Hey, Pamie: “How do you know what you want to write about?”

Happy New Year, everybody. I’m guessing you were feeling really proud of yourself yesterday because you didn’t break your resolution to be more productive/write every day/outline that screenplay/etc.

And now here it is, Jan Two and you’re already trolling blogs for inspiration. I get it. I do it, too. I am taking a break from the things I’m working on to do a quick Weekly Procrastination because while I’m sitting here working, I’m also thinking of you. I mean that in the most literal way. When I’m writing, I’m thinking about the audience. Sometimes I picture a reader, sometimes I picture an actual audience of bodies in the dark watching the finished product. I think of my script or my story as one I’m telling to a real, live person.

We tell stories differently depending on who is listening. How you talk to a first date sitting across from you in a dark restaurant is different than how you gossip on the couch in your pajamas with your best friends. You know how to play to different audiences, how to keep them interested. Don’t forget to use those skills when you’re writing.

So, here we go: Continue reading

Hey, Pamie: “Is it okay that I’m a blogger?”

I haven’t been procrastinating on the weekly procrastination series. I’ve been busy. You see, a holiday tradition in Hollywood is that producers and studios and networks and publishers finish their to-do lists so that they can go off on their vacations and trips to the parents and Hawaiian safaris and nightly festivities. This means all of my hurry-up-and-wait comes to a screeching halt, as it’s time to Hear Notes and Write.

I debated showing a picture here of the stack of work beside me, but I wouldn’t want you to get jealous. I’m about to have a lot of late nights and airplane writing stretches. This is a good thing! This is being a writer. We work through most major events and holidays. It’s why you think we don’t appreciate you and ultimately leave us.

Let’s get to the question of the week. Continue reading

Hey, Pamie: “How Do You Start Writing A Novel?”

I have a new editor on this new manuscript. I was nervous for the past few weeks knowing that the manuscript was on her to-read-and-edit pile. It was like I’d changed schools, got a new teacher, and wanted to find out if I was still considered a good student.

I got an A!

Karen only had good things to say about the manuscript and I’m quite relieved. She gave me notes to incorporate after we receive the copyedits, and the book is still on track to be released July 2012.

I’m incredibly nervous about it, which is how I’ve felt right before the release date of each of my novels, so it’s probably getting close to the right shape. Right when I think, “I can’t let anyone see this. It’s extremely personal. I’m going to tell them never mind and let’s just stop this right now.” that’s about the time I need someone like my editor to go, “Too late! We’ve sent it off to the printers. What’s your next one about?”

And segue right into this week’s Writerly Advice Weekly Procrastination Thing. Continue reading

Hey, Pamie: “Do you believe in self-promotion?”

I’m back from Austin Film Festival, where I am always reminded that people have lots and lots and lots of questions about what exactly it is writers do and how exactly do they do it. I’d do a writers panel or a roundtable every day if you let me, and since there’s no shortage of questions coming through email to my inbox, I thought I’d start up a weekly column. It’s just another way for me to procrastinate, but I prefer to call it “giving back.”

Here’s our first one. Continue reading

Making it Work While You’re Mostly Working for Free

I’m waiting on the phone to ring to find out about a project I pitched yesterday while simultaneously scheduling a pitch meeting around another pitch meeting I already have set, one that is effectively killing my original plans to attend a friend’s wedding, which leads me to answering an excellent question about money with a whole lot of words on juggling multiple projects.

Heidi writes in the comments section of this entry:

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If I may ask a question about the super secret fantasy life of a writer — how do you budget financially during the jags where you’re working flat out for free until you can catch your breath and the unexpected income arrives? …I’ve found my own 1099 income years to be sort of jarring, so I wondered.
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I’m sure there are many ways to do this. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the “Rich Uncle” version, so I had to go about it differently.

My very first day of my very first tv show job, one of the more established writers said to me, “Save your money, kid.” He didn’t have to do that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t ask for any advice at all. Because of that, I thought, “That man is telling me something he wishes someone had said to him. He is literally trying to pay it backward.” So I do try to always save, particularly when I’m on a show that’s paying me every week. I put a lot of that away, knowing it’s my paycheck when I’m not staffed or waiting on a check from all my other writing, which pays about maybe four times a year.

Making it work while you’re working for free takes some discipline, some planning, and still a bit of luck. But it can happen!

If I’d been fortunate enough to be on a show that lasted more than a couple of seasons, I could tell you, “Residuals.” That’s one of the reasons we were striking so hard those few years ago.

Samantha Who? still plays in other countries, and is on Netflix streaming, so every once in a while a “little green envelope” comes in the mail from the Writer’s Guild that is my tiny cut of that pie. A very, very tiny cut. My last LGE was for around three hundred dollars, after taxes. I might get another one next year for less than that. But that show wasn’t on for very long, and I wasn’t at producer level. Someone more established on a show that lasts four seasons or five or is on multiple networks — those residuals keep you going during the times when you aren’t on staff, when you are “working flat out for free.”

But that’s not me, either. I’m going to try to answer your question with the four rules I keep in mind when I’m doing this job.
Continue reading