Friday, August 26, 2011

Software for Writing Projects and My Writing Career

Jennifer asked me about software - here is a quick explanation as well as info on how I have started my new writing career:

For the screenplay, I used an old version of Movie Magic Screenwriter (I also do Astrology and knew back in 2006 I would be writing a screenplay, so bought software in preparation). Any software dedicated to screenwriting automatically sets margins for descriptions as well as for dialogue, etc.  This, to me, is much easier than trying to set Word.  In fact, I tried to use Word and had such a hard time with it, I quit and went back to MMS. 

I think I bought MMS when it was on sale at The Writers Store, online.

I am using Word for both the screenplay logline (finished) and synopsis (working on today).  The logline goes directly into the query (whether hard-copy letter or email to producers and/or agents). Once finished, I will convert the synopsis into PDF format so that I can attach it to an email or print it, if hard copy is desired.

I use Cute PDF for converting text written in Word into PDF.  Years ago, I downloaded CutePDF free from the Internet and use it ALL the time!.  Also, since I wanted the finished 120-page screenplay with Title Page in PDF format (as well as printed hard-copy), I used Cute PDF to convert it.

On my computer, When I click on Print, I can choose PDF as a conversion or print onto copy paper.  When I downloaded the program and installed it, Cute PDF automatically set itself as a print choice.

I grew up wanting to be a newspaper reporter and began college majoring in journalism.  After three years, I left college, was married, and had my son, Rocky (and later, a daughter, Kristina).

Shortly after Rocky was born, I needed a job and begged the managing editor of the local newspaper in our town to give me a chance as a reporter, stating I would work without pay for a week to show him I could do the job.  He immediately hired me and I was a reporter on a daily for four years, covering a lot of political and business news as well as writing features (just had a nose for news, so didn't have to be told what features could be written).

After four years as a reporter, I had the opportunity to return to college.  I graduated with a degree in elementary education (the school didn't have a journalism program).  Since teacher pay was so low and I had two children to support, I became a full-time entertainer and opened a talent agency. 

Those careers continued for the next 25 years.  When I closed the agency and retired from performing, I did free-lance technical writing.  Then, I was (I almost want to say kidnapped, since I never really planned to teach) drafted to teach by a principal with DISD - they were desperate.

I taught, returned to college to get a Masters degree, and became Academic Coordinator for two years, then resigned in June, 2008.  Before resigning, I started writing again, only my interest was fiction.  I had already been offered the job as News Editor at the Ellis County Press, but my dad had been ill and I didn't take the job.  Also, I had already experienced working on a daily and didn't need to re-experience covering county politics.

I wrote my first short story in 2006 (Zigzags) submitted it to an online contest at and won first place, earning me a software program geared more for planning and writing short stories and novels as well as non-fiction books.

I have that short story somewhere in a file on my computer.  Until a few months ago, it was available on the contest website, but that site appears to have been terminated.

With that software program, Page Four (a great program), I wrote a romantic novel based on the Vietnam War.  I write fast and am wordy.  When I wrote the novel, Love Never Dies, it expanded to 130,000 words.  When I tried to sell it, everyone I contacted rejected it, stating nobody would read such a lengthy novel from a first-time novelist. They want initial novels to be about 90,000 words. 

I tried my hand at editing it, but found the task too difficult at the time, since I was so close to the novel.  I put it on the backburner.  When I finish the screenplay sales attempts (hopefully next week), I plan to go back and either re-write the novel as a screenplay OR severely edit to 90,000 words, or, as my granddaughter said, if the screenplay sells, fiction publishers may be willing to read a 130,000-word novel from a newbie. 

How did I get started in screenwriting (and this is my first attempt)?

I started the short story about 9 pm and wrote very quickly.  The deadline for the contest was at midnight and I submitted it a few minutes before the contest closed.  With that success, which thrilled me, I next wrote the novel over the 2005 Thanksgiving weekend plus a few weekends after that (wish I had stopped with what I had at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend - I had about 90,000 words at that point).

I started sending query letters and hard printed copies of the novel (expensive to do) and hoped for the best (all eventually rejected - too long!)

In the meantime, in January of 2006, I joined Dallas Screenwriters Association and attended a workshop they sponsored featuring William (Bill) Martell, who has had 18 of his screenplays produced as movies.  The workshop was fabulous and gave me the confidence to try screenwriting in the future. Among my photos on Facebook, there is a pic of me with Bill. Also, one can Google him, go to his website, and sign up for his newsletters, which are full of tips for screenwriting.

During that time, I was still employed by Dallas ISD and stayed very busy.  With the novel rejected, I stopped writing.  After resigning from the district, I got into various activities and put writing aside.  The photo of me with the camel in my FB albums contains a description of my activities since leaving DISD.

In early June of this year (2011), in my own astrological chart, my Midheaven (career) finally moved from Taurus to 0 degrees of Gemini, which is the communication and writing sign.  I've known I would start writing more diligently once June of 2011 came around.  Therefore, over these past years since June 2008, I've been writing down ideas and getting prepared for this next stage of my life.

On June the 11th, I began the screenplay and the plot easily flowed.  The first draft was very easy to write (both descriptions and dialogue).  It totaled almost 160 pages. To make myself create a quality work, every day I read lots of articles on the Internet and also read books I had purchased (a few years ago) on screenwriting.

After writing the draft, the hard part was going over and over and over the pages to whittle it down to 120 pages and to strengthen the dialogue.  Editing is not the fun part, but it is necessary.  It has been difficult for me to do, but has helped me develop discipline.

I just recently finished the screenplay and, as mentioned, have had to write the logline and, now, the synopsis of 450 words.  Both of these have been very difficult for me.  I think they also get easier over time..

To summarize, I loved the four years I spent as a reporter.  Winning the short story contest was unexpected and thrilling and spurred me on.  I enjoyed writing the novel and will do something more with it.  The screenplay is finished, logline is finished, and synopsis is almost finished.  I WILL sell the screenplay to somebody. The rest of my life will be spent writing and I have tons of outlines and ideas ready to go. 

My philosophy about the writing:  I am a great believer in trying something and if it doesn't work, practice, practice, practice until a quality product is the result.  Therefore, if the screenplay queries don't incite someone to request and read the screenplay, I will know 1) either my logline and synopsis aren't good enough or 2) the concept is not good enough.  At that point, I'll continue working on the screenplay until it becomes something that can sell.

I think writing is 1) having something to say, 2) not being afriad to say it (after all, God listens and reads and if what we do is good enough for God, it doesn't matter what others say), 3) not allowing the self to stop trying, and 4) at some point some level of success will come.  Any finished product is worthwhile.

If one reads how many rejections famous writers have received, it is easier to realize we jsut have to keep going.  Also, recently, I re-read James Michener's Workbook and it is astounding how he had to tear apart his work and re-write.  And, Michener actually did physical cutting and pasting. We have it easy when we use comptuers and word processors.

One can Google "free writing software" and there will be lots of full, unrestricted programs, as well as trials of programs.  If screenwriting is a goal, I strongly recomment joining Dallas Screenwriters Association, at least for awhile and attending both any workshops, all the meetings, and all the readings, to get a hang of what screenwriting entails.

There are lots of writing websites and many offer free newsletters with tips. 

All of that is fine, but the only truly meaningful action is to write, write, write!

I hope this info is helpful.  The most important words I can write are: just do it - like everything else, writing improves with practice.

I watch a lot of movies, many really stupid, so I know there is somebody out there who will want to produce my screenplay.  It may take awhile to find that person, but I'm persistent.

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