Writer Discovered While Waitressing

By Milli Thornton

Romancing the Stone DVD

Romancing the Stone
Screenplay by Diane Thomas

One of my screenwriting idols is Diane Thomas.

Back in the early 80’s, Diane pioneered a new genre—the action-adventure/comedy-romance—with her script for Romancing the Stone. Diane was waitressing when she had the opportunity to pitch her script to customer Michael Douglas, who proceeded to buy, produce and star in the film with Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito.

I’m not currently waitressing, but a recent opportunity to get my screenplay in front of a successful producer has a similar theme. My scenario is modernized for 2010, with one of the many once-supernatural subjects that have made it into the mainstream. Mine could be called Writer Discovered While Giving Past Life Interview.

The thing is, you never know how an opportunity might come to you. You could spend your life reading books on how to write winning query letters to agents (or winning pitches for Michael Douglas) . . . at the other extreme, you could spend your time trying to win the lottery so you can retire and write full time. I like this approach better:

Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.

When my friend Andrew in the UK interviewed me as a happy customer of his past life regression audio, he remembered I’d been working on a screenplay. He offered to show it to his producer friend.

All I had at the beginning was a first name: David. Pretty hard to Google. There was no way of telling whether the mysterious David would even like a screenplay in my genre. But if someone is holding a door open for you, you don’t stand around doing research, right? You walk through the door and say Thank You for the courtesy.

Besides, what did I have to lose? At the very least, this producer might take the time to read a script recommended by a close friend, even if it’s not his cup of tea. Which might result in some precious expert advice about improvements to the script. Or even a referral to another producer who might be looking for stories in that genre.

Call me crazy, but I did not bug Andrew with questions about who his friend is. Instead, I went away and started feverishly writing more treatments. (A screenplay treatment is a description of the story.) I had read enough advice books to know that when you’re a newbie with one script, even if you’re insanely lucky enough to have your entire script read, the response is likely to be “What else have you got?”

Before submitting my treatment for Ghost Train via Andrew, I finished three more treatments. Not wanting to let the opportunity go stale, I used the impetus (plus a couple of 10K Days) to finish those treatments in record time. When I did submit, this paid off. I was encouraged to submit Ghost Train, as well as one of my new treatments. Thanks, Andrew!

When Andrew eventually did share the producer’s last name with me, I looked up his filmography and saw some well-known movies. Yowza! It might be better that I didn’t know this to begin with. I just got on with my job without feeling too intimidated.

Naturally, the issue of confidence plays in heavily. It has taken me years of confidence-building to get to the point where I didn’t run away screaming when I was offered a few minutes in the big league. That’s not to say I was bulletproof when this opportunity arrived. I still have my fears about various aspects of it. But plunging in and actually doing it is a much better way to outwit the fear than sitting around waiting for the day when I’ll supposedly feel “ready.”

Am I excited? You better believe it. Am I dreaming big? I’d have to be a complete zombie not to! But I’m also keeping my feet on the ground in the best way I know how: by writing more treatments and making progress on my second script.

If the producer’s reader (his wife) likes my stuff, I’ll know in good time.

P.S. The name of the first English teacher who ever encouraged me with my writing is also Diane Thomas. Thank you Miss Thomas of Orara High School, Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia circa 1972.

My interview with Andrew Parr (which I had a blast doing):

Milli Thornton — Past Life Mistress?



Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.

17 Responses to Writer Discovered While Waitressing
  1. j
    December 20, 2010 | 11:33 AM

    “… But plunging in and actually doing it is a much better way to outwit the fear than sitting around waiting for the day when I’ll supposedly feel “ready.”

    Those are words to live by, Milli. I’m inspired and very, very excited for you. Fingers crossed big time!

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 22, 2010 | 12:27 PM

      Thanks, j! I feel A LOT more ready than I did last year (when fear of pitching made me quit) but it’s still a plunge. The right plunges are good. I don’t want to stay safe but never find out what I can really do.

      • j
        December 23, 2010 | 2:29 AM

        “I don’t want to stay safe but never find out what I can really do.”

        Music to my ears. 😉

  2. Michael
    December 20, 2010 | 3:29 PM

    Love this: “But if someone is holding a door open for you, you don’t stand around doing research, right?”

    I laughed, mostly because, in real life, I often get into small wars of will with people, wanting them to go first. I’m learning to just say, “Thanks” and hope for a time when I can return the favor, but it’s hard.

    Your news and opportunity are wonderful, Milli! It’s exciting and inspiring. When my series is published and HBO is ready to make a series out of it too (like Game of Thrones – I’m stoked), I’ll come to you for help with the screenplays. 🙂


    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 22, 2010 | 12:28 PM

      I would love to collaborate with you on a screenplay! My greedy little mind has already been plotting in that department ;~)

  3. Marisa Birns
    December 21, 2010 | 10:51 AM

    What happy news – and wonderful inspiration – in your post!

    You are so correct. Being prepared when opportunity opens the door HAS to be in place for luck to do its job. 🙂

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 22, 2010 | 12:31 PM

      Hi Marisa,

      So glad you found my news inspiring. I’m trying to be more “out there” re: announcing progress with my own writing – it’s another way to act braver until I really feel that brave :~)

      ~ Milli

  4. Lois
    December 21, 2010 | 11:27 AM

    I’m a firm believer that hard work and persistence lead to success, and you’re one of the most hardworking, persistent people I know. I’m rooting for you, Milli, and I can’t wait to see Ghost Train on the big screen someday soon! 🙂

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 22, 2010 | 12:32 PM

      Thanks for rooting for me, Lois! You know I feel exactly the same about your screenplay – can’t wait to see it on the silver screen. And I’d still love to read it whenever you finish the rewrites.

      ~ Milli

      • Lois
        December 23, 2010 | 10:00 AM

        Thanks, Milli…and you’re welcome. I actually feel a lot better about my screenplay than I do about my Nanowrimo novel, so I’ll likely edit it first…just like I was planning on doing before November hit. 🙂

  5. Brian W.
    December 23, 2010 | 1:17 PM

    Milli, great article – sounds like you’re on the right track. Keep pushing the limits of your comfort zone and you will be successful.

    To quote my favorite female racing driver, Danica Patrick, “It’s all about creating momentum and then keeping that going by being focused.”

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 23, 2010 | 1:45 PM

      Thanks, Brian. That’s a great quote. I like that it comes from a female racing driver. 🙂

  6. Giulietta Nardone
    December 24, 2010 | 9:25 AM

    Hi Milli!

    Glad to be able to visit your site. Love it. I see we are both Muses. Great writing.

    Best wishes for your screenplay. I agree that it’s best sometimes to just go with the flow and not try to dig around in it to much — that could reroute it!

    Before the Internet, most of us just did things. And before the 24/7 news, most of us just got in our cars and drove — even with rear wheel drives cars – the horror. And we made it places!

    Wonderful to meet you … Enjoy your holiday.


    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 24, 2010 | 1:57 PM

      Giulietta, I love your observation that we somehow still did things before the Internet and 24/7 news warned us of all the dangers and told us how to live our lives. I’ve got a quote at the top of my screenwriting blog –

      “Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself.” – Doris Lessing

      – to remind me not to listen to all the expert advice that says I can’t do something. For instance, you can’t make it as a screenwriter unless you live in Hollywood. People have been breaking the rules and defying the odds since the beginning of time. With all the technology at our disposal these days, we should be even better at that than our ancestors. 🙂

      Thanks for visiting and I’m excited to have discovered your blog, as well. Muses unite!

  7. Sandra Williams
    December 27, 2010 | 2:23 AM

    Goethe says, “Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it and Providence moves, too. Action has power, magic and grace.” Keep acting on it. Keep writing. Keep believing. The world is moving! I want to see that movie!

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      December 27, 2010 | 8:57 AM

      Thanks, Sandra. I love that Goethe quote!

  8. […] “Writer Discovered While Waitressing,” Milli Thornton, Fear of Writing: This post reminds us that we must always be open to opportunity. […]

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