HOW I GOT STARTED
In 1998 I was invited, sort of by accident, to teach a summer screenwriting class at UCLA. My roommate’s friend booked the instructors and he had a last-minute cancellation. I like to think I got hired because he loved my writing sample, but I’m guessing he was probably just desperate.
As it turned out, I loved teaching, or more specifically, I loved working with creative artists. My writer friends were always asking me to give them notes on their screenplays and prose, and I became quite adept at not only identifying what wasn't working, but also guiding them to clarify what the story was about, and then offering solutions that helped them stay true to their original impulse. In fact, I got so busy offering notes that I decided to start a regular weekly workshop that taught a process no one else seemed to be teaching. Because, while I’d read many books on writing and attended every story seminar I could find, I’d never found a workshop that guided me through the process of creating a story that didn’t feel sort of like math. I opened L.A. Writers’ Lab in 2002 as a workshop that taught a process of marrying the wildness of your imagination to the rigor of structure.
The workshops began in my dining room and soon grew to a small theater on Melrose Avenue. But after publishing The 90-Day Novel in 2010, I started getting emails from writers around the world asking me when I was going to offer classes online.
So, here we are.
In my experience, there are two types of writing workshops. There’s the “free-writing” workshop that often leads to telling insights, but rarely leaves you with a compelling narrative. Instead, you're left with a mountain of crisp prose, but with little to no shape to it. Or, there’s the standard Hollywood screenwriting workshop where story structure is taught by a “story analyst” as some kind of formula, but fails to offer a process to unlock its magic. No true writer wants to feel like they are writing a story that has been told countless times before.
YOUR STORY IS VALID
The 90-Day workshops are not about figuring out your story, but connecting an ineffable impulse to a framework that makes your personal experience universal. We call it the lab because this is a space of experimentation - a space where you cannot fail. Everything you write either belongs or is leading you to what ultimately belongs in your story. The lab celebrates your joy, curiosity and uniqueness — this a space where we welcome diversity, where all stories are supported and encouraged, where joy and grief are honored in equal measure, and where we are always staying open to the possibility for magic. Our goal as storytellers is to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. As writers, we've all had the ecstatic experience of stepping back from our work and wondering, "Where did that come from?!" At the lab we understand that we are not the author, but a co-creator, a channel for the story that passes through us as we learn a process of marrying this "wild mind" to the rigor of structure.
PROCESS, NOT RESULT
Writers frequently ask me how it is that the lab has spawned so many published authors and working filmmakers. The answer is simple: Process, not result. Your subconscious is the seat of your genius, and while we certainly must employ the fundamentals of craft, until we are connected to the source of our expression, craft is nothing more than an intellectual concept.
There is no hierarchy at the lab. The workshops have award-winning writers, New York Times bestselling authors and established Hollywood filmmakers working shoulder to shoulder with novice writers — we are all equals. Writing is a practice, like meditation, and you start where you are. The creative process need not be a competitive bloodsport — we are not a Darwinian MFA program where talent is objectified - because the truth is that genius is not a noun, but a verb, something we all can access in our own unique way. We live in a result-driven society, and while it may seem counter-intuitive and heretical to our result-driven culture, it is only in being kind to ourselves that we can grow and produce a sustained creative output. It is only through a gentle approach that we will develop the patience of habit and ritual to withstand the daily trials of life. The desire to write is really the desire to evolve, to resolve something we seek to understand. Your creative work is simply a byproduct of your spiritual growth, and your sole purpose is to create a body of work.
I’m the bestselling author of the novels, Diamond Dogs and Days Are Gone, and the recipient of the American Library Association's Alex Award, Barnes and Noble's Discover Great New Writers and France's Prix Printemps for best foreign novel. My book, The 90-Day Novel was Amazon's #1 book on writing for five months. Along with The 90-Day Novel, the lab has published five books on writing: The 90-Day Screenplay, The 90-Day Rewrite, The 90-Day Play and My First Novel. My new book, The 90-Day Memoir will be released in 2022. I’m also the writer/director of the independent feature film, Interior Night, which won four best feature awards at U.S. film festivals as well as The Boston Film Festival's Filmmaker Visionary Award. Oh, I also had a small part on Seinfeld. It's the Chinese gum episode. I'm the movie theater vendor who sells Kramer the vile hotdog.
I love working with writers and artists, and my deep abiding passion is story. I look forward to hearing yours.
Your fellow writer,
Founder and creative director of L.A. Writers' Lab
"Alan Watt's The 90-Day Novel is a treasure trove of insight, not only for beginners or aspiring writers but for grizzled old-timers like myself who can profit, always, from revisiting the fundamentals and First Principles of the writer's calling. Two thumbs up!"
Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of The War of Art and Do The Work
"I am blown away by The 90-Day Screenplay! I'm applying the principles to my current works in process - as I will for all future projects. It is helping to reshape my understanding of character and story. This invaluable tool will never be far from my side."
Pamela Falk, screenwriter of The Wedding Planner
"Al teaches you to live in your scenes and set aside the hypercritical surveillance that can plague the rewrite process."
Frank B. Wilderson III (2008 American Book Award Winner for Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid)
"Dark, sparklingly written…the story transforms into something far more complex than how a criminal covers his tracks… subtle, deadpan humor and slyly evoked telling details… an emotionally fraught father-son relationship gives the book its depth… Watt delivers a moving, multifaceted story that sharply explores the legacy of violence, distorted forms of love and the high cost of genuine freedom."
The New York Times Book Review
"Days Are Gone is beautifully written and utterly absorbing. Alan Watt is a master at creating characters whose internal conflicts and keenly observed emotions are vivid, jarring, and compelling. This is simply a great novel."
David Liss, New York Times bestselling author of A Conspiracy of Paper
“F#@ed up, funny, and weirdly beautiful. Every bit as riveting and disturbo as real life.”
Jerry Stahl, bestselling author of Permanent Midnight
"A surreal, articulate, cult hit."
The Washington City Paper
The 7 Maxims
The story lives within you.
I help you find it.