Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Friday, September 30, 2011

A New Marketing Outlet for Three Finished Scripts? I'm Motivated!

GOT AN EMAIL from ScreenwritingU yesterday. There was a big underlined question part-way down the email:
Do you need help finding representation?
The email went on to outline the impossibility of trying to get anyone from the industry to respond to query letters from undiscovered screenwriters. Everything from legal paranoia—we can't read your stuff because you might accuse us of stealing your idea—to agents who are too snowed under taking care of their existing clients (plus referrals from people they already know) to read the work of strangers.

The editor of the ezine, Cheryl Croasmun, said: “Our friends at PAGE International Screenwriting Awards have a new service that we think will help you get connected to representation.”

I've seen a bunch of sites where you can list your work and hope that agents or producers will love your logline and request your script(s). I figured this would be another one of that ilk. But not so. It's called eMeetings, and it guarantees to get you in front of agents and managers.

“We just launched our eMeetings program this month, and over 30 writers have already received requests for their scripts – and I'm thrilled to announce that one talented screenwriter has already been offered representation!” — PAGE

I went to their site, ProductionArtsGroup.com, to check it out. In a nutshell, eMeetings will accept only a limited number of writers for each monthly program. Each month, three L.A. reps will look at the material presented by each writer. They'll read your query letter, study your profile page and send you a personal reply. Reps will request to see more if they like your work.

The fees are very reasonable. Depending on how many months you want to participate, the fees range from $179 to $299, which includes some good discounts for taking more than one month.

One of the features of the eMeetings venue is that you don't have to query the agents cold turkey. Podcasts are provided where the agents discuss what they're looking for right now or what they specialize in. You can then tailor your pitch to better suit what the agent has expressed.

(Another thing I like is that I didn't see anything about the need for live pitches. It's all done by query letter and with the info you provide on your profile. Since I haven't conquered my fear of pitching yet, that makes it all the more doable.)

I really appreciated the part where the eMeetings crew lets you know who shouldn't waste their time or spend their money here:
Who should NOT register for this program?

If you have not completed at least three feature-length screenplays or teleplays, we do not recommend you register for eMeetings. Most Hollywood agents and managers are not interested in signing writers who:

a) have written only one feature screenplay or teleplay
b) have written only short film scripts
c) have concepts or ideas for movies and series, but have not written the scripts
d) are not fluent in English
I currently have one finished screenplay that's been through three readers and nine rewrites. My current script is half-written and I should be able to finish it in October. After that, I have four treatments plus one other script idea to choose from. Reading the “who shouldn't bother” part just gave me a heap of extra juju to get on with my writing!

If it's up to me not to fall through the cracks in Hollywood, I have a slim chance. But if it's up to me to capture the attention of 3-9 “already captive” audience members (eMeetings books the time of the agents and managers who participate), then I have a fighting chance.

As long as I do my best with my scripts, write a great query letter and maximize my profile to show all my writing experience, eMeetings will do the rest.

I'm in! Not as a customer yet . . . but with the goal of finishing three scripts and preparing myself to show my work.

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Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer's Muse Coaching Service.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Can Writes Comedy

LAST JANUARY I started my second script. Following the story from the treatment I'd already written, I forced myself to add a minimum of four pages a day (but it usually turned out to be more than four). After one week, I had 36.5 pages written.

That's one-third of a script. In one week. I could have had my second script finished by mid-Feb if I had kept going at that rate.

Instead, I quit altogether. Why? Because I was worried it wasn't funny. And it's supposed to be a comedy/drama.

(OK, dramedy, but I hate that word.)

Reading the script today after eight months of forgetting all about it in favor of other writing projects was a revelation. It's a funny script! (I was even laughing out loud in parts.) And it retains all the angst of the female characters, so I've struck the balance I wanted to strike.

Today is the Saturday event for Sept. over at 10K Day for Writers.
Have only written 1,839 words so far, and I had a list of stuff I was planning to work on. Mostly blog posts for Fear of Writing and Milliver's Travels, plus another brainstorming session for the new screenplay idea I'm incubating.

But all that has changed. Taking the time to read my manuscript was just as valuable as spending that time on writing. And now I need to relook at my priorities.

Originally, I was planning to take up the new script idea in favor of finishing my second script—because this new script idea seemed worthier of my time. But now that I've read #2, I feel recommitted to it. It's funny and the audience will relate. It's entertainment, with a way for the characters to redeem themselves and learn something about how to live life. Of course it's worthy of my time!

This is another lesson on how we can mis-perceive our own writing when we're too close to it. I help writers with that all the time, but that doesn't mean I'm not immune to it myself.

Need to do some serious time management work here. Because now I really want to finish script #2. I can still incubate my new script idea while I'm doing that.

(Note to self: Come back and read this post the moment you fear your script is dull and should be set aside for something with more "purpose.")

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Photo courtesy of Icanhascheezburger.com. See more CHEEZburger.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Which Magical Powers Shall I Use Today?

EVERY WRITER AGREES that part of the joy (and sometimes the terror) of writing is when we can see or feel the impact it has on our audience. Someone leaves a blog comment, sends an email, tweets or speaks to you in person to tell you that you've moved/helped/inspired them or entertained/made them laugh.

I've had readers of my book say “You've probably heard this a million times, but . . .” and then they tell me they got a revelation or had a breakthrough while using my writing prompts or doing an assignment in my online course. Sure, there are patterns to what I hear. But I never get sick of it.

The day I'm bored by feedback from my own readers is the day I need to croak off and let somebody younger take up my sword.

Today on my travel blog, a reader left a comment on There’s a Passport with Your Name on It saying that my story inspired her and her husband and two sons to set the intention to get their passports.

Since for four people that'll be about $550 in passport fees (including photos), not to mention the persistence to get the paperwork done and rustle up the birth certificates, I was a little awestruck. While writing the story I'd had flashes of hope that it might move someone who'd never had a passport to actually think about applying for one—but mostly I was too busy writing to get caught up in hoped-for outcome. This documented result was way more than I'd visualized.

It reminded me of the magical powers we have as writers.

Mind you, until I started thinking about it after reading that comment, I had never said to myself “I have magical powers as a writer.” Just knowing you have power can be thrilling, motivational and scary . . . but magic powers? When I see it in that light it puts even more fun into the whole writing caper. Not to mention huge impatience to cast some more spells out there!

I decided to ponder the magic powers I've used (or plan to use) in existing and future scripts.

For my first script (which is sitting in a pile of submissions at a producer's house near London, with a friend providing reminders on my behalf), I want moviegoers to feel all the same stuff they feel while watching Back to the Future: disbelief suspended by comedy and outlandish modes of travel, identifying with my main character's mission enough to root for a happy ending, entertained to the core.

I also hope the sex angle will make a few viewers squirm (it's one of those TMI things) while leaving them amused with—or maybe scornful of—the main character's predicament. I want them to feel they're more powerful than he is, until they see the rabbits he pulls out of his hat to save some butts that are special to him.

For my partly-written second script, I want to make the audience laugh simultaneous to the two halves of any couples (potential, existing or broken off) identifying so strongly with the man-woman stuff it reminds them of their own lives. I also want the lone wolf element to prickle people's set-in-stone beliefs, just as she does with her fellow characters.

For my latest script idea, the one I'm still incubating, I want to shake people up to think about possibilities beyond what they normally imagine, but in a way that relates to their own lives and problems. I want to take them into other dimensions.

How about you? Which magical powers are you wielding in your latest script/novel/poem/blog post? Do you fully believe in and accept your powers?

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Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer's Muse Coaching Service.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Incubating a Story

EXCEPT WHEN I'M using my own writing prompts, I usually start writing after a story has already started to filter (or flood) into my mind.

This was very true when I wrote my book, but has only sometimes been true about screenwriting.

For my first script, the story came to me as a huge download after I looked at the cover of a book with a picture of a steam train on it.

For my five treatments, it was a mixed bag of approaches: one was a story that just came to me, another is based on real-life events, another was created from a two-word “high concept” title I coined from a funny situation with Brian, and one was a story created from a spiritual/metaphysical concept I want to write about using the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

The fifth treatment is based on a story from my book that Brian has long been telling me just begs to be adapted as a script. Strangely, that's the only one I've struggled with and the only treatment that remains unfinished. The one that was a completed and published short story before it was ever an idea for a screenplay.

Today is 10K Day over at my Fear of Writing blog and I'm working on a brand-new script idea. So far, I'd call the process “hopefully percolating a story idea.” I started with purely a concept (albeit one I know a lot about and have a great passion for) and now I'm feeling my way into this.

For part of my 10K Day writing, I turned on my Dragon dictation software to brainstorm out loud, hoping that the act of talking myself through it would help locate my story.

I started by expressing all the background blah-blah-blah about why I want to write a script using this concept, etc. etc., just to get that out of the way. Then I did some quick research online, looking for a relevant definition, and along the way I picked up a few other snippets of info that will help.

Then it was time for the magic to come. You know, the story. I had prepared myself for the brainstorm in ways that should have worked . . . but they didn't. I ended up with eight short paragraphs of “what I know so far” plus three ideas for themes or scenarios that can help flesh out the story.

But still no characters popping out the mist, no shreds of dialogue, no “and then this happened” momentum. I started feeling drained and decided that sometimes even the coolest methods for writing don't work because you're not quite ready.

I ended my brainstorming session by telling Dragon to type this:

Even though this was not the story or story-fragment brainstorming session I was hoping for, I know I've primed my subconscious mind with some good material. Perhaps I just need to allow it to percolate.

Sometimes chronicling what doesn't seem to work can be interesting. I often look back and see it worked better than I thought it did. Here's hoping. . . .

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Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer's Muse Coaching Service.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Joys of Collab

I'VE ALWAYS wanted to collaborate with someone fascinating to write about their area of expertise. A couple of times I started to, but the project always floundered before we could produce much.

The first time, I was going to write a book with a man who teaches people how to play the didgeridoo (Australian Aboriginal wind instrument made from a hollow tree branch) for health and spiritual purposes. I did extensive interviews and wrote several chapters . . . but the didge player was allergic to reading manuscripts, so that made it impossible for me to continue. Couldn't proceed without his input on what I'd written.

The second time, I was going to write a book with Taos artist John Farnsworth. Farnsy is a raconteur who has led a colorful life and his style of painting has carved him a niche in the art world. Just the kind of real-life character I long to write about! But then serious health problems overtook me and I had to drop it.

But now I have another chance to collaborate with a creative person whose area of expertise is of great interest to me. This time it will be a screenplay not a book. Our genre will be something approximating sci-fi/fantasy/metaphysical.

We're going to combine his expertise and years of professional practice with my personal experiences in the field he works in. In the beginning, I'll be the main writer. Later, we plan to use the online function of the script software to work on the script together.

We're just getting started and we had our first Skype session last night to brainstorm ideas. We don't have any characters or a storyline yet, but we do have the beginnings of an angle on how to approach the story. And we have a working title. Not bad for 30 minutes of Skype time.

We're both mega-busy people and our biggest challenge will be carving out time to work together. But we've agreed that even short bursts of time here and there can be productive.

Last night's Skype was both fun and creatively stimulating. I'm looking forward to more.

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Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer's Muse Coaching Service.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blown Away by What I Wrote

YESTERDAY I REREAD one of the treatments I wrote during my treatment blitz last December/January.

I was planning to show it to the person I'll be collaborating with on a new screenplay idea, so I just wanted to make sure it was readable enough to make sense. We'll be working in the same genre—sci-fi/fantasy/metaphysical—so it would be a writing sample to show what I can do with that genre.

Instead of a business-like interlude where I focused on whether the writing sample was ready to go, I ended up being blown away by the story itself.

For sure, there are some things about the treatment that need brushing up—do a little research; add some dialogue—but the story itself was titanic. And while I could recognize my own learning experiences in the details, the theme of healing with love overtook me with a depth of emotion that goes beyond the act of storytelling.

I remember now that was how I felt while I was writing it. I was surging with goose bumps during certain parts, and at the end I was weeping.

After reading it yesterday, several hours passed before I felt normal again. The emotions were almost too intense to wish I could stay in them, even though it felt like I'd been touched by the divine.

This story is so much bigger than me. I think it came from somewhere else. I was just the willing vessel.

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Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer's Muse Coaching Service.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Vital Ingredient: Confidence

LAST NOVEMBER, a friend in London offered to show the treatment for my first screenplay to his producer friend.

As outlined in my December blog post, Writer Discovered While Waitressing, since I didn't have a deadline I took a gamble. Instead of submitting right away, I sequestered myself and wrote three more treatments in a short burst of time.

This paid off when I was encouraged to submit two treatments instead of one. To my way of thinking, if the producer's reader (his wife) didn't like the story for the script I'd already written, at least she would know I wasn't a one-trick pony.

Pretty much a dream scenario, right? Two treatments delivered directly to the wife of the producer. I was over the moon and dreaming big. I was even talking big (at least to my husband). How embarrassing later when nothing happened.

But before I knew nothing was going to happen, I decided which of my new treatments to use (Choices, Choices) and progressed a third of the way through writing script #2. And I started seriously attacking my biggest problem about becoming a screenwriter: pitching.

While I feel good about my writing skills, not so with my verbal presentation. My voice is monotone and I'm lousy at figuring out how to describe my story. I even bored myself into numbness practicing my stupid pitch.

Long story short, I went to great lengths to try to improve my pitching skills (including getting some coaching) and all it led to was MORE FEAR.

I fear and dread horribly the situation of having to pitch. People can throw their wisdom and advice at me ad nauseum but that doesn't reduce the fear whatsoever. In fact, it makes it worse.

Fortunately, in the time that has passed since then, I have gained some confidence that I thought was out of my reach. I did this through the process of soul writing,and it was agonizing at first.

I wasn't expecting to gain confidence from it, actually, but that's what happened. Unfortunately, it's not specific to pitching, but at least I have more self-belief than I did last year when the London opportunity played itself out.

Then last week, after not hearing from him for seven or eight months, my friend in London emailed me. He didn't have any lightning bolts from heaven -

MILLI, YOUR SCRIPT HAS CHANGED LIVES! WHEN CAN YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT??!!

- but he did say he was planning to keep reminding his friends to look at my treatments. Pretty inspiring to hear this news after months ago coming to the conclusion that the opportunity was dead. That one email switched me back into high gear and I started putting my screenwriting first again.

I still don't know whether I'll have enough confidence to pitch my stuff verbally (being asked for a treatment was so much easier!). But now the screenwriting bug has bitten me even deeper and I just have to see what happens.

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Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer's Muse Coaching Service.