Creative Writing Classes: Are They Hits or Misses?

The best this particular TVWriter™ minion has ever had to say about a college level creative writing class is that it beat having to take another semester of Greek Lit. Other people, of course, may have other opinions. We enjoyed this one cuz it’s so damned erudite (especially for a daily – shudder – newspaper):

samuelbeckett

See how happy Samuel Beckett looks? That’s cuz he didn’t have to take all those darn classes….

by Jane Sullivan

There’s a scene in the Simon Pegg TV sitcom Spaced when a writer is kicked off the dole and has to get a job washing dishes. She complains to the manager: “But this isn’t me. I’m a writer.” The manager replies: “Oh, everyone who works here is a writer, dear.”

They used to make that joke about actors. Now it’s writers. Not that it’s new, exactly. Writers have always taken pride in listing menial and bizarre jobs on their book cover bios, and have taken comfort in the thought they were following in the footsteps of Hemingway and Beckett. A full-time writer is still quite a rare beast, and is usually a writer of books for children, or of books in a highly commercial genre.

So why is a Nobel Prize for Literature judge, no less, complaining about the rather meagre and intermittent help writers can get from institutions? You’d think Horace Engdahl would be totally in favour of writers’ grants and creative-writing programs to nurture talent and to supplement what are usually very modest incomes.

But no, he thinks they are impoverishing Western literature. Just before the Nobel team announced that the 2014 prize had gone to the French author Patrick Modiano, Engdahl told the French newspaper La Croix that “professionalisation” of the writer’s career is having a negative effect: “Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions.” He cited writers including Samuel Beckett, who had to work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living.

Engdahl’s comments were reported in The Guardian, which drew some miffed responses from writers (one of them mentioned theSpaced scene). They just don’t view their lives as he does.

Most writers still take the Beckett route, combining paid work with writing in their spare time, and most don’t get any other income until they are published.

Read it all

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 10/30/14

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Adam Karp (newbie winner of the 2012 Humanitas Prize New Voices Award) is writing the pilot for UNNATURAL SELECTION, a CW drama about Charles Darwin’s journey through the Amazon. (Explorers! “Controversial” theories! Jungles! C’mon, admit, this is the stuff daydreams are made of. And if the network can deliver what Adam writes…well, munchkin is in, in, and in.)
  • The selfsame Adam Karp also is writing the script for a CBS pilot, MODERN GOTHIC, partnering with David Reed (SUPERNATURAL) on a series about a contemporary doctor (the character is named after Dracula‘s Van Helsing) investigates supernatural mysteries. (And, yeppers, I’m so onboard for that one as well cuz I keep thinking, “Wow, the protagonist in ye olde NIGHTSTALKER series…if he was cool. At least that’s how I’d write it…but what do I know?)
  • Roberto Saviano has turned his book, ZeroSeroZero, a thriller about international cocaine trafficking, into an English language series out of France and Italy. (Yer muncher will say this about that: At least it’s got the potential for action. “Watch the hero’s eyes glaze over. See the villain get all nuts over nothing.” I’m betting that this’ll be a big hit all over the world. But I don’t think I’ll watch it cuz…well, hell, kiddies, I can see that action in the apartment next door.)
  • Carlton Cuse (BATES MOTEL) has a new overall deal at A&E. (Cuz he’s a writing rock star, he is. So if you’re the kinda person who knows how to stay in the good graces of a diva, I respectfully suggest you hitch our wagon to Carlton’s rising star. And remember: We’re all made of stardust. Neil Gaiman told me.)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

LB: Less Than 5 Weeks Left to Enter the Spec Scriptacular

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

It’s just about time for the sprint to the finish for this year’s TVWriter™ Spec Scriptacular contest, with under 5 weeks left to enter and get yourself into the television game.

The SS has been around long enough for this to be its 20th running and is all about spec scripts for current and recent series and spec screenplays for TV movies or TV specials or – do I dare say it? Why not? – spec TV pilots that missed last summer’s deadline for the People’s Pilot.

Past Winners, Finalists, or Semi-Finalists of TVWriter™‘s two contests are or have most recently been on the staffs of CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, GREY’S ANATOMY, NTSF:SD:SUV, ANIMAL PRACTICE, ROME,  CHICAGO PD, KILLER WOMEN, THE LEFTOVERS, and a couple of new shows we can’t talk about just now. We’d love to see you join them!

Over the summer, Jill Weinberger, who once upon a time [placed first and second in two different divisions of our Spec Scriptacular Contest joined Ryan Harris, another TVWriter™ contest alum, on CHICAGO FIRE. Everybody here is beaming with delight.

The current People’s Pilot offers over $10,000 worth of prizes and bonuses, and every entry receives free feedback on where it ranks in terms of both professional standards and this year’s competitors.

I’ll say it again (because no one’s here to edit me): Less than 5 weeks remain in which to enter the 2014 Spec Scriptacular. The time to fulfill your destiny is at hand. (Well, if you’ve read this far, then know that I think it’s your destiny – and you should too.) Here are the links you need:

More about the SPEC SCRIPTACULAR HERE

More about the prizes HERE

Read the Winning Scripts for 2013 HERE

Enter the 2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR HERE

Oh, and you know where to find me, right? Hint: That would be HERE

 

LB: When the Funniest Woman in the World Speaks, I Listen

Miranda Hart with some minor players

Miranda Hart with some minor players

\Oh, God, I love Miranda Hart. Writer, actress, human being…she’s perfect. Just damn perfect. Which means, yeah, if you don’t know her work you really need to:

YouTube Preview Image

It wasn’t easy coming up with a reason to write about Miranda, who’s huge in the UK but hardly even known here in the U.S., but last week she gave an interview on the UK’s Graham Norton show which encapsulates why everyone who knows her work – from my wife and myself to, oh, TVWriter™ Contributing Editor Cara Winter and, um, erm…let me get back to that – is so charmed.

Talking about her recent UK stand-up tour she admitted that it wasn’t an experience she enjoyed, saying, “I didn’t love it…I am not used to that level of attention and it was stressful. It was a surreal experience.”

More importantly to TVWriter™, she also had a few things to say about writing, especially about – gulp – writing her BBC series, MIRANDA:

I’m very naughty to keep saying I hate writing it, but I hate writing it. I didn’t realize before I started writing it how technical, prescriptive and intricate the stories are. When I was writing it, I had the image of a viewer in my head with a remote control, and I was saying, “Don’t switch over. Don’t switch over.”

Hmm…sound familiar?

The bad news for total fanboys like me was the reveal that her series is ending soon. The good news was that the end will come via a couple of Christmas specials which are “going to be the finale of the whole thing. It’s the right time for her [the Miranda character] to come into her own, to be happy and to succeed.”

If you’ve never seen the show, you have no idea why what makes me so happy. So watch the video above, hear?

Not later, darlings. Now.

Bear with.

Hollywood isn’t the “Dream Factory.” You are

Holy crap, it's Robert Gregory Browne!

Holy crap, it’s Robert Gregory Browne!

by Robert Gregory Browne

I had my big writing break almost ten years ago. I had just finished writing my first book, Kiss Her Goodbye, and because I had been a screenwriter in a former life, my Hollywood agent was able to hook me up with an agent in New York. So I had an advantage at the start that a lot of aspiring novelists only dream of.

Kiss Her Goodbye-sThe agent in NY loved the book, took it around to his favorite editors and within a few weeks I had a two-book deal at St. Martin’s Press.

Now, without trying to sound like the egomaniac I am, I like to think I’m a pretty damn good writer. And if that book hadn’t sold at that time, I’m pretty sure I would have kept writing, but it wouldn’t have been with the same fire. I would have been thinking, what the hell is wrong? Why didn’t they buy my book? That lack of validation by the industry I yearned to be part of would have crushed me.

I’ve read manuscripts by other writers that were at least as good as mine, or even better, that just couldn’t be sold. Either agents weren’t interested or, if the script got past that wall, editors turned it down. Those poor writers—as good as they were—just couldn’t get anyone to say yes. And I can only imagine how heartbreaking that must be.

We hear a lot about New York publishers being the curators of great writing. We get the argument that publishers are needed because otherwise the marketplace will be flooded with inferior books and readers need to know they’re getting books of substance.

But this is a lie. What New York publishers curate are books that they feel can make them money. While those books may pass a certain threshold of “readability” that many don’t, the quality of voice, plotting and character development is subjective, and acceptance or rejection of the manuscript really comes down to one thing: “Can we sell this book?”

The answer to which often lies with the publishing house sales department, not the editors.

When that’s your criteria for acceptance, there are bound to be hundreds, if not thousands, of books rejected over the course of your average year. And because of those rejections, there are bound to be many excellent writers who are wondering what went wrong and wondering, even, if they should give up the dream.

That’s one of the side effects of the so-called curators. Because of the curators, we readers have been missing out on those rejected books, some of which may well be masterpieces of fine writing. Masterpieces that, unfortunately, didn’t have glittery vampires or a dystopian setting or a celebrity name attached.

After nine plus years in this business, I would argue that the curators are harming literature more than they’re helping. That it should be up to each individual reader to decide whether a book has value, not some guy in an office whose tastes may not reflect yours.

If you’re one of the rejected, don’t despair. You weren’t necessarily rejected because your book didn’t reach that threshold of “readability.” You weren’t necessarily rejected because you couldn’t write as well or even better than me or all of my friends who have achieved the “dream.” You may very well have been rejected because a salesman (or agent) simply didn’t feel he could sell your book. And those salesmen (and agents) have been proven wrong time and time again.

The good news is that none of that matters anymore. None of us need those “curators” to validate our work. Now, the readers can decide if our work has value.

Don’t let rejection get you down. If your dream is to traditionally publish, keep plugging away and you’re bound to make it some day. And if you don’t—or if you’re no longer interested in letting some stranger in an office decide your book’s fate—the alternative is a wonderful place to be.


Robert Gregory Browne is the author of Kiss Her Goodbye, Whisper in the Dark, Kill Her Again, Down Among the Dead Men, The Paradise Prophecy, the Trial Junkies series, and numerous other wonderfully written and hugely selling books that have made him healthy, happy, and wise.

Back in the days before he so deservedly discovered novelistic gold he was the writing partner of a certain LB – yes, we’re talking about our Beloved Leader, Larry Brody – on the animated TV series DIABOLIK (hey, it was a smash in France, which we think really means something) and SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED.

And before then he, well, he won the Nicholl Fellowship, gang, which is, hands down, the most meaningful contest win a TV writer/screenwriter can have. That’s how fucking good Rob is.

Now if we can only get him to write some more for us….C’mon, dood, what d’ya say?

Robert Gregory Browne’s website

 

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 10/29/14

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Neal Baer & Alexandra McNally (UNDER THE DOME) are developing a medical drama series for CBS about “the deeply personal and raw stories of…dedicated health care workers…at a clinic in Venice that serves as a crossroads for the haves and have-nots.” (Gotta say, tho, that yer dearly beloved munchman ain’t sure he trusts storytellers who use “Venice” when they mean “Venice Beach” as though, you know, nothing beyond their precious Los Angeles might even exists. Or maybe I should chalk that one up to some very shortsighted PR peeps?)
  • Jennifer Schuur (HANNIBAL) is writing the script for an ABC pilot called THE LONG GAME, based on a treatment by novelist Kate Atkinson about a “gutsy female forensic accountant who exposes fraud for a living.” (Yeah, that sounds exciting! I mean, nothing against accountants, but the last time I talked to mine I fell asleep just punching in his cell number.)
  • Stacy Traub (GLEE) is writing what seems to be an ABC comedy pilot called NO ANGELS. (I say “seems to be” cuz the logline gives me absolutely zero inkling. What? You don’t believe me? Here it is:  NO ANGELS “is about a group of nurses who work together and live together. Work issues become home issues. Home issues become work issues. And eventually it’s hard to tell which is which.” On second thought, I’m predicting comedy. Cuz the only thing that could make this situation credibly dramatic is if Richard Speck knocks on their door.)
  • Lance Krall (IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA) is writing HOLLYWOOD & VINE, a comedy series based on material from the Vine video platform. (Cuz the web’s time has come, dear children. Hop aboard the bus and rocket to stardom! For reals.)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)