Friday, July 30, 2010

Checklist of Champions

I was recently given a checklist from Will Akers. This checklist was written by Jeanette Winterson and is very good for aspiring screenwriters... and practiced produced screenwriters, too. Like Will!

I wanted to share it with you because it's just so good.

1. Do your work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.

2. Never stop when you're stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Don't stop altogether.

3. Love what you do.

4. Be honest with yourself. If you're not good, accept it. If the work you're doing is no good, accept it.

5. Don't hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer, it will be just as bad when it comes out.

6. Take no notice of anyone you don't respect.

7. Take no notice of anyone with a gender agenda. A lot of men still think that women lack imagination of the fiery kind.

8. Be ambitious for the work and not the reward.

9. Trust your creativity.

10. Enjoy this work!

Hi again, it's Screenwriter Chic.  I would like to touch base on a few things.

You must write everyday. Not as a chore, but as a work out. An Olympic champion can't just skip a few work outs and then expect to win the gold. They have to stay finely tuned. Same for the writer.

If you're stuck, and I've been there before... I suggest the following. Take a sheet of paper and write the characters name (or type it, whatever) and make a list of the first thing that comes to mind. It's very freeing.

Bonnie Spailsenberg
She could:
learn to shoot
be abducted by aliens
have a baby
go back to school
sell bottled water

It doesn't matter how silly or weird it becomes, because only you will see it. And it can spark some truly wonderful ideas. Everyone say thank you to John Truby for this exercise.

You MUST love what you do. If you don't, and you consider this work, well, you'll probably be miserable.

If you can't seem to "get it" and you're work stinks, like Ms. Winterson said, maybe you should walk away. It's not that you don't have talent. It could be that your talent is elsewhere, like directing. Writing is hard and not everyone can do it.

Seriously, don't hold on to poor work. I've gutted scripts and reworked them only to gut them again. If I've written a scene that I love, but it doesn't push the movie forward, it gets cut. Actually, I put it in a file on my computer because I may actually use that scene, but for a different script. That's the fun part of my job.

The taking no notice of anyone you don't respect is HUGE. Say you have Daddy issues. All your life you have just wanted to please him. You write a touching story about a dog who saves the world by flying to space on a giant hot dog and in the process discovers who his father is. By the end of the movie Papa Dog has accepted Astro Dog and told him he's proud of him. Fade Out.  And what do you do? You let Daddy read it. He hates is. No guns, no sex, no swearing, you name it. And you're crushed. You throw the next Pixar gem in the trash because of what Daddy says. Unless he's a producer, director, or screenwriter, don't do that! He has no idea what it's like to 1. write a screenplay and 2. get it made. Surround yourself with people you can trust and respect.  I personally, have my script read and reread by folks. My 'club' consists of Jill, who is a smart screenwriter with great insight. Kristy, who will read it from an 'audience' point of view and show me where she gets confused. If she gets confused, a reader will get confused. I can't have that.   Then Ann, who is my editing queen. She locates all the grammar mistakes that spell check missed. Again, she tells me if my scenes are confusing. Once it looks okay to me, I'll hand it over to Will. From there, it comes back, bathed in red ink and I start the rewrite. The point is, all of these people I respect highly, and all help me form this work into something that could possibly wind up on the coveting silver screen.  And none of them kiss my butt. If they don't like something, they tell me.

Take no notice of anyone you don't repect. You can love Daddy and respect him as Daddy, but he doesn't determine if your script is made or not. Shrug and walk away.

The gender agenda is huge. I recently set a query to an agent. He wrote back and said, "Not interested... women don't write like that."  I can't wait for my stuff to get made and I'm going to track him down one day. Poo on narrow minded folk. Break molds!

Being ambitious for the work and not the reward, trusting your creativity and enjoying it all is totally up to you. I write because I love it. I come up with stories and get them out. It's a fun puzzle piecing for me.

Anyhow, dear fans, I hope this helps you.

Good luck!

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