Query Letters

Want to make it clear straight away that this isn’t a how to write query letters blog. I’m not an advisor of such things (or anything really). This is more my experience in trying to write a query letter for the first time in a while. (Too long).

So query letters from what I can tell are something that really is open to interpretation. The first thing I done when setting out to write this one was look online for tips on what to include and what not to include. How to write it, how formal it should be, how long it should be. All the usual. What I learnt was very simple. There’s no right way.

Not only is there no right way, but nearly every single bit of advice seemed to contradict what the last thing I read said. The only thing they all seemed to agree on was not opening it with ‘Hey dude’.

The basic structure from what I can tell is introduce yourself, pitch the idea and then finish with a lot bit of a bio. Three act structures all round. Made sense. This is the approach I took before with a little bit of success and this still seems to be the way. Outside of that format however you can pretty much approach it however you want and am sure you cab bend that format a fair bit anyway. (like all things, guidelines not absolutes).

My first draft felt a little to short. But then I couldn’t work out whether that was a good thing or not. I feel my log line is pretty tight and knowing the 50 version of the log line that have come before it I know how much work has gone into that. I added to the log line with a little more pitching but this didn’t feel as worked out. I finished with a little bit about my previous achievements and what I wanted from the producer.

The second draft I went for a longer approach. I tightened the beginning and the end but the middle is where I really expanded. I added another paragraph onto the pitch with a bit more detail and liked it at first. Once I read it back however it just seemed to be that I had expanded upon my log line using more words which went against my less is better style of script writing. It gave more info but didn’t necessarily add anything that my original log line hadn’t already said. I could have turned it more into a brief synopsis, and maybe that’s what i’ll do in the future, but didn’t feel right for this particular project.

I’m currently up to my third draft and have gone back to the first query letter and worked more on that than the second. Added a new sentence instead of a new paragraph. For me it’s all about getting that right balance between telling about myself and pitching the project. Part of me thinks its more the concept that matters but I’m more interested in people and tend to want to know more about them.  I’m sure I will know when the letter is right or at least when its at a point where I feel comfortable sending it off.

The one bit of advise I did read that I haven’t read before and contradicts what I done last time was to not send them all out at once. That while I should approach as many people that I genuine want to work with as possible, I should limit the amount of query letters sent out in any one go so I can gage the reaction. This way if I don’t get any replies it might be the letter rather than my concept and I can adjust the query letter for the next batch. Thinking about it it makes perfect sense and means I can start sending out earlier while I still research who I want to approach.

Anyway hopefully all will be ready soon and I can start getting myself out there a lot more. I have the work, now just need to really start paying a lot more attention to getting people to read it. That said, I’ll still be writing every day. Have to.

 

Stephen

Never Switching Off

So i’m not sure if this is one of whose things that just affect me, or maybe just affect a few, or if it’s every writer (or every creative person) but my brain just doesn’t switch off.

Like ever.

I mean I can function and stuff, can get through the day and perform tasks and all but idea’s and notes are just always running through my head. The quality may vary, greatly at times, but they’re always there. Just ticking away.

And sleeping, that’s just a different beast altogether. It’s not so bad on average but if i’m writing an actual script, just doesn’t happen. At least doesn’t happen in a way that is really that worth while. Is part of the reason I work the way I do. I generally plan everything out in note form first, end up with hundred and hundreds of pages before I sit down to write the script.

That way I can bang out a draft in under two weeks and get some sleep at the end of it because during the writing time I just tend to wake up and write more notes or edit. Sleep is a distant non existent second.

Have literally woken up in the morning hazily with pages upon pages of notes sitting on my bed. IS that normal? I should probably look that up. Or see how many people comment back to me that it is in fact crazy… or the norm.

Personally I like that my brain works this way. Wouldn’t swap it but it is one of the reasons I don’t drive. Actually does worry me that i’d crash because i’m thinking about how best to create tension in a scene or deciding how to show my characters motive.

Have tried taking a few days off after being non stop for 6 weeks capitalising on a bit of a purple patch and in my days off i’ve written up notes for the next draft of a feature and edited a whole bunch of photo’s and taken a 1000 more. That’s currently my brain taking a rest. Again wouldn’t swap it but even trying to watch some dumb movies hasn’t overly helped because i’ve just worked on other stuff through them.

Maybe one day i’ll find peace in some silent forest somewhere or something but in all honesty i’ll probably still be working out new ways for my slasher character to hack someone up, at best i’ll be taking photo’s of the forest with my fried brain.

This is the life I want though. So know it will never change, I won’t allow it. But maybe one day off at some point wouldn’t be so bad for me…

 

Stephen

 

 

 

Support Material

So today i’ve been working on support material for my spec TV Pilot. I’ve done a fair bit of work on this and thought I had it ready. And kinda do. Then I came across an initiative that looked very interesting on UK Script Writers face book page. The initiative was for Green Door Pictures TV Spec.

The submission guild lines where very clear and what was equally clear was the bible for my TV show didn’t meet them. So my take it easy day turned into another writing day (as always, and the way I like it) and one that I have to say I really enjoyed.

It never fails to amaze me just how much you can edit your work. I felt at 5 pages my TV Spec Bible was already pretty small but the competition called for it to be a maximum of 3 pages. It meant cutting down every section and looking to cut some of the character and episode descriptions as well due to word limit.

Not going to lie, It took a while. Who knew editing would take just as long as writing (me now) but was really pleased with the end result and kind of impressed that I could get roughly the same information across with 2 fewer pages. There’s some stuff I would have loved to keep and have kept my original edit to one side for other competitions and queries but believe this new version reads very well.

Whatever happens with the initiative its been a fun exercise in editing and encouraged me to sort out a few other things that I haven’t got round to yet like writing a Writers CV (Which I enjoyed less and have no idea if it’s any good).

Overall it’s been a productive day and all started by checking my Facebook wall and not getting stuck on all the cats doing funny stuff… stuff.

Now that i’ve finished for the day thats exactly what I’ll be catching up with 😉

Stephen

As an extra the image at the top is for the UK Scriptwriters Survival Handbook. A book I’d highly recommend.

Chance to Write

So it’s been around 6 weeks since I left my full time job ( for reasons I won’t got into) and while i’m starting to stress a little over money I’ve been using the time to write. To catch up on some writing that the stress of a full time managerial job has maybe prevented.

Now while I do believe you can do both and in most cases including myself need to (Stupid money) it’s been incredibly refreshing to get up in the morning and just write. Has been a sample of what I want my life to be when I finally do make it as a paid writer.

I’ve been writing for about ten hours a day on average everyday for at least 5 of the 6 weeks and can’t begin to explain how productive its making me feel. Have now completed 2 drafts of different screenplays, made notes for a 3rd, wrote half a web show and a new short film that i’m particular proud of (that’s now a few drafts in).

Alongside this i’ve taken my camera out plenty and filmed a fair bit while honing some editing skills and read several film books on all kind of subjects. Because it’s been raining for 75% of the time as well, the time i’ve spent not being creative has been used to catch up on films and TV show.

So all in all a very good 6 weeks on the creative front.

It’s been important for me to have this in my life. Part of me was worried that i’d waste to much time during this period. That i’d end up watching movies more than writing but I managed to put any procrastination aside and make the most of the time available. Really needed to and did. For the first time in quite a few months i’m proud of myself.

Without going into detail once more things have been hard of late but writing is always a constant in my life and always will be. Being able to dedicate this much time to it of late is a dream. A privilege that i’m happy I took advantage of.

Going to be nice to give myself a few days rest, although I doubt i’ll make it through tomorrow without writing for a few hours at least, but I feel some of the pressure I’ve put on myself has at least gone for a while.

Although now comes the hard part, turning all this hard work over the last 6 weeks, and many many years before that into the career I want.

Can’t wait 🙂

Stephen

Movie Day

Not sure what the correct name is for this but I call it movie day. Basically it means spending my whole day watching films (and normally eating junk food). In order for it to be a movie day for me it has to consist of watching at least 5 films. Anything less than that is pretty much just a normal day… for me.

So why do I want to blog about these lazy days I have where I barely get out of bed and eat to much. Well because of the films… And the fact that I think these type days are important.

If I had to guess how many of these sort of days I’ve had in my life i’d say it could well be in triple figures, probably averaging around 6 movies a time. I always joke to myself when i’m having them that i’m having a lazy day, or not doing anything today just watching films, but the other part of my brain is more interested in calling them research.

As a scriptwriter and film maker, but just as importantly someone who loves movies, I want to watch everything, from all genres, from all countries. There isn’t a movie experience that I don’t want to experience and thats why I find these days so important.

Clearly I can’t have them all the time otherwise A) I wouldn’t have a life outside of my TV B) I wouldn’t be able to spend time on my own creative stuff and C) it would probably just be watching for watching sake rather than taking in as much as possible. But I do like to have them every now and then. Maybe once a month as a minimum although have I drastically exceeded that a few times during lulls.

I believe as a Scriptwriter/Film Maker that watching films is essential. I’ve been to film classes where people there haven’t seen Godfather or Citizen Kane and am dumbfounded by it. I don’t understand how people don’t want to watch all the classics and experience cinema round the whole world and thats what these type of days are for me. A chance to catch up. A time to make sure i’ve seen all the important work. And also the less.

I rarely watch films i’ve seen before on these type of days and if I do its something that I don’t remember very well. Sometimes these movie days may have a bit of a theme be it genre, director, country, sometimes its a bunch of random movies that I put together as a type of movie playlist for me to go through.

Sometimes its catching up on classics or old movies that i’ve missed where other times its watching a bunch of films that I may like, hate or be bored with, Doesn’t matter. Because I want to watch everything and that doesn’t just mean 10 out of 10 rated films. It means the 1’s as well.

Anything can inspire us, the worse movie can have a seed of an idea or a concept that could have been something, or the movie could just be entertaining in a good way, or a bad way. Whatever we get from the film we always get something. I fully believe making any type of film is an achievement and therefore worth watching.

Thats why I will always allow myself these type of days and not really see it as being just lazy. It is research and entertainment at the same time. It’s spending a whole day with something I love and want a career in. Something that drives me and is a massive part of my life. I think everyone who wants to be part or the business, or already is, should enjoy these types of days every now and then.

There are so so many films out there and more come out everyday so why not enjoy as many as you can and hopefully it will help you with learning more about the craft as well as just being entertained for better or worse.

Bottom line if you love films, why not watch as many as humanly possible 🙂

Stephen.

 

I often try to live tweet my movie days at @steve5by5, for the next one I might write a short blog review of the films I saw as well.