Monday, August 5, 2013

Willamette Writers Conference Roundup

Are you a writer? A serious one? Go to a conference. Suck up the fact that you'll need to spend some unearned money from your soon-to-be-published bestseller to pay the ^*+~! registration fee. Or volunteer. It'll cut the cost of the conference to an edible bite, and I pledge the Living On Ink guarantee that you'll learn something.

I can now state, after three years, that I am a regular at the Willamette Writers Conference, which just ended. My legs ache. My brain is cramped. My networking hormone has flatlined. I always promise myself at the end of these get-togethers to kick it into overdrive. Act like a real writer. Write every day. Submit every day. Platform build every day. No wonder my brain is revolting.

I'll breakdown my experience at the 44th annual writers conference in Portland, Ore., to memorable moments. Inspiration. Laughs. And Technique.

Inspiration at Willamette Writers Conference

I heard Jennifer Lauck give two presentations last year, and I'd forgotten how inspirational she can be to any writer. She's a memoirist who teaches in Portland at The Attic, and she's trying to break into novel writing. During a lunch presentation, she basically called everyone out. Get over your self-loathing and write the damn book. To write hers, she says she writes every morning before doing anything else. She doesn't open her email. Or look at Facebook. She doesn't edit or review her work from the day before. She opens her laptop, checks the page count on a yellow sticky note (her high-tech accountability tool) and writes another 10 pages. Then she crosses off the page count and scribbles down the new page count. Even though she has four published works of non-fiction, she hasn't found a publishing home for her novel yet. She's written it and rewritten it. She brought proof in several stacks of paper. She says her novel has taken 10 years. Sound familiar?

Laughs at #WWCON13

Luke Ryan (R) poses with a screenwriter for a groupie shot.
The funniest sessions I attended happened to be with two Hollywood types. Producer Luke Ryan, who Hot Tub Time Machine, and Danny Manus, a script consultant, both can tell a good one-liner. Ryan outlined how Hot Tub Time Machine went from pitch to final cut. Screenwriting is not a pretty process. Pretty insane, but not pretty cute. About 27 versions of the script were written before the picture ended. Some of those scripts arrived while shooting was already a month underway. I lost count of how many writers he said took a stab at the screenplay. Nineteen? I'm probably way off. His mantra is: You will be fired. Ryan ended up playing a part in the movie -- the guy in the bear suit. MGM is making a sequel (the whole room at the conference moaned at this point, too), but Ryan won't be producer. He doesn't work for MGM anymore, but he will return as the bear.

Danny Manus wanted to work in films forever and one of his first screenplays in college received a B- minus from a professor. He berated the teacher for giving his precious script such an awful mark. Years later, after learning the business of filmmaking, he went back and read his own script. Then he called his teacher and apologized. She didn't remember the script, though she did remember him. Or so he says. Manus reads lots of scripts. Lots, as in hundreds in short periods of time. Plus, he has a stable of readers reading for him. He says he assesses scripts using a 150-point checklist, all in his head, of course. If you are worthy of consideration, they'll boil down your hard work to a one-page critique. Is it a project worth doing or a project worth trashing? Check here, here and here. BTW, don't do a biopic about yourself. He reads hundreds of those, too.

After hearing these guys, I'm not so sure a screenplay is in my future. But the money sounds good. A script can earn the original writer a standard fee of $107,000 and as much as $225,000. Wow. Double wow. And, a script is about 90-120 pages versus a novel's 350.

I'll write my pointers on Technique in a blogpost later this week.

1 comment:

  1. If you had a million dollars and gave away one quarter, and another quarter, and then another quarter, how much would you have left? A million dollars minus 75 cents.


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