May 3, 2018 at 10:42 pm #346956
As a child, there were no sure signs that I was a writer. I was somewhat of a picky reader, reading mostly the ‘Encyclopedia Brown’ books. I didn’t keep a journal, or a diary, but I certainly enjoyed telling mostly made up stories to my class. What I did do was draw, and if you would have seen some of my drawings, you might say I was born to draw, but as much as my mother saw me as an imagineer for Walt Disney and my father saw me as an architect, I went neither direction after high school.
Directly after high school, I got drafted by into college my father where studied neither art nor architectural engineering. I picked physics, but no matter how badly I wanted to sport a long white lab coat, the math just wasn’t for me.
Everything changed when I began taking my English requirements. Not only did I discover writing was something I could do, I fell in love with it. It wasn’t much longer after that that I gladly traded in my scientific calculator for a manual typewriter and began writing poetry inspired by the Romantic Period.
But all the poetry I wrote turned out to be a phase.
In what some might think of as solitary confinement, the unfinished attic of my parents’ home I focused on writing the Great American Novel.
Although I fell well short of the Great American Novel with only short stories to show for it, after eight long years of hard time at Butler County Community College and what some might add as only an associate degree in arts to show for it, what I eventually wrote was the Great American “Short” Novel with “Jamaican Moon”.
I wrote two more short novels—“Bad Blood” and “Condo Joe”. I put them with “Jamaican Moon” in a collection called “Three by the Sea”, which I published through a POD publisher. Not exactly what I wanted in a publisher, but they did claim to reject manuscripts, and a publisher who rejected manuscripts meant something to me.
Rita, a very good friend of mine from Trinidad, had read “Three by the Sea” and wrote an Amazon review that any budding authors could only hope for:
“I couldn’t wait any longer, so I bought the book off the Internet—cost me a big $18, shipping, etc., but it was worth every penny. A good book, kept my interest to the end.”
I just had to see Rita who literally lived just around the corner from my parents’ place to thank her for the amazing Amazon review, and she thought I ought to be writing for television for shows like CSI.
You would have thought a compliment like that had shot me to the moon, but it didn’t. I was still dead set on writing that Great American Novel. It was the Great American Novel or nothing!
I don’t know where it came from but next I wrote “Finny the Friendly Shark”—a children’s book about a shark who did not have the heart to bite. I then applied to the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut—not because I wanted to broaden my book-writing horizons but I thought it might be an angle into big time authorship Big Apple-style. I studied under the children’s author Stephen Roos. I graduated with a certificate, but it didn’t help me break in.
I spent the next couple of years as you might have guessed chasing the Great American Novel until one morning, I discovered screenwriting.
Without the aid of any screenwriting software like the ever popular Final Draft or any familiarity with the Three-act Structure, I completed my first feature script “Forbidden” then I completed the second script “This Ain’t No Vacation, Sweetheart” and this would be the script I would get acquainted with the Three-act Structure.
Who knows? Maybe my friend from Trinidad, who just might have been in my fleet of guardian angels, had finally gotten through to me. It didn’t take a calling. It took a shouting!
I wanted to jump in my car and race to New York City and study screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, but financially film school was just not in the picture, so I went another route courtesy of the “St. Elmo’s Fire” screenwriter Karl Kurlander.
It may not work for you, but what I’ve come to call “poor man’s film school” certainly worked for me. After briefly meeting and talking with Mr. Kurlander during an English Festival at Westminster College he suggested that I send a script in to his friend who performed script coverage then just before we parted he said point blank, “It [the script] better be great.”
I was not familiar with script coverage but did what I was told. I sent the script in with a check to Kurlander’s friend, and in a few days he returned the script, read. I had gotten a Pass, but somewhere in the pages of a bad first draft that would have resembled a particle map if it had been edited with a red pen there was a story worth telling.
Call it a labor of love. After I had bought the text book “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” by Syd Field and yes, Final Draft, I dove right into the rewrites from the bitter-sweet notes of the coverage report then went with a coverage company easier on the wallet—Screenplay Readers.
I finished the next draft. I sent the script to Screenplay Readers. Just as they had promised, they read it and returned it within a week. A Pass with more notes but the script was taking shape.
Three to four drafts and about $250 later, “This Ain’t No Vacation, Sweetheart” got the rating “Consider” from Screenplay Readers! That Consider might as well have been an Oscar for best script to me.
I had learned screenwriting, well, the basics.
The next script I would write would be an animated one, an adaptation of “Finny the Friendly Shark”, and after several drafts “Finny” also got a Consider from Screenplay Readers.
Since 2008, I have written over 24 feature scripts. 24! I have not completely abandoned the idea of the Great American Novel or Great America “Short” Novel, taking some of my earlier ones and adapting them into feature scripts.
Although I’d like to believe that I have put enough of the hard work to be in almost auto-pilot with structure, each story, each script presents its own set of challenges and is different from the next. What I thought would be a career in writing feature romantic comedies and dramas shifts from time to time to action and adventure features. The genre seems to choose me.
I’ve basically joined the WD Forum to get feedback on my fiction and, of course, become a regular member.
May 8, 2018 at 5:37 pm #655953
Welcome to the forums.
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