W. P. Johnson

All The Blogs I Follow Are In Russian

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2019 at 9:53 pm

2019. Holy shit, has time really flown since I last looked at this.

If you know me personally, than you already know all the weird changes I’ve gone through. Buying a house, changing jobs, getting another cat, and visiting a few countries/places I hadn’t been to before. You probably also forgot that I was super into writing and was convinced this is what I would do with my life. Remember A Song For John? Me neither. Remember that agent I had for like six months? Ugh. And while I politely declined from talking shit before because it seemed in bad taste, I’ll just say it so others can avoid the experience I went through: it was the Virginia Kidd Agency and it could not have been a bigger waste of my time. Of course, as I’ve come to find, the best lessons are those learned the hard way, and if I have to admit it, it wasn’t like I brought a lot to the table. The book was bad. I was a bad writer. I was desperate and I couldn’t see through my desperation that things were not going well, much like the way many of my writer friends did not see the shit storm that was brewing with Curbside Splendor (just google it). I had a book and an agent! I WAS SUCCESSFUL!

Well, shit in one hand, write in the other. What can I say? Things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would’ve. People change. I remember years ago I had followed a good friend of mine on twitter only to recently log in and check out his feed, finding nothing but Russian bots tweeting ads for knock off sunglasses. I wonder, what happened to him? What happened to all the people I used to check in on? Many of the blogs I once followed are now in Chinese, making me feel lucky my own unused wordpress didn’t fall victim to such hacking. Though, if it did, at least there would’ve been posts every now and again and a few deals on some sick shades.

Point being, people give up. They stop writing, stop posting blogs, stop logging into that tumblr they worked so hard on. They move on with their lives and don’t bother posting about it. But I didn’t give up. I just stopped talking about it.

So here are some updates.

I have a short story collection that is finally seeing the light of day, The Eight Eyes That Watch You Die, which features Dream Dress alongside seven other stories about silk, a highly addictive psychotropic drug made from spider silk (this, courtesy of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing). Secondly, I am novelizing the script that did really well in all those contests and, despite working like a dog at my job, am almost finished.

So yes… writing can be kind of bummer. It takes more than it gives. And sometimes, you lie to yourself that things are going great when they really aren’t. But, I survived it. I live in a house that I own (wow, major adulting there), I’ve got a good job and health insurance. I’m happily married, and as far as I know, in pretty good health. So maybe writing was a bright star I gazed into, not realizing it had become a black hole that was kind of sucking the life out of me. Nowadays, it’s a pretty nice escape from my day to day, a release valve on some of the pressure I feel. Stephen King has a saying about life being a support system for art.

When I really think about it, it means a quality of life that is separate from work. So here’s to writing when I actually feel like it, not because I feel like I have to.

Until next time, here’s to being scary.

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The Road to Publication VIII

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2017 at 5:53 pm

On the first floor of my house, it’s freezing (finally). I’m tired and sore. My feet hurt. I’m not too psyched about my current job, but I need to work to sustain myself. Everything feels kind of pointless. Jesus, even the nice stray living on the street just hissed at me and scratched my hand. I mean, what the fuck?

But it’s weird. I keep writing, I keep pushing forward. I don’t even know why sometimes, aside from generally enjoying it. The notion of getting a book published now seems alien to me only because my previous failure was such a slap in the face of my own hypothetical expectation, completely severing me from the notion of hope or wishful thinking. I now assume all efforts are futile, but I make them anyway for the sake of the thing itself. Is that what makes a writer a good writer? I don’t know and I don’t care. I just want to tell some stories and hope people enjoy them.

It has me thinking lately. Most traditional professions have a path way to them. A doctor goes to med school, becomes an intern, or whatever, then does… I’m not sure what, because I’m not a doctor and I don’t know off hand the requirements that a doctor needs to meet in order to cut me open and perform surgery. Sacrifice their first born? Sell their soul? This is all to say that if you do X, Y, and Z, you will become a doctor. Same with becoming a lawyer, or a roofer, or a teacher or a garbage man.

The arts are an unusual profession because there’s no path. You can write or paint or sing or whatever it is you do, and you can do these things every single day and never get anywhere with it. You can go to school for it. You can win contests and awards. You can be really great at these things and still not get any traction while hack after hack around you gets another three-book deal. But we do it anyway. At least, I do. And I wonder if that is what truly separates the guy on panel at whatever writer’s conference we pay 100$ to attend from the person who paid said entry, thinking to themselves, this is what will give me a leg up in this business.

Dude… you’re in for a long ride.

I digress. I try, still, because what else am I going to do? Not write? Not create? I remember telling my wife I didn’t know if I could live if I couldn’t write, and while she took it to mean that I’d commit suicide if my book didn’t sell (which she was right to think), what I really meant and believe is that the simple pleasure of creating something out of nothing is one of the few reasons I get out of bed every morning, is one of the few reasons I don’t drink as much anymore, one of the few reasons I think it will be nice to, someday, retire and just type away on my laptop on whatever beach hasn’t been swept away by climate change.

So I started another book.

To avoid some of the mistakes I made in my last book, and to avoid spending two years making them, I decided to write a comprehensive outline. Having just completed a script and a pilot, I decided to outline it as a script first. There are a handful of reasons for this, but namely I wanted to get feedback on my script and evaluations were cheaper than they would be to get feedback on a full book (we’re talking 100$ vs 1,000$). I also felt that the script format would help me write a more concise plot break down and narrow my scope moving forward, avoiding unnecessary sub plots and back story.

I wrote the script, titled “The Magnificent” in about two months, writing the third act while flying home from Japan, sleep deprived and two complimentary gin and tonics later. After letting it cool off for about two weeks (though I should’ve gone a month or two), I rewrote it, cleaned it up, and submitted it to Screen Craft for their second tier evaluation package, costing around 250 dollars (this is, mind you, still less expensive than submitting the finished novel to a professional editor). For this, I would get about five pages of notes on my script, outlining the pros and cons of the script, market potential, ect., and a score break down of my plot, dialogue, character development, yadda yadda yadda, providing me with of overall score between 1-10. Scores above 8.7 would be featured in their private data base for industry people to access. Obviously, that will never happen, what with my previous scripts having scored around a 6 and a 5, but it was nice to have a goal in mind and something to strive for if I decided to keep writing scripts.

I submitted my script. About a week later I got an email that the feedback had been completed. I sort of hissed, held my breath, and clicked on the link to see what they didn’t like about my work, fearful the overall score would dip even further into the 4s and the 3s and that I would have to scrap the idea and try something else.

It scored an 8.8. Literally just enough to be featured on their private data base.

They said, “The Magnificent is just that… magnificent.”

I pinched myself. I let the high cool off. After all, nothing more really came of it. There were no emails, no offers of representation, no options made. I mean, how private is this fucking data base? Before long the self loathing resumed its proper place, a seat constructed by all my previous failures and shortcomings. The beast proclaimed with confidence that this was just a fluke, a dangling carrot that Screen Craft used in order to keep me chasing some mysterious outcome that would prompt another paid evaluation.

Still… a part of me wondered.

They gave me some critical feedback, things they felt would make the script better. I gave it another go over, submitted it to a contest they were featuring, then sent it to the Black List. For people who don’t know- the Black List is a more established brand as far as script evaluations go, with high scores leading to development deals, agents, and managers. Similarly, they’re a tougher nut to crack, with many writers having claimed to have won script contests and gotten glowing reviews from other script websites only to take this same script to the Black List and get a 4/10. In short, I felt that their evaluation was the real test in terms of quality, which is to say that a bad score wouldn’t necessarily mean the script was bad, only that a good score would reaffirm the evaluation I received from Screen Craft.

I subbed it, I waited. Compared to Screen Craft’s swift turn around time of about a week, the Black List clocked in closer to a month in order to get my first evaluation. Like Screen Craft, they offered perks for scripts that scored high, notably that any script receiving a score of 8 or above would receive two additional evaluations and free hosting on their site for two months. In addition to that, it would be featured as a trending script and sent out in an email blast to industry members, encouraging downloads, etc. Mr. Self Loathing did not think that was possible to score that high. Few scripts scored above a six, let alone an 8.

Three weeks later, my script was downloaded. A week after that, two emails arrived in my inbox. One, announcing that my evaluation was now available to read. Two- I had scored high enough to received two more evaluations and free hosting for two months.

Overall score- 8/10.

It was a weird experience. At this point in my writing life, I couldn’t allow this success to make me feel good. Sure, it was nice and it took me out of my funk, affirmed that this story I was working on had some objective value to it, as objective as a person can be about story telling. But unlike previous successes in searching for an agent, I didn’t allow myself to indulge in what this all meant hypothetically speaking. I didn’t start telling everyone in my head that I was on my way to being signed by an agency and that I was now a script writer. I didn’t start spending emotional currency I hadn’t earned yet.

I just looked at the score, cashed in my free evaluations, and got to work on the next story.

So… maybe something will come of it. Maybe nothing. As of today, three days after the evaluation went live, I’ve had about six downloads from mysterious industry professionals, and over 30 views of the script page. Will those industry people reach out to me? Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe they will and they’ll sign me and the script will just die a slow death and I’ll still be bartending for a living. Or maybe they’ll sign me and get me work as a writer on a show, or a development deal. Maybe this, maybe that.

In the end, who fucking cares? I had a lot of fun writing The Magnificent. I hope that, someday, people enjoy reading it, or that they get to watch it in a theater or on Netflix while drinking a beer and relaxing for the night. In the end, it’s not where the path takes me, it’s enjoying the path for the sake of the journey. And maybe, after all is said and done, it took me this route for a reason, and failure eroded my sense of hope because it was distracting me from the very thing right in front of me: the act of story telling itself.

That said, it would be pretty goddamn awesome if it was made into a movie.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

The Road to Publication VII.

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2017 at 8:02 am

I no longer have any agent.

Ah, the bandage has been pulled. And what a painful one it was.

I could go into all the details, the minutia, but the long and short of it is that I was very unhappy with the provisional representation I had received by an agency I shall keep nameless for reasons giving them the benefit of the doubt. In the nearly six months I had been with them, there were no revision notes, no interest in my other work, and no plans on where to send the book. Maybe I would’ve been proven wrong, but I was starting to lose respect for myself and could no longer continue the relationship to the extent I had started looking for new representation before even officially ending the old relationship. There were a few bites, some so goddamn close I could taste the “yes”.  In the end, it was passes, all claiming that while they loved “X”, they couldn’t quite get behind “Y”.

It hurt. It hurt because I had spent so much time with these characters, I don’t want to believe they’re not going to see the light of day. Maybe, someday, they will (there are, after all, a few publishers I can pitch directly when they open for submissions). But for now, I’m no longer pitching A Song For John to agents and have started a new book.

There is alot I can say about the process of starting another book after having finished and unsuccessfully pitched a completed novel, but I don’t know if it’s helpful. Truth is, it’s simply what every writer says- you don’t sell your first book. And like most writers, I convinced myself I was the exception to the rule only to learn that the rule is law. You don’t sell you’re first goddamn book. You just don’t.

Joe Hill, whose work I truly admire, talked at length about not selling his first book. He asked his mother, ‘what do I do now?’ to which she said, ‘write another book’. I ask myself a similar question. “What do you want to do?” And yes, it’s the same corny trick used on Micheal Scott in The Office when he is debating whether or not he wants to stay with Jan. So I ask myself out loud, “what do you want to do?” and keep responding, “I want to write for a living”. I want to create. I want to tell stories. And while I know it’s a hard road, I’m learning to find balance, to not let failure poison my daily life. I’m learning to enjoy writing for the sake of writing and validating the act of writing by its own merit regardless of what becomes of my work. No story or book is a failure if it leads to something that does work. Even my wife said to me, “write another book, if this is what you want to do”.

As to the new book- I’m trying a different approach to avoid writing another bloated 200K epic. For starters, I’m outlining the fuck out of it by writing it as a script first. This has proven very helpful in keeping it brief, and after less than two months, I’ve managed a tidy draft of the new book’s “outline”, what I’m tentatively calling The Magnificent. It’s about a woman whose father commits suicide under strange circumstances, after which she begins to experience unusual dreams and night terrors. Her husband believes it’s demonic possession, that this may be what prompted her father to commit suicide. Being an atheist, she doesn’t quite buy it, but then she’s recorded saying and doing things she doesn’t remember, her husband convinced this isn’t just a case of bad sleep.

Well, I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil it. It’s a horror/thriller mash up, and I think it’s pretty goddamn good. I know it’s been fun as hell writing, and maybe, after everything is said and done, it’s exactly what I needed. It’s certainly helped in moving on.

Other than that, the collection of short stories is coming up sometime next spring/summer (christ, I keep forgetting that exists). I’m writing short stories here and there, tinkering away at some film ideas, and will probably begin a draft of the novel this winter in hopes of finishing it by Spring/Summer. With a tight outline, I think I can probably finish a draft within 3 months. In fact, I’ve debated taking a week in the Spring to see if I can lock myself in a hotel room and write it all out in one shot, likely with the assistance of caffeine and whiskey. But that is something that will come to pass when it does.

Until then, here’s to being scary.