Tuesday, October 18, 2005

If You Want to Break Into Films

Razlina from 95% Writer's Academy e-mailed me yesterday to say that she will be starting the next Story Writers in Progress training after Raya. There is apparently a special discount of RM200 on the fees if you sign up on Saturday. You might just want to drop by anyway as the academy is hosting a couple of talks:

18 comments:

The Visitor said...

at the risk of sounding like a party pooper, i would say that if screenwriters wrote purely to sell to executive producers, a lot of the truly great films that we have yesterday and today would not exist.

i would encourage people to write from the heart, which to me, is the only sound advice in the whole wide universe. an advice that i got from a truly great filmmaker in our midst.

the selling should come later.

bibliobibuli said...

Me, m'dear, would give exactly the same advice about writing fiction ...

starlight said...

i agree too but many 'writers' think it's a waste of time to write a story that can't earn you sacks of gold. when i was a teenager i was told, "all you have to do write something the publishers love and you're set for life." i focused so hard on thinking of something the publishers would love that I completely forgot about the VIPs - my readers. today i write only for them. and if no one wants to publish a story that my VIPs enjoy, i'll jolly well publish it myself!

The Visitor said...

well said, starlight.

self-publishing is very much like independent filmmaking. u use your own money, and u have total creative control. but it's also very difficult to strike out on your own. you tend to make a lot of silly mistakes, but you learn thru experience. and as you hone your craft, perhaps sopmeone might just notice you and you'd be on your way to the big time.

anyone who doesn't understand this simple concept must have their heads up somewhere where there's very little sunlight. :)

but then again, this will raise another argument, whether one should write with readers in mind , or one should just write for oneself.

i believe that i should write with an audience in mind, but balance that with staying true to the story i want to tell. if one writes for only oneself, then might as well not look to be published, right? anytime anyone says they want to be published but say they only write for themselves, they're lying. the moment you have the desire to be published, you're lready having an audience in mind.

starlight said...

very good point, visitor.

at the singapore writer's festival, the thai writer rattawut lapcharoensap said "the internal critic is the only one for whom you should write" and "your responsibility is to the paper, not the market."

i think what happens to many writers is that they start off fiercely determined to write only for their soul. halfway through they either start wondering why the hell they are working so hard on something no one else will see OR they decide the story has become too good to be hidden. and that's when they start approaching their work differently. that's when they try too hard and become the writers they think their readers would like instead of the writers they really are. and that's when a good story becomes a bad commercial.

The Visitor said...

yep, it's way too easy to lose your way in the middle of it. staying focused is the hardest thing. tat's why self-belief is so important. but of course, not to the point of being deluded! :D

bibliobibuli said...

Love you both for what you're saying.

Happily surprised that this no-brain entry (just posting up an ad for a friend) lead to so much discussion ...

Yvonne Foong said...

Well, there's always blogging where we can deliberately write for an audience. But in books, I believe that we can FEEL whether the author is genuine. Without feelings, a book will sound like news reporting.

Spot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Spot said...

the visitor - "self belief is so important"

oh you are so right. there really is quiet confidence on the one hand, and self-aggrandizement on the other.

what about those who write for themselves, from the sheer satisfaction of crafting, and only after the product is finished then think of finding a publisher?

i guess the audience factor in the balance can be achieved during the re-write process?

i dunno. sorry, sharon, to continue being off-topic. but i can't wait to start your classes next year, if only to be able to technically describe the components of my writing. :)

aneeta said...

OK. here goes. as a person who has self-published a novel, i'll tell you what my experience was like - it was sheer ecstacy followed by complete agony. I loved the process of writing, creating, crafting or whatever you wish to call it. But, when the book was published, it literally took all of my courage to keep going. The verbal s*** that got thrown in my face for even having the audacity to publish the novel was sometimes difficult to deal with.

As for who you're writing for, everything said above makes sense-write for yourself and the internal critic and all.

However, I would like to add one question - why are you writing a particular piece of work?

To answer, I can only share my own experience. So please, bear with me.

When I wrote my novel, I had only one intention (contrary to what others think they were). I wanted to make people laugh. And this I did, even if they laughed at my eventual effort. I did not intend to write the best book in the world. I just wanted to make people laugh.

And the knowledge that I had achieved what I set out to do carried me through the extremely difficult times that followed once the critics (most of whom have never had to go through what I went through) had their say.

One learns from one's mistakes. But to do so, one has to make the mistakes first. If a self-published work is deemed a mistake, I can guarantee you the next time that person chooses to write or produce another work, there'll be less of the same mistakes.

I wonder who's going to lambast me for saying all this ...

The Visitor said...

Hi Aneeta,

i am not going to lambast you. :)

but just one point:

"... the extremely difficult times that followed once the critics (most of whom have never had to go through what I went through) had their say."

critics will critique your work solely for its merits or demerits, and how you arrived at your destination should not be a reflection in any way of the quality of your writing and your book. just becos an author had an arduous path to publishing her or his book doesn't instantly make the book a great work. so it is not wrong for the critics to disregard how hard it was to get your book published.

anyway, i once met you at MPH. my girlfriend and i were browsing your book when you suddenly popped up behind us and gave us quite a scare! :D

starlight said...

i'm doubtful when it comes to critics simply because one man's meat is another man's poison. every critic will have a different opinion which may contradict that of the publishers' and more importantly, the readers.

The rejection slip for George Orwell's Animal Farm declared, "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A."

The haughty response to The Diary of Anne Frank was, "the girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the "curiosity" level."

And we all know how those books turned out!

here are my humble guidelines concerning critics:
- your critic should ideally also be your editor. this way you don't waste time having your book read by two different people who will probably have conflicting opinions. in fact, i think you should just cut to the chase and go straight to the editor.

- your critic should be someone well-known in the industry so his/her critique holds water.

- your critic should never ask you to pay him/her to read your material.

- if you're self-publishing your critics will probably be your family or friends or other writers. in this case, you shouldn't try to change your book according to every opinion, but instead look for any consistencies in the remarks and work on those.

ok, i've done enough rambling for now. :)

bibliobibuli said...

yvonne- yes, I agree, we can feel when a writer is being true to themselves or not ...

spot (love your portrait!) - I would agree that the most satisfying writing is done for yourself and I beleive that new writers need to spend an apprenticeship in safety just writing for themselves for at least a couple of years - then gently and gradually move out towards showing your work for publication - I must blog about this another day ... But yes, all good writing starts from you. If you start out just thinking of publication and making money your work will never move the reader. (Hey I'm really looking forward to you being on my course too!)

I spent a very long time writing for myself - now I love to write for an audience ... you grow and change over time ...

If you write for publication you must have your readers in mind ... or at least your ideal reader in mind! Otherewise you are going to be so self-absorbed. There are writers like that and I drop their books pretty quickly ... I like the way Rattuwat put it and wholeheartedly agree with him ...

aneeta - agree with Visitor re. critics - and again this needs a whole entry to itself - critics are important, have a big role to play. But they must be fair and not simply pull apart and try to score points off the writer/filmmaker etc. When i write reviews now I really do try to be fair and give a balanced view ... I have been so relieved that writers have not taken my comments too badly ...

starlight said...

whoops! i obviously got a little mixed-up here! i was talking about critics who read your manuscript not book reviewers. oh well, hope my off-topic comments are useful if not relevant!

The Visitor said...

you know, after all that's been said, the one thing that is really really important is courage. the first time you show your work to someone, anyone -- critic, family, friends, teachers -- is the most harrowing moment. it's like stripping naked in front of everyone.

but somehow, you eventually grow a thick skin, and the next time you strip bare, you tend to do it matter-of-factly.

bibliobibuli said...

Visitor - the analogy of stripping is a very good one ... (but get a funny picture in my mind of the Visitor ... hey never mind ...)

Aneeta - sorry I misunderstood you 'cos of terminology. Every writer needs to be careful who they show their manuscript to before it is published as your ego can get crushed. I have learned that it really isn't easy to give criticism kindly yet constructively - I'm working at trying to be better at it.

Anonymous said...

I dont mean to be a party-pooper but this is for the benefit of eager beaver scriptwriters out there, especially the young guns who don't have much money to spare. When it comes to the tv and film industry, there are ways to ask and check if people offering courses will be of real value to you. Ask them for their work folio (what programmes? who with? Sample scripts even? Shouldnt that be okay to ask if you're coughing up money?) and decide whether you like their work. Post queries in cinema malaysia or writers groups and ask people for their opinions. Then make up your own mind. There seems to be a mushrooming of writing classes out there that claim this and that. Not to mention people who claim to be graduates of for e.g. NY Film School, when they only went to the summer four week long programme. Just a little note of caution. This industry is at a baby stage and most of those who claim to be experts are only relatively so.