Writing On the Go: Writing While Driving Using Dictation

writing on the go

WRITING ON THE GO USING DICTATION IS NOT ONLY EASY, IT’S SMART.

If you’re like me, you spend an insanely inordinate amount of time sitting in traffic. [This is especially true if you live in Los Angeles.] Usually, I fill up this time with podcasts or audiobooks. However, it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been thinking about how I could use that time to write on the go? How can I work on a screenplay or teleplay while driving (without actually writing while driving and getting into a wreck)? That’s when I discovered that the NOTES app on my iPhone has a dictation feature!  Check it out below — see the little MICROPHONE button? Press that microphone button and start talking (on your phone, not the picture, dummie).

Writing on the go

Dictation isn’t perfect by any means.

The app gets a whole lot of words completely wrong. And it stops dictating after a paragraph or two for unknown reasons causing you to have to hit the little microphone button again and again (maybe it’s trying to catch up). And when I go back review the dictation, sometimes I have to try and figure out what I just said. But if I’m sitting in my car for 30min-1hour, it’s now entirely possible for me to hit that microphone button and start working out entire scenes in my head. I have figured out so many script problems over the past few months by doing this. I sit in traffic and talk through scenes out loud, while the dictation feature notes everything I say down for me. “What if this happens, no what about this, and then this could happen, and then this line of dialogue could happen.” It’s incredible how much work you can get done thinking out loud in a car for 30 min to an hour.

THINKING ON THE PAGE

Just like the process of “thinking on the page” (where you come up with ideas while writing, rather than coming up with ideas outside of writing), I find breaking scenes by talking out loud to be extremely productive. It FORCES you to work. When thinking about scenes in your head, it’s easy to give up or get distracted. But by thinking about scenes OUT LOUD (just like thinking out scenes while writing them), you’re actively doing something. You’re on a mission. Just keep talking and don’t let yourself stop. And record it ALL with dictation.  Half the time, I don’t even need to go back and read the dictation, because the process will give me the ideas I need to fix the problem or generate the right approach for the scene.

OTHER PROGRAMS

If you don’t have a dictation option on your phone (almost all phones have them now) you can check out some other devices that do the same thing.

It’s amazing what you can do in only 20-30 minutes while thinking outloud. Writing on the go. Give it a try!

Writer Tip: THE INTERCUT aka WRITING PHONE CONVERSATIONS

Writing Phone Conversations

This article will teach you how to write an intercut in a screenplay or teleplay.

Say you have a scene in your screenplay where there are two sides of a conversation (such as a PHONE CALL), or two different scenes happening at the same time, and you don’t want to write sluglines for every scene, you intercut. It looks a little bit like this.

INT. HOUSE – DAY

The phone rings. John picks it up.

JOHN
Hello?

EXT. PARK – DAY

Mary is on the phone looking at the dead dog floating in the pond.

MARY
I think I found your dog.

INTERCUT JOHN/MARY

JOHN
What!? Where?

MARY
At the park —

John grabs his keys off the counter.

JOHN
Stay there! I’m coming–

MARY
–John wait.

John stops at the door.

Mary turns away from the pond in disgust.

MARY
John, he’s dead.

We hold on John’s face and CUT TO:

There you go, a terrible little scene I pulled out of my ass. Can you imagine if you had to write a slugline for every single side of the conversation! That would be terrible!

Not go forth young writers and write many a phone conversation.

Writer Tip: How to get an Agent or Manager’s Email Address for a Query Letter

So, you have a screenplay, and you want to try and get it to an agent or manager, but you don’t have their email address? This article will teach you how to get an agent or manager’s email address.

All it takes a little internet sleuthing.  But you should know there is 99.99% chance no one will respond to your cold query email. I have probably sent out over 50 query letters to agents and managers in the past five years, and the only time I’ve gotten a response was once I already had some success in the business. Only then did a few of these guys start responding to my emails. And even then, most still don’t. So, in complete honesty, I’d advise AGAINST sending an agent or manager a query letter until you’re already working in the industry and have some success to gauge their interest. Even then, it probably won’t do you any good.

To start, you need two things.

You need to get an agent or manager’s name that you want to contact, and you need the company’s email address.

If you don’t even know WHO you want to contact, go figure that out.

HOW TO FIND THE COMPANY EMAIL ADDRESS:

Okay, say you’re looking for an agent named “Jane Doe” who works at an agency named “Big Agency.”  Go to the “Big Agency” website and see if they have an email address listed there. Usually, this email will look something like “info@bigagency.com”.  Now you know the company’s email address is “@bigagency.com.”  If you can’t find it on the website, head on over pro.imdb.com and register for a free 30-day account, or pay for an account (you can always cancel it later).  Once you’re on IMBD PRO, type in the agency’s name, go to the agency’s page, and navigate to the contact section. It should list their general email address.

HOW TO GET AN AGENT OR MANAGER’S EMAIL ADDRESS.

If you’re already on IMDB PRO, you might as well look up that agent or manager and check their contact info. A lot of agents and managers will have their email listed, but if they don’t, search all the agents or managers in that company until you find one that has their email addresses listed, any of them. If this doesn’t work, go to google and search “@bigagency.com” (with the quotes) and SOMEONE’s email address should show up. You’re just looking for anyone who works at the company.

So say you’re looking for “Jane Doe’s” email, but all you can find is “Bob Kent’s” email address, which just happens to be “bkent@bigagency.com” — then you can probably deduce that Jane Doe’s email address is “jdoe@bigagency.com.” This works 99% of the time. Companies, for the most part, always stick to the same email structure. The first letter of their first name followed by their last name, or their first name followed by the first letter of their last name… etc.

And if you want further proof you have the correct email address, just search “jdoe@bigagency.com” in google. Chances are, that email will be listed somewhere on the internet. I’ve found managers and agent’s emails listed in “contact” forms on b-list actor’s websites. I’ve even found them in the leaked hacked Sony emails. All searchable on google.

So go off young padawans, and send emails to agents and managers. Annoying them and never getting a response.

HOT TIP: NEVER, I repeat, NEVER actually send your script to someone unless they ask for it. EVERY SINGLE COMPANY in this INDUSTRY has a strict policy of not accepting unsolicited scripts. If you have an attachment on your email, that is a surefire way to NEVER get a response.  What you want to do is quickly describe you and your story, and then ask them if they’d like to read it. Only if they respond asking for your script do you send it over. And half the time they’ll have you sign a release form first.

PODCASTS FOR SCREENWRITERS (TOP 5)

podcasts for screenwriters

Alright everyone. Long time no posting. Let’s remedy that.

I spend a shit ton of time listening to podcasts since my commute is about an hour every morning and every afternoon. If you’re doing the math, that is pretty much 10 hours of podcasts going into my face every work week. Some of that time is dedicated to listening to podcasts about writing — specifically screenwriting. So here they are in no particular order.

MY TOP FIVE PODCASTS FOR SCREENWRITERS AND TV WRITERS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)

  1. WRITING EXCUSES – “Brandon Sanderson, Mary Roninette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Daniel Wells discuss writing techniques in a fast-paced, 15-minute format.” Now although this podcast is specifically geared towards writing science fiction and fantasy novels, short stories, and comics, I can tell you from personal experience that pretty much everything they saw also applies to screenwriting.  A story is a story is a story . . . plus the short podcast length is perfect for a quick trip around town on errands.  Downside is the podcast seems to crash my iphone quite a bit. Not sure why.

  2. THE WRITER’S GUILD FOUNDATION PODCAST – “Founded in swinging, mondo-groovy 1966, The Writer’s Guild Foundation is the only organization in the world devoted solely to the promotion and preservation of writing for the screen. Our events and interviews capture screenwriters and television writers at their most intimate, and run the gamut from Oscar-winning dramatists to TV scribes writing to devoted fanbases.” This podcast provides some great interviews with screenwriters. The only problem is their episodes are few and far-inbetween.
  3. NERDIST WRITER’S PANEL – “The Nerdist Writer’s Panel series is an informal chat moderated by Ben Blacker (co-creator of the Thrilling Adventure Hour; writer for Supah Ninjas, Supernatural, among others) with professional writers about the process and business of writing. Covering TV, film, comic books, music novels, and any other kind of writing about which you’d care to hear. Proceeds from the live panels benefit 826LA, the national non-profit tutoring program.” This podcast puts out a shit ton of material and some great interviews with screenwriters and comic writers. The only downside is sometimes the audio quality is total garbage. Lots of live panels.
  4. SCRIPTNOTES PODCAST – “Screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin discuss screenwriting and related topics in the film and television industry, everything from getting stuff written to the vagaries of copyright and work-for-hire law.” A very helpful and entertaining podcast from two working screenwriters. Arguably one of the most popular scrXCing specific podcasts.
  5. THE CHILDREN OF TENDU PODCAST -“Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Emmy Award-winning writer/producer on “Lost” and creator of “The Middleman”) and Jose Molina (writer/producer on “Sleepy Hollow,” “Firefly,” “Castle” and “Law & Order: SVU”) share their hard-earned experiences, giving practical, straight-shooting advice on breaking into television and staying there!”

There you have it. My top 5 podcasts for screenwriters in no particular order. Go have fun.