Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Article Alert - Joe Eszterhas Speaks

"My basic message is: believe in what you do and put your heart and soul into it, and then be willing to fight for it."

Legendary, or perhaps legendarily controversial, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas opens up about writing, writing gurus, and Hollywood feuds in a recent article in The Guardian

Regardless of what you feel about his body of work, the man's a successful writer and commands (at least a little) attention when he shares his views on writing for the big screen. Check it out and leave your thoughts below. What do you think of Joe's insights?  

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 281 - The Query Campaign

I'd be lying if I said that my primary focus the past month has been on writing. Frankly, I've really not done any writing at all to speak of in a while. It's not that I'm done with writing or out of ideas - I just haven't really been able to get motivated for a while. That happens. It's an accepted (though perhaps not entirely acceptable) facet of being a writer. Sometimes, you hit a bit of a slump. When that happens, you just have to do what it takes to pull yourself out of it, and for me, that's been the process of querying my children's book.

Over the summer, I wrote a 1,670(ish) word children's picture story book. Think Dr. Seuss, only I can't draw well enough to do the illustrations in addition to the text. I since cut it down to about 1,270 words. I had two people tell me that's still probably too long back in September, and as they were both much deeper in the world of children's literature than I am, I should probably take what they say as truth - at the very least, as a very solid suggestion.

I put out a couple feelers and landed a few leads. Two colleagues at the theatre companies I work with had connections to children's book agents that they said they could introduce me to. One said I could use her name in my query; that agent gave me the fastest rejection I have ever received. HOWEVER, that's actually far more positive than it sounds. (I'm serious.) For anyone who has ever queried an agent or manager or producer, you know that it can take months to hear back - and that's if you hear at all. To know within a couple hours that the agent you have reached out to is definitively not your person is actually a relief. With the waiting game over, you can immediately move on. And, what was especially positive in this case, is that the agent let me know why she was not representing me. In addition to being overloaded, she also just doesn't handle the particular type of children's material that I had submitted (not that I knew that based on the information about her online). Agents can be very particular about what they rep, and your project, no matter how incredible, will not find a home with every agent. If it's not their cup of tea, thank them and move onto the next. You won't change their mind (and probably don't want to). I have yet to hear back from the second colleague.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I have a friend who worked in publishing. She has been very generous with her time, reading a few drafts of the story, weighing in with very lengthy notes, and has agreed to help me get it to agents that she knows personally. She's the one who advised that I write a query letter, and she has provided feedback on that, too. I just have to finish tweaking it, and the hope is that we'll go out to agents before the end of the month.

My writing partner on the sci-fi collaboration has connections in the animated film industry. Those connections have contacts in the children's book world, and he has offered to forward it along. Any potential in can help. (Speaking of agents, we got feedback from my agent for that one; it looks like we will be embarking on a potentially not-insignificant rewrite in the coming weeks.) I also reached out to another friend in publishing on Facebook, but I've not yet heard back. 

Finally - and most unexpectedly - I wound up meeting an Assistant Editor at a major children's book publisher at an event this week. She has taken a look at the material and was quite supportive. Like the two people earlier this year, she also recommended that I shorten the book by up to half if possible. That's an almost daunting amount of editing, but she knows her stuff and is a great contact and potential in to have. If she says cut, then cut I will. 

If all leads take me to a dead end, then at least I'll have a solid query letter and a product I believe in. I'll then start the blind query submission.  

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Article Alert - Diablo Cody's Advice for Screenwriters

Like her, love her, or loathe her, it's hard to deny that Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer's Body, Young Adult) has had a career that any young screenwriter could lust after. In the six years since Juno's come out, she's kept busy, been a rising star, and earned some solid bank. Deadline recently posted an article wherein Cody talks about seven things that nobody tells successful screenwriters. It's worth the quick read. Whether you put any stock in what she says is up to you.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Video Alert - Check out Our Friends' Short Films

Two of our classmates from NYU's Dramatic Writing Department at Tisch School of the Arts recently had videos uploaded at Funny Or Die. 

The League's own Axel A (Adrienne Sterman) brings us BROS, about two bros trying to sniff out love.

League classmate, Amanda Smith, is getting great traction with Dunhaming, a look at a Lena Dunham inspired existence.

Check out our friends' work and show them some 'funny' love!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 280 - Prey to Patience

Patience is said to be a virtue, and for writers, it is a necessity. Nothing happens overnight. Even "overnight sensations" have taken years to develop and achieve success. When we had our freshman orientation at NYU, the League's instructors told us not to plan on selling anything until we were at least 35. I didn't know it at the time, but they were planting the all important seed - patience, my friends; it's all about patience.

There are two types of waiting that befall writers. There's waiting on one's self (waiting to develop that next project or complete that draft or edit the script). This waiting is conquerable; all you need to do to overcome it is write, work, drive yourself to finish. Writer's block is a part of this waiting, a threat to productivity, but it can be vanquished. Self-waiting (also called "procrastinating") is sometimes necessary, in the case of taking a breather between projects or in order to gear up for a major rewrite. Sometimes, it stems from being dry or in a rut or simply unmotivated. Whatever the cause, self-waiting is something we writers control. We can turn the switch on and off when we want. 

The second form of waiting, the waiting that I loathe, is waiting on others. If you've ever asked a friend or colleague to read a script, you know this waiting. If you've sent out query letters (read: emails), you may have knows this waiting for three or six month increments. And, if you've been fortunate enough to get notice from an agent/producer/manager, you have further experienced this type of waiting. With my post-Apocalyptic spec, I waited about four months between my initial querying and landing a manager. I then waited another four months for that manager to get his crap together as he jumped jobs (twice) and neglected to inform me of where he'd gone. Then, I got a new team, and collectively, we re-worked the script and waited another six months to attract a bigger producer. More rewrites followed (for a year), and then we waited for a mega-producer to attach him/her self to the project. When that didn't happen, we waited for buyers to cough up money. I'm still waiting on that (though, with zero expectations that script will ever sell.)

In the midst of all that waiting - and I certainly don't mean to sound bitter; I'm actually not at all, mind you - I remained productive. I churned out the first drafts of a couple scripts that weren't quite right or weren't working. Then, about a year and a half ago, the producer we had attached after the six month waiting stint called and offered me a spec writing job. I jumped on it, and it has since become known here as the sci-fi collaboration. For eighteen months, I worked and reworked it with my writing partner. Finally, about a month ago, we settled on a draft both of us liked a lot. We sent it to his manager, who also liked it, but who had concerned that it was becoming too similar to something already in development. Unfortunately for us, the potentially competing picture is shrouded in secrecy, so - for the pas three weeks - we have been waiting to see if anyone can find out any more about it. More waiting, and not the self-driven kind.

Yesterday, I decided to be proactive when waiting on others. I emailed my collaborator and asked him if he thought it was worth me reaching out to my agent about the script. I haven't been in touch with my agent in nearly three years, because I haven't had a product ready for him. I'll admit that part of my desire to reach out was to plant myself back on his radar. Part, obviously, is to further our script and see if he has connections and insight that my collaborator's team doesn't yet. He responded, and I have sent him the script. Sure, I'm still waiting, but with another possible opportunity on the table.

Speaking of waiting, a couple months back, I wrote a children's picture story book. A friend in publishing took a look, loved it, and gave me notes. I shortened it, per her suggestions, reworked it a bit, and made it even more visually stimulating. I sent it back to her... and waited. Unfortunately, my friend got intermittently ill and busy, and my book slid to the back burner. (I can't fault her at all, as I've done this with others' work in the past, too, as much as I am disappointed to admit it.) Still, I was waiting. She had told me she could connect me with literary agents, and yet, the ball wasn't rolling. Through my work in theatre here in NYC, I had access to children's theatre makers with contacts at agencies repping the exact kind of work I had produced. After deciding I was done idly waiting, I became proactive again. I sent my other connection an email, and by that afternoon (far as I know), my book was off via email to his agent contact. I'm waiting on a response from that, but at least I have another ball up in the air and can dispense with the wringing unease of another potential in falling by the wayside.

My friends, you, too, will find yourself waiting while playing this game. It's all about how you spend your time that counts.