Thursday, March 23, 2017

Crashing...RL Jackson

SUPER: “3:00 A.M
R.L, early 30-something sits at her computer desk and ponders the blank word document in front of her. A bead of sweat forms on her brow.

R.L sits at her computer desk, the scorching lamp shining on her face as she stares at the blank computer screen. A bead of sweat rolls down her brow. It’s three-o-clock in the morning and she sighed aloud, looking at the time in the lower right corner of her computer. She’d been sitting in her darkened living room for hours now not being able to sleep, but still not able to write anything either; the chalk white document in front of her still only showed the blinking cursor as evidence for her “writing”. Get it together, she thought, as she cracked her knuckles and placed her fingers on the keyboard.

Screenwriting and novel writing have special pros and cons of each, whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, or whether you’re making an indie film or shopping a script around to film houses. This is a topic that hits home for me being that I started my serious pursuit of professional writing with scripts before writing fiction novels. The process in hindsight for script writing is similar to manuscripts, but these are very different beasts. For me when I start any story idea, I watch it in my mind first. If I can’t imagine it in my own head, how will anyone else? Makes sense to me. After that I write detailed “story worlds” where I set the scene ( sleepy mariner town or a post-apocalyptic wasteland), then the characters I want to see (i love large ensemble casts), then I break all of that down further until I know  intimate details like, what each character’s favorite color is to what their favorite food choices may be.) When that’s said and done, I then write out my plot map and set up my “mini-movie” formula to ensure that I’m hitting the correct beats needed to keep things moving, interesting and full of suspense.
Once all of this has been plotted out, the fun really begins as words are either going to fly out of me and end up on the screen, or I’ll sit there without a clue as to what to write next. The same is true when I’m writing a manuscript as well. I plan and plot in a very similar way, but I have to think a lot more. In a script, the director and cinematographer will be able to build a set to show watchers the scene and the mood being conveyed. In novel writing, you have to actually be able to do that with words to immerse your reader, but also be clever about it too. No one wants to read three paragraphs on how good a banana tastes to the character, or how sunny the day was. You have to find a happy medium and that is where I ran into a lot of trouble at first.
With scripts, they want a fast page turner, 90-120 pages of pure entertainment, without any fuss. After being so used to writing like that, my first manuscript was pretty skinny, so instead of faking my way through it, I picked up some books and read. When I got the hang of how much description others used, it helped to open my mind up and be able to “show instead of tell”.  A lot of people think that phrase is only true for manuscripts but it’s not. In scripts, you are required to do the same, just less of it, which has its own challenges. I remember giving a script to a good friend of mine who is a pretty popular director right now, and he told me that the V.O’s (Voice over’s) I had in much of the script killed the story. He told me that the best scripts in this particular genre, did the showing, without needing the V.O’s at all, and made a bigger more dramatic impact. It blew me away and in that instance, I ended up with lots of short descriptions instead of actual dialogue, which made the suspense level go from 5 to 11 (on my imaginary suspense scale).  So you have to achieve the very same things in similar ways but follow very strict guidelines in a script. If a producer has an hour to kill but can’t get off page one in a minute or less, he/she probably won’t bother reading it unless it’s a “Lord of The Rings” caliber situation. The mechanics will depend essentially on what you’re writing and what the emotion is you’re trying to convey and knowing that with detailed outlines of your story will help you achieve it for both.
Script: Fast paced, little description, page turner, 90-120 pages
Novel: Fast paced, good descriptions, page turner, length is up to you
If you want to give scripts a try, get yourself some good software like Final Draft, or Writer Duet which is free. I’ve used both and when/if you are collaborating with a group, Writer Duet allows you to talk with your partner and see script changes in real-time. It also works for manuscripts written by author collaborations as well! Also, download some Hollywood scripts, a lot of them are free so you can get a feel for the format. It’s the same advice people give with fiction writing: Read your genre!
I say all this, not because I’m an expert, I am most certainly not, but to say to do your homework and research. Being an indie in either field requires a lot of hard work. I find being an indie author to be rewarding with the freedom and control but it’s no different from being an indie film-maker.I thought the vampire script market was saturated, lol! But I won’t despair, writing requires an audience or building one and if you want to take it seriously in either medium, you have to be a go-getter and have confidence in yourself and what you write. Don’t give up because something is hard or one person says something didn’t work for them. Find beta reader’s and editors, preferably recommended from other reputable authors in your circle.
SCRIPT- INDIE FILMMAKER: Have a good script, find funding, market, attract A-list talent (not as hard as you think), establish distribution, get paperwork in order, secure talent, film if all the stars align just right. (And none of this happens in order by the way. Sometimes you get talent with nothing but an idea and luck, or you have everything else and can’t find any recognizable talent interested, which doesn’t help distribution efforts. HARD WORK.)
NOVEL- INDIE WRITER: Have good manuscript, publish e-book, format for paperback, publish that, find fan base, market, advertise promote, watch rankings, social gatherings, social takeovers, launch parties, giveaways, discounts, write more, relevant blog posts, conferences, seminars, networking. ( No particular order other than a manuscript is needed before anything can get moving essentially and you still need money to do marketing. HARD WORK)
These look pretty similar and it is apparent that most of the work happens AFTER your masterpiece is completed or nearly completed. Neither is for the faint of heart as you can clearly see.
“Write, Publish, Edit, Repeat” is my motto. Emphasis on edit for both script and manuscript. Don’t put in months of hard work, to have it all mean nothing because you couldn’t afford an editor. Grammarly is free if that’s your only option and will point out lots of mistakes. Print your manuscript/script out chapter by chapter or scene by scene and read it. You will be surprised at the amount of mistakes you find and fix, and then even MORE surprised at how many your editor will find even after you’ve done all that. It’s worth every penny to put your best foot foreward. Again these are just my thoughts and experiences and not meant to be the definitive explanation of all things regarding either industry. I’m still learning everyday and I’m sure I have lots more to go.
All in all, I’ve enjoyed the journey of both and will continue my pursuit of story-telling no matter where it will lead: Oscar or NYT Best-seller list. A girl can dream, “write”?

Shared by the amazing RL Jackson! Check out her links!

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