I had all the usual ambition growing up. I wanted to be a writer, a musician, a hockey player. I wanted to do something that wasn’t nine to five. Acting was the first thing I tried that clicked. – Michael J. Fox
Take pride in every victory. If you write some great pages or have an audition go especially well, celebrate your success. Don’t wait for for a casting agent or publisher to validate you.
You’ve had that feeling for some time now. Maybe you’ve had it all your life. Maybe it’s just a voice in your head that’s gotten a lot louder lately.
That voice is saying – I’m not sure…but I think I want to be a writer. But I can’t do that, can I? Who am I to think I can compete with all those successful writers out there? You can’t just up and decide to be a writer….can you?
Many of the most successful, bestselling writers started out with the same doubts. They feared they would never make it either.
“I think it’s the people who have no doubt that every word they put down is gold that probably don’t write very well.” – Dean Koontz
No one is born a successful author. No one is born a successful anything. Writing success – any success – starts out with an idea, a motivation, and progresses to a whole lot of hard work.
“Books aren’t written. They’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” – Michael Crichton.
Some people are born writers. They start writing at a very early age and live their entire lives knowing that’s what they are meant to do. Others start very late in life, either while working at an entirely different career or perhaps after they retire. It really doesn’t matter what your experience may be. These people all have one thing in common – the desire to write.
“I seriously doubt I would ever have written the first story had I not been a lawyer. I never dreamed of being a writer. I wrote only after witnessing a trial.” – John Grisham
You probably have a lot of nagging doubts about trying to write a book( or perhaps a screenplay). How do I even get started? What will my friends and family think? What if I’m no good? Where will I find the time to write if I’m working full time? It can be overwhelming, so it’s best to just start with one thing at a time.
The first thing to decide is that you’re really going to do it. Make the decision. YES. I’m going to try this. I’m going to write a novel.
Don’t make your goal to quit your job and become a bestselling novelist. You don’t have control over your level of success, you just control your level of dedication. Every published novel started out as an idea in somebody’s head. If you’re thinking about writing a novel, you must already have at least one idea that you’re really passionate about.
Make the decision that you’re going to give it a shot. As they say in RENT, “No day but today…”.
After you’ve decided that you’re going to give writing a try – write something. Anything. You can set a timer and write for 15 minutes. Start writing down any story ideas, character ideas, and themes or emotions you want to convey. The next step is to read up on how to actually write a novel. Many published writers will tell you that they just dove in to writing without reading ANYTHING about how to write a novel. Then they were promptly rejected and told that they needed to learn about writing before they submitted anything else. Cut out that wasted time and do it right from the start. Read books on writing and learn about point of view, setting, the correct use of adverbs and dialogue tags, and all that stuff. Read blogs from the experts, both published authors and literary agents, who can give you the must updated, insider’s advice on how to write well.
If you’re serious about writing, realize you can’t do it all at once. This is especially true if you work full time and/or have a family and other responsibilities. Start in manageable increments. Spend 15 minutes a day, either writing or reading about writing. Increase that time until you are able to spend an hour a day on writing. You really can write a novel one hour at a time.
If you’ve always secretly wanted to write, I can promise you that you won’t ever, ever regret writing a novel. You may regret not writing one. Finishing a novel is a huge accomplishment. Lots of people talk about writing a novel.
Very few people actually do it.
Ready to get started?
The timer’s set for 15 minutes.
“Celebrity is death. Celebrity – that’s the worst thing that can happen to an actor.” Glenn Close
Only discuss your Wannabe dreams with people who understand you. Stay away from those who offer only horror stories and scare tactics about your odds of making it in the biz. You know the odds. And you’re brave enough to try anyway.
Many thanks to Aaron Marcus, premier acting and commercial modeling career coach for providing today’s blog entry! He is the author of How To Become a Successful Commercial Model and creator of the Becoming a Successful Actor & Commercial Model Workshop.
An agent from New York just called me about an audition for a television show. My agent submitted my head shot, and the casting director asked me to read for her. Not only was I going to get the chance to read for a TV show, I was actually requested by the casting director. That doesn’t mean that I am going to book the job, but it does mean the casting director liked my look and thought I was perfect for the role. I was also excited about making a strong new contact. Not only could I possibly book a TV show, I could also be considered for many more projects with this casting director. So far everything sounded great.
Then my agent said the role called for someone with a German accent. Unfortunately, my German accent isn’t great, and I didn’t think I could master it by the next day!
I had to make a quick decision. Do I go to the audition and try to fake the accent – or turn it down? Well, I turned it down, and here’s why: I didn’t want to embarrass myself, ruin my agent’s reputation, or introduce myself to a casting director in a negative way. Better to wait for an audition I am better suited for, and deliver a great read. As a side benefit, it was a great opportunity to speak with my agent about the types of auditions that would be best for me.
In this tough market, don’t make decisions out of desperation. Do everything you can to make wise choices that will help you now and in the future.
“I have a holistic need to work and to have huge ties of love in my life. I can’t imagine eschewing one for the other.” – Meryl Streep.
Don’t give up. Even Lucy got to be in “the show” once in a while.
There are some basic similarities in writing queries for screenplays and novels, but there are also some fundamental differences. You need to figure out who to query and how to tailor your query letter for a literary agent, Hollywood agent, producer, or publisher.
Literary Agents: A literary agent, or perhaps an assistant, generally reads every query that arrives in their mailbox or inbox.
Find Agents here
Hollywood Agents: If your hair catches fire, a Hollywood agent will not pour their Evian water on your head without first checking your pockets to see if you already have a screenplay deal on the table. That may be a slight exaggeration. Slight. Hollywood agents are, as a rule, not interested in new writers. Even if they will consider newbies, they are usually referred by other industry professionals who can vouch for them.
Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Agent List Good luck….
You cannot get a producer to read your screenplay without an agent and you cannot get an agent unless you have signed a deal with a producer. That’s the conventional, “Catch 22” mentality in Hollywood. Except it’s not entirely true.
Hollywood Producers – You *can* get a producer to read your screenplay. It’s just a lot harder when you don’t have a Hollywood agent to submit your work on your behalf. If you write a well-composed query letter that clearly outlines the script you are trying to sell, you may get a producer, or an assistant, to read your screenplay. Please do not delude yourself into thinking you can get Jerry Bruckheimer or Steven Spielberg to read your script. Be reasonable. Send only to producers who are willing to read unsolicited queries or at least do not have a stated policy of no unsolicited queries. I’ve gotten two of my screenplays optioned this way.
Book Publishers – For your novel, you can try to send query letters to publishing companies directly but it is likely a waste of time. If you go to their website for their submission policy (and shame, shame, on you if don’t do this first!) you can find out whether or not the publisher is willing to look at material from unagented writers. More and more, publishers have stopped accepting unsolicited submissions and instead will work only through trusted agents. Your querying time is likely much better spent trying to land an agent than going to the publisher directly.
**As a general rule – If you’re shopping a screenplay, query producers. If you’re shopping a novel or nonfiction book, query literary agents.**
Tips for Queries for Both Screenplays and Novels
* Get to the main idea of your story quickly. You can even dive right into it in the first paragraph before you introduce yourself. You are trying to convince the reader that your story will SELL. Grab their interest right away. Describe in clear, powerful language who your main characters are and what they are battling. What do they want? What is the story about? Where is the conflict?
* Query only one project at a time. If you’ve written other books or screenplays, you can mention them in your brief bio paragraph but don’t talk them up here. You’re trying to sell your current project.
* Just describe the story itself, don’t praise it. You may think your story is “hilarious, entertaining, action-packed, or a tearjerker,” but that’s up to the reader to decide. If it’s not clear from your brief synopsis that your novel or screenplay is a comedy or a heavy drama, your query letter – or worse, your story – is not ready for submission.
* Include a brief biography of yourself. If you’ve won writing awards or placed in contests, mention those accomplishments here. If you are a professional writer as a day job (journalist, copywriter, technical writer), then say so. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have any writing credentials yet. If your story grabs the reader’s interest, you will get a request to read your manuscript or screenplay. If you have experience or a special background that qualifies you to write this particular story, describe it. If you wrote a story about World War II, then it’s relevant to explain that your grandparents were concentration camp survivors. If you’re an attorney and you’ve written a legal thriller, it can only help to mention your day job.
Tips for Book Queries
* Write a professional query letter that shows that you take your career seriously. Unless they have specifically stated that they do not accept unsolicited query letters or will only consider submissions by referral only, they will read your query letter. No need to dress it up to grab their attention. Make your story grab their attention.
* You can be creative, within reason. Some choose to write some or all of the query letter in their character’s voice. Do this only if you can do this effectively.
* If you’re querying about a novel, include the word count.
* You can mention whether or not a completed manuscript is ready for review. If it’s a nonfiction book, normally you prepare only a proposal and not the whole book. For a novel, you should have a complete manuscript ready to go.
Some suggest you just ignore all the rules
Tips for Screenplay Queries
* Write a logline. This is usually a one or two sentence description of your story. The logline is in addition to the brief synopsis of your story that you will include (just like in a fiction query).
* Be creative. Unlike literary agents, Hollywood agents and producers don’t necessarily read query letters. You need to make your letter stand out. If you’re marketing a comedy, feel free to make your query letter humorous. I put warning labels on the outside of my query letter and I submit a pre-rejected postcard where people can circle the reason they’re brushing me off (and a place where they can circle YES, I want to read your screenplay). Several producers told me it was the best query they’d ever received. Another producer called me to request the screenplay instead of sending back my rejection postcard because she thought it was clever and wanted to keep it! It’s tough out there in Hollywood – you’re at the bottom of the barrel if you don’t live in L.A. like me and don’t know anyone out there. You’ve got to work to be noticed. But it can be done. Show off your writing ability any way you can.
* Be original, but not gimmicky. Using colored paper, drawings, writing your query letter in crayon just for funsies is amateur and foolish.
For both novel and screenplay query letters, it all really comes down to the story. If your story is compelling and fresh with characters an audience can really care about, people will want to read it. As you review your query letter, ask yourself – can I sell this story? That’s exactly what any producer, publisher, or agent will be thinking. Make sure the answer is YES.
” In this industry, there are only two ways up the ladder. Rung by rung or claw your way to the top. It’s sure been tough on my nails.” – Jack Nicholson.