My Writing Career Journey Begins

Hello Readers!

This week I am going to start talking about my book writing, agent finding and publisher finding journey and what I have learned about this incredibly complicated industry. The process of creating a book is extremely work intensive at times. I am starting to share my thoughts with you as I start out on my journey as a new writer trying to sell his first manuscript.

But first world news and events,

(feel free to skip down below my news and editorial segment if you wish)

What a crap show in the last couple of weeks in the news.

Covid19 BA.2 is circulating the globe with a vengeance. People are getting severely ill over this but a lot of mandates dropped now, mostly in canada because of fears of the crazies occupying cities again and causing major freedom protests against medical professional advice putting pressure once again on hospitals and the healthcare system.

At least the number of deaths are going down due to the virus mutating and becoming less lethal but the damage left behind in everyone’s body remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure, we’re now letting the virus win because the politicians are not willing to and can’t control the population. Freedom is important but the nonsense depicted lately about getting a vaccine that helps and about mask wearing all because 5-10% of us are rebelling against things thinking they are freedoms being protected, meanwhile they are just protecting their own self centered interests. These guys do not wanting to do basic health measures to protect others.

Masks work. Cleaning and washing hands works.

Vaccines work based on the 30+ years of research and development dollars that went into them and more importantly the science data that we have already learned in 2020, just to save your ass, the vaccines are also free. The evidence is in the data, go read it. There’s no excuse anymore for not getting one.

Then this happened:

Will smith slaps Chris rock on live television, for real?

Come on guys. Really? Comedians can be toxic at times but a joke is a joke. Move on. Kids were watching!

To Will Smith:

Hitting someone, who used to be your friend, on an oscars broadcast to resolve a personal conflict at the pinnacle of your career and privilege? Horrifying to watch.

I understand why Will thinks he had to defend his wife but he was way out of line using violence to do it.

I know he has since apologized for his out of line behavior but the damage, my friend, was done. Will, you need to get some counselling services for sure, in fact everyone in the world should. Mental health is no joke. But watching the Oscars, a place with the most esteemed people and organization in the world, a place where dreams are made and the envy of everyone in the business of storytelling and the world is, and for me, dreaming of one day being on that stage myself was broken by that moment of modern violence. It was too much to bear.

It brought back images of January 6th, the Ottawa protests, and it was a reminder of the current war and carnage going on right now in the Ukraine. It also brought back a sense of hopelessness I felt during the pandemic itself. There are so many of us who don’t have even have a sliver of privilege that you, Will Smith, had being accepted there and then watching you throw all of it away and get awarded the same night shattered the meaning of the event and totally showed how messed up the priorities are. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

I hope you get some help with your anger and relationship issues because you can’t go on like this my friend.


And then other news,

Russia gets slapped by the Ukrainians (good for them though) and they go on the offensive for a change but receive some pretty devastating news as more evidence of Russian civilian genocide killings announced just yesterday.

All I can say is that violence seems to be such a common theme in the world right now and things are escalating. Everyone is feeling the negativity of the world problems at home these days. The pandemic and the lockdowns as well as society is deteriorating, everyone is feeling it. People are more sensitive and also more belligerent than ever it seems. People are tired and fed up. So many issues affecting everyday citizens on the planet. We are overloaded. Environment, War, Economic and inequality, health and safety, natural disasters, societal breakdowns and racism, the list goes on.

The terrible images coming out just the other day of the mass killings in Ukraine of civilians was unbearable to watch.

Violence and war do not do anything good towards building true lasting peace or resolving problems and I do not believe Russia really wants to resolve them, they just want what they want and be the bullies that they have shown to be (at the least the leadership and their military is). You can’t blame the Ukrainians for defending themselves or their homes. They have been through hell. These poor people have had their entire lives disrupted and way of life attacked, families killed and exiled or worse. Violence was inevitable for them once the russian’s decided to kill them. Compromise is the only way peace gets restored and the killings stop otherwise things are going to escalate to the point we as the world can’t take anything back. That probably means another world war now because the longer this goes on without resolution or interference, the more innocent civilians and children die each day. That is a very sad and upsetting thought.

We’ve already as a species walked through the door to destruction, lets not close it behind us shall we? It’s been terribly hard to sit and watch the deterioration of global peace start to crumble in my life time. I no longer feel safe. We need to do better as a civilization.

Now, back to writing and my article…

My Screenplay Competition Catalyst

Almost two years ago during the darkest of days back in May of 2020 (year of hell), I got the idea to start writing a screenplay. There was a contest for Imagine Impact Netflix (Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s startup) which they wanted to have writers develop concepts for an action adventure movie, kid friendly, of course. I started to get ideas running through my head and for the next month I started to brainstorm ideas and notes. I love Ron Howard. He’s such a great guy. He’s great with people and sharing his vision. He’s also a great teacher from what I am told. As I understand it, Ron learned from Stephen Spielberg who was his mentor and Stephen Spielberg is also my all time favorite director, next to Ron of course.

The competition I entered woke up my creative brain like a wildfire and after watching videos about Ron and his team talking about the company and its goals in several interviews and imagining one day possibly working with Ron, I was excited and I was in.

That contest was my spark and catalyst of starting this very long but amazing adventure idea (which later turned into more of the fantasy genre).

But what story to write about? What characters etc would be good enough? what world could I build?

Starting in June of 2020, a lot of my ideas for the movie started to flow into my mind.

Many concepts and character moments came from a lot of the people and things around me as well as various television shows and movies which influence me. I was starting to see the movie roll along in my head and the fire kept burning about how great the great story would be.

I had to do some kind of twist for a movie, something familiar but different and appeal to a mass market audience.

Having spent the last year writing my first educational teleplay, I modified my existing process and I adapted it a bit. I jumped in and broke down each of the parts or phases of my writing process, wrote more templates and laid the groundwork for me to be able to focus on each part. I gathered a lot of research and brainstormed about how things would work and where the story took would take place. I read a lot of books and watched a lot of helpful YouTube videos on the subject of screenwriting and character development as I had also been doing for the 2 years prior. I did a lot of reviewing of story structure and process as well.

Things evolved.

I drew on my personal experiences that I’ve had or others have shared their stories with me while growing up. I watched the many children in our lives and tried to see through their eyes coming up with situations and trying to figure out how they would react. Soon the unique characters and situations came to me.  A narrative and story started to take shape and burned brightly in my head. I started to watch the movie and scenes in my head and after a month of thinking and brainstorming, gathering notes is when I started to finally write each scene in Final Draft in July of that year.

At first for the competition all I had was a logline and a brief one page synopsis. A basic outline of what happened in the story.

I wrote and filmed a video pitch and submitted it.

I had never entered anything before.

The experience gained from the questions asked on that form was educational but daunting.

I had to think and pre-write my answers before I actually submitted my idea. The questions actually forced me to craft a better story because it got me thinking in ways I wasn’t at the time. It was eye opening to the story creation process and a sneak peek of how the professionals do it.

Many questions I hadn’t even considered were asked such as what is your movie’s central theme? What is emotionally unique about your protagonist’s journey?  Which films or television shows are close to your story tonally? What question or problem does your film pose to your audience? What answer or solution does your film present to that question?

I had never before thought about my story in terms of these types of questions. The hardest question were the ones that were directed at me, the writer/creator myself.

The introspective questions that one needs to about were really hard.

One such question on their form (which I won’t give away) took me such a long time to answer because I frankly didn’t have a good enough answer to. It seemed irrelevant to me in terms of the film project I was proposing.

Quite frankly it through me for a loop but I think I now know why the question was there.

It was not a trick question but more of an Human Resources/ get to know you type question for the reviewer to try to understand the person who is entering and gauge that person in a variety of conditions.

It was a question that for me because of who I am and my physical struggles, slightly offended but also irritated me only at first.

It didn’t seem relevant to film making.

It reminded me of a Tony Robbins type question, most of which I tend to roll my eyes at and then it hit me.

It was a both a motivational question and an industry one. Hollywood and the entertainment business is tough. It was simply a question to see if you would answer it and be able to come up with a good answer. the answer I’m sure doesn’t really matter, its how you respond to it.

I responded poorly, at least I think I did. Anyways, my internal fear, my depression and anxiety and self loathing impulses all kicked in at that point but I got over it. Needless to say the rest of my application I thought was a strong concept and I intended on seeing this screenplay concept through to the end.

After I submitted my pitch idea and video to Imagine Impact Netflix, I never heard back. I wasn’t selected.

One of the main reasons I thought was because I hadn’t actually written the script yet and they were looking for firm written ideas that were ready to go however no feedback was ever received on the story idea at that point. I didn’t let that stop me. I thought I had a great story idea so I continued to write the screenplay and develop my story because I thought it had value even if others didn’t know it did yet.

I started to write the screenplay, first creating a basic outline trying to figure out how the bones of my story would work out, switching between the outline and just letting me write as the scenes came together in my head. I debated the pantser versus plotter arguments and decided on a hybrid approach, ultimately realizing that you can have the best of both worlds.

I soon realized my screenplay was more a fantasy genre than an action adventure but I kept going.

Writing The Screenplay

My fantasy action adventure screenplay was coming along nicely. I quickly started to design this new world that this story took place in. I loved world building. The pure creative aspect of it is very intoxicating. The world just kept coming alive for me and I was having great fun in the creation and brainstorming phase. I even created a map later on. Fun times.

After a lot of changes to the plot but not too many changes to characters (however I kept adding characters as I needed an ensemble cast I had figured trying to justify all of my choices), the story was well on its way. I outlined the story structure and process to better help me figure out all the twists and turns and where the story would lead and keep me ontrack for page and word counts. I went back and forth from the outline to the screenplay making sure everything aligned. It was a lot of work.

At first doing my first outline was hard. Trying to come up with locations and reasons for all the outlining plot points and why as part of the story structure they were necessary was hard to learn to do and hang the story on them but I learned that Outlining can save you a TON of time later on. Creating something on an outline when you haven’t figured out the story yet is very difficult. I mean try and sit down and think about what events will happen in order in a story out of the blue and then have it make sense all at once. Its harder than it sounds. Chicken or the egg right?

I am a both a plotter and a pantser at times. Having that structure first though, I see how powerful it is. Sometimes you can’t create the cart before the wheel and that’s okay. Sometimes you actually need to sit there and write and dream a scene into existence for a while and then figure out how it links up. It’s a long and difficult process at times especially when you feel like your stuck. Luckily for me, that never happened much due to having the structure of the story worked out ahead of time, making small adjustments or cuts along the way.

I do highly recommend trying to create your outline and trying to ‘play’ with the bones of your main story plot points ahead of time before your start stitching the rest of your story together and crafting the rest. It’s much easier at the beginning then trying to fix story structure or an arc later on, I learned this from the experts.

Another thing I learned is that separate your dialogue development into its own process. Dialogue is also difficult and finding the right voices and words is better when you can just ‘play’ and even act out a scene letting the detail fade away and the characters be front and center. You can’t do both well at the same time. Trust me.

Screenwriting software helps tremendously with focusing on dialogue however and there are many tools in Final Draft I used.

This all comes down to your process. Breaking things down into chunks really does help the overwhelming feeling you get with such a large story.

Entering the Nicholl Fellowship Competition in 2021

By May 3rd 2021, the last possible day of entering the Nicholl Fellowship for the Academy Awards screenplay competition, I had finished a rather lengthy draft revision having completed a few drafts.

I was on my 2nd draft (in actuality it was the third draft if you include the zero or rough draft), that I had just completed for the contest. At 160 pages my script was still really too long but it was just under the competition limits and in my mind, tight enough for a valid fantasy screenplay at aprox 2 hours and 39 minutes (159 pages – 1 page = 1 minute of screentime).

I soon realized how much more work the screenplay needed but due to the limitations of the screenplay format I couldn’t expand or fix much at the time. I was constantly trying to think of ways of reducing that page count further. It wasn’t until later on I came to these realizations and at the time I didn’t care as I had dreamy eyes of hollywood thinking that I may actually have a chance that the academy would decide to include me in the next round in the Nicholl. I had high hopes and dreams of going places grand. Man was I so wrong.

Not only did I not realize how the Nicholl fellowship seemed to be geared less to commercialized forms of entertainment and more towards the progressive art end. After losing the first round, the actual process of writing a winning script then seemed impossible at this stage for me.

Months went by and then finally the announcement. I didn’t win or advance. I was heartbroken but not completely surprised. The sheer work and creativity I had put into the idea and script alone for the past year working 4 to 8 hour days seemed like a waste of time.

Not having a reliable income and trying to win the competition trying to justify what I was doing by entering competitions and that I could win was just about as fantasy as my writing was. It was a big failure in my mind and I mourned a bit. Then I snapped back to reality realizing that all of the comments and people I spoke to were right about just how hard it is in the hollywood business. Bob Saenz and others from the screenwriting group have been helpful in putting this into perspective.

The one take away from the Nicholl fellowship contest is that it gave me great exposure to two readers who read for the nicholl fellowship. Keep in mind you have to pay for this but I did managed to get the feedback from the competition a couple of weeks later from the readers. This turned out to be a silver lining as it made me realize a few things.

First: They didn’t hate the screenplay or the story! They actually had pretty good things to say about it and not much negative or improvement areas needed working on.

Second: Although complaining about the length of it, they realized the genre was pretty much on track so they were as confused as I was as to how to approach the length for a screenplay.

Third: They brought up the idea that my project might be better as a commercial project rather than an academy project and that that was the ultimate goal of selling a project to make money and that it had commercial potential.

Fourth: They loved the World I had built and that I had a few characteristics of that world and characters that were stronger than I originally thought. This delighted me.

Fifth: I realized the screenplay format itself was limiting me for this story. I realized that I needed a market to sell this story idea and that it was going to be next to impossible to sell as a screenplay versus other mediums. I needed a physical product. I needed to generate an income sooner rather than later as well, I still need a path to success. It wasn’t until one of the readers comments said that the screenplay had a novel like feel to it that I made the connection to considering writing a novel. It was like a thunder clap just hit me. I changed tactics and began thinking about writing a novel version of the story instead.

Writing a novel and learning a new process was and is daunting. I have had many days of wanting to give up, throw in the towel and move on to something else, but something is keeping me going.

I know other authors and I knew how much more work went into novels versus screenplays and some of their successes and some of their failures. I began researching as much as I could about the literary business as well knowing nothing about it.

I’d also just like to thank the following Youtube channels for your amazing inside information about the business. Its really helped me: Alyssa Matesic, Alex Donne, Bookends Literary (Jessica and James), Michelle Shusterman, Self Publishing with Dale (Roberts) just to name the core group of video channels I watch more regularly on the subject of publishing.

In my Next Article I will start to dive a little deeper and talk a little bit about my process of turning my screenplay into a novel and what challenges I faced. I’ll hopefully have more news about my hunt for an agent and I’ll talk about how much harder it is to write a novel and share some funny and interesting stories about my struggles with the english language. Writing is rewriting and I’ll also talk a bit about that as well.

For now, I am currently navigating the very lengthy and proverbial needle in a haystack pursuit to find the right literary agent for my manuscript whos both interested and available. After all, without representation I can’t move forward unless I decide to go the self publishing route which many are suggesting is a lot more difficult. I’ll talk more on that later. I know there are lots of great busy agents out there perhaps one will fall in love with my story soon. I’m just getting started. I definitely could use some good news for a change though, baby steps!

Until Next time,

Stay healthy both in body and mind and keep creating, writing and dreaming of better days ahead!




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