“I did it!”

December 27th, 2013 by

FADE OUT. At least that’s what some in the GITS community have typed at some point in the last 24 weeks as they went on the sojourn that has come to be called Go On Your Own Quest. By way of historical context, here is a post from last year summarizing the roots of this writing initiative:

It all started with this post on May 16th, 2012, then the formal announcement here.

I am pleased to announce “Go Into The Story: The Quest,” my attempt at creating a new pathway into Hollywood for aspiring screenwriters: A 24-week online screenwriting workshop which I will offer for free to as many as 4 writers.

Interest was incredibly high with 1,500 writers submitting nearly 4,000 loglines.

I went through every single logline, interviewed over 20 writers, eventually selecting 8, six with whom I worked in a public Quest group [you have read their dispatches], two privately because both of them worked in Hollywood.

Then there was this post on June 11, raising the possibility of creating an opportunity for people to use the Quest structure to write their own screenplay. And that led to this: Go On Your Own Quest.

We started the 24-week GOYOQ process here on July 16. A post per day, Monday through Friday, tied to the 8 weeks of Core theory, 6 weeks of Prep, then 10 weeks of Pages. Plus we created the GOYOQ Forums here where well over 100 writers registered to share their experiences as they worked on their own screenplays [the site just recently logged its 2000th comment].

And now today marks the end of the 24 week period [technically it goes through December 30, but this is the last post I'll be making for GOYOQ].

You can read all 120 posts I did for Go On Your Own Quest — from Week 1 dealing with Plot to Week 24 covering the last stage of writing the first draft and preparing for rewrites — here.

It’s been an amazing journey. I will have news re the writers involved in Go Into The Story: The Quest sometime in January after I have a chance to review their first drafts, but on the GOYOQ front, I’ve already received a number of emails and Tweets from people who successfully pounded out a first draft of an original screenplay.

You know what? That makes me feel good. I’m happy to have provided the opportunity for people to make that leap of faith. I’m happy so many of you took it.

And so to those of you who managed to hit FADE IT, here is the final post in the GOYOQ series: “I did it!”

You can not hope to sell a script unless you write it. By overcoming all the odds you have faced, you have crossed a major threshold.

You wrote a full-length original screenplay.

You should feel proud. You should feel good. You should feel pumped.

Congratulations!

Here we are a year later and we have yet another GOYOQ development to celebrate: The Black Board, the Official Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, hosted by Shaula Evans and a group of terrific moderators, each a writer in his/her own right. The Black Board has forums on just about any topic related to screenwriting and TV writing including Go On Your Own Quest. Here are some insightful comments from Black Board member Mark Walker about his Go On Your Own Quest:

It wasn’t about a 24 week programme that would take you through the “writing by numbers” steps of writing a screenplay, but a comprehensive resource of information and discussions that support you in the production of your screenplay on your terms. It isn’t about “this is how you write a screenplay” but “these are some of the things that are worth thinking about when you do.”

And it is a great way to feel supported in your writing. Knowing there are other writers doing the same thing, following the same advice and discussions and facing the same struggles….all backed up by GITS and The Black Board.

The beauty of all this? It’s all there, archived on both of thoses sources….so we can drop in and out as we embark on new projects in 2014. Struggling with Prep? Well, go and have a look…..concerns over your dialogue….you know where to go.

All very true and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the Go On Your Own Quest initiative. Bottom line: In order to advance your aspirations as a screenwriter, you have to write scripts. GOYOQ is an attempt to help writers do that. Daily and weekly support. All for free.

For a related discussion on The Black Board, check out this discussion:

If you have something you’d like to share about your GOYOQ writing process, I’m sure we’d all love to read about it in comments.

The Quest” has entered Week 24 — the last week! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for the last 10 weeks, I have used this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“What have I learned about my themes?”

December 26th, 2013 by

As we jam through to the end of The Quest including those participants in Go On Your Own Quest, follow the prime directive: Keep pushing to FADE OUT. But you can also start shifting your attention to the next phase: Rewriting. This week, a series of questions to ask to kick-start that process.

Today: “What have I learned about my themes?”

I don’t think about theme as the moral of the story or the central premise of the story. Rather my principle is this: Theme = Meaning. And specifically emotional meaning. This centers the concept of theme where I believe it should be: Upon the characters.

So as you finish up your first draft, instead of trying to deal with the intellectual issues of moral or premise, zero in on your characters and ponder what the experiences in the story have meant to them on an emotional level.

A great way to ensure you stay in touch with the emotional life of your story as you transition into rewrites is to ask:

“What have I learned about my themes?”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out this discussion: Resources about theme.

The Quest” has entered Week 24 — the last week! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for the last 10 weeks, I have used this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“What have I learned from my dialogue”

December 25th, 2013 by

As we jam through to the end of The Quest including those participants in Go On Your Own Quest, follow the prime directive: Keep pushing to FADE OUT. But you can also start shifting your attention to the next phase: Rewriting. This week, a series of questions to ask to kick-start that process.

Today: “What have I learned from my dialogue?”

Dialogue tells you a lot about your story.

Dialogue gives you a sense of each character’s distinct personality.

Dialogue provides details about inner workings of the story universe.

Dialogue conveys backstory.

Dialogue reveals the complex nature of interrelationships.

Dialogue unveils mysteries in the plot.

In essence, dialogue is a conduit for you to go into the story.

So as push your way to FADE OUT and prepare for rewrites, embrace this idea: Each side of dialogue is a clue to some necessary aspect of your story.

Therefore another question to ask yourself as you transition into the rewrite phase:

“What have I learned from my dialogue?”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out this discussion: Resources about dialogue.

The Quest” has entered Week 24 — the last week! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for the last 10 weeks, I have used this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“What have I learned about my plot?”

December 24th, 2013 by

As we jam through to the end of The Quest including those participants in Go On Your Own Quest, follow the prime directive: Keep pushing to FADE OUT. But you can also start shifting your attention to the next phase: Rewriting. This week, a series of questions to ask to kick-start that process.

Today: “What have I learned about my plot?”

What worked? What didn’t? What scenes rocked? Which ones feel flat? Does the central plot [Plotline] track? Does it build with rising tension toward a satisfying resolution? Do each of your subplots work?

The first draft is a journey of discovery. You have found out much along the way. Hopefully that has translated into a solid plot structure. If not, don’t be surprised. Writing is rewriting. You can always fix the plot in future drafts.

For now, at least get your creative juices going by asking this question:

“What have I learned about my plot?”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out this discussion: Resources about plot and plotting.

The Quest” has entered Week 24 — the last week! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for the last 10 weeks, I have used this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“What have I learned about my characters?”

December 23rd, 2013 by

Just get the damn thing done! That’s where you started your first draft many weeks ago. And while it seemed a daunting task when you had just typed FADE IN, you’re way past that, right? Sitting on P. 90 or even 100, there’s no doubt you’ll reach FADE OUT.

So as you prepare to celebrate finishing the draft, it’s time to start thinking about the rewrite. This week, a series of questions to jump-start that process.

Today: What have you learned about your characters?

So much of the first draft process is a journey of discovery. Even if you went through an immersive prep-writing phase to the point of a comprehensive outline, once you start dancing with your characters in the page-writing part of your adventure, you will surface hidden truths, make connections, see nuances and dynamics.

In other words, your characters are coming alive. And that is a tremendous thing. They exist. They have lives. They have histories. They have personalities. The more you learn about them, the more you story benefits from that knowledge.

Even if they veer you away from your outline.

So even now as you wrap up your first draft, start thinking about the rewrite. Ask yourself:

“What have I learned about my characters?”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out this discussion: More about character design & development.

The Quest” has entered Week 24 — the last week! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for the last 10 weeks, I have used this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“Find a real moment between people”

December 20th, 2013 by

“My theory about creative work is that 99 percent of it is intention. When you go in with the intention of exploring something real, then that’s what you’ll get no matter what’s around it. It may not even be successful—people may not like it and it may make no money—but that is what you’ll have. And if you go into something with the intention of showing off and just being absurd for absurdity’s sake, then hey, that’s what you’ll get. I’m interested in trying to find a real moment between people, and hopefully that’s what people get out of my work.”

Many descriptions may come to mind when we think of Charlie Kaufman movies, such as whimsical, inventive, bizarre, mindboggling. But his comment above, especially this point — “I’m interested in trying to find a real moment between people” — is likely to re-frame the discussion.

For it appears, by his own words, what Charlie Kaufman is most fundamentally about is creating authentic characters who share genuine human experiences.

As you approach FADE OUT, facing the prospect of rewriting your script, this is definitely a touchstone for subsequent drafts, something to consider with every scene, every interaction, every plot point.

Remember…

“Find a real moment between people.”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

The Quest” has entered Week 23! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“It always gets back to the words”

December 19th, 2013 by

“The point of view that words should be minimized in movies is just ridiculous! The technical aspects are not important. It’s the words, it always gets back to the words. The people who suffered the highest percentage of failure were novelists and short story writers. Because, in their form of choice, if they came to a scene that was tough they had dots. So they’d write, ‘There was a terrible quarrel.’ Dot, dot, dot. In a screenplay, you have to put down the words in the quarrel.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the name Julius Epstein. If not, does the movie Casablanca ring a bell? Julius Epstein and his brother Philip, along with Howard Koch received credit for writing that classic movie’s screenplay.

So when Julius Epstein talks, we listen.

Specifically Epstein is talking about the fact that screenplays traffic in an externalized reality. We have dialogue. We have action. Unless we use voiceover narration or enter into a character’s mind-state through dreams, nightmares, fantasies, or flashbacks, our focus is on what transpires in the physical world where an audience can see it or hear it.

Dot, dot, dot does not suffice. We have to use actual words to describe actual events that happen in the external world.

That’s one thing. In a more general sense, there is this: Every word matters. First draft, we pound out the story, getting it down as best we can as fast as we can. But as we move into rewrites, word choice becomes more critical.

It’s the difference between walk and burst.

It’s the difference between look and ogle.

It’s our job to create visuals, atmosphere, tone and feeling in the mind of a script reader.

In other words…

“It always gets back to the words.”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

The Quest” has entered Week 23! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“No one wants to read polite”

December 18th, 2013 by

“You can teach almost anyone determined to learn them the basics required to write sentences and paragraphs that say what you want them to say clearly and concisely. It’s far more difficult to get people to think like a writer, to give up conventional habits of mind and emotion. You must be able to step inside your character’s skin and at the same time to remain outside the dicey circumstances you have maneuvered her into. I can’t remember how many times I advised students to stop writing the sunny hours and write from where it hurts: ‘No one wants to read polite. It puts them to sleep.’”

I love this advice from author Anne Bernays. Another good reminder as we finish up our first draft, prepare ourselves for rewriting, and as we approach writing in general.

“No one wants to read polite. It puts them to sleep.”

For whatever reason, people find conflict entertaining. Internal conflict. External conflict. Overt conflict. Subtle conflict. Not manufactured, but authentic conflict relative to precisely who the characters are within the specific context they find themselves.

And that’s the key to surfacing conflict: “You must be able to step inside your character’s skin.” For each one of us, as are our characters, are divided souls.

If you want to be a writer, you need to set aside your manners and sensibilities of civility, and actively seek out the drama that lies at the heart of your story.

You want polite? Join a bridge club. Because:

“No one wants to read polite.”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

The Quest” has entered Week 23! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“There is only one story: nothing is as it seems”

December 17th, 2013 by

This is one of my favorite quotes about writing, one that comes from author Jim Thompson. It speaks to multiple facets of a story:

* What character’s want and what character’s need.

* Initial goals that belie actual goals.

* Characters who don different ‘masks’ from scene to scene, relationship to relationship.

This adage is going to be true about any story worth its salt. A story — a good one — cannot exist at surface level where everything is as it seems. Instead we, as writers, need to look for multiple layers of meaning and emotions, tracking the physical and psychological journeys.

First draft, you can cut yourself some slack. But know going into rewrites, you will want to dig into your narrative universe and embrace this attitude:

“There is only one story: nothing is as it seems.”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

The Quest” has entered Week 23! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

“You’re always becoming a writer”

December 16th, 2013 by

Author Edward P. Jones offers this insight: “You’re always becoming a writer.” I’ve been reminded of this recently with a spate of emails I’ve received from people who have participated in the Go On Your Own Quest initiative. A number of them are first-time writers, so in this process of pounding out an original screenplay, they are in a quite literal way becoming a writer.

Others who have contacted me have completed novels, short stories, plays or screenplays before, and yet this has been a learning experience for them, too, as they become more of a writer.

I’ve even received a couple of emails from professional writers who used the GOYOQ structure to force them to jam through a first draft. So even here, they are becoming a writer while being a writer.

Just as our stories represent journeys, so does our writing life. Each day we sit down to ply our craft, we learn something, we embrace something, we act on something about what it means to be a writer.

Two more weeks to go. When you type FADE OUT, you will have accomplished to the topline goal of GOYOQ.

You also will have learned this lesson:

“You’re always becoming a writer.”

I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

The Quest” has entered Week 23! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.