So Many Writers Have This Bad Habit by Jen Grisanti

Film Courage:  Jen, are you a writer? Jen Grisanti:  I am not.  I am an author.  It’s interesting because people ask me all
the time and it catches me off guard and I have to remember, yes, I’ve written three
books.  I am an author so I am a writer and in that
sense, I am not a screenwriter. Film Courage:  So what is it that you do
aside from the books? Jen Grisanti:  I’m a speaker.  I’m a blogger for the Huffington Post.  I am a writing instructor for Writers on Verge
of NBC.  I’ve been a writing instructor there for
eight years and I’m a story career consultant at Jen Grisanti consultancy. Film Courage:  When someone approaches you
through your website and they say “I’m considering hiring you,” how can you determine
between a writing that is dabbling in the industry versus those who say this is my chosen
career path? Can tell the difference in terms of commitment
level? Jen Grisanti:  You know, it’s interesting.  I get writers who are coming out of college
to a co-executive producer, staff writer all the way up to co-executive producer level.  This is because I was a former 12-year studio
executive and when I was an executive, I staffed over 15 top prime time TV shows.  And I got to know a lot of writers, whereas
I know a lot of consultants get the brand, brand new writers.  But because I have been exposed to the professional
writer I do get a lot of professional writers.  I think my feeling, as part of being a current
programming executive, really was identifying new voices.  I like working with the green writer who hasn’t
developed bad habits and who is open to the process, so I really don’t have a problem
if I have someone who is dabbling versus totally committed as long as they are committed to
the process that they signed on for. Film Courage:  You said something that caught
my ear and that was bad habits.  So in terms of being an established writer
or someone who has done it for several years and has “their way of doing things,” what
are some different tip-offs where you see this person is more all closed arms and not
open to the process? Jen Grisanti:  There are many tip-offs.  I would say probably the biggest tip-off is
the inability to hear a note before defending the note.  I think the biggest tip-off …well, I mean
the first tip-off is on the page.  You can tell in the first three pages if a
writer knows how to write.  What I can also say is you can also tell a
voice and you can have a writer who has a voice but doesn’t have the formatting down.  The voice can still be found through the bad
formatting, so that’s why I say I’m open and I have no problem working with brand new
writers.  I love that.  I also love working with produced writers
who do have a stronger sense of the craft.  However, the gift is really in recognizing
when you have the newer writer who makes faux pas like defending a note before hearing a
note which is a very big mistake that many newer writers make.  Also, it’s a mistake that writers make on
staff.  And so it really is helping them to feel safe
when you’re giving a note. I can say when I was a studio executive, the
agenda was that of the network and the studio that I was carrying.  Giving notes as a story career consultant
independently I have no agenda other than making the story the best that it could be.  So this is why I encourage writers to be open
and to recognize my only goal is to make their story the best that it can be. Film Courage:  You said something earlier
about you can overlook maybe formatting if the [writer’s] voice is strong and authentic.  Does that mean if the story is original or
it has nothing to do with that? Jen Grisanti:  No.  It does.  You know voice comes down to so many different
things.  A voice could come down to character description.  It could come down to writing poetic and lyrical
action lines.  It could come down to the original concept.  It could come down to knowing how to write
a flawed character well.  I mean there are so many ways … I always
try to figure out if I could really pinpoint what voice is and help people understand.  I think for me a large way that I define voice
is an idea of what is your world view?  What has happened to you in your life that
has caused you pain and given you something to say and how does your writing reflect that? Film Courage:  Have you ever seen someone
be too emotional and too…because we all feel that our story is intense and it is because
we’ve lived it.  But have you ever seen it in the writing where
possibly a writer should tone it down, whatever it is, the anger in one scene or something? Jen Grisanti:  Oh, yeah.  I mean I would say a much great problem is
not enough emotion.  I think too much emotion is not nearly as
common.  It’s more the how do we elevate the emotion
so that we feel this more. Film Courage:  And when you see this do you
feel like that writer is phoning in that character?  It’s like filler or is it that maybe they’re
not totally in touch? Jen Grisanti:  I think that comes from being
green and not really understanding.  There’s so much that goes into strong character
work.  I work with writers on the idea of thinking
about the wound.  Thinking about the childhood wounds and in
a TV pilot, how this series of triggers splits open that wound.  And then the idea of what is the negative
narrative that has come from that wound and how is that getting in the way of the central
character achieving the goal? And then how, through the pursuit, is the
central one step toward healing that wound? Question for the viewers:  Are you quick
to defend your writing?

38 thoughts on “So Many Writers Have This Bad Habit by Jen Grisanti

  1. there is a constant theme on this channel of the interviewer asking a question in a way that puts down who maybe is just starting to follow their passion as a "author", writer, director etc & saying that their not "real" or dedicated" & implying that they're just "dabbling". I have noticed that a lot on here.

  2. I have heard the term a writers "Voice" many times and have come to the conclusion that it's a terribly subjective thing that no one can agree on. It almost seems that if you can touch that one person with your writing they then recognize your voice. But someone else can read it and say, "This has no voice." How can you work in this craft and still not codify such an important aspect of your craft. Are you working on some unconscious competence that is beyond your conscious ability to explicate? Or is it as I said before just your subjective reaction to one's writing and thus only useful you or your cohort that can connect with the material.

  3. Jen, I really like what you had to say about the writer's voice, especially when it comes to describing character. I've read so many scripts (produced scripts!) that describe women as "a real bombshell" or other nonsensical cliches. While male characters are described completely with complexity. It's exhausting.

  4. 'A writer who has a voice, but doesn't have the formatting down'. I felt like she crept in my dreams and told me this…that statment makes a lot of sense.

  5. Listening to Jen speak, she is selling me so well. And finishing up on my second year of college, I am definitely changing my story, my life is also changing as well. This is a great video Film Courage and the main reason why I subscribed a while back. These are the gems:) I have to buy that book, pour a cup of coffee and read away.

  6. This is a perfect description of the attention to detail this teacher brings to your work, and her eye for what reads and what doesn't. She empowers you with the knowledge that no one can tell your story just like you can. She helps you find your unique voice by directing you inside yourself. She's Dorothy's Good Witch of the North. You could not go wrong writing under her tutelage.

  7. This was dope! as a novice writer myself. I've been watching all of these videos with her speak and it is very informative and inspiring. I would love to just sit down with her and learn from her

  8. Another bad habit — watching people tell you how to write while you're not actually writing. Get off the computer and write your scripts, people!

    Oh crap! Me too! Let's GO!

  9. If the need and or wound is outlined in act one, can the inciting incident take place in the first half of (first sequence of) act 2?

  10. So wtf do you write first? The unique wound or the character's personal sensitivity to such a specific thing? In other words, do you developed character first or introduce the hook that swings the story into motion? Or are they inseparable and occur in the same moment? As in, the character will develop and reveal him/her/it self when confronted with the hook/wound? And why is water wet? Or the sky blue? And where do babies come from? See, this is why I suck at writing. Can't maintain a train of thought. I like trains…

  11. What you said is so true about newbees vs experienced writers. I prefer to train a person about horses who has no experience rather than a seasoned (who is usually cocky and stuck in their ways) rider that needs to be retrained. MS

  12. Film Courage, this video should include the word VOICE in the title.
    (The topic of voice is elusive in screenplay videos)

  13. I would love to work with Jen. I love what she talks about re: the wound and healing the wound of the character.

  14. What is the "bad habit" writer's have? What does "giving a note" and "formatting" mean? Sorry, but none of this makes any sense.

  15. What the fuck does defending a note before hearing a note mean? I really thought I could speak English fluently and understand everything, but no, I don‘t have a clue what that means.

  16. Formatting errors in a screenplay? No excuse. Free software even. If you can write but not format? Spend 10 minites and format.

    Now voice I don't understand. Do your story, don't do your story, write your pain, do make the characters you…can be confusing the more I read.

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