Self Publishing Errors

Self Publishing has given writers so much freedom.  But as this site always says, there is more to being an author than writing … There is a degree of business sense too! This is even more important for authors who are self publishing, as they often do not have agents sorting out the books and deals for them. Here are ten mistakes you can easily avoid once you’re aware of them.

1) Making your own book cover

The saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover‘ is spoken by many, but unfortunately most people still do. If the cover you made yourself looks amateur, the chances are people will think the writing within it is too. There are many, easy-to-find and affordable covers to find on the internet! MORE: 5 Strategies For Self Publishing On A Budget

2) Not being confident

Describing yourself as an ‘aspiring’ writer suggests you lack confidence. Also, telling your social media platforms about all your other day jobs detracts from the fact that you are an author. Use your platforms to promote yourself as a published author, nothing less!

3) Rushing the self publishing process

Good things really do take time, especially when publishing a book. You want your book to be perfect: error and typo-free. If you hurry to publish, you will read through it again and be very disappointed at its quality, wishing you waited. Be an author that waits, reads and edits multiple times over and recruits an editor and beta readers to create a masterpiece. Give yourself time to develop the perfect manuscript, an amazing cover, a solid promotion plan … Make sure you take baby steps!

4) Not using an editor

You will not find every single mistake in your book – read that again! Two pairs of eyes are certainly better than one in this case, which is why the vast majority of bestsellers have been professionally edited and proof read. You may also be a professional editor and/or proof reader, but the risk is probably not worth it. MORE: Top 5 Proofing Errors Writers Make

5) Delaying writing your next book

After the first book, you will feel great. It’s a major accomplishment, but  you need to keep the ball rolling to stay in the game. You are a great author already, so keep writing! Update your social media that you’re still going. MORE: 12 Things To Think About Before Rushing Into Self Publishing

6) Using print run over print-on-demand

Print run is when you have a certain (usually large) amount of copies printed in one go. If an author doesn’t manage to sell them all, they don’t make profit. Printing on demand is a great way to only pay for what you sell, while being able to keep promoting yourself.

7) Not asking for a sample product

When publishing with a new self-publishing company, you are giving a lot of power over to them. Unless you know other authors who have published with them, it is a wise idea to ask for a sample book to see how they look and feel before giving them your permission to print.

8) Failing to market correctly

You need to understand how to market your book to your target audience in order for them to want to buy it. See self publishing in the same light as a start-up business. Communicate with your audience well before you actually publish, as well as after to receive good engagement. MORE: How To Build An Online Platform

9) Not paying attention to the publishing contract

Some self publishing companies can sometimes take advantage of new authors. A good contract will address where you can incur other fees during the publishing process. It should be sensible and coherent. If you have questions, the publishing consultant should answer them.

10) Not mastering your craft

Though you have both experience and passion for writing, you can still always improve. Attend workshops, talk to other authors, read books! Anything you can do on a loosely regular basis to invest in your craft will improve the way you write. MORE: Want To Write A Novel? Then Realise These 5 Things First

BIO: Aimee Laurence writes regular lifestyle blogs at Review as well as She takes part in multiple business-related projects, where she takes on a problem-solving role with the goal of improving communication in business. She also blogs for Top Writing Services.

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All About John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s an author best known for the Pulitzer-prize winning The Grapes of Wrath and his novella, Of Mice And Men. (Went to school in the UK in the last thirty years?? You will have almost certainly have read the latter, it’s been on the English Literature curriculum for decades!).

Living between 1902-1968, Steinbeck wrote stories about The Great Depression decade and migratory farmworkers. He spent much of his life in Monterey county, California, which was sometimes the setting of some of his fiction.

It may also interest Bang2writers that before Steinbeck ‘made it’ as a writer, he supported himself as a manual labourer himself while writing. He then went on to win The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962!

Bang2write on Insta

If you follow Bang2write on instagram (and if you don’t, WHY NOT?), then you have probably seen John Steinbeck’s top 6 writing tips doing the rounds. (If you haven’t, check it out at the bottom of this post).

Just like Elmore Leonard’s Top 10 Writing Rules, John Steinbeck’s tips go viral every time B2W draws attention to them. They’re also tips I have used personally again and again, not only in my own writing but in working with writers.

With this in mind then, I thought it was way overdue to spotlight them on the main site …  Without further ado, here’s B2W’s thoughts on Steinbeck’s tips, with some key takeaways. Enjoy!

1) You will never finish … until you do

‘Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.’

I love this one. Not only is it true that ‘all’ writing adds up, it is particularly useful to writers with day jobs, family commitments and other time constraints. Lots of Bang2writers stress about getting their writing done, but whether you have five hours or five minutes, ultimately it’s about self-belief and perseverance, as Steinbeck says.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Write whatever you can, when you can.

2) Just get it written!

‘Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.’

Bang2writers often confess to me they are perfectionists. NoNoNoNoNoNO! Perfectionism is the enemy of creatives. We can’t write a ‘perfect’ first draft, no matter how much we edit as we go along. There will always be opportunities missed and things that go wrong. So don’t sweat it … just get it written.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Ignore the desire to write a perfect first draft. It won’t happen.

3) Keep one special audience member in mind

‘Forget your generalised audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theatre, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person —a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.’

Steinbeck had a certain amount of leeway as a literary author in days gone by. In contrast, target audience is super-important in 2019 when audiences are increasingly media literate.

That said, Steinbeck’s idea of the ‘special audience member’ still holds water. Knowing WHO your story is for (rather than ‘just’ yourself) is a great start and will always help you focus.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Know WHO your story is for.

4) You don’t have to write in chronological order

‘If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.’

Sometimes we get stuck and this leads us to getting blocked. But what if you just didn’t get stuck? Sure, you might not be able to *write that particular bit* … so write the next bit you CAN.

(I also agree with Steinbeck here, too: very often the bits that cause us the most trouble are the ones we don’t need. More on this, next).

B2W TAKEAWAY: Stuck? Then skip to the next bit and go back, if necessary.

5) Kill your darlings

‘Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.’

Steinbeck is echoing the advice of countless other writers here. It might be one of the 10 Top Rules Writers Love To Hate, but ‘kill your darlings’ is the real deal. Whether we like it or not, we MUST get rid of the bits that don’t fit, even if they are great.

B2W TAKEAWAY: It’s gotta be done!

6) Speech needs to sound real

‘If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.’

I’m always saying on this blog that there’s too much dialogue in the spec pile … In addition, waaaaay too much of it sounds like crap!

So I love Steinbeck’s last tip here … It’s so simple. Also, I love how he writes ‘IF you are using dialogue’.

Lots of writers believe they ‘have’ to, especially in screenwriting. In reality, this is not true. As another uber-writer David Mamet points out, we can pretend we’re writing a silent movie. This means our characters have to ‘earn the right’ to speak.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Use all the tools at your disposal, including dialogue, WISELY and AUTHENTICALLY.

Good Luck!

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Writers Need Tropes

In the age of the internet, tropes get a bad rap. Tropes are often conflated with the word ‘cliché’. Whilst overused tropes can BECOME clichéd, all writing needs tropes.

A common example of trope is ‘the ticking clock.’ Thrillers may use this trope in the form of a deadline, the arrival of reinforcements, or something else the characters have to fight for. The timer puts extra pressure on the protagonists and ramps up the suspense in the story. (To see more examples of every trope ever written, you can check out the comprehensive site, TV Tropes).

So, when we talk about writing fiction of any kind, it is important to add tropes in your writing. Here are some excellent reasons why tropes are essential. Ready? Let’s go!

Why Tropes Are So Important

1) Boosts excitement

A major component of being a successful writer is understanding psychology. The most powerful and exciting areas of psychology deal with excitement. How can story writers boost excitement among people? The answer is simple; by using tropes.

Tropes are tools  that help the reader to create an image in his or her mind. It produces artistic effects on the reader’s sense of excitement. There were a lot of tropes on magical school before J.K. Rowling gave us Hogwarts. What she brought forward was recognisable but also her original take, which made the audience excited and enjoy it even more.

2) Creates Catharsis

Reading a good story is like living a new and different life. Readers spend a lot of money and time buying books, which sometimes end up in the TBR pile. Lots of movies and TV shows get added to the Netflix queue, yet are never watched. Noooo!

A writer often lingers over the pure physical size of a character in literary genres that prioritize violent conflict. This demonstrates not only their potential strength but also their willingness to use aggression. Just take a look at the Mountain in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, or Ursula from The Little Mermaid.

It’s also no accident literal violence and threat are prioritised in many stories. Whilst this unfortunately happens in many people’s real lives, these tropes also present opportunities for powerful catharsis. This is why crime fiction novels are so popular with some women who have unfortunately had to deal with it in real life.

3) Becomes Iconic

The minute you see a boy running around with a cape in the neighborhood, you instantly recognize that he is pretending to be a superhero. How did you recognise that trope? As The Incredibles told us, it’s really a bad idea to put a thick, sticking fabric around your neck and then get into a fight!

But the cape has been the iconic superhero costume since the start of Superman and Batman after the 1930s. A good trope becomes an icon, and readers relate it to their role models. This is all because of a good trope: an ordinary plot element, a theme, or a visual key that conveys something ‘beyond’ the story.

4) Conventional expectations

Why are tropes so widely used? Well, they help in distinguishing an recognizing all kinds of story. Romantic genre is founded on passion, ‘love at first sight’, ‘happily ever after’ and rivalry tropes. This familiarity are what readers and audiences sign up for. This eliminates the need for further clarification as readers already get it.

5) Appeals to inquisitiveness

In the end, all tropes narrow down to one point: will the reader or viewer read or watch until the end? Well, if you ask me if a trope is unique but relatable in its own way, then yes. A good trope plays a vital role in keeping the audience’s desire to complete the story and appeals to their natural inquisitiveness.

Grab Their Attention!

So when it comes to tropes, if you are writing your own novel or screenplay, remember to ensure the following points …

i) Uniqueness

Each writer tries to write a unique story. We also must understand that it is essential to avoid stereotyping.

But for the sake of familiarity, there are also ways of telling a story. Remember, ‘the same … but DIFFERENT.’ Readers want tropes, but they also want a new story, whether it is a fairytale retelling or the boy next door, or a classic mystery.

ii) Relatability

Another point to keep in mind while using tropes in story writing is by making sure it is relatable. Some tropes have been around a long time. A writer must relate his story to the current time frame and remember who the target audience is.

iii) Subvert

The audience loves it when their expectations are subverted. By controlling tropes in a genre, a writer decides whether his valuable work will live or die. That’s why selecting a trope for your genre is very important in story writing. But you must keep an eye out for the tropes that are overly used.

Concluding …

Remember, tropes are not automatically bad! Readers and audiences love tropes that subvert our expectations. Rhey only hate the ones that are overused and feel stale.

Tropes are being used time and time again because they talk to us profoundly and relate to our thoughts, feelings, fears, and dreams. Tropes also help create the conventions and style of the genres and stories we love.

Good Luck!

BIO: Stella Lincoln is a book lover and researcher of what makes excellent writing. She is currently working as a Scriptwriter and blogger at Academist Help. Stella inscribes passionately about writing, literature, and language. She loves to give feedback and share new ideas with other authors.

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Cyber Crime Clichés

So many of today’s writers want to work cyber crime technology into their stories. But they don’t know how,  so they resort to Hollywood hacker stereotypes. You know the ones …

  • Bad guy Hollywood hackers turned to a life of crime after society failed to recognise their unique talents
  • Good guy Hollywood hackers overcame that adversity and now work for a super-secret government agency, where they regularly save the world and wish they could find a girlfriend.
  • Good guy Hollywood hackers break the law for the greater good.
  • Bad guy Hollywood hackers usually do it for the money. (Unfortunately for bad guy Hollywood hackers, the evil crime boss usually murders them in the end because Hollywood hackers lack the social skills to figure out they’re being used).

The world needs better from us. Here are three big cyber clichés to avoid in your writing. Let’s go.

1) Don’t hack into the DMV database

Need information on somebody? Bring in a Hollywood hacker to hack into the Department of Motor Vehicles database and find out everything you need to know. It’s only a couple sentences and then get on with the real story. Even writers like Tom Clancy fall into this trap.

Glossing over how characters obtain information via cyber crime ruins the story. If anyone could just hire a hacker to penetrate any database they wanted at the drop of a hat, those databases wouldn’t exist.

Make it challenging. Launch a social engineering attack. Build a zero-day (that’s a software vulnerability) and find a way to deliver it to your victim organisation. Show some recon and planning, and set up and execute a realistic cyber crime attack. Your readers will thank you. MORE: 3 Tech Clichés That Will Kill Your Writing DEAD

2) Avoid dumb hacker scenes

Search for “dumbest hacking scenes,” and you’ll find plenty. There’s the famous one from NCIS where two people type on the same keyboard to stop an evil intruder … And Gibbs saves the day by turning off the computer monitor.

Nice to have adults in the room with common sense when the cyber crime specialists can’t see the obvious. Seriously, Gibbs turns off the monitor—and that stops the attack. Hello? Do I really need to explain the problem here?

A Note On ‘Duelling Keyboards’

We’ve all seen the dueling keyboards scene when it comes to cyber crime in movies and TV … The evil genius types away on his keyboard; the camera zooms in on the Enter key. He’s about to press it … But cut to the good guy on the other side of the planet.

He’s also typing furiously, sweat pouring off his forehead. And in the nick of time, he plugs the hole in the last-standing firewall and saves the world, one second before the bad guy presses the Enter key.

Multiple firewalls are common in Hollywood hacker scenes. But they’re nonsense in the real world. Aspiring cyber crime writers should do themselves a favour and find out what real firewalls do—and don’t! — do.

By the way, you don’t need to step outside the story to explain technology details. And don’t insult the audience’s intelligence by giving your characters gibberish sentences with technology words.

By the way …

Dueling keyboard scenes CAN work. I put one in Virus Bomb when Jerry Barkley makes contact with a potential adversary.

The movie, Clear and Present Danger, based on the Tom Clancy novel, did a nice one with Harrison Ford.

Keep technology details inside the story and—borrowing from author extraordinaire Jerry Jenkins—resist the urge to explain.

In one Virus Bomb scene, our protagonist tells a general manager her computer is not getting DHCP service. When she asks what that means, he says that’s how computers know where they are. All within the story—no need for the author to explain to the reader. She still gets that deer-in-the-headlights look. Which will resonate with millions of people around the world.

Show realistic reactions to realistic technology challenges. There’s gold in them thar cyber crime and technology scenes. Learn to mine them properly. MORE: 11 Expositional Clichés That Will Kill Your Writing DEAD

3) Don’t save the world by guessing the password

Guessing the password is a time-honored tradition, going all the way back to War Games in the 80s and probably earlier than that. It’s everywhere. And it’s lazy.

Here’s a hint. If saving the world depends on guessing a password, then goodbye world.

Is it any wonder the public thinks we’re all sitting ducks for cyberattacks? Use your creativity and do some homework.

In Bullseye Breach: Anatomy of an Electronic Break-In, an ad-hoc team fights back against attackers stealing millions of credit card numbers by poisoning the stolen data stream.

In Virus Bomb, Jerry Barkley wins with dogged determination and quick thinking. And some reverse social engineering.

Save the world with ingenuity, not by guessing a password. MORE: 5 Times It’s OKAY To Use Cliché In Your Writing 


Cyber crime writers, respect the profession

Today’s dearth of believable technology in books and movies feeds a public image of helpless organizations at the mercy of Hollywood hackers running rampant. We need to fix this problem.

The technology in our stories deserves the same high quality we expect from all other story elements. If you don’t know how a piece of technology works, find out and work it into your story. I know plenty of professionals who would be happy to help writers with this. I’m one of them. And I’m also a writer.

Good Luck!

Bio: Greg Scott is the author of Bullseye Breach: Anatomy of an Electronic Break-In and Virus Bomb. Both novels feature a middle-aged bald guy with no superpowers who finds a way to save the day without forcing readers to suspend disbelief. He spends lots of late nights in front of a computer screen researching ways to poison GPS signals, hijack trucks, build cell phone bombs, and blow stuff up. Some of his friends have suggested he might be on a government watchlist. If so, he encourages the dedicated professionals watching him to buy copies of his books for everyone in their departments before it’s too late. Find out lots more on his website.

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All About Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin has to be one of the most prolific and celebrated Hollywood screenwriters working today. Working in both television and movies, he’s been responsible for such classics as  A FEW GOOD MEN (‘You can’t handle the truth!’) and THE WEST WING (‘I don’t need a babysitter. Bitch, are you deaf?‘). He also won an Oscar for THE SOCIAL NETWORK for best adapted screenplay.

He’s also incredibly admired by Bang2writers … I have lost count of the number of times I have worked with writers who’ve said, ‘I want to write rapid-fire dialogue like Aaron Sorkin!’ With this in mind,I thought I’d round up some of his best quotes about the craft and process of writing … Let’s go!

1) ‘First scenes are super-important to me. I’ll spend months and months pacing and climbing the walls trying to come up with the first scene.’

Sorkin is bang on, here. HOW a story begins is so important. This is why B2W always goes on about writing great openers … This includes avoiding those same-old, same-old openers that make readers groan. Oh and avoid cliché wherever possible, but especially at the beginning!!

2) ‘Everything can be going well, but if I’m not writing, I’m not happy. When I’m writing well, I’m like a different person.’

I can relate so hard to this, doesn’t every writer? But it is a great reminder that however much writing is our vocation, if we’re pros, it’s also our JOB. We won’t enjoy every part, but we have to push on regardless.

3)  ‘I’m very physical. When I’m writing, I’m playing all the parts; I’m saying the lines out loud, and if I get excited about something – which doesn’t happen very often when I’m writing, but it’s the greatest feeling when it does – I’ll be out of the chair and walking around, and if I’m at home, I’ll find myself two blocks from my house.’

I find this interesting, because I am probably the opposite. I disappear ‘inside myself’. My kids have learned one of the best ways to get something they want is to ask me when I am writing … Because I am away with the fairies, the answer is always ‘yes’. Little sods!!

What do you do … Are you like Sorkin, or like me? Or do you something else?

4) ‘Heroes in drama are people who try hard to reach a virtuous ideal. And whether they succeed or fail really doesn’t matter – it’s the trying that counts.’

Sorkin really nails it here. We know most stories will end ‘happily’ (whatever that means) … it’s the journey that counts. One of my favourite questions for Bang2writers when they pitch their stories to me is, ‘What if they fail?’ Then we can understand the stakes.

5) ‘I consider plot a necessary intrusion on what I really want to do, which is write snappy dialogue.’

We can file this under ‘No shit, Sherlock‘ – this guy is best known for his dialogue! That said (arf), it is worth remembering Sorkin is NOT ONLY good at dialogue. He is good at ALL OF IT. This is something writers often miss when trying to emulate him.

6) ‘Television is a visual medium. You have to create some kind of visual interest. And it’s entertainment for your eyes.’

Following on from point 6, Sorkin nails it again. Yes, it’s true television may be more ‘talky’ than film, but screenwriting is still a visual medium. Many screenwriters simply write chains of dialogue in their spec scripts and this just won’t cut it. We have to write visually!

7) ‘The rules are all in a sixty-four-page pamphlet by Aristotle called ‘Poetics.’ It was written almost three thousand years ago, but I promise you, if something is wrong with what you’re writing, you’ve probably broken one of Aristotle’s rules.’

There are lots of different ways to look at ‘writing rules’ (aka best practices) now. As I’ve posted on here before, I just love visual representations of plotting and structure. It really demystifies things.

That said, like Aaron Sorkin I am a big fan of Aristotle’s Poetics too … if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I always recommend Bang2writers read it, since most of how we understand storytelling today is based on it. To download an ebook copy for just 80p, CLICK HERE.

8) ‘The properties of people and the properties of character have almost nothing to do with each other. They really don’t. I know it seems like they do because we look alike, but people don’t speak in dialogue. Their lives don’t unfold in a series of scenes that form a narrative arc.’

Often writers will tell me, ‘But this really happened’ or ‘My best mate / spouse / sibling / kids / co-workers are like this.’ That’s not the point. Fiction is a representation of real life, NOT real life. This is why we have to be careful when writing true stories.

To make our stories compelling, we have to be able to suspend our disbelief. Of course it’s fine to sacrifice facts for drama, but we have to balance that with what our target audiences can get on board with. No one said it was easy!

9) ‘I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white, and it says, ‘You may have fooled some of the people some of the time, but those days are over … I’m not your agent, and I’m not your mommy; I’m a white piece of paper. You wanna dance with me?’ and I really, really don’t.’

Yup. Anyone who follows Bang2write on social media knows I complain about how much I ‘hate’ writing. The reality is, it’s starting I hate most, so I’m with Sorkin again.

Once I’ve begun, I’m usually okay as I get into the swing of it … But I would just about rather do ANYTHING than start, even clean stinky cat litter trays.

10) ‘Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.’

I’ve seen lots of writers get very upset about this quote from Sorkin. They believe he is advocating plagiarism.  I don’t believe he is … I see it as him playing tribute to the greats and their extraordinary influence that transcends decades, generations and even centuries.

Consider a movie like THE LION KING, which is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet … Or a TV show like EMPIRE, which has its roots very clearly in Shakespeare’s King Lear. In fact, The Bard has been a foundation for countless fantastic works of writing and other things.

This is not ‘stealing’ so much as using previous works as a springboard for new ways of looking at the world. What’s not to like?

11) ‘You know, one of the things I like about this world, or at least I like about the way we’re presenting this world, is these issues are terribly complicated – not nearly as black and white as we’re led to believe.’

I agree here. The divisive nature of social media in particular means there’s a clamour of voices saying it’s one way OR the other … But this has never been my experience. The best stories reflect these shades of grey in my opinion.

12) ‘I had a lot of survival jobs. One was for the Witty Ditty singing-telegram company. I was in the red-and-white stripes with the straw boater hat and kazoo. Balloons. Even when you’re sleeping on a friend’s couch, you have to pay some kind of rent.’

I appreciate Sorkin sharing his personal story here. Lots of Bang2writers believe it’s somehow too late for them, because they’re over thirty, have day jobs, families and other commitments. But here is a powerful reminder from one of Hollywood’s most prolific writers that he started there too, doing menial jobs to survive.

13) ‘I do not speak through my characters; it’s not a ventriloquist act.’

In the age of Twitter (other platforms are available), frequently writers are considered to ‘be’ their work … ie. whatever subject they choose to write about, or characters they create. Whilst writers do sometimes make personal or political statements via their work, the assumption their self is automatically evident in their work has obvious problems.

For one thing, what if their work is ‘progressive’, but they are actually assholes in real life?? Also, what if they were only a writer-for-hire on that piece? Also, writing ‘bad’ characters is not by itself a malicious act … All stories need an antagonist of some kind! And so on.

14) ‘Writing never comes easy. The difference between Page 2 and Page Nothing is the difference between life and death.’

Sounds like Sorkin is admitting to suffering from Writer’s Block here. Whilst it’s very fashionable online to say there’s ‘no such thing’, I think it’s often just the label that is being rejected. I don’t believe there is a single writer alive who hasn’t had issues getting words on the page. I know I have!

Good Luck With Your Projects!

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Screenwriting Tips From Novelists

A surprising number of famous novelists have also worked as screenwriters.

It’s understandable that many writers would choose to express themselves in both ways. After all, the fundamentals are similar. Tell a story. Create engaging characters. Touch people emotionally. Although the formats may be different, screenwriting and novel writing have a lot in common.

Personally, I always find it fascinating to learn from creative people who practice more than one form of art. Often, insights from one area can be applied to another. Novelists can offer unique perspectives on screenwriting.

Today, I’d like to share four ideas from legendary writers who produced work for both the page and the screen. Their writing advice is useful for novelists and screenwriters alike.

1) Practice Dialogue Like Agatha Christie

When it comes to writers who are synonymous with a genre, Agatha Christie and mystery tales spring to mind.

Although she will always be BEST known for her memorable detective fiction, Christie has some invaluable advice to benefit screenwriters of any genre, based on her theatre work but also her long-lost radio and television plays.

One practice that Christie credited with improving the quality of her work was going for long walks and speaking dialogue out loud.

Why did she bother to do this, and why should you?

Simply put, there is nothing more distracting for a viewer than hearing dialogue that sounds unnatural. Often, rookie writers end up with characters that speak in unbelievable, stilted tones. This causes the viewer to take their focus away from the story, breaking the suspension of disbelief.

By speaking dialogue out loud, Christie was able to ensure it sounded believable – like something real people would actually say.

But why did she walk? Walking has been shown to boost our creativity and keep our ideas flowing. Exercise is essential for the creative mind to function at its best.

Next time you’re struggling to come up with convincing dialogue for your screenplay, why not take a stroll and talk out loud? If it was good enough for Agatha Christie, it’s good enough for us mere mortals!

2) Be ‘Creatively Lazy’ Like Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn is known for her thrilling novels depicting sociopathic people in extraordinary circumstances. Gone Girl is her most famous work. As well as producing the book version of Gone Girl, Flynn was taken on to write its adaptation screenplay.

So how can you draw upon the advice of Gillian Flynn to improve your own writing?

One concept Flynn has shared is the importance of creative downtime. She stated that many of her best ideas popped out of nowhere while she played video games!

Obviously, you need to avoid taking this advice too far. Endless video gaming isn’t a substitute for focused screenwriting practice!

However, don’t feel guilty about taking an occasional break. You might just have a screenwriting epiphany in the middle of it.

3) Focus On Art Like Brett Easton Ellis

Brett Easton Ellis is well-known for his controversial novels, with American Psycho being his most famous work.

While many people are familiar with his fiction, fewer are aware that Ellis has also turned his hand to screenwriting.

Ellis has been keen to point out that he isn’t in Hollywood to make money, even though he feels that’s the perception people have of him.

Instead, Ellis is keen to stress that he is there to tell stories that he sees as being suitable only for the screen, not the pages of a book.

So what lesson can you learn from this? Try and think about the aspects of your own work that make it suitable for the screen. Get excited about its artistic merits, not its moneymaking potential.

If your story seems like it would work equally well on the page or the stage, try again. To take Ellis’ advice to heart, you need to make sure your work and its intended medium are a perfect match for each other.

4) Follow Your Own Path Like Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton was one of those unique people who seemed to succeed at whatever he tried.

As well as studying at Harvard, and succeeding in the medical world, Crichton wrote beloved novels and legendary movies.

Crichton was able to capture the imagination of his audience like few other screenwriters. He also had the gift of making his outlandish ideas feel somehow scientifically possible – even if they weren’t.

So what piece of advice can we take from Michael Crichton and use to serve our own screenwriting dreams?

Crichton stated that throughout your life, people will tell you things. However, 95% of the time, those things will be wrong.

So how can we apply this?

At its heart, Crichton’s message is that we need to follow our own path. To chase our own dreams. To write in our own way.

Even if our screenplays fall flat, it’s better that they are truly our own. By failing, we learn and improve. By compromising our own ideas to please others, we end up serving no one at all.

Screenwriting Tips From Novelists – Final Thoughts

So which of these ideas will you put into practice in your own work?

Whether practical advice on helping your dialogue ring true, or motivational guidance to follow your own path, these four novelists turned screenwriters have something to help each and every one of us.

Do you know of any more useful advice from writers who have successfully crossed the literature and screenplay divide?

If so, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’m always on the look out for unique perspectives, and would love to hear any you know of!

Good Luck!

BIO: Chandler Bolt is the host of the Self Publishing School podcast & the author of 6 bestselling books including his most recent book titled “Published.”. He’s also the founder & CEO of Self-Publishing School, the #1 online resource for writing your first book.

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All About Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder’s considered one of the best screenwriters and filmmakers in film history. Working with other greats like Raymond Chandler during the golden era of Hollywood, Wilder co-wrote and directed such classics as Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, and Double Indemnity.

In short, Wilder’s the bee’s knees and screenwriting royalty! I re-posted his top 10 writing tips to the Bang2write instagram recently and it went WILD. Which one is your favourite and why? Let us know!

1) ‘The audience is fickle.’

Notice Wilder says ‘fickle’, NOT stupid. It’s very fashionable for writers to say audiences are clueless, but this has never been the case. Audiences are incredibly media literate, with a great intuitive understanding of how storytelling works.

However, ‘fickle’ means ‘changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties or affections‘. This is DEFINITELY true … Audiences have so much vying for their attentions, especially nowadays in 2019.

So, like Wilder says … how are you going to ensure they pick YOUR story?

2) ‘Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go.’

I see this as a variation of the old screenwriting adage, ‘hit the ground running’. (This doesn’t mean you have to start wham-bam in the middle of the action either. You can still do it using slow burn techniques).

3) ‘Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.’

Do you know what who your protagonist is, what s/he wants and why? Do you know who will stop him/her and why? That’s a ‘clean line of action’.

4) ‘Know where you’re going.’

It’s always easier if you are not blundering around in the dark, literally or metaphorically. This is why I always recommend outlines or treatments … I think of them as ‘story maps’. I even write them for novels.

5) ‘The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.’

Another hard agree with Wilder’s point here. It’s easy to clunk your audience over the head with obvious and predictable plotting signposts … MUCH more difficult to make it feel natural and inevitable. For more on plotting (and how it’s a symbiotic relationship with characterisation), CLICK HERE.

6) ‘If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.’

No lies, this tip changed my writing LIFE! Let it change yours too … More, here – How To Avoid Plotting Hell And Save Writing Hours.

7) ‘A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.’

Harking back to point 1 on this list, Wilder is reminding us again that AUDIENCES ARE NOT STUPID. I see writers constantly making this point in Facebook groups and they are shooting themselves in the foot. Audiences lovelovelove smart writing (even in the dumbest of concepts). Never, ever ever dumb it down or spoon-feed them.

As an aside, Ernst Lubitsch was a great writer and filmmaker in his own right. It’s only natural a great like Wilder would have looked up to someone like him. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Know who came before you and see what you can learn from them. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel!

8) ‘In doing voiceovers, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.’

I absolutely love voiceover and Wilder’s bang on here. The worst voiceovers are boring and not dramatic, because they’re straight-forward narration … The ultimate in TELL, NOT SHOW!

Not consider a masterly voiceover like June’s, contrasting her RAGE against the meek Offred’s in The Handmaid’s Tale. See the difference?

9) ‘The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.’

AKA plot point 2, pinch point 2, catalyst … Whatever you want to call it. Whatever it is, it should boot us straight into the main showdown. So learn more about structure and how to describe it … It will help you with this.

10) ‘The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then—that’s it. Don’t hang around.’

Yup, Wilder’s totally on point and he nails it again … Never have a story outstay its welcome.

Good Luck!

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All About Edits

Do you love edits, or loathe them? Since I am a script editor, luckily I love them! That said, I recognise it can be a daunting process for many writers. Often this is because they just don’t know where to start, or whether they’re doing it ‘right’.

I have worked with LOADS of writers now, both screenwriters and novelists. Here’s the top 5 mistakes I see writers make on edits all the time, plus what to do about them. Let’s go …

1) Starting Micro (Instead Of Macro)

Too many writers sweat the small stuff on their edits process. They will ‘focus in’ on teeny-tiny moments or stuff like proofing from the very beginning. This means they get lost and bogged down, since they literally can’t see the wood for the trees! Eeek!

So, instead of ‘starting micro’ like this, go MACRO with your edits … Look at the bigger picture, ie. the story as a whole. Beginning holistically (and bringing it in small, piece by piece) means you are much less likely to make epic editing mistakes. MORE: 12 Writers Share Their Rewriting Secrets

2) Saving Darlings

Every writer has heard the editing advice, ‘kill your darlings’. But the sad fact is, too many writers get hung up on stuff they love. This means they end up wanting to keep extraneous moments, characters, scenes, chapters, even whole drafts! This can literally screw up their chances of writing a great script or novel, or even getting it picked up. Supersadface.

There’s no other edits tip here than GET REAL. You must be tough with yourself and accept necessary cuts will have to be made. Yes, it stings. But the good news is, no writing is ever wasted. If this *thing* you love is so great, you can stick it in another story. Boom.

3) Throwing Baby Out With The Bathwater

This is when writers are adept at ‘killing darlings’ … but they become SERIAL KILLERS with it! This is especially true of screenwriters, who might become so used to page 1 rewrites they believe they ‘have’ to go at every draft with a chainsaw. However, it can happen with novelists too.

Writers need to understand what’s GOOD about their drafts, as well as ‘bad’ … They also need to understand how to use feedback effectively on their edits.

Understanding and utilising feedback is a skill in itself, which is why I always recommend writers learn it. It can literally help you with writing and editing! Otherwise you are freaking out in the dark, chopping stuff out with all the skill of a lumberjack on drugs. Nothangyew. MORE: 5 Ways To Use Feedback Effectively

4) Knee-Jerking

Closely linked to number 3 on the list, this mistake can cost writers dear on their edits. What usually happens is they send their work out to beta readers, peer reviewers and script consultants … They get feedback … And then they FREAK OUT!

This then leads to what I call ‘knee-jerking’ as they struggle to rewrite, according to every single piece of feedback they get. But this is a huuuuuuuge issue, since the feedback may  …

  • … Be contradictory (so which one is the ‘right one’?)
  • … Hijack the writer’s vision (some feedback-givers may want a story to be written ‘their’ way)
  • … Be unsuitable (some feedback is good, but just isn’t right for the project)
  • … Miss the point (sometimes you are both talented, just not on the same page)
  • … Be bad (some feedback-givers are just shit at giving feedback, INCLUDING pro writers!)

Never, ever knee-jerk with your edits. Instead, let the feedback ‘settle’ in your brain as you sift through it. It’s the only way to find the good stuff.

Yes, this includes when you are writing FOR a deadline, producer or publisher. No industry pro worth their salt insists a writer comes up with a viable solution for edits RIGHT THAT SECOND. If they do, they are unreasonable and amateur … Walk away!!!

5) No ‘To Do’ List

This one links back to point 1 on this list. Writers get scared or daunted by edits because they’re not really sure what they entail. With this in mind then, I advocate the use of TO DO lists, with my ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ idea in mind.


  • Structure/ plotting >> ie. plotting archetypes; structural approach; non-linearity and timelines; ‘drawing the story’; individual scenes and how they relate to set up/ pay off; cause/effect etc
  • Characterisation >> ie. archetypes;  character motivations; dynamics, role functions and relationships between the characters; their individual worldviews/heritage
  • Storyworld >> how does it inform the story and the characters within it? Why? 
  • Dialogue >> Does every character have their own way of speaking? If you took their name away, could someone tell who this? 
  • Genre/Style >> Are the specific conventions or expectations you MUST meet for your target audience? How about tropes etc you should AVOID, because they are stale, overused or even offensive? 


  • Continuity
  • Format (screenplays only)
  • Punctuation / Grammar
  • Proofing

Now, the above is not an exhaustive list, but should get you started. Good luck!

Happy Editing!

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What’s The Point

If you’ve seen JOKER (or even if you haven’t), you will be aware of the trillion articles, thinkpieces, tweets, statuses etc arguing about its point. I don’t think it’s unfair to say the reaction of the storytelling blogosphere and social media has been profoundly negative … Yet at the same time the movie has also reached dizzying heights of critical acclaim, also generating $290m in its first week. So what gives?

Myself, I’ve never been a fan of the Joker as a character. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the poster boy for the stigmatising ‘psycho-killer’ trope in storytelling and no amount of green hair makes up for that. I’m also very bored with the ‘white guy goes nuts and kills everyone’ story.

So to say I was ambivalent about the movie’s opening is an understatement. In fact, I was actively against it. I’ve suffered mental illness all my life, specifically psychosis and I am sick to death of people thinking I am a psychopath because of shit like The Joker.

Did we really need yet another movie about this character? What could it really give to cinema? In short, what is the frigging point??? Well, let’s take a look.

Character Versus Plot

I’ve seen many filmmaking friends claim there is ‘no plot’ to JOKER. They are right. There is no counteracting hero’s journey to the movie as we might expect. Instead the movie is a character study, focusing on the interior world of Arthur Fleck, who becomes Joker. That is his arc. Full stop.

Modern audiences don’t really know what character study is in 2019. We have been plot-heavy for so long. That is why it feels fresh. Only people who know cinema history well recognise character study for what it is. The first half of the movie is not even episodic, but a series of vignettes. Those vignettes depict a man both isolated and abandoned by society, rejected and continuously treated like crap by (he assumes) everyone around him.

So those who say JOKER is ‘just’ a rip-off of stuff like Taxi Driver are absolutely right. In the first half, I found Joker very slow and overwrought generally, especially as it had to be very on-the-nose thematically. What you lose in plotting cause/effect means you have to make subtext more obvious so the point of the story can land.

Nevertheless, contrary to various claims, JOKER is no ‘clapback’ to BATMAN, telling us Joker is a ‘good guy really’. Instead, the movie does invites us to empathise with his plight by reminding us Fleck is a product of his environment. The movie is also careful to remind us his vision of his plight is wrong. More on this, next.

Entitlement Versus Connection

In being rejected, Fleck also rejects others. He does not see any kindness in anyone. Fleck is constantly on the defensive with anyone in authority, placing a line in the sand between them. He is a martyr to his mother, facilitating her own delusions. He has no real connection with other people.

Fleck is also massively entitled.  He assumes he can have whatever he wants  … A comedy career; his medical records; his neighbour Sophie’s love. When he doesn’t get these things, the problem is that other person’s, never his own. He might as well have ‘woe is me’ tattooed on his forehead.

Yet the movie also makes the great point that there’s a vicious circle at work here. In rejecting guys like Fleck, society creates guys like Fleck — but it’s also not that simple. ‘The love of a good woman’ does not cure or prevent mental illness, psychopathy, or mass murder. Even if it did, since when is it Sophie’s job to take one for the team? She and her daughter are ‘collateral damage’ to society, like so many women and children.

Some commentators didn’t like that we don’t see them die, saying this means we ‘don’t care’ about their deaths. I disagree. Certain men have killed women for NOT going out with them in real life, even writing manifestos about it. I think the lack of bloodshed here in JOKER is ultimately respectful of this and makes a more powerful point.

Product of environment?

What’s more, the baked-on misogyny of society is visible in so many scenes of JOKER. It tells us how men like Fleck believe they are entitled to women’s bodies and attention. From the billboards that read stuff like ACE IN THE HOLE, juxtaposed over a faceless woman’s butt … Through to the ‘nice young men’ on the subway throwing french fries ‘He’s being nice to you!’ … To the jokes at the comedy club (“Women see sex like cars … Has it got a good body? Will it kill me?” /Men see sex like parking … ‘Oh, there’s a spot'”). 

Racism and ableism also orbit JOKER’s world. Nearly every person with any kind of authority over Fleck is black or disabled, further enforcing his self-pity. He largely sees them as disinterested drones and jobsworths, even when they try and empathise with him. It cannot be an accident his boss Gary is a little person, or that Fleck literally pats him on the head after *that* scene. Gary might be in charge, but Fleck never takes him seriously. He is the one person Fleck is ‘bigger’ than.

The rage Fleck feels is in part to him feeling reduced from ‘his rightful’ place. He believes Thomas Wayne is his father … Because, obviously. Fleck is the prodigal son, a prince and heir, just waiting to be discovered. Being seen to be what he rightfully should be is everything to him. It is an inescapable truth that men like Fleck feel hard done by and JOKER nails this.

Mental Illness Vs. Psychopathy

Fleck’s poignant journal entry, ‘The bad thing about having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t’ is totally on point too. Anyone who has ever struggled with their mental health can recognise and relate to this, 100%. The fact is, society SAYS it is sympathetic … but this sympathy (if it even exists), only stretches so far. Life-saving services are cut and people drop friends and relatives rather than deal with them.

But here’s another point worth consideration: is Fleck even mentally ill? That is arguably up to interpretation, too. After all, JOKER becomes more coherent, the more he descends into supposed ‘madness’. At the beginning of the movie, Fleck’s incredulous social worker tells him he is on ‘seven types of medication … that must be doing something?’  But of course, if Fleck is not really mentally ill, then it wouldn’t.

Let’s not forget either how Fleck weaponises his laugh. He starts the movie saying it’s something he can’t help. This is called into question on whether this is even real throughout the movie. There’s another striking moment with Gary, when Fleck’s asshole work colleague Randall makes a cruel joke about mini-golf. Fleck laughs with Randall as he leaves the room; we assume because he can’t help it … Yet as soon as he is out of sight, Fleck switches off his laughter like a light.

Could Fleck be playing the system to his own advantage? Psychopaths sometimes do this, for attention-seeking reasons, or to get out of other trouble. The movie never answers this. Given that psychopathy is incredibly hard to diagnose (never mind treat), this story point is very authentic.

Good Versus Evil

No doubt about it, the movie JOKER is morally ambiguous. It holds a light up to society and tells us nothing happens in a vacuum. We all know deep down that people don’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘Hey, I am going to be evil’.  But it’s more palatable to believe this is the case.

The Joker is not just a villain; he is not even an antihero. He is a bad guy. We have known he is a bad guy since his very first appearance on April 25th, 1940. Nearly eighty years of supervillainy. Wow. Yet at the same time, modern audiences don’t want comic book villains anymore … even when they originate in comic books.

Audiences both adore AND hate villains where we can SEE how they became villains. It goes against our ethics but it also means we can’t look away. Taxi Driver, Fight Club, Joker … Same debates, same controversies, years apart. This is why the movie has created such a furore. We know what he is, but we want his story anyway.

I’d venture 2019 is the time for a character study on what ‘makes’ a bad guy. The ground has been prepping for this moment for years. Recently, we all loved Erik Kilmonger in Black Panther … He is a complicated and nuanced villain. He is ultimately a psychopath too, the epitome of a bad guy. That said, he is right, he was abandoned by Wakanda. Everything Killmonger is was forged in fire by that initial rejection.

Some commentators might say Killmonger is different. They’re right. Killmonger was cast very obviously in the role of the antagonist in Black Panther, as we currently know it. His plight, though understandable, is clearly wrong every step of the way when contrast against T’Challa’s hero’s journey.

But what if you took T’Challa out of the equation? What if we saw the little boy Erik, alone in the United States, his father murdered? A boy abandoned by his homeland and his family. A boy cast into the military and then mercenary work … Where he learns to be a killer, isolated and lost, swearing bloody revenge on Wakanda?

Then we would have the JOKER-style re-telling of Killmonger’s origins. Story is a matter of perspective, after all. I predict that one day (not far off), we probably will see this re-telling … Especially if Joaquin Phoenix wins an Oscar. Marvel is obviously going to want a piece of that action.

The Point Is, There Is None

When society is sick, the mad are sane. Nothing can be done about guys like Fleck. Or that’s what ‘they’ would have us believe. Who ‘they’ are, is also up to interpretation. JOKER says the masses are a bunch of clowns and they are coming to get us. In a post-Trump/Brexit/Gilead-style world, this could well prove true.

My key takeaway From JOKER, then? ‘Society Breeds Entitled White Assholes Like Arthur Fleck’. Yup, based on my experience as both a woman and someone with mental illness, that tracks. I have had the misfortune to meet too many men just like Fleck. Very few of them have been crazy.

That’s why a movie like JOKER is absolutely terrifying … Because what is society going to do about it? Apparently, absolutely nothing.

Read More

3 Powerful Writing Tips From JOKER

What Marvel Can Teach Us About Writing Powerful Villains

BLACK PANTHER’S Innovative, Revolutionary Lessons For ALL Writers

How To Plot Like A Goddess: All About Plotting Archetypes 

31 Joker Facts That Make The Movie Even More Interesting

Why JOKER Shouldn’t Have Relied On Mental Illness

What JOKER Gets Wrong About Mental Illness

JOKER Presents Nuanced Character Study Of Social Isolation & Mental Illness

You’re Not Being Sensitive. JOKER Is Gaslighting You

What did JOKER’S Ending mean? We Look At The Best Theories

JOKER Left Me In Need Of A Lie-Down. Is LION KING More My Style?

This Is The Wrong Time For JOKER

In JOKER, Black Women Are Visible But They Are Not Seen

JOKER Would Have Been A Whole Other Story Were The Central Character Not White

JOKER Is Not Toxic And How Those Concerns Are Wrong

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Formatting Errors

If you’ve written a great screenplay, you don’t want to ruin its chances of success by getting something simple like the formatting wrong. By formatting it properly, you’re making sure the reader won’t be distracted or disengaged.

Screenplay software makes the job much easier, but there’s still a few major formatting things you have to look out for on your own. Here are the top formatting mistakes to avoid at all costs.

1) Too Much ‘Black On The Page’ … Or Too Little!

It’s normal that people would rather read text that has plenty of ‘white space’. It’s less clunky. If you’re faced with a block of text, you might not be as inclined to read it either. Try and break up big blocks of black and make sure you keep description tight.

On the other hand, you don’t want to remove too much detail, either! Too many writers concentrate too much on dialogue and forget all about visuals. It’s all about finding the balance between the two!

2) Too much onomatopoeia

You can certainly put in a few instances of onomatopoeia in your script, why not? If there’s a place for a good ‘BANG’, ‘BOOM’, ‘CRASH’ or ‘CLANG’ then knock yourself out. But if you start putting in a lot of sound effects all over the place, it seems like unprofessional and weak writing. (Also, avoid too many capital letters in general).

3) Using “CONT’D” or “continued” too much

A classic formatting error. It’s unnecessary to put “continued” at the top or bottom of each page. It’s obvious that the script will continue on following pages! It also interrupts the reader’s flow and adds to your page count unnecessarily.

If your script has this, remove them right away. (If you’re using a formatting software like Final Draft, you’ll have to turn this feature off because it occurs by default).

MORE: The B2W Format ‘One Stop Shop’ – A Full Rundown Of Every Formatting Error Bang2write sees regularly, plus what to do about them.

4) Using the wrong format for fonts and margins

It’s important that you adhere to the proper spec screenplay format, specifically with your margins, font, and indentation. Your margins should be around 1” on all sides (1.5” on the left is acceptable, but less common). Your font must be Courier and size 12. You can download a one page PDF formatting reference guide for all of this HERE.

If you’re using screenplay software, they take care of all your formatting for you, so you don’t have to worry about it. (However, if it’s important to you to change the margins or font or other settings in any way to help with your writing, you have to remember to change it all back to the default before you submit your script!).

 5) Explaining to the reader how to read your script

Script readers read all day. If you need to write a note to the reader explaining what vibe you’re going for, or explaining what your script will be about, you’re making a big mistake. If a reader needs a note to understand the script, you shouldn’t be screenwriting.

Of all the tips in this list, this one is perhaps the one which screams ‘amateur’ the loudest. Your script should not include a cast of characters, cutesy asides, or music cues. Your story should stand on its own.


6) Directing ‘From The Page’

This one is closely linked to point 5. A screenwriter’s job is to tell the story, NOT direct the end film. Leave the mechanics of filmmaking like camera angles out of your spec screenplay. The director will decide how it should translate to the screen if – when! – the time comes.

The same goes for directing actors, by the way. You shouldn’t indicate how the character is saying the line. Parentheticals should only be used if a specific line really needs it to be understood, such as when the meaning is ambiguous.

If not, you have to let the reader decide how the person is delivering the line, by using the script’s context. Your writing should make it clear how the character is delivering the line.

Good Luck!  

BIO: Ashley Halsey, a professional writer at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, is involved in many script and film projects across the country. She enjoys translating books into screenplays for films and traveling to get inspiration for her next projects. In her spare time, she tutors for Research Papers UK.

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