Just Like the Mail I Get

My old high school buddy Christine Ferreira sent me this hilarious email exchange, which comes frighteningly close to many that I've had with people who'd like me to work for free. Here's an excerpt:

From: Simon Edhouse
Date: Monday 16 November 2009 2.19pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Logo Design

Hello David,

I would like to catch up as I am working on a really exciting project at the moment and need a logo designed. Basically something representing peer to peer networking. I have to have something to show prospective clients this week so would you be able to pull something together in the next few days? I will also need a couple of pie charts done for a 1 page website. If deal goes ahead there will be some good money in it for you.

Simon

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 16 November 2009 3.52pm
To: Simon Edhouse
Subject: Re: Logo Design

Dear Simon,

Disregarding the fact that you have still not paid me for work I completed earlier this year despite several assertions that you would do so, I would be delighted to spend my free time creating logos and pie charts for you based on further vague promises of future possible payment. Please find attached pie chart as requested and let me know of any changes required.

Regards, David.

Fwd Pie Charts %E2%80%94 Inbox 20091204 101416 This must be the funniest email conversation ever

Mr. Monk and Mayhem

There’s a Q&A interview with me today over at the MAYHEM & MAGIC blog about me and my latest MONK novel. Here’s a peek:

Lee, tell us about a bit about your latest book and your writing schedule

[…]My writing schedule isn’t set in stone. I basically work on my books whenever I am not working on a script, or vice-versa. I have about four months to write each book, so I write anywhere and everywhere I can put pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard). No matter what I am writing, I tend to do my best work between 8 pm and 2 am. Don’t ask me why…my brother Tod is the same way.

Will you be guest speaker at any mystery conferences this year?

I’ll be attending Left Coast Crime in L.A, the 3rd Annual Forensic Trends: Psychiatric & Behavioral Issues Conference in Las Vegas, the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro KY, Bouchercon in San Francisco, and the Professional Pierce Brosnan Impersonator Convention in my living room.

AWOL

Sorry I've been absent here on the blog. There's just been too much to do. Next week is looking crazy, too. I have two important studio pitch meetings next week to prepare for…and  I need to start working on the outline for the next MONK novel…and I have to keep up with my reading of ROMEO & JULIET (I'm helping my daughter, who is having a rough time with her Honors English class). On top of that, I need to do research for a pitch/approach on an open feature assignment that I'm up for. I sure wish I got paid for pitches, I'd be financially set for life. 

Dazed and Confused

I finished writing MR. MONK IS CLEANED OUT, my 10th original MONK novel, last night and delivered it to my publisher. I always feel a little bit dazed  and lost after finishing a book. It takes a few days for me to adjust to not having the story "in my head" all the time and to no longer feeling that ever-present deadline pressure. It's also kind of odd to suddenly have a bunch of hours open up in my day (and nights) for other things. But that will change soon. I've got to start writing a new spec feature script, thinking about the plot of my next MONK novel, and preparing for pitch meetings that I have later this week and early next week… 

The Mail I Get

I've been getting variations of this email a lot lately, so I thought I'd share my answer to this one here:

Lee, 

 I was wondering about your time management. How long does it take for you to write your blog everyday, and what type of writing schedule do you have, and is it iron-clad? Do you keep a notebook with you in case ideas pop up when you are doing errands, etc.?
Do you have moments when you don't know where your current story is going, and how do you fix that?

Love your books,

Thanks,

Teri

I prioritize based on deadlines, Teri. The project with the nearest deadline gets the most attention. Then again, sometimes I prioritize based on money. The project that's paying me the most gets my immediate attention…I mean, I am not going to move a project that's paying me, say, $3000 ahead of something that's paying me $35,000. That said, I've never missed a deadline, even when I had two broken arms, regardless of how much (or how little) I was getting paid.

I don't blog everyday. Sometimes I will blog two or three times in one day…sometimes I will go a week or more without blogging. I use the blog as a way to warm up before writing, or as a way to avoid writing, or as a way to stay at the computer when the writing isn't going well. You can sometimes tell by the nature of my posts how I'm using my blog at any given moment… (well, at least my brother Tod can tell). 

I do carry around a notebook for ideas,  story points or scenes for whatever I happen to be working on at any given time. I never leave the house without a notebook or a book to read. 

What question haven't I answered? Oh yes, I often have problems with my books and scripts. I fix them by, well, fixing them. Often the problem lies not in the scene I'm struggling with but with the bigger story or character point that got me there.

I always outline before I write…so at least I know where i am going and roughly how to get there….but I inevitably deviate from the outline.

The Writer is God

The Guardian reports that the only way to raise the quality of UK television series is to adopt the showrunner/writing room system prevalent in the U.S. They write, in part:

The only way to produce sophisticated, rich, long-running drama like The Wire or even ER is to use a team of writers who collaborate under a showrunner, a system the US studios has cracked. It's too much for even one great dramatist to write the whole thing, but you can't hire hack writers to work on episodes in isolation. Result: US viewers sit down to an evening of Damages; we get Casualty

The short Guardian piece was in response to a terrific essay by Peter Jukes in Prospect Magazine, where he wrote, in part:

in US television drama “the writer is God.” This is not because of literary cachet—it’s arisen out of aesthetic, technical and commercial need. Drama is incredibly expensive to make and economies of scale kick in when stories are told over 13 or 24 episodes. They cannot be written by one person alone, nor can they be effectively controlled by studio executives, actors or directors, whose talents by definition lie elsewhere. It requires a team of writers willing to develop character and narrative over a long haul, keeping it focused and fresh. It’s not the writer, singular, who is God in US television drama, but the role of the writer, generic, in the process.

 […]Although we are blessed with a tradition of great television dramatists, there’s no way that Alan Bleasdale, Dennis Potter or Jimmy McGovern could have written a dozen episodes of a show alone. We have recently imported the idea of showrunners for the resurrection of Dr Who and Survivors, but their power is limited, and the principle of collaboration doesn’t penetrate the lower echelons. Script editors and producers take a dim view of you talking to another writer without tight supervision. There is no financial incentive either. Why make someone else’s episode great when it might make yours look less good? Given that the running order can be changed at the last moment by management fiat, those collectively crafted character developments and story arcs will be binned anyway. Just write your own episode and cash that cheque.

I recommend Jukes' article, it's fascinating reading.

My Job is to Write

Writer-producer Diane Ademu-John pointed me to this excellent blog post by author John Scalzi on dealing with strangers who want screenwriters and novelists to read their  work, listen to their pitches, etc. He says, in part:

Dear currently unpublished/newbie writers who spend their time bitching about how published/established writers are mean because they won’t read your work/introduce you to their agent/give your manuscript to their editor/get you a job on their television show/whatever other thing it is you want them to do for you:
A few things you should know.

1. The job of a writer is to write. So, I’m looking at one of my book contracts. It says that I need to write a certain type of book (science fiction) of a certain length (100,000 words) by a certain time (er… Hmmm). In return, I get paid a certain amount of money. So that’s the gig.

Here’s what’s not in the contract:

1. That I critique the novels of other people; 

2. That I offer any advice to people on how to get published; 

3. That I arrange introductions to my agent, editor or publisher; 

4. That I do any damn thing, in fact, other than write the book I’ve agreed to write.

The job of a writer is to write.

To which you may say, “Yes, but –” To which I say, you’ve gone one word too far in that sentence.

The rest of the piece is just as brilliant. He's basically saying the same things that Josh Olsen did, only without the anger and profanity that turned off a lot of people.

Work Work Work

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably noticed that I haven't been posting as much lately. That's because I've been hard at work writing an action movie, an international co-production that is presently scheduled to be shot before the end of the year in Europe and China. 

For the last few weeks,  I've been toiling on various drafts of the detailed beat sheet but, if everything goes according to plan, I will start writing the screenplay in the next week or so. That will give me about four weeks to write the script which for me, coming from years in episodic TV and armed with a ridiculously detailed beat sheet, feels like plenty of time (we'll see if I feel the same way once I'm in the thick of it). 

While I await the official greenlight, I will go back to writing MR. MONK IS CLEANED OUT, my next Monk novel, which I had to mostly set aside while I concentrated on the film. This morning I re-read and edited what I've written so far, so I'm ready to plunge back in. I've also got the galleys for MR. MONK IN TROUBLE arriving tomorrow that need to be proofed in the next two weeks. 

It's nice to be busy! 

In the midst of all this, my Kindle arrived last night and I've only just started to play around with it, but I'm beginning to see already why it has become so popular. I'm looking forward to reading a novel on it to really get a feel for it. That probably won't happen until I hop a plane on August 12 for Owensboro, Kentucky to be a guest at the International Mystery Writers Festival.

“Before I was a TV writer, I was a street poet…”

Screenwriter, novelist, and teacher William Rabkin reveals the method to his madness, and gives some good career advice to aspiring screenwriters, in an interview at Write On today. Here's an excerpt:

How important is diversification for a writer?

I’m a big advocate of diversification. Right now, all our markets are shrinking—not a great problem if you’re, say, the showrunner of Desperate Housewives. But for the rest of us, we’re watching TV staffs shrinking, original screenplay sales diving, publishing in serious trouble. We can’t know where the next opportunity is going to come from—so it’s best to make yourself available for as many opportunities as possible.

How can a writer best get his or her work noticed?

Write really well. Oh, and if you can show up in a sex tape with a celebrity, that would help, too.

Living on TV’s Death Row

Writer Josh Friedman, the showrunner of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONCILES, blogs about his final days on the series…and what it's like to be cancelled. 

Everyone says having your show cancelled is like a death but I've been dead before and at least when you're dead you don't get thrown off the Warner Bros. lot for haunting your old parking space. They probably mean it's like the death of a friend or a family member but that shit only hurts when it's YOUR friend or family member and even then it's mitigated by age, lifestyle and whether that person was a Hollywood friend or a real one and whether that family member left you money.

Losing your show is more like a surprise divorce where you get served papers in the morning and your (ex)wife is fucking Human Target by three in the afternoon using the same time slot your child was conceived in and also where she did that one thing that one time on your birthday.

People say the bright side to losing your show is gaining time to spend with your family but I'm pretty sure that waking up next to your ex-showrunner spouse whom you haven't seen for two and a half years is pretty close to waking up next to that special someone you met the night before at Carlos n' Charlie's in Cancun on Spring Break.

His lengthy post is very funny, bitter, and oh-so-true. I've been in his position, feeling many of the same things that he did, more times than I care to remember…and it never gets any easier or less uncomfortable.