Frozen, as the highest grossing animated film of all time, has commanded the attention of filmmakers everywhere. There have been in-depth analyses of what makes a successful animated film and how Frozen hits those buttons.
This is not that kind of post.
Instead, let’s imagine the characters of Frozen have turned writing coach – what words of writing advice can they share? What do their life anecdotes teach us about how to be better writers? How can we learn from their mistakes?
Here are 10 writing career lessons out of the mouths of Frozen characters:
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see – be the good girl you always have to be.
Most writers start out writing for themselves, for the joy of it. Because they can’t not write. However, there will come a point when someone will ask why you spend all your time with a computer screen and may ask to see the finished product…
I have always been something of an exhibitionist, so I spent my tween years showing all my masterpieces to anyone who would listen for five seconds. As I grew older, I realised they were bloody awful and deleted them from the face of the earth. I regret that now.
Because while there will always be a part of you that fears people seeing your flaws – even when you’re a published author – getting it wrong is a vital step on the road to getting it right! You need to dare to suck.
First drafts exist to suck – the first step is finishing them. They are my favourite part of the writing process, but editing is what turns a misshapen lump of ice into an exquisite sculpture.
Basically – you’re gonna get it wrong, but when you’re getting somewhere towards right…
Let it go!
If you want to write for your drawer, that’s cool. But if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing you’re halfway interested in your writing living outside your head and your furniture.
Giving your script/novel/poems to untrained family and friends is problematic. My husband does read my novels before my editor, but that’s because he’s a professional subeditor and I know he doesn’t spare my feelings. A good first stop for a piece of work is a beta reader – preferably someone whose judgement you trust and knows writing – then a writing group or professional editor.
THEN you can think about competitions, production companies, agents and editors.
I don’t care what they’re going to say.
Writers need to have a thick skin, like Frozen’s resident reindeer Sven. A writing career is full of rejection. On the flip side, if you can’t take criticism, you have no future in this business. And this occurs throughout a project – from a query rejection to a negative review at the box office, everyone will have something to say about your work.
I think you need to care just enough. Criticism is not personal – it is about your work, not you. However, when looking at criticism – whether they are elaborating on a rejection or part of development notes – you have to understand why the reader is responding in that way. With Binary Witness, agents had difficulty caring about the characters because I wasn’t immersing them in deep POV. I needed to take on board that criticism and evolve my writing style to work on that problem.
On the other side of the table – if your friend asks you to read his stuff and it sucks, what do you do?
Maybe you make him feel good about himself now, but when he has twenty rejections and no idea where it all went wrong, he’s going to feel pretty crap. You don’t have to be blunt, but you do have to be honest. Establish that as soon as you agree to read – before you actually read – because then everyone knows where they stand.
Friends don’t let friends melt into a puddle.
I can’t wait to meet everyone! What if I meet The One?
Writers are usually solitary creatures, but occasionally emerge for social interaction. Sometimes it’s a friendly chat with other writers. And sometimes it’s a Networking Event.
From the London Screenwriters Festival to drinks down the pub with some mates who’ve invited An Agent, these can be both nerve-racking and exciting.
And in the back of your mind, there’s a tiny little voice that says “maybe I’ll meet someone who can give me My Break”. These things do happen (just check out the LSF blog for success stories!) but most writing careers are built on lots of little moments.
So don’t head for the biggest name in the room and spend the whole weekend stalking her. You know never know which friends may give you a leg up five or ten years down the line.
All my life has been a series of doors in my face – and then suddenly I bump into you!
Yet sometimes, quite unexpectedly, those little moments snowball. Let’s take Phill Barron. As I mentioned in my Writing Blog Tour post a few weeks back, Phill got me my first IMDB credit for Persona, an app-based drama. Phill also recommended me for another job – which came to nothing for a variety of reasons.
However, while working on Persona, I met Jack Delaney and Cameron King. With Jack, I went on to co-write Small Chances, performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival. Last year, Cameron asked me to write the script for a short film – which led to A Work of Art.
One opportunity can lead to many more. But, on the surface, it’s often really difficult to tell which ones will go where.
Wait, you got engaged to someone you just met that day?
So, say you go to LSF and you meet this AMAZING producer and he’s like “hey, baby, wanna write my film?” And you’re like “ZOMG YES” and then he speeds you away in his Ferrari for cocktails with Peter Jackson.
Taking on a writing gig is like embarking on a relationship. You may well be stuck with this person for months or years and it’s important that you establish from the outset whether you really want to get into bed with them (metaphorically speaking…).
I have been approached by drunk directors at writing events trying to persuade me to work with them. I have been emailed out of the blue asking if I want to write a script (including by one of the people who approached me drunk). And I have entered pitch competitions on Twitter.
What I’m saying here is two things: Don’t commit to anything until you know who you’re dealing with, and Google is your friend.
People will beat you and curse you and cheat you.
Unlike Frozen’s Kristoff (or “Sven”), I don’t want to be that person that warns you about strangers on the internet and monsters under the bed, but seriously – there are scoundrels out there.
Simple rules go a long way: agents don’t get paid until you get paid, don’t pay to have your books published unless you know you’re self-publishing, Hollywood “insiders” should have a name and reputation.
People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed.
As we can make impulsive decisions based on love-at-first-sight or an exciting offer in the inbox, we should also consider desperation and despair.
If a round of querying has gone badly, that is not the time to self-publish to Amazon – no matter how tempting. While I am poorly-qualified to wade into the debate on traditional publishing vs self-publishing, I will say this: self-publishing should be a positive choice, not a default alternative. To go down that route on a whim is disrespectful to your work and self-publishing.
Give it time. Work on something else. Consider your options.
Do you want to build a snowman? (It doesn’t have to be a snowman.)
If you get through our Frozen characters’ list of hurdles and warnings above and meet a well-researched director/production company/agent/publisher, what next? You’re on the home strait now, right??
What if, after all that, you want to build a snowman and they want to make sandcastles?
You have a decision to make. Either you can decide that hey, you wanted to build a snowman, but maybe Winter Isn’t Coming and sand is kinda hot right now. So, sure, let’s make sandcastles.
Or you can walk away and find someone who wants to build a snowman.
Because, seriously, sandy snowcastles are not a thing. Eric Heisserer’s tweets on this subject explain why there are TV shows where the audience isn’t really sure what the beast is.
I have run out of GIFs, so it’s time for our Frozen friends to leave us and let us get on with other procrastination. Do you have any writing advice you gleaned from a Disney character? Please share your thoughts/arguments/GIFs in the comments!