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How Not To Pitch An Editor: Be Vague and Impatient

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I published the post The Number One Tip for Querying and Pitching: Being Personal & Specific in 2013, and the advice remains as relevant as ever. However, a recent guest post pitch I received compelled me to write a sequel.

Now, there were several things wrong with the pitch. While the person used my name while pitching – points for finding the right name as opposed to calling me by my twitter handle – and didn’t make any glaring language mistakes, she did commit two annoying no-nos.

It goes without saying that you should find out the editor’s name if you can. With some publications it is easier said than done, but when you are pitching a one-person blog, you absolutely have to find the correct name.

And by now, pretty much everyone who’s sane and has written about writing wrote about the importance of using language properly.

But the pitch isn’t done just by using English well and finding the correct name.

Because guess what? I have four blogs. If you say “I want to write for your site,” I’m not going to lose time by asking you which one. It should have been in your subject line or at least in the body of your email.

And another thing you shouldn’t do is to follow up after a week saying you are waiting for my reply. It’s okay to follow up after two weeks if you have faith in your pitch, but before pestering the editor for a response, you might want to check if you did a good job the first time around.

Bonus tip: Don’t offer irrelevant information.

The writer said where she was from, and I couldn’t care less. I only care about your idea, your attitude, and how you laid out your idea in your post. Things like where you are from, your age and gender are irrelevant unless they have a direct relationship to what you’re writing.

If you’re pitching a post called “Dating Problems 30-Something Men Have in Manhattan”, and you are 30-something male in the Manhattan dating scene, please do tell me that. Otherwise, I couldn’t care less.

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So to pitch well, the least you can do is:

  • Be specific with what you’re pitching and where you are pitching.
  • Call the editor by the right name.
  • Wait for about two weeks before following unless the guidelines state you shouldn’t follow up, or you should follow up after a certain period that’s not two weeks.
  • Use language well.
  • Don’t offer any irrelevant information, and don’t leave anything relevant out.

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There you go. Happy pitching!

If you have any other tips to add, share away in the comments. I love hearing from you. :)

Life is Too Short, David Bowie is Dead, and Why You Should Make 2016 Your Best One Yet

Image via socialnewsdaily.com.

Image via socialnewsdaily.com.

Life is too fucking short. Sometimes, euphemisms and politeness just don’t cut it.

To be honest, I feel more disappointed, surprised and confused than sad about David Bowie dying. For one thing, I didn’t know he had cancer. For another, part of me genuinely believed he’d actually live forever. He was human? Are you serious?

Now, I was never his biggest fan. I appreciated his work, talent, creativity, later style and personality, but I was never the one with posters on or a collection of his albums. I loved some of his songs: Jean Genie, Dancing In The Streets, Under Pressure to name a few. I loved what he stood for.

He was just one of those people who I just admired a ton. He felt like such a big part of the world. Some people are ridiculously overhyped. Bowie never felt like that. I loved how and why he was famous.

So when I checked my Facebook yesterday to goof around and see something funny, it was seriously infruating and depressing to learn that he was dead. What the hell?

And once again it was one of world’s biggest enemies, cancer –and I really have no clue how we still don’t know how to cure it. I’d rather not have a more developed computer or a self-driving car, and and we focused our resources on curing diseases instead. Obviously this part of the rant isn’t just about Bowie, and when it’s cancer we’re talking about, I’ll allow myself not to be too logical.
But moving on…

So here’s what I did after I learned about his passing: Before posting a tribute or sharing someone else’s link, I did what felt natural to do: I opened up my writing and submitted the latest version to a reader I’ve been meaning to send to for a while.

Then I met a friend for lunch, laughed a lot and came home to work some more. I also rewatched some of my favorite scenes from Laggies and A Royal Affair. I danced to I’m So Sorry by Imagine Dragons (I just love that song), and I finally brought myself to write this post.

Nothing quite depresses and motivates like death. This isn’t my first post about it, and while it’s not easy, it’s one efficient form of release.

So it feels sad, but I do hope there’s an afterlife, and it’s a good one. Wouldn’t it be cool if he was singing Under Pressure with Mercury right now?

The point is, whatever you want to do, get on it. You might live 40, 50, 60, 70 more years, but nothing is certain, so let’s just rock the shit out of whatever we have.

Love, and write on!

Happy New Year and Where I Have Been

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

 

Happy New Year!

Sorry about not having posted a while, but the last couple of months have been hectic. I’m planning to move abroad, but as someone who needs the proper permits for that, the research process has been overwhelming. The how and where aren’t certain yet, but I’m up for the challenge and adventure. I’ll update you the minute I know more.

2015 was full of ups and downs, and mainly the downs came in the shape of devastating news from all over the world. However, there were also hopeful moments as people supported each other and didn’t give up, so that’s amazing.

My own 2015 was pretty busy. I’m not going to lie, there was some wasted time on social media, procrastination on video games, minor health problems and some feeling down about not having a life exciting enough. But there was also a lot of excitement, new projects, completed works, major decisions (see paragraph one), inspirations and more teaching classes so I could concentrate one my favorite writing gigs, which you will also soon be updated about.

My 31st of December was the right blend of working, messing about and spending time with family. There was also some rolling in the snow and snowball fights. I finished the night true to its nature by writing a set of resolutions I have every intention to keep.

One resolution I intend on keeping is never forgetting “it’s never too late.” Now, don’t dismiss it as generic and too deep for its own good. I mean it especially for daily tasks. Those days when you oversleep, start work (or whatever you need to be doing) very late and end up disappointed. It’s okay if you haven’t started working on your novel until 8 pm. The fact is that you started is what matters. The day isn’t over until midnight. And for night owls, maybe not even then.

I was having a late day today. I seemed far away from yesterday’s productivity until I realized it was only the first day of the new year, and it was only 2 pm. Plenty of time to do whatever needs to be done.

So I’m writing this post to say HAPPY NEW YEAR. May this year make you happy in every way you wish, including seeing more resolutions accomplished than ever.

Talk to you soon!

Literary Agent/Manager Needed for 1 Novel, 1 Feature Film Script and 1 Pilot 

I write, therefore I am. :D

I write, therefore I am. :D

 

Nope, I haven’t gone stark raving mad.

I haven’t lost it during the process of trying to getting my fiction published.

I’m just reacting to (and kind of celebrating) two interesting pieces of writing:

  1. This The Billfold post: Calling All Literary Agents, Via Your Blog where Meaghan O’Connell wrote about Miles Klee, a writer who posted about his agent needs on his Tumblr.
  1. Writer and writing coach Angela Booth mentions in one of her free e-books (I think it was called Blogging for Dollars) where a client of hers mentioned she was looking for an agent. Lo and behold, the agent found her through the description of her work online.

(I also reached out to Miles Klee to find out if he found the new agent he was looking for via his TUMBLR blog. I’ll update if I get an answer.)

Established writer and coach Marilyn Horowitz also encourages you talk about your writing and keeping a presence online.

So why not?
There are no guarantees. In fact, it probably won’t work. I. And yet, here I roll:

1 novel, 1 one-hour TV drama pilot, 1 feature drama

– They are low(er) budget, mainstream yet different enough. And they are similar in genre(s), even though the weight of romance, comedy and drama differs.

So I won’t be pissing off any producer or agent by saying I have one period drama, one CGI-heavy sci-fi and one gory horror. (Although I don’t promise never to write these, except from the gory horror.)

– I’ve a niche. I’ve specialized. I’ve been doing this for a while.

– None of the (manu)scripts are their first (or fourth, for that matter) drafts.

And they will each get their individual posts, detailing each project without spoiling anything. I have query letters and synopses for that (you know, those thing where you actually have to give away the ending and twists and all.)

– Oh, and the best of all, their medium can be easily converted into another.

My novel would work as a script, and my scripts could be turned into a novel.

So there you go, agents and producers.

And again, as Marilyn Horowitz points out in her book Sell Your Screenplay in 30 Days Using New Media (aff. link), I’m my own agent until I get one, so here I am. Letting the world know. I have stories I can’t wait to share.

In case you are in the market for contemporary romantic dramas with a sense of humor. The TV pilot placed as a semi-finalist in 2014’s Creative Writing Awards.

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What do you guys have? Share away in the comments, including links to your blogs and Twitter accounts. And do read each other, follow up on the people whose work/comment you enjoyed.

That’s how communities are built upon.

And if you like what I create for you, please share the post on Twitter and wherever else you hang out on!

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Where else to find me:

Stage 32

Twitter: @zoeyclark

I’m also a member of Ashley Scott Meyers’ SYS Select. (not an affiliate link.)

Trying Different Things: How to Be a Morning Person (for a Day)

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(This post was written yesterday and posted today. There was only so much productivity I could handle.:))

Today I tried being a morning person.

It’s a big deal for me as I can barely function before 10 AM (although if I’ve slept well and you take me to a coffee shop I love, I can start writing/working at 10AM).

But this morning I had to take a meeting whose scheduling didn’t depend just on me, so I had to wake up at 7 looking and feeling like a zombie. Of course instead of brains, I was craving for coffee.

After a glass of black tea, 2 mugs of coffee, a tall Starbucks green tea, I’m getting closer to more Walking Dead than Liv Moore at 4.20 PM. But up to now, I’ve:

  • attended a very useful meeting
  • studied some awesome copywriting tips by Ramit Sethi
  • checked out SYS’s forum on screenwriting and studied topics that appealed to me
  • answered some questions on Quora. (Read Imran Esmail’s post on Boost Blog Traffic why Quora is an essential platform for writers and how to get the most from it)
  • started writing this post
  • shared helpful stuff on Twitter that wasn’t written by me
  • followed some filmmakers I admired on twitter
  • finally got around to use Instagram
  • kept studying the e-book how to sell your screenplay in 30 days (note: most probably, it will take more than 30 days, but that’s not why it’s an awesome book.)
  • improved my Blogger skills (and by Blogger, I mean Google’s platform; I’m mainly a WordPress person.)
  • walked a total of 4 kms (…. miles, calculated thanks to my WalkLogger app)
  • practiced Norwegian for 15 minutes
  • brainstormed
  • socialized with a friend

While I’m ready to go to bed at 10 PM, all in all this was a very productive day.

However, I don’t think I’d be very happy if I had to do this every day. So tomorrow, I’ll get up at a more reasonable hour tomorrow and get the same amount or more done.

Wish me luck.

Are you a morning person? What changes are you trying to implement in your life?

A Free Productivity Guide for Writing Addicts

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I’m putting together a productivity guide and giving it to my subscribers and followers for free.

It won’t always be free, so please comment below if you want to get it without paying anything! :)

The guide will include improved versions my best productivity posts as well as new tips I haven’t shared yet.

Who is it good for?

Basically any busy writer who gets sidetracked by their life, the pleasant and the sour. And yes, I know that not all out days can be equally productive. There’ll be off days. But we can even use those to our advantage.

So comment, and you’ll have your guide as soon as I’m done. If you are already a subscriber, you’ll get it as my thank you. (You can still comment, and I’ll love you for it, though.)

 

I Want To Move To L.A. For My Screenwriting Career: But I Don’t Live In The USA

Image via minnemom.

Image via minnemom.

I don’t detest L.A; I love it.

I can’t drive, but I don’t mind cycling through. Let’s save the environment, burn me a few calories and get around. You say I can only live in Santa Barbara or somewhere like that? Even better. I love that town. (Seriously, I’ve been there. It’s gorgeous!)

Except, it’s not as easy as packing up my car and driving there. And before you rush to comment on how expensive the city is or how difficult to survive in LA, or leaving loved ones behind, I’ll do you one better:

I need to leave everyone behind in a different country.

And I don’t mind.

As much as I love my friends and family, I’ve wanted to be involved in making film in Hollywood since I was a little kid.

I don’t even have to develop skills like freelance writing or managing social media to support myself. I’ve got those.

Two polished scripts, a manuscript that can easily be turned into a script and a fully-developed idea for my next project? And a few more concepts that need some work on? Oh, I have that too.

What I don’t have however is a clue on how to get the right visa that will allow me to live and work in the States permanently. (I’m currently researching. I started with D’ALESSIO LAW GROUP because I caught a webinar from them through Stage 32, and they seem to know what they are doing.)

The USA might not welcome illegal immigrants, but it’s not exactly making it peachy for folks who want to come legally either.

I need one hell of a resume for O1, but the kind of work that will give me that resume is in LA in the first place. Talk about a Catch 22.

Of course, I can try and sell the script from here, whose process I’ve already started. But screenwriting deals rarely happen fast. And I can’t seem to agree with script consultants on some stuff. I’m all for improving my script, but not compromising what makes it the story I want to tell.

I don’t want to have the money and connections to move to L.A. when I’m 50. I want it now. I’ll take that PA job people seem to be hating. I can write on the side.

So next time, I’d love to see more posts on how people made it to Hollywood without having born in the States, having relatives in the States, won the green card lottery, married someone there or worked for decades in their own country before making the jump.

I’m 30. I’m ready.

So really, tell me how to get hired to work there from here. Then I can share those tips with the rest of the world’s enthusiastic filmmaker.

I do want to move to L.A. The mindset is there, even some initial savings to get me through the first couple of months.

When will L.A. have me?

Mixing Sci-Fi with Drama: On Writing Mixed Genres, Unlikely Couples and the Film Another Earth

Another Earth starring Brit Marling and William Mapother

Another Earth starring Brit Marling and William Mapother. Image via lecahierducritik.blogspot.com.

I love a complicated love story. I also like watching stories where the problems aren’t what we have heard about a thousand times before. (If you tell it well, and with actors I love, I have a special place in my heart for stories we have heard before. Just avoid my pet peeves, and I’ll love your efforts for it.)

Yes, it’s difficult writing something new, or newish. Notice I didn’t mention the word original. While I think we definitely have more than 12 or so variations of stories in total, I also believe it’s like mission impossible to create something original. You can probably train to be an  Agent Ethan Hunt in the real world and survive before creating something unique.

Back to problematic couples. I read somewhere that if you are writing a love story where the guy is firefighter, the girl better be an arsonist. That’s a bit extreme, and it’d probably be better suited for an R-rated 90s thriller, but we don’t have to take it literally.

Some of my favorite TV and movie couples do have backgrounds or presents that make them star-crossed (or arsonist vs. firefighter):

I also love couples who are actually perfect for one another but can’t notice this for some reason, but that’s another post.

And sometimes, one plotline that would seem cheesy, overdramatic or plain unbelivable becomes one of the most touching and interesting romantic stories told because the drama and romance are balanced with sci-fi elements, and it’s more about surviving guilt and tragedy than romantic bliss.

One such story is the 2011’s Another Earth, written by Brit Marling and Mike Cahill. Directed by Mike Cahill, Another Earth gives us a pretty unlikely scenario both in its romantic and sci-fi plots:

Just as another Earth appears, 17-year-old Rhoda (Brit Marling) celebrates her acceptance at MIT. On her way back home, drunk and fascinated by this second earth, she loses control of her vehicle and crashes into the car of John Burroughs (William Mapother), killing his pregnant wife and 5-year-old son, and putting him in a coma.

She’s out after four years in prison. She’s still fascinated by this second earth, but this time for different reasons. Contact is made, and it’s discovered that the inhabitants are us – our parallel selves. Space travel is planned, and Rhonda tries her luck by submitting an essay.

As expected, she finds it hard to readjust to the world and deal with the guilt. She takes a cleaning job to be away from people. She also researches the accident, and finds out John, who used to be a respected composer and professor, is awake.

She goes to his house to apologize but ends up telling him that the company she works for offers free cleaning trials.

Rhoda keeps coming, and they slowly connect. They become pretty much the only person the other feels good around again.

As the second earth becomes closer and competition results approach, we are left one of the most interesting humane conflicts.

So do you tell the guy you’ve just started a relationship with that you’re the one who killed his family? Do you just leave him in this world to discover your other self in another earth?

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There’re many questions the movie brings to mind, and we will get to that in a bit.

But let’s talk about how sci-fi takes the romance to another level, and the romance saves you from delving too much into the sci-fi ,which as a fan of the movie, I loved.

When I wrote about the movie on Facebook, one of my friends suggested it sounded like a lifetime movie – if not for the sci-fi. And on the surface, it might sound like that. But it is not. And to give more details, I will give spoilers. You’ve been warned. (It’s not to late to save the post, watch the movie and come back.)

They don’t move on with each other, not entirely. He still has a big whole left in his heart. Granted, he could move on a little with her, had she not told him the truth. However, she can’t let him ask her to stay without telling him what she has done.

And the end couldn’t have felt more right or bittersweet: she gives him her ticket after discovering that the two earths have a four-year time difference. He can go instead of her, and with luck, his family will still be alive.

The last scene is even better. She’s visited by her Earth 2 self. She seems more put together. Better dressed. Like how she would have looked if she didn’t have an accident and went to college instead of prison.

Of course how she ended up on Earth 1 is up to each viewer’s interpretation.

I’d like to think she got some closure by knowing she didn’t crash, or at least didn’t kill people.

I’d like to think John got his closure by seeing his family is fine and all right.

The cynics believe John might challenge and try to replace the second John.

I’d like to think they will somehow have the technology and he’ll come back. Otherwise it’ll be a weird two of the different-but-the-same dad situation.

What Another Earth Makes Us Ask

Is it enough or not that she got only 4 years?

It was an accident, but she was drunk. She was distracted. Frankly, as a judge, I would have been more furious that she was smart enough to be accepted by MIT and stupid enough not to have called a cab/parent. (Yes, there wouldn’t be a movie otherwise, but the amount of sentencing is fair debating ground.)

And I don’t think she thought it was enough either. She was understandably a mess, deliberately injured herself, and she wanted an alienated presence.

She kind of lived like she was still in prison most of the time.

Should she have gone to apologize?

Would you want an apology in a situation like that? Would that help anyone? Reliving the unthinkable? Would it help her move on or make her feel even worse after making him relive things?

Hell, he could have killed her right then, and she’d probably not fought.

Should she have told him who she was?

Which is more selfless- letting him live a happier lie or make him not only face the tragedy again with vengeance?

How would you feel if you’d started a relationship with the person who accidentally killed your family?

As opinionated as I’m about most things, part of me wanted him not to know. He was just starting to live a little again.

Of course the right thing would be to either tell him the truth right away or not contact him at all. Because let’s face it, if he wanted a confrontation, he’d have made it happen. (We learn in the movie how he prevented it, and how he didn’t know her identity.)

But probably more prominently:

Would you like to meet the other you? What would you say?

I’m still thinking. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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So there you go. A very humane and engaging story that mixes romance and sci-fi. I recommend it, though a bit of suspension of disbelief is required as with most movies.

And if you have other favorite unlikely onscreen couples, please share in the comments.

 

 

 

Why You Should Read, Watch and Hear Stuff That Piss You Off

Don't smash. Write! :) Image via here.

Don’t smash. Write! :) Image via here.

I’ve a short one for you today.

I’m all for reading stuff that inspire and motivate you. They put you in a good mood and encourage you to take action. But sometimes, the best story material lies in stuff that irritate you or make you furious. You can wait to write a rebuttal.

I once started an entire blog because a young adult stuck in the middle ages (or his own hormones) was sharing his “wisdom” with a girl on why men and women can’t be just friends. Right…

I recently found articles that vexed me, which in turn became three article ideas: I pitched one to a publication, got this tiny motivational gem, and I’m working on my third. It wasn’t like the idea well was running dry (though it sometimes feels like it might), and I’ve never been so pleased to be mad. I’ll share the articles with you the resulting articles soon.

Stay tuned. Sometimes angry is good. Right, my dear writing addict Hulks?

What has pissed you off recently? And what did you about it?

 

 

 

The Leftovers: On Writing Mysteries You Might Not Explain

the leftovers poster

Image: HBO. Depressed yet by the poster?

I’m hooked on The Leftovers, and boy, did I not see this coming! When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was interesting, yet TOO depressing. Then I ran out of shows to watch and decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

OK, so it has scenes once in a while that I’m not in love with or characters whose behaviors I find unrealistic. But I stick around because the acting, soundtrack, how everything is tied together, and most scenes are just plain incredible.

And man, can Justin Theroux act! (This is my first Justin T. experience. I was pretty familiar with Amy Brenneman, Liv Tyler and Christopher Eccleston from before). Also, love Carrie Coon’s storyline and acting.

But this isn’t a review for a show that I’ve grown addicted to. It’s about the mystery behind the premise and mystery-writing in general.

So let’s talk about the premise of The Leftovers for a bit:

%2 of the world’s population disappears one day. No one knows what happened or why. The Leftovers deals with the reactions of the inhabitants of one New York town, and mainly police chief Kevin (Justin Theroux) and his family.

Kevin has at best a strained relationship with his teenage daughter Jill who goes to weird parties with her best friend Aimee. He also has a sleeping problem, drinking problem, a former police chief dad in the psychiatric hospital, an estranged young adult adopted son and a wife in a strange cult-like group protesting the attempt to move on from the disappearance.

The church has emptied, a strange man is going around shooting dogs, his cop friends and mayor are questioning Kevin’s sanity. Kevin deeply misses his wife whose “cult” doesn’t have room for even speaking.

The Leftovers is definitely more about the aftermath of the event than the event itself. Still, I’d like to know.

Not everyone feels the same.

When I visit the message boards, some people speculate about the reason behind the reasons. The usuals come to mind: God, aliens, alternative timeline, time travel… Some argue it doesn’t matter because the show is about the aftermath.

I disagree. I think it matters. At least to me.

Have you ever written something, mystery or something else, without knowing the reason behind it? While we might not necessarily know what our characters have for breakfast or whether or not they have a middle name, we know why they do what they do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to craft the entrie story.

But just because we know, it doesn’t mean we all share it with the audience. Personally, I’m all for sharing. Because as a viewer, I love knowing.

Sometimes it’s not necessary. When you are watching an episode of Castle, you don’t care that much about the killer’s reasons or psychology. You are just more into the banter between the characters. It’s a lot of fun. Hell, during the first seasons I didn’t need a comedy show to make me laugh or smile that much.

Yet I find the Canadian cop show Motive inherently more interesting than not just Castle, but pretty much any other cop drama/mystery show I’ve watched. It might deliver that much humor, but it’s fine. It shows you who did it from the first scene. The cops don’t know the murderer. You do. But you’re as clueless as the cops as to the motive, and you figure it out together. You get to know the killer. And more often than not, you understand. You might not approve or forgive, but you understand. Mysteries are unturned. Reasons are shown. I’m one happy viewer. I wish I’d created Motive every time I watch an episode.

The Leftovers isn’t a crime drama. It’s a mystery drama with the potential for fantasy elements. But we can’t exactly let of the disappearance because every single episode shows us the effects. I frankly want to know.

Now, the storytelling and acting are so fine that I’ll hang around even though it’s never explained. I’d just be more content if it was.

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What about you? How do you feel about mysteries left unturned? Please share your feelings as a viewer and/or a writer in the comments.

 

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