Well, today started out kind of rough with the advent of Daylight Savings Time, which I had completely forgotten about, and mistakenly thought my BlackBerry had as well. So I thought I was late, but I wasn’t late after all. Either way, I missed the 9:30 session.
I later saw a session about writing (and adapting) a successful screenplay. Granted, I have not tried my hand at screenwriting, but I figured it would plenty applicable. It did not disappoint. The panel featured screenwriting professors, as well as the writers of Watchmen and A History of Violence. They talked about writing adaptations of novels and classics, in which you have to really be objective about the spirit of the material. They also mentioned that young adult novels make great screen adaptations.
But what really was impressed upon me was when one of the panelists, Alex Tse, said that the most important thing to do is to write what you are passionate about, even if it never sells, because your passion or your subject will always come through in an organic way and stand out from something written to make money. They also stressed the importance of not writing something with the intent of selling it, and to stop trying to chase the market. If you’re a good writer and you get your foot in the door, the market will chase you. The good writers keep their day jobs until they don’t have to, and stick it out no matter how discouraging it is. Quality and awareness of the market are not mututally exclusive.
Okay, maybe there was one more thing that stayed with me more than that. The writer of A History of Violence said he doesn’t get upset when he sees a horribly written movie succeed; instead, he uses it as personal encouragement that he knows he can do better than that. I know I struggle with that as a writer. I know I’m nothing uber-spectacular, but I think I’m good and I have a unique voice with something to say. So when I pick up a book off the shelves and read it and hear a mediocre voice with nothing new or interesting to say, I sometimes find myself thinking “Wtf? How did this piece of elephant dung get the green light from a major publishing house, meanwhile I’m still stuffing envelopes?” I like his idea better, but I also like Ze Frank’s idea of making angrigami out of my rejection letters.
I hit up a session right after that, which turned out to be nothing at all what I expected. The title of the session was Editing Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Everything in Between. Sounds pretty exact in its description, don’t you think? Wrong. It was not at all about editing fiction, or works of non-fiction. It was about post-production video editing. I guess I should have read the fine print about the session.
I bailed pretty soon with the intention of sneaking in late to the writing web content session, but a hot pretzel and nonexistent line for Camp Victory piqued my interest more. It was a really great film, and I’m not really a movie person. After being turned away for three different film events here at SXSW because of long lines and overhype, this was a breath of fresh air.
I did my duty and shmoozed with the people I needed to schmooz with, including an independent web magazine that will be getting my submissions (hooray for online) very soon and one of the panelists from the New Publishing session I attended yesterday. Other than that, I saw a not-so-great film laden with opposing subtitle fonts and inconsistent quote use after getting turned away for a more popular film, after rushing 2 miles on foot to get there.
And now, I’m exhausted. Stay tuned; tomorrow’s another full day!