Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Essentials of Screenwriting =
Essentials of Most Writing

In his forthcoming book, Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing (Plume, July 2010), Richard Walter describes a conundrum most writers' conference attendees face: deciding which sessions will be most worthwhile. Only, at this conference, Walter was an instructor, and he confesses that he sat in on a friend's poetry session only out of courtesy. After all, Walter was (and is) a successful screenwriter and longtime UCLA instructor, an L.A. mover and shaker, a film school graduate who counted George Lucas among his classmates. What did he need a poetry session for, anyway?

As it turned out, he needed it quite a bit, even if only as a reminder. During that session, he learned about the somewhat universal nature of tight writing, careful selection of words, avoiding restaurant scenes, and keeping a whole work integrated and moving.

Walter expands on those concepts and more, incorporating them into pithy principles that are scattered throughout the book, such as

Principle #1: Writers hate to write.

As someone who works best with a full schedule, with deadlines nipping at me like a sheepdog on hind quarters, I nearly laughed out loud at Principle #1 because I recognized it as truth. As Walter points out, writers love having written, but they hate writing. We would rather sort socks, watch traffic, or gaze at our navels than write. The reason is easy enough: Writing isn't easy.

The thing is: Writing gets easier only when you do it. It takes practice, like any other worthwhile endeavor. But even when you've mastered the art of "butt in chair; fingers on keyboard," then you have to face layers and layers of rejection: from agents, from editors, from the public.

In one of his many quips, Walter says that writers are quick to tell their tales of woe and mistreatment--there is a lot of rejection--but there's always something worse.

Being ignored.

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