A few years ago I wrote a comedic “chick-lit” novel that people seemed to love. I got great reviews and even a publishing deal with a major New York publisher-then came a law suit and the laughter stopped for a bit. *another story for another day* After a couple years, I regrouped and changed my name to a pen name, and wrote another novel, also with a comedic tone. A year later, I published my second, (second with the new name, 3rd over all) comedic-chick-lit-romantic-situation-comedy.
I also write comedic shorts in The Trouble With Katie Rogers which is a graphic novel, (Published by APE June 2009), and a blog that was created by British artist, Des Taylor.
I got a few comedies published in chick-lit magazines and so it seemed I was on a certain path.
Well after a producer from a film I loved-a serious one, by the way,got me involved with some folks at WB and ABC, I wrote an episode for a serious show-Traveler-I loved spy books growing up and still love them today. It was outside my writing experience, but I tried it. The show got canceled and I was back to my novels and shorts.
That summer the ABC Fellowship was brought to my attention by another friend who knew I had interest in writing for TV. I had no idea what to write since I didn’t watch any of the newer sitcoms and the dramas on were just “eh” to me, so I chose my favorite show at the time, which was Grey’s Anatomy.
My thoughts were this: It is a romance between Derek and Meredith and lighter for a hospital show-you know, nothing like ER, so it is the closest to what I write and I LOVE it. My episode was so gut wrenchingly sad that I was sobbing while writing, but I did enjoy it. I know, us writers are a weird bunch.
All of a sudden I was writing dramas. I put my latest situational romantic comedy novel aside and plunged feet first into the world of drama. I got no where fast. I made a lot of contacts and got tons of positive feedback, but have been feeling like a hamster on a wheel for the past three years.
I must be doing something wrong.
I took a TV writing class and was pushed into police procedurals-the furtherest show I would ever think of writing. The instructor’s logic-you’ve written everything on ABC (and I had written a lot of spec shows for them and am ever so grateful for the learning experience and feedback) so now try a police drama. Okay, so I wrote a Closer, he loved it. I wrote a Saving Grace, he liked it, my next teacher loved it. I started submitting it around town. I got pretty far, but not far enough. At the same time, I was shopping around my own spec pilot, The First Year, about a 30 something professional single woman in San Francisco who gets positive results on an HIV test-DRAMA.
All of a sudden I lost comedy completely, but oddly enough, everyone I know in real life-animation-where I hold my day job as an artist-kept assuming I was writing comedies. I heard it so many times but it wasn’t sinking in as a big red flag like it should have been. “You’re so funny!” has become something I hear so often, that it almost doesn’t register.
Last fall I started writing a new pilot-and everyone who I told the tag line and title to laughed and then I would say, “no it’s a drama”. . .silence. . .
My point in this long winded-I am a writer-can’t help it-is that, I am coming back to comedy, because as much as I love drama, watching them etc, but I think I need to change something.
I recently went to a novel writing workshop and the guy running it, Bob Mayer, said “if everyone is telling you the same thing, you should probably listen”. Well EVERYONE and their dogs have been telling me to write comedies.
I also had a long conversation with a friend from ABC and we were talking about the fellowship and I was all worried about changing “who” I am in their minds and just from talking to her, I discovered that I have been putting my efforts into something that doesn’t come naturally. What led me to this was when I told her “yes I did stand up in New York” and then the reason for that was because I needed the money and it was easy, she said, “there is your answer”. I also went to Groundlings, and took a couple sitcom writing classes over the years.
She also said that in the world of TV drama, everyone does a “good enough” job with their specs and that to get noticed, you have to write something better than anything that has been out there already and with comedy, there are so many bad scripts that aren’t funny, that you just need to be really funny and you will at least get read. Hrm? I never thought of it that way, BUT so many people have pitched me their ideas, either original or spec shows, and I am there thinking, “this is so not funny, how can they think this is funny?” I know comedy is so subjective. I mean with drama, it is there. Someone get’s killed-drama, someone is spying on someone-drama, it is drama even if you don’t like it. Comedy is also subjective, but some things just aren’t funny.
I don’t reget the last 3 years, because I have learned so much it is unbelievable and I know in acting, the best comedians, or comic actors are the ones who studied drama for many years first. Comedy is hard, it is very hard. A million things have to line up for your comedy to work, but when it is done well, it is a beautiful thing.
And hey, I would rather be laughing at the end of the day than crying, so here I go!!