Tag Archives: scripts

The Importance of Being Persistent

You wouldn't want to be this guy. Unless you were a writer.

You wouldn’t want to be this guy. Unless you were a writer.

As you go through this journey to reach your writing goals, there is one thing I cannot stress enough.

You must persist.

Of all the people I know who have become writers, they all share one thing in common. They did not give up. And out of all the people I know who did not become writers, they too had one thing in common. At some point, they did.

It’s easy to give in to the voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough, that you never will be good enough, that you’re wasting your life, that becoming a professional writer is just an impossible dream…

But are you wasting your life following a dream?

I would argue that those who go through life without dreams are truly the ones wasting theirs.

It may be that you have financial pressures urging you to get a steady job. It may be you have a family, or one on the way. It may be you are surrounded with unsupportive people who laugh and sneer whenever you mention your latest project.

Eddie Murphy has said on the Actors’ Studio that he only surrounds himself with positive people, because negative people wear you down.

You will encounter a lot of jealousy in your quest to be a writer. People will laugh at your dreams. Some will give you harsh, unconstructive feedback. Others will simply ignore you.

You must learn to overcome this. Because this is a form of rejection, and rejection is the writer’s shadow. It follows him wherever he or she goes, threatening to obscure him or her from view.

One way to beat rejection is to reframe the statistics. If you only get one script request out of a hundred submissions, well then surely that means that every submission will get you closer to reaching one hundred and getting that script request!

Being positive is sometimes the hardest part of writing. But if you can master it, you will eventually succeed. Even if it happens in a way you never expected…

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To trend or not to trend… writing in the “hot” genre

What is “hot” in Hollywood? What kind of screenplay does Hollywood want?

Surely, the cynical starving writer thinks, if I find out what genre is hot and I write in that genre, Hollywood will want my screenplays? The simply law of supply and demand will do my marketing job for me. If “found footage” scripts are hot, simply write one and riches will await.

But hang on, says the artist (who doesn’t mind if he or she starves or not), isn’t that betraying your art? Isn’t it selling… out?

Well, I have no problem with someone writing for a living. Even Leonardo da Vinci had to eat. And although I could do without yet another “disaster mash-up” movie (SyFy channel, I’m looking at you), I remember one of my earliest instincts was to find out what Hollywood wants in a screenplay. After all, they are the buyers and I am the seller.

But there are several problems with trying to write in the “hot genre”. First of all, Hollywood is a long way away. Not just in space, but in time. Studios frequently undertake test screenings to gauge the popularity of a film before it is finished. People in Hollywood know what the outcome of these screening are. Hence in your newsletter you might get an inexplicable slew of requests for stories about “dogs verses aliens” from producers anxious to copy the newest surefire hit.

And therein lies the problem. Because by the time you write said screenplay, the trend will be over, and “Buster Saves the World” will be yesterday’s movie news. Writing for the latest hot trend is like trying to hit a constantly moving target. By the time you’ve nocked your arrow and written your screenplay, the movie world has moved on to the next “hot” project.

Having said that…

Certain types of script always stand more of a chance of getting made. They are generally as follows…

– Female driven

– Limited location

– Low budget

– Horror/thriller

– No SFX

These are the calls for screenplays you will encounter most frequently in newsletters and advertisements.

BUT.. and this is a big BUT!

I personally have found that I have less success trying to write in low budget genres. For some reason I naturally (and unfortunately) gravitate toward big action set pieces, usually sci-fi or horror. And yet I have more success selling these type of stories than when I write my one-location character-driven drama.

So if anything can be drawn from my limited experience, it’s this… write in the style and genre you love AND which you are best at. Whatever the budget. Whatever the genre. And THEN worry about rewriting it so it can get made. Maybe you can reduce the budget without losing that great scene with the giant ape climbing the Empire State Building.

This is a strange business. As Dan Ackroyd once said: “I write ’em big, and they keep making ’em.”

Here’s hoping you can write big too!

American spelling and grammar

Let’s get one thing straight. I hate editing and proofreading. Hate it. With a passion.

Nor do I claim to have any expertise in the area of grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Or any skill, for that amtter. matter.

But I thought that all you budding British screenwriters who want to make it in the States might want to know some commonly misused phrases, together with some insights about American English, that I have learned on my journey so far.

First of all. Toward, or is it towards? And forward, or is it forwards?

Well, actually, it’s both. And yet…

American authors and editors seem to prefer “forward” and “towards”. As in, “to run towards” or “to go forward”. Maybe it has something to do with “forwards” being one of the dreaded adverbs.

Also, I’ve noticed some differences in punctuation.

In English English (if there is such a thing), we like to drop the final comma in a list. For example: “blue, yellow, red and green”. Not so in American English. Our cousins across the Atlantic like their commas. So in American English this would tend to be written as : “blue, yellow, red, and green”.

If I’m wrong about that, I’m sure someone will correct me.

Finally, some terms.

In America they don’t have rubbish. It’s either trash or garbage. It’s not a rubbish bin either. It’s a trash can or garbage pale (or dumpster if you’re hiding a body).

Nor do they go looking in the dark with torches. Torches in America are the burning staves you go chasing after Frankenstein’s monster with. Take a flashlight instead.

Other differences can include:

“-our” endings becomes “or” endings, e.g. “colour” (British) as opposed to “color” (American).

Ending that have “-ise” e.g. “organise” in British become “-ize” e.g. “organize” in American. Similarly with “organisation” (UK) v “organization” (USA).

Other favorite confusions include:

“aluminium” (UK) v “aluminum” (USA)

“tonne” (UK) v “metric ton” (USA)

“mummy” or “mum” (UK) v “mommy” or “mom” (USA)

An excellent article on the subject can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_spelling_differences

So these are just a few of the ways you can confuse or distract an American reader. I’m saying all this because that’s the last thing you want to do. You want the reader to feel comfortable that you know what you’re talking about (even if you don’t).

I’m sure there are many more of these. If I come across them I’ll let you know.

No commas were harmed in the writing of this post.