Animated Inspiration

Animated properties like comic books, movies and TV shows are often popular with children – and more and more, we take these first loves into adulthood as well. It’s not hard to see why, either: our animated heroes – particularly superheroes – have many life lessons and morals to teach us.

Looking at icons such as Batman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman can be particularly useful to writers, whether we personally like them or not. After all, these are some of the most enduring characters of the modern age, meaning there are certain questions we can consider for our own, such as:

… And plenty more, besides.

Superhero Quotes

So, here’s a list of things animated superheroes have said … We can take on board their words not only in considering our own writing journey, but our own characters’ as well, plus what they are up against in the story world. Don’t forget to scroll down for more on this, too. Enjoy!

Inspirational Quotes from Superheroes and Comic Books - - Infographic

Princesses As Heroes

When it comes to animated content, I’ve never been much for comic books. Even though I have seen every superhero movie going thanks to my son and youngest daughter (who are HUGE Marvel and DC fans), I also have another daughter who was a passionate Disney Princess devotee when she was little.

Before I had her, I’d never really looked at or thought much about Disney Princesses. I was that bit too old to notice them when they first came out, plus I’d absorbed the stereotype that princesses automatically meant ‘damsel in distress’. No thanks!

However, unlike many of the commentators who persisted with saying Disney Princess movies are ‘bad for girls’, as I started watching them (and the entire back catalogue with my daughter), I began to notice something …

Like the superheroes, who are often lauded as having things to teach us, the princess narratives did too, based on the ‘hero’ mono myth:

  • Born into danger or royalty or both? CHECK! Disney Princesses are most often literal princesses and frequently in danger, often as a result of dead parents
  • Some kind of event (frequently traumatic) will act as a catalyst to set her on her quest – often those dead parents; or they are ostracised for some reason; or need to rescue someone/find answers; or they are curious
  • Leaves family or land and lives with others – CHECK!
  • Hero has a special weapon only she can wield? CHECK! (Very often this weapon will be figurative, as only Disney Princess characters know the truth or what’s ‘right’, in particular)
  • Hero may have supernatural help (maybe an outsider, maybe from within himself, or both) – SUPER-CHECK! Disney Princesses always have a side-kick and frequently use magic, or get others to use magic for them
  • She will go on a journey of some kind (often literal, as well as metaphorical) – again, CHECK.
  • The Hero must prove himself many times while on adventure – CHECK-CHECK-CHECKITY-CHECK!

Yet for SOME reason, superheroes are considered mostly GOOD, whilst Disney Princesses are considered mostly BAD by progressives, even those who say they would like more female leads on screen. Very strange.

Why the discrepancy?

Let’s be clear. Both superheroes and Disney Princesses have their ‘problematic’ elements. Superheroes, especially in movies, suffer from a lack of diversity in that they are mostly white, able-bodied, straight males. Whilst Disney Princesses have put WoCs front and centre as leads since the 90s, there’s never been a disabled princess … Plus the notion of being royalty and the way they are drawn, with tiny waists and European features is considered icky at best, for some.

But these things aside, there is still a major bias here, especially considering the journeys of both sets of characters are practically identical. After all, when was the last time you heard an adult say they liked Disney Princesses, like they do superheroes? If you’re friends with me,  you will have heard me say it … And you’ll have probably heard someone else say something along the lines of, ‘Really?? I thought you were a feminist!’

It’s almost as if superheroes get MORE of a free pass than Princesses … And superheroes are most often male, whereas Disney Princesses are ALWAYS female. Huh. What do you know!

Princess Wisdom

So, here’s some writing wisdom from *my* heroes the Disney Princesses … Many of these quotes resonate very strongly with me, especially Tiana’s which reminds me of Maya Angelou’s famous advice, ‘Nothing will work unless you do.’ I wouldn’t mind betting this was intended, either. Enjoy!

From She Knows

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Wanted: More Dialogue

More dialogue is something screenwriters always seem to want – chains and chains of it, in fact. I’ve written many, many times that too much dialogue is a HUGE problem in the spec pile.

Yet it would appear film researchers and commentators ALSO want more dialogue … especially when it comes to female characters. So, you don’t have to go far online to discover studies and articles galore about how male characters talk more than female characters generally. You may have seen this pic (below) doing the rounds of Facebook recently, which backs this assertion up:

Male as default = more dialogue

To be honest, it’s unsurprising to me that most of these Oscar-winning movies have males speaking more … Nearly every single one features a male protagonist and in most cases, a male antagonist too. As they are the main characters, the secondaries revolve AROUND them – that’s how screenwriting works.

(Of course, the eagle-eyed amongst you will see 2003 is missing … when Chicago won all the awards, which has multiple female leads and characters (and presumably, more dialogue for them!, so it doesn’t fit the agenda being pushed here. Also, let’s not forget THIS year’s Best Picture was The Shape of Water – in which our lead is mute, though to be fair this study pre-dates it).

Even Secondary Males Talk More?

However, it would appear male characters may talk more than female characters generally, even when the story has a female lead.

Some would say that it’s a ‘surprising irony’ that women don’t talk as much as men in Disney Princess Films, for example. After all, Disney is one of the few that kept the home fires burning for female leads over the last twenty five years. When everyone else was concentrating on male leads (especially in the nineties), this canon put women front and centre, including WoC leads.

This leads one of the Disney princess researchers, Carmen Fought to ask: “Are these movies really so great for little girls to watch? When you start to look at this stuff, you have to question that a little bit.”

(It should be noted at this point that apparently the research did not necessarily include songs as dialogue. Some say it did; others say it didn’t and I wasn’t able to get a definitive answer from the articles via Google. I’m inclined to think the former – probably 95% of Disney Princess movies are musicals and the protagonist gets the most songs as a general rule. This would surely skew the dialogue issue in the lead’s favour? But anyway.)

The Problem of Dialogue

Of course, there is a significant issue in measuring dialogue as being indicative of ‘good characterisation’, whether the character is male or female. The reason?

Well, as I always say on this blog – dialogue is the least important element of any screenplay! Now, whether you personally agree with that idea or not, screenwriters will know these screenwriting adages inside out, because they would have heard them many times:

Characters are not what they SAY, but what they DO.

In other words, great characterisation is a result of the characters’ ACTIONS in the story, not how many lines they speak … And a huge proportion of what characters DO relates to their role function.

Katniss Everdeen

Let’s put one of the most celebrated modern heroines under the microscope, Katniss Everdeen. (Whether you liked her or The Hunger Games personally is immaterial; as a character her cultural significance is HUGE, as she became an icon very quickly, especially amongst young girls).

As we can see from the graph below, Katniss has the most lines of dialogue in the movie. This again is unsurprising, because she is the protagonist. But then we can see the male secondaries in the movie (apart from Effie Trinket) also have a very large number of lines:

But again, this is unsurprising. Peeta might have the second number of lines, but he is the love interest, an important role function in YA properties. Haymitch is a mentor – again, another important role function, not only in YA, but in stories in which an underdog will rise. He will have a large number of lines, since it is through his support Katniss will be victorious. Frankly the only surprise here is that President Snow – the antagonist – comes so far down the list.

Sure, Peeta could have been a girl and Katniss could have been gay or bisexual. Haymitch could have been a female mentor. Certainly, these characterisation twists could be something new writers could explore when thinking about diversity. But overall, they speak a lot as supporting characters, not BECAUSE they are male.

Let’s not forget either how the male characters in The Hunger Games come out in force FOR Katniss (or AGAINST her, if they’re on President Snow’s side). Check out the quotes in the picture above. This is because secondary characters HELP or HINDER the protagonist in his or her goal. They are ‘Team Protag’ or ‘Team Antag’ – that’s their literally their job in the story, otherwise they are worthless.

The Good

The Disney Princess researchers do make one good point about male characters being the default too often:

“My best guess is that it’s carelessness, because we’re so trained to think that male is the norm,” says Karen Eisenhauer, a graduate student at North Carolina State. “So when you want to add a shopkeeper, that shopkeeper is a man. Or you add a guard, that guard is a man. I think that’s just really ingrained in our culture.”

The fact that peripheral characters – such as shopkeepers, guards and even crowd scenes – are too often all male is something I cover in my book, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV and Film. What’s more, Bang2write has ALWAYS encouraged screenwriters to think – of any character, in any role function – does ‘he’ have to be:

  • male?
  • white?
  • heterosexual?
  • able-bodied?

This is not to ‘tick boxes’ or fit an agenda, though – but because the ‘norm’ is boring. With this in mind then, writers should be thinking about VARIETY, because too often it defaults to male.

Just Add Women?

The above is not to say movies with white, heterosexual or able-bodied males are automatically boring. That would be absurd. There have been some brilliant movies featuring these characters. But does it need to be them EVERY TIME? Again: diversity = MORE VARIETY!).

But this does not mean you ‘just add women’ either. Many modern films, such as American Sniper and Everest have introduced female characters who simply exist seemingly to satisfy some kind of ‘woman quota’. In these movies, the female characters exist solely at the end of the phone, crying and wailing, as the male characters do the REAL STORY STUFF.

These ‘reactress’ characters feel wooden and inauthentic. Eeeugh! No, thanks. Personally, I’d rather have no female characters in a movie at all that drop some in for the sake of it, or satisfy the likes of the Twitterati.

The ‘Bad’ …

Since the Disney Princess research, there have been plenty more musings about dialogue and female characters online.

Check out, for example, The Problem With All The Badass Little Girls Taking Over Hollywood Movies, from Bustle. According to the writer, whilst Laura from Logan and Nova from War For The Planet Of The Apes were ‘great characters’, they should talk more, then they would be even BETTER.

These little girls are indeed badass. Laura is a mini-Wolverine, where it’s hinted she is even stronger than her ‘father’ Logan by virtue of being female. She is angsty, silent and moody, avoiding talk like Logan, but more intelligently; a Latina, she pretends she cannot speak English for a huge proportion of the film. She also saves Logan more than once in the film.

Nova is not physical, like Laura, but no less badass. Her affliction is never fully explained, but we know it is some kind of virus that is robbing humans of their ability to speak. Caesar and his friends must navigate this changing land, with Nova as their guide and insight into what is happening. It is suggested that Nova may no longer be truly ‘human’, but more animal-like, so in comparison the apes are becoming ‘more human than human’. This is backed up by the warring humans, who are mostly portrayed as vicious beasts (especially peripherals and crowd scenes of soldiers).

As secondary characters, both Laura and Nova teach the male lead something important not only about themselves, but what is happening inside the story world, all without being the dreaded ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’; neither do they become damsels in distress. It should also be noted both of these characters are catalysts for the downfall of the antagonist in each movie.

The Ugly

However, I think what is most telling about counting dialogue is that male leads are always exempt from commentators’ criticisms. I can’t remember a single time I’ve seen a study or a Twitterati complaining that male Lone Wolf  characters should talk more!

After all, in real terms, Logan is supposed to be as moody and silent as Laura. Whilst he speaks more historically across the franchise, this is because he is nearly always the lead in X Men movies (even when they are more ensemble pieces), as he is a fan favourite. Should we see a movie in which Laura is the protagonist (and I suspect we will), then I predict she will be still be considered silent and moody like her ‘father’, but will also speak more than she did in Logan. It is common sense and related to her role function.

Male lone wolf characters are more likely to win awards too. In his portrayal of Hugh Glass in The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio spends a significant portion of the movie alone. Glass also had his throat ripped by that bear, so it makes little sense for him to speak a lot, even when he is with people.

But ultimately, what we were interested in was not what Hugh Glass SAID anyway, but his  epic journey of revenge – because characters are what they DO. So, whilst some people may have called The Revenant a crap movie and said that DiCaprio did not ‘deserve’ his Oscar (someone always does about the winner, after all), I don’t recall anyone saying he shouldn’t have got it because DiCaprio didn’t have ‘enough’ lines!!!

Good Characterisation Does Not Mean More Dialogue

Look, this blog has always been vocal (arf) about writing great female characterisation, but counting lines of dialogue will NOT deliver this. Sure, it can be a good thing to think about if writers have never considered gender parity before, BUT it doesn’t solve story problems beyond this … We would be far better off considering role function, especially when it comes to female leads and also female-dominated storyworlds.

After all, we don’t worry about male characters have ‘enough’ lines …Instead we want them as active characters  and we reward the writers for it. This is why we celebrate moody, silent lone wolf types like Logan, or depictions of iconic figures like Hugh Glass, as portrayed by DiCaprio.

My advice?

Don’t worry about how many lines your female character has to satisfy some research study or commentator online. Characters are what they DO, not what they SAY. Instead:

  • Write more female leads (protagonist AND antagonist)
  • Think about having more female secondaries
  • Think about having more female peripherals
  • Think about female-dominated storyworlds
  • Make your leads ACTIVE
  • Make your characters DIVERSE as a whole

Good Luck!

Want to see if I practice what I preach??

You wouldn’t be the first! My YA novel, Proof Positive has a female lead and a very large cast of secondary female characters. Even better, it’s just £2.99 on pre-order at the moment. DOWNLOAD IT HERE or click on the pic on the left.

No Kindle? No problem – you can download the free Kindle app for your iPad, tablet of phone, HERE and still be able to read my book and others.

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Writing Myths

Myths are everywhere in screenwriting, but it’s real success that attracts you. First, you watch GET OUT. Then, you watch the Academy Awards 2018 to see GET OUT winning its Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. And you think:

” I’ll become the next big shot Hollywood screenwriter! After all, I write screenplays, don’t I?”

Yes, you do. You know all the screenwriting techniques; you understand that a stellar script is the result of hard work; plus you’ve read all the books like Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! and you know a hero’s journey inside out.

And yet, your Oscar is still out there beyond the horizon. Waaaah!

What’s the problem?

There are three, to be honest. Three myths about screenwriting that are absurd, yet well-established in the writing world. So you need to forget these myths right now to breathe a new life into your scripts and start writing them from a different perspective:

Myth #1: You Need To Be Inspired To Write Well

Wrong! You need DISCIPLINE. Writers write,regardless of foul mood, holidays, or any other obstacle. None of them sits and waits for inspiration to strike because they understand: writing is work. When done regularly, it makes you a professional motivated by own experience, proven techniques, and tools to sharpen writing skills rather than that elusive Muse.

You need to set goals for every day and finish them no matter what. As a screenwriter, you understand that about 80% of your job is rewriting the drafts. So, concentrate on writing: you will have time to polishyour script later, and it’s much better than staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration, isn’t it?

Myth #2: It’s the Execution That Counts

A million times, no. Concept COUNTS. But okay, we want great writing too … But that doesn’t mean ‘just’ concentrating on describing events. You need to structure them for the audience to understand the role these events play for a character’s journey.

Regardlessofits genre,tone or style,a movie follows the same basic structure: BEGINNING – MIDDLE- END (and not necessarily in that order!). Here’s one such structure:

Nothing difficult, right? (Hah!) You arrange storytelling (content) elements into a particular chronological order to elicit an emotional response from the audience. You need to know when a character enters, when a plot takes a turn, and when a conflict arises or falls for your story to engage your audience.

BTW – you have no obligation to follow Michael Hauge’s structure. At least ten of them exist in screenwriting, and it’s up to you to decide which to choose for telling your story. No one cares what structure your use, just make sure you use a structure!

Myth #3: You Can Reach The Top Of Your Tree And Relax

Nope, afraid not! Trends change, new writing techniques and story methods appear and audience preferences are always changing. It would be naive to believe you’ve mastered the screenwriting craft once your first script has made a mark.

You NEVER stop learning. Always make sure you practice, plus doconstant research of what’s happening in storytelling and inside your own industry. Here are some suggestions:

  • Read timely books on screenwriting.(And avoid those promising to teach you how to write scripts in 20 days.)
  • Watch mainstream movies, but do it from a writer’s perspective: analyse a plot, consider techniques a screenwriter used, note interesting passages, etc.
  • Read successful, RECENT screenplaysof your genre to stay in steps with trends.
  • Network with influencers and opinion leaders in the niche.Visit networking events, learn from screenwriting gurus at conferences and local meetings, participate in discussions, and don’t miss chances to get your scripts to agents or producers. Even if rejection, their professional feedback might be useful for you to know what to revise in your story for better results.
  • Join screenwriters’ forums and groups to learn the latest news, ask for writing advice, and analyse all trends with like-minded people.

But remember:

No book, workshop, or seminar will teach you how to be a great screenwriter. They are tools to craft skills, not magic pills or wands to bring you your Oscar for the best original screenplay. As Stephen King stated in his On Writing bestseller:

You don’t need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. Faulkner learned his trade while working in the Oxford, Mississippi post office. Other writers have learned the basics while serving in the Navy, working in steel mills or doing time in America’s finer crossbar hotels. I learned the most valuable (and commercial) part of my life’s work while washing motel sheets and restaurant tablecloths at the New Franklin Laundry in Bangor. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

So, don’t stop!

Read, write scripts, think about how to make them better, learn from your own mistakes, craft your skills, and FORGET all myths timid fellows are trying to force on you. Simple as that.

Good luck!

BIO: Lesley Vos is a seasoned web writer who helps peers develop the confidence and skills for better articles creation and promotion. Visit her blogto discover the world of plagiarism-free content, and don’t hesitate to follow Lesley on Twitter.

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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!

For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST

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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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