Monday, April 14, 2008

Professionalism in writing

Over on Lucy's blog she's started discussing genres, horror isn't my thing but I'm always interested in what she has to say. Before getting into the horror thing she discussed writing genre in detail. Now I have my own views on the concept of "genre" but there are two problems with that: I'm not discussing them here and the writing establishment won't change for little me.

This is what Lucy wrote:
Whilst I would never advocate writing the genre film that simply recycles what has gone before it, I WOULD argue that taking note of trends does help your writing and thus your own saleability. 'Cos let's face it: none of us are doing this *just* for fun.
Let me be clear: I agree with this statement. I just wanted to expand on it a bit from a personal viewpoint.

The question of saleability comes down ultimately to professionalism. A professional isn't someone who gets paid and a professional isn't a "hack". A professional writer is someone who can write something that people want.

My personal writing history is such that although I did write a couple of novels and lots of poetry before I got my first job; it wasn't until I worked at a magazine publisher, as a writer and editor, that I became a professional writer. Even then it probably took a year.

A professional writer delivers the goods: to style, to length and to deadline.

That's an easy concept to grasp in a magazine or newspaper environment. You get the right number of words down, in the house style, before they're needed. And I learned to do that through 13 years in the job.

It's not much of a stretch when it comes to understanding this for a professional screenwriter, he gets commissioned to write a script, there's a length, there's a deadline, there's a style.

But does it apply to beginning screenwriters, unrepresented, hanging around the edges of the media scene and trying to get in?

You betcha. But it's so much harder. You are your own commissioning editor. It doesn't matter that no one else has asked you for it - you've demanded it of yourself. The content is what you personally want to produce, the style is yours, you know whether it's a 30-minute comedy or a two hour feature. But the place we fall down, mostly, is the deadline. We don't give ourselves a deadline or, if we do, we're don't believe that the deadline is real, because, after all, it doesn't really matter, does it?

Which is why something like ScriptFrenzy, and competition deadlines are so useful and should be used whenever possible. They give you something completely unforgiving outside yourself, and if you miss the deadline then it's gone.

So the question is: How professional are you?

What's on the turntable? "Nous Somme du Soleil" by Yes, from "Tales from Topographic Oceans"

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