Many writers value their ideas and words so much so that they can’t understand why others don’t see their genius. They are not open to changes or suggestions and refuse to move to other projects.
I asked one writer friend who attends numerous networking events - always pitching his one and only script to anyone who would listen okay - why he hadn't developed another story so he would have something else to offer. He claimed his script was perfect and should sell on its own. He did not need to spend time marketing something else. “Besides, once this story sells everyone will be knocking at my door.”
I tried to tell him that his attitude was counter-productive. "Agents and managers are in the business of selling. Even if they like your script, they’ll ask what other projects you have. If you only have one script they have nothing else to sell."
He defended his decision. "My story is unique as are my characters. Any agent or manager will be lucky to have it.”
"But this is your only script."
"My story is based on a real life situation."
"Do you at least have rights to the story?"
He looked askance. Why would he need rights? It had been in the news and wasn’t that available to everyone?
I tried to explain that doesn’t work in the real world. He continued to insist that his story was great and he was not concerned
"Okay have it your way. You still might have difficulty selling if –“
"It's a true story."
"Even true stories need some buffing when being written for publishing or film. And you never did any rewriting?"
"Why? It doesn't need any. Anyone who suggests revisions are wrong. They’re jealous of my work.”
Yet for ten years my friend has continued to pound on doors and hit the pavement in search of some to buy his single masterpiece. “My words are golden.” He continued to spout names of various producers who “loved” his story and claimed interest in it, but “no one wants to write me a check.”
He wouldn’t even show his script to anyone unless they were willing to sign a non disclosure agreement (which few professionals are willing to do.)
“So you won’t consider a touch up?”
“It was a great story then and it's a great story now. My characters are true to life. I even chose the perfect outfits to match their blond curls and blue eyes."
I wanted to say something about character description, but I didn't. Like most novice writers he failed to understand it is not the physical description but the emotional journey of the character and the impact on the audience which counts but I’ll save that for another blog.
“Maybe if you started something else …if you didn’t obsess on this story..”
“I don’t need to. I told you. When the agents see how talented I am there and how unique my writing is there won’t be any need.”
Myself, as an established writer, I usually have several projects in different stages of development that can interest my representatives and producers.
It's always a good idea to take a break from your one story, especially if it's not selling. Start working on another idea - if only to give your mind a break. You might even come up with a new twist for that first story.
I don't blame my friend for wanting to sell his one script but a good writer needs to pay attention to the current trends and what the audiences want now. Do your homework. What is being bought now and why?
Maybe your story is past it's time. Maybe with some changes you can revive it later. Or maybe it is time to move on. (One of my books was sent around 21 times -seven to the same publisher - before I added some twists and sold it.)
The fact is - as I have told many of my students - all of you can have a story about five people on a desert island. All the stories will be different because it is who the characters are, their emotional journeys, goals, flaws and how they overcome the obstacles that count.
Many writers can have similar stories –even true stories -- but the execution of a story that matters.
How unique is your story really? Again it is the characters and not the beats of the plot that matter.
How can you change it to make it more emotional?
What courses are you taking to improve your craft?
Now what new project are you working on now while trying to sell this?
If you have a story or script that is not selling, put it away for a bit and take a break. Look for other projects that interest you. Who knows maybe in a few months – or even a few years – that news story which made up the core of your script will find an opening even if you have to add a few twists.