Author Q&A with Paul Zeidman
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About Paul Zeidman
Paul Zeidman is an award-winning screenwriter based in San Francisco who loves to create a ripping yarn that grabs the viewer and takes them on a rollercoaster ride of thrills and excitement that they can’t wait to experience again. He’s also a notoriously meticulous script editor and proofreader, with the ability to spot a rogue comma or misspelled word at a hundred paces (give or take 99 paces).
When not writing, rewriting, or reading scripts, he enjoys watching movies, reading books in multiple genres, running somewhat long distances, and trying new recipes in the kitchen, along with making what could possibly be the best pecan pie west of the Mississippi.
On to Our Interview!
Q. Tell us who you are and what inspires you to write.
A. I like to call myself a “writer of high adventure and ripping yarns.” I LOVE to take the reader/audience on a thrilling rollercoaster ride they can’t wait to get on again. Seeing as how the late 70s and most of the 80s were my formative years, the classic fun adventure stories of the time (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, etc) made quite an impression on me, and that’s the same kind of vibe I go for with my stories.
Q. How did you get to this place in your life? Share your story!
A. I’ve been a writer just about my entire life, working in various mediums such as prose and one-act plays, but it was screenwriting that really hit the target. My love of writing plus a love of movies. How could I not? It’s one thing to be able to write a screenplay, and another to write one well. Not saying my work is Exhibit A of how to do it, but I like to think it’s pretty solid stuff.
Q. What are you most passionate about?
A. First and foremost, I want my writing to not only entertain the reader, but to really grab them from the outset and compel them to want to know more. I want you to have no choice but to keep turning the page because you’ve absolutely got to know what happens next. I’m always trying to come up with something new, or at least put a new spin on an old idea. My goal is to create a story with a plot and characters unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, routine, and/or rituals around your writing?
A. Once I come up with an idea for a story, I’ll figure out the important stuff – what kind of story is this going to be? How does it end? Then I’ll work on the plot points (inciting incident, end of Act One, etc), then I fill in the blanks. I tend to work in an almost linear way – start to finish, and if I come up with something for further along in the story, I add it to my notes. I outline like crazy, fleshing it out as I go until I get to the point that I think it’s solid enough that I can start on actual pages. Sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes a lot of what I spent so much time on gets tossed for something entirely different. All part of the process.
Q. What are a few challenges you faced in creating, marketing, or publishing your creative work? And your solutions to them.
A. As a screenwriter, the biggest challenge is access to the industry. There are so many ways this can happen, so why not try as many as possible? Query letters, contests, “scripts wanted” listings, just to name a few. You’re going to hear “no” about 99.99% of the time, so it’s easy to get discouraged. That’s when you have to decide how determined you are to see things through. Are you willing to keep at it, no matter what or how long it takes? I’m among those who say “absolutely”. One of my favorite guidelines about writing screenplays is “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” This can apply to both the actual writing and hoping for results once you put your script out there for the world to see. All you can really do is send it, hope for the best, and move on to your next project.
Q. What do you wish you had known before you started writing fiction?
A. That’s a great question. I didn’t go to school for screenwriting, so had to learn everything on my own – mostly through trial and error, and believe me, there were LOTS of errors. I think it would have been very helpful to have had the kind of resources that there are now, including the Internet (which didn’t even exist at the time). Another thing I wish I’d known then was the awareness that there are so many other writers out there going through the same things I am. Being able to connect and interact with somebody, even if only virtually, has been extremely helpful for developing both my craft and confidence.
Q. What’s next for you in your creative work?
A. I’m publishing a 3-book series collecting all the interviews I’ve done for my screenwriting blog Maximum Z. Volume 1 comes out on April 22nd, with Volume 2 slated for late June or early July, and Volume 3 sometime in mid-September. On the scriptwriting front, I’m splitting time between developing a microbudget feature with a producer and rewriting a fantasy-comedy spec.
Q. Is there anything else you wished I’d asked? Please share!
A. The only question I can think of is “what advice would you give to a screenwriter just starting out?” I’ve got three that have had the most impact for me.
— Don’t be boring
— Write something you would want to see
— Write as if ink costs $1000 an ounce
Got a question about screenwriting?
— What makes for a good script?
— What are some Do’s and Don’t’s when it comes to writing a script?
— Are screenwriting contests worth it?
— What’s your favorite kind of pie? (not technically about screenwriting, but still a very important topic)
These are just some of the questions posed to over 100 professionals within the screenwriting community – from writers to filmmakers to consultants via interviews on the screenwriting blog Maximum Z.
While there may be a wide range of answers, they’re all about one thing – helping you become a better writer, offering invaluable guidance and information. In addition to offering help for writers, each interview also provides recommendations of numerous kinds of pie to enjoy. When it comes to writing a script for film or TV, a play, a comic book, or a webcomic, there are going to be lots of questions.
This book can help, so…Go Ahead And Ask!
Connect with Paul