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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Quick Question: How Do I Find A Paid Writing Gig?


Richard Standen asks on Twitter: 

I'm a writing graduate with 2 shorts I've written screening at festivals. Where should/can I look to find that first paid job?

Getting work AND getting paid for it is the Holy Grail for most writers - it's fair to say most of us dream of giving up our day jobs. In terms of finding your first paid job as a writer, I'd recommend following these steps:

WHAT do I want to do? Think first of your mega dream job. Don't worry if it's working for continuing drama or writing for huge Hollywood action epics, this is YOUR dream. Work on the basis anything is possible - because it is. You can be anything you want to be and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, least of all YOURSELF.

WHERE am I? Okay, now you go for the reality check. Richard has two shorts screening at festivals - this is a good start, but maybe you have only your scripts on paper. Whatever the case, you need to start BUILDING - contacts and experience. Don't let anything slide - but equally, don't stretch yourself so thin you can't do your best. Decide what you WILL and WON'T do, according to where you are on the "writing scale". 

WHEN do I send stuff out? Never send stuff out that's not ready - so ensure you know a) when your script is worth showing to people and b) when the "usual" opportunities come around (ie. agents with open door policies, London Screenwriters' Festival, Red Planet Prize, BBC Writers' Academy, American script contest deadlines etc) and c) make opportunities for yourself (following leads, creating DIY filmmaking opportunities, making contacts with indie prodcos etc). Look to the year ahead and make a STRATEGY, don't rely on a scattergun approach. If you've decided you want to write for television, find out who you should be approaching and when - and with what. Same for the Hollywood approach or anything else you want to do. Find out where the opportunities are. Plan accordingly. Make sure you have a great portfolio. Rinse and repeat.

Also - don't forget that sometimes you will deviate from your original course and this is a GOOD THING. I never knew five years ago I would become a novelist, rather than a scriptwriter and end up concentrating on script editing instead. 

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Quick Question: Novel Writing


Bang2writer Erinmaochu asks via Twitter:

What software are people using to write novels on these days  or other examples, or simple pen and paper?

First up, I use Microsoft Word. It's what I started with, it came with the machine and it's got everything I need (for those wondering, format-wise that's 12point Times New Roman, double spaced. End of).

A straw poll of Bang2writers revealed MS Word to be the most popular choice, with Scrivener and Word Perfect close seconds. Writers' Cafe, CeltX, Write Way Pro and Final Draft also figured. Here is a great list of writing software to trawl through (free and paid for).

Another issue to remember with novels is how you save them, because agents, publishers and uploading to indie publishing sites etc means editing has to be easy. So whatever platform you use to write in, I'd recommend you make sure you can save in .doc or .docx formats to make this transition as problem-free as possible.

As for pen and paper, I hear there are fewer first drafts on paper now - certainly my novel BUT WHAT NEXT? exists solely on the Macbook. Here's an interesting article about why you should write free hand, first. Food for thought. 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Quick Question: Graphic Novels, Contracts & Collaborating



Bang2writer David asks:


"Hi - I've got a short story that could really suit a 'Graphic Novel' type approach. 1. How do i go about approaching an Agent or Publisher to get the ball rolling on that; and 2. As it will be a collaborative project with a graphic artist, is there a Contract thats in existence that they could sign so as not to pinch my idea?"


Scriptwriting is a collaborative medium, so recognising *what* your script is and which audience it would be suited to (ie. graphic novels) from the offset is really advantageous. An agent or publisher is unlikely to take you up on your own, you'd be best off finding an illustrator and getting the graphic novel either written in its entirety (or at least a good portion of it as a sample). I have no experience of writing graphic novels myself, but in terms of finding an artist I would imagine posting on the likes of Talent Circle or Shooting People would be a good start. 


There are contracts available online to download I'm told, but rather than worrying about contracts, I would recommend agreeing who-does-what and what that person gets before starting any work. Basically, start from the same page so everyone knows what they're doing and why. Being upfront about what you can and can't offer (ie. money, exposure, etc) is the key here - be overt, rather than covert.


And finally, never worry about people nicking your idea - REALLY! Here's why.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Genre & Tone, A Case Study: BEETLEJUICE


This post is inspired by  two separate Twitter conversations over the last two weeks between myself and Michelle Goode & Claire Yeowart and then Hina Malik – so stand by for some serious musing.

Years ago I attended a conference held by The British Board of Film Classifcation (BBFC). It was a very interesting  - and of course the notion of film censorship reared its head. Since the majority of us in the room were students, many of us expressed outrage that censorship existed at all; we claimed that as artists we should be “trusted” to make the “right” stuff. The chap speaking – I’m afraid I don’t remember who it was – accepted our point with the weariness of someone who had had this point put to him OVER AND OVER again and made the very good counterpoint:

“Is it actually the makers or the audience who is important here?”

I didn’t know what he meant at the time, I just remember writing this, circling it and adding “WTF?” in bright neon pink letters next to it with the highlighter I had bought especially for the occasion. Then I promptly forgot all about it.

Fast forwards approximately a decade and I know EXACTLY what that guy from the BBFC whose name I cannot remember means:

It’s the audience that is important.

Without a shadow of a doubt. Here’s why: without an audience, nothing we write or make matters. NOTHING. And yes, this includes niche as well as mass audiences. Basically, as long as you have an audience, however small, what you do matters. Without an audience, we are shouting into the wind.

Well, durr: you say. That’s obvious. But is it? After all I have already written countless times on this blog about the specs that don’t have a discernible audience, thus lack an identity. I have also written about how Hollywood knows its audience very well and caters for them, despite being maligned for it (and the audience being maligned too). I have even written about how there are *obvious* elements that take movies out of various audiences’ reach, like excessive swearing.

What I have NOT written about is WHAT an audience wants can CHANGE and not only that, our RESPONSE changes to that AS WELL.

Let’s take a movie as a case study: BEETLEJUICE. This movie came out in 1988 when I was approximately 8 or 9 years old. The movie was rated 15, but my parents were liberal and besides, it looked pretty fun with a cartoonish Michael Keaton on the front, a house and a spooked Geena Davis and headless Alec Baldwin, where’s the harm?? 
 So I watched the film. And saw the following:

·      Geena and Alec dying
·      Multiple corpses
·      Creepy statues
·      Multiple depictions of suicide or murder (a hanged man, a woman with slit wrists, another woman with a slit throat)
·      Mulitple depictions of the occult, especially séance and voodoo
·      Depictions of brothels and prostitutes
·      Depictions of smoking
·      Monsters, particularly snake-like monsters
·      One instance of swearing (“Nice FUCKING model!”)
·      Michael Keaton grabs his crotch (“HONK HONK!”)
·      A 14 year old girl marries a monster

Perhaps I was an odd child, but I didn’t find any of this weird or scary. In fact, I loved it. I thought it was hilarious. So hilarious I went and fetched my Dad and told him he should watch it. He did and also thought it was hilarious (maybe that was where I got it from? SORRY DAD). I did however feel naughty for watching a 15 film and felt that, yes, 15 was the “right” classifaction for such risqué stuff on the list above.

Anyway, fast forward about twenty years (ahem) and I watched it again, expecting to feel the same way I did aged 8 or 9 in that “15” was the RIGHT classification.

I didn’t.

These days, BEETLEJUICE wouldn’t be a “15” – it would be a 12A. Hell, as long as it got rid of the  crotch-grabbing and depictions of suicide/murder (I’d bet no film would have as much smoking in nowadays, regardless of classification), it could be a 12, no “A” even. Why?

·      Swearing is no big deal when done for comedic effect (compare “Nice Fucking Model!” to Bruce Almighty’s (12A) “Over to you… FUCKERS!”)
·      Lydia might have to marry Beetlejuice but Geena Davis saves her from that fate and no sex is involved or even hinted at, Beetlejuice doesn’t even try and kiss Lydia or feel her up
·      Whilst the statues and corpses and monsters are indeed creepy/scary, they’re no creepier or scarier than anything The Moff has served up to kids in the recent DR WHO
·      Whilst there is a brothel in the model town with working girls blowing kisses to Beetlejuice, again there is nothing explicit here and could be kept in as a Simpsons-style joke only the adults would get: “Adam! Why did you build that?”/”I DIDN’T”

In 1988, BEETLEJUICE was a distinctly adult film. Yet by 2012, its tone had CHANGED. One of the reasons arguably could be this:

That’s right, kids today knew Beetlejuice first as a CARTOON, not a 15+ film. Except I’ve never watched the Beetlejuice cartoon, yet I feel the same  – its tone had changed, BEETLEJUICE should be a 12A maximum.

So … how come?

Let’s go back to the BBFC guy. It’s the audience that’s important … And if our expectations/beliefs of what’s “risqué” has CHANGED, ergo the tone of movies we previously found risqué has ALSO CHANGED. This is why we can watch ALIEN with one chestburst and call it an 18, yet by the time we get to ALIEN VERSUS PREDATOR, we need multiple chestbursts to feel even a hint of the same scariness… and yet call it a 15.

So this is why it’s so important to stay UP TO DATE with the notion of tone and what your audience finds risqué, horrifying, unacceptable, etc.

Another element to consider in terms of the tone of BEETLEJUICE is the relationship between its female characters Barbara (Geena Davis) and Lydia (Winona Ryder). Barbara is the mother figure Lydia craves and does not get in her *actual* stepmother Delia (Catherina O’ Hara). Lydia is a schoolgirl and rebels because she is otherwise not noticed by her larger-than-life stepmother and overly hen-pecked father: Barbara provides support and then love, summed up in her reticence to haunt the Deetzes out of her house “I just want to be with Lydia.” It’s also important to note it’s Barbara and NOT Adam who saves Lydia from Beetlejuice (and saves the day, in fact – it’s Barbara who is the hero).

So here is probably my most controversial point in suggesting BEETLEJUICE is now suitable for a much younger audience: Lydia is approximately fourteen years old, meaning there’s a strong chance young girls can identify with her (I know I did aged just eight or nine). Age is a great SHORT CUT in getting a similar-aged audience to identify with a character and thus a story (though not strictly necessary – check out the likes of DR WHO, THE SIMPSONS or indeed any cartoon you care to mention, as well as Superhero movies which all attract audiences of varied ages, proving age-of-character is greatly overrated on this point, tone goes way deeper. It’s worth remembering Lydia in BEETLEJUICE is the only child in a veritable SEA of adults in this movie).

Concluding then, BEETLEJUICE shows screenwriters how important tone is  in defining audience and that tone can change over the years for whatever reason, so we must strive to stay up to date in order to have our best chance of finding that audience for our films.

On a related note, I see that BEETLEJUICE is going to be remade. Do you think it will be a 15 and if so, what will be included? Or do you think it will be a 15, a 12A or even a 12? I will be watching with interest …


Saturday, April 28, 2012

How To Get An Agent

One question I get a lot is "How do I get an agent?" My first reply is usually, "Do you REALLY NEED one?" This is because, nine times out of ten, the writer asking the question is at the start of his or her writing journey and prizes getting an agent as his/her validation in STARTING that journey, when in reality, agents are not likely to be interested in writers who are just "beginning". If that is you, then my recommendation would be to a) write a selection of scripts so you have a portfolio and b) collaborate and network as much possible FIRST.


If however you have already done those first two steps, plus have any of the following:


1) Have produced credits (TV or Film, usually paid, rather than collaborations - though if your piece has done VERY well, especially commercially this may swing it for you on the latter. Note agents may not be interested in short film UNLESS it has done spectacularly well on the festival circuit and has won awards)


2) You may be a professional writer in another field (You may have done corporate work or journalism, or have a social media brand, or worked in theatre; you may have written novel tie-ins for existing, successful television franchises; you may have been involved in award winning advertisements or won awards for your newspaper pieces; you may have worked in the games and toys market; you may have a huge online following on Twitter or have a blog with many hits, usually about a fictional work but also about scriptwriting or associated content; you may have created a new media phenomenon or have toured theatres with your play)


3) Recommendations/referrals from producers, directors or other writers (They will have read your work and are prepared to stand by their word for you in this case)


4) Have won or placed highly (ie. Finalist) in any Big Name scriptwriting contests (ie. BlueCat, Scriptapolooza, Red Planet Prize, The Peter Ustinov Prize, Final Draft Big Break, you may have had your work showcased by The Rocliffe Forum or similar - do note UK agents *may* not be interested in contests on their own, but in conjunction in one of the other elements too). 


5) Favourable coverage from any big name script reading company (ie. "Consider" or above.)


6) Options or interest from big name companies (note: not free options)


6) Any other deal on the table (ie. a place on the BBC Writers' Academy; a successful trial script at another soap; a publishing contract; a super successful self published eBook selling many, many copies a week, etc)


Then CONGRATULATIONS! You're definitely in the market for an agent. Note none of the above GUARANTEES you one! That's right - with so many writers around, the average agent can afford to be picky. Harsh but true. And of course, you don't necessarily HAVE to have one don't forget, I know several very successful professional writers without an agent.


If you DO want an agent, then here are my recommendations for getting one:


i) Meeting as many agents as possible. I've had two agents now and I met both in a "real life" capacity before they represented me. The first I script read for; the second (my current agent) I met many times at various events and stayed in touch with over a five year period before he represented me. That's right! FIVE YEARS. Making really useful contacts in the agent world means playing the long game. Of course, it's now never been easier to meet agents - there are tons at events like London Screenwriters Festival and of course most are on Twitter. NOTE OF CAUTION: don't be weird or demanding


The above is my preferred method of getting an agent because it's what I did and I know it works. However, other Bang2writers have reported the following to work:


ii) Getting to know agents' assistants or junior agents. Agents' assistants are more often than not going to become agents themselves, so getting to know agents' assistants is a great idea. Junior agents are one step up and "agents in training" starting out at a company and looking to create their own slate of writers, who they will then take with them when they get an agent's post either within that company or another one. The reason these people are good to know is because they are looking ACTIVELY for writers, in comparison to agents who already have their own writers (ie. why would they be looking, when they have a stable of writers already who are earning them money?). Finding agents' assistants and junior agents is slightly trickier as they don't get invited to events as often as the actual agents. That said, they sometimes accompany them - so next time you see someone *with* an agent at an event, why not introduce yourself to them? Or why not ring the agency and ask to speak to 'the assistant of [Agent's Name]" or the Junior Agent? You can usually check these details out fairly easily on the website first. And yes, DO CALL ON THE TELEPHONE. Most writers hide behind email. Write a phone script if you must. Oh and don't be weird or demanding, don't forget


So, let's say you've attracted the interest of an agent, junior agent or agent's assistant. Now what?


a) Write an EXCELLENT, non-weird letter detailing your recommendations from showbiz types/wins/corporate work/favourable coverage/deal on the table (but be concise, half to three quarters of a page ONLY) 


b) Include your best feature or TV script, plus a one page pitch for it


c) Include some brief pitches for other work in your portfolio (ie. loglines or VERY short synopses, one page for all)


d) Include a detailed CV with your wins, options, etc (one page). 


e) NOTHING ELSE - that's right! Do not include CDs, DVDs, flowers, sweets, (even jokey) death threats and DEFINITELY do not include a non-disclosure agreement or release form!


Remember the following:


f) Send all this via MAIL, not email (unless they specify not to). Enclose an SAE and make sure your contact details are on the front page of your script and on accompanying material. Nothing drives agents' assistants more crazy then not knowing who-wrote-what.


g) Make sure you draft the letter and CV METICULOUSLY - most letters and CV agents get are RUBBISH and/or insane.


h) Wait 6-12 weeks and then call said agent by TELEPHONE and follow up, asking politely if they've had chance to read your material. If they haven't, ask politely when you may call back again and note the date they tell you in your diary and call back, again via telephone. If they dodge your call or tell you they're not sure when they can read your stuff by, wait until they contact you (if they don't again, there is your answer). 


i) If you receive a rejection, email them with "Thanks" in the subject line so they know you're not freaking out on them and ask politely if you may send another work. You'd be surprised how many writers get a "yes" to this question! If they say "no" but tell you they liked your work, ask if you could come in and meet them or buy them a coffee. Again, you will be surprised how many writers get a "yes" to this, too! 


j) And obviously, if they ask you to come in themselves or send more work, then DO SO, but DO NOT PANIC. 


Of course, there's always some lucky so-and-so who approaches an agent who has none of the above but has written a something so AMAZING and so COMMERCIAL an agent will bite their hand off despite nothing nothing else about them. However, for every writer this happens to, I'd wager another 99 have to follow the steps here and have a strategy for netting one. So best of luck in your agent hunt! 


ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT AGENTS AND MAKING CONTACTS:


Agents, Pt 1: Not The Destination


Agents, Pt 2: What Do They Do?


Agents, Pt 3: When An Agent Is Not Really An Agent


When Is A Rejection A Rejection If I Don't Hear Anything?


Putting Together A Writer's CV/Resume 


Cover Letters: The Write Way & The Wrong Way


How do I Make New Contacts?


How Do I Become A Professional Scriptwriter?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Self Publishing & Ebooks by Lucy V Morgan (Part 2)


If you're still thinking about self publishing:

Good Reasons to Self Publish

1) You can handle all of the previous post without breaking out in a cold sweat.

2) Your other options are small presses with low sales (i.e. you've decided against traditional publishing, or you've exhausted all other venues). Personally, I'd go through a publisher at least once before self publishing, just so you can get a grip on the numerous processes involved.

3) You can't find a suitable publisher/your book doesn't fit neatly into one "box" (you still need to know how to market it, mind). E.g. I'm self publishing OLLY HARRIS: WEDDING WRECKER because it's a 40k chick lit book with a male narrator, and no primary romantic storyline. Show me a publisher with good sales who would have taken that on? I don't know any who specialise in that kind of book, but since I have a few titles under my belt now, I have a little freedom to experiment.

4) You write romance, erotica, women's fiction or young adult fiction. These genres are the easiest to market online by FAR. Thrillers/mysteries are probably next on the list.

5) You're writing a specific book for a specific market, which you have access to. E.g. if you're a plumber, and you want to write a non-fiction book about a plumbing issue. Or you are a meerkat and want to write a manifesto for the Small Mammals' Working Conditions Union.

6) You're prepared to sink. This does happen for a good number of self publishers, and even if you do all of the above, it could still happen (though the probability is lower). This is the reality of publishing, sadly, but you'll have no publisher to organise extra publicity, and no advance to sustain you while you write the next book.

Bad reasons to self publish

1) You think it's the best way to make money. It might be, it might not: Nathan Brandsford explains this better than me.

2) You're impatient to get your work out there. Time constraints should not be the sole reason for picking a publishing method; for all you know, your book could do better with a traditional publisher, if you can stand the wait.

3) You think you can "do things better" than people who have trained for years in the industry. Chances are, you probably can't, and there will be a stiff learning curve involved or a fair amount of cash to pay out to professionals.

4) You think it's the gateway to traditional publishing. Occasionally, a really successful self published book gets picked up by an agent and traditional publisher, but we're talking sales of tens of thousands. If you self publish badly, it will certainly affect an agent's decision to take you on in the future.

5) You have little knowledge of the genre you're writing in, and don't know how to market and package your book. This is more common than people think. Research! Read! Read some more! Do not decide to write YA just because everyone else is doing it! The meerkats will KNOW.

6) You want to walk into a book store and see your book. It's probably not going to happen with self publishing. (Cue wail of detractors: "Soon, there will be no more book stores left anyway!")

So...there you have it. Good luck in your publishing adventures, and above all: enjoy yourself. (You're a writer, so that's probably hard without gin. Think of the gin). 

Thanks Lucy! Some great pointers and things to think on ...

ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT BOOKS & SELF PUBLISHING:








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Lucy V. Morgan writes contemporary fiction. She has two novels with a publisher, and has self published two others. She's also lucky enough to be developing her first television script with producers. Lucy spent 2011 in a haze of caffeine as a publishing intern and has since surfaced as an editor of young adult fiction for Etopia Press. You can find her at her website and on Twitter, where she is mostly very professional. Mostly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Guest Post: Self Publishing & Ebooks by Lucy V Morgan, Part 1

Bang2writers are venturing into self-publishing more and more, so I asked uber-self-pubber and fellow writer and name-sharer Lucy V Morgan her top tips on self publishing and ebooks. Enjoy!
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Help! I want to self publish. I think. Maybe. Or I dunno, actually. All the cool kidz iz doing it. I want to stick it to the man. But how do I stick it, and where? Do I really want to do this? I can write 90,000 words of pure awesome, but am SUDDENLY INCAPABLE OF MAKING THIS DECISION! [Facepalm]

Calm down, now. Deep breaths. Soothing owl noises. Twit twoooo.

Here's some stuff you're going to need if you want to self publish. After that, we'll talk about whether it still seems like a good idea. Okay? Twooooo.

You Need An Editor

A proper one. Someone with experience in your genre, and if you're paying them, previous editing experience full stop. Your editor is going to lend you credibility, see (and you'll need this for getting a decent number of reviews). A good way to get a reasonably priced editor is to find a small press/e-publisher with decent sales, scope out books of theirs that you rate, and then email said publisher to find out if their editors freelance. Many do. This way, you can rest assured that your editor knows your market, and preferably, has worked with books that you love and respect. No point hiring somebody who isn't on your wavelength. Remember that an editor addresses content as well as typos/grammar mistakes. Even the best of us need a content editor to point out the bits of our story that might best be described as “a steaming heap” before the public get their grubby mitts on it. If you're on an editor's website and all the titles on their CV have a) tanked or b) reviewed very badly, you don't want to hire them, no. Not even if they're cheap or showing a nice amount of cleavage. If you have a friend who is an actual editor, you could work something out with them. (I was able to do this through my publishing internship, which I think is a useful thing for authors to do anyway). Remember that a beta reader is not an editor (but is still nice and you should buy them things occasionally).


You Need A Smart Book Cover Image

You might go to a professional cover artist for this. You might have designer friends who you can use and abuse. You might even go to a “book covers for £20” site. Signs you have a good cover:

1) It makes people say “ooh!” in that lovely tone. You know, the one which isn't underscored with pity. 2) It looks like a cover you'd pick up in a shop.
 3) There are no boobs/bare arses on it. Even if you write erotica, an overly graphic cover will get you kicked off various vendors.

You Need Vendors

As a self-published author, chances are, the bulk of your sales will be ebooks. There are plenty of places where you can load your book up for sale, and they'll then take a percentage of said sales:

1) Amazon Kindle. You could could consider going into Kindle Select, which allows you to loan your book out for free in exchange for a certain percentage of an “author pot.” It will require you to be with Amazon exclusively, though.

2) Smashwords. Make sure you get into the Premium Catalogue, which distributes you to Barnes and Noble, and iBooks, among other places. For this, perfect formatting is required, and Smashwords has Mark's List of very affordable formatters if that's not your thing. I'm lazy and busy, so I totally paid.

3) Others. All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit and Bookstrand are two other high sales venues you can investigate. 

4) Paper copies. You can look into offering paper copies of your book through print on demand services like Amazon Createspace and Lulu. Before you spend all that time typesetting, though, perhaps wait and see what your ebook sales are like.

 5) Free titles. I've found that having a free title is excellent for boosting your sales, but don't feel the need to keep all your ebook prices low just because you're a début author. Zoe Winters discusses this in depth here.

6) Tax codes. If you're in the UK, to sell on Amazon US (i.e. where most of your sales will be, to be honest), you're going to need an American tax code or ITIN. Google is your friend.


You Need A Marketing Strategy

Unless you are incredibly lucky, your book will not market itself. Here are some successful ways self publishers market their ebooks (that do not involve offering sexual favours or liquor with each purchase):

1) Back catalogue. Your best advertisement for your new book is your last book, and vice versa. Consider releasing a few titles together. Write that entire trilogy before you even release the first. Readers want to know you're reliable, and if you've got more than one item available, you'll capitalise on your new readership.

2) Reviews. Reviews are another great advertisement. DO spend lots of time, as you write that back catalogue, finding and following review blogs for your genre. Leave a nice comment occasionally. Then two months or so before your release, send a polite review query. Expect around a 25% return rate of reviews to actual review copies sent, so query lots of places. DO NOT get all your mates to wax lyrical about your book on Amazon. It's always obvious, and you'll look like a twat. Like any author, you've got to earn those reviews.

3) Website. Create a professional, clean website and update it regularly. Buy your domain name--it only costs $10 a year. Check for unpleasant Google associations before picking your pen name/domain name (turns out I'm associated with some hussy called Lucy V. Hay. It's awful, and now I can't get rid of it). Refrain from posting rants and/or strong opinions on your website; you're a public figure now. Act professionally. Being self-published is not a license to be a dick.

4) Free story sites. Consider using free story sites to build an audience (i.e. Literotica for romance/erotic stuff). I've written about using free story sites to boost your sales here).

5) Good Reads. Make sure your book is on Goodreads. But do not take any of the evil Goodreads reviews to heart, and NEVER respond to a bad review, anywhere. It's a bit like having a peaceful picnic one minute, and then being chased off the edge of a cliff by a gaggle of pissed-off, ankle-biting meerkats the next.

You Need a Support Network

 ... Of other writers. But not just self published writers. Mix and match, people. Just because somebody has an agent and you don't, there's no need to act like you're on different sides of the Berlin wall. Here are some networking tips:

1) Twitter. Follow other writers. Be approachable. Publishing is, sadly, all about who you know, and I've had everything from conversations with amazing authors to agent requests on there. Go forth and tweet, and try not to reek of desperation.

2) Blog. Your website, until you release books, is probably only going to attract other writers. So follow their blogs and talk to them—especially people working in your genre. Then you can host cover reveals and promo spots for each other, without paying for a blog tour. You'll help to make each other visible.

3) Post your stuff online. By posting my earlier stories on free story sites, I was contacted by people who eventually became friends, beta readers, and handily, cover designers. (I was also contacted by a BBC director about doing some TV stuff. It happens).

 You're probably thinking, blimey, that sounds like hard work. That's because it IS. While it's true that you'll have to do some of the above no matter how you publish, as a self publisher, there's nobody to pass the buck to. No editor, designer, formatter or publicist. It's a bit like being up shit creek (or Amazon) and not being able to spell pddle. Padl. P--a--paddle. Christ...

Catch Part 2 of Lucy's great Round Up on Self Publishing tomorrow!
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Lucy V. Morgan writes contemporary fiction. She has two novels with a publisher, and has self published two others. She's also lucky enough to be developing her first television script with producers. Lucy spent 2011 in a haze of caffeine as a publishing intern and has since surfaced as an editor of young adult fiction for Etopia Press. You can find her at her website and on Twitter, where she is mostly very professional. Mostly.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Help Me Fund It

Andy Coughlan has been in touch about his site Help Me Fund It which sounds really interesting - check it out!
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There’s a lot of buzz been going around in the past few months/years about crowd funding. Just check out the stats on compete.com for Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to see how much they’ve grown, just in the past year. There’s no doubt it can work, as born out by the successful funding of projects like The Underwater Realm, but it does come with the caveat that you can track down enough people with money to spare and are prepared to jump through all the hoops to deliver the many goodies that you’ve enticed people with to donate your project.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get money from people when they weren’t feeling all warm and fuzzy and generous, or just didn’t have fifty quid to spare because they have to buy a present for their partner or even the weekly shop?
Help Me Fund It, is a new web site aimed at filmmakers, photographers and artists that does just that. Rather than targeting people and asking for money (which, if you’re anything like me, can be really hard to do), you can now just get people to buy things for themselves, which, let’s face it, they all do anyway, and still help fund your project at the same time.

It’s based on the same concept as cashback sites like Quidco, where, by clicking through to your favourite shops on special links, the host web site earns commission on your sale that they share back with you (just keeping a small amount for themselves).

Help Me Fund It works in the same way, but instead of keeping the money yourself, you can choose projects to donate the money to. It costs you nothing, you get the thing you shopped for and you get to the warm and fuzzies knowing you’ve helped fund a project.

The site is very much a complementary service to the Kickstarters of this world and is designed to work hand in hand with them (you can even link back to your Kickstarter campaign from Help Me Fund It).

It’s very early days, but a few brave and most excellent people have already put their projects on Help Me Fund It, and now just need you to go shopping! There’s links to hundreds of UK retailers that people use regularly, including Amazon.co.uk, Waterstones, Maplins, Debenhams, and US shops should be going online in the next few months.
So next time you go to shop online, remember, you could be helping the next Spielberg or Warhol get their big break.
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ABOUT ANDY: Andy Coughlan is never happier than when he’s making films, writing screenplays or novels, making music or coding web sites. He occasionally blogs and has, on occasions, been known to fight his introvert preferences and tweet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

#scriptchat @Londonswf 50 Kisses Comp #5: Scene Description

The "50 Kisses" contest is NOT just a writing contest - potentially, your script could be made by filmmakers. If you want your script to be picked first by the reader, then by the filmmaker, yours has to STAND OUT and one really easy, quick-fire way of doing this is to ensure your scene description ROCKS.

Most scene description is bland at best, yet good scene description knows it is SCENE ACTION. Everything you write as scene description should be about moving the story forward and revealing character.

A lot of writers get uppity and say the above cuts out their "voice", but this is not true. I have read countless examples of GREAT scene description that moves the story forward, reveals character AND shows me a writer's individual voice.

But don't take my word for it! Check out the Scene Description section in The Required Reading List. I can particularly recommend William Martell's fab article, "16 Steps To Better Scene Description". Go!
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Here's the full details for the "50 Kisses" Competition from London Screenwriters' Festival: CLICK HERE. Join Bang2writers and/or The Feedback Exchange to swap ideas and work for this contest.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

#scriptchat @Londonswf 50 Kisses Comp #4: Dialogue

Most writers write more dialogue in their script than they will EVER need. That's not to say their dialogue is poor, it's just extraneous. But how do you recognise what you need and what you don't?

Well in the very short film, it's kind of obvious - dialogue takes up A LOT of space, a minimum of three lines, so you want to use dialogue as sparingly as possible, maybe even not use it at all. (It's no accident short films with no dialogue often do very well in contests and film festivals, though I would not go so far as to recommend you use no dialogue. The two winners of LSF's "Four Nights In August" last year BOTH used dialogue remember).

Dialogue is the least of a script's problems, so when getting the words down on paper, my recommendation would be to write whatever dialogue you want. As you redraft, reconsider what you need - and BE RUTHLESS. The biggest issue with dialogue I see as a script editor is writers falling in love with certain lines and keeping them in regardless of whether they're actually needed.

Obviously, get rid of the redundant phrases: "Yeah", "'Bye" etc which can occupy entire lines on their own and be flushed out pretty easily. Give your characters their own distinct voices via phrasing, vocabulary, etc. From there, like with scene description, make every single word count:

If your character has two lines of dialogue, can you make it one?

If your character has five words, can you make it two?

If you were to cut out ALL lines of dialogue, what happens then? (remember, you can always put them back?)

If you were to CHANGE a phrase or word, does the moment or even the entire script's meaning change? How? Why? Is this better/worse?


Again, the above is all obvious stuff but so frequently writers "just write" dialogue and put little thought into the actual words on the page. So put your dialogue under scrutiny - it's worth it!
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Here's the full details for the "50 Kisses" Competition from London Screenwriters' Festival: CLICK HERE. Join Bang2writers and/or The Feedback Exchange to swap ideas and work for this contest.
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Friday, April 13, 2012

#scriptchat @Londonswf 50 Kisses Comp #3: Character


It's oft-said that's ALL about character. I actually disagree with this totally - if it's all about character, then it has to be all about his/her goal too which means plot has to come into play at least HALF as much again - but that's an argument for another time.

In the VERY short film of 1-2 pages, you have to give us your characters in a SNAPSHOT. Literally, the first time we see them, we have to know WHO they are and WHAT they want/are facing, whilst avoiding lazy stereotypes or stock characters. No mean feat.

First impressions count in the very short film - and whether those first impressions are RIGHT depend wholly on your story and what you want to "say" with the script.

Let's go back to that SNAPSHOT idea again... And now imagine your character, posed in a photograph in your mind. You have no other information about him/her. Check out what s/he looks like or is wearing FIRST - and use as springboard to form IDEAS about him/her, like:

Who are his/her family?

What job does s/he have?

What's his/her educational background?

Where does s/he see him/herself in 5 years' time?


... And so on until you get to the REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION which is:

What does s/he want by the end of this script - and WILL S/HE GET IT?

Now, relate your character back to the plot construction you created from the last post. Does s/he fit? If so, how? If not, why not? What can you change to make sure it DOES work? Do they form a symbiotic relationship that is both recognisable - and surprising? Over to you...
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Here's the full details for the "50 Kisses" Competition from London Screenwriters' Festival: CLICK HERE. Join Bang2writers and/or The Feedback Exchange to swap ideas and work for this contest.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

#scriptchat @Londonswf 50 Kisses Comp #2: Plot Construction

Following on from Concept, here are some thoughts on Plot Construction of the VERY short film (1-2 pages maximum), which is what you'll be writing if you enter this great FREE opportunity.

As screenwriters, we've ALL heard this very important maxim:

Start late and finish early.

Important in all screenwriting, it's ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL in the very short film, however you approach it. Lots of Bang2writers confess to be unsure what the above *really* means however - which leads to their prose being "flabby". Flabby prose then detracts from the flow of the story. This example was given to me at university by a lecturer that has stayed with me:

A YOUNG GIRL sits at the table, eyes her parents with trepidation. Swallows, uncomfortable. Her parents wait for her to speak.

YOUNG GIRL
I'm pregnant.

The parents go wild, practically frothing at the mouth.

PARENTS
Get out of this house!

The girl runs sobbing for the door.


The above's not bad writing, but it's not what it *could* be in terms of being economical. Imagine this instead:

PARENTS
You're pregnant??? Get out of this house!

The girl runs sobbing for the door.


BOOM - that's starting late and finishing early.

NOTHING should be in your very short script that needn't be when it comes to plot construction. Not even a single second can be wasted. Well dur, you say - yet in my experience of reading the very short film, too often even as much as HALF or even THREE QUARTERS of a page are thrown away as writers concentrate instead ONLY on the ENDING. Focusing only on the ending in the very short film is a rookie mistake because it means the story does not feel "whole" - again, obvious stuff 'cos the beginning and middle are undervalued.

So, when constructing the plot of your VERY short film for the "50 Kisses" competition, ask yourself these questions:

What IMAGE do I open with? (Remember walking down the street, blackness, mirrors etc are BORING).

How does my story BEGIN?

What happens in the MIDDLE? How does this create the maximum CONFLICT?

How do the first three elements AFFECT the ending?

WHAT is my ending - a funny punchline? A devastating payoff? A moving denouement?


Again... All this might seem obvious stuff - and it is - but too frequently it gets forgotten.
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Here's the full details for the "50 Kisses" Competition from London Screenwriters' Festival: CLICK HERE. Join Bang2writers and/or The Feedback Exchange to swap ideas and work for this contest.
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Monday, April 09, 2012

#scriptchat @Londonswf 50 Kisses Comp #1: Concept

So this is the first of my posts on the brilliant London Screenwriters Festival "50 Kisses" competition, a FREE opportunity which asks writers to come up with a 2 page script, including a kiss. From there, placing scripts will be made available to filmmakers to make, meaning writers' screenplays *could* become the first CROWD-SOURCED feature film with distribution at the cinema from Valentine's Day 2013. For full details and how to enter, CLICK HERE.

So, number one - CONCEPT.

From my time as a script reader (ten years + now) I would venture concept is one of the most UNDER-VALUED elements of the entire screenwriting process. It seems hard to believe, yet I've seen writers come up with an idea and then simply start writing it, over and over and over again. Of course, sometimes this is a good thing, since it's a GREAT idea - but more often than not, this is simply accident rather than design. And 9/10, actually YOUR GREAT IDEA? It's really not that great. And I can tell you why:

Readers have seen it before. A LOT.

But hey, don't take my word for it... Check out the last contest The LSF Team ran, Four Nights In August. There, we saw many similar and samey stories again and again - making it hard for even well-written scripts to stand out. Even a warning from Script Goddess Linda Aronson failed to stop the deluge. And in the very first short filmmaking challenge we ran in 2010? Again the same thing happened, with EXAM by Stuart Hazeldine a huuuuge influence.

So be warned - your FIRST idea is probably not your BEST idea.

The beauty of the "50 kisses" brief is that it can be interpreted any number of ways... All LSF wants is a KISS. All the filmmakers want is something that is LOW or NO Budget.

So, in terms of finding the *best* concept... Where do you start?

Here's my recommendations:

1) Quantity over quality. Forcing yourself to come up with a certain number of ideas (ie. a minimum of ten) is a GREAT place to start as it really stretches your creative mind. You don't need to do it quickly. Take a few days or even weeks to consider if you need to. You'll be surprised what you can come up with if you JUST DON'T PANIC. You have plenty of time - the deadline is July 29th 2012!

2) Word association. The keyword for this contest is obviously KISS. Why not employ a friend or family member to come up with as many word associations with "kiss" as possible with you, writing them all down. Consider all those random words and see where it takes you story-wise.

3) Image is all. Filmmakers could be making your script, so why not have a think about what *might* appeal to them in terms of what THEY'LL want to create as well - film is a collaborative art, after all. Check out filmmakers' websites, their showreels, talk to some... Factor that into your thought processes when it comes to the word "kiss".

4) Story springboard. This contest involves kissing and LSF wants to release this crowd-sourced film on Valentine's Day. Why not watch as many romance-themed films and even adverts as possible? Why not make a collage of romantic images you find in magazines? How's that for your inspiration? Or maybe you want to do something OPPOSITE and turn it all upside down: ie. the KISS OF DEATH via poisonous snakes and spiders, vampires and werewolves or other hideous creatures?

5) Story is King... or QUEEN, etc. Approach your story "left of the middle": as a reader, I would bet real money the majority of scripts will feature a) a male protagonist b) adults c) white people d) heterosexual people e) 100% live action. It's the way 99% of script calls go. What if yours wasn't like this?

Do you have any more approaches? Share them in the comments!