“The Paradigm Shift”
PART TWO: Preparation
By Brandon M. Easton November 16, 2010
The great screenwriter and novelist William Goldman once said, “No one in Hollywood wants to be the one that gives you your break. Nobody really wants to read your work.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
I would hope than any aspiring writer, artist, letterer, colorist, dancer, rapper, singer, sculptor or any creative person would take this into account before they begin the quest for their artistic dreams. Obviously, the systems in place for entry into the business side of the art world (such a tragic irony) are different, but the overall infrastructure is the same. You must be prepared.
Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Venus & Serena Williams. Names associated with excellence. If you dig deeper past the glitz, glory and glamour you would hear the words “practice, sweat, tears, determination, anger, resentment, and more practice.” They say that the way you get good at anything is to spend at least 10,000 hours in practice. Don’t believe me? Read this.
Just so you know, this column won’t always be about how to break into the business as a writer (see below), nevertheless, I feel that not enough is said about the ways people destroy their own chances at success as creative professionals. Once I get past this, you won’t hear another peep out of me about this subject. I promise.
I am often asked at panels and workshops: “how do I get started as a writer?” In the interest of brevity I won’t go into my usual answer, however, I will say that a writer needs to do two things on a regular basis: 1) read and 2) write something every day. That’s how you get started.
And by read, I mean read everything–comic books, newspapers (from many major cities and different countries), magazines, non-fiction books, cheesy bestsellers, and about things you normally wouldn’t consider to be important. A writer learns by osmosis, which is to say that you absorb energy and ideas from the greater environment. Reading other writers’ work gives you a sense of perspective and can help correct the inevitable story and structure errors you will definitely make in the early parts of your career.
This will help you generate story concepts and allow you to flesh out existing ideas. My upcoming graphic novel “Shadowlaw” was originally written as a chase story in the future, and I was set on that until I read about how the United States will be experiencing a water shortage in the next 20 years. I took that real word data and applied it to my story engine and the entire motivation for the political establishment had to be altered. I wanted to have a connection to issues that will be faced by the population in the time frame of my storyline. It gives my universe a kind of weight that the audience doesn’t realize matters, unless it wasn’t there.
For example, the IRON MAN (2008) movie wouldn’t have worked as well if the filmmakers had taken out the arms dealing sub plot with Afghanistan. It’s the reason IRON MAN 2 didn’t work as well as a story–there was no real world gravitas pushing the story engine.
It might sound ridiculous to say this, but a lot of unpublished talents talk about being a writer without actually having written anything. They go to panels, they ask 20 questions, they inquire about jobs, they post on Facebook that they have a story idea, but at the end of the day, they have nothing in the form of a script, a short story or a blog post. This is a common problem and leads to the constant lack of respect given by those in positions of power to aspiring writing talent.
In the 21st century, there is absolutely no reason to be unpublished in some media format. Granted, no one is expecting the novice writer to break in working for the New Yorker or the Wall Street Journal, but between Blogspot, Wordpress, and a host of other blogger hubs, the greenest of writers can establish an online presence. In this world of instant publication, editors expect writers to have branded themselves as a guru of their niche. I talk about sci-fi and comic books from an African-American perspective and I also concentrate on rookie writers and how they can break into the biz. See? I don’t pontificate on fashion trends or shades of lipstick because I literally don’t care and/or don’t know anything about those subjects.
The key here is to slowly build a network of people (and fans) who know of your work. It will not happen overnight, but this pays off big time when you are ready to publish that first novel or comic book series. You might not break sales records, but you’ll make enough of a dent to earn you a seat at the table of pop culture relevance.
As I have run out of space, I want to let you know my next article will focus on Black males and the constant stream of negative attention focused upon in pop culture and what WE CAN DO ABOUT IT. As always, feel free to contact me at any time!
Brandon M. Easton is a professional writer, screenwriter, and educator based in Los Angeles, CA. Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Easton is a graduate of Ithaca College and Boston University’s prestigious Screenwriting program. Brandon has well over 10 years of writing experience and is currently working on his next series SHADOWLAW which will be (finally) released in summer of 2011. Brandon hopes you will check out his free podcast series WRITING FOR ROOKIES to learn more tricks of the trade. Visit Brandon at www.shadowlawonline.com and writingforrookies.podcastpeople.com