Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Back on the Submission Train

After a three-year hiatus, I'm finally back on the submission train. Prose works, that is. I regularly submit to screenplay contests, and I'm still working on a sale or option.

So far this year, I've submitted a short story, a novella, and a novel. My goal is to submit at least one other novel, maybe two more. I haven't been idle, writing four novels and two novellas, with one novel half completed.

I can't explain why it takes me so long to submit something. Scared of rejection, most likely, although I deal with it. (When that Film Freeway notification doesn't begin with "Congratulations," I know my screenplay didn't get in.) Contests and publishing are both subjective. I'm grateful there are more opportunities for writers than when I was in college.

Hopefully, my books will find a publisher. As for finding an agent, at this point, I like being in control of the submission process. Perhaps in the future, I'll submit a novel to an agent, but probably not in the genre I'm currently working in. Depends on the certain factors. Right now, I want to write what I enjoy and not what's supposedly "marketable," since the market is in a constant state of flux. It's another reason why I like to write multi-genre, although suspense is always an underlying component of my stories, whether paranormal or contemporary.

Fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Musings on Screenplay Contests

Screenplay writing contest season is upon us. From (hopefully) making the early bird deadline to (again, hopefully) being a finalist and even a winner, the months are filled with anticipation, excitement, and even a little dread.

This weekend, the quarter-finalists for the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards will be announced. My fingers are crossed. I recently received notification The Indie Gathering International Film Festival has awarded my short screenplay "Cemetery" an honorable mention. And my full-length crime drama Final Curtain is a finalist in Action on Film Festival (AOF). Winners will be announced in August.

Winning awards for my writing is great. I won't deny that. It's a validation for those times when I don't win. Like publishers, contests are subjective. Just because one contest didn't accept my screenplay, doesn't mean it's bad. Now, if all contests reject it, well, then, obviously something's wrong. :-) It also depends on the contest and the number of entries. Austin Film Festival? If I'm ever lucky enough to semi-final in that one, you can guess I'll be celebrating. However, I tend to be pragmatic.

One thing I've learned about submitting screenplays to contests is when I final or even win, I set the bar higher for myself, especially if I enter the film festival's competition a second or even third time. There's a level of consistency  they expect and I need to make sure I deliver. And because screenplays have a specific format and rely on what can be seen and heard, certain novel conventions can't be used, such as inner thoughts. That means when I adapt my books into screenplays, I have to change scenes that wouldn't translate well to the screen. If you're wondering why the book and movie can be so different, that's one of the reasons why. And writing a work of fiction (novel, short story, etc.) from a screenplay also comes with its challenges.

But it's worth it.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Ten Commandments of Writing #10: Thou Shalt Never, Ever, Give Up

I get quite cross with people who imply that I write 'for fun'. Or 'for pleasure'. This generally comes into a conversation where I'm trying to explain why the writing is not my full-time profession. I'm trying to explain that I don't make enough money from the writing to do it for a living, and so they say, "oh so you do it for fun then."

There is nothing fun about writing. Yes there are moments of exhilaration, like when the WIP is going well and words are flowing, when you're in that stage when you can re-read the words you've written and think to yourself, "actually this is pretty good. And I created it." But you know this is going to be followed by a period of crashing self-doubt, when you are absolutely convinced that everything you've written is a steaming pile of turds and you should give up deluding yourself that you're a writer and go and spend your time watching TV instead. This bit of the process is not fun. Neither is the constant lurching from self-confidence to self-loathing that I am convinced absolutely every writer, no matter how successful they are, experiences.

No, we don't do it for fun. So why do we do it? It's more a need, an urge. We need to write to keep on living, the same way we need to breathe.

You need to remember this once you have accepted the fact that you are a writer, because the road will not be smooth. There will be rocky patches. There will be times when you want to crawl under the bed covers and never come out again. Every time you submit something to an editor, you will spend the next few hours, or days, or weeks, on tenterhooks. You will be checking your email every two minutes to see if you've had a response yet. When you discover there isn't one, you will experience conflicting feelings of disappointment and faint hope, because no response at least means no rejection. Yet.

And then when the email finally comes you'll be afraid to open it, trying to put off the inevitable rejection and the crashing self-doubt that follows for as long as possible.

But then one day it won't be a rejection. It will be an acceptance. And it will all be worth it. On the dark days, it can be tempting to just pack it all in. But it's important to keep on going. When each rejection comes, give yourself a few days to pick yourself and dust yourself off, and then send the story back out into the world again. And carry on working on the next one. Whatever you do, you have to keep at it, because being a writer is in your psyche and no matter how hard it can be sometimes, it will always be who you are.