You were good to me. Sort of.
What have I learned? What can I share?
I drafted this post last night, and my sense of pride has overtaken any fears I may have had about posting it. I’m a total n00b, but I know what I’m made of.
Ultimately, success in television writing, as with any field, is up to you. You get what you give. And if I want to have the career I dream of, it’s become more than apparent to me that I’ve got to work my ass off.
But what about you? What if you don’t want to go school for television or film writing but want to get into the business? Do I have any practical tips?
As a matter of fact, I do.
Among other things, I suggest you…
1. Get a life. The best writing comes from living. I’m a firm believer in making changes to make yourself happy. And I’ll tell you the truth, Dear Reader. A good 90% of the reason I wound up in TV school is because it was in Toronto. As sweet as my hometown is, my quality of life is different when I’m in an urban environment. Even when I’m doing next to nothing, I love the sights and sounds of the city. Overall, I know the type of stimulation that I need in order to stay inspired. As do you, hopefully. Don’t be afraid to do what it takes–go where you need to go, see what you must, just LIVE, dammit!!–in order to keep your motor running.
2. Read. Writers are literate people who possess sharp minds. Books and various herds of words keep our brains trained.
3. Get your formatting game tight. The structure people use to write scripts is different from what you’ve been using since 9th Grade English. Even before last fall, I knew that if a script reader so much as smells that your work isn’t set up correctly, it’ll wind up in the trash. Font matters. So do margins and rules on things like capitalization. Thankfully, script formatting software exists.
They say that Final Draft is the one to beat.
I also suggest books such as The Hollywood Standard. (There’s a pic of the cover above.) It explains certain things that Final Draft can’t teach, like how to handle quirky transitions and use foreign languages in your dialogue.
Of course if all else fails, there’s always Google. 😉
4. Consider more than just how your work looks on the page. Beware of other things, like how to pace your story. I once bought a copy of Your Screenplay Sucks. It’s a decent read—rife with common-sense advice on things to avoid when you write. Long ago I also picked up a copy of Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434, and one of my instructors swears by Save the Cat.
As often as I wanted to kill the cat…There are certain storytelling conventions that need to be followed for a successful script. Knowing what they are can only help you.
5. Learn about pitching and other demonic rituals. Do you know what a log line is? Do you know how to write a script outline? What’s a beat sheet? And what, pray tell, is a series bible? Know the answers to these questions. As a writer, I realize that sales might not be your thing. But if you want to see your stories on the big screen, you’ve got to be ready to hustle. Dare to tell the world about your work!
*stepping away from the podium*
What was my greatest lesson? Well…Professionally speaking…I am done with school. At this point I have no intention of buying another book on writing unless said purchase includes a guaranteed salary and writing contract.
I’ve known all along what I needed to do. The time has come to go and make it happen!