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Mark David Gerson discusses his newest book about screenwriting

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Mark David Gerson is a writer, editor, inspirational speaker, effective motivator, and of course, a screenwriter. His new book Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally is out now. Mark has published about writer's block, connecting with your inner muse, and of course his Q'NTANA Trilogy.

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[[Gerson]] said of being prompted to write this book 'The same imperative that has pushed and/or prodded me to write the other seven: I call it the "voice of my muse" (hence the title of my second book, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write). But you could just easily call it an intuitive knowingness. As for Organic Screenwriting, its origins date back to 2006. I tell the story in the book, and it goes something like this….

'I had finished my first novel (The MoonQuest), had just parted company with my agent and was feeling discouraged about the fate of a novel that had been with me, at that point, for 12 years. “Write it as a screenplay,” a friend urged, as she had before. I had ignored her previous suggestions to adapt it for the screen, but this time that muse of mine added its own voice. Knowing little about screenwriting, I went to Borders and scoured its shelves of screenwriting books in search of something that might match my more intuitive, less controlled approach to writing. I found little. Most of the books focused more on rules and structure than on creativity and intuition. The two I found were the best of a less-than-helpful lot. So in the end I did what I had done when I began writing the novel, also with no previous experience in the medium: I listened for the story, listened to the story and began to write.

'A week later an additional nudge showed up, in the form of The Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe, scheduled to start a few days later. I just happened to be in New Mexico at the time, so I signed up. Although, I didn’t find much more there than I had found on Borders’ shelves, I did leave inspired and, within a few months, I had a completed draft of a MoonQuest screenplay. (The script and its two sequels have since been optioned.)'

Mark has a tendency to make everything flow so easily that it appears to be effortless. But he has discussed time and time again that even he has doubts and has to remind himself of the creative process.

'When, three years later, I was invited to join the Santa Fe conference’s faculty, I was initially stumped. What would I teach? The answer soon became clear: I would teach what I had learned from writing The MoonQuest. I would teach what I hadn’t found among Borders’ screenwriting books. I would teach the same precepts I had taught other writers over the years, but I would adapt it to the distinctive needs of screenwriters. A few months ago, on the heels of finishing a book on memoir-writing (From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life), I felt a call to write a book about screenwriting and remembered this Toni Morrison quote: “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Organic Screenwriting is, for me, that book.'

When asked to share some of the insight of the book, Mark responded 'I often get asked about outlines — by both novice and experienced writers. In other words, do I? My answer, which elicits shocked gasps from more conservative writers (particularly screenwriters) and relieved sighs from the outline-challenged, is no!

'Even back in school, when I was supposed to hand in an outline with my essays and term papers, I always wrote the paper first. I then crafted an outline to match it. Not much has changed in the years since: I have outlined none of my books and none of my screenplays.

'My book Organic Screenwriting includes thirteen myths about screenwriting, many of which apply to all forms of writing. Myth #3 goes like this: Without an outline, I will never write a coherent script. The corresponding “reality” reads, Outlines are overrated and can stifle the free flow of your creativity. An outline’s gift and curse is that it provides you with a road map, which, in turn, sets out a destination for you to journey toward. Certainly, it’s comforting and potentially more efficient to know where you’re headed as you write. But your outline also carries risks: It can remove serendipity and surprise from the experience if you hew to it unwaveringly, if you cling to it [with a controlling manner].

'When we as writers allow ourselves to surrender to what is, in the end, a deeply intuitive process, we don’t need outlines. All we need is to free one word and then the next and then the next onto the page, in the moment-to- moment unveiling that is the gift of what I call the "Muse Stream.” What’s a Muse Stream? In short, it’s the free-flowing river of creative output that we all aspire to, a river that will always transport us to realms beyond the limits of our conscious plotting, outlining and imaginings.

'It’s that liberating view that I hope Organic Screenwriting will begin to bring to a screenwriting world that is still bound up in rules, dogma and orthodoxy. I don’t expect to convert all of Hollywood to my way of thinking...at least not right away! But Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally is a start!'

Read about his book Acts of Surrender.

Read about other writers: Stephen Dittmer, Roberto Martinez.

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