“Save the Cat” and my new title and logline

One of my favorite pastimes since before I could read was to curl up with a good book. Yup, I was that dorky kid who read at the playground, on the way to and from school, and even looked forward to getting sent to my room because it meant I could read some more. Not surprisingly, I turned out to be a writer. Even then, I knew I’d never regret the time I spent reading.

Okay, maybe I regretted it when I wasn’t picked to play on the team until last. But at least I always had a place to hide.

Today, I find myself reading a lot of screenwriting books. I also read screenplays, and books on organizing (an area of personal difficulty in which I’ve made great strides), and fiction and blogs and websites, and, of course, the trades. And all of it helps me, but none is as satisfying or rewarding as my how-to books on screenwriting.

Once I’d discovered the world of blogging, I noticed that all the websites I liked seemed to reference their favorite authors, as well.  I’d seen the book, “Save the Cat” before, but never paid much attention until it started to show up on everyone’s list. I’ve just finished it for the second time (I always read them twice, then refer back later as needed). I’m so glad I did, because it was incredibly helpful and informative. I especially love the instructions for finding the perfect logline and title.  And the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet is pretty cool, too.

Thank to “Save the Cat” I came up with a new log line and title for my drama spec. I’d love feedback whether you like it, or if you don’t. If you watch the show, that would really help, too.

White Collar: Into Temptation

Neal sees a portrait of his former life when he and Peter go undercover and join a ring of thieves led by a Swedish femme fatale.

The first two seasons of White Collar are available on Netflix to stream.

Perfection is the Enemy

I’m almost done with my first draft of the White Collar Spec, and I’m terrified to finish it. I realized it was because I think it’s supposed to be good. I forgot how important it is to write the first draft, let it be terrible and edit it until it gets better, and keep editing it until it gets good, then really good, then the best it can be.

It’s funny, how I have to learn the same lessons over and over. The first draft doesn’t matter. No matter what I do, it will launch me into the rewrites. It will be a stepping stone to something better. And no matter what expectations I have, that is all it should ever be.

I’m lucky to have an excellent reader to give me notes, and an excellent set of tools to work with. I don’t want to disappoint him, or hear the notes. And even as I say it I know it’s not true. Without those notes, it might never reach the point of excellence I strive for. Considering I’ve only finished one script so far, it most likely won’t reach it anyway. But the only way out is through. I’m in this for the long haul.

No more procrastinating. On Monday, I will have a first draft to turn in, and it will be terrible. I promise. As far as the notes go… bring it on, baby! Until next time, happy writing!

A Draft per Month for Twelve Months

A year ago in March, I came to the realization that unless I put my writing first, it was never going to get done. My life needed to revolve around my screenwriting, instead of the other way around. That was when I started getting up at 5 and writing for two hours before my kids got up and the day kicked in. It wasn’t perfect, since some of the time was inevitably claimed by dogs, coffee, and a bite to eat, not to mention regular old daydreaming. For the most part, though, it was quite productive. As they say, an ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon.

Every once in a while (or more often), I get a notion that if I’d take that morning time to get other things out of the way, I’d have even more time to write during the day. Inevitably, I try it. Sometimes for a week, or two, or even longer. And every single time, I discover that it doesn’t work. When I get up and write first, I may or may not get back to it during the day, but at least I know I got some writing in and the most important thing was taken care of. When I use the time for other things, like this blog, I sometimes get the writing in later and sometimes I don’t. Inevitably, my project stalls, I lose interest, then have to work myself up into a frenzy of motivation, and get back to my morning writing.

The main reason I am sharing this is to come clean and admit that even though I continue to work hard and improve regularly, I am far from perfect. It’s also good for me to have a written account of the struggle to refer back to the next time I start thinking the mornings could be used more constructively. Maybe I’ll save myself the trouble next time.

Another reason I wanted to reiterate the importance of daily, scheduled, uninterrupted writing time, is that I am seriously thinking about setting myself a new goal of a draft per month for twelve months. In that way, I’ll be building up a body of work samples, flexing my screenwriting muscles and getting closer to those 10,000 hours it takes to master a craft, according to Malcolm Gladwell. I know it’s a very lofty and difficult goal, but the outcome can only be positive. What have I got to lose, after all?

I’ve been writing screenplays for a few years now. I took classes and have a great set of tools to take me from inception through final draft. I have a working support alliance, and I’m evaluating scripts for students at my old school. It’s time to sh*t or get off the pot, as my dear departed Mom would have said. I’d like to think she’d be proud of me. Is there anyone out there who would care to join me in a draft per month for twelve months? Happy writing!

TV’s Top Ten Hottest Couples of All Time

I wrote this up a while ago, but was recently reminded of it when I read a blog by “Bamboo Killers.” Just for fun, here’s my take:

10.       I Love Lucy – No matter how much trouble she got into, Ricky loved Lucy passionately and unconditionally. No Hottest TV Couples list would be complete without them.

9.         Starsky & Hutch – Paul Michael Glazer and David Soul both got plenty of action with the opposite sex, but the chemistry really sizzled during those intense male bonding sessions! Remember the one where Hutch was kidnapped by the bad guys who turned him into a junkie? Luckily Starsky was there to detox Hutch, hold him while he cried and hold his hair back while he puked!

8.         Beverly Hills 90210 – Sorry, Kelly, the real electricity crackled between Brenda and Dylan. I don’t care if she was hell to work with.

7.         Oz – Chris Keller and Tobias Beecher really rocked my world. So what if Keller was a deranged psycho who broke Beecher’s arms and legs? I forgive him.

6.         The O.C. – Ryan and Marissa? Yeah, they were cute, but the real action happened when Marrissa’s dark side collided with the surf-nazi, Kevin Volchok, played by the delicious Cam Gigandet – what can I say, I’m a romantic fool.

5.         Skins – Effie and Cook – Parentless children adrift on a sea of sex, drugs and painful reality, they find each other. Don’t even bother with the cancelled MTV version–it doesn’t begin to approach the mastery of the original BBC version.

4.         Moonlighting – David and Maddie – unfortunately, those incredible sparks never quite ignited once they got together, but before that they sure were hot together.

3.         Cheers – Frasier and Lilith – tricked you again. But weren’t they incredible together?

2.         ER – Dr. Doug and Nurse Carol – When it comes to those two, there’s no such thing as enough.

1.         Queer as Folk – Brian and Justin – they are both incredibly charismatic on their own, but put them on screen together, and this is one hetero soccer mom who can’t take her eyes off the screen!

Napoleon Hill’s 3rd Key: Assemble an Attractive Personality

Napoleon Hill’s 3rd Key to Success: “Assemble an Attractive Personality”

This key is quite daunting to me, I have to admit. I used to think of my personality as being something I was born with, not something that I had control over, let alone responsibility for. Of course it makes perfect sense to cultivate mannerisms and attitudes that are appealing to others. I just would prefer to think of it as out of my control. Which, it turns out, is a completely self-defeating stance to take.

According to Hill, there are twenty-five aspects of our personalities that can be worked on, although many of them are inter-related. It all starts with a Positive Mental Attitude, or PMA:

PMA is the most important aspect of any attractive personality; indeed, it is crucial to many of the Seventeen Principles of Success. PMA influences your tone of voice, your posture, your facial expressions. It modifies every word you say and every emotion you feel. It affects every thought you have and the results your thoughts bring you.

Over and over, I’ve read that in order to get a job in the writer’s room, the show-runner has to like you enough to want to spend ten hours per day in the same room with you. No one wants to spend ten minutes in the company of a negative, whiny writer who doesn’t enjoy the work, the company, or support other’s ideas. It makes sense to me! Unless you have a positive attitude, chances are good that you’ll never get the interview, let alone the job–even if you are a great writer.

Some people are great at hiding the way they really feel. Others wear their hearts on their sleeves. For me, the worst thing someone can be is phony.  Give me an honest and angry companion over a smiling, sneaky one any day of the week. I’d rather know what I’m dealing with.

One thing I notice a lot, in women particularly, but not exclusively, is a neurotic tendency to think everything is about them. They examine every interaction for the seed of an insult, and then nurture it until it grows into resentment within them. It’s exhausting just to think about. Everyone walks on eggshells around them to avoid saying anything that can be misinterpreted.

I prefer to believe that nothing anyone else does is really about me; not even direct insults. If I’ve done something wrong, I try to apologize and take responsibility. Otherwise, if you have a problem with me, I’m certain it has more to do with what’s going on in your life. Or perhaps you recognize some character flaw in me that you dislike in yourself. In either case, it’s none of my business. I keep my eyes on my own work, I don’t gossip and I try to accept others for who they are. It’s true that I love to give advice, but a better strategy is to share my experience if someone has a problem. That way they know I understand and I’m not judging them.  If I really don’t understand what they are going through, I’ll say so, hopefully with compassion.

One of the great things about being in my forties is the perspective it gives me. When I was a kid, I thought if everyone knew where I was coming from, they would understand me. Today I know it’s much simpler than that. No one ever will know where we are coming from, because no one else has walked in our shoes. And we haven’t walked in theirs. We bring a lifetime of experience to every moment of every day.

There’s way too much in this chapter of great importance for me to cover in one blog, so perhaps I’ll come back to this key again. Hill covers so many important topics, such as tact and courtesy, tolerance, and promptness of decision.  It really is life-changing. I’ll leave with this:

The world has the habit of making room for the man whose actions show that he knows where he is going. Napoleon Hill

Do you believe that an attractive personality is an important key to success? Have you worked at cultivating PMA? Send me an email @ karenlovestv.verizon.net —I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time, happy writing!