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We are all apprentices – 3 top tips to learning the craft of writing

ernest-hemingway

Last Thursday, Collab Writers held their third meet-up at The Library Club, London. There was excitement, laughter, trepidation, joy, delight and ideas aplenty.

Like previous events, there was magic in the air, as creators of all kinds, from all walks of life opened up to people they had never met before about their passions. I say ‘magic’ because once again exciting, serendipitous collaborations were birthed.

If you could bottle it, that’s the essence of Collab Writers ‘l’eau du Collab Writers’ with a heady, uplifting, joie de vivre about it. We’re pretty sure that if that mix of people had not been in that room on that night, those collaborations may not have happened.

A few people we spoke to were reluctant to call themselves ‘writers’. If you are reading this and feel that way, (imposter syndrome) let’s replace self-doubt (and goodness, we all have it) with reassurance from someone who left us quite a few stories that we are still talking about:

‘”We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master
Ernest Hemingway

If that’s good enough for Ernest, then it’s good enough for Collab Writers! Finding the Hemingway quote, took me back to when I started my apprenticeship.  So how do you make yourself an apprentice?

Read, read and read some more

I for one, started reading every book I possibly could on creative writing.  It’s fair to say that I was probably walking in the shadow of my father who taught himself how to paint whilst also working full time. He didn’t have the time to enrol on an Open University course so he borrowed every book he could from the local library and immersed himself in the art of ‘how to paint’.  At the age of 75, Jeff is now embarking on writing an e-book on how he learnt to paint. (If you’re interested in Jeff’s journey we will interview him on his progress at a later date).

Three top tips on the craft of writing 

  1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (non-fiction through the guise of fiction)

In “A Moveable Feast“, Hemingway transports you to his world of 1920’s Paris and in taking you along with him on that journey he subtly instills in you what does and doesn’t work when it comes to storytelling, writing and habit. Reading that book is like meeting Hemingway at the bar of the local bistro in Paris for a demi blonde (that’s not a slur, it’s just easier on the eye than “half a lager”) or a Kir Royale if you like your drinks a little fancy. I fell in love with the man and kept going back for more.

One pearl of wisdom that stayed with me was to always end the day’s writing knowing where you’d pick up the next day. That was his way to avoid the dreaded ‘blank page’ or ‘writer’s block’ as we’ve come to call it.

I read his delightful work on Kindle and to this day am desperate to get my hands on an old paper copy to underline and scribble in the margins. Take that as our first book recommendation to ease you gently in to ‘the art of writing’.

2. Stephen King “On Writing”

My second recommendation has to be by the guru of horror, Stephen King. I doubt there are many of us who haven’t read or watched one of his stories. ‘The Shining’ and ‘Carrie’ scare me to this day. He just has what it takes and no doubt a lot of his ideas come from him opening himself up to inspiration. One story he tells in “On Writing” is how he got an idea for one of his books on a long haul flight – he wrote it on a napkin on the plane and then when he got to his hotel room wrote down the skeleton of the story. I’m pretty sure there were bones involved!

In light of some of the conversations I’ve had with Collab Writers members, I particularly like the quote below from “On Writing” which chimes with Hemingway’s Apprentice idea:

“Language does not always have to wear a shirt and tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story…to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.”
Stephen King

My interpretation of this is that there’s no one size fits all. No two of us are the same. And, that my friends is frankly, exciting. That’s where the magic of collaboration can take your writing and someone else’s to a whole new level.

And, our writing doesn’t have to be perfect. We live in a world where there is too much focus on perfection of how we look, what we say, how we say it. There is a revolution or a renaissance of ‘real’ occurring, as new and different voices are being encouraged to tell their stories without being airbrushed. People want to read real stories and the best of those are authentic, typos and all. Which brings me to number 3:

3. WRITE Your way

So, undo that uptight tie, unbutton the shirt of your imagination and get the bare bones of your words, your story down on a page. Don’t go back and correct your grammar and typos every few minutes. Let the flow of whatever force is within you come out and take shape. Don’t hold yourself back or try to conform. Writing your way is, in the view of Collab Writers, the way to be the Apprentice that Hemingway talks of.

We look forward to reading your stories…..Apprentice!

 

Every story has a beginning – starting now

The Beginning

The beginning is the most important part of the work”
Plato, The Republic.

If ever there was a time to look to nature for inspiration for creative beginnings, it’s Spring, when buds open and flowers bloom, revealing their true potential. Some blossoms are already blooming, others still in bud, desperate to open up and be seen. Nature, especially Spring is a reflection of the creative potential in all of us.

“Once upon a Time….”

At Collab Writers, we’ve had so many people tell us about their ideas for books or screenplays. The most common challenge of our members is how to start and how to make time to write.

“Creative beginnings are not a dark art. Like seedlings, ideas can be planted.
If watered and tended to they will grow.
When ready to be shared with the world, they will bloom
.
– Jennie Griffiths, Co-Founder, Collab Writers.

Hang out at your local coffee shop – J.K.Rowling style

If you can’t think of ideas, go outside and earwig the chatter on the table next to you in your local coffee shop (there’s your dialogue – raw and real). If movement is your thing, go ride the tube or a bus (you’ll be surrounded by characters everywhere you look – their physical attributes, style, clothing and habits and traits.) The world we live in is a multitude of walking, talking stories.

Be still and know

Often, silence – quietening your mind can create a flow of ideas. Exercise can have a similar result. Ideas often come when we are in the flow of life.

“If you can dream it, you can do it”
– Walt Disney

If you’ve been procrastinating on the words that follow “Once upon a time” pick up your pen, open your lappie and just write. If you can’t, use the microphone on your mobile device or computer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It really is that easy.

I bet you’re reading this and thinking, I work 9-5, that’s never going to happen…then I need to cook, be with my family, exercise and then it’s groundhog day, all over again.

You’re not alone, most of us ride the same gravy train. This blog is being written at 10pm after a hard day’s work. Here are some reminders from Dolly Parton’s 9-5:

There’s a better life and you think about it, don’t you”
You’ve got dreams, they’ll never take away.”
– Dolly Parton

Habit maketh man/woman

If it’s routine you need to keep those dreams alive, here’s one I made earlier:

Write – repeat – write – repeat – seven days a week. If you can’t write 6 days out of 7, write one day a week and repeat!

“Energy and persistence conquer all things”
– Benjamin Franklin

Choose to carry on or snooze and lose. Up to you, really! If that doesn’t motivate you, here’s some wisdom from the Godfather of creativity:

“Action is the foundation key to all success”
– Pablo Picasso

If you need an example closer to home, take a leaf out of Collab Writers’ soon to be finished book….we wrote ‘Consequences’ on our commutes, en route to our 9-5s, poetry in motion and we loved every minute of it! We will leave you with a quote from the magician of storytelling, Dr Seuss:

You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.”

I’ve started, so I’ll finish….look out for our next blog on “how to finish” and if we’ve not posted that within the next month, hunt us down and keep us to our word!

 

Collab Writers Networking at the Library

Come and meet fellow writers, filmmakers and other creatives in one of the coolest private members clubs: The Library – situated in the heart of London’s Theatreland. This event is free for Founder Members. Guests just £10.00 Thursday October 3rd 19:00 – 21:00

£10.00

 

 

 

 

 

Mind meet-ups for creatives

Collab Writers NetworkingYou’ve got to admit ‘networking’ conjures up an image of stiff, suited and booted executives working the room. It’s enough to drive fear into the hearts and souls of ‘introverts’ or anyone who wants to chill out after a day’s work. On the other hand, it can be music to the ears of the extrovert who loves speaking to as many people as possible.

My first experience of networking was at the British Embassy in Tokyo. To this day, I remember how uncomfortable I felt. The pack wore smart suits, with clipped, ego driven agendas. What’s worse, there were no trays of Ferrero Rocher to devour!

My friend (a self confessed extrovert), loved every second and boasted of collecting multiple business cards. Embarrassingly for me, I came away with one and convinced myself I was useless at networking. I came to dread it. I now know that one meaningful connection can be just as good, if not more important than ten.

Fast forward twenty years and ‘networking’ has become a somewhat dirty word. Today’s coffee shop based, portfolio careers and innovative side hustles require a different, more relaxed approach to making contacts. I caught up with Collab Writers’ Founder Partner, Elliot Grove of the Raindance Film Festival to ask why.

For starters, ‘networking’ suggests ‘work’ and when it comes to meeting other creatives, chatting and playing writing games together – that ain’t work, it’s pure unadulterated fun! What’s more, the Library club is accessible, relaxed and non-pretentious.”

Still in their infancy, Collab Writers monthly meet-ups have already developed their own unique personality, that go beyond traditional ‘networking.’ Two months in, attendees have already paired up to collaborate on their work. As co-founder Anjali Alford said:

It’s an absolute delight to see that we are bringing people together who might otherwise never meet. We started Collab Writers so creatives could join forces and collaborate, and it’s really happening.”  

Five take-aways from Collab Writers meet-ups

Shared Ideas – The old adage, ‘Two minds are greater than one’ comes into its own at Collab. Ideas shared can multiply and sometimes just voicing an idea out loud can help its formation. Another person’s view or expertise can help to birth or develop it.

Collaborations – At our April event, the writer who can’t draw was talking to a photographer, who was talking to a filmmaker, who was talking to a poet and a screenwriter. The list goes on…

Play time – We take seriously the saying ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. Jill too…so we ensure that there is plenty of time to play at our monthly meet-ups.  Watching from the sidelines, creatives practice thinking together and brainstorming ideas.

Support – Our lives are definitely more fulfilled when we help others. And, if we, at Collab spot potential collaborations that might work we will do our best to hook you guys up, to encourage you to collaborate to co-create. If we can be of help, just ask.

Accessibility – Our monthly events are free to Founder Members and £10 if you’re not a Founder member. The Library Club is in central London. We’re hoping to hold events in New York and Canada later this year (and possibly Tokyo).

Poet, Founder Member and self-confessed introvert James Anderson has attended both networking events. We caught up with him after last week’s meet up to ask him how he feels about our community:

“It’s a more positive form of social interaction because you’re all trying to head towards a collective goal. It’s interesting how this diminishes what can sometimes be negative group dynamics if you don’t have that shared intention.”

As of today, the Collab Writers monthly event is being rebranded as a ‘mind meet up for creatives’ with a little play time thrown in.’

In our next blog, read how Collab Writers intend to recreate this ‘meet-up’ environment on-line to take it’s reach beyond London!

Collab Writers Founder Membership Offer

Why sit on the sidelines when you can join this vibrant group of passionate creatives? There’s a host of benefits, PLUS you can get free script and manuscript regisitration courtesy of Raindance. Enjoy our introductory offer while it lasts!

£10.00

 

#LBF19 Top Take-aways

London Book FairThe London Book Fair (#LBF) is one of the world’s top book markets. Hundreds of agents, publishers and film producers all chasing the latest and newest manuscripts.

To choose only ten key takeaways is tough. We came away with many ideas. Not surprisingly, we didn’t agree with everything we were told – we do like to disrupt here at Collab Writers.  So, reader beware, some of the take away dishes below contain artistic licence – not everyone likes pineapple on their pizza, nor should we be told that something’s good for us. We want you to decide for yourselves!

1. Buck the trends

Write what you want to write / what you know – let your book feed you. Get into the flow. We all know crime and thrillers are top of the pops  – but do you want to write it? Maybe historical fiction or memoir flexes your writing muscle, or non-fiction. Remember that there is no one size fit’s all. We were hanging out with a retired Mi6 Commander at the fair who is top of the Australian best seller list for his ‘work.’

2.Practice makes perfect

Get words on a page and enter competitions. We have never written as much as when we were writing ‘Consequences’ on our daily commutes. And, the more we wrote, the more we wanted to write. Don’t be afraid to go off piste and write short pieces like flash fiction – these are ‘easy wins’ as we like to call them at Collab. We will be doing a piece on competitions so you can diarise them. We will also be running some competitions of our own to help you get started and practice in a safe space.

3. You can make a living as a writer

We learnt a lot at #LBF19 about this – from applying for grants to appearances at schools / bookshops / events. Did you know you can get paid to take time off to write? You can apply for grants from The Authors Foundation, The Arts Council and Development Agencies. We’re also going to throw in ‘Europe’ whilst we still can. As one of our Collab Writers informed us at the fair, Leonard Cohen got money to pursue his writing career!

4.Remember to READ books in your genre

Whilst your idea might be fabulous because it has yet to be written, and we agree it might be – read what sells as it is an indication of what people want to read. It is also a great way to learn the craft. Whilst you are there, check out the publisher and agent (if they have one) and grab yourself a copy of the Writers & Artists Year Book where you’ll find more detail about what they want.

5.The importance of contacts

Connect with other writers through writing / creative groups like Collab Writers. Not surprisingly, this permeated the conference, lonely writers not knowing where to meet like-minded creatives, screenwriters to turn their book into a movie, illustrators to design their book covers….you can attend your local writer’s group and your very own, Collab Writers. Tell your friends, we have monthly networking events for starters.

6. We all love D.I.Y. so why not edit your own work

You can edit your own work. Consider the voice you are writing in and consistency throughout. Check the pace of your work – don’t give everything away upfront – people will stop reading! Remember to dangle the thread of tension. Overwrite – cut out the flab! And, show don’t tell – your screenwriting contacts can teach you about this.  For your cover design, look at what sells – check your local bookshop for the top books in the genre you are writing in – something completely different might look unprofessional.

7. Publishers have open submission days

That’s right peeps – if you’ve yet to secure an agent, or just don’t want to share your spoils with one, find out when publishers you are interested in have their open submission days. Many now have them. Tailor your submission carefully and follow their guidelines to the letter! If you are submitting the first three chapters submit the first three not the 1st, 5th and 13th. Give them something they want to read in those chapters and if it’s boring – rewrite! Remember to make your synopsis short – a page will suffice.

8. Your audience might want to listen to you

More and more people are listening to stories via audio books, podcasts and spotify. If you like a statistic, that’s 5.9 million in the UK (c11% of the population). This is especially so for men aged 18-35. There are some genres that lend themselves more easily to audio than others. For example, non-fiction and crime are very popular. If you’re signing a contract negotiate your audio rights or better still, self/indie publish and hang onto them!

9. You’re your own best PR

Brand YOU – now this is where we’ve gone off piste (and it’s such fun!) There was an underlying suggestion that whilst self/indie published authors are doing well, they rarely do as well as represented and traditionally published authors. Collar Writers think it’s time to buck this trend – we met dozens at the fair who were making a decent living. No-one, not even your agent you’re paying £2k to a month knows you or your work as well as you do. Have confidence and believe in what you’re writing.

10. Self-publishing isn’t the dirty word (albeit hyphened) it used to be.

The stigma of  the ‘vanity/self publishing’ label is fast becoming invisible ink. A number of publishers at the fair admitted that it demonstrates that you’ve got the metal and the stamina to survive in the book eat book world! So, don’t be put off getting your work out there. And, there is an increase in the popularity of Indie imprints which is good news for Collab Writers who are looking to set up fiction and non-fiction imprints.

 

7 Reasons Writers Need Filmmakers

Film DirectorIf you, like many writers reading this blog are wondering if your short story or book idea that you want to write, could ever become a movie – then read on.

Here are seven reasons why writers need filmmakers

1. Hollywood has a long and fascinating love-affair with books.

Each year the Oscar nominations attract global attention. This year it’s no different. As a writer and book-lover, there are now eight 2019 Oscar nominated films that were inspired by books.

Everything from If Beale Street Could Talk to Mary Queen of Scots were based on books, both recent and past. The Coen Brothers’ Ballad of Buster Scruggs includes a vignette based on Jack London’s short story.

One reason Hollywood loves books is because they have already proved their commercial success in another medium.

2. Did you know that the Oscars have two writing categories?

Each year, the Oscars award two writing awards: one for best original screenplay, and the other for best adapted screenplay. Hollywood puts as much emphasis on the screenpaly adapted from a novel or short story, as it does on adaptations from an original screenplay.

If seeing is believing for you, here are 100 top movies inspired by books.

3. Filmmakers are trained in storytelling

For a filmmaker, it’s all about the visual images. The golden rule of screenwiting is that you only write what you can actually see on the screen. Your written stories will likely be full of interior thoughts and emotions that are difficult to transpose onto the screen.

A good filmmaker knows how to adapt and transform your story for the screen. In the process, your story will change and come to life, benefiting from the creative input of the filmmaker. As an artist yourself, you’ll see sparks fly. The resulting collaboration will likely inspire you to embrace new and different approaches to your work.

4. Filmmakers know how to market your story

We all know the old adage – “There’s no business like show business.”  And, let’s not forget that the film industry is a marketing industry. Filmmakers know that the only way to get people to see their films is to let them know about them. Some of the sharpest and brightest advertising campaigns have come from the movies.

Writers can learn from their filmmaking colleagues how marketing drives box office sales.

5. Filmmakers master the art of the franchise

If you have developed excellent characters – remember they can resurface in another chapter, in the future. They could have 9 lives or more!  The Harry Potter films, Star Wars and Stephen King’s ‘The Children of the Corn’ are examples of ongoing series of films that the film industry calls ‘franchise movies’.

The film industry loves franchise properties because they develop these ongoing brands that can continue to grow and grow.

6. Filmmakers know the art of the pitch

They say that almost all movies start with a pitch – a verbal presentation where the main story is outlined and explained. Why don’t you use this approach the next time you’re pitching to a publisher?

Learning how to present your idea in a concise, and informative manner is something that writers can learn from filmmakers.

Raindance has an excellent Pitching Skills Workshop which you can attend online from anywhere in the world. Once you’ve mastered that you can then attend Live!Ammo to put your skills to the test. Collar Writers pitched ‘Consequences’ at the Raindance Film festival last year – terrifying but satisfying!

7. Kill your darlings

Filmmakers know how to ‘kill their darlings’ and if you’re game for collaboration, they’ll help you kill yours.

The phrase ‘kill your darlings’ has been around in literary circles for quite some time. According to Forrest Wickman:

“…the widely repeated saying has been attributed both to Ginsberg and to William Faulkner. The advice has also been attributed to Oscar WildeEudora WeltyG.K. Chesterton, “the great master Chekov,” and Stephen King, who wrote, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darling.

Here at Collab Writers HQ, we’re currently going through the painful transition to take our story Consequences from book to screen. It’s both an interesting and painful discipline, a little like going through those teenage years – you grow into it. We know how wonderful it feels to have words flow onto the page straight from one’s subconscious. As we navigate screenwriting, we’re now questioning whether these passages add anything to screenplay. For the great swathes of passages that don’t – as the great and the good advised, the darlings must go.

If, when you chat to Collab Writers, you hear tears and wailing – you’ll know it’s because we have killed our precious darlings. Enjoy the Oscars and try to imagine your story being nominated one day. You’ve gotta dream it first to believe it….then you’ve gotta be in it to win it – get writing and get collaborating.

*did you know that Raindance Film Festival has offered Collab Writers Founder Members a 20% discount off all their writing and filmmaking courses?

Collab Writers Networking at the Library

Come and meet fellow writers, filmmakers and other creatives in one of the coolest private members clubs: The Library – situated in the heart of London’s Theatreland. This event is free for Founder Members. Guests just £10.00 Thursday October 3rd 19:00 – 21:00

£10.00

The 10 Rules Of Copyright For Writers

10 rules of copyrightI caught up with founder partner of Collab Writers and founder of the Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards, Elliot Grove. We met at The Library Club in central London, where Collab Writers will be hosting a monthly networking event to encourage creative collaboration.

***Please note: Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice and is presented for educational purposes only based upon the experience of Elliot Grove. Please consult a lawyer if you require legal advice.

Jennie Griffiths: Elliot, with your experience of scripts and movie making – please do share your experience of copyright and explain it to the rookie writer / filmmaker

Elliot Grove: I can try!

Copyright law around the world is based on a simple premise- surrounding the planet earth there is a cloud of ideas. Any two people at the same time can pull down the same idea and download it from the universe. And, ideas are free.

What is copyrightable is the expression of the idea, be it as a poem, sculpture, libretto, novel or script. Sometimes, the difference between what is an expression of an idea and what is an idea can become complicated. Some lawyers make a living from this.

Basically, two writers can come up with the same storyline for a novel, or movie for that matter. They write two very different manuscripts, but the storyline idea (which cannot be copyright protected) cannot be disputed.

JG: Can’t writers just put the ‘©’ symbol alongside their work to confirm ownership?

EG: Many writers and artists labour under the misconception that they must fill out an official form, and write the letter ‘©’ to assert their claim for ownership of the copyright. In fact, all countries recognize that the artist owns copyright from the moment it is created.

The difficulty arises in proving ownership when it is disputed.

JG: So how can writers protect their ideas?

EG: Well, Rule #1 is that you cannot copyright or protect an idea.

This is the whole point of copyright law.  Your first task after coming up with a great idea for a movie is to write as detailed an account of your idea as possible. Generally, a page or two is not sufficient to distinguish your ideas from your competitors. Three pages are better, but I recommend ten. After all, you have an idea for a movie that will end up being ninety to a hundred- and-twenty pages long. Surely you can outline the key points in ten pages.

JG: Who owns the copyright of your manuscript / script?

EG: Rule #2 – You own the copyright of your script or treatment the moment it is created. Suppose you are in your ivory tower, typing your hundred-page screenplay. You are on a complete roll, when suddenly, near the bottom of page ninety-nine you hear the two most dreaded words a screenwriter will ever hear bouncing up the walls of your ivory tower – ‘Dinner’s ready!’

You race down for dinner, storm through your food, and race back to your typewriter only to discover that an erstwhile copyright thief has taken the ninety-nine page manuscript from you, and typed a new page hundred and is now claiming ownership of the script.

You created the screenplay (minus page hundred) and you own the copyright. The only way that you lose the copyright is by assigning the title of the screenplay to someone else, presumably for a wad of cash. The difficulty is in proving that you own the copyright.

Become a founder member

Could there ever be a better deal for a tenner? Founder members enjoy benefits and discounts with all of the partners we are working with.

£10.00

JG: So, how do you prove ownership? Is this Rule #3?

EG: Well screenwriters can apply to have their script registered upon completion, in a similar way that parents apply for a birth certificate for their newborns. It is called Certificate of Registration, and is available from the Writers Guild of America at http://www.wga.org

At the time of writing, the fee is a modest $20.00. Send a copy of the final version of the screenplay. For your money, you will receive a letter with the date your script was received along with a serial number (to assist in file retrieval). Keep this number confidential.

Other writers register their scripts or manuscripts with the United States Copyright Office. You can check the current fees from http://www.loc.gov/copyright or call +1 202 707 3000.

In the UK, other art organizations, the trade union BECTU and also Raindance provide the service free to its members. And for a limited time this service is free to Collab Writers Founder Members.

Once you’ve registered,

you can promote and market your manuscript to your heart’s content knowing that you are able to prove the date of creation.

JG – So that’s all there is to it?

EG: Not so fast JG! Proof of ownership is Rule #4.

There’s an additional piece of administrative detail, which you must attend to in order to back up the birth certificate of your creation. Should you ever get into a dispute with another writer, or with a producer who you suspect of using your script with permission, you need to prove that you are the one who registered the screenplay.

It’s a little like a property transaction, proving the chain of title, where your solicitor will look at the deeds of the house you are buying and trace all the previous owners back in time to make sure that the title has no unpaid mortgages, liens for city taxes and so on. Screenplays are classed as intellectual property.

Similarly, screenwriters also need to prove chain of title, although it is less formal than in property dealing. You have to keep a formal record of everyone you speak to about your screenplay.

JG: This is starting to sound quite complicated. When we sat down, you said there were Ten rules?

EG: ‘Fraid so – and Rule #5 I call ‘the Ten Thousand Monkeys’

American scientists proved the theory of ‘isn’t it amazing about the common currency of ideas in circulation; with an experiment in the South Pacific. There they found six islands, on which lived a unique species of monkey, totalling ten thousand. One fifth of the island grew sweet potatoes; a very good food for monkeys – but none of the monkeys ate sweet potatoes. Approximately six hundred monkeys lived on the sixth island- the one without sweet potatoes.

The scientists introduced sweet potatoes, trained few monkeys to dig up the potatoes, take them to the ocean and wash them, and then eat them.

A very strange thing happened when approximately a hundred of the six hundred monkeys were digging up the sweet potatoes, taking them to the ocean and washing then and eating them. Suddenly, the monkeys on the other islands started to dig up sweet potatoes, take them to the ocean to wash them and eat them.

Isn’t it amazing about the common currency of ideas in circulation?

When I moved to London from Toronto in 1986, I was used to being a Lone Ranger. In Toronto, if I had an idea for literally anything, I would be isolated by all my acquaintances (I didn’t really have ‘friends’) because they thought me, with my crazy ideas, quite weird.

But when I moved to London, not fully appreciating the difference in size, and the broad depth of this cosmopolitan and multi-cultural city, I suddenly felt at one with a huge number of unseen friends. And whenever I have an idea I would read about it in the newspaper the very next day – pretty scary for a writer.

Remember that whatever your idea for a movie is, I can guarantee you that at least a dozen other people in the world right now have exactly the same idea. The only difference is that you are reading this page and attempting to get it out onto paper. Remember that all ideas are basically sound. What makes an ordinary idea exciting is the way you bend, reshape and state the idea. The expression of the idea is yours, and yours alone. The bolder and fresher you can be, the more valuable your idea will be in the market place.

JG: This is fascinating stuff Elliot. So, subject to the caveat of getting legal advice…if writers follow these rules it means their ideas and intellectual property is safe, right?

EG: Not exactly….Rule #6 Jennie is ‘Misfortune’

For example: What if you have a great idea for a movie, register it for copyright, and voilà – someone else is already making the movie? What would you do? Sue them? Give up writing?

Misfortune is a weird and dangerous thing. Consider this true story of a writing friend of mine in London. She came up with a concept for a television show based on the true-life experiences of people living alone, but sharing accommodation. In order to secure stories, she placed ads in London’s famous Time Out magazine advertising for people to write in with their stories.

She prepared a questionnaire for potential participants, which she returned to each person who responded to the ad. This process took place over a long period of time. Just as she was approaching her goal of getting the right mix of people for her series of shows, she was summoned to of a local magazine and saw an ad that was worded identically to hers.

She responded and received a questionnaire exactly like the one she had prepared in London, some eighteen months earlier. Back in London, she conferred with an entertainment attorney, another good friend of mine. He told her that she had a potential case for copyright infringement, which he was willing to pursue for nothing, as a favour. In those days, hard costs would have been $5,000 to $10,000. As she didn’t happen to have that much cash lying around for a speculative enterprise such as this, he advised her to pass.

Even if she won her case she would still have had to prove that she had suffered financial damages. As it was difficult to see how a classified ad in the States could possibly infringe on a television show destined for the United Kingdom, she decided to let it go. A few months later, the trades announced the production start of a movie I cannot name for legal reasons.

My friend had a great attitude to this misfortune. She shrugged her shoulders and simply said that it proved that her ideas were commercially viable, and she moved on to the next project.

JG: Gosh, just goes to show how careful you need to be…can you tell us something about waiver letters and submission releases. Could we make this Rule #7?

EG: We sure can – I was wondering how we could get to that. Your questions are the perfect example of how to lead an interview!

Sometimes when you submit a script to a production company, they will send your script back with a letter that they want you to sign. The letter basically states that they want you to cast aside your right to sue them for copyright infringement if they ever make a film resembling in any way your screenplay.

If you don’t feel comfortable with the letter don’t sign it. The film company will not read your script. Go find someone else to make your movie. Of course, I believe that astute writers understand that these waivers are designed by film companies, not to make it easier to plunder screenplays, but to protect them from dishonest screenwriters. Either way you look at it, don’t do anything unless you feel comfortable.

JG: Can we talk about Non-disclosure agreements? How do they work in the film industry?

EG: Sure, let’s make this Rule # 8 then? I’m not sure if I can make it to 10 – but I’ll try!
Pitching ideas blind to a film company can be considered a form of an open invitation for them to take your ideas. You could get them to sign a Non-disclosure agreement. It’s a binding contract where each party agrees not to discuss their ideas with anyone else unless certain pre-agreed conditions are met.

JG: I’ve recently watched Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Mule’ based on a newspaper article of a true crime. How might Clint have gone about acquiring the rights to a such a story and how can writers do this?

EG: Great example, this can be Rule #9 – Writers will often become aware of a real-life story through a newspaper account or television news piece. In order to acquire the screenplay rights to a person’s true-life story, you need to approach the individual directly and secure their written permission to base a screenplay on their life.

Probably the easiest way to contact this person is through the journalist who originally created the story. Through this contact, approach the individual directly, and see if you can persuade them to allow you to write the story of their life.

There are certain laws governing the stories of someone who has been convicted of a crime. Most countries will not allow a prisoner to profit from any story about their crime, through the American ‘Son of Sam’ laws or similar. If you are contacting a prisoner, make sure you engage the service of an entertainment attorney who can offer expert advice.

JG: Sounds like fascinating but choppy waters to navigate. Well done Elliot! But that’s Rule #9! What’s your Rule #10!

EG: I’ll have to make Rule #10 an urban myth as I’m running out of copyright rules!
Putting your script into a self-addressed registered mail envelop to yourself simply doesn’t cut it. You need to give your script to a registered third party.

JG: This has been immensely helpful Elliot, thanks. Any final words of copyright caution from experience?

EG:
Take your time to understand copyright. If you want to know more Raindance do run a course on it from time to time led by a specialist lawyer – so, do look out for that.

Never tell anyone an idea until you have written it down as completely as possible and registered it.

Be professional. Keep track, in writing, of everyone you have discussed your manuscript with.

If you require permission to tell someone’s story, be absolutely certain that you have the necessary permission before you start writing. And, if needs be, seek legal advice.

If you want to meet other writers and collaborate, check out the Collab Writers Networking Drinks at The Library in London’s Theatre Land

 

 

Consequences – a game of two halves….

Consequences Parlour GAme

‘Consequences’ started life as a Victorian Parlour game with a picture variation in France beguilingly called ‘Exquisite Corpse.’ The game was based on two or more people telling a story following a set structure. One person would write a sentence on a piece of paper and fold the paper over hiding what they had written. They would pass it to the next person who would do the same and pass it on, with a view to building up a narrative worthy of any good story – with a beginning, a middle and an end. Then, the story would be read out loud to entertain. This was before the TV came along….

Keen to bring the game back into fashion, Jennie Griffiths and I have created our own unique variation of the game, breaking the rules (but not the ethos) of the original. I wrote a paragraph, Jennie replied, and we continued the back and forth. We wrote about murderous twins, Sylvie and Betty, each of us writing the dialogue and thoughts of one of the twins and bringing in the other characters too. The resulting novel, aptly named ‘Consequences’ has twists and turns as the twins try to thwart one another on their murderous paths. In the same way that Jennie and I are different (as everyone is) the juxtaposition between Betty and Sylvie of self and other, is a key motif of the novel. Seeing what the other had written from a different perspective, sparked our mutual creativity.

We wrote the novel on the go, using our phones much of the time on our commutes to work. Jennie would email me her latest ‘reaction’ to what I had written and vice versa. we called our respective missives ‘instalments’.

We are, of course, not the first writers to collaborate and co-create. What we loved about writing together from the get go was the complete absence of writer’s block. And, the fact that we both managed to get to the point that we have a completed work, one that is being edited now. During the last few years, we have spoken to many people who have written, or half-written a book. Or people want to start one but aren’t sure where or how to start. If I hadn’t met Jennie, I don’t think I would ever have completed a novel; my unfinished book with two titles is still in a folder under the bed gathering dust.

As we came to the end of our first draft of ‘Consequences’, we started writing a second book together called ‘Swipe’ where the twins make an appearance but are not the main players. Then, Jennie had an idea for another novel, a kind of ‘watching the watcher’ novel called ‘#We’llBeTogether.’

From having a dearth of words on a page to having one completed book with an editor and two more on the go, means that we can finally call ourselves the writers we’ve always aspired to be.

Our collaboration has led us to set up Collab Writers, to help anyone who wants to write (amongst other creative pursuits) to meet others to join forces with. We know how collaborating helped us to get words on a page and we want to help get you get started, overcome writer’s block, motivate and help increase output. Collab Writers plans to be this and more – we will also be holding events and competitions to encourage writers to practice their art. Collab Writers will also publish the best works.

Anyone can play Consequences…come and join Collab Writers and give it a go…
We launched Collab Writers in the mid-winter of 2018. Our inaugural event was attended by nearly 100 people. Most played Consequences and wrote some rather brilliant one page stories through collaboration. Many had never ‘written’ stories before.

We have a series of networking events scheduled in London to continue the tradition. We also plan to run pop-ups with a mix of networking, education and creation and creative retreats.
Join us at The Library Here

Become a founder member

Could there ever be a better deal for a tenner? Founder members enjoy benefits and discounts with all of the partners we are working with.

£10.00