Advanced Studies in Collaborative Endeavors

Whether you’re working with a team to make your new web series happen, producing a short pilot for a website like Channel 101, or just writing a script with a fellow screenwriter, there is collaborative technology out in the world that is designed to make your multi-person workflow easier.

I dipped my toes in the sea of collaboration when working in theatre first, where the writer relationship to the process is much more hands on. However, the trend in the industry lately seems to feature writers that cross titles: writer-directors, writer-actors, writer-director-actor-producer: whatever dual or triple or quadruple roles are available, there is someone willing to wear those hats (and that’s a lot of hats).

Even collaboration by email is going the way of the dinosaur: with applications like DropBox and Evernote, there is the possibility of what I like to call ‘Insta-Collaboration.’ Often when I start working on visual projects, such as a short piece or a pilot, I find myself trading seven or eight emails a day with other collaborators. Often we all have a hand in producing it, on varying levels, when working with a limited budget, and need access to some or all of the creative information about the project.

This means dialoguing in as many mediums as possible: words, visuals, articles, and concepts. And often my email inbox is out of control enough as it is: I don’t need an email with eight pictures attached coming back to me every five or ten minutes.

Applications such as Evernote are designed with this in mind: you organize everything into Notebooks, which can be shared with other users. Then you can upload photos, copy articles, make to-do lists, and share all of it instantly with your collaborators – and with all of your mobile devices, including a convenient icon on the taskbar of your laptop or desktop. What I like about this kind of process is that ideas can be instantly recorded and shared: often I find myself juggling notebooks while running for the subway with coffee, trying to write down that brilliant idea before I forget.

…and also saving civilians from danger!

Even an application as simple as Google Docs has powerful collaborative tools built in, where document contributors can dialogue within a document by commenting on elements without altering (how great for revisions!).

simplenote is another easy-to-use collaborative application. Like Evernote, you can share with collaborators. Unlike Evernote, simplenote deals with text only (but hey, we’re writers, right?).

If you’re in the brainstorming or outlining phase of a project, MindMeister is your ticket: it allows you to create clearly defined “mind maps” that can be edited easily and viewed in many different ways. MindMeister forces you to organize your outlines in clear and logical maps – which can be good for those of us with unruly minds. If you really get into organization, they even have a convenient Life Plan map (good luck with that one).

Of course, if you don’t care for outside collaboration, all of these can be used just as effectively for organizing and saving your own information and ideas – and having them accessible wherever you go.

Chances are, though, that if all goes right, you’ll be sharing your ideas and thoughts on your projects with high-level execs and directors – and with this type of software sharing your information to your phone, tablet, and laptop, you won’t be forgetting your key piece of paper at home.

Need a Foolproof Way to Create a New Series? Here It Is!

We know this works. Glen Larson created 30+ successful shows using a variation of this very same method:

The 25 Magic Words Of American Television – by Linda Holmes (NPR Blogs)

Tonight, two new fall shows premiere: Mob Doctor, which is about a doctor who works for the mob, and Revolution, which is about a devastating global power outage and — more than that — a revolution.

Neither of these shows particularly requires your attention, but taken together, they emphasize that essentially, all you need to make a show is the right combination of title-friendly words. In fact, if you take the correct 25 words, you can combine them (often in either order!) to create all the television we will see in the next ten years. These 25 words hold the key to American commercial television. These are the only 25 words you need. Any combination of two — any combination of two — would make an entirely plausible, fairly easily imaginable broadcast or cable series. Don’t believe me? Try out the 25 Magic Television Words for yourself.

MOB

DOCTOR

LAW

JUSTICE

CUPCAKE

CHICAGO

FORCE

911

STORM

REVOLUTION

HEAT

FOREVER

TEAM

PETS

AMERICA

CELEBRITY

ALASKA

TRUCKER

LOVE

MYSTERY

WARS

COUNTRY

REAL

DINER

FASHION

If you don’t believe me, try the exercise. Any two of those words can become, together, the title of a new show. Very often, combinations are reversible — Trucker Love is clearly a dating show, while Love Trucker would be a Hallmark movie about a man who transports candy hearts for Valentine’s Day and gets stuck in a small town where the adorable local mechanic who happens to be a single mom has to get him back on the road in time to deliver his candy for the big day. See how easy? (DO NOT RIP OFF LOVE TRUCKER. You know who you are.)

Try it yourself. These 25 words are all you need.

Linda Holmes is a genius! This article could well be the most helpful thing we’ve ever read on the subject of saleable TV series. Thank you so much, Linda! When we hit the jackpot with 911 FOREVER and DOCTOR WARS we’ll be sure to cut you in forget we ever heard of you um, never mind.

Afraid of Pitching? Hey, Aren’t We All?

Moviebytes.Com is one of our favorite web sites. Lotsa info on contests and such. But did you know they also have, like, some solid info about the writing-to-sell process? We didn’t either. But this makes us glad we found out:

Quit Bitching,Start Pitchingby Joey Tuccio

You’ve spent YEARS writing your script. You’ve outlined it, you wrote it, you rewrote it, you turned it in for feedback, you rewrote it AGAIN. Now what? As my company dives full force into virtual pitches, I learned that A LOT of writers do not know how to pitch. And some are blatantly too scared to even try! Paralyzed by the thought that they actually have to talk about their script with a live person. I think some writers get a little too comfortable in their solitude of writing. It really is a shame that so many writers spend so much time writing their script but are too afraid to praise it and pitch it to people.

Here is some friendly advice to help you conquer your fears of pitching, or simply to make your pitch even better!

  1. Start with the logline AND genre of your story. Why genre? A brilliant producer once told me that if a writer doesn’t start with their genre, it will be unclear how they should interpret it. If a writer is pitching a story that sounds slightly funny, a producer might feel too awkward to laugh because it could very well be a drama. Alleviate the stress and say it up front. Also, think of ONE movie out there that resembles yours. This could really help an executive visualize your story immediately and have a better sense of it. DON’T START a pitch with So, what are you guys looking for? What would you like me to pitch? I have this, this and this. Be confident in your pitch. You have their attention right off the top, so the quicker you can get into the pitch, the better. If time allows, you can quickly say at the end Oh, by the way. I have a comedy too about (logline).
  2. Pitches should be 2-3 minutes MAX. Have you ever had a friend that just goes on and on about a story and half way through all you can think about is What are they talking about? I wonder what I’m going to eat later? Wow, he got so fat. Don’t let their minds drift. Usually around the 3 minute point is when a mind might start wandering.

There are 4 more points. Read them all.

Note to MovieBytes staff: This is hugely helpful. Hope you do more, similar pieces. For reals.

Peggy Bechko Loves Writing About Writing

…Lucky for us!

Readers – Wonder how Writers Do It? – by Peggy Bechko (from Peggy’s blog)

Really. So you ever wonder what goes on in fiction writer’s lives that keep them writing the fiction they create or stop them, inspire them or throw up road blocks?

Frequently we talk here about nuts and bolts of writing, but really it’s all about reading and writing. Writers who follow this blog are interested in tips and helpful websites and that sort of thing.

Readers, no doubt are more interested in the inside scoop.  Correct me if I’m wrong, readers.

So, for today’s post I decided it’s time to open the door just a bit more and talk about a writer’s habits. How I write and keep it moving forward.

One of my biggies and it always has been is write my fiction at the crack of dawn.  No kidding, for me the morning is a glorious time to write.

I know, I know, a lot of writers “write all night” and “consume gallons of coffee”. Nope, not me, I love a great night’s sleep, popping out of bed all perky and getting down to writing right after a quick breakfast. My perkiness can definitely be a bit grating for others, but I’m good with it. Bouncy, perky me.Another thing has always been to give my writing priority in my life. Never did play games about it. If you’re a reader aspiring to be a writer, then you’ll just have to get down to it. I’ve written since I was in my early teens, passed up a lot of things other kids were doing so I could write. It wasn’t any sacrifice when what I really wanted to be doing was writing anyway.
When I got older I dedicated many evenings to writing the books I eventually got published. Even did research and wrote notes on my lunch hours. It was a matter of stealing time wherever I could to make it happen. Obsessive I guess, but writing was always what I loved to do, what I WANTED to do. Check out some other writer’s blogs like Mary Pax who’s a science fiction writer and you’ll begin to understand the high priority for writing thing. M Pax is always at it.Another good writing habit? Drink a lot of water.  You laugh. You’d be surprised how we writers can forget these things when in the throes of a great story. And drinking a lot of water is great on many levels. Makes you take a break from fingers clicking keys to lift the water glass to your mouth. It hydrates you and keeps those brain cells happy and fatigue at bay and eventually it will make you get up from your desk and move – if only to the bathroom.Ah, the mystery and romance of a writer’s life.Hey, did you readers think all this was easy?

Well, write when you’re tired, write when you’re stressed, write when you slept wrong and your neck hurts half the way down your back like I’m writing this morning. It’s not like these things don’t happen to a writer. It’s not like writers can just go off in the corner and whine when there’s writing to be done. There are deadlines, external and self-imposed and a good writer will stick pretty much to them with rare exceptions usually caused by some disaster.

You wonder how that book in your hand got there? Horror fiction author Stephen King tells us “Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”

Yep, it’s that wonderful gossamer world of the writer.  Hey, if you’re an enthusiastic reader and that’s what you love being, good on you. If you’re an aspiring writer, welcome to our world.

Hey, New S-F & Fantasy Authors, Harper Voyager Wants You!

At least, they’re saying they do. And opening up a nice little window of opportunity. “For the first time in over a decade,” as their website puts it, “Harper Voyager are opening the doors to unsolicited submissions in order to seek new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. So, if you believe your manuscript has these qualities, then we want to read it!”

The imprint is specifically looking for “all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural.” Inasmuch as this is a major league operation, publishing writers like George R. R. Martin, Kim Harrison,  and Raymond E. Feist, this seems like way too good an opportunity to pass up.

The window opens October 1st and the last day is October 14th. Details are on the Harper Voyager Books website.

Good luck and let us know what happens if you give it a try!