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Best and Cheapest Gift You Can Give to a Writer (Plus Alternatives)

 

gifts for writers

Yep, I made this comic. When you can’t draw…you can find sites to help you.:)

 

Not all writers are created equal. There’re probably some writers out there who don’t like to share their work with the world, even with their closest friends and family. And some writers are okay with strangers reading their material, but not their friends.

But most writers I know, myself included, DO WANT TO BE READ.Tweet this

That’s right: we want to be read by as many people as possible. Of course there’s a sales part of it. However I believe the bigger part is curiosity: how others will feel about the words we put together, characters and worlds we have created. We spend so much time and effort on our writing, especially our fiction.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate anyone who’s taken interest in reading whatever piece I created. But reading longer pieces takes more time, and it’s a bit harder to get more people to read your longer work – before it’s published and has gained a reputation.

I love it when my friends read me. My family is optional, because well, I don’t exactly write family-friendly stuff. But being read by people we love…well, that’s just a priceless feeling. (Don’t think you have to like what you read. Constructive criticism is cool, just don’t express your feelings like Internet trolls do, and we’ll be fine.)

I’m very fortunate to have great friends who love to read, and they’re enthusiastic about my work. I love it when they push me to write more stuff and send them my drafts sooner. (Sending big hugs to Nastya and Pinar.)

Then I have some dear friends who do care a lot about me, just not so much about my work. Sometimes it’s a genre issue. Frankly, if a friend is all about horror, I’m not going to be even the slightest bit of hurt, disappointed or surprised they chose to stay away. They should.

And then I have friends who don’t really like to read that much, especially when it’s novels we’re talking about. If they haven’t even tried addictive mainstream (but extremely cool and thrilling) authors like Brown, Grisham or Child, I won’t feel entitled to their reading time. If those guys don’t get a shot, I’m okay not making the list.

But some friends do read. They read and watch stuff in the genres I write. Now, they all have jobs and lives and other tons of stuff they have to do and like to do. I get that. Writing though, is not just my job or passion. It’s a part of who I am. That’s why it means so much when they want to know more.

We feel happy when people ask us about our day, careers, families, pets and love lives (well, generally), right? Please add writing to the top of that list.

So here’s the thing: the best gift you can give most writers is that you read or listen to their work.

You don’t have to spend any money. Spare the time it takes to go into a store and choose something. Instead, shoot your writing friend an e-mail and ask for something they wrote. Then tell them what you thought. That’s it. You have no idea how happy that will make them.

Now, if you’ve asked and asked and they refused to send stories your way, it’s on them. But many writers will send it once they feel the work is ready.

Also spreading the word about their writing work online and offline is also a great gesture. 

You absolutely want to spend money? Then here are some alternative suggestions (though recommended you read their work and then provide something else if you want):

– Writing equipment.

– Coverage and/or editing services. Those can be expensive, so if you’ve the budget, it will be appreciated. That said, you need to make sure of what your friend exactly needs and where they want it from. Some might have a wish list on Amazon or their blog, so that’ll be a good place to start.

– Writing-themed stuff. The funnier, the better.

– Books on writing. But make sure it’s relevant, they need it and don’t already have it.

– Writing courses

– Novels.

*

What do you think? What have you “bought” your writer friends? Writers, how often do your friends/family read you? Let us know in the comments. And if you like this article, please share on.

 

 

 

Screenwriting Problems Tackled: When No One Likes Your Main Character

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Did someone say an unlikable protagonist? Image via ropeofsilicon.com.

I’ve previously posted The 7 Challenges of Writing a Screenplay, and I’m proud to say I’ve tackled a lot of them successfully in my rewrites. Length is no longer a problem, and having gotten rid of a lot of exposition, my screenplay is a lot leaner.

Right now, I’m facing another problem: I have two protagonists, and one of them is deemed unlikable by half the people (professionals and friends) who read my screenplay. The good news is, some of the “dislikers” are happy with how interesting the events and pacing are, and have told me they don’t have to like a character to enjoy a story or movie.

Why can one main character be unlikable?

My character comes off as too selfish, and that makes it hard for the audience to root for him. He also doesn’t lose everything despite everything he does.

Except, he is not the only main character. His problems and behavior are central to the story, yes, but it’s a script with two protagonists: these two characters start the story as best friends, but extreme circumstances force them to be each other’s antagonist.

And the second protagonist couldn’t be more likeable. He’s strong, passionate, flawed, loyal to a fault… Yet no one seems to notice.

Yes, there are changes I can make to make the unlikeable guy more likable, but most positive changes would change the heart of the story, and I can’t allow that. Because you see, this is the story I want to tell.

When you understand that character, and he is not unlikable to you

And it’s hard for me to see the character as completely selfish, because history (meaning his back story) has proven him to be pretty selfless, or close to it, in the past. He is just having a major crisis, with a pretty debilitating problem, and is acting irrationally. This in turn suggests another problem: plausibility. Like most screenplays, mine requires a decent amount of suspension of disbelief. Not because the events couldn’t/wouldn’t happen, but they are a bit on the extreme side. But if they weren’t, the story I wanted to tell wouldn’t exist.

That’s not to say I don’t respect my readers’ feedback. I do. My last coverage evoked some great questions, and I’d love to discuss it with the reader. I just need to adjust my budget first for further consultation.

On the other hand,  one professional reader not only liked this “unlikable” dude, but named him his favorite.

And I’ve just finished watching two webinars from Writer’s Store where industry experts (including  Script Mag’s Jeanne Veillette Bowerman) emphasized that you can root for a character if he’s interesting enough, even if he’s evil. One given example was Hannibal Lecter. (In her webinar Creating Dynamic Characters.)

Now, I’m in no way claiming my character is that interesting (completely different genres for one. For two, my character won’t be portrayed by Anthony Hopkins:D) But in a way, my “selfish protagonist”, is the antagonist of the story in several ways.

If audiences can root for Hannibal or the killer in Se7en, they can tolerate my selfish character. Next to them, he comes off like a newborn kitten for crying out loud!

Good news: There Are Many Successful Movies with Unlikeable Protagonists

Let’s mention some recent successful movies with borderline horrible, obnoxious main characters. Please note I might spoil the movies a little.

Gone Girl: I seriously can’t decide whose character I detest more. Ben Affleck’s or Rosamund Pike’s? And it’s not like supporting characters are sweet either. Engaging movie (for the most part), great second act but come on! I’ve never spent so much time during a movie wanting to punch all the characters. I wouldn’t want them as my neighbors, friends, distant acquaintances…The cops in the film included.

Side Effects: Sure, Jude Law’s character becomes more and more likable as the story progresses, but what about Rooney Mara’s? And I definitely lost a little respect for Law’s character when he got back with his wife, no questions asked. After the way she treated him? Come on! I don’t need a long fight scene, but just give me a sign of difficulty for crying out loud!

Nightcrawler: Different and compelling movie, sure. But Louis Bloom has to be one of the most obnoxious protagonists ever written. Louis Litt from the TV series Suits is a selfless angel compared to Bloom. Seriously!

And we are never given a back story on why he is such a sociopathic prick. Actually Nightcrawler steps on and chews out so much renowned screenwriting advice, it will get its own post. (or at least another post.) The point is, the only thing I liked about that character was that it was played by Jake Gyllenhaal. I didn’t root for him. I didn’t respect his cunning. I think the fact that he’s so unlikable, and still gets what he wants (despite not being as slick and smart as he believes) is what makes the movie fun to watch.

What does this mean for you and your story?

I haven’t sold this story (with the selfish protagonist) yet. I may never be able to sell it. Maybe it’ll be optioned and/or bought and never made. Maybe I will have to wait until I have the resources to make it myself. Like all the screenplays out there, the possibilities are just too many to count.

The point is, I’m not giving up on it. It has its strengths, and it has its weaknesses, and I’m doing my best to eliminate the weak parts. I’ll do my best to sell it afterwards. But I believe in it, and I’m not giving up on it. I’m also determined to improve it without changing the core.

You might need to adapt too, but you also need to keep believing in yourself. I watched this wonderfully helpful webinar by Marilyn Horowitz (How to Sell Your Screenplay in 30 Days Using New Media through Writer’s Store) where she reminds you that you need to be your biggest fan. You need to be professional, yes, but you also need to believe. It has to be the kind of story you would pay to see. If you wouldn’t, why write it?

Write the kind of movie you’ll want to see. Be as objective as you can. Improve it as much as you can. Then start pitching and querying.

And good luck!

 

 

Coffee Shop Freelancers’ Decals: A Fun Way to Market Yourself

Let’s face it, sometimes marketing can be a real drag. I’m all fine with more indirect ways such as commenting on blog posts, having an updated resume on LinkedIn and keeping in touch with writers and editors. I’m even okay with sending query letters. But I haven’t sent any LOIs yet (I know, shame on me) or, attended a writing conference. (I live far away, but planning to change that- which is for another blog post, though.)

I did, however, start a group for writers and bloggers near where I live, so that’s a start.

So I’d rather have something that did my marketing for me, or at least contributed to my efforts while I concentrated more on my writing and editing (my own stuff: you know that takes a while.)

What if there was an easy way to tell everyone what you did without having to say a word, and they introduced themselves to you if they needed your services?

Enter Christophe Gonzalez of (Coffee Shop Freelancers), who found that fun, informative and customized decals were the answer.

Coffee Shop Freelancers is a site that features fun and informative designs decals for your laptops. The soon-to-be-launched site offers to 20% discount to e-mail subscribers.

Prices will be around € 25/$ 30, excluding shipping.

You can see some of the designs below.

Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid in any way for this post. I was contacted by Christophe about his site, and was happy to share his project after seeing the website and press kit. I did however subscribe to the e-mail newsletter, and unless the shipping costs go over my budget, I’m planning on placing an order.

 

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The 100’s Finn: Character Assassination or Natural Character Evolvement?

the 100

From left, characters: Octavia, Finn, Clarke (central), Jasper, Bellamy, Monty. Image courtesy: CW

Ever watched a movie or a TV series and thought: “Nah, this character would never do that?” Maybe it happened while reading a book. We’ve all been there as viewers and readers. Characters’ actions sometimes can take an unbelievable turn, and make us our eyes roll, taking us away from the story.

Currently, many fans of the sci-fi series The 100 feel this way about the character Finn, though I’m not one of those fans. While I believe they could have handled his transformation a little better or made his character take a different path, I don’t think what happened to him is not that big of a stretch when you consider everything he has been through.

I’m not saying writers don’t have a tendency to take things too far for the sake of a more captivating plot or shock value. But often, writers have an emotional connection to their story and don’t just throw a big change the audience’s way just for the sake of it. They become their characters. So it is not so much crafting a path as it’s living, breathing and being that character.

Expectedly, not all of your readers (or viewers) will agree with how (or who) your character ends up to be. Especially when you have give them so many twists and complicated fellow characters, after introducing this one character much more differently in the beginning.

But traumas change people, for the better or worse. Can you tell me that you’ve gone through several significant, life-altering events in your life, and those events haven’t changed your attitude or reactions even one bit? If you say you are 100% the same, I’m going to think you are either a saint, or not being completely honest with me (or yourselves) for that matter.

So today, let’s tackle this tricky issue with the help of The 100, and what Finn’s been through. (Note: from this point on, this post will feature spoilers. You’ve been warned.)

The 100 Premise:

A nuclear apocalypse has destroyed the earth, and some survivors have moved to space stations. 97 years later, a technical problem is causing oxygen deficiency, causing the need to test the earth’s conditions a century before they planned.

On these space stations (called the Ark), any criminal over 18 is executed by floating. Any criminal under 18 is imprisoned – the nature of the crime is irrelevant. So in order to gain more time (and oxygen), they send 100 prisoners (ages ranging from kids to almost 18 year-olds) to earth, without supplies (not that they had too much extra to spare) or weapons.

thomas-mcdonell-100-finn

Finn (Thomas McDonnell) after he has seen a mutated deer.Image via justjaredjr.com.

When the prisoners land on earth, radiation doesn’t kill them. The nature looks beautiful, and they might have a chance after all. But soon, the differences in personalities, agendas and violent tendencies and lack of supplies as well as other survivors they didn’t know existed risk their lives and well-being on a daily basis (or sometimes more frequently). Finn (played by Thomas McDonnell) is one of these prisoners.

He’s famous for his crime: he has gone spacewalking without authorization, causing the Ark to lose oxygen, though it’ll be revealed in the following season that while the “crime” was his idea, the “committing” was done by someone else. (More on this later.) Finn is a fun-loving, spontaneous kid who’s not the bravest – but he’ll definitely step up eventually if he needs to save a friend. He develops a crush on Clarke, the intelligent, resilient and resourceful daughter of the Ark’s best doctor.

Finn is willing to do work when reasoned, but not disruptive and never with an authority complex. He usually provides the humor, ways to have fun and offers less disturbing ways to survive. He’s a bit of a flirt, but hey, for a teenager who has never had an adventure and only been with one girl all his life, he is doing pretty well as a human being trying to survive.

But even during the first couple of episodes that establish Finn as a fun-loving, inherently decent, flirty but smart dude with useful skills (tracking and peace-making), he goes through pretty horrifying stuff: losing friends in horrific ways, losing hope that they might ever see their family and friends in space or communicate with them, having his life and his remaining friends’ constantly in danger. With no time to get depressed or have an existential crisis, he holds up well through his reciprocal crush on Clarke.

Then his girlfriend from the Ark, Raven, comes to earth. Because of this, he loses his chance with Clarke, but that’s the least of his problems: Just think about it. Imagine being a 17-year-old experiencing the earth for the first time. Think about having been sent there to die. (The adults in space had no proof the earth was livable, so he, along with the other 99, was considered expendable.)

Think about falling in love with another girl, a girl you haven’t known your entire life while still caring the hell lot about your girlfriend – who’s both your family and your best friend. Think about not knowing who to trust apart from a couple of people. Did you put yourselves in Finn’s shoes? Good. Stay there.

You don’t have many supplies. You can die of hunger if you can’t hunt. If you are caught by the yellow acid fog, you will die a horrible, painful death, and you lose friends to this death. You see fellow campers go into “lynching mode” because they think someone in this group murdered a fellow camper. You find out the killer was a little girl who misunderstood some helpful advice. You risk your life trying to protect her, but you can’t: the girl ends up jumping to her death because she doesn’t want anyone to be harmed because of her. Aren’t you mentally a little disturbed yet?

Remember these events. Despite all this, because you’re a nice, peace-loving guy:

– You don’t mind the “grounder” Lincoln (people who kind of remind you of the warriors in Mad Max 3- people who have survived despite the radiation and formed their own civilazation) who stabbed you escapes.

– You don’t mind one female fellow camper falling in love with the grounder; instead you see the good in him and use this opportunity to make peace. Things go wrong, you barely escape.

– You find out these grounders have sent a biological weapon into your camp, killing a few more of your friends in the process and almost killing the girl you love (Clarke).

– Then you find out this biological weapon was only the initial attack. Your friends build a bomb to blow off a bridge to delay the attacks. This does delay the war, but during a hunting trip, you and Clarke are kidnapped and threatened to be killed unless Clarke saves the wounded girl. She can’t, and you only get to escape because Lincoln (the nice grounder) helps you.

– You are surrounded by warriors, but with the help of Raven (now your ex: she breaks up with you because you’re in love with Clarke), you manage to build something that will fry all grounders who come close. But you can’t make it inside the safe zone in time, witnessing a lot of people die brutal deaths. You watch people burn while fighting for your life.

– And when it’s over, you learn that Clarke along with 46 of your friends, are nowhere to be found. Maybe the remaining grounders took them. They’re probably tortured. There’s a good chance they might be dead.

Are you damaged enough yet?

– Anyway, there’s some good news as some of the space people land safely and form another camp. You are sent to find the missing, but not before you get to experience your ex’s painful, no drugs included surgery where her screams would make anyone’s blood crawl.

– During your search for Clarke, a grounder refuses to give you information, so you threaten to kill him. Then he draws you a map, but you still kill him. If you don’t, he might track you or try to kill you anyway. These people have been trying to kill you since you arrived.

Out of character? At this point, I think it’s in line with who he has become after what he has been through.

– A couple of more traumas later, you and another camper reach village where you were told your friends are. You round up everyone with guns, and have to decide if they are telling the truth. They’ve guns, but it’s 2 versus a village (though they don’t have guns, their warriors might come any second.) And then the hostage situation gets out of hand: some try to escape, some try to charge at you. You react out of panic, anger and adrenaline and you start shooting and you don’t stop until it’s too late.

Out of character? Or completely in line with what he has been through and what he felt in that moment?

*

I’m frankly against guns, and I’m a pacifist. But if you put me in a place where people are constantly attacking me and my loved ones, and where each day might be my last…and if you give me a gun to protect myself and my friends…And I go through one trauma after another after another…Well, I might not be that much of a pacifist after I reach my breaking point, and everyone has one.

I think Finn was suffering from major PTSD, and it’s unreasonable to expect someone to behave “characteristically” when they are in a seriously stressful situation.

What do you think? Do you think it is as unreasonable and far-fetched as some fans find it? Or is he just a kid who has gone through too much in short amount of time and expectedly lost it?

Please let me know in the comments. And what are some of the believable or unbelievable character transitions you have seen in novels, movies and TV series?

John Wick: How to Write a Refreshing, Kick-Ass Genre Movie by Picking Your Clichés Wisely

This is John Wick. You wouldn't want to piss him off. Image via teaser-trailer.com.

This is John Wick. You wouldn’t want to piss him off. Image via teaser-trailer.com.

John Wick, Keanu Reeves’ latest movie to hit the theaters is a fun, fast and exciting ride that deserves it’s current IMDB rating of 7.7 (and more). It accomplishes a slick action with a budget of 20 mil, and entertains more than a lot of higher budget, CGI-filled action flicks.

And I’d thought it’d be just another ex-hitman-out-for-revenge movie. Sure, it is an ex-hitman-out-for revenge film, but the way it’s handled motive, dialogue, villains and shootouts make it different enough. Briefly put, it’s kept all the necessary clichés to make the protagonist badass enough with a humane side, but it’s eliminated some really too- frequently-used ones.

For instance, instead of a kidnapped/abused/killed family member or romantic partner, this badass seeks revenge because of the murder of his dog and the theft of his car. It could come across as ridiculous and light, but it doesn’t:

You see, our hitman left the world of crime to be with the woman he loved. Cliché, for sure. But let’s face it, we all love a tough male protagonist with a romantic side. He’s fallen hard, and has had a happy relationship until this woman he loved so much dies of a disease. That’s just one.

Why don’t we take a look at how the film manages to set itself apart? Warning: there will be many, many spoilers. Continue at your own risk if you haven’t seen it.

Not a cliché: Beloved wife doesn’t die by the hand of a bad guy.

But she is/was the only live thing he has cared about, and he’s barely buried her when he receives this cutest dog from her a present: she tells him he needs something to love besides his car. He needs not to be alone, he needs to be loved now that she’s not around. So of course he connects with this adorable puppy.

Now imagine a tough-as-they-come, grieving ex-hitman, right at the start of his mourning, being attacked in his home by a stupid, entitled punk (who happens to be the son of Russian mob boss Viggo) Ioef and his friends. The punks kill Wick’s dog, beat the shit out of him (in John’s defense he had no reason to expect a baseball bat from behind in the middle of the night) and steal his car.

Not a cliché: The (stolen) car shop owner is really pissed at Iosef’ stupidity when he sees the car: he even punhes him.

Not a cliché: Viggo calls the owner, and asks why he struck his son, quite calmly. I’d expect an outrage,  a team of thugs to beat the guy to death, or something. But this one is quite reasonable compared to many other mob bosses we’ve seen. And when the guy tells him that what his son did, he gets mad with his own son.

Not a cliché: The mob boss is actually quite smart (again, when compared to others). He hits his son, and explains why he did a very stupid thing. And before sending men after Wick (before Wick can kill the son), he calls Wick and asks if they can forget about the whole thing.

He knows exactly what Wick is capabe of, and is reasonably scared: It’s refreshing to see a mob boss being realistic about who he’s dealing with, instead of thinking he can destroy anyone.

Realism: John goes out of ammunition, and we see him reload his weapon, take his enemy’s weapon or just use whatever is available to him. No endless ammo here.

Realism: John does get hurt. He does call a doctor. The doctor gives him pills to keep him going. So it’s not just adrenaline (or maybe the pills provide just adrenaline; I’m just pointing out he does get chemical help).

He gets hurt again toward the end, almost dying.

Realism: John calls a “cleaning crew” to rid his house of the bodies.

Fun: Cop shows up after a noise complaint: John did take care of 10-12 men after either shooting them or killing them other ways. There was massive struggle. But the cop asks if John is back to work, he says he is just that taking care of something. Cop leaves, knowing exactly who John is (and used to be).

Fun: A lot of the other humor comes from the fact the way some shooting scene are shot: like we see the victim dropping dead from a single shot before we see John Wick moving ahead coolly.

Funny/tragicomic/different: Viggo cares more about his own life than his son’s: he gives away his son’s location to Wick when Wick corners him and kills all the bodyguards. Of course being a man of his word, Wick lets Viggo go.

Cliché we love: Wick survives after everything, having avenged his dog and his wife’s memory. Realistic? Well, in this movie’s universe…kind of, yeah. After all, Wick is who you send after the bogeyman. Bogeyman is scared of this dude.

*

So in terms of reinventing the genre, Wick doesn’t do it. But what it serves the genre with refreshing elements, well-done, non-flabby dialogue; a decent, semi-dark sense of humor; the right music and perfect casting.

The writer (Derek Kolstad) has picked his clichés well: whatever clichés exist, they do a great job adding to the film’s pace and atmosphere.

A touch of realism here and there makes the film more fun, and gets us even more glued to the screen. I recommend this movie to anyone who loves the revenge thriller genre, whether you also write action thrillers yourself or not.

And remember folks, all clichés aren’t bad. If you know which ones to pick and how and where to implement them, they don’t ruin your story: they improve it.

Speaking of working clichés, you might also enjoy the post When It’s OK to Use Cliches in Your Writing: Hidden Metaphors – Poison’s Bret Michaels Style.

Age 30 Has Arrived: Plans for My Writing Career & 30’s Milestones of Fellow Writers

Image via Lhoretsë on Flickr.

Image via Lhoretsë on Flickr.

Oh my God! Honestly, I can’t believe it. Is it just me, or does time fly faster when you’re enjoying your life? Ever since I quit my full-time job to start writing (I was about 25), time seems to fly faster, despite certain bad situations and obstacles life loves throwing our way.

For instance, I’m writing this post with my two splints on since my nerve entrapment acted up again. But hey, I knew this was a possibility, and I’m taking my own advice whenever I can.

But worry not, this is not a “Crap, I’m getting old(er)!” post. I’m still young, and I believe 30s are the new 20s (40s are the news 30s, 50s are the new 40s…you know how it goes). We are, generally speaking, taking better care of ourselves. We know we don’t have to follow the crowd. We don’t set goals because society expects us to.

Am I, professionally, exactly where I want to be? No, not entirely. Am I taking some necessary steps to make certain goals and dreams a necessity? Abso-fucking-lutely. (Yeah, I’m not the one to swear much, but hey, I’ve just 30, folks! Give me some leeway;))

So what are those goals?

  • Find an agent/publisher for my fun contemporary romance novel.
  • Find a manager and/or a producer/studio for my TV pilot and feature screenplay.
  • Get published in more of my favorite publications.
  • Increase my writing income.
  • Write more in the areas that I love.
  • Interact more with other writers.

So that’s me: hoping to be a better, healthier, more social and more proficient writer. How about you? Have you ever had or set age-related milestones?

Below I’m quoting some of my dear writer friends on what it was like to turn 30 for them and their work:

Will Hiles:

“My first professional story sales happened at 30. Which opened the door to writing for a living.”

 The story is called The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter. It’s in the horror (vampire) genre, and was published in a magazine called Dead of Night.

I know Will through the Facebook group FWG (Fiction Writers’ Group), and he was one of the first writers to offer me his “30” quote. You can read a lot of his short work on his Facebook author page.

Yvette Carol:

“You and I are approaching milestones at the same time. I’m staring down the big 5-0 like a deer in headlights as we speak. Eeks! I clearly remember that when I turned 30, I decided not to celebrate it as I resisted the idea of ‘getting old’ with such ferocity. And I have to admit, I regretted that decision. Make sure you celebrate the heck out of the moment. Suffice to say, I partied like it was 1999 when I turned 40, and there are big plans afoot for this one. I’ve gained appreciation for aging as I’ve gone along, and I’m not scared to enter my 50’s.

As to where I was professionally & personally at 30, I was recently divorced and had escaped from the city to the country. I was spending many laborious hours in between work shifts painting the illustrations for my children’s books. At that point, I was still determined to write & illustrate my own books. However, as my landlord said, ‘Painting sucks time into it like a black hole.’ And he was so right. I must have spent at least a dozen years of my life illustrating my picture books. It would be another ten years before I’d finally decide to focus on my writing. Although I had many nibbles from publishers along the way, my wonderfully-illustrated picture books still sit in a box under my desk, untouched. I had to learn to let them go. I had to discover a new flexibility as I went along, in order to find what I should be writing. Perhaps those early books will be published when I’m in my dotage, if not, that’s okay as well. It’s all grist for the mill.”

Yvette is a children’s writer and she shares her wise and lovely musings on writing (and her life) on her blog. Yvette and I (virtually) met through the blog of author P.J. Reece, and maintained a friendship based on mutual support and our Zodiac-sign sisterhood. It’s a shame she lives in New Zealand. You can follow her tweets @yvettecarol1.

Glenn Hefley:

“Do you know how long ago that was? I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. I do remember feeling like it was finally going to start. I don’t recall very clearly what ‘IT” was, but it was there — but I also remember when I was 10, thinking that quicksand was going to be a much bigger issue in life than it has turned out to be. Didn’t seem to matter what TV show you watched back then, there was quicksand ready to gobble someone up. Have you ever seen quicksand? Neither have I. Not once. Very disappointing.

Now I’m coming up on fifty and thinking that it really has started. Finally. I’m at a point were the skills I always wanted to have are at my fingertips. And, I have a worthy direction to hurl my best spears and extend my deepest empathy.

We are such marvelous creatures. Humans, yes, but writers in particular. After all of these centuries, all the changes and the advances — we’re still the only wizards this world has ever had. We are the storytellers. We are the ones who use the words of power to shatter gloom, raise the moon and blind the sun if necessary. We create gods of every sort, one for every taste of the imagination, and every guilty need. With our gods we bend men’s backs and wither women’ s hands. Then we give them absolution. We show them, even after they have tried to find love, and have been beaten and scarred over and over again, that it is still worth the effort.

What will you create this year? It’s got me on the edge of my seat. I feel the coil of emotions ready to strike, and the dance of encounters which will alter perceptions and occasionally smack someone with salmon.

Hell. Quicksand probably wasn’t all that cool anyway. Go ahead and jump. I promise you will love the view.”

Glenn Hefley is a great writer, blogger and (the occasional) editor. He doesn’t shy away from controversial topics or speaking his mind. He was kind enough to give me great support and tips about the first three chapters of my novel and my writing in general. You can follow Glenn on Twitter @glennhefley, or read his blog.

Martin Tracey: 

“At 30 I was writing songs as opposed to books/novels. I wrote a song called Saturn Rising and it won a BBC radio competition which resulted in the band supporting the Fine Young Cannibals in Birmingham. I also wrote a song called Raging Bull, it was a football song about a Wolves player called Steve Bull and it ended up on Old Gold Anthems – the songs of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC I also wrote a song called Horror Story, this laid the foundations I guess for my debut novel Beneath The Floodlights which is about soccer and vampires! I know I have a very active imagination.

Martin is a blogger and a novelist who loves music, vampires and football (I couldn’t agree more with the first two!). You can check out Martin’s active imagination and posts on his blog, and follow him on Twitter at @MartinTracey1

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Go ahead and share your milestones in the comments. :)

Review for The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1000 Extra This Month by Mridu Khullar Relph

 

About Mridu Khullar Relph

Mridu is an international writer and reporter who has been published in The New York Times, TIME, ABC News, CNN, Elle, Vogue, Glamour, Marie Claire and Cosmo among others.

In addition to her writer website, she runs the site The International Freelancer where you can read articles about all aspects of being a freelance writer regardless of your location.

About the Book

Her 14-chapter, 66-page book The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1000 Extra This Month is a practical and fun guide to help you make 1,000 more every week from your writing.

And while the book can be used by writers from all points in their career, writers with at least some experience will get the most from it as she states so herself: “The book doesn’t tell you how to start your career or how to make a living from writing, but rather increase your monthly cash flow by a thousand bucks.”

Mridu was kind enough to offer me a review copy.

What I liked Best About the Book

– Every chapter includes her personal experiences; so it’s never just in theory.

– It has specific suggestions, links, tips and even templates you can take advantage of right now.

– Even though some chapters include information you think you know, she has suggestions you either haven’t thought of, or neglect to consider on a regular basis.

– She has a really fun style; you’ll never get bored. And she hasn’t wasted a word.

– There’s a link to an even richer well of resources.

 

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown

CH: 1 Ask for more is about how you can negotiate better, and she talks about more than just asking for more money.

CH: 2 Do an LOI Blast tells you what LOIs are, when you should send them, and how and why they help you and your career. There’s even a sample LOI, and she also talks about what to include/what to avoid, and when pitching ideas instead might be a better idea.

CH: 3 Focus on the Web is about what kind of publications there are, why you should focus on the web, and how she gets through her web work productively.

CH: 4 Look In Your Inbox guides you on reworking your rejected pieces, how to handle the process and what to pay attention to.

I definitely need to do this more often. This part also reminded me to pitch more regularly.

CH: 5 Send Out Those Reprints is about how (and where) to resell the same piece, and even end up writing original pieces for that publication.

CH: 6 Reslant Your Old Stories includes ideas for how you can reslant your stories, and she has 30 suggestions.

CH: 7 Go international is about selling your work worldwide, regardless of where you live. The books mentions numerous advantages you might not have thought (I write internationally and hadn’t thought of some of them!).

CH: 8 Take From One, Give to the Other is about repurposing: finding another angle in the same story and selling it to a different type of magazine. Once again, Mridu has featured great real life examples.

Ch: 9 Reach out to People is about using your old contacts, and the chapter offers practical ways of reconnecting and more.

CH: 10 Ask for referrals reveals how and when to go about it.

CH: 11 Tap Your Sources is about utilizing forgotten ideas.

CH: 12 Add Value to Your Stories tells you about how audio, video and images enhance your stories

CH 13: Experiment with grants and new media takes a closer look at fellowships, grants, apps, and more. 

CH 14: Get Social on Social Media is about making the most of the social media for your writing career.

 

How to Make the Most of  the Book

Everyone has her own method of studying, but I definitely recommend printing out, taking notes and keeping it close as a reference. It won’t hurt to return to the most essential chapters (according to your needs), especially during your planning stages.

The book is available on Amazon at $3.99.

 

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So What About Professional Novel Editing Services?

I’ve previously covered various screenplay coverage services on the blog, and I’ll keep updating you on the results. But what about novels? Should we try to get our novels reviewed by professional readers? When should we do it, and how much does it cost?

I have a beta reader who has been immensely helpful with the first three chapters of my novel, both with language and story. A couple of other friends have read and enjoyed the manuscript overall, though I’m not going to claim they were incredibly objective, I’m confident they did have a good time: I know their tastes, and they have read and commented on my stories before. So it was a safe bet.

So far, I haven’t been able to hook an agent, at least not with the first few pages of my story. Now that some of those pages took some rewriting thanks to my beta reader, I’m ready to send more queries and see if I get any requests.

I’ll also probably send the manuscript to Coverage Ink (included in the list below) for an overall review. They reviewed my pilot script before, and I found their comments very helpful, and to the point. And if they made 20 points, I probably only disagreed with (or wasn’t sure about) 2 of them, which means they got what I wanted to do with my story.

That’s one of the most important aspects of coverage for me: for the reader to be as objective as possible, comment on the marketability of the story and suggest ways on how to make the story catchier and irresistible, without changing its heart. I tried Coverage Ink after hearing about them via Stephanie Palmer’s Good in a Room blog. I’ll also resubmit the pilot after completing my editing.

They also offer proofreading services, and if you can afford it, I strongly recommend getting your story proofed as well as critiqued by people you trust.

So without further ado, below are some of the services you might consider starting your research with:

*(Please note that with the exception of Sigrid’s e-book, I haven’t used affiliate links in this article.)

- Writers & Artists:

Their services come in several stages, so you can send in anything from your first draft to final. Full manuscript review ranges from £680 – £1020. They also offer other packages, so do check out their site for more information.

- Sigrid Macdonald:

Sigrid is the author of Be Your Own Editor. I own this e-book and I’ve found it tremendously helpful. While it wouldn’t substitute for Sigrid reading every page herself, it’s a great alternative when you can’t afford editing services.

Coverage Ink:

Coverage Ink offers different levels of coverage, so be sure to check your options out. You might also want to get a quote for your novel by submitting the first 5 pages.

- Writer’s Digest:

Writer’s Digest Shop offers manuscript critique for your novels. It’s currently 3 dollars per page.

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Please keep in mind that this is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just a starting point for your research.

If you have tried editing services, please share your experiences in the comments.

Happy Editing!

Terrific Resources on How to (Re)Write Your Screenplay: Writing better scene descriptions, introducing characters & more

 

After entering numerous contests, getting different professional feedback for the same script and editing according to what I’ve learned from studying other screenplays, screenplay writing resources and the notes from professionals, I’m a lot more confident in my editing and rewriting skills. That’s not to say I feel I’m done, far from it. But I know a lot more than when I started out.

Currently, I’m in the process of editing my screenplay for the BlueCat competition according to my reader’s notes, and I wanted to share which resources I’ve also perused for further help:

1) Not Screwing Up Characters

Bang2Write is the popular screenwriting blog run by screenwriter, blogger, script editor and teacher Lucy V Hay. She often provides funny, practical and blunt tips on how to improve your script and your screenwriting career.

I like a lot of her posts, but I chose this post in particular because you definitely wouldn’t want to disappoint your reader(s) in the characters department.

You’ve witnessed this in a lot of novels and movies, where characters keep doing out-of-character things so that the plot will move forward.

Well, consistency matters. But it is only one of your problems. You need to introduce your characters well, make their motivations count and more:

Top 5 Ways Writers Screw Up Their Characters

2) Introducing a Character

One of the ways writers screw up their characters is their introduction, as the linked article above points out. So it’s only appropriate to include the same writer’s tips on: How to Best Introduce a Character

3) Writing Good Scene Description 

One of the aspects of screenwriting I struggle with is writing great scene

descriptions. I’m not saying I’m bad; I’ve some great moments. But I find it increasingly difficult to sustain those moments in every scene. Nagging questions fill my mind, such as:

“Have I written too much?”

“Maybe I haven’t said enough?”

And guess what? It’s exactly one of the things one reader mentioned in his comments: I have included too much in certain scenes, and not enough in several others. While I keep studying other screenplays and getting better hang of it, these two articles below definitely helped:

16 Steps to Better Scene Descriptions on Script Secrets

10 Ways to Revitalize Your Scene Decription on Bang2Write

Also, John August (Go, Big Fish) offers video tutorials on his YouTube channel:

Entering a Scene

Writing Better Screen Description

Writing Better Action

Don’t forget to check out John’s blog, which is one of the most influential screenwriting blogs, for more useful tips and information.

4) Formatting Properly

Obviously, you can’t ignore standard formatting expectations. You don’t want to be overlooked just because you failed to apply some basic rules.

I don’t have to worry about this because I already use Final Draft (aff. link below), a screenwriting software that readily formats everything; I just have to choose which element (action, scene, dialogue…etc.) I’m working on.

But if you don’t own such a software, do check out Lucy V Hay’s Screenplay Format: One Stop Shop. I also recommend Chuck Sambuchino’s Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript (aff. link below), which includes formatting guidelines for whatever manuscript you might be working on, be it a short story, novel, screenplay or article.

5) Using Feedback Effectively

OK, so you got your feedback. How do you use it? Do you accept every suggested change? Well, the answer depends on what changes were offered, and how you feel about them.

You don’t have to accept every change. After all, this is your story. I pay very close attention to suggestions to make the script read better, and to suggestions on how to improve aspects like scene descriptions, action writing and dialogue. However I’m not suddenly going to change my protagonist dramatically because one reader thought he was unlikable or hard to relate to.

Even though your readers are industry professionals, they are still human, with their own tastes. At the end of the day, you have to be proud of your story. One piece of advice most screenwriting blogs agree on is that you need to tell the story you want to tell; and not the story you think the industry expects you to tell. Because then you won’t be able tell the story the way it’s meant to be told anyway.

So pay close attention, and don’t make the changes that make it an entirely different story – unless you are comfortable with that direction.

Oh, and I should mention, that one reader’s least favorite character can be another’s favorite. I’m not generalizing; this happened to with one of protagonists. So keep that in mind as well.

Without any further ado, I present Lucy’s tips:

5 Ways To Use Feedback Effectively

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There you are: an epic collection of resources on how to make your next draft better. If you find this article useful, please spread the word. And don’t forget to share your own tips and favorite resources in the comments.

Hunting for The Right Premium WordPress Theme

Premium WordPress themes come with so many advantages, and usually at about 40-75 bucks, so I decided to take my blog design to the next level and search for the perfect WordPress theme for my blog.

I looked at the usual suspects first, like Studio Press and Elegant Themes that are recommended by a lot of respectful and tasteful bloggers. I have seen many blogs that use these themes and make them look just right for their brand,

And I looked at Wpexplorer, themefuse, themeforest, and to quote a U2 song I love, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

Basically, I want full control over everything. I want to easily change whatever I want without knowing any sort of coding. I’d love to have a SEO-optimized theme, as well as one that comes decorated with all the important social media sharing buttons.

Problem? Either the color scheme feels wrong or the patterns don’t seem right. I tried the demos of all versions available, but none solved the key problem.

It’s kind of like being set up on a blind date by a good friend, isn’t it? You have a lot of things in common, and your friend knows what you want, but what feels right on paper doesn’t match what happens in person. Lack of chemistry and passion. Personalities not matching.

I’m all for an easily-readable, professional looking blog. I’m also sucker for full, easy control over every element. But so far, this free theme I picked (after days and days of searching all free themes, mind you) still remains a favorite.

And “a 50 dollars/month for all themes” packages don’t tempt me because I only found one theme that I might sort of want.

So have you found “the one” when it comes to themes? Any premium themes you might suggest for someone who doesn’t want white or black to dominate? Who wants neither extra-plain nor overtly colorful?

And as it’s apparent from the this theme you see, I do love the look of a writer’s desk. I like the overall look, and not just one shot of a coffee mug (and premium “coffee mugs” usually belong to restaurant-appropriate designs) or one computer (and they seem to have been developed for tech bloggers or creative agencies)?

Suggestions and personal experiences are always appreciated.

Happy writing!

And happy hunting to those who are still looking for “the one” amongst WordPress themes…

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