W. P. Johnson

Archive for November, 2017|Monthly archive page

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.