Writing Requires….

COURAGE: There’s no guarantee that your work will be accepted, so every time you send your work to an editor, you risk the disappointment of rejection. If you want to succeed as a writer, you have to strap yourself into the emotional roller coaster and go from the anticipation of seeing your work published, to the reality of reading rejection e-mails over and over again.

PATIENCE: One of the first lessons you learn through experience, is that if you want to be a published writer, you must be willing to wait. If you send a short story to a literary journal that’s printed four times a year, hoping that it will be published in the winter edition, but it’s accepted for the spring edition, you’ll have to wait an additional three months to see your story in print.

PERSEVERANCE: What happens if the first editor you send your story to rejects it? It’s going to hurt, because you’ve poured your heart and soul into that story. Unfortunately, editors receive many more manuscripts than they can actually publish, and therefore, they’re forced to reject some well-written stories. The best option is to search for another market for your story, and submit again.

DECISIVENESS: Only you know when a manuscript it ready to either submit it to an editor, or self-publish. Only you know whether your story will work best as a novel, screenplay, or a play for live theatre. Only you can decide whether it will benefit you enough, to allow your work to be published without receiving any payment. Some literary journals are staffed entirely by volunteers, and their limited budget does not include any money for writers, but the prestige you receive having your short story or essay included in their publication, will help your career. Note: Many editors will not accept previously published material, including self-published material. Having a short story or essay published for free, may mean you’ll never be paid for it.

Only writers knows how much time, effort and emotional cost is involved in the stories we create, and yet, we keep writing….

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

You’re Not Wasting Your Time

So far this year I’ve paid to upgrade my blog to a website, and I’ve also paid to renew my membership with two writing organizations. I’ve had one short story published and anticipate one more being published by the end of the year. I won’t receive any money for the stories, but in a very real sense I will still receive payment, because every time my writing is published, it helps me establish my personal brand.

Here’s a question that you may be struggling with: If you’re not making a profit writing, does that mean you’re wasting your time and money? No, it means you’re investing your time and money in your passion.

Many people want to keep their passions as hobbies. Once they’re required to answer to deadlines, and feel pressure to make a profit, it loses it’s appeal and it’s no longer enjoyable. Perhaps you want to keep writing separate from your day job, because it helps to keep your life in balance.

Some of us, however, dream of creating a living from our passion. We find no satisfaction in going to the office, warehouse, or store where our creativity is of little value. We make no use of our ability to craft stories, while we generate quarterly reports, operate forklifts, and serve customers. It would be great to make the transition from part-time to full-time status as a writer, but if we can’t afford to leave those jobs, we’ll have accept that the opportunity to write will remain confined to our free time.

Whether your writing is a hobby, or you’re working towards becoming a full-time writer, one thing is certain; writing is part of who you are. If due to some unseen event you were unable to continue writing, it would be a great loss. It would also be a great loss for everyone else.

Think of a song that makes you feel alive every time you hear it, a movie that tears at your heart strings and tickles your funny bone, or a novel that you couldn’t put down until you finished it. In those experiences, you were sharing another person’s passion. Can you put a price on those experiences?

What will you share with the world today through your passion? There are poems, short stories, novels, essays and screenplays waiting to be written by you. Whether you’re a full-time or part-time writer, whether or not you’ll be paid for your work, you can still decide to write, and share your passion.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Reading Widely

If you’re like me, you may feel a tinge of envy when you hear a jet, wishing you had travelled more often. You may also have taken jobs to pay the bills, while you dreamed of a different career path. We’ve all passed up opportunities, made mistakes, and taken jobs, just because we had to pay the bills.

So what can you do if your knowledge of the world is limited, but you don’t want your writing to have a narrow focus?

I have never gone to a casino to gamble; the closest I’ve come to that is walking through a casino. I do, however have some knowledge of the industry through reading: Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich and Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom. How could this information be useful? If you write science fiction and a space station your hero visits has a casino, it could help you imagine a realistic setting.

While I was briefly working as a Background Performer for a Canadian science fiction series, I walked through a set that was built to resemble the Oval Office. That’s the closest I’ll ever get to the White House. Fortunately, I found an excellent book that offers insights on what life is like for Presidents: Marine One: Four U.S Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World’s Most Amazing Helicopter by Colonel Ray “Frenchy” L’Heureux with Lee Kelly. What I found most fascinating were the descriptions of the logistics involved in moving the President from one location to another, and how various Presidents interacted with their staff.

Since I’ve never been an executive with a financial institution, or a successful stock broker, how could I ever understand what it’s like to be a major player in billion dollar industries? These three books have given me a glimpse into what their lives are like: Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley describes the brinkmanship between competing casino magnates in Los Vegas. Rigged, which is about the oil industry, and Once Upon a Time in Russia, which describes the rise of Russian billionaires, are both written by Ben Mezrich. If one of your stories involves your characters making multi-million dollar deals, wouldn’t it be useful to understand some of the pressures and dangers of working in that environment?

It’s important to read widely; if your knowledge is based only on stereotypes you’ve seen on television, you’re going to write stories that are no more that strings of cliches linked together, to produce either a lousy novel, or a screenplay for a B movie that isn’t worth watching. Reading widely helps you develop a depth of knowledge, that allows your stories to be both creative, and believable.

I should note here that some novels are based on completely unrealistic stereotypes, become bestsellers, and are adapted for blockbuster movies, making the authors extremely wealthy. Although I try to offer useful advice, you’re still the author and you have to follow your gut instincts. So, if you’re flying overhead in a corporate jet, on your way to a meeting with a Hollywood producer, just give me a wave.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

To Blog, or not to Blog….

So it’s the day you normally write your blog, but you’re scared that you have nothing left to write about. Here are some suggestions to consider:

Write a book review that’s related to your blog’s theme. It doesn’t have to be an exact match. For example, if you’re blog is about writing, reviewing a book like Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits still makes sense, because being productive is important to writers. It doesn’t have to be a new book, because what’s important, are your thoughts about its content, not the date when it was published.

You can compare a book, to the movie based on it. Is the author of the book, also the screenwriter? How much time was there between the publication of the book, and the release of the movie? Are there lines in the book, that were given to other characters in the movie? Are there scenes in the book you really enjoyed, that were missing in the movie? Is the movie an accurate representation of the book?

Another option is sharing resources related to your blog’s subject. You could tell your readers about feature-length documentaries and shorter videos you’ve discovered. Are there any new websites and/or blogs with good material? You could also provide links to articles and essays that will help your readers improve their knowledge of your shared passion.

If you’ve made any changes to your website, you could describe the changes, and explain why you made them. I recently removed two videos from my website, deciding it was better to focus on writing, rather than distracting visitors to my website with cringe-worthy videos. Instead, I listed the made-for-television movies I was a Background Performer/Movie Extra in, because they were an important learning experience for me.

Write about one of your accomplishments, and describe the time and effort required to achieve that goal. How long did it take you? What have you learned from your failures? If it was difficult, how did you overcome discouragement? Now that you’ve finished, do still feel it was a worthwhile goal?

You can also list those who you admire, and explain why. What did they achieve? What are the character traits that you’d like to emulate? Which obstacles did they overcome to achieve their goals? How are they remembered? If they aren’t well known, perhaps this is an opportunity to publicly give them the credit they deserve.

I hope these suggestions help you keep slogging and blogging.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

You Have To Decide

If you want to be a successful writer, you’ll have to decide to act on your story ideas. When you have a great story idea, you need to take the next step, whether it’s creating an outline, or writing the first paragraph. It does’t matter whether the end product is a short story, play, novel or screenplay, you just have to start.

You have to decide if you’re going to be a creator. Everyone is a consumer; reading books, watching movies, playing video games, but not everyone is a creator. Writers are creators, we take the ideas in our minds, and create novels that people read, screenplays that directors use to make movies, and plays that actors bring to life on stage.

When you have some spare time, you’ll have to decide whether to binge watch your favourite television series, or write. Time is a limited resource; how you use it will determine whether you’ll have the first draft of a novel at the end of the year, or you’ve just spent countless hours being amused.

You’ll have to decide if you’re prepared to have your writing criticised. Whether it’s someone in your writing group critiquing your short story, or an editor you’ve submitted a manuscript to, feedback is necessary for you to improve your craft.

The most important decision, however, is whether you’re prepared to actually write. You can read blogs about writing, attend writing conferences, read writing magazines, and watch interviews with authors, without ever making a serious effort to write.

So, what are you going to do right now? Do you have a good story idea? Are you prepared to invest time improving your craft? Are you willing to try, and learn from your mistakes? Everyone is a consumer, but you are a creator, and now is the time to start writing.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Marketing Ideas For Self-Published eBooks

Traditionally when we think of alumni organisations, universities come to mind, but that isn’t accurate; elementary schools, high schools, and community colleges also have alumni groups. Although they might not call themselves alumni, former employees of companies also form groups to keep in touch. You can promote your eBooks by making announcements on their websites or through their magazines and newsletters. You could reach thousands of potential readers, and you already have something in common with all of them.

Another option is to write an article or essay related to the subject of your eBook, or about the experience of writing it, and post the article or essay on Linked-In. If you don’t feel it’s appropriate to mention the title of the eBook in the article or essay, you can always include a link to the eBook or your website at the end. You might attract the attention of people who are too busy to browse websites, in search of new books to read.

Do you have a Youtube channel, where you can promote your writing? This step requires swallowing your pride, because your first videos will probably be cringe-worthy. That doesn’t matter, because over time your videos will improve, what’s important is that you’re reaching more potential readers.

A labour- intensive approach that I tried with my self-published eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper, was sending e-mails to libraries. I managed to convince several Canadian and American, and one Australian library to buy copies, but it required contacting hundreds of libraries. It was worth the effort, because many people discover new writers through searching library catalogues.

Self-published eBooks are flooding the marketplace like a biblical plague of locusts, and it’s getting more difficult to stand out in the crowd. I hope you find these ideas useful.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

How I Learned About the Entertainment Industry, Without Moving to Hollywood

My first foray into the entertainment industry began with Writer’s Block. I was writing a novel, but no matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t make it work. At about the same time I read two screenplays; Matrix Reloaded and The Piano. Since I had a general idea of how the format worked, I tried writing the story as a screenplay and it worked!

I had always enjoyed movies, but now I was hooked; I wanted real experience working in the industry. Fortunately, my first opportunity arrived a couple of years later while a stay-at-home parent for several months. Since my schedule was reasonably flexible, I was able to work as a Background Performer/Movie Extra for television series and made-for-television movies. That’s how I learned about Set Etiquette; as a Background Performer I was allowed to ask questions of the Production Assistants and Assistant Director, but I wasn’t allowed to speak to the Director. Observing how much was involved in shooting a single, ten minute scene, I began to understand why it’s so costly to make movies.

My next opportunity came, unexpectedly, through church. After moving to a large city, I spent several years as a Volunteer Video Camera Operator. It was a huge church (by Canadian standards) with three jumbo screens at the front of the auditorium and four Camera Operators for each service. It was a professional operation; when you arrived at the scheduled call time, you went to a production meeting, where the order of service was discussed. Once you were live, you followed the instructions of the Video Director, telling you who to focus on. With worship teams consisting of as many as six musicians, it could become quite demanding; panning, zooming, and focusing, on keyboards, guitars, drums, bass and singers.

Three books that I’ve found helpful in learning about the entertainment industry are; What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman, On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette by Paul J. Salamoff, and Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James A. Miller. I’ve also read over fifty screenplays. Although it’s tedious, if you really want to understand what’s involved in making movies, read a movie budget line by line.

I remain involved in the entertainment industry, as you do, by writing. After all, whether you’re a novelist, short story writer, playwright, or screenwriter, you’re a storyteller. And that’s really what the entertainment industry is all about; storytelling.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Three Great Resources

Most of the writers I’ve met don’t have large marketing budgets for their self-published books. Writers who have their books printed by traditional publishers, find they have to take greater responsibility for the promotion of their writing. We’re artists, but we need to think like entrepreneurs.

A book by one of the stars of Shark Tank offers great advice and encouragement for anyone who is starting with few resources. One of the main themes of The Power of Broke (2016) by Daymond John is that if you start with little financial support, it forces you to be creative, searching for unique solutions to challenges, rather than just throwing money at problems. His life is an example of how focus, determination, and perseverance, can lead to unbelievable success. Daymond John offers readers a glimpse of the challenges he faced building a company from the ground up, while encouraging them to follow their dreams.

Another great book that encourages anyone striving to follow their dreams was written by the Producer of Shark Tank. Dare to Succeed (2001) by Mark Burnett, stresses how essential it is to take chances and be prepared to expect the unexpected. Today you know him as a very successful television producer, but after serving in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, his first job in the United States was as a live-in-nanny. If you had just left one of the world’s elite military units, would you expect to find yourself taking care of children? His goal was to establish a life in the United States, and he was willing to do whatever it took.

I found it interesting that John Daymond sold clothing out of an old van in New York and Mark Burnett sold T-shirts on a beach in California. They both had direct sales experience early in their careers. What every writer can learn from the lives of entrepreneurs, is how essential it is to develop pitching skills. Daymond John had to convince musicians to wear the clothing he was designing in their videos. Mark Burnett had to convince companies to sponsor Eco Challenge. Likewise, writers are constantly pitching ideas to editors, trying to get them to publish our books, short fiction, articles, and essays. If you write screenplays, you have to persuade film companies to read them.

As well as reading these two books, I would highly recommend that you takes a look at Evan Carmichael‘s videos on Youtube, especially the Top 10 Rules series. Here you can find countless videos describing the principles used to achieve success by authors, business leaders, motivational speakers, actors, musicians and pastors.

Keep Striving. Keep Learning. Keep Writing.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Even If You Love Writing Screenplays….

If you enjoy writing, and you also enjoy watching movies, writing screenplays feels like a perfect fit. It allows you to be involved in the entertainment industry, even when circumstances make it difficult for you to work directly for a film company. There are, however, some good reasons you should keep working on other other projects as well.

One downside to writing screenplays is that it limits how many people will discover that you’re a writer. Let’s say that you write a great screenplay, and after an online search, you find ten production companies willing to consider screenplays submitted directly from writers. If those companies don’t buy or option your screenplays, it may be that only ten people know that you write. Unfortunately, if it’s rejected by script readers, the ten people who now know you’re a writer, may not be directors or producers.

You can also enter screenwriting contests, but make sure you take the time to find out who will see your screenplay. In some cases, your screenplay will only be read by directors, producers and agents If your screenplay is one of the finalists, out of hundreds of entries. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to pay the entry fee, for the possibility that it will be seen by someone who can help your career.

The dilemma is that you could be a gifted writer, but very few people know that you write. One way to overcome that obstacle is to write short stories. You can submit short stories to magazines, print anthologies, and literary journals (print and online.) Being published raises your profile as a writer, and you can include in your Bio, that you write screenplays. If talent agents or directors read your short story, they’ll know that you’re a talented writer AND you write screenplays.

Another way to raise your profile as a screenwriter, is to write articles and essays about writing and film, with the goal of establishing yourself as an industry expert. As always, include the fact you write screenplays in the Author’s Bio. Since a script reader or director may read hundreds of screenplays with similar themes, wouldn’t it be useful if they recognized your name?

I recently tried to raise to raise my profile as a writer, by starting a Youtube channel. I hope you find the video I’ve posted, “What If You’re A Really Good Writer?” amusing, despite the fact it’s a cringe-worthy early attempt.

Keep writing, the world needs to hear your voice, your passion!

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper http://www.jpaulcooper.ca

Is Your Idea Original Enough?

Many film companies won’t read a screenplay unless it is submitted by a talent agent or lawyer. If, however, you do find a film company that agrees to read one of your screenplays, they usually won’t read it unless you first sign a Release Agreement. One of the clauses in the Release Agreement will require you to acknowledge that someone working for the film company, or perhaps another writer like yourself, may have already submitted a concept that is similar. No matter how original you think your idea is, there may be other writers working on stories with very similar themes.

However, just because other writers may have similar concepts, shouldn’t discourage you from developing your story ideas. Consider these facts: White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen were both movies about an attack on the White House, and they were both released in 2013. Despite the fact Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 were both series about space stations, and they appealed to the same demographic, between 1993 and 1998, they were on television at the same time.

Although The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins books, is the best known story about teens fighting to the death, it wasn’t the first one. The first Hunger Games movie was released in 2012. The Japanese movie Battle Royale, based on the novel by Koushun Takami, was released twelve years earlier in 2000.

So, how do you distinguish your story concepts from other writers? Characters: Gandolph in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies are both powerful, charismatic wizards, but they have very different personalities. Setting: Dragons are used in The Hobbit trilogy, the Harry Potter movies and The Game of Thrones series, but the worlds in which they live are unique. Dialogue: What accents will your characters have? Will they sound like they’re reading from a dictionary, or will they use slang?

You should do your best to avoid copying another writer’s work; some of the worst B movies ever made were the result of a Director trying to copy a blockbuster. There are, however, many variations on a theme. The Twilight Saga movies and the Blade trilogy both concern vampires, but they approach the subject from very different perspectives.

Here’s the key point to remember: It’s the writer’s voice and how he or she approaches a subject that makes a story unique.

The only question is: What are you going to write today?

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper