WHAT I’VE LEARNED… from the Writers Guild Foundation Veteran Writing Project

The WGF VWP has been a font of information that I didn’t get elsewhere. I’ve read the major books, like SAVE THE CAT, but these never really helped me get a grasp on HOW I should be writing. They simply outline the author’s methods. Granted, books like SAVE THE CAT are invaluable, but as a general rule they only give you a blueprint for writing a script, not writing a good one, an original one, a sellable one. They tell us what the author’s experienced. But that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. So, I’m going to cover four pieces of advice you may have not heard yet in your career. These come from active writers in the industry, writers currently working on features, dramas and sitcoms.

 

First: CAN A READER UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON IN YOUR STORY REGARDLESS OF WHAT PAGE THEY RANDOMLY START ON?

You’ve probably heard this before. But it’s one that’s easy to forget as we write. We understand the story but will our initial readers. By initial readers, I mean the producers, directors and executives who will read your script to assess whether or not they want to invest time and money into it.

You’ll have to make sure that something done or said on each page is so relevant to the story that a read will think, “Ah. Gotcha. I’m tracking.” In a manner of speaking, it’s like having every page be your first page, yet somehow a new page advancing the plot.

 

Second: BE A HOG. THAT IS, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A HERO with an OBSTACLE and a CLEAR GOAL (H.O.G.)

This concept came up when we were discussing the overarching concepts of plot, story and theme. It’s the foundation of a story. You must have a hero or, if you’re like me, an anti-hero. I tend toward anti-heroes, those characters who have some significant flaw that almost makes them detestable, but who also has several saving graces. Think Archie Bunker. He was a racist, misogynistic bigot. But we love(d) him because he is 100%, unequivocally dedicated to his family. That’s the one area that if others try to mess with he will do pretty much anything to protect them. So we tolerate his bigotry because we know how profoundly he loves his wife and daughter.

The hero/anti-hero needs and obstacle over which they can come. This is often in the form of a quest or journey of some type. It could be physical, mental/psychological or emotional, or perhaps it’s time travel or a quest across the world or galaxy/universe. Regardless of what the hero does, there must be an obstacle. What must the hero/anti-hero overcome on their way to…

 

A goal? What is the hero/anti-hero working toward? What do they want? Is it peace of mind? Revenge? To be rich? To have a “normal” family? Perhaps it’s just to win a race? Get home? Maybe acceptance? Whatever it is, it must be crystal clear. If the hero/anti-hero is simply wandering, it simply won’t work. They could spend 40 years in a desert, but they still need to have a goal.

 

Third, EVERYTHING MUST MEAN SOMETHING AND HAVE A PAY OFF AT SOME POINT.

Yes, this seems like common sense, but often writers will add in items or ideas or actions that seem to mean something but are never explained. For example, mentioning a loaf of bread sits rotting on a table but never explaining why it was important it was rotting.

We’re not doing a Sigmund Freud impression when we write. Never is a cigar JUST a cigar. If someone it smoking one, it has meaning. Is it a sign of wealth and leisure? Is it a celebratory cigar? It has meaning and must mean something. A character carrying high heels rather than wearing them has a reason for doing so. Make it pay off in some way at someplace in the script.

Everything is relevant. Everything.

That’s the bottom line. Everything must mean something.

 

Fourth, THINK LIKE A PRODUCER, THEN LIKE AN EXECUTIVE.

Most baby writers just write. They think they are considering their audience, but they fail to consider their initial audience and the most important audience. We write to sell our script or to get in a room. We don’t write for the millions we hope will watch our show or feature. Nope. This is the part most baby writers don’t realize: That audience, our target audience for the story, will never see the script. We aren’t writing for the millions of viewers.

Nope.

The first audiences we write to are producers, directors and executives. They are the ones we are trying to convince to hire us or buy our work. So, we have to write FOR THEM.

How do you write for them? This is a mantra I have on a sticky note now after one of the WGF Vets mentors told me to remember. You wrote for them by thinking like them. You write with the producer in mind. The producer, as we all know, is the backbone of the production. They organize the sets, deal with the money, and all that fun stuff.

How will a producer view your story? Will it be easy to film? What’s the bottom line for them? Multicam sitcoms get picked up more often than single cam ones because all they have to do is build a set to use over and over. If the characters are going outside, then the backlot cityscape can be altered to reflect the story. Features with only a few locations—the arctic, Prague, NYC, LA, a mental health institute, a school, etc.—are easier to film and significantly cheaper than multi-location features.

This is the question I keep thinking about as I write: If I were a producer, would this scene be easy to create and film, and will it cost a lot of money?

Since producers are tasked with keeping costs down, creating sets, etc., they are looking at the bottom-line. Executives are too, but if you don’t have everything as simplified as possible, you’ll most likely lose them too… even the biggest names get turned down. But thinking like a producer AND a writer will open more doors… according to our mentors.

INCORPORATING LGBTQ+ AND TRANS/GENDER NON-CONFORMING CHARACTERS INTO YOUR SCRIPTS, PART II

In PART I, I offered you a shopping list of ways you could better understand and incorporate gender diverse characters into your scripts. In this post, I’ll give you some specific examples of how you might do that without adding a main character of which you have no understanding but think it’s socially expedient to have.

As an example of what I recommend earlier, allow me to elaborate script as an example. A cis-hetero white man I know made a comment at a trans/gender nonconforming training seminar not long ago that he will, or should, add a T/GNC (Trans/Gender Non-Conforming) character.

While I applaud his initiative, it smacks of political and social expedience, not genuine interest. I feel this way because he refuses to ask me questions about my gender diversity. He appears to have no desire to understand gender divergent people or, perhaps, he is afraid to say something wrong. Nobody should fear asking questions to better understand something. But many do.

This isn’t to say he shouldn’t add in a discussion about us, but what he needs to do is talk with someone like me about what we face, just as I reach out to Indigenous persons for the sitcom I’m currently working on, and will speak with a psychiatric nurse, psychologist and psychiatrist about my medical/mental health sitcom.

As for what this writer can do? First, let’s go with a sitcom set in an airport about TSA agents who are lax on smuggling. Our protagonist, however, is not. He’s catching all sorts of items that his co-workers are letting through.

As you all know, we go through scanners now. Scanners offer a unique problem for Trans/GNC people. It’s often referred to by TSA agents as “an anomaly.” Also known as a penis on someone presenting non-male.

Instead of adding a TGNC (Trans/Gender Non-Conforming) character as a main or ensemble cast member, it would be better if the episode addressed the intolerance of TSA personnel, and what they see and say about various people, particularly Trans/GNC people who are AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth).

By this I mean, address “the anomaly” topic itself. This is when a gender divergent person presenting as their authentic self goes through the body scanner and is pulled over for an “anomaly.” As mentioned, that anomaly is their penis.

I know from personal contact with some Trans/GNC people that several AMAB T/GNC people have been pulled aside, frisked and harassed by TSA. Address topics like this. It is a matter of “see something, say something.” Defending our right to exist is the Number 1 thing an ally can do to help us fight discrimination and, often, avoid being murdered. A basic Google search will lead you to some eye-opening revelations. For example, did you know that Indigenous communities recognized multiple gender identities, even holding some up as examples of perfection of the soul (male and female existing in harmony in one person), but missionaries saw only the binary and literally fed TGNC/Two Spirit person to their dogs. That’s not a typo. Christians fed gender diverse people to dogs. Literally.

That is another topic a writer can address: black trans women are especially victimized and murdered. Several states still have the “trans defense” which justifies the murdering of a TGNC person. The protagonist in this example can easily address the inequity of the situation. Introducing a TGNC person in order to illustrate the turmoil and discrimination we face shows you are an ally and sensitive to our existence.

In this or any other story, the protagonist could also address sex workers. Perhaps a sex worker—for example, a BDSM Master/Dom or Mistress/Domme—has a carry-on full of sex toys or whips and cuffs and other tools of their trade through check-in and the other TSA agents make fun of it. The TSA agent protagonist might choose to defend their right to do be a sex worker. If you don’t have BDSM experience, this is also a topic you should research thoroughly. BDSM is more about consent than sex; people, like the author of 50 Shades, misrepresent the lifestyle.

Too often my gender divergent family is misrepresented and misunderstood, relegated to props and characters to ridicule and use as the comedic prop (a man dressed as a woman prancing around, for example). Yet, interestingly, some of people’s favorite characters and people are TGNC.

One final reminder: Don’t confuse gender identity with sexuality.

Sexuality is to whom you are attracted and with whom you have coitus. Gender is your sense of self, who you are and how you display that sense of self. Trans men and women are male and female respectively. Simply because a trans person has the genitalia they were born with doesn’t mean they are gay or bisexual. Many are straight.

Often, gender and sexuality are conflated in real life and in Hollywood. Don’t make that mistake. Don’t’ think a character you write who is T/GNC MUST be gay. Some are. Some aren’t. That’s a decision you need to make. Once you do, you need to ensure you have shown the difference between their gender identity and their sexuality. After all, we can’t assume all cis white men are heterosexual, right? Why assume a T/GNC person is gay?

As you can see on my Script Reader Services page, I am open to script readings. See the list for pricing. I’m happy to assist you in adding LGBTQ characters to your scripts. You can and also DM me on Twitter with questions.

INCORPORATING LGBTQ+ AND TRANS/GENDER NON-CONFORMING CHARACTERS INTO YOUR SCRIPTS, PART I

On December 16, 2020, The Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Foundation fellowship held a training session for us, the fellows. And what a fantastic training session by TransCanWork it was. It was nice to be “around” gender divergent people like me.

In this post, I’m talking about adding TGNC characters and LGBTQ in general. Like Drian (the lead moderator for the training) and the other moderators said, there’s a massive difference between gender identity and sexuality. The L, G and B are fairly easy to write they’re “normal” people who happen to be straight, gay or bi; there’s not even a need to add that to their description.

That ease of writing such a character is profoundly altered when you write gender divergent characters.

First, don’t add one unless it’s relevant to the story. Otherwise, you’re using us as a political tool and prop. That is a sure way to get the TGNC (Trans/Gender Non-Conforming) community “canceling” you, which is essentially destroying yourself and credibility in the eyes of the community. For example, don’t use a T/GNC character in this way to think you’re “woke”: JOHN says to MARY: “Oh, yeah. She’s trans. Cool huh?” MARY TO JOHN: “Yeah.” They wave and smile at trans character.

There is NO reason for that trans/GNC character to be in that script if that’s all they get. They need to have a substantial role, a reason for being there. And it shouldn’t be about their transness alone, but about them as a person who happens to be trans/GNC.

Second, speak with TGNC folks. We all have different experiences. Some, like me (an AMAB GNC person–Assigned Male At Birth), have fought with dysphoria our entire lives. Others who’ve gone through full transition or no aspect of transition besides clothing, have had none. It’s different for all of us. We are not a one-size-fits-all experience.

Third, you need to learn the nuances of our community. It is an erratic one. We are extremely sensitive about certain things, like pronouns. Not all of us are as forgiving as I am. I only care that you recognize and try to remember my pronouns and respect my existence, others will destroy you, will lambaste you, will “cancel” you for one slip of the tongue.

Fourth, learn about the social and psychological aspects we endure. Those of us who are veterans are something like 20x greater to attempt suicide over the general population. Our gender divergence isn’t a psychological issue or mental health issue. The reason my community has a significantly higher rate of psychological issues is because of the lack of acceptance and extreme intolerance by cisgender people. That hatred messes with a person.

Fifth, treat us as normal people with normal problems—finding love, working, family, etc.—but having to deal with them in different ways due to living our genuine lives, lives as we truly are. The issue of acceptance by loved ones is a major issue we must navigate, not all that unlike family disputes over politics, sports teams and similar topics.

Sixth, TALK TO US. Talk with as many of us as you can. Asking us questions educates you and helps you understand the diverse lived experiences we have.

Seventh, have a TGNC person read over what you wrote. I’m always available to help you better understand my community. I don’t have all the answers, but I can direct you to others with different experiences.

Remember, like all minorities, the LGBTQ+ community has paid a high price for being out. That price increases 1000-fold when you are a gender diverse person. Treat us with the respect we deserve, not at a prop.

PART II, coming next week, will offer you examples of how to properly and respectfully incorporate gender divergent characters into your scripts.

Nothing is EVER “Perfect”: Don’t Lose Yourself in the Pursuit of Perfection

I imagine EVERY writer at every level has gotten feedback that included a phrase along this line: “This needs to be polished more, get it perfect.”

The fact is, though, nothing is perfect. Why? For the simple reason that everyone has something different in mind. Writing is inherently imperfect.

We’ve all see the TV shows and the movies and the plays that make no sense, yet were made.

There’s a reason ROTTEN TOMATOES is so popular. Look at all the bombs listed in their worst-ever lists. There are features that just ended up being a waste of time and money.

So things are subjective. Everything is.

I taught college-level literature and composition classes for 15 years. Year in and year out my students, regardless of sex, gender, age, or any other aspect of the human condition–were obsessed with “perfect” writing.

I spent over a decade trying to program that dangerous and detrimental thinking out of them, only to have colleagues teach that very thing.

But if you read Old Man and the Sea, any of the Harry Potter books, Shakespeare, and other popular series’ and authors, you see mistakes that even the editors missed.

Writing is never perfect. It’s never grammatically perfect. It’s never mechanically perfect. It’s simply never perfect.

New writers, those who didn’t go to graduate school to get a degree in English or who don’t write or read much, or who simply had shitty English teachers, don’t get that. They have had it hammered into their brains that there is a perfect story, a perfectly written chapter, a perfectly written scene, a perfectly written movie script or stage play.

I am a massive fan of The Phantom of the Opera. I know all the plot holes in it. It’s my favorite stage play ever, but it’s hardly perfect. The same with the blockbuster hit Die Hard. It’s got several blemishes.

Yet we are told to strive for perfection. And we shouldn’t. It adds undue stress.

My advice: Don’t look to be perfect. If you do, you’ll never move forward. You’ll be stuck in place going nowhere because you’re afraid to send out something that’s not perfect.

The reason we have editors and proofreaders and managers and agents and producers and writing rooms and so on and so forth is to take a great idea and make it better.

All we, as writers, do is write the story, hope it’s interesting enough to be optioned or land us a job and then wait for the producer and director and other writers to shred it with the hope of making it even better.

So don’t stress about perfection. Move forward. Warts and all.

Don’t Let ‘Em Get You Down: Considering Coverage (Feedback) on Your Work

I’ve lost count as to how many people have given me feedback on my scripts.

From a well-established working actor and producer who’s been in Daredevil and two of the CSI shows (among other shows and features) to friends to coverage given as part of a competition to hiring three coverage companies, I’ve sampled the field.

And one thing is evident: Nobody sees the same thing. At all.

The established working actor and producer LOVED the concept of KUSHY’S. He called it “brilliant” and “refreshing.” A friend of mine who went to college in Kansas for media studies laughed his ass off at the major jokes in it. One production company said they loved it and could make it, but they were booked solid for the next 6 months (which they were and are; they have two movies with “big names” in production as of this writing and one TV show on a streaming service).

On the other hand, I’ve gotten coverage from others who’ve completely missed the jokes and absurdity of scenes in FALLING OUT and Kushy’s.

For example, one person, a festival organizer, indicated he didn’t understand the humor and irony in a Buddhist being overjoyed that his parents are dead and was left an inheritance. He also completely missed the multitude of times the character was mentioned as bisexual and repeatedly stated the character is gay.

In this instance, I went back to see if I could make them any more obvious. I didn’t see how, but in the process I realized there were two spots that did, in fact, need reworking in order to make sense. These are areas the reviewer missed, but in going back to see what he didn’t get and if I could do something with it, I discovered scenes that could be improved… I even added two more jokes.

I’ve also received feedback stating the scenes in Kushy’s were “perfect” and of good length, the visual jokes were outstanding, and the idea is very marketable, BUT the dialogue needed work, as did character development.

The take away for all those starting out: Coverage is purely subjective. There’s no hard and fast, objective rubric for it. Some people won’t understand some jokes, or will get easily confused about sexuality or think the characters are well-developed. Others will love the jokes, understand the sexuality and think the characters are developed adequately.

We see thousands of shows and movies come and go each year. Some are horrible and you wonder how they got produced at all. Others are surprise hits.

Nobody who reads your script knows for sure WHAT will work. They only know what they like and think.

It’s a numbers game.

From every single letter of coverage I’ve gotten, I’ve found something in it that was helpful, though. Remember that.

So when you get feedback, remember, it’s just someone’s opinion. Not everyone likes or understands LGBTQ characters. Not everyone understands or likes comedy or horror or whatever you’re writing. But EVERYONE has some kind of feedback you can use. You just have to be open to seeing it.

Go forth and write!

Inspiring Arguments: Using the Holidays to Write Better Scenes

The holidays are upon us. This is a stressful time for many people. The pressure to buy gifts, to be nice to family they don’t like, to act happy.

I enjoy the holidays, mainly because my family is small and it’s just my spouse and kids usually. But there are times when we have other family and friends over or we accept an invitation.

My steadfast rule is to never discuss politics or religion with anyone. My spouse and I rarely talk either. These are “hot button” topics that often end in arguments and resentment.

But as a writer, there’s hope. The idea for the Kansas cult in my 30-minute comedy KUSHY’S (which has jumped to the Top 20 list for sitcoms on Coverfly’s The Red List) came from an exchange I witnessed between a family member and a friend. I’d warned the friend to not engage with the family member. She is a devout liberal, while my family member is about as conservative as you can be, down to the Evangelical Christian views. I usually avoided the family member. I couldn’t imagine what vitriol they’d spout if they knew I an gender nonconforming. I warned my friend. She decided to test the waters.

It was bad. My friend tore into my family member. And he returned the anger. It served no purpose. This hatred for the other side existed long before Trump. The division we see is nothing new. A number of others at the gathering got in the way of them. We made sure they were separated the rest of the time.

That was the last large gathering of friends and family I went to. But that exchange also became the catalyst for Billy in KUSHY’S. While a couple readers have seen a parallel with the Westboro Baptist folks, that group wasn’t the inspiration. My family member was. While I do my best to respect the viewpoints of others, allowing them to express themselves openly, rarely getting involved, I saw his irrational thinking and militantism as something to explore.

There’s no doubt that his anger–and hers–was misguided. Both were set in their ways and not able to empathize with the other in any way. This is what leads to much of the conflict we endure through life. Neither would listen.

As I wrote KUSHY’S, I remembered how my family member acted. And he became the template for Billy and the cult he inherited from the three siblings’ parents.

My friend became the template for Sydney in FALLING OUT. This beautiful trans woman I created is a great deal like my friend, a cisgender female. I admire her passion, her dedication, but she can go off half-cocked more than is normal. Sydney is much like that. She’s sensitive and does what she has to do to survive, but also jumps to conclusions, yelling and screaming at people before she finds the truth or understands the situation.

That one argument at a holiday gathering with friends and family so many years ago made such an impression on me that I was able to use it, use the two persons involved in the argument, as templates for characters in my scripts. These templates allow for better scenes, because you have a person in mind, someone you’ve seen or know, not a made up character. Thus, there’s depth to the character, enriching the scene and dialog and keeping you motivated to write more.

So this season, when people are yelling and screaming at each other over politics and religion and sports and whatever else, sit back and observe, maybe even take notes. Because, while we writers have fertile imaginations, nothing beats having a real-life example of how someone acts in a certain situation.

Happy Holidays! 🙂

Creating the Visions in My Mind: Write What You Know

As far back as I can remember, I’ve written and I’ve created stories. The stories were what would be expected from a child I suppose, knights and dragons and princesses…and usually I was the dragon or the princess.

But I couldn’t tell my family about that. They saw an average boy…who often cried. And as time passed, I was viewed as the Black Sheep of the family, the odd one, the weird one, the loser. My parents did a job on me, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was raised in a very typical ultra-conservative family with a hint a religious zealotry on the part of my paternal grandmother who instead that being left handed was a curse from God, as if They don’t have anything better to occupy their time than cursing people for being lefties. We went to church only when she demanded, but the ultra-conservative home life remained. Gender stereotypes were enforced. Deviation was punished or ridiculed. Gender double standards existed. If I was late for curfew I got the belt while my sister got an extended curfew to give her more time to get home on time.

My father was an authoritarian who, as an attorney, enjoyed picking fights at the dinner table. Admittedly, getting my ass whipped in a debate whenever I disagreed with him (which was often) made me a better debater. I learned to anticipate most counter-arguments and learned to research and support my claims. My mother was the homemaker and worked part-time until we got old enough to be home alone. She also was a nasty drunk who created stories which were easily proven false, yet she still clung to the false narratives. My sister is not like either. She’s a spoiled brat. I’m not afraid to call her what she is.

All of these form the basis for the “villians” in my stories. Even when I was young, I’d create stories that included my every day demons–my grandmother, father, mother and sister. My father became the ogre, the troll under the bridge. Mother was the wicked hag, my sister often was represented by some oh-woe-is-me character, like a talking Weeping Willow. My grandmother…she was the ultimate villian, the one who judged everyone for their wrongdoings, who accused others of stealing when she had to proof, the one who forced people to do her bidding.

I kept a diary for a little while, but my mother was a snooper. As I grew I developed an infatuation with Prince and Ziggy Stardust. I felt connected to their androgyny. It was somehow familiar and comforting. And I realized how I felt about other boys and girls. I found no difference in my preferences. These feelings weren’t (and still aren’t) in line with the conservative view of people.

So I wrote about these feelings of difference, but at the time there were no words to fill in the blanks, but I wrote short stories, not very good ones though. I wrote about boys in dresses and with make-up on. I explored feminine undergarments too. I felt I should live my stories.

As a child, I couldn’t express myself openly. But now, as an adult, I write these feelings and lived experiences into my work. For example, my TV dramedy FALLING OUT mirrors my actual life, it’s semi-autobiographical and takes on gender and sexuality issues head-on while drawing viewers into the lives of a group of LGBTQ friends in New York City. My 30-minute comedy KUSHY’S draws upon my sexuality and my conservative upbringing,focusing on racist, sexism, and every other -ism there is.

While in grad school I was taught to write what you know. I’ve always done that and fictionalized it.

I think that’s what every writer does (or should do). Take the angst of childhood, of life, and create it. While most producers, managers, agents and directors might not understand the profound connection you have to the work–rarely do you get to explain why you wrote it, how it’s relevant to you, because it’s not about you, it’s about money and entertainment–creating characters based partially on your experiences. This will ensure you’re fully engaged in the show or movie or play.

In other words: Write what you know.

Moving On Up: My Coverfly Experience Thus Far

“Nothing short of wonderful.”

That’s how I’d describe my experience with Coverfly. It came recommended to me through a longtime Twitter follower. I’d only casually heard of it. But at her recommendation, I explored it.

It’s become my “go-to” for entering scripts into competitions. If you are a screenwriter for film or TV (though there are a few people with stage plays on the site), this is a must site.

Basically, what Coverfly does is combine everything related to scriptwriting into one site. That is, they have a list of screenwriting competitions. Entering into contests could earn you points to increase your Coverfly score.

By placing in a contest score goes up. By getting someone to read your script you gain points. This score is used by industry professionals to find new, interesting scripts. The higher the score for the script the more visibility you have on the site.

Coverfly runs The Red List, a list of the all-time highest scoring scripts, the top moving scripts for the month and for the week on their site.

My 30-minute comedy, KUSHY’S, made it to #11 (as of this writing it is at #17) on The Red List‘s weekly list just this week (July 28-August 3) after my score soared 36 points because of multiple readings and moving up in a competition and the next day soared 110 points. A bonus aspect of the List is that it is searchable by Genre, Format and Time Frame (Month, Week, etc.).

Seeing the score is thrilling. All too often writers don’t get feedback in any manner. The manager, agent, producer, or director simply reads and moves on. But on Coverfly you can get plenty of feedback too. It’s not limited to JUST submitting and seeing a score.

Several of the competitions offer limited feedback as part of entering. And the site has an added way for writers to get feedback: coverflyx. Coverflyx is their effort to get writers to read and review their peers. At any given time there are about 20 scripts on the list asking to be read and reviewed by peers. Readers earn a score for reading. And if your feedback is crap, well, they kick you off.

I’ve not yet tried the coverflyx experience, but I look forward to it soon. I have plenty of scripts that need reviewing.

If you’re a writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to explore this site. Post your scripts and see what happens.

***This is a personal review, not a paid endorsement (though I wish it were).

Learning By Doing: Getting Involved is the Best Way to Learn

There’s a saying, thought originally to be a Chinese proverb, but often credited to Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Few statements are truer when it comes to learning how to do something, do anything.

When I taught, I made every effort to do the last on this list, involve my students. I also prefer to learn by doing things hands on too. Few people can just be told what to do and learn. Most of us learn by jumping right in. And that’s what I’ve done with my writing. Jump right in.

Not long ago, I had a rare opportunity for a fledgling TV, play and film writer. I had the opportunity to discuss my 30-minute TV comedy with a fairly well-known actor, writer and producer who is a huge ally of the LGBTQ community.

I was able to get 45 minutes of undivided attention with him over the phone. We discussed Kushy’s concept, characters, logline and more.

For all the books and sites and coverage I’d bought and feedback I’d gotten from peers, nothing was more enlightening than actually diving into the Kushy’s Treatment/Bible with this actor. 

His enthusiasm for my work was unexpected too. Comments like, “This is fucking genius, Avery. This has everything that’s relevant to today.” To clarify, Kushy’s pushes the “envelope” by honestly looking at racism, religion, LGBTQ, drugs in the U.S. in a dark comedic manner. There is a battle between family members over religion, drugs (marijuana) and queerness, for example.

But talking with him, being involved in a truly collaborative process, not just reading and writing and getting feedback without interaction, but actual “we’re talking all this out” and being involved, opened my eyes to not only what I was doing exceptionally well as a self-taught writer, but what my characters and plot were missing.

As writers, we tend to get attached to our writing. We have egos. And writing is most definitely a solitary venture. Let’s just be honest, eh? We are creatives and creatives are a pain in the ass to deal with quite often. It’s hard hearing that something doesn’t work. Creatives often don’t take criticism well, even if it truly is constructive criticism.

Add that here are sooooo many opinions on each topic, and we get to a point that we often just say “Fuck it” and move on.

For example, I recently had a former Hollywood pro give Kushy’s–which was a quarter-finalist in Scriptapalooza’s Fall 2018 Television Writing Competition–say that he didn’t know if Network TV would even consider the script because of the one nude scene in the Cold Open. He also wasn’t fond of the racist language and he apparently missed the reason the main character and his brother are arguing.

However, he did point out that the main place in which the story takes place is a main character too. Since that coverage, I’ve worked on revising the script to better showcase the main setting of the 30-minute TV comedy.

But I shirked at the other stuff because an active actor, a current writer and producer, GOT IT. He understood, just from my treatment, what it was lacking and what was “genius” in the script and concept. He loved the nude scene, seeing it as relevant since the character was about to undergo a re-birth, a new chapter in his life and it was because he was about to hit rock-bottom with only one place to go: Home.

That’s the take-away from my years of working on TV shows, plays and features: Get involved with active writers, actors, producers, etc. Talk to them as much as you can. Even if that means donating $150 to a crowdfunding campaign to do it–like I did–then do it. Hearing from them, literally engaging with them verbally, will alter your view of your own work.

But first: Take the ego out of it.

Trans-formations: A Journey to Gender Self-Discovery in 7 Parts, Part VII: Resolution

“Trans-formations: A Journey to Gender Self-Discovery in 7 Parts” is intended to be acted out on a stage. It is a performance piece. But it’s also something I feel needs to be “out there” too. Thus, I’m making it available on YEM.

The monologue, roughly 1 hour in total time, discusses my life as a Bi+ gender nonconforming person who battled not having words to describe myself, being raped by a man when I was 12, my place in the #MeToo movement, my issues with self-love and self-acceptance, and my psychological, mental, emotional and professional rapes.

It is a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance after years of being a punching bag for others and myself.

Please remember: This contains several uncomfortable topics which may trigger listeners.

This is PART VII: Resolution

The intent of this is to engage and recognize the many voices and identities that are part of our global community, and show how everyone’s experience with rape, harassment, gender identity issues and more are similar. We all struggle. Feel free to catch me on Twitter .