Welcome back to The Write Stuff! Yes, this is supposed to be interview Wednesday, but I'm learning it's mighty difficult to track down writers every other week, especially when they're all madly banging out scripts before the possible writers' strike. So I'll conduct the interviews as they come up, probably closer to once a month. To make up for it, I'm dipping back into the mailbag again this week to answer some more of your questions.

SlappyWhite asks:

I'd be interested to know about ways to come up with story ideas. I often feel I can write really good dialogue but my plot content is just not good enough.


Pretty standard problem. This is why most movies you see have a "Story By" credit and a "Screenplay By" credit. With several exceptions, those who are great at coming up with stories and ideas struggle with dialogue. Often, those who can write hilarious banter or intelligent conversation have problems with story. Those who can do both are highly sought after. If you can't, consider hooking up with a writing partner. The trick is finding one who doesn't have the exact same skills as you. Find someone who complements you. Writing classes or groups are the easiest ways to find a match, but if those aren't available to you, maybe just start sizing up your friends. Are any of them creative storytellers? Would he or she be interested in writing? Ask your friends for movie pitches, and if you like one of them, see if he or she would like to sit down and crank it out with you.

But maybe you don't like working with others. If that's the case, the best advice I can give you is to open a newspaper. Insane, movie-ready things happen in this world every day, and newspapers and magazines are chock full of great jumping-off points for a script.


Jude asks:

I'm wondering what's the best way to get a screenplay looked at and hopefully sold?

I'm not sure about your specific situation, but let's say you're a writer living in Missouri (where I'm from). You've completed a screenplay you think is great, but you don't know anybody in "the biz." In all honesty, you're going to have a difficult time getting it read by someone "important" enough to help. It's not impossible, but you're going to have to try a variety of tactics, and you're going to have to be very, very persistent. Look online for small agencies and management companies in New York or Los Angeles. Call them. If they blow you off, and they will, call back. Don't be a stalker, but stay on them. If you get someone on the phone, state your case very clearly and succinctly, in a way that will help your script stand out from the pack.

As far as getting your script sold, unfortunately that pretty much can't happen unless you have an agent or a manager. Studios will only read scripts that come from represented writers. This sucks, but it's a necessary filtering process. If Warner Brothers took open submissions, they'd be swamped with unreadable stuff. These are busy people, reading 25 scripts a day and looking for a diamond in the rough. Anything they can do to narrow their load, they'll do. So, unless you want to make your movie yourself -- and it's never been easier to do that, by the way -- you'll have to get an agent.

In my case, I moved to New York after college, and through much persistence got a job at NBC. My writing partner and I wrote a TV pilot script and handed it to friends and assistants around 30 Rock (the building, not the show!). Our script got to big-time folks in Los Angeles who loved it, and we scored our agents pretty quickly after that. It was just timing, blind luck, and (if I may toot my own horn) quality material. Living in New York or Los Angeles is almost a requirement if you are 100% sure you want to be a screenwriter. You've got an infinitely better chance of meeting people who can help your career in LA than in Missouri. That's not a knock on Missouri, that's a fact. It's all about who you meet, and making sure you're prepared with a truly excellent script when you meet him or her.

Sean asks:

I am 36 and have been writing and/or co-writing spec scripts for about 8 years. I just took a buyout from my job of 13 years. In other words, I'm taking the plunge! I plan on attending Creative Screenwriting Expo 6 next month. Have you ever attended their Expo before? What should I bring? I live in Michigan, have no major contacts,reps, etc. But my confidence in my spec is unwavering. Any and all info would be greatly appreciated.

I have never attended the Creative Screenwriting Expo, but it sounds awesome and is coming up October 24th - 28th (as you likely know, since you're attending). As for what you should bring, get a nice backpack, load that puppy up with everything you could possibly need, and don' take it off. You're going to have only a minute or two to make an impression on someone, you don't want to use that time explaining how you left your script in your hotel room.

What to put in the bag? Pens and notebooks are obviously key. Maybe print up some nice business cards for yourself, these will give you an aura of respectability. And, most importantly, bring many copies of this spec you're so confident in. I wouldn't walk around handing it to everyone at the Expo. You'll see people doing this, and it just appears desperate. Break your comfort zone, and really try to make quick personal connections with people. As you walk through the convention shaking hands, don't hesitate to brag on yourself a bit. If you love your script, tell these people so, and tell them why. You'll be able to figure out pretty quickly if they're interested. After you've hooked them with a taste, ask if they'd like to read your screenplay. If the answer is yes, either hand them a paper copy or ask for an address to mail/e-mail it to. This is also a good way to get their contact info so you can follow up.

Also -- and this is very important, make sure your script is registered with the WGA before handing it out to every Tom, Dick, and Spielberg. You don't want to see your idea on the big screen two years from now unless you're involved. Hope that helps, and I wish you the best of luck. Quitting a steady, secure job to do what you love is a ballsy move, but one that everybody should make at last once.

Want your question answered? Leave it in the comments or hit me up one-on-one at my personal site. See you next week!

. See you next week!