Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Writers of the Future Interview with Steven L. Sears

I had the opportunity to interview Steven L. Sears at the Writers of the Future 2015 Awards Ceremony. I had a great time, and got some amazing advice from him.

What advice would you give new writers?

First of all, never kill your kids. There’s a philosophy which is not really born about my own actual beliefs theology. Children have the knowledge of the universe because they just came from there. They know everything because they just came from where it all happens and they just walk out into our lives. What’s the first thing they hear when they get here?


No. And that’s a wall. No’s are walls. So the word no is a wall and we keep doing that. Usually it’s for legitimate reason. We don’t want the child to hurt themselves but we have to consider that a rep of no creates barriers and that eats away at our knowledge of the universe. More importantly it eats away our willingness to go back and play in that world. So I think what a lot of creative people who are successful later in life have done is 1. They heard the word no, but they applied it to practical things and not creative, or Two, they spent a large part of their life trying to unlearn the “no” walls. And online when when I’ve taught classes, those are the people who have struggled the most because they’re trying to recover their childhood. Or they’re afraid to recover their childhood. It changes their entire world. But when they success, they’re incredibly creative, because they went through the pain.


What inspires you in your writing?

Some of my answer is going to be a little weird because I look at it form a different perspective. My inspiration is that I’m a storyteller and I’m surrounded by a world of stories. I can’t say anything inspires me because that’s the water in my goldfish bowl. To me, that’s not unusual. The inspiration is never the problem. I look around and there are stories to be told.

I’m the guy who will walk down the sidewalk and then suddenly jump down to look on the round to look at an ant. A lizard. This morning in fact, I spent ten minutes sliding along the floor in my socks, only because it amused my dog. That’s going to end up in something.

So I can’t escape the inspiration. It’s all around us. It’s like the child with the walls. It’s all there. Your own life should inspire you. The fact that you’re standing here, is inspirational. Why wouldn’t you look around you and say “This is an awesome world. It’s got problems. I have problems as well. It’s an up and down adventure. All ticket rides are inspirational because they leave you breathless.”


What is your favorite part of Writers of the Future?

The new talent. I’m a big believer in new blood. The industry that I come out of, which is primarily television, people look at that as being a locked shop, “It’s who you know,” “You can’t break in” but the truth is just the opposite. We thrive on new blood. It IS hard to get in because there a lot of people out of there thinking they’re something special.

But it’s like that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when he’s trying to get everyone to leave the window and he yells “You are all individuals.” And they all repeat “We are all individuals.” And the one person yells, “I’m not.” Well, that’s the individual.

What I like about this is that you see new talent being reinforced and supported and urged onward as opposed to: “I’m a great storyteller.” - “Well, that’s great. Take your story elsewhere.”

It’s the encouragement of new talent, because without that—dreams are not past tense. I never bother looking forward to my last dream. It’s the one in front of me that I haven’t seen yet. So I just saw a people on stage who have a lot of dreams but they just haven’t let me know what they are yet. That’s what I love about this.


There are a lot of times when people think, “My book is the best thing ever, and then hit the “This is the worst book ever.” What do you do to help them?

It’s very simple. I have a very simple solution. Every time I’m hired to write another screenplay or I’ve got another assignment for TV show. I start the same way. I sit in front of the computer, my hands over the computer and I sit there and I go, “How did I do this? I don’t remember how I did this last time. I don’t. Oh my goodness, look at the size of that monster.”

And then I think that I don’t have to look at the big monster. I just have to look at the next step toward the monster, so fade in. And then once I’m typing away, the kids come out to play in my head and then I just take dictation. I’m having a lot of fun. So the simple response to that is for those who say they have writer’s block. Or forty page block in screenwriting.

So what I say is "Just write." Just write. Take your next baby step. Because what you’re doing right then is doing the equivalent of whacking your way through a corn field. The corn is too high to see what you’re doing right now. You can go left, right, backwards forwards. Just keep chopping away at it. Go in a direction of some sort At the end of the cornfield, there’s a helicopter. And you can go up in that helicopter and see everything you laid out. And that’s when you go “Oh that’s what I did.” And then you can move things around. That’s when you get really excited.

Usually this is the first draft. I just say “One foot in front of the other. Or “Just keep swimming” if you want to use that. But just keep writing.

I’ve had my characters actually talking about not going forward.


And of course:

What’s your favorite color?

Kind of a maroon, green, sometimes blue.

Thanks, Steven!! 

Steven L. Sears has worked as a Writer, Story Editor, Producer and Creator in Television, Film, digital media and animation. His lengthy career has encompassed over fifteen separate Television series, and development deals with a number of the major studios in the industry, including Columbia Studios, Sony/Tristar Television, Rhysher Entertainment, Artists Inc., Cookie Jar Entertainment, Digital Pictures and many others.

Steven's initial foray into professional Television writing came with his hiring as a staff writer on the Stephen J. Cannell Productions hit TV series RIPTIDE, for the NBC Television Network. He followed that up by adding his talents to the writing staff of one of the more popular genre series of its time, THE A-TEAM, also for NBC.

From there, he continued his career by writing and working on such popular series as HARDCASTLE & McCORMICK, JJ STARBUCK, STINGRAY, WALKER-TEXAS RANGER, HIGHWAYMAN, ROBIN'S HOODS, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, FATHER DOWLING MYSTERIES, HARDBALL, GRAND SLAM, JESSE HAWKES, SUPERBOY, S.H.E. SPIES and many other Television favorites. His animation experience includes ITSY BITSY SPIDER, TRANSFORMERS: RESCUE BOTS and working with the legendary animation Director Don Bluth as writer on the short feature THE GIFT OF THE HOOPOE.

More that just a writer, Steven also moved up through production as a Story Editor and Producer. After Producing SWAMP THING for USA network and RAVEN for CBS, he soon moved to a series that has made its mark in Television and pop culture history, as Co-Executive Producer of the wildly popular series XENA - WARRIOR PRINCESS. He followed that up by co-creating the latest incarnation of the legendary comic book heroine SHEENA for Sony/TriStar Television, which ran for two seasons.

Still involved in Television and Film development, he recently branched out into the literary world, partnering with Peter J. Wacks (SECOND PARADIGM; BLOODLETTING) to write the epic book series VILLEANNE for WordFire Press, as well as co-creating and writing the graphic novel STALAG-X with the popular sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson (DUNE: HOUSE ATREIDES; CLOCKWORK ANGELS; DAN SHAMBLE, ZOMBIE P.I.). Published by Gestalt Publishing, STALAG-X is already being pursued by several Production Companies for a possible Television Series and film franchise.

After such a career, it would seem natural that people would ask Steven to document his experiences for the benefit of new writers. To that, his book "THE NON-USER-FRIENDLY GUIDE FOR ASPIRING TV WRITERS (Experience and Advice From The Trenches)" has been published by WordFire Press and is now available on Amazon.com

Friday, June 12, 2015

When Books Don’t Listen to You as the Writer

The first time I had a book character disobey me, I was in complete shock. I'd heard about it from other writers, but hadn't experienced it myself. When I told one of my non-writing friends that it had happened, she was pretty sure I was crazy.

Whether you outline or discovery write, you know that sometimes your story will spin in a different direction than what you'd planned. Outliners will then have to redo their outline to fit it in, and discovery writers? They just go along for the ride.

Back to my first experience. My main character's brother, Adam, was supposed to be a minor character. Someone who was only mentioned in passing.

And then he laughed at me. "No, sorry. I have to do this. For my sister."

I stared in shock at the words in front of me as I saw him dart out of the room and try to save the day. I watched him get taken and move the story forward in a way that my main character couldn't have. The story was so much stronger because of it. Then together, they were able to save the day, and the story wrapped up perfectly. Well, maybe not perfectly because another two books came after that.

There are times when you can reign in your story and tell them to behave, but before you do, weigh the consequences. Will the story suffer if you go a new direction? Will it be stronger? What are you going to have to change after this? Is it worth it?

One great indicator is how the story reacts. If you're suddenly at a standstill and you can't go any further, chances are you need to go back and fix a spot. Maybe that sudden inspiration wasn't what the story needed. And sometimes the different direction is exactly what the plot needed to drive it forward.

I was done with a series last year. My character had saved the day and everything was exactly how I wanted it. Except ... my story had other ideas. One day in the middle of church, a whole new plot came to mind and screamed at me to write it.

So I did. Except that I got to the ending and sat there staring at it. Nothing worked. The ending I had planned out didn't solve anything, and in fact, made it too similar to the ending of the third book. I took a step back and talked to a few friends before suddenly realizing that this wasn't the end. It had to go a different direction or I would have broken promises I made in the book. After I made that decision, the story flowed perfectly, and I was able to finish it later that day.

And now I have another book to write. But you know what? That's okay, because I know that going off the beaten path will make this story stronger.

So what's the craziest thing your characters ever made you write?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

WonHundred Word Wednesdays

It started with a chance meeting on a film-set, and went from there. They knew they were meant to be together, but with their crazy schedules, they were rarely in the same city.

He called her every night, and she sent him sweet text messages throughout the day.

And then one day the messages stopped. He’d tried to find out where she was, but no one knew. He pushed away from his computer and went to answer the door. His takeout was late, and he was happy it would be free.

But then the door opened. She was here.

Now check out the rest of the stories!

Wendy Knight, Author: www.wendyknightauthor.blogspot.com

Kelly Martin, Author: www.kellymartinbooks.blogspot.com

Alison Woods (Peering Into. . .): http://alisonmillerwoods.wordpress.com/

Jessica Winn, The Distracted Writer:http://thedistractedwriter.com/

R.K. Grow: http://www.rkgtheauthor.com/

Stephanie Worlton's Kreating Krazy blog: http://stephanieworlton.blogspot.com/

Leah Sanders, inklings: http://inklings-leahsanders.blogspot.com/

Laura D. Bastian http://www.lauradbastian.com/

Jaclyn Weist  http://jaclynweist.blogspot.com

Amryn Scott http://wildscottkids.wordpress.com/

K.R. Wilburn  http://www.krwilburnbooks.com/blog

Lindzee Armstrong/Lydia Winters http://lindzeearmstrong.blogspot.com

Miranda D. Nelson http://www.mirandadnelson.blogspot.com/

Angela Schroeder http://angelaschroederauthor.blogspot.com/

Ginny Romney http://romneyrants.blogspot.com/

Canda Mortensen http://candamortensen.blogspot.com

Jenna Eatough http://mistglenmoon.net/blog/

Starimprint: http://starimprint.blogspot.com/

Kaye P. Clark: http://kayepclarkwriter.blogspot.com/

Jenifer Lee: www.myfam-i-lee.blogspot.com/