Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best Words A Writer Can Ever Hear?

Well, I heard the best words a writer can hear today. Can you guess what they are?

You might think it would be praise for your writing. You might think it would be how a story you wrote brought them to tears, mad them laugh. Yes, it is phenomenal when I renowned producer like Donald Deline quotes a line you've written back to you... Or when a major movie star tells you that they love the character you wrote for them. These are moments you won't forget.

But, in the reality of a writer's life, all of those great things fall short to this simple phrase: "Let's get you paid, so you can start writing."

So, while the spec is going to make its way over to my agents this week - still doing a small bit of character tweaking. I am once again an employed writer.

So, to recap: I have a project in New York being Exec Produced by Garry Marshall. I have a big spec hopefully soon to be packaged by my big agency. I have a novel half way finished and a mocumentary directing project set for next year - but it is super, duper great to be writing on assignment. It is the bread and butter that lets all the other things have their chance.

So, rejoice with me and be grateful for every job - no matter how big or small. The key to writing in this day and age is to keep as many plates spinning in the air as possible.

Happy writing!

PS. The next post will be on pitching. An art form in and of itself and must have skill when it comes to getting work in Hollywood.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I am happy to report that once again going back to basics has saved the day.

I have solved the problem with the last 10%. A new opening - which actually allows my character to show her warts - so that over the course of the film we can get them removed. Okay- that analogy may not be in my top 3.2 million, but I'm rushing. I have a conference call in 12 minutes.

Good news just can't wait. I am now working this refined character through the story and expect to have a new (and hopefully - ready to show people) draft by Friday!

Hurrah for Hollywood... Da da da da da da da Hollywood.....

If you are stuck on a spot. Go to your trusted readers. Listen, even if you don't want to. Step back. Clear your head. Then give yourself permission to try something wild. (The duplicate draft command is key to this. You can always go back to what you had. It's a win-win. Go for it.)

After a couple tries you might just hit on the solution. And then you'll get to experience the "breakthrough bliss." The bigger the road-block, the bigger the bliss. This one feels like I should pop a magnum.

Happy Re-Writing!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Wall Seems to Be Winning

We expected a few bumps in the road, didn't we?

So the first draft sailed to completion - but now that we are 90% there - the last 10% of work is getting the better of me. It's only the opening. The first 5-10 pages of the script. The part that sets up the story, introduces our character and her pre-movie situation, the problems in her world that need to be resolved. The part that makes us like her and invests us in following her journey. It's also the only part you are guaranteed everyone in the biz will read. So, just that.

It is the most important 10% of the whole script. It has to be just right. And although the majority of people who have read the script like the opening - there are an important few who just don't like it as much of the rest of the story. And even though I am in the latter - and I love the opening I have - I've been around the block enough to know - your first pages have to work for everybody. Well, that one crazy aunt who wears house-slippers to the supermarket, we can let her go. But everyone else must have the same reaction. Do you know what that reaction is?

I want to read more.

So, today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that I will be working and reworking my opening.

And how am I going to do that? I'm going to go back to character and character arc. I'm going to invite my character into the squishy recesses of my brain cavity and let her hang out. I'm going to imagine what she learns and where she ends up. I'm going to then use that information to create a scene that best sets this up.

Wish me luck and happy banging your head against the wall. (It just makes if feel that much more satisfying when you happen upon the solution.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nearly There - And Diverted

Here's the reality of spec writing - paying gigs always take precedence. So this week - I've assembled all the feedback (nearly) and I'm preparing to launch into the last minor pass. (Which should only take a day or two.) But, an assignment has come up and I need to place the majority of my focus on that.

I love writing on assignment. I get lots of questions on how that works - and in a nutshell here goes:

A studio has a property (either a script, a novel, a magazine article or just a concept) that they want to turn into a movie. They look for a writer to turn the property into a script or to take the script they already have into a new direction.

The producer or studio reads samples from a list of writer's they have generated. They select a few and invite those people in to discuss the idea. Usually you have to pitch your "take" or your version of the story. If they like your take the best you are offered the job. Then your peeps get to negotiate your terms while you hold your breath hoping the deal doesn't fall through.

Assignments are great because they make you think in creative ways you wouldn't normally happen upon in your spec work. It's an outside in process - instead of an inside out. Meaning, a spec is usually something that you are interested and you create it to share your idea with the world. An assignment is an idea that is given to you and you make it your own. I love it. It also pays the bills and keeps your family under good health coverage.

That said, it's time to come up with a pitch for the assignment. There's a wrinkle with this assignment because there are already elements attached and the story has to fit a number of preordained criteria. Tricky. Well, that's why they need a professional. If it wasn't hard, anybody could do it. So, no belly-aching here. Just make it happen.

Hopefully, I'll land the job quickly and while my contracts are being drawn up and I can top-off the spec script. Or while they agonize over whether to hire me or not, I can finish my spec. But first things first. This is part of the juggling act I alluded to in my "Life as a Writer" post.

I've got a plan. Deep breathes. One step at a time... I'll keep you posted.