New Office!


My new office.

Well, it’s not like it’s a $1,600 a month business location, with a receptionist. I made an office in my home. No receptionist needed.

I just took a spare room, and cleaned out of it my hobby stuff, paring it down. I’ll resume my more space-intensive hobbies when I move back to Rhode Island, where 12X12 bedrooms are common, and fairly small… for Rhode Island…

So, for now, I’ve got a chair borrowed from a bedroom. I feel like a 9-year old typing at his dad’s desk, because it’s antique, and lower than the desk. I moved a chair in here for my wife, also a Victorian antique (be early for Yard sales… all I’m saying…).

Bookshelves are next. Coasters for the desk. Bookshelves. I’m a dark wood kind of guy. Cherry wood, so dark it almost looks black, with a high gloss polish on it… I can see my reflection on the desk as I type, my mouth moving spastically as I type, my face contorting as my typing fingers cannot keep pace with my fevered brain.

Or i’d see that ridiculous image, if I weren’t staring on a screen, spotted with unknown spots of something obscuring my view. I need to clean this.

I also just realized I need to change the angle of my laptop screen. I’m used to having it in a particular spot as I sit on my sofa and type. I’d like my office to look more like that antiquated concept of a “Study”, perhaps with me wandering about dressed like Vincent Price in some low-budget British Hammer Studios Film, intoning dire pronouncements in a Shakespearean tone as Price did, instead of my midwestern-tone voice with a New England slur, tinged with years of resorting to Yiddish in that American Jewish habit, of mixing Yiddish with English.

Tul pens. Gotta have Tul pens! I love Tul pens.

So, here I sit. Writing my first thing in my office with my wife’s chair there. And plastic ferns, who my wife guarantees I cannot kill through over-watering. If so, it’ll be a first.

Now I need candelabra’s, and a plot to RULE THE WORLD!!!!

Load of writing Books


I’ve chosen to use my pay from a project to order books on writing, and of course, my unrealized dream of owning Final Draft is now… realized!

The difficulty in the books is that I urgently need to read and highlight them, but I’m up to my elbows in work right now, so I’m having to make my way through them slowly.

It’s one of those Catch 22 situations.

Speaking of which, I read the Catch 22 book years ago, by Joseph Heller. I didn’t like it. There are some books I just don’t like. Sarcastic books and artsy books really don’t hold me. I dislike Catcher in the Rye, and everyone talks about how it’s such a great book… But it’s not. Catch 22 just struck me as one of those kind of books that some people thought was clever, and just irritated and offended me.

Where did the Month Go?


I know it’s because I was so incredibly busy trying to keep a difficult deadline. I aced that deadline for sure, but the response is more the Isaac Asimov surprise of, “It’s almost June?”

I remember my dad had a book by Isaac Asimov where he had little intros to stories, and there was something about how he sat in a study with the curtains pulled, an electric light on day and night as he typed, and how when he’d take a break, he’d often be surprised with the knowledge that it was daytime or nighttime. I don’t know if he was serious about that or not.

(“Digression!”)

Grumble. I hated Catcher in the Rye. My book report in school on that made that abundantly clear – don’t force me to read a bad book. I don’t know WHY so many people love the book, but “Conspiracy Theory” with Mel Gibson made a subtle jab at it that it’s only because of a CIA program of training people to be assassins through hypnosis, and that book is how they track those people.

Made sense to me. Stupid book!

Who you know?


I hear all the time, “It’s who you know.”

Well, when I was younger, I pushed Antonio Fargas out of a burning house. No idea who that is? He was on Starsky and Hutch, and did the right, brilliant thing when he couldn’t get an acting job after that show, and moved to Rhode Island.

That’s it.

Um… one of my sisters met James Garner at the Viking hotel in Newport. He was walking out, and she was walking by. She got an autograph.

(scratching my head)

I guess I don’t really know anybody. I don’t even know the names of most actors today. Directors… I know the names of a few.

I’ll have to get back to writing, I guess.

How to Increase Productivity


Here’s a simple exercise to increase productivity. I found it by accident. At work, I am given paper all day, printed on one side, to keep track of the day’s events. The papers are usually thrown in the trash at the end of the day.

For a while, I just hung onto the papers, and used the blank side to write on. some people doodle on the other side.

I began writing to-do notes.

Then more to do notes. Then ideas.

After a couple of years, i’m so conditioned to standing there and writing to do notes and ideas, that sometimes I go through three or four sheets that other people didn’t use. I can get a lot of work done now, come up with ideas when I have down time.

Write a Novel in 60 days


I got an ebook on how to write a novel in 60 days.

It may help a lot of people, but there wasn’t much in that ebook that helped me.

Not putting it down, but… when you finish your first novel, you now know how it works for you.

I’m 3.5 novels in, and I know how it works for me. I know my workflow. I can’t write a 65,000 word piece of fiction. It’s too short for me.

What I do is work a scene at a time. I need Ywriter or Scrivener, something that works like that.

I make a 3 act novel (it’s a template in Scrivener) and then add about 7 chapters per act. In reality, you’re going to drag a lot of chapters from Act 1 & 3 into 2.

Then I make about 7 scenes per chapter. Clancy did it that way, although some authors do one scene a chapter.

I start by labeling my scenes on the corkboard. Then I go into the scene I want to work on, and write.

I have 1667 words a day to get in there. Many days I get more. The word per day limit in Scrivener gives you instant results, if you keep the meter open. It’ll show you by a visual bar how far you’ve gone. Many days I far exceeded the 1667 word limit, and just kept writing. It’s an average of 150,000 words in 90 days.

MANY writers who’ve switched to Scrivener all do the same thing. they all describe it as “The one tool every writer must have to radically change the way you write.”

sooner or later, the holdouts will figure it out!

Novels!


I’m a novelist, first and foremost. I want very much to see my books in print. I can’t wait. I want to see this happen, move up north, relax in a nice house with a nice yard, and be able to putter around the house with my wife, sit in the garden the gazebo, whatever.

And be able to write full time.

I ca’nt believe the chances I’ve been offered to work in this. Its exciting, and I don’t take it for granted.

I just need enough hours in the day to get everything done!

Writing Class


I’m kind of unique, I guess. I have no problem taking classes in something I already know how to do. I might pick up new information. I’ll try other people’s techniques.

So i signed up for a two-week Screenwriting class that started RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of my deadline for writing my screenplay. no kidding.

What did I learn? Never dismiss an idea. Aaron Sorkin describes some ideas as swing and a miss, some as swing and a foul, and others as a knock out of the park. I’m kind of familiar with the terms, even though I don’t like sports.

At the writing class, there was discussion about how your WORST IDEA can actually be a great concept. There’s a writer in Maine who wanted to be a novelist. He wrote a book on his typewriter, and got discouraged with it when he finished it and threw it in the trash. His wife took it, read it, and put it back on his desk. He submitted it, and was signed. it established his career, and now he sells millions of books, and you can pretty much expect his every book will become a movie at some point.

No idea is bad, really. Unless its tomatoes killing people.

What if?


What if?

I knew a kid in Newport who used to constantly ask us what if questions. Some of them were absolutely bizarre. “What would you do if I stabbed you?” “I’d probably cry out in pain.” “Then what?” “I think start bleeding is the usual chain of events…”

But yesterday I got the “what if?” question I hadn’t been expecting. Not from the same guy… I’m sure since he couldn’t stay out of trouble he’s probably a politician somewhere (!).

But… “What if a major studio buys the project?” I wrote it specifically in mind for a particular studio, but hopefully I’ve written it well enough that anyone will take it. I’d certainly hate to be the next Francis Coleman…

So, there’s two answers. I really had to think about it. And here’s my answer.

If a studio buys it, it’s a major sale, and it of course depends upon the estimated budget. Foot in the door. I make a chunk of cash, but not enough to guarantee risking my job. David Gerrold was a script reader for a TV studio, and he was assigned spec scripts for Hawaii 5-0, and he wrote it was the worst job on earth. When Star Trek paid him the spec fee for a script, he quit his day job, which was a risky move, and now Hawaii 5-0 is cancelled.

So now, I kick into overdrive. I’ve sold a script, and now I give up useless pursuits for a little while like playing 90 minutes of Age of Empires every weekend (I only have two computer games, the Tone Rebellion and Age of Empires III). Now I go serious about writing.

Finish the projects in my hands as fast as I can, and make quality work out of them, and begin working on my own projects as well. Finish the editing on my first novel, and get those into the hands of literary agents. Because Now I Have Sold Something, and people are more likely to talk to me.

In other words, I need to produce something buyable very quickly, to keep career momentum going.

Now, here’s a further question… what if this gets filmed? The two answers are not the same. If this gets filmed, depending on the budget, I can suddenly find myself a full time author. My day job consists of sitting and writing now. That of course means… I have to let the other job I currently work (and have had for 9 years) go!

Yup. Screenwriters apparently get 9% of the budget. If something films for $20 million, you get $2 million. I’m a co-writer on something, so I get one million dollars – that’s 25 years pay at my current salary.

If you write a blockbuster movie that costs $55 million to film, and you are the only writer, it’s… 5.5 milllion. I think in that case, I’d probably order pizza. Heck, two pizzas!

Looking at what I have now is 25 movie ideas. If I sold all of them at $25 million budgets each, it’s a lot of money. If on the other hand, I just sell the one movie, it requires I live at the level I’m living now, but I’m taken care of for most of my life.

So, let’s assume the brass ring – this gets bought, and filmed – I now have to leave my job, and start looking for my retirement home in Rhode Island. I think the biggest joke I have is that writing is the most obscure career in the world – everyone expects you to move to a place where you have gorgeous scenery to inspire you, and then you sit in a room all day looking at a computer screen!

See, these are nice problems to have. Currently, I’ve got 100 homes saved in my Zillow account, but see, some idiot keeps buying the good ones! Knock it off!

Let’s ask the other question… what if it gets filmed, but after the pay split, expenses, taxes, union fees (I have to immediately join the Writer’s Guild, and that’s $2,500 right off the bat)… I’ve made maybe $60,000?

That’s not enough to leave a job over. But it’s a really good start! I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t complain. See, even getting paid fifty bucks to write a script would be great, because it’s $50 I wouldn’t have without this!

But yeah… I think just in case God smiles on me during all this, I’d better write a 50 step plan of moving to Row Duyland. Step one… pay off bills. Step 2. Buy stocks. Step three – order pizza… etc.

How to Write a Screenplay in a Month


I read an article on this – well, skimmed it and saved it to my hard drive.

Still can’t tell you what it says – just skimmed a little, saved it, still there unread.

My first screenplay I wrote in 10 days.

The latest one I wrote in 18 days.

I had to count the days twice, sitting there with a calendar. I really did get the project on April 29th, and finished it a few days ago. 1,2,3,…18. Yup.

It felt like a month. for a day, I felt like I had no words. I was almost squeezed dry.

How did I do it? Here’s how. See if this works for you.

You need a logline. Spend some time learning how to write a logline. The seminars with Jeannie Bowerman from Writer’s Digest teach this well. Learn how to write a diagnostic Logline. Now, MULL.

take a day and mull. Think. Brainstorm.

I opened Evernote, and began to type. random words popped out. Some of them were random thoughts (“direction?”). Others had to do with the project. There were elements I knew I needed to do first of all. Absotively.

I started that on a Monday morning. Monday through Wednesday I spent writing in Evernote, and watching the seminars and taking notes.

Thursday, I bought Final Draft (YAY!!!), and spend a lot of time on the beat board. I got the story structure and my beats in there. I wrote the Onesheet. I LITTERED the Beat Board with things they never intended you to do that to – it was my version of a cork board in Scrivener.

I began typing that day. Literally, “Fade In:”

There you go. Beginning. Over the next two weeks, I wrote 7-17 pages a day of script. One scene at a time. Absolutely. I learned this a LONG time ago. “Worry about the next 5 minutes.” Bang out the scene, get to the next. Like Jeannie Bowerman said in the Seminar I watched on Monday and Tuesday, the first draft is you vomiting out the words as fast as you can.

I completely understand that.

Over those two weeks, I had trouble maintaining a conversation with my wife, who is sympathetic and understanding about her poor husband who obsesses about projects. Every chance I had, I stood in front of blank pieces of paper with only the date on it, and wrote every note that came into my head. Then I’d race through all the stuff I have to do every night, and focused on ” write the _____ scene”. I’d start to work on it, but it wasn’t there, so I moved to the next scene. I definitely did NOT write the script sequentially. i’m not using an IBM Selectric anymore. Final Draft ALLOWS you to write shotgun style.

I finished it. I couldn’t believe the feeling of euphoria as I wrote “fade to black.”

I sat there for a minute, and typed, “THE END“.

Then I went on Zillow and looked for cool houses for a couple of hours. I had projected finishing the screenplay in 27 days. I got it done in 18.

Technically, the Writer’s Guild maintains a minimum of 90 days to write a screenplay.

I don’t know what I’d do with that slack kind of writing schedule!