Friday, December 26, 2008

Why Attend Book Fairs?

When I was on the airplane to the Capetown Book Fair, the man next to me asked why I was going to Capetown. I told him and he said, “A fair for books? Hmmm. Well, it takes all kinds”.

He obviously didn’t see the use of book fairs and, unfortunately, there are still many writers who feel the same; I am not one of them. Book fairs have so many positive attributes, if I had my way I’d attend every one I could.

Let’s take a closer look at how attending book fairs can help you.

1. Rub elbows with the Big Guys.
Most book fairs have one or two big names on their list. They will often be scheduled for talks and book signings. This is an opportunity to ask them the questions you’ve been dying to get answers to. They have gone through it already; why not tap into their resources?

2. Get free stuff
Definitely you will come home with a ton of cool bookmarks. Often you can get free books, magazines, bags, pens, post cards, calendars, writing pads, and pencils. I love free stuff and take everything they want to give me.

3. Networking
Go with business cards and give them out to everyone you meet. Take everyone’s business cards too. Book fairs are fantastic networking opportunities. You might even go with a few packages of your latest manuscript (synopsis, cover letter, first three chapters) just in case you happen upon a publisher who seems keen to look at your work. Be bold, but not pushy. You can always get the contact and email when you get back home.

4. Knowledge
Book fairs usually have many different workshops going on simultaneously. I’ve attended workshops on rights, book cover design, anthologies and their payment plans, among others. All were excellent and free after paying the entrance for the book fair.

5. Speaking Opportunities
Book fairs are often looking for speakers. Why not offer your services? Speaking is exposure, exposure means selling books.

These are just a few of the reasons why book fairs are valuable to writers, both emerging and established. So, book your travel plans for the next one!
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer in Botswana. To make a living, this means she writes anything that requires words being placed sensibly on a page. Her writing has been published on four continents. She blogs at Thoughts from Botswana.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let Me Tell You Something – Dialogue, Part Trois

Here are a couple other things to consider when writing dialogue:

1. Oy, Chica, Pa. Though you do want your characters to sound as real as possible, you do not want to rely on stereotypes to get your point across. Your character should be authentic and real-to-life. A person from the rural South would obviously sound different than a Yankee from Boston, and you would want to reflect that; however, you would want to avoid the hackneyed, clichéd terms of a type of person; don't pigeonhole your characters. Now, does this mean your Southern character can't say "fixin'"? That you can't have your Italian character get angry and go off on her mate in her own language? Obviously, the answer to that is no. It really is a fine line. I think a good question to ask yourself is MUST my character say these exact words. If you feel in your gut that there is no other way to state something, then go for what you know.

2. F*ck you, motherf*cker. Now, this comment might get a lot of people talking - well, good. Some say that it is best to avoid using a lot of profanity and slang in stories. Slang dates a work, and profanity may "convey" toughness, anger, but it can also be used as a crutch to avoid supplying great dialogue and action to convey the toughness and anger. Some writers believe that using slang in your dialogue is fine; it illustrates how the characters talk; however, if your narrator is not part of that "slang/profanity" culture, then you should use standard English in your works. Once again, I say understand your character, BE your character. What does he or she HAVE to say in order to get his/her point across and to move the story along? Figure that out and write it.

The important things to remember about writing dialogue are 1) your dialogue should have a point and do more than simply present talking heads and 2) your dialogue should sound real and authentic to your characters and the situations to which they find themselves talking.

Below are some books, articles, and sites that talk more about dialogue...

Writing Great Fiction - Dialogue by Gloria Kempton [link]

"Writing Great Dialogue" by Rob Tobin [link]

Let the Dialogue Speak [link]

The Writer's Writing Guide: Dialogue [link]

Writing Dialogue - from BookEnds, LLC - A Literary Agency [link]


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Let Me Tell You Something – Dialogue, Part Deux

To become a great dialogue writer, there are several things for you to keep in mind; here are a few:

1. Walking and Talking. Avoid having pages upon pages of dialogue with your characters being mere talking heads. Just like in real life, when people talk, they are often moving or looking a certain way. Take the time to think visually about the scene that your characters are in. What do the "silent" characters do as another is talking? Is the talker gesturing with her hands, pacing the room, rolling her shoulders to release the tension that's building inside her?

2. He said/She said. Many writers will attempt to go beyond "said" and use words like articulated, screamed, yelled, sighed, interjected. No one is going to think you have no talent if you only use "said". Here are a few other "tagline" tidbits: change up where you put your tagline (you don't have to place the tagline JUST at the end of a piece of dialogue). If a character has a long stretch of dialogue, don't wait until the end to drop a tagline. Place one in the middle of the dialogue. If you have two characters talking, initiate their dialogue with taglines and then drop the taglines. The reader will know who is speaking.

3. Characters' Conversation vs. Real-life Conversation. Many writers suggest that you should go listen to how people talk to each other. I, when I have the time, like to go to my fave café and sit and write and just listen to everything around me. Listen to how people talk, what they talk about, how they interact with one another. You want your characters to sound real; however, you don't necessarily want them to sound like "real people talk." What does that mean? Well, real people stutter and pause and um and ah and oh. To many, these are considered unnecessary and can look unprofessional when someone reads your manuscript. In a story, there is a purpose, a point, and with dialogue - as with any other fictional element - the goal is to write it in the most concise way to accomplish the goal and get the reader reading!

4. Despite number 3, it is still a good idea to study how people talk because you can determine how YOUR characters will talk. Will an auto mechanic and a high-maintenance partner in a law firm talk the same? Probably not. Depending on who your characters, you will create their voices, which should be distinct and separate from the voices of your other characters.

In Part Trois, I'll finish up the tips.


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let Me Tell You Something – Dialogue, Part Un

One of the most important tools you need in your arsenal as a writer is DIALOGUE. With great dialogue, a story can have depth; with weak dialogue, a story can fall flat.

Dialogue should do more than present TALKING HEADS. Dialogue that is rich and integral to a story does several things…

--It can reveal character and motivation. We don't learn about characters simply by what they do, or the exposition that is written; we can learn about them through what they say, too.

--It can establish the tone or mood. If you're writing a comedic piece, at least one of your characters is probably a wise-ass, joke-cracking person, always with the witty comeback.

--It can foreshadow. Have you ever read a book and after reading a conversation think, "Oh no, something's about to happen?" That's the writer's ability to integrate foreshadowing into dialogue.

--It can provide exposition and backstory...and you want to use this judiciously. Nothing will bore a reader faster than you using dialogue to tell your main character's entire life story. That being said, dialogue is a tool in which you can "quickly" give some additional information, such as backstory so that you won’t end up with long, tedious passages of exposition.

--It can develop a conflict and move a plot forward.

Another thing that dialogue can do is create a great hook, and there are some writers who try to create that hook by starting a novel or starting chapters with dialogue. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but a writer must make sure that that piece of dialogue used is stellar, that it provides enough context to intrigue the reader and make him/her want to continue forward.

I recently edited a manuscript in which the first two pages of the story contained nothing but dialogue with few taglines. As a reader, I had no idea where the characters were, I didn’t know the characters (thus, I couldn’t care for them and their predicament), and I didn’t know what the characters were doing. A reader should always know these things when reading a book.

Keep coming back…a few more parts to this talk on dialogue!


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sell a Book, Plant a Tree

Did you know that in the United States alone 30 million trees are cut down annually to produce virgin paper used in making books? Trees are very important to the health of our planet; they provide much needed oxygen, eat up the carbon dioxide we dump into the atmosphere daily, prevent soil erosion, and play a vital role in the water cycle. As an author, how do you feel about the fact that with each book you sell you may be contributing to the deforestation of our fragile planet? Well, you needn’t worry anymore because Eco-Libris has the answer.

Eco-Libris is an environmental organisation setting out to balance the effect of book publishing on our environment. They have a special programme where they work with authors and publishers so that when a book is sold a tree is planted mitigating the effect on the environment. If your book is signed up for this programme (there is a reduced rate for authors and publishers, by the way) you can put the Eco-Libris logo on the cover (“One tree was planted for this book”) , and they will market your book on their website, Facebook, and MySpace. Your commitment to the environment will be a positive marketing angle and will appeal to your readers’ environmental concerns.

Simon and Schuster’s Children’s Publishers are among the companies now signed up for the Eco-Libris programme. Others include the Canadian publisher Raincoast Books, Norwegian based Flux, and UK/USA publisher Barefoot Books among others.

For more information click here.
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer in Botswana. To make a living, this means she writes anything that requires words being placed sensibly on a page. She blogs at Thoughts from Botswana.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

More About the Rhythm of Words

Last time I wrote about how important rhythm is in establishing voice and style. Rhythm is equally important in dialogue. To make your characters distinct, they have to speak with their own cadence. A street-wise kid is going to talk differently than one who goes to a preppy boarding school. Cops talk differently than lawyers. Farmers talk differently than store clerks. Adults talk differently than children, and women talk differently than men.

In creating those differences, however, be careful about using dialect, Ebonics, and/or pigeon English to extreme. If you want a character to come across as uneducated, that can be accomplished without totally fracturing the written language.

At one point an editor from Southern Living Magazine rejected a short story of mine, with a handwritten notation that he might consider it if I rewrote it. He included editorial guidelines that said he would not even consider a story that attempted southern dialect by dropping ‘g’s.

At first I thought, how weird. Southerners drop the g’s all the time. But his point was that a good writer can capture that dialect through rhythm. I reworked a story that editor was interested in, putting back all the ‘g’s and discovered that, if I worked hard enough, my protagonist was talking or thinking just the way a poor Texas farmer would. Here is a sample from the story:

"Have you ever had the itch to travel?" Chad handed a beer across to his grandfather. "You're the only person I know who's never been anywhere."

"Thought on it some when I was young." Samson sat down and took a long swallow of the cool, refreshing beer. "Had an idea of going to Africa one time. See where my grandpa came from."

"Why didn't you?"

"Never found a mule that could swim that far."

As the laughter subsided, a companionable silence settled between them, broken only by the soft whisper of music humming in the background and the buzz of a pesky fly.

"Fact is," Samson paused to drain his beer and open another. "I been thinking on it some. Wondering what's down the road that draws people so."

Again he paused and carefully shelled a pecan. "You know there's things I hear on that radio I never even seen."

Chad watched the rough, gnarled fingers pick the nutmeat out of the broken shell, then glanced up to meet his grandfather's eyes. "Well, maybe you should quit thinking and start doing."

"Aw, hell! Everybody's got things they thought about an' never done." Samson shifted impatiently. "I'm ninety years old, boy. Sometimes it's just too late."

"It doesn't have to be. Only if you think so." Chad leaned forward as if he could sway the old man by the sheer force of youthful enthusiasm. "I could help you fix the truck. Then you'd have nothing to hold you back. You could start by coming up to see me. It's not that far."

Samson withdrew into a thoughtful silence, then he sighed deeply. "I'm gonna have to think on it some."

The rewrite took some time. It wasn’t just a matter of putting all the g’s back. I had to rework the dialogue and the internal monologues to capture the rhythm of this old man. I also had to pay close attention to how the other characters talked to ensure there was enough distinction that they all weren’t sounding like Samson.

But all the hard work was worth it, and with careful crafting, you, too, can have characters that come to life through the rhythm of their words.


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Inner Dialogue

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A few days ago I was in the kitchen preparing dinner and I caught myself saying to myself, "If I were you."

Then I thought, "Wait a minute, I am me."

That was one of the many silly moments in my life. Also, it's an example of inner dialogue. I don't have actual proof, but I suspect we all carry on conversations in our heads, sometimes about trivialities, other times to come to terms with or figure out serious matters.

When writing a novel, don't leave out inner dialogue. It's a great way to explain a character's actions or beliefs, also a way to heighten suspense. There are all sorts of reasons to include inner dialogue.

A reader might know what's in one character's mind, but the other character doesn't know. How and when will that knowledge be revealed?

Small bits of inner dialogue can be smattered in a novel like breadcrumbs for birds so the reader will follow the trail to the conclusion.

Or, maybe the reader doesn't know what's in the mind of a character who has a defining role in the novel. That makes it vital for the reader to read on to find out the answer.

Inner dialogue is an effective tool if used wisely, but be careful not to overdo it. Be sure to balance it with spoken dialogue, narrativ,e and action for a good mix.

You can get away with using more inner dialogue in a romance novel, but in many other genres you'd have to be a quite skillful writer to carry off such an overload.

How about you? Do you talk to yourself? What do you think of inner dialogue in novels?

Do you enjoy reading it or writing it?


Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel is also at:,,,

Editors as Mentors

The editor-writer relationship can be many things: transactional, perfunctory, frustrating, beneficial, and inspiring are just a few descriptions used. One of my favorite yet-to-be-published novelists loves to entertain me with stories about her editor chasing her around a cabin as they argued over a short story. And she loves him for it.

Something magical can occur between an editor and a writer: mentorship. When I left an in-house editing job, I was honored by the number of writers who described my approach to editing as mentorship. It is pure joy to work with people who love words, whether they are seasoned pros or beginners with sentences as wobbly as a toddler learning to walk.

What can take a relationship into the mentorship-sphere? Here’s how a few authors described it to me.
  • Developing trust. Sometimes creating trust is as easy an as editor providing a few “whys” behind the edits – without being asked. It helps to show that an editor is red-penning with the story’s best interest in mind.
  • Understanding what the writer wants to say. My favorite moment is when an author exclaims, “that’s exactly what I meant – but I couldn’t find the words.”
  • Extending a safety net. It can be talking something through a panicked reaction to edits. Or maybe it’s encouraging the scribe to “open a vein,” knowing that you’ll be there to keep the story from sliding off some curvy road.
Not every word doctor will be a mentor – sometimes you just need someone an objective perspective and a sharp red pencil. What’s your favorite editor-mentor story?


A born storyteller with a gift for engaging audiences, Jesaka Long has helped authors (and companies) craft their stories for more than 12 years. A full-time freelancer and owner of a.k.a writer in Denver, she works her word magic for small publishing houses and authors, especially non-fiction writers and memoirists. For more information about her background and writing, editing and proofreading services, visit

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Dance to The Beat

When working with clients, I encourage them to read their work aloud and get a feel for the rhythm, which is an important element of style. If a sentence reads awkwardly, the writer has lost the rhythm. EXAMPLE: From Night of The Blackbird by Heather Graham:

“Kelly’s Pub was already in full swing when Dan O’Hara emerged from the back room of the tavern, the guest quarters, where he’d been staying.”

Done right, the rhythm of a story will ebb and flow along with the build up of the most dramatic moments - mountains and valleys. When you are going up the mountain the pace will be quicker and more concise. In the valleys you can relax and take the time to admire the scenery.

In Mystic River, Dennis Lehane has a wonderful sense of that ebb and flow. In the scene I’m going to quote from, three boys have been messing around on the street, and the cops show up. When they leave, they take one boy with them:

“Jimmy and Sean stepped back, and the cop hopped in his car and drove off. They watched it reach the corner and then turn right, Dave’s head, darkened by distance and shadows, looking back at them. And then the street was empty again, seemed to have gone mute with the slam of the car door. Jimmy and Sean stood where the car had been, looked at their feet, up and down the street, anywhere but at each other.”

Authors who are also poets usually have a wonderful sense of the rhythm in their work. A perfect example is Jory Sherman who was first published as a poet. This example from his book, The Ballad of Pinewood Lake, illustrates that poetic influence:

“She is Angela and I brought her here to Pinewood Lake for a reason. She is to be my woman.

I am to be her man.

There is nothing that cannot be created out of this relationship. We will have a green garden. We will build a home and an Eden. We will look at pines and fall in love every day. We will raise Colin in this place on the mountain where he can feel the sun and smell the fragrances of these trees. He will fish in the lake and catch trout, bass, and catfish. Angela and I will show him how to cook his catch, taste him as he smiles and speaks his excited onomatopoeia.”

Not only has Jory painted a beautiful picture with his words, he added layer after layer of characterization and plot. We can feel the protagonist’s need to control things in his life, his yearning for something beyond the confines of his present life, his desperate hope that he will find it at Pinewood Lake.

Be conscious of the rhythm of your work and give readers a flawless read.


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Checking Your Proposed Book Title

Have you found the perfect title for your book? Don't get too attached to it. Before you send your manuscript to an agent, do a Google and Amazon search for your title, and also ask your local librarian to search for possible matches to your title.

Titles aren’t copyrighted, but if there is another recent book in a similar genre with the same title, you may want to change yours, or discuss the implications with your agent. While you might get lucky with readers buying your book thinking it is the other author’s, it could just as easily work against you with a good review of your book sending a reader to mistakenly grab the other author’s book. Or a reader might simply assume he’s already read your book.

However you feel about your title, remember that there’s always a possibility that your publisher might want you to change it. As the author you might get the final sign-off, but if you can live with the title your publisher proposes, you might want to give in and save your veto for other issues that might bother you more, like the cover or changing a character’s name, for example.

Read the previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Choosing a Working Title
Part 2: Brainstorming Ideas for Titles

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brainstorming Titles for Your Book

In Part 1 of this series on Book Titles, I discussed using a working title for your book if you couldn't immediately think of a suitable title. But what happens if you’ve completed a draft of your book and still can’t come up with a title?

Firstly, try brainstorming on the key themes of your book. Write down what your story is about and pull out the keywords from that blurb. What stands out for you? Can you rearrange the words to make a title? Draw a spider diagram of word associations based on your keywords, and keep rearranging until you find a combination you like.

What titles do you like of other books? Do you prefer short or long titles? Punchy or elegant? If you aim for the same number of syllables, you will probably enjoy the sound of the title more – perhaps you only need to add or remove one word from your keyword combination to get a perfect fit.

Continue reading:

Part 3: Checking Your Proposed Title

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Books on the Craft of Writing

On a recent post at Char’s Book Reviews and Writing News, I asked writers a series of questions about writing and editing books and was a bit surprised and pleased by the number of responses. I wanted to share some of those results here.

First, I asked, “What makes a good writing instruction book?” I had a reason for asking this question. I plan to write a series of reviews on writing books for The Blood-Red Pencil and wanted to know how other writers evaluated such books. Here are some of the responses:

“I judge a good instruction book on clarity, specifics, and inspiration. It doesn't do the reader much good if the only information given is a generalized 'Write the best you can.' or 'Make sure your story works on the Macro level.'”
-Diana L. Driver, Ninth Lord of the Night

“It needs to spark a "aha" moment for whatever problem I'm having at the moment. Hopefully it will spark more than one.”
- Pauline B. Jones, The Key, The Men in Jeans series

“Actionable information”
- Susan Brassfield Cogan

“A good writing book is filled with clear examples that show what the author is trying to say. It also has exercises for the reader.”

I want to thank everyone who responded to this question. I'll keep your measures in mind while reviewing writing books over the next few months.

Next I asked, "What is your favorite writing instruction book – and why?" There was a hands-down favorite, but I also learned about some interesting texts that are not yet in my library.

Don't Sabotage Your Submission and Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden. She gives a virtual checklist of mistakes that can kill your writing, if not caught.”
- Kathryn Lilley, The Fat City Mysteries

Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins. It approaches characterization using the acting methods of Stanislavsky.”
- Cathy Bryant

"My favorite is "On Writing" by Stephen King. It is my Bible for writing style."
- Marvid D. Wilson, Owen Fiddler

“One of my favorite reference books is The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict. It really helped me write solid and meaningful love scenes.”
- Sean Harris

“My two favorites are Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury and On Writing by Stephen King. Both provide a personal view of writing and writing habits, as well as great advice on how to write.”
- J. M. Cornwell

Playwriting: The Structure of Action - it does so much for me, I hardly know where to start. Even though this is a playwriting book, it helps me with character and action and also with how I "hear" my words when I write. It's a great book.”
- Rebecca Airies

“The book I always recommend to my students is Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. It's funny, eminently useful, and covers topics such as "the writing life" as well as the nuts and bolts of fiction.”
- Julia Spencer-Fleming

So there you have it – a fine list of favorite writing texts from published authors. Can you add to the list? Please use the comments link below to share your favorites.

Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, Publicity Director for The Final Twist Writers Society and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tips to Editing a Screenplay

Last year, I took to writing screenplays…again. As a teen, I wrote them and then moved to writing short stories and novels. Something last year called me back to scripts, and it’s been a wonderful learning journey so far. In the last year, I’ve braved the contest world and submitted one feature-length script and one short script to competitions. Didn’t win, but both placed, giving me enough gumption to continue the journey.

A friend of mine mentioned the idea of writing more short scripts because they could be used as calling cards – if produced – for larger works. Short scripts can be as short as one page or as large as 60 pages though most tend to fall within 3 to 25 pages. It’s important to note that in the script world one formatted page runs about one minute of airtime.

The advice my friend gave me happened to coincide with The Muse Online Writers Conference, put together by the awesome everywoman Lea Schizas. If you don’t know about the conference, you should.

One class I took during the conference was Writing the Short Screenplay with produced screenwriter Kristin Johnson. I knew the class would give me the opportunity to crank out a short script in a week, and it did. Within a week, I had written SOCIAL NETWORKING, and I was elated.

And then came editing.

For me, there are four major KEYS to editing a screenplay – whether it’s short or feature-length.

Yep, just like a novel manuscript, format is vital. If you attempt to submit a badly formatted screenplay to an agent or production company or contest, then you will receive the “slush pile” treatment just like any novel manuscript would. There are several books you could get to help you with format, but the one I LIVE by is David Trottier’s “The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script”. If you’re like me, you also may want examples of formatted scripts to see what a script really looks like; one place where you can purchase both feature film and TV scripts is Script Fly.

Movies, TV shows, and made-for-TV movies are visual. The scripts are primarily parsed into two categories – dialogue and action. The dialogue is not stale and typical; it reveals the characters, the conflict, etc. Just like in a novel. The action shows us the movement that occurs within the movie.

Recently, my media writing students wrote short scripts for me, and the major problem they had was differentiating between “action” and “narration”. In a novel, it might be perfectly OK to write the following: Sarah’s tears continued to fall as she thought about the death of her brother and the evil bastards who took his life without a care for the ones left behind. In a novel, that’s narration. In a screenplay, this type of writing is not VISUAL. We couldn’t, as moviegoers, know Sarah’s thoughts or know this is why she’s crying. That knowledge would have to be conveyed either through action or through dialogue.

As an editor, you have to put yourself in the place of a moviegoer and ask yourself, “Can I see these things occurring?”

If you can’t see it, and it’s integral to the story’s plot and to character development, then you need to figure out the best way to visualize the material.

Strong dialogue is very important in scriptwriting. Dialogue, as state above, should do at least two things: reveal character and develop the story’s conflict. When reading the script, it’s important to look for stock, generic dialogue. In real life, we have dialogue like, “Hey, how are you doing?” “I’m doing OK. Tired. You?” “Good, thanks for asking.” Unless dialogue like this…those helloes and goodbyes of conversations…is integral to character development and/or story development, it is often not needed.

At some point in the editing process, you should print a copy of your script and read it aloud. The more the merrier, actually. One of my students corralled a bunch of his friends into his dorm room and they acted out the script. Having seen the rough draft of the work, I can guess he caught some minute things during the “performance”. You can read aloud the action and attempt to visualize it, remembering that if you can’t visualize it, it needs to be restructured. You can read the dialogue for authenticity. Like my student, if you’re lucky enough to get a few friends to act it out while you sit on the sideline, you can actually see and hear the story unfold to catch things regarding the story’s pacing, interest (to other potential viewers), building of conflict, climax, and resolution.

What you’ve probably noticed is that most of these key elements are vital in editing a short story or a novel, too. The major difference is the visual element that gains prominence in screenplays.

Before the editing even begins, however, you want to make sure you have a GOOD STORY to SHOW your viewers. Much money is put into the production of a movie and even more is put into the marketing and promotion of a movie. If your story – like with a novel idea – is not fresh and marketable, it won’t see the light of day…unless you produce it yourself.

To conclude, I have to share this article, "Three Approaches to Developing a Screenplay" by Gina Vanname. If you’re actually interested in writing a screenplay, it’s worth the read!


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Get A Job

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For some reason today I started thinking about the different jobs I've had. The first I remember, I had to be in eighth grade or so, I worked at Carmen Manor Convalescent Home in Chicago. My duties were taking trays to the patients' rooms. One patient, who had Parkinson's Disease, I spoon fed. I had no idea that many years later I'd be doing the same for my own mother when she fell ill to the same disease.

During high school, I worked at House of Chan in Wilmette, Illinois, with my good friend, Barbara Chinn. We made egg rolls, won ton, even pizza. We packed rice into containers. We took phone orders and brought the food to the customers and counted change the old-fashioned way. During the evening hours, I always got great meals as part of the job. Much later, Bob Chinn, her Dad, started Bob Chinn's Crab House, an extremely popular restaurant in Wheeling, Illinois.

As part of my tuition at Immaculata High School, I remember dusting the music room with all its metal chairs I had to go over with a cloth. Very dull work. I was glad to get through each day.

Also in high school I worked for Tony the Tailor in Chicago. I took in clothes and phone orders. I sewed hems on men's trousers. I don't know how I did that right, since I can't do it now. Tony would custom fit clothes for men and women. One day a customer came in and he was doing a fitting for her upstairs. For some reason, I thought she had left and I made some remark about how I'd never liked that woman. How mortifying to realize she was still there!

In high school, I took shorthand and typing and dreamed about being a secretary, which I did become. I still am, many years later. It's the day job that pays my bills. Writing is my current dream, which I do out of love, not as a job.

That's a bit about my jobs.

When you write a novel, make your character work. Pick jobs that reflect how you want readers to perceive your character. Even if you're writing a romance about a person with a large inheritance, a job in some way is still involved, such as living up to expected standards and performing and/or attending certain functions.

If you're writing a comedy, think of a job that lends itself to funny mishaps, such as a cab driver, a waitress, a wedding planner. If you're writing about a serious character, you may wish to make him or her an engineer, a lawyer, a CEO. Or, you can bend a serious job into a funny one and vice versa for contrast.

Another option is to have your character lose a job and go on unemployment. Or, that character may be someone who enjoys living off the system. That's a job in itself just to survive.

So, if you haven't already, get a job for your character.

Morgan Mandel is also at:, &

Morgan Mandel

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cut The Fat

Much like the Fish Cleaning approach to editing, liposuction also works well. Cut all the excess fat. Concise writing moves the story along as much as a good story line. Take out unnecessary phrases and words.


It was cold outside. So cold Tracy pulled her coat tight against the wind and shifted from one foot to the other to stay warm.

That’s okay writing. We’ve all read it, and since that example is out of my work in progress, I will admit to writing it. But in my second or third time through the manuscript, I recognized it as weak writing. It’s wordy and ordinary.

So I rewrote it: The cold crawled up her legs like spiders, leaving a trail of goosebumps.

I thought that was better and perhaps I was done with it. It uses a fresh image and has reduced 25 words to thirteen. But after letting it rest for a few days I thought it could be improved, so I tried this: The cold crawled up her legs like spiders.

Cutting that last phrase lets the reader linger on the image and imagine the goosebumps. But that’s strictly a judgment call. Half the people I give this workshop to prefer to leave the phrase about the goosebumps in and that’s okay. I’m not handing over stone tablets when I do the workshops. :-)

As a side note, do be careful when you are cutting and don't cut something that is needed. I just saw this in Gone, by Jonathan Kellerman. “Billy wore the same blue shirt and baggy Dockers.”

Same as what ? It wasn’t referencing the other character in the scene, and it took me a minute to realize Kellerman was referring to the same clothes Billy wore the last time Alex Delaware saw him.


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Rules for Writers

Most of these are actually old rules, but these offenses have popped up repeatedly in documents I’ve edited, so they’re worth dusting off and revisiting.

  • Avoid using buzzwords, especially in a way in which they were not originally intended. Examples include: impact, utilize, incentivise. Impact used to be a noun that referred to the effect of a collision; utilize means “to find a profitable or practical use for,” and incentivise just makes me shudder. Affect, use, and motivate are more reader friendly and easier to spell.

  • Do not fill your novel (or report) with clichés. Hanging by a thread, cold as ice, dead as a doornail (whatever the hell that means) are old hat and old school. You can be more creative.

  • Why use ing verbs when present tense verbs work harder?
    Sloggy: She was jogging down the sidewalk when a car suddenly started veering off the road…
    Crisp: She jogged down the sidewalk. Suddenly, a car veered off the road

  • Keep verbs phases together whenever possible.
    Acceptable: She dropped Micah off and picked the book up.
    Better: She dropped off Micah and picked up the book.

  • If you’re writing a novel, do not have adult siblings bicker like children. It is not entertaining. Really.

  • Introduce characters one at time, please. If you throw too many at the reader all at once, none of them stick.

  • Don’t give your characters sound-alike names such as Dan, Dave, and Dean, even if they are brothers or psychic twins. Help your readers keep everyone straight with names like Moon Unit, Dweezil, and Ahmet. (Kidding! Those are Frank Zappa’s kids’ names. But you get my point.)
L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and editor and is the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club and Secrets to Die For. She also loves to edit fiction and works with authors to keep her rates affordable. Contact her at:
L.J. Sellers
Write First, Clean Later

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Character Conflict

A client once said to me that he was having trouble with conflict in his story. The problem wasn't that the characters weren't getting along. The problem came from the other end of the scale -- things were going too smoothly.

The author had a protagonist and a sidekick and a problem. Both characters knew what they had to do, so they worked together and did it. Problem solved. But too quickly, too neatly. And the writer didn’t see how he could insert any conflict since the characters were working together and knew certain things had to be done to bring the plot to a conclusion. And yet … the writer didn’t want things to go so smoothly. What kind of a story is it if everything runs along the tracks with no derailments? A boring story.

Of course you can always insert problems that arise from outside influences or from the antagonist. But you can also have problems between the two characters, despite their common goal.

Look at your own life. I'm sure you have had occasions when you wanted to set up a lunch with friends or a family reunion. You think it's going to be easy. Everyone wants to get together; everyone is glad you're all finally going to have a sit-down to discuss things.

And yet, when you try to work it all out, suddenly everyone has a different opinion. No one wants the same thing or even the same outcome. Lo and behold, even your friends and relatives see things differently than you do.

If you look at things not just from this is where my character is and this is where he needs to be and this is the straightest way to get there, but rather from the different points of views and concerns of all the parties, you have conflict. It will arise naturally.

And if you’re still having problems, talk to your sweet freelance editor. She knows how to create problems.

Do things ever run too smoothly in your book or story? What diabolical or clever means have you used to create conflict between characters?

Helen Ginger is an authorblogger, Coordinator of Story Circle Network's Editorial Services and Chair of the Texas Book Festival Author Escorts. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn. Helen is the author of the novels Dismembering the Past and Angel Sometimes, three books in TSTC Publishing’s TechCareers series, and two of her short stories can be found in the anthology, The Corner Cafe.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Does your story have legs?

I have writing friends who meet a roadblock in a short story they’re writing and sit for days struggling with how to get through to the end and I always wonder - why? Why waste all of that time looking at a blank page? This doesn’t happen to me because I believe either a story has legs or it doesn’t. Why would you force a legless story to walk? It doesn’t make sense.

I might start a story with a perfect sentence that developed in my head over night, or the most fantastic paragraph ever put down on paper, and then nothing. Nothing. There is nothing else I can write. Many writers might stop there, clean the page with the press of ‘delete’, and start over. Again I ask - why? Why waste those bits of good writing? When it comes to my words - I’m a saver.

If I get to a point in a story where I can go no further, I immediately stop and save what I’ve done. I give it a name and place it in a folder called ‘story stems’. Then I go on to another idea. If I get to the end of that one, the story has legs; if I get to a road block again, that story joins its friend in the story stem folder and I start again.

But don’t jump to the conclusion that the story stem folder is the graveyard for good bits of writing. The story stem folder is the mine to dig from when your brain is not forthcoming with new ideas and the muse has taken an unplanned holiday. I go back to the story stem folder and check if any of those gems have managed to grow some legs during their time out. I pick one, mess with it a bit, and see what happens. Those story stems can surprise you! Once leg-less story stems can grow into perfectly lovely stories with quite sexy, workable legs and I have the stories to prove it.

So- Save all good writing - let that be your new mantra!

Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer living in Botswana. She writes radio and TV scripts, short stories and novels, magazine articles and newspaper stories… well - basically anything that comes her way. She blogs at Thoughts from Botswana, starting from approximately the same basic premise.

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