Concept IS Story

Concept aka ‘premise’, ‘controlling idea’, ‘seed of the story’. Whatever you want to call it, that concept is the FOUNDATION of your story, whether you’re writing a novel or screenplay.

Contrary to the popular belief amongst ‘aspiring’ screenwriters on social media that it’s ‘the execution that counts’ (newsflash: it’s NOT), concept is actually the MOST IMPORTANT BIT. Why?

Because if your concept does not sound interesting from pitch level UP, then no one will invest their time or money in your work – whether they are agents, producers, publishers, viewers or readers. 

It’s not rocket science!!!

Concept Mistakes

But hey, I’m assuming you’re not one of THOSE writers who thinks ‘all’ they have to do is (shudder) ‘write something well enough’. As Bang2writers, we know we have to have a kickass idea AND follow it through to the max.

But how can we ensure we don’t waste our OWN time on a sucky concept?? Well good news peeps, ‘cos here’s a round up of the concept mistakes I see regularly:

1) Genre Mishap

You’re a good writer, you did your research into various genres, their conventions and what’s gone before FIRST, right?? ‘Cos if you didn’t, you could end up with one of these:

  • Science FACTion – about 5 times a year I get a script that’s supposedly sci fi, yet the supposedly fictional things happening here EXIST IN THE REAL WORLD. This happens especially when it comes to genes, cloning and anything else biological. Get a subscription to NEW SCIENTIST people, FFS!
  • Non-Rom-Com – So, this is not an ‘Anti Rom Com’, those are cool. Instead this is a Rom Com with no romance AND no comedy. Don’t know how this is different? FIND OUT.
  • Horror/Thriller – Holy hell people, just STOP. Yes Horrors can be thrilling; yes, Thrillers can be horrifying. But they’re rarely one and the same, they are two distinct genres, even if they do carry similar characteristics. Here’s WHY.
  • Scare the kids! – With the rise of the 12A in the UK, streetsmart kids are finally be rewarded: they understand far more of the adult world than we give previously given them credit for. That said, some spec scripts in particular are STILL too scary for kids. We rarely see out-and-out scary stuff that’s not played for laughs as well with kids in produced stuff (think VAN HELSING here, which combined scary-ass werewolves etc with humour). The most recent epic tone misstep I can think of is READY PLAYER ONE, which weirdly put THE SHINING into a family film. Guess what happened? My usually hard-ass 6 year old who has sat through any number of Marvel movies was petrified with fear. WTAF, Spielberg! But you are not Spielberg!
  • Depressing Drama – Repeat after me: this type of drama is supposed to be devastating, not depressing. Even stories dealing with challenging issues and emotions should still be entertaining. Otherwise, what is the point?? I’d take a bloody exam instead.

KEY QUESTION/S: Do I know what’s gone before? What research should I concentrate on? What opportunities/threats are there to me story,  here? 

2) Too SAMEy (not enough DIFFERENT!)

When writers begin to understand the notion of concept and actually pitching and SELLING their ideas, they may instinctively go towards the notion ‘The same … but different’. This is a good idea.

The problem is, many writers end up writing derivative stuff because they gravitate too much towards the SAMEY. Instead, they should be examining what’s gone before and flipping it, introducing that ‘something’ that makes it YOURS. Otherwise, you’re just REHASHING.

KEY QUESTION/S: What can I introduce, to TWIST this? What haven’t we seen before, with this concept? 

3) Muddy logline

A logline describes an overview of the story and incorporates what I call ‘The 3 Cs’ – clarity, conflict, characters. This works as a nice, straightforward concept checklist because writers typically fall into these 3 traps:

  • Overly complicated – if the story is overly complicated, it won’t be clear and we won’t know WHAT we’re dealing with (the conflict, aka the situation or problem at hand), or WHO it involves (characters).
  • Too vague – sometimes writers go out of their way to describe AROUND the story, using familiar and even cliched language. As a result, we till don’t know what’s going on. Eeek!
  • Misfiring – sometimes a logline is simply bad on its own, in that the script might be good but the logline just doesn’t work. Other times, when the script is not working it helps to go back and write a NEW logline … If you can’t, then that usually helps you pinpoint where the problem is – the character or the conflict.

KEY QUESTION/S: What is my logline? Who has read it and given feedback on it? Why should I take on board their feedback – what do I lose/gain?

4) The SENTENCE OF DOOM kills the story

This is the thing. Stories are like packs of cards. They depend on audiences and readers and suspending their disbelief … BUT if you can take just ONE thing out and that disbelief collapses? You haven’t come up with a strong enough story.

So if someone says, ‘Why does your character do X?’ and you find yourself answering, ‘Because then there would no story’ — EPIC FAIL!

‘Because then there would be no story’ is THE SENTENCE OF DOOM. It means your events are built around something contrived. You need a rethink — and pronto!

KEY QUESTION/S: How can I ensure my characters’ actions are organic and authentic, instead of contrived and constructed for the sake of the story?

5) Builds on cheesy or stale ideas and tropes

The obvious, here. The cheesy and stale has NO PLACE in a spec screenplay or unpublished novel. We all know this, yet we still might accidentally put something in that’s overly familiar without realising … So, how to guard against this??

Easy! More research … Keep reading scripts and books LIKE your story. Figure out what feels stale to you, plus talk about it with others. Follow writers and script readers and editors online. Ask producers and publishers what they see too much of in their submission piles. And check out articles like these – Forewarned is forearmed, after all!

15 Cheesy Writing Fails to Avoid In Your First Ten Pages

11 Expositional Clichés That Will Kill Your Story

7 More Cheesy Epic Fails To Avoid In Your Writing 

Top 6 Escape Clichés That Will Kill Your Story

The 2 Sentences Your Characters Should NEVER Say

Good luck out there!

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Web series can be a great way for a writer to making content that is meaningful to them. It’s also a fab way to get that content in front of an audience without waiting around for a network or commissioner to greenlight a project. But just like every other part of a writing career, producing a successful web series requires planning and persistence. Here’s my advice and top tips after creating my own web series BLACK GIRL IN A BIG DRESS, which currently has over one million views online!

1) Know your goals and plan specifically for them

To use your resources well, focus on what’s most important to you. For example, if your goal is to show off your general writing skills, focus on writing strong character development, and great dialogue in simple setups rather than finding elaborate locations. If you’re hoping to use the webseries to sell a TV show, film, or play, you can focus on producing the most poignant, thematic, or impactful moments of that project rather than fussing over details that are more likely to change if a buyer decides to take it on and develop it.

TOP TIP: Because webseries don’t have to adhere to rigid formats or structures, you can easily create a show that best shows off your best skills. MORE: How To Set Meaningful Goals & Stick To Them

2) Plan for publicity

A publicity strategy will help you reach beyond your immediate social media circle and find new fans who will like, comment on, and share your work with brand new networks.

In addition to writing a great script, remember to plan for things like running ads, writing and sending out press releases, creating targeted emails, attending themed events, and contributing to like-minded groups on social media.

TOP TIP: Figure out who would be most interested in your webseries, find out where they hang out online, then tailor your social media outreach to focus on those sites.

3) Be realistic about your budget

If you’re working with a limited budget, like many web series creators are, be realistic about how much money you have (or don’t have) to spend, and tailor your production to match that budget.

If you can’t afford to rent a mansion, don’t try to pretend like you’re shooting in one and hope that no one notices. Instead, come up with creative, storytelling-based solutions like rewriting an office holiday party scene so that it takes place in the main character’s flat before they leave for the fancy party. If you need to use your phone instead of a high-end camera, make sure that you’re shooting footage that works on a phone’s camera instead of hoping that no one will be able to tell the difference.

TOP TIP: Don’t shy away from a limited budget. Lean into it and plan accordingly. MORE: Top 6 Things Low Budget Filmmakers Must Do 

4) Remember: There’s a lot of work AFTER the shoot

Speaking of money, you will need some funds available after you stop shooting. Remember to plan for festival entries, social media ads, and travel and tickets to themed events. These post-shoot expenses will be crucial to the success of your webseries.

TOP TIP: Find out how web series that are similar to yours found their audience and plan to employ the same tactics.

5) Get more irons in the fire!

A great web series is just the beginning. You will need to have more content at the ready if you hope to capitalize off of an online success.

If you’re hoping to sell the feature or series version of your web series, buyers will want to see full-length scripts and a pitch deck that details the project. If you’re doing your web series to raise your own profile as a writer, producers will want to see other completed scripts. If your goal is to become Internet famous, your fans and followers will want to see much more content on a regular basis.

A web series can be an amazing calling card and a great step to take, but it’s also one step on a long and amazing journey.

TOP TIP: To solidify your brand as a writer and creator, make sure that the projects you plan to pitch and discuss are similar in genre or tone to your web series. MORE: Read Top 5 Diversity Mistakes Writer Make, Aydrea’s previous B2W guest post

BIO: Aydrea Walden is the writer and creator of BLACK GIRL IN A BIG DRESS. A former newspaper reporter she has also written for Nickelodeon, Highlander Films, Now Write! Screenwriting Book Series, Makers Studios, and Disney. She is a multiple Moth StorySLAM winner her solo show, The Oreo Experience, is based on the blog of the same name, which has been featured in GOOD Magazine and Jezebel.

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Social Media Hate

If you spend a lot of time on social media like I do, you’ll have noticed a LOT of writers blotting their copybooks lately with their potential friends and followers.

Here’s what’s happened to me lately, in just the past 2 or 3 weeks:

  • Facebook Fiends. Writers may send me Friend requests. That’s obviously fine, but within SECONDS of accepting their request, they may send another asking me to LIKE their page. (Plus the really persistent ones will send a private message as well).
  • Facebook Fiends #2. Writers on Facebook may ‘tag’ me from their timeline, especially into Amazon Author pages, but also crowdfunding campaigns, blog posts and their photos (sometimes entirely random ones). Sometimes these tags will be 50-100+ people, not just me! Again, I will have never interacted with these people before.
  • Clunkedin. Every single day on Linkedin I get messages asking me for referrals for their writing  to agents, publishers and producers. This will be despite me NEVER having interacted with this person before, never mind read their stuff. Every. Single. Day.
  • Twatter. I get tagged into copied and pasted tweets constantly, usually entreating me to check out a blog post, book or crowdfunding campaign, but other stuff too. I may also get tagged into photos too – I never usually mind this from this from friends and allies, but randoms?? NO THANKS.
  • Instagrab. Every week on instagram, multiple people hassle me to follow them by tagging my posts. The really persistent will send private messages too, asking me WHY I HAVEN’T FOLLOWED THEM OMG.
  • Email lust. Every week multiple people sign me up for their email list, unsolicited. I get notifications for writing products and services, books, crowdfunding campaigns etc that I NEVER subscribed to. I know, because I am VERY SELECTIVE on what I sign up to, since I get so many damn emails!
  • Email Deluge. Every single day I get multiple emails asking me to check out their site, blog, book, crowdfunding campaign or whatever. I also get lots of pitches for various projects or blog post ideas. Most of the time, they will be obvious copy and paste jobs: my name or my site’s URL will be wrong, or the pitch will bear NO RESEMBLANCE to anything I am interested in, or carry on my sites. Even worse is when that person sends this SAME email to countless other people and forgets to BCC the names.

This is just scratching the surface. Again, no one minds their FRIENDS AND ALLIES asking for help spreading their message via shares and RTs (and if they *do* object to tags for any reason, they’ll just ask you not to. Sorted).

Writers Are Spamming. STOP.

So, if you’re sending and tagging RANDOM people you’ve never interacted with before, and/or the ‘internet at large’? You need to stop right now, because it is SPAM. Here’s why:

  • It marks you out as an amateur. Here’s the thing. PROFESSIONALS who want to spread their message and/or sell their products and services know they need a PROPER STRATEGY. Do you think famous brands and names simply crossed their fingers and hoped for the best with a scattergun approach, or do you think they INVESTED THEIR TIME (and money, where appropriate) in reaching their target audience? ‘Nuff sed.
  • No one likes cold callers. In real life, do you LIKE someone randomly knocking on your door and asking you to buy something? I would bet real money you don’t. Signing people up for email lists they never subscribed to, plus random requests, emails, messages and tags (especially copied and pasted ones!) IS THE ONLINE EQUIVALENT of cold calling. Don’t do it!
  • User preferences change! lf you don’t understand how social media works, then you can quickly get yourself unfollowed, unfriended or even blocked. Social media etiquette and what constitutes spam is constantly in flux. What was considered reasonable may change, year to year. You need to stay current and find out what users like and dislike (like via THIS article and many others!) and how it may vary platform to platform. It is SOCIAL media, after all!
  • Algorithms change. Facebook in particular can make life difficult for people wanting to get their message out. It changes its algorithms more or less every year, in the hope users – like writers! – will do stuff like boost posts and buy advertising on the platform. This is not surprising (Facebook IS a business!), but writers are typically broke, which means we have to keep to up-to0-date and find a creative way AROUND these algorithm changes and spamming people is not it.
  • Spamming does not work!!!!! You are literally wasting your time. For every minute you spend copying and pasting tweets; or sending out begging emails and messages; or subscribing people to your email list unsolicited, you could be learning a MORE EFFECTIVE METHOD of getting your message out. True story!!!

So if you recognise anything here, do yourself a favour. Discontinue – and instead of panicking, learn about how you can ENGAGE your followers. More on this, next.

‘But … But … I need to get my message out!!’

I know the feeling. Whilst B2W has a large platform now, it didn’t always; I had to build it up, from scratch. What’s more, I recently relaunched into the crime fiction community as an author myself, so I had to start over – B2W might have greased *some* wheels, but only a few. I had to start over.

So I get it. I REALLY DO.

The internet is a brilliant way of connecting with your potential target audience, whether you are a writer or not. But it IS a minefield. You can’t just go out there and simply chuck spaghetti and the (digital) wall and expect people to engage with you. There’s too many people doing this; you’re shouting into the wind.

Give Something To Get Something

In marketing, it’s said that people have to exposed a minimum of FOUR TIMES to buy a product or service. But it’s not enough to simply get your message HEARD. You have to ENGAGE people who are interested in the type of thing you do. Here’s how I do it:

  • As Bang2write: I set myself up as someone who KNOWS STUFF about writing and the things that surround it – not just craft, but also careers and other related stuff (like social media!). I mostly write articles about this subject (hence this blog and other guest posts), but I also appear at talks (both real-life and online), as well as post videos on Youtube and talk online about this subject. The idea is, when someone needs writing advice, they will come to me – either by paying for a consultation, buying one of my books, doing one of my courses, or maybe all three.
  • As Lucy V Hay, Author: My other site is about READING and books generally, rather than writing. I post interviews and spotlights about my fellow authors, as well as reading recommendations from book bloggers. I appear at literary festivals and other events. I post about my own book and writing, sure – BUT I have created an author persona online too that is different to B2W (whilst still interlinking with it). This means people who may have followed me as B2W may be interested in my books, either because they like me, or because they want to see if I can ‘practice what I preach’ writing-wise (or both). Those people who have no interest in B2W will see me solely as an author and may become interested either through my book, THE OTHER TWIN (‘I like the sound of it’) through to, ‘I like her tweets (or whatever), I will see what her book is like’.

This is called content marketing. Content marketing refers “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”

Content Marketing Is Not Spam

Content marketing WORKS. You are reading this article directly because of content marketing: you will have clicked through from a social media platform (where I, or another user has shared it), or perhaps via an email newsletter (mine, or someone else’s that YOU signed up for).

Many of my posts carry a related ‘ad’ at the bottom (this one does, in fact!). This is known as ‘a call to action’ – this is where interested parties can click through to relevant stuff I am selling. I started adding these when Bang2writers literally asked me to. They want to know where they could learn more on the subject from me, or how they could help me spread my message. ALLIES!!! W000t!

Crucially, this post is not simply ‘sell sell sell’. Whilst every post I write might be part of my content marketing strategy, you can read them WITHOUT having to buy anything or clickthru if you don’t want. That’s the key.


So, if you are not seeing the results you want via social media, do these things instead:

  • Stop spamming random people online, ENGAGE them instead
  • Come up with a specific content marketing strategy to get your message out
  • Learn everything you can about how social media platforms work & change
  • Stay up-to-date with what users on social media want, too
  • Content marketing works. You’re here because of it! It’s also FREE (bar your time)

Lastly – if you’re feel weary of certain writers on your TL, send them this article! 😉 Thanks!

How To Build Your Online Empire

Come to my next talk, in conjunction with Funzingjust £12! Ever wondered what it takes to build a following online, or how to avoid making epic social media faux pas? Or how to better use your blog to sell your services, products and connect with like-minded people online? THIS IS FOR YOU!!!

My next talk is called How To Build An Online Empire and will be at Trapeze, London on May 21st between 19:00pm – 21:00pm and will cost just £12.00.

I’ve partnered with Funzing, a new organisation that hosts talks and lectures in bars in trendy venues all across the UK. You can get a drink in an informal environment and listen to a great talk about a subject you’re interested in. Result!

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So with not one, but TWO of my novels to edit recently (not to mention various other deadlines, including my IFS students’ end projects), I have been feeling the BITE of burn out lately.

So, when Rachel Jackson got in touch with me to share some ideas on how to combat this feeling, I was all ears!! I particularly like her points 3 and 5. Enjoy!

What Is Writer Burn Out?

Burn out is silent and sneaky. It creeps up on people when they least expect it. Stress levels slowly begin to rise … Before you know it, you’re in way over your head.

Burn out is an awful feeling to carry around. It weighs you down, kills your passion and it puts a complete stop to your productivity. If you want to break out of your burn out, it’s time to shift your attention away from your stressors and towards the things that will help you recover:

1) Go On Vacation

Going on vacation doesn’t necessarily need to mean adding the stress of travelling hundreds of miles away. It just means using some of the vacation time your employer affords you with, or arranging to carve it out of your own schedule as a writer. If you’d rather spend your vacation time taking long naps on the couch, the more power to you. As long as you’re changing your scenery and spending your time in an environment you don’t dread, you’re taking a vacation from your burnout. MORE: 43 Famous Writers Share Their Happiness Secrets 

2) Take Care Of Yourself

Improving the way you physically feel can help the way you mentally feel. Writers spend a lot of time sitting down, and that could be a significant contributor to the problem. Exercise and eating right can boost endorphins that battle stress hormones. This doesn’t mean you need to run for a few hours a day and stop eating between meals.

A light jog in the morning and some healthy snacks can make a noteworthy difference. Slowly graduate into a better routine – completely changing your lifestyle overnight isn’t practical and it might cause you to be a little too hard on yourself. Sleeping in until noon and tacos are always fine in moderation, especially if they make you feel happy.

3) Shift Your Priorities

What’s burning you out? Are you focusing on all the wrong things? Are you missing a ton of alternative routes? Are you forgetting to explore grey areas? Talk to a friend or a family member about it. Talk to other writers who have also experienced burn out. What did they need to change when they encountered the obstacles and high stress levels that you encountered? Be open to unorthodox ideas, especially if they’ve worked for people you trust. MORE: 33 Industry Insiders On Success, Dreams & Failures

4) Rest and Relax

A lot of specific events can lead to burnout, like criticism, having a script rejected, or feeling stuck with an idea. Exploring your mind a little more might help you see things from a new perspective. Some people like to meditate. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a spiritual ordeal, with candles and incense. It just needs to be a quiet environment where you can breathe deeply, calm down, and be alone with your thoughts in a comfortable chair. Getting yourself into a meditative state of mind can help you organise your brain.

5) Find Something New

You know the thing that’s making you feel burned out? Stop doing it! Stop doing that exhausting, stressful, overwhelming thing. If it’s bringing more trouble into your life than its worth, work on something that won’t. Even if it means throwing away all of your progress on a writing project, it’s worth it to be able to breathe deeply again. It’s worth it to make the dread go away and the high blood pressure subside. You got yourself this far – you can get yourself to an even better place that you haven’t yet explored. MORE: 30 Experts On the True Power Of Ideas


No two cases of burn out are the same. You might find that yours is easy to fix, or that you need to use a combination of methods for an extended period of time in order to truly feel better. What matters most is that you prioritise your wellbeing … Writing can wait!

BIO: Rachel Jackson is a mother of 2 beautiful boys. She loves to hike and write about travelling, education and business. Rachel is also a great fan of sustainable living and a strong supporter of the sharing economy.

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What is a caption?

On a screenplay, ‘captions’ are those bits of text you may see flash up on screen – i.e.:

  • DAY 32

You know the ones. You will have seen them countless times whilst watching movies, TV dramas, sitcoms, documentaries and even short films, web series, sketches, YouTube reviews etc.

Lots of Bang2writers ask me how to format these. Well, it’s pretty simple. You just need to write:

SUPER: [Caption you want to put in]

Apparently, ‘Super’ is short for ‘Super impose’. This is the traditional method I’m told and the one I see most often in spec screenplays. That said, some people may write TITLE, TEXT or even CAPTION and that’s okay, too. It shouldn’t get your script thrown out, but if you’re the nervous type, stick with SUPER is my advice.

Why use captions?

Captions are used to save time and signpost things audiences need to get an instant. Most spec screenwriters get WHAT they are, but not necessarily WHY they’re used for storytelling purposes (hence this blog post).

So, there are two main reasons a writer would use a caption in his/her spec screenplay:

1) Passage of time. In the case of stuff like 24 HOURS EARLIER or DAY 32, these are time-based and the writer needs to give some indication of ‘where’ we are in the timeline of the plot. This ‘anchors’ the reader (and thus the potential audience). If you’re writing a non-linear story – especially one with flashbacks or flash forwards – you will probably need some captions (BUT there are always exceptions here, especially if you want to keep the audience off-balance, or we’re able to follow via some visual device, which can be preferable). This element relates primarily to plotting.

2) Places. In the case of stories that include jumps from one place to another geographically, like in disaster movies and spy thrillers, you probably want a caption to signify we’ve gone from NEW YORK to BAGHDAD, IRAQ, for example. Others may include science fiction elements, so including a caption for a moon colony would be a good idea, so we know what’s possible in this story world. Similarly, if there are fantasy elements (like the notion we’re watching tiny germs or people who can survive in Derek’s low intestine!), then you probably want to include caption in this case, too. These usually relate to world-building, again as part of your plotting.

So check out the keywords there:

  • TIME

This is screenwriting, so there can be some other ways of using captions creatively, but those above are the main two you need to be thinking about when you’re weighing it up.

NOTE: A caption in a spec screenplay should NEVER be solely expositional. Then it is not needed – find a way of expressing the information visually instead. Also, try and avoid using captions **a lot** in the same screenplay, it can get monotonous very quickly.


So, deciding when to use a caption is actually much easier than you think. Consider these 2 questions:

  1. Are you using a caption for plot-based reasons?
  2. Or just for exposition/background info reasons?

If number 1, you probably need a caption. If number 2, you probably don’t.

More on Format on B2W:

Top 5 Screenplay Format Mistakes

The B2W Format 1 Stop Shop 

All About Scene Headings/Headers

The 5 Biggest Format Mistakes Screenplays Make

Download a 1 page Format Ref Guide (PDF)

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All About Heroes

Heroes are the number 1 archetype for any writer … They’re the protagonist ‘everyone’ wants to write. The archetypal hero appears in all religions, mythologies and epics of the world. He is an expression of our personal and collective unconscious, as theorised by Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler. What’s more, all archetypal heroes share certain characteristics. See how many of these you can recognise from your own favourite heroes:

  • Traditionally male (and straight, plus able-bodied; in the world of movies, generally white too)
  • Born into danger, or royalty (or both)
  • Leaves family or land and lives with others
  • Hero has a special weapon only he can wield
  • Hero may have supernatural help (maybe an outsider, maybe from within himself, or both)
  • He will go on a journey of some kind (often literal, as well as metaphorical)
  • Hero experiences atonement with the father
  • When the hero dies, he is rewarded spiritually
  • The Hero must prove himself many times while on adventure
  • Some kind of event (frequently traumatic) will act as a catalyst to set him on his quest

Of course, there are obvious exceptions to the rules above. In recent decades, female heroes have become more and more commonplace. Sometimes the hero must search for atonement with his mother; sometimes both his parents. Sometimes that ‘special weapon’ the hero wields is metaphorical, rather than literal, which may be  signified as ‘what’s right’ or ‘what’s true’ (sometimes both).

Most crucially, heroes in modern narratives – particularly movies – die very infrequently (usually because they want to continue the franchise!). Sometimes heroes will die, only to be regenerated somehow too.

All About Quest Narratives

That quest archetypal heroes go on is typically some kind of retrieval mission, be it a rescue; a search for the truth; or to set others free from a tyrannical leader. Frequently, it’s all of these things, hence the typical hero ‘getting the girl and killing the baddie’. 

If you grew up in the 80s like me, you may remember movies were big on fantasy / adventure back then. Like most kids, I was obsessed with thematic, epic stories of the time, which included LABYRINTH, THE NEVERENDING STORY and THE DARK CRYSTAL. In addition to having a high muppet quotient, these movies were highly symbolic and drew heavily on the notion of the hero having an undertake a quest:

  • LABYRINTH – a symbolic journey of acceptance. Sarah must “rescue” her half-brother from the goblins (her own childish desire to get rid of him/keep “her world” the same) in order to finally accept her mother’s death and her father’s remarriage.
  • THE NEVERENDING STORYa symbolic journey to adulthood. Bastian follows Atrayu’s journey across a nightmarish landscape where childhood innocence gets eaten up by the despair of adulthood in the form of The Nothing and its servant, The Big Black Wolf. Only by holding on to childhood wonder can we survive adulthood.
  • THE DARK CRYSTAL – a symbolic journey of understanding human nature and its “yin/yang”, there is good AND evil in all of us.  The crystal is ALL of us – we must be “whole”, if a single piece is missing, our “worlds” will be lost.

Failure is Not An Option

All the movies I have mentioned thus far all draw on Homer’s Odyssey to some degree. This was the ‘first’ epic quest narrative and one in which most modern versions are based (whether the writers realise it or not).

Just as Odysseus had to get back to his homeland before his wife Penelope was raffled off to some other suitor, they all have a DEADLINE:

  • Sarah must solve the labyrinth or her baby brother will be turned into a goblin (LABRYINTH)
  • Atreyu must solve the mystery of The Nothing or it will disappear (THE NEVERENDING STORY)
  • The Crystal must be healed or the Skeksis will reign forever (THE DARK CRYSTAL)

In other words: there are ALWAYS very bad consequences for the hero’s failure.

Heroes Need Stakes

If you’ve read my Thriller Screenplays book, you’ll know a deadline is conventional in this genre. Deadlines however play a great part in quest narratives, whether they’re thrillers or not. They help raise the STAKES – ie. ‘If the hero doesn’t do X, by Y time, then z happens.’

These three movies did a lot to cement the hero and quest as part of family movies in general, by the way.  Pixar is probably the king of this:

  •  TOY STORY (they’ll be lost toys FOREVER/destroyed by Sid)
  • A BUG’S LIFE (the anthill will be destroyed by the grasshoppers)
  • INSIDE OUT (childhood hopes and dreams will be DESTROYED!)

In other words, if the hero does not stand up, then ‘all is lost’. As kids grow up, we see the same kind of thing happening still in Young Adult properties, especially in dystopian trilogies:

  • THE HUNGER GAMES (Katniss must stand up for what is right by overcoming the games, then the system, symbolised by President Snow)
  • THE MAZE RUNNER (Thomas must do the same, but find out the truth about The Wicked corp)
  • DIVERGENT (Triss must stand up for what is right AND fight out the truth, so a combo again)

But heroes are not just for kids and families. We can see the archetypal hero in many other stories meant for adults, too:

  • In horror movies, sometimes a hero will emerge to try and save as many people from the threat as they can (which is what Ripley attempts to do in ALIEN and ALIENS)
  • In some comedies, rom-coms and dramas, a hero may stand up for what is right, despite the ‘status quo’ or ‘norm’ being against them (we saw this most recently in THE SHAPE OF WATER)
  • In some Thrillers, a  hero go up against a shadowy corporation who is trying to cover something up, or trick the world somehow (we saw this in THE MATRIX and RESIDENT EVIL franchises, but we also see it in novels, movies and TV dramas with a conspiracy element)
  • In many detective stories – police procedural or not – a hero may be the only one who can speak for the victim and ensure justice is served (with many crime fiction novels and TV Dramas doing this)
  • In Westerns, a hero will often come forth and rescue the innocent from bad people and bad situation (which is why many commentators call DRIVE an ‘urban Western‘)

But there are plenty more. See how many more you can spot in your favourites.

So Study The Odyssey!

As mentioned, we can trace the archetypal hero and the quest narrative back to Homer’s epic. It’s so universal, many writers don’t even realise they know this story already. There’s lots of brilliant, accessible commentary on it, including picture books, graphic novels and even infographics. I’ve included one with this post, below.

So if you’re writing a hero, don’t recycle what you’ve already seen … Go back to the SOURCE and consider the history of the character, instead. Think about the various versions we’ve seen and how yours is ‘the same … but different’.


Quest Narratives: The Prequel!

PSSSST! Did you know? The Odyssey is actually a sequel. You probably know The Iliad already, especially if ‘Trojan Horses’ mean anything to you. It’s worth checking out, especially for where it takes Odysseus and how he ends up on his quest. Enjoy!

More on Heroes

What Is A Hero?

How To Write Female Leads Like A Professional Screenwriter

Heroes, Villains and Disposable Men: On Male Characterisation

5 Problems With Female Leads

Best of 3 – Bad Guy Leads

Best of 3 – Enigmatic Female Leads

3 Questions For Your Male Action Hero Characters

Top 5 Ways Writers Screw Up Their Characters

5 Expendable Heroes We Hate To Love In Movies

6 Things Every Hero Needs

The Ultimate Guide To Character Development: 10 Steps To Creating Memorable Heroes

Good Luck!

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What Does ‘Well Read’ Mean?

First up, let’s agree on the definition. Here’s one from the dictionary:

Well read, adjective. Having a lot of knowledge from reading widely; knowledgeable. Synonyms: knowledgeable (about), well informed (about), well versed in, widely read; erudite, scholarly, literate, educated, cultured, literary, bookish, studious.
Example: “She was very well read in this field”. 
The key words that stand out for me there: knowledge, widely, well informed. 

Should you read? HELL YES

I work with writers every single day who profess they ‘don’t’ read, often because they ‘don’t have time’. And you know what? Contrary to popular belief, some of them are even good writers despite this. 

But guess what: the well-read writers are ALWAYS better. They have more understanding of the craft, not to mention a bigger pool of interests and influences to draw from. Not rocket science. As far as I’m concerned:

  • Screenwriters should read scripts (in their genre and not)
  • Novelists should read novels (in their genre and not)
  • It’s a great idea for all writers to look at ALL mediums
  • ALL writers should look for new ideas, new POVs, to challenge themselves (yes, even abhorrent ones, or positions that are called ‘problematic’ online by the likes of Twitter. The key question for a writer is always WHY?)

DO NOTE THOUGH – You don’t have to read ‘the classics’ or what you think you OUGHT to read. You can read whatever you like. Fiction. Non-Fiction. Screenplays. Articles. Whatever. Just read WIDELY, from many different sources, about many different things, about many different worldviews, POVs and VARIOUS STUFF.

On Stephen King

This is what veteran uber-writer Stephen King says about reading:

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Needless to say, I totally agree with him. Yes, you can obviously get away with doing the minimum amount of reading, especially if you’re talented. But reading only serves to make you a BETTER WRITER. What’s not to like??

Finding The Time To Read

“Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in … Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I love the idea of reading being a writer’s ‘creative centre’. Reading this, I realised I felt the same way too. Like King, I take a book everywhere I go. (In fact, I take two, plus my Kindle, since batteries might run down or I might not be able to access the Cloud. Eeek!!)

But in real terms, it’s never been easier to read stuff. There’s a gadget in your pocket that can beam ANY type of reading material to you in a matter of seconds, via apps and social media. A lot of it is 100% free, the rest for pennies. That’s right – YOUR PHONE!

Personally, I think 10 hours per week reading is do-able for most writers. You may need to have a strategy if you have something particular you want to do, like read more books. If time is at a mega premium for you, why not put aside time for reading:

  • On your commute
  • In-between appointments
  • For ten minutes at lunch break
  • Whilst your kid watches CBeebies for 15 minutes
  • Whilst you’re stirring the dinner
  • Instead of watching that re-run of The Simpsons for the umpteenth time
  • Instead of ‘debating’ stuff online (aka calling someone an arse)

You could even set a timer. I do. I ensure I have one hour per day to devote to a novel. I have radically increased my reading in the last three years because of this. I can usually read a 300 page novel in about four-six hours (depending how engaged I am), so that means I can usually read at least one book per week. Boom.

I also research and read about subjects that interest me. At the moment, I am interested in Search Engine Optimisation, Blogging techniques and The American Wild West, particularly the different tribes and languages of Native Americans. I’m also slightly obsessed with Hugh Glass (that’s the dude that got mauled by a bear and, it turns out, was also a pirate AND a prisoner of the Pawnee tribe! Wow!).

So, work and play. Combine what you can, read other stuff as and when you want. This doesn’t have to be difficult – it shouldn’t be!  Research can be fun, plus you can save it up for later:

  • Books
  • Scripts
  • Plays
  • Articles
  • Blogs
  • Maps and old artefacts
  • Interview transcripts
  • Threads and tweets (without responding)



I find it useful to take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I managed to read and review a whopping 90 books last year, plus I made a reading pledge to ensure I read more books by marginalised voices. But why not come up with a pledge of your own? Friend me over there if you like.

Happy reading this weekend!

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Right now, diversity is the name of the game in storytelling, so it’s no accident a movie like THE SHAPE OF WATER won ‘Best Picture’ at The Oscars last week. (Whilst Jordan Peele’s GET OUT was technically more ‘deserving’ of the so-called diverse tag, it is still a genre movie … Whereas historically, The Oscars have always been more appreciative of drama movies, even ones with sci fi elements like TSOW).

I won’t pretend THE SHAPE OF WATER was my favourite movie of the year because it wasn’t, but there’s still plenty for writers to learn here. Let’s go:

1) Outsiders have the most interesting stories right now

Writers are often outsiders, hence their fascination with characters who are outsiders as well (and probably characters who are writers, too). That said, up until now, outsider characters in movies have been frequently side-lined to secondary role functions. This has been for the mythical ‘broader appeal’ to the ‘most’ people in the audience. That’s a BIG change in the last year or so.

So, regardless of how you feel about THE SHAPE OF WATER (and it’s certainly a ‘Marmite’ movie in that people to seem to love OR hate it), as a writer it’s quite the thrill to see to see such a an unusual female lead in Elisa. She’s a reminder that a successful story does NOT have to have a ‘typical’ female protagonist at the heart of the story: she is no hardcore hottie, nor is she comedic. She is a holistic character, with thoughts, feelings and problems all her own.

KEY QUESTION/S: Why is your character an outsider? What is his/her role function? Why is s/he in this story? What does s/he DO that’s different to the ‘norm’? MORE: Stop Saying ‘Diversity’. Start Writing VARIETY!

2) The status quo, ‘norm’ or ‘ideal’ can act as great antagonists

The antagonist is Richard Strickland, who is charge the shadowy government facility Elisa cleans at. Whilst it’s clear he’s evil from the start, we’re invited into his worldview too: he NEEDS to be in charge, he needs to be admired. But he also wants to be feared, just like he fears humiliation.

He also craves perfection. He has the so-called ‘perfect’ life: the lovely house, the wife, the kids. But crucially, it’s never enough. He doesn’t want a wife, he wants a doll (hence his fascination with the supposedly ‘silent’ Elisa, whom he wrongly believes would be even more obedient). He’s not interested in his kids, nor does he care about his house. He loves his car, because it’s something people see first. It’s all just about status to him.

In other words then, toxic masculinity is the key antagonist of this film. The juxtaposition of his rotting fingers then hints at how damaging this worldview is. His car gets smashed up. At the end of the film, his last words are even, ‘I always deliver!!’ But he is reduced, defeated, a loser.

KEY QUESTION/S: What does your antagonist’s POV symbolise in your story? What does s/he do? How does this relate to your protagonist’s journey? Why? MORE: How To Create A Memorable Antagonist

3) Disability does not have to define a character

Elisa is mute, but she can hear. There is some confusion at first about this on Strickland’s part (a stand-in for anyone in the audience who may feel they ‘deserve’ an explanation for someone else’s disability, illness or chronic condition).

This also provides the opportunity for some backstory about why she is this way, but ultimately the HOW is not that important*. Whilst Elisa’s mutism is a part of her and the way she relates to the other characters and the storyworld, crucially it does not define her. When so many characters’ stories are about their disability, this is refreshing.

Backstory is important for all protagonists, but just because you have picked a ‘diverse’ character as your lead DOES NOT mean you should define them by that diversity.

(*Or maybe the HOW is important … It depends how you see it. THIS ARTICLE in Forbes makes a compelling case for Elisa’s backstory and how it relates to the rest of the plot, which is really interesting. I can’t say I saw it this way whilst watching, but that doesn’t matter. The writing is good enough to support this interpretation, which is great. Plus either way, Elisa is still not defined by her disability, which in real terms may not be a disability at all! Check it out).

KEY QUESTION/S: What is different about my character? Why? How does this relate to what s/he does in the story or the other characters around him/her? MORE: 4 Easy Tips On Writing An Awesome Disabled Character

4) It’s all about ‘the same … but DIFFERENT’

Much has been made on social media about how TSOW is ‘really’ just SPLASH, plus imho it’s also a version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (only with a fish-man). For some, this means TSOW is derivative and thus supposedly ‘unworthy’ of Best Picture.

I call shenanigans. ALL concepts in storytelling are ‘versions’ of something that has gone before. Some are obvious – like TSOW – others are less obvious. Fact is, there had not been a version of this particular story played out LIKE this one, before … Unless you count Abe Sapien’s romance with Princess Nuala in HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (which guess what, was also by Guillermo Del Toro!).

KEY QUESTION/S: What is my story LIKE? How is mine DIFFERENT? MORE: 7 Steps To Road Test Your Concept

5) Secondary and peripheral characters HELP or HINDER the leads

Giles is the stand-out secondary in TSOW in my opinion. In movies, when a protagonist is silent, like Elisa, we need a character who is the ‘voice’ (much like Timothy Q. Mouse is in DUMBO). Giles then is not just a translator for Elisa, but a sounding board.

In a lesser writer’s hands, Giles would have come off flat and boring, but Giles is three-dimensional: he’s an older gay man, who like Elisa, is an outsider. He’s a little vain, a little cowardly, but he’s also a talented artist with dreams. Ultimately Giles has integrity and compassion. He is understanding when the creature kills his beloved cat and he will ultimately stand up for what is right.

Zelda, Elisa’s best friend and colleague at the cleaner’s, is another great secondary. She has built a persona for herself as someone who is loud and effervescent, to deal with the crap in her life. This centres not just around racism in 1960s America, but also her husband, Brewster. Zelda wants a quiet life, hence her reluctance to help Elisa, but ultimately she will come through for her. We know this, because she always keeps Elisa’s place for her in line at the clocking-in machine, from the very beginning of the movie.

Moving on from ‘helping’ to ‘hindering’ then, we have Dr Robert Hoffstetler, who is an intriguing mixture of both. The Doctor has his own problems, which spill into Elisa’s world. He’s told by BOTH his bosses – American and Russian – to kill the creature, so he helps Elisa for the sake of science, or what’s ‘right’. This of course means he is the weakest link in this story, which can be exploited by Strickland.

From there, we have General Hoyt. In charge, he doesn’t care HOW things get done, as long as it gets done. Refreshingly, he doesn’t have to resort to threats (at least at first): instead, he appeals to Strickland’s desire to get things done, both flattering him and hinting at what *could* happen if he doesn’t. Hoyt is Strickland’s own antagonist in effect, which then places the second man at loggerheads with Elisa and the creature.

KEY QUESTION/S: Who are my secondary characters? What are their role functions? Do they HELP or HINDER my protagonist? Why? MORE: 5 Male Secondary Characters Who Teach The Protagonist

6) Never give up

Elisa’s journey in THE SHAPE OF WATER connected with many people. Her desire to do what’s right made her a hero in many people’s eyes. Standing up for the underdog – even if it’s a weird fish-man – is something many audiences can relate to.

More importantly, Elisa’s devotion to the creature never wavers during the movie. No matter how weird the plot got, her love for it was never in question, nor did she betray it, or even attempt to walk away. She is pure of heart and in a world of flawed heroes, this feels new.

As a Del Toro fan, I can see certain parallels with his career as well. Every filmmaker must want an Oscar, not to mention the adulation of his/her peers. It’s taken Del Toro a long time to get to this point, with much blood, sweat and tears along the way. But he made it. He got Best Picture. Good for him!

KEY QUESTION/S: What is my character’s journey, literal and metaphorical, here? Plus why do I want to write this story? MORE: THIS Is The Difference Between Amateur And Pro Writers

Good luck!

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1) Not realising that it’s NOT ABOUT YOU

One of the most important things I learned about giving notes is to make it about the script and not the writer. This is not personal. This is about a piece of writing. This is about improving that writing and it’s not saying you’re a bad person or a bad parent or a cheating husband or any of that. I once had a client whose pilot was about a husband and wife divorcing and the notes wrote stated that the wife was unlikable and hard to connect to. He was furious and told me so, slamming me on social media. Later we found out the character was based on his wife with whom he was going through a difficult divorce.

TAKEAWAY:  Don’t project yourself onto the notes. You may have work to do. We ALL can improve in everything we do. Even Martin Scorsese gets a bad review now and again. MORE: Top 5 Feedback Mistakes Writers Make

2) Not finding the RIGHT consultant or feedback-giver

This might take time and word of mouth probably helps a lot but find the right consultant or script competition – however you’re getting notes – for you. Look for one that writes in a way that works for you (like whether you need oral or written directions to the store). Some consultants focus on commercial viability, some hammer the writer on the don’ts and not enough on the do’s. Some offer suggestions and teach, some break notes up into CHARACTER/THEME/STORY and so on and others simply go from back to front and take you page by page. Ideally the consultant isn’t just telling you what’s wrong but telling you what’s right and where things can be improved. As well, they ought to teach or give suggestions as to how to make changes. FYI, Finish Line goes front to back and offers suggestions on how to fix things as well as gives overall ideas in a page of general comments. We don’t use ‘you need to’, ‘you should’ nor do we address commercial viability. We are about the writing.

TAKEAWAY:  Getting notes isn’t supposed to be a sado-masochistic process. Find a company or person that is honest and communicates truths the way you hear them best. MORE: How To Use Feedback Effectively

3) Treating notes like they’re written in stone

Everything written is a suggestion. No one ought to tell you how to change your script so it’s not your script anymore. That’s not their job. Your script is your ownership and your voice and some blood, sweat and tears has likely gone into it. Don’t take a note if it doesn’t feel right. If you’re questioning something, and you can afford to or have access to helpful friends/writing colleagues, send your script to a few places and see if you get the same note from all. If it changes what you want to say, don’t take it unless you agree what you want to say needs changing.

TAKEWAY:  Good script consultants are helpful but they aren’t you. You know what you want to say better than anyone. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. MORE: 6 Things to Remember When Dealing With Feedback

4) Not following up or asking for clarification on notes

When choosing a place to get notes from, inquire whether you can have follow-up questions with your consultant (via email at least). Notes are coming from someone skilled in the craft of writing, using terms like ‘inciting incident’ and referring to different acts and scene structure. If you are not a seasoned writer, some of the terminology in notes may be foreign to you. We always offer writers the opportunity to follow up in order to make sure the entirety of the notes is absorbed. if you get notes and simply think, “I have no idea what this means” you’re probably not going to do any revisions.

TAKEWAY: Get the most you can for the money you pay. Make sure you can get clarification if you need it. The customer is the boss. MORE: 5 Ways To Evaluate Your Feedback

5) Judging the consultant or feedback-giver

I once gave notes to someone who ripped me apart because I didn’t know certain hipster speak and my note was that I felt that it was distancing my ability to relate to the story. If I am feeling that way, others might too. We may not all be as cool as you. Make sure you keep scripts readable, even if you want to make them unique. There are lots of ways to create an environment without making it exclusive.

TAKEWAY:  You don’t have to agree with everything, but do consider everything. MORE: Top 5 Winning Tips From The Finish Line Script Competition

BIO: The Finish Line Script Competition offers 6+ pages of development notes and allows you to resubmit new and improved drafts for free. We are currently open for Early Bird Submissions. When you purchase 6+ pages of notes you’re automatically entered in the competition. We’re all on a learning curve in life – find someone who is there to help you along the way!

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B2W likes to offer perspectives from writers on the ‘X Things I Learned’ series, not just about writing or careers, but also some of the weirder things our lives may include from time to time … Cue children’s author Maz Evans, who went SUPER viral on Twitter recently!

If you’re on there, you may have seen this play out in real-time, like me. Here’s what Maz learnt during a crazy 72 hours and I’m sure it’ll pop up in her writing at some point. It’s all material! Over to you Maz …

It was no big deal. I was awaiting a flight to Glasgow, banging away on my laptop as usual. A man tossed a business card on my table. ‘Get in touch if you’re ever looking for secretarial work,’ he said in passing. ‘I’m always looking for fast typists.’

I stopped him, returned his business card with a smile and said that as I was working on a Sunday, I was the one who could use secretarial support. But given that anachronistic gender assumptions weren’t part of the job description, he had just failed the interview.

He roared with laughter, apologised for being ‘a bit of a dinosaur’ and offered to buy my lunch. I quipped that as I’d been inundated with job offers sitting there, I was flush, so no thanks. He laughed, we wished each other a safe journey and I went back to my laptop. I recorded this little fraction of life on Twitter, as I regularly do, and boarded my flight. That really was it.

But when I reached Glasgow and switched my phone back on again, I had over 10,000 notifications on Twitter. And over the next two days, they just kept on coming. My tweet had gone viral – and I was about to get a crash course in what happens when social media goes nuts.

Here are the 5 things I learned from 72 crazy hours:

1) Timing is everything and nothing

Maybe this tweet surfed on the wave of discussion about the professional treatment of women, maybe the Twittersphere was bored of a Sunday. But my feminism is neither new nor especially remarkable – I had posted many such wry observations before – why this one flew, I’ll never know. MORE: 6 Ways To Great Ideas From Social Media

2) The world is good

The overwhelming majority of tweets were supportive and congratulatory – or found it funny, as did I. It’s so easy to get hung up on negativity – as a writer, I am painfully aware of this – but actually, most people are good and kind. Oh, unless a certain right-wing daily newspaper decides to print your (unauthorised) story. Many who commented on that are akin to the non-descript fungal fodder I scrape off the back of my fridge. MORE: 5 Debates On Female Writers That Really Need To Die

3) Wow, we’ve got a long way to go

That said, what staggered me was how many respondents couldn’t see that this man’s behaviour was at best, presumptuous, at worst, sexist. The main criticism I received was that I had been arrogant and the man was just being nice – how would I have responded if he’d offered a similar job to a man? Or a more senior job to me? But that was rather my point. He didn’t. MORE: Top 5 Social Media Mistakes

4) Sisters aren’t doing it for themselves

Sadly, I have made this observation in life, but some of the most vicious attacks I received were from other women. Some felt I was demeaning secretarial work, which couldn’t be further from the truth – I worked as a PA for years, no-one respects that profession more than I. But if we are divided, we’ll continue to be conquered. Girls, we need to stick together. MORE: 5 Problems With Female Leads

5) And this too shall pass

For three days, I dreaded looking at my phone. I received everything from celebrity endorsements, to rape and death threats. I took neither more seriously than the other. But it made managing my Twitter a total nightmare as I use it to communicate with my readers and those tweets were getting buried. But then it petered out. The world kept on turning. It was another bizarre moment in my crazy life and it passed. Just like everything always does. MORE: How To Use Social Media To Market Your Novel

Am I wiser, more cautious, chastened for the experience?

Am I heck.

It was a bit of a lark and life moves on. As one of my favourite literary heroines, Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing remarks, ‘foul words is but foul wind and foul wind is but foul breath’. I have a thousand new Twitter followers and a comedy newspaper cutting to show that it happened.

And if this writing malarkey doesn’t work out, I have a nailed-on job offer. No harm, no foul.

BIO: Maz’s debut children’s novel Who Let the Gods Out was published by Chicken House in February 2017 and was selected as the Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month. It entered the bestseller charts on its first week on sale, has sold to 17 countries worldwide and has received over 20 award nominations, including the Carnegie Medal, Branford Boase, Books Are My Bag and Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Year. The sequel, Simply the Quest was published in August 2017, Beyond the Odyssey in April 2018 and Book 4 will publish in 2019. Maz also narrates the audiobooks for the series. Follow her on Twitter as @MaryAliceEvans.

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