During this time, I’ve also been experimenting with small changes in my workflow, my writing process and the types of content I produce. The result has been an improvement in my writing and a better understanding of how I work best. Hopefully you’ll find some of these things helpful in improving your own writing.
1. Exposing it to different people for feedback
Feedback is hugely important for my writing. If I don’t spend long on a piece, I often overlook small typos or grammatical issues. I don’t craft my words quite as carefully as I could, and I tend to repeat myself a bit. Having someone read over my writing can highlight these issues and help me to clean up my work.
On the other hand, if I spend a long time on a piece, it can be just as bad. It’s easy to become lost in a piece after a while, and have trouble stepping back and seeing it objectively. It’s also hard to forget all of the extra context I have in my head by that point, and read it as a reader, who has little or no context about the topic.
Again, having someone else read my work really helps at this point. If nothing else, it gives me a break to refresh my mind before I come back for more editing. Usually, though, I find my work improves from other people’s suggestions.
2.Experimenting with new formats and structures
We have a pretty good idea of what works best for us on the Buffer blog, but it’s always interesting to experiment with new content types as well.
Here’s a list of the different types of formats I’ve experimented with over the past few months:
Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
Sam Catlin (BREAKING BAD) has been announced as showrunner for AMC’s PREACHER, a sort of “unGodly” series based on a comic book by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon which is being adapted by a couple guys named Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. (The comic has everything a twisted soul like Yers Trooly could love – an angry preacher trying to track down God and make Him pay for His sins, a loving lady vampire sidekick, and an immortal killing machine of a nemesis. God or no God, This Boy’s in heaven at just the thought of seeing the show on TV.)
Regina Hicks & Karin Gist (nope, Yers Trooly has no idea who they are) are writing DRUMLINE: A NEW BEAT, a sequel to DRUMLINE (um, not the New Beat, it seems) as a TV movie for VH1. (And it’s going to star Nick Cannon again! Ooh! Well, better Nick than his diva wife whatsername anyway.)
Andre & Maria Jacquemetton (MAD MEN) are adapting the comic book DMZ into a drama series at Syfy. (Another hit in the making! After all, who can resist a future in which Manhattan is the demilitarized zone in a future post civil war – yeppers, a new one, not that business with Abe Lincoln and all – ? Still, ya gotta wonder. How much more chewy comic book goodness can TV audiences that aren’t as nutso as some of us take?)
Several years ago, when I first heard that the BBC was doing a version of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories re-set in the modern day, I was skeptical. I’ve long loved the Holmes stories. I believe I finished reading the Canon for the first time by the age of ten. For me, part of the charm was the fog/smog filled Victorian streets of London, with the hansom cabs, the gaslights, et al. For me, the era and setting were as much characters in the stories as Holmes and Watson. I might have given the series a pass except that the co-creator and frequent writer for the series was going to be Steven Moffat.
I knew Moffat from some remarkable work he had done on Doctor Who. He has penned what I felt were some of the best episodes I’d ever watched on the series, full of surprises but also deep feeling, moments that truly touched me. So I gave his new series, co-created with writer/actor Mark Gatiss, a look and was generally delighted. The modern setting worked surprisingly well and, while not faithful to the letter of the stories, kept to the spirit of Conan Doyle’s canon. The series benefited as well from a very strong Holmes and Watson in the persons of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman respectively.
Each season consists of just three ninety minute episodes and each has ended on something of a cliffhanger or at least we are left with questions to be answered. We’re introduced to their version of Holmes’s arch nemesis, James Moriarty, at the end of the first season as he puts Holmes and Watson into a death trap with no seeming escape. At the end of the second season, Moffat and Gatiss do their version of the last meeting of the two. In their version, it results with Moriarty blowing his own brains out and Holmes forced to jump to his apparent death. We know Holmes is not dead by the end of the episode but we don’t know how he managed it. That would have to wait for Season Three. In theory.
Spoiler Alert. Lots of spoilers below.
The most recent season had pluses and minuses. The first episode,The Empty Hearse, deals with Holmes’ return from the dead after having been gone a few years. Watson, in the meantime, has met and is wooing Mary Morstan (this is a nod to the source material, in which Watson does indeed meet and wed a Mary Morstan, who later dies). Holmes surprises the pair while they dine in a restaurant and Watson’s first instinct it to try and strangle Holmes which, under the circumstances, is understandable. I’d have done the same. The mystery, such as it is, seems lifted from the climax to V For Vendetta.
My bigger problem with this episode is that it cheats; it doesn’t really give us an answer as to how Holmes avoided death at the end of the previous season. They give us multiple possibilities as different characters have their theories but even the one Holmes tells to someone has holes in it (which they admit). None are evidently true. That leads me to think that Moffat and Gatiss didn’t really have a solution when they created the problem. That’s a cheat.
The second episode of Season Three, The Sign of Three, was much better and I found it a delight. It takes place primarily at the wedding of John Watson and Mary Morstan and largely during the toast that Holmes, as best man, is giving. Holmes has been described in the series (including by Holmes himself) as a “high functioning sociopath”. Given his lack of social graces, the toast promises to be a train wreck. It is, in part, but it also has very touching moments and Holmes also discovers (and prevents) a murder in the making.
One of the delights of this episode and, indeed, of the third season is Mary Morstan, as played by Martin Freeman’s real life partner, Amanda Abbington. At least until they screw it up in the next episode. In her first two appearances, Mary is a wonderful addition to the two men. There is no jealousy of Holmes; she likes him and, surprisingly, Holmes likes her. She is sharp, funny, intelligent, perceptive and an interesting character in her own right.
Which brings us to The Final Vow. While the other episodes were written by others or Moffat writing with others, this episode is Moffat’s alone. As I wrote earlier, I think he can do wonderful work. When he’s on, he’s terrific. When he’s not – well, this is what you get. Like the Doctor Who Christmas Special this year, the plot is all over the place, a lot of it doesn’t make sense, and it’s full of twists for the sake of twists rather than coming out of plot and/or character. Moffat is a very clever writer but, it seems to me, he’s just into being clever rather than good.
One of the things I really dislike is what was done with Watson’s wife, the former Mary Morstan. It’s now revealed that she’s a former CIA assassin gone freelance. WTF? There was no indication of that before. She seems to be another iteration of the Doctor Who character River Song, who I adore, but is misplaced here.
At one point she shoots Sherlock with a very carefully placed shot that incapacitates him and doesn’t quite kill him but might have. There follows a long sequence of small scenes as Holmes rallies himself to survive; I half expected him to regenerate, possibly into Matt Smith which I think would have been more interesting than what followed.
There were other Doctor Who tropes in the show. Both the Doctor Who Christmas Special and this Sherlock episode had a family Christmas scene. This one had the parents of Sherlock and Mycroft, played by Benedict Cumberbatch’s actual parents. It was fairly amusing but doesn’t do much to explain the Holmes siblings.
The bad guy, Charles Augustus Magnussen, is Rupert Murdoch as a blackmailer (that could be redundant) and a loathsome creep. He has these extensive files on everyone in power but it turns out the vaults are in his mind. So he knows things but really doesn’t have any proof of them which is sort of stupid for a blackmailer. Just shoot him, which is what Mary Morstan was going to do before interrupted by Holmes and what Holmes winds up doing. The thing just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
And as a final touch, at the very end Moriarty shows up again via a video saying, ”Miss me?” Not really, no. So now we have to wait to find out how HE survived the end of the Second Season (assuming this isn’t just a video from before he died). Given how they resolved the apparent death of Sherlock, I’m not hopeful.
We’ve been told this past week that it will be at least two years before everyone’s schedule coincides and the stars align before we can hope to see another season of Sherlock. That’s a long time and given how this last season turned out (one good episode, one so-so, one pretty bad), I’m not sure how eager I am right now. Oh, I’ll probably watch it when it eventually shows up but I won’t be waiting as I was for this season. Hopefully, Moffat and Gatiss will stop trying to be clever and remember that it’s about the story. That, gentlemen, should indeed be elementary.
We didn’t either. (Oh, wait. Maybe we did. Seems to me we’ve written this opening before. Well, it isn’t something that sticks in our minds, probably cuz nobody here at TVWriter™ is eligible. Shazbot!)
Anyway, here’s the whole story for 2014:
Channing Tatum, The Academy, and Oscars Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron today announced the winners of the “Team Oscar” college search on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” along with this year’s Oscars host, Ellen DeGeneres. The winners will deliver Oscar statuettes to celebrity presenters at the Oscars on Sunday, March 2, 2014, live on ABC.
“We created this contest last year to give students who are passionate about film, the opportunity to set their sights on the future,” said Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “We received so many inspiring submissions this year that it made for a difficult choice, but the talent and stories of these six winners really represent what Team Oscar is all about and convinced us that they are a perfect fit for the Oscar stage.”
The “Team Oscar” winners are:
Zaineb Abdul-Nabi – University of Michigan (MI) – Hometown: Bronx, NY
Tayo Amos – Stanford University (CA) – Hometown: Mountain View, CA
Nathan Flanagan-Frankl – Chapman University (CA) – Hometown: Northbrook, IL
Jeanpaul Isaacs – Rutgers University (NJ) – Hometown: South Brunswick, NJ
Bryson Kemp – Muhlenberg College (PA) – Hometown: North East, MD
Mackenna Millet – Pepperdine University (CA) – Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA
The winners were individually notified by show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
Administered through the Academy’s Facebook page, “Team Oscar” was open to U.S. college students and required them to submit a creative short video explaining how they will contribute to the future of movies and answer a brief essay question on a similar topic. Winners were selected by Zadan, Meron, Tatum and the Academy.
(Hmm, Facebook. Now we see why we never remember.)
United Airlines, the official airline sponsor of the Academy and of the Oscars telecast, will roll out the red carpet to fly the winners to Los Angeles to participate in “Team Oscar.”
In addition to their appearance on the Oscars, the students will be treated to a week of industry experiences including a visit to the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library to see its renowned collections; studio tours; and meet and greets with filmmakers at Oscar Week events.
Yo, non-writers with “great ideas!” Ever wonder why writers you meet curl their lips, growl, and stomp away when you suggest that they should write your great script for you? Well, you stupid %$#!, here’s why:
by Sharon Soboil
A while ago I read Josh Olson’s article in the Village Voice blog, entitled “I Will Not Read Your F—ing Script.” After chuckling through his op-ed piece, I read each of the comments posted. Some understood his position, others thought he was arrogant and too high on himself. What it stirred up for me in reading it was not so much that I don’t want to read your f—ing script, but rather that I don’t want to write your f—ing script.
I have been a professional freelance writer in L.A. for years. I’ve traveled to France, England and India for projects. I have optioned, sold, done rewrites and ghost written on films and television scripts. I’m not saying I’m winning the Academy Award this year (not that it’s not a dream), but I’m a writer in the trenches.
I was recently approached to co-write a friend’s “story idea,” something she’d always thought would make a great movie, and upon hearing the idea I wanted to run screaming into the Hollywood Hills. It just reminded me of Josh’s article and instigated my wanting to write a companion piece, if you will. I hope you don’t mind, Josh.
It is mind-boggling to me how often I have people come to me who are on the periphery of the business with this “brilliant” idea that is going to sell tomorrow! “If only it were written, because I’m not a writer, but you are!” “I have huge connections, I just need to bring them something.” “I don’t have any money, but I’ll split the proceeds with you. Sixty-40.”
Every time I hear this (and I’ve heard it a shocking amount of times) I get a glassy look … and ask with incredulity “Who are you thinking gets 60?” Even my mom pimps me out, telling her friends to contact me with their stories. Ultimately, what I’m getting at is that I don’t want to write your f—ing script … for free.
An anecdote of my feelings on writing for free is the story of when my best friend who works in post-production was dating a TV agent at CAA. He begged me to write up a pitch package for an idea he and the agent, post coital, had come up with one night. Unfortunately for me, I was suckered into the “Please, you’ll be a producer, she’s already sold on the idea and wants to take it out! I’ve told her all about you and she’s sooooo excited that you’re writing this for us. It’s CAA!”
Sadly, sucker is indelibly inscribed on my forehead and he is one of my oldest friends, so the guilt factor was especially high. So, after hours of painstaking research, and character descriptions, and story arc ideas, and 13 episodes fleshed out, I presented my pitch package to said friend. He, having no idea what it takes to write and develop a pitch package of any worth, tells me nonchalantly that he’s stopped seeing the agent. … She hates him. … They no longer speak. She caught him screwing some other bootie call he’d been chasing and they’re done.
To say I was annoyed is putting it mildly. I’m pretty sure I got more screwed that night than his new bootie call.
And he’s just one of oh so many! I’m amazed when I read posts on Craigslist from people who are certain that they have a stellar idea that is brilliant! Yes, I now read Craigslist from time to time as I’ve had three friends get their WGA movies set up through postings! Who knew?…
But among the legit offers are postings where amateurs are looking for a writing partner to flesh out their idea. Really? Why would I want to write your story? I get no money until it sells. And although this person with the “stellar idea” is sure it will sell tomorrow, that doesn’t make it so. And, should the clouds part and the story gods shine upon us … the company who would buy it will no doubt come from me, because it really is pretty much about who you know.