Self publishing has given a large group of writers a new opportunity to market themselves, reach a large audience and even make some funds in the process. Aren’t we all looking for such opportunities? To make the most of them, however, you need to have a good idea about what self publishing entails.

Being a successful self published author is all about strategy. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to dedicate to the process, it’s still important to do a bit of preliminary planning. Here’s everything you need to know about publishing a book on a tight budget.

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1) You Still Need A Budget

Why self-publishing is free of charge, you’ll still need to set a budget in order to ensure the professional launch of your creation.

Publishing an eBook or opting for on-demand printing (Amazon offers such a service that some find attractive despite the royalties) is free of charge. You will, however, spend some money on other aspects of putting the final “product” together.

If you’re not a graphic designer, you’ll have to splurge on the creation of a cover. An eBook cover is the most powerful marketing tool you can rely on. People are visual creatures. If you put an amateur cover together in a text processing program, chances are that you’ll miss on numerous opportunities to generate a sale. The lack of professionalism is simply sloppy and today’s buyer is picky.

Lesson 1: Do financial planning BEFORE getting started. This way, you’ll know whether the project is achievable right from the start.

2) Do as Much as You can on Your Own

The process of publishing a book itself is not expensive. Some of the additional services that authors rely on, however, can be costly.

These services include editing, proofreading, distribution, PR, getting your ISBN and even professional book formatting.

If you’re diligent enough, you can handle editing and proofreading on your own. Here are some online proofing tools that might help.

When it comes to formatting, layout and cover design, there are free of charge tools you can use for the purpose. Big retailers like Amazon, for example, allow you to upload just about any format and they handle the formatting for you.

The services you can’t handle on your own can be committed to a freelancer.

Lesson 2: Learn the necessary skills to minimise the involvement of other professionals.

3) Come up with a Strong Promotional Strategy (You can do it Free of Charge!)

You should know how you’re going to advertise your book before you’ve even launched it.

Launching a free book promotion or a discount in the first days is a good idea. This way, you can get customers who’ll read the text and leave honest reviews. In today’s world, it’s all about reader reviews. People rely on those to determine whether to buy one book or another. Thus, it makes sense to offer the book for free in exchange for some online popularity.

Think about offering the book for free to bloggers and GoodReads influencers in exchange for their honest opinion. Don’t try to influence them and push for positive testimonials. Quite often, these will sound fake. They may also provoke dissatisfied readers to leave extra-harsh reviews because they were tricked into buying your book.

Lesson 3: In order to make money, you have to advertise. The self-published competition is pretty intense and you can’t rely just on luck in order to sell.

4) Choose the Right Publishing Platform on the Basis of Royalties

Having a well-written text isn’t the only essential. You’ll also have to put your business hat on and determine how you’re going to distribute the book and which stores you’re going to rely on. There are many free of charge publishing options but some of them come with hidden costs in the form of high royalties.

Most self-published authors start with Amazon. Kindle Direct Publishing offers powerful opportunities and a chance to reach millions of readers across the world.

Various other popular online stores give self-published authors a chance to sell. The conditions and the formatting requirements will vary from one to the other. The downside is that you’ll have to format the book individually each time and submit it store by store.

If you don’t want to go through all of this work, opt for an eBook distribution service. In this case, you’ll be paying somebody else to handle the formatting and distribution for you. There may be a single charge or the service provider may take a percentage of each sale that you generate. Once again, make the calculation in advance to figure out how much money you’ll be dedicating to it in the long-run.

Lesson 4: Plan distribution accordingly to minimize losses from high royalties. Remember that the platform that’s worked for another author may not necessarily be the right one for you.

5) Consider Crowdfunding for pre-orders

If you’re attempting to self-publish a book on a budget but you’d still like to present a high-quality product, you may want to consider a crowdfunding campaign.

Crowdfunding platforms allow you to collect funds for a project or a cause that you’re passionate about. A good presentation and telling your audience to know why you need the money will be essential for successful crowdfunding. Think of it as a ‘pre-orders’ service.

Lesson 5: If you can’t cut the costs, look for additional sources of funding. A crowdfunding campaign may be just what you need to get started.

BIO: This article was written by Alice Honeycutt, a content marketer and a writer. She is always looking for new audiences to share her work with. Connect with Alice online HERE.

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No Real Spoilers

Following the run away success of my previous article, The Powerful Lesson ALIEN COVENANT Teaches Writers, I thought I’d have a go at dissecting another recent release. This time, it’s the turn of Guy Ritchie’s KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD.

Living in the South West most of my life, I’m heavily into the King Arthur legend. I’ve watched countless adaptation: some good, some poor, most of them middle. So I was always going to want to see this one and see what Guy Ritchie of all people had done with it!

As before, I’ll break the movie down in the style of a script report, though it should be noted these thoughts come from the movie, NOT the screenplay in isolation. Ready? Then let’s go!

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What’s Working?

As with so many epic fantasy films, it LOOKS fantastic. It starts in the midst of a war with the mage Mordred and with its mythical, nightmarish feel, borrows more than a little heavily from the work of Zak Snyder throughout, especially 300. There are all kinds of colossal monsters and beasts from Hell and really encapsulates the medieval magical horror show that is befitting of Arthurian legend, imho.

Because of this, the general fighting, action and set pieces are also top notch: I found them exciting and fun (and who doesn’t like men with super-abs fighting? Well maybe *you*, but I EFFING LOVE IT!). Charlie Hunnam is perfect in the role as far as I’m concerned; he looks like I imagine (a super-fit and gorgeous) King Arthur.

The music is fantastic, plus I also enjoyed the fact this movie is an essentially KING ARTHUR: ORIGINS story. Jude Law is formidable and electric as Vertigern, the evil mage uncle, gives the piece a Hamlet-esque style feel (if Shakespeare was on crack!), plus I liked the message regarding Arthur’s ‘drive’ and how adversity makes us who we are.

Another thing I liked a great deal is its diversity. BAME characters exist as standard in this storyworld. In crowd scenes, there are  BAME faces, male and female; adult and child.  There is no explanation as to why the likes of main secondaries Bedivere, Wet Stick and George are black, mixed heritage or even Chinese respectively in medieval England. Why should there be? This is fantasy and not a historical drama by any stretch of the imagination … But even if it was, immigrants have ALWAYS been here. This white-washed version of history the Brits have is literally out-of-date!

Lastly, I also loved its devil-may-care attitude and ‘up yours’ to the so-called ‘rules’ of screenwriting, such as:

– No to expositional inserts at the beginning? Got one.

– No to Rocky-like montages? Got more than one!

– No to ‘dream waking’? Got what feels like half a dozen!

Also, this is problem the only version of KING ARTHUR that’s crossed with a gangster movie. It’s classic Guy Ritchie: unapologetically masculine, more than a little bit bonkers … So this goes to show that if you break the so-called writing ‘rules’, go in there and SMASH them unapologetically and do it YOUR way.

What needs more development?

I could talk about how tonally it’s screwy as hell: this is way too scary for kids, but probably not quite right for adults either. But really, let’s put those all-important two words under the microscope:

Female characters. Sigh. 

As with so many epic blockbusters, it’s all about the menz. Female characters are totally sidelined in this narrative. In fact, there are two female characters killed within the first three minutes, to motivate both Arthur AND Vertigern. It’s like, seriously? It ain’t 1992 anymore, guys! 

From there, we have The Mage, who had many great things about her. I liked the fact she’s never once attracted to Arthur (or her to him) and  gender-flipping Merlin is a GREAT idea. But really, she’s what I call an ‘Expositional Jo’, facilitating Arthur’s journey throughout. In short, Ritchie et al have a great idea and don’t follow it through to a fully developed, realised and authentic female lead. Le Yawn.

Even Maggie, the inevitable double agent within Vertigern’s court, is criminally under-used. Sure, we know this secondary character’s arc of old: she will be found out and made an example of, except she isn’t and just spirited away. WTAF? We could have had some excruciating tension around this character – will they/won’t they find her out? – but she just dances around the periphery. Again: yawn.

If you follow what’s happening in Hollywood-land, you’ll know this movie resolutely tanked at the box office. Whilst this may not mean much in the long term – Guy Ritchie has a huge, young male following who love DVD – this nevertheless  probably means no more King Arthur franchise and that’s a shame, when so much of it was such fun.

What Writers Can Learn

Diverse characters are a HUGE deal in 2017 and beyond. With King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, word got out very quickly: this is a fun popcorn movie that has yet again sidelined female characters.

On this basis, I would bet real money on this as the reason as why it tanked. Women in my generation, plus their male allies and those coming up behind us are extremely vocal nowadays and have started voting with their wallets. Where there are excellent female characters – AS WELL AS male ones – there is $$$$ to be made. Hell, the movies don’t even have to be that great; they just need to be inclusive!

So, audiences have spoken: they want fully-realised female characters, just as much as they want fully-realised BAME (male) characters. We’re tired of white women standing for ‘all women’ and we’re bored of female characters dying simply to motivate male characters.

It doesn’t have to be either/or on diversity, female characterisation versus BAME characterisation. IT CAN BE BOTH. It’s not rocket science: stop making it all about the blokes as standard.

Good luck!

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PICK YOUR SIDE

Out in the blogosphere, there’s often a lot of discussion around the idea of writers being ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers’ (for the uninitiated, the former is a writer who plots everything out, knowing the ending in advance; whereas the latter will just begin and see where the story takes them, the idea being they ‘fly by the seat of their pants’, hence the ‘pantser’ epitaph).

As any veteran Bang2writer knows, B2W advocates being a plotter, especially if you’re a screenwriter. Structure is key in screenwriting, so starting without an end point in mind can land you in what I call The Story Swamp.

In contrast, I think novelists have a little more leeway, for sure. Even so, working with writers daily, I believe even having a rough outline means less hassle and angst for most of them in the long term. I also think the best writing – of any kind – has cast iron structure and I genuinely can’t see how a truly great twist or pay off can occur without knowing where you’re going from the offset!

But every writer is different and I get that. It’s with this in mind I ask this question today:

Are you a binge writer, or do you write every day?

A key bit of writing advice is ‘write every day’. You see it EVERYWHERE online and will hear many authors and screenwriters advocating it at conferences, panel talks and workshops. It certainly seems to be THE ‘norm’ in terms of tips for new writers.

It’s not hard to see why. Whilst it’s true that ‘practice makes perfect’, writing every day is not possible for everyone. Certainly, I’ve never been able to concentrate on my latest work in progress every single day, thanks to various other commitments in my life like earning money, looking after kids, etc. I’ve also heard this lament from many of the Bang2writers, too.

But even if I was able to concentrate on my latest novel every day, I don’t believe I would. I like to really DIVE INTO my works in progress; I like to think of nothing BUT that storyline and its characters. I think of writing as a fully immersive experience, basically.

So I’ll write in epic ‘binges’, coming up for air every couple of days or weeks. Then I’ll do NOTHING to my WIP, waiting for various problems and development issues to knit their solutions together in my subconscious … So when I return, I have fresh eyes and (hopefully) won’t feel as if I won’t to flush the entire thing down the virtual loo.

What about you?

For fun, I’ve prepared two badges, which you can see below and download and display if you want to. Pick your side, take the poll and let the Bang2writers know! Let’s see how this stacks up in the B2W massive!

DOWNLOAD the Binge Writer badge, HERE.

DOWNLOAD the Every Day Writer badge, HERE

Take the B2W poll

Can’t see the poll? CLICK HERE.

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THE SCREENWRITER'S JOB

Screenwriting shouldn’t be that hard. You have a story, and you turn it into a script. You just have to follow a precise format that’s easy to read.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complex than that! The script has to paint a picture for the reader. If you want to get it on the desks of producers, directors, actors, and all other important people in the process of making a movie, you have to make things right.

Everything starts by critiquing your own work. No matter how good you are, you’ll still notice mistakes when you’re careful enough!  We’ll list 5 common mistakes that screenwriters make. If you identify them in your work? Fix them, pronto!

1) Not starting the story and characters TOGETHER

Think about it: would you rather watch a movie about a ‘random strange city of crime’ or a movie about Batman?

Here’s how the script for The Dark Knight begins:

“BURNING. Massive flames. A dark shape emerges – the BAT SYMBOL. Growing. Filling the screen with BLACKNESS.”

The symbol immediately reveals the character. Then, you see the man in a clown mask and you get into the characters. BOOM!

Always introduce the characters at the very beginning of the script, WITH the story, hand in hand.

2) Describing the Characters in Too Much Detail

When you’re trying to write a strong character, you might get too focused on the details. You should never get carried away with physical descriptions and stuff like clothes (yawn!) in the screenplay.

It might surprise you as a writer, but the clothes, hair colour, height, etc don’t matter much. Every project includes makeup artists, costume designers, and casting directors. Leave some flexibility for them!

Unless it’s extremely important to mention that your character is six feet tall, has green eyes and is of French descent, don’t do it. Focus on the character of the character. Make sure the script conveys her passions, struggles, flaws, strengths, and soul.

3) No Writer’s Voice

Everyone keeps telling you: the script should be as clear as possible. You don’t need complex words and sentences. That’s true. However, such approach can lead you in the wrong direction: no style.

Whilst a screenplay is not a novel and we SHOULD see most things (so write visually), we still need to give a sense of our writer’s voice and own the page. Splash your personality on the page, using cleverly picked phrasing and images to show off YOUR style, your writer’s voice. Make the reader see ONLY YOU can write this story.

We don’t need any more vanilla screenplays!

4) Including Camera Angles and Music 

If you want to annoy a potential director, go ahead and include the camera angle details. You’re very clear about how you want this movie to look on screen. It’s your screenplay, after all. However, you have to let them do their job. If you include camera angles, you won’t get the deal.

The same goes for the music. It’s okay to include a character’s favourite type of music. For example, a writer may sit alone in his room, listening to Bach all the time. That’s okay. However, don’t provide instructions for the soundtrack. That’s another person’s job.

5) Lack of Editing

This is one of the most serious mistakes. Every screenwriter will go through the script before suggesting it to producers. However, not all of us go through a detailed editing process. We’re too attached to our work. Cutting things out hurts our feelings.

That’s why we need professional editors. A professional editor will maintain the format and style, but will fix the flaws.

Experts from professional writing team XpertWriters say that it’s really the most important step of writing.

Concluding:

The script has to paint a picture by TELLING THE STORY. All these mistakes listed dilute the vision of the reader. Is your script free of them?

BIO: Susan Saurel is a teacher and writer from Texas who is ready to share her experience with readers. Susan loves lifes and extreme sports. You may follow her on Twitter or add on LinkedIn.

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As writers we all want to tell stories which reflect the rich, diverse world we live in. However, writing characters with different life experiences to your own can come with pitfalls, and it is important to avoid these to prevent writing stereotypes or unbelievable characters.

I’ve outlined 5 top tips for creating LGBT characters which I hope will help you avoid these pitfalls. I’d love to hear any other advice you can share!

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1) Don’t make being gay a gimmick

We all know that producers want diversity in scripts, and that’s fantastic. But crow-barring a ‘gay best friend’ or ‘camp teacher’ into your script just to score points isn’t going to cut it. Stereotypes have been done to death. Make your characters three dimensional people who just happen to be gay too.

Top Tip! Question why each character has to be heterosexual, or cis-gendered (identifying as the gender they were assigned at birth, aka ‘not transgender’). Could you enhance your story by changing their sexuality or gender identity? MORE: How To Write Better Diverse Characters

2) Don’t just make it about ‘LGBT Issues’

When you are writing LGBT characters it is very easy to focus in on the dramatic – the ‘coming out story’ or the ‘Transition story’. And while these can have real value, there are lots of LGBT people in the world living normal lives and going on adventures which have nothing to do with who they sleep with or which gender they identify as!

Russell T Davies has said that he deliberately avoided writing about HIV when he wrote Queer as Folk because it was what everyone was expecting. He wanted to go in a different direction and focus on the many positive aspects of gay life.

Top Tip! If you want to tell an LGBT story, find a new angle; make your script stand out.

3) Do your research

If you do decide you want to focus in on a storyline specific to the LGBT community and are not already a member of this community – do your research! If you want to write about prohibition: talk to people who were around before homosexuality was legalised. If you want to write about transitioning: go and talk to Trans* people. Make your language, experiences and stories resonate with a wide audience.

Top Tip! Talk through your ideas with LGBT friends or colleagues – make your story authentic. MORE: Top 5 Diversity Mistakes Writers Make

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4) LGBT in ALL genres

LGBT people have been around since the dawn of humanity. Even if you are writing a period drama, could you include an LGBT character? There are so many fantastic stories to be told of life before decriminalisation, or life as a trans person before transgender was recognised.

Likewise, LGBT people don’t just emerge fully formed into the world aged 18. If you are writing for children or a family audience, could you use this opportunity to help normalise LGBT lifestyles by including gay parents or a trans* child?

Top Tip! Think about how the inclusion of LGBT characters may impact your audience in a positive way. MORE: 11 Experts Share What They’d Like To See Next From Trans Characters

5) Trans* is an umbrella term

If you want to include trans* characters in your writing, remember it’s not always a case of ‘Male becomes female’ or ‘female becomes male’. Trans* encompasses a whole spectrum of people, from those who feel they don’t fit into any given gender, to those who feel that they are a beautiful amalgam of both, to people who fit anywhere in between. Considering Trans* characters in your writing opens up many more opportunities for fresh, interesting stories to be told.

Top Tip! Think outside the box. Does your character need to be male or female, or would it take your story to another level if they didn’t fit in to either category?

And Finally …

If you have written an LGBT character or storyline and are worried you haven’t got it right, ask for feedback! It’s always better to correct a character at development stage rather than submit it and find out the hard way. If you have no LGBT friends keen to read for you, check in at an online group that champions diversity like Bang2writers and ask away!

BIO: Jodie Crossman is a freelance screenwriter from West Sussex. A nurse by day, writer by night, single mum and caffeine addict, she has been writing for the last 5 years, completing scripts for both film and television. Her comedy pilot ‘The Matriarchy’ was shortlisted for the 2016 BBC writers room scheme, and her first completed feature script ‘Fortysomething’ has just been optioned by Seahorse Films, and will hopefully soon be coming to a cinema near you! Follow her on Twitter as @daisy_and_me.

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Since my last post in this vein, 15 Cheesy Writing Fails To Avoid In The First 10 Pages, I have been INUNDATED with requests for more! I’m talking emails, PMs, DMs and even writers on my B2W Skype Notes sessions.

Everyone wants to know what NOT to do, so B2W’s happy to oblige, since there’s ALWAYS more where that came from … One important thing to remember though: nearly all of these worked *once upon a time*, so make sure you stay up-to-date and/or twist these as appropriate. After all, when is a cliché not a cliché?? WHEN IT WORKS! Let’s go …

1) Breaking down/ getting lost in the middle of nowhere

It’s obvious that this worked once upon a time, especially in the horror genre. But these days, audiences want something a bit more meaty and clever, especially in the set up for their scares. Low budget recent horrors like It Follows and The Babadook bring supernatural forces into the characters’ lives by other means; plus studios like Blumhouse have families faced with significant twists on the ‘haunted house’ motif. Know your genres and their conventions, it’s the only way to ‘bust’ them! MORE: What is the difference between Horror & Thriller?

2) ‘Wake Up In Neverland’

The notion of a character being hit or shot in the head, run over by a car, teleported or WHATEVER was once a staple of those fantasy shows set more-or-less within the realms of ‘reality’. the TV shows Quantum Leap, Life On Mars and its follow up Ashes To Ashes are the most obvious, but the fantasy novel The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is another one.

Don’t get me wrong … This plot device worked for a good long time. But now? It feels as stinky as Stilton left in someone’s cheesy sock. AVOID!

3) I’m seeing f***ing vampires

Yup, we all remember Dusk Til Dawn. Yup, it was great. George Clooney’s speech about not believing in vampires, ‘kept he’s seeing f***ing vampires? AWESOME. It was funny. It was exciting. It was great.

BUT GUESS WHAT — Dusk Til Dawn was over twenty years ago … and the whole vampire thing went on for a loooooong time. We don’t want vampires at the moment. Same goes for werewolves. Or Zombies. YES, EVEN FUNNY ONES OMG JUST STOP ALREADY.

4) Perfect woman shows Ordinary Joe ‘the way’

Aaaah women are perfect! Men suck! But men are still good enough to haver perfect woman show them ‘the way’ — whatever that is. Yawn. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.

5) The Killer Is Me

When a protagonist is pitted against an antagonist who turns out to be THEMSELVES for some reason , it immediately sets this script reader’s alarm bells ruining. This trope was used for a looooong time, starting off in iconic properties around the turn of the millennium like Fight Club and Memento. It’s not hard to see why; these properties influenced a LOT of writers. But this scenario has had its day, big style. Sadly, no one’s told the spec pile. (You get maximum cheesy points if you combine this with number 2 on this list btw. GNASH!). MORE: BOOK VERSUS FILM – An Epic Study Of Fight Club

6) Sad parents lose a child and go away to a haunted place

Grief is a funny thing, it affects everyone differently. But I’m pretty sure going to spooky places and getting attacked by ghosts does not help the bereavement process. Look, it worked for a while – just like most clichés worked, once upon a time – but NOW IT DOESN’T.  Take heed and try something else to get your young family in harm’s way.

7) Idiot protagonist should just go to the police

This one really gets my goat. It’s one thing if the police turn your protagonist away (for whatever reason); or another if your protagonist lacks the evidence for the police to take him/her seriously. It’s EVEN possible for a protagonist to not go to the police because s/he fears the ramifications for him/herself, or for loved ones. Hell, there’s loads of things a writer can do here.

However, if your protagonist simply keeps that evidence to him/herself *because*?? ARGH punch yourself in the face. At once!

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8) The Chosen One Is White and (Probably) Male

White guy saves the brown people? SERIOUSLY? Look, no one’s saying your lead HAS to be female, BAME, LGBT or disabled (though there have been some great ones who are).

Just that, if you’re going to write a male hero? Make him less of a white saviour. Ta.

9) The Prophecy declares …

Destiny can be a great concept to explore, but if it becomes a big fat exposition dump, it needs a rethink. It feels as wooden as a big fat oak tree – and audiences these days are just too smart for that.

10) Helpless old people

Dementia is a frightening disease, plus the frailty we’re subjected to as we get older is daunting. What’s more, we may see older generations on social media espousing some – shall we say – ‘choice’ views when it comes to certain progressive ideals.

So as a result, writers often tend to think of old people as helpless, left behind, almost like overgrown children. It’s rare I see an elderly character – or even one over sixty, now you mention it – who is holistic, authentic and real-feeling! It’s rarer still to find older characters who can use mobile phones, Kindles, or computers. Yet the ‘silver surfer’ generation has embraced technology. Come on writers, eschew those stereotypes. MORE: 6 Stock Characters That Need Retiring By Writers NOW

11) Incredibly Intellectual Psychopath

DYK? The average psychopath is BELOW average intelligence. Just because the likes of Hannibal Lecter – and many that came after him, especially in the 90s – combined psychopathy and extreme intelligence doesn’t mean this is ‘normal’. Do some research!

12) Inherit the cottage

I’ve noticed something, especially in the spec TV pilots I read: when a ‘townie’ family goes to the country, it’s nearly always because they’ve inherited a cottage, thanks to some long-lost relative. The cottage will be a mess and need renovating, too – usually because it’s taken so long to track them down!

Err, what’s wrong with a towny family simply going camping or caravanning in Devon, Somerset, the Lake District??? Usually it’s the countryside backdrop that’s important, rather than the actual cottage anyway. Why make it hard for yourselves, writers!

12) Supernatural Hereditary Problem in the family

Don’t you just hate it when you hit puberty and discover you’re turning into a vampire? Or a werewolf? Or a witch? Or whatever?? See number 2 on this list!!!

14) Crazed Antagonist with f***ed-up plan

Too often, an antagonist wants to do SOMETHING BAD for no reason other than it’s BAD and PITS HIM/HER AGAINST THE ANTAGONIST. Noooooo!

Never forget: villains are the heroes of their own stories. They think the protagonist is the bad guy! Make us empathise with your villain, instead of thinking he’s crazed. OR, if being crazed is part of his appeal – really be prepared to go for it and make his logic ‘follow-able’ at least. There are no half measures!

15) Teens who are not high tech enough

Too many scripts and novels I read don’t use the RIGHT tech when it comes to teen characters. In order to put across news exposition (which feels cheesy anyway), writers will have young people listening to the radio on an actual transistor (arf!) or watching news on the television in – get this – REAL TIME!!! Nononononono.

The majority of teens get the bulk of their information via the internet, especially social media. Platforms like Youtube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Musical.ly are their water coolers of choice. Many will use Facebook or Twitter, but only to pretend to parents they’re being responsible. FINSTAGRAM is a thing, too – aka ‘fake instagram’, where teens and young people will pretend to be someone else or be anonymous so they can post what they want, without pushback from family and friends.

Understand, writers: yer old! All of this info is probably out of date ALREADY. So if you’re writing about young people, make sure you RESEARCH young people! Spend some time with them. Look into what they love to do, how they see the world. Don’t think back to your own youth, cuz that’s long gone. It’s not rocket science! MORE: How To Write Young People That Are Actually Realistic

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When a book is turned into a successful movie, it becomes a cultural phenomenon. Fifty Shades of Grey. Game of Thrones. Harry Potter. Twilight. We all know these stories and characters, whether or not we’ve read or watched them.

As B2W often advocates, knowing what an audience wants and why is why the half the battle. Each movie has its own appeal that makes it a pleasure to watch. If we dig a little deeper we can identify those points of attraction. There are specific factors that can turn books into successful movies. Let’s reveal the secrets.

10 Unpredictable Ingredients that Turn Books into Successful Movies

1) Fantasy

Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia… all these books belong to the fantasy genre. Books that tell stories about different worlds are always attractive on screen. Each reader visualises the story. Thus, fantasy movies trigger so many discussions. Here is what you can do to add this attraction factor in your writing:

  • Create an unusual world where anything can happen.
  • Reconnect with your inner child. You surely had a fantasy world when you were a kid. What was it?

2) Challenge Social Values

Remember The Clockwork Orange? It’s one of the most popular books that challenge social values. Dystopian themes are consistent in literature, and they are very popular in the movie industry. The Hunger Games is also based on a dystopian theme.

  • You have your own views on the direction the current social values will lead to. Literature gives you endless opportunities to express your vision. Do it! Question those values and bring them to extremes in your story.

3) Suspense

In other words –thrillers. They make great films! Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Cape Fear, The Girl on the Train, The Silence of the Lambs … Should we go on?

  • Don’t give away the main points of your story. Give hints. Build the story towards its culmination. Then, surprise the reader with the unexpected.

4) Romance

Nicholas Sparks learned his lesson as a writer who aims for cinema: a love story can never be too tragic.

  • Make it sad, slightly tragic, but beautiful.
  • Make people cry, even if that means killing one of your main characters. Not all love stories have a happy ending. In fact, the good ones don’t.

5) Challenge Religion

Dare we mention Dan Brown? The Da Vinci Code achieved huge popularity not only because of the intriguing story, but also because it criticized the Christian religion. Umber to Eco did the same thing with The Name of the Rose. This book was slightly more complex to the extent The Da Vinci Code did, but it made a great movie.

      • It doesn’t matter whether you belong to a particular religion, or you believe in your own ways. Ask the questions you have. Expose the doubts.
      • Challenge weak points of different religions! If you infuse religious elements into a thriller, you might find success.

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6) Simplify Eastern Philosophy

Eastern discipline is a bit too much for the Western man. If you write a book that simplifies Eastern values and brings them closer to Western man’s understanding, you’ll have a good foundation for a movie. Think of Eat Pray Love, Collateral Beauty and Afterwards – these books have elements from Eastern beliefs.

      • It’s time to enter a meditation course. It makes your mind focused and gives you information on the concepts of mindfulness and being present. If you’re inspired to bring such elements in your writing, do it!

7) Reveal our inner desires

Fifty Shades of Grey is a story that people would condemn if it really happened. It humiliates women, so feminists have a nice foundation for criticism. When E. L. James turned it into a book, however, women from all around the world went crazy over it. Naturally, it had to be turned into an equally popular movie.

      • We all repress wishes we consider inappropriate. Are you up for a challenge? Schedule psychotherapy sessions to discover your own repressed wishes. They will lead to the most intriguing story you’ve ever written.

8) Take something ‘pre-sold’ and twist it

Twilight is a pretty simple romance. Still, it shows us love between a vampire and a teenager sold over 120 million copies. The Game of Thrones is another great example of how a unique, unexpected story is great screen material.

      • Do some brainstorming. Visualise your own story on screen. Let all hidden ideas come to surface. Then, connect them in an unusual, unexpected story.

9) Take a lesson from history

Do you know why many students hate history? They don’t like memorizing dry facts. When people see history turned into a movie, however, it becomes attractive. The Last of the Mohicans, Spartacus, The Light Between Oceans, and The Eagle are only few of the many movies based on historical romance and adventure novels.

      • What’s your favorite era? Do some reading. Explore the fashion, customs, etiquette, events… everything. Take an online course! Then, place a great story in that period and make it as realistic as possible.

10) Inject some Horror

The Shining. The mere title of this book gives you the chills. Jaws by Peter Benchley is another example of a book with horror elements turned into a successful movie. It’s not easy to write a horror novel. If a writer makes it work, they have great chances to see it on screen.

      • Start with horror short stories. This is a genre that’s not easy to master, but you can do it with a lot of practice.
      • You know those clichés in horror movies? Meaningless presentation of evil, which makes people commit terrible acts. Taking wrong turns, knocking on a stranger’s door … Stay away from them! A good horror story should have a fresh approach.
      • Read David Morrell, Stephen King, and Harlan Ellison. You’ll realise what good horror fiction looks like.

Seeing our favorite characters from literature on screen is an unforgettable experience. Every modern writer dreams of creating such a story for their readers. If your ambition is to write a book that will make great movie material, you can use the elements described above.

BIO: Chris Richardson is a journalist, editor, and a blogger. He is also a part of Essay Geeks team. Chris is also fond of traveling, sports, and playing the guitar. Follow him on Facebook and Google+.

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The first rule of Write Club is: you do not talk about Write Club.

The second rule of Write Club is … wait! Perhaps we should talk about it??

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about what is acceptable behaviour in writing circles and what is considered bad manners. Perhaps you’ve already broken some Write Club rules.

Dare to read on? Are you tough enough to take a punch to the face and come back fighting. Yes? Then chew on these, suckers (Arf)! Enjoy …

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RULE #1

Writers Shall Not Ask Other Writers to Write Their Book for Them

This should be obvious but clearly it isn’t, because I’ve had a few people contact me and the first line they write in the message is … ‘Can you write my book for me?’ (!!)

ERM NO! Hire a ghost writer, that’s what they’re for! I recommend John F McDonald. PLUS, if you want to turn your novel into a screenplay, why not try Elinor Perry-Smith?

RULE #2

Writers Shall Not Send Unsolicited Material

Seriously, this is like meeting someone for the first time and forcing food into their mouth without asking if they want some. Don’t do it. What’s more, don’t send unasked-for stuff to industry pros like literary agents either, you’re wasting your time!

RULE #3

Writers Shall Not Ask Other Writers For Reviews

Think about who you are asking this favour of and whether they actually have time to spare. Many writers also have a day job, so their time is extremely precious. HOWEVER, book bloggers are actively looking for books to review … it’s a question of looking in the WRITE PLACE! Doh!

RULE #4

Writers Shall Not Spam Everyone Up The Arse

There’s a thin line between marketing and spam. KNOW WHAT THEY ARE. Yes, yes writers love to help fellow writers, but AGAIN, remember it’s book bloggers you should be targeting.

So, don’t use your social media simply to try and flog your blog, plus always remember another person’s online space is like their house. Don’t plaster posters up over it without asking, this is the sort of thing that annoys the crap out of people online.

RULE #5

Writers Shall Not Advertise in Comments & Threads (unless asked) 

Three words, ‘move to trash’. Just like rule 4, this practice is SPAM too! DON’T lose your credibility as a writer online.

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RULE #6

Writers Shall Not Ask to Read Someone’s Work In Progress (WIP)

Can I read your manuscript? Ha! No. Most writers have a group of beta readers. Professional writers need to earn a living. They can’t give work away. Hobby writers may say yes to your request but learn to tell the difference. Would you ask a chef for their recipes before they publish the cookbook or would you wait and buy the book?

It should be the same for novels. Peer review is okay, muscling in is not. If you can’t tell the difference then do what I do, don’t ask, drop subtle hints and wait for them to offer!

RULE #7

Writers Shall Not Ask for A Free Book

Many people don’t stop to think about cost. Is it free to put a book together? No. Asking for a free book is like asking for money. Most of us can’t really afford to write books, we do it because it’s who we are.

If you enjoy the work then please support your writer friends by paying 99p for an ebook. I love paperbacks but if I can’t afford one I will spend 99p for an ebook. Most of us can do that. (Psssssst if you still want a free book, then look out for competitions and giveaways on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’ve won a few books this way).

RULE #8

Writers Shall Not Enter into Spam Wars

Writers who constantly plug their books think this is good exposure but trust me, it’s NOT. Find someone who loves your book and ask them to push it. Chances are they may do this already!

If an author constantly posts the same thing over and over, no new info, nothing different to say – people switch off. Find a new and exciting way to get people thinking about your book. Change it up.

RULE #9

Writers Shall Not Ask for Free Editing

Editing and proofing are REALLY IMPORTANT. Don’t skimp on this by trying to be a cheapskate. There are lots of cost-effective services around, LIKE THIS ONE, or THIS ONE.

RULE #10

Writers Shall Not Ask for Access to Agents or Publishers!

You should NEVER message a writer out of the blue and ask them to put you in contact with their publisher/agent. I can’t emphasise this point enough.

Effective networking means friendship and trust. Example: I made friends with a writer. Exchanged feedback. She was searching for a publisher. I knew someone. I contacted them on her behalf. She submitted her work. She now has a book deal.

A month ago, this writer didn’t know me and this month she landed a book deal via me. Then, I got the chance to pitch my work because of this same writer’s encouragement.

Remember: friends first, favours second!

Concluding:

It’s difficult to navigate the writing world without knowing the ‘rules.’ I hope I’ve made it a bit clearer for newbies and in avoiding these pitfalls I’m sure you’ll find every success on your writing journey.

The first rule of Write Club is: you should definitely talk to everyone about Write Club.

Good luck!

BIO: Emma Pullar is a writer and book reviewer. Her picture book, Curly from Shirley, went to number four on the bestseller list and was named best opening lines but NZ Post. As well as picture books, Emma writes horror, dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal fiction. You can read her short horror story, London’s Crawling, in the Dark Minds charity collection. Follow Emma on Twitter, HERE.

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No real spoilers

So, I saw Alien Covenant last night. I’ve been waiting for this one for ages, so it’s fair to say my expectations were high. Here’s what I thought of the movie (note: not the screenplay), broken down in the two main questions script readers consider: ‘What’s working?’, plus ‘What needs more development?’. Enjoy!

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What’s Working?

It looks fantastic, but then that’s really a given. Ridley Scott has embraced the digital age whole-heartedly and I’d say that like most modern blockbuster directors, his movies are really meant for cinema. That works for me, since there’s nothing I like more than a big noisy ride in a screen fifty times bigger than  my head.

Fassbender electrifies every scene he is in, obviously. I won’t go into detail about his character because – SPOILERS! – but let’s just say you won’t be disappointed with his performance (but then when are we?? He even managed to pull off Prometheus).

Additionally, there are some brilliant homages in there to the other movies, inc the nodding duck thing from the first film through to the Aliens drop ship and H.R Geiger’s Li II painting. There is some great tension; some fantastic dread moments; some brilliant panic and yes it’s gory as all hell. There is blood and fire and teeth EVERYWHERE. It’s definitely more Horror than Thriller, which is a welcome return to the franchise’s roots.

Overall, I’d wager it’s certainly more enjoyable than Prometheus, though it lacks some of the flair of that (car crash of a) movie. But though there’s refrigerator logic a-plenty in Alien Covenant  there’s definitely none of the gigantically NOTICEABLE leaps in narrative logic here … For example, such as one drop of alien juice infecting Dr. Shaw’s boyfriend in Prometheus, yet her NOT getting reinfected when the alien abortion creature bursts all over her open C-section, WTAF?

What Needs More Development?

Aside from Fassbender, every other single character in this film is completely tissue-paper thin. Yes, even the ‘new’ Ripley, Daniels. In fact, the characters are SO flat, they have the male characters remind us who’s paired up with whom by referencing which ones are their wives! (Seriously??). I didn’t even know the vast majority of their names OR role functions. This even occurred when characters survived for the majority of the movie! What. The. Hell.

This is obviously a huge disappointment. The reason Alien is such a seminal work is not only because of the ground-breaking monster and plot (no one had seen anything like it, back in 1979), but because we empathised with the characters’ plights, both individually and as a crew. From Dallas’ overblown sense of responsibility; Kane’s curiosity and pompous self belief; Ash’s brooding menace; Parker and Brett’s comic relief, jester and straight man; through to Lambert’s hysteria and Ripley’s quiet resolve, we KNEW these characters and their place in the story world. We breathed their terror, panic and courage.

In comparison, the crew of Alien Covenant are for the most part, canon fodder. That’s okay as far as the genre AND franchise goes – remember the majority of marines in Aliens are picked off in the nest in Act 2? But even with a cast as large as that, we STILL know who is who and are at least freaked out as we see their heartbeats flatline on Gorman’s screen.

Hell, even in Prometheus, there’s still the fabulous scene in which secondaries Fifield and Millburn get lost in the bowels of the ship. We invest in their fear and gung ho pretence that’s ‘everything’s fine’ … Only for them to be attacked and end up killed by the ‘penis monster’ in the chamber, a truly great moment of real horror in that film that is backed up by some fair-to-middling characterisation.

In comparison, the characters of Alien Covenant are simply killed, one by one. Yes, it looks awesome. It’s even scary. But there is no investment in the characters’ fates whatsoever.

What Writers Can Learn

Alien was genre-busting, but Alien Covenant is not. Whilst the latter movie has some great spins on the original’s myth and storyworld, what we have here is the same type of thing, re-told. And why not? Audiences wanted “Alien:Origins” for Prometheus and were pissed off when they didn’t get it. It makes sense to give them what they want this time and it definitely works in terms of this storyworld. As far as reboots go, this element is successful.

But that’s not the real lesson, here.

Aside from our antagonist, the character motivation of ALL the characters here is obvious: survival.  That’s not unusual, either in this franchise or the Horror genre in general. It’s what audiences want, but it’s also what the story needs.

What’s missing then, is character role function. Character role function is about what a character is DOING and WHY in the story; this then communicates to the audience WHO they are. Accents, races, jobs on the space ship, even names are not what differentiates characters, names don’t matter – hell, some movies don’t even bother naming their characters – it’s those role functions that make the communication to the audience on WHO IS WHO.

In comparison, on Alien Covenant, we only know Daniels is the protagonist because a) we’ve seen the actor doing the rounds of various interviews and b) we concentrate a bit on her at the beginning. The rest of the time, she’s warning everyone everything is a bad idea, or snooping through stuff to check various things out. That’s pretty much it.

Our captain? He’s got a crisis of faith – literally – but what that means and why, no one really knows. He also seems pretty dumb, walking into THAT space egg chamber voluntarily after seeing what he’s seen (in comparison to Kane in Alien, who is the epitome of ‘curiosity killed the cat’ and had seen nothing majorly untoward in terms of danger by that point of the movie).

Our third in command is a space cowboy, wears a hat and makes sexist jokes. We know he’s a good egg really.

Everyone else appears, says a few lines, worries a bit, maybe screams and THEN DIES.

alien-covenant-movie-2017-casting

Concluding:

Whether we’re writing a big blockbuster movie or something else, Alien Covenant demonstrates superbly how important character role function is. We have to know WHO IS WHO to invest in characterisation … and we can only do that if we know

WHO is doing WHAT and WHY

Because it’s character role function – NOT character motivation – that differentiates characters for audiences.

LINKS:

What Is the Difference Between Horror & Thriller?

What Is The Difference Between A Remake & A Reboot?

The ONLY 2 Things You Need To Know About Characterisation

5 Problems With Characterisation

Top 7 Writing Tips For Great Characterisation

Top 8 Questions For Great Characterisation

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The Bad Stuff

Look, we ALL know that characters are what they DO (not what they say). So why the hell are so many spec screenplays dialogue-led???

You know the ones, you’ve probably written them yourself (I know I have). In these pesky dialogue-laden specs, we:

Sometimes a spec screenplay will include ALL of the above. Supersadface.

The Truth

Every time I post about dialogue being a PROBLEM in the spec pile, writers (not Bang2writers, obvs) start frothing at the mouth. I’m not even kidding. It’s like I’m personally insulting them, or the Holy Grail of Screenwriting or something. It’s seen as a kind of WRITING BLASPHEMY!

And you know what, I get it. We all love to quote our favourite movies and TV shows, so it stands to reason that spec screenwriters might be more than a little in love with dialogue, or the idea of creating GREAT DIALOGUE. Why not?

But here is an uncomfortable truth:

Dialogue is not as important as you think it is.

Before you blow your top, just think about it. All those screenwriting greats – both writers, films and moments you love to quote – might be great, but they’re great not because of *just* what is on the page. They’re great because:

  • The screenwriter is a great ALL-ROUNDER (not just at dialogue)
  • The filmmakers did a great job of  rendering  the film or TV show as image (whatever that means)
  • The actors delivered the lines in ways that connected with the audience (for whatever reason)
  • You loved the story, characters, filmmaking (also for whatever reason!)

So let me say it again: great dialogue is NOT *just* about what is literally on the page. So much of it is about DELIVERY, it’s not wise to put your eggs in *that* basket alone.

www.bang2write.com

But here is what you CAN do

But if you love dialogue, by all means by my guest and work hard at it. Contrary to popular belief, I actually love (good) dialogue. All of my favourite screenwriters – and novelists, now you mention it – write fantastic dialogue that connects with me and makes me invest in the characters and the story.

But this is just it: great dialogue does not exist in a vacuum and this is the primary mistake spec screenwriters make. You cannot focus on dialogue alone.

Great dialogue does what ALL great craft elements do, which is:

  • Push the story forward
  • Reveal character

On this basis then, great dialogue comes only FROM great characters and great story plotting … So dialogue comes AFTER these two things, not before. This is why I always recommend Bang2writers work on dialogue LAST.

What Next?

So, when you’re going over your screenplay next, ask yourself:

  • Do I need ALL of this dialogue? (Tip: if you have dialogue exchanges of over half a page for ‘ordinary’ scenes or 3 pages for ‘extraordinary’ scenes, you probably don’t)
  • Can we SEE who this character is? (Tip: An ounce of behaviour is worth a pound of words!)
  • Can we SEE how this story is progressing? (Tip: Scene description is scene ACTION!)
  • Are my scenes static? (Tip: if you have characters ‘entering/exiting’ and ‘pausing’, ‘walking across rooms’, ‘sitting’, ‘folding arms’ etc in order to break up your dialogue, they probably are)
  • Am I telling the story VISUALLY? (Tip: remember, SCREENplay, not screenPLAY)

Good luck!

Want even MORE writing craft secrets like this?

https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-29888419-3773478736-1-originalSo, we all know format is the LEAST of our problems as screenwriters … but *how* do we improve our writing craft?? My course with LondonSWF, THE CRAFT CRASH COURSE runs for the first time this year, Nov 11-12th, at Ealing Studios, London. 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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