My last blog on the subject of trolls certainly generated quite a response.
Most, admittedly, were in agreement with me in that the best, if not only way to deal with trolls is to adopt the ignore, delete and block approach. For in doing so, not only do you instantly deprive them of the one thing they crave which is attention, you also save yourself a lot of both grief and time.
There were however, a number of people who disagreed with me, some vehemently. To a man (although oddly, most seemed to be women) their argument was not based on the issue of hate crime, which is a very different issue, but was more about their own personal experience. And it was all along the lines of ‘if someone is abusing me, why should I be the one to leave?’ which is fair enough in one sense but totally bloody stupid in the other.
This isn’t rocket science folks. If someone is giving you grief, the only sensible thing to do is to distance yourself from that person and that principle applies as much to social media as it does to a dodgy pub on a Saturday night. The only alternative courses of action are to stand there taking it until someone comes along to deal with them for you or, assuming you have the balls to do it, you go nose-to-nose and respond in kind (although to be fair, as a veteran of many a troll war, trust me when I tell you that this approach rarely ends well).
Not surprisingly, when I made this point in response to those telling me I was mistaken, some of them not only continued to disagree but a few actually ended up becoming abusive. One even began to tag my agent into posts accusing me of being homophobic which obviously saw him instantly blocked for what was, ironically, fairly textbook trolling.
And there’s the rub folks. Yes, trolls are a pain in the arse but the simple truth is that absolutely anyone who uses social media can find themselves acting like one.
Not everyone however, is smart enough to understand that if a troll does latch on to you, all the power you will ever need to deal with them is simply a few key strokes away.
Finally, a lot of people have been asking about my next movie project and whilst Three Greens continues to head toward production, I can tell you that if all goes to plan, details of another movie I’ve been working on will be released at the Cannes Film Festival next month.
As someone who has pulled it off more than once, I’m often asked how to go about selling a script.
Whilst an obvious question, it is actually the wrong question. For the truth is that anyone can sell a script just as anyone can buy one. So what people should be asking is what are the chances of selling a script into the industry. Be it to a producer, a studio or even to an agent.
The answer, for a first time writer is slim, very slim. In fact the odds are stacked firmly against you. Not because the film industry is some kind of closed shop -although in many respects it is exactly that- but because of simple mathematics.
You may well have written an awesome script, maybe even a potential Oscar winner, but the second you send it out into the world you’re entering a competition for attention and that competition is fierce. Not merely in terms of quality, but because of pure numbers.
The Writers Guild of America register anywhere between 30 and 50 thousand scripts every year. A number that can probably be doubled if you factor in screenplays written by writers who don’t register their work but still punt it out. That’s EVERY year, and the average screenplay floats around for at least 5 years, usually longer. So even using conservative figures, that’s 250,000 spec scripts floating around waiting to be picked up at any one time.
Since the vast majority of movies which actually get made are written by writers with some kind of track record, as a first time writer the chances of anyone even reading your script let alone buying it are reduced even further. Indeed it is estimated that even in a good year, only 50 spec scripts are actually sold into the business.
In real terms, that’s 1 per 5000 or 5000 to one. Or, to put it in more realistic terms, you’re twice as likely to die by falling in the shower as you are of someone buying your script.
Simple as that.
(It’s also important to remember that selling a script, whilst a great achievement in itself, does not guarantee that it will ever get anywhere near actually being filmed. And before anyone asks, it’s also worth noting that many spec scripts are sold for nominal fees, sometimes as low as £1!)
Let’s get this out in the open from the start, rejection sucks. It sucks big.
Unfortunately, if you want to write, be it for publication or screen, you had best get used to it because like it or not, it’s coming your way.
The only comfort you’ll have to draw on is that you’ll be in good company. I’m not just talking about J.K Rowling who was famously rejected by numerous agents and publishers before someone finally noticed the pot of gold under her arm, I’m talking about all of us. For with very few exceptions, every single author, screenwriter and journalist has to deal with the dreaded R word on a regular basis. I know I do. In fact my current hit rate is one script in three actually getting anywhere near being filmed.
To be fair, I am happy to acknowledge that to most writers a 33.3% success rate will actually look half decent but to me, whilst I’m obviously delighted with the one that gets through, I’m just as pissed off about the two that don’t. For each one represents a very personal failure.
You see I’m a lazy screenwriter and by that I mean that generally speaking, I’ll only write a script when I’m being paid. Therefore, if I write one on spec, it means that I think it’s something special and so if it subsequently gets rejected, it’s personal. Very personal. However, what makes it even tougher to handle is that often, the rebuff will come after I’ve already taken a few steps along the development path and the anticipation of a dream actually coming true has begun to take hold.
To give you an example; a few years ago I wrote a script called Boots on the Ground which examines the thorny issue of PTSD amongst British military veterans. For obvious reasons, this is a subject that has special significance to me and so once we were happy with it, we went out and pushed it as hard as we could.
Eventually, it landed on the desk of the head script reader at a studio who took it to his boss claiming it to be the best script he’d read all year. After reading it for himself, the studio head rang me to give me his word that he would put up most of the money to get it made and then introduced me to a very high-profile British director who was all over it like a rash. We even had BAFTA making some very positive noises about putting money in.
Then, as soon as it began and for reasons which I’ve never quite been able to fully fathom, it all went cold. And now, like Wings of a Sparrow and numerous other scripts I’ve written, it sits languishing on my hard drive until we stumble across the right person to put it in front of next.
Gutted? No, I was devastated, and continue to be so. Not just because it’s possibly the best thing I’ve ever written but because it talks about something that this country HAS to talk about.
But as I say, rejection is a part of the writers job so the question is, how do you get used to it?
The answer is that you don’t. And nor should you because if you want to write for a living, rejection HAS to hurt. And for one very specific reason.
A mate of mine, Brad Burton, is a motivational speaker and one of his ‘braddisms’ is that if you have a plan B, don’t get upset when others don’t believe in your plan A. In other words, if you prepare for rejection, it means that somewhere in the back of your head, you’re expecting it. And if you’re expecting it, how can you possibly put everything you have into your script?
The answer is that you can’t. But what you can do is to take the gut wrenching pain of being knocked back and pour it into your next script or book. Keep doing that and eventually that pain will be replaced by the ecstasy of success. And it will. Because if you want to call yourself a proper writer, you have to have absolute and total belief that it will.
Because if you don’t, if you’re not totally committed to yourself and your work, what the hell are you wasting your time for?
Speaking of being committed, my latest thriller, Three Greens, is moving swiftly toward production with casting of the major roles currently underway. In addition, I am delighted to announce that another project has now been given the green light and with finance in place, is also heading toward casting.
For reasons which will soon become obvious, I can’t say much about this new movie at the moment other than I can guarantee that when it’s announced, it’s going to cause quite a stir in certain circles.
When I first started out on what is laughingly called my writing career, I imagined that at some point, I would end up sitting somewhere warm doing pretty much sod all whilst my bank account was being drip fed a steady stream of royalty payments.
This money would then be spent fuelling my passions for motorcycles, stock car racing and Adidas Gazelles with the remainder being wasted on expensive holidays and flash restaurants. Sadly, it has not turned out like that.
Instead, like most writers battling against the combined curses of mid-list anonymity and the explosion of electronic publishing, I find myself working long hours developing new projects whilst waiting for decisions from people who are either barely qualified to make them or are simply too terrified to. These days, saying ‘no’ is both easier and safer than saying ‘yes’ or even ‘maybe’.
Given that I am keen to eat once in a while (well, this belly doesn’t maintain itself!) what this means in real terms is that since time is one of only two tools I have for the generation of income (the other being what could jokingly be called ‘talent’) it has become an extremely valuable commodity. One which once consumed, is irreplaceable.
I mention this not in an effort to elicit any kind of sympathy but for a very specific reason. For I recently read an amazing article by a best-selling American writer called Leslie Banks in which she talked about the demands placed on a writer’s time and in particular, the value placed on that time by other people. And what she says is correct.
You see, like most writers I receive a steady stream of unsolicited mails from people asking for either help or advice and in the main I’ve always welcomed these and been happy to help if I can. After all, we all started somewhere right?
Recently however, increasing numbers of these mails have gone beyond simple questions about the basics of writing or publishing into requests to critique whole manuscripts, help find an agent and/or publisher or even come on board to help develop a project from scratch. This would be fine were there ever the offer of any money to carry out this work but this is rarely, if ever the case. Remember that, because I will return to it in a moment.
I’d also ask you to consider another point raised by the fabulous Ms Banks. For like her I rarely read anything else whilst I’m writing because I have learned from experience that if I do, I tend to adopt that authors style in my own work. But equally, whatever I’m reading sinks into my brain and on one occasion, something actually fell out of my subconscious and made it onto a page I’d written. Thankfully, I caught it whilst editing but supposing I hadn’t noticed it and it had made it into print only to be picked up by some eagle eyed reader who went on to point it out to the offended author. Can you imagine?
Indeed, with more and more people paranoid about the theft of ideas, it’s only a matter of time before a writer is dragged into court and accused of ripping off a plot line.
Now, put all this together and you might start to understand why more and more writers are not simply reluctant to respond to requests for help but are becoming increasingly angry about them. Because when that mail drops in my inbox what it’s actually asking is “Dear Mr Brimson, can I take advantage of your 20 odd years worth of experience and a shed load of your time to offer you the opportunity to risk getting sued to shit and back? Oh, and can you do it all for free?”
Not exactly the most attractive proposition and in all honesty, it’s actually quite insulting. After all, would you go to any other experienced professional and ask for their time free of charge? What do you think a lawyer would say to that? Or a plumber? What would you say if I came to you at your place of work and asked for something on a non-existent account? I rest my case.
So the bottom line is this; if you want to be a writer, then write. And if you want to be a published author or a credited screenwriter, then as you write, learn. Learn about the delights of plotting, the fineries of character arcs, the stress of editing, the nightmare of pitching, the complexities of contracts, the (occasional) thrill of PR, the gut-wrenching pain of rejection and the never-ending irritation of waiting.
But if you want to circumnavigate any of that and take advantage of someone else’s experience, then be prepared to put your hand in your pocket. It might cost you in the short-term but it will almost certainly save you an awful lot of both angst and time in the long terms.
And as Leslie Banks says only too well, time is money. My money.
For any writer, be it of book, script, article or blog, reviews are not just important, they are vital.
This is especially true of those just setting out along the rocky path of penmanship and who have followed the self-published author route.
However, as much as we’d like every review to be a glowing endorsement of our creativity, the reality is that not everyone is going to like what we produce. Sadly, those readers are increasingly happy to hit the internet and slaughter both a book and its author if they feel disappointed or worse, cheated.
That is their right of course, they are customers after all, but make no mistake, when this happens to you (and it will happen) it hurts. Bad. After all, if you’ve put your heart and soul into a book, having the former ripped from your chest and publicly stamped on is not exactly a barrel of laughs.
Yet the sad fact is that no matter how good a writer you are, bad reviews are an inevitability and dealing with them goes with the territory.
So how do you do it?
Accept them for what they are: an individual opinion. Yes, they’re tough to accept and trust me when I tell you that a bad review can eat away at you forever. However, if you’re happy to wallow in the affirmation of a 5* review, you’re got to learn to take the 1* criticism.
Never respond. Whilst it’s always tempting to rip into a bad reviewer like a rabid dog, leaving aside the fact that it’s bad manners, it’s also inviting trouble. Trolls love a good author spat and if they get hold of you they can do more damage to both your book and your career than you can ever imagine so don’t give them that opening.
Develop a thick skin, and fast. The more books you produce, the more negative reviews you’re going to get. Conversely, you’re also going to get more positive reviews so keep re-reading those to balance things out.
Be honest. Reviews aren’t just feedback, they’re market research so if you’re getting more bad than good, it might well be that there is actually some truth in what’s being said. So whereas good reviews will always tell you what works, bad ones will often tell you the rest. Use both as learning tools and use that information to help you make your next book better.
Enjoy them. Even a bad review means that someone has read your book, YOUR book! Be proud of that and remember, not only does each and every review push your book up the amazon rankings, it also means income. Why do you think authors are so desperate for them? Even bad ones.
Away from books, my next movie, the thriller Three Greens, is moving swiftly toward production with casting of the major roles currently underway. In addition, I am thrilled to announce that another script has been given the green light and with finance in place, is also heading toward casting.
I can’t say much about this new project, but I can guarantee that it’s going to cause quite a stir!
As I sit here watching the news on TV, the female news anchors are talking about the subject of equal pay and equality in the work place.
They are obviously pissed, as they should be of course. After all, the fact that in 2017 females don’t earn the same as a male colleague is somewhat shameful.
Yet interestingly, they are not saying as much. Instead, they are skirting around what they actually think and are generalising. Professional yes, but you can tell that inside they are seething at the injustice of it.
By a strange coincidence, I am also editing the sequel to my novel Billy’s Log and if you’ve read the original (and if not, why the f**k not?) then you will know that it examines many of the differences between the two sexes, albeit in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner. Ironically, one of the subjects I tackle in both books is the issue of language.
As any male will know, one of the great complaints women have about us is that we don’t understand them and that’s true. What they don’t get of course, is that it’s because they talk a different language. So with that in mind, I thought this might be a good time to briefly tackle one particular element of the ongoing battle of the sexes. It’s one that is dear to my heart, mostly because I’ve fallen foul of it on more occasions than I care to remember, and is a particular word. One which actually has three genuine definitions within the English language but which, when it comes to female-speak, has multiple meanings, all of which spell trouble for the average bloke. It is, in effect, the relationship H-bomb.
That word is ‘fine’.
To us men, fine means either OK, thin or sunny. To females, it means only one thing: that she isn’t happy. If she says ‘it’s fine’ or ‘that’s fine’ and delivers the words through pursed lips, gritted teeth or in a tone that’s considerably lower or slower than normal, she isn’t happy at all. Incredibly, the average female is even able to convey this angst in email, messenger or tweet form when it will generally be delivered in a short and very sharp manner.
However it’s delivered, its arrival should start to ring alarm bells in the average bloke because irrespective of the reasons behind it -and it might not be your fault or even have anything to do with you- what she is actually doing is testing you as her partner. It could be your understanding of her, her emotions and her needs or even the importance you place on her but it is vital, for your own wellbeing, that you not only understand what the problem is but know how to respond. And you have literally seconds to act. Any longer and will pay. Be it in the form of a ‘you don’t understand me’ attack, or a simple sulk. Get it right however, and you’re quids in.
There is however, a relatively simple way for the male to totally neutralise the threat of fine. Depending on where you are in a relationship, it takes either forward planning or simple nerve but it is possible and all it takes is for you to sit your partner down and deliver this one simple sentence:
‘If you say you’re fine, from now on I’m going to assume that you are actually fine.’
This is of course, a risky tactic as you are in effect stripping them of weaponry and it may even be met with the response of ‘fine’ and all that goes with it (see above). But if you stick to your guns when the tests come -and they will come- and simply respond with a smile and ‘OK’ or ‘that’s good’ then you will inevitably force her to back down and say what she actually means.
I am a Falklands Veteran. Yes, that’s right, 36 years ago I was one of those brave souls who headed south to drive the invading Argentinean scum from our land.
However, I have a confession to make. You see I wasn’t one of the amazing Para’s who yomped across the Islands carrying a weight akin to a medium sized child on their backs, nor was I one of the sailors who spent their war bobbing up and down on waves which, from the films I’ve seen, gave them a ride like a non-stop trip on the Big One at Blackpool.
No, my war was easy. More importantly, it was fun.
You see as a member of her majesties Royal Air Force, my war was spent on the relative luxury of Wideawake Airfild on Ascension Island which, for those that don’t know, is a pile of volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Being close to the Equator, it’s also quite warm. Well, very warm.
Now I won’t go into what my actual job was (I’d have to hunt you all down and kill you) but after a very exciting flight down, most of which was spent in the cockpit of a VC10 talking UFO’s with the crew –well at least those who were awake- it involved a lot of sitting around and waiting. Now this sounds fun and to be honest, as someone who does pretty much that for a living now, it generally is. But when you’re at war and both chaos and uncertainty are all around you, you do kind of get caught up in things and so in an effort to do my bit, I ended up working with the American Fire Crews who, it’s fair to say, pretty much ran the Island. As a result, I would be tasked with all kinds of odd things from dragging extremely stubborn donkeys from the runway with a Landrover through to sorting through the endless pallets of gifts which had been sent down to the Task Force from the fabulous people back home. Gifts which included everything from beer and fags to hard core porn!
And when I wasn’t doing that, I spent my time doing everything from swimming with what I later learned to be sea-water Piranhas (yes, really) and trying to break into the NASA station in the middle of the Island through to being spied on by the SAS. And that really is a tale!
I was also prone to playing practical jokes on people. Jokes which included placing a huge land crab in my bosses sleeping bag which he only found when he climbed into it after a 24 hour shift and scaring the shit out of the intelligence officers by hiding in their porta-loo in the middle of the night and screaming ‘BOO!’ when they pulled the door open. Trust me, the impact that can have when you’ve been told to expect an Argentinean Special Forces attack is quite dramatic!
Of course, things changed dramatically when rumours of the Vulcan raids began to break -and I cannot even begin to describe what it was like to be involved with those- and once our fabulous soldiers had actually landed and the fight to reclaim the Islands began, even those of us thousands of miles away felt like we really were at war. Which of course, we were.
And then the losses began, and when the injured started to drift back I started to actually understand the realities of war for those who had been on the front line. That really was an experience I will never forget nor is it one I would ever want to repeat. Humbling doesn’t come close.
Victories were of course, celebrated in time-honoured style but oddly, the actual surrender came as something of an anti-climax. But whilst I remember exactly where I was when I heard it, nothing much changed for me, at least not initially. My job, such as it was, continued whilst supplies still had to sorted, planes still took off and landed and donkeys still had to moved!
When troops started making their way back it actually became even busier and in fact one of my most emotional periods of the entire war came when a Hercules full of Harrier lads landed en route back home. Amongst them were lads I knew personally having worked with them on 4 Squadron in Germany only months previous.
Then out of the blue came the news that I was to go home. In fact, I was the first RAF serviceman on Ascension Island to be told that their job had been stood down which is something I’m quite proud of. Within days, I was geared up to head back to the UK, thankfully, on the very plane that the new (and first) Station Warrant Officer arrived on and those of you with experience of the RAF will know what that means!
My arrival back at RAF Brize Norton was unintentionally hilarious as I flew back with a group of those special men from Hereford who had no intention of hanging around for the elaborate ceremony that had been organised to welcome back the other soldiers on the plane (Cue potentially very violent stand-off!). This being followed by a three-hour wait for a car to take me back to Abingdon and a row with the orderly Sergeant who refused to take my rifle off me. Hence my having to sleep with it in my bed.
And that was that. Not for me the civic receptions nor the big parades but I cherish my South Atlantic campaign medal and am as proud of that as I am of anything I have ever done before or since.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. War may be hell for some but for many it’s also where they feel more alive than you can possibly imagine. Even those of us who played only a minor part.
To all those who lost loved ones or who have endured untold suffering since 1982, please do not think for one second that I am trying to belittle what you have gone and are going though. Nothing could be further from the truth as I am, and continue to be, in awe of you all.
All of my books, including the comedy Wings of a Sparrow are available in ebook and paperback format from either Amazon or iTunes.
The audio version of Top Dog is also now available to download and joins the ebook, paperback and movie to make the clean sweep of all platforms! Not too shabby if I say so myself.
Work continues apace on a variety of movie projects including a brand new comedy about a group of very special old ladies. More on this as and when.
And yes, the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy is almost finished!
armed forces, hooligan, british film, top dog, green street, self publishing, manchester united, liverpool, sex, maggie thatcher, veteran, UKIP, tory Argentina
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