Want to be a professional writer? Well, here’s Bang2writer Ewen Glass with the skinny on what he’s learned along the way on his own journey … Enjoy!
1) Find your voice
So, yeah, we’re not exactly starting with an easy one. In fact, this is probably the hardest thing on this list, precisely because it’s the most important. Structure, character-creation, world-building, effective writing on the page, formatting… it can all be learned to some degree. What really makes you stand out as a writer is you. Your background, your point-of-view, your voice.
What do you offer that nobody else can? It’s worth asking yourself this question, discovering a point of difference, an angle on the world and on story that’s unique to you. A voice that demands to be heard.
2) It’s not just about the script
I don’t like pitching; I’m not even sure I like talking to people much (I’m a delight at parties). I won’t yammer on too much about the necessary evil that is networking but being able to write a script isn’t enough – you have to be able convey the story and/or your excitement about this story to other people using real human words (and preferably your indoor voice).
Supporting documents such as pitches and treatments are also vital – writing a great pitch is tricky but if you put time into learning the form and the tone of the pitch document, it will pay off in spades.
3) Don’t be precious (but try to be principled)
Part of me wants to say take every job you can get, every commission, every rewrite, especially when you’re starting out. TV, film or theatre. You may as well try to get something made while you’re learning, putting in the hours and honing your craft.
But another part of me reckons a professional writer is only as good as the people you work with. It’s up to you which part wins out but often the right job with the wrong people can be all wrong. So cast your net wide, be flexible and proactive but if a gig feels seriously wrong, go with your gut. It’ll be less painful in the long run.
4) Rejection is a good thing
Okay, it’s not really but it is something that every writer faces (professional or not!). We all know how tough it is in the creative industries but it’s not rejection or failure that will define you as a writer, it’s how you respond. If you can turn a negative into a positive you’re half-way there. There might be an element of ‘I’ll-show-you’, maybe some ‘bring it on’, you might even say something that’s not a cliché. Just try and pick yourself up and go again.
5) It’s a Marathon not a Snickers
Sorry, sprint. Not a Sprint.
A couple of years out of uni I was ready to be a professional writer. I was good enough. My writing was good enough.
Except I wasn’t. It wasn’t.
The horrible fact is that it can take years and years to break in. In that time try to make your own opportunities – look at local and regional funding bodies, network, make a big multi-coloured database (I’m old) of contacts, make stuff yourself. It will all pay off. Eventually. Feature projects can gain traction 5 years after you wrote them off; that producer you worked with on a small project 3 years ago can come back to you with another great opportunity.
Try to enjoy the journey. I know that’s a bit like saying enjoy the act of cooking, not eating, but it’s true. Sure, things will be difficult, and you can get wrapped up in your own seeming lack of progress but when you break a new story, or come up with an exciting new idea, or find out who a character is or get into the flow with some dialogue… you’re being a writer. That’s writing. And it’s fucking great.
BIO: Ewen Glass’ recent TV commissions include TV drama A Sign of Things, for which he was nominated for broadcast debut writer award at the Edinburgh TV Festival’s Debbies. He has storylines Hollyoaks and co-written the award-winning Lies We Tell starring Gabriel Byrne and Gina McKee. He has two dramas in development with BBC, and 2019 will see the release of his next feature, which shoots in Slovakia this Autumn. Ewen is repped by Phil Adie at Nick Turner management. Follow him on Twitter as @ewenglass and visit his website at www.ewenglass.com.