One of my favorite websites for screenwriting is also one I dislike the most. Spooky, huh? It’s Done Deal Pro and to visit the forums there is to understand the Dr. Jekyll nature of the interwebs.
I’ve encountered some extremely helpful people there. Pro writer Jeff Lowell offered insight and a script to read for guidance. I found a great reader – ScriptGal, and she made the first few scripts I wrote much, much better. Once upon a time there were several pros that would hang out incognito and dispense excellent advice.
But as with every place online, there is also the local chapter of the League of Internet Assholes. People with little to no experience or talent who wish to slam anyone with either. And because everyone is hiding behind an avatar and a screen name, who knows if they have a clue?
But get past the trolls and you can find one of the great things about DDP – the Writing Exercises. Every few months an ad hoc group will pitch an idea for a themed competition to write a short – 8 pages max and it’s a blast. Typically, there’s a Halloween edition – the timely reason for this post – but I written pieces for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and one of the most inventive ideas for a short piece I’ve read was there for a Noir story competition. Derek Patterson’s wonderful Star Wars detective story of the droid gumshoe called in to solve a bloody murder at a cantina in Mos Eisley.
For screenwriters it’s good writing exercise on a given topic, length and subject. It’s the kind of practice that feels like writing on assignment. Plus, you get a little practice at giving and receiving notes.
To get in the spirit of the season I’ve attached one of my entries from previous years. A quickly scat ode to the local haunted house I called Horror House. I’m not a horror writer and I don’t even really like the genre as entertainment, but I do enjoy the contest.
If you’re a screenwriter, pull on a thick-skinned costume and check out DDP. Once you unmask the Scooby-Doo villains on there, you’ll find a core group of writers trying hard to make each other better.