The ‘X Things I Learned’ series is becoming a REALLY great source of insider and ‘behind the scenes’ info — if you want to share the insights you’ve learned out in the industry; on a course; when you met a famous writer — or something else! – then please do get in touch. Us Bang2writers want to hear all about it!

In the meantime, here’s another perspective on pitching in Hollywood for you. If you recall, Tim gave his POV 3-4 of years ago, so here’s KT with her own nuggets of wisdom. Enjoy …

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Whether you’re pitching in London or Hollywood, it’s all about getting a great story across in a way that engages and captivates the person you’re in the room with.

Still, there are a few cultural differences between the two that it’s worth knowing about. Here’s what I learnt …

1) Agent Representation is a whole different ballgame

Here in the UK, if we’re lucky, we have an agent and they’re a tremendous support to us on the business side. They may help us develop a strategy for our writing career, read and give notes on our work, send our work out and maybe get us some meetings, put us forward for commissions, negotiate deals, handle the contract and chase the money.  For this they charge us 10-15% of our earnings plus VAT.

In Hollywood, this work is divided up between three different specialists: the manager; the agent and the lawyer. They charge 10%, 10% and 5% respectively, and yes, you do need one of each. Begin with a manager. They take the time to nurture and bring on new writers. Only when you’re ready to do your first deal will you get an agent (by law only agents can make deals) and that’s also when you’ll bring a lawyer on board.

Here’s the really big difference: in London they say take your time, because choosing your agent is like choosing your spouse – this may be a career-long partnership. In Hollywood, the situation is more fluid. You may get dropped if you don’t bring in enough commission, or you might be the one to switch if your team isn’t helping you win enough work. MORE:  5 Things Agents Do

 2) Don’t drift off and get lost in the weeds when you pitch

Hollywood pitches are really short. They basically consist of the logline + “what this film is” + the unique selling proposition(s).

By “what this film is”, producers mean the concept. It’s the concept that sells the film to investors. Producers get on the phone to potential investors and say, “I’ve got this great movie. It’s this [your concept].”

You’ll know when you’ve got a good one because they’ll say, “Yeah, I can sell that.” 6-10 words is ideal. Legend has it that ‘Alien’ was sold with just these words: “It’s ‘Jaws’ in space.”

The unique selling proposition is the hook for the audience. Try to describe your film in 15 words or less – not the story, more what it’s about. If you were selling, “Hidden Figures,” you might say, “It’s about three black women working at N.A.S.A. during the space race.” Now that sounds absolutely fascinating, doesn’t it?

In addition to this short pitch, you may be asked to go into more detail about the turning points in the story, because that’s where the emotion spikes, or perhaps the characters, especially if you discuss casting, but more of that anon …

3) Know your strengths and hone in on 1 genre – to begin with

On our small island, to make a decent living, a writer needs to be versatile across a range of formats and even genres. Not so much in Hollywood. Managers and Agents will want you to focus on one genre – at least to begin with. This is because their job is based on networking and there are so many people they have to get to know and market you to in any given genre. You make their life difficult if you genre-hop, as they have to start all over again building up your reputation with the folk who deal with that different genre, and that makes it harder for you to get traction.

If you don’t already know, figure out what your genre is. It’s OK to have one of your scripts be outside of that genre, as long as you can connect it to the rest of your body of work by theme – but only one. MORE: 14 Things I Learned Pitching In Hollywood

 4) Producers want to work with writers who are competent and confident

Any meeting is as much about you as a person as your work. Before I went to Hollywood the first time, I was lucky enough to be mentored by Julian Fellowes. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was, “don’t do the British self-deprecation thing”.

He told me about an experience he had when he was up for an acting job in Hollywood that he really wanted and that he was eminently suitable for. They asked him if he was good at a certain thing, which of course he was, and he answered, “Well, I’m quite good at it”. That “quite” killed his chances dead.

Use positive statements to describe your skills. Banish “quite”, “a bit” and “a little” as qualifiers. But don’t be too cocky!

 5) Set aside some dreaming time to work out your dream cast and crew

The rule of thumb in the UK is: don’t mention the actors you’d like to bring your work to life, unless you’re specifically asked to give suggestions. Casting is the director’s prerogative, so you may never be asked.

In Hollywood, you absolutely have to be prepared to discuss casting and potential directors. You’ll find that it’s one of the most fun parts of the meeting when whomever you’re talking to gets all excited and says, “this would be perfect for [insert big-name director or actor]!”

Make sure you’ve thought about your cast and crew, and have something interesting and relevant to say to back up your suggestions.

Ready to take Hollywood by storm? The best of British luck to you! MORE: 6 Ways To Make Hollywood Fall In Love With Your Pitch

BIO: KT Parker is an award-winning screenwriter and produced playwright. She spent two months in Hollywood at the end of 2016, attending meetings set up for her by Roadmap Writers Top Tier Program and through the Hollywood Field Trip, both of which she highly recommends. You can connect with her on social media on Twitter as @lunaperla and via her WEBSITE.

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My debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. I made a lot of wrong turns when writing the novel, so I hope that what follows will help provide some shortcuts for those considering writing fiction based on fact. Good luck!

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1) Thinking using a ‘pre-made’ story will make the writing process easier

Writing fiction based on fact is by no means easier than creating a story entirely from scratch. In some ways, it’s more difficult. It’s common to feel hamstrung by the truth and unable to create; or to believe you have to do so much research, that you never actually finish the bloody book. And there are also legal considerations. If you’re writing about real people who are still alive and litigating, then you need to be very careful that you don’t open yourself up to a libel action. Even you change the people’s names, they can still bring an action if they say that others would identify them from your novel. If you’re using original materials still in copyright, you need to make sure you get the relevant permissions.

Writing fiction based on true stories is great, and there’s definitely a market for it, but don’t fool yourself that it’s the easy option. MORE: How True Can A True Story Be? 

2) Believing you must stick rigidly to the facts

You don’t have to stick to the known facts if you don’t want to (subject to the ‘avoiding being sued’ bit above if you’re writing about alive, identifiable people). You’re not a historian or a biographer – you’re a novelist. You get to have fun. It’s easy to fixate on what experts on your subject might think of your interpretation, and of course you should do enough research to make sure you’re not making any serious errors, but as the novelist Emma Darwin recently said to me: ‘Your novel, your rules.’ See below.

3) Thinking you must do as your literary hero does

Just because Robert Harris did it a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to. Set realistic targets for yourself at the outset of the project as to how you’re going to research and interpret the facts.

I began The Unseeing with the idea that I’d abide by the premise Margaret Atwood set herself for Alias Grace, namely that, ‘When there was a solid fact, I could not alter it.’ Only by draft 8 had I worked out I needed to let go of some of the precious facts and concentrate instead of creating a novel that was true to itself and worked within the genre. MORE: Top 5 Research Mistakes Writers Make

4) Believing you need to research everything before you start writing

Research is the easiest way to avoid writing a novel. I’d suggest doing some initial broad research and then working out the arc of your novel, or even a detailed plot structure. Next work out what further research you need to do to write the first draft. While you’re writing the first draft, determine the specific questions to which you need to find answers. Otherwise you could (and probably will) fall into the terrible black hole of research and will never be seen again.

5) Thinking the true history is THE story

The historical reality or the truth of the court case is not the plot of your novel. What matters are your main characters’ arcs: the journey they take over the course of the novel. People will be reading you novel for the story – for the escapism – not for the facts. If they want facts, they can head for the non-fiction section. Think of yourself as a literary witch mixing together your research and imaginings to provide the reader with a different kind of truth – what it’s like to fear, to love, to escape, to survive. Do whatever you want, just do it well. MORE: 5 Ways Of Bringing Real Life Into Storytelling

BIO: Anna Mazzola writes historical crime fiction and strange short stories. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of Sarah Gale who in 1837 was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of another woman. The Unseeing comes out in paperback in the UK on 26 January 2017, and is published in the US on 7 February. Follow her as @Anna_Mazz and CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE.

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Very often, writers will tell me they have a ‘strong female character’ or a ‘feminist’ story in their spec screenplay or their unpublished novel. This is cool, but it rarely works out this way – in fact, there are LOADS of female character traps writers can fall into. Supersadface.

But at grass roots level, very often the biggest issue is writers are simply TRYING TOO HARD. It’s all very well trying to appeal to femcrit bloggers or reviewers, but the reality is, those peeps are NEVER happy. Don’t believe me? Check out the Google search results for ‘Max Max Fury Road Feminist’, I’ll wait here …

… Oh hai! You’re back. I bet that was fun, right? 300K+ results and no one can agree whether it’s feminist or not. But simply: WHO CARES. What we want is a brilliant STORY, not a box-ticking exercise or female characters jammed in for the sake of it.

But the fact remains, we live in a male-dominated world … and we frequently view stories through that lens. Now, not all stories need what I call ‘GIRL POWER’ (even those with female leads!), but it can help us as writers — especially if we want to stand out in that mountainous spec pile. Here’s 3 ways on how to do this. Enjoy!

1) Utilise the ‘female experience’

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Now, let me be the first to say, ‘personality first, gender second’ BUT there are certain experiences those born female may have in their lives that male-borns simply won’t.

The most obvious (but not limited to) are periods, pregnancy and childbirth. We’ve seen some great stories placed around these elements, my favourite being Carrie by Stephen King. A story of puberty and ‘growing away’ from parents, not to mention finding your place in the hostile world of high school and relationships, it’s no accident Carrie’s telekinesis is linked to her started her period; nor is it that she ends the story drenched in blood.

I was a teenager when I read this book and I was BLOWN AWAY by King’s insight into growing up as a teen girl, so you don’t have to be female to do this. Anyone can grasp the ‘female view’ – but you have to be prepared to research. Even if you are female yourself, don’t rely on your sole experience. Two heads – or more – are always better than ONE! MORE: 5 Problems With Female Leads

2) Gender flip your characters

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This is the element most favoured by the industry and spec writers alike – simply place a female in what we perceive as the male’s place, traditionally: in other words, have a female lead, instead.

There once was a time, not so long ago, when gender flips on their own worked. We’d been so used to seeing a man, ANY female lead seemed ‘fresh’. This was most obvious in the cases of Kickass Hotties like Celine (the UNDERWORLD franchise) and Alice (the RESIDENT EVIL franchise). Now, I enjoy both of these characters, they’re iconic and cool and look fabulous. But they’re not well-written, any more than any MALE kickass hottie. They are simply ‘the female equivalent’. And why not.

But things have started to change in the last five or six years. A straight gender flip is no longer that effective. Now, audiences demand something ‘more’ to our female leads, so even Kickass Hotties have to have better back stories and motivations.

This is why I liked DIVERGENT so much. Tris is not ‘unique'; she is not the only divergent in the actual story, so we’re not mining the ‘Chosen One’ trope, which I personally find incredibly boring. However, it is still her story. This is refreshing.

What’s more, Tris is kickass: she’s fearless – literally Dauntless, as her new faction demands – but she also has what we would assume are ‘feminine’ qualities too, coming from her original tribe, Abnegation.

Tris is true to herself, too. Though she must literally abandon her family to join Dauntless in order to strike out on her own as an adult, her first tattoo is of three birds in tribute to her parents and brother. She shows love and compassion to herself, her colleagues and the world.

Lastly, what I liked most is Tris is mentally capable. She is not just brave, she can deal with her own fear. This is not a ‘female’ quality, but rather a human one – BUT this is something we don’t often associate with female characters, which is why the gender flip here is so interesting. MORE: Book Versus Film – 8 Reasons Why DIVERGENT Works As Both

3) Inject Female POV into your Storyworld

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As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we live in a male-dominated world … And as a result, MOST writers will reflect that in their writing.

Sometimes, it’s called for – in a story in which a female character is ‘up against it’, it might be a good idea to show how the storyworld is against her, too. A writer may want to ISOLATE her literally and symbolically, showing one female character and lots of male ones.

However, this can be overdone. In MAD MAX FURY ROAD, the storyworld is highly male-dominated, yet with Furiosa and The Wives, that’s a whopping SIX female characters at the heart of the story (and that’s before you count The Action Grannies!). Immediately, the high number of females in the cast makes it feel ‘fresh’.

However, writers can go ONE FURTHER. In TV show The 100 – in earlier series at least – the characters live in a matriarchy. The female characters are IN CHARGE. Whether highly-educated Skypeople, tribal Grounder warriors, or digital killer computer holograms, female characters DRIVE this storyworld and nothing can happen without their say-so.

Now, writers don’t have to have to have LITERAL matriarchies like The 100 (though there’s absolutely no reason you can’t), but what if your female characters RUN your storyworld? This might be mean you have an all-female cast; or it might mean women take up the significant main role functions, with men relegated to lesser ones (for once!). Why not? What could you lose/gain from flipping it like this? MORE: The 1 Gender Swap That Could Make All The Difference In Your Story

Good luck!

me-in-front-of-bisr-powerpointCheck out my course, in conjunction with Londonswf, at Ealing Studios! The next one is just over a month away, February 11-12th. Check out all the details HERE, including pix from previous courses and delegate feedback. If you want to be a script reader yourself, or learn how your script gets assessed ‘behind the scenes’, then this course is FOR YOU.

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2015 ended on an incredible high for Apple Park Films and we were keen to capitalise on the momentum this gave us, so we set about developing a short film. As a writer I struggle with the short film format, so I put out an open call for short film bloglines. We received over 200 applications, which lead to us producing Emotional Motor Unit.

What follows are 6 things that I learned from being on the other side of the process and working with another writer’s work:

1) Only send what you’re asked for when responding to an open call

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but out the two hundred applications we received there were still far too many who didn’t adhere to this. We did an open call for loglines because we wanted to buy a script that was ready to go, but didn’t have time to syphon through the sheer amount of scripts we knew we would receive. One gentleman sent a package containing no less than twenty short film scripts and others sent me résumés and told me to get in touch so we could develop an idea together.

TOP TIP: If someone asks for loglines? Just send loglines. MORE: Top 5 Tips For Writing Effective Query Letters And Emails

2) Your logline is your selling point

We received two hundred applications to our call; many of which contained at least two loglines and some up to five. The team had to shortlist that number down to twenty-five. You may have had an amazing script, but if the logline didn’t grab our attention in the first pass then it didn’t matter.

TOP TIP: A great logline should jump out at the reader and tell them everything they need to know. MORE: Top 5 Longline Mistakes Writers Make 

3) Proper formatting is the least you can f**king do!

I stole this particular line from the live script edit Lucy hosted during the 2016 London Screenwriter’s Festival. We requested 25 screenplays; 3 of them were formatted incorrectly. These weren’t minor mishaps; all three used the wrong font and wrong layout. It may make me sound miserable, but poor formatting suggests you haven’t learned the basics of your craft, and so may not be able to craft an engaging story. With all the free software out there today there really is no excuse.

TOP TIP: Make sure your formatting doesn’t interrupt the ‘flow’ of the read. Check out The B2W Format 1 Stop Shop for every major mistake or issue Lucy sees on a regular basis, plus what to do about them.

4) If a Producer/Director says no, it’s not personal

One chap sent an abusive email stating that his résumé should have been enough to demonstrate meeting him was ‘worth’ my while. It wasn’t and he needs to get over himself.

Another applicant called me a hack that didn’t know what he was doing – this individual hadn’t formatted their script correctly.

These are just two of the many replies like this we received. Behaving this way makes you seem difficult to work with, which would come to a head when we have to start making changes.

TOP TIP: An open call literally opens a door to you … Don’t slam it shut with a shitty attitude! MORE: Can’t Get Read? Yes You Can! 16 Top Tips On Becoming A Writer

5) There is a difference between brevity and thin writing

Your script shouldn’t be littered with camera directions, false movement and unnecessary descriptions, we all know this; at the same time your writing needs to excite the person reading it. Brevity means getting your ideas across in a visual, action lead, exciting manner, in as short a space as possible. Thin writing is unimaginative, boring and usually consists of character movements and dialogue. There’s no pizazz or life.

Directors need to be excited by your writing, if we’re not excited then we won’t expect anyone else to be and the best way to get us excited is to write in a way that we can see, feel and smell the world and the characters. Of the 25 scripts we received only three of them excited me and jumped off the page into my head.

TOP TIP: Show us your writer’s voice, we don’t need vanilla screenplays! MORE: How To Identify And Own Your Writer’s Voice

6) Be open to discussion with the Director about changes

Xènia, the Writer on Emotional Motor Unit, was incredibly open to the changes we needed to make, many due to budgetary constraints, but also because of the age gap between our two leads we cast and how that would change the dynamic of the central relationship.

The one thing that impressed me most was how she stood her ground on one particular point I wanted to change. She did so in a manner that was honest, open and felt like two people collaborating as opposed to a wrestling match for control.

In the end we compromised and when filming the scene I realised she was right. Much like how you respond if you get a ‘no’, when you feel a note from the Director is wrong don’t be a dick about it and refuse the note — talk about it! Sometimes the Director will overrule you and that’s the nature of the medium I’m afraid.

TOP TIP: Being a bad sport will just sour what could be a fruitful relationship … And relationships are everything in this game!

BIO:  Adam Nelson is a Writer/Director from Portsmouth on the south coast of England. His work includes the critically acclaimed and award winning films Little Pieces and Emotional Motor Unit. He owns the production company Apple Park Films and is currently developing his second feature film.

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So, I found this on Linkedin recently and it really resonated with me. It was from some boardroom – a world not really applicable to writers – but for the me, the sentiment here was really useful. Here’s why …

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1) Be on time

Being ‘on time’ as a writer is not the literal, clock in/clock out of 9-5. Rather, being on time is KNOWING WHAT IS GOING ON in your own industry. I’m always shocked by how few writers know who is making what; which publishers are which; which agents are looking (and who isn’t); even when competition deadlines are! Yet, having a writing and submissions strategy, plus setting goals and sticking to them, is absolutely key in getting ahead as writer! MORE: 5 Career Strategies For Writers

2) Work ethic

Most writers believe they work hard. But I think working hard is for suckers – we should be working SMARTER. What’s more, people will think you’re working hard because you’ll get so much more done, so you’ve killed two birds with one stone. If you don’t know the difference between the two, check out this great article from WikiHow.

3) Effort

One of my favourite movies last year – surprisingly, to me at least – was Marvel’s DEADPOOL. First off, cos 2016 needed a laugh and secondly, because of Deadpool’s mantra, which is also mine — MAXIMUM EFFORT:

Deadpool is the kind of guy who will do his best at any given task, but knows how to kick back, too. Whilst his tasks include beating bad guys to a pulp and ‘kicking back’ means masturbating to a toy unicorn, I think we can all understand the lesson here as writers. MORE: 6 Tips For Boosting Writing Productivity

4) Body Language

Whether online or in meetings, knowing how you present to the world and owning it is key to success in any field. But the best thing is, you can be as weird and wacky as you like when you’re a creative and no one cares (unless you’re a whinger or an asshole). So whoever you are, embrace it and show the world.

5) Energy

As a caveat to 4) on this list, POSITIVE ENERGY takes you soooooo far in this game. Saying ‘yes’ is key when the world is full of ‘nos’ for your work or your worldview.

6) Attitude

Always, writers will say ‘Why me?’ to which I say, ‘Why NOT me?’ It’s gotta be someone, after all. Seriously. So WHY NOT YOU?

7) Passion

If you love your story, that’s a great start. If you don’t, stop now. I’m not even kidding. STOP NOW. Find a story you love, or go be an accountant.

8) Being Coachable

I like to help writers. Sometimes, one will catch my eye and I will try and help them on something specific, in my own time. This will by and large because I think they have some kind of merit, but also because I think they deserve a helping hand as well.

So I’m always surprised by those few who DEFLECT any advance I make to them, either by refuting my advice or not following up any referral I give them. Not because I am hurt or worried about it, but because I feel sorry for them!!! They’re so closed off, they don’t recognise potential opportunities literally being given to them.

In short, being coachable is not about begging industry pros for help, but rather UNDERSTANDING when and where opportunities are STARING YOU IN THE FACE. MORE: Top 5 Mistakes Pro Writers Make

9) Doing Extra

No one on the planet says, ‘You know what I DON’T want? Extra stuff that WILL help me in some way’. 

People ALWAYS love extras. There’s a phrase by the way that ALWAYS makes you look awesome >> ‘under-promise, over-deliver‘. Live by this and you can’t go far wrong.

But you know what? That ‘extra’ doesn’t have to come at major cost to you. A *little* extra, or a lot, it performs the same function. People love you for extras, no matter what!! So give them a little extra, not a lot – and avoid burn-out (yes I learnt this the hard way).

10) Being Prepared

Aaaaaand we’re back to 1), essentially. KNOWING STUFF cannot be overrated. And it’s never been easier to find out!!! I swear the internet was made for us writers … So go get that info, or someone who knows the info. Know your own industry, know what you’re doing and where your place is now … and where you’re going. It can only help you. MORE: The Number 1 Epic Mistake Nearly ALL Writers Make

Good luck!

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Just some of the orgs B2W has read for

Check out my course, in conjunction with Londonswf, at Ealing Studios! The next one is just over a month away, February 11-12th. Check out all the details HERE, including pix from previous courses and delegate feedback. If you want to be a script reader yourself, or learn how your script gets assessed ‘behind the scenes’, then this course is FOR YOU.

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You don’t have to go far on the internet to find writers berating script readers … Because too often, writers just don’t understand what this job really entails! But as I’ve made it my business to demystify the submissions process on this blog, here’s a look at my job under the microscope … hope you find it illuminating!

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1) Industry pros RELY on script readers … and interns

Industry pros RELY on script readers … They will pay readers (or get them to work for free) because they have no time to read the scripts themselves. I know, cuz I’ve literally worked with them.

The most any reader ever gets asked to provide is a sample script report and/or to do a trial report. Occasionally, they might get interviewed. That said, the pool of readers is less clueless than it once was, thanks to blogs like B2W, screenwriting MAs and even actual script reading courses.

Some writers make assertions like ‘surgeons do not do their jobs unqualified’, but this is false equivalency. For one thing, script reading is not about life and death (it just feels like it for the writer).

But even if it were, in actual fact there ARE junior doctors and unqualified nurses still on their degrees on the wards, plus dentists working on patients when they’re still in training. When I was an unqualified teacher, like many thousands of others, I was let loose in the classroom with REAL kids and teenagers. How else could I learn to teach them??

In other words, you cannot get experience in your job without doing the actual job!

2) Scriptreading is about assessment

Some writers can be found on forums saying script readers are JUDGES. They’re not. They’re assessors. Readers are asked how they think a script works, with reference to certain criteria, which is not set by them.

Often these criteria have numbers attached, so scripts are scored. What’s more, in many environments scripts are read and scored multiple times. A third person may look over the scores and readers’ reports. I have had my work checked like this AND I’ve been the person doing the checking.

Assessing a manuscript or screenplay is NOT the same as writing one, it’s a whole other skillset. If we were to believe this wasn’t true, then it suggests no need for teachers … because after all, students can mark their own work, no? Ludicrous suggestion.

But okay, you agree FRESH EYES have to look over your screenplay. So do peer review. There’s absolutely no reason for you to pay for notes if you don’t want to, or lack funds. (Unfortunately for you, this doesn’t mean you’re any less likely to get assessed by a script reader, newbie or not, further down the submissions line).

3) Script reading and scriptwriting are two different skillsets

Following on from my first point, assessing narratives is not the same as building them. Having a talent for DE-constructing narratives does not necessarily translate itself to a talent for CONstructing them, or vice versa.

Yet all the time writers will insist on script readers ‘needing’ writing credits of their own to be ‘able’ to assess work. But would you say an architect should also be able to physically build a house, as well as design one? Now, some can, but not all do — yet we don’t all say that architects are all useless because most don’t get their hands dirty.

Similarly, there are many screenwriters out there capable of writing great scripts, but they provide shit notes. Not because they’re clueless at writing, but because they are simply  clueless in the art of giving notes!!

That said, some writers are intuitive and give great notes, too. And yes, I do believe the better a writer is at understanding feedback and giving it, the better they can be at writing. But this does take practice — and leads me on to my next point.

4) Script reading is an entry level job

As I frequently say on this blog and on my LondonSWF courses, work experience kids are reading our work. And yes, the more inexperienced a reader is, the more likely they will focus on niggly things like screenplay format, rather than structure and characterisation. Boo. Hiss.

But like it or not, script reading is an ENTRY LEVEL job. This is where people start. This is where they have always started. If writers don’t like that, then they should vote with their wallet and not enter paid-for competitions which will – and always have – used beginner readers. That’s just for starters.

Even so, you simply cannot avoid work experience readers in the industry. They are everywhere. Because people have to start somewhere!

Remember, many of them won’t JUST be reading; they will be office dogsbodies or runners as well, typically. So if not there, then where?

Yeah, still waiting.

In addition, the uncomfortable truth is, just because someone has little experience does not mean they have nothing to offer. Every writer knows this, really. Like new writers have to ‘earn their stripes’, so do readers. To say otherwise is both futile AND facile — new writers have just voted themselves out of the industry!

5) Writers think script readers are more powerful than they are

Script readers have NO LITERAL POWER over writers. It’s even possible to write a scathing report about a script you dislike so much your brain explodes just thinking about it … And yet it STILL gets made!! (And yes, this has happened to me).

Writers earnestly believe script readers hold waaaaay more power than they actually do. It holds writers back and makes them think there this is big bad cabal of people keeping them out.

Nope. You can unlock the door at any given moment, by writing that awesome screenplay that stands out from the plethora of others.

This is the reality: script readers WANT your script to be awesome but more importantly, to BE MARKETABLE. Hell, we’d be happy it if it was RELEVANT. 9/10 I’m assessing work that doesn’t even vaguely hit the brief or remit I’ve been set! (More on this, next).

But as I always say: if you have something worth selling, people WILL buy it!

6) Script Readers’ Remits & Briefs Exist!

We hear often that script readers don’t know what they’re doing. But this notion that script readers – newbie or otherwise – are chucked into the spec pile with no remit or brief is false.

I have worked at countless places now and the remits and briefs and have been varied, including (but not limited to):

  • Agents who are looking for specific types of story and/or writer
  • Features and shorts that can be made on certain budgets
  • Screenplays with female leads (protagonist and/or antagonist)
  • Genres suitable for particular companies that specialise in them
  • Competitions that have a specific outcome (ie. Create50’s The Impact)
  • Schemes and initiatives that require a certain number of delegates – either the ‘best’ of the crop or sometimes, the most in need of help

But one thing they ALL share:

  • The BEST STORY possible in the pile at any given time.

Of course, what the ‘best story’ means depends wholly on the script reader – whether or not they’re good, bad, new or experienced. This will never change.

This Is The Reality

The vast majority of the assessment of those scripts will be incredibly basic and based only on the pages 1-10. i.e. Does it LOOK like shit? is the top one. Anyone can do that. That’s p1 out the way.

Pages 2-10 – if it’s not clear who the protagonist is or what the story is actually about by page 10? BAM! The script is gone. It’s really not rocket science, plus this information is literally all over the internet.

Script reading is an entry level job simply because no one wants to read the spec pile because literally 90% of it is not good – AS IN crap, or not useable, effective or relevant. Those are the three keywords every good writer should understand.

There’s this battle cry constantly from writers that there must be ‘loads’ of brilliant scripts out there NOT getting made … there isn’t. Anyone who’s ever dived in a spec pile can tell you that. Sure, mistakes get made, but overall if one’s scripts are getting rejected for a full read CONSISTENTLY then it’s likely the writer’s own fault.

This is what happens when it comes to submissions:

People like your writing … or they don’t.

That’s it.

There is no big secret.

There is no big conspiracy.

What’s more, ANYONE can like or dislike someone’s writing — you don’t need epic training for that! Storytelling is part of our culture.

Sure, there are shitty readers out there, but guess what: if they’re shit it doesn’t matter how much training they have, they’re filled full of nonsense and hot air on what makes a ‘good’ story. As a writer, you have to chalk it up and move on … and yup, I’ve done that too and yes, it IS really offing annoying when that happens!

But the good news is, the current crop of new readers out there are BETTER THAN EVER … because there IS loads of info out there for the wannabe, curious script reader! And if you want to be one too, check out my links below. Good luck!

Want MORE Script Reading Secrets?

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Just some of the orgs B2W has read for

My course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING (Feb 11-12th, 2017, Ealing Studios) is perfect not only for wannabe script readers, but savvy writers who want to know how script readers work. Can you afford to miss out??

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic on the right), including feedback from past delegates. We expect it to sell out again, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

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Writing for money is the dream, but it can turn into a nightmare. After all, you don’t get paid if you can’t meet those all-important deadlines … And the mere thought of rushing the work can make you desperate. It’s a pressure that’s not easy to handle.

The good news is: you’re not alone. All professional writers have experienced this, so the most committed ones have come up with hacks that keep them going. Here’s a few useful hacks to keep you going and make you money as a writer:

writing-success

1) Become your own worst critic

One of the great things about being a freelance writer is that you don’t have a superior breathing in your neck all the time. But this also means you have to kick your OWN arse!

So, when you get stuck, go through the work you’ve already completed. What mistakes do you notice? Fix them! As you continue making the piece better, you’ll keep getting ideas. You’ll be writing in full speed before you know it. MORE: 5 Questions To Help You Edit Your Work

2) Be Very, Very Organised

Use Pinterest or Pocket to keep all sources of inspiration in an organised way. Bookmark all articles that inspire you, as well as surveys, statistics, and research you can use to support your arguments. Don’t forget to use a good calendar, too. Google Calendar is a classic, but you can also try Cozi if you don’t like using what everyone else does. Or, you can write your daily/weekly schedules with the good-old pen-and-paper method. That always works.

When you develop a system that helps you organise all resources, your job as a writer will become less chaotic. Honest!

3) Network, Network, Network!

When you’re writing for money, it’s important to find the right clients. You can do that if you create profiles on platforms like Upwork, which connect writers with people who pay for their work.

Is that enough? No. If you limit your activity on these platforms, you’ll remain within the limits of being a ghost writer. You need to get your name out there.

LinkedIn is the solution. Create a brilliant profile and share links to your special publications. Moreover, be active on LinkedIn’s blog. Publish great content and you’ll make connections with important people in your niche. The greater your authority as a writer becomes, the more opportunities for jobs you’ll get.

Maintaining your own blog also belongs in the networking activities. Stay true to your schedule and publish high-quality pieces, even if they don’t bring you tons of money at first. As you make your blog more popular, you will start earning money from referral links and ads.

4) Polish Up Your Negotiating Skills

If you want to make a living writing, the first thing you need to do is pick the good offers. Some clients or publishers pay better than others. You want the ones who value your work fairly. When you notice that a client doesn’t commit to a payment schedule, you need to renegotiate the conditions of your collaboration.

Be as straightforward as possible. If someone forgot to pay, remind them. Just as importantly, if you realise you can’t complete the work on time? Don’t just ignore this! Instead, inform the client as soon as possible and explain why you need the deadline to be extended. If you know how to present your case, they will understand and you’ll still get your payment even if things don’t go as perfectly as planned.

5) Don’t Stop Looking for Opportunities!

When you find a client or website that pays well for your content, you may get stuck in a routine. You’ll be writing on the same topics over and over again. You’ll get bored, inevitably! Boredom leads to distractions, and distractions lead to decreased effectiveness. You know what that means: less work done and a lower paycheck. You can prevent that decline if you keep finding fresh opportunities that boost your potential.

Keep exploring platforms like WriteThisMoment. This one, in particular, features well-paying writing jobs that go well beyond article writing. Some clients ask for magazine content, others want you to write for blogs, and you can even land a job for fiction/poetry writing.

REMEMBER: You’re the one who’s responsible for making your own job diverse. With so many opportunities, you don’t have excuses for getting stuck. MORE: Connecting with Other Writers, Filmmakers & Agents Online

Most Important of All: Get Out of That Box!

You don’t have to stick to any rules when you’re a writer. You’re expected to be as creative as possible with the results you deliver. Transfer that creative approach to the way you work, too. Yes, you need a schedule and some level of organisation, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in a routine. Routines lead to despair. Despair leads to a mental and emotional blockade.

REMEMBER: you are not writing for the money. Such an approach would keep you stuck inside the box. You are earning money because you write well. Now we’re talking! Keep evolving and keep doing your best. The money will come.

These are the steps that will get you there:

The journey to becoming a well-paid writer is NOT easy. But with the right approach and enough persistency, you’ll get there!

BIO: Lisa Wheatly works for Top Aussie Writers in her spare time, where she creates unbiased essay service reviews. Lisa believes analytical thinking and an enquiring mind are her strongest points, and she does her best to put them to good use. Lisa is a consultant of young entrepreneurs, and she feels that her knowledge of the human mind allows her to accurately assess the abilities of the young business people.

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So it’s a new year … with plenty to grab our attention and lots to do on our projects, who’s got time for new year’s resolutions?? Well, if you have, here’s 5 resolutions you could implement RIGHT NOW … GOGOGO!

edit-like-a-killer-shark

1) Support marginalised creatives

Commit to seeing TEN movies by female directors. Read TEN novels by people of colour. Read e-zines and websites by gay and trans activists. Seek out films and TV shows by disabled writers and filmmakers. You get me.

Plus, perhaps most importantly: tell EVERYONE about the work you enjoy, especially on social media. Avoid slagging creative work off for the sake of it; try looking for the GOOD in projects, even if holistically you think they don’t work.

Discovering the various hierarchies and niches of the industry means you meet more people and see different ways of looking at the world. This can only be good for you, both in terms of actual writing, but making contacts too! MORE: 12 Character Archetypes And How To Use Them

2) Keep track of what you’re doing

Writers flounder when they don’t know what they’re doing. So whether you’re a long term planner, a week-by-week or a day-by-dayer, make sure you know a) what you’ve done vs. b) what you need to do NEXT to get where you want to be.

It doesn’t matter how you do it. I’m a week-by-weeker in terms of script editing/reading, generally. I have a TO DO list at the beginning of the week, which I cross off as the week goes by. If anything’s left, it ends up in the next week.

In terms of my own writing, I look ahead much further. Usually three months or so, sometimes longer. But whatever needs doing – word counts, submissions, meetings, etc – I set that goal and stick to it, evaluating and adapting it as I need to.

So, buy a notebook or diary; create notes to self on post-its; email yourself or set up an app. Whatever it takes, so you can GET WHAT NEEDS DOING, DONE. You’ll be more productive and what’s more, you won’t doubt yourself as much. Truth! MORE: How To Set Meaningful Goals And Stick To Them

3) Write in short bursts

Remember that old revision advice from school, ‘Never revise for more than 20 minutes before taking a break’?

Well, I try and do this (unless I get into the zone, then I might go as long as an hour). I always write my first drafts in short bursts. It keeps my brain fresh. (FYI, I don’t mean take five hours off for every 20 minutes’ work  … 5-10 minutes break is a good idea though. Go into the garden. Stroke your cat. Make a coffee. Go for a pee! It’s good for you). MORE: 10 Ways To Make A Good Impression As A Writer

4) Edit like a killer shark!

If I write first drafts in short bursts, I edit like a killer shark (my five year old does EVERYTHING ‘like a killer shark’).

But seriously, sharks attack their prey with a single-minded focus all us writers could learn from. Too often, writers seem scared of edits and feedback. What’s there to be scared of?? They’re just words – tools of our trade! – plus edits and feedback are very often not WRITTEN IN STONE. They’re suggestions. If you really don’t like them/think they don’t work, use them as springboards for your own ideas.

Me, I love edits and feedback. So I chomp on words until they’re ALL GONE. Or rather, rewritten. This means I DON’T take breaks every twenty minutes. I sit in the goddamn chair and churn them out until it’s done, by hook or by crook.

But yes, once I fainted because I got dehydrated. Don’t do that. That’s silly. MORE: 10 Tips For Being A Productive Writer

5) See the world a different way

We all surround ourselves with agreeable people and material. But good writers challenge themselves and interrogate their worldviews.

Go looking for DIFFERENT viewpoints, even ones that are alien or even repugnant to you. (You don’t have to engage with them – that’s the beauty of the internet, you can ‘watch’ from afar via social media).

So, try and work out HOW those people have come to those conclusions. Try and see the person behind the viewpoint. This doesn’t mean you have to condone them if they’re behaving badly – I still loathe everything Katie Hopkins stands for, but that doesn’t mean this interview with her by Jon Ronson doesn’t make for VERY interesting reading.

In short, understanding WHY other people do what they do (even if it’s warped logic!) will make your characters much more nuanced and less likely to fall foul of stereotype and two-dimensional, presumptive  tropes. MORE: 11 Things To Do NEXT As A Writer

Happy New Year!

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Here’s to 2017

So it’s (almost) a new year, so it’s time to take stock, decide what our writing strategy is, plus make meaningful goals and stick to them.

But before we do all that, now’s a great time to give ourselves a confidence BOOSTER. I get SOS messages, tweets and emails from writers all the time, but what they frequently boil down to is, ‘I worry it’s TOO LATE for me!’

NEWSFLASH – it is never too late. Now, I don’t want to put a downer on proceedings, but the facts are,  any one of us could die at literally any moment. So really, it doesn’t matter if you’re 19 or 90!

We probably won’t die though, so in which case USE YOUR TIME WISELY. This means, if you want to be a writer?? EFFING WRITE. Go for it. Why wouldn’t you? The 30 top creatives on the list below didn’t let anything get in their way in their dreams of success — least of all age!

As long as you’re still breathing, you got this. So go get it. And by the way, if you click on either of the pics in this post you can download the motivational poster as an A4 (PDF)  to print out and put up next your desk. Enjoy!

remember

Some motivation for you …

1) Frank McCourt was 66 years old when he published Pulitzer prize-winning Angela’s Ashes.

2) Cormac McCarthy might be most famous for his novels, but he was a whopping 80 years old before he wrote the screenplay for The Counsellor.

3) Vera Wang was 41 years old when she opened her first Design studio.

4) The Marquis De Sade wrote his first book in prison, aged 42!

5) Steve Carrell was 43 when The Office aired, making him a household name.

6) Julian Fellowes was 52 when he wrote the Oscar-winning Gosford Park. MORE: 10 Things I Learned From Julian Fellowes

7) Laura Ingals Wilder was in her 60s before she published the first of her Little House On The Prairie series.

8) Liz Smith didn’t have her acting breakthrough until she was 49 in Mike Leigh’s Bleak Moments.

9) Nora Ephron was 42 when she got her big break with Silk Wood.

10) Toni Morrison was 39 before she wrote her first novel. She won The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, when she was 62.

11) Richard Adams published classic children’s novel Watership Down when he was 52 years old.

12) Raymond Chandler published the awesome classic, The Big Sleep at 51. He wrote the screenplay for Double Indemnity at 56.

13) Steven Segal was 40 before he became an martial arts action hero thanks to Under Siege.

14) Ron Bass was 46 before he wrote the Oscar-winning Rain Man.

15) Charles S. Bukowski was 49 before he was able to devote himself to writing full-time.

16) William S. Burroughs was 45 before he released the controversial Naked Lunch.

17) Millard Kaufman might have written his first screenplay at 32 (which featured a certain Mr. Magoo), but he was 90 when his first novel was published!

18) Bram Stoker was 50 before he published the granddaddy of all vampire stories, Dracula.

19) Samuel L. Jackson was 40 before his breakthrough role in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever.

20) Morgan Freeman was 52 before his breakthrough role in Driving Miss Daisy. MORE: 15 Hard Truths About Screenwriting

21) Helen DeWitt published The Last Samurai when she was 41 and had already gone through many problems, including a suicide attempt.

22) David Webb Peoples was 42 when he wrote the sci fi classic Blade Runner.

23) Anthony Burgess, most famous for A Clockwork Orange, didn’t get his first novel published until he was 39.

24) Courtney Hunt, most famous for Winter’s Bone, was 44 when she wrote her first (Oscar-Nominated!) screenplay, Frozen River. MORE: 9 Female Screenwriters Worth Watching

25) George Elliot didn’t publish Middlemarch until she was 51.

26) Colonel Sanders was a whopping 62 years old when he came up with KFC!

27) Guillermo Arriaga was 42 when he wrote the amazing Amores Perros.

28) David Seidler wrote the screenplay for Malice In Wonderland when he was 48.

29) Rev. Wilbert Awdrey developed the stories for Thomas The Tank Engine and published them when he was 34.

30) Tragically, Anna Sewell wrote her classic children’s novel Black Beauty in the last months of her life, but at least lived long enough to see its massive success. MORE: Why It’s Never Too Late To Start Writing Your Masterpiece

CLICK HERE or on the pic below to download as a motivational poster to print out and display next to your desk! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

never-too-late_jpg-versionAnd DON’T FORGET — lots of writers on this list were even older than in their 50s when they broke through … If you’re still breathing and you’re still writing, then GO FOR IT!! What’s the worst that can happen??

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So, I’ve been working with a LOT of writers on their first drafts these past few months, both via mentoring schemes like LondonSWF’s Talent Campus, but also with individual writers (if you want to do this too, drop me a line for January, spots go fast).

It’s fair to say pretty much ALL writers struggle with first drafts!

New writers and more seasoned types may struggle with plotting in particular, but even pro writers have their own issues … I’ve noticed in the last couple of years character motivation can be a real bugbear for pro writers, even for those with hundreds of hours of television produced, or movies with renowned stars. After all, how much is ‘too much’? What is recognisable, yet still fresh? It’s such a fine balancing act.

So when I spotted this great infographic online, I had to share it. Though the creator is a novelist, I recognise many, many parallels with screenwriting too – as I’m sure you will as well.

So, check it out and don’t forget to check out the links below to help with your own drafting woes. Enjoy!

writing-a-first-draft-inforgraphic

From Natasha Lester, Author

Further Links:

Top 5 Mistakes Even Pro Writers Make

Don’t Get Stuck In The Story Swamp! Why Planning Works

2 Things ALL Writers Get Wrong In Early Drafts

5 Ways To Power Through Your First Draft

Top 10 Quotes on First Drafts

5 Visual Representations of Story Structure

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