The Writing Journal #10

There’s a change in the air this week, and not because Christmas, or indeed winter, is coming. When I first started the Writing Journal in September, I was in the midst of writing two very different projects, and the targets I was setting myself were designed to keep these chugging along towards my year-end goal of having first drafts written of both. Having achieved one of those goals (screenplay) and with the other now tantalisingly close (novel), thoughts now increasingly turn to what I’m going to do with them once they’re done. Of course, the immediate answer is editing and rewriting, as they are nowhere near good enough to be seen by anyone with commissioning power just yet. However, it’s good for momentum to start those business considerations early, which may mean different goals and ambitions to come in the next few weeks and months.

Before I get too carried away, though, there is the small matter of an outstanding* novel draft to take care of…

*outstanding in the same way an overdue library book is outstanding, not outstanding in the same way that Sir David Attenborough is an outstanding human being. Just to make that clear.

 

Target Number 1: Add 4,000 words to my novel manuscript.

Status – ACHIEVED 😊

The good news is that I met the word count this week without any last-minute dashes and hard slogs. Hurrah. This is good news for any week, but this week it’s even more exciting as it has brought me very much within sight of the narrative end of my story! If all goes according to plan, I have two chapters left to write before I can say I have a completed first draft of my first, full-length novel.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, however, and there were a couple of wobbles this week with the plotting that had to be confronted in order to reach this point. I needed to have a bridging chapter to join two storylines together, and whilst the connecting action made narrative sense, it became a rather thin plot point around which to base an entire chapter. In essence, my cinematic brain had taken over from my novelistic brain in the planning phase, and whilst the narrative beat would have worked in a feature script it was not going to work in a novel. A small period of reflection and a bit of trial and error soon brought about a solution to this (a very satisfying one, at that) in a much more relaxed manner than other weeks where similar hurdles have presented themselves. Whether this is because the story beat itself was easier to expand, or because those earlier experiences have helped me to grow as a writer is hard to say for certain, but this obstacle didn’t panic me as much as it would have done previously. I strongly believe this has come about because of the focused targets the Writing Journal has brought into my writing routine, and is the biggest sign yet of the positive enhancements this blog has brought to my writing thus far.

Target Number 2: Complete my current VPF research document.

Status – ACHIEVED 😊

As soon as I published last week’s blog with this goal clear for everyone to see, I regretted setting it and immediately gave myself a stern talking to. There was still a ludicrous amount of work to do on this document, and a huge number of companies left to analyse and enter into the database. However, a concerted effort on Thursday, with plenty of caffeine and rock music, meant I was able to finish my spreadsheet and collate a list of producers I can soon start pitching to. But I’m getting ahead of myself here; I haven’t even explained what VPF is…

VPF is the acronym for Virtual Pitch Fest; an online service that does what it says in the name. Production companies and literary agencies sign up with a listing of projects they are currently interested in. These can range from being quite broad genre areas (rom-com, horror, action, etc.) to very specific briefs (female-driven, sci-fi comedy with a dog companion set on Mars with a budget of $5m, for example). Writers can then search these listings, and if they have a script that they feel matches what a particular company is looking for, they can submit a written pitch for that script to said company (for a small fee). If the company likes the pitch, they can open a dialogue with the writer and request the script from there. If they don’t like the pitch, they simply decline with thanks and everyone moves on with their lives. For writers, it provides a clear list of companies who are open to receiving scripts and ideas on spec, whilst allowing companies to open themselves to spec ideas without being inundated with scripts/treatments/show bibles/mood boards/etc. Everyone’s a winner.

VPF are not unique in this service, and there are other, similar sites out there that offer similar things (InkTip being one that immediately springs to mind). They have their place, and are also worth investigating if you have a script that you’re looking to get out into the big wide world. The unique selling point with VPF that I’ve found (so far), is that the companies who sign up are financially incentivised to respond to your pitch within five days, and whilst that is no guarantee that you will hear back within that time frame, it’s a good starting point. It speeds up the inevitable rejection process, meaning you can crack on with finding the other places that will be more receptive to your project. I’m also keen to explore it more as a writer as I have seen it in action from “the other side” when I was working for a production company earlier this year, and I was impressed at how well it worked from that perspective and the benefits it has for producers as well as writers.

What I’ve been doing this week, then, is to collate a spreadsheet of companies that I can pitch my rom-com script to. This is not the feature script I have been working on recently, or the one already under option, but a third that has been sitting on my hard drive waiting for the right opportunity to spread its wings. I’ve already submitted it to a handful of places previously, and got (mostly) positive feedback, but it started to become apparent that it was a case of “wrong place, wrong time” for many companies I could reach out to with it then. With 375+ companies on VPF, and a growing sense that rom-coms could be set for a renaissance with the rise of the streaming world, it feels like this could be a good chance to test the waters with it and see if it can find a home. Work that stays sat on your hard drive won’t get you anywhere, and as a famous doctor once said, what’s the worst that can happen? As with all research, the tiring part is gathering the information in the first place. Now that I have that in place, I can move on to the fun part of finding the right companies and letting my little script fly!

 

This week’s target:

  1. Complete the first draft of my novel (!)
  2. Finalise the pitch for my rom-com for VPF.

 

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