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This is me…a big mouth

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Word Play

Caren Kennedy

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Shortly after I first started writing, I landed a publishing deal to ghost write a non-fiction book and a separate deal to re-write the book proposal into a TV Treatment.  I was amazed.  I was astonished.  I was astounded.  I grabbed the phone and called Vanessa O’Loughlin as one might call a helpline – hysterically.

“Wow!” Vanessa laughed. “So what’s the problem?”

“I have to write the thing and I can’t. I don’t even know what a TV Treatment is. And as for the book … where the hell am I gonna find sixty thousand words within six months to fill it with?”

“The same place you found the proposal,” she said.  “You’re a writer, aren’t you?”

“That’s just it,” I whispered.  “I’m not a writer.  I’m a spoofer.  The proposal is the longest thing I’ve ever written and even then I made most of it up.”

“That’s what writers do,” she whispered back.  “Make things up.  But why are we whispering?  On second thoughts don’t answer that.  Just do it.  Write.  And keep on writing.  Starting today.  Now.  This minute.  Forget everything and just do it. ”

I did it.  I signed the contracts, quit the day job, and told everyone what I was up to.  “Oh, yes,” they sniffed.  “And you’re going to live on …?”

“The advance for my best-seller-in-waiting,” I replied patiently.  “Oh, and royalties from my award winning TV series of course.”

No one ever believes it can be done.  But it can be done.  It’s entirely possible to dump the day job, write a best seller, win an Emmy, and live off the proceeds.  Much like it’s entirely possible to withdraw your life savings, toss them on to the back of a horse and win.  People take these kinds of chances all the time and pull them off.   But the chosen ones are few and far between and like all gambles there are some you win and some you lose.

Moreover, if you throw financial security to the wind to labour down the word mines, then that’s what you must do.  Write.  For days on endyou’ll be glued to a blank screen feeling uncertain about everything except this:  Complaining about writer’s block won’t cut any ice with your publisher, screen agent or bank manager.  Then again, having backed yourself into a corner you’ll have no choice but to write and to keep on writing.

And so it was with me.  For six months I rarely looked in a mirror, never wore make-up, and eyebrows formerly tweezed to arched follicle perfection morphed into a second hairline.  My smoking habit escalated to incineration levels and fingernails, once seriously long and polished to shimmering perfection, were chewed to the quick.  On the rare occasions I left the house, I wore a hat disguising silver roots in hair previously tinted every four weeks.  But what did I care?  I was doing it, living my dream, and by the end I had finished first the TV Treatment and then the book.

Or so I thought.  The publisher didn’t and chucked it back at me for re-writes and yet more re-writes before eventually dumping it on the reject pile.  But that’s not all.  The advance for the book was diverted to another writer to start over from scratch.

I was gutted.  I was distraught.  I was mortified.  I hadn’t felt this mortified since the end of my marriage not long after the birth of my daughter.  But whereas the ex-husband couldn’t be seen for dust, there were piles upon teetering piles of draft manuscripts propping up the walls of my office waiting to be mowed down and destroyed.

And so it began.  The shredding of my beautiful creation.  Only it wasn’t beautiful.  It was ugly.  Every so often I paused, read a few lines, blushed scarlet and resumed the rip and trash process with accelerated weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But life goes on, nobody died, and here I am writing about writing.  I’m sometimes asked was it worth the effort and I have to say, yes.  Yes it was.  Definitely.  At a minimum, the experience taught me how not to write for despite having done it, I didn’t just do it.  I told everyone what I was up to first.  Big mistake.  Huge.   Nightmares involving publishers, screen agents and bank managers breathing hell fire down the back of one’s neck is one thing; believing the world and its mother are chomping at the bit to tear strips off your back with “I told you so …” is something else again.  As a result, by the time I started writing the book, I’d become self-conscious to the point of paranoia and it showed in results quite rightly rejected.

People who want to do something knuckle down and do it.  They don’t waste time blubbering into phones, waffling hot-air about best-sellers-in-waiting yet to be penned, or play acting the martyr as I did.

But that’s the bad news.  The good news is that after my opus bombed, Warner Bros bought the rights to the TV Treatment and have been paying me hard cash annually ever since. Ooh-la-la!

Unfortunately that’s as exciting as it’s gotten so far.  As I type, it’s languishing in pre-production limbo.  Still, it might hit the small screen one day and then again it might not.  Who knows?  All I know is it’s a step in the right direction, practice makes perfect, rejection is par for the course, and nothing gets done without doing it first.

I say that last sentence beautifully, don’t I?  I should do. I repeat it often enough and never less than ten times a day. But the truth is I don’t always believe myself.  To my mind self-belief in one’s own ideas, or rather the lack of it, is the biggest stumbling block for writers.

To find out what you can try doing about that, check back in a few weeks or follow me on Twitter @CarenKennedy and I’ll let you know when I update.

In the meantime, you can learn more about TV Treatments HERE and discover how to write your own Treatment at INKwell Writers’ WorkshopsHERE.

For more about Caren, please visit: www.carenkennedywrites.com

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