Monday, July 30, 2007

Raising Your Game

Trying to break into the business can seem like an impossible task. How do you go from wannabe graduate or talented newcomer to someone with a commission or a regular writing gig? It’s difficult because there are so many other equally talented (and a lot more gifted) writers than you out there who are also trying to get their break. Still, the aspiring writer’s frustrations turn, not to focus on himself, but to rail against the system, and to bitch about producers, script editors and the crap that’s on TV or at the cinema.

And then comes that moment. Your first break. Someone gives you a shot. You’ve got a commission. Congratulations! But now what? It’s like someone has suddenly poked you in the chest with a challenge, hoping you’ve got what it takes to supply them with high quality material that’s suitable for production. So you do what every writer does in this position. You panic. Or at least, you begin to doubt you’ve got the goods.

Then, you hand in your first draft, and it gets ripped apart. It’s just like every other script they’ve seen, and even worse than the stuff you were moaning about on TV last night. You’ve piked it, basically, and you’ve fallen short of the required standard. However, all is not lost. You haven’t ruined your chances. You’ve just made a bad first attempt. Now you have to listen to the producer/script editor’s notes and try to turn the script into something that they actually want, or raise the standard to a sufficient level so that it’s actually a top piece of writing.

This is the real challenge. This is what it means to be a professional writer. It’s about raising your game from what you perceived was an acceptable standard to something that will challenge your confidence, talent and ideas. It will separate you from the ‘good and got what it takes’ from the ‘wannabes who’ll never quite make it’. It’s the vital approach and application of your professional practice and your natural storytelling instincts. Being able to separate the shit ideas from the good ones, and getting excited about how to shape the story into something worthwhile and entertaining.

When some new writers get their first break, they can buckle at the weight of expectation and pressure. It’s how you respond to this pressure that will define you as a writer, and help to further your career. You pretty much only get one shot at a first break. So try not to panic. Make it a good one. Discover your humility but harness your storytelling talent, and you’ll learn never to rail against the system again.

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On another note, some time last Friday, the blog reached 200,000 hits! That's really great, so thanks to everyone for reading and contributing to the blog. There may be fewer posts over the coming months due to the script competition and other work demands, but there's a healthy slate of screenwriting blogs to choose from nowadays, so we're all in good company.

10 comments:

Lucy said...

200,000 hits? So my covert attempts to bring you down are yet to be realised! Damn you Stack you are a fiendish adversory...

...I mean congratulations. Obviously.

potdoll said...

nice one Danny.

Phill Barron said...

In one day?

James Moran said...

All hail Emperor Stack, and his mighty blog-fu. And that's not just a figure of speech, he literally has a black-belt in blogging. My blog approached him unawares once, and he had it on the floor in a choke hold before anyone realised what was happening. This blog is a lethal weapon, and long may it continue.

martin said...

Working instead of blogging? Where's yr sense of priorities man??

Congrats on the 200,000, sir. Roll on the quarter mil!!

Pillock said...

And into the valley of the shadow of the blog rode the 200,000. Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

That's a great post. The first show I wrote for (a soap)I joined with three other new writers. We all got a LOT of notes on our first drafts. My notes took something like five hours. It was demoralising and I wanted to quit. But I persevered, handed in a second draft that was more of what they wanted and ended up staying around for a good few years. Out of the four new writers only one couldn't make the transition from first to second draft and they never got a second commission. It really is what separates writers out. We all wrote a crappy first draft but three of us managed to turn it around.

Anonymous said...

Hi Danny,

I was just wondering how you got involved with the Red Planet Prize, I tried to speak to you at Screenwriters festival but kept missing you. Most people I met who did talk to you said you were either, a stand-up guy, solid, or quite helpful.

I was also wondering if things had picked up on the work front since you moved to a bigger agency.

martin douglas

Danny Stack said...

Apparently, "this blog has been locked by Blogger's spam-prevention robots", so am waiting for that to clear before I next update.

Cheers, Martin. Work has picked up, but while PFD have a broad reach, it's still down to you, and your writing, to ultimately make things happen.

Jon Peacey said...

The worst feedback I ever received not only said I should seriously reconsider screenwriting as a future career, but also that I should re-evaluate my role within the human race. After that things could only look up!