Writer Lorraine Brown won the Launch Pad Prose Competition in 2021. We caught up with Lorraine to talk about her writing process, her creative journey and her life as a professional writer after winning.
What were your career goals?
When I entered the Launch Pad Prose Competition, my debut novel – The Paris Connection – had come out in hardback and I was working on my second novel. My main career goal (actually, I had several!) was to create an opportunity for The Paris Connection to be adapted for the screen. My literary agent works alongside a talent agency in London, which had submitted the novel to production companies in the U.K. and the U.S., and it had initially been getting quite a lot of interest, but then lockdown hit and it all went quiet. I’d used Save the Cat to plot the novel initially and had always imagined it in quite a filmic way, so I wanted to put it out there again and give it one more shot.
In terms of scripts, I’d really only just started dipping my toes into screenwriting. During the pandemic, I enrolled in a ‘Screenwriting for Authors’ course, which was great and made it all feel possible – for some reason, although I’d written a book, the idea of writing a movie or a TV show had felt like something I wasn’t capable of; something other, more talented people did. In actual fact, I discovered that it was not more difficult, just different. At the point I entered the Launch Pad Competition, I had one pilot script ready to go and had just started adapting The Paris Connection into a screenplay.
What strategies were you employing?
My main strategy was to get the book noticed by industry professionals by whatever means possible (within reason!). I took a two-pronged attack – entering the Prose competition was one prong, but the other was to adapt the book into a feature myself. My goal was to get a screenwriting agent/manager alongside my London-based literary agent.
What obstacles were you encountering?
From the beginning, my agent (and quite a few readers) felt that The Paris Connection would be great on screen, but nobody seemed to be picking it up. Perhaps it was partly timing – it was pre-Emily in Paris, and I hope that the success of that show and others like it have shown the industry that viewers sometimes do want to watch something fun and light and romantic and entertaining!
The process of finding a screenwriting agent has also been harder than I thought – although I’m not sure why that came as a surprise, because getting signed by a literary agent was literally one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and took me about three years!
I loved the fact that Launch Pad was championing prose writing as well as writing for the screen – there aren’t enough competitions out there that celebrate commercial books and it felt very inclusive and open to all.
Why did you choose to enter Launch Pad Prose?
I loved the fact that Launch Pad was championing prose writing as well as writing for the screen – there aren’t enough competitions out there that celebrate commercial books and it felt very inclusive and open to all. I was also impressed by the career-development aspect of the prize – it felt like there was the possibility of being introduced to people that I’d never usually be able to gain access to.
Winning the competition has given me such a boost of confidence and I have felt so supported the whole way through.
Did we live up to expectations?
Absolutely – winning the competition has given me such a boost of confidence, and I have felt so supported the whole way through. I definitely achieved my goals of being able to meet with industry professionals and making my book more visible generally.
What did you think of your experience working with the team? The coaching, packaging and curated meetings?
The team was great – or I should say are great, as their help is still ongoing. Spencer and Lauren were especially helpful and approachable. They took away any nerves I had about taking part in the winners’ networking event on Zoom – by the time I was popped into a breakout room for my meetings, I felt relaxed and confident about talking about my work.
How did Launch Pad Prose help you with your career goals?
Launch Pad did a great job of promoting The Paris Connection after I won the competition, sending out my logline to their brilliant set of contacts and organizing meetings with managers that I would never have been able to connect with, especially as I’m based in London. They also came up with the logline for the story for me in the first place, which at that point in my career I had no idea how to do well!
Did your goals change at all after entering + placing in Launch Pad Prose?
Not really – my goals have remained the same, but now I actually believe that I can achieve them.
What can you tell us about your project The Paris Connection? What was the process like getting it published by Penguin Random House?
The process of getting it published was… long! I started writing the novel in about 2016 while I was working as a school secretary full-time because my acting career had spectacularly failed to take off. I took a beginners’ writing course and then just started plotting and writing during my lunch hour. In 2018, once I had a first draft ready to go, I entered and won a competition called WriteNow, a program run by Penguin Random House in the U.K. to find writers from backgrounds currently underrepresented in the publishing industry. I was assigned a mentor who worked with me on the book for a year, which of course was invaluable. It took about a further year for me to polish the manuscript and network at festivals and events and sign with a literary agent. I actually signed with my dream agent in the end, so it was worth the wait! She sent the book out to editors in the U.K. and U.S.A. (as well as in Europe) pretty quickly and within a couple of months I was offered a deal with Orion (Hachette) here in the U.K. and with Penguin Random House in the U.S. It was a brilliant experience working with two editors at the same time, although it did mean I got a LOT of notes!
How did you manage to land a commissioned feature (The Love Issue)? How did the writing process differ from what you’re used to?
Once I had my pilot script written, and around the same time I entered the Launch Pad competition, I decided to join the U.K. branch of Women in Film & TV. Not only do they regularly host webinars and film screenings, but they have a jobs noticeboard. I happened to see an ad from Reel One Entertainment, who was looking for women to write romance movies for American TV and I thought: why not give it a go?!
I sent them my pilot script and writing resumé and they got back to me asking for some loglines (which I still didn’t really know how to write!). They then asked for three one-page synopses and then still liked two ideas and asked for three-page synopses of both. I found this process somewhat familiar, as I’d had to write synopses for books in the past, and again I used the Save The Cat method to plot the story.
Screenwriting did feel much more collaborative and directive than I was used to – the producers had lots of ideas about what they did and didn’t want, and I’d given no thought to budget whatsoever, and had to really factor that into my later drafts. I did really like the scene-by-scene outlining process (which came after they’d commissioned me to write The Love Issue) as it made writing the script itself easier and quicker. I’m about to start writing my fourth novel and am intending to use the same method – due to other work commitments, I’ve only left myself about four months to write it, so it will hopefully mean that I can get a first draft written more quickly and efficiently!
What was it like adapting The Paris Connection for the screen?
Difficult! I actually didn’t enjoy the process as much as I enjoyed writing my pilot script from scratch – I think that possibly I’m too close to it, and that potentially I didn’t bring anything new or different to it. I am going to try turning it into a TV show, though, and perhaps adding in some story strands and characters that weren’t in the book – that feels a bit more exciting.
Any advice for screenwriters/authors?
My advice would be to be really clear about the kind of genre you’re writing in, and to watch/read projects by other people who are successfully writing in that genre. What is it that people are responding to? And then, what is unique about you that you can bring to your work that nobody else will be bringing?
I’d also recommend plotting out your story before you start writing the script so that you don’t go off track and waste time – there are lots of different methods of doing this out there, so whichever suits you. And I’d say get a first draft written as soon as possible so that you have something solid to work with. It really helps me to have competitions in my mind that I want to enter so that I can work towards that deadline – which is nearly always the more expensive final deadline, by the way, but never mind!