Sunday, November 22, 2009

Letting Your Baby (Screenplay/novel) Go

By letting go, I actually mean letting someone else read your work. This is a really scary thing for writers, as we are usually pretty insecure. Now I'm not insecure in any other parts of my life, but as I don't spend all of my time with other writers I'm pretty much alone in this endeavor. And putting my hard work out there for another to critique is difficult, if not downright humiliating.

I remember a recent partial response I got back from an agent. She said my writing was awkward. Ouch. It really hurt me, and I didn't write for more than a month. But I went back and read what I submitted and I had to agree with her. Now I read everything aloud before considering it complete. But also, the partial had been edited so many times that I didn't even like it anymore. Truth really hurts, and I'm also a better writer because of it.

Since that time I've only given my critique partner very little to read, and I've pretty much changed my genre. I'm concentrating on screenplays instead of novels now.

I've had my novels read and critiqued in the past, and I've been to umpteen writers' meetings and conferences, but I'm really new to the screenplay end of writing. I've studied the business for several years, considering dabbling. But I dipped my toe last year and decided to write a teen drama/coming of age screenplay. It's written, done, but is only in first draft. No one has ever seen a word of my screenwriting, not even so much as an outline. But I bit the bullet and asked a fellow screenwriter to read the first 10 pages. (Thank you screenwriter, you know who you are)

My fingers were shaking as I saved the Final Draft file into a PDF, so I could attach it to the email. Now I knew what I was getting myself into, because I knew she'd be brutally honest, and not feed me a line of bullshit, just like I'd expect from an agent or editor. I had no idea she was going to read it that very night.
Just before I jumped on the treadmill, I saw that she had finished reading, and was sending an email before she sent the pages back with notes. I almost puked. And I still had to run 3 miles. It was the longest 3 miles, because I wanted to get off the treadmill and see just how badly I'd missed the mark. Remember, I'd never written a screenplay before, and certainly I'd never shared it with anyone.

But I ran my 3 damn miles and waited. I longed to and dreaded opening the email. And bless her pea-picking heart, she let me know I was on the right track. I could breathe now. (Imagine running 3 miles without breathing, lol). So I'm jazzed to start rewrites (though I have no idea how to rewrite a screenplay), and get started on the RomCom that's been dancing in my head for 6 months.

Oh, and I'm so lucky to be a member of RWA, where I can mingle with my own kind, and to have found a group of screenwriters on Twitter who are so giving of their time and knowledge. We tweet about everything from work to doggy issues, but we reserve Sunday nights for tweeting about screenwriting. Being that I live in the middle of small town nowhere, this is truly the best blessing a writer can ask for.

And so I let my latest baby go forth into the world, knowing it needed work, but now knowing it's worth doing the extra work for.

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