Writing A Bestseller

Is writing a bestseller in your plan? Have you fleshed out your characters and mapped your plot, with exciting twists and turns along the way? While some novels seem to randomly catch on like wildfire and others don’t, not all things about bestsellers are random.
Many thanks to Global English Editing who have been in touch with this fab infographic. I really like how they’ve broken it down into 11 key steps. Obviously there’s no guarantees in this writing malarkey … But it’s ALWAYS a good idea to immerse yourself in research and work out what has gone before.

Language Choices 

When it comes to language, keep the writing short and sharp. An algorithm calculated with 80% accuracy that a bestseller will have shorter sentences, simple vocabulary, and active narratives.
Bestsellers usually have a high readability, which includes narrowing down the story to only one or two topics, to avoid confusion in readers.

Characters, Genre & Style

Female protagonists are very popular, and books featuring this tend to win awards. 52% of best-sellers are written in the third person perspective.
Romance is the most popular genre; romance novels sell the best. The next most popular genres for bestsellers status are contemporary novels and thrillers. I was interested to see themes of grief don’t tend to be popular, but then this makes sense. All of us will face bereavement in our lives to some extent, which is very difficult. Whilst fiction that deals with this might be cathartic, it is unlikely we will find this entertaining! 
 
When you are almost finished your book, but not sure what title to pick, consider this. The title of a bestseller is usually simple, begins with “The”, and tends to point to objects and things. Interestingly, the word “wife” happens to be very popular in bestseller titles recently. 

Are you ready to go for it?

Maximise your chances of grabbing a spot on the bestseller list by checking out this fab infographic in more detail after the jump, this Nanowrimo. Enjoy and good luck!

More Links To Help You Write Your Bestseller:

14 Proven Writing Tricks From Genius Writers 

12 Amazing Authors Share Their First Draft Top Tips

12 Amazing Authors Share Their Rewriting Secrets 

Top 10 (Normal) Struggles When Writing A Book

8 Ways To Jump Start Your Novel’s Description 

5 Things I Learned Writing My Debut

How I Wrote The Other Twin 

3 Steps To Writing, Editing And Submitting Your Book

 

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All About Rewriting

Rewriting – you either love it, or you don’t! Whatever the case, it needs doing … So with Nanowrimo over in a couple of weeks, I decided to ask my author friends for their number 1 rewriting tip! As you can see, there are some similar responses here again, which I always find interesting. Enjoy:

1) ‘Change your mindset’ – Sophie Hannah

Don’t try to think ‘How can I make this as short and painless as possible?’ – that will only make it feel longer and more painful. Instead, set aside loads of time and plunge right in, thinking, ‘Bring on the hard work!’ – that approach is more likely to end up with you thinking, ‘Actually, that was quicker and easier than I thought.’

BIO: Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling author of psychological crime fiction and poetry. Her most recent books are the Hercule Poirot continuation novel The Mystery of Three Quarters and a quirky self-help book, How to Hold a Grudge.

2) ‘Work out what you REALLY have’ – Sanjida Kay

Create a scene-by-scene chronology of what you’ve actually written, not what you think/believe/hope/wish you’d written. Ask yourself some hard questions. Does your novel work structurally? Are there plot holes? Who is telling the story? Is the right person telling the story in the right place? Is there enough ension/mystery/suspense/romance or whatever you need in the genre you’re writing? Do things happen? Does your draft go saggy anywhere? Create a new chronology to fix any of the above problems. Once you’ve got the structure right, then you can start thinking about the details. And remember: all good writing involves rewriting.

BIO: Sanjida Kay is the author of three psychological thrillers, Bone by Bone (longlisted for a CWA Steel Dagger Award, nominated as one of the best crime and thriller books of the year by the Guardian and the Sunday Express and named as an Amazon Rising Star); The Stolen Child (optioned for film and TV rights by the company that made Homeland) and latest, My Mother’s Secret. Sanjida lives in Bristol, with her husband and daughter.

3) ‘Read it on your Kindle first’ – Paula Daly

I transfer the Word document onto my Kindle. Then I can read sections of the novel anywhere: waiting rooms, the bath. There’s something about reading the manuscript in ‘real book’ form that allows me to identify the issues that need to be fixed.

BIO: Paula Daly is the acclaimed author of five novels. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Crime Novel of the Year award, and her books have been developed for the new ITV television series, Deep Water, starring Anna Friel.

4) ‘Cut 10% For Draft 2’ – James Carol

Draft 2 = Draft 1 – 10%. This simple little equation was in Stephen King’s On Writing and it works every time. Everything gets more streamlined and reads so much more smoothly. A variation on this theme goes like this: your second draft is your first draft with all the crap bits taken out. Not sure who said that one, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind.

BIO: James Carol is the creator of the Jefferson Winter series, which includes the bestselling Broken Dolls. He also writes standalones under the name JS Carol. These include The Killing Game, which was shortlisted for a CWA steel dagger. His latest novel is Kiss Me Kill Me.

5) ‘Leave it a good while’ – Zoe Lea

Leave it a good while before you even look at your work again, the longer you leave it, the less attached you’ll be and the delete key will be your friend.

BIO: Zoe Lea is a author living in the Lake District, her first book, If He Wakes became an international kindle bestseller and her next book The Secretary is due out summer 2019.

6) ‘Listen to your editor’ – Matt Johnson

Be brave and listen to the advice of your editor. They are on your team and have your best interests at heart. They want your baby to do well just as much as you do. Trust them.

BIO: Matt Johnson, ex-cop ex soldier. Voted at No.22 in the 2018 WH Smith best-ever crime writer poll. Author of the CWA John Creasey Dagger nominated Wicked Game trilogy. Final part – End Game – out now.

7) ‘Leave it’ – Anna Mazzola

Leave a good amount of time – ideally a few weeks – between finishing the first draft and going back in. It gives you perspective and allows you to kill your darlings without remorse.

BIO: Anna Mazzola writes historical crime and Gothic fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, which won an Edgar Allan Poe award, is based on the life of a real woman convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1836. Her critically acclaimed second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.

8) ‘Change the format’ – Rebecca Bradley

Read it in a different format to what you wrote it. It gives it a completely different feel. It feels like a different book. I read on my Kindle.

BIO: Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective author of Dead Blind as well as the DI Hannah Robbins series. She lives in the UK with her family and her two cockapoos Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis.

9) ‘Go back to your one line pitch’ – Claire McGowan

I find the editing stage by far the hardest, as it’s when I do the real work. One tip is to go back to your one-line pitch, or even try writing the blurb that might go on the back of the book. It helps you remember what you wanted to write about, and know what bits aren’t relevant and need to be cut. You can also try cutting around 50 words from each page, if you’re sure you can’t lose any whole scenes and still need to trim.

BIO: Claire McGowan is the author of the Paula Maguire crime series, and an upcoming standalone thriller (publishing July 2019). As Eva Woods she has also written several women’s fiction novels, and the latest, The Lives We Touch is out now.

10) ‘Don’t be afraid to delete’ – Ruth Dugdall

Don’t be afraid to delete things that don’t work: your goal is not to save words, it’s to find the right ones.

BIO: Ruth Dugdall is a British crime novelist whose award-winning novels delve into dark topics. Her latest novel THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T SEE has a protagonist with synaesthesia, who is investigating a crime, apparently committed whilst the suspect was sleepwalking.

11) ‘Go bite-size’ – Lucy Van Smit

Go bite-size. Break down rewriting into voice, plot, turning points etc and do one at a time. Always remember to read it aloud to check flow. I love editing!

BIO: Hailed by The Irish Times as ‘a writer to watch’, former documentary maker Lucy Van Smit is the author of the award-winning novel The Hurting, ‘a Nordic Noir Wuthering Heights’.

12) ‘Be ruthless’ – Peter James

Be ruthless and hard on yourself, if you feel something is slowing the action then it almost certainly is.

BIO: Peter James’ books have sold 19 million copies with 13 number ones. His standalone Absolute Proof has recently been published and the paperback of his new Roy Grace, Dead If You Don’t.

What Writers Can Learn

These writers have a wealth of experience, acclaim AND sales behind them. It’s true writing AND rewriting is a personal journey, yet these authors also echo one another too. So, thinking of their tips as a ‘best practices’ guide, here’s what we can learn:

  • Let your draft – and brain! – ‘breathe’. Don’t start editing right away.
  • Reading your draft through in a different way to how you wrote it is a good idea, ie. on your Kindle, rather than your laptop. (I like to print mine out on paper – always remember to recycle if you do the same!).
  • Find out what you REALLY have, not what you hope you have. Also work out if you have lost sight of what it was *supposed* to be, or whether it has EVOLVED. Sometimes it is a fine line.
  • Trust your editor. It’s not ‘you versus them’. Rewriting should not be a battle.
  • Don’t be afraid of the work. It has to be done.

Don’t forget to thank our authors by checking out their books.

Good luck with your own rewriting!

PREVIOUSLY: Read these authors’ tips on getting the first draft done, HERE.

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First Things First

First drafts seem to be your favourite part of the process, or THE WORST. For me, I hate every minute of the first draft – I guess it’s the editor in me! But since it’s November, that means Nanowrimo … So I thought I would crack open my email address book and ask some experts their first draft tips. Enjoy!

1) ‘Call Draft 1 a plan’ – Sophie Hannah

Call it a really detailed plan, not a first draft – this takes the pressure right off!

BIO: Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling author of psychological crime fiction and poetry. Her most recent books are the Hercule Poirot continuation novel The Mystery of Three Quarters and a quirky self-help book, How to Hold a Grudge.

2) ‘Don’t wait until The Muse strikes’ – Sanjida Kay

Do some maths! Work out how many words you’re going to write, and how many days you’ve got in which to write them so that you know approximately how many words you’ll need to write in a day. Choose when you’re going to write and block out that time in your diary as if it’s a Very Important Meeting. At the appointed time, have a strong coffee or mint tea if you’re a mint-tea-kind-of-a person; stick a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door and switch off all social media and your email account. Put your phone on silent.

Don’t wait until The Muse strikes. Stay at your desk/laptop until you’ve banged out some words. Don’t worry if they’re not the best words. You just need some words. Do start with a plan – a rough outline of the story and the characters at the very least. Go for long walks at the weekend to think about what you’re going to write during the week.

BIO: Sanjida Kay is the author of three psychological thrillers, Bone by Bone (longlisted for a CWA Steel Dagger Award, nominated as one of the best crime and thriller books of the year by the Guardian and the Sunday Express and named as an Amazon Rising Star); The Stolen Child (optioned for film and TV rights by the company that made Homeland) and latest, My Mother’s Secret. Sanjida lives in Bristol, with her husband and daughter.

3) ‘Plot beforehand and create a road map’ – Paula Daly

I hate the first draft. It’s my least favourite part of the process. So I need a plan, a road map, or I can’t find my way to the end. I plot for around three months before I start writing (some of this is done during the editorial process of the previous novel) and by the time I write Chapter One, I have pretty much the whole book worked out.

BIO: Paula Daly is the acclaimed author of five novels. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Crime Novel of the Year award, and her books have been developed for the new ITV television series,  Deep Water, starring Anna Friel.

4) ‘Write, write, write!’ – James Carol

Write, write, then write some more. This might sound overly simplistic but It’s the only way you’re going to reach the finish line.  If you’re thinking about writing you’re not writing … ditto if you’re talking about it. The only way to get the book finished is to get those words onto the page. I’m not going to bullshit you: the first draft is hard work. Basically you’re down in the word mine day after day. It’s dark and lonely down there and the only thing you’ve got for company are your doubts. The pay off comes when you finally get to the end of the first draft. That one never gets boring.

BIO: James Carol is the creator of the Jefferson Winter series, which includes the bestselling Broken Dolls. He also writes standalones under the name JS Carol. These include The Killing Game, which was shortlisted for a CWA steel dagger. His latest novel is Kiss Me, Kill Me.

5) ‘Don’t edit as you write’ – Zoe Lea

Resist the urge to go back and edit what you’ve already written, keep moving forward until you type out ‘the end’.

BIO: Zoe Lea is an author living in the Lake District, her first book, If He Wakes became an international kindle bestseller and her next book The Secretary is due out summer 2019.

6) ‘Get it written’ – Matt Johnson

First drafts don’t need to be perfect, they just have to be written. Don’t slow down the creative process by worrying about typing quality, spelling, grammar etc. That can and will get sorted out later. Let the story flow.

BIO: Matt Johnson, ex-cop, ex-soldier. Voted at No.22 in the 2018 WH Smith best ever crime writer poll. Author of the CWA John Creasey Dagger nominated Wicked Game trilogy. Final part – End Game – out now.

7) ‘Turn off the internet’ – Anna Mazzola

Turn off the internet (I use the Self Control app to limit access to social media) and set yourself a realistic word count for each day. I write in Scrivener, which allows you to set a target and then receive a satisfying ‘bing’ if and when you hit it. Oh, and coffee. A lot of coffee.

BIO: Anna Mazzola writes historical crime and Gothic fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, which won an Edgar Allan Poe award, is based on the life of a real woman convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1836. Her critically acclaimed second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.

8) ‘Write every day’ – Rebecca Bradley

Write every day. Even if it’s just a handful of sentences on a difficult day, it keeps the story percolating in your head and makes it easy to go back to every day.

BIO: Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective and author of Dead Blind as well as the DI Hannah Robbins series. She lives in the UK with her family and her two cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis.

9) ‘Focus on wordcount, over time’ – Claire McGowan

My absolute best tip for this is to always focus on wordcount not writing time. If you say ‘I’m going to sit down and write for four hours’, there’s a good chance you might still do nothing. I make myself do 1 or 2k words every day in the writing stage. I can’t do anything with the story until I have a good chunk of it down on paper. If you get on with it and don’t ever delete or stop to edit (my other tip!), you can do this in 15 minutes a day if you have to.

BIO: Claire McGowan is the author of the Paula Maguire crime series, and an upcoming standalone thriller (publishing July 2019). As Eva Woods she has also written several women’s fiction novels, and the latest, The Lives We Touch, is out now.

10) ‘Throw it down’ – Ruth Dugdall

Gag your inner critic! The first draft is about clay on the kiln. Don’t try to make it look pretty, just throw it down.

BIO: Ruth Dugdall is a British crime novelist whose award-winning novels delve into dark topics. Her latest novel The Things Your Didn’t See has a protagonist with synesthesia, who is investigating a crime, apparently committed whilst the suspect was sleepwalking.

11) ‘Do your prep first’ – Lucy Van Smit

Bum on chair. And be alert for your distractions, excuses and procrastination. Dio your prep first on story/character. Know what you want to say, then just say it. Switch the editor off and get it down on the page.

BIO: Hailed by The Irish Times as ‘a writer to watch’, former documentary maker Lucy Van Smit is the author of the award-winning novel The Hurting, ‘a Nordic Noir Wuthering Heights’.

12) ‘Write Every Day’ – Peter James

Write every day for 6 days a week at an amount that you are comfortable with, without fail.

BIO: Peter James’ books have sold 19 million copies with 13 number ones. His standalone Absolute Proof has recently been published and the paperback of his new Roy Grace Dead If You Don’t.

What Writers Can Learn

As with my previous ‘Ask the Experts’ post from TV writers, it’s interesting to note how many similar responses there are here. These writers are all accomplished and acclaimed, so let’s consider what they can teach us:

  • Nothing matters except getting the first draft written. This might be obvious, but it’s non-negotiable. Without the first draft, there is no book (or film or TV show for that matter, either).
  • Work out what will PREVENT you from getting the first draft written. If that’s the internet, turn it off – ie. use app blockers.
  • Work out what will ENABLE to you get the first draft written. If that’s a plan, use a plan. If that’s focusing on wordcount and/or what time you have available, do that. Whatever it takes.
  • Don’t edit as you go along. That comes later.

Don’t forget to check out the books by the writers listed here as a thanks for their guidance.

Good luck with your own first drafts!

NEXT: Read these authors’ rewriting tips, HERE

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Been Rejected? Join the club!

Who wants to be rejected? No one! We all want agents, publishers or producers to say, ‘We love it! Here’s a bag of money!’ Wouldn’t that be great???

Alas, you can’t be a winner unless you know what it is to be a loser. Some writers are rejected a handful of times before that all important YES happens. Some are rejected repeatedly for years. But ALL of us have to find a way to deal with this inevitable part of the industry.

Here’s a round-up of everything you need to know about the dreaded ‘R’ word:

1) What Creative Icons Can Teach You About Rejection

It seems insane that the most incredible icons of the world were once rejected. Who in their right mind snubs JK Rowling and Dr. Seuss? For what we can learn from these successful rejects, CLICK HERE.

2) Rejected? Top 5 Tips What to Do About It

Thought you knew what the problem was? Yay … Oh, wait. You’re still getting slapped in the face by rejection. Do not despair. CLICK HERE For what you can do.

3) 38 Good Reasons Your Script Might Get Rejected 

Years have passed … But still those rejections roll in. Arrrgghh!!! Bang2write’s got ya back. CHECK OUT THIS EPIC LIST and see if any of these reasons are blocking success

4) Failure Is Not Fatal. How to Succeed, No Matter What

Remember – rejection is NOT failure. You only fail when you quit. Here’s how to succeed.

 5) How To Be Successful, Defined by 5 Facebook Memes

Yes, yes memes are a load of crap. Except when they aren’t! If you’re in need of a motivation boost, CHECK THESE OUT.

 6) 10 Lies Writers Tell Themselves On Writing 

You might be kidding yourself, which can lead to rejection too. Are you telling yourself sweet little lies? Find out HERE.

7) 10 More Writer Fails (And How to Avoid Them)

Writers can’t avoid rejection. Unless they self-publish and even then, the public could reject the work. However, you can AVOID THESE 10 FAILS that often lead to rejection.

8) Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make Dealing with Rejection

Writers make mistakes when dealing with rejection? YEP! Some mistakes can be seriously damaging to your career. CLICK HERE and find out how to avoid making these top mistakes.

9) 5 Tips for Screenwriters to Find A Producer (And 3 More On Why You’re Failing)

WHY IS IT STILL HAPPENING! Help me. Help is here. Click the link.

10) Rejected? 3 Industry Pros tell you: DON’T GIVE UP!

Never give up. If you know in your heart that you’re a writer do not allow someone else to tell you that you’re not. Rejection doesn’t mean you can’t write. It’s true, some don’t have the magic needed to become a superstar storyteller. But that’s not what matters! Get those ducks lined up. Don’t give up before the slowest little duck can make it to the row. READ NOW.

Last Words

I hope you enjoyed this round-up on rejection. Get a cuppa, get out your … notebook (what did you think I was going to say?) and draft up a plan using these Bang2write resources. Reject rejection and keep going. Make it happen. See you on the other side!

BIO: Emma Pullar is a writer of dark fiction and children’s books. She also dabbles in screenwriting and has won/been shortlisted for several short story/script competitions. Follow Emma as @Emma_Storyteller as she lurks in the shadows, spying on people in the name of inspiration and creativity.

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Unhappy Writers

Unhappy writers seem to be everywhere on social media. I’m not talking about recently rejected writers who need a little reassurance and moral support, either. (That is a good idea by the way – join Bang2writers and post away).

No, unhappy writers are those who have lost sight of the REASONS they wanted to be writers in the first place. Reading their threads and comments on social media, they will express frustration and anger. They will wonder why they can’t catch a break … Rage about how ‘lesser’ writers get a break … How ‘bad’ various franchises, reboots, TV shows and movies are …

But guess what?? NONE of this makes an unhappy writer feel better! Here’s 5 things that CAN:

1) Recognise it’s not about ‘breaking in’

Writers get unhappy because they think they are on the ‘outside’ of something. But they’re not. There is no ‘industry’: just people grouping together, collaborating, making stuff. There’s no magic destination where everything is great and every project is greenlit. There is no golden ticket. MORE: 43 Famous Writers share Their Secrets On How To Be Happy 

2) Don’t seek permission …

Unhappy writers don’t realise they can do whatever they want. Want to make a short film? Start a blog? Publish a book? You CAN do all of these things – and more. Why NOT you? Look into crowd funding. Find out about platforms. Discover how self publishing works. There’s so much info out there on how to do this, much of it free. All you have to do is set a goal and work out how to get it done. Honestly! No, it won’t be easy. Yes, you will have to make sacrifices. But ultimately, just recognise it’s about taking into your OWN hands. Don’t wait to be picked, pick yourself.

3) … Or validation!

Writers look to outsiders to get their validation. They will measure their success by stuff they have literally no control over. A classic example on social media is when contests announce their finalists. Unhappy writers line up to claim their careers are going backwards if they have not placed, especially if they placed the year before. But this is not true. Why, next. MORE: How to Get Past ‘No Unsolicited Material’ 

4) Don’t second-guess rejections

This is the thing. Just because your writing is rejected, does NOT automatically mean it is bad. It is just as likely your writing did not meet the remit of the script call or contest for some reason. This means your supposedly ‘terrible’ script could easily fit another remit somewhere else.

But equally, remember radio silence IS rejection. Again, don’t second guess why. It happens. It shouldn’t, but it is easier to say nothing, than say ‘no’. They are not plotting about you, or keeping things from you on purpose. They just want to make their lives easier. Sad but true.

5) Take stock when you need to

If you feel unhappy as a writer, that is a red flag. It probably means you are overworked, or underworked. If the former, TAKE A BREAK. Consider if your current work is what you want. Re-evaluate your goals and consider if you are in the right (write!) place. If not, correct it!

If the latter, your frustrations come from not doing what you want to. So go back to point 2 on this list. Realise you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. So set your goal and figure out how to get it done. Do whatever it takes. I double dare you! MORE: Can’t Get Read? Yes You Can! 16 Top Tips On Becoming A Writer 

Good Luck!

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Dialogue Death

Dialogue is overrated. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, but you’ve heard the sayings … Actions speak louder than words … A picture tells a thousand words … What you see is what you get!

Yet many writers still get hung up on dialogue. Either a script or novel is too dialogue-heavy or the dialogue isn’t authentic, or feels ‘in the nose’. Here are some tips to help you nail it!

1) DANGER: Why Dialogue Is Killing Your Screenplay

Has your screenplay suffered death by dialogue? Don’t know how to bring it back to life? We got ya covered! CLICK HERE.

2) INFOGRAPHIC: All About Dialogue – A Periodic Table

 Want to make sure the dialogue you do write pops off the page. CLICK HERE to take a look at this fun table about speech for some great ideas.

3) How Do I Format an Interruption in My Screenplay Dialogue?

Writing some great lines,   then suddenly find yourself stuck on how to format an interruption? B2W’s got you covered. CLICK HERE.

4) Top 5 Dialogue Mistakes Writers Make

There are movies/novels with huge sprawling displays of beautiful dialogue … Then there are stories with minimal snappy dialogue. I’m not saying loads of chat is a bad thing. Of course it can. But how do you know yours does?? Check out these 5 COMMON DIALOGUE MISTAKES.

5) No, Your Female Characters Don’t Just Need More Dialogue

Huh? But … but … I’m trying to make my female characters more than a pretty decoration. Surely more talking is the answer?? If only it were that simple! Characters are what they DO my friend … FIND OUT WHY.

 6) 8 Great Dialogue Tips That Will Rock Your Screenplay

Want to make sure you nail the dialogue? Obviously, you do. CLICK HERE for some rock solid some tips when you are rewriting.

7) Q: “Is GOOD Screenwriting About GREAT Dialogue?” >> NO!!

You now know dialogue isn’t the be all and end all BUT what about GREAT dialogue? Find out why great dialogue alone does not equate to cult classic, HERE.

8) Q: Is GOOD Screenwriting About GREAT dialogue? >> YES!

Okay, this title would seem to contradict everything said in this round-up on dialogue BUT it doesn’t! Honest! We might be saying dialogue should not be front and centre, sure … BUT we are also saying it should still be GREAT. CLICK HERE.

9) 6 Reasons Dialogue Is Your Enemy

Even if the dialogue is great, the characterisation still has to live up to it. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s classic line from The Terminator, ‘I’ll be back’ would not sound impressive coming from Elmer Fudd. Same goes if The Terminator had said: ‘Why, you Wascally Wabbit!’ Not only because it doesn’t make sense but because it doesn’t fit the character’s personality and actions. Crucial difference. CLICK HERE.

10) The 2 Sentences Your Characters Should NEVER Say

Dialogue should push the story forward and reveal character … But they should NEVER remind the reader or potential audience ‘this is a story’. CLICK HERE for two lines of dialogue that does just that. Noooooo!

Last Words

I hope you enjoyed this round-up on dialogue. Now open up your screenplay/manuscript … choppity, chop! Trim the fat and your work will sizzle on the page.

Good Luck!  

BIO: Emma Pullar is a writer of dark fiction and children’s books. She dabbles in screenwriting and has won/been shortlisted for several short story/script competitions. You can find Emma on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook or lurking in the shadows, spying on people in the name of inspiration and creativity.  www.emmapullar.com

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Happy Halloween!

Halloween is always a great time to start thinking about writing a Horror screenplay, novel or short story. It’s a date on the calendar that never changes, plus Horror is always in demand around this time. So Halloween can act as a brilliant motivator for writing that Horror piece you’ve always meant to … Plus you can use the same date **next year** as your deadline. Perfect!

So, without further ado, here’s a starter kit on all things Horror to get you going. Gooooooooood luck!

1) Learn From The Classics (AND The Clangers)!

If you want to write a particular genre, you need to immerse yourself in it … Horror is no different. Classic books, movies and TV shows are classics for a reason. It doesn’t matter if you personally like them or not. You need to ASSESS them and work out why they hit their target audience so well.

You also need to see the movies and TV shows and read the books that don’t quite hit the mark as well. What is it that falls flat? What could have been done to improve them? I’m not talking about gut feelings here, I’m talking CRAFT. Also, read case studies – this is the internet, there’s plenty of them! Here’s a few to get you started:

This Halloween, make sure you get your watchlist and ‘to be read’ pile together! You need to know what has gone before to hit your target audience right in the face.

2) Find Out The Difference Between Horror and Thriller

I’ve worked with too many writers who *think* they’re writing a Horror … But really they’re writing a Thriller (and vice versa!). Before you begin on your own Halloween Horror journey, make sure you know the difference. Check out this post, What Is The Difference Between Horror & Thriller?, plus this one too: A Case Study (WIND CHILL).

3) Find Out What Is Possible On A Budget

There’s a reason Horror screenplays are popular with producers. They’re in demand and they can make at very low budgets … Especially because it’s one of few genres that DON’T ‘need’ a star attached. But lots of writers are clueless about writing low budget. Here’s a great post with the lowdown of what to avoid: Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Low Budget Horror. 

4) Write Great Openers And Visuals In Your Horror

Look, Horror needs great visuals. It is non-negotiable. If you think about the iconography of authors like Stephen King, the images he conjures up are just sublime … It’s no wonder so many of his books have become movies and TV series. Check out the new series on Amazon Prime of The Purge begins, HERE. Just make sure you don’t write THESE GROAN-WORTHY OPENERS.

5) Avoid The ‘Classic’ Mistakes Of The Genre

Like any of the other genres, make sure you avoid Horror classic clangers. Two-dimensional characters, endless strings of gruesome scenes and highly derivative concepts are just three. Find 5 more, here: 8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Horror Screenplay DEAD. 

6) Invest in Your Concept

Horror stories have some of the most memorable concepts around. Even if people HATE horror, there is a good chance they know the classics … Even if they have never seen or read them! That’s no mean feat. So make sure you invest in your concept! Top 5 Concept Mistakes Writers Make

7) Dodge Weird Tropes and Genre Pet Peeves

Like every genre, Horror has more than its fair share of recurring motifs that turn up TOO MUCH. If you think it’s bad in published or produced stuff, you should check out the spec pile! If I read one more ‘mysterious guy at funeral’, my head is going to EXPLODE. Check these out – and avoid:

8) Make Your Dialogue Pull Its Weight

Contrary to popular belief, B2W does NOT hate dialogue … I actually love dialogue, but it has to be GREAT! But what does that mean? Well, dialogue has to a) reveal character and b) push the story forward. A bit like everything else, really! Here’s a great case study of Horror movie dialogue to get your synapses firing: Top 10 Scary Movie Lines And Why They Work. 

Good Luck!

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‘Aspiring Writers’ Unite

‘Aspiring’ is a word defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as ‘someone who is trying to become a successful actor, politician, writer, etc.’  It’s also a word that many, many writers use to describe themselves, both in online bios and in person. Everywhere you look you will see and hear ‘aspiring writer’, whether that person wants to be a screenwriter, author or other type of writer.

Last weekend I taught my course, Screenwriting Fundamentals at Ealing Studios for the guys at London Screenwriters Festival. Part of the course is a ‘logline lab’ where writers share their pitches. Sure enough, as I heard some writers limber up and practice delivering their ideas, I heard that word ‘aspiring’. More than once, too.

On the surface, using the term ‘aspiring writer’ probably seems perfectly reasonable to most people. From the dictionary definition, I’d venture the operative words are both ‘trying’ and ‘successful’.

So, if those particular writers had only just begun their journey, that is ‘trying’ right? And if ‘success = money’, then earning no money (so far) means they are not a ‘success’ yet … Right?

Whoa, Nelly

There’s a big problem with the term ‘aspiring writer’. For starters, ALL writers are ‘trying’. This never stops. There isn’t a special magical destination writers get to, where everything gets greenlit and there’s no rejection anymore.

Sure, you may become MORE LIKELY to get things produced or published, but this is because you have built your network of relationships and career … NOT because you are not ‘trying’. Writing is hard work. It will always be hard work. You will always have to try.

What’s more, equating success with money is a horrible measure. It doesn’t work for real life and it doesn’t work for writing. There are huge swathes of creatives we consider a ‘success’ who have NOT made lots of money.

Success = Money = NOPE

Only this week novelist Anna Burns thanked her food bank for feeding her while she wrote her Man Booker Prize-winning book, Milkman. She will now use the prize money to pay off the debts she incurred during that time.

In the course of writing my book Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays, I discovered that practically all of people I interviewed/spoke with for my case studies made virtually no money during the making of their films. In some cases, they made no money FROM the films. But those films still won their awards – such as BAFTAs and Oscars – and helped them become successful in their careers.

Then of course there is little ol’ me. I don’t make a lot of money and I am constantly in my overdraft. I am fine with this … Especially as I feel ‘rich’ in comparison to the days I had to struggle as a teen Mum. But then a top Hollywood screenwriter took the time to email me out of the blue and said, ‘Congratulations on all your success! I read your book, it’s awesome.’

I admit I WAS incredulous for a moment. The writer who emailed me is in constant demand and makes a lot of money, writing films I – and millions of others! – have watched. I work out of my kitchen, pounding out words for blogs and books in-between school drop-off and pick-up times.

We are not the same … Right??

Yup, We ARE All The Same

When that Hollywood screenwriter emailed me, I caught myself doing what nearly ALL writers do. I was measuring myself against those ‘higher up’ than myself. This is self-sabotage in action. When self belief is key in building a writing career, this is madness.

Think of it this way. If you grow something in your garden, you are a gardener. Sometimes those plants will flower, those veggies will grow. You may give the flowers too your mum or take the veggies to market. Other times they die off, get pecked by birds, or scoffed by slugs. It happens.

There are professional gardeners. There are gardeners with lots of experience, some with very little. Some gardeners have ‘green fingers’ and find it easy. Others find it very difficult. most gardeners are somewhere in the middle. But literally no one says they’re an ‘aspiring gardener’. If you garden, regardless of outcome, you are a gardener.

So, whether you are a new writer, or a professional writer, or someone in the middle, we are ALL writers. It really is that simple.

If you are writing … You are not ‘aspiring’. You are doing it. Own it. Good luck!

More About This On B2W

How To Write An Outstanding Bio Online

5 Things I’ve Learned As A Professional Writer

Top 3 Tips To Become An Epic Writer 

Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make Starting Out 

15 Questions To Help You Network Like A Professional

Top 10 Things To Avoid As A New Writer

THIS Is How You Create Your Writing Career

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Career Secrets

Writing career secrets can be hard to come by when everyone’s journey is so different. It becomes easier to imagine breaking in and grabbing that elusive career is all just luck.

But it’s not. If we focus on BUILDING a career, then we can see it is all in our own hands. These guys below have all broken into the industry and built a career, so why can’t we?

Here’s what my 10 (okay, 11!) Top TV writers said when I asked them, ‘What is your top tip for a writing career?’ Here we go …

1) ‘Find The Joy’ – Ashley Pharoah

Find the joy in every job you do, no matter how lowly. It’ll make you a better writer and it’ll make you a person people want to work with.

BIO: Ashley Pharaoh is a British screenwriter and television producer. He is best known as the co-creator/writer of the successful drama series Life on Mars and creator/writer of the family drama Wild At Heart, as well as The Living And The Dead.

2) ‘Jealousy is toxic’ – Sally Abbott

Be lovely – everyone’s a human being. Deliver on time or communicate about the deadline.  Be generous to people, don’t be bitter – jealousy is toxic.  Don’t forget to be in your life.

BIO: Sally Abbott created BBC’s The Coroner and has written for several of the BBC’s most popular shows including Death in Paradise, Casualty and EastEnders.  Find her as @sallyabbott3 on Twitter.

3) ‘Rejection can make you strong’ – John Yorke

‘At the risk of sounding all Nietzschean, rejection – approached with the right attitude – can make you strong.’

BIO: John Yorke is a producer and story expert, producer of countless British TV shows. He is also author of the acclaimed writing book, Into The Woods. Read B2w’s interview with him, HERE.

4) ‘A NO is a just a slow YES’ – Barbara Machin

Timing is everything and so a lot of the time it is hard to land the commission … You need the right person, the right time, the right project to all align like stars. And you need your own charismatic invention to drive this. If it doesn’t happen? Try again. Be alert and ingenious. Why didn’t it “land” – do you need to tweak it or radically change an element?  Without compromising your idea and characters, you CAN evolve your big idea, your ‘perfect script’ (no such thing , right?)  to rebirth into ‘the show that gets commissioned’. The legendary shows that took years to get commissioned are your truth!! Sometimes you get lucky and jump a rung in the ladder but mostly it is creative running at the door.  Again and again. Painful but true.

SO they turned it down … OK  recover, radically review, rework, retitle and find another champion who LOVES it. Sometimes you need to leave it alone for a bit, but go back and revisit it with your alchemist’s hat on. We all write turkeys occasionally too, so take them into the yard and shoot them. But mostly what was great and good and original in a project tends to remains so … But it might need refashioning, a lick of paint and a rebrand. Guys, we are creatives first and then we have to sell stuff. So never ever give up!

BIO: Barbara Machin is the producer and showrunner of Waking The Dead, as well as a writer on numerous other shows including the BBC’s Casualty since 1990.

5) ‘Help others’ – Debbie Moon

Paradoxically: help others build theirs. No one wants to ‘network’ with someone who just wants to use them to climb the ladder: but if you make a point of helping others to solve their problems, people will gravitate to you, and you’ll all succeed together …

BIO: Debbie Moon is the creator of CBBC’s Wolfblood, and has also worked on The Sparticle Mystery and Hinterland. She has a number of TV and film projects in development in the U.S. and U.K. Find her on Twitter at @DebbieBMoon, or at her blog, HERE.

6) ‘Learn to bounce’ – Stephen Gallagher

Short and sweet! (True though).

BIO: Stephen Gallagher is the producer and show runner of such shows as  Eleventh Hour, Crusoe and Bugs. He is also a novelist and is on Twitter as @brooligan.

7) ‘Have some other creative outlet’ – James Henry

  • Go back in time and make sure you’re born independently wealthy, so you can weather the lean years. Failing that, arrange for a wealthy but disliked relative to have an ‘accident’ (insert winky emoticon). If you get caught, it’s something to write about, so a win/win situation.
  • Don’t have children.
  • Have some other creative outlet, even if it’s just painting Warhammer figures, otherwise constantly seeing your scripts go into development hell and not get made (or almost as bad, get made and sink without trace), will destroy your spirit.
  • Learn to touch-type. I am one hundred per cent serious, do an evening class or something. You can then type twice as fast, which will allow you to take afternoons off and paint Warhammer figures, or commit more murders, if you’ve developed a taste for it (which you will).

BIO: James Henry has written for Smack The Pony, Green Wing, The Delivery Man, Hey Duggee and the upcoming Shaun The Sheep movie sequel, Shaun The Sheep: Farmageddon. He is on twitter as @james_blue_cat.

8) ‘Be the person who should be doing the job’ – Dominic Minghella

Nike.  But if you want to be hired while you’re ‘Just Doing It’, ask yourself, ‘What kind of person *should* be hired to do this writing job?’  And be that person.

BIO: Dominic Minghella is the producer and showrunner of such TV shows as Robin Hood, Doc Martin and Knightfall.

9) ‘Don’t be the problem’ – Stephen Volk

Don’t be an asshole. Moan to your friends, sure, but when you are in the room be professional, and listen, Producers want writers who SOLVE problems, not writers who ARE a problem.

BIO: Stephen Volk is the BAFTA-winning screenwriter of Ghostwatch, Afterlife and Midwinter of the Spirit. His latest book is The Dark Masters Trilogy.

10) ‘Get out there’ – Lauren Sequeira

Get out there and meet people/network/build relationships. Being able to write is one thing, but people want to know they can work with you, that you’re approachable and will take notes. It gets easier the more you network.

BIO: Lauren Sequeira got her break writing an episode for C4/Netflix drama Kiss Me First. She’s also worked on other shows such as The Dumping Ground and currently Gangs of London.

BONUS!

11) ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ – Roland Moore

You should be able to deal with rejection (you’ll get a lot – we all do). One way of dealing with that is to have LOADS of ideas that you love, so you’re not just trying to sell one idea / script all the time. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Ever.

BIO: Roland Moore created the award-winning BBC1 series Land Girls and has recently adapted Humans (Channel 4/AMC) for China. His dystopian sci-fi series, The Last Cop, has been optioned by Black Box Media and Keshet International.

What Writers Can Learn Here:

Like my previous post, these writers have all said remarkably similar things on career secrets as well as craft. Whilst a writer’s journey might be individual, I believe there are basic principles we can take to heart here in creating our own career:

  • Build relationships with others. Climb the ladder together.
  • Re-evaluate your work, goals and strategies at various intervals.
  • Be the person others can rely on and want to work with.
  • Don’t take rejection personally. It is inevitable.
  • Find ways to ensure you can deal with rejection (and the creative lifestyle generally).
  • Never, ever quit – and enjoy the ride!

Thanks again to the TV writers for sharing their craft and career secrets. Great stuff.

Good luck!

Read Part 1, where these same writers share their writing CRAFT secrets, HERE.

More on Building A Writing Career:

THIS Is You Create Your Writing Career

12 Insider Tips If You Want A Writing Career 

How To Build Your Writing Career From Zero

10 Ways To Kill Your Writing Career DEAD (And 3 Tips To Improve Your Chances)

WARNING – This Is Why Your Writing Career Is In The Crapper

Take Your Writing To The NEXT LEVEL!

  https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-29888419-3773478736-1-originalWe all know format is the LEAST of our problems as screenwriters … but *how* do we improve our writing craft?? My course with LondonSWF, Advanced Fundamentals of Screenwriting at Ealing Studios, London (Oct 19-20th, 2019). Over two days, we will put writing craft under the microscope & you will learn tricks to elevate your writing to the NEXT LEVEL. Don’t miss out!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic above). We expect it to sell out , so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

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Craft Secrets

‘Writing secrets’ brings writers to this blog every day. It would seem everyone thinks there’s secrets out there that everyone else knows, but they don’t. I’m not immune to this either, I would LOVE to know!

So I thought I’d round up a bunch of top TV writers and ask THEM what their personal writing secrets are … Here’s the answers I got asking, ‘What’s your top tip for writing craft?’ Enjoy!

1) ‘Emotional courage stands out’ – Ashley Pharoah

My tip is not to bury the emotion under the craft. Emotional courage is what is needed to stand out from the crowd.

BIO: Ashley Pharaoh is a British screenwriter and television producer. He is best known as the co-creator/writer of the successful drama series Life on Mars and creator/writer of the family drama Wild At Heart, as well as The Living And The Dead.

2) ‘Bring yourself to your work’ – Sally Abbott

Work harder and raise your bar higher than anyone else (a lot higher, I’m talking stupidly ridiculously high).  And whatever you’re working on, bring yourself to it.  

BIO: Sally Abbott created BBC’s The Coroner and has written for several of the BBC’s most popular shows including Death in Paradise, Casualty and EastEnders.  Find her as @sallyabbott3 on Twitter.

3) ‘Write and fail’ – John Yorke

Write.  Endlessly.  Fail again. Fail better. 

BIO: John Yorke is a producer and story expert, producer of countless British TV shows. He is also author of the acclaimed writing book, Into The Woods. Read B2w’s interview with him, HERE.

4) ‘Keep  going’ – Barbara Machin

We all have days of self doubt, inertia, fear or downright exhaustion. Keep going. Go for a walk, make soup, watch The West Wing … But get back in the chair and write. Write write write. It may not be good, it may not be the best. But it IS something and you can always go back and change it/improve it.

Once something is down there is something to edit to tweak to make better. Which is why it is always such relief to get the first draft written . After that you finally  have some idea of what the damn thing is truly about (despite the endless treatments). Writing the script is only true exposure of character and plot.

There is no such thing as writers’ block – there is only finding ways to keep going. Look under every stone. Flip ideas, characters. Dig deeper: dig until it hurts, but write it out, say it out. Keep going. Give your subconscious time to help you solve the problems. Give yourself time and space to think. Walk and talk to yourself. Drive and tell yourself the story .

At the end of the day, who cares about the washing the dog, the kids, the supper or watching the latest must-see show and posting thoughts on FB?? All that matters is how many words, how many pages.  What have you made today that wasn’t in existence when you woke up? That’s your daily miracle. So keep going … And then wake up and do it again! 

BIO: Barbara Machin is the producer and showrunner of Waking The Dead, as well as a writer on numerous other shows including the BBC’s Casualty since 1990.

5) ‘You need emotional impact in the reader’ – Debbie Moon

Tell the story on the page. Yes, a script is a blueprint, but if it doesn’t have an emotional impact on the reader, it won’t ever get to production stage. Write fluid, emotional prose, give powerful insights into the characters’ emotions, and you’ll create the movie in the minds of the reader. That’s what leads to a sale.

BIO: Debbie Moon is the creator of CBBC’s Wolfblood, and has also worked on The Sparticle Mystery and Hinterland. She has a number of TV and film projects in development in the U.S. and U.K. Find her on Twitter at @DebbieBMoon, or at her blog, HERE

6) ‘Write badly, then fix it’ – Stephen Gallagher

If you fear you can’t write well, write badly and then fix it. No one will ever know.

BIO: Stephen Gallagher is the producer and show runner of such shows as  Eleventh Hour, Crusoe and Bugs. He is also a novelist and is on Twitter as @brooligan.

7) ‘Find out what you’re weakest at’ – James Henry

Find whichever you’re weakest at out of a) dialogue, b) character or c) structure, and work really hard on getting better at that particular element. Be aware that whichever one you’re best at, you will probably rely on too much to paper over the cracks.

BIO: James Henry has written for Smack The Pony, Green Wing, The Delivery Man, Hey Duggee and the upcoming Shaun The Sheep movie sequel, Shaun The Sheep: Farmageddon. He is on twitter as @james_blue_cat.

8) ‘Find something that helps you create’ – Dominic Minghella

Keith Jarrett.  Seriously.  His solo concerts, wild and lyrical by turns, take me to a place where ideas can flow.  But also I cannot work without him.  Don’t do that.  Don’t become dependent.  Find your own Keith Jarrett and all the other little things that help you to create… But do not, repeat DO NOT, become dependent.

BIO: Dominic Minghella is the producer and showrunner of such TV shows as Robin Hood, Doc Martin and Knightfall.

9) ‘Break the mental deadlock’ – Stephen Volk

If you’re stymied as to how to make a scene brilliant or different, and it’s holding you back, just write a BAD scene. Your skill will tell you what’s wrong with it, and it breaks the mental deadlock.

BIO: Stephen Volk is the BAFTA-winning screenwriter of Ghostwatch, Afterlife and Midwinter of the Spirit. His latest book is The Dark Masters Trilogy.

10) ‘Be personal’ – Lauren Sequeira

Put the personal in everything. If it’s not a world that is yours, or something you’ve actually experienced, then base your characters on yourself or real people who you know, or a real emotion that you felt. In my experience, when I’m open about this in pitches, a producer connects with it more.

BIO: Lauren Sequeira got her break writing an episode for C4/Netflix drama Kiss Me First. She’s also worked on other shows such as The Dumping Ground and currently Gangs of London.

BONUS!

11) ‘Just get it written (and edited)’ – Roland Moore

Don’t be scared of the blank page. Beat out your story and splurge out your first draft as fast as you can so you have a shape to improve and refine. Psychologically, it’s a great feeling to have a first draft in your hands. You’ll spend a lot longer editing it but each edit will make it better.

BIO: Roland Moore created the award-winning BBC1 series Land Girls and has recently adapted Humans (Channel 4/AMC) for China. His dystopian sci-fi series, The Last Cop, has been optioned by Black Box Media and Keshet International.

What Writers Can Learn Here:

I find it really interesting that although I asked all these writers separately (they had no idea who else I was asking!), their craft secrets were all so similar. Here’s the conclusions I can draw from what they say:

  • Splurge out that first draft. A bad page is better than a blank page.
  • Your writer’s voice counts for something. Use it.
  • Making an emotional connection via your story with the reader/producer is paramount.
  • Do whatever it takes, however you can – push yourself.
  • Keep on keeping on. No matter what!

As I’ve always said on this blog – there’s no get rich schemes, short cuts or even, it seems, SPECIAL SECRETS to this writing lark. There is only hard work. And these guys should know! It’s great to have it confirmed by the professionals.

NEXT:

10 Top TV Writers Share Their Writing Career Secrets – CLICK HERE

More On Writing Craft:

Top 5 Craft Mistakes Writers Make

An Epic Rant On Why You NEED Writing Craft

2 Things ALL Writers Get Wrong In Early Drafts

No, Writing Craft Is Not A ‘Rule’. Here’s Why

How To Avoid Killer Errors In Your Screenplay’s Scenes 

Take Your Writing To The NEXT LEVEL!

  https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-29888419-3773478736-1-originalWe all know format is the LEAST of our problems as screenwriters … but *how* do we improve our writing craft?? My course with LondonSWF, Advanced Fundamentals of Screenwriting at Ealing Studios, London (Oct 19-20th, 2019). Over two days, we will put writing craft under the microscope & you will learn tricks to elevate your writing to the NEXT LEVEL. Don’t miss out!

CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic above). We expect it to sell out , so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!

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

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