Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Crafty Writers Query First

I just finished reading Alex Epstein's book Crafty Screenwriting and I have to say it's very different from other screenwriting "bibles". First, he presents his advice from a real-world, this-is-what-works perspective. Thankfully he doesn't dwell too much on proper structure or voice-over hating or his own personal act break philosophies. It's more along the lines of "if there's only three things you remember about dialogue, it's this..." Of course, there are more than three things he talks about on the topic of dialogue, but you get the picture.

Lots of great basic knowledge there. But, the one thing that seemed unusual to me was his advice to come up with the story's hook and a tasty logline, send out query letters, then wait for responses.

But don't actually write the screenplay yet.

Instead, base your decision to write what you have in mind on the kind of response you get from your letters. If you didn't get any bites, it could be that your story idea isn't compelling enough, so why waste time writing something that doesn't gather any interest?

Now, I know this contradicts what most of us know of the screenwriting process. You write something, then try to sell it, right? But, my big question about this was how long is an agent or producer who has shown interest in your story idea going to wait for you to write the darned thing?

I asked Alex this and here's what he said.

When I sat back and thought about it, the advice sounded pretty logical. If they wanted to see it when you sent the query letter, they'll still want to see it when you're done writing it. In fact, they probably won't even remember responding to your query letter, so when you finish writing and tell them, "here's the script you requested on March 12th", they most likely won't bother to second-guess you.

So, I think I'll try this for a couple of ideas I've been knocking around. Maybe that's the acid test I need to know which story to start writing.

Be sure to check out Alex's excellent blog, Complications Ensue!