The Queen of the Nutters

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Fellow writers and lovers of quirk, I’d like to introduce you to my latest brain-baby, birthed in the midst of the holiday season. She’s a funny little thing, full of humor and whimsy, along with a healthy dose of “Where the hell did he get that idea?”

I’ve found the process of self publishing to be an interesting combination of daunting and invigorating. If you’ve tried it, you know what I mean, and if you’re reluctant yet considering it, I highly recommend it. Sure, the act of putting your work forth for public consumption and review is a little terrifying at first (and I highly recommend trying reddit’s DestructiveReaders for brutally honest critiques from your peers), but it gradually becomes less nerve-wracking. Some people will love your work, some will hate it, but very few will ever take the time to write about it to either extent.

When my first (and to date, only, knock on wood) terrible review of my previous book, Worst. Superhero. Ever. worstsuperheroever_cover1came in, I was, by that point, ready for the inevitable. It had to happen eventually, a bad review is a rite of passage of sorts (and getting one from a reader who admittedly didn’t even go past the first short really didn’t sting too much). What I’m saying is don’t let fear of negativity hold you back. I’ve found the support and positive feedback from readers and other writers has overwhelmingly outweighed any negatives.

As for the publishing process itself, well let’s just say the writing is the easy part. With this, my third e-book, I’m finally getting the hang of the self publishing game, but it still takes hours to properly format the book, get the table of contents and back matter in order in a way that ensures Amazon’s acceptance, and do the final re-re-re-reads even after the editor has picked it apart.

Editing an English language document

Shortly I’ll be putting up a separate post with links to some online resources I found helpful that should be of use to other indie authors. We are all in this together, and, at least in my case, I’ve found my peers to be wonderful and supportive. In the meantime, please give The Queen of the Nutters a read, and maybe even leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if you’re so inclined. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and would love to hear your feedback.

Happy Holidays!

 

Talking Underpants Make the Semi-Finals!

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A little while back a short script collaboration with my dear Scottish friend Gillian Hay was a quarter finalist in the Shore Scripts Shorts Competition. Adding to that happy event, we just learned we were semi-finalists in the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition.

To the wonderfully quirky Ms. Hay I must give hearty thanks for springing such an unusual and fun story from her bonny noggin. ‘Twas a pleasure to write and I’m thrilled the judges enjoyed the read.

After all, who wouldn’t want talking knickers?

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If you’d care to give our little tale of talking underpants a read, here’s a link.Audrey’s Knickers

Don’t Be A Boring Shirt

I was at the laundromat and noticed something that I thought was an interesting parallel to screenplays these days.

The preponderance of boring shirts.

Oh there were blue striped ones, blue plaid ones, and of course various shades of good old blue, but as I scanned the racks it really struck me just how many variations of the same plain shirt people were having cleaned. Of course there were also beige and white shirts, gray and black coats, but near everyone, it seems, has “safe” blue shirts. What also stood out was that as the electric conveyer rack spun by, once in a while a shirt with color would pass, catching the eye and standing out. With so many trying to play safe & by the rules, the different one was easy to pick out. With thousands of screenplays written every year, the parallel is clear. Make yours the one that catches the eye.

Screenwriters often follow templates and guidelines when crafting their works, which is fine, but in a world where seemingly 99% are following the Save the Cat or similar formula (a bit too strictly for many), those who can work with structure yet offer something different, something that makes a reader pause and say, “wait, that’s unique” are the ones who stand out from the pack. Sometimes it’s a bright red shirt, but sometimes it’s just a thread of color that turns an otherwise plain piece of cloth into a fascinating design. Strive for fascinating, keep readers entertained.

Now obviously this doesn’t mean go write a script with charcoal and crayon on the hides of animals you killed with nothing but a fountain pen. That’s different alright (and pretty awesome if you actually used only a pen), but not what we’re talking about. The thing is to create a story that fits in the basic rules yet doesn’t plod along predictably from a-z. Everyone will have a different way to do this, but when reviewing your draft, look at it as though you were a reader tasked with slogging through 200 scripts a year. Are you more or less writing what everyone else is (within your own story naturally) or are you writing outside the box? What makes yours stand out? Ask yourself that question on a regular basis and you may just find yourself rising above the cookie-cutter mire of uninspiring scripts.

Screenwriting: When Less is More

Brevity.  Clarity.  Subtext.

In reading the work of some of the more influential screenwriters of the last few decades, one thing (with a few exceptions) holds true across the board. These top-tier writers are both thrifty with their use of words, yet also able to convey so much more than most with the words they commit to the page. Sure, every writer knows about subtext, yet some are true experts at crafting dialogue and descriptives that can fill a reader’s mind with a full-frame of information from just a few brief lines.

The Script Lab

Be Clear. Be Concise. Be Creative.

The Script Lab recommends “The Three C’s” as a simple guideline to keep in mind. Now if you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’m not a believer in following cut & dry methods (and don’t get me started on Save the Cat), but I do believe “The Three C’s” is actually a useful and easy to remember tool when you find yourself questioning if something is perhaps too wordy, too vague, or too bland.

For an example, let’s turn to arguably the most well known script from the legendary William Goldman. I’ll link the shooting script (there’s a bit more included in shooting scripts, such as direction for camera and whatnot, but you’ll get the idea). Look at the economy of words, the quality of words chosen, and the mental picture painted with them.

Goldman’s writing is a classic example of The Three C’s well before that was even a thing. His writing is Clear and Concise with not a wasted sentence as he crafts the world, the scene, and the dialogue, yet even his shortest of lines has that Goldman Creativity. The man had a way with words, on that we can all agree. If anyone says otherwise, I have but one word for them…

Inconceivable!

For further insight into screenwriting, as well as occasional amusing nuggets, The Bitter Script Reader Twitter feed can provide an enjoyable barrage of quips and commentary that are often surprisingly on-point.

He’s been an industry script reader for a decade and his exchanges with fellow readers can be downright hilarious. You’ll likely notice that followers of the “more is more” and “fill the page, let the reader figure it out” school of writing tend to be pet peeves of the pro-reader crowd. In other words, the pros tend to agree, Less is More more often than not.

Amazing Script Reads for Aspiring Screenwriters

Internet advice is flung at you just about everywhere you turn, but how about just providing a few really good examples of excellent, tight, and well-structured screenwriting? That’s what I’m putting up today, a pair of really well-written scripts. I hope you enjoy them.

First is a recent 2014 Blacklist feature screenplay titled Bird Box. While the genre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and people certainly argue over the story itself, no one I’ve spoken with disputes the quality of the writing. I highly suggest giving it a read.

Next is from TV-Land, Jon Bokenkamp’s pilot of the TV series “The Blacklist” (not to be confused with Franklin Leonard’s Blacklist). It’s a show that is impressive in both scope and pacing, with writing that is really top-notch. If you want to see why this was the best testing-rated pilot in the past 10 years at NBC then I suggest you take a gander.

I hope these inspire you. I know personally after the rush of reading these faded, I was quite motivated to get back to the keyboard and start cranking out more pages.

Really Good Writers Sometimes Write Not-So-Good Material

Working on some fairly big features and television shows over the years, I’ve noticed an interesting but often overlooked occurrence. That of otherwise good writers putting out some truly wretched material.

Sometimes it’s too many chefs in the kitchen. We’ve all seen laundry list credits with scores of writers and story editors, all chipping in their two cents worth, but once in a while there’s the opportunity to observe a single writer’s “shooting script” of remarkable crappiness evolve into a dozen or so revision scripts, also of remarkable crappiness. Let me tell you, it can be pretty impressive, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Recently I had the opportunity to take a gander at some of the clunkiest dialogue I’ve read in years. I’m talking burn the script after 10 pages bad. Instant PASS bad. How does this person have a job writing bad. The twist is, this writer has previously penned a bunch of things I really enjoyed in the past. Apparently this particular assignment just wasn’t in their wheelhouse. I was torn, I wanted to like their work, but holy crap I just couldn’t.

And that’s the thing I began thinking about. Even seasoned pros sometimes blow it big time but keep getting a free pass. This fact really doesn’t do much for us aspiring screenwriters, once you’re established you can fail pretty spectacularly and still get work, but the takeaway for me at least is that a good many of us have quite likely written things objectively better than some seasoned pros. Will that knowledge get any of us work? Of course not. Can we keep that tidbit tucked away for those rainy days when we feel like our work just isn’t up to snuff and want to give up in a fit of frustration and foot stomping while howling at the moon in an angry tirade like a frustrated child with a bad case of colic? You bet your run-on sentences we can. (and that was a painful one to write).

I’m really just posting this as a little pep talk, an incentive to fellow writers, an objective bit of info that sometimes it’s not about the material as much as the connections and name you’ve built up.

Frustration happens and we all have self-doubt sometimes, just don’t let it stop you from writing.

Knight Resurrected: Knight Rider Reboot 30 Years Later

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No article today, just a quick self-serving blurb.

I just posted Knight: Resurrected to The Black List. I rather enjoyed this one, the story of a teenager who unwittingly rescues a long-lost artificially intelligent supercar.  The two become friends and ultimately wind up facing enemies from long ago.  Sort of E.T. meets Fast and Furious in a way.  In any case, if you’re on The Black List, give it a gander, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(For those not on The Black List, here’s a Drive link.)