preserve it.

*Apologies for a lack of post last week. I had some kind of bug that put me out of commission for a few days; didn’t even have the strength to compose a “sorry, no post this week” post.