Zen and the Art of Technical Writing

I read the Scoggins report last night; once again, I read a proclamation that the spec market is alive and well.

Certainly specs are moving at a much more expedient clip than in the past few years… however, if you examine the sales, very few are from uncredited writers. The majority of specs being moved are by writers who already have an established career writing for the screen.

That puts one in a rather precarious position, for writing anything is tough, and writing a marketable script geared towards a studio sale as a new to market writer is akin to winning the Iditarod with little or no training.

What can the writer do while s/he tweaks, writes, rewrites, refines, rewrites again, and struggle against the demons of worthlessness and failure?

Two words: Technical writing.

I’ve been writing for corporations for years. Marketing programs, industrial videos, training videos, email campaigns – you name it, I’ve done it. There’s a lot of good that can come from working in this niche market:

  • You get paid to write. Do I need to say anything else? Think on it. You. Get paid. To write.
  • You learn to distill your language. Think of technical writing as writing a series of concise, targeted bullet-points. Not unlike screenwriting, yes? You write bursts of actions and visuals. Very pointed; very distilled. I recently pulled out an old script that I thought was pretty lean, and, after having worked on an educational video script, found a ton of fat in that little hummer. I figure that in a good day of editing, I might be able to knock 5 pages off while incorporating a new thread. That’s a lot of fat – and I wouldn’t have seen it if I had not recently exercised this skill set.
  • You’re in good company. Lawrence Kasdan. Terry Gilliam. John Cleese. William S. Burroughs. Fay Weldon. Salman Rushdie. Meet your peers. Some of them continue to write content, for the money is good and consistent. John Cleese even formed his own production company, writing and producing corporate training videos, tapping into his unique voice.
  • You learn to play with others. Writers are solitary people, and from this isolation can spring “difficult” behaviors, one being the inability to listen to feedback. When you are freelancing – they are the client. You must listen to them, and apply their feedback. Great training for the development process.

So – think about it. Create a portfolio and get your mojo on. Content creation of any sort is a great alternative to wallowing in the Pit of Despair… or drowning your sorrows at the Formosa. Your body will thank you, your self-esteem will thank you, and so will your pocketbook. Your script will thank you, for you’ll be able to relax, pay your bills and give your stories the attention that they deserve.

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe

About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at Amazon.com.
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9 Responses to Zen and the Art of Technical Writing

  1. Love this! I actually did a post for Script Mag on the benefits of stepping away from screenwriting to do freelance articles. All the same points you made apply to that arena as well. Simply put, it just feels good to get paid to write, no matter what it is. Brava!


  2. If it’s good enough for John Cleese, it’s good enough for me!


  3. In my former life as a Mac guy I’ve seen some of the John Cleese videos you mentioned…. Would be cool to work for a company like that.


  4. Sean Tunctan says:

    One should never meet their heroes is a familiar saying that describes so many actions when people finally get together and greet each other though with that look in your eyes telling me why and who you plan to spend your evenings with does appear to be strange as expectations often begin with I imagined you to be a bit taller leaving a scouring mark upon what should have been a formality that transpired in to a common and disrespectful interlude that falls flat at the first hurdle when it should candidly canter along without poise and gracefulness which knowingly beckons upon the needs of wastefully deserving others for more when there is nothing left to give as grandeur that has not already been taken from the wells.


    • The True Genius says:

      Your not familiar with proof reading. If you proof read your comment, you would see how its one giant run on sentence that made no sense. It was a list of words you put together that you thought sounded intelligent and looked good. Your ignorance flowed through each word. I hope your taking English class. Good luck to you.


      • I hope that your English class will help you to learn the diff between “your” and “you’re”. Hee-fucking-steericall, True Genius. Have a beeyoootifulllday.

        Oh, also might learn the possessive use of it’s. immajustasayin


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