I attended this two-day workshop last weekend. Depending on how his near future movie stuff goes, he may not be doing any workshops for awhile. He said he should know in about three months whether the next few years will be filled will movie stuff or not.
Here's a summary:
The first day was a little disappointing. Not because of the presentation but because I was familiar with much of the material. Between his Daily Kicks and Boot Camp, there just wasn't much new. This was definitely not a seminar to learn oodles about writing as a craft. That's okay, I was there to learn about the business side of things, and that I did.
First, his stance on self/e-publishing is now that it might be a viable option more and more as New York's publishing model gets further behind the times. Unfortunaely, other than giving it the nod, there wasn't much futher discussion on this.
He did say that when a publisher is trying to grab rights, like foreign rights and others, they're just trying to hedge their bets. If they don't make money on you one way, they want to make money on you another. The moral -don't give up foreign or other rights (besides first North American of course) unless they're giving you a lot of money for them. You get a separate (sometimes associated) agent for foreign rights who have different connections and they find that money for you. There are also movie rights, braille rights, audio rights, protect them all. I don't think you need a different agent for each, just foreign. Also, if you plan to create action figures and t-shirts based on your stories, get that in motion before you sell the movie rights or the merchandising rights will go right along with them.
The next big moral is that Hollywood will screw you every chance they get. NEVER, NEVER agree to getting money of the back end. You will never see it. They have ways of shuffling the accounting around to make it look like they never made a dime and therefore there's nothing to pay you a percentage of. The Tolkein estate got nothing (or hardly anything) from the movies because they agreed to this, despite the billions the movies made.
To make money on movies you can do a few things. One is to sell the option. That means they can shop your movie around and if they find someone to make it, you get paid. Another way, is to write the screenplay for your book. This will also give you at least a little creative influence over the end product. Once they have the movie rights, you have very little control over what they do with it.
You can also be a consultant. This level of involvement may be deep, on-site discussions with the director, a call about what color underwear a character would have, or no work at all - but you still get paid. The last is the most likely. But if you are consulting and someone else did the screenplay but you have to help in rewriting it, you get paid not only as a consultant, but a screenwriter.
You can also be an executive producer. That means that you're a big enough name that people will want to invest in the project and thus, your fame will bring in money to help get the movie made. You don't really have to do anything.
On writing, he covered the try/fail cycles and emphasized that you need at least three. Even within a scene, like two people struggling for a gun, there are usually three try/fail cycles. (Not every single scene, but the action ones for sure.)
He also discussed the Dramatica model of character types: protag, antag, contag, guide, sidekick, heckler, true love, temptress etc. He said that while those roles existed, a character could fulfill more than one at a time. If you want more on this, I'll suggest that you look it up online.
He also discussed reversals, where in the end it looks like the villain has won, but then the situation gets reversed. I also asked him about an opening like Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that's a reversal in that Indy goes through all that, just to have Belloq take the idol away. It also sets up the characters and established the villain and his relationship to the hero.
He discussed that the denouement has to be a satisfying conclusion to all the loose threads. Both that and the climax have to be satisfying and fulfill the promise you made in the beginning.
The other thing he really emphasized was that there had to be strong emotion in your writing. That emotions even needed to be over-played so that they can get beyond our everyday experiences. If we're reading something we're already familiar with, it won't be too interesting. We're looking for something bigger and more exciting than what we know. So amp the emotion.
I will say that the discussion of basic structure was good to hear again. My boyfriend and I were watching National Treasure the other night and I was calling everything out. In the beginning I identified the traitor and closer to the end I knew the cop was a knight before they revealed it, as well as a number of other things along the way. No, this isn't the most complex movie, but the basic structure is all right up front.
Oh, and he said that the final Runelords book is coming right along.
And on outlining, and how much he did, he didn't exactly answer my question. He did say that it took extensive outlining is what got Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert the Dune gig and it was worth something like $400,000. So I'd say it's a good skill to have.
Oh, and back to the business bit. If one editor recommends that you send your work to another editor, then do it. It means they've already talked and you're essentially pre-qualified with the recommended editor. It's practically a slam dunk.
I'm sure more bits and pieces will dribble out of my brain in the coming days but that's all I have for now. I'll post any driblets that seem of significance as they come to me.
Feel free to ask me questions because if I go searching for specific info, I will remember it better.
There was no one-on-one time. I think a couple of people that are significant participants on his forum might have gotten some feedback but I didn't feel it was that kind of seminar, so I didn't ask.
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Great stuff, Genevive, I'm going to read more about the try/fail cycle.
I'd like to bring up an exception to the back end movie stuff. If you are a producer, and the language of the contract ties the definition of producer to the producer's definition of producer, then you will be paid as they are paid. You have to be sure to watch your language.
Gross vs. Net. If it says net, and you're not a producer, you will get nothing. Talk to Peter Jackson about this one.
Gross is difficult to get. Keanu Reeves got it for Matrix 2. He made over 50 million dollars on that movie alone. Whoa. He probably got it for 3 too, but 3 was so terrible I hope he gave it all to charity in an extended fit of depression.
Lastly, if you get a foreign agent, remember that you will be paying the postage for them to send your book out all over the world. You probably have to pay for the books as well. It's not much, but could surprise you when you get a $100 bill out of the blue. (Unless it sells somewhere in which case they will just take it off the top.)
axe, thanks for the additional movie info. I think that if/when I get to the movie stage, I will certainly be considering hiring an entertainment lawyer to watch over my contracts, and be in touch with the Writer's Guild of America to see how they can help. Ironically, the WGA office is about a ten minute walk from where I work, I pass it every day. And it just occurred to me that I might actually be able to tap a customer or two that would be willing to help as well. I guess there is a benefit to commuting to West Hollywood.
Based on where I work, I did ask if I should print one of my short stories into a little book to hand out at my store. We have a lot of industry people for clients. He said to go for it.
Anyway, there's something else I've read about foreign agents that didn't come up at the seminar. But if your primary agent hoooks you up with a foreign agent (presumably a good one), the primary agent will get a few percentage point as well. So if you normally pay fifteen percent to your agent, you might end up paying fifteen percent to the foreign agent and another five percent to your primary agent as a 'finder's fee', more or less. It seems reasonable, but I can't remember the source so if anyone has information to the contrary, please let me know.
I got something out of your notes, even though I'm sure it wasn't half as much as you did.
And Thanks Meredith for that link. Oh, Oh, Oh he's having a phone conference with Laura Anne Gillman. (Jumping up and down...inside anyway.)
But its amazing there are some many writers out there that even though I read different types..of SF and F and look over every book that I see, there are still quite a few well known writers whose names I don't know.
@Lissa, I did his Death Camp in November and Im at his Novel Rewrite workshop right now. In his week long workshops he schedules one on one time for lunch and dinner throughout the week. I will be at the Professional Writers Workshop in June too and I'm sure that he will do that there.
I'm disappointed that Genevive wasnt able to do that at the 2 day workshop. @Genevive I was really hoping you got that time because its so valuable and I kind of hyped that up when talking to you about his workshops.