This is a long one, from an interview with Terry Rossio, one of the highest-paid screenwriters working today, and the man who runs the Wordplay site, which is full of writerly advice. I learned a lot on the Wordplay message boards, and in the columns, and I learned a lot from this interview (even though I’m supposed to be MAN BITES WORLD.
Anyway, this is about screenwriting, naturally, not writing books, but I think it’s pertinent:
JRM (interviewer): How did you break in, and how did you come to be where you are now?
Terry Rossio: I’m going to try to not give the usual boilerplate answers in this interview, and that means not going along with false presumptions, no matter how seemingly benign. The question about breaking in seems perfectly legit, but really it’s not. A writer must create compelling work, and then try to sell it. Once sold, the writer has to do the same thing again. It’s really not true that the writer ‘breaks in’—that’s an artifact of the belief that the person is being judged, not the work, and also of the belief that there is an inside and an outside, which I don’t think exists. There are too many screenwriters out there with only a single credit for there to be an inside, and too many writers on the outside making sales, to too many markets which are either new, changing, or undefined.
In truth buyers are just not that organized, your buyer is not my buyer, or in some cases, you can become your own buyer. Courtney Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award this year for best screenplay for Frozen River, and she’s never sold a screenplay. Is she on the inside or the outside? In truth, anyone, at any time, can come up with South Park or Superman or Sandman, and that’s all that matters.
And I can’t resist adding this one:
Screenwriters are the Charlie Browns of Hollywood, and everyone else holds the football.
I recommend reading the whole interview. Yeah, it’s a little long, but the stuff on constructing a story is wonderful