You Can’t Sell an Idea

Image: hand holding an unlit lightbulb” 1/52 sentiments” by DaNieLooP is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today’s post is excerpted from the new journal Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer: The Artistry, Joy, and Career of Storytelling by New York Times bestselling author and Hugo Award winner J. Michael Straczynski( @straczynski ), published under BenBella Books.

The emails come almost daily.

I’ve went this great idea for a movie/ Tv lines/ romance/ short story, would you like to buy it? Tell me how I can sell it to a studio/ system/ publisher.

If I give you my feeling and you write it we can split the money 50/50.

And one more literally from this morning 😛 TAGEND

I’m looking for someone who can work with me to box my ideas and sell them, can you help me?


Because nobody wants your ideas.

( And I don’t know what package my projects even implies. Put them in a casket? Staple them together? Here’s a six-pack of suggestions, want ’em? They likewise come in twelve and sixteen jam-packs of double-ply ideas in decorator structures that won’t clot the pipings .)

Unless you’ve figured out a Unified Field Theory or faster-than-light travel( in which case yeah, contact me and we’ll split the money 50/50 ), impressions are worthless, a dime a dozen. Give ten writers the same basic impression and you’ll get back eleven stories. What affairs is the execution of that meaning( rather than its slaughter ), which is entirely a function of the person writing it.

Talent is the product of training and natural tendency focused through a unique point of view, to put into practice an preposterou degree of faithfulnes and the determination to strive for a elevation of accomplishment sufficient to set them apart from the crowd and lift them out of the ordinary. Lots of people can sing. Nina Simone is a one-off. Paul Simon is a one-off. Aretha Franklin is a one-off. Frank Sinatra is a one-off. Janis Joplin is a one-off. They could take ballads you’ve heard a thousand times and, through their explain, induce you hear them in ways you’d never even thought about before.

Writers are musicians no less than vocalists; we’re just quieter. Whatever success we achieve is the direct cause to seeing how we understand the narration we wish to tell, and how well we are able to communicate that interpretation to someone else. Ideas are just the start of that process, “theyre not” the process in toto.

Let’s say you have the most amazing idea in its own history of shocking meanings. What’s a studio or publisher to do with it? They can’t publish it as is, or build a film shoot around it. Can you imagine carolling in to a Tv network one evening and someone on-screen says, “We had this chap came to see you us yesterday with an stunning meaning, check this out, ” and he reads you something crossing about half a page? Ideas are impractical on their own terms; even if someone were to buy your hypothesi( which they won’t because no one does ), they’d still have to give the idea to another novelist who could actually render that into something workable, and whose interpretation would be so hugely different from your own that it’s no longer even the same idea, so why do they need you?

As much as we like to think we’ve come up with an idea no one’s thought of before, the odds are pretty good that whatever we’ve stumbled upon has been encountered by other scribes over the long course of human history. That should not be taken to mean that there is nothing brand-new under the sun, or that all art is just reinterpretation of what went before, justifications that are often used for plagiarism and excess sampling. There is a profound difference between an idea, which are able to, and in many cases is, generic or broadly thematic, and the formulation of that hypothesi in ways that are unique to the master and specific to the time and culture in which it is created.

It’s the interpretation of an idea that procreates it feel fresh; by the time it comes out the other end of the crazy-straw of your particular talent as a finished creation, it looks like nothing that’s been did before because you haven’t been here before.

I was prosecuted online for years by a guy who said he had an idea for the perfect ending for a series I’d caused that never proceeded past the first season. Even though there was no way he could have the right pointing because the information needed to reach it would only have been brought out during the intervening seasons, he was adamant about getting me to read his ideas. He came at me on Facebook. I blocked him without looking at his substance. He initiated a brand-new chronicle. I blocked him again. He got my email and came at me immediately. I blocked him. He deepened email addresses, and when my helper caught his next volley, he became abusive with her.

Another individual sounded up online saying that he had written a story set in one of my imaginary macrocosms and wanted me to read and hand it my stamp of approval for his own personal happiness. Once again, I said no and blocked him. In response, he switched up reports and came at me again. Over and over.

I’ve never speak either of these segments and will never read them, because I don’t like being stalked and bullied, and because I have the right to say no.( I suspect that chaps like this, and they’re ever guys, have problems with being told “no” that lengthen far beyond TV scribes .)

And the thing is, this kind of thing has is going to happen for as long as I’ve been working in television. Somebody will come at me with impressions or legends set in natures I’ve organized, demanding I predict them. Some can be discouraged, but others simply don’t get the message. On three occasions the stalking–online and, in one case, in person at conventions–became so virulent that I had to enroll the services of private investigators to find them. Often it merely makes making their family members( or in one circumstance, the stalker’s employer, since he was using the part computer for purposes of harassment) aware of what’s going on to trigger an intervention and make it stop. But that doesn’t oblige the months and dollars depleted, and the psychological commotion permitted, any easier.

Writers spend their lives building occupations and statures because doing so renders us the leveraging and liberty to tell legends the hell is personally resonating and important to us , not so that we can tell your stories. We don’t need some stranger’s meanings, we don’t want to risk being indicted, and harassment is not the appropriate response to either of those preceding clauses.

Returning to the point about selling one’s ideas instead of granting them apart or affixing them, whenever I deport a writing shop there’s always at least one person who approaches me afterward be mentioned that despite having no prior experience writing Tv scripts, they’ve spent the last six months writing a pilot for a brand-new sequence and do I have any advice as to how they can get it sold?

Though it anguishes me profoundly, I have to tell them a very hard thing: that they spend those six months writing something they cannot and will not sell. Naturally, they don’t want to hear it and try to cite prior examples of people selling captains without prior Tv ascribes, but those stories are like unicorns, rumored and reported but never actually considered to be in the wild. The precedents evaporate in the draconian beacon of entanglement scours is proved that the person in question was either an established writer’s offspring or had at least some prior ordeal writing for TV.

An unproduced, inexperienced scribe cannot sell a pilot. It merely never happens.

Here’s why.

As noted, narration thoughts have no value because it all comes down to how that suggestion is expressed. The same applies to television, with the computed caveat that whoever writes the pilot is generally the same person who goes on to run the show, and before handing over that kind of authority, the networks and studios want to understand your process as a novelist and have a comfort factor with your experience as a producer. The only way to get that experience is to come up the ranks from freelance novelist to faculty novelist to fib journalist, then on to co-producer, farmer, and eventually manager make, until you’ve lastly acquired the leverage needed to run your own show, and the networks have some project of your coming to storytelling.

If that seems dishonest or closed-minded, let me turn the question around: If you were boarding a flight from New York to Melbourne, who would you prefer to have at the dominations: a pilot who has logged hundreds of hours of flight period on this road, or the person who plans to start attending flight school next Thursday? The queasy feeling you just got in the quarry of your gut is exactly why there’s not a TV system or streamer on the planet that will hand you a few million dollars to make a series unless they’re absolutely confident that you won’t drive the car off the road halfway through shooting. It’s about rely as much as what’s on the page.

And the prospect of persuading a driving writer/ farmer who does have the choppers to sell a series to collaborate with you is highly unlikely( unless that person is already a friend, but that situation can get very awkward very fast ). The endow of being allowed to create a brand-new Tv sequences is hard won, exceedingly remunerative, and can be easily torpedoed if something goes wrong. If a columnist/ make can sell presents on his/ her own, why would they bring in a project by an uncharted writer, for whom they’ll have to fight like hell to get system sanction( which likely won’t come ), and relinquish 50 percentage of what they’d usually give for one of their own series, with perfectly no guarantee that you won’t blow up the entire process through inexperience?

Answer: they wouldn’t.

And they don’t.

Which is why it hasn’t happened, isn’t happening, and isn’t going to happen.

If you want to sell a TV line, start by writing for established demonstrates and cultivate your style up. Focus on storeys that let you substantiate your unique attitude, and take the time to learn your craftsmanship on the writing and producing sides. Gradually, as you move up the ranks, the networks and studios will get cozy with you and your innovative process. Simply then will you have the opportunity to sell a aviator and lead your own series.

Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer by J. Michael StraczynskiAmazon/ Bookshop

Again, it’s not about thoughts. Plans that absence reading, act, and the willingness to applied them into workable form are the currency of people with short attention spans and no palpable ability. It’s about legends, about what that theme means to you and where you want to take it, followed by all the hard work needed to transform that theory into a script or a story or a short story.

That being said: If you’ve used to work the whole faster-than-light travel thing, gravely, call me.

Note from Jane: If you experienced this upright, be sure to check out J. Michael Straczynski’s new book Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer: The Artistry, Joy, and Career of Storytelling.

Read more: janefriedman.com