It's Day 366, the final day of what began as a one-year odyssey to sell a screenplay. It is a bittersweet day. On the positive side, I completed the rewrites (more or less) on The Devil's Tramping Ground. It has been a massive rewriting effort with 60 new pages in three weeks. The page one rewrite of this script began several months ago, but as we all know, July was a bust in the writing department. Still, it was a major accomplishment to complete the script, and a year after beginning this journey I have become much more adept at knocking pages out. On the negative side, however, the journey resulted in no script sales or options. That's a tough one to swallow.
I know the date and the goal were arbitrary. If one could simply put a deadline on making a sale, a lot more writers would be making money off their efforts. But giving myself the deadline made me put in a concentrated effort over an extended period of time. It's an effort that I probably wouldn't have made without the deadline. I'm not saying I wouldn't have accomplished the writing, but it would have been at a much slower pace and without a sense of urgency. The result would have been a lot fewer pages and a considerably slower progression in my development as a writer. Still, there is a nagging sense of failure.
But let's look at what that failure really is and give a little perspective.
One year ago there was no 'journey,' just a sort of haphazard attempt to write a few pages now and then and take them into a workshop. There was no specific goal of completing a script or marketing it. If I missed submitting to a workshop one week, well, no worries, I'd just do it next week. A year ago I wasn't actively trying to make contacts in the industry. Sure, I'd occasionally meet someone, but a script would languish for a year or more before it was finished and by then the opportunity to submit to someone I had met would have vanished.
Once I established the journey, all that changed. There was an urgency, a need to fulfill a destiny if you will. By taking the journey online for all to see, I had a responsibility, not only to myself, but to the readers and subscribers who jumped onboard to take the journey with me. That added pressure that at times was overwhelming. I had a website to update, articles to read, blogs to write and it all depended on me writing scripts. What social life I had pretty much disappeared. I have spent countless hours in front of the computer typing or recording videos or reading articles. If I went out to be social it was at screenwriting functions or networking events like The Screenwriter's Network Friday Night Socials, or film festivals and conferences. I was more often than not attending 2 sometimes 3 workshops every week. EVERY week! And yet, with all the work, all the contacts, all the submissions there was still no sale. If I let myself dwell on it and get down about it - which is very easy to do - it seems like a wasted year.
But if I take the ultimate goal of selling a script out of the equation and simply look at what I accomplished within that year, it turns out to be a pretty remarkable journey after all, even without a sale.
To begin with, I created a new website that is currently getting a couple of hundred people visiting each month. That's a couple of hundred people following me and my work that weren't following just one year ago. And it's not just a website about me, but is also a one-stop online resource for other screenwriters to develop their own journey.
I created an interview program called ScriptTalk, started a Twitter account, wrote a number of scripts, developed a web series, wrote an essay on homelessness, worked on a novel and attended two writer's conferences all while intermittently holding down jobs that required 10 - 12 hours a day. But to truly grasp the significance, I need to show you the specific numbers.
3 ScriptTalk Interviews - I wish had done more but time, or lack thereof, prevented me from doing more
177 screenwriting articles culled from the web - All of these are archived on the site and are an education for any screenwriter in and of themselves
105 Blogs, both video and written
14 additional videos shot at film festivals, conferences and workshops
390 Tweets - I could have done more with the Twitter account and my usage fell off drastically in the second half of the year, but still, if a year ago you had told me I would tweet 390 messages ever, I would have laughed at you.
Now here come the big numbers:
3 completed screenplays for a total of 316 pages
3 episodes of Everyday Clowns for 44 pages
2 new projects begun
1 script for a video hike on Hike-LosAngeles.com
1 article and trail descriptions for Switzer Falls on Hike-LosAngeles.com
2 chapters or 6,600 words on an unfinished novel
1 essay on homelessness
This all adds up to 365 completed pages of script material, 150 pages of web material and 33 pages of narrative prose. That's 548 pages total. And those are the completed pages. I have no idea how many pages were scrapped, rewritten or repurposed. My goal when I began the journey was one script page per day. If you want to get technical about it, my completed script pages missed that goal by one page, but this was a leap year. If you take in everything that didn't make it into the final scripts, then I well exceeded that goal by. . .A LOT! When you add in all the other writing I did, I pretty much knocked it out of the park, and yet. . .I didn't get the sale and the journey ends with a whimper.
So was all that work for naught? Was it a pointless exercise? If I only grade it on the criteria of making a sale, then yes, it was an exercise in futility. Selling a screenplay, however, is only the last step in screenwriting. It's like taking a train trip. There are many stations along the way that must be visited before the final destination, and the destination can't be reached without those stops. I have made tremendous growth as a writer in the past year and leaned much about the industry. It has been exciting and daunting and overwhelming at times, but here I am at the end, a stronger individual for having made the journey. What comes next remains to be seen, but if the journey continues, I think I would prefer to purchase a non-stop jet flight.