Second in a series of interviews with hard working writers – by another hard-working writer!
by Kelly Jo Brick
Rob Edwards’ career is a fine example of how persistence and dedication can lead to great opportunities as a writer. From stand-up to television to film, Rob’s credits includes writing for A Different World, In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as screenplays for Disney’s Treasure Planet and The Princess and the Frog.
Last week Rob shared his thoughts on getting started and maintaining a writing career. This week he gives us insights on the craft of writing.
WHY YOU ALWAYS NEED TO BE WRITING:
Always have a lot of stuff, a lot of plates spinning. A lot of stuff is just going to die on the vine. Not every idea that you have sells. It always cracks me up. I talk to a lot of other writer friends of mine who talk to young writers and they’re amazed that people are only working on one project at a time. It’s very strange.
It’s like only having one pair of shoes or a pair of socks. You have to keep a bunch of irons in the fire because some things, some movies take 10 years before somebody makes them. Some things go right away, but some things it takes a while for the pieces to come together, for the right people to read your stuff. If you go one project at a time, you’re gonna maybe sell something one time in five years, ten years or so. That’s terrible.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY:
I think all writers have to study pop entertainment because you look at record albums; somebody will have a great debut record album and a terrible sophomore album. And the question is always well, what happened between the two albums? Sometimes it’s just the person doesn’t trust themselves. They don’t trust their voice from the first album.
Because really what people want to hear is more in that voice. You know it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same thing, but you’ve found something. You’ve found a collection of sounds or themes that resonate with people. Don’t all of a sudden turn that around.
That consistency is a big, big part of any kind of marketing. If you’re a pitcher, you throw strikes. If you’re a singer, sing on key. If you’re a writer, write what you write. Find out where your heart is, write that and stay in that zone.
How I started was just writing on a pad and handing it over. The idea of formatting was just never a big deal. The last thing I think when I’m writing is the most important thing in Final Draft, which is exterior/interior, where is it. Is it day or night? I don’t care, I just want to have two people talk, I want to have two people to have an argument and I don’t know if it’s outside or inside.
When you’re writing it, it’s like ahhh, slug line, slug line, slug line. And everything that happens is just, there’s so much formatting, it’s slowing down the writing, it’s slowing down my thought process. I’m to the point where I’m just putting two dashes and writing what happens. I’ve found that I’ve been able to do that well in either just Pages or using Final Draft and just typing in general mode.
Writers should check it out. Just try to type it in general and then go back through, Ctrl R then reformat. And then you can just reformat and build it out. You’re going to rewrite it anyway, but while you’re composing you just want to get it down.
WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A NEW SCRIPT, DO YOU PICTURE AN ACTOR AS EACH CHARACTER OR IS IT A FACELESS TYPE? WHAT WORKS FOR YOU?
Archetypes, I used to feel ashamed of it until I heard Alfonso Cuaron and his son talking about it, talking about Gravity and they were saying that they wrote in archetypes. The problem sometimes when you’re writing for a specific actor, is that you can bog down into stuff that that actor has already done which is usually stuff that the actor does not want to do the next time.
Every so often I’ll go specifically into an actress, just to check the reality of the scene, just to check the dialogue I will kind of mentally act it out as that specific actress and then back out into the archetype again. But I find that if I write it too specifically for one thing, for one actor, everybody knows what I’m doing and they’re like, “No, he’s never going to do it, nice try.”
ABOUT TAKING NOTES:
I once had a note, and I’m as guilty of this as anything, I was at NBC and an executive gave me the notes and said, “The one big strike against you, Rob is that you take everybody’s notes.” And I said, “Is that a bad thing? Is that really a bad thing?” Yes, it is. And she said, “Because most of the time we’re just filling the air. Nobody really knows. We want you to know. We hire you so that you will know. So if you don’t think it’s a good note, you don’t have to tell us, you just don’t have to do it. You just write it down and don’t do it.”
DON’T GET BOGGED DOWN. GET TO WORK:
For new writers it is a craft, you have to just sit down and learn it and do it, do it, do it. Don’t be too precious about your own writing. Don’t wait for it to get perfect. Just get the idea down and get it out. The first thing that happens when you sell something is you’re in a room with 6 people and they all give you notes about how you’re going to revise it. So if you think it’s perfect you’re kind of fooling yourself a little bit. Just get it out there and get going on the next thing.
— You can hear more from Rob at robedwards.net, a website dedicated to providing people with the tools and info they need to succeed as a writer.