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NaNoWriMo-ish

November 1st marks the start of NaNoWriMo.  For those who aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  According to the NaNoWriMo website, it’s “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.”  Participants have a 30 day deadline to write a 50,000 word novel.

I wanted to participate this year, but I don’t have the time because I’m currently working on a pilot script and, as of yesterday, a poetry book of haiku poems.  I want to have a draft of the script finished before the new year.  That’s right around the corner, so there’s no time for my damn procrastinating.

So, I figured I’ll join my fellow writers in spirit during NaNoWriMo by working on my projects everyday during the month of November.  Knowing there’s thousands of other writers writing their little hearts out will give me inspiration and energy to write everyday.

There’s a daily writing goal of 1,667 words.  However, if you don’t hit that goal, you can catch up the next day or whenever, but the point is to hit the daily mark so you don’t get behind.  I won’t be writing that many words a day.  My goal is simply to get SOMETHING written everyday.  I’ll be keeping track of my thoughts about the process daily in my journal dedicated to my writing projects and I’ll be giving weekly updates on my progress on this blog, so stay tuned!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?  What are you working on?

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Cut To The F*cking Chase | Mommy, What’s a Logline?

Dammit!  You’re a screenwriter.  A newbie screenwriter, but a screenwriter nonetheless.  You have an amazing idea that you think will make a funny movie.  Who wouldn’t want to plunk down $12.75+ to see a film about the time you and your friends woke up stranded in Mexico with no money, no ID, no cell phones, and an 80 year old stripper handcuffed to your wrist?

As soon as you make it back to the states, you rush to your computer to pound out your wild Mexican escapades.  One week later, you type “The End,” then email the script to a production company.  You rock!  They’ll love it, right?  Not so fast grasshopper.

A production company doesn’t want your script right off the bat.  Why the hell not, you say?  Well, it’s the dreaded “we don’t accept unsolicited scripts” thing, meaning you need to be represented by an agent, reputable manager (not your cousin Pookie), or entertainment attorney (definitely not your cousin Vinny) who will submit the script on your behalf.  This protects the production company from getting sued by you if your story is similar to a project they already have on their development slate that gets produced at a later time.  Trust me, this happens all the time.  You aren’t the only one who wrote about being stranded in Mexico shackled to stripper granny.

So, what’s an unrepresented neophyte screenwriter to do?  Glad you asked.  You send in a logline and synopsis.  More on synopses another time.

I receive countless calls everyday from screenwriters who want to submit their scripts.  If I had a dollar for each time I’m asked, “What’s a logline” I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this blog post.  I’d be basking in the sun in the French Riviera, snacking on caviar and sipping Dom Perignon.

As a newbie, it’s okay to be unacquainted with a logline.  But, it’s NOT okay to not know what a logline is AND submit your script to a production company.  And by all means, never tell a production company you don’t know the definition of a logline.  Fake like you know, then hit Google as soon as you hang up the phone.  Not knowing means you are not at the proper writing level where you need to be to play in the big leagues.

So, What Is This Thing Called a Logline?  

A logline is a one-sentence summary of what your story is about.

Some people say it can be written in two sentences.  I say get ‘er done in one.  It’s cleaner.  Sharper.  And it’s the standard.  A logline involves your story’s:

  • Protagonist – The lead character who the story is about.
  • Goal – The thing the lead character wants?
  • Obstacle – The person or thing that’s keeping the main character from achieving her goal.

Here’s some examples of loglines I came up with quickly.  See if you can guess the movie or TV show.

  1. An African prince heads to America to find true love before his parents force him into a miserable arranged marriage.
  1. A renowned surgeon who was framed for his wife’s murder is on a bus headed for prison, but when it crashes he escapes to search for the real killer while the marshal is hot on his trail.
  1. Five aspiring rappers caught up in a world of violence, drugs, and police brutality must use their talents to escape before they succumb to the inevitable:  jail or death.
  1. A crisis management expert rescues high-powered movers and shakers from ruin as she bends the law to keep her own sinful activities a secret.
  1. A music industry mogul with a fatal disease must keep his illness a secret until his company goes public on the stock market and he figures out which one of his sons will take over after he dies.

Answers:

  1. Coming to America, 2.  The Fugitive, 3.  Straight Outta Compton, 4.  Scandal, 5.  Empire.

Um, That Ain’t No Logline

A lot of new screenwriters often mistake taglines for loglines.  They are not the same thing.  Taglines are marketing tools used to lure moviegoers into the theatres.  They’re those short catchy sentences you see on movie posters.  Loglines are not seen outside of the screenwriting world.  They are used to entice a producer, agent, or studio to request and read your script.

Here’s some examples of taglines that I grabbed from IMDB.com:

Coming to America:  This summer, Prince Akeem discovers America.

The Fugitive:  A murdered wife.  A one-armed man.  An obsessed detective.  The chase begins.

Straight Outta Compton:  The world’s most dangerous times created the world’s most dangerous group.

Scandal:  The secret is out.

Empire:  Welcome to the Lyons den.

See the difference?  A tagline is an advertisement.  A logline is a story summary.

So, before you click send on that email to Hollywood, go back to the drawing board and write a logline that will make them beg for your script.

If you’d like to know more about loglines and need help writing one, stay tuned for my upcoming logline consultation service.

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A Gift Deferred

When I was a kid, I thought I would be a lawyer.  Not that I really knew what that meant at the time.  I was around five years old when some adult told me lawyers make a lot of money, so that’s what I should be.  That’s the worse thing that could have been said to me.  If only that person would have talked to me about following my passion…

As a kid, I had a natural attraction to words and stories.  I loved books and made good grades in English class without much effort.  My favorite school activities were book fairs and weekly trips to the library.  However, being a writer wasn’t something I thought about.

During my teenager years, I started writing short stories, poems and song lyrics, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties when I started having a serious desire to be a writer.  I wanted to write novels like Zora Neale Hurston, Terri McMillian, and Jackie Collins.  Still, I did nothing about it. I continued to write short stories, poems, and song lyrics for my own pleasure, but I never really shared them with anybody; just a couple of friends.

It wasn’t until I had to declare a major in college when I finally knew that I wanted to be a professional writer.  It was an indirect decision though.  I was a music connoisseur and wanted to work in the music business as an Artist and Repertoire representative.  I know.  I was all over the place.  Anyway, at the time there was no such thing as majoring in the business side of music.  Schools only offered music degrees to musicians or people who wanted to teach music.  So, I picked the closest thing to the music business: Radio, Television and Film.

In one of the classes, we had to learn how to write television commercials.  I quickly got the hang of it.  That was all it took.  The screenwriting bug bit me.  I spent years learning the craft.  The journey has been long due to a nasty habit of procrastination, but I’m finally at the stage where I’m ready to cross into the professional arena.  I think I would have arrived at this stage when I was younger had I received encouragement as a child.  I’m not blaming anyone.  Back then, being a writer wasn’t thought of as a viable career.  Still, a little direction would have been golden.  Good thing it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

The next time I find myself with the opportunity to encourage a young person about their future, I’ll make it a point to let them know it’s okay to go for the gold as long as it involves their passion.

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Out On the Town | WriteGirl Book Launch Party

“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen.” ~www.WriteGirl.org

I don’t remember how I came to know out about WriteGirl.  Most likely, I received some kind of email about it or saw something about it on Facebook.  What ever way it came to me, I’m just happy it did.  I’d been on a constant search for an organization involved in helping girls with reading and writing.  I’ve also been looking for networking opportunities with other writers.  Well, my search was over when I read the about page on WriteGirl’s website:

WriteGirlLogo

WriteGirl — a creative writing organization founded in 2001 in Los Angeles — teams together girls ages 14 – 18 with professional women writers through workshops, readings, publications and mentoring relationships to help the girls gain communication skills and build confidence.  WriteGirl gives young ladies the freedom to express themselves through writing poetry, essays, song lyrics, short stories, and screenplays.  WriteGirl was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award and was named the 2010 – 2011 California Nonprofit of the Year.

After reading that, I was sold.  I decided at that moment that I wanted to become a volunteer and mentor.  I quickly downloaded the application and completed it.  I also signed up for their newsletter which led me to an email about their Book Launch Party held on Saturday, June 27th at the Writers Guild of America Theatre (WGA) in Beverly Hills.  The event was hosted by Keren Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of WriteGirl; and Clare Sera, a screenwriter and actress.  Special guests included actors, Doniella Artese, the first major black character on Mad Men (AMC); Melora Hardin, Transparent (Amazon Prime); Mo Collins, Parks and Recreation (NBC); and the only dude to grace the stage, Shawn Carter Peterson, Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal Pictures).

City of Angels

WriteGirl Book

The party was in celebration of WriteGirl’s 14th anthology, Emotional Map of Los Angeles.  Almost 200 women and girls contributed poems and essays on topics such as the death of a loved one, dreams, bullying, police brutality, and experiences of being residents of Los Angeles.  The event kicked off with the girls taking to the stage five at a time where they each recited a short poem or essay excerpt.  Some girls shared their writing processes and tips on how to be a better writer.  The best tip was, “Write down your dreams.  They might become a best seller one day.”  One 14 year old girl shared how she writes while lying on the floor at 2:00am when “all distractions are asleep.”  I found myself wondering how she manages to get up for school in the morning.  But, I get it.  When the urge to write calls, you must answer.

Express Yourself

WriteGirl Stage

We, the audience, got the chance to express our feelings too.  We were handed a stack of index cards and was encouraged to write down any feelings the readings evoked.  The index cards were collected, read aloud, and taped on the walls and stage.  The multi-colored cards created a confetti-like appearance in the room, which I’m sure made the girls feel appreciated.  People wrote down words such as inspired, angry, and motivated.  I scribbled the word “powerful” in response to a girl’s gripping poem about police brutality and social injustice surrounding the Ferguson unrest, and the Freddie Gray and Eric Garner cases.

During intermission, we were treated with healthy dishes from Sharkey’s.  We munched on salad, chicken and tofu burritos, chips and salsa; and sipped on Hubert’s Lemonade, the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted in my life.

After lunch we returned to the theatre for the second round of readings.  Maybe they should have saved the food for last because my belly was full and I was ready for a nap.  The theatre seats didn’t help either.  Usually, most venues have stiff seats jammed together, which makes for an uncomfortable experience for a tall girl like myself.  Well, I had no sardine issues at the WGA theatre.  The seats are plush and built for comfort.  I had plenty of room to stretch my long limbs.

WriteGirl alums who were on summer break from their perspective colleges also participated in the show.  Each one shared words of advice with the younger girls about what to expect from college life.  “Stay focused even though lots of things will be coming at you,” one student advised.

The affair ended on a sweet note with a dessert reception with delicious frozen yogurt from Yogurtland and an array of cookies.  My kind of way to end an evening!

Tell me, what did you do this past weekend?  Did you paint the town red?

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Cut To The F*cking Chase | How to Get Hollywood to Read Your Script

. . . ACTION!

Okay, so you finally grew the balls to call a production company to ask if you can send them your script.  Good for you!  Now, here’s how not to eff it up.  Find out their submission policy and . . . DO. WHAT. THEY. TELL. YOU. TO. DO.  If they tell you to submit a logline, then send them a logline ONLY.  Don’t throw in your script, cast wish list (you’re not the decider here), budget, and soundtrack suggestions (nobody cares about soundtracks anymore) all packaged in a pretty blue presentation folder that you eagerly bounced down to Staples to pick out thinking it would make the production company buy your script.  No.  It will not.

Different production companies have different policies.  One may want a logline, another may want a synopsis.  You may even stumble upon that rare unicorn of a production company that will allow you to submit your script without having an agent.  Whatever their submission policy is, adhere to it.  Why?  Because they have their particular policies for a reason.  For example, one company may only want a logline because they receive tons of submissions and don’t have time (maybe due to lack of manpower) to read a bunch of full-length scripts.

A logline saves the reader a lot of time.  It immediately tells the reader what the story and character are about.  It also lets the reader know if the writer has any skills.  If your logline sucks hard, there’s a 99% chance that your whole script sucks even harder because if you haven’t mastered how to write a logline, you haven’t mastered how to crank out 100 pages that somebody other than your mommy would want to read.  Production companies ain’t got time for that!

Just work on your logline.  Make it sing and then send it in, but follow the rules and save your little presentation folder for school or something.  You will only piss off the reader on account of her having to shuffle through all of that extra crap.  And when you piss off a reader, your script goes in the trash and you get placed on the “do not read anything from this person EVER” list.  It’s basically like an airline “no fly” list minus the terrorist.  In other words, you’re screwed.  Yes, the punishment seems petty and mean, but it is what it is.  “Life is pain.  You just get used to it” (Charly Baltimore, The Long Kiss Goodnight).

. . . CUT!

Tell me, have you ever submitted something to a production company, agent or studio?  What happened?  Spill the tea in the comments section.

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Welcome to WordyGirl Entertainment!

Welcome to WordyGirl Entertainment!  This blog is a fabulous place to find information on all things television, film, and online media including news; celebrity and industry insider interviews; reviews; promotions; commentary; behind-the-scenes scoops; and screenwriting advice/tutorials.  Enjoy