Rejection. A Wilderness Guide for Writers

Mark Evanier, one of the biggest writing talents in TV, comic books, and blogging has been writing a series of articles on the bugaboo of all creative people, rejection. As he puts it:

This is a series of articles I’ve written about writing, specifically about the problems faced by (a) the new writer who isn’t selling enough work yet to make a living or (b) the older writer who isn’t selling as much as they used to. To read other installments, click here.

But before you click, why not try out this post, Part 23 in the series, for size:

by Mark Evanier

As I’ve probably mentioned more than once in past installments of this series, I’m not a big fan of a piece of advice that is often dispensed to wanna-be writers and actors and musicians and all sorts of folks who aspire to the careers that many covet. It’s the old “Never give up, keep at it, don’t let anyone discourage you and you’ll eventually get your dream” advice. I don’t think that’s true.

When you hear that, you’re almost certainly hearing it from someone who did achieve their dream. If people don’t, they don’t tell you that. So in a way, it’s like someone who won the lottery telling you, “Hey, if I won, so can you! Spend every cent you can on lottery tickets.” That may be good advice for two or three people per lottery but not for most. The odds of winning one recent PowerBall were one in 292 million and they rarely get much better than that.

The odds of you or anyone attaining a dream in the creative arts will, of course, depend a lot on what that dream is, how suited you are for the position and what kind of access you may be able to get to those who hire. Included in the “what that dream is” factor is the question of specificity. If you say “I want to be a working actor,” you stand a better shot than if you say “I want to be a working actor who takes over playing James Bond, wins many Academy Awards and earns $20 million per movie.”

And sometimes, the dream can be so narrow that nobody can see it happen. At the Baltimore Comic-Con last year, I had a brief conversation with a reader of this series who wants to write Marvel Comics…but not just any Marvel Comics. He wants to write all the Marvel Comics. This is approximately what he told me — and remember, this is a person who has never written even one comic book of any note. Nothing for Marvel, nothing for DC, nothing for Dark Horse or IDW or Boom or any of those…

“I want to do a run on Fantastic Four. I’ve read it for years and I have great ideas about how it should be done. This will be the definitive series, the one everyone will point to and say, ‘That’s how F.F. should be handled!’ And then I’ll do a run on Spider-Man and show everyone how that book should be done, a run on Thor, a run on The Avengers and so on…”

This is not going to happen. And even if it could happen, it’s a pretty unhealthy way to approach a new career. This guy’s goal should be to get to write one issue of one comic for anyone. If he can achieve that, he can aspire to writing a second something somewhere.

All writers, even the lousy ones, are real good at fantasizing. Often, we’re too good at it. Dreams are great but making a dream into a reality requires dealing with that reality.

You can have an idea for the greatest movie ever and, hey, maybe it really is that. But it still has to be written and marketed and even if some big, legitimate producer says he wants to make it, you’re still only about 15% of the way to the start of principal photography and light years from opening at the IMAX. I’ve known writers who didn’t have their breakthrough screenplay finished but they’d done eight drafts of the Oscar acceptance speech to go with it….

Read it all at Mark Evanier’s outstanding blog

How Recent Pilot Scripts Managed to Make Hurtful Choices Empathetic

The EVERWOOD and 13 REASONS WHY pilots show how to make hurtful choices empathetic
by The Bitter Script Reader

The three best ways to learn more about writing for TV are to read more professional TV scripts, watch more successful TV show episodes, and last but definitely not least, write your own episodes. Here, via one of the most underappreciated writing blogs on the interwebs is an example of how this works:

I’ve been preparing to address the notes on my teen drama pilot and it brought to mind two pilots that were touchstones for me as I wrote: Everwood and 13 Reasons Why. And I hadn’t noticed before they not only share similar scenes, but they’re KEY similar scenes.

13 Reasons Why’s pilot has two moments that I think are essential to getting the audience invested in the story. The first is an interaction between Hannah and Clay at the basketball game. There’s a little bit of banter exchanged that halts when Clay realizes she’s there to check out one of the players. “Don’t be jealous, Clay” she teases. It’s clear on the page he’s pining for her, but the way the scene is played is essential. Hit just the wrong note, and her teasing seems mean-spirited. Instead, it’s a cute moment.

The second moment is when she seeks refuge with him at lunch when rumors spread lies about her being promiscuous. Instead of being supportive, he’s cold and hits her with a jealous barb about how “maybe it’s better to wait.” Clay looks like a dick there, but THAT was the moment that made me lean forward and say, “Go on…”

You get a lot of notes in a pilot warning how you need to keep your characters “likable” but having someone be clearly wrong for human reasons is often more effective. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s having a teenage boy reaction. he was rejected, he’s hurt, he’s jealous, and in a moment he instantly regrets (also an important component), he does what a lot of boys would do in the same situation: act like an immature dick….

Read it all at The Bitter Script Reader’s Blog

More about the 13 Reasons Why pilot HERE

More about the Everwood pilot HERE

Peggy Bechko on Writing: The End Goal of Writing Goals

by Peggy Bechko

Writing goals.

The very idea causes many (or is that most?) writers to shudder. Doesn’t matter if you’ve taken on some kind of ‘contest’ challenge to get a fixed number of words down on a page or if your goal is to just find the time to sit yourself down and get some writing done.

Goals are good, but shouldn’t we all consider what we want to accomplish with those goals?

What the heck am I talking about? Well, whether you’re attacking a novel or a script is your goal to toss so much vomit onto the page and be pleased with that? Is it to throw down a whole lot of words and find some words that are actually useful down the line?

Do you just want to meet a word count or do you want it to be somehow useful? Do you feel like you’re a loser if you don’t meet that word count? (You shouldn’t.)

My point here is it’s fine to get a bunch of words written, but even better when (and I’m so practical – this is me) the intent behind it is to create characters, flesh them out, get a plot down (a real storyline) and lay down some nuggets that will pay off later. All that I expect from a challenge, whether internal or external, to lay down words.

So let’s think about this.

First of all, if you don’t make your goals you’re not a loser or a failure.

Learning and improving are two worthy goals that float around that word splash you’re after. Another is simply getting yourself to write on a regular basis. That can be pretty tough with all the distractions we have right at our fingertips and in front of our eyes these days.

My observation here is, if you’re going to take up that challenge, get yourself some kind of plan.

Fast isn’t necessarily better. A script might turn into a novel. A novel might detour into a script. A script can become a great outline for a novel. A well worked outline for a novel might well turn into a script. This is good! So, onward!

Another observation: find when you’re the freshest to write.

That can be tough if you have a job on the side as well, but it’s something you need to find out about yourself. Are you best in the morning? Do you really crank it out in the middle of the night?

Here’s the thing. If you can write when you’re fresh for the challenge, the content will be much better. On top of that your production speed will kick into high gear. You’ll write twice as much and better than when you’re at low ebb. Success is much closer when you can take advantage of your high octane self.

When you’ve engaged that higher octane self and you find yourself able to crank out better work faster it’ll motivate you to do more.

If you check out the writing you’ve done the day before, before you start fresh, things will click and you’ll do even better. You’ll catch things that don’t move the story forward. You’ll come up with fresh ideas that do.

That’s the ideal.

Are you aware it takes 28 days to develop a habit? (wonder if that has something to do with the phases of the moon?) If you can make yourself write every day, even a quarter of an hour, regularly, your mind will remain focused on the story even when you can’t actually be physically writing.

Staying tuned into your story is key. You’ll find you’re even attached to it when you’re doing mundane chores. You need to constantly exercise your writing muscle.

As long as you force yourself to pay attention to your story and not set it aside for long periods you’ll keep moving forward. On the other hand, if you set your work aside for a week…or even weeks, you’re going to forget all the details and end up needing to start all over again.

So, the end goal, really, is to keep writing. To stop making excuses and keep creating. You can’t sell a novel or a script if you don’t get it written. Challenge yourself – keep writing – every day. It all adds up.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Peggy Bechko on Writing: When a Draft isn’t ‘Just a Draft’

by Peggy Bechko

Have you ever – or is it more accurate to ask, how many times have you – spoken of something you’ve written, a novel, a script a short story as ‘just a draft’.

Have you used it as an excuse for something you perceived to be not very good?

Never excuse your work as “just a draft.” It’s NEVER ‘just.’ It’s step one on the road to excellent writing. A draft shouldn’t even be thought of as ‘good’ or ‘bad. It just is. Without it you wouldn’t be editing something and moving on to the next draft.

Here’s the thing. If you’re not writing with the ultimate goal of publication or in the case of a script, finding a producer and seeing it through to the end, then what you’re writing is a diary.

Rewrites and editing are the very core of writing and creating. So, assuming you’re not writing a diary you’re going to have to do both, edit and rewrite. Probably a number of times.

It might be only you going through the work again and making changes. Or, it could be an editor or a producer asking for changes. There might even be a carrot on a stick – change this, rewrite that and I’ll take your novel to publication or your script to production.

Ultimately, when working with draft one, two or three, you need to read what’s been written like a predator. Prowl the sentences and pages looking for flaws, looking for what needs to be changed.

Each draft is an animal on its own. And each draft is where the writer examines and reexamines whether the promises made to the reader or potential viewer have been kept.

When someone asks about your writing raise your head with pride and proclaim, “I just finished my first (or second or third…) draft and it’s going well.”

Don’t ever think, or respond, “Well, it’s just my first draft” in a way that, if it were human, that draft would feel very small and unloved. You write stories and stories evolve.

Drafts, all of them until you reach the final polish, aren’t perfect and they aren’t supposed to be.

Even though there are some novelists and screenwriters who can produce a virtually perfect draft on the first run through (and they’re very rare who can do this) don’t start out thinking you’re among them. If that proves to be true you’ll find out in due course, but I wouldn’t count on it.

And, meanwhile, the drafting continues.

Remember, the reader doesn’t just want to read your story. The movie-goer doesn’t just want to watch a film. Those people want to experience what you’ve written. They want to be immersed in story. And it’s to that point that your drafts, one after the other, will lead you.

Think of your story as being a thing alive. Give it respect. Produce the drafts, however many there are, it needs to fully come to life.

And no draft is ‘just a draft’. It’s a stepping stone on the path to great writing.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

David Perlis: Dave Searches for Love

NOTE FROM LB: Regular TVWriter™ visitors will remember David Perlis, who honored us with his writing presence throughout much of 2017. After which he left L.A. to return to his home state of Louisiana to continue the quest that is his (and all of ours as well) life. How’s he faring? Let’s find out:


Dave Searches For Love
by David Perlis

Sometimes I don’t know why I’m single. Enter Symone:

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Symone is no longer speaking to me. My search continues.


David Perlis is a screenwriter and former People’s Pilot Finalist This post first appeared on his very entertaining blog.