Projects

I have a heap of projects that I’m juggling at the moment. It doesn’t help that I was sick for a week and then my youngest son was sick for another week, putting me behind. And now the holidays . . .

I’m doing two screenwriting projects for two different people: a rom-com that has gone through multiple drafts and a thriller than I’m trying to get the first draft hammered out. Kind of bizarre jumping between the two—just completely different head space as you might imagine.

And then on the prose side I’m dabbling with both a K-Pro sequel and St. Peter Ascends as well. But I don’t think I’ll have anything finished to pitch at SFWC in February, which makes me feel kind of bad.

Also making me feel bad: a number of rejections. That always brings my momentum down. Hard to be excited about the work when no one seems to want it. I need encouragement, and I don’t seem to be getting any.

Oh, but then I’ve also been asked to record some voiceover lines for potential use in a movie. Don’t know if they’ll be used, but I’m game to try.

Projects

People keep asking what I’m working on, and really I’ve got a couple big projects on my plate, both screenwriting related. First, I’m doing a rewrite of another person’s romantic comedy. It’s a really cute story with a lot of potential (I think), and the writer and I hammered out some changes, and now I’m implementing them in the script. And then the rewrite will go back to him so he can do some more rewriting. Because I know what I’m putting in won’t be perfect. Not on the first go.

And then I have this thriller script to write. I’ve outlined a general plot and sent that off to the director who seemed to mostly like it. (He wanted me to change some character names.) I’m feeling a little pressure on this one because it’s not my usual genre, and the director is a little impatient to get going. But I’d committed to the rom-com prior, and I told this director that, so . . .

I’ve also had a nice response from the few people I pitched to at Screenwriters World last weekend, so we’ll see what, if anything, comes from that.

Headshots went well, and I didn’t even need any wardrobe changes because the blue shirt I chose really made my eyes pop and my red hair stand out. From what I reviewed on the camera screen, I looked a little like Emily Deschanel. Of course, that could change once I see larger versions of the pictures. Watch the sidebar for the finished product once it’s ready.

Screenwriters World Conference West 2013

I’m currently in L.A. at the SWCW, learning lots, pitching, and hanging out with writerly friends. “My tribe,” as one other writer put it, “people who speak my language and make me feel like I’m not the only weirdo in the world.”

I’ve attended quite a few sessions and panels, ones on how to pitch, how to write log lines and queries, about getting agents and/or managers (and how to know when it’s time to look for one) . . . It’s funny how, from one industry professional to another, a lot of the advice can contradict itself. What one person abhors another finds commonplace. “Do this!” and “Never do that!” It’s enough to give you whiplash.

I came in feeling pretty confident, but of course the moment I started hearing the lectures, I began to doubt. “Dramas don’t sell,” I heard again and again, and what do I have? Two drama scripts. But then again, didn’t Jeremy Zimmer of UTA just say that dramas will almost certainly come back? Trends in this town change fast. I may yet have a chance.

I pitched to six production companies and reps. Of those, four requested my contact information, one gave me his card and asked to read my script, and the one and only woman I spoke to passed. “It’s a good story but not my thing,” seemed to be the sum total of her response. (Honestly, it was difficult to tell; she wasn’t very clear about it.) I never know, when they take my contact info, if I should actually expect to hear from them. I like to think they wouldn’t bother taking my business card or writing down my name and e-mail unless they were actually interested. Otherwise they’d just pass, right? Or are some of them too nice to say no outright and find it easier to disappear (like the guy who never calls)?

Still, I’ll count the day as a success.

Tomorrow is the last day. It’s been a busy couple days, but at least tomorrow I can relax a bit because there will be no pitching involved. I don’t fly home until Monday morning, so I’ll have a chance to see some friends and unwind. Always nice to be able to combine business with pleasure.

A Random Collection of Information

A lot has been going on. I have Screenwriters World Conference West to ready myself for this coming weekend. Must work on making all my pitches short, sweet, and smooth.

And I also have two scripts I need to be working on, plus the new Sherlock Holmes story. Because I am, after all, a writer. And writers are supposed to, you know, write.

But before I dart off, I’d like to share two of the cutest children on the face of the planet:

IMG_4760

(Yes, they’re mine.)

Pitching

I have two conferences scheduled at the moment: Screenwriters World Conference in L.A. at the end of this month, and San Francisco Writers Conference next February.

I’m starting to get a bit nervous about the screenwriting conference because I’m expecting to pitch to a few people, and though I’ve done literary pitches, I’ve never done movie ones. I don’t suppose they’re so different, except movie people think in pictures while literary agents are more about the words. Well, I won’t have the luxury of visual aids when I pitch at the screenwriting conference, so I’ll just have to paint pictures with my words. Hopefully that will be enough.

In the meantime, I’ve been asked to do up a treatment for one of my scripts, so I need to go pull that together, too. And keep pounding out the scripts themselves as well. I had always considered being a writer a kind of leisurely pursuit, but as it turns out, it’s quite demanding. Just as well. Gives me something to do and keeps me off the streets.

Busy. In a Good Way.

I’m supposed to be working. I have quite a few projects on my plate at the moment:

  1. Adapting St. Peter at the Gate to add to the St. Peter in Chains script, thereby extending it to full length
  2. Two other script rewrites (for other people’s scripts)
  3. Writing the Hunting Victor Frankenstein pilot
  4. A number of prose projects, including: St. Peter Ascends, another K-Pro novel, more Sherlock Holmes stories, plus I have ideas for at least two other books
  5. A couple plays I keep meaning to finish

And though I’ve done some rewriting for 20 August, I’m pretty sure it needs another bit of work.

Also, these blank canvases are not going to paint themselves.

It’s good to be busy. Good to have projects. Really, really good to have scripts that people want to turn into movies, and then also have people wanting me to help them with their scripts besides. Exciting. Exhausting. But I like to take my opportunities as they arise, and in this work it’s often feast or famine. Today we feast!

Which reminds me. I haven’t had anything to eat yet today . . .

(I keep candy stashed in my office, but I try not to resort to eating any until mid-afternoon at the earliest.)

Anyway, must get as much done as possible in advance of the Screenwriters Conference at the end of September. It’s good to have deadlines of a sort, too, really. Otherwise it becomes too easy to drift. So onward! (Cue Man of La Mancha, as sung by Scott Bakula in that episode of Quantum Leap. Cuz that’s just the kind of nerd I am.)

Burning question: Why didn’t Weird Al ever write a song called “Keep Refrigerated” based on “Keep ’em Separated”? Or did he, and I just missed it?

May Day

We’re one third of the way through the year. Have we accomplished anything? Well . . .

Yesterday did see me cross over the 20k mark in sales and downloads of my books! Not bad for 10 months.

And I’ve finished one screenplay. That two independent producers have shown interest in.

Other things that have happened since the start of the year include my having won Table Read My Screenplay (with St. Peter in Chains), having attended the San Francisco Writers Conference (where I learned a lot, even if I didn’t get an agent), and having published The K-Pro.

So what’s next? Well, finishing St. Peter at the Gate tops my list. And I’ve got a list of other projects besides, but I’m trying to take things one at a time.

Plus, travel in June and July. Really looking forward to seeing London again.

AND . . . Blogger Book Fair in July as well! I’ve never done it before, but I think it will be fun. I’ll be doing a couple giveaways of The K-Pro and St. Peter in Chains the week of July 15th, too. Want to join in? The sign-up forms for BBF are here. Deadline is June 15.

I hope everyone has a lovely Beltane. I hope your year has started well, and that it only continues to get better as we go along.

Blessings,
~M

Freelance Editor? Yes or No?

At the San Francisco Writers Conference, there was a small herd of freelance editors on offer—you could meet with one that handled your genre and he or she would give you feedback on, say, the first page of your manuscript. I did meet with one, though I didn’t have a page to show her. Mostly I was curious. I practiced my pitch on her (she liked the idea for my book, said it sounded very unique, not like anything she’d heard before) and asked her what genre she thought it might be, based on the description. (The seeming consensus over the whole of the weekend, with my asking various editors about genre, is that K-Pro is paranormal and/or fantasy but maybe not kissy enough for romance, and so: paranormal women’s lit or fantasy women’s lit . . . If there is such a thing.)

All right, but here’s the thing. When, if ever, is it worth it to shell out hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on a freelance editor?

The agents seemed to think it a good idea to have a freelance editor help you polish your manuscript and get it ready for submission. And of course the freelance (or “developmental”) editors think you should hire them! For nonfiction books, they can help organize the information, even help research the points, check facts, sort the end notes and citations. And for fiction they’ll help you suss out your plot and point out where your characters aren’t quite right or something.

Now I’ve worked as a development editor . . . Though that was for textbooks, which is a bit different. (Well, it’s nonfiction, anyway.) But let’s just say I’m pretty confident in my abilities to write relatively clearly and spell and punctuate properly most of the time. And yet I’m also aware that every writer is a bit myopic by nature when it comes to his or her own work, so there is definite value in having other eyes look over it. But how much is it worth?

Maybe if one of these editors could guarantee that an agent would sign me . . . Or if s/he had a fabulous track record of authors who’d gone on to be published . . .

But in any other case, I think that I could use beta readers and test readers to the same effect, and for a lot less money! I have done, in fact. And even Guy Kawasaki said in his keynote that you should “tap the crowd.” (But still hire a good copyeditor—which is somewhat different from a developmental editor.)

So I don’t know. The way the conference suggests things be done is: you write it, the freelance editor helps you rewrite it, then you send it to an agent who (if he or she signs you) will suggest even more edits, and if that agent gets publishers interested, the publishing house editors will probably want more edits . . . It’s just mind-spinning, to be told it should be perfect when you submit it, but then it will have to somehow be made “more perfect” as things go along.

Nowadays some agents offer “consulting” services similar to freelance editing, but only to clients they don’t sign (in order to avoid conflict of interest). I guess with all the changes to the industry, everyone is trying to keep their jobs by remaining valid in some way. Publishers can only afford to put out books that will sell lots of copies, preferably with minimal marketing and publicity, which cuts a lot of writers out of the equation; a mid-list author is now just lost money and wasted time to the publishing houses. This is why so many of them—and also so many agents—want authors to have already built up their fan bases before they’ll even consider taking them on.

But that’s another discussion for another day. As it is, I can’t afford to hire a freelance editor, so I’ll have to continue to rely on my fellow authors and friends to read my drafts and offer advice. On the whole, they’ve done right by me—and they’re a very supportive clan to boot! And they don’t usually cost me anything but a free copy of the finished product. So thanks, guys (& gals) for that.

The Pitching Session

So at SFWC they have an event called “Speed Dating with Agents.” It costs extra, but it gives you one-on-one face time with the agents at the conference so you can pitch your book(s) to them. Or, if you’re not ready for that, you can also just ask some questions.

If you sign up for SDwA, they put a colored sticker on your conference badge. There are four colors = four groups, and each group has a specific 45-minute period for their pitch session. Mine was 11:00 to 11:45. There’s no limit on how many agents you can talk to, aside from picking short lines, else you’ll spend all your time standing in line to chat with one agent. Some people see as many as seven, the average is probably around five, and I saw three—not because I ran out of time but because I ran out of people I wanted to speak to.

That may sound ludicrous, but two of the agents who supposedly cover my book’s genre had already rejected me via e-mail, so I assumed they wouldn’t want to hear the pitch in person.

Anyway. I’m not going to give names, but I’ll say the first agent I spoke to I did really like. And she flattered me by remembering she’d seen some pages from my book as part of a writing contest. “It won, didn’t it?” she asked. No . . . But I’m flattered she remembered it as “winning” or “a winner.” She was open to me sending her the first 10 pages and a synopsis. I hope she doesn’t revise her thinking about it being a winner when she reads them!

The second agent I also liked, but felt less connection with in a way. Like, I felt like her eyes might be glazing over when I gave her the quick version of my book’s story. After asking the word count, her concern was that the manuscript is too short. If it’s fantasy, she’d want it to be at least 75k words (it’s not nearly); if it’s a romance, it being on the short side might be fine. Thing is, if I were to market it as a romance, I’m not convinced romance readers wouldn’t be a little disappointed. There are many romantic elements, but nothing steamy. It might be what some would call a “sweet” romance? All about the attraction between two characters, not about any sex. And it’s second to the plot, I think, anyway. But this agent was also open to me sending her something, though it sounded as if she wanted to see it only once I’d decided which market and tailored the manuscript as such.

That leaves the third agent. I didn’t pitch him my book. Instead, I wanted to pick his brain about the situation with my screenwriting. (This agent is known for his book-to-film work.) He was extremely helpful in outlining my rights as writer, and what’s more he told me to e-mail him when the screenplay I’m working on is done.

After that, I’ll admit I hesitated and considered trying those two agents who’d rejected me. But I try to make it a rule not to go where I’m not wanted. I know they say persistence pays off, but I don’t want to be a pest—pests get swatted.

Still and all, a useful experience. Though I worry that any pages I send will be turned down and I’ll be back where I started. But . . . Gotta try. Right?

San Francisco Writers Conference: Day 3

I didn’t attend any sessions Sunday morning because I was going to be pitching to agents at 11:00 and knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on what was being said. I’d just be checking my watch. Constantly. So after breakfast (at which the agents all introduced themselves and told everyone what kinds of books they were looking for), I went up to my room to attempt to stay calm, and also to pack.

I’ll talk about the pitching in another post. Here I’ll talk about the last session I did attend before leaving the conference. This was after pitching to the agents, and it was a session about “Populating Your Tribe” and building a fan base. It was run by Evan Karp and Ransom Stephens. The two of them were quite entertaining, in the way where one is made to think they should have their own podcast or radio show or something.

However, I’m not sure how much I walked away with in terms of building a fan base, except to say they emphasized getting involved in the local arts scene. Karp runs Litseen and Quiet Lightning and Stephens is known for LitQuake—both San Francisco-based events. For people not from the area, they suggested finding the scene in your own area, or starting one if there isn’t any. Of course, only do as much as you’re comfortable doing. Don’t start a reading series if you don’t have the time to keep it up, or if it’s painful for you to put yourself out there in that way.

But if you do want to start something, here are some easy steps:

  • Pick a venue. (Don’t forget to ask the manager if it’s okay to invite a group in.)
  • Pick a date. (And make sure the venue is okay with it. Also be sure your date doesn’t overlap with some other big event.)
  • Invite! Find authors, writers, etc.

Pretty simple. And if it’s a success, make it a regular thing.

If you don’t want to run your own show, try volunteering at someone else’s. Especially at a festival or conference, this can be a great way to get in for free and still meet lots of people.

It’s really up to you how much you want to do or how involved you want to be. Just remember that whatever rewards you reap are often directly related to how much time and energy you invest.