Oh, internet – WE NEED TO TALK!!

tropeseverywhere

You bet your ass there’s “tropes” everywhere in writing, filmmaking or any other creative work. That’s because the REAL definition of “trope” is thus:

trope

trəʊp/noun
a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.
“both clothes and illness became tropes for new attitudes toward the self”
a significant or recurrent theme; a motif.
“she uses the Eucharist as a pictorial trope” (definition via Google)

Redefined For The Digital Age?

Seems to me, internet-wide, the word “trope” has come to mean THIS:

- I don’t like this genre

- I don’t like this story

- I don’t like this character role function

- I don’t like there’s a lack of variety 

Guess how many of the above has ANYTHING TO DO with the actual creative work under the miscroscope? (Hint: NONE).

Of course, if we don’t like various genres, stories or character role functions, that’s not our fault either. We like what we like and we dislike what we dislike. That’s just the way it is. But purposefully looking for trouble is pointless, because we WILL find it — because, GUESS WHAT! We don’t like that shit. BOOM! 

Tropes Vs cliches

Tropes Vs. Clichés

So really, we don’t mean “trope” at all … We mean THIS:

cliche1

cliché

ˈkliːʃeɪ/noun
a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
“that old cliché ‘a woman’s place is in the home’” (definition via Google)

Check out the language in the above definition: OVERUSED and LACK OF ORIGINAL THOUGHT. This is the issue: NOT the genre; NOT the story; NOT the character role function … It’s the fact we don’t have enough VARIETY!

Hate Something, Change Something

So think of a genre, story or character you’re bored of seeing at the moment. I could give about twenty, just like that. So what? None of us are out to save the industry here. the mainstream doesn’t need saving! It’s making a stack of cash, thanks very much. Who says, “Hey, this is working … LET’S STOP!!!” No one, that’s who.

The indie scene NEEDS our support however – and if you want to hear from marginalised voices and support them in “trickling upwards” towards the mainstream, that’s where you need to lend your support, both in terms of time and money. Think of just about anyone mainstream now who wasn’t a rich and white (and probably a dude) and where did they start? That’s right — INDIE.

See? This is how we get more VARIETY. The evidence is in front of our eyes. We didn’t get those people from complaining about mainstream stuff that already exists, but CHAMPIONING those people’s indie efforts and ensuring they make the kind of money that gets them noticed by the mainstream.

It’s The Same-Old Vs Pre-Sold

Stereotypes and stock characters are bad. Le duh. Yet generally, writers and filmmakers don’t write these as standard, as much critique suggests (usually using the word “trope”!!!).

I put it to you that no genre, story or (especially modern) character role function is inherently BAD. We may dislike some of them for very good reasons, but fact is — as soon as anyone says, “I never want to see or read an X again”, someone comes along with something so groundbreaking we can’t believe we haven’t seen it before.

But this is the thing: it groundbreaking within a certain set of expectations the target audience is already familiar with. That writer or filmmaker has taken a genre, story or character role function and taken us from one angle and made us look at it from ANOTHER angle. It is the same, but different, or rather, it is “pre-sold”.

Problems occur then when there is not “enough” groundbreaking material to satisfy audience demand; or there is too much, because audiences don’t always want groundbreaking, they may want comfort viewing too. It’s a difficult balancing act, because when does “comfort viewing” become cliché?? The 64 gazillion dollar question.

Bad Romance

ALSO — and here’s the biggie – it perplexes me to hear that people “hate read” or “hate watch” certain stories, expecting them to magically entertain them, even though it couldn’t possibly if they hate it … What’s up with that???

So please tell me where this cabal of horrible people are who are trying to RUIN EVERYBODY’S LIVES via the medium of entertainment, just so we can disband it once and for all … Oh right: it DOESN’T EXIST:

ellardent 2

The above NAILS IT for me (whoops, sorry — cliché alert!)

Concluding:

So we don’t mean “trope”, we mean cliché: cut the latter out, NOT the former — that’s the way of ensuring great storytelling.

As for what is deemed “good” and “bad”, I think we really need to stop drawing lines in the sand. Deciding who and what DESERVES to be included in terms of genre, story or even character role function only brings more of the same judgemental BS we’ve got now.  What’s the point?? It’s TRUE we need variety … and pretty much everyone I’ve met agrees, whether audience or industry pro. Of course, if only it were that simple, cos then it would be fixed now!

But one thing I AM sure of: watching and supporting the same old (mainstream) stories and then complaining about them will change NOTHING. Whether you’re a writer, a filmmaker or audience member, why not support NEW ways of looking at stories and throwing your positive energy behind new stories and characters, instead of slagging the old ones off and ignoring the new ones? Just think what that could do.

NOW GET ON IT!

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We featured Alison Bond’s great book WE COULD BE HEROES which uses the footballing /sports management world as its backdrop a few weeks’ back; now an article from Jon on how football and screenwriting are linked?!? Like I say of Alison’s book, “I hate football, but I LOVE this!” and the same is true of Jon’s post: GET IN MY SON! Over to you …

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Football is the single greatest thing ever invented …

… Except, perhaps, for penicillin. And sliced bread. But Football is also vastly underrated as a screenwriting tool and here are just four of the many ways the beautiful game mirrors a good script:

 1) What happens is influenced by what went before

Just as characters exist before page one, so too do the players before kick-off.

Backstory is everywhere in football – recent form, pressure on the manager, scandals around players, famous victories and infamous defeats. What’s more, the strengths and weaknesses of the players, developed over many years, are carried into the game and affect their performance.

Our knowledge of this backstory makes watching the game as it unfolds a richer experience because we appreciate the context in which it sits. It provides an emotional depth that is lacking when, in a screenplay, the story starts on page one and ceases to exist after ‘The end’. MORE: 6 Things You Need To Know As A Screenwriter If You Want Your Scripts Made

2) Sport, like any good story, is about the contest

Football provides a great template for creating the central conflict between your hero and his or her opponent.

In football, each side looks to exploit the weaknesses of the other in pursuit of victory. They have an initial plan that must be adapted as the game progresses in response to attacks from their opponent, setbacks and changing circumstances. These manoeuvres increase in intensity as the game nears its end and victory remains up for grabs, and it’s the ebb and flow of this battle that makes the contest compelling.

Your hero’s finding it too easy to achieve his goal? Do what a losing manager should do – change it up. Bring in new personnel. Change the line of attack. Hell, cheat if you have to. Just make sure the hero has to go through hell to win! MORE: What is a Hero? plus 6 Things Every Hero Needs 

3) Teams have a specific amount of time in which to achieve victory or face defeat

Putting this frame around the contest creates excitement as we near the final whistle and the identity of the winning team remains in the balance. With time running out, each side must do whatever it takes to defeat their opponent and secure victory.

Sound familiar? MORE: 2 Things ALL Writers Get Wrong In Early Drafts

 4) When the final whistle blows, something has changed

It might be a massive change – a championship, a promotion or a relegation. Or it might be less significant – a point away from home at Brentford that moves you up from 12th to 11th in the table.

But however grand the change, it has come about as a direct result of the contest with an opponent over the previous 90 minutes. And each of the participants has learned something new – about the game, about their team, about themselves. The game has had some kind of impact, however large or small, on their lives and those of us who witnessed it recognise and appreciate that change. MORE: Is “Good” Characterisation REALLY About Change? 

So there we have it: good football mirrors a fine script. I could go on all day listing the ways in which that is true – I could talk subplots, I could reference structure, I could rhapsodise about referees.

But in truth, you’ve got writing to do.

And I’ve got the second half to catch.

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BIO: Jon Ryan is a screenwriter and media adviser from Hertfordshire. Follow him on Twitter as @jonnyrhino80.

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locke-tom-hardy_edited-2

Those of you who attended London Screenwriters Festival this past October and succeeded in getting synopsis and script-read requests from Producers at Pitchfest may be starting to get rejection messages round about now. I know I am. Rejection is unpleasant. Nobody likes it. But know this: even those who’ve “made it” experience rejection on a regular basis.

I spoke to three industry pros to get their take on this thorny issue:

-  star writer/director HOSSEIN AMINIOur Kind of Traitor, Two Faces of January, Drive

-  veteran British producer PAUL WEBSTERPan, Locke, Eastern Promises

-  award-winning Hollywood writer/producer ARIANNA EISENBERGInside Pandora’s Box, Mata Hari: Her True Story

Between them, they gave me a whopping SIX reasons producers will reject an otherwise well-written script which are nothing to do with YOU the writer:

1. They only produce concepts generated in-house

2. Their slate is already full

3. They are already producing a similar concept

4. It’s not their genre or doesn’t fit with their brand

5. The scale of the film doesn’t match their budget range

6. It’s unlikely to provide the kind of return their financial backers expect.

So, what can you as a writer do to minimise the risk of your script being rejected for one of these six reasons?

MV5BMjIxMzc0MDU1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTk2MDk4MDE@._V1_SY317_CR117,0,214,317_AL_Market research!!

Find out about producers, their taste in films and the size of their deals. There’s loads of information out there, on that Internet-thingie – all for FREE! Filmmaking is a business. If you want to be part of it, you need to get it.

Make Rejection Work For You

Growing that proverbial thick-skin is as essential to making it as a screenwriter as the ability to write, network and pitch. The best writers use rejection as a way to energise them to do better.

“Rejection should feed your rage, your sense of self-righteousness,” says Paul. “It should also make you grown up and pragmatic: always have the next project on the boil … Always have an alternative and don’t let your belief in an idea become an obsession – unless of course you are from the Werner Herzog school of self-belief in which case your absolute single-minded belief and desire will move mountains (or haul ferry boats up them) and you’ll get it done or die trying.”

Hossein reminds us, “Even once you make it, you’re still not out of the woods as far as rejection is concerned. You may have one of your re-writes rejected, or you may not like the film the director creates from your script, or if you do like the film, the critics and/or public may not take to it. Rejection happens at every stage and at every level.”

Arianna agrees. “At the studio level, there can be upwards of 25 to 30 rewrites on a script. If you’re lucky you may be able to get “notes” from a producer as to what they would have done differently.  Critique is not criticism.  It’s an opportunity to hear another’s POV and to make changes where applicable.  Change can only make it better.”

Drive_Ryan-Gosling2

Here are FIVE tactics our three industry pros use:

1)    Let yourself feel the pain for an hour or so, then move on. Get over yourself!

2)    Immerse yourself in books and films and fall in love with storytelling all over again.

3)    Find the silver-lining – even though the producer rejected your script, did they say something positive about your work?

4)    Remind yourself that even the most successful writers and filmmakers have experienced shed-loads of rejection. (Hossein particularly recommends reading “Smoking In Bed: Conversations With Bruce Robinson”.)

5)    Change it up, add to it, take away from it, do more research, put in more detail – keep trying to make your writing better, always better.

Keep Writing!

The longer you keep going the more likely you are to (a) get better at screenwriting and (b) come to the notice of someone who will make all the difference in your career. It took Hossein 4-5 years! “I experienced a lot of rejection,” he says. “None of my friends who started writing at the same time as me are still writing today. It’s so easy to give up at any stage!”

“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up BUT also make sure that your belief has some basis in reality,” Paul advises. “Make sure your friends and supporters tell you the truth and that your persistence is justified.”

“My father told me years ago that the only reason you won’t succeed is because you quit,” Arianna says.  “It doesn’t matter if you get a thousand rejections – the only one that matters is the one who says “YES!”  At that point all the others fade to black!”

ALSO BY KT PARKER ON THIS BLOG:

6 Things Olivia Hetreed Can Teach New Writers

5 Things I Learned In A 10 Minute Q&A With Luc Besson 

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BIO: KT Parker is an emerging screenwriter and producer. You can connect with KT Parker via her website or on Twitter as @lunaperla.  check out her IMDB page, HERE.

 

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Writing. It’s part of us, we give it life; we sweat and bleed it out on to the page, regardless of *what* we’re writing, screenplay or novel. Some even liken the writing and editing process to giving birth (though I have to say, giving birth is distinctly more painful in my experience; as is parenthood itself, but moving on).

So it’s not difficult to see why so many writers believe they ARE their writing …. Especially (but not limited to) the unproduced and unpublished. I will confess, even I find it a romantic and appealing notion; perhaps even a reward for the thousands of hours we spend honing our craft, or pursuing projects that ultimately go nowhere: we are not simply “training”, nor are we THWARTED … Instead, we ARE our craft!

We are born to do this and we ARE what we do!!

And really, why not believe this if this gets you through? Writing really is the triumph of hope over experience, after all. But you are NOT your writing … And I’ll tell you why:

1) Personal choice/worldview governs all writers …

Often, when a professional writer is asked WHY s/he writes, said writer will unwittingly fuel the romantic myth of *being* one’s writing, by saying something along the lines of, “I can’t do anything else”. Yet if there were REALLY true, we’d all soon run out of stuff to write about.

Fact is, a good writer is able to distil life’s experiences for various audiences into stories – and this is a transferable skill. Everyone has them. If I were not a writer, I know what I would be: anything I damn well pleased, because writers are communicators and frankly, that’s an asset in pretty much ANY job.

But even if you don’t believe that; or feel that people have to have “callings” to be happy at work; or that choice is actually a load of guff and we’re all prols who have to sell our labour, I raise you this: no one governs your thoughts but you, whether you write them down or not. You have to buy into the norms and values of the society around you. So if EVERYONE is saying they “are” their writing, can that really be true? Why not tackle that notion, see where it takes you … Isn’t that the JOB of a writer, challenging the status quo?? MORE: 7 things You Must Stop Doing If You Want To Be A Professional Writer

2) … And personal choice/worldview governs our audiences’ responses

This is the thing. If you ARE your writing, then surely you are ALSO your audience’s response to it. This is all well and good if everybody LOVES your writing, but what if everybody hates it? What if they point fingers at your work and use all those IST words – you know the ones – saying IT MUST BE TRUE because they decoded it as so, and THAT’S IT, FIXED FOREVER ON THE INTERNET.Even worse – yes, it can be worse! – what if no one really notices your work exists … Does this mean you don’t exist??

Yes, yes the above is a simplifcation to be sure but it boils down the hard fact that just because an audience member sees YOUR story the way s/he does, doesn’t not mean it was ever intended that way, or came from the place the decoder assumes it is. The writer is an individual and the audience member is an individual and whole audiences are made up of many more … NONE of us lead the same lives!!!

We all know this, really. Point of view is not fixed; imagery and language mean different things to different people; plus semantic noise will always raise its ugly head. The internet may safe in the knowledge that “The Author is Dead” as Barthes said, but the fact remains that we simply cannot ever be sure what goes into a work, if we are not privy to the MAKING of said work. That’s just common sense. MORE: 7 Ways YOU’RE Screwing With Your Own Writing Chances

blood writing

But perhaps most troubling of all when saying “writers ARE their writing”:

3) Writers are condemned, but also exonerated at whim 

If writers ARE  their writing and writers ARE as shitty as their work is perceived by various (individual) audience members, then it also follows those writers whose hideous crimes go UNDETECTED via their work are automatically great people, no?

Um, no.

I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have “loved such and such” work of a writer or filmmaker, then discovered s/he is a convicted or rumoured WHATEVER and now they “can’t” watch or read the work again. Yet watching or reading this writer’s work will not stop that terrible crime from occurring, which was most likely waaaay in the past by the time we get to hear about it, anyway. What’s more, there surely can’t be many people in any audience who would be of the opinion that if you watch or read say, a rapist’s work, you will become a rapist by osmosis; or even just start thinking that sort of vile shit is okay.

Let’s be clear. If you don’t want to spend your hard earned money on the work of people whose behaviour society finds abhorrent, that is your right … Use it as a form of protest, why not? I’ve even done it myself.

But do understand what you’re protesting, which is that writer’s ability to earn money from his/her work after committing an abhorrent act, NOT that writer’s ability or right to create.

In a capitalist society where the marketplace rules, one of the few meaningful acts any of us can make is voting with our wallets. But we are NOT protesting that writer’s ability to write, or right to CREATE. If this ever became a *thing*, then we’d have a whole new set of problems, largely centering around who “gets” to create? Who says? How is it enforced? What are the perimeters: is it people with CONVICTIONS only? What about those who escape justice, even though everyone knows they did it? What about stuff people just SAY, but don’t DO? What about stuff we SUSPECT is true (back to point 2!)? And most importantly, how long before those perimeters get widened, to include anyone beyond the “status quo” and OTHER kinds of “undesirables”? What marginalised groups could that end up including???

Look, I get it: no one would recommend the above steps without the best intentions … but then you know where they say the best of intentions lead. MORE: Why it goes beyond “just” writing 

Concluding: 

Audience members – Don’t imagine you KNOW the person behind that piece of work, even if you DO see “patterns”. If you’re not behind the scenes with them, trust me you don’t know anything of the many, many possible issues (not all creative!) that may have contributed to that work ending up like that. Giving others the benefit of the doubt rather than automatically pointing fingers is what we all must do, if we actually want to enjoy creative works.

Writers – equally, don’t take on others’ assumptions about you and become hostage to what audiences MIGHT think; you’ll lose your edge at best and at worst, simply pour out populist, safe drivel and never work properly again. Taking risks is your responsibility.

If any of us do the opposite of above? Bitterness and suspicion comes nex and the enjoyment gets sucked right out of this storytelling malarkey.  I’ve seen it happen. This stuff is supposed to be fun!!

So, enjoy what you enjoy; hate what you hate; be “meh” about whatever … Writer or audience member, we all do. Just don’t claim yours is the **right** interpretation, because none of them are.

That’s the point.

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I’m proud to welcome my collabro JK Amalou back to B2W today to share with his thoughts on what REALLY sells your writing “off the page”, which is a great concept! Like I always say to Bang2writers and screenwriting students, I can read great writing whenever I want so how are you going to differentiate if you want to make a SALE? Even if you want to write samples, you STILL need to differentiate from the rest in the pile!! Read it and weep, spec screenwriters … and take the first step towards harnessing the power of concept by contacting JK today, as he’s taking on some script consulting for a limited time. His contact details are at the bottom of this post and look out for the VERY FIRST pic from ASSASSIN … Enjoy!

DEVMOV_Anna running

You can run … but you gotta write a great concept if you want to get ahead (DEVIATION, 2012)

So you have read every book about screenwriting. You know how to Save The Cat; the Foundations Of Screenwriting; the Writer’s Journey; the Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles Of Screenwriting; your 22 Steps; make A Good Script Great, and countless other methods of how to write your screenplay. You even know how to write your screenplay in 21 Days.

You have written a few screenplays already. You are a master of formatting, characterisation, structure, and dialogue. You are about to write your next screenplay. So what could possibly go wrong?

The concept.

1) Hard Truth # 1: Concept is King (or Queen)!

In other words, what sells a screenplay is its concept, not great writing. To go further, great writing will sell you as a writer, but not your screenplay. If you want to work as a writer for hire, go ahead: write a screenplay that totally shows off your skills.

But there is still a problem.

The only way you will stand out from an agent or producer’s five foot high submission piles is not your great writing, but the concept of your screenplay. I have heard this countless times in my past life as a script consultant for the MEDIA Programme: “Yeah, s/he can write but the concept is shit/boring/derivative.” I see it in 99% of the scripts I am sent as a producer or director. Mighty fine writing but the concept is sleep inducing, or unclear. MORE: 5 Reasons I Got Involved In ASSASSIN

2) Hard Truth # 2: Concept is what they want

The reality is that the biz is first and foremost a concept market.

You don’t believe it?

What is the famed elevator pitch? Convince the powers that be to read your screenplay on the basis of the concept alone.

You still don’t believe it?

The original draft of Tarantino’s screenplay for RESERVOIR DOGS was littered with not very fine writing (typos, atrocious grammar, weird formatting, rambling dialogue), yet it sold and got made. MORE: 4 Reasons Your Concept Counts Above All Else

You really still don’t believe it? Fine …

HARD MEN

WTF? A still from JK’s movie HARD MEN (1996)

3) Hard Truth # 3: Execution does count, but not as much as you think

… Okay, I hear you. Concept is not all, execution is just as important. Sure, you are right. Excellent execution does help, but it still won’t sell your screenplay.

Consider this: many years ago, I signed up as a director for a project produced by Arnon Milchan (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, HEAT, and many other major American films.)   Fox Studios were the backers. It became a Diane Keaton vehicle. Well-known actors Minnie Driver, William H. Macy, Paul Sorvino showed interest.

Oh, and the screenplay by a novice screenwriter did sell for a nice amount of money, too (the budget was $15 million so you can do the maths.)

Nice set up, I hear you say. Yes, it was. Except that everyone was in love with the concept of the screenplay, not its execution.

So our novice screenwriter was put through the rewriting wringer. Draft after draft. It still didn’t work out so other writers were brought in to rewrite her screenplay.

Whatever happened to this screenplay doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that it sold because of its concept. Not its fine writing (it was fine writing) or its execution (it was more than proficient.)

This also takes me back to my days as a script consultant for the MEDIA Programme. Many projects submitted got funding on the basis of: “It’s a great concept but the script needs work/more drafts.” In other words, the writers got funding to achieve their screenplay concept’s full potential. MORE: Writing, Selling And MAKING Thriller Screenplays

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First pic from ASSASSIN, released March 2015

4) Hard Truth # 4: Concept makes storytelling EASY

Beyond the sale, a story practically writes itself when it has a great concept.

In my experience, a great concept sparks everyone’s imagination. Even your neighbour’s imagination. A great concept will have people coming up with exciting scenes, storylines, characters, etc.

Try it.

Gather a few friends. Stock your fridge with beer and wine. Take a successful concept, make it slightly different, and throw it to them. Something like: “JAWS set not in a seaside resort, but in the forest community”. My bet is that everyone will have a take on the monster, characters, etc.

Try again and throw them another concept: “Guy and Girl meet, fall in love, marry” or “Guy robs a bank, gets caught, ends up in jail.” My bet? Blank faces.

Nothing better than a great concept to totally focus your story plot-wise and character-wise. MORE: 4 Reasons Samey Stories Happen & 1 Thing You Can Do To Beat Them

5) Hard Truth # 5: Marketability is everything 

The main challenge is, of course, coming up with that killer concept. Every killer concept is based on a mundane concept. The key is how to make it exciting.

The best way to do it is not to wait for the muse to come along and deliver it to you. You might be waiting for a very long time. MORE: 3 Reasons To Write A Marketable Screenplay

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

The best way is to be proactive and research your concept. Read novels, watch every movie based on the same concept. If you don’t have time to watch hundreds of movies or TV shows/dramas (you should!) or read hundreds of novels (you should, too!), check out their synopsises on Wikipedia. You will find that your killer concept has already been done, thus saving you months of hard work (very likely scenario!) OR you will be able to shape a killer concept by avoiding what has been done before.

So if you are about to start writing your screenplay, DON’T write it! Stop, research your concept, and remember movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg’s words: “The idea is king” –  Katzenberg’s a guy who has bought and developed thousands of screenplays in his career, so I’d listen.

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Assassin_poster_webBIOJ.K. Amalou is a writer, producer, director and sometimes script doctor. He has worked on studio and indie films, and TV in the US, UK, and Europe. He also has worked with Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Richard N. Gladstein, etc. His latest film ASSASSIN stars Danny Dyer, Martin and Gary Kemp, and is executive-produced by Barbara De Fina (GOODFELLAS, CASINO, CAPE FEAR). It is released in March 2015. Contact him on jkscATmsn.com or you can follow him on Twitter as @jkamalou.

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It’s November 30th! NaNoWrimo ends today … Supersadface :(

But wait!!! Leave a message on the wall HERE, with your final wordcounts to spur yourself and other B2W Novelists on, into December. Plus here are ALL the NanoSpecials on Bang2write HERE, as well as the B2W Resources.

Plus, as Carina author @rosieclaverton pointed out last Writer Wednesday, you CAN make your Nano Novel and your writing skillz last longer than November. So here’s the fabtastic Heather Hill (THE NEW MRS D) with a pep talk on keeping your DREAM alive … Over to you, Heather!

atrapasomnis

1) Start Calling Yourself A Writer

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, ‘If when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer.’

If you woke up thinking about writing before turning up to do your thing this morning, you are a writer. If you turned up yesterday morning – and countless mornings before – you are a writer. One morning, I woke up thinking I must be a lavatory attendant – but we won’t go into that…

If you commit yourself to write most days then you already ARE a writer. You won’t believe how many writers are afraid to utter those words out loud. They label themselves ‘aspiring writers.’ I abhor that term. WTF is an ‘aspiring’ writer? Are you writing or just thinking about writing? If you turn up each day to write, even if the publishing industry has rejected everything you have put out there, you are a writer. Start saying it. Believe it. Because that is what you ARE. MORELucy V’s Wager: Build It And They Will Come

2) Don’t Let The Fear In

get-attachment-2.aspxProcrastination is a terrible thing, and for writers it is often born out of fear and perfectionism. Recently I stumbled in to a place I don’t like to go too often. It is a place that can make writers feel stroked with a velvet glove one second and slapped in the face with a wet fish the next. It’s called ‘Goodreads’.

I went because someone sent me a link to a lovely review of my debut novel, ‘The New Mrs D’ and, despite telling myself I wouldn’t ever do this; I clicked on the ‘read reviews’ link to see the rest after I’d finished reading the nice one I’d been alerted to. Then I spent an entire morning having to battle with doubt over my current work in progress, all because I kept seeing the words, ‘yawn,’ ‘unfunny’ and ‘couldn’t finish this’. They were imprinted on my brain like the floating purpleness you get in front of your eyes after somebody takes your photo with the flash on.

So listen up to the speech I give myself often: You can’t please everybody, and you can’t appeal to everyone’s tastes. And remember that to go against the passion in your life because the fear that some people won’t ‘get it’ is going to hurt much, much more in the long run.

Perfectionism and fear are standing over the door to your success asking for ID before it will let you in. Your creativity and individuality is all the ID you need. Tell it to step aside. MORE: How to make it happen for your writing career

3) Don’t Waste Time Comparing Yourself to Other Writers

Take a look at the top you have on this morning. See a Shakespearean ruff? Thou art NOT Shakespeare and thou shalt be thankful. He is dead after all…

If you have read a thousand books and thought, ‘why can’t I write like that?’ then guess what? You are unique. You can’t be every writer and you can’t afford to waste time wishing that you were or trying to be like them. Ditch the author comparison websites you’ve been compiling in your mind. If no one ever wrote anything original, there would be less originality out there. This is your moment; your work. Own it, be proud of it and embrace the fact that all of us are different and there are enough hungry readers in the world to go around. And some of them even hate Shakespeare. MORE: 4 Things Writers Should Stop Expecting – And 1 Thing You Can Do About It 

4) Set Aside Time Each Day To Write and Stick to it

Switch off your mobile phone notifications; resist the urge to answer the tweet thanking you for your retweet with a smiley face emoticon and lock yourself in a room with your computer/laptop/pencil/quill. This is your time. Use it productively and I refer you back to point 2 – leave perfectionism outside. First drafts are almost always terrible, the real magic happens on the rewrites.

I have a little section of edits I keep and file under ‘it will be alright on the rewrite’. It’s like a writer’s outtakes department and has given me many a laugh on bad days.

get-attachment-1.aspxAllow yourself to write away and don’t stop to edit until you’ve typed ‘the end’. Then it’s red pen ago-go. You may never finish if you continue to step on the reverse gear. MORE: 10 Tips To Be A Productive Writer 

5) Remember, It’s Not The End Until The Fat Lady Sings

On my chosen writer journey, well, The New Mrs D got twelve publisher rejections and was labelled, ‘unmarketable’. So I self-published. Then, for one day on Amazon Australia this happened:

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# 1 Bestseller in the Kindle Store

You bet your LIFE I took a screen print.

Hold on tight to that dream and don’t let go, even if at the end of it all you can’t find an agent and nobody wants to sign a deal. There are many ways to publish and many free marketing platforms out there to help you bring your work out into the world. Make them prise that writer dream from your cold, dead fingers after you died with a smile on your face because you did it. You tried. MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet

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get-attachment.aspxBIO: Heather Hill is an author and mum of five (not the band). Follow her on Twitter as @Hell4Heather and buy her book (it sucks, apparently) HERE ;)

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6 Steps to Run Your First Marathon

I am a huge fan of NaNoWriMo. Hand on heart, I can say that I would not be a professional author without this November scribbling frenzy and I owe the Office of Letters and Light a debt of gratitude.

However, writing novels does not begin and end in November. It involves a commitment of several months and years if you’re ever going to write for something other than your desk drawer or your Dropbox.

Here are my five tips for keeping writing after NaNoWriMo and travelling further up the road to publication:

1) Rest and Recharge

On December 1st, take a break! You’ve been slaving away for thirty days on this novel and, for some, this may be the first time you’ve written so regularly and in such a flurry of words. Pick up your glass of wine/mug of tea/box of Celebrations and relax. Your novel will still be there when you get back.

While I am definitely not an exercise enthusiast, I’m going to talk a little about the writing muscles. NaNoWriMo is a bit odd in that it basically involves running a marathon on very little training. But, somehow, most limp across the finish line and collapse in a heap of victory.

However, even the most seasoned marathon runners (including that fool Eddie Izzard!) need to take a break to allow their bodies to recover. So it is with writing. On December 1st, your writing muscles are flagging, especially if you’re not used to such writing exercise. Let them have a rest – and recharge them by getting out there and experiencing.

TIP #1 – Relaxing and experiencing life are essential parts of keeping your writing on track. For more concrete ways this can help your writing, see my post The Writer On Holiday.

2) Finish that first draft

Some people write a complete novella or novel by the end of NaNoWriMo. I wrote 80K in both 2011 and 2013, which formed the first drafts of Binary Witness and Code Runner respectively, but it’s not something I would recommend. This year, I will have completed 50k of my new project, which is approximately halfway. I am, therefore, planning to write on into December to get my first draft finished.

That is okay. We are not aiming to leave November with finished novels. NaNoWriMo is only the beginning. You might want to take a break in December and restart in January, or plough on like me, perhaps cutting down your daily word count.

When your first draft is finished, whenever that may be, you need to walk away. Put it to one side and leave it alone. BUT FIRST you have to finish it!

TIP #2 – Keep writing until the first draft is complete, even if it takes you ’til next November. To see how other writers get their first drafts done, check out Rebecca Bradley’s First Drafts series.

3) Set yourself a word count

I find word count targets the easiest way to get me through a first draft. Why? Because I will take any excuse to slack off. Code Runner was a pretty taut novel-writing process, from first words to publisher submission in three months – but that was purely because I had a contractual deadline. When I don’t have a deadline, I am a major flake. Binary Witness took eighteen months to knock into shape, including several months where I just faffed around moving commas.

Set yourself a daily word count target to get that first draft done. Maybe 1,667 is perfect for you, or maybe it’s a total uphill struggle. Perhaps you easily write 3k per day. Find what works for you and stick to it. Inevitably, some days you will have zero words and some days you might find 5k just tumbling out of you like magic, but you never know which days will be which until you sit down and type.

TIP #3 – Make a personal word count target and stick with it, charting progress over weeks and months. You can even make your own spreadsheet to stay on track.

4) Write every day

This little piece of advice gets everywhere, right alongside “write what you know” and “writing is rewriting”. Like all truisms, it can be interpreted every which way and this is my personal spin on it.

Writing is not always writing. Sometimes, writing is thinking about writing, preparing for writing, or deleting writing. Confused yet?

Writing a novel is a process far beyond just putting words on a page. It is certainly more than typing each individual letter. Hopefully, before NaNoWriMo, you put together at least a rudimentary plot and some characters before you started your journey. This was thinking about and preparing for writing. Sometimes, that takes two days at the end of October. Sometimes, that takes months of notes, research, mood boards and talking it out with someone you trust.

Writing is not the first draft. It is taking a raw diamond and chipping away at it until it becomes a flawless jewel (although folks also wear emeralds and topaz and cubic zirconia, y’know). When you get to editing your novel (and you will have to edit it), you may add some words but you’ll probably delete a whole lot. Entire scenes, whole chapters, maybe even a character or three. All of this is still writing, even if your word count is actually falling.

TIP #4 – Think about your novel every day, even if it’s just a few lines of dialogue in the shower. If you’re very time-poor, here are a few ways I’ve found to maximise writing time.

5) Think beyond your first novel

Gone are the days where authors could dine out on one book, if those days ever really existed at all. If you’re serious about this writing business, you need to write more than one book. Perhaps you think you’re a one-book kinda gal. “Every person has a book in them” you say “and I have now written mine”. Unless you’ve written an autobiography, that is unlikely to be true.

Maybe your first novel is the beginning of the series. Maybe you want to get your first novel edited before you get distracted by the next project. Maybe your first novel was actually just proving to yourself that you can write a novel and you want to move on to something completely different.

My first novel never even reached the editing stage. My second novel got to a first edit, and then fell by the wayside. Binary Witness was my third novel – or, at least, the third one where I actually finished the first draft. I have many more abandoned at 20-30k, where I lost momentum.

TIP #5 – Plan ahead. Do you have a 1-year, 5-year and 10-year writing plan? Danny Stack talks about the importance of appreciating the long-haul for scriptwriters, but it applies equally to novelists.

Know this:

the first draft of your first novel is only the first step on a long and exciting journey. Congratulations on taking that step – now where will it take you?

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BIORosie Claverton is a screenwriter, novelist and junior psychiatrist. Her debut novel Binary Witness was published by Carina Press in May 2014, and the second book Code Runner was released in September 2014. follow her on twitter as @rosieclaverton where she co-runs the monthly Twitter chat #psywrite, advocating accurate and sensitive portrayals of people with mental health problems in fiction.

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We interrupt this Scriptchat Sunday to make you the following offer!!! Read on to find out how to get this free podcast …

Want to write a Thriller screenplay? Well the industry want them … especially if they’re low budget, with a kickass central concept. You SHOULD be writing Thrillers!

But maybe you JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START and you want some inspiration? Maybe you have no idea what separates Thriller and Horror; or why your Thriller feels like a drama? Maybe you want to avoid typical stories and problems in the thriller spec pile; or maybe you’re unsure of why your non linearity’s not working …

… No problem – I got you covered, screenwriters!

I’ve got a podcast here of me talking, in detail, at London Screenwriters’ Festival 2013 about the Thriller genre and all the above problems AND MORE.

Here’s what you do to get it:

1. Go to my Amazon page – find it HERE (or click on the pic below)

2. Tweet or share FROM my Amazon page – pick ANY of my books and click one of the share buttons, to your Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. (If you want to share more than one, please do! It would help me a whole lot with my Amazon rankings).

Can’t see the share buttons? They’re in the bottom right of the screen, look:

share

Sharing buttons are under the buy column on the right of the Amazon page

3. EMAIL ME - subject line, “Shared” and I’ll email you the link to the podcast.

That’s it! That’s all you need to do!

But hurry! This offer expires November 30th, 2014 and the Thriller podcast will NOT be available on the B2W resources page. So, please tell all your writerly friends!

Please press the buttons at the bottom to share the page on your social media profiles and/or check out my books. Thanks!

So, you’ve had an idea? You woke up in the middle of the night with a title that just screams to be the name of the next bestselling novel, or a plot line that is leaping around your head with such fervour that it just has to hit the bookshelves. You’ve already written short stories, but a novel- that’s a hell of a lot of words!

Delicious Piece Of Chocolate Cake To Eat With A Morning Coffee

1) Think of short story writing as your novel writing apprenticeship

Short stories are a brilliant way for any writer to learn their craft. By learning to write to a word limit you can build your literary skill and finesse your writing. Too many people are in a rush to write a novel without taking the time to learn the skills needed. Creating short stories can teach you how to write in such a way that not a single word is wasted. Every word- every single one- has to count in a short story. The same applies to a novel- pages of waffle and repetition are boring to read and boring to write. MORE: Download a free novel pitch template (.doc)

2) Go for “instant impact”

In a short story all you have to grab your reader’s attention is the first one or two sentences. When writing their first novel, new writers often relax, thinking the lengthier word count means they have the luxury of spending pages to grab their reader’s interest- wrong!

When you write a novel the same instant impact rule applies as for short pieces. You have one to three paragraphs at the most to hook them. If a reader’s interest isn’t piqued by the end of the first page you’ve lost them- and then they are less likely to look at any further work you might produce. Once you have hooked them of course, then you can coax them into the story, and reel them along with your characters and hopefully keep them yours until they reach the last page, desperate to read more. MORE: 8 Ways To Jumpstart Your Novel’s Description

3) Don’t push that plot

Once you’ve started writing your novel, if you suddenly find your dream plot isn’t looking like it will stretch to a whole novel (usually btw 75-120k), then pause. Take a step back. There is nothing worse than reading a story that’s had its plot watered down just so it’s the required length. Take a walk. Think it through- can the storyline take an extra twist to the plot? Can the interest in the characters in the story be sustained? If not- make it a novella. Novellas (generally accepted to be anything from 20-60K), are very popular, great fun to write, and wonderful writing practice. MORE: Why this story? You need to know, or your reader won’t

4) Climb that word count

Addressing a word count of c.90k after having previously only completed pieces that are 5-10k long can seem like a mammoth task. So why not build up slowly? Think of it like mountaineering. No one would tackle Everest without climbing a few lesser mountains first. So grab the crampons and the ropes and tackle a 15k story first- then add a crash helmet and a few rations, and go for a novella next. Then, as your confidence builds and you’ll soon be ready to strap on the oxygen tank, grab a pick, and go for that novel! MORE: All About Description & Characters

5) Still feel like heavy going?

A lot of issues connected with getting through a novel for the first time are psychological. Don’t be afraid to address each chapter like an individual short story- after all, you already know you can write those. Allow yourself rewards for every 1000 words- an extra cup of coffee, a chocolate bar, a ten minute walk. Take one word at a time. Remember – it’s supposed to be fun! MORE: I’ve Got 5 Rewriting Problems And A Script Ain’t One on @WendyStorer’s blog

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get-attachment.aspxBIO: Jenny Kane is the author the contemporary romance novels Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), and the Another Cup of Coffee series (Accent Press, 2013). Keep your eye on Jenny’s BLOG HERE for more details, plus  follow her on Twitter as @JennyKaneAuthor.

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It’s too late for research, you’re already writing??? NOT ON YOUR NELLY, writers – there’s always time for research, as fab author Alison Bond demonstrates … it can only HELP your writing! I must say, I’m a big fan of numbers 1 and 5! By the way, Alison’s amazing novel WE COULD BE HEROES is FREE for Bang2writers today over at Amazon << (Free Promotion has now ended, but it’s only £2.49, but you should still get it! Why, next >> Now I loved this book, despite the fact I positively loathe football (read my review >> HERE) so make sure you grab it while you can, 100% FREE! What’s not to love?? Over to you Alison …

goal1_1

Write what you know, they say. And if you don’t know, be prepared to learn all about it. Elizabeth Gilbert said that in order to write The Signature of All Things: “…for three straight years I sat in a chair, reading books about botany, evolution, abolition, women’s history, missionaries, Dutch 18th century commerce, and more…in order to fill my brains (and index cards) with enough information to write that novel.”

But this is NaNo and we don’t have that kind of time.

Research should be a joy. Like many avid readers I enjoy learning new things. The skill lies is not letting research distract you, but inspire you, especially during Nano, so I have shared my research processes below and suggested tips to help make research an enjoyable and relaxing part of the NaNo whirlwind.

Properly undertaken, research can actually help you write faster.

Here is a list of some of the things that I have written about but never experienced:

  1. The 60’s.
  2. Scoring a goal for England.
  3. Japan.
  4. A masked orgy.
  5. Jail.

1. Research for Inspiration

I wrote a book that was partly set in London during the swinging sixties. Before I started telling that section of the story I read books and films set during that period, but best of all I met Pat and Mike Cowan, the parents of my best friend’s boyfriend, and over a couple of gin and tonics they told me first hand stories about what it was like inside the UFO club and where Jimi Hendrix liked to party. I wanted to know how it felt to be young in that time, if you knew you were part of something. I wanted to know what their parents had thought of it all. I had no notepad (bad writer) but I found an old envelope. I ended up opening it right out flat and covering the front and back with tiny handwritten notes, bursts of inspiration, gifts to my future writing self. My story came alive that day. I couldn’t wait to start writing it.

NaNo tip: Everybody that you chat to this month is fair game. Ask about the first time they got their heart broken or the last they shouted at their kids. Ask what they do when they are stressed or broke or caught in a lie. Make every conversation about your book whether people know it or not. MORE inspiration on The Decision Pinterest boards about relationships.

2. Research for Facts

I can’t imagine what it must be like to score a goal for England. Oh hang on, wait a minute, I’m a writer, yes I can and I did. People often think I must have done a pile of research for my novel We Could be Heroes, aka The Football One, but although I was once a football fan (in pursuit of boys I now realise) I don’t know much about the finer details of the game. Ask one of my editors at Penguin, John English. He picked up plenty of inconceivable plot twists but I talked him round. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. What I needed to do with this book was FACT CHECK, which is totally different to research. Need to know which airport in Ukraine serves Washington DC? Use an asterisk and keep writing. Don’t whine to me about not being able to put in description or needing to know how your character gets to a hotel. Asterisk. Write the next bit. Fact check later, add details then. The important part is not to go on the internet real quick just to check how to spell Aleksandr Petrovsky and end up watching the new Mockingjay trailer three hours later thinking “How did I get here?” Asterisk. I have six in this post already.

NaNo tip: NaNo is perfect for the asterisk technique. When you need a break from writing search for the first asterisk in your document (there should be many) and fact check one asterisk at a time. Before you know it you’ll want to start writing again. MORE: The Importance Of Research

3. Research for Fun

Yet another book. Another exotic location needed. Having exhausted my own travel experiences in previous novels it was now necessary to write several chapters about an unknown country. But where? I love Japanese food and Lost in Translation, people I think are cool think Japan is great, and bands I like do well there. So I decided to research Japan. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Researching Japan was a pleasure first and foremost, but it also opened up many new avenues in the story. In the planning stages it helped me understand and develop two of my major characters. Places I read about became key locations, entire chapters came to life. When the book came out one review from Chick Lit Chloe said: “The scenes in Japan are brilliant, very realistically written”. Job done.

NaNo tip: Research a topic that fascinates you and make it part of your NaNo story. Applying for university, baking bread, how to be a rock star, how to live on fifty dollars a day in New York City, how to surf, which poisons kill and which only maim. In your downtime research your topic, when you come to write again you will have masses of content in your fingertips. MORE: Writing Might Be Hard Work, But That’s Not The Same As Being Hard 

4. Research for Detail

One reviewer on Amazon.com (as opposed to dot-co-dot-uk where they understand my sense of humour) called the masked orgy chapter in How to Be Famous “unintentionally hilarious”. Well the joke is on you my friend because, duh, I was trying to be funny. My orgy was a combination of the party scene from eighties mini-series The Stud and the best bits from Julie Burchill’s Ambition. Derivative? Maybe. Fun? Hopefully. I did some online research about sex toys and orgy protocol to add detail in an attempt to balance the ludicrous sexual gymnastics with humour. A salacious plot device to enable the heroine to see a certain tattooed bum-cheek? You betcha.

NaNo tip: Think of the parts of your book that are definitely outside the realm of your experience. Choose two or three and use Google to search for tiny details that will make the scene come alive and make notes. When you come to write these scenes the details will be waiting for you and it should be easier to let the words flow. MORE: 7 Big Mistakes In Novels

5. Research for Emotional Truth

I was nervous about asking people I knew had been in jail to tell me about their prison experiences but the resulting conversations made our relationships stronger as well as making Liam’s jail time in We Could Be Heroes ring true. I was very clear from the onset that I was not trying to recreate one specific experience but looking for the small universal details and the wider emotions. People usually enjoy talking about events in their life, particularly after a long time has passed, retelling their stories to you plays a large part in their necessary process of reflection, so it could be that by asking people to rake over their past you are being helpful. Or you are being nosy.   But as long as you make it clear that you are looking for inspiration, not gossip, I have found that people let you ask pretty much any question you like.

NaNo tip: Get into the real stuff. NaNo is supposed to be an intense experience. This is the time to ask your friends and family about those things they don’t like to talk about, all in the name of research. If not now, then when? Back off if you’re asked to back off, otherwise dig deep and be inspired by the secret lives of other people.   MORE: 4 Ways Samey Stories Happen – And 1 Thing You Can Do To Beat Them

DON’T FORGET: you can pick up Alison’s fantastic book, WE COULD BE HEROES, 100% Free today only!! CLICK HERE. [PROMOTION ENDED]

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BIOAlison Bond has written seven novels, been translated into twelve languages and received five stars in Heat magazine. She lives in a remote corner of the Midlands with one husband, two children and three chickens. Follow her on Twitter as @bondgirluk.

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