Saturday, November 22, 2008


I've really stretched my writing muscles this year. I wrote my first play and now find myself writing for broadcast news.

It's way different than the newswriting I did in college. I wrote for my college newspaper at Marist College which was fun. I remember running across campus to get my hands on the college newspaper that featured an article I wrote about comedian Rodney Dangerfield. It was the talk of the campus for about... five minutes... but I'll never remember the excitement of seeing my words published with a cool by-line.

It's important for us writers to keep writing no matter the format or style. My first love is writing screenplays, but I find it exciting to try new avenues of expression. It's a challenge to take an AP wire story and come up with a succinct punchy headline. And we thought loglines were hard!

So keep writing your screenplay, but don't be afraid to try your creativity at poetry, theater, or writing a short story. The most crucial thing is to learn how to tell a great story no matter the audience or the project.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just When I Thought I was Out...

... They Pull Me Back In.

We all remember that famous line from "Godfather Part III" when Michael Corleone thinks he's free of his gangster ways... but finds himself back in it deeper than ever.

Well, I thought I was done with a particular script (or had a solid final draft), but then I received some coverage from five readers. All of the readers were very thoughtful and thorough in their review of the script -- and made some sound suggestions -- so just when I thought I was done with this darn script, I'm back working on it. As a matter of fact, next week I will devote the entire week to revising it.

It will probably take on a life of its own. It will evolve into a different script, but hopefully one that becomes deeper and more multi layered. Sub plots are as important as the main plot. Sub text as important -- if not more -- than what is said on the page.

On we go.

Hey in case I don't post before November 4th -- please VOTE, Americans.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


All the experts today say people don't like to read anymore.

People want to watch or listen to stories instead of reading them, but thank goodness there are still avid readers out there.

Just look at Oprah's Book Club for proof of that -- or the NY Times Bestseller list -- people are reading.

What about in Hollywood? We've all heard that most execs and agents don't like to read. I think they do, but want to do it quickly. If you had six scripts to read over one weekend, would you want to read a 126 page script when a 95 page script might do the job? It may tell the story better when leaner. That's why all the script gurus tell us to write short narratives with shorter dialogue and leave lots of WHITE space on the page. Don't make the eyes work overtime!

This week I signed with a management company to distribute my script(s). They had one of my scripts covered and the feedback was genuinely helpful. I love readers who actually enjoy reading scripts and take the time to pay attention to detail -- and better yet -- to take the time to share it with you. And when 4 readers all agree on one element -- you know where your weakness is in the script and where your strengths are, but you first NEED that feedback.

So hats off to all you readers out there!

Thank you for curling up with my script and for reading each word with care. Then, taking the time to write a review with insight, reflection and care.

It really matters to writers.

We're writing to be read, after all.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Have you ever participated in a writer's group? I was in a weekly group right after Sept. 11th, 2001. As a matter of fact, the Manhattan apartment that six of us screenwriters met at each week overlooked the "pit" of the World Trade Center. The first few weeks of the group there was a burning metal smell coming through the windows -- and the smell of something similar to burning rubber -- and the busy sounds of generators and heavy equipment working non stop. It was a bird's eye view into hell on earth.

The group was fairly productive. We'd each submit 30 pages of our script every few weeks. The members of the group would read it as a PDF online and then come to the group with comments, suggestions, etc. We'd also cast it and read each script aloud. Depending on the reader/actor, we'd either cry, laugh or cringe. At the end of the reading, each person would give a verbal critique to the screenwriter. This was squirm time for most of us -- as another writer would start off positive (a rule we had) and then go negative -- suggesting we change this, change that, go in this direction, make your protagonist a man not a woman or vice versa... and before long, the writers would grow defensive, annoyed and sometimes hostile toward each other. It was kinda funny -- like a support group gone wild.

So yes, a writer's group can be a fabulous and productive experience if you crave feedback, maybe long to hear your words read aloud, or just want human interaction away from your computer. But beware, develop a thick skin and try not to take every comment personally. If you trust the members of the group, listen and rewrite accordingly, but always follow your instincts of what remains true for your story and your characters.

I'm glad I was a part of that unique group back in September of 2001. There are images and emotions that we shared in that downtown Manhattan apartment that will stay with me forever.

Friday, August 29, 2008


A week later since my last post and things look much brighter. The Clintons and the Obamas united and a dream seems alive. No matter what your political affiliations, America stands a little taller today with Barack Obama officially nominated by the Democratic party to run for president of the United States of America.

And who needs more hope than us writers? I sent out several scripts last month and have only heard crickets since -- so instead of waiting like most writers do for a rejection or acceptance -- I wrote the producers. Three said they hadn't even looked at my script yet. Many ahead of mine in line. Patience. Hope.

My play is making the rounds to literary agents and artistic directors in New York. It's exciting to send out new work.

Hope is eternal.

Monday, August 25, 2008


American voters should rent/watch that wonderful 1972 movie THE CANDIDATE starring Robert Redford. It gets better with age. Candidate Bill McKay. The perfect candidate.

In 2008, back in reality land, Obama picks Senator Joe Biden as his VP pick. I'm really beginning to wonder if the Dems aren't self-sabotages. I watched with disappointment as Al Gore and John Kerry bit the dust. Now Obama, a newbie, with super intelligence, picks a status quo mate -- when he could've guaranteed himself and his party a blowout WIN with Hillary Clinton by his side. Half of the Democratic Party voted for her. But Obama chose Biden. He picked a supporting player over a superstar player. Um, exactly how many presidential primary votes did Senator Joe get again? I don't remember. Do you?

Can we imagine a dynamic final scene? As the first African American president and the first female vice-president are sworn into office on a cold January day? Wow, just imagine... BUT NO... why be bold? Why go all out? Why mend fences? Why pick the best odds to win?

If like the others, Obama loses this election, he might travel on the documentary circuit instead of on Air Force One. Shouldn't the Dems be beating the Repubs in the polls considering the state of our country? Two wars? Bad economy? New Orleans and the World Trade Center site still not rebuilt?

Maybe Obama will use all of his brilliance to win an Oscar like Al.

Script note to the candidate: Obama, you can't beat McCain by playing it safe. Don't try. We want a bold hero. Think of your audience. Think of votes like box office. We want to leave the theater happy. Triumphant.

This election reminds me of a bad screenplay... starts off great... exciting... with many ups and downs... big obstacles for our heroes... major wins and losses... and then... we hit that all-important Third Act... and suddenly the plot fizzles... flat-lines... the characters become predicatable and boring... and we leave the theater scratching our heads saying "If only they did this... or did that... it would've all ended well."

Rent The Candidate, people. It truly is timeless.

Janet Lawler
Astoria, NY

Saturday, August 16, 2008


It's tough to write with the excitement of the Olympics going on this summer. I'm spending more time watching the Games online and on TV than I thought. It's thrilling and motivating when you see these athletes achieve their goals after working so hard for so long. And how heart breaking is it to see someone work their whole life for this one moment -- and it slips away?

I finished the second draft of my play On the Nod. I'm sending it to theater groups in New York and to some companies across the country. The requirements are different for each submission, but overall, it's easier than submitting screenplays to LA producers, etc. Actors and theater directors are hungry for material and welcome writers. It's a wonderful thing.

On a side note, one of my best friends is an aspiring novelist. Her laptop went on the blink. She's a mother of four -- three kids in college -- one still in grade school. She's spending money on her family and life. No money for a new laptop with the winter heating bill right around the corner. She e-mailed me today to tell me how she woke up this morning and went downstairs to make coffee -- her usual routine -- when she spotted a LARGE gift package on the kitchen table. Her husband bought her a brand new laptop. How sweet is that? No wonder they've been married 25 years.

That husband gets the gold medal in my book!

Go USA -- Go World!

Saturday, August 09, 2008


I'm sending a few scripts to London. There are some agents and producers there receptive to new material, especially from U.S. writers. Wondering if anyone here has submitted materials abroad? In this internet age, distance isn't a problem with electronic submissions of scripts and many of the London agents have offices in New York or LA. Curious on your thoughts out there.

I've finished a solid draft of my play. It's going to be a work in progress for a long time, especially when it's read aloud and performed. Rewrites, rewrites. That's going to be the exciting part -- seeing what actors do with it. There are some great playwriting groups in NYC who help workshop early drafts.

Write on.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The cruise was beyond awesome!

Nothing like dining in the evening, looking out the restaurant window beside you and seeing WAVES. And moon beams dancing on the ocean after midnight from your stateroom window... magical in so many ways, the vastness that exists every day that we miss or don't notice or never experience, but being at sea for seven days gives one a different perspective indeed.

Back to reality -- sent out many emails yesterday to producers in L.A. to keep fanning the flames. Plan to meet with a potential agent this week or next.

Went to see an amazing documentary yesterday called "Man on a Wire". It opens in NY this weekend and nationwide soon. Go see it if you can. It's about Philippe Petit, the famous wire walker, who walked between the two Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in 1974. The film never addresses 9/11 but as we see the towers being erected, the new steel being hoisted up, our hearts sink as we know the final, unspoken outcome. This original footage is a gift.

I just finished reading a book I purchased while on vacation. Oddly, Debra Winger, the actress and now author of "Undiscovered" (an insightful and strangely comforting book) mentioned Philippe Petit in one of her closing chapters. She tells of becoming obsessed with his free spirit, skill and adventurous nature. After seeing "Man on a Wire", I understand how she became obsessed with such a rare, inspiring character.

While in Canada, my friend Mark gave me a terrific book on screenwriting. Don't books mean more to you when given to you by someone, especially a friend? It's called "Screenwriters' Master Class" by Kevin Conroy Scott. Screenwriters discuss, through interviews, their movies/scripts in fine detail. Great read!

I'm still getting a vague wave of motion now and then, even being off the ship for three days. The sea seems to want to hold on to me.

The feeling is mutual.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I'm packing tomorrow for my first cruise ever! We're going to Canada and New England. Ahoy! I can't wait and I can't promise that I won't do the "Top of the World" thing at some point. Hey, I did the Rocky victory dance thing at the top of the Philadelphia Museum steps -- I'm a nerd.

I'm not going to do any official writing on this vacation but lots of mental writing. You know how that goes -- imagining scenes, dialogue, characters, etc.

I have a bunch of scripts out right now awaiting feedback from L.A. producers. An agent in NYC is interested in repping me. We're going to meet after my vacation. I'm looking forward to that.

Bon Jovi's doing a "free" concert in Central Park today. I wanted to see it, but they tickets were distributed at ball parks. I never got to pick up the free tix. They're selling on Ebay and elsewhere for tons of money. Why didn't they just do a wristband? Printing tickets in advance is crazy in this internet sell-anything world.

I'll post after the 20th... until then... livin' on a prayer.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Let the fireworks begin!

I love summertime. So far it's been a great summer. Taking two big vacations -- already took one out west to Las Vegas and Arizona -- and next week on a cruise along the eastern seaboard up to Canada (Nova Scotia). This will be a summer of writing, fitness, eating well (love all the fresh fruit & veggie markets here in Astoria, NY), drinking good wine, and seeing family and friends. That's what summer is all about. I hope you have a great one too!

On a writing note, I sent out four screenplays this week to various producers in L.A. -- it's feast or famine. Either nobody responds or too many do at once. What if more than one producer likes it? We should have those problems, right?

There's an old adage that says "The more I practice the luckier I get." That's what you have to do with writing -- write, write, write -- practice, practice, practice. It gets easier and your confidence builds -- like with any activity really. Tiger Woods is the last guy to go home at the driving range even with all his success.

So keep writing, people. Keep your eye on the ball, head down and get to work. It pays off in one way or another. You'll have a finished screenplay by autumn.

Enjoy your BBQ, pools and beer too!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I've been sending out lots of queries on scripts to agents and producers. Several good responses and scripts are in the mail. I have received a few replies from producers who also make an income from reading and evaluating scripts. I've used a couple of services in the past and have found them helpful in getting a solid read on the script, but in these tough economic times (always one for struggling writers), it's hard to dish out $350 for a script evaluation.

So my question -- how many of you have used these services and have they paid off?

I'd be curious to hear your experience.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


As the song says, back of my neck dirty and gritty...

Well, it's not that bad here these days. The heat wave lifted a few weeks ago and it's more pleasant in NYC. It's officially summer. Yippee. Break out the ice cooler and beach blankets!

I'm in marketing mode . I sent out a trillion emails to producers, agents and companies -- I'm getting responses and sending scripts out, which is always exciting. What good is writing a script if it's going to sit on my hard drive? I have to say that literary agents who handle books are the NICEST people. They don't ignore queries to send a script -- they write back with the kindest "no thanks, I don't handle screenplay" replies. I mean the sweetest. They take time to say no and acknowledge your efforts.

We should all say to hell with Hollywood and just write books! Now I know why they say authors get respect from publishers and editors... even the agents are respectful.

I'm polishing the play. I'm polishing a script. I'm sending out PDFs of my scripts electronically to L.A. and mailing packages to L.A. -- it's like playing the lottery. Gotta be in it to win it.

Have a great summer! Don't forget the sunscreen.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sex and the Box Office

Well, it's a relief to know that "Sex and the City" is a box office hit. As a screenwriter, a woman screenwriter, we know how hard it is to get producers and studios interested in stories about women -- especially women over the age of 30. Unless it's an action piece starring Jodie Foster or Angelina Jolie (and I love those actresses and their movies), it's a struggle to convince Hollywood execs that movies about women will sell.

Carrie Bradshaw and her girlfriends proved them all wrong. Will the recent success of "Juno", "Baba Mama" and "SATC" open up more doors for movies starring women? There is an audience there. I saw "SATC" in Phoenix on its opening week and saw gaggles of women attending. I saw it in Times Square in NYC a week later (with three of my girlfriends) and the theater was packed. Sold out. Pass the Goobers.

So all you women writers, don't get discouraged if you're script is about female characters. Keep fighting. Don't quit. Write your hearts out. Tell your stories.

A movie about four terrific women living in NYC out performed all expectations in Hollywood. A $55 million dollar opening weekend. Great box office.

Now if we could only get a woman into the oval office.

A girl can dream.

Friday, May 23, 2008


So I finished the play. Well, finished is not the right word. I finished the first draft.

It's 52 pages long. A page should be about a minute if performed on stage. So it's a one hour or so play. Humor. Tears. Tragedy. Life. It's written from the heart. It's working title is "On the Nod". I'm going to get some feedback on it and then do another draft or two. Then, my plan is to get two actresses in New York City (since I live in NYC, why not take advantage of the resources here?) to read the play aloud. Rewrite again after hearing it. Then submit it to theaters for readings, and God willing, a performance down the road. It's a two character play. Two sisters. Two choices that change the course of their lives.

Anybody know great actresses in NY looking to do a reading? Or a director? The hunt begins.

Happy Memorial weekend, people.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Screen Play

I'm two scenes from finishing my first full-length play. The first draft, that is. It's very exciting to work in this new format for me. Dialogue is always my favorite part of writing scripts and writing a play gives me the freedom to write lines without worrying about screenplay format constraints.

The hardest part of writing play scenes is writing about things that perhaps HAPPEN off stage (since we can't stage every element of the story) and yet keeping it in the moment for the actors. It's a fun challenge. I plan to have a table reading of the play someday in the fall. It only has two characters so it shouldn't be too difficult to cast in NYC. If anybody knows a dynamite stage director close to NY, let me know.

Tribeca Film Festival is wrapping up here in NYC. This year I only was able to see one of the documentaries -- Madonna's "I am Because We Are" which is a very inspirational and heartwrenching look at the battle of AIDS and poverty in Malawi. It's worth seeing if you get the opportunity.

"BABY MAMA" was pretty good -- love Tina Fey & Amy Poehler -- but the story fell a little short for me. Too bad Tina Fey didn't write the script, but it does have some laughs. Amy Poehler has one of the funniest lines about what it feels like to give birth...

... it's a lot like writing a screenplay.

Happy May!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I watched an enlightening interview between actress Kathleen Turner and playwright Edward Albee on PBS's "In The Life". They discussed the commerce of writing for the theater. Mr. Albee (author of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" and many other plays) said today's playwrights have to struggle to get produced. That often a producer will ask a playwright to have a reading of his/her work and then advise that writer to put in more laughs, or shorten the play by thirty minutes (so people get home at a decent hour in NYC), and other intrusive suggestions. So I guess what I said in my previous post about playwrights being respected and their work being sacred may not be so anymore. It's all about money. Maybe it always was? Broadway is about appealing to the tourists in Times Square and plays without a catchy tune or star fall by the wayside.

That's why lately I'm going to see obscure and not so obscure plays on Broadway and not just musicals with big, flashy budgets. It's important to go to readings and see small productions too.
I know it's hard for out-0f-towners to resist seeing "Rent" or "Spring Awakenin" or "Grease", but if you can squeeze in a play -- it's worth it.

Kathleen Turner just directed "Crimes from the Heart" which is now playing on Off-Broadway. I plan to see that next. She does the announcement before the play to "silence your cell phones" and I hear that's worth the price of admission alone.

Gotta love a woman with a voice that sounds lived in.

Monday, April 07, 2008


I'm working on a play. My first. I took playwriting in college and remember doing pretty well. It was so much fun to cast my scenes and watch/listen to classmates perform my "work". I can see why actors and playwrights get hooked on live theater -- that rush of being in front of an audience, experiencing emotions together, breathing the same air as actors. And the best thing -- in theater unlike MOVIES -- the writer is respected and his work sacred.

I've been meaning to write this story before, but was thinking of it in screenwriting form. I realized its rawness would be better suited for the stage. Also I'm seeing a lot of plays on Broadway lately and they sparked something. I just saw "The Homecoming" starring Ian McShane from "Deadwood" fame. Superb. "Spring Awakening" which has a powerful book as well as great music.

How is playwriting different than screenwriting? I love that you can concentrate on the structure and plot, but you can also let scenes breathe and write longer dialogue -- it's not so constraining, like screenplay formats and page counts. You can tell your story and not just show. It's verbal not only visual. It's a nice change of pace. Some of the best gossip or stories that people share with you in real life is SPOKEN not just ACTED out. People like to tell you details. I miss that sometimes in screenwriting. No time for the details. Just cut to the chase.

So I suggest we all read a good play. Try DOUBT written by John Patrick Shanley ("Moonstruck"). It won the TONY for a reason. And tell me if you think the priest was guilty or not at the end of it.

Monday, March 31, 2008


I'm reading "The Devil's Guide to Hollywood" by famous and infamous screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. It's a friggin' riot. I got it from the NYC Public library -- hey, I've given Mr. E enough of my hard earned money over the years seeing his many films like "Basic Instinct" and "Jagged Edge", not to mention "Flashdance"!

I saw "Flashdance" so many times when it came out that I probably funded Mr. E's 401K plan. That movie was my female Rocky -- and when Jennifer Beals (excellent now in The L Word) flew through the air in that leotard (or at least her body double) she signified all my passions for life -- and THAT famous wonderful, movie line that her boyfriend says to her when she's about to quit dancing... "When you give up your dream, you die."... well, Mr. E wrote that line... or co-wrote it... anyway, I love that line and the movie. So hats off to Mr. E (even if he did also write Showgirls).

Mr. E says in his book that it's NOT necessary to live in L.A. to be a working screenwriter. In fact, he rules against it -- says you'll lose your voice there. With the Internet and emails, and electronic script submissions, you can sell from a cave in Afghanistan these days (that's my take not his) but it may be slower dial up.

So check out this book. It's funny, scary, helpful and the best thing is I didn't pay a dime for it.
Whoohoo. Go to your local library and give Amazon and B&N a rest, people. Save a tree.


Friday, March 28, 2008


So recently I had a great chat with someone about screenwriting contests.

So now I'm curious, all you screenwriters out there -- how many screenwriting contests have you entered? How much $ have you spent on entry fees, xerox copies (before online submissions) and stamps? How many contests did you win? How many notified you that you won? Or lost?

How many didn't cash your entry checks? NOT ONE, huh? Not surprising. It's a racket some of these contests. So enter with your eyes wide open.

I think the top major screenwriting contests are fine and inspiring. But, have you noticed how many gazillion contests are out there now? Where does all that money go that these contests accumulate from hungry writers? Who is reading all these scripts? Do they actually read them? Do they read each and every one that costs us sometimes $75 a pop to submit online or do they just read the synopsis and press delete? Rejection City. (Insert Suze Orman here saying "De-nied! De-nied! You are sooooo denied!")

I've placed in my fair share of contests. I made it to the Finals of the New Century Writer's Awards in 2000 for my spec script "Brutal Pattern". This was the same script that was once optioned by Mike Farrell for Anne Heche (read earlier blog post for full story). Now I would have NEVER known that I made it into the Finals. Do you know how I found out? A male co-worker Googled me and my name and script title came up on the Finals list. So HE told ME.
No way, I said. Get out of here. "Google yourself" he demanded. Now this was around 2001 or so and I had NO IDEA what that meant. Google-my-what? "Come here, ya tech nerd, I'll show you." And he did. There I was. Janet Lawler "Brutal Pattern" A finalist in a contest. Hey, that's my name. My script. How cool was that?! I never win anything (except for Final Draft software once for getting Oscar Trivia right!).

So I ask you all again -- how many writing contests have you entered? Have you ever won? Maybe you won a contest and don't even know it.

Go Google yourself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I just finished reading a decent new book called "The Screenwriting Formula: Why It Works and How to Use It" by Rob Tobin. It's a short read and very helpful. Tobin claims to have read over 5,000 screenplays working in Hollywood so he knows what eventually works and doesn't when it comes to writing and selling your work. I know, I know... we all want to break the rules and be innovative... but 99% of the movies we see on the screen follow a formula... whether it's making a cheesecake or building a new house... certain elements must go into it. And let's face it, we all know when a movie is working and when it's lost.

Tobin's 7 Basic Elements for writing a solid script are:

Your Hero
Your Hero's Character Flaw
Enabling Circumstances
The Opponent
The Hero's Ally
The Life Changing Event

Look at your favorite movies. Can you identify these 7 basic elements? One of my favorites that I reference a lot is ROCKY. That script/movie has all of the above and does it to perfection in my opinion. That is a rock solid story (pardon the pun).

But also a comedy like MY COUSIN VINNY works with the above elements. What better Hero's Ally is there than Marisa Tomei?? When her boyfriend/lawyer Vinny (the hero) accuses her of being a hostile witness on the stand, she replies , "You think I'm hostile now wait until tonight." Well, no wonder Marisa T. won the Oscar -- between that line and the "my clock's ticking" --she stole that movie and it was a very good movie overall.

So enjoy the book.

A friend of mine who love going to the movies is complaining that Hollywood is missing the mark. She hasn't gone in weeks and weeks to the movies. She says the movies are boring or a waste of time. Is Hollywood missing the mark? Is that why the Oscars were so poorly rated this year? Where are the great filmmakers and writers? And not just the usual suspects... where is the undiscovered talent hiding?

Hollywood needs new blood if you ask me -- and new writers -- and new producers -- and new directors -- and new talent. It's like what's going on in the political world... think we all want change even on the big screen.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I sent two scripts out this week to a talent manager in Los Angeles. I'm seeking a new rep. It's always great to update your best work and get it in the mail (electronically . You never know what agencies are looking for when it comes to genre, but a well-written script usually gets their attention. The two I sent are diverse in tone and style, so we'll see how it goes.

Read "There Will be Blood" which is a compelling screenplay. It's written very tightly from a director's mentality as well as writer's.

Oscars this weekend! I'm not so interested in it this year -- between the strike and some of the movies not being great -- but I did like "Juno". Not sure if it's Oscar worthy as far as best picture, but the script should win. It's inventive and cleverly written by Diablo Cody. I wasn't thrilled with "No Country for Old Men" -- I was until the third act when I think the story lost steam. How could we NOT see Josh Brolin's character killed on screen?? How could that happen off screen when we were so invested in that character for the entire film? It disappointed. And what was with the Tommy Lee Jones character? I didn't find that sheriff added anything to the film overall except a few good lines.

Now "There Will Be Blood" was amazing in every way -- until the very end when Daniel (Daniel Day-Lewis) went hammy in the last scene. The audience I was with started to laugh and it lost it's big dramatic payoff.

But the Oscars are my Super Bowl -- so I'll be tuned in and rooting for the writers!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


So I started the new year right by writing a little each day. Last year was the first year that I was ever blocked -- it's not that I didn't have ideas and scripts to work on, but that I became discouraged beyond belief and felt it was hopeless. That's what happens when you've been at something you love for a long time and don't see the results you hoped for -- but then you get little nibbles -- little signs from the universe, if you will, that say keep going. And what's the alternative? Writing is my fuel. Without it, I'm spinning my wheels.

So I've been being productive and getting such a high from the process again of just creating -- of writing -- seeing the pages pile up.

Out of the blue this week a friend in L.A. put me in touch with a manager. I'm sending the rep two scripts this week. Amazing how some things come to you when you're not so focused on it.

Glad the WGA strike is over! History! Yeah. We can have the Oscars -- not sure how thrilling they will be this year -- but I'll be watching no matter what.

Back to work.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Do you believe in beginner's luck? It amazes me that some first-time screenwriters hit it big, win Oscars and say screenwriting is no biggie. Wow. How come the rest of us take the classes, read all the books, write the scripts, go through agent after agent like bad dates, and only get nibbles of success, if we're lucky? But we carry on just the same. The dream lives on.

Look at Diablo Cody this year. She's nominated for an Oscar for her original screenplay JUNO.
She told Oprah that writing her Oscar-nominated script was, you guessed it, no biggie. Oprah, who owns a production company, looked incredulous. How could it be that easy for a newcomer to write JUNO?! Diablo Cody (cool name huh, but not her real name) said "The movie's only 91 minutes long. How hard could it be?" Damn.

One of the best scripts that I've read -- and movie that I've seen -- is "Thelma & Louise". This Oscar winning script was written by Callie Khouri. I admire her a lot. That script is solid, excellently structured and contains two of some of the best female characters ever to grace the big screen. It was Callie Khouri's first script. She nailed it, baby. The idea came to her as she drove into her driveway -- "two women go on a crime spree across the country". Piece of cake. No problem. Let me just bang out an Oscar worthy draft right now.

Okay and let's not even discuss Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's first-timer success with their original script "Good Will Hunting" and the gold statue.

Now do all these writers REALLY bang out that Oscar worthy script that easily or does it get developed into an Oscar worthy script by numerous execs and producers? Who knows. The hype and myth sell mags and books for us starving screenwriters. It gives us all hope. It also makes some of us green with envy. Is your script better than some of theirs? Did they just have better contacts? A better agent? Did the planets line up for them?

I like to think they did it on their own -- that they wrote the scripts the way they claim they have -- these fortunate writers. And if they didn't, well, let them still take credit and the glory. How many writers get to do that in their lifetime? Not many.

Now get back to your desk and bang out that Oscar-worthy draft.

Hey, it's no biggie.

Janet Lawler
Astoria, New York

Monday, January 14, 2008

Writer's Strike and Your Vote

A friend of mine lives and works occassionally writing for television. She's always been active with the WGA, West. She commented to me recently that she's never seen writers so united as now. They're organized, pumped and determined to stand their ground. It's about time in my opinion.

I hope the strike gets resolved soon. Imagine the Oscars being canceled or READ on TV. Good heavens -- how boring would that be! Almost as bad as those long winded speeches where producers thank their wives and tell their kids that "you can go to sleep now, Bobby and Kimmy" while clutching their Oscar.

I'm almost done with my new script outline. I have this system of writing pages and pages of notes, keywords, slang and then consolidating it into acts. It's coming along well. I wish I could think of a better title, but it's a working one for now. Soon I'll start breaking down the scenes and sequences -- and then soon enough the dialogue. I'm seeing the characters and finding their voices, to steal a Hillary Clinton term.

How exciting is the '08 presidential election going to be? I just hope We The People stay as united as the WGA writers are right now on the picket lines. Don't buy the media hype on any candidate. Pay attention, do your own research, and don't listen to those knucklehead TV guys who exaggerate constantly to get ratings. Tim Russert, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Matthews need to all take a chill pill. They're not reporting -- just hyping -- thus swaying -- and for once, the American people didn't fall for it.


Saturday, January 05, 2008


I'm beginning a new spec script and outlining it. Some writers don't like to work from an outline. I find it helpful for the first draft or two. I use it simply as a reference. I'm not rigid about it. I find it helpful to write "notes" before I start a script -- little phrases, key scenes, character quirks, slang, etc. Then I put them in groups -- so if I need slang to fit within my narrative or dialogue, I have a list to choose from. I did this when I wrote the softball spec script and needed various sports terms and catch phrases.

I also think it's helpful, for me, to break the Three Act structure up so I see visually where I'm going from one act into another. Simple beats. I don't get crazy over it. But I do find that it's important to lay the ground work -- to me, it's like anything that you're starting from scratch -- cooking, baking, building a piece of furniture, anything you create -- it saves time if you know where you're headed. The final result may still surprise you, but an outline helps to get you on your way like a map.

Even with maps, we still get lost -- too bad they haven't created a GPS for scriptwriting. Not yet anyway. I'm sure some Hollywood guru is working on it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Wishing you the best of everything in this New Year of '08. I hope you find the focus and energy to meet all your goals. Yesterday I was able to break through a major story block and find my way again which will lead to putting seat in the chair and writing another draft of my spec script.

Keep dreaming, keep writing!