Thursday, April 12, 2012

The First Rail to Success

Over the last few weeks I have been stuck on what author Steven Pressfield calls that second rail or track or the business side of being a writer versus the first rail, which is about finding your soul as an artist.  You see there are two sides of being a writer; the entrepreneurial and the artistic. 
They feed on each other but what happens when you get stuck on the second rail? What happens when you get stuck waiting for a response to an inquiry, checking to see if there are any orders to fill, balancing the checking account.  The second rail has a tendency to over ride the first and that is when we come up against resistance, or what is more commonly known as writers block.
Last year I finished the initial draft of the manuscript for my next book, “Burnt Yellow and Red,” and I had it in my publisher’s hands by the end of June.  During that same time I had been traveling a great deal for book signings.  I even attended a screen writer’s work shop in the hopes of learning the basics of that craft while I waited for the production process to start on this book.
For seven months, for most of 2011, I wrote screen play after screen play based on both of my books.  I was like a mad man and everybody I know was telling me to work on something else that would “Have a better chance of success!”  I was betting on myself and felt absolutely compelled to go down that road. 
Anyway…Do you remember the interview I posted with Actor/Author/Director Dale Dye?  Well, it was while I was working on the screen plays that I first ran into him on Facebook of all places.  I reached out and he agreed to take a look at some of my work.  His first critique almost killed me it was so harsh. 
Now, I am a Retired Army Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officer who should have a thick skin.  Apparently, my skin was about to get a lot thicker.  First I, complained to anybody who would listen. “Look what Dale said! How could he do that?”  To be honest, I was devastated; until my wife Brig told me to think of it another way.  She said, “You know Steve, most people never respond when they don’t like something.”  Then she said, “Seems to me, Dale must have seen something in your work if he took the time to give you a critique.”
I thought about it and decided that I was going to show him!  I sat down and wrote a completely new screen play, and he chopped it up.  I wrote another, he chopped me to bits.  I wrote another and he chopped me to bits again and again, and again.  Finally, he wrote me and said, “Just write a Rock and Roll war story and forget about all this other fluffy puffy stuff, oh and keep the ending.”
Ah Ha!  I had won him over, but he was also starting a shoot up in Vancouver on his new SyFi Channel show and needed time to focus on that.  That means he hasn’t seen this last script yet.  Titled; “Burnt Yellow and Red – The Battle for Kabul.” My best work yet!  Dale helped me a great deal and I can’t say thank you enough. 
All that happened before Christmas.  I meditated, okay let me be honest, I prayed; I prayed a lot trying to figure out what to do with the script over the holidays.  I had also been doing some research into Literary Management Agencies.  Companies out in California that specialize in representing screen writers.  I had narrowed my focus onto three or four different companies on the West coast; all of them major players. 
On 5 January, 2012, I sent out one query as a test.  I sent it through the company’s online submission system that was very restrictive.  It did not allow for anything other than a 100 character log line, and 400 character synopsis and bio.  That includes spaces and punctuation folks.  This is what I sent. 
Title: Burnt Yellow and Red - The Battle for Kabul
Genre: Military Fiction, War, Action, Adventure
Logline: Thrust into a destructive, ancient world ruled by warlords a team of Green Berets fights to survive.
Synopsis: A Special Forces team infiltrate deep into Afghanistan and link up with the Northern Alliance just after 9-11.  Soon they become entangled in a style of combat that combines both ancient and modern techniques unlike any other fight in the history of our nation.  Faced with the mission of their lives; the team maneuvers its way to the capital and deals with a variety of combat situations.
Similar Films:
Band of Brothers
Saving Private Ryan
Companies that have read the script: None
Author: S. B. Newman
Agent: N/A
Agent's Phone: N/A
Resume or Bio: My name is Steve Newman and I retired from the U.S. Army Special Forces in 2003. Since then, I have become a writer and my first book, "The Night Eagles Soared" was released in October 2010 and the sequel, "Burnt Yellow and Red" is now in production. This script, “The Battle for Kabul” is based on both of these books.  I am a graduate of Columbia College and I live in Charleston, SC with my wife Brig where I continue my free lance writing career.   
Now let me be clear folks, over the years I have sent queries to hundreds of agencies all over the country trying to get picked up.  I have never had a response from any of them!  Not one, well let me take that back.  I have received automated responses like, “If you haven’t heard back from us in six to eight weeks then take that as a pass.”   In fact I received that response automatically when I sent this one in.  So I forgot all about it. 
On 15 January, I received an email from the conceptual editor at my publisher that they had completed their three and a half month copy and conceptual editing of my book.  She gave me a two week deadline to have my changes to the manuscript back to her and so I went to work.  One thing that helped was that I had created a great many combat scenes for the screen play that were not in the book.  My editor had critiqued the combat scenes in the book.  She wrote, “I didn’t realize that combat now days is done from such long stand off distances.”
Instantly I realized that I had not written an accurate description of the combat our Special Forces had encountered in Afghanistan shortly after 9-11.  Luckily, I had been working on the script all those months and I had all those scenes ready to go.  There was just one problem.  Movie scripts are merely bare bone outlines of a story that describe the action in present tense and of course you have the dialogue. 
I decided to go for it.  I rewrote all those scenes in the past tense.  All novels are written in past tense, well mostly.  Anyway….I rewrote the scenes filling in all the descriptive detail and dialogue.  It was great, once again I was writing like a mad man on a mission from God.  In the end, I added over 30K words to the book in those two weeks and sent it back to my editor.  I was happy! 
On the 9th of February I received an email expressing interest based on my query from the head of the Literary Management company. “Is it still available?”  I almost fell out of my chair!  Then I thought, “There is something to be said about prayer.”  Then I had to collect my senses and figure out how to respond.  Long story short, it took over a month to iron out the details of an interim agreement so that the script could be considered. 
A little over two weeks ago I scanned the signed copy of the interim agreement and I attached it to an email along with the manuscript and blasted it out to the West coast.  Since then I haven’t been able to do anything other than check my email and wonder around the house aimlessly stuck on that second rail waiting for a response. 
So I posted some things on facebook and failed miserably in every attempt to write something, anything.  I could not get out of this funk; away from this resistance. I just could not break my writers block. 
Then, the other day an author friend, Rose Ann Daniels poked fun at me about the title and said, “Burnt Yellow and Red; isn’t that really just orange?”  Well, at first I was a little perturbed by that statement.  “How dare you?”  I thought to myself, and then I realized what she was trying to do.  She was trying to get me to think about the title and what it really means.  She was trying to get me to find a way to describe it to a potential reader.  Here is what I wrote to her.
When you mix yellow and red together it becomes orange, but when you say it as “Burnt Yellow and Red,” it is a combination of colors; a mixture if you will. 
Imagine the early morning sun casting long shadows over the Afghan Mountains as it rises over the horizon into a cloudless sky. 
Imagine a fire ball rising high into the air, roiling blackness surrounding the yellow and red flames as they invade the buzzards domain.
Imagine the photographic memories of this new generation; memories recorded on color film that over time becomes tarnished yellow and red, yet they still exist unblemished within our hearts and within our soul.    
Imagine the “Light of God” as the opening to a portal through which only warriors may pass, a portal to…”The Gathering Place.”
Then you will understand the true meaning of all things, “Burnt Yellow and Red.”
"The Gathering Place"
Written by an SF Soldier, about being a Speical Forces Soldier! 
Our lives portend a journey
From our birth unto our death
A tangled web of experiences
Creating the map of our bequeath.

The roads we travel are many
Some short and others long,
Twisted and broken, straight and narrow
Some recorded in verse or song.

The tales we weave are epic
When shared within our fold
The deeds achieved… historic
And the memories never grow old.

The Elysian Fields are found by some
Valhalla’s halls others may share
And Haydes gates from the river Styx
As the boatman takes his fare.

No matter what we call it,
Our mythos is our goal
It’s the hall of deeds and legends…
A place where we all go.

Our brothers go before us…
To that place from history past
A place known only to warriors,
A place to rest at last.

The songs become the legends
For our brotherhood to embrace
And when the reaper comes a calling
We meet at the gathering place.
Copyright 2010, Thomas Gluzinski, All Rights Reserved.

Will I finally get picked up by an agency?  Will they make a movie out of my script?  Is this the moment I’ve been hoping and praying for over the last six or seven years?  Who knows?  One thing for sure, I have got to send my friend an email and tell her thanks for asking that question.  I think she just pulled me back onto that first rail. 
Thank you all for taking the time to read this article.  I appreciate you a great deal.  Please feel free to join me on Facebook and God bless you all! 
Rose Anne Daniels is the author's pen name. She has been a registered nurse for thirty-four years. A survivor of bipolar disorder, she was once labeled "gravely disabled" and committed to psychiatric wards against her will. She now works full time on a rehabilitation unit for brain injuries.
Her first book, "Roses are Red: Survival and Recovery by God's Grace" is her own true story. Her second book, "The Mansion Across the Street" will be released early 2012.
Through her writing she intends to give hope to other sufferers from mental illness, that they too might enjoy a full life through God's amazing grace.

1 comment:

  1. In other news, Rose Ann Daniels has been contacted by the "Life Time Movie Network" about her life story. We will be keeping a close eye on her coming success. Congratulations Rose Ann!