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Writers Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
We all have it. You can't escape it. You're doomed. . . Or maybe not. Nevertheless it's fun to have this disorder -- it puts you in a very special group, one you can be proud of. You are a dedicated, if not obsessive, writer.
If you are a true writer at heart you will obsess, there is no way around it. And, I've amassed a few clues for you, taken from my own obsessed life. I haven't yet seen a shrink but I am considering it. Or maybe I'll just obsessively write a screenplay about an obsessive writer. Catharsis. Yes, I think I'll do that. Actually, I've already started and have registered the treatment with the WGA, LOC, my postmistress, the garbage collector, and handyman.
Which brings me to the paranoia that others will steal your property. Oh, major obsession. Some writers get so paranoid they never submit their work. Anywhere. So what's the point of writing to begin with? Think about it. It costs more to defend a lawsuit than to buy a property. I know…you've heard about the lawsuits. But think about it. How many have there been over the years compared to the countless screenplays submitted every day? I must admit this has not been an obsession of mine. Paranoia has not struck that deep. Yet.
So lets move on. What about Brads? Oh gawd. Moan. Okay, so your box of brads is half-empty and you had to order it from some obscure stationary store because you couldn't find the right length anywhere within five hundred miles (insert breath). Think of it this way. The box is half full, which means you probably have enough brads for more screenplays than you'll ever write. That is if you got the jumbo box.
Of course you will need to be fully stocked with "card stock", but what color?! I mean, do you want to sooth the reader? Now lets see, prisons use pink… Okay pink it is. Or is it putrid green, wait a minute.. You don't want the reader remembering the time he spent in jail. No..no…maybe a soothing blue, like the sparkling water in a lagoon with waves lapping gently on the side of a schooner. Bad idea…might give the reader sea sickness. How about… yellow? Now that's a friendly and warm color. What if the reader doesn't like yellow? Uh oh. Stop!!! Use any damn color you want, except neon! But that's just my opinion. Then again, neon would jump out at the reader and he would be tempted to grab it. No, no…he'd know you were trying to stand out. Stop it!!! Remember it's what's between the card stock that counts.
And speaking of readers… Do you write for the readers… Oh gawd… Lots of white space because readers don't like to read. But if I use lots of white space will the page count be accurate, and how can I tell how long an action scene will really play out? And will it make the screenplay longer than it should be? Lets see, a page per minute, but the action scene will actually be shorter in real time than on the page, so…I know, I'll get two friends to battle it out and I'll time the destruction of each kick and blow, then I'll know. And lets see, maybe I can get a friend to drive like a maniac from point A to point B and I`ll time it. But what if they get caught in traffic?
What about format? It changes every day, or so it seems. And who the hell are the people deciding the latest format? The format patrol of course. They have offices in New York and LA. They vote on format every year. Sometimes east and west don't agree so they demand a re-count. But, unfortunately, by the time the re-count comes in the format rules have already changed. What to do? The "Format Patrol " then surfs every newsgroup and screenwriters "list" on then web to find out what format writers are using and go with that. But they won't tell the writers, because it's their job to dictate format. What do writers know anyway?
Then of course there are the screenwriting programs that cannot keep up with the times. To use "Continued" or not, that is the question. But it's in my software so it must be the way to go! Wrong. Check every newsgroup and screenwriting list, ask, ask, ask… then revert to your childhood with "Inny meeny minny mo".
And what about actual submissions? Do we submit to agents, managers, producers themselves, or the valet at the latest agent/manager/producer hang-out? The valet is probably your best bet.
Oh, and what about enclosing an SASE (when you hand the script (or mail it) to the valet). This is the question. Will it look like I can`t afford to have more copies made? But I can't afford 100 copies, surely they understand that. But if I could, would I be able to afford the SASE postage for 100 submissions? I don't think so. But if I don't send an SASE I'll break protocol and will they laugh at me and hate me, and throw the script away because I didn't enclose an SASE. Forget about it. If it's a query letter, they'll call you if they want a look -see. If you don't hear from them…they don't want a look-see. If it`s an SASE for a script… don't waste the postage. Yes, it looks amateurish to enclose a SASE, and who wants a script returned that has dog ears and coffee stains; you can't use it again anyway. And if you send out a used copy a red flag will be raised at the production company. This writer has been read and rejected, so we don't want it. Toss.
Well, can I fax a query letter…or e-mail? I wouldn't suggest faxing. They need the fax machine for sending contracts to other writers and for business deals. Seriously, personally I think it's rude to clog producers' fax machines. E-mailing is kinder and gentler. The best thing to do? A brief phone call.
Ah the phone call. What if they can tell by my voice that I am past twenty-nine. Oh God, get out the gargle, practice the scale you learned as a kid: Do, re….Or is that Duh, re, me, fu--… Doesn't matter. The scale won't help anyway. Just practice talking an octave higher if you are a woman. If a man answers, use a controlled, sexy, soft voice. No gravel-gurdies please. And ooze sex appeal so that he won't even remember the pitch and say "send" anyway. If you're a man and a woman answers, don't use a "bad boy" attitude. Mellow, deep, soothing is the way to go. For both, talk clearly and make it brief. Whatever you do, don't sound like a kid high on…whatever. Make sure you comb your hair and put on your make-up. Brush your teeth and put on your sexiest outfit before placing the call. If you're a man…do a few laps and push ups, brush your teeth, and put on your sexiest jeans. Then pick up the phone.
Oh, and one more thing. When the producer or assistant tells you to go ahead and pitch, for gods sake don't forget what your story is about.
Okay, now that you've admitted that you have WOCD, sit back and take a deep breath. And another one. Remember, you will survive writer obsession and angst.
Truly, don't obsess. Just give it your best. Writing should be fun. Submitting should be fun. Think of it as an adventure and... have fun!!