Thursday, February 9, 2012

Writing again

Finally, after nearly a year, I'm writing again. I've more or less caught up to the various projects, including promoting the Emperor of Mars novel and the Ghostkeeper re-release which also includes a "Ghostkeeper Week-end" at the Deer Lodge.

Writing is what I do best, although I'm not bad at filming either, but writing is what, at the end of the day, I come home to.

I get email promos from The Writer's Store in Burbank offering a wealth of books, webisodes, links, seminars, workshops and every other possible promotion to writers that one can imagine. There's even support in the form of writer "life coaches" who will push you to write blockbuster screenplays.

They have books on how to make a film for $10,000 or $10,000,000, how to write successful loglines, queries and 1-sheets, how to finish the first 10 pages, how to find great characters, classical writing (vs unclassical?) and a hundred other variations of the same thing:

How to write a screenplay that will sell.

All you have to do is take one or more of the courses, of which most are taught or written by people who have never had a movie made. You can even get a screenwriting degree online.

I remember taking in a seminar from Robert McKee years ago just for curiosity. He gives a good show, after all he is/was an actor. And the audience enjoyed his enlightenments, which were actually fun to know.

But the problem comes on the day you begin to write; all of a sudden McKee's advice seems to be in the way, rather than a solution.

In short it's sort of like learning to fly; the instructor shows you, on the ground,  all the things you have to do to stay up. Then when you do go up, he/she's right beside you.

But for writing, once you start to write you're on your own. Imagine if that was a flying course.

Still people pay lots of money for all of these courses and rarely figure out that they're not doing the one thing they should be doing --


I learned to write by writing; for those who go back to 2009 when this blog began, I mentioned this and will repeat it; you must write in order to learn how to write.

How do I know? Remember I taught UCLA extension classes for 2 1/2 years and of the 250 or so students only a handful kept at it. Four of them. And neither of them have sold a screenplay, but they continue to write.

If you want books, there are literally around 300 books on writing; go to Amazon if you don't believe me. I have 3 books; The Art of Dramatic Writing, which was written in 1946 and still in print, also 500 Ways to Beat the Script Reader and for format and a basic guide, Syd Field's Screenplay.

I rarely look at the books, but this time I dragged out Art of Dramatic Writing and forgot how brilliant it is; it's not even for movies, it's for playwriting; but the rules are there, the basics from the Greeks and the rules that followed.

If you write, you should try and find the book; it's got all you need.

One point, I hear all the time that there are no good screenplays anymore, I saw Alexander Payne and George Clooney say this a few days ago; there are no good screenplays.

Even with all the help you can get from a hundred or more screenwriting gurus? How can that be? You'd think that brilliant screenplays should be everywhere, just like they advertise in their ads.

You'd think so.

I started screenwriting by re-typing The Deerhunter screenplay on an IBM typewriter. It gave me the feel of a real screenplay and I re-typed several other scripts, learning more than any of the books I read gave me. Even though it was someone else's work, I felt like I had written a real screenplay.

Anyways, I gotta start writing, it's already 9:30 and I am starting to feel the muse nazi is yelling at me to start writing and never mind talking about writing.

(Mon: Part 2 of Writing)