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Ask any aspiring author about rejection …

… And they will tell you that at least one well-meaning friend has tried to console them with tales about The Beatles. The most famous and successful band in the world were initially rejected by Decca Records in favour of the forgettable Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. Decca executive Dick Rowe will forever be known as the man who rejected the band and missed out on a multimillion-dollar contract.

Let’s be honest, rejection hurts, even if it is part and parcel of the publishing process. You bare your soul by sending out your manuscript, often the result of months or even years of writing and rewriting. You pace for weeks until the postman is sick of the sight of you waiting expectantly in the doorway. Then, the longed-for letter finally arrives, only to very kindly say that your beloved book is not for them.

Although the standard Beatles story can be a bit irritating, it is reassuring to know that even the giants of literature were often rejected and had to go through what you are going through. The master of verbal wit and sage wisdom Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before he found a publisher and went on to become a standard in the classroom.

Source: Wikimedia

John Grisham was rejected 16 times before he was taken on by an agent, who then rejected him too. Stephen King’s gripping horror novel Carrie was rejected 30 times; Richard Adams’ Watership Down was rejected by 13 different publishers; and even J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings struggled to find a publisher willing to take a risk on such a long and complex book.

Source: Flickr

Fortunately, most rejections are very polite and hide behind stock phrases like “we are not taking on new authors at this time” or “it is not a style that suits our current plans”.

However, sometimes, rejections can be so cruel that you can only assume that the sender was having a bad day all round. Rudyard Kipling, for example, was told that he didn’t know how to use the English language. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was turned down by none other than T.S. Elliot at Faber and Faber because he thought it was “unconvincing”. The iconic and ironic Catch 22 was described as “not funny” and spy master John le Carre was told that he didn’t have a future as a writer.

Of course, it’s not just authors who have been roundly rejected in this way. Walt Disney was once told that he “lacked imagination”; plus Charles Darwin was told by so many of his tutors that he was no more than an average student, so he dropped out of college to become a pastor. Even Einstein was not considered to be that smart by many people!

Source: Flickr

Rejections come thick and fast in the music business too – often for far more personal reasons than just a perceived lack of talent. Worldwide megastar Ed Sheeran, who is responsible for three of the biggest selling albums of the millennium, was regularly knocked back because record companies thought his chubby, ginger looks were unmarketable. Missy Elliot was told she was too fat to be a star and even the “material girl” herself, Madonna, was once told she lacked material.

No matter how often it comes, or how meanly it is phrased, how you deal with rejection can be the difference between success and failure in your writing endeavours. As our many examples have proved, even the most successful of authors have had to deal with rejection and move on, so don’t just give up.

Source: Wikimedia

Perhaps the most successful author of recent years, J.K. Rowling has had to cope with rejection not once but twice in her illustrious career. In her early days of writing Harry Potter, she had none of the luxuries she enjoys now. As a single parent on social security, she had to write in a café in Edinburgh to save on her heating bills at home. Her books would go on to sell over 400 million copies worldwide, and spawn a multibillion-dollar film franchise, but they were still rejected “loads of times” times before a smart executive at Bloomsbury saw their potential.

Rowling was so hard up that every rejection was an expense she could ill-afford, especially when one publisher kept her precious presentation folder. As she told fans on Twitter: “The first agent I ever queried sent back a slip saying ‘My list is full. The folder you sent wouldn’t fit in the envelope,” said Rowling. “I really minded about the folder because I had almost no money and had to buy another one.”

Asked how she kept going in the face of this constant rejection, she told fans “I had nothing to lose and sometimes that makes you brave enough to try.”

Eventually, she found an agent but was still rejected by 12 different publishers before she found success. One can only imagine the level of ‘kick-self’ that occurred when the first Harry Potter books started flying off the shelves like magic!

Post-Potter, Rowling decided to try her hand at murder mysteries, using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith and once again, she had to endure endless, and often rude, rejections. One rejection letter, from publishers Constable and Robinson, even advised her to try a creative writing course and sent her a list of useful tips for approaching publishers!

Prompted by fans’ questions, Rowling shared some of her rejection letters for the Galbraith books online, hoping to inspire other writers to keep going, however hard it may seem at the time. She generously removed all the signatures from the notes first, saying she was publishing them “for inspiration not revenge”.

Amusingly, one of the publishers who rejected her Galbraith book had also rejected Harry Potter many years before. With both series of novels topping the best seller lists, that’s got to be a double ‘kick-self’!

 Source: Wikimedia

It is never easy to keep going, especially if you are struggling financially as well, and sometimes you have to be as creative with your money as you are in your writing. Rowling kept warm all day for the price of a coffee, while author Mark Hirleman took up playing poker to clear the debts he racked up writing his first novel. In fact, he ended up doing so well that he was able to not only clear his debts but finance a sequel, too.

While some authors use their rejection letters to inspire up-and-coming writers, others have a more novel approach. Joanne Harris, the writer of the novel Chocolat, which became a hit film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, received so many rejection letters that she created a sculpture with them.

Unfortunately, unless you are very, very fortunate, rejection is a fact of life for writers, musicians, and artists in general. But that doesn’t mean rejection is the end of the story. If you keep going, keep polishing your work, and keep trying, then chances are you will succeed in the end.

So, take note from the great works of literature that were rejected so often, and the next time a rejection slip drops through your mailbox, smile at the thought that you now have something in common with J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, and even Dr. Seuss. Most wannabe writers don’t even get this far, so pat yourself on the back.

You’re doing better than you think!

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One of the most popular articles on B2W is Which Screenwriting Software Is The Best? (Paid For And Free). It was written waaaay back in 2009, so lots of the tools listed are now obsolete, especially the free ones (though I do try and keep it updated).

So when Mia got in touch with this review for free screenwriting tool Trelby, I jumped at the chance to share with you Bang2writers as I think you may like it. I will also add it to the original post, HERE too.

If you want to review another free screenwriting tool (which I will also add to the original pos), then please contact me with your pitch. Speak soon!

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There is a lot to take into consideration when you are looking for a screenwriting software tool. There is functionality, features, compatibility with other tools, platform, and the price. It’s a rare commodity to find a piece of software that can excel in all these fields.

Today’s article is all about a screenwriting tool called Trelby. We are going to browse through its features, specs, and functionality and try to make an honest assessment.

Whether you are writing a script for a movie or a TV show, it takes more than just inspiration to create a good story line. The overall process depends on your working conditions and software is essential in this process. Here is what Trebly brings to the table.

So without further ado, let’s check out Trebly and what it can do as a screenwriting tool!

Trelby

1) It is Free

First of all, Trebly is a completely free, open source software. This means that there are no membership fees, no additional payments for premium features, etc. This is great as most of other respectable pieces of software cost money at some point.

2) It is compatible with other screenwriting software

This means that you can import a “Final Draft” file, for example and use it with Trelby. In addition, you could save your work in other file format and use it. It is interchangeable, which is not so common for free software.

This software also works on Windows and Linux platforms. (Unfortunately, if you’re an Apple user then you won’t be able to use Trelby. Supersadface),.

3) It has great functionality

This software offers various formatting options for action, characters, dialogue, scene, etc. There is also a number of different reports that you could generate in order to check your work, or if you want to make a deeper comparison between various storytelling elements.

4) It is easy to use

Trelby is one of those software choices that does’nt interfere with your work, it follows your flow completely. The user interface is simple; it is not distracting because of the small number of icons on the side. This is very important if you want to keep your focus while working.

There is also a choice between several view options, depending on your needs, and you can switch between them whenever you want. You can switch between draft, layout, or side-by-side mode.

Another great thing that makes Trebly easy to use is an extensive number of tools that help you during your writing process. All these tools are very simple to use and they add a lot of value because they save a lot of your time. Some of the most noteworthy tools you have at your disposal are:

  • Script comparison tool that allows you to compare two scripts through PDF reports.
  • PDF watermark generator. This tool allows you to track you work no matter where you share it and who shares it later.
  • You can also create your own custom watermark.

5) There’s a wide number of formatting options

When it comes to all the formats you can import and export your work in, Trebly really offers a wide array of format options.

Import formats:

  • Plain text (txt)
  • Final Draft (fdx)
  • Celtx (celtx)
  • Adobe Story XML files (astx)
  • Fountain (fountain)
  • Fadein (fadein)

Export formats:

  • PDF
  • Rich Text Format (RTF)
  • Final Draft (fdx)
  • HTML
  • Fountain (fountain)
  • Formatted Text (which will produce a txt file)

As you can see, you could export or import other file formats so you can use your work with other screenwriting tools.

Concluding:

Trebly is easy to use software that allows you to work without a hitch. This tool offers various features that you can use to make your work easier. The installation is simple, it doesn’t take too much space on your drive and it has no special hardware requirements.

My overall user experience is positive: it’s easy to use, you don’t have to be an expert. If you plan to start screenwriting career, Trelby is definitely a piece of software you should try.

BIO: My name is Mia Stokes and I am writer. I love to write about education, marketing, screenwriting and more. I find writing to be not just a hobby, but my passion … Being a writer has helped know the world in a way that I could not imagine! Follow me on Twitter as @stokesmia23_mia and check out MY WEBSITE.

Wanted: More Posts Like This!

Do you use screenwriting software such as Fade In, Writer Duet, Movie Magic, Scripped or PlotBot (or something else)? Then I want your reviews, so I can post here and link on my mammoth rundown of software, HERE. Reviews of screenwriting software are really helpful to the Bang2writers, so please contact me ASAP and let’s chat. CLICK HERE to get in touch.

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1

Boys Only

Thanks to the naming a of a female Doctor Who last week (hello, Jodie Whittaker), I’ve seen a lot online about so-called ‘masculine narratives’. It’s been floated via my various TLs that there are some types of stories that are ostensibly for or even ‘about’ males, whilst there are some for or even ‘about’ females.

According to these people, there is an historic difference between the stories that have a male lead and the ones that don’t. So, let’s examine the evidence …

Common Sense?

For some, this notion is ‘common sense’. After all, there are certain differences in the genders, right? Such as:

Obviously I’m scratching the surface here. But really, there is not a single thing on this list that men can or can’t do, or vice versa. If I’d written any of this with women as the focus, my comments section would soon fill up FULL with outrage, too.

But the reality is, YES – society socialises men and women differently. But ultimately, whether you’re XY or XX, we are more similar than not, at grass roots level.

We are all human, thus stories are principally about humans, or at least human POVs and emotions. On this basis, writers CAN create outside of these shared experiences, as well as our personal ones.

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Audience Preference

If people mean audiences have certain preferences and gender can form a part of this? Then sure, there are some genres and types of story that ‘play better’ with women than men, or vice versa.

But then again, these days? Maybe not.

The so-called ‘Geek Pound’ for comic book movies and other type of fare is just as likely to be from a woman’s wallet as a man’s in 2017. Same, believe it or not, with video games!

Thirtysomething women were the first generation to love Horror and Science Fiction and that shows no sign of slowing down. Traditionally, the so-called ‘Chick Flick’ meant women liked Rom Coms and Horror was a male domain … Except even that has changed now, with the advent of ‘Bromance’ comedies and ‘Date Night’ Horror movies, especially amongst heterosexual couples in their twenties.

In other words, lines are blurring. They have been for a good while. Time for writers and filmmakers to catch up.

Breaking It Right Down

1) Archetype

Writers frequently mistake archetypes and stereotypes; this means they will frequently mix up what stock characters are too.

Put simply, an archetype is the perfect – or rather ‘typical’ example of something. When we’re talking psychology or characterisation, an archetype is a kind of framework for how people or characters work. An obvious example of an archetype we can all relate to that is universal is the hero. Everyone knows what this idea means, regardless of race, culture, class, gender, even age (more next).

Archetype was Merriam Webster’s ‘Word of the Day’ on its podcast, which you can download HERE.

2) Hero

Whilst traditionally, a ‘hero’ was the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc (and ‘heroine’ was traditionally the female version), but this is no longer the case in general usage. This is backed up by various dictionary definitions, such as the Meriam Webster’s here, which places gender neutrality first, with gender only applied in the sentence examples:

‘1. A person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character: ‘He became a local hero when he saved the drowning child.’ 

2. A person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal: ‘My older sister is my hero. Entrepreneurs are our modern heroes.’

SUMMING UP: The hero, at grass roots level, has no gender. It’s someone’s personality and behaviour that makes them a hero.

3) The Monomyth

Also known as ‘The Hero’s Journey’, popularised by Joseph Campbell and then built on by Christopher Vogler.

In narratology and comparative mythology, this is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

Note how the ‘hero’ is not only gender neutral in this definition, what ‘adventure’ and ‘victory’ is, is open to interpretation.

Of course, Campbell goes into waaaay more detail than this and that’s usually where a lot of female writers part company with this version. His version is based massively on stuff like The Odyssey, especially notions of female characters as Goddesses and Temptresses, which lots of women do the eyeroll at. (Whilst I do too, I also don’t see why a female voyager can’t get in touch with the Gods or be tempted by gorgeous sirens and buff blokes with rock hard abs, know what I mean?).

SUMMING UP: Brave, resolute, clever … Why can’t women do the monomyth?As far as I’m concerned, they totally can. Basically, a hero is a hero, male OR female.

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4) The Feminine Heroic

Renowned script consultant Dara Marks suggests there is a different ‘kind’ of hero’s journey for female characters. She posits that it ‘isn’t grit or physical prowess that gives the feminine her heroic stature, it is her ability to descend into dark, forbidding places that lie within each of us to retrieve our essence, which is interrelatedness and love.’

I love this idea as a female WRITER and feel it can be hugely useful for women writers to connect with their creativity in a world that favours patriarchal and supremacist ideals which may come out in lots of ‘expected’ ways (ie. the ‘classic’ being heroes who are male, straight, sexual, able-bodied and can FIGHT).

However, I like it less for actual female characters, because as already noted in this article, as far as I am concerned the hero’s journey is both gender neutral and open to interpretation.

When I think of say, Elle in Legally Blonde, this tale is TOTALLY monomyth to me, if we go back to its base definition:

Elle goes to law school to get Warner back (the adventure); she’s threatened with being ostracised or even expelled for not doing what others want (decisive crisis); yet she prevails and comes out on top (victory). She’s also shifted her perspective too by the end, because she no longer wants Warner back.  

Obviously others will say Legally Blonde is The Feminine Heroic too because Elle is neither ‘gritty’ and does what she does ‘out of love’ (she also doesn’t punch or kick anyone in the head in the movie), but I believe the best MALE heroes act out of love too (even if just ‘the right thing’).

I don’t see actual violence as part of the definition in the monomyth, either. It’s an assumption, surely based on the notion that ‘hero = male’ and ‘male = violence’. You can totally see why (forty years of blockbusters have put these type of male heroes at the forefront), but it’s still an assumption.

SUMMING UP: Both the male and female hero descend into dark places in order to do the ‘right thing’. What this means is again open to interpretation.

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5) The Heroine’s Journey

In his recent article for Screencraft, Ken Miyamoto draws attention to The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock. Like Dara Marks, Murdock suggests there are ultimate differences at grass roots level between the journey a male hero goes on and the journey a female hero might go on.

Unlike Marks, Murdock suggests this is not because of ‘love’, but because female heroes will face prejudice for being a hero by virtue of actually BEING FEMALE.

This notion I have a lot of time for. Whilst ALL heroes have to stand out, above the crowd, male heroes have it a trifle ‘easier’ on the basis of literally being male. We are literally MORE LIKELY to believe in the male hero over the female hero.

In addition, in society, men can advocate for women in a way women cannot always advocate for men. In other words, men may get a free pass to do what they want to (and/or lead others), whilst women more times than not have to earn one. (Of course, this may or may not intersect with race and other issues of diversity, but that’s a matter for another time).

We can see this in action with Mad Max Fury Road. Furiosa lives in a man’s world and even though she emerges victorious over Immortan Joe, Max must advocate for her when they go back to The Citadel. The War Boys literally will not accept her until Max raises Furiosa’s hand in the air. This is an authentic example of how women rely on male allyship in the fight against patriarchy and underlines the filmmakers’ own intent that Mad Max is not so much a ‘feminist’ film, but one that declares  men and women need to work together.

With this in mind though, it might be a little previous to call Mad Max Fury Road part of the ‘heroine’s journey’ given Furiosa only wins when she combines her feminine power with Max’s masculine power. But whatever. Both Furiosa and Max are genuine heroic archetypes and it’s a great movie with a great message, so who cares.

SUMMING UP: Female heroes may well have that bit ‘further’ to go in the first instance, especially since society is of the belief females are *less likely* to be heroes. But ultimately they follow the same path and get to the same destination, even if it takes them longer.

 

Concluding:

Good writers use archetypes, rather than stereotypes or stock characters. But it’s important to remember society (and thus we) place certain assumptions on those archetypes – not one if them has a gender applied at grass roots level. Just as heroes are generally assumed too be men, we generally assume care-givers to be female (and that’s just for starters). Yet neither archetype begins this way. 

Obviously there are stories in which gender matters. But that doesn’t mean the hero archetype itself has a gender. Archetypes are about a character’s role function in the narrative, not their personal characteristics. 

Storytelling is not masculine, but it’s not female either. It is universal and made up of good characterisation (specifically character role function and character motivation), plus good structure. This means there is literally no difference between the male out female hero (or indeed any other archetype).

That’s the good news. It’s also the bad news too – it could be ANYTHING within those perimeters, which is perhaps why so many writers want to hang labels on this stuff. 

Good Luck!

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Bang2writers have been asking me a lot about self publishing and being an indie author lately, so I thought I’d draft in an EXPERT!

Rachel Amphlett is a prolific indie author: she is the author of the Detective Kay Hunter Thrillers, as well as the Dan Taylor Espionage series, as well as a number of standalone titles too. She’s a great example of how to do self publishing BRILLIANTLY, so make sure you get to know her and her books if this is the route you want to take.

In the meantime, if you really don’t know where to start with self publishing, then a good place is HERE, in learning how to format ebooks. Here’s Rachel’s top tips on making formatting as smooth as possible, plus she’s even created a template for you for to download. Thanks Rachel!
How toThere are a number of choices around for writers today when it comes to formatting an eBook, but if you’re starting out you probably have a tight budget and want to format your eBook yourself.

Where to start?

Many of the aggregators and larger retailers will allow you to upload an MS Word file which will then be converted into the required .epub or .mobi file for publishing.

If you don’t set up your manuscript correctly however, you’ll be faced with a list of error messages and you won’t be able to publish your book until these are fixed.

So, how to format your eBook to ensure this doesn’t happen?

Use consistent styles

Set up specific styles for chapter headings, first paragraph, other paragraphs, and scene breaks using the “Styles” pane in MS Word.

Style Sheet

Remove all links to retailers

Your manuscript will be rejected if you have links to any other eBook retailers in the back matter. The same goes for the other retailers.

If you plan to publish “wide” then you’ll need one eBook file for each to ensure the back matter (all the information at the end of the book after the story) is relevant to that retailer.

Remember theLook Insidefeature

First impressions count!

Think about what a potential reader will see when they click on the “Look Inside” feature. You can’t do anything about retailers’ insistence about having a table of contents at the start, but you can take out your copyright text and move it to the back of the book.

Get the reader straight into the story!

Don’t hang about. You’ve only got a few seconds to convince the reader to click that “Buy” button, so the second page of your eBook needs to say “Chapter 1”.

Finally:

To give you a head start, you can download a ready-made manuscript template HERE. The styles have been set up for you.

You can also download all the above info as a handy cheat sheet PDF, HERE.

WOW, thanks Rachel! 

rachel-amphlett

BIO: Rachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers. Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience, and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton. Follow her on Twitter as @RachelAmphlett and join here Reader Group, HERE.

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pexels-photo-212286

Whether you’re writing a TV script, a book or perhaps designing the next must-have app, executing your idea is only the start of a rocky (but enjoyable!) journey.

The simple truth is, investors won’t know about your product until they’re told – and you might only get one chance to tell them.

It’s for this reason that you have to nail your elevator pitch – the pitch that perfectly sums up your product or idea so succinctly, you could tell an investor all about it during an elevator ride.

Here’s what you need to do:

1) Go straight to the core

Keep it to the essentials and make it compelling. It’s a good idea to think of something you can compare your idea to. For example, if you’ve written a script, you might pitch it as “Grey’s Anatomy but with vampires” or maybe “Like Lost but set in space”. Focus on highlighting the central conflict in your pitch: this is your logline, and it has to be explanative and memorable!

One last thing: when pitching a script or a book, your logline is built over these 3 key ingredients: protagonist, their goal and the antagonistic force. MORE: On Writing – The ‘3 Cs’ Versus The ‘3 Ps’

2) Tell them who can’t live without it

An idea can fall flat on its face if there’s nobody to enjoy it.

Explain who is going to love what you’re working on and why. Is there a gap in the market? Why does your idea beat your competition? Keep it to just a couple of sentences, it’s got to be short! MORE: Can I Pitch My Unfinished Projects?

3) Prove that you’re “the one”

Anyone could execute an idea and make it a reality – so feel confident about why you are the best person for the job.

One strong line about your experience is often enough. Remember that investors are very cautious about who they give their money to. It’s as much about you as it’s about your idea so make a good impression. MORE: 7 Things Agents, Producers & Filmmakers Can Tell From Your Pitch

4) Leave space for the Q&As

When you’ve drafted your elevator pitch, look at it again to cut it down to the bare bones.

You’re there to answer questions but you’ll struggle to get back their attention if you bore them. Tell them the bare minimum and let them question you on the rest. MORE: How NOT to Pitch Agents – 21 Tips For Writers

5) Be enthusiastic!

The final step to crafting the perfect elevator pitch is in the delivery – you have to be enthusiastic! Smile plenty and show passion about your project. If you’re not excited about it, they won’t be either. MORE: Top 5 Pitching Tips In The Room

Ground Floor

We hope you have fun creating your elevator pitch for your big ideas. You can always practice with people ‘on the ground floor’ to see if your pitch is effective at explaining your idea and intriguing to listen to. Remember: keep it short and make it memorable! Lastly, always have your business card in hand.

BIOitcher is a recommendations app that finds titles you’ll love. Discover your next favourite movie, TV show, book, album and game by checking out the web app now or downloading it on iOS or Android.

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1) 10 Tips To Improve Your Grammar

I always find it interesting when writers will pledge a commitment to their craft, but shrug their shoulders when I say they need to work on their grammar. Some will also cite a poor education or a special learning need like Dyslexia. Whilst both these things will make improving grammar more challenging, it’s not impossible to improve.

This cheat sheet I found online from Grammar.net is a GREAT start – it outlines all the essential and most common grammar mistakes I see on a daily basis in Bang2writers’ spec scripts and unpublished novels.

10 tips to improve your grammar

2) Punctuation Tips

After grammar errors, punctuation is probably the second most common mistake I see. Most writers have a basic overall knowledge of what goes where, but they may have various ‘quirks’ on how they use them! Apostrophes, semi-colons and colons, hyphens and ellipses are the most frequently misused. But this handy infographic from KnowledgeUnlimited clears it up in a colourful and easy-to-read way.

punctuation tips

3) 16 Boring Words (and what to use instead!)

ENGAGEMENT in your screenplay or novel is key, but this can suffer when your vocabulary does not stretch the reader enough. Using BORING words, or repeating the same ones too many times, can make us switch off. This graphic then from GrammarCheck.net is a great, quick reminder on what you can use instead.

16 boring words

4) 57 Senses To Use In Your Writing

Novelists have the luxury of getting right inside in their characters’ heads, but it’s surprising how many DON’T. Being aware of psychology, feelings and sensations can be a really powerful tool. Whilst ‘what you see is what you get’ in screenwriting, that doesn’t mean a writer can’t use SENSES. These senses may be about what the character is feeling (HOW can this be portrayed on screen?), or even the audience (how does this LINK to genre and tone?).

I found this sheet on Pinterest; Tasha Wiginton is a Nanowrimo enthusiast. Most of them on this primer sheet are pretty good, even just as starting points … though I’m not entirely sure what number 30 is!

57 senses to use in your writing

5) Emotions Into Body Language

This cheat sheet from WritersWrite is a great representation of how emotions manifest themselves as body language. Whilst writers don’t want to be too rigid with this and create what I call ‘false movement’ and ‘static scenes’, these ideas here are GREAT starting points for novelists and screenwriters.

emotions into body language

6) Active Verb Cheat Sheet

If you’re a longterm reader of B2W, then you should be well aware of the mighty GoIntoTheStory! This great list reminds ALL writers we should be abandoning the passive voice and using ACTIVE VERBS wherever possible. We should also be using synonyms — no more boring, or repetitive words please (like number 3 on this list!).

active verb cheat sheet

7) Words That People Mix Up

I love this graphic from Fingertips Typing Services, because it breaks down nearly ALL the words I see that get mixed up most often in spec screenplays and unpublished novels! (If I have to explain the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ or ‘they’re’ and ‘their’ ONE MORE TIME!!!!). There are some notable missing ones though – ‘lightening’ for ‘lightning'; ‘cleaver’ for ‘clever’ and ‘draw’ and ‘drawer’ — but you can’t have it all!!

words that people mix up

8) More Commonly Misused Words

This infographic by DK.com is a fantastic resource that can act as an aide memoire for those tricky words and phrases that can give writers pause … ‘Just which one is it??‘ I know I’ve struggled with most on this list, though I do take issue with its definition of ‘literally’ in 2017. Whilst the definition is LITERALLY true (arf), language does evolve too and you will find countless numbers of people using it in the figurative sense. They are not all ill-educated fools, either! Famous writers like Charlotte Bronte, William Makepeace Thackeray and F. Scott Fitzgerald and even Charles Dickens used ‘literally’ in the figurative sense. What’s more, even the Oxford English Dictionary throws up a few question marks too. So, SUCK IT.  But otherwise, great graphic!

commonly misused words

More on this blog about improving your writing:

3 Killer Typos That Blow Writers Out The Water

5 Killer Grammar & Punctuation Errors That Will Sink Your Reputation

10 Common Errors You Need To Fix In Your Writing Right Now

Top 10 Killer Words That Make Readers Switch Off 

12 Quick Tips To Improve Your Writing Right Now 

How To Elevate Your Writing 

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Awesome antagonists

What’s a story without a masterful villain? A boring thing that gets no one’s attention, right? Great stories are based on conflicts between good and evil, meaning that a memorable antagonist is just as important as the story’s protagonist!

But how exactly do you create an outstanding antagonist? Check out these tips  to understand the essential characteristics of a memorable antagonist.

The imperfection of a perfect villain

Name few of the most powerful antagonists you can think of. Is there a violent and psychotic gangster, a murderer, or sociopath among them? Are some of them a simple guy next-door ?

You see, a villain comes in many forms. If you use the right dose of villainy and balance it out with a history that makes you understand where this person is coming from, you’ll be on your way to creating an icon.

Storytelling has no limits

The traits of any antagonist depend on writer’s imagination, backstory, research and creativity. But still, there are a few basic features common to all memorable villains. Let’s see:

1) It’s never completely black and white

The general opinion is that antagonists are completely unethical and atrocious. But the truth is, famous antagonists don’t have only bad traits. A good balance awakens a reader’s sympathy and makes an antagonist character more real and understandable.

If you can appreciate certain traits of the villain, it helps you identify with him and make a deeper insight into his attitudes and actions. It’s the first step towards understanding what went wrong in his life. Every villain needs some justification.

EXAMPLE: Javert from Les Misérables. This inspector turns the goal of punishing Jean Valjean into an obsession. Somewhere along the way, you realize this character is rather tragic. He was born in prison. The people he met and the events he witnessed there convinced him that the pursue for justice was the only way to live.

2) Special motives

The antagonist should have a special kind of reasoning that determines his actions. Although the complete opposite of the protagonist, the villain was not born this way. Nope. He developed into a negative character through internal struggles, family issues, social harassment, or some other external influence.

A well-written story will reveal how these motives generated such a complex negative character. At the same time, it makes you reconsider your personal beliefs.

EXAMPLE: Alex from A Clockwork Orange. When you start reading this book, you’re disgusted. Alex is the worst ultraviolent scumbag you could imagine. He is horrible, but becomes understandable when you realise where his anger is coming from. His viewpoint sounds like “society needs bad people, so I’m doing you all a favour.” Instead of blaming him, you start blaming society! No mean feat.

3) Antagonists are powerful

If you want to create a valuable antagonist, don’t make him weaker than the protagonist. Villains have the same (if not greater) strength than protagonists, but they use it to achieve corrupt or warped goals. They use all their power to complete a single mission, however narrow it may be. This makes them extremely dangerous.  

EXAMPLE: It would be a real joy-killer to see Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men being weak the very beginning of the story. No. He’s a strong man who could take the protagonist anytime. That’s what makes the book an intriguing read.

Antagonist collage_2

4) They are extraordinary

An outstanding antagonist should have a distinct feature to make him more intriguing. It may be something about his appearance; or perhaps a superpower, or some extraordinary event from the past. You cannot emphasise the jeopardy your protagonist is in if the person he’s dealing with isn’t special and terrifying.

Villains are scary, but they also deserve respect in their own weird way. Antagonists may be experts in some fields. That’s why the motif of the mad scientist is so popular. This “expertise” makes the battle between the two opposing sides more exciting and unpredictable.

EXAMPLE: Voldemort. Need we say more?

5) Antagonists are hideous or grotesque

Just remember how many times you have seen a handsome hero against the grotesque villain. Research revealed that many movie antagonists have skin issues. The viewer’s subconsciousness steps in here: it’s much more natural to support a beautiful protagonist than the ugly antagonists. It’s simply how our minds function.

But these days, stories are much more complex than this. We don’t need stereotypes here! Don’t try to make the reader hate your villain just because you have made him/her ugly. Hideous or grotesque goes beyond appearance. In good storytelling, you make the character repulsive on the inside.

EXAMPLE: Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky from Dostoevsky’s Demons. When the author describes how he looks, you imagine this person as a usual man. The character? That’s what makes him hideous!

Concluding:

Remarkable villains make stories exciting and memorable. The basic traits of a great antagonist are pretty much the same in many cases. Does this mean you’re stuck with clichés? Not at all! With enough creativity and careful analysis, you can add some spice to these features and make your own unique villain. 

Our top tip? 

If you want your villain to be memorable, you have to surprise us!

BIO: Olivia Ryan is a journalist who is always ready to experience new things and share these experiences with others. She is passionate about art and writing. Therefore, she usually spends time writing new articles for Aussie Writings or travelling around the world. Follow Olivia on Facebook and Twitter.

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wallhaven-29051

So, rumour has it the new Doctor is going to be a woman, Phoebe Waller Bridge (I hadn’t heard of her either). But because ‘diversity’ is the watch-word of 2017, cue a trillion nerds online raging between ‘Yesssssss! About time!’ and ‘OMG the whole thing will be RUINED, waaaaaaah!’ and obviously, plenty in-between too.

First things first, I should say I don’t have a dog in this race. I’m no more likely to watch Dr Who if the Doctor was a naked Idris Elba (actually, maybe I would).

BUT WHATEVER. Diversity is obviously on this blog’s remit and the last thing I’m going to do is ignore the opportunity for a good ol’ ruck about this, so here’s my thoughts on the arguments for and against a female doctor who. SO LET’S GO …

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1) We’ve had LOADS of blokes, why not a woman?

This would seemingly be quite a straight-forward argument, but apparently not. Yes, even though the Doctor was supposed to run out of regenerations already, that’s fine but apparently being a woman is not. Mmmm’kay. Back up, mofos.

Far from it being ‘diversity for diversity’s sake’, there has been an ongoing conversation about a female Doctor Who for aeons now, with plenty of potential viewers indicating they would be very interested in this. Hence the never-ending bloody debate online about it.

Plus, as you can see from the above graphic, audience figures have been on the slide for the franchise … Perhaps something new would liven them up? Gotta be worth a try. When audiences begin to switch off, pretty much anything is up for grabs in gaining them back. If it means it will gain NEW FANS too, then it’s a win-win. MORE: Top 5 Diversity Mistakes Writers Make

2) Switching genders needs a STORY reason

Riiiight. So the doctor can switch ages, faces, even personality …. But we can’t cope with him having a fanny instead? Seriously?

Look, the guy is an alien who travels through space and time in a police phone box. He kidnaps ‘companions’ at seeming random and then insists on Stockholm Syndrome-like adoration from them while continuously putting their lives in danger! (Arf). But apparently this is ALL okay, but not if The Doctor were female. Because, reasons. MORE: How To Use Girl Power In Your Story

3) Female Doctor = NEW storytelling opportunities

When Matt Smith was introduced as the Eleventh Doctor, lots of fans said he was ‘too young’ to be a Time Lord. Apparently, being wise only comes with age … Except The Doctor is age-less surely, he bloody regenerates in all sorts of guises! Plus The Doctor being unexpectedly young presented all kinds of storytelling opportunities and fun devices, not least The Eleventh Doctor’s iconic Fez hat. He’d apparently had one before, but it became more of a focus in this incarnation. Kids in particular loved that fun aspect of The Doctor – I even remember looking everywhere for a fez for my son at the time.

In the same way, a Female Doctor would present more storytelling opportunities. Whilst being female is not in itself a personality trait any more than age is, it can still shape our worldview. Ergo, a female Doctor inevitably means a new slant on things, *whatever* that means. In a show nearly six decades old, that’s gotta be good. MORE: Stop Saying ‘Diversity’. Start Writing VARIETY! 

4) It’s not ‘TRUE’ of the character

Here’s a few arguments I’ve encountered about this:

  • Doctor dangly bits. It’s been floated that if the Doctor could regenerate as a woman, this would throw up all kinds of questions about the anatomy of Time Lords. (This can be summed up as thus: we started with a man, so the character should be a man).
  • Dr Who is a MALE iconic figure – his masculinity is important in the storylines. (Is it? He’s clever and quirky, certainly. He’s a scientist. Maybe even a philosopher. But I see nothing inherently ‘traditionally masculine’ there – plus women can be all of these things, too).
  • This is just an agenda push. (And yet this is floated EVERY SINGLE TIME a franchise includes female characters. Since when is a character being female an automatic gimmick or political statement, instead of that feted STORY CHOICE itself?).

But anyway, apparently the writers would have put major thought into him being a man and there is a COMPELLING STORY REASON for this, rather than it being say, standard doctors were male ‘back in the day’ when Dr Who was first written. Whatever the case, it’s weird how proponents of this argument don’t look these writers up and ask them (or their relatives), isn’t it? MORE: 1 Simple Trick For Writing Diverse Characters

5) The Diversity Brigade is highjacking an iconic role!

First up, where’s The Diversity Brigade and where can I sign up?? This sounds awesome! WE NEED BADGES.

Secondly, if diversity is such a non-issue, HOW can it be ‘highjacking’ anything? I always wonder at the people who claim we ‘don’t need’ diversity (because apparently everything is fine), but then weirdly they FREAK OUT over the likes of Dr Who, Ghostbusters or whatever. Based on their own logic, why does it matter?

Thirdly, switching up roles of NON-diverse characters is not ‘highjacking’. It’s merely changing stuff around and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t.

“Aha, but how would you guys like it if we changed an iconic role like Ellen Ripley to a man??” they’ll cry.

Err, Ripley WAS a man. She was the first ‘official’ gender-flipped character.

Also: there literally aren’t enough Ripleys! To swap her back really *is* highjacking. Even kids know that if someone with a lot of stuff then takes even more THAT’S NOT FAIR!

MORE: Top 7 Things Screenwriters Can Do To Improve Diversity And Inclusion

Concluding:

It’s pretty obvious where I stand on this issue. A female Doctor looks pretty inevitable in Doctor Who and for the record, B2W says why the hell not.

But also, if you don’t want a female Doctor for emotional reasons? That’s fine. Just because you don’t, doesn’t make you an arsehole, whatever Twitter reckons. It’s just a bloody TV show.

But DON’T pretend there needs to be a ‘story reason’ for a female Doctor or you are objecting on the basis of ‘being a writer’ ! These are the facts when it comes to writing and diversity, whether you agree or not:

Audiences ARE rejecting the ‘same-old, same-old’ characters, because they are BORED OF THEM. 

This is why diversity is on the menu everywhere you look right now. It’s an OPPORTUNITY for trying new things and thinking beyond the normal margins – it’s an exciting time! All this is actually GOOD for writers, so to rail against it when you are one yourself is frankly, dumb.

So, with audience figures much less than Doctor Who’s heyday with the tenth doctor, it’s important to remember human beings prize novelty: every time the Doctor is up for regeneration the idea of a female Doctor is discussed. But more importantly, a female Doctor could well bring a legion of new (probably child) fans, just like a young eleventh Doctor did.

And that’s what it’s all about, whatever us old farts think.

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WHO your audience is
Thanks to the internet and the plethora of advice around (like on this blog!), anyone can become a writer. But this doesn’t mean writers’ lives have become easy. Writing still requires dedication, persistence, and hard work!

So, whether you’ve just decided to become a writer, or are a seasoned veteran – or somewhere in-between! – then remember these 7 crucial things:

1) The Basics ALWAYS Matter

It might be tempting to simply start writing. However, this could be a mistake in the long run. While some writers think typos and grammatical errors are insignificant, readers actually pay attention to these things. It’s not because they are picky, either. It’s because the mistakes easily noticed! Forget this at your peril. MORE: 10 Common Errors In Your Writing You Need To Fix Right Now

2) You MUST be clear

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a logline, a pitch, a treatment, a novel, a screenplay or a blog post – you still should be clear. The best way to find out whether your writing is clear is to show it to someone whose opinion you trust. Sometimes even good writers skip the details they find obvious. However, they may not seem ‘obvious’ to readers. Always make sure you deliver your point well.

2) You MUST know your audience

It doesn’t matter what type of writer you are: novelist, screenwriter, blogger. You have to know the audience you’re writing for! WHO your audience is affects your writing greatly, starting with the words you choose, but also including tone, genre and other stylistic choices.

An example: if you’re writing a science article and your target audience are actual scientists, you can obviously skip explaining the basics. But if you’re writing the same article for laypeople, you shouldn’t skip explanations – instead, you should focus on how to make your article easy for them to understand. Obvious maybe, but often forgotten.

4) ‘The Rules’ are NOT everything

Rules, schmules! Rules are really guidelines, but you need to know what they are! Many great writers actually ignored the rules. But crucially, they knew the rules in order to break them. Make sure you do to. MORE: Top 10 Rules Writers Love To Hate

Audience_B2W

5) It Can Be TOUGH

Even though writers can earn a living doing what they love, it can still be tough sometimes. Harsh reviews or even hate mail can really get to a writer! Some writers never get used to this. Writing is not just a job, it requires passion. Being criticized harshly for something you work you put your heart and soul into can feel terrible.

But remember to treat such comments professionally. Never respond to haters and negative people. Focus on your fans and their good comments, instead.

6) Reading is STILL important

When a person wants to become a novelist, one of the first bits of advice they usually hear is “read a lot”. You’ll need to, not only to write better but also to have a better understanding of others’ style, as well as find out about things that interest your audience. That’s why you should always find some time for reading.

7) You Should NEVER Stop Learning

The hardest thing to realise is your writing will never be perfect – at least, to you. You’ll always have to polish your writing skills and to build the new ones. Even if you are a professional writer, this still doesn’t mean you have to stop learning – otherwise, your talent will die.

Remember that you’re not alone in this. There are plenty of other writers going through same challenges every day and overcoming them successfully. So no matter how hard everything might feel, don’t give up and simply continue writing. MORE: 5 Easy Resolutions To Make You A Better Writer

BIO: Christina Battons is a web content writer and blogger from LA. I am a graduate of the University of Southern California. Currently, I write for various blogs like ProWritersCenter. I am obsessed with topics about writing, blogging, education, etc. My writing I use as a tool to further the education of others. You can connect with me through Twitter or Facebook. I’ll be happy to hear from you, just drop me a line!

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So, just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock or in outer space, my debut crime novel The Other Twin is OUT NOW!

Published by the mighty Orenda Books, you can find all the details about The Other Twin HERE, or check out the graphic below:

THE OTHER TWIN - delete blog-2

Sound interesting?

Then please me do a favour and add it to your Goodreads shelf!

In the meantime, here are the lessons I learned I writing The Other Twin – some of them are to be expected, others are quite surprising … Let’s GO:

1) You gotta start as you mean to go on

Okay, okay I knew this one already … I preach it on this blog all the time when it comes to screenwriting! But wowzers, *knowing* where to start on a novel is like having to write your first ten pages of your screenplay WHILST ON CRACK and the house is burning all around you!!

I’m SERIOUS. I went back to page 1 and rewrote the beginning FIVE TIMES. And I’m not talking a few tweaks here and there, I’m talking HUGE COLOSSAL DIFFERENCES. I must have written in excess of 25K words that got junked, never to see the light of day again. Eeek!

But it’s okay. I love the beginning now to The Other Twin and so do the early reviewers, so it all works out!

TOP TIP: When editing, take a look at your chapter 1-3 on your novel. Start on 3. Furrealz! MORE: 5 Things To Remember When Writing A Mystery Or Thriller 

2) Structure is a bitch

Crime fiction is plot-based, like screenwriting, so I figured I would be okay. After all, I love structure and spend all my time advising writers about it, so this stuff would fall into place … Right??

I planned and planned and planned and you know what? I ended up chopping off the beginning; moving the second turning point back to the mid point; removing not one, or two, but THREE narrative threads; I also ended up merging several characters to fit in with this. Exhausting! But thank God for screenwriting books and worksheets, they saved my arse.

TOP TIP: Check out visual aids for screenplay structure … They can really help you with your edits when it comes to plotting a novel!

3) Music can be a great prompt

As anyone who’s ever been to my house knows, I always have music playing. I grew up in a musical house (my Mum was a piano teacher and taught from home), so it’s a no-brainer for me.

But one thing that really helped me when writing The Other Twin was, surprisingly, music and its stars. I never set out to model my characters on musicians, it kind of happened organically.

Here are some of the people that came to mind as I was writing the main characters:

Poppy (Meredith Brooks)

Poppy is my protagonist in the book and she can be incredibly reckless. She doesn’t always think of others’ feelings either (so some might call her a bitch). But she also has a big heart, so this song seemed perfect for her. There’s a strong resemblance between this singer Meredith Brooks and the next one (as well as their styles), so worked for the sisters.

India (Alanis Morrisette)

India is Poppy’s sister and a philosophical, ‘live let and let live’ hippy-type. Originally, the character of India was named Isobel. However, in this song below Alanis sings ‘Thank you India …’ and I had it on repeat so many times that when I read back some pages, I realised I had replaced ‘Isobel’ with India. So I kept it.

Matthew (Jussie Smollett)

Matthew is Poppy’s on/off boyfriend in the book. He’s an impassive, brooding sort – though he hasn’t always been this way. I’m a big Empire fan, so I was listening to a lot of the OST whilst I was writing … Jussie Smollett plays Jamal in the series and is so sexy I couldn’t help but visualise him in my mind!

Ana (Alicia Keys)

Ana is Matthew’s twin sister. She’s fiercely loyal to her family but not afraid to stand up for herself. She’s also very beautiful and has also appeared in Empire, so obviously Alicia Keys came to mind.

Jenny (Shirley Manson from Garbage)

The mysterious Jenny is a fighter, a real ‘riot grrl’ like I’d been in the 90s growing up. I saw her as a goth-type right away, but it was when I revisited my old fave Garbage on Youtube I remembered Shirley. Jenny got bright red hair as a result and this forms part of a plot point in the book.

TOP TIP: Stuck with your own writing? Why not have a look through your own music collection and take a look at the musicians – could get those creative juices flowing again! MORE: Focus On Format – All About Music

4)  You can have too MANY twists

In an earlier draft, I had an extra twist to The Other Twin that was considered very taboo (I can’t say what it is, else I will give away the existing twist away!). It was dark and freaky and I was very excited about it. It was one of those where you think, ‘This will either be AWESOME or TERRIBLE!’

Needless to say – because I ended up removing it – was that it was terrible. It did not hit the mark with beta readers early on the submissions cycle. Supersadface.

But why, was very surprising to me: rather than because it was taboo, it was because those readers thought it TOOK AWAY from the ‘main’ twist. Words like ‘cluttered’ & ‘distracting’ came back. Well I’ll be!

TOP TIP: If you’re writing a mystery, consider your pay-offs. Do you have TOO MANY? Sometimes we can stretch too far in trying to impress. Sometimes you can have to much of a good thing and actually DETRACT from the main twist.

THE OTHER TWIN_LVH

5) You have to BELIEVE

Early in the drafting process, I decided to get feedback on The Other Twin. I sent to a number of different people: some were friends and colleagues and a couple were strangers I found on social media. I also paid for some notes too from a literary consultancy.

The notes I received back were VERY different. The range was staggering! They ran from extremely enthusiastic to extremely unimpressed, with everything in-between as well. It was, without a shadow of doubt, the most varied feedback I’d ever had.

I was very bemused. Now what??

I took my own advice: I had to believe in this story. First off, I ignored the notes that clearly did not like the draft – this will always happen. You cannot please everyone!

Then I started looking for bits in all the notes that a) chimed with my own instincts and b) were mentioned by more than one person. By the end of the afternoon, I had an action plan for the next draft.

TOP TIP: Always get multiple feedback and check for what they have in common. If you receive feedback that clearly does not like your writing or the idea for your story, IGNORE IT. Nothing can be gained by changing fundamentals to suit those naysayers, because NO one idea or book is universally loved. MORE: 33 Industry Insiders On Success, Dreams And Failure

Want more insider info on The Other Twin?

0cd34e2f072555ed11098bd51367ef5e-struggle-quotes-sad-life-quotesDid you know I have an author blog at www.lucyvhayauthor.com as well? On it, I talk all things books, crime fiction, adaptation and more as well as about how I write my own books! So, to find out how so-called ‘depression quotes’ (like the one on the left) inspired the writing of The Other Twin, CLICK HERE or on the pic.

 

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