Julian David Stone is an award-winning director and writer. He grew-up in the San Francisco bay area before relocating to Los Angeles after spending his college years at the California Institute of the Arts. For the next few years he wrote screenplays for Disney and Paramount, as well as several other studios and producers around town. With two decades of experience working in the entertainment business, Stone brings to his work an insider’s knowledge of the industry, augmented for this book [The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl] by the personal stories and anecdotal history shared by those who were actually present in the 1950s when the story is set.
How to Succeed at Being a Writer
For me, the way to be a successful writer – besides the oft-offered advice to write as much as possible – was to learn to move on. That is, to move on and not dwell on a story for too long, and to not become so obsessed with it that I kept rewriting it over and over for years.
I first learned this early on in my screenwriting career. Screenplays take a lot less time to write than novels and, as I was learning the craft, I discovered that it was much easier to apply what I had learned to my next screenplay, than it was to go back and keep rewriting the old one. With the wonderful focus of youth I was able to write seven screenplays in less than two years, each time applying the lessons of the previous to the next. And then finally it was my eighth screenplay that changed everything, catching the attention of several Hollywood studios, and leading to my first professional writing job. My career had begun.
Now by no means do I want to diminish the importance of rewriting. It is essential, and every great screenplay or novel has to go through many drafts. But it’s also important not to become so obsessed with one piece of writing that you work on it for so long that you loose any possible objectivity and end up actually making it worse. I watched many a friend work on the same screenplay for literally years, writing draft after draft and in the end, the results were rarely better. Almost to a person, they would have been better served by taking what they had learned, and moving on to the next one.
When I started writing novels, I found this same basic premise to hold true. While, as I stated earlier, books certainly take a lot longer than a screenplay to write, one can still fall victim to the same dangerous obsession. I wrote two entire novels before my current one, The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl, and while I was happy with them, instead of rewriting each one for years on end, I took what I had learned from both and applied it to this new one. And what do you know? Lo and behold, I found I didn’t make a lot of mistakes I had made previously and I ended up with a process that went much smoother and a final product I am exceedingly proud of. Will I go back and put more work into the previous two novels? Perhaps someday. But right now, I can’t wait to take all that I’ve just learned, and put it into the next one.
Find out more about the novel: Background