Writing is HARD. Breaking in is even HARDER.
Let's talk about that, shall we?
I'm going to cover some basics about writing/breaking in first. HANG with me, because these points are building blocks for the main point of this post. We will discuss your overall motivation for writing, the time and effort you in invest in this endeavor and the external factors that could effect your efforts at moving forward in your writing career.
1) MOTIVATION for Writing -
I think it's imperative that you take some time to understand what motivates and drives you to write. A few questions you could ask yourself are:
Do you write because you love it and it makes you feel good inside?
Do you write for external validation?
Do you write because you want to be famous?
Do you write because you want to make an impact on the world in the widest way possible and you believe that to be your route?
None of these reasons are bad, in and of themselves. BUT, I do think you need to know your motivation. It may take some soul searching, but it is important. Your motivation will affect your work and how your work gets out into the world.
2) TIME AND EFFORT for Writing -
Just like any other "activity," some people are more gifted/talented writers than others. Writing comes easier for others and talent certainly plays a part in their success. BUT, excellent writing ALSO takes time, practice and effort.
Writers must put time and effort into learning the craft. You must put time and effort into learning about your industry (whether you be a screenwriter or novelist). It is necessary for you to work at it. Any sort of success in any area requires you to work hard. And to have a really, really, really good product...screenplay or novel, depending....you must constantly work the system: learning, networking, etc.
3) REALITY of EXTERNAL FACTORS that IMPACT WRITING-
After you've figured out your motivation, put in your time and effort, you must deal with the reality of external factors in your current life that can positively or negatively affect your ability to break into the industry. Such as:
1) At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to write and potentially make a career of it? Did you go to school for it? If not, what will you do to learn now?
2) Where do you live? Is that location conducive to being a writer?
3) Do you know anyone in the respective industry?
4) If you don't have any warm connections, do you give up on your dream?
Because let's be honest, all of these external factors can impact where and how far your writing goes. And a lot of success in writing (whether it be novel or screen) can be based on WHO you know. Getting a referral or meeting someone, somewhere, who is willing to connect you to someone else. Warm connections are HUGELY helpful. Now, some people will say that good writing will eventually find it's way into the right hands, but you BETTER believe that those writers are doing everything they can to get as close to those gatekeepers as possible.
NOW. To my NEXT point.
I had this really interesting exchange on Twitter (with a quite famous person who I will not name) and I wanted to address it. It was on the topic of conferences with attached PITCH EVENTS.
I'm fully aware of the naysayers out there who say writers should not have to "pay to play," or "pay to pitch" their project. Other people came into the fray with him, calling these pitch events "predatory, sleazy, and sick," and even went so far as to say these events (with the option to pitch) take advantage of writers who aren't really that good. They claim these events are simply taking the writer's money,
BUT I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS! Now, in full disclosure, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I wanted to put my 2 cents in. To address these skeptics/haters: I concede to your point that these events-where pitching occurs-do cost money. Plain and simple. And that's all I can say.
BUT! Here's my FIRST response as to why these pitch events aren't all that bad:
Most of the events (that include pitch portions) are CONFERENCES or EVENTS- they take place in hotels and/or conference centers and they have to cover their costs. That's just being responsible. The events also provide panel discussions, classes and networking opportunities. So, I would argue that writers are getting SOMETHING for their money. NOT NOTHING. I don't see how this is predatory.
NOW let's address these "pitch" events and put them in context with the external factors discussed above:
1) If a person didn't know that they wanted to be a writer until after schooling was over (plus not everyone can afford to get an MFA in writing or go to college for screenwriting) these events are way cheaper AND I consider them be an investment in furthering your writing education! There is nothing wrong with that. Since there are classes led by current people in the industry discussing craft, business and such, it is educational, if nothing else.
2) If you don't live in an area of the country with a lot of writers, these events allow you to NETWORK LIKE CRAZY! I have known people that have not just gotten signed with agents and/or managers at these events, but they have sold scripts or made connections that led to a job! If you don't live in an area of the country that is conducive to networking with other creatives, this type of event can change your course of existence. It really can. Ask me, I can give you plenty of examples. Now does this happen for everyone that attends? No, of course not. But that is just the way things go. If not one event, maybe another. Or the event leads to a coffee, which leads to a meeting...and you get my drift.
3) If you don't have warm contacts, you can find them at these events. You can meet people that know other people. Last time I checked that's what networking is. You really do meet other writers, executives, show runners at these things and you learn about the industry and you have a fun time!
SO BOTTOM LINE THESE THINGS ARE ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN PITCHING!!!! That is just a portion of the events.
Now, I will say I'm speaking at an event soon that has a pitch component included in the price of the event. Participants can pitch if they so choose, as it is INCLUDED with the classes, panels and networking. Heck, I'm giving a class and I'm talking about what writers need to do to prepare themselves for representation with a manager or agent. THIS IS EDUCATING WRITERS! And I love to do that. It's my jam. This is how people move on up. By educating themselves.
The point is, be nice. Stay humble. Work hard. Because you never know who you will encounter, even on Twitter.
There is great undiscovered talent out there- and I think it's perfectly acceptable for writers who are passionate about what they do to pay for an event if they feel it is worth it. Its a GOOD THING to attend, hang out with other writers, have a drink or two, listen to some panels and potentially get to pitch...especially when they wouldn't get an opportunity to otherwise. It could change their life.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on this topic. But as an optimist, I've witnessed to many great connections come out of these types of events to be a naysayer. As long as you know what you are getting/paying for, it's all good! I just had no clue people had such strong feelings about these things. So....
Bottom Line: Check out the events. Research them. Ask around. Read reviews. That's just smart business anyways.
So, that's why these events aren't so bad, in my opinion any way. In my book, it's worth it!
I love you all, keep fighting the good fight.