Archive for February, 2017

I don’t know what what writer John Grogan’s dream was growing up in Michigan, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve two Hollywood actors eventually playing he and his wife based on an international best-selling book that he wrote.

But that’s the way it went down. The Marley & Me author is a good example of Mike Rowe’s “Follow your opportunities” school of thought.

“I got into writing by default because I was so bad at everything else. Algebra, geometry, French, chemistry, physics — they all escaped me. But writing, now there was a subject I could have some fun with. By eighth grade I was penning parodies of the nuns, and in high school, besides writing for the school newspaper, I started an underground tabloid, which earned me a celebrated trip to the principal’s office.  From there it was on to Central Michigan University, where I earned the princely sum of twenty-five cents per column inch writing for the campus newspaper while slugging away at a double major in journalism and English.

“My first full-time writing job came immediately upon graduation in 1979 when I was hired as a police reporter for the small and lackluster Herald-Palladium in the Michigan harbor town of St. Joseph. I rode all night with cops, photographed murder victims, picked my way through smoldering house fires and sat over coffee with grieving parents.”
John Grogan (Marley & Me)
About John Grogan

Grogan says his “ticket out of small-town journalism” was a fellowship at Ohio State University where he’d earn his master’s degree.  A second fellowship to the Poynter Institute for Media Studies took him to St. Petersburg, Florida. After that he got a job at Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. And it was in South Florida that a little dog named Marley came into his life.

Fast forward a few years and he and his wife would be portrayed in the film version of Marley & Me by Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.

Follow your opportunities and be faithful in the little things. And as yesterday’s post pointed out, it doesn’t hurt your chances of success if you wake up early and get some early morning writing in before your day job.

Scott W. Smith

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‘I wrote from 5 to 7 a.m….’

“I’m usually a night owl, but when I wrote Marley & Me, I forced myself to go to bed early and get up early. I wrote from 5 to 7 a.m. and then ate breakfast and went to work to write my newspaper column. I averaged a chapter a week this way. I began the book in early 2004 and finished the manuscript right after Labor Day. My agent, Laurie Abkemeier, sold it the next month in an auction.”
John Grogan 
Harper Collins/Author interview

Let’s do the math at what Grogan accomplished writing two hours everyday for eight months outside his day job; Marley & Me spent weeks at the number 1 slot of New York TImes Best-Seller list, sold more than 5 million books internationally, and the movie version (written by Scott Frank and Don Roos) made $247 million at the box office.

Two things I’ve written extensively about on this blog are the importance of emotions and conflict in screenwriting, and the Marley & Me movie packs in both. It’s worth a revisit.

Note: The above quote was pulled from this 2009 post.

Related post:
The Breakfast Club for Writers (2.0) Writers Elmore Leonard & John Grisham early in their careers also got up at 5 a.m. to write before their day jobs.

Scott W. Smith




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“Some of the drafts I wrote, if you would have showed them to a studio executive, they would have called an emergency meeting…That’s the nature of writing. You kind of have to get lost. You go down a bunch of wrong paths and then you find the right path.”
Screenwriter Robert  D. Siegel on his script The Wrestler
Script magazine
Script to Screen article by David S. Cohen

This quote was pulled from my 2009 post Screenwriting Quote #17. Siegel, who was once an editor for The Onion, also wrote the recently released movie The Founder. He’s one gifted writer tackling difficult subjects and characters.

Scott W. Smith

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“I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it—if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together….I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don’t do homages.”
Two-time Oscar wining screenwriter Quentin Tarantino
Empire, November 1994

Note: I’m pretty sure he stole that last line, too.

Related Posts:
Stealing from Shakespeare
Screenwriting Quote #39 (Woody Allen on be a “shameless thief”)
“Steal Like an Artists”
Fueling Your Imagination (Jarmusch Style)
Where Do Ideas Come From?

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Scott & Scripts 1725

Me in 2012 with some of the books that were the starting foundation for this blog

When I started this blog in 2008 I don’t recall the word curate being quite as in vogue is it is today. But curating has been a large part of what I’ve done. It started with a mountain of over 200 books on screenwriting and filmmaking that I’d collected since my film school days.

Most of them with yellow highlight marks of quotes and paragraphs that stood out to me. And that was the foundation to build on for the past nine years. This year I’m going through those 2,300+ posts and pulling the best.

Here one of my all-time favorite writing quotes from the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega—and happens to be 400 year old advice. It comes from the introduction to a book written by David Howard and Howard Mabley.

“My hope is that the reader will take all the rational and reasonable body of knowledge this book offers, that he or she will digest it in the manner recommended by Lope de Vega…in his comprehensive study of dramatic theory and practice, Writing Plays in Our Times (published in 1609 and written in verse) he stated openly and bravely, after having introduced all the ‘rules’: ‘When I have to write a play, I lock up the rules with six keys.’”
Frank Daniel (First dean of the American Film Institue)
The Tools of ScreenwritingIntroduction 

The basic thought there is whatever “rules” you have embraced along the way, lock them away when you start the writing process.

Note: This quote was originally published in 2009 on this blog in the post Screenwriting Quote 25 (400 Year Old Advice).

Related posts:
Rules, No Rules, Breaking Rules
There Are No Rules
There Are No Rules, But…

Scott W. Smith

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a short film called Notes—a life story, a love story.

The Take Note Store in Canada says this on their website:

We’re so proud of our beautiful new ‘Notes’. Despite living in a time when connecting with people has become so much easier, it has also become so much less personal. This story reminds us of the power of putting pen to paper. We hope you love it too. We worked with BBDO Toronto to produce it.

The film makes me want to fly to Toronto and buy a pen and notepad. Simple, emotional & effective storytelling.

Related post:
40 Days of Emotions

Scott W. Smith

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To the young writers, I would merely say try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour — or more — a day to write.  Some very good things have been written on an hour a day. Henry Greene was an industrialist actually. He was running a company, and he would come home and write for just an hour in an armchair, and wonderful books were created in this way. So, take it seriously, you know, just set a quota.”
Novelist John Updike, Two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction
Academy of Acheivment

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