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Friday, June 27, 2008

Writers Write: A Response To Adrian's Post

Still busy... But still got other people expelling wisdom on this blog's behalf! ("My people" will write this blog for me in fact, arf).

So here is an interesting response from the marvellous Dublin Dave to Adrian Mead's post yesterday in which he posed the analogy of hiring two architects:
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None of what Adrian's saying is incorrect. Every writer finds their own path, but let's be really clear about one thing: what matters is the work.

Since 1999, I've been making a living as a TV writer. That career began with a feature length script, my fifth. I didn't go to conferences, I didn't blog, I sat down and wrote - for years! That script got me an agent. Within two months I was on a show where I stayed for three and a half years and wrote just under thirty episodes. I got the agent by researching five or six agents, writing to them and then sending my script in. No gaming the market. No thank you notes. I finally wrote a script that worked.

Recently, I decided to take my career in a different direction by writing a novel. I have at least one major contact in the business, a NY and LA Times bestselling writer. Here's when I called on him for a favour - AFTER I'd written it and had three agents who wanted to represent it. He helped advise me who I should go with.

Again, I sat down and wrote the book (twice! - as I threw out an entire 80,000 word first draft). Then I emailed a handful of agents and asked if they wanted to read the opening chapters and a synopsis. They all said yes. Four requested the full book. Three wanted to rep it. THEN I called in my favour. But first of all I put in over a year of very, very hard graft; getting up many mornings at five o'clock to get in a good three hours before the school run.

Writers are brilliant at finding displacement activities. I've seen many writer friends of mine who go chasing this opportunity or going on that workshop. It drives me fucking BATSHIT! They could be using that time to develop their craft. They should be using that time to write. It's what economists call an opportunity cost.

Yes, there are writers out there who are master schmoozers and yes some of them build a career on the back of that. If you're a social animal it's a definite advantage. And it's also not necessarily an either/or strategy you have to adopt. But fundamentally, new writers break in because they WRITE something that really excites people. And, believe it or not, the market is in many ways easier for the new writer than it is for most established writers.

Dublin Dave
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Thanks DD!

Obviously there should be a healthy balance between developing your craft AND self promotion - I don't think anyone is mental enough to suggest either fella here is barking up the wrong tree.

However, we all have our strong points - and our sickly, starved weak points that are kept hidden in the cellar. Mine? I think my craft is pretty strong, but perhaps I spend too long justifying WHY I can't do various things, like that novel I'm SUPPOSED to be working on. Money still needs to be earned, the house and garden needs to be sorted, the kids need to be beaten (did I just type that "out loud"?? Whoops).

What about you, then?

10 comments:

Dave Anderson said...

Still plugging away, Lucy, still plugging away. 57 in September, and still plugging away. Seems the more I learn about writing, the harder it gets.

But I've got one script in 3 big compies, and another at Act 3 stage.

And this week, I've got a film on the telly. Woohoo!!

Well, okay, it's just a 40-second commercial which was rewritten to death by the client. And it's only being shown in the Greater Manchester region. And, really, it's just a sort of public information thing to big up Manchester's bid for 3 billion squids of government dosh for improving local transport.

But, hey, it's a film, right? And it's on TV. And some of my words are in it. How many other wannabe's have that much to show after a lifetime's graft?

Lucy said...

It all counts DA who is not DD! Blimey is there ever an end to the DAVES in my life?? ; )

Just gotta keep on going.

potdoll said...

I feel inspired by both Adrian Mead and Dublin Dave. I suppose it's what suits your personality. I'm finding the small steps method is gradually pushing me forwards.

Lucy said...

A friend of my mother's always used to say you could deal with anything at all as long as it was in BITESIZE CHUNKS.

Sky Black said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sky Black said...

What is it with the name Dave...I live with two at present :\ My family's riddled with them.

I'm currently in this education side of screenwriting myself, undertaking an Mphil by practice in Transmedia Storytelling (Script Writing Cross Platform/Research). I was advised against doing an MA in screenwriting for most of the reasons DD mentioned.

I'm doubting my course will 'qualify' me to write scripts of any kind but the experience of researching new media screenwriting is exciting for me none the less.

Additionally any writers interested in a Script Editor position for Holby City? http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/job/610741/script-editor-holby-city/? I'm nowhere near qualified but figured someone here might want/know someone who wants a chance at the job. (Sorry if I'm spamming with the job thing Lucy, please remove if necessary)

Jason Arnopp said...

Whacking great dollops of good sense from Messrs Mead and Dave. And if anyone needs good sense from time to time, it's us writers. Splendid.

Jon Peacey said...

I doubt it will come as any surprise to any like as know me to hear that I sincerely hope that there is still truth in DD's scenario. I'm not the schmoozer type- I'm the hermit in a cave painting on the walls type. I fear, though, that the industry has shifted into a 'face time' orientated fright-fest for the likes of me.

If it has, the only succour I can gain is the schadenfreude from knowing that those who attain position through schmooze always get found out... there's only so long you can't do a job for 'til someone notices...

Jason said...

'But first of all I put in over a year of very, very hard graft; getting up many mornings at five o'clock to get in a good three hours before the school run.'

ALL HAIL DUBLIN DAVE!

Now that's what I'm talking bout - no BS, just good, solid hard graft and early mornings, shaking off the sleep and getting down to some serious typing and engagement of brain.

I love this blog but I couldn't do one myself - a full time job plus kids means I'm lucky if I get 2 hours per day spare - most times it's less.

Been up since 5am, researching and pulling together a 20 page document on the joys of Bohemian life in Paris in the late 1800s and the joys of Absinthe...all for a 15 page short!

I LOVE WRITING!

PS - Lucy why you no get back to me?

Daniel San need Mrs Myagi instruction to beat up plot bullies!!!

d f mamea said...

what's wrong with David and its variants? 's a great name, from the Hebrew - gentle beloved that one crosses at one's freaking peril.

nice contrast in perspectives on what one has to do to get ahead, Lucy.

where and when i can, i leave the schmoozing to the producer (who's generally much more interesting for longer). but if i'm cornered, i can hold my own with off-colour jokes.