I’m not usually one for taking part in online debates about writing, mostly because I’m not that clever and have an adversity to making myself look stupid.
There is of course, also the risk that people will discover that I’ve been winging it all this time which wouldn’t do my agents heart rate any good.
However, I recently became involved in a fascinating discussion with a group of writers on the use of gratuitous violence in both books and film. Or to be more specific, the duty of the writer in the way they portray it.
I won’t go too deeply into the way it unfolded other than to say it veered from one extreme to the other and back again at least more than once. But whilst it was extremely interesting to learn how others perceive their creative responsibilities, little or nothing was said which made me change the way I think about mine. And mine, as I see them, are relatively simple. Indeed, they can be encapsulated in one single sentence. For when it comes to anything fictional, my job is to tell a decent story as honesty and realistically as I can.
This is underpinned by something I have said many times and that is the fact that the most important person in the writing process is the person at the end of the chain be that the reader or the viewer. And when you write the kind of things I do for the kind of people I primarily write them for (lads), then my sole duty is to give them something which they can not only recognise but hopefully, put themselves into the centre of without any difficulty.
In the case of a subject like hooliganism, that means street fighting and anyone who has ever been involved in a row at football knows that it isn’t Queensbury Rules Boxing or Tae Kwon Do, it’s short periods of scruffy, disjointed mayhem. It’s still violence, but it’s real violence as opposed to the stylised fighting we see in too many films and computer games and whilst for some it can be little short of a terrifying experience, for others it can border on hilarity.
That’s how I have to write it because that’s how it is. Anything else would be a betrayal and I’d lose my readers (and viewers) in a heartbeat.
Quite rightly too.
The next few weeks will hopefully see a couple of announcements on the movie front. The first will almost certainly be related to my thriller, Three Greens which has now attracted funding from one of the major distributors and the second will be details of the sale of my latest co-written project, Pizza & Miracles.
The latter script was only finished last week but has actually been a really interesting project to work on not least because it is as far from my usual genre as it is possible to get given that the subject matter centres around the subject of spiritualism and the power of the universe. But in many ways, that challenge is what made it the most fun. More of that as and when!
I can also tell you that work is progressing nicely on the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy as well as on Billy’s Log 2.
My intention at the moment is to self-publish both books but it may well be that someone comes along who will take them along the more traditional publishing route.
On which note, if you didn’t know, I’ve been publishing extracts of the latter online at Billys Blog. Feel free to take a look by clicking here!
As anyone who follows me on Twitter will know, I am a huge fan.
To me it’s a great source of both news and amusement as well as being a fantastic way to promote my books and well, what I do. Most importantly for me at least, it’s a great way to interact with readers and it’s fair to say that I’ve made some great mates though twitter with I hope, many more to come.
However, I’ve also encountered some proper dicks over the years and received more than my share of abuse from all kinds of trolls. In recent months for example, besides the usual ‘shit writer’ fair I’ve been accused of condoning child abuse, being sexist, homophobic and racist. None of which is particularly nice I’m sure you’ll agree but, and this is the crux of this whole matter, I know how to deal with it. And by that I mean me. Not twitter, not my ISP and not the police, but me.
And at the heart of that is one simple statement, ‘it’s not personal, it’s Twitter’.
The day you start screaming blue murder about something mean said about you by some anonymous idiot on a social networking site is the day your life begins to spiral out of control. No, it’s not nice to be accused of being a Nazi and I’m fairly certain that it’s not nice to read that someone wants to burn you alive but by reacting, you do exactly what the person who wrote it wants you to do. You give them power by taking them seriously. And power is all they’re after.
This is where people are getting it wrong when they claim Twitter should be clamping down on trolls because Twitter doesn’t have to. You do, as the individual. It’s called personal responsibility.
Would you walk down a dark alley in a dodgy area in the middle of the night? No. Would you leave you front door wide open if you went on holiday? No. You take appropriate action to protect yourself.
So why don’t you apply that same thinking when it comes to social media?
Ignore, delete, block. Those three words should be beaten into the brains of everyone who uses either Twitter or Facebook because those three actions place you totally in control of what appears on your feeds.
And if it’s not on your feed, why do you care? Seriously, why?
Social media isn’t like real life. If someone is bad mouthing you to colleagues at work, there are processes in place to deal with it. If you’re having trouble with neighbours, then you tackle it face to face or if it’s beyond that, involve the authorities.
But social media is simple words. And unlike sticks and stones, they don’t break bones.
Yes, of course there are exceptions just as there are to every rule and yes, there will be instances where the law should and must get involved. But in the main, it’s a personal choice to react, ignore, delete or simply hit the block button which Twitter already provides for you to use in just such cases.
If you don’t understand that and don’t accept that in many ways, Twitter is the greatest manifestation of free speech we have, then rather than scream blue murder about the need for censorship (yes, censorship) why not take total control yourself and employ the ultimate sanction, delete your account.
Because you do actually have that option at your disposal and speaking as a Twitter fan, if you do indeed think that social media is there to serve you and not the other way round, then I’d urge you to do just that.
I never get bored of saying this, truly, I don’t. A huge thanks to everyone who is keeping The Crew at #1 on the Amazon and iTunes sports charts. We’re now approaching the end of our 6th year at the top of the tree which however you look at it, is quite something.
Top Dog is also sitting pretty as are most of my other titles which proves what I said years ago, that if you give people what they want as opposed to what you hope they might like, they’ll buy it.
Just in case you didn’t already know, all of my books and DVD’s are available from both Amazon and iTunes.
I shall, from the outset, put my cards on the table and say that I am, at least numerically speaking, old. I don’t feel it mind (and I certainly don’t act it) but it is fair to say that at 58 I’m much closer to my closing scene than I am to the opening act.
The reason I mention this is because for fairly obvious reasons, my age impacts on my writing output. Rule number three in Doug’s Guide To Writing is ‘write what you know’ and since I know more about being a male over 50 in 2017 than I do about being a teenage lad in 2017, my central characters tend to be older and I hope, more realistic. There will after all, be a part of me in all of them.
Thankfully, this is working to my advantage. For example when I worked on We Still Kill The Old Way it received a great deal of press because of the age of the main cast. Great for me, the film and the actors involved, most of whom were actually older than I am. And that leads me nicely into the central reason for this blog.
You see generally speaking, when I start thinking about a project, be it book or film, one of the first things I consider is who is going to read or watch it. But recently, when it comes to screenplays, I also think about who might be can cast. Something which helps me actually create the role.
Therefore with that in mind, what follows are 5 reasons why these days my mind tends to wander to those actors who have actually been around for a while.
Choice – We have a huge untapped source of talent in this country and it isn’t lurking in acting classes or talent schools, it’s working in small theatres or sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. Sad for them but great for writers like me when you’re working on something and putting together a dream cast because you know that there’s a bigger chance of actually getting them.
Gratitude – The main reason why they’re sitting at home is because the phone rarely rings. And it rarely rings because there are so few decent roles being written for people over 60 (let alone 70!). As a consequence, if you create these age specific roles and cast accordingly, not only are the actors grateful, but they give you everything from vast experience to PR gold!
Talent – To me, it’s criminal that all this amazing acting talent is being allowed to go to waste. Aside from the ones I’ve already worked with, I can think of ten amazing actors and actresses I’d crawl over broken glass to hear reading my words yet I doubt one has had a decent film or TV role in ten years. That’s tragic, not least because, as has been proven time and time again, the public genuinely want to see these great actors on screen.
Fun – If you don’t think working with legends of the entertainment world is fun, you really shouldn’t be writing screenplays.
Inspiration – When an actor you’ve watched for years and who you have nothing but respect for comes up and not only praises your script but thanks you for the opportunity you’ve given them, it’s both humbling and gratifying. But equally, such praise drives you on to create more of the same which is exactly why I currently have two projects in development that will feature ensemble casts of actors over 60. And d’you know what? I can’t wait to get them moving primarily because above all, they’re going to be fun. Which is kind of why I started doing this in the first place.
The problem of course, is that the production process isn’t down to the writers or the actors, it’s down to those mythical beasts called producers. So what’s really needed are a few of those to step up and take a chance or two.
The talent is there, the ideas are there and as movies such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1&2) and Philomena proved, the audience is certainly there. So how about it? Why not take a shot.
As some of you may be aware, I’ve been beavering away on a couple of sequels for a while now. Well the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy is almost done and then I’ll dive back into the latest exploits of Billy Ellis. On which note, I’ve published a few extracts of ‘Billy’s Blog’ online to whet the appetite.
Please click here to visit and if you enjoy it, feel free to spread the word!
Just in case you didn’t already know, all of my books and DVD’s are available from both Amazon and iTunes.
I recently made the comment that the difference between being an author and being a screenwriter is the same as the difference between an immaculate conception and an egg donation.
This seemed to cause some confusion in certain circles although as someone who writes both novels and scripts, it seems to me to be a totally accurate statement. Therefore, what follows is a slightly tongue-in-cheek guide to the essential difference between the creative processes involved in what are after all, two very different writing disciplines.
As an author, when you write a novel, it is your baby. You sit, plot, write, edit, rewrite, edit again and then when you’re happy, you send it off to one or two trusted mates for their comments.
Dependent on what they say, you will either rewrite or polish your manuscript and then take the plunge into the real world and send it off to either your agent or your publisher. This is the terrifying time for all authors as these will be the first people within the industry to see, and judge, your latest efforts.
In response to their comments, you’ll either do more polishing or more rewriting after which it’ll go off to a proper editor who will fix your appalling grammar. Only then will it head off in the direction of the actual production process and eventually, print (or internet).
Yet from concept to shelf or kindle, the writer retains pretty much total creative control and as such, the finished article remains in essence, all your own work. Indeed, once it’s published the whole thing becomes about you and you alone. Have you ever seen a book publicised as ‘edited by….’? Of course not.
This is what I mean by immaculate conception. You’ve created something from nothing and now face the consequences. Be it praise or grief.
A screenplay is a totally different animal because in terms of the creative process, you as the writer have very little power over what finally ends up on-screen. Yes, you might well come up with the initial concept and you will certainly put the initial layer of flesh on the bones but generally speaking, your place is and always will be on the bottom rung of a very long development ladder. Indeed, a script will go through so many rewrites it might as well be written in pencil and it’s certainly safe to say that by the time it gets to the point when a director calls ‘action’, the shooting script will be very different from your initial draft
There are of course, very specific reasons for this be they creative improvements the director has made or something as mundane as location, cast or budget. Yet however much it might irritate you as the writer, everything is underpinned by one very simple fact and that is that everyone involved in the process wants to get the best thing that they possibly can onto the screen.
And that is the key difference. For unlike a novel, a script is a true collaboration and your pages are usually the starting point. Or to use my original statement, the egg.
You see, simple.
There are of course, occasions when the two elements meet and an author ends up adapting their own novel for the screen as I did with Top Dog. Whilst an interesting experience, it was quite possibly the single most challenging thing I’ve done as a writer and whilst I learned a lot, it’s not something I would advise an author to do unless they have either a very thick skin, a good therapist or access to a shotgun.
I first posted the following blog in the spring of 2012, the year that footballer Andre Gray posted a series of homophobic tweets which saw him spread across the sports pages of the British press.
You would hope that things would have changed in recent years but last night, as I watched the Gareth Thomas documentary on homophobia it became horrifically clear that nothing much has changed at all. And to me, the reason is because the finger of blame is far too easily being pointed in entirely the wrong direction.
To be fair to Gareth Thomas, at least he had a go at taking the game to task and the appalling car crash interviews given by Gordon Taylor and Simone Pound of the PFA coupled with the refusal of the FA to respond to him underlined everything I say below. But where were the interviews with current Premier League players or coaching staff? Why no contribution from the likes of Lineker or Shearer?
Instead, he fell into the now traditional trap of attacking the supporters using social media to try and underline his case. Consequently, by suggesting that the reason why no players have come out as gay was due to potential abuse from the terraces, all he really did was further demonise the very people who will ultimately win the war against homophobia in football. The supporters.
As I said, the blog below was written five years ago and it angers me that I’m being forced to repost it. Because the fact that we’re still without an openly gay footballer in England isn’t simply tragic, it’s shameful.
As you may or may not know, Downing Street will today play host to a summit which will discuss, amongst other things, the issues of racism and homophobia.
Leaving aside the simple truth that I actually think our PM has more important things to be doing at the moment, the reason this summit is taking place is apparently to take a fresh look at both ‘problems’ in the face of recent events and, in the case of homophobia, in the wake of the BBC documentary which looked at the lack of any openly gay players in the professional game.
Now my views on racism at football are in black and white for all to see, be that on this very blog or in my book Kicking Off. Homophobia however, is something I have never really discussed before and there is a reason for that.
You see speaking as a football fan, it is my assertion that there isn’t actually a problem to address at the moment and nor will there be until such time as we have a player with the bottle to actually come out and admit to his sexuality. At that point things will change immediately because then the anti-homophobia campaign will have an actual focal point or to be blunt, a potential victim. As a result, then, and only then, will we know if we actually have a major problem at all. Because at the moment, it is all supposition.
That is I know, a very simplistic way of looking at things but let’s face it, once inside the confines of a ground, football fans become fairly simplistic beings. All too often the concept of right and wrong is neutralised by raw emotion and whilst any form of abusive chanting is unacceptable, the real key to stopping it isn’t legislation, it’s by changing the mindset of the minority who do it.
The precedent of course, is racist chanting. For as black players made more inroads into the game, supporters eventually began to realise how futile and pathetic abusing them was and that soon became so ingrained in their psyche that to even utter a racist term stopped occurring to all but the most rabid of morons. Indeed, far from knocking football for being racist we should be applauding it for driving the anti-racism message deep into the heart of British society.
I believe that exactly the same thing will happen with homophobia and I would argue that it would happen in a fairly short space of time if not immediately. After all, one only has to look at the TV to see how much has changed with regard to British societies acceptance of homosexuality in recent years.
Yet as the noises being made ahead of this summit clearly seem to prove, both the game and the authorities would like the great British public to believe that the second an openly gay player steps onto a field, the terraces will resound with cries of ‘they don’t like it up ‘em’ or ‘I’m free’ and the sight of fans mincing up and down behind the goals. Indeed the reason I sat down and wrote this very blog is because I have been so offended by some of the things I have been hearing this morning. Football fans may not be perfect, but the suggestion that more than a tiny minority are genuinely homophobic is beyond offensive,
The question of course, is why such things are being inferred and the answer, like most things to do with the great game, is fairly obvious. It’s a basic diversion tactic. Because if you point the finger of blame toward the fans, you don’t actually have to apportion any blame to yourselves.
Like it or not, if you are a pro-footballer be it at Old Trafford or Roots Hall, the nature of the beast is such that getting abuse from the terrace is going to be part and parcel of your career. Brutal though this might be, it is a nailed on fact and if you don’t like it or don’t think you will be able to take it, then don’t do it. It really is as simple as that.
The key to dealing with that abuse is to understand why it happens and what it actually means. Because for the most part, vitriol will only be coming at you from opposing fans if you’re pissing them off by doing a good job. And as long as you’re doing a good job, as recent history has proven only too well, your own supporters will not only forgive you anything but they will continue to heap adulation on you. Since they are the ones who ultimately pay your wages, they’re the only ones you really have to worry about.
However, if that grief comes not from the terraces but from your peers, especially your own team mates, it is something else entirely because it goes beyond banter from the crowd, it becomes personal.
Anyone who has ever been in a changing room knows that many of them are like a scene from Animal Farm (the George Orwell book, not the porn movie!) and any individual who shows even the remotest sign of being in any way different becomes fair game. Remember the stick Graham Le Saux used to get simply because he has a brain in his head? Much of that focussed on his supposed sexuality and let’s face it, if you were gay and saw that as a potential warning of things to come, why on earth would you want to put yourself in the firing line?
Of course not all players are like that and I’m sure that there are certain changing rooms which are delightful places to be post-training. But there are plenty which aren’t, especially if you’re not one of the towel-snapping, prank playing, tart shagging brigade and it is that ‘closed shop’ lad mentality which David Cameron and the various cronies and cling-ons should be discussing not the old chestnut of fears of abuse from the terraces.
But that will only happen when the game actually admits it has a problem in-house and we all know how reluctant it is to do that. Especially when you have a mute and already demonised scapegoat ready to hand.
Thanks to all those people who continue to keep both The Crew and Top Dog at the top of the various download charts. It really is humbling. Could I please ask that if you have read either book you leave a review of some kind as they are a great help both to me and to potential readers. And don’t forget, my latest comedy ebook Wings of a Sparrow is also available both in print and to download.
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.