Many people believe that a writer is a writer and that if you can do novels then you can write scripts, too. Some people can, but most cannot. Both need great stories, engaging characters and page-turning scenes, but the style, form and rules vary. The writer must understand the differences and know what you can and cannot do for books versus scripts.
Myth #1– Screenplays are easier to write than novels. False. If you are doing it right, it takes as long to develop the characters, the research and the plot and subplots with all the twists and turns required.
Myth #2 Writers of the books are paid handsomely for their rights. Often False. (Several writers have refused to sell the rights to their books because they wanted those large amounts and the independent producers – who you are mainly dealing with – seldom can afford this.) Many options these days, if not for free, are for the legal correctness of $1. Even if you are given a few thousand dollars as an option, it is only against a purchase price, which may or may not be what you expect and might hamper what you receive later.
Myth #3 Hollywood is waiting for your book – False – This can be true but only if you can get the manuscript to the right people and it’s not easy to do. They mainly want books that have been major sellers with great word of mouth and from authors that have a large social platform. Studios these days are looking for major blockbusters and/or sequels. Even having a top actor sign on will not guarantee a sale.
Myth #4 – Your work will be respected and you will able to make changes in the script. You will get final approval of the story. Usually FALSE unless you already have a major following and have a great contract beforehand. Even then…once you sell the rights, you are often pushed into the background.
Even if you do write the first (or 5th draft) of the script yourself and even if it is in the correct form, studios will want A-list writers who have sold millions for them already. So the producer optioning your book has to hire a scriptwriter who might change your story (more than you want or like) or alter what you have written. Then they have to prepare loglines and sell it. An option alone is not a guarantee of a sale. Items are often optioned and then dropped several times before a final deal is made – if ever. (I’ve experienced this many, many times.)
Obtaining the funds needed to produce the movie can be difficult especially if the story is historical or has expensive scenes as car chases, flight or sea action, battle scenes, crowd scenes, science fiction or other special effects. Few book writers take into consideration what will sell overseas versus what sells domestically but it is the foreign market that often weighs heavy on the sale of a script. This process can take not months but sometimes years. Writers (myself included) get impatient even for those of us who are aware of the timeframes.
Things in Common —
` Both scripts and book need well-rounded characters with journeys and arcs that we want to follow. Good characterization is crucial for good structure. The reader must care about the character and want to see/ read the rest of the story so an emotional connection is needed for the story to be successful. Well-rounded means not all good and not all bad. A character biography is needed for each – even the villain.
Characters should be introduced with action. Physical description is not always necessary.
Stakes must be high.
Genre structure must be what the audience expects. Understand the audience you are writing for. If combining genres understand each and know which genre is primary not only for the writing but for the marketing.
Beginning must be exciting and establish the problem, hint at the stakes
Research must be authentic
Grammar and spelling must the correct at all times
Titles are crucial and must give a hint of the genre and entice the reader/viewer
Proper formatting for what you are doing is crucial for books, but especially scripts!
Be careful of overused words like shrug, looks, etc. Write active, not passive.
Don’t talk down to your readers.
A rewrite is more than just a polish of a word here or there. Don’t believe everything you write is gold!! Be willing to change.
Understand how to write a synopsis /treatment. Outlining helps for both. Really, it does.
The first few pages are crucial – many readers, producers, editors these days do not read past page 10 and often can tell on the first page if you are a professional writer.
|99-110 pages||As long as needed per publisher guidelines|
|Subtext is crucial||Words can be more direct, but subtext important|
|One main point of view for audience to follow||Can have several point of views. Even multi POV and antagonist.|
|Flashbacks and voice over discouraged||Flashbacks can work if placed properly and limited|
|It’s a team sport -notes come from all. Know how to take and understand them.||Notes are mainly from your agent or editor|
|Dialogue should be no more than five lines||Dialogue can be longer but – within reason|
|White space is crucial||White space if nice but not as necessary|
|Less is more – no wasted words – very succinct. Use proper specifics but leave the stage dressing to designers How do you show things?||Can describe rooms, clothing, etc at length (to a point) Can educate the reader but limited. More description ok including thoughts and feelings.|
|Simplify characters – combine them; hop over obstacles. Condense time for more suspense||As many characters as needed. Time extensions ok but be clear with time shift.|
|Budget is important – think about scenes as locations, number of characters, car chases, use of animals, special effects. Historicals hard to sell.||Can have as many special effects or sci fi as you want. Time lapse is fine as long as well explained.|
|Special formatting programs like Movie Magic or Final Draft preferred. Understand script formatting||Can be done on any computer program – double spaced and indented with page numbers.|
|Attitude of character is more important than physical appearance.||Physical appearance helps but attitude and action are important here, as well.|
|Preferred if you are physically available for meetings but Skype can work at times. Network as much as you can – Hollywood is a relationship industry. Join various groups – as Women In Film, Stage32, WGA, Women Helping Women, Hollywood Networking, Breaking Into Hollywood, Roadmap Writers.com||You can isolate and write where ever you are. Attending conferences and belonging to genre groups helps to meet editors, etc.|
|Agents don’t necessarily sell your work unless you are already a big money maker for them. There are several sites where you can list your scripts and pitch directly to execs. Managers more helpful to guide you.||Agents do sell your work and most publishing houses will not look at material without them. Self publishing difficult and still not regarded as professional. Managers are not always needed.|
|No fancy covers or presentations||Plain format preferred but you can spice up cover|
|No need for parentheticals usually. Actors should understand the lines through the narrative||Okay to direct the character’s emotions. Reader should experience emotions|
|Know the 3 (or 6) Act structure||Act structure is looser in books|
|Have a one-two sentence log line||A short pitch helps but is not as required|
|Read industry trades and know what is selling now. It probably won’t be popular by the time you finish your script||Understand what is selling. Read Publisher’s Weekly (available on line.) Genres go in cycles|
The author of The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books and Scripts – Motivational Press which is available at http://www.seritastevens.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and well as regular book stores, I’ve written books, scripts, adaptations in almost every genre – usually whatever my agent gets me. I’ve taught writing at a variety of universities, colleges and conferences. As a forensic nurse, I often help writers with their poison, medical, forensic, and investigative questions for their scenes.
My IMDB is Serita D Stevens. For questions, I can be reached at email@example.com
The Ghost in Roomette Four, which will be published April 2018, is the third in my California Zephyr historical mystery series. The books feature protagonist Jill McLeod, who works as a Zephyrette, on the historical streamliner that rode the rails between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area.
What’s a Zephyrette? Think train hostess, like an airline stewardess in the early days of air travel. Jill’s job involves keeping an eye on passengers and being attentive to their needs. She’s a perfect amateur sleuth.
The first two books in the series, Death Rides the Zephyr and Death Deals a Hand, take place mostly on the train, during the two-and-a-half day journey. The third book is different. In The Ghost in Roomette Four, Jill does spend time on the train, where she sees something supernatural that tests her statement that she doesn’t believe in ghosts. We also see Jill at home between trips, spending time with her family and friends.
For The Ghost in Roomette Four, the music of the 1950s plays a role. The early ’Fifties were a time when pop music, the smooth sounds purveyed by singers like Jo Stafford and Frank Sinatra, was colliding with that new music called rock ’n’ roll, which in turn owed a great deal to what was in an earlier time called “race” music—the blues, and rhythm and blues.
Jill’s younger brother Drew has a passion for the blues. At home he plays records by Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton and derisively describes a hit pop recording as “that doggie-in-the-window” song (a #1 hit recorded by Patti Page and released in January 1953). Drew also plays guitar in a band that performs at a small club near Seventh Street in West Oakland, an area once called the Harlem of the West.
That neighborhood was the terminus of the transcontinental railroad and a lively, thriving area populated by many African Americans who worked for the railroads. Seventh Street, and its side streets, were lined with nightclubs and restaurants, including the famous Slim Jenkins’ Supper Club. The clubs were patronized by customers of all races who were joined by a love of the music. The upcoming novel includes a scene where Jill and her boyfriend go to Oakland to hear Drew’s band play.
My own brother, who plays a mean bass guitar, also loves the blues. He often plays a song called “Mercury Blues.” The fictional Drew would like it too, so I researched the date the song was written, to make sure it was around in 1953. Sure enough, it was.
“Mercury Blues,” originally “Mercury Boogie,” was written by bluesman K.C. Douglas and Robert Geddins, musician and record producer. Both men came to Oakland, California during World War II, Douglas from Mississippi and Geddins from Texas. Douglas first recorded the song in 1948 and in the past 60-plus years it has been covered by many musicians. Geddins had a recording studio on Seventh Street in Oakland.
Do a search on “Mercury Blues” and you’ll find all sorts of YouTube videos of musicians performing the song. It has been covered by lots of them.
Here’s a link to K.C. Douglas’s 1952 recording of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsTfCITzISM
Janet Dawson has written twelve novels featuring Oakland private investigator Jeri Howard, beginning with Kindred Crimes, winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America Best First PI Novel Contest. The book was nominated for Shamus and Anthony awards as well. Water Signs is the most recent book in the series.
Her California Zephyr historical mysteries feature protagonist Jill McLeod, a Zephyrette, or train hostess, and take place in the early 1950s. The books are Death Rides the Zephyr and Death Deals a Hand and forthcoming in April 2018, The Ghost in Roomette Four.
Janet has also written a suspense novel, What You Wish For. Her short stories include Macavity winner “Voice Mail” and Shamus nominee “Slayer Statute.” Her website is at www.janetdawson.com.
When I began writing this blog post for Bookbrowsing, I’d chosen what seemed a relevant topic: how to write while traveling, on vacation, or sneaking in a few lines while commuting to work. It seemed a doable endeavor and something I know quite a bit about. But then the phone rang. Shortly after that the handyman came to fix a broken light switch in our kitchen. Just as the handyman finished his job and closed the door behind him, there was a fender-bender on the street below our NYC apartment. Sirens sounded, traffic backed up and every motorist caught in the congestion was honking his or her car horn. Then during all this noisy commotion, my husband came home from shopping, struggling with an armload of groceries, “What do you want for dinner?” he asked.
Glaring at the keyboard, I tried to remember what I had initially thought I’d be writing. Not all of my days turn out like this. But lately, I wonder if there is a conspiracy against me getting to my writing. I mused that maybe I should write an article titled ‘Writing Interuptus’.
Most authors do not live a privileged life where the world caters to them, quieting their surroundings, periodically offering energy-boosting snacks, bringing a fresh cup of coffee when the first cup of the day has cooled. Most authors I know have tons of personal and familial responsibilities. If there are not children of varying ages to care for, there are elder parents who need to be concerned about. There is shopping, doctor appointments, dust bunnies to clear away from under the sofa, friends to keep in touch with, a work life to juggle, the list goes on and on.
Writing is a commitment. Family is a commitment. Friends are a commitment. And for the writer it’s not a matter of finding the time to write, it really comes down to managing life and getting the writing done.
When my children were young and I worked fulltime, the early mornings before everyone got up for the day, which meant 5:00AM, my writing life would be in full swing. During the weekend there would be a few hours here and there where writing was possible and I would sneak away coveting any time I could get to dig into a writing project.
These days my time is pretty much mine to do with what I want. The kids have grown and have lives of their own. We’ve downsized from a seven-room apartment to a three-room apartment with far less fussy upkeep. So why is it difficult now for me to find that peace and quiet to write?
As I look deeper into how I fiddle with time and life, it appears that the problem is ‘me’. I have forgotten how to set aside time to write. Somehow along the way, I’ve let the priorities shift. There was a time when I would behave like a lovesick fool aching to be reunited with my computer and the story in progress. Now after a few successes with publication, even though I still love to write, it feels like it’s more difficult to find those moments to sit at my computer. The stories continue to come to me. I’m presently in the middle of the second book in a series, but still I let distractions easily interrupt my writing.
What I’ve decided is that much like an older long-married couple that periodically recommit to each other, I need to recommit to my writing. I dearly love writing and I do not want the relationship I have with the written word to fade away until I’m merely dusting the pages of unfinished manuscripts. I want to write. So I’ve decided it’s time to clear my desk of unnecessary clutter, clean the computer screen and keyboard. I’ll comb my hair and wear something attractive, not just my sloppy old stretch pants and ratty t-shirt. Perhaps I’ll light some candles, pour a glass of wine, and while I’m at it, change up the blues and rock music I usually listen to while working. Maybe some Ella or Willie Nelson will deepen the relationship. But however I rekindle this long love affair with writing, it is me who has decided to recommit, it is me who will continue to stay and to work out any problems that will undoubtedly come up in the future.
Blurb for Pushing Water :
Determined to find the killer, Sarah suspects a secret document discovered in a packet of poetry the co-worker borrowed from the archives prompted the murder.
Sarah’s life is further complicated by the arrival of an old friend, Julia, who brings with her memories Sarah would rather forget. Then Albee, Sarah’s part time lover comes on the scene. He claims to be an archaeologist working on a dig in China. Sarah suspects he is a communist revolutionary.
While Sarah deals with her problematic personal life, another Vietnamese friend is arrested and executed for revolutionary activities. Heartsick, Sarah decides to return to the States. The world is in a chaotic mess and before Sarah leaves Vietnam, within one devastating day nothing will ever be the same again.
Margaret Mendel lives and writes in New York City. She is an award-winning author with short stories and articles appearing online and in print publications. Her debut novel, “Fish Kicker” was published in 2014. Margaret’s latest novel “Pushing Water” was published in February 2017. She is a staff writer and photographer with the online magazine Kings River Life. Many of her photos have appeared in websites, online travel journals and have become book covers. Several of her photos have been exhibited in Soho Photography Gallery in New York City. Check out her photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/margaretmendel/ Read more about Margaret and her writing on her website: Pushingtime.com
I once had an agent tell me, “Don’t waste your money going to a conference unless you’re a keynote speaker.” Based on that advice, I avoided conferences for years. These days, I concentrate on how I might benefit from the conference in question.
So, how do you know whether or not you’ll benefit from a conference? To be completely honest, it’s a crapshoot. But let me fill you in on some of my experiences.
The Ghosts of Conferences Past
My first conference was a small Romance Writers of America chapter event in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was as green as those eggs Dr. Seuss’s protagonist Sam refused to eat. At that conference, I learned how much I didn’t know. I also made friendships that have lasted throughout the years. I found my first publisher at that conference. The company published my first book and went out of business shortly thereafter (I’m certain the two events aren’t related, no matter what you might’ve heard), but I was able to go from being an “unpublished author” to a “published author,” and that’s kind of a big deal in publishing-speak, even if your publisher did hit the bricks while your book was still warm from the printer.
With a few published books under my belt, I set out to Malice in Arlington, Virginia. Although I was able to get on a panel and had a table where I was able to sign my very few books, I was mainly a star-struck newbie at this conference too. It was here that I learned that some of the most well-established authors are the sweetest. Harley Jane Kozak and Dorothy Cannell were delightful.
At Bouchercon, I had a cold and felt miserable most of the week. That said, I still met some great people and gathered a lot of valuable information.
The Suffolk Mystery Authors’ Festival was terrific. The festival coordinators do a wonderful job of hosting fun author-only events to cater to out-of-town authors and help build relationships among them, and they provide events that readers enjoy and keep coming back for year after year.
At the RT Book Lovers’ convention in Atlanta, I once again met people I adored, and I feel I made some fantastic connections. The sheer number of people at the event was overwhelming, but everyone was great—brought together by the love of books. At the Giant Book Fair that boasted thousands of readers, one woman sought me out to have me sign a copy of Wicked Stitch (written as Amanda Lee) that she’d won in an online contest. She made my day!
So…ARE Conferences Worth the Expenditures?
That depends. What is your purpose in attending a conference? If you’re going to learn, there are valuable online resources—many from conferences—that you can buy for much less than the cost of one night in a hotel. VW Tapes ( http://vwtapes.com/) has recordings of panel discussions from most of the big writers’ conferences: Thrillerfest, Bouchercon, American Screenwriters Association, Aloha Writers, Sleuthfest, etc. And, of course, WritersDigest.com and Feedspot (search for writing and save blogs of interest) are wellsprings of information too.
If you’re going to pitch, and if you can afford the expense, sitting down across from an agent or editor face to face is a valuable experience. You can deliver your carefully-crafted pitch and are right there to answer any follow-up questions the editor or agent might have. If you can’t afford the expense of a conference, but would still like to pitch your manuscript, you might give PitMad (http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/) a try. Of course, your best bet would be to search out agents or editors who are seeking your type of manuscript and send them a polished proposal (one at a time, if simultaneous submissions are not accepted).
If you’re going to network, then you can’t go wrong. You’ll always meet likeminded people who want to sell you their books, maybe buy your books, and possibly be willing to share their advice and expertise.
If you determine whether or not you’ll attend a conference based on the question, “Will I sell enough books to justify the cost of the conference?” then the answer—unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling—is no. However, if you can fit the conference into your budget and justify attending (remember, you can write it off on your taxes!), then by all means, go. I seriously doubt you’ll ever come away from a conference thinking, “Gee…I didn’t learn a thing.”
Gayle Leeson is a cozy mystery writer who also writes as Gayle Trent and Amanda Lee. Gayle’s latest book isHoney-Baked Homicide, the third book in the Down South Café Mystery series. Please visit Gayle online athttp://www.gayleleeson.com or http://www.gayletrent.com.
Be at ease.
The speech is not unlike writing a book. The beginning sets up the topic. The middle covers key points and breaks those points into sub-points. The ending summarizes and reinforces these key points. Sound familiar? Easy peasy, right?
Well, maybe there’s a little more to it.
For one thing, a keynote address is an “inspirational” speech. You need to inspire your audience to participate in conference meetings and workshops and to pursue their writing dreams. The speech sets the mood for the conference. Match your delivery style to the tenor of the event—is it celebratory, serious or in-between? Generate enthusiasm.
Know your audience. What will they be expecting to take away from the conference? You achieve an inspirational effect by supporting collective beliefs, values and sentiments.
Where to start? Let’s tackle that by looking at what goes into the beginning, middle and end.
The opening of your speech should leave no doubt as to what you’re going to say. Just like with any book, the first words must hook the audience. They should inspire your audience to want to listen to you.
Use this time to establish your credentials. Also, identify a common bond between you, your topic and your audience. This will establish rapport and good feeling.
Use the rest of your brief beginning to introduce the main points which will carry your middle. Show the conference topics for having timeliness and relevance to their lives. Use only material that relates to the rest of your speech in some way; e.g., don’t use jokes, anecdotes or illustrations that have nothing to do with the points you want to get across. They should directly relate to the points and sub-points you want your listeners to retain.
Just like with a book, you must frame your keynote speech to your listeners’ interests—not yours. Use vivid word images to build a scenario your audience can see in their own minds.
People are interested in knowing about you. Anecdotes are very effective way to reveal who you are as a person and give your audience a chance to get closer to you. That reminds me, follow any abstract concepts with concrete examples, like quotations, personal experiences or statistics. These make abstract ideas more tangible.
To provide your audience with a logical approach to understanding your message, structure your content with a “pattern.” You could compare the past and present with some conjecture about the future. You could contrast before-and-after situations, introduce alternative viewpoints, or introduce a problem and offer a solution.
Just like in books, your audience needs a clear understanding of where you are going—i.e., transitions that move them from one point to the next and tie it all together. Confusion, doubt and uncertainty have no place in a keynote address. Use pauses to create suspense and orient your listeners to transitions in your subject points.
And here’s a friendly reminder. The middle is where you really need vocal variety to keep your listeners focused and attentive. Bring music into your voice. No monotone.
Hey, you’re on the home stretch—the last one-quarter of your speech. Time to summarize and to inspire.
Remember, the goal of your keynote address is to “mobilize” your listeners. You want them ready to participate in and to support the aims of the conference. Like with the ending of your book, summarize your key points and sub-points. Emphasize those points you want your listeners to take with them throughout the conference. Make them feel good about being at this particular conference.
End with a Call to Action. Inspire them to get the most out of the workshops and encourage them to strive to reach their goals as writers.
There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? It’s as easy as writing a book!
Opening herself to ridicule by revealing she’s clairvoyant is the last thing U.S. WAVES Lieutenant Livvy Delacourt wants, but when Uncle Sam needs her skill to track Nazi spies, she jumps in with both feet.
Expect Trouble released as an audiobook in September 2017 from Audible, Hoopla, Overdrive, and other audiobook distributors and clubs.
It was Runner-up, 2016 Shelf Unbound Award, and Semifinalist, East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Award.
JoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced WWII food rationing, Victory Gardens, and blackout sirens as a child. She lived in Philadelphia during the ’50s and she attended the Berkeley Psychic Institute in the late ’70s. These experiences bring authenticity to her historical paranormal suspense series.
She is the author of six published novels. She earned a B.A. from UC-Berkeley, an M.A.T. from Fairleigh Dickenson University, and M.B.A. studies from Pepperdine University. Ainsworth lives in northern California.
To learn more about this award-winning author, visit www.joannsmithainsworth.com.
For more, visit: http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com.
Facebook: JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page (https://www.facebook.com/JoAnnSmithAinsworthAuthor?ref=hl) and Profile Page.
Contact her at JoAnnSmithAinsworth@gmail.com.
Though I’ve always done a library visit or two each year, this year I’ve done several in many different places. I love doing them because I love libraries and the people who frequent them. Here are a few things I’ve learned about doing presentations in libraries.
You probably won’t sell a lot of books. People borrow books from the library. And donating your book to the library won’t necessarily mean that it will be put into circulation, it might just become a book for the Friends of the Library Book Sale.
Despite that, an appearance at a library is one of many ways to make yourself known.
People come to library talks for different reasons. Sometimes it’s just to be in a cool place on a very hot day or the other way around. I’ve had a couple of presentation where homeless people have been part of the audience. I treat them the same as anyone else—and ignore any that might be disruptive. (Yes, that has happened.)
With a small group, I ask them why they came, the best way to adjust your presentation to fit their expectations. Some may want to find out more about you than the books you write. Always save time for questions. Others might want to be writers and have questions about writing and publishing. Of course if you or the library has advertised a specific topic, that’s what you need to present.
I’ve done many specific topic presentations about writing, publishing, writing a mystery, but lately I’ve been talking about my books, the research I’ve done for them, and some of my adventures that came about because of being a writer. I also point out that it’s never too late to become a writer.
And some last minute tips:
Take more books than you’ll need. Always better to have more books than not enough.
Be sure to have change for those people who do want to buy a book or two. I accept checks, but that’s up to you. And of course, you can also get one of those gadgets to accept credit cards.
If possible take someone with you to take care of the money transactions so you can concentrate on autographing the book(s).
Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband answer the call for help with unruly guests visiting a closed summer camp during a huge snow storm and are trapped there along with the others. One is a murderer—and another is a ghost.
Anyone who orders any of my books from the publisher‘s website: http://mundania.com
can get 10% off by entering MP20 coupon code in the shopping cart. This is good all the time for all my books, E-books and print books.
Marilyn Meredith’s published book count is nearing 40. She is one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter of Sister in Crime. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place with many similarities to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com Blog: http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/ and you can follow her on Facebook.
Contest: Once again I’m going to use the name of the person who comments on the most blogs on my tour for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—which may be the last in the series.
Tomorrow I’ll be here:
Some Tips for Writing Dialogue