Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Concept is King

In today’s tight spec-script market, nothing is more important than your idea. In fact, an inferior concept can render even talent and opportunity effectively meaningless.
It comes as a revelation to many talented, hardworking screenwriters to learn that the ultimate commercial fate of their script depends more on the underlying idea—the central story concept—than any other single factor. Moreover, crackling dialogue, sizzling action and description, and stunning visual imagery expressed on the page can all be rendered worthless, in terms of a sale at least, simply because the story concept is not deemed big enough or good enough.
That’s why Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, Déjà Vu) preaches a standard he calls “the Warner Bros. hallway test.” The premise is this: If a producer walking by an office notices an assistant reading your script, he or she might ask “What’s that about?” If the assistant can’t summarize your tale into a clear, compelling sentence or two, you fail. Simple as that.
And many, many scripts that make it into Warner Bros. and other studios are rejected precisely because of that failure—regardless of the quality of the writing.
“Concept is the thing that people relate to,” says Joyce San Pedro, a Sony-based creative executive at Zhiv Productions. “People can understand a good concept within a second. It’s a simple, clear, concise idea that people are just drawn to.”

12 Monkeys (Photo: Universal Pictures)
Producer Robert Kosberg (12 Monkeys, Deep Blue Sea, Commando) has crafted a 20-year career from that very premise. “The best high concepts I’ve ever sold are the ones that grab your attention in one or two sentences, and you know what the whole movie is about that quickly,” states Kosberg, currently based at Nash Entertainment with a number of studio projects in development.
In turn, he notes, a precisely formatted version of the two-sentence concept becomes a logline. And, as almost everyone knows, a powerful logline is the currency of the kingdom in Hollywood.
But, says independent producer Brian Udovich (The Key Man, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), whose The Wackness won the Audience Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, a strong concept must also transcend a simple logline. “I agree that [the idea] has to be easily digestible immediately,” he says. “But once you bite into it, you have to realize that there are more layers to be understood.” A good recent example of that principle, Udovich offers, is Inception. His point is that it’s not a movie about dreams and dreaming. It’s a heist film—a commercially proven genre for almost a century—that uses dreams as a novel new twist.
When it comes to an informed assessment of a prospective concept, no test is more important than a simple, practical question: Is this something millions of people all over the world will line up to see and pay their hard-earned money for? Not always is a good idea a movie.
“For example,” says San Pedro, who has been a Hollywood development executive for almost a decade, “what’s the ending that’s going to drive the story? What about this story is going to attract an audience? You can have a good story that won’t attract an audience. How will it keep an audience interested for two hours? What are the three acts? How does the story play on the screen?”
Udovich suggests that aspiring scribes use what he calls “checkpoints” along the path to a fully developed concept. “And the number-one checkpoint,” he says, “is to ask whether you have a broad enough, commercial enough genre and concept that will allow a producer like me and a studio to put butts in theaters.”
That said, notes Paul Junger Witt, a legendary TV producer (The Golden Girls, Soap, Benson) and veteran film producer (Dead Poets Society, Three Kings, Insomnia), a strong commercial concept today must also demonstrate the potential for crossover business in international markets. That’s because each year, a bigger slice of Hollywood’s total annual revenue is generated in overseas markets. And to play globally, a movie must come off as emotionally honest and truthful—within the context of how regular people live and function—while representing a truly universal experience or emotion.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Photo: Optimum Releasing)
That principle is exemplified in the huge success ofThe Hangover and its highly successful sequel—which puzzles some people. But, Junger Witt says, men hanging out with their friends, getting into trouble, and being hung over is a cross-cultural experience all over the world, regardless of language.
Given the daunting challenge of coming up with ideas that studio executives and producers think can gross at least $100 million in the U.S. and double or triple that internationally, writers make a series of fundamental miscalculations and mistakes.
“One of the biggest challenges for new writers is the struggle to find their voice,” states San Pedro, who spent years in the publishing industry before moving from New York to Los Angeles. “They see what’s selling and they see the movies that are out there. And a lot of writers just try to mirror [the trends]. But that’s not a good way to approach material. For example, people say there are no original ideas anymore. Maybe not, but you can have an original voice that tells a story clearly, which is what is going to separate you from other writers and carry you through. So that’s what you should be focused on, instead of market trends or gimmicks.”
As a purely practical matter, Kosberg sees four common conceptual shortcomings in scripts submitted to him by new writers. “One is extreme period pieces that take place in 400 B.C.,” he says. “No studio executive I know is ever going to make a movie that takes place in 400 B.C.”
The next fatal flaw is a huge budget that renders the script impractical—no matter how brilliantly written it might be—simply because a studio would have to spend $400 million to make it. “No studio executive is ever going to want to make a movie that costs $400 million,” Kosberg adds with a chuckle.
Another weakness Kosberg sees in scripts by new writers is the most common … and self-defeating. “And that,” he says, “is a general lack of knowledge about the market—what has made money, what has not, and what is in production or development now—and the direct competition your idea faces, one way or another. Like it or not, making movies is a business. And to be in the business, you have to know the business side of things. But, too many writers ignore that.
“Instead,” Kosberg says, “writers get caught up in their own prejudices, which is fully understandable. They get caught up in the love of their own ideas. But if they would spend as much time as they’re going to spend writing the script trying to find that simple, great, one or two-line concept that will be the heart of the movie, they would save themselves months and months of getting off on the wrong foot.”
Last, but not least, on Kosberg’s Richter scale of seismic blunders by newbies, is trend-chasing—trying to emulate box-office successes with a similar tale. It never works. “The more you chase a trend, the more you’re in competition with a million other writers doing the same thing,” Kosberg states. “But there’s nothing wrong with coming up with a vampire or werewolf story if you can put a brand-new spin on it. The problem is the people who say, ‘I’m going to write a vampire movie,’ or ‘I’m going to write a werewolf movie’ think the sheer skill of their writing will get their script sold and the movie made. That is not the case. You have to have a gimmick. You have to have something truly original.”
Regardless of talent and opportunity, in order to become a success in Hollywood, a writer must understand and adhere to certain principles that studio executives and producers appreciate by well-established consensus.
“To get noticed, writers have to write to their strengths,” says Junger Witt. “Nothing is going to get writers noticed more quickly than really displaying their talent. So, the work should be reflective of a real passion for whatever story they’re telling. And that talent and passion will get noticed, whether the movie gets made or not.”
Genuine passion for your story is at least as important as talent. Maybe more so, Junger Witt notes and others agree, because so many talented writers lack real, enduring passion for their work. “You see the passion in the approach to the story, in the quality of the writing and the depth of the characters,” Junger Witt says. “Those are the things I react to. I want to be moved.”
That being the case with most producers and studio execs, Udovich suggests that a writer pursue a genre for which he or she has real passion. “Then work your personal story within that genre,” urges Udovich, who holds an M.F.A. in producing from the American Film Institute. “That will make it a lot easier when you’re done to find out what studios and producers are amenable to the kind of film you wrote.”
The bottom line, Udovich says and his peers agree, is that passion and expert knowledge of genre cannot be faked. “You can tell within the first five pages whether a script is written from the heart or whether it’s being written for a paycheck.”
A related truism, he adds, is that “You’re never going to succeed in Hollywood trying to write what you think other people want.” Instead, Udovich advises, careful study and analysis of the movie market is essential to the creation of commercially viable concepts.
Junger Witt concurs: “All a new writer has to do is look at the box-office [grosses] of both domestic and international films and see which films crossed over successfully,” he explains. “Then analyze what is similar about those films. For one thing, they tend not to be culturally specific, meaning that it’s not true that only a few cultures can understand the situation and the relationships or the frame of reference.”
If there is indeed a secret code or mantra for conceptual triumph in Hollywood, it is the adage “Give me the same but different.” In fact, Kosberg says, that statement embodies the essence of the movie industry.
“That is a great one-line description of how the movie business really works,” he says. “It gives a studio exec or producer something that has done well in the past, but with a new twist—representing the best of both worlds because if you give people something too different, it scares them. And there’s a lot of fear in Hollywood.” But, Kosberg summarizes, give studios and producers a genuine new twist on an old idea that made a lot of money and you and your work will become very, very popular around town.
Go forward and win!
If you need help with formatting your script, try my editing service for screenplays.

Editing: $45.00 Flat Fee

  •  Evaluating formatting to industry standards
  •  Spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.

Critique: $50.00 Flat Fee
 Includes evaluating the basis elements of a script

  •  Introduction
  •  Development
  •  Climax
  •  Conclusion
  • Character development 
  •  Mid point development

Critiques also provide suggestions for improvements and enhancement. 

Payments are made by Paypal or cashier check by mail.

Feel free to contact me at ahicks4298@q.com or call at (360) 696-4298. address or ask for Frances.

Search terms: Film script format, writing film scripts, screenwriting services, coverage service, screenplay formatting margins, screenplay writing, screenplay format example, Search terms: screenplays, screenwriting service, edit and critique service, writing screenplays, screenplay format, loglines, query letter, film scripts, movie scripts, screenplay format, screenplay synopsis, script synopsis, treatment, proofreading service for writers, novels, writing services, fiction writing

Balls of Steel: Stick a Fork In It

by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman (thanks for the contribution)
Professors, agents, producers, and managers drum into our heads, “writing is rewriting.” We accept that fact and rewrite over and over until the mere sight of our script makes us cringe.
But when is a script “done”?
By “done” I’m referring to when it’s ready to be read by industry insiders. After all, even after a script is optioned,it’s never truly finished until the picture is locked.
I wrote a post a few months ago called Rewrite from the Gut. I discussed Slavery by Another Name being a Creative Screenwriting Expo finalist, but how despite the honor, we chose to rewrite it. Since that post, I’ve received many emails asking how to determine when a script is truly finished.
If only scripts had Butterball® pop-up timers.
Looking back on my writing career, I can say without hesitation, the number one mistake I made was submitting my work prematurely. I’m appalled I wasted producers’ time reading a pile of amateur word vomit.
I’d email an apology, but they probably have my address blocked and labeled “horrid writer.”
Yes, if you submit bad writing, labeled you will become. Unfortunately when I started my career I had no idea production companies kept files on a writer’s talent. I naively assumed they considered work on a script-by-script basis.
Live and learn, albeit the hard way.
In the years between then and now, I’ve embraced the benefits of rewriting. In fact, I consider myself a rewrite junkie. The trick is to find the balance between improving your work with each rewrite and avoiding the dangers of overwriting.
For me, feedback is my guide.
Find a handful of respected writers to trade scripts with. Better to hear the problems from a friend than to hear a “pass” from a producer.
Getting Honest Feedback is a post I wrote with the consult of screenwriter Doug Richardson (Die Hard 2Bad Boys, and Hostage). We discussed the value of analyzing feedback to enhance your story, not change it into something you don’t recognize. I refer more writers to that post than any other I’ve written.
Back to the question of how to feel confident your script is “done.”
For me, that happens when the feedback stops.
I have a few writers who ruthlessly rip my words apart. Those are always the final eyes on my script. If they read it and offer praise instead of notes, I know it’s ready.
Since I’m not as seasoned as Richardson, I gave him a call and posed the same question to him. His response was similar.
Richardson gets his scripts to the point he’s ready for a second set of eyes, knowing it isn’t finished but needing distance and feedback. While his reader is making notes, he’s digesting and answering his own questions, ready to dive back in.
Once he’s rewritten to the point where he’s answered not only all his own questions, but also those of his readers, he’s ready to submit.
I never turn in anything I have questions about. The only way it’s going to be right is if you work on the feedback and clarify your intentions, making them strong… bulletproof.”
Let me warn you, it takes a lot of rewrites to get to that point, but when it happens, it’s magic. There’s no feeling in the world like confidently handing your script to a producer, knowing it’s going to knock their socks off. Whether it’s a fit for their company is a whole other question.
But your job is to write, and write well – and know when to stick a fork in it.”

Search terms: Film script format, writing film scripts, screenwriting services, coverage service, screenplay formatting margins, screenplay writing, screenplay format example, Search terms: screenplays, screenwriting service, edit and critique service, writing screenplays, screenplay format, loglines, query letter, film scripts, movie scripts, screenplay format, screenplay synopsis, script synopsis, treatment, proofreading service for writers, novels, writing services, fiction writing

Monday, February 27, 2012


“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” (W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM)
Before you decide which publishing options to pursue and begin your search for editors or agents, there is one very important, often overlooked factor to attend to.
As in any industry, to sell something, you must have a quality product the public wants to buy. How you go about creating that product will, in part, determine how successful you’ll be.
To create a marketable product—in this case, a salable manuscript—you need to follow these five steps. Although they may seem obvious, many writers ignore them.

The 5 Steps to Creating a Sellable Novel

Step 1: Read before you write.Before you even sit down to write, agents and editors advise that you read other writers. Famous writers do, too. William Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”
Stephen King said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Reading the work of other writers helps give you those tools.
“The best advice I can give,” says agent Nancy Yost of Lowenstein-Yost Associates, “is read, read, and read some more. It’s important to read other writers and to know what other people are reading. The best writers are avid readers.”
Reading other writers will give you a more in-depth understanding of what’s out there, and it can help you improve your own writing as well. Read for style, read for content, read for technique. Read to understand the marketplace and to determine if what you want to write will fit in.
But there are ways to read a book to get what you need out of it. It’s too easy to get lost in a good story and forget why you’re reading it. Former executive editor Kent Carroll gives a few hints:
“Take a book you like and go through it a second time. Dissect it. Take it apart to see how the thing is structured, what the convention of storytelling is. Pay particular attention to how the book is organized. I think you can learn a lot from that. But don’t just imitate it. Let it come from your own heart, your own mind, your own imagination.”
How you read is important. But so is what you read. Read as much as you can, but not just the established writers, such as Danielle Steel or Stephen King. Make sure to be in touch with what’s new. Read the work of current authors that are being put out now. This is the kind of material that publishers are looking for. The old standbys will always be there. Be aware of what currently attracts agents and publishers.
“But remember that everything you’re seeing out on the shelves now was bought a while ago, so something you are sure is a new idea or a fresh twist may not be,” reminds Karen Taylor Richman, editor of the Special Edition line at Silhouette.
In addition to reading current authors, make sure you’re familiar with the line of publishers you’d like to write for. Richman says, “If you want to write for Silhouette, you should be reading Silhouette books to get a feel for what we’re looking for.” If you’re writing romances, then read the books romance publishers put out. The same goes for mysteries or books in any other genre.
Former editor Michael Seidman advises, “Read fiction, all kinds of fiction. I’ve found that reading best-sellers is a frustrating experience, because no one can tell you why a particular book made it in spite of everything that’s wrong with it. But if nothing else, it will reaffirm for you the fact that sometimes God smiles, and why shouldn’t that smile grace you?”
Marjorie Braman, publishing director at HarperCollins, sums it up nicely. “If you want to be a writer, the best thing you can do for yourself, for a number of reasons, is read a lot. There’s the commercial reason of knowing what’s working, and how to tailor your book for a specific audience. And also, if you read voraciously, it opens you up to a broader approach in your own writing. You can hone your skills by reading people who are good writers.”
Afraid to read for fear your writing will be adversely affected? Some writers make that excuse for not reading. Don’t be one of them. This mindset can sabotage new writers. Nancy Bereano, former editor at Firebrand Books, says, “When writers say to me, ‘Oh, I never read anyone else because I don’t want to be influenced by them,’ I laugh hysterically. Give me a break.”
Step 2: Write for the market. Editors and agents want you to be aware of the market and to write for it. Without a commercial product, they’d have nothing to sell. “The writing I look for should be ‘relentlessly commercial,’” says Kate Duffy, an editorial director with Kensington Publishing Corporation.
If you want to have your book considered by a particular publisher, become familiar with that publisher’s list. There are formulas that certain genre books follow—and it’s your job to be aware of them and to create a work that fits a publisher’s guidelines. Senior editor Jennifer Brehl of Avon Books agrees. “Be familiar with the clichés of your genre before submitting.”
How do you write for the market? Says editor Ginjer Buchanan: “You won’t have a lot of success if you are just stumbling around in a vacuum. Read Publishers Weekly. Read magazines on the genre you are interested in. Study the markets so you know what is happening. It’s basic, but you won’t get anywhere without paying attention to those types of details. Later, you can rely on your agent to keep track of markets and trends, but beginning writers really have to know what the business is doing. If you don’t work hard at the business end of your writing, you’re just dooming yourself to disappointment.”
Agents don’t really want to say “no” to writers. They make their living finding good, commercial writing they can sell. “But,” says agent Peter Rubie, “the reality is that the bulk of material agents receive is just not up to a publishable standard. I love to come across great material, but people don’t read enough and have no idea what’s fresh and what isn’t, what’s been done or what hasn’t. I get queries that say, ‘I’ve written a unique book about a vampire that’s called AIDS.’ It seems like a great idea except that I get the same idea sent to me at least ten times a week.”
Laura Anne Gilman, executive editor for Roc at Dutton, says, “Know your market! Reading is the best way to study a market. You shouldn’t be writing in a genre unless you enjoy it. Watch what is selling, who the authors are, and read those books. And keep trying.”
Step 3: Write for yourself. Step three sounds as if it contradicts the advice in step two, but it really doesn’t. Writing for the market and writing for yourself can co-exist. Market-savvy writers understand the fine line here and know how to blend both elements.
Agent Russell Galen explains: “The writing process should be shaped internally, by the writer himself, not by me or by the marketplace. It isn’t simply that this makes for better books, though, of course, it does; it actually makes for more commercial books. When the writing process is shaped externally, the result is always an obvious knockoff, an ersatz Rolex made in Hong Kong, and I can spot it.”
Write what you love to read. Don’t shy away from the genre you love because you fear it will be too difficult to break into. Yes, Stephen King and Dean Koontz have had the horror market sewn up for years. But that doesn’t mean a fresh voice in the horror world would not be appreciated. The same holds for other genres, too.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s an easier path to publication. Occasionally, we’ve run across a new writer or two who thought that romance was the way to break in. But these new writers were not lovers of the genre—in fact, they had done little reading in that arena. Writing romance requires a great depth of skill. In fact, nothing is easy or easier to write. If you don’t know and love the genre you are writing in, it will show and you won’t make it.
Choose your genre based on what you like. John Scognamiglio, an editorial director of Kensington Publishing Corporation, says, “I don’t think a writer should decide to write a historical romance just because that’s what’s selling now. They need to combine what they like to read or write with what’s selling.”
Says Anne Savarese, former editor at St. Martin’s Press (now with Oxford University Press), “It’s easier to sell a first novel if it fits into some kind of genre. But often writers worry too much about tailor-making their work to what they think publishers want. Even to the point of what kind of novel they’re going to write. I think it’s best to be true to what you want to do. If you have a novel in mind, you should write that novel as best you can. Certainly you want to send it to a publisher who will most likely be interested in it, but sometimes, for example, new writers will say, ‘Oh, these techno-thrillers are really big, why don’t I write one of those?’ But that’s usually not a good idea. If you’re not writing something you’re really interested in or know well, it’s going to show.”
Agent Evan Marshall agrees: “Don’t try to fake it. Write only the kind of books you love to read and never deviate from that. Find your niche and stay in it, and believe in yourself. Don’t leave it just because you get rejected. If you’re really good you will be published.”
Step 4: Learn how to write. This seems like such an obvious step, you might be wondering why it’s even included. But it’s a step many new writers often overlook. You might have been an avid reader all your life and feel more than ready. And yes, reading other writers does help with your own writing. But it’s often not enough to bring your work up to publishable standards.
Let’s compare an aspiring writer with an aspiring physician. It’s true that part of the training for a medical student is to observe seasoned doctors at work. But before students are even allowed in a hospital room or an operating theater, they must sit in lecture halls, read and absorb countless textbooks, and study, study, study.
Can you imagine a med student on his first day being shown an operating table with a tray of instruments next to it—and being told to begin a surgical procedure on his own? Hardly.
Admittedly, writing a novel certainly isn’t brain surgery, and nobody dies if your fingers slip on the keyboard. But the point is that learning how to write is not something that happens in a day, or in a vacuum. Yes, being an avid reader is an important part of the process, but it is an ongoing process—and there are other elements to consider as well.
Here are some avenues to pursue to learn the craft of writing:
  • HOW-TO BOOKS. In addition to your mainstream or genre reading, don’t forget the textbooks of the trade. Hundreds of how-to books are available on every aspect of writing the novel. They cover writing in general and also narrow in on specific topics. Want more insight into plot, dialogue, characterization, voice, style, viewpoint, action, or conflict? There’s a book  that covers it.
There are books on grammar, too. You’ve probably heard about this or that famous writer who couldn’t spell or whose grammar would have horrified his seventh-grade English teacher. That’s what editors are for, right?
Wrong. In today’s market that writer would have a difficult time getting his work considered seriously, never mind published. Of course, an agent or editor might overlook the glaring mistakes. But the story and characters would have to be pretty outstanding to keep the agent or editor’s attention beyond the first paragraph. Why lessen your chances?
  • MAGAZINES AND NEWSLETTERS. In addition to how-to books, there are very good periodicals out there that can help you. Writer’s Digest magazine, The Writer, and countless newsletters put out by various writers associations are all good sources from which to glean information. Check out our appendix on page 229 for extra resources.
  • UNIVERSITY WRITING PROGRAMS. Many new writers enroll in university master’s degree writing programs. For some this is an excellent way to hone skills, but there are authors, agents, and editors who have mixed feelings about these programs.Former editor Michael Seidman says, “I think they can be brilliant training grounds, but too many of them are insular and wind up teaching you how to teach a master’s course.
  • “But, they can serve to stretch your imagination and force you to look at writing from perspectives that might not be your usual ones. So, in the end, if you have the time and finances to attend, I’d go for it.”Best-selling author Susan Isaacs is glad she didn’t attend a writing program. “If I had taken a writing class, I would surely have lost it [her own writing voice] and come out writing present tense fiction like everyone else in New York.”Author Flannery O’Connor wryly pointed out: “Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”
  • ADULT EDUCATION PROGRAMS. While there might be a bit of snobbery attached—for and against—attending a university master’s course in creative writing, there are many fine adult education programs out there offering workshops, seminars, and classes, taught by solid, experienced writers and teachers. Marshall Cook has coached writers through one such program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Continuing Studies, for almost three decades.Adult education classes, especially those focused on writing, generally attract serious people who want to improve their craft and learn how to get published. You’ll meet other people with the same interests and concerns you have. Through adult education classes you can find other writers with whom you can start a critique or writers support group that continues to meet after the adult education class is over. The contacts you make and the support you receive will be invaluable.You can find adult education classes through your local school board or nearby community colleges or universities.
  • WRITERS CONFERENCES. Writers conferences are another good vehicle for learning how to write. While excellent for meeting agents and editors and other new writers, (which you’ll learn more about in upcoming chapters) they also afford you the opportunity to hear successful authors speak on novel-writing techniques.Workshops can cover everything from novel openings to characterization to dialogue or conflict. You can learn how to pace your thriller or plant clues for your mystery. Some conferences also offer manuscript critiquing for an additional charge.It’s important for a new writer to invest some time, money, and energy in learning the craft, and a writers’ conference is a good place to do that.Says agent Julie Castiglia, “People sometimes think they can tackle a book without spending any money or effort on training. They expect their book to be top-notch without going to writers’ conferences, taking classes, or learning the craft of writing. Even if you are very talented, you need instruction and networking in order to develop your writing to the fullest potential. If you haven’t invested yourself in learning to write, you are wasting your time seeking an agent.”
  • SUPPORT GROUPS. Many writers depend on critique or support groups. It’s difficult to improve your craft writing in a vacuum. A well-chosen group with a particular focus and a set of guidelines to follow can provide valuable feedback on your work.Editorial director John Scognamiglio says, “You should always try to get someone to read your work. A lot of times writers can’t distance themselves enough and someone else might find something you might have missed. A writer shouldn’t be afraid of criticism; part of writing is rejection. It’s just a matter of building a tough shell and knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are.”You can find other writers through taking adult education classes, belonging to local writers organizations such as the SouthWest Writers, or by joining online groups such as Fiction Writer’s Connection, which Blythe Camenson runs. Through FWC, members can contact other members and form e-mail or chat room support groups. Also try local libraries. Many provide space for writers to meet regularly for discussion and critique.Although writers groups can be very helpful, it’s also important not to become so dependent on them that you lose your own voice. Agent George Nicholson of Sterling Lord Literistic says, “It’s important to be your own person. Too many novice writers are uncertain about their skills and pay too much attention to what others say. While it is important to listen to what others say, trust in your own instincts and judgment.”
  • CRITIQUES. Paid critiquing—by a trusted professional—is also a possibility to consider. The critiquer’s comments can help pinpoint your problem areas and offer suggestions on how to correct them.Good critiquers usually provide margin notes, circling errors and noting questions that need addressing. In addition, they usually type up full reports covering any of the writing or plotting problems identified in your manuscript. The report could cover everything from how best to open your manuscript, to pacing, characterization, dialogue, and action. Through FWC, Blythe has critiqued hundreds of manuscripts over the years. She helps writers learn how to write more tightly and avoid the first-novel problems covered in the following section.If you’re open to improving your work, and need one-on-one feedback, a critique could be the way to go. Just make sure the critiquer is known and has a good reputation, and that his or her fees are reasonable. Critiques usually run between three and five dollars a page or more, depending upon the skill of the writer. Line edits, which promise comments or notations on every error, would cost more.You can find critiquers through adult education classes and university writing programs, or online.
Step 5: Polish your product. Many new writers are so excited about the prospect of seeing their name in print that they rush too quickly to get their material out there. Typing “The End” on that last page isn’t necessarily your signal to get the mailers and your self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASEs) ready.
Yes, it is cause for celebration. Many people will tell you they have a great book in them. But only a small percentage actually sit down and write that book. You’re one of a select few who applied bottom to chair and produced a finished product.
Or is it really finished? Your product might not be ready for the marketplace. In the rush to publication, many new writers inadvertently defeat their efforts for success. They send out their first draft instead of their tenth. They send out sloppily prepared manuscripts. They send out novels with grammatical errors and typos. They send out novels with technical errors, point–of-view problems, plotting mistakes, characterization inconsistencies, and loose ends galore.
“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” This hard-nosed quote is attributed to author Colette.
In a similar vein, Oscar Wilde said, “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”
Self-editing is an important part of the polishing process. “I really believe in writers rewriting their material,” says editorial director John Scognamiglio. “When someone sends something off it should be really polished. Writers learn a lot when they go over their material. I think you can get better if you keep working at it.”
Agent Elizabeth Wales agrees. “Work on your craft and polish what you are offering: Don’t send out drafts!”
These five steps to a salable product really do work—if you follow the steps. Look back on our earlier example of the doctor learning his profession. Considering the investment of both time and money a doctor has to make to pursue a medical career, writers have it easy. A few how-to books, market guides, a well-chosen conference or two a year, and perhaps a manuscript critique, all add up to a small amount of money, comparatively speaking, and it is money well spent.
As agent Evan Marshall says, “Before you even approach an agent, learn your market inside out and master the techniques of your craft the best you can.”

Search terms: Film script format, writing film scripts, screenwriting services, coverage service, screenplay formatting margins, screenplay writing, screenplay format example, Search terms: screenplays, screenwriting service, edit and critique service, writing screenplays, screenplay format, loglines, query letter, film scripts, movie scripts, screenplay format, screenplay synopsis, script synopsis, treatment, proofreading service for writers, novels, writing services, fiction writing