Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Writers & Readers Websites Wednesday - For the Script Writer

Interested in TV writing or script writing? Have you stopped by Which is, by the way, actually - you know, stuff changes on the web. 

Anyway, it's run by Larry Brody, head honcho a great guy with an amazing background in TV writing and producing - lots and lots of it.  Check out the info on Larry at his site (scroll down on the right).

Meanwhile, the site offers workshops, contests, blog, and links to his book Television Writing From the Inside Out in Kindle or hard copy editions which is used in film writing classes, including at UCLA. 

Go visit his site, you'll be glad you did. Oh, and I guest blog for Larry every now and again - you can find fresh posts there in his blog lists.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Five Tips To Better Your Writing


Good writing is simple writing. I don't mean dumbed down, I mean basic and clear. I think most experienced writers and readers will agree. Readers from the viewpoint of story flow and involvement and writers from virtually the same viewpoint.

Here’s the thing, when writing it’s easy to fall into old (and new) traps. Easy to get flowery, unnatural and fall back on clich├ęs (I won't elaborate on it below, but catch the cliches and kill them).

So here are a few tips to do some quick fixes to that writing of yours and get past the tank traps.

1.  First, let’s keep things natural, shall we? When we talk with friends, business associates, family or simply think in our heads things are pretty straight forward. You don’t want to use a ton of words to describe what a handful will do. You don’t want to get so lyrical your reader says, “huh?”  For example, from a book I read (well tried to read) in which there’s a thunderstorm and the lights suddenly go out. Could be a scary scene if done right, or humorous, or any number of other things. Not, however, when the writer says “an ebony abyss claimed the den”. 


Okay, it can be tempting to create sentences like that. Might even feel good in the moment, but that’s something that the writer needs to reconsider at edit time. Don’t make your reader translate your more flowery writing into the simple, such as, “the room went dark”.  It just throws them out of their reader’s trance and probably tempts them to throw your book. The experienced and very good writer doesn’t call attention to the actual writing, rather he or she keeps it focused on the story. If you read your writing aloud it’ll be easier for you to pick out sentences that are contrived and unnatural with flowery elements you wouldn’t consider saying to a friend.

2.  Second, don’t throw information at the reader in huge doses.  Am I right readers? It’s hard to swallow large amounts of information. Sometimes we can be unaware of how much information we throw out there in one sentence. So go through at edit time and look for sentences that contain more than two or three pieces of information about a setting or a character. Break it up into smaller sentences, maybe even spread them out a bit more over the page. Do background in small doses, not a flood.

3.  And speaking of sentences, keep them short, or at least shorter. Plainly I’m not talking about a staccato delivery, and sentence length must vary, but you don’t want to pack many ideas into a single sentence. A simple guideline is to keep sentences below twenty or thirty words. So while you write wild and free for the first draft and keep moving to finish that story, remember at edit time to get rid of the extra, unnecessary words. Check where you’ve put a comma and think about whether it should be the end of a sentence. Reword a sentence that’s taken off without you. Tighten things up.

4.  And here’s one I’ve come across lately that has struck me sideways. Color.  Yes, color. It’s a trap many new writers fall into. Lots of color, meaning their descriptions are loaded with it.  You know, “The sunshine yellow school bus climbed the sage green hills on a dusty rust colored road lined with the white rivulets of downpours past.” (I didn’t get that sentence from a book though I’ve seen some lately that are close.Color is good. It sets a stage, but make it really count, use it sparingly and appropriately.

Oh, and one more thing. Yes, this is number 5. Don’t forget that old writer’s trick of letting your work sit for a day or two or maybe a week (whatever feels right to you) before you dive into your editing. Sort of like dough rising, it takes a bit of time for some of those over-dones to come to the top. 

Hope these little short-cuts are a help; new info for the new writer or reminder for the more experienced. 

Go forth and write - and readers, tell us what your pet peeves are, what makes you want to toss a book aside or what just irritates you as you read. 

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Writers & Readers Websites Wednesday

Okay, now this is a very helpful, interesting, and visual site, the Visual Dictionary Online.  An excellent resource and entertaining for readers and writers alike.

Have a great Wednesday and don't pass this one up. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Seven Places For Wtiters To Find Their Inpiration

Being a writer means spending a lot of time behind a computer screen even while we realize that finding inspiration, fresh new ideas, means getting away from the computer. Still, many of us don't don't do it, risking losing motivation, inspiration and even writer's block. Whether you write stories, scripts, articles or anything that requires new viewpoints, new ideas, new subjects, getting out and about is the way to spark that creativity.

When you think about it, most of our best ideas comes to us when we're away from the computer, when we're simply outside in the fresh air or taking a shower, or listening to a favorite song. Sometimes when you're least expecting it an epiphany fires off like lightning, but that doesn't mean we can't go looking for it. 

And don't think it's just for writers. Using your brain, seeing new things, hearing new ideas is good for anyone. Readers, writers, expanding human being – get yourself out there.

So, today I started ruminating on places where it's likely to catch up with an idea, something new, something not waiting for a writer behind that computer screen and here's the short list I came up with. No doubt you can add greatly to it if you give it a little thought.

  1. A Train Station. It's a good place to expose yourself to people running hither and yon, busy, lots of conversations. People going to work. People setting off to meet loved ones. Others out for a day of fun or on errands. Even more fun to get on one and take a ride, especially in you're in an area with a commuter train. We have one here. Can take my laptop along, make notes as I cock an ear and listen. Even the atmosphere is conducive to sparking new ideas. Writer's immersion and people watcher's delight.

  2. An Airport does much the same. Not so easy to get on a plane though, unless you're really headed off for some destination. Still, just visiting a local airport, hanging out, getting a coffee can be great fun and a good kick to your writer's muse.
  3. Got a beach near you? Kick off your shoes and wander the sand for a bit. Not only do you get to see some interesting characters (waaaay interesting sometimes) and pick up fascinating snatches of conversation, but the warm sand under your feet, the rolling of the waves is relaxing all by itself and relaxation invites the muse in. It's also a great place for readers to kick back and enjoy the latest book while reclining in the sand.

  4. Have you visited a playground lately? There's lots going on there if it's a popular one. Kids, large and small, parents, irritating teens. The bucolic and the possibly threatening. Sit on a bench. Open your eyes and ears. Read a book or write a bit on your tablet or laptop, then focus again and see what you pick up. Oh, and try not to look like you're stalking the children.
  5. Got a local college? Then head on over. They have their own bookstores, coffee gathering places and you might even consider taking a class or auditing one or just attending a public lecture. Lots going on here to give you ideas. Lots of writer fodder and plenty for readers and everyone else who enjoys learning.
  6. The Gym may sound like a weird place to get ideas for writing or just some serious people watching but if you're exercising (and I'm guessing that's why you're at a gym in the first place) you're burning off anger, frustration and emotion. You're also out there with other people who're probably doing the same. Writers can definitely pick up on new ideas here as they work out their own frustrations.
  7. The Big City. If you live in one you know what it's like every day in the sea of humanity. If you don't, it's great place for writers to visit to get into the bustle of it all. And, if that city has some high places – head upward, give yourself a new perspective, look down on it all for a while. Get thee to a rooftop. New York? The Empire State Building is still a fantastic place to go look out at it all. Not to mention the tourists you'll be packed in with while riding the elevators to the top.

I've offered a few places to get yourself away from the computer and spark some new ideas. There are lots more like visiting a foreign country, going to the mall, or just taking a walk in the countryside. Even walking around inside your own house and being determined to see with new eyes.

So, tell me, what kinds of things do you do, where do you go to inspire yourself, to spark new ideas? I'd love to hear about them. Post them in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday

Time for a new website I stumbled across and this one's pretty good.  It's called Diploma Guide, but don't let that name confuse or stop you.  

They offer writing courses online from top universities and education websites and they're free.  On a pretty nice variety of writing topics to. 

Beginning, editing and proofing, poetry, essays and yes, more, are offered by MIT, UK's Open University, Crafty Writer, UCLA, Purdue and well, others. 

Tool around, check out the site and see if there are any offerings here that might help you take your writing up a notch.

Tell me if you find a helpful course here and if you know of any other free and helpful writing courses please note them below for others. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Developing Your Craft – of Writing

We do a lot of wandering in this blog about writing, writers, the craft of writing, websites for writers; pretty much anything writing related. This time around we're going to get back to some basics and those basics apply to pretty much all writing. 

A number of these you may have heard before, but well, you're going to hear them again.  This is a wake up call – get your head out of the sand and improve your craft. We know you have good ideas. Now's the time to back up, take a break, look around and get really good at expressing those stories into books, screenplays, whatever  your pleasure.

So, here goes ~

1. Use simple, declarative sentences. Don't get all fancy and flowery on us. Write tight and write exciting. Grab the reader by the eyeballs and that doesn't happen when you write the sentence that never ends.

2.  Avoid using the passive voice. Who wants passive in an exciting, engaging and interesting story? So don't use sentences like “The village had been scorched by the dragon's fiery breath”, instead, make it, “The dragon scorched the village with his fiery breath.” or “Why was the road crossed by the chicken” becomes “Why did the chicken cross the road.” Really folks, it's not that hard, read with an eye toward passive voice – look it up on the web if you need more examples or don't get what I'm telling you here.

3. Again, keep it simple and limit your use of adjectives and adverbs. Yes, give your reader the information he or she needs to want to continue reading, but a continual barrage of adjectives and adverbs. If you have trouble with this concept Karen Elizabeth Gordon's book, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed may be of assistance.

4.  Go easy on your descriptive narrative.  Yes your readers want the scene set, they want to know about the people, but they don't want it to go on forever so don't overwrite.  And that leads us to –

5.  Reread your work – consider each word you've written thats three syllables or more long and think about whether it can be replaced by a simpler, crisper word.

6.  Avoid ifs, buts, and can'ts – unless absolutely necessary. I try not to say things like this, but I've seen them peppered throughout manuscripts and it's definitely worth keeping your eye on.

7. Oh, and finally, cut the crap and never rescue your hero. Seriously. He got himself into this, he can darn well get himself out. In fact he better get himself out. I mean where is your imagination? If the main character doesn't find a way out of whatever hot water you've tossed him or her into and you need to extract tweezers and pluck the hero out of the boiling cauldron, what fun is that? Nope, that stalwart has to find a way out. You're not it – well you are in the sense that you're writing the story, the book, the screenplay, but you know what I mean.

8.  And finally you might consider stopping the multi-tasking crap when you write and go more with mono-tasking. Turn off the phone, Click off your browser (unless you're researching and then click off when you're done). Break your addiction and focus.

Think about it and writers tell me if any of these reminders strike a chord.

Readers, tell me if any of the above ring any bells and have caused you to be unhappy with a book or to give up on it altogether.~ We're all in this together.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writers & Readers Websites Wednesday - The Market List

Hi there, yes, the holidays are past and it's that day again as I get back on track. 

Today I want to mention The Market List for all you writers out there looking for a place where you can dig into markets. This one's excellent offering articles, markets, chats, polls, classifieds and more.   Readers - ever wonder what writers tune in to in order to get published? Then this is interesting reading

Even more, there are sub categories under Markets including book markets, screenwriting, magazines, by genre, literary agents  and, again, more. Wish there was a bit more info attached to each listing in the list (like what they're most open to); you have to click into each listing to get the details. But, it's still a great resource and worth your time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Writers Who Inspire The Writer In Me


illustration by Gabriel Hardman

I've talked about a lot of things on this blog, writer's helps and hints, how to do things, websites that help writers or are just fun and maybe inspirational.

Today I'm going to talk about some other writers. Writers who are an inspiration to me. There are a number of them actually, too many to go into great depth so I'll just go ahead and mention a few, three actually who are interesting, remarkable, inspirational and just plain fun.

In no particular order;

There's Larry Brody. He's head honcho over at Larry's a TV writer, producer, screenwriting teacher and more. I met him years ago when I wanted to learn to write film scripts and Larry offered a class at a local college. Not only did I learn a lot but he inspired me to think more, reach for more and create more. Yes, I was lucky, Larry became an unforgettable mentor and friend. If you want to get into TV writing, visit his site, check out the contests, workshops and blog posts – also his book, Television Writing From the InsideOut (in paperback or Ebook edition). So, did I learn to write scripts? Yes, I did, I've optioned six, mostly domestically, but one overseas, ghostwrote a script and wrote a one half hour script for a produced series. I'm writing more. We'll see where it leads. I still love writing books as well, so it's a bit of a juggling act. 



Then there's my niece, along with her husband. Corinna Bechko was deeply into the animal world, zookkeeper, animal rescue and all that entails (she's still involved with animal wefare via Kitty Bungalow in LA) when she got side-tracked into writing for comic books and graphic novels, sometimes on her own, frequently as part of a team with her husband Gabriel Hardman (who also does story boards for film & more). She wrote Heathentown and Gabriel illustrated it. Together writing (and Gabriel doing a lot of the artwork) they've launched into Betrayal of the Planet Of the Apes with Boom Comics, Exile on The Planet Of The Apes , Planet of The Apes Cataclysm and now the soon to be released (March 2013) Star Wars: Legacy from Dark Horse Comics - the newest incarnation. Aside from being my niece (an inspiring one at that) I'm amazed at the output, creativity, excellent story arcs and fun they put into their creations. Visit with them at comicons, check out their webpages and get their books. You'll enjoy.


There's also MaryPax, On Twitter she's known as @Mpax1. Mary, or simply M, is a science fiction and fantasy author; mostly Ebooks. She's written of rambunctious plants, other worlds, and the Urban fantasy on our own back steps. I've been reading her Backworlds series (first installment free on Kindle) and loving it. Also Plant Girl and am now getting around to Wandering Weeds. M Pax is a fairly new comer to the writing scene and she's filled with energy, productive and fun to follow on Twitter, at her website and Facebook. I've no doubt you'll enjoy her writing. Give it a try.

To all those writers out there I say go writers go. Give us new worlds, exciting stories and memorable characters we can fall in love with, hate or root for.

Read, write, go forth!

Got a favorite author who inspires your or who you just love and can't wait to read their next offering? Post it below – add to the conversation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Writers Websites Wednesday - Grammar Girl

Need some help with your grammar? Do you feel a bit like a lion tamer when you confront grammar, punctuation, etc.? 

Then Grammar Girl is your site - presided over by bestselling authority Mignon Fogarty, it tackles grammatical quandries, answers difficult questions about punctuation, word choice, style and more. Visit and get your puzzling questions answered. 

Next week I'll be posting one of my regular articles now that the holidays have moved on by like a crashing wave -- stay tuned!

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