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Archive for the Category "Writing"

Embrace The Grind Jun 23

Anyone else out there a fan of MMA (mixed martial arts)? No? Doesn’t matter, this lesson applies to any professional endeavor — including screenwriting.

So there’s this fighter named Benson Henderson. He’s got about as much genuine swagger as any human has a right to. And for a good reason — he steamrolls over most of his opponents.

Benson Henderson

This, ladies and gentlemen, is genuine swagger!

After handily winning his last bout, he was almost in tears talking about how people have no idea how hard he trains for his fights.

Here’s a guy who you can tell by looking at him, and seeing him fight, has tremendous natural gifts. He’s one of the best fighters in the world, yet he still pushes himself to the breaking point during his training camps.

Gone are the days when some fighter, who merely dabbled in mixed martial arts, could rise to prominence off of luck or talent or connections alone. If you want to be successful in MMA, you have to embrace the grind.

It got me thinking. The same rule applies to screenwriters.

We may not risk traumatic brain injury every time we write a script (hmmm, that’s debatable), but we do have to compete with other screenwriters. Professional screenwriters. Professional screenwriters with agents and managers and industry credibility and one more thing…

A strong work ethic.

The successful screenwriters are the ones embracing the grind and putting in their hours of writing, networking, and keeping tabs on the industry. Every. Single. Day.

How on earth can you expect to compete with them (or other amateurs who are similarly inclined) if you’re only writing once in a blue moon?

This isn’t meant to depress you. It’s meant to explain the reality of the modern screenwriting business. It’s not an industry where dilettantes do well. You have to really want it. And you have to be really good at it. And you have to put the time in. Lots of time. That means lots of scripts.

If not, the screenwriting equivalent of Benson Henderson, or Ronda Rousey, or some up and coming amateur, is going to kick your ass. Because right now there are only a few coveted jobs or spec sales for screenwriters.

Bottom line is, if you you want to succeed — hell, if you just want make the fight competitive — you have to embrace the grind.

10 Page Torture Test – Open To Submissions Jun 11

10 Page Torture TestThere are many writing achievements that I’m proud to have accomplished: placing in/winning script competitions… having my first script optioned… getting my first paid writing gig…

And now I’ve been asked to be the first guest script reviewer for the 10 Page Torture Test!

While my previous achievements were grand, I can say without hyperbole that this one is at least a billion times better than the others. ;)

What is the 10 Page Torture Test?

It’s a site where a mysterious and talented guy, who goes by “Pitchpatch,” takes the first 10 pages of mostly amateur scripts, and digs deep into their nooks and crannies. In doing so, he offers fantastic (and hilarious) insight into what works, and what doesn’t, complete with suggestions for improvement.

And what’s more, he does it for free! All for the love of screenwriting, and the recognition of the importance of the first 10 pages of a script. As you should know, if your first 10 pages don’t impress, the reader will likely have permanently checked out by page 11.

How good is this guy, Pitchpatch? Here’s a hint: Guess who I beg for notes when I need one of my scripts critiqued?

Send me your scripts!

For the next edition of the 10 Page Torture test, I’m going to take the reins and provide the feedback.

But I only get to choose one script. So if you’d like the first 10 pages of your script critiqued publicly, FOR FREE, send it to me, with its associated logline, by Friday, June 20th at Midnight.

I’ll be choosing the script based on two things:

  1. The intrigue of the logline. (Is the concept compelling? Is the movie marketable?)
  2. The potential for readers to learn from my notes. (Are there things the writer has done really well? Are there common mistakes to point out?)

It should hopefully go without saying by now, but any constructive criticism will be provided with an aim to enlighten — not embarrass.

So send me your script (and logline) for consideration!!!

Pop Quiz: What’s wrong with this dialogue? Jun 06

Are you a sloppy writer?

Of all the common, lazy mistakes I encounter when reading scripts, the one that possibly irks me the most can be found in the following dialogue exchange.

Have a look:

TOOKY

Look, I ain’t playin’ with you. Give me the money, or you gonna get got!

JOSH

I really should of stayed at a nicer motel.

Pop QuizDo you see it?

“ain’t”? — No, that’s a legitimate word. Merriam-Webster tells me so.

“playin’”? — Nah, that’s simply eliding a letter to give a better sense of the how the character speaks.

“you gonna get got”? – Nope. As grammatically offending as that slang is, it’s appropriate for the character.

So what is it?

Take a closer look at Josh’s line.

Do you see it?

No? Then you may be a sloppy writer.

There’s no such thing as “should of”!!!

The phrasing is either “should have” or “should’ve.” It may sound like “should of,” but sounding like something doesn’t count.

It’s like that time I wanted to tell someone off in my yearbook graduating entry, but didn’t want to have it flagged. So I wrote “FUH Q” instead of, well, you know. (True story. Yeah, real classy.)

Sounding like something, and being the equivalent of something, are two totally different things.

But what about intentional misspellings to give characters a certain affected manner of speech?

Intentional misspellings and grammar faux pas are permitted in screenplay dialogue blocks, as long as it’s clear to the reader that the mistakes are indeed intentional (e.g., slang, speech impediment).

It’s like how I wrote, “real classy” above, instead of the grammatically correct, “really classy.” In a casual blog post, or a script dialogue block, that’s just fine. It’s being cheeky and using the common phrasing.

However, spelling it: “reel classy” would be a mistake. The audience can’t see or hear the misspelling, so it can’t be justified by saying, “But that’s how my character would have spelled it!”

Bottom line is, if you’re one of those who missed the mistake above, you may be making others in your script that you’re not even aware are mistakes.

So if you need proofreading or script notes, I’m here for you.

Three Dots vs. Two Dashes Jun 04

Punctuation PoliceWhether I’m providing script notes or I’m proofreading scripts, I often find instances where the writer has used three dots (...) where she should have used two dashes (--), or vice versa.

When used at the end of a sentence in scene description, there’s a measure of interchangeability (I’ll tackle that in another post). But when used at the end of a sentence in dialogue, things are very clear cut.

What’s the difference?

Three dots (an ellipsis) at the end of a sentence, are used to indicate that a speaker has trailed off. For example:

JACQUELINE

But if my fingerprints are on the knife, then that means...

Jacqueline stares at her hands, the realization sinking in.

TED

You’re the Sleepwalk Killer!

Two dashes (technically hyphens) at the end of a sentence, are used to indicate that a speaker has been interrupted. For example:

JACQUELINE

Follow me to the kitchen. I want to show you my new knife collec--

TED

Not a chance!

JACQUELINE

I made cinnamon buns.

Ted considers.

Hyphen Positioning

The double hyphens can also come after a completed word, in the middle of a sentence, to indicate an interruption. I could have put the double hyphens after the word “knife” in the sentence above, but then that may have given the impression that the sentence had ended there.

If I didn’t want to write a partial word, then this rearranged sentence could work: “I have a new knife collection I want to show--”

Notice how there’s no space between the double dashes and the last word being interrupted? I feel it gives a better sense of an interruption that way.

A Note About Single Hyphens

Some screenwriters (including some pros) use single hyphens to indicate an interruption or a pause. I guess the idea is that the single hyphen takes the place of a longer em dash (—) that you would normally see in anything written with a proportional font instead of a fixed-width font like Courier — basically anything other than a script.

But we’re talking about a script. So the practice of using a single hyphen (for this purpose) is kinda weird to me, as it is to many other readers. Do you want to use something that may bump certain readers, or do you want to use something that wouldn’t bother a single reader?

Having said that, give me a script where the writing is otherwise fantastic, and I won’t even notice the issue.

Category: Dialogue, Writing  | Leave a Comment
292 Days! May 22

calendar

Time Flies

292 Days. That’s how long it’s been since my last post. Yikes. So where the hell have I been and what have I been doing?

Writing.

As much as I love this blog, it occurred to me a while back, that I didn’t want to be a successful blogger. I wanted to be a successful screenwriter/filmmaker. So it was time to adjust my priorities.

Let’s see how things have panned out so far. In the last 292 days I’ve:

  • Had one script place in the semi-finals of Blue Cat
  • Had another script optioned
  • Had my latest script place in the top 25 (semi-finals) of the Tracking-Board.com’s Launch Pad competition (fingers crossed for the finals)
  • Learned how to use Adobe After Effects
  • Wrote a martial arts action movie that’s in pre-production in Thailand (paid assignment)
  • Wrote a short film, that I’m directing in a few weeks

In a nutshell, things  have been gaining momentum.

My Demon Girlfriend

I’m really excited about the last item I mentioned. The short I’m directing is called My Demon Girlfriend, and it’s a funny little script that may be the start of a web series, and will allow me to showcase my new special effects skills.

I’ll post updates as things progress on the production. I will also be writing other articles about screenwriting, movies and television, that I feel need to be discussed — I’ll just be posting them less frequently.

Bottom line is — I’m back! So stay tuned.

Did you miss me? Or were you happy to have less noise to distract you from your screenwriting career?

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