ANATOMY AND SCIENCE Of The Query

Believe it or not, there is an actual anatomy and science to the query. And you won’t learn this in college. I learned it in Hollywood. Never tell anyone you’ve written a novel unless you can pitch it because the next question they inevitably ask is “What is it about?” In my case the people asking were producers, actors, models, production managers, film financiers, and I really sucked at pitching it. I could see it when their eyes sort of flicked over my shoulder at something more interesting. You’ve got to keep the pitch short and sweet. Hook ‘em and leave ‘em wanting more. Not drifting toward the coffee machine. Same goes for the written query. You must grab your readers attention because they have hundreds of other queries in their inbox. And donuts in the breakroom. Read More

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The Words

typeThought I would share some of my favorite writing quotes today. It is just as important to read a lot as it is to write–at least that’s what I keep reading. Read More

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Unpacking your verbs

luggageWe were told by professors that adverbs are weak tools for writers, and often that was the extent of it. It most certainly is not the worst thing you can do. Here is a laundry list of other no-nos. Consider “thought verbs” and chuck them.

Think of your words on a page like a suitcase, from the outside it’s a rectangle that holds things. But what’s inside? Read More

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The Reject

 

The word “rejection” was first used in 1415.The original meaning was “to throw” or “to throw back”. It sounds like fishing–a way to eat and survive.

rejectSo, guess you may have figured out I got my first rejection letter today! Read More

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The Yin/Yang of Character Development

Character development is probably one of the most important things we as writer’s are responsible for. People aren’t interested in characters in books or television that don’t grow or change (unless it’s a sitcom, of course, where the characters must be frozen in time. In that case it’s the situations and comedy that suck viewers in).

I like to view character development exactly like the Ying Yang symbol:

yingyangYou notice a curved division, not a straight one (because there is no “straight and narrow” path to the end goal–characters change, they compromise, experience loss, gain, regrets, etc. and if it were easy that would be predictable and people don’t necessarily want predictable. I mean, more often than not your main protagonist had better ride off into the sunset, but the path there must be rocky and full of obstacles–just like life.

Also note that within the white there is a little spec of dust, and within the black, a light at the end of the tunnel.

All interesting characters can easily be placed within this black/white model (grey isn’t as fascinating to read about or watch–I consider grey the narrator or the threshold characters must cross).

Good characters have a little darkness within them (perhaps a cross to bear), and the most evil characters may have a little goodness in them (for redemption purposes later, or simply to gain a little sympathy from the readership so when good defeats evil it is bittersweet (a far more complex twist than a happy ending). Read More

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Shape up!

When you’ve completed your novel/script and are now ready to edit the best way I’ve found to deepen the character, plot, etc is to list the most important aspects of the piece and sift through each aspect individually—tackling each aspect one by one. Here are a few of the most important aspects of my novel that drive my character’s thoughts and actions: humor, romance, and culture. This isn’t everything (just the first three. Also included for a second round of editing is: horror, sexiness/charm factors, fear, and betrayal). I know, you can’t wait to read it now.

I already showed you a bunch of circles in my last post because they related to writing the novel—not editing. Editing is a triangle—not a straight line—at least not for this process. Grammar and Syntax are absolutely a straight line.

A quick little review of the three most important circles of writing life:

rythem1If you read my last post you know what that means. If you don’t, go read it. Read More

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The TYPE-A Writing Process

I saw a doctor two years ago because I hadn’t taken a s#*! in two days and called my sports medicine doctor who referred me to a surgeon as I requested. I knew something was wrong, a fissure or hemorrhoids perhaps and I needed surgery stat!

I got an appointment in less than an hour, and immediately left work. His office looked like the hallway of The Shining where the two dead twins stood, and then lied, bathed in their own blood. I hadn’t met him, but google said he had taught at John’s Hopkins Medical School as an associate professor, he was from the East Coast, and when he walked in—Jewish, very Jewish. I like that. My grandmother, who was a doc herself always said to see Jewish or Indian doctors (perhaps because she’s Jewish?) because they study harder. Grandma could totally be prejudice, but I put my life in this man’s hands. Read More

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Writing in Circles

Writing Theories vary, and I am going to share a few ama-zing theories in the circle of life that is writing that Dan Harmon (American writer,  performer, and creator and former executive producer for the NBC television comedy series Community, and, along with Rob Schrab, a founder of the alternative television network/website Channel 101.) created. Read More

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Assisting Hollywood

Moving from Utah to Los Angeles is strange. Moving to Hollywood, even weirder. It’s difficult to feel like one LIVES here and isn’t just visiting. Anyone who has been here a few months, or under a year is probably still trying to gain footing–while obsessing where to make a mark. If you’re working, it’s probably as an assistant to ____________, in the industry. Being an assistant is fun (even if you had your own assistants before moving here), and it’s a climb up. If you’re lucky, you get to learn the ins and outs of the particular portion of the industry you work in. If you’re lucky you get to sit in on meetings with execs–in between getting coffee, learn about pre-production, be on set, and do post-production work in various aspects, and learn about many other positions. BUT look out people, there are always others looking to take advantage of green, wide-eyed folks so read on.

A quote From Ryan Holiday, partner of one of my favorite authors/researchers Robert Greene on being an assistant in Hollywood:

Hollywood is the WORST. First off the entire system is predicated on the notion that since everyone “needs” an assistant, and as a result being an assistant is the first job that everyone gets in Hollywood and where they supposedly receive on the job training (first you start as an asst to someone unimportant, then you get promoted to someone more important again and again until you finally get to represent your own clients). Except that makes absolutely no sense. Very few people need a full time person to sit at a desk and answer their phone calls all day in 2012. Unless you’re Steven Spielberg you’re just not busy enough to justify it–but because it’s a status symbol everyone wants one. AND people who make good assistants and can stand sitting there being a robot all day are precisely the opposite type of person you’d ever want managing or advising the career of an artist. Basically the Hollywood agency model systematically selects administrative, risk-averse, bureaucrats with low self-esteem. If you ever wondered why the “suits” in Hollywood are so dumb, this process is pretty much why.
Fortunately I got really lucky and had mentors who let me skip all that stuff. I probably would have killed myself or quit otherwise.
 
As a former Hollywood assistant with friends who are still “paying their dues”, I can vouch that this is incredibly accurate. It has always bewildered me that the industry norm is to take ambitious, hard-working, and intelligent young graduates and stuff them behind a desk for 2+ years doing work a monkey could do (especially in light of the fact that most assistants have already spent untold time as unpaid interns).
 
Youth is a commodity in Hollywood, and we waste half of it sitting on mute getting what is supposedly “invaluable” experience – when there are plenty of people (such as yourself) to prove that this is in no way a necessary step.

Young, ambitious, hard-working individuals should not be personal assistants. Los Angeles is the second largest city in America. There are a set number of jobs online and in the community and far MORE people applying for them than anywhere else. What I have learned? It’s not about applying for jobs, it’s about creating a career. It is a great land of opportunity–but the opportunity is not a concrete ladder one can climb with a set amount of steps (like a college degree–that will be the easiest thing you ever do, believe me), the right connections, or anything else. It’s a place that is just flexible enough, and filled with enough young and valuable people that IF you have an idea that works you may turn it into an opportunity for yourself.

 

 

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Running in Los Angeles

Nobody really knows how out of shape they are until they challenge the beating sun. Hiking in Utah is difficult; hiking in Los Angeles mid-afternoon is impossible. It’s like the prelude to a baptism where you confess to the person next to you, the trail, God or the universe all the things you ate that led to this very moment right before you purge yourself of all your stomach’s contents. Your explosive vomit is then followed by a moment of personal self-reflection (now you’ve shut up): why did I eat left over pizza for breakfast? That’s not FUEL! My body’s like a car and it needs fuel to make it up this mountain.

Los Angeles kind of runs the same way as Runyon canyon. Read More

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