Last year I wrote a sitcom pilot and sent it out to several producers. After seeing it returned with some encouraging comments but mostly a ‘better luck next time,’ I decided to do a little more reading on the subject, take some professional advice and then put it away for a time and write something else.
A fortnight ago, I completed the first draft of my comedy novel for women, MRS DAVID DANDO – a project that was started immediately after a dear friend of mine who I met through Twitter, Hywel Jones, passed away. At the beginning of 2012, Hywel told me, ‘this will be your year Heather!’ It wasn’t, because sadly, I lost one of the most amazing people I have ever met. But one of many things he taught me was the truth in the saying, ‘live to regret the things you did do, not the things you didn’t.’ If you ever doubt the power or usefulness of Twitter, you can read about my inspirational friend Hywel and our bizarre/funny/extraordinary conversations HERE. Suffice to say, I truly fell in love on Twitter and miss Hywel everyday. And he is, without a doubt, the reason I set out to write my novel.
I have met, chatted with and listened to some amazing people through the social media channels from many varied and fascinating backgrounds and have found it a fantastic training ground. The onset of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc has allowed me, a humble, unknown writer to get a grasp of what people I never thought would give me the time of day have to say about the comedy writing industry – and, indeed, the publishing industry in general. It has also resulted in a deluge of well-meaning folk sending me links on how to handle rejection since I announced my plans to start sending out my novel to literary agents in the New Year. If you have been following this blog, you will know that I have a saying of my own when it comes to rejection, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try eating the whole bun.’ If you missed the original post about my motivation for writing, please see HERE.
And so this week, I have an email I am permitted to share that was sent to me from TV writer and Executive Producer at Wild Rover Productions Kieran Docherty. Kieran has written extensively for the BBC, Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company among others:
“I always thought of myself as a writer, but I think my career only really started once I started thinking of myself as a business. I knew I had to sell my scripts, but I also started to view myself as a product that needed to be sold too. Once that little switch went off in the back of my head I started to view the industry differently. I started to research agents, production companies and even broadcasters. I hated my job (I worked in an outbound call centre by day and as a barman by night) so I started to dig my escape tunnel by reading industry magazines like Broadcast and Film Ireland. I wanted to sound like a knowledgable professional to offset the fact that I looked like a scruffy student!
I found out the names of all the local producers in town and managed to befriend a comedy producer who just so happened to drink in the bar I worked in. He agreed to read some of my stuff. He liked it and asked me to send him some more. I did that for about a year and a bit. I didn’t get payed, but that was OK because I hadn’t jacked in the day job yet, and eventually I got a shot at writing on a real radio show.
I still hated my job but I knew I couldn’t leave just yet, so I developed a new plan – to try and find a job somewhere in the industry. I figured it would let me meet the important people in a professional capacity as opposed to a drunken capacity. I took days off work to take on runner jobs at no money. I meet some nice people, stayed in touch with them, and kept myself on their radar. This lead to a development job at a local TV production company, which lead to a format development job, which lead to where I am now. It’s quite an interesting place to be – I’m a producer now – so I’m seeing the industry from both sides. I don’t know whether I prefer hearing the word ‘no’ or saying the word ‘no’!
I have no idea if the approach I took was sensible or not – I was making everything up as I went along – but thankfully it worked out for me! The only thing that I know for sure is that, even if none of the above had ever happened, I’d still be writing and plugging away. If you want something bad enough, don’t settle until you get it.”
There is a general theme to all the advice that I have received, that normally comes at around the last line: ‘Don’t settle until you get it!’ I’d hazard a guess that all successful writer’s have this in common.
Hope to catch you here reading next week!