Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Pronunciation[men-tawr, -ter]
1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.
–verb (used without object)
3. to act as a mentor: She spent years mentoring to junior employees.
–verb (used with object)
4. to act as a mentor to: The brash young executive did not wish to be mentored by anyone.

Are you a young aspiring screenwriter? You have the desire, you don't mind putting in your dues, you're not a jackass (this is really important) and you don't feel entitled to the big money (another important thing). Then what you need is a mentor.

The worst thing about being anything these days is that, by and large, you're on your own. You may have training, you may have talent, you may have contacts, but when the rubber hits the road, it's you, yourself and, well.... you.

Having a mentor allows you to lean on the wisdom of somebody who has already been there, done that. Or at the very least, somebody who knows the pitfalls that await you in your chosen field of work/play. Reading the above definition, you'll see it also says "...and trusted" which really is important. This is a person who is going to see your insecurities, your weaknesses and your really shitty work (on the way to being better). But their goal is not to finance you. Not to get a sale, not find a contact for you - they're work lies in helping you be better tomorrow than you are today. This means opening up at some point (not the first thing you do) and sharing who you are what what you really want.

Now. Unfortunately, you can't go down to Mentors-R-Us and pick one up. It's a shame. How many times have you heard "if I could be X age knowing what I know today!". Well, having a mentor is sort of like that - it allows you to benefit from (sometimes) an almost lifetime of experience and hard work of another. To me, it's like having a "career coach". While a parent can be a type of life coach (how to live your life well), navigating the paths of a career is full of moments of peril - those times when you should duck instead of dodge. And making the right choice is the difference between success and more years of toiling away (or even failure).

Well. If you're young, I'd find a writer you admire for their writing. I wouldn't worry if their material is the same - as long as you admire the writing - and write them a letter. See if they would be willing to mentor you. Now - the caveat here is you can't ask somebody to train you. This isn't a free workshop, this is more like your post graduate work. Once you have some chops, you seek somebody to help you be the best you can be.

How do you know if you are good enough? Well, if you get some sincere positive feedback, that's a good start. Once again - mom doesn't count - or dad. If you can get a brother or sister to acclaim your exalted status publicly, then you may have something. I'd like to give you a blueprint of what to write, but it's all a crap shoot and you're basically begging (politely) another person to give up some of their precious time (and after 40 time really does become precious) to help *you*. I have seen the positive effects of being a role model and I know others with a mentor (and, yes, I am jealous). I suggest write from the heart and explain how you believe they can help and what you both expect and can do in return (perhaps down the line).

One thing to make certain of before you go down this road - you are not seeking just some great tips and strategy. This is, hopefully, a lifelong bond you're attempting to form. Should you progress, then it's possible that your mentor will even share their work with you. If you're lucky, what you'll get is an incredible bond with a fellow writer. Maybe it's the estrogen in me talking, but I believe sharing a common dream with a fellow human is a life affirming experience.