Thursday, September 17, 2009

The "Professional" Writer?

Here is an interesting article in The Village Voice I find to be worthy of much discussion. Give it a read, and read the comments that have been going on, as well. Then let's get some discussion going on here.

Much thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet over at Filmwell for bringing the article to my attention.


  1. Writer John Scalzi had a similar blog post about this recently, which was actually an expansion on something he wrote back in 2007 (

    All that I can say is I agree whole-heartedly with both of these fellows. I myself am a writer - and yes, I have screenplays I've worked on, none of which have been turned into a major motion picture. Would it be nice to have a fast track way into fame by getting an established writer to read and send on your script? Sure - but why in the world would he or she ever consider such a thing? They do not know you (and if they do, more than likely they don't know you well) and they don't owe you or me anything - only their family, very close friends, and those that pay him does he owe.

    What I am saying is if I really am a great writer and I am persistent, I can break into the business the honest way, without trying to bother a writer that gets bothered every day. Do connections help? Good god, yes, but talent and persistence can go a long way. Will it always end in success and fortunate and fame? Certainly not, but that is the chance you take as an artist.

  2. Hi Aaron! I was shown this article by an exec at the top of a meeting last week as we were about to pitch an idea for a script. At the end of the meeting I said , "So...if we get this job and write this script, I assume you will not f'ing read it." Luckily she laughed so hard I think we got the job. Thing is, after a few years of professional writing we've probably all been on both sides of that article. I have learned not to give my scripts to other writers (outside a trusted few). I try to find producers, directors and actors (not actors who think they could be in it because they read it with bias toward their possible character) to read my work. Other writers often just tell you how THEY would have written the story. What I think you want is someone to help you get clarity on your own voice, not how to write like someone else. I do agree with Josh Olson that it is assumptive for beginners to expect favors. And I agree that it is like asking a plumber to work for free, but when your friend is a plumber and your pipe is bust, you can't help but hope... guess it depends on how close a friend...

  3. Some good thoughts Jonathan and Clare. Thanks.

    One question for you Jonathan: You say, "What I am saying is if I really am a great writer and I am persistent, I can break into the business the honest way..." But, what exactly is the "honest" way to break into the business?

    And Clare, absolutely, I agree that a big key is finding someone who you trust can bring clarity to your own voice. The trick, though, is finding those select few who you can trust, huh?

  4. Poor choice of words, I suppose. I didn't mean to suggest that assistance or connections are dishonest, I simply meant that a great writer can break into the business without any shortcuts using their talent. Blood, sweat, and tears along the way, sure, but it's possible even today to do it on one's own.

  5. The key is the "you can tell within the first several sentences whether you're dealing with a writer or not" bit (didn't get the quote quite right, I know). That's all you should commit to, if anything.

    The big mistake is feeling that you're OBLIGED to read the whole thing, or even obliged to say that you will. That part's not the problem of the would-be writer / as-is hack. The professional in question, I think, has just got to learn to handle himself better.

    When I was doing software for a living, the last thing I wanted to do was hack software for friends when I came home. So I just said, "You know, I do that all day long at work. You may have noticed I don't even do programming for myself!" Nobody ever had a problem with that.

    Methinks a writer was fishing for some publicity... and got it! There's a reason he's had some produced screenplays.

  6. Do you really think "you can tell within the first several sentences whether you're dealing with a writer or not"?

    I tend to agree, but there's something in me that doesn't think that's the case. The debate is still out for me on that one.