Clear some space on your bookshelf

Coming soon to a trillion-dollar online retailer near you!

This one’s been a long time in development, and I’m quite thrilled to be able to finally discuss it.

Over the past few years, I’ve done over 100 interviews with script consultants, screenwriters, television writers, filmmakers, and writers across several mediums on this blog, and my intent for quite a long time was to collect them all in a book.

Turns out all of those interviews in print form would have resulted in a book approximately 700-750 pages long, so the book then became two.

After some additional editing and formatting, along with a little more re-evaluating, it was decided that the two would actually work better as three.

So…

My 3-book GO AHEAD AND ASK! series will be coming out over the next few months.

Volume 1 collects the original set of interviews that kicked the whole thing off, and will be available in paperback on Amazon starting on 22 April.

(All three books will only be available in paperback. Sorry, e-readers.)

Volumes 2 and 3 contain the interviews that have come out since then, with Volume 2 slated for release in either late June or early July, and Volume 3 wrapping things up in September.

I am truly elated to finally be able to offer these books to the screenwriting community, and hope they prove to be both informative and entertaining, as well as inspire you to enjoy a piece of pie while you read them, because what else would match so perfectly with something I wrote?

3 months in, and…?

2022 is now 1/4 over. How’s it been for you, productivity- and results-wise?

Are you making the progress you’d hoped you would? Any goals achieved or finish lines crossed?

If so, great!

If not, don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes things take longer than we’d like them to.

The important thing is that you’re putting in the effort, and that any progress is good progress.

It can probably said with absolute certainty that lots of writers started the year with the mindset of “I’m going to accomplish X, Y and Z!”. Like with most things, numerous factors play a role, so results will vary.

It’s great to give yourself some long-term goals, but setting up some short-term ones can really help boost your morale. Create goals you know can achieve, like setting aside a specific amount of time per day for writing and writing-related activities, or that you’re going to write X pages a day.

Accomplishing something is all about putting in the work, and that takes time.

Look at it from this way. If you’re not where you thought you might be around now, you still have 9 months to work on getting there.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

This applies to more than just writing a script.

Pace yourself. Know what you’re capable of, but don’t be afraid to give those limits a little extra push.

Good luck, and hope you have a wonderfully productive next three months.

Does your script sound like you?

When was the last time you read a script that was really hitting on all cylinders?

Great story, cinematic writing and vivid imagery, compelling characters, the whole kit and kaboodle.

What’s the one thing that ties all of them together?

That writer’s voice.

We hear about it all the time, and I’ve always described it as how the writing in a script is a reflection of the writer’s style.

If you read a script by Shane Black, Judd Apatow, Nora Ephron, or Quentin Tarantino, you’d know it by the way it reads. Each one is written in the distinctive voice of each writer.

And that’s what you want to achieve with your writing. When somebody reads your scripts, they’ll know it was you.

The need to establish your own voice when it comes to your scripts can’t be stressed enough.

I’ve read a lot of scripts that try to mimic an established writer’s voice, and it usually falls flat. Part of the reason is that the writer is trying too hard to sound like the established writer, which seems counterproductive. If I want a script that reads like Judd Apatow wrote it, I’ll read a Judd Apatow script.

It also doesn’t help that some of these established writers created a niche for themselves with their writing style, so anybody who comes after them with the same approach will immediately be labeled a pale imitation. You might have a phenomenal script, but if the only thing somebody remembers about it is that it’s just ripping off Tarantino, you’ve just wasted everybody’s time.

Now this isn’t to say that you can’t write in a similar style, but you need to put your own spin on it to help it stand out.

What are some of your strengths, writing-wise? In what areas do you really shine? Is there a way you can apply that to other aspects of your script? You want your script to have a real impact on the reader; one with a strong voice can help accomplish that.

Another benefit of a script with a strong voice is that it helps make it that much more memorable. Not only does it leave an impression, but chances are it’ll stick with the reader long afterward. Many’s the time I’ve finished reading a script and within five minutes don’t remember a thing about it. Sure, the writing may have been adequate or possibly just slightly above average, but a lack of a distinctive voice from the writer is a key missing ingredient.

Then there are those I’ll remember a long time after. Maybe it was the story or even just the concept, or the protagonist, or a great scene/sequence. No matter what it was, you could come to me a few months from now, or maybe even next year, and ask “Hey, do you remember that script about ____?”

Chances are I will BECAUSE of the writer’s voice.

Which is exactly what you’re aiming for.

From the archives: Introduce your character with character

BETTIE, mid 20s. Don't let her all-American looks fool you. Trouble goes out of its way to avoid HER.
BETTIE, mid 20s. Don’t let her all-American looks fool you. Trouble goes out of its way to avoid HER.

Author’s note: had a great in-person notes session this week. Among the many topics we discussed was character intros, and what made for a good one, as well as a not-so-good (i.e. boring) one. That reminded me of this post from April 2014. Enjoy.

“When we, the reader, first meet an important character in your script, how do you describe them? What are the important details?

A lot of the time, the emphasis is on their physical traits – “tall”, “imposing”, “blonde”, “handsome”, “drop-dead gorgeous”, etc.

Or maybe it’s a simple adjective or two – “bubbly”, “funny”, “a nice guy” and so on.

These are okay, but you have to admit they’re kind of dull, which makes it more challenging for us to be interested in wanting to follow their story.

So how do you fix this? Time to ramp up that creativeness and really focus on what kind of person this character is, rather than what they look like. Unless a physical description is a key character trait, don’t worry about it.

One of the most memorable intros I ever read described the best friend of the teenaged protagonist – “James Dean cool at 15.” That’s it. Pretty effective, and in only five words.

Doesn’t this give you a better idea of what this character is like than say, “cool and aloof?”?  This is the kind of writing that catches our eye AND makes an impression.

A former co-worker of mine used to describe a very talkative friend as “If you asked him what time it was, he’d tell you how to build a watch.” See how it goes beyond the good-but-simplistic “chatty know-it-all”?

Cliched as it sounds, we really are painting pictures with words – not just for the story, but the characters in it. You’re already crafting a unique and original story, so why not develop a unique and original way to tell us about the characters in it?

This isn’t saying you should always strive to be clever and witty about it, but at least try for something different. This is just a small part of showing off your writing skills.

Take a look at how you introduce the characters in your latest draft. Does it really tell us what you want us to know about them? If not, how could you rewrite it so it does?”

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.