So, HAPPY EASTER! I know you’re all busy today shoving chocolate down your gobs, so here’s a handy round up of various things you may have missed in the last couple of weeks out on the wildnerness of the B2W social network:

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PSSSSST … Click the pic for loads of FREE writing resources, downloads, podcasts and more

Cross Posting

So recently I’ve discovered Tumblr in a big way … I’ve actually been on the site for YEARS but never really understood how to utilise it properly for the B2W social network, other than cross posting links on the B2W Tumblr Blog. Anyway, turns out there’s LOADS about writing on Tumblr (doh!) and I’ve submitting articles to various great sites, some of them below):

FuckYeahCharacterDevelopment has published one of my most hit B2W articles on characterisation, “5 Ways Writers Screw Up Their Characters“. In the article I break down how writers often booby-trap their own writing (especially plotting) by trying to make us “care” about their characters. Enjoy!

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Another great Tumblr blog, The Writing Café, has published my latest B2W post about being your own worst enemy as a writer.  Are you on Tumblr? It’s a great resource for writers, check it out … and here’s B2W on Tumblr if you want to follow (you know you do).

1506533_653525671352586_185796229_nIn addition, my agent, Blake Friedmann, has reblogged my article “What Is Transmedia?” So if you’re wondering what Transmedia is and how you use it to your OWN project’s advantage, make sure you take a look! Here is also a Storify of LIZZIE’S DIARY, instalments 1-4, which ran during March as part of the distribution campaign for THE DECISION. If you want quotes, pics, polls, links, articles and more about issues concerning teenagers and young people, then make sure you follow The Decision Book Series on Facebook and on Twitter as @LizziesDecision (follow Blake Friedmann as @BFLAgency). If you are already, please help get the word out by sharing and RTing. Thanks! :D

Free Podcast To Download

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I’m interviewed on the Writers’ Rebellion podcast with Chris Bell! We chat about traditional publishing versus self publishing; fiction versus non fiction; writing processes; challenging yourself as a writer; turning novels into screenplays AND MORE. Download it NOW!

My Next Appearance IRL

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I’ll be with Kamera Books talking Thriller Screenplays at The St Alban Film Festival on Saturday, May 3rd! There’s a brilliant list of GREAT talks, workshops & Q&As … I’ll also be joining Script Advice Writers’ Room’s head honcho Yvonne Grace and BAFTA Rocliffe Forum‘s Farah Abushwesha. Can’t wait! :D Download the festival schedule HERE or click the banner above to go straight to the site.

Here’s A Preview Of @LizziesDecision

Lizzies_Story_Kindle_JPEG““Oh God, Lizzie. Lizzie!”

There was a crash as the door yielded and Dad was in the room. I was only peripherally aware of him and the fact I didn’t even have anything on my bottom half, yet for some reason I didn’t even care, when normally I would be mortified. But in the here and now, all I could concentrate on was the blackness that threatened to invade me: I knew I had to keep it away or I would be lost.

I tried to stand, but my knees buckled. Dad grabbed me and wrapped me in a towel, running out on to the flat balcony with me in his arms like a small child. He was shouting, pleading, but his voice seemed so far away. There were more shouts and slammed doors and Flo’s husband Jonno was out on the balcony, yelling for Pablo who came running in a dressing gown and slippers, holding keys to one of the hotel vans.

Dad grabbed them and shoved me in the passenger’s seat, turning the key in the ignition, all the time saying to me, “You’ll be okay, baby. You’ll be okay.” And I wondered why he would say that because it was obvious I was losing the baby and then I realised he was talking to me. Then I passed out.”

From my novel, THE DECISION: LIZZIE’S STORY, available now. ”Like” The Decision Book Series on Facebook and/or follow @LizziesDecision on Twitter.

So, Friend me on Good Reads!

Oh btw, I’m on Good Reads now. I blog stuff on there about my own writing and will be hosting various giveaways, Q&As, etc. So here I am, come and join me! 

It’s been yet more Submissions Insanity this week at B2W Towers, though for once the shoe has been on the OTHER foot as I’ve found myself in hot water for daring to share my last article in an online screenwriting group that I was invited to join and start a discussion?? Guess I didn’t read the admin’s mind well enough! Whatevs, homies. Unlike some jumped-up jobsworths out there in www.land, REAL industry gatekeepers out there don’t want you to try and resort to telepathy … Instead, they WANT you to clear those hoops and get your fantastic submissions into their hands! HONEST GUV! So here’s the lovely literary luvvy Sal Rowberry with her top tips on getting past the assistant … Over to you, Sal!

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1. Spell My Name Right.

This might seem straightforward, but take a few seconds to check that you’ve correctly spelled the name of the person you’re emailing or writing to. Nothing gets my back up like reading ‘Sally Rowbury’ or some other strange interpretation of my surname. If you lack attention to detail in your first communication with an agency, what does this say about your writing? In addition to this, if you’re addressing an agent directly rather than an assistant, really take the time to make sure you’re spelling their name right; you don’t want to potentially burn an even higher bridge. MORE: 29 Ways NOT To Submit To A Literary Agent by Carole Blake

2. Do Your Homework.

It’s not difficult to find out whether agencies are accepting unsolicited material or not. Calling an agency up; ‘Just to check if the website is correct’ is a waste of time for everybody involved and doesn’t reflect well on you as a prospective client. The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook is a good reference point for establishing general genre/format details of agents and agencies, and if you can’t find any detail anywhere then a short and brief email will more than do the job.

I would also recommend taking the time to do further research to find out which agencies and agents are appropriate for your type of work. I find it quite irritating when I get emails that are book submissions when we don’t have anything to do with books. As ever, think how these small mistakes reflect on you when you really only have the one opportunity to make a good first impression.

As a side note to this point, in my opinion, you really only have two (three at a push) chances to impress an agent or their assistant. If you’ve been rejected several times, you’ve really got your back against the wall in terms of delivering a sensational script that will get you noticed. With this in mind, always be sure you’re submitting your very best draft or work when approaching an agency. MORE: 3 Tips To Get Your Work Solicited Via Email – And Not Blow It, plus How To Get your Work Solicited 

3. Do As You’re Told

This again might seem straightforward, but it’s shocking how much it’s ignored. Most agencies require a CV, short synopsis and then maybe the first 10 pages of your script. If that’s what they ask for, then for the love of all that is good and holy, send that, and only that in. It doesn’t mean send in five 100 page scripts, a letter of recommendation from your BTEC Media teacher and your own illustrated story board. Don’t be crazy. Be clear, concise, and to the point. It’s infinitely more effective. Less really is more. MORE: The Basics Of Online Script Submissions

4. Blank Carbon Copy (“BCC”) Is Your Friend

If you’re lazy and have decided that you can’t be bothered to send individual messages to each agent you’re approaching (not my advice), then at least use BCC rather than CC in your blanket email. I’m always inclined to delete mass CC submission emails; it just doesn’t look good. MORE: The B2W Script Submissions Checklist (PDF), plus the Submissions Links Bundle of The B2W Required Reading List, plus find stacks more of FREE writing & submissions advice, podcasts & downloads HERE.

5. Don’t Nag!

I know that the waiting game is tough because you’ve sent someone your blood, sweat and tears in email or letter form and you desperately want a response, but nagging can be quite irritating, and eventually it may lead to an assistant quickly skimming your script and rejecting it just to be rid of you. Assistants are talent scouts and heart breakers, and yes, they may be the initial gatekeepers to impress, but they also have a full office assistant job to be carrying on with as well as reading through the submissions pile. After 8 weeks or so, a polite chasing email won’t ever do any harm, but constant calls and emails really won’t do you any favours. MORE: When To Follow Up On Your Submission and Following Up And Submitting After LondonSWF

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BIO: Sal Rowberry is an assistant for Micheline Steinberg at Micheline Steinberg Associates. She studied Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth University before working at Blake Friedmann and Linda Seifert Management. She is the curator of Sunday Opening Hours, a blog that publishes a weekly interview with writers about their Sunday writing habits. Follow her on Twitter.

So, whenever I say dialogue is overrated (which, let’s face it, is A LOT), hordes of indignant writers holler at me over social media, “Nooooooo! How can this BE????” 

You might love your dialogue. You may think it’s your friend. But believe me, Bang2writers when I say dialogue is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Dialogue is the worst kind of frenemy you can have, for it will literally HARPOON your spec’s chances in the marketplace (or of even getting written in the first place!), like an unsuspecting and defenceless whale in Japanese fishing waters, first chance it gets.  100% True Factoid. Aaaaaaah I love whales:

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ANYWAY. Here’s why dialogue is the screenwriter’s ENEMY:

1. It disappears in redrafts.

You’ve written too much dialogue. I can tell, without even reading it. Why? Because everyone does, especially in early drafts. You need to get rid of probably a third or even half of it in your next draft. YES REALLY. Get this. It doesn’t matter HOW GREAT your dialogue is … when you’re redrafting, it has a tendency to simply disappear in a puff of smoke. Why? Because there’s a strong chance you’ll need to rip out great chunks of your writing, anyway — meaning that fabulous dialogue you slaved over is GONE quicker than you say, “Holy Screenwriting Smoke, Batman!” That’s because dialogue is the LEAST important element of your screenplay. True fact. Get used to this fact and you will no longer be shackled to scenes or even characters or even whole drafts that simply are not working: you will be FREE young grasshoppers! MORE: 5 Reasons Dialogue Is Overrated.

2. It screws up your page count.

The thing with dialogue is it  can “inflate” your draft … it literally becomes BLOATED with it. So, you THINK your screenplay is a minute per page? If it’s bloated with dialogue, it’s NOT EVEN CLOSE. Dead serious. Think about it: an actor will rocket through those lines and boom! The pages are all gone – all because you concentrated on dialogue at the expense of STORY.

But how do we diagnose if our drafts are bloated? Well, take a leaf through it for starters. Got 2+ pages of exchanges? CUT. Got long monologues? CUT. Got characters who typically say more than roughly 3 lines? CUT. Yes, yes yes it’s “all needed” blah blah blah but is it REALLY?? Most writers don’t set themselves any limits when it comes to dialogue and as a result this is when scenes get flabby with dialogue and hey presto: flabby scenes mean a bloated draft! A good rule of thumb is only allowing ourselves 1 page for “ordinary” scenes and up to 3 pages for “extraordinary” scenes – so okay, it’s just a perimeter but guess what: it’s better than having no perimeter at all, because it keeps us on our toes! MORE: The Ordinary Vs. The Extraordinary

3. It makes your structure skew-whiff.

It’s a no-brainer to assume that a draft bloated with dialogue will also have dodgy structure, but did you know that if you only allow yourself **only certain scenes** to go dialogue uber-heavy, you will ALSO end up with structure going lumpy AS WELL? I’ve lost count of the number of drafts I’ve read where a writer has written a gorgeous, lean set up and and fabulous dramatic conflict, only for the resolution to be packed to the rafters with dialogue! Ack. Supersadface. This is usually because the writer in question thinks a variety of expositional *stuff* needs EXPLAINING. It does not need explaining. You need to meet your exposition out in small doses throughout your story. Do NOT backend it to the resolution! MORE: 5 Ways To Beat Exposition

4. It takes over scenes.

These are the facts. You’re writing a screenplay … emphasis on SCREEN, not “play”. But guess what: *most* screenplays in the pile are like plays, more in keeping with being on stage, ‘cos they’re theatrical in feel. Uh oh.

NEWSFLASH: if your scenes are going on for 2 or more pages of changes of exchanges? Cut them. Cut them now. Why? Because your spec is like 99% of the others in the pile — taken over by dialogue. And it doesn’t matter how great or vital you THINK that dialogue is, fact is readers want you to tell the story VISUALLY.

“Oh, it’s a talky film/show,” writers will say. No. JUST NO. This is absolutely no excuse to let your screenplay ramble on for pages and pages with dialogue. Yes, yes you’ve read somebody’s PRODUCED script that does this – good for those guys! – but yours is not only a spec, you have to prove you know the difference between a theatre play and a screenplay. This not only means yours will be under harsher scrutiny, you have to show actively on the page how theatre plays and screenplays differ, eg. in screenplays:

i) What you see is what you get (even when considering characters’ psychological elements, like their motivations)

ii) Scenes should not EVER be static

iii) There’s more than one “POV” for the audience (rather than them sitting in front of a stage)!! This means you need to tell a story in such a way that a director and DoP et al can come along and create a VARIETY of shots like long shots, establishing shots, POV shots, close ups, extreme close ups and so on  - to give the audience the characters’ worldview.

Bear the above in mind at all times or feel the wrath of script readers in all corners of the writing universe. Just sayin’. MORE: 3 Tips To Get Rid Of Static Scenes and How To Make Your Screenplay Visual.

5. It makes you think you’ve got great characters when you haven’t.

You’ve written some great dialogue. Brilliant! Well done. Does this mean your character is great too? Um, no. Sorry (not sorry).

But how can this be? Well let me put it this way: just because someone has the gift of the gab, does this mean you think they’re automatically a great person? No, of course not: it means they’re have a cool way of speaking. That’s it. It’s the same with fictional characters. So your clichéd character has some cool lines? They’re still a cliché. The only way you’re going to stop them from being a cliché is by giving them motivations and actions that AREN’T clichéd!! MORE: 6 Stock Characters That Need Retiring By Writers NOW

6. All those writers, renowned for their dialogue? AREN’T.

So two or three times a year, I have a conversation that goes something like this:

ME: Your screenplay has too much dialogue in it. You need to do something about that.

WRITER: Um, what about Quentin Tarantino/ Aaron Sorkin/ **insert Bigshot Screenwriter here**?? He writes loads of dialogue. He’s renowned for it. What would you have told him, eh? EH?

ME: Le sigh. If he wrote dialogue like yours in his spec, I’d tell him the same thing.

WRITER: Don’t patronise me Script Nazi! My dialogue is BRILLIANT.

ME: Sure, bits of it is good. But do you need the long monologue about timekeeping, or the trials of beekeeping? They’re nothing to do with the actual story.

WRITER: What about the Smurf bit in DONNIE DARKO? What did THAT have to do with time travel?? I’ll tell you: nothing. And that’s why it’s AMAZING.

ME: Kill. Me.

The fact is, yes, there ARE Bigshot Screenwriters renowned for their dialogue. Do you know why? It’s because dialogue is the easiest thing for laypeople to pick out! Hence the popularity of certain lines … But those lines are not JUST picked out because they were written well, but because those lines were DELIVERED WELL by the actor playing the part, too. Spec screenwriters don’t have this advantage, because their screenplays have not been produced yet. DUH.

Besides, the likelihood of ANY bigshot screenwriter being picked up on spec solely for their dialogue is, I’d wager, practically ZERO. In other words, it’s not *just* their dialogue, but the whole package: story, structure, characters … but more than anything: their brilliant, bombproof CONCEPT. In other words, you need to ensure EVERYTHING is great, just to get renowned for your dialogue … Can you do it? If you can, be my guest. MORE: 7 Ways To Showcase Your Voice plus Don’t Waste My Muthafucking Time! and 4 Reasons Your Concept Counts Above All Else

Good luck!

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Everyone’s looking for that micro-budget breakout project. The next Following, Paranormal Activity or Blair Witch Project.

But how do you make yours stand out? And how do you turn your script into a micro-budget film? We’re midway through filming our debut feature project Kidnap Me, for a budget of virtually nil, so I thought I’d share some thoughts and lessons from its development and production.

 1. Have a USP

Kidnap Me is a comedy. An edgy black comedy of love, sex and mistaken identity. With spanking. In a marketplace packed full of zero budget horrors, rape-revenge thrillers and Richard Curtis knock-offs, ours stands out as something different. The kinky sex angle is our USP and in the wake of 50 Shades of Grey, one with an identifiable audience. MORE: What’s your USP – Part 1 (The Project) and What’s Your USP – Part 2 (You, The Writer)

2. Have a high concept

High concepts don’t have to be confined to Hollywood and Don Simpson – they apply at the microbudget level too. Kidnap Me’s concept is that of a mistaken identity kidnap & ransom, with the twist that the victims are enjoying it more than the perpetrators! We’ve hung the whole of the movie around this concept, so half of the film is four people in a room. That’s four actors, one location – microbudget heaven! MORE: 7 Steps To Road Testing Your Concept

 3. Keep it moving

Single location stuff’s great, and an hour of people talking in a room is fine for theatre, but not for cinema. Every scene, every page, every line has to move things along. We play with dramatic irony – who knows what & when – and loyalties and team-ups shift constantly. If the characters and relationships are in the same place at the end of the scene as the beginning, it’s not doing enough. It took a long time and a lot of rewrites to get this working – and I can’t stress the value of having actors read it through! It was SO much easier to see what lagged and what didn’t once they were actually rehearsing it. (also, no matter how much you cut, you’ll still overwrite and end up trimming in the edit). MORE: 3 Tips To Avoiding Static Scenes

4. Remember the tone

One iteration of Kidnap Me’s script involved a high-octane action-packed third act which involved numerous extras, stunts, SFX and fight sequences. We wanted to turn it into a comedy Die Hard after the containment of Act 2. But we couldn’t get it to work, and the reason was tone. It was too much of a lurch into another genre, and it was jarring to everyone who read it. The key was to remember the tone and keep it consistent. It’s a comedy – keep it funny! Our new ending also made it a much cheaper proposition which allowed it to become truly microbudget. MORE: Beetlejuice: Genre & Tone, A Case Study

 5. Write in cameos

Whilst the majority of Kidnap Me is based around our four leads, there’re two or three killer one-location, one day scenes designed for cameos. If we can get them, we can easily (and cheaply) slot in a name for a day. And names on posters mean audience recognition, and sales & distributor interest. MORE: 3 Issues With Casting 

 6. Write your location to be flexible

When we started scouting locations for the Kidnap Room shoot, our options were limitless. It could be a domestic flat, an industrial warehouse, a mechanic’s garage. Each would’ve worked, as we’d written it so that our kidnappers were the types that would use pretty much anywhere they could break into without putting much thought behind it. This was a huge help as it meant we weren’t constantly striving to find that perfect place that fit the script, but we could adapt and adjust the script to the place we found. MORE: Writing The Low Budget Screenplay, Part 1 

 7. Put the (more) expensive stuff at the beginning of the film

A lesson gleaned from Eran Creevy. When talking about his microbudget film Shifty, Eran mentioned that his editor remarked that you can see the film’s budget in the first half hour, which meant that the film starts in a series of council houses with a few people talking. We took this idea, and rewrote the film so that the most expensive stuff – i.e. extras, locations, special bits of kit etc – happens in the first 25 minutes. It’s a third into the film before we get to the point of four people in a room. Thus giving the illusion of production value in a microbudget film. In theory, we can make our zero budget film look like it was made for ten times the amount, just by making some creative choices at the scripting stage. MORE: Writing The Low Budget Screenplay, Part 2

8. Use what you have around you

We wanted a torture sequence in the film where our kidnappers try to extract information from their victims. But they weren’t very good torturers and used whatever they could lay their hands on. So the torture implements end up being a box of tampons, a pack of tea lights and a beer mat. Total props budget for that sequence: £10. And one of my favourite sequences in the film. MORE: 10 Ways To Scupper That Microbudget Film by Matt White

 9. Don’t use Final Draft, use Scrivener

I bought Scrivener for £30 two years ago and it’s fantastic. Formats beautifully, easy to organise, exports to PDF and FDX, imports from everything. It’s a wonderful tool, and has changed my writing life. If you’re looking for a piece of software, I can’t recommend it enough. MORE: Which Screenwriting Software Is The Best (Paid for & Free)? Recommendations from Bang2writers

 10. Even micro-budget films have a budget

We’ve squeezed every aspect we possibly could – written for the locations, props and costumes that we had available to us, but ultimately it still all costs money. We’ve spent £10k of our own money so far, and we’ve shot 2/3 of the movie. We need about another £15k to shoot the rest (the more expensive beginning!) and yes, we’re crowdfunding! MORE: 5 Tips On Making Your Crowd Funding Campaign Stand Out

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BIO: Ross Aitken is one of the writers of 50 Kisses (ADVICE) and together with co-writer/director/producer James Browning run Ikonic Films. Kidnap Me is their first feature and is currently crowdfunding via Kickstarter. Check out the trailer, HERE, plus the website HERE and “Like” Facebook Page HERE. Follow Ikonic Films on Twitter and join the party!

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So, you think all that stands between you and “making it” is the strength of your writing, the shininess of your craft and a horde of other writers, rabid with the THIRST FOR SUCCESS?

Nope, sorry (not sorry).

There’s you as well. That’s right … YOU! I’ve seen so many writers divert or even kill their OWN chances in meetings, online, at pitchfests, developing their work … Anywhere you care to mention, in fact. Recognise any of these?

1) “But this happens in real life!”

If I had a squid for every time a writers tells me this? I could open my very own tentacle porn writing school.

Yes, various stuff happens in real life, but fiction is NOT real life – it’s a **representation** of real life. In other words then, everything has to feed into the story somehow. Think about it for a second: characters only go to the loo in films, TV or even novels so they can get killed with their pants down; or find out they’re pregnant; or for comedic purposes – “FRANK AND BEANS!What’s more, truth is ALWAYS stranger than fiction. In other words then, don’t worry about so-called “reality”; if writers did that, we’d soon run out of stuff to write about! Instead think: does this FIT my narrative’s internal logic? MORE: Sacrificing Facts For Drama

2) “But this is what my Uncle Joe/ The woman down the road / I am like!”

This is the thing. Nobody cares how *accurate* your character is; they care about how it fits into that STORY’S LOGIC again. So it might be that your great-grandmother was a spy for the French Resistance who was also a double agent for the Nazis AND a housewife AND mother of four … But if we can’t work out what the protagonist BASED on your great-grandmother WANTS (The Allies to win? The Nazis to triumph? Dinner on the table?? To get to the bottom of the dirty washing basket???) then we will lose interest, because your character’s journey will be all over the place. MORE: How True Can A “True Story” Be? 

3) “I’m worried about my artistic integrity” …

… Aka “I don’t want my real life friends / relatives getting the hump with me”. Often, when writing true stories or inspired from real lived experiences, writers will “hold back”. Basically, they’re scared. Scared of what, you say? Well, the aforementioned real people recognising themselves in the story is a favourite, but so is the getting it “wrong” (especially with reference to historical pieces or biography); plus also the fear of living through it all again. You can’t blame them, really: who wants to go through the spiritual pain of confronting all those old issues? YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE DOES. So knuckle down. Find the heart of your story, connect with its emotional truth and make it authentic, no matter what! MORE: Telling Lies To Tell The Truth 

4) “Heart and passion are my two top ingredients for my writing”

Great! But tell me, who goes into speculative writing of novels and screenplays WITHOUT thinking they have both heart and passion? I’m sure one or two exist in a “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” capacity (good luck, LULZ), but generally everyone writes SPECS because they feel the burning desire to write a particular story or stories. Some of that desire will be misplaced; some will be right on the button. For most of us, we’ll end find we end up somewhere in the middle. Whatevs. But telling industry pros it’s “heart and passion that drives you” is not going to impress them I’m afraid … They’ve heard it a gazillion times. And like I always say, half the battle is differentiating yourself from the swathes of other writers out there and knowing what you’re talking about. MORE: 12 Tips For Taking A Meeting

5) “The marketplace is the top consideration for my writing”

Not enough writers consider the marketplace; they see it practically as a dirty word, like this guy (name REDACTED) when I shared the article 3 Reasons To Write A Low Budget Marketable Screenplay on Facebook recently:

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He is not unusual and by no means the most enraged scribe I’ve ever encountered over this issue, either. But what drives writers to believe being “marketable” is SUCH a bad thing is a post for another day, because the flipside of *that* veritable hornet’s nest is the fact some writers believe the marketplace is their ONLY consideration.

No. JUST NO.

Sure, there are writers for hire / hacks out there who are getting produced and published by churning out total bilge. We see it every day. And maybe you’re anxious to join them and be a hack yourself. Whatever. I’m not judging you, we all have bills to pay and trophy spouses to support. But in order to BE a hack, you have to write something brilliant first to GET NOTICED. The same rules still apply: you can’t sell out if you have **nothing of worth** to sell. MORE: Tick The Box Writing Vs Perfect Craft

6) “If this one doesn’t sell? I quit”

Self Belief is key. If you’re putting a time limit on your endeavours (“I’ll see how it goes for X amount of years”) or putting mad ultimatums on the progress of your work that you have NO control over? You will fail. It is as simple as that. You might as well quit now and forego all those painful redrafts and rejections. Serious. You have to believe you can succeed. I know that’s hard when you’re British because we’re all taught to be self defeating wretches in our culture, but seriously: FUCK THAT. Instead of thinking, “Why would I succeed?”, borrow a lesson from our Yankee cousins and say, “Why WOULDN’T I succeed?” Because trust me, the ones **I’ve** seen succeed do the latter, not the former. So do what you have to do, or go home. MORE: The Tip Of The Iceberg.

 7) “But I’m the one who wrote it!”

Aaaah my ultimate fave … You know the parent who enthuses mercilessly about how forward or talented their kid is, but you look at him/her and think, “Looks pretty normal to me”? Writers are the same: often they’re so in love with their concepts, stories or characters they’re completely blind to how dull their work actually is. What’s more, even when someone tries to save them from themselves – a script reader, a feedback giver, a pitch meeting producer or publisher – those writers will LIE to themselves and say, “They don’t understand! It’s the execution that counts! When they actually READ my screenplay, they will APPRECIATE MY GENIUS, because my unique voice will SHINE THROUGH!!”

NEWSFLASH: if your work or pitch is accused of being too samey, you need to listen … Because it doesn’t matter how brilliant your writing is, if the concept does not get people EXCITED they will not request your pages. I cannot stress this enough. So stop kidding yourself it’s the execution that counts … It’s the hook that counts. And don’t you forget it, BITCH!! MORE: 4 Ways Samey Stories Happen … And 1 Thing You Can Do About Them, plus check out Chris Jones’ great post detailing a REAL email exchange between a producer and a writer who **really** knows how to burn bridges: Why Producers Will Not Read Your Script.

If you’re feeling frustrated about rejections or getting a “way in” to the industry, then today’s short but VERY sweet post from Carla offers some GREAT food for thought on getting a foot in the door via writing for theatre … Also, make sure you check out the new playwriting award from Theatre503. Enjoy!

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Theatre is a great way to get your work out there and there are some fantastic opportunities for emerging writers. Over the past two years I have been developing a play with Theatre503, a new writing theatre in south London and found the experience invaluable. Here below are 5 reasons why theatre can offer so much to writers.

1. It’s accessible

Unlike many film production companies, London has a variety of new writing theatres that accept unsolicited plays – The Royal Court, The Bush, Soho Theatre, The Finborough, Hampstead Theatre as well as companies like Paines Plough and Out of Joint. Theatre503 goes even further and offers writers regular opportunities to get their work on stage through their Rapid Response Writer Nights and they now have a Playwriting Award. New writing theatres positively encourage writers at the beginning of their careers.

2. You can be really adventurous

Theatre is unique in that you can be really adventurous in how you tell the story. There are a range of forms and styles and nothing is too out there. As long as it is a good story well told, the potential for creative expression is huge (even on a limited budget)!

3. Real people in the room

There’s nothing like theatre. It’s a truly dynamic art form. Theatre gives you the opportunity to try things out ‘on the floor’ with actors and director and this helps you develop your work through the rehearsal process which is invaluable in strengthening your practice as a writer.

4. The live audience

You will know absolutely what works and what doesn’t work when you sit in with the audience watching your play and what’s more you can change it if it doesn’t work so the next night it will be better.

5. Community!

Theatre is highly collaborative and it’s great to be able to work with other people to create something. Writing can be very solitary and theatre offers writers not only a high degree of creative expression but also the opportunity to be part of something beyond your laptop.

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BIO: Carla Grauls’ “Occupied” was developed through Theatre503 and has been offered a full run from 1-26 April. “Occupied” is a darkly comic play set in a derelict Victorian toilet about two Romanian immigrants, who driven by a desire for belonging, kidnap an Englishman to learn how to become English. BUY TICKETS HERE.

Many thanks to Rob Stickler for tagging me in this blog tour about my writing. Everyone gets the same 4 questions, so here are my 4 answers!

1) What Am I Working On?

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I’m currently working on my second non fiction book, which as the name  suggests is about drama screenplays. This time, the book will be rather different to WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS, because whilst drama might have certain sub categories, a drama **can** literally be ANYTHING. So I’m approaching the notion of what *makes* drama “satisfying” in terms of storytelling, using detailed case studies and for which I’m thrilled to announce I have “behind the scenes” insights from Kelly Marcel, co-writer on SAVING MR BANKS and Eric Heisserer, who wrote and directed HOURS, starring the late Paul Walker. There’s also case studies on Brit faves like DEAR FRANKIE (2004) and BEAUTIFUL THING (1996), too! Read more about it, HERE.

2) How Does My Work Differ From Others Of Its Genre?

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Non Fiction-wise, my writing on film in both my books is not academic in tone and I hope, informative, helpful and ultimately, fun to read, basically! :D

Fiction-wise, I write Young Adult fiction (YA) about social issues, always using female protagonists, for a predominantly female audience of approximately 14-20 years old; what’s unusual about it is I do not try to “lecture” my target audience, but present the MANY different ways and choices a given situation – like teen pregnancy, in LIZZIE’S STORY – *could* play out. I do this by trying to ensure I never present the “right” way to approach an issue, plus I also try and engage my target audience via transmedia online, such as via LIZZIE’S DIARY (which details the backstory leading to the events in the novel, read instalments 1-4 HERE) and sharing links, quotes, articles and so on via The Decision Facebook page and via @LizziesDecision on Twitter. [BTW: if you want to read THE DECISION: LIZZIE'S STORY, it's currently on the Amazon Countdown Kindle Deal, meaning it's just 99p for the next day, then £1.99 thereafter this week (RRP £2.99 normally) … but hurry! It ends on April 3rd!! Check out the deal here.]

3) Why Do I Write What I Do?

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In terms of my non fiction, I think films – and storytelling – should be for EVERYONE, not just those who do expensive screenwriting and filmmaking MAs; I want to be accessible to as many people as possible, so I hope my screenwriting books are especially inspiring to those who maybe would not have thought they *could* be writers. What’s more, I don’t believe in over analysis either: sure, stories are open to interpretation and media imagery means different things to different people, but at the same time I think it’s desirable to temper that with the knowledge that film is a visual medium created by MANY people, thus we cannot *just* say “what you see is what you get”. No one person is the authority on what is a collaboratively created medium.

Vicky-Pollard-2136549In terms of my YA fiction for teens and young people, I’ve blogged before in detail that I was “written off” by society as a teenage single  mother, yet it was actually the making of me and INSPIRED me to achieve, rather than fail. I’ve also met many former teen Mums the same as me and felt frustrated that so many young women are asked to apologise for their success and even collude in their own shaming. Society represents us all as “Vicky Pollards” and enough is ENOUGH. Also, as a trained teacher I’ve been privileged to be party to so many young people’s stories that don’t necessarily get the attention they deserve. Being marginalised like this and seeing others marginalised too for a variety of different reasons made me want to write The Decision Book Series, of which Lizzie’s is just the first. The next book, JASMINE’S STORY will follow soon, which will be about depression, self esteem and self harm.

4) How Does My Writing Process Work?

My writing process goes something like this:

i) Think about writing / do other stuff

ii) Read stuff about writing / do other stuff / maybe write a plan   panic

iii) Twat around on social media / do other stuff

vi) PANIC

v) THEN write like the wind. For days and days and weeks and weeks. Act weird. Freak out some more.

vi) COLLAPSE having finished.

There’s got to be better ways of doing it, of course … And every time I think, “I really oughtn’t do it like that next time.”

Except I always do.

NEXT UP IN THE BLOG TOUR:

Tag you’re it, ALL blogging Bang2writers! :P

In the shortest possible time! That’s right … You’re SLOWING YOURSELF DOWN massively and needlessly. And you CAN do something about it. Just read on!

I read a LOT of spec TV pilots. And whilst many **end up** great, their writers often tie themselves up in terrible knots getting them written, slowing themselves down, especially when they often send out works in progress, left, right and centre AS WELL.

Yet it needn’t be this way, with just a little more preparation at foundation level. So here’s my 9 steps on how to get YOUR polished killer spec TV pilot on the page AND out there …

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Step 1: Write your Series Bible. 

Before you are able to write a killer spec TV pilot, you need to know where your series is going story-wise. But DON’T write the entire series FFS! It’s a big fat waste of time, especially when agents, producers, makers, networks etc will only want the pilot (and we’re *all* low on time, so don’t tie yourself up needlessly like this). Instead, write your series bible and pay particular attention to a) the protagonist’s arc b) the antagonist’s counter arc c) the concept behind the series as a WHOLE. MORE: How To Write A Series Bible.

Step 2: Write your TV Pilot Logline.

That’s right – write this FIRST. It will make your drafting process sooooooooooo much easier and you’ll see why in a sec. MORE: Loglines Are Not Taglines.

Step 3: Write A Beat Sheet

Okay, are you sitting comfortably? Because this is where it’s about to get complicated:

i) Story of the Week. Remember your TV Pilot logline from step 2? That’s your STORY OF THE WEEK. The Story Of The Week refers to what the characters in this pilot episode do and absolutely MUST resolve. Typically, this will be a case or mission to crack, which is why Cops N’ Docs is so popular. As an example, maybe your detective is tracking a serial killer in this episode? So in other words, you follow the structure of “Set Up-Conflict-Resolution” / “Beginning-Middle-End” / 22 Steps / Save The Cat / **insert structural approach here** just as you would in a feature screenplay, but within 60 pages instead. NB: This will take up approximately 60-75% of the screenplay in terms of scenes, dependant on whether you’re doing the UK or US model of TV pilots.

ii) Now, for your SUB PLOT. Very often, this is contrasted against the Story of the Week in the sense that if it’s coppers cracking a case? The sub plot will revolve around their PERSONAL lives *for some reason*. Sometimes these threads will cross over in the resolution of the story of the week: ie. if a detective is trying to track a serial killer, but also having issues with his or her child at home, then maybe the kid will get kidnapped by said serial killer before the end of the episode. But you don’t HAVE to do this.

iii) Serial Element. Remember the arcs of your protagonist and antagonist you wrote about in your series bible? That’s your SERIAL ELEMENT. You need to introduce this arc somehow within the course of your narrative. So, let’s consider our detective tracking a serial killer who is having issues at home with their kid … Maybe it’s to do with the detective’s OWN childhood when *something happened*?? So you need to set this up, with reference to picking it up later down the line. Typically, spec writers will do this within the sub plot, but it’s not compulsory; sometimes sub plots stand alone and there’s an “extra” serial element. It’s up to you.

Whatever you decide with reference to the above? I always recommend writing 2 (or 3) separate beat sheets (or lists of scenes). This way you can then review how many scenes you have for each thread and work out if there’s enough, or too many. After you have decided, you can then “weave” said scenes together until they feel “right”. Some writers like to do this manually with index cards; others with software programmes like Final Draft; some like to do it old school by literally writing and rewriting scene lists with good ol’ pen and paper – whatever works for you. MORE: Outlines, Beat Sheets, Synopses.

Step 4: Write A Treatment / Extended Pitch

From your beat sheet, write a short treatment. 4 pages should do it, but don’t write more than ten. Try and write it as you would a selling document — use vocabulary, punctuation, sentence construction etc that would interest the reader by matching it to the genre (ie. snappy and pacey for a Thriller; funny for comedy, etc). Yes, we all know it’s boring and annoying and you WANT to dive into the draft but seriously, you are doing yourself a favour!!! Why? Because HERE you will uncover those elements that don’t work and need replacing, that a beat sheet alone won’t necessarily flag up! In other words, write this treatment and you won’t end up tying yourself up in knots in the long run … And you’ll get a shiny new draft to send out SO much quicker. Short term pain for long term gain! MORE: The Extended Pitch

Step 5: Write The First Draft

Okay, this is the bit you’ve been desperate to write … So dive in. Enjoy. Get it done! You’ll find you won’t stick absolutely to the treatment and that’s fine, but remember: don’t veer off the beaten track if it’s EASIER, only if it’s BETTER. MORE: Writing 60 Min TV Scripts.

Step 6: Get Feedback

Now’s the time to get some feedback. Use a paid-for service like Bang2write if you want; or choose peer review – do a shout out for a script swap at Bang2writers, that’s what it’s for. Send your screenplay out and wait.

Step 7: Weigh It All Up

So, you have your feedback. Let it settle in your brain; don’t knee-jerk and start rewriting immediately. Work out what you lose and what you gain and also, if the feedback is even worth listening to (remember, it’s YOUR script, no one else’s – never, ever rewrite to suit someone else’s vision for it!). So give it some time. MORE: 5 ways To Use Feedback Effectively.

Step 8: Rewrite & Repeat

NOW rewrite. Repeat steps 6 & 7 until you’re happy … but realise you need to FINISH. Do not keep on rewriting and tweaking ad nauseum. Set a date to move on to ANOTHER project and try and stick to it. MORE: The Finishing Line

Step 9: Send It Out

Congratulations, your project is done! NOW send it out … Why not try The BBC Writersroom? Or Script Angel’s epic list of UK producers that accept unsolicited scripts, for starters? And remember: you CAN get your work solicited!!

Good luck!

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One of the questions I’ve been asked and heard other writers asked most is the ubiquitous, “WHY this story?” Very often this triggers a writer to look like a rabbit in the headlights and start garbling plot. But that’s NOT what publishers, agents, producers and filmmakers are asking. Here are 8 possible things they want to know about your project … or you!

1) WHY  these characters?

Remember, we don’t want characters that are THE USUAL … but equally, we don’t something completely out of the left field either. We want something surprising, that is still recognisable. So, what’s different about your character, but which great characters are they like? MORE: 4 Tips To Write An Unusual Character.

2) WHY these characters at this particular point in their lives?

Too often a story starts in a random place: a character *suddenly* decides to do something about a problem or issue in their lives, but it’s something that has been going on a while. As a result, that reader (or agent, or producer, or whatever) will say essentially, “Why NOW?” In other words, what is the catalyst that sets that sets the character on his or her journey? When catalysts are NOT missing altogether, too often – again – stories will rely on THE USUAL elements of a character losing their job, spouse or home (and too often all three!); female characters will be met with unexpected pregnancy and/or get jilted at the altar. Remember, if you want to go for something in these veins? It needs to be a FRESH TAKE somehow to grab someone’s interest. THE DECISION: LIZZIE’S STORY of course deals with pregnancy but not only is Lizzie a teenager (NOT a twenty-thirty something professional in a Rom-Com), she is faced with *all* her possible futures, SLIDING DOORS style. MORE: “Like” The Decision Book Series and follow @LizziesDecision on Twitter.

3) WHY should I care?

I often hear this bandied about by writers who get very angry at this question, as they believe someone is saying, “I don’t like your characters.” Whilst this *may* be true as well, usually the question of “care” in my experience relates to a character’s arc, ie. the reader, agent or producer can’t see why they’re supposed to invest in THE JOURNEY. What is so compelling about it? Great characters DO STUFF. Great storytelling is about ACTION. If your character doesn’t do much, we simply don’t know why we’re seeing or reading this character’s story; so no matter how well drawn s/he is, we simply don’t “care”. MORE: Is “Good” Characterisation About Change?

4) WHY this genre?

Sometimes I will hear pitches and writers attempt to cover all the bases: “It’s a Horror/Thriller/Drama” they’ll say A LOT, but I also get “It’s A Rom Com Drama” almost as much. No. Just no. Pick ONE. And know what genre IS and what conventions separate Horror and Thriller; Comedy from Drama; Romance from Tragedy and so on. That’s not to say you CAN’T do hybrids – of course you can – but you need to know what *makes* your genre/s what they are, ultimately. It’s non-negotiable. If you don’t know at the pitch? Then we will not believe you’ll know in the draft. MORE: Genre and Craft.

5) WHY this storyworld?

There’s a lot of Science Fiction storyworlds in the spec pile and too often for no real story reason: writers just want to write something cool and futuristic. And that in itself is not an issue, especially if you do really well. But most spec Science Fiction storyworlds are merely homages to that writer’s fave works, typically stuff like BLADERUNNER, or Tolkein’s Middle Earth. In short, there’s nothing really new about them and if there isn’t a STORY reason for it being in a future metropolis? Then I’m not grabbed. At the other end of the scale, there’s LOTS of “gritty” dramas set in sinkhole estates in the spec pile, too. And guess what: they end up feeling like recycled material as well, whether screenplay or novel. But if writers really put their storyworld choices under the microscope, then chances are they can find new and interesting ways of representing them. What’s not to like? MORE: Want to get noticed? Don’t Write Sci Fi TV Pilots Or Depressing Drama and 4 Reasons Concept Counts Above All Else.

6) WHY would an audience get behind this?

If you don’t know who your audience is, you’re shouting into the wind. It really is as simple as that. If you’ve made it to a meeting with someone, then you need to go armed with knowledge of works that are *like* yours and who liked it; why yours is different; plus who that audience is and why it will appeal to them. This might take the form of knowing the potential scheduling of your TV pilot; the age classification of your movie and recent Box Office figures for similar movies; or knowing the titles and revenue of similar novels to your own. But never skimp on this aspect, because a project without a discernible audience has no IDENTITY. MORE: Who Is Your Work FOR?

7) WHY are you asking me?

The industry likes self starters and autonomous workers … And let’s face it, writers have unprecedented access to technology and potential resources and contacts on their own now. We don’t “need” publishers, agents, producers etc in the classic sense anymore: we can and are doing it all ourselves. So if we’re going the traditional route for a project, why are we in the room? What does that publisher, agent, producer, filmmaker ADD to this project? What’s your strategy? Why do you want to work with that person? Simply saying “‘Cos you’re great” or “‘Cos you did X” will not cut it. MORE: 12 Tips For Taking A Meeting

8) WHY should I give you my time and money?

Publishers, agents, producers are filmmakers are not patrons of the arts. If they’re going to invest time and money in YOUR idea (rather than their own), they need a really a good reason for this. The good news is, what they want is fairly simple: a great story, with great characters. And what does THAT boil down to? Pure and simply, a Killer Concept. Something that makes us go, “Why the hell haven’t I seen THAT before???” The bad news is, a Killer Concept is damn hard writing. But it can be done. So get going! MORE: Writing And Selling Thriller Screenplays and 7 Ways Of Road Testing Your Concept

Good luck!

Following on from my post on how writers stand in their OWN way of writing success and “making it”, here’s Nikolas from Grammarly with some sage words of advice. Enjoy!

FailingStreetSm1) I Have to Make More Time?

Many beginners dream about what their life will be like when they’re a real writer. They have a room of their own where they can be creative, spend hours writing, and be completely supported by their habit. They make good money and everyone, or at least their beloved audience, devours every new book. The reason it’s called a dream is because it’s not the reality. Dreams are achieved, or woken up from, or hallucinations not based on actual facts. Writing is difficult, time consuming, and takes a lot of hard work. Beginners can forget this when they see a one-hit-wonder strike it big on their first published manuscript. Writing starts when you make the time to write. Unless you’re married and/or you have a very supportive other half, you have to make money to support yourself while you write. So, while you’re working that full-time job as a technical writer or working part-time as an editorial assistant, you have to sit down several days a week and write. If writing is important to you, you’ll find the time even when you have seven kids, a sick dog, and a partner whose time is completely occupied because they just got into bee farming.

2) I’m Not Famous After Publishing My First Book?

As writers, we have to face the fact that we’re going to fail at many points in our lives. We may not have won that fifth grade essay contest, but we came in second at our sophomore regional short story competition. Progress in writing is important to keep us motivated. Some strike it early because they hit a niche market that craves what they’re able to write. Some hit an old market in a new and unique way. Some just get lucky. Real writers, and successful ones, understand that just one book isn’t always going to strike the market just right. They understand that sometimes, like author J.K. Rowling, you have to visit over twenty publishers before you find one that wants to publish your material. Don’t expect all the fish to bite.

3) But it’s so Difficult!

Is there an echo in here? Yes! Writing is extremely difficult. Not only is it not a skill many can hone, but it also takes the right set of circumstances for writers to “make it.” Many writers give up to easily because they don’t make enough time or they become easily discouraged by rejection slips and short-sighted publishers. Writers should plan for the worst and hope for the best.
There are tons of success stories in my Kindle newsletter that make me think, “why not me?” “How did they do it?” They worked hard, honed their skills, and ran out of red ink in their proofreading pens. You have to feel in your gut that writing was what you were born to do and then go do it. Sitting around hoping that your manuscript will get picked up and not working on another just stunts your growth. Writers who don’t succeed wallow in failure, profess their unconfirmed future success, and do not grow as writers through the writing process that is rejection.

4) I Give Up!

Ah, yes, the crux of the issue. Many writers give up. They’re tired of rejection notices, tired of nobody seeing the value in their work, and tired of chasing down freelance payments. Giving up is not something someone who desires to write should do. Many writers will claim that they want to spread their words, but become frail children if one person says that they’re not the right fit. Writers who want to succeed need to make enough time to do their work, realize that it takes a lot of effort to become published, and get their head out of the sand about striking gold during their first attempt.

If you’re worried that you won’t succeed due to time constraints, utilize online proofreading tools like Grammarly to help you find mistakes and improve your work. If you’re worried about the writing process becoming overwhelming, join a group of writers like the one on Poets and Writers for support. If you’re hoping to sell ten million copies your first time out, visit a straight shooting friend for a reality check. In all seriousness though, writers who don’t succeed have unrealistic goals, fail to make time, and usually don’t see how difficult it might be to get something published. Want to be successful? Never give up, keep submitting, and eventually you’ll get a bite that keeps you motivated to keep writing.

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BIO: Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he spent his afternoons sprawled across the floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing and business development roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.