Hollywood Schmooze writers critiqued each other's first five pages at their April meeting. Comments heard repeatedly included:
Introduce readers to your protagonist early. The group agreed that knowing the character taking you on the ride, determines whether or not you're likely to stay aboard. Several attendees asked that writers let them see into the protagonist's head.
"For me, it's a red flag if I don't identify with the protagonist," said one writer. "That's when the narrative seems like reporting."
Let readers hear and be able to identify the protagonist's voice. It's not only in dialogue that the protagonist speaks to readers. Even in narrative passages the reader wants to recognize the lead character's voice. When narrative reflects the protagonist's tone, readers can relax, knowing they are in the identifiable hands of the character guiding them through the work.
A question came up about what if there are two narrators in a work? Following discussion, the idea emerged that if there are two narrators, they must be equally strong, distinct, and well-drawn.
Build in details that support readers who may not share the writer's background knowledge.
In one piece of writing, a city in Italy was mistaken by some participants as the name of a character. Either name the country, or introduce some detail that lets readers know they are in Italy.
Several writers urged their colleagues to check out books about writing that they're currently reading. These included:
Martha Aldridge: The Plot Whisperer
Stephen Fry: The Ode Less Traveled
Stephen King: On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft
Anne Lamont: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Heather Sellers: Page After Page
Thanks to co-coordinator Deborah Fletcher Blum for emailing the writing samples and critique
forms to Schmooze partners.
---Jean Perry, Co-coordinator Hollywood Schmooze
Sunday, April 27, 2014
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better."
–Samuel Beckett T Shirt
Failure. Finally, a topic Charlie and Karol don’t have to research! They failed to alert people in a timely fashion that the Failure Schmooze date had changed, and some folks showed up the wrong week. They failed to get this blog post up in a timely fashion (seriously, this recap is for the January Schmooze, and it’s nearly freakin’ May). And they failed to realize how often the horrific words “timely fashion” would come back to haunt them (particularly in regard to these blog posts). What they did not fail to do, however, was to have a terrific Failure Schmooze.
Joking aside, your trusty co-coordinators did, of course, research this, if only as a fail-safe against the Schmooze consisting of listening to Charlie whine about his lack of success for two hours. It turned out that there was a goldmine of information out there. So much so, in fact, that the focus of this particular blog post will not be the usual “hilarious” chatty blather about the Schmooze and how great Charlie and Karol are (though they are great, of course), but a more sober and outward looking journey into what they found on the topic of failure. They hope it doesn’t fail to enlighten and – yes – amuse you, dear Schmoozers.
Failure, it seems, is a hugely popular and studied subject, not just in the self-obsessed, arty world of writers, but in the cold, hard, nuts-and-bolts world of business and non-profits, too. There’s a terrific website, for instance, called Admitting Failure where regular folks, non-profits, and companies publish their most horrific stories of hubris and failure in the hopes of educating others on the mistakes that one can make. They are not only often hilarious, but they seem to relate directly to the struggles faced by artists. For one thing, almost all of the stories start with Grand Intentions and Inspiring Thoughts.
One of the key things Charlie and Karol learned was that failure is not necessarily a negative thing. Steve Jobs says failing publicly in the most humiliating fashion when he was kicked out of Apple was an opportunity in disguise. It allowed him to “be a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
Read more here: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/steve-jobs-failure-recovery-eric-brunsell
Read more here: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/steve-jobs-failure-recovery-eric-brunsell
Of course, if you’re not already super wealthy and successful like Steve Jobs, failure can be a bit harder to take. So how do you deal with it? One of the best answers came from an article in Business Insider, the gist of which is: Think of failure as a data-point – one more bit of information you can use on your way to success.
Malcolm Gladwell says to simply ignore failure and just keep working. The outcome, he says, is not as important as the amount of time you spend trying (he’s the guy who came up with the idea that you have to work 10,000 hours at something to gain true expertise). “…The people at the top don’t just work harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder,” Gladwell said in “Outliers: The Story of Success.” Stumbling upon this in their research, both Charlie and Karol felt this was a very depressing thought and took to their beds to recover.
More enticing was Gladwell’s essay in The New Yorker encouraging us all to “embrace doubt,” because it “allowed for alternative ways to see the world, and seeing alternatives could steer people out of intractable circles and self-feeding despondency.” Charlie found this particularly revelatory as he had no idea “self-feeding despondency” was a bad thing.
But the most useful words of wisdom Karol and Charlie discovered in their Google journey through the universe of defeat was in an article by Heidi Grant Halvorson about the need to give ourselves permission to screw up. She cited studies showing that “people approach any task with one of two mindsets: what I call the “Be-Good” mindset, where your focus is on proving that you have a lot of ability… and the “Get-Better” mindset, where your focus is on developing ability. You can think of it as the difference between wanting to prove that you are smart, and wanting to get smarter.”
Apparently, those who approached challenges focusing on getting better rather than succeeding outright both enjoyed the challenges more and, ultimately, succeeded much more often. It’s not that they failed less; they just tried more. Failure doesn’t register as anything personal with them, so it doesn’t slow them down. Improving is the only thing that matters to folks with this mindset.
Of course, Charlie and Karol did research artistic failure as well. The odd thing was, though, that there were many more warnings about success ruining artists than failure. As Joyce Carol Oates said in her essay NotesOn Failure, “early commercial success can actually stunt a writer’s progress just as early ‘failure’ can contribute to a writer’s success. “
All of this led up to the fascinating notion, put out by Paul Schoemaker and the late Robert Gunther in Screwing Up On Purpose in the Harvard Business Review, that one of the most reliable ways to succeed was to deliberately fail! To attack projects and make choices that are expected to fail… If such a project succeeds, they argue, its success is likely to be large and ground breaking. Examples of this abound: South Park, Breaking Bad, A Wrinkle In Time, Harry Potter…”
Finally, dear Schmoozers, if all this seems a bit too touchy-feely for you and what you really want is practical tips to help you recover from failure, here’s 12, courtesy of Psychology Today and Business Insider:
12 Tips about recovering from failure! (Full text HERE)
1) Recognize you’re suffering from a serotonin drop-off.
2) You may also be suffering from a Oxytocin (love hormone) drop-off.
3) Most who recover well have a good sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously.
4) People who think intelligence is fixed at birth are more afraid of failure and find it harder to cope. (Nothing you can do if game is fixed)
5) Over-shielding a child from failure makes him or her more prone to getting an anxiety disorder.
6) Don’t blame everything on yourself, but don’t blame everything on outside forces either.
7) Accept the factors that are out of your control.
8) Don’t be afraid to reach out to others—support groups give you a place to vent and ask for help.
9) Try keeping a journal to make sense of your personal story.
10) Sometimes you shouldn’t get back on the horse. Sometimes you have moved on, and it’s time to make a change in your life because you no longer care the same things you used to.
11) Crisis opens doors you never saw as an option.
12) It can be just as hard to recover from success. (After dopamine fires when you have success, it dips back to regular levels and leaves you wanting more and feeling bad.
Charlie and Karol would love to end this blog post with a commitment to get current on all the 2014 Schmooze recap blog posts and never, EVER get behind again…but that would just be setting themselves up for failure. So instead, they’ll give you a couple more fun links...
...And a wimpy, “We’ll try our best…we promise!”
Keep passing the open windows,
Charlie & Karol
Friday, April 18, 2014
Sunday, April 6, 2014
SCBWI member and entertainment lawyer Bonnie Berry LaMon, shared her expertise with Hollywood Schmooze attendees on March 20th.
Her topic: Key Contract Phrases and Their Meanings.
“First time authors are generally so happy to get a contract that they sign first and deal with the details later,” LaMon said. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, LaMon also has an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Like many schmoozers, she is an aspiring author. But she has practiced entertainment law for over twenty years.LaMon distributed a handout of important contract terms which she discussed in detail. Some of the
“Be aware of terms such as ‘Standard”, LaMon stated. “It is often designed to convince the reader that the terms contained are typical to all contracts. It doesn’t mean that some of those terms cannot be modified, negotiated or even deleted.”Grant of Rights: “This is the list of rights that author conveys to the publisher,” she said. “The rights
may be exclusive, non-exclusive, perpetual or for a designated period of time.”
Term: “Pay attention to phrases such as in perpetuity, any and all media, and life of copyright,” she suggested. “Life of copyright means your life plus seventy years. Any and all media may include new media that hasn’t been created yet. You can’t always anticipate how your creative project will end up. Most emerging authors don’t envision their book as a Wii game or an IPad app.”Territory: LaMon noted that typical contracts limit the territory to the United States and Canada but
“some publishers want worldwide rights, meaning that the writer cannot make separate deals to see
the book anywhere else in the world.”
Format: LaMon noted that “the definition of book has changed because of technological and distribution methods. A grant of primary book publishing rights is generally defined as hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and direct mail. Traditionally, electronic books and audio books were considered subsidiary rights but now many publishers include them in the primary rights definition.
Subsidiary Rights (aka secondary rights): LaMon explained that these are rights the publisher may want from the author in addition to the primary rights described above. These rights include: Book Clubs, Stage, Motion Picture, Television, Merchandising, Foreign Translation, Periodical Rights and other commercial platforms. Usually the publisher licenses them to a third party and splits the revenue in pre-negotiated percentages with the author. LaMon spoke at length about why some of these rights should not automatically be given to the publisher, and if they are, why the splits should favor the author, and what kind of approval rights and other controls the author should request.“The agent’s job is to get a good deal,” she said. “My job is to look for the pitfalls in the
contract, and to do my best to eliminate them.”
~~ Post writen by Jean Perry
Hope this gives you a taste of the outstanding learning that goes on at the Hollywood Schmooze.
We meet the third Thursday of every month near Hollywood and we welcome new members.
See you at the Schmooze,
Deborah Fletcher Blum and Jean Perry