Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writing and agents and screenplays...

A must for every writer, Screenplay by Syd Field
Growing up I dreamed of three things. Finding my soul mate, moving to California and being a writer, preferabley for the big screen. I wanted to write novels too but felt that I needed life experience to actually type out a full length novel. Sometime in my twenty-nineth year I decided I had enough observations and details accumulated so I pounded out a four hundred page missive. I was positive it would be published within a year. I sent off a round of query letters. I re-edited the book and sent off more queries. I waited. I sent more letters. I tooled around with the book again. But no bites. Mind you, I must have sent off about two hundred and fifty queries and received back almost as many rejection letters. Prone to depression, its very easy for me to get down and negative but hey, I read The Secret. I knew all I had to do was be positive...right?
Marilyn is a character in Fifty Cents for Your Soul
Over the next several years I went on to write more novels with female lead characters. My hook was that every book was somehow either about life in Hollywood or set in Los Angeles, entertainment capital of the world. I always felt somewhat confident that somewhere in this great country was the perfect agent for me. I just had to find him or her, like a needle in a haystack. I remained hopeful- for a while. It has not happened. I want to say I've sent off a total of maybe six hundred query letters, shouldn't that be a record? Is there a prize? I don't know if there is an agent alive who represents womens fiction that hasn't heard from me.

When I finished with A Thousand Dollars for a Kiss, I was so fed up with looking for agents and sending letters and emails and waiting, and waiting and receiving those cold, brutal rejection letters, that I decided to go with a small publisher and just get my book out into the world. The publisher did not do any marketing or advertising and left to do it myself, I truly didn't know what to do or where to do. Calls to magazines to review the book went unreturned. Book Soup told me basically that since I was a nobody and couldn't bring in five hundred guests, I was not permitted to come in for a book signing. I persevered.
Another must read!
After writing my Marilyn Monroe book, Fifty Cents for Your Soul, I was determined to edit and revamp and perfect the novel before the giant agent search took place again. At this point, I felt like a true pro at not only crafting a query letter but writing a synopsis and researching agents. A very smart and successful novelist read my book, suggested a few changes so I rewrote the book.

Another round of queries and another round of rejections- although most query letters go unanswered. I'm beginning to think its me. It's not going to happen, is it? At what point does one give up, throw in the towel and say, screw it. But I can't give up because somewhere I do believe there is a person who will love my writing and my stories.

Sooooooo, having always dreamed about writing a screenplay, I am now finishing up on the screenplay version of my novel. I thought maybe if I can do both novel and screenplay, that would make me so much more valuable. But of course there are queries to send and agents to find....

The thought of sending out even more query letters and waiting fills me with a dread as heavy as cement boots. I figured surely when I hit five hundred query letters sent, statistically, the odds were in my favor, right? My writing is good, fun and light novels. My (unpublished) book got rave reviews from those novelist-friends who read it. What more can I do but keep moving forward?

In my mind, the movie of Fifty Cents for Your Soul is already cast. Rachel McAdams as a young Marilyn Monroe. Amy Adams as the main character of Barrett. Isla Fischer as Carly, Barrett's rap talking sister. Carol Kane as the mom, Lydia. Shirley MacClaine as Letty. It's just what female actresses say they want- an emsemble cast of strong females.

When I was nineteen years old, I started persuing my dream of being a writer. I wrote children's books and sent them to Harper Collins in a white envelope, saying Dear Sir or Madam...In my twenties I wrote and illustrated books and I learned more about writing and the whole query letter and agent deal. In my thirties, I wrote my celebrity gossip blog and tried vigorously to parlay that success into a publishing deal like so many other bloggers before (and after me).

I suppose if you want something bad enough, which I do, you just keep going and you don't give up. And if you hang in there long enough, maybe you will reach your goal. I don't know. We'll see.


Anonymous erin said...

After an evening of red wine and regret, I just read your latest blog post. I recently discovered your blog and am a new, but loyal reader. Anyway, the purpose of this note or comment is that I want to say, good for you! Keep going! It will happen!

I'm a 29 year-old who is currently lost. A graduate of NYU's film program, I worked in the entertainment industry for a long time before I had to get out of it. It's more bs than anything else, and I realized that doing grunt work for the big guys wasn't going to help me make my dream of writing a movie come true.

I'm trying to write now, but am having a hard time. Years later, I'm considering a move to LA, but I'm not even sure why. Regardless, your blog gives me hope and lifts my spirits. I look up to you! No, you don't have a movie deal yet, but you've written books! (Plural!) That's fantastic. You've inspired me, and I'm sure, countless others with the thought provoking interviews you post as well as your honest writing about your continual creative struggle.

It's kind of strange too because the Syd Field book that you posted tonight is the exact one that I've been brushing up on lately since I haven't written a screenplay in eight years. He is truly the master at this craft.

Anyway, don't give up now. Someday you will be in an interview discussing this very time when you didn't know if you could go on, but in fact going on made all the difference.

-A New Friend @ 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Leslie said...
"Calls to magazines to review the book went unreturned. Book Soup told me basically that since I was a nobody and couldn't bring in five hundred guests, I was not permitted to come in for a book signing."

Cindy, I'm puzzled. I emailed you about doing a booksigning at Borders in Riverside and I never heard back from you.... @ 11:25 PM  
Blogger CINDY BOKMA said...
Oh no! I never heard...your email must have slipped through the cracks. Thank you, Leslie and I would be honored to have a book signing when my next one comes out!

Cindy @ 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Leslie said...
Cindy, I'm so glad I asked you. I've always wondered about that. Darn cyberspace!
Please keep us posted on your latest work(s)!!

=) @ 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Nicole J. Burton said...
The publishing business is devolving. I couldn't find a publisher for my book, SWIMMING UP THE SUN: A MEMOIR OF ADOPTION even though I knew it was a good book and worthy of being published. (Read the first three chapters at I'm an experienced playwright and a published author. After doing everything right and getting nowhere (rejections, nibbles no bits, etc.), I started my own publishing company, and I couldn't be happier. Sure, it's a lot of work but the book is selling steadily and I've learned to be a businesswoman about my work. The publishing business exists to infantalize writers. Publishing yourself using one of several different means is the answer to waiting around for Mr. Right Publisher to come along and rescue us, IMHO. Thanks for your blog. @ 10:32 PM  
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