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06/26/2001 - SELECTING THE RIGHT PROJECT TO WRITE
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SELECTING THE RIGHT PROJECT TO WRITE

My Fellow Writers,

I just finished up the final episode of the series I'm working on. Which means the world is wide open to me again - I'm selecting the next project I'm going to tackle.

Now, I'm a relatively young writer, so unfortunately, I frankly don't have the choice between several great projects. Sure, sure, I have a few cable movie rewrites that I can do in order to pay the bills, and a couple of freelance series episode pitches set up - but I'm probably not going to be weighing any offers to write the next Bruce Willis movie - not this Summer, anyway.

In selecting my next project, I was reminded of the things that are important about choosing a project. Don't underestimate the importance of this step in writing - because often projects are made or broken at this step alone. Select the right project, and the power of the concept may just carry you through to an extraordinary script. Select the wrong one and you'll just be adding to the pile of derivative scripts out there.

I know you've heard it, but it's important enough to say here: don't just choose based on what you think the latest trends are. Fact is, you're already behind the trends by a couple of years because it takes that long for a movie to get made. On top of that, if a studio wants, say, a buddy cop film, they're going to get the writer who wrote a blockbuster buddy cop film.

New writers especially must write the project that is closest to their hearts. It's the only way to guarantee that you'll put forth the effort necessary to bring that script to its fullest potential. I don't care who you are, how smart, talented, savant-like, or otherwise inspired you are - screenwriting is a goddamn difficult art and craft. If it's not difficult, then you're either incredibly lucky on this one project, or you're not doing it right, or your standards are too low. Pick an idea you love, and you'll go a long way toward giving yourself the motivation necessary to overcome these difficult obstacles.

That being said, if the story closest to your heart is some kind of interior or philosophical treatise, then maybe it is not best suited for the screen. Sure, lots of movies cover complex themes. But if you've got something that is so obviously limited in scope or appeal, then even if it is close to your heart, it might not be the best way to get your screenwriting career started. So I would amend my first requirement to say that one should select the project that is closest to your heart, and yet also cinematic.

Then make a realistic schedule, giving yourself plenty of time for research, story, outlining, writing, rewriting, and vegetating. Then start writing. And stick to your schedule with everything you've got. Pull some late-nighters if you have to. Don't go out on weekends. Watch less television. Be good to yourself, but be good to your work, too. Even working full-time, you should be able to finish a damn good script in six months. Damn, sometimes the words flow and you'll finish it a lot faster. Other times, you'll write a first draft, then realize, to your horror, that you have to start from scratch. If that happens - and it has happened to most writers I know at one point or another (yet can often be avoided by judicious outlining) - then get back on track. Easier than it sounds, especially when you're hitting the "delete" key on whole sequences.

In any case, I've chosen my own next project. I don't actually know if I'm going to change my mind or not, but I'm of the persuasion that it's better to move forward on something than to waffle around and do nothing. So here I go.

Onward,

Grady

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