Tag Archives: screenwriting

Patience Sucks. Patience Works.

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One year.

I had to wait one fucking year between my first conversation with a client and starting the project.

Did it suck?

Are you deef? Of course it sucked.

But oh my God was it worth it.

My client paid five figures. There are writers with book deals with presses whose advances aren’t even close to that. I received that from a dude.

My client is awesome. Not only is he a badass pilot, but he gave me everything I needed to successfully write what he wanted, without micromanaging my ass along the way. He knew I was a professional and treated like me a professional, not like his bitch.

My client’s project is awesome. A kinetic screenplay set in the world of counterterrorism and espionage. Uhh, fuck yeah.

Waiting a year, yeah, not fun.

But you know what, if you’re not willing to pay some dues, you’ll never break into the literary game.

Sorry.

You’re just not that important yet. If you act like a diva, you’re going to lose any opportunities that may come up.

I’m not saying to just hold fast and wait. You’re not passive (and if you are, knock that shit off), but sometimes things don’t go on your schedule, they go on the gatekeeper’s.

You damn well can try to speed them up, but never, ever, ever, EVER get pissy about it.

Unless you want to be a nobody forever. If that’s what you want, have fun.

The same situation’s come up again for me.

Through a whole bunch of weird and complex life events, I was connected to a New York Times bestselling author.

He read a screenplay I wrote.

He met with me.

And he told me, “Normally I tell people it’s a great accomplishment that you finished a script. Most people never complete one. But here’s what you should do: put it in a drawer, close the drawer, and never open the drawer ever again.”

Do you know how many assholes are constantly bothering a successful writer for a favor, or to front something?

First off, I know I have the luck of the devil himself to even get a read from this guy.

Second, when you have someone who sold over a million copies of their book telling you you’re good, it feels pretty fucking sweet.

Third, when the guy says he’ll connect you to an agent, and then chews you out for why in your early 30s you’re not already writing for Hollywood, then that’s almost surreal.

But then a year later, you’re still occasionally exchanging emails, trying to push him on to connect you.

It’s easy to be a loser and bitch and moan. Most writers would do that in a situation like that. That’s why most writers are wasting their time and should give it up.

But not you, right? You can see this for what it is, a test.

And you’ll pass it because you won’t give up.

If you’re an outsider, you need a leg up to break into the literary game.

Or the screenwriting game.

Or anything big.

If you want to blow up, or change the world, or get rich, or do something other than work as a barista, you damn well need powerful allies.

And your powerful allies are, by nature, more powerful than you.

They can make your career.

Or, if you alienate them, they can keep you doomed to obscurity.

What do you think’s the better way?

When you find your opportunities and your allies, make it happen.

And if you can’t make it happen quickly, then hang on for a long ride.

Drinking At A Soviet Bar On My 33rd Birthday With The Guy Who Did The Song From Revenge of the Nerds

Running a literary magazine has its perks, believe me. Sure, it can be a chore to read through countless submissions, strategize on how to build engagement with readers and writers, and plot on how to scale up at an appropriate time, but there are some interesting things that come along with the job. Like meeting Leslie Bohem.

Les Bohem is an accomplished screenwriter (he wrote Dante’s Peak and wrote and co-produced, with Stephen Spielberg, the SyFy Channel show Taken), and musician (ex-member of Sparks and Gleaming Spires). More than his accomplishments, he’s a hell of a guy, and funny to boot. So, of course, the story of how I met Les Bohem started with a rejection letter from Beautiful / Losers Magazine.

Running Beautiful / Losers Magazine with two other editors, Dario Cannizzaro and Austin Wiggins, while simultaneously having a policy of pieces only getting accepted if they’re voted in unanimously, means that many amazing writers get rejected. Austin, Dario, Drew Gorman (who no longer is an editor with us,  but was at the time) and I all have different tastes, yet we all desire to uphold extremely high standards for publication. And so good pieces get rejected. Like Les’ first piece he submitted to us.

What made me reach out to Les after the rejection letter? Well, I did vote yes on his initial piece, but more than that, he was the frontman for Gleaming Spires. Gleaming Spires! If you’ve ever seen Revenge of the Nerds, you must remember their iconic song “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls?” A classic, one which I admitted to Les that I pirated off Napster when I was in high school. A pardonable offense clearly, although I do owe him a round for that. It’s justified.

Through our correspondence, we built a friendship, and when I learned that his son (Charlie Keys Bohem, a talented writer in his own right) was a student at Vassar College, the alma mater of my fiancee Lauren Rubin, well then, the bond was cemented. With an impending move to Baltimore from Norwalk, Connecticut the next day, I invited Les to join me and Lauren for some drinks at KGB Bar, a super chill hipster bar decorated with tons of Soviet paraphernalia in New York’s East Village. And he accepted.

We had an amazing time hanging out and drinking with Les Bohem. Sparks were a seminal band in the LA scene, Dante’s Peak was a great movie, and Taken was one of the most ambitious miniseries I’ve ever seen, but I’ll remember that night as the night I drank with the guy who did the song from Revenge of the Nerds. Cross that one off the bucket list.

 

 

 

Writers Need To Capitalize On Opportunities

One of the foremost problems that new writers who are intent on breaking into the literary world face is the quick realization that there is tremendous competition. Sadly, many aspiring writers who are not cognizant of the nature of their profession end up quickly demoralized, as they see that their writing is not reaching an audience, not being published, and being heavily critiqued by those who do read it.

I started my career as a writer primarily as a poet. My friend Russell Jaffe offered me the opportunity to open at his poetry reading if I were to write a few poems, and I took him up on the offer. I realized, free from the constraints of an organized creative writing program, that I had some talent. From there, I started writing many poems, and later on, getting many of them published once I realized how to find and effective target literary magazines.

After finding success as a poet, I was desirous of publishing short fiction. I was working four different positions at an academic institution, spread out over six days. I didn’t have much time or energy left to write when I was off from work. My opportunity came when a friend of mine who believed in my writing offered me free housing in rural Pennsylvania and promised to edit my writing. I took her up on that offer, and produced an assortment of short stories that met my standards, and were published.

At present, I am a communications partner for a new startup. My duties entail that I be responsible for producing any accompanying books related to the startup once it goes public, in addition to more mundane duties related to day-to-day correspondence and copywriting. As anyone who has previous experience with entrepreneurship knows, sometimes it can take a bit of time for a venture to go public. Being that I lead a pretty Spartan lifestyle, one that is supported through freelancing my services as an editor and publishing consultant, and that the startup needs some time before it can reach fruition, I have a significant amount of off time. During this time, I have been writing screenplays.

The reason that I’ve chosen to write screenplays, again, boils down to opportunity. My cousin Andrew Friedman works at FOX. He regales me with fabulous stories of parties with Method Man and Seth Rogen. His mother worked for 25 years in sales at Paramount Pictures. Furthermore, my girlfriend Lauren Rubin, as a graduate of Vassar College, has an assortment of high-powered contacts in the film industry. Her mother, Joanne Larson, through her business dealings, also has access to a multitude of producers and other film professionals. This access, and the potential for serious rewards from success as a screenwriter, has led me to conclude that this is the perfect opportunity for me now.

So, in short, to quickly ascend as a writer, leverage any existing opportunities immediately. 

If you are unsure of the nature of the opportunities around you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who do I know who has offered to help me?
  2. Who do I know who has a foothold in any way in the writing community? Would they be willing to help me if I asked them?
  3. Are there any opportunities local to your area or current life related to a particular type of writing?

I wish you success in capitalizing on your opportunities.

p.s. I strive to present all the tools necessary for writers to dramatically improve their craft and chances of publishing through my blog posts, free Q&A service, and free fiction writing 101 course. However, if you require more personal attention, please consider my editing and/or publishing consultancy services.

 

Writers, All You Have to Do is Ask!

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While there are plenty of great editors and publishing consultants that you can choose to work with (and if you’d like to go that route, I would certainly hope that you would consider my services), sometimes all an aspiring writer needs to get themselves on track is to leverage their contacts. In the words of Morrissey in The Smiths’ song Ask, “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…” 

There are many steps to the writing process, but it can be broken down most simply to this:

1. Formulate an idea 

2. Outline that idea (optional, but strongly recommended)

3. Write like your life depended on it, and don’t look back. Any writer, if they’ve already done steps 1 and 2, can complete 90% of the work of capturing their idea without poring over every detail. Leave that to an editor, or if you want to take on the chore yourself (though it can be very difficult to be objective about your own writing), do it afterwards. Don’t waste time. Just write.

4. Edit your writing to get it to 100% 

5. Find a publisher

Regarding steps 4 and 5, but most especially step 5, if you have contacts in the industry, either people in publishing, other writers, or any other relevant ins, LEVERAGE THEM

I know that most of my readers are aspiring writers, and my services, though fairly priced, are simply outside of some of my readers’ budget. I can relate. I was in the same boat. I quit my job in the English department of Monroe College to really see what I could do as a writer. My friend Rairigh Drum helped me in so many ways. She knew that my writing needed MAJOR WORK when we were students at Beloit College, but she had seen some growth, and supported me along the way, as friends do. She let me stay in a spare room in her apartment in Clarion, Pennsylvania rent-free. She edited all my short fiction, making it much better, because I knew I couldn’t do it on my own (what writer could, we really do need editors). What happened? A string of acceptances. That didn’t happen before. Why did it happen? For many reasons, but most importantly because I ASKED for a favor. 

If you have people in your network who would be able to help you along the way, free of charge, LEVERAGE THEM. I’m always there for you if you don’t, but seriously, get creative and you can start advancing and not even have to spend a cent. 

In the spirit of this post, I’m going to ask YOU a favor: If you know anyone in the film industry, please help me out. I just completed a script with my co-writer Zubair Simonson called Brooklyn Blend. We just registered it with the WGA East. Think of it like Frances Ha meets Thank You for Smoking. The script is about a deluded Brooklyn hipster who thinks he’s a great musician, but really is a total hack, and how his ruthless ambition brings down a racist politician and lands a record deal. If you can help us get this sold or optioned, let me know (theliterarygame@gmail.com). See, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Four Reasons Why You Should Consider Writing With a Friend

friends

My first time writing with a friend wasn’t very auspicious. It didn’t ruin our friendship, and what was completed of the story was pretty interesting; the only issue was the simple matter of completing our chapters, which sort of fell by the wayside. The end result was a project that ended before it had even really started.

Which brings us to the present – I’m now partnering on a screenplay with a new friend that I made, a very talented writer/actor/filmmaker named Zubair Simonson. I met Zubair as I was walking down Lexington Avenue in New York City. My briefcase, filled with admittedly gaudy advertising for this project written in Wite-Out, was slung over my shoulder. I noticed a man looking at me with a quizzical expression. This being New York City, I kept walking. One block later, Zubair inquired about the blog, and the rest is history. 

I’m a slow writer; Zubair is not. I have connections to the film industry; Zubair does not. We’ve formed a perfect partnership. I’ve seen screenwriting partnerships work already. My cousin Andrew Friedman and his screenwriting partner Stephen Dackson have one of their scripts in pre-production. Teamwork can make big things happen.

So, why should you consider writing with a friend? Here are a few reasons:

1. It’s a lot more fun than writing alone.

2. Bouncing ideas around to someone else helps deliver a sharper story.

3. Your partner can complement your weaknesses.

4. It can speed up the time it would take to complete a story. 

If you think this applies only to screenwriting, you’re wrong. Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs worked in collaboration to produce And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Why can’t you collaborate on a novel, or a short story, or a poem, with a friend?

Have you ever tried to write collaboratively before? What was your experience like?