Color-Blind Screenwriting

So I wrote a script some years ago that did fairly well in competition and received encouraging feedback. But one reader was annoyed that I hadn’t delineated the ethnicities of the characters. To be clear, the script is about four post-college friends, two men and two women. And the reader has a point—in order to picture the characters better, he wanted to know more about what they look like.

Certainly, when I write something, I have a mental image of my characters. And my job as a writer is to take what I see and put it in other people’s heads so they see it too. But in the case of this particular script, though I had ideas about the characters, the parts seem very open to me. These could be any four friends.

Casting directors would hate that. They want to narrow it down. (One reader suggested Jonah Hill and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the two male roles.) But in the face of uproar over the “white Oscars,” I like to think a script like mine would be a great chance for minorities. Because it’s a shame that Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan got overlooked, but there are also few great parts for minorities. In order to get nominated they first need to have opportunities.

Now, I’m not saying my script should be cast as some diversity stew. Diversity for the sake of it doesn’t work either. I’d need to go look at the script again to see what would make sense. But it’s something to consider. While the script did well in competition and has been through the hands of many [white male] indie directors (one comp called it “perfect for the A-list indie scene”), it has yet to find a home. Maybe it could find life under other circumstances. And then a minority like me (female screenwriter) might also get somewhere.

Don’t want to read a script? Try my latest novel instead. Reviews call it “compelling” and “incredibly written.” The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller.

Picking Your Battles

Back in 2013 and 2014, I was spending a lot of time and money trying to find agents, producers, managers, directors—anybody, more or less—for my scripts. I’d get a nibble and get excited only to have it all fall apart a few weeks or months later. I’d get an option and then it would lapse. It was the constant feeling of swimming upstream.

At the same time, I was also bumping along with my prose. My Sherlock Holmes stories were doing pretty well. I was getting solid interest on the Peter manuscript. Sure, a lot of that fell through too, but there was certainly more sense of forward progress with my prose projects than with the screenwriting. And I wasn’t losing money on pitches and attorney’s fees, either.

So I finally had to stop and ask myself: How much does being a screenwriter really mean to me? Am I willing to continue tossing money and energy down that well? Or is my time better served focusing on my prose?

I’d already stopped writing stage plays. Maybe it was time to whittle myself down again.

And it’s not that I don’t want to do screenwriting. But I also don’t enjoy beating my head against a wall. I get pretty depressed, honestly, and it felt like it was time to limit the avenues that would generate that depression. And maybe that’s the wrong attitude to have. Maybe you’re saying, “Well, then, you must not be much of a writer if you can’t handle rejection.” Or, “You must not want it badly enough then.” And you could be correct on either or both counts. I don’t know. But I have enough self-awareness to know my own limits. And I’d finally reached one with the screenwriting.

It’s a difficult choice. My scripts received a lot of good feedback, did well in a number of competitions. But that doesn’t actually win you anything or get you much of anywhere. And I don’t have it in me to write the stuff most people seem to want to direct or produce. (Though in a number of cases I had interested directors, but they couldn’t get funding for the projects. So . . . I wasn’t writing what people wanted to invest in, I guess?)

I write full time. It’s my job. But I have to choose projects that are, in the end, going to further my goals. And, you know, maybe make me a little money. Writers can seldom afford to live off their earnings, but I do like to be able to fund my hair-and-nails habit.

A while back one of the pitching services I’d used a few times e-mailed me to suggest I try this or that manager. It was tempting. It’s like gambling, and you keep hoping you’ll hit the jackpot or whatever. But I started thinking about everything else I’d rather do with that money. And I reminded myself of how this service had suggested this or that person before and it had never worked out. So I walked away.

I’m having to live with the possibility that I’m not “good enough” for The Biz. I’m having to remind myself that doesn’t mean I’m entirely worthless. I’m having to come to terms with the fact that not all my dreams in life are going to be realized. Not all my goals are going to be met. It’s a hard lesson. But I’ve done a lot, and I hope to do much more. I’m just picking my battles.

Goals for 2016

I know I mentioned these in a previous post, but I like to state them clearly so I can track my progress throughout the year.

1. Finish the revision of Changers.
2. Find an agent or publisher for Changers.
3. With my co-writer, finish the Hard Reset script.
4. Write and release at least one more Sherlock Holmes story.
5. Attend at least one writing conference and/or do at least one reading or signing.

I’m going to leave it at that for now. I also intend to keep marketing Peter—only two weeks away now, eep! And note the links on the sidebar that allow you to find various online articles and podcasts about the book. I’ll add to that as bloggers post reviews and so on, so please keep checking back! And if you read and review Peter be sure to let me know!

Other more amorphous goals include more meditation time and continuing my exercise program. But the five above are (a) writing focused, and (b) easily ticked off as achieved (or not). I’ll check in periodically as the year progresses and may add new/revised goals as others are met.

Do you make goals? Resolutions?

Reviewing 2015

There are still a couple more days. More could happen. But here’s my 2015 so far:

72 rejections*
1 script optioned (that then lapsed)
1 book contract
1 new Sherlock Holmes story released
1 film premiere
1 shortlisted story
1 R&R (revise and resubmit) from an agent
1 potential agent who hasn’t signed me yet

I could also add that I’m co-writing a script with a couple guys, though that seems to have fallen by the wayside in past months. I’ll check in with them again after the new year. Aside from that project, though, I’ve more or less stepped away from screenwriting and am focusing on my prose projects.

I also attended a couple writing conferences. One local and then the DFW Con, which was amazing. I would definitely recommend that conference to other writers.

Sufficient to say 2015 was a good year. A lot of progress. And the rejections, well, those just come with being a writer.

2016 promises to be interesting, too. Peter will be released on January 15 (go pre-order on the Shop page! the Kindle version is discounted until release day!), which seems like a fine way to start the year. Hopefully it will set the tone for even more progress as the year goes on.

My goals for 2016 are pretty simple:

1. Finish the revision on Changers
2. Find an agent or publisher for Changers
3. Get “Aptera” accepted somewhere (it’s the story that has been shortlisted for an anthology)
4. Write at least one more Sherlock Holmes story
5. Help Peter find an audience

I put Peter last not because it’s least important—far from it—but because it’s the most difficult of the goals to quantify. The other four can easily be checked off, but the Peter thing is about marketing and just trying to get the book out there. Which I’m working my tail off to do, but . . . It’s harder to say if/when one has been successful at something like that. Maybe once Peter has some reviews or has been featured on some blogs?

I’d like to do a signing at the very least. But first I have to convince the publisher to do a print version of the book.

I’d also like to attend at least one conference this year, maybe two. It would be even more amazing if I were to be a guest at a conference, but I don’t know if I’m at that level quite yet.

Finally, increased meditation is a bit of a goal for me this year as well. Keeping up with my exercise routine but also making time and space for . . . quiet. Listening to myself, getting in touch with my intuition. Tuning in. I was recently guided to do this, and I think it’s important.

Also, to improve my posture.

I guess there’s a lot I want to do in 2016! I’m actually quite looking forward to this year.

*The rejections are combined book (Peter and Changers) and script rejections.

Putting 2015 in Rear View

These were my goals for 2015. I achieved two out of three, plus I did get to go back to London, if only for a weekend. Also, Adverse Possession did, in fact, premiere at a film festival. And the rom-com was optioned, though that option lapsed without the film moving toward production.

I’ve decided to put screenwriting on hold, so I won’t be actively looking to get Hunting Victor Frankenstein picked up, or 20 August, or really any of my scripts. Instead I plan to focus on my prose. So here are my burgeoning goals for 2016:

1. Get an agent or publisher for Changers.

I have a couple of each already interested, and I’m currently revising to make the manuscript even stronger.

2. Write and publish another Sherlock Holmes story.

These are still my bread and butter. I should put out at least one a year, and ideally more like one every 4–6 months. Alas, I’m not always feeling it.

3. Get a start on sequels to Peter and Changers.

I won’t get so ambitious as to say I’ll finish either manuscript, but I should at least get started on them.

Finally, I’d like to do at least one book signing for Peter when it comes out [in print]. Ideally more than one. I’d really like to see this book do well, and I’m going to put as much of my energy behind that as possible. Of course, I can only do so much, and don’t really have complete control over how well the book does or doesn’t do. But I’ll try to get the word out at least.

These goals are subject to change, of course. The ebb and flow of life may cause some boats to rise and others to fall. I try to remain fluid and flexible, adaptable. Turn my sails to the wind. Here’s hoping 2016 has favorable ones.

2015 Summary

We’re staring down the barrel of the end of the year, and while there’s still plenty of time for things to happen, I’m feeling a tad retrospective. So here’s a summary of my year (so far).

After more than a year of sending out queries, I found a publisher for The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. That was exciting! The e-book is out in January with print to follow in late spring.

The romantic comedy I co-wrote was optioned . . . and then the option lapsed, so now it’s on the market again.

The short film Adverse Possession, based on my 15-minute play “Warm Bodies,” premiered at the San Diego Fall Film Festival.

I published another Sherlock Holmes story.

I recorded my first ever podcast interview (I was the guest). It should be available early next year, I believe. (Look for She Wrote a Book, launching December 7. I believe I’m episode 7 as well. Links to come.)

I also had a flash fiction piece selected for a podcast which will air in February (that one is called No Extra Words).

I traveled to London to see Hamlet at the Barbican. Also got to see Buckingham Palace. Turns out they have amazing pastries.

I went to the DFW Writers Conference and got to meet—and really converse with—Kevin J. Anderson. He lived in Livermore! ::fangirling!::

Lots and lots of rejection. I’m feeling pretty beat down by that at the moment, but there are still a few agents and publishers interested in Changers, so I’m trying to focus on that rather than the rejections.

And I have vacation starting tomorrow, and my birthday to look forward to, and another little trip to Carmel just prior to Christmas. So there’s still plenty of time and room for good things to happen. At the same time, I fear getting my hopes up too high.

What you, dear readers, can look forward to is the Giftmas Blog Tour coming up on this and other sites. Keep your eyes peeled because there will be giveaways! Including an ARC of Peter and a copy of The K-Pro. Stay tuned!

Roster of Projects Redux

My priorities continue to shuffle.

1. Finish screenplay for indie director.
2. New Sherlock Holmes story.
3. Changers sequel.
4. Peter sequel.

I also am in the middle of doing advance publicity for Peter‘s release in January, and I’m querying agents and publishers on Changers.

Then there’s that other screenplay I’m co-writing, but I haven’t heard from my partners in crime on that one recently, and the ball is in their court at the moment. If/when they come back to me on it, I’ll probably have to insert it in this list somewhere.

Well, it’s good to have projects. Back to the grind.

T-Minus 3 Months

Okay, so at the start of the year I had three goals for 2015:

1. Get an agent for The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller.

2. Finish Changers.

3. Get Hunting Victor Frankenstein picked up.

And here is where I stand with those.

1. No agent, but I did get a publisher (Tirgearr) and the book is slated for a January release. Just waiting on notes from my editor, and then it can go up for pre-order.

2. Draft is done, surely needs revisions and editing, but the main goal is met. I have one agent who has told me she’s interested in seeing it, so I want to polish it up to a bright shine before I send it.

3. Alas, nothing on this front. I knew it was a long shot. Seems my screenwriting has dipped in favor of my prose just lately. I do still have a number of screenwriting projects, but . . . It’s much more difficult to get a movie or television show made. Or even a stage play. So many more moving parts than a book. Requires so many more people and a lot more money. So I suppose I can’t kick myself for not making this goal. I did at least receive great, encouraging feedback on the script. Was told it’s “worthy of network consideration.” If only I knew how to get it to a network!

In all, it’s been a pretty decent year. Goals for the coming year include finding an agent/publisher for Changers and . . . Well, that’s the main one. I’ll be marketing Peter, too, so I think between the two, that will take up a fair amount of my time. That and actual writing, of course. Though I need to look at my list of projects and figure out what to prioritize . . .

Welcome to September

And with the return of school comes the return of my daily walks, which means I can go back to boring you with my playlists. Seriously though, I’ll only post the ones that seem significant in some way. Like this one from yesterday, which was bizarrely dark.

1. “Dear Joan” by Tabitha’s Secret
2. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
3. “It Ends Tonight” by All-American Rejects
4. “Impossible” by Anberlin
5. “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5
6. “I Can’t Let You Go” by Matchbox Twenty

It was a short walk, but if you know any of these songs . . . I mean, even though “Impossible” and “Harder to Breathe” are upbeat in tempo, they’re dark in content.

“Dear Joan,” btw, is a hauntingly beautiful ballad about abuse. Yay?

And then we get the stalker anthem by The Police and the clingy plea by Matchbox Twenty.

Hmm. What is my iPod trying to say? Maybe it just really missed my company over the summer?

I’m starting slowly with the walks, building myself back up. For one thing, it’s still pretty hot here. For another, I haven’t been walking that much. And the final straw: my oldest brought home a cold from school the first week and I have, of course, caught it. Ugh.

In other news, just finished a draft of a story and sent that off to my critique group. And am working on a screenplay I’ve been commissioned to write. Good things happening, despite my iPod’s dark mood and my stuffy nose.

To-Do List

  1. Finish my WIP.
  2. Write the script I’ve been commissioned to write.

. . .

After that it’s all a muddle. There’s another script I’m co-writing that’s sort of floating around. There’s the optioned script that I don’t even know what’s going on with it and I’m afraid to find out. Peter has an editing deadline of November 10, but I haven’t heard from my editor, so . . . ??? And I should probably put another Sherlock Holmes story on my slate as well.

Life has been very interesting lately, and I do believe things happen for a reason, so I’m curious to see which way the currents take me.