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B2W is on Ask.Fm: Answering Your Writing Qs

FYI, B2W is now on Ask.FM as well as all the usual channels, for longer questions and for those Bang2writers who prefer to ask about writing Qs anonymously. Here is a round up of a few I’ve answered recently. See you there!


1) How do you get representation as a writer, without previous work under your belt? I have scripts that I would love to get out, but I don’t know where to start with getting my work out there. Any advice?

 I get asked how to get representation all the time, so here’s my post on the subject. Generally speaking though, if you don’t know where to start, then you probably don’t need an agent yet. It’s far more important to get networking and collaborating with other writers and filmmakers. Get on Shooting People, check out Mandy, Talent Circle. Join the talk at Twitter for #scriptchat; join all the groups on Facebook and Linkedin. Go to Writers Guild of GB talks, or roadshows with BBC Writersroom. Get to networking evenings and events like London Screenwriters Festival. Make short films. Enter script competitions and initiatives. Try for pitchfests. Basically: if you build it? The work will come … and when you have work, the agent will come. Good luck!

2) Have you ever written what could be called ‘controversial’ or sensitive storylines? If yes, how do you approach it?

Yes, my novel is about teenage pregnancy; in it I write about having the baby, as well as miscarriage and abortion. All of these things can stir up lots of very far reaching feelings, both “for” and “against” the situation and the people in it. I think what’s key is ensuring you know what you’re talking about, so your work has what I call “emotional truth”. I was a teen Mum myself, but I have obviously spoken with many teenage parents during the course of my life, plus I spoke to many more as research for the book; I also spoke to other women about miscarriage and abortion. I think it’s important to remember you cannot please everyone and some people will be angry with you for writing about such topics, however you approach them. This is frequently more to do with them, rather than your work. This means you must not worry about offending people. As long as you have done the best you can and approached the topic as sensitively and maturely as possible, no one can ask for more.

3) I have a big story I want to tell but I just can’t decide whether to write it as a film or book trilogy. I’d prefer film but I think I’d have more chance of it being published in book form than produced in film format. Do you have any suggestions on how I can decide? Genre is action/fantasy, thanks

I’d go with your gut. There’s no point trying to write in a medium you’re not keen on. That said, if your concept is extremely high budget then the likelihood of it getting made as a film, especially if you have few credits, is slim (at least in the UK). On this basis you may want to consider a way of telling the characters’ stories another way – for example, via transmedia /multi platform writing, if writing a novel does not appeal. You can find out all about transmedia here.

4) Hi Lucy! In a spot of bother! I’m writing a scene where a character discovers something about another character through reading a newspaper article. However my producer feels that it is telling the story instead of showing. I really think the scene could be powerful, any opinions?

Sorry, but I’m afraid I agree with your producer. If I had a £1 for every time I read a character finding something out about another character via a newspaper article (or an internet search, or similar), I’d never have to read a screenplay again! Seriously! THAT’S how many screenplays have this device. I would recommend thinking of how the character can FIND OUT (whatever it is) themselves, in an ACTIVE way: by investigation or via something s/he CAUSES, not what “happens” to him/her. Top US story analyst Jim Mercurio wrote about this on my blog, here.

5) What are some things you should have (besides a completed script) before pitching to a producer? Should you have a budget in mind (or some of the budget/funds already in place)? Also, what questions should I be ready to ask and answer? Thank you.

Hi. Know who your target audience is, because producers etc WILL ask. Never be vague and say stuff like “everyone will enjoy this”. If it’s TV, you need to know where in the schedule it would go; if it’s a movie, you need to know what kind of rating it would get and why; you also need to know what your project is LIKE that has gone before. For instance, when we were pitching DEVIATION, we said it was like PANIC ROOM, THE VANISHING and RED EYE: this immediately gave our pitchees a reference point for the type of movie we were envisaging. A script without an audience will have an identity crisis and that makes pitchees nervous. Here’s more on audience and why it’s so important. From audience, you will invariably start talking money, so yes, it’s a good idea to know what constitutes high and low budgets. I always hear from writers “oh this is low budget” and then I read the script and it’s actually high budget. You should know what is possible with what money.

Secondly, always know the answer to this all-important question: “Why this story?” In other words, WHY do you need to tell this story and WHAT will your audience get out of it? Remember, we don’t want stories that have already been told. It’s not enough to have great writing, you MUST have a great concept as well – you must bring something NEW to the table, especially if it utilises elements we’ve seen before (ie. time travel, vampires, historical figures etc).

Other than those two things, know your logline so you can deliver it conversationally, rather than a series of bullet points. Other than that, be personable and pleasant and above all, be yourself. Good luck!

6) I have completed my short script, and want to put my story out there. I know I can pitch it to producers and companies, but I want to be hands on. How do I start my own journey toward producing my own short and recruiting crew members?

I’m a big proponent of getting out there and doing it, so first off congrats for deciding to make your own opportunities! 😀 The first things you want to do is connect with as many people as possible, both online and offline. I wrote about this in detail, here.

Secondly, don’t just stop at connecting with filmmakers and writers. Connect with everyone you can, especially actors. The more people you know, the more likely you will be able to create great projects, get stuff made and get to where you want to be. Here’s a post with more. Good luck!

7) How do you pitch a script to a producer? Are unsolicited emails okay? I’m very much new to the screenwriting world. I’ve written about 30 scripts(shorts, plays and feature length), but never went out and put myself out there. I don’t want to be the person who never took a chance.

Good for you! Sending query emails is nearly always fine and if it isn’t, you’ll just get radio silence. So query everyone you can. This on submissions strategies may help

Got a question about novels, screenwriting, London Screenwriters’ Festival, pitching, the industry, submissions, agents, social media or something else writing-related? Then feel free to ask me here on Ask.FM, or ask me over on Twitter or leave your Q on the wall at Bang2writers.
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