So, it’s January again. Time for the annual Bang2writers’ pep talk me hearties!
Look, there’s something you should know. I don’t want to be the one to have to break it to you, but I’m afraid there’s a person out there will do everything s/he can to screw up your chances in the writing trenches. It’s a war of attrition: s/he will send little barbs your way, over and over, in the hope of sending you off kilter, so you never get to the top of that iceberg. But WHO is this dastardly individual?
There’s so many ways you can derail yourself, which is why you have to examine ALL your beliefs about writing … And see if they’re utter, stinky BS or not.
So, here’s 5 of the most common plain WRONG writing beliefs I see holding writers back on a daily basis. Hold on to your hats, here we go …
1) “It’s the execution that counts”
It’s really not. Look, if you’re writing the SAME STORY as everyone else at a given time – and there’s a strong chance you are!! – then guess what: it’s harder to stand out in the crowd. And believe me, it IS crowded. So make sure you understand HOW samey stories happen … and what you can do to beat them.
2) I’ve got to “show it, not tell it”
Yes, yes we get it – we’ve gotta be VISUAL. But believe me when I say “show it, don’t tell it” has become bad writing advice. Look, at heart it might be good, but it’s become a tired old adage that gets trotted out by feedback-givers who can’t be bothered to really get to the nitty gritty of your work’s problems with you. Better to say, “DRAMATISE, not tell” … in other words, make sure we are in the midst of the action, somehow, not waiting for the story to start.
3) “Character is everything”
It’s very fashionable at the moment to posit that screenwriting is solely about CHARACTER. But great characters NEED plots. It is a symbiotic relationship. We do NOT watch movies and TV shows about great characters who just sit around and tell us their life story in a theatrical-style monologue. We want to watch movies and TV shows about great characters who DO STUFF. Ipso, Fatso as Bart Simpson would say.
4) “I don’t need to sweat the small stuff”
Rightly or wrongly, screenwriters are judged – at least at submission level – but how “good” their screenplays look ON the page. This means good spec script format is the ultimate must-have. But don’t forget your spelling, punctuation and grammar will also come under the microscope, too. The good news is, there’s more help than ever before on combatting this, whether it’s buying apps or hiring proof readers. Before you do this however, you can save some dosh by checking your work for these 10 very common errors that you can fix RIGHT NOW.
5) “Marketability is about selling out”
No, marketability is about selling. That’s what professional writers do. It’s perfectly possible to be 100% into your story and look to the marketplace as well. But if you want to trust to luck and hope you might break on through regardless, then be my guest – it cuts back on the competition for the rest of us! But if you want to be a pro, then understand what it takes to be one and invest in your writing career strategy. And not only that, work out what you need to do to be the BEST in your chosen field and marketplace: whether that’s TV, Film or web; Europe or US. Because only the best will do!!!
Happy New Year and best of luck in 2016!
- More articles by Lucy V. Hay
- Jeanne’s Screenwriting Tips: Screenplay Feedback – Get Real With Your Rewrites
- Notes from the Margins: Goals vs. Needs – What Defines Characters and Writers