View Full Version : Dumb yet intelligent questions

09-02-2004, 03:30 PM
What is the purpose of this forum?

I assume it's to unite those who are experienced in some professions with those who are complete newbies who seek to gain entry into those professions.

But it seems to me that most of us are not qualified to be mentors. To some degree, it's like a decent golfer with a hitch in his swing teaching a complete neophyte how to swing a club. So what the neophyte is learning is the game of golf in theory but all the bad swings as well.

And for many newbies, they are so grateful with the notion that anyone is willing to offer them help that they don't actually evaluate the qualifications of someone willing to offer help. The reason I bring this up is that I've been reading threads here and and there and seeing very bad advice dispensed. My area of knowledge is screenwriting and notice that some info that are dispensed are flat out wrong.

That is all. Nothing more to see here. Carry on.

MacAl Stone
09-02-2004, 09:53 PM
Gosh, Ham...was that an offer to mentor a newbie? Cool!

aka eraser
09-02-2004, 11:41 PM
lol Mac. :)

Ham, if that golfer with a hitch in his swing still manages to shoot even, or below par, then a complete newbie could do worse than emulate him.

You make a valid point though and I believe it has been addressed in a thread or two on here: that those wishing to be helped should do research on those offering it. It's what we all advise regarding approaching publishers, editors and agents and certainly applies in the hunt for a mentor.

Very, very few regs here are pros without a hitch but very, very many regs have strengths in various aspects of the game that could be of benefit to someone just starting out.

To carry your analogy to a semi-logical extreme, no budding golfer gets to pick Tiger Woods to be his coach. He starts with a friend or family member who knows the game then maybe pays a local club pro for a few lessons. Maybe if young and talented he gets a golf scholarship at a good college.

The rest is hard work, most of it solo and studying the masters.

09-03-2004, 03:02 AM
Sometimes the people best fit for the job are your peers...look at any High School...case in point. I've helped a few people here as well as the Shop Talk Writer board at the internet movie database. True, I'm not a published writer, but as an avid reader I know what works and what doesn't, and can always help with grammar. But yes...perhaps the board should be combined with Share Your Work?

09-05-2004, 12:55 AM
I am perfectly happy with the mentor I found on this board.:jump I learn and grow everyday thanks to that person. I don't expect a mentor to be an expert, just someone who is a little further along than me and can show me what worked for them.

Believe me I think everyone looking for a mentor should approach with caution. Because there are those people on these boards that you kind of get the impression they are picking apart other people's works just to maybe make them feel superior.

BUT, there are also those that are genuinely trying to assist people and let them know what helped them in their successes.

Just like with every other thing in life, there are good folks and less-than-good folks. What you walk away from this board with at the end of the day is your choices ~ good or bad.

Everyone knows this (even the newbies). I thank God everyday that I found this board and my mentor.


“Today is the best day. Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow will never arrive.” ~ David Wolfe

09-06-2004, 01:28 AM
You get out what you put in...if someone genuinely wants help, and is willing to take criticism, you can find a lot of help here...

10-21-2004, 03:43 AM
I totally agree with you Ham. My background is in screenwriting (and I've also seen alot of totally incorrect information on these boards, stated with such authority that you'd think Lew Hunter was posting).

When I decided to try writing a novel, I took a workshop. The workshop was sponsored by a big, well respected media organization and everyone in the class was a media professional, primarily journalists. They were good reporters and columnistis, but not novelists, and their input and feedback ranged from not very helpful to totally wrong because their knowledge base was non-existent.

Fortunately the instructor was not only an accomplished novelist, but also an experienced teacher who taught me the basics and gave me helpful insights. Otherwise, it would have been a total waste of time.

I think it's great to have communities like this to go to, but if the feedback you are getting is from people who don't know what they're talking about, it can do more harm than good.

10-21-2004, 04:44 AM
The best instruction I received in screenwriting was working for one director. He was expanding his short into a feature, and I co wrote it with him.

So working in film/publishing. etc can put you in direct touch with professionals and also teach you more about the industry.

While there certainly is a lot of misinformation on the internet, there are also a lot of professionals. And there are those people on this site that post under their real names (published authors).

For certain business questions, you can call agents, lawyers, managers, or publishers. That way you get information from a reliable source.

After posting here for awhile, though, it becomes obvious who is a credible source of info and who isn't.

10-21-2004, 05:19 AM
It becomes obvious to you, Justino because you have experience and knowledge that you gained from real world experience, and by working with actual professionals.

I don't think it's necessarily obvious to those who have no experience and no education (either academic or otherwise) on these matters. Especially when so many who don't know what they're talking about speak with such authority. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

If I had relied on boards like this to learn about the craft and the business, I'd probably be a really bad writer with no career.

I rarely, if ever give advice on the novel forum, because it's a new craft for me and I don't feel I have enough experience to speak with authority.

10-21-2004, 07:17 AM
I've also had film and threatre internships in NYC. So the best bet for people is to gain whatever real world work experience they can in film/threatre/publishing. If you are not in LA or NYC and do not want to take formal classes, you may also purchase books.

But personally, I think just reading books alone isn't enough. And besides they maybe dated.

A common misconception I noticed here is that a screenplay or manuscript must read like an English thesis.

I've been a script reader, and the most important thing is that you have a good story. I'm assuming the writer notices the basic formatting of whatever kind of writing. If that the cases, the producer will have you or another writers make needed adjustments. (in film, in theatre, it's up to the playwrite, who is advised by actors, directors,etc during script readings). In publishing, the editors will work with you.

10-21-2004, 08:21 AM
There's a lot more than one common misconception here. And you're right, in the end, whether it's a novel, screenplay, or stage play, it's about the story. "A good story that's well told" as McKee says.

Structure, plot, and character are the keys. And you can plunk down a couple hundred on Final Draft software and know when to use v.o. or o.s., but if you don't understand structure, if you don't understand character development, if you don't know how to tell a story, it means nothing.

More often than not, when people post scenes on these boards, it's clear from the feedback, that few people really understand what makes a scene good. And yet they are giving others advice, and chances are the writers are taking that bad advice, or they're told something is good when the descriptions are written in prose and the dialogue is wordy and stilted. And it bothers me, because I think they're better off being lost, then being led in the wrong direction, and then leading others in the wrong direction.

I realize classes cost money and script consultants cost money and most people don't want to spend their money on things like that or can't afford it. But many fields require an education (formal or otherwise) and there's a lot about this craft that many do not innately know. And if you don't innately know it, then you need to learn it. And if your teachers don't know anything either, where does that lead you.

There are obviously some people on the boards who do know what they are talking about, those who understand both the mechanics of scripts and the craft of storytelling, but there's an awful lot of people who don't wh are giving advice as well.

10-21-2004, 09:24 AM
"I realize classes cost money and script consultants cost money and most people don't want to spend their money on things like that or can't afford it. But many fields require an education (formal or otherwise) and there's a lot about this craft that many do not innately know. And if you don't innately know it, then you need to learn it. And if your teachers don't know anything either, where does that lead you."

Which it is why it is best to decide to become a writer comparatively young. A young person is much more likely to be able to take the classes, get the essential internships and jobs (which likely will require spending months in LA and in NYC), and do some of the other needed things.

A lot of people who get losts and fall prey to con artists are older people who treated screenwriter, or other kinds of writing as a hobby and were unable or unwilling to invest a lot of time and money into it.

As for screenwriting, while one may innately be a good storyteller, the mechanics of screenwriting require an education (formal or otherwise). Ditto for other kinds of writing.

10-21-2004, 09:48 AM
A good mentor script consultant should also be able to get you read by producers or agents, as your work progresses. Some of the people you're discuss can not even come up with good ways of doing that, beyond send off query letters!

10-21-2004, 10:29 AM
Age discrimination aside, I don't necessarily think a writer needs to start young. The best screenwriter I ever knew, went to UCLA Film School in her forties, after her kids were out of the house. When I met her she was in her 60's and had spent the last 2 decades as a working writer. She was repped by one of the bigger agents at one of biggest agencies and she made a fortune!

And I agree with you that many of the people can't come up with ways to get their scripts to agents other than querying.

And I can't really help them there, because I did what you did, I went to film school, I learned my craft, I worked on my craft, I moved to LA, I worked in the biz and I networked. And I was lucky because I met people like the writer I mentioned above who believed in me. They helped me to become a better writer, they showed me the ropes of the business and they introduced me to other people in the business. I've never written a query letter in my life, I never needed to.

I've seen you suggest doing what you and I did on the board, but I think a lot of people would rather just gripe about how short-sighted agents are for not accepting unsolicited material, rather than make any real sacrifices to pursue their dreams.

I really hope you have great success, you sound like you are very focued on a screenwriting career, and you take it seriously.

11-29-2004, 04:04 PM
Actually, I think it's much easier taking courses and classes when you have some age on you. Odds are you have both more time and more money.

I do tink writers should be very carfeful about mentors. As they say, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

Fortunately there are those who do both, and I think it's essential to have a mentor who does both. It simply makes no sens eto have a mentor who's supposed to help you write a novel when that mentor can't write a novel. All writing isn;t equal, and I don't care how beautifully a mentor can write a sentence, if he or she can't write a publishable novel, preferably, though not absolutely necessarily, one in your genre, it's best to look elsewhere.

This even applies when taking college courses. Any good literatyre or writing professor may teach you somethig about subject and structure, but even with college courses it's impreative to find one that has a professor, or a writer-in-residence, with a solid publishing record.

You'd never hire or accept help for math from someone who doesn't know anything about math. You'd never take on a mentor to teach you plumbing from someone who doesn't even know how to stop a faucet from leaking. Writing is much the same. Just because someone can write sentences does not in any way mean they can write a novel, a screenplay, or a short story. At least not one that's any good.

Good courses aren't cheap, but they aren't nearly as expensive in the long run as listening to someone who can't do the job themselves.

01-28-2005, 06:31 PM
Gee, guys! At last someone is speaking the truth!

I also think that only a published writer can be a real mentor. But my impression is that a real published writer does not really want to be a mentor. What is in it for him? I'm saying this because I've read lots of posts where they say that they would never read someone else's writing for fear of libel, etc.

So how do you get a real published writer to be a mentor?
I don't think one can. I'd like to know if you think otherwise.

aka eraser
01-29-2005, 01:39 AM
So how do you get a real published writer to be a mentor?
I don't think one can. I'd like to know if you think otherwise.

I'm mentoring someone now. For me, it wasn't a matter of waking up one day and feeling altruistic. I was reading this board, came across a post that seemed to be written from the heart, and it found its way to mine. I followed my instincts and offered to help before giving it a whole lot of consideration. I knew I could talk myself out of it, given half a chance.

It's worked out. I didn't make any unrealistic promises regarding publication; just that I'd try to help her make her book stronger. I think we're succeeding and have become friends in the process.

I believe the reason more published writers don't do it is a simple one: it requires quite a committment of time, particularly with a book. We all have our own work and family committments to juggle, so taking on another "job" for no pay shouldn't be done lightly (despite my previous admission that I jumped before really testing the water).

I think more pros would be willing to work with unpublished folks if the initial request involved shorter works: giving a once-over to a query, asking for feedback on a short story or maybe the first 3 chapters of a book.

Then, if you hit it off, perhaps a longer-term relationship might develop.

As the Cooler grows, more and more published writers will gravitate to it as well as newbies and "middies." Many who were unpublished a couple of years ago, are now.

So I'd suggest making your initial request one that doesn't require a long term committment. And I'd bump it up to the top of the thread periodically to catch new eyes. Like with most aspects of this game, persistence + luck can = success.

01-30-2005, 08:09 PM
Thanks aka_eraser.