On Writing, Stephen King Style

School’s out for the Summer! But does that mean we throw away the rule book in favour of creative freedom? After all, we’re writers, aren’t we? Who better to consult than Stephen King.

This prolific author has a reputation for being one of the hardest working and most successful writers in modern history. King has dedicated his life’s work to the craft. Although he admits he doesn’t always follow his own rules, I think  King’s tips are a pretty good place to start for all writers, new or veteran.

Here’s what the master has to say … Enjoy!

1) Remember you are the initial audience, then think about your extended audience

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.” MORE: Elmore Leonard’s Top 10 Writing Rules 

2) Resist the urge, to adverb!

“While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.”

3) Be as bold as the characters that inspire you

“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”

4) Set strict deadlines

“The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.” MORE: How To Set Meaningful Goals And Stick To Them

5) Read, read and read some more!

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

6) Keep it simple

“A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—’One word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord Of The Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

7) Focus, focus, focus

“There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.”

8) Be original

‘One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what the writer is doing may seem.’

9) Remember the basics

“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

10) Write for the love of writing

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.” MORE: Top 10 Rules Writers Love To Hate

What Writers Can Learn

Procrastination is a natural and infuriatingly frequent occurrence for writers. King stresses the importance of setting yourself tight deadlines and most importantly, actually meeting them! He has become a master of the craft with many hours committed to studying and perfecting his talent. Start with small goals and build up, as King says. If you write one word at a time, you won’t be overwhelmed. The feeling of satisfaction will spur you on to reach your writing targets.

If the master of writing like King can acknowledge he doesn’t know everything there is to learn, we can swallow our pride and join him in educating ourselves.

So are you a stickler for the rules or a firm believer in following your own creative flow? Maybe you have some rules of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Good Luck!

BIO: Alice Hayden is a scriptwriting student at Bournemouth University, focusing on writing for Film and Television. She is looking forward to seeing two of her scripts made in to animated promotional adverts for charities, and is currently working on a new TV drama and novel. Follow her on insta as @alice_hayden.

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Networking Mistakes

You’ve been counting down for months, excited about the upcoming event you’re going to.  The plan is to network with agents, publishers and fellow writers.  In your head you’re fabulous at networking … Or are you??

In order to survive a networking event without disastrous consequences avoid making the following mistakes as though your life depends on it.  First impressions last a lifetime! Here’s what NOT to do when networking, plus what you should do instead.

1) You Ignore Others

You’ve arrived. You’re milling through the crowds of people and spot someone your desperate to talk to.   However, they are already in the middle of a conversation with a few others.  Do not go in guns blazing and start talking.  Approach the group, smile to all that are there and listen to what’s being said. Be interested.  When the opportune moment arrives, introduce yourself.  Don’t keep thinking about what you want to say either, you may just miss a valuable piece of advice. MORE: 15 Questions To Help You Network Like A Professional

2) You Don’t Gather Intelligence

So, you are engaged in the conversation that’s going on now … Be part of that conversation.  Ask questions to those that are speaking.  S/he could be an author talking about a book release … Or s/he may be an agent talking about a new client who’s up and coming. You may be talking to a publisher who thinks they’ve got the next Da Vinci Code on their hands. Asking questions is how we learn and develop our craft and networking skills.  Everyone has different strengths and experiences, learn from this and it could just help you on your way.

3) Your Ego Hits The Roof

You’re working your way through the room and you’re speaking to everyone that you come to.  Don’t be full of yourself, leave the ego at home. You may think you have the next novel to make the Sunday Times Bestseller list.  However, telling everyone that and being full of your own self-importance is not a trait that people find endearing.  There’s nothing wrong with being confident in how you approach people. Be passionate about your work, just do it in a more subtle way. MORE: THIS Is How You Create Your Writing Career

4) You Get Plastered

Networking events can go on for just a day or a long weekend.  Do not show people your best impression of Liam Gallagher from the Oasis days in the 90’s.  People don’t want to hear swearing every other word.  Nor do they want to be stumbled into whilst they are engaged talking to someone else.

Know your limits and stick to them.  It’s very embarrassing to make a fool of yourself at an event.  Remember you could be sitting opposite them at breakfast the following morning!

5) You Bad Mouth Others

You see an author whose books you don’t enjoy … Or an agent you feel should have paid more attention to you … Or a publisher who you can’t believe didn’t pick up your book.  You tell anyone who’ll listen how you’ve been served a serious injustice. How very dare they!

Stop right there. You never know who you may be talking to. The people you are slagging off might be friends of those that you are talking to. This a bad quality by most people’s standards and will do you no favours when you’re plugging your new book.

If you’ve got nothing nice to say? Say nothing at all! As the saying goes, ‘silence is golden’. This is a networking event and you want people to remember you for the RIGHT reasons.


Follow these guidelines and you’ll make it through the other side of your networking event. Be polite, be kind.  Send them a message saying how nice it was to meet them and look forward to seeing them at future events.  You will bump into lots of these people again, so make sure the impression you leave is a fabulous one. MORE: 5 Quick Tips To Network Effectively 

Good Luck!

BIO: Claire Miles is an avid reader and writer working on her first crime novel. She lives in Devon with her husband and two sons. Follow Claire on instagram at @clairemiles7322

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All About Kirsten Smith

Kirsten Smith and her co-writer Karen McCullah are trailblazers in the Rom-Com genre. They are the screenwriting duo behind classic teen movies Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You, to name just a few.

But just what is the secret behind their success? What are the rules, tips or best practices they swear by?Smith in particular has been open with her advice for screenwriters. Here’s what she has to share … Enjoy!

1) Conflict is key

“Conflict, conflict, conflict between characters. Although we try to avoid it in life, it’s essential to embrace it in screenplays.”

2) Find The Purpose

“Make sure every scene contains a plot point.”

MORE: How To Write The Perfect Scene 

3) Build anticipation

“Don’t let characters fall in love (or like) too quickly. Sparring makes for good chemistry.”

4) Ask away

“Let your characters ask questions.”

5) DO outline

“Don’t be afraid to extensively outline. Get examples of outlines where you can. Outline your favourite movies and favourite screenplays to teach yourself about structure.”

MORE: How To Write Outlines, Beat Sheets And Treatments 

6) Reign in dialogue

“Don’t indulge yourself with long back and forth statements.”

7) Study your craft

“Read tons and tons of screenplays.”

8) Concise dialogue

“Don’t have multiple monologues throughout the script.”

9) It’s NO big deal

“Embrace rejection and realise that “no’s” are no big deal.”

10) Do LOTS of research

“Be familiar with your form. Watch lots of movies. Read Deadline.”

MORE: 3 Reasons Why LEGALLY BLONDE Is Like, The Best Characterisation, EVER

What Writers Can Learn

Taking Smith’s advice on board, it is clear she values planning and that when she’s writing, she considers every line must have a purpose. If it doesn’t? Cut it out. Particularly when writing for comedy, it is important to hit those lines and hold the audience’s attention.

Any tips to add? Hit us with your best writing advice below!

Good Luck!

BIO: Alice Hayden is a scriptwriting student at Bournemouth University, focusing on writing for Film and Television. She is looking forward to seeing two of her scripts made in to animated promotional adverts for charities, and is currently working on a new TV drama and novel. Follow her on insta as @alice_hayden.

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Loads of you Bang2writers are writing Horror, all year round. So when BAFTA-nommed Stephen Volk suggested a post on this subject, I jumped at the chance. Don’t forget to check out his book, too. Enjoy!

1) Get Your Brain Out of the Way

Thinking doesn’t create monsters. Your unconscious does. Don’t think about recent movie hits. Don’t think of old movie legends. In fact, don’t think of anything. Cultivate a dream-time, a coffee-scape. Think of the worst that can happen. Don’t self-censor before you even dream. Go there and return with ideasAnd trust them.

2) It’s All About Point of View

As I say in my book Coffinmaker’s Blues it’s not about the creature, ghost or alien … It’s about who is seeing it, and why? That’s the key to their inner life and why the hell we should care. POV in the story … In a sequence … Or in a scene.

3) Junk the Jump Scares

The stab of music, the shock reaction, the zombie make-up in the mirror – fuck that shit! It’s dead easy – and dead boring! It gives no depth to your story and doesn’t even make it more frightening a lot of the time. Think of what is going to give your audience nightmares for the rest of their lives, not just spill their popcorn.

4) If You Can’t Explain It – GOOD!

The worst thing for horror is a producer who’s a Logic Nazi. No legendary horror ever got where it is from being bombarded by logic notes. Stand up for what you know makes you shiver and shit your pants. If the producer disagrees, or points to the latest James Wan hit, you’ve got the wrong producer.

5) Push It Till It Squeals Like A Piggie

David Bowie said the best creative work is done when you’re juuuuuust out of your depth. On tippy-toes in the swimming pool, scared of going under. Always aim for this, especially in horror. It’s on the very edge or risking failure that the magic happens, not by playing safe. MORE: What Is the Difference Between Horror And Thriller? 

6) Make it Real

Any idiot can write a ghost train ride about a possessed armchair or a demon in a cellar, lit in blue light and licked to death in the grading. And every idiot is.The more plausible and naturalistic you can make your situation and characters, the more your script will stand out from the crud.

7) Ditch the CAPITALS!!!!

Take the throttle off your writing – calm down and stop SHOUTING at me! No CAPS. No screamers!!! Write horror prose that creep up and taps my shoulder, and even kisses the back of my neck.

8) Seen it, Done it . . . NEXT!

Ditto special effects. You know … The crawling across the ceiling, the scabby-face demon make up first seen in The Evil Dead– yawnsville!!

If you want to be the best of the best in this genre ditch anything you’ve seen before in another movie. Tough, I know. But you’ll be surprised what you come up with if you mine and trawl your own personal terrors. It’s the one thing that’s utterly unique to you – use it!

9) Don’t Play With Your Food

If you’re not a born horror writer, and don’t love the genre with every fibre of your being, don’t worry. But fuck off. How dare you screw around trying to write this shit, because we’ll find you out in a heartbeat!! If your passion is romantic comedy, write romantic comedy. Don’t rain on our parade because … what? You think it’s fashionable? You think it’s lucrative, right now? And easy? There’s the fucking door. Don’t slam it on your way out.

10) Remember: You Are Horror

It’s there in your own life, your own experiences and those of the people you know. If you don’t see it, and can’t find it, you’re not a horror writer. Alfred Hitchcock was once asked what scared him. He said “Everything.” I don’t know a horror writer that wouldn’t answer the same way. Join our clan. We’ll welcome you with open arms. Like clowns in a dark, dark forest . . .

BIO: BAFTA-winning screenwriter STEPHEN VOLK has worked in the horror and affiliated genres for over 30 years. His credits include Ghostwatch, Afterlife and Midwinter of the Spirit as well as feature films including Gothic and The Awakening. His latest book is COFFINMAKER’S BLUES– “A masterclass for writers and screenwriters” and “An educational joy to read.”

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All About Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele is one of the hottest writers in Hollywood today following the meteoric success of Get Out and Us. Starting out in comedy and now mastering horror, Peele has an original, distinctive style. But just how does he do it? Check out his tips here. Enjoy!

1) Write For Yourself

“First off, write your favourite movie that you haven’t seen. Don’t worry about whether it is going to get made. Write something for yourself. After you have that draft, then worry about what you need to do to sell it.”

2)   Learn from the classics

“It’s a great way to learn how to reinvent modern ideas. Stylistically, Get Out is a throwback to the ’60s, one of my favourite times for film. They really knew how to wind tension tighter and tighter.” MORE: 8 Steps To Analyse A Successful Story

3)   Be true to yourself

“I think the only way to, the only way I will ever attempt to create anything again is to be vulnerable with my own emotions. In some way it has to be autobiographical. If you’re telling a story and you’re not bearing part of your soul or telling your truth, I think that you’re not doing it right.”

4)   Make it universal

“Every great horror movie comes from a true fear, and ideally it’s a universal fear. The tricky nature of Get Out is that the fear I’m pulling from is very human, but it’s not necessarily a universal experience, so that’s why the first third of the movie is showing, and not in an over-the-top way, in a sort of real, grounded way, just getting everybody to be able to see the world through my protagonist’s eyes and his fears.”

5)   Subvert audience expectations

“If you can predict what and where an audience is going to go, or what they think you’re going to do, you can use that momentum against them. If an audience thinks they know what’s going on and whether they like it or they don’t if you can show them that they’ve been watching something completely different the entire time, I think they have a respect. And there’s a real intellectual catharsis that comes with that and it’s fulfilling for an audience.” MORE: Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Low Budget Horror

6)   Pacing is so important

“The similarity between comedy and horror is the importance of pacing. In both genres, you have to build tension and release it very strategically.”

7)   Search for the meaning

“It starts with images and moments that I know are bubbling to the surface, just cinematic instincts. The reason it takes a long time is you have to weave together and find meaning in the images your subconscious is presenting.”

8)    Keep it real

“I’ve noticed that the truth works… If you’re being yourself and you’re just using your own emotions, they can feel it. If you’re doing fake, they can feel it. It took me a while in comedy to realise that your truth is more powerful than your mask.”

9)   Use story as a greater tool

“We can discuss race all day long. But if you see a movie that successfully puts yourself in the shoes of somebody different than yourself, you see the world differently. So I think the power of story is greater than the power of conversation in a way.”

10) Find the fun!

“My advice for dealing with writer’s block: Follow the fun. If I’m not having fun, I’m doing it wrong.” MORE: How To Write Bloodcurdling Horror 

What Writers Can Learn

It has been reported that Peele quit writing Get Out over twenty times. Then he remembered why he started writing in the first place, finished the film AND has an Oscar to show for it.

So perhaps the golden rule of writing is as we always suspected … KEEP WRITING!

BIO: Alice Hayden is a scriptwriting student at Bournemouth University, focusing on writing for Film and Television. She is looking forward to seeing two of her scripts made in to animated promotional adverts for charities, and is currently working on a new TV drama and novel. Follow her on insta as @alice_hayden.

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All About John August

I had the pleasure of talking with ALADDIN, BIG FISH, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and CHARLIE’S ANGELS screenwriter John August recently.

John is not only an amazing and successful screenwriter, he is also generous in terms of the knowledge that he gives away. His in-depth podcast Scriptnotes (hosted with CHERNOBYL writer Craig Mazin) has more than 400 episodes and his blog (which can be found at www.JohnAugust.com) has more than 1500 posts.

Because he has already given away so much instruction in screenwriting, it was hard to find things to ask him that he hasn’t already answered a thousand times.

So instead of talking about the biz per se, we talked about his writing and his personal approach to the craft. I was thrilled to learn that despite his impressive CV, he’s a lot like the rest of us and his core advice is simple and actionable.

Famous screenwriters, they’re just like the rest of us … Who knew??

Here are three top insights from my chat with John. Enjoy!

1) Stop asking for permission

As a development executive and working screenwriter myself, I am always thinking about whether or not my ideas will sell. I get caught in the loop of wondering if something is marketable enough. This means I forget to just get on with creating a good story.

John echoed this when I asked him what questions he would like screenwriters to stop asking: “All the questions that start with some variation of “can I” or “am I allowed to” … That sense of needing permission.

Now, of course there are basics like proper formatting, grammar, and structure that should be addressed and mastered. But in terms of making a gripping story, John says not to worry about that too much.

“People want to read good material that is unique and specific to that writer and that experience.”

2) Start writing and make yourself accountable

That idea of getting past early fears remained a theme of our conversation. I figured that a master craftsman like John would either have no challenges writing … Or that perhaps his challenge would be  “I’m at too many red carpet events, so it’s hard to find the time.”

But no, John’s biggest hurdle was something most of us can probably relate to.

“I think the greatest barrier I’ve always faced as a writer is just starting,” he said. “Like all of us, I can just procrastinate and find some excuse for not actually getting started.”

It was great to see someone so accomplished was so aware of what trips him up. It was also great to see that he had invented solutions to get him past this hurdle.

“A thing  I’ve taken to heart much more is announcing that I’m starting a writing sprint. Basically, that I’m committing to one hour of solid writing and I’ll announce it on Twitter. [It’s about] making yourself accountable to the world in some degree.”

3) Finish the dang draft!

When John was starting out, he wrote most of his early drafts by hand. He now writes mostly digitally, but misses what manual writing did for his process.

“What I liked about writing by hand is that it keeps me from going back and editing,” he said. “It’s so easy to get trapped in ‘I’m going to keep polishing and polishing this scene.’ But you still have 99 other scenes to write. So write the rest of the scenes.”

I love the simplicity of John’s advice and approach to the craft: Get started. Keep going. Finish. It’s worked well for him, so I know it will work well for all of us.

Speaking of which, I’ve got about 98 other scenes to write on a new project. So I’m going to get to it.

Good Luck!

BIO: Former newspaper reporter Aydrea Walden has written for Nickelodeon, Highlander Films, Now Write! Screenwriting Book Series, Makers Studios, Disney, and Amazon. She is a multiple Moth StorySLAM winner, the creator of the solo show, THE OREO EXPERIENCE, based on her blog of the same name, which has been featured in GOOD Magazine and Jezebel.com. She can currently be seen starring in her Webby-nominated, Jane Austen-themed webseries, BLACK GIRL IN A BIG DRESS.

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Learn From Shonda Rhimes!

So, B2W is the first to say there are no writing rulesBut there ARE things we can learn from the best writers working today. TV writing goddess Shonda Rhimes is obviously one of them!

So whether you call them ‘rules’, ‘best practices’, ‘guidelines’ or something else, she has plenty of great writing advice for us. B2W’s new intern Alice has rounded up some classic Shonda for us to consider in honing our craft and getting our own writing off the ground. Enjoy!

All About Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is one of the most successful women in television. With a vast skillset and inspirational credits to her name, she is an idol for aspiring writers.

Fortunately for us, Rhimes has been open with her advice and aims to inspire the next generation. So, what are the writing rules that hold the key to Rhimes’ success?

1) Take charge

“You are responsible for telling your story. You have to show up and deliver. Your story is how you’re seen. Be compelling when telling it.”

2) Do your research

“One of the things I want to say about doing research, that I think is very important: read all the books.”

3) Be brave

“Don’t take the safe route. Take a risk.”

4) Believe in your ability

“Never wait for anyone to tell you you belong. If you question your right to be in the room, other people will start to question it too. Don’t squander the opportunity. Just do the work.”

5) Know your story

“You really need to be able to say the who, and the what, and the why, and the when, and the where, and the how. If you can’t answer those questions, you don’t have anything to talk about yet.”

6) Write with confidence and authority

“Hold your audience’s attention. Tell people what you’re going to do so it’s not a surprise when you do it. And then work hard. Be ambitious and audacious when telling the world your goals.” MORE: 7 Ways Of Showcasing Your Writer’s Voice In Your Screenplay

7) Take notes

“What I have started doing is taking notes in the little notes section of my phone, which is surprisingly effective, not just because you can dictate– which you can– but, also, because it’s always readily available.”

8) Understand Your Audience

“Get inside their shoes and understand them. Are you your audience?”

9) Create your own Success

“Hard work and taking every opportunity as it comes your way is the way to go.”

10) Leap of Faith

“Say YES to the things that scare you.”

What Writers Can Learn

Through hard work and sheer determination, Rhimes has shown there is no limit to her success. If you have faith in your ability as a writer and put the hours in, you can succeed too, you might even be the next Shonda!

Feeling inspired? It’s time to crack on and as Rhimes says, “Just do the work”. MORE: 7 Motivational Quotes From Shonda Rhimes 

Good Luck!

BIO: Alice Hayden is a scriptwriting student at Bournemouth University, focusing on writing for Film and Television. She is looking forward to seeing two of her scripts made in to animated promotional adverts for charities, and is currently working on a new TV drama and novel. Follow her on insta as @alice_hayen.

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I often hear this cry… NOBODY READS MY BLOG!

Believe in the famous sentence from Fields of Dreams “Build it and they will come!”? Then you’re in for a BIG SURPRISE (and not a good one).

Todays’ marketing is based on social media. This is like a long-term relationship, not a one-night-stand. If you want to get readers and build a community around your blog, there are certain things you need to watch out for. Here’s 7 reasons why nobody reads your Blog:

1) Your Blog is all about YOU

Even though you might state you are about your community and helping other people, your blog tells a different story.

Every blog post is about you, what you have done, what you are going to do, what you just finished reading or writing and why you are so awesome.

Also, quit filling your blog titles with the million hashtags. Your audience is not stupid! They see through this tactic. That’s why they don’t revisit your blog, share your blog posts or recommend it to others.

TOP TIP: Help your ideal reader and solve their problems, period. MORE: Top 10 Reasons Your Blog Sucks 

2) Your Content Sucks

There is nothing on your blog that resonates with your ideal reader. You are basically babbling about nothing. You may even be repeating the same content every other blogger in your niche is blogging about. Nobody wants that!

TOP TIP: Dare to be original. Make sure your content has a fresh outlook on a solution your ideal reader is looking for. Alternatively, make sure you empower them to go out and find a solution.

3) You don’t know your audience

The reason your content sucks is because you don’t know your audience. It is going to be really hard to write content that inspires and connects with your audience if you don’t know them. Get into their head!

TOP TIP:  Know what keeps them up at night and talk to them in their language. MORE: How To Be Successful As A Writer

4) You are not consistent

You want your audience to be waiting at their “doorsteps” for your blog post, in other words at their computers. But if you blog only once or twice a year, or you sometimes do it on Tuesdays, and sometimes on Thursdays, they will not know when to expect your blog post.

TOP TIP: Develop a plan with goals and objectives that has a full understanding of your audience. Also develop an editorial calendar.

5) There is no community

Have you made sure you created a space for a community to develop as a result of your blog? Remember the most important part of social media and online marketing is creating and building a community.

Take time to nurture relationships. You can never go wrong by investing in communities and the human beings within them.

TOP TIP: Make sure you allow people to comment on your blog and give them an incentive to do it.

6) Nobody knows about you or your blog

You could have the BEST blog on the planet but if nobody knows about it … Well, it won’t do you much good.

If you just launched your blog, please be patient. Be sure that you have a solid plan to build awareness, nurture community and grow your readership over time.

TOP TIP: Share your blog on other social media platforms. Also, keep the faith!

7) Waiting for perfection

You need to remember that all perfectionists have only one thing is common. All Perfectionists achieve… NOTHING!

Yet if you share your ups, downs and learning’s your readers will be part of the community that builds you. Then when you start succeeding as a writer/scriptwriter and blogger, your audience and readers will celebrate with you as they feel as though they were part of the development process.

TOP TIP: Embrace the imperfect perfection in your blog. Be humble and take your readers along with you on your journey. MORE: 3 Ways To Overcome Perfectionism

Now it’s your turn…

What mistakes have you made with your blog? Share with us your experience and tips for better blog posts. As a thank you gift I will send you my editorial calendar planner. This helps me to plan and organise all my Social Media activities (not just my blog posts) and instructions how to fill it up.

BIO: Vered Neta is a proof that you’re never too old to start something new. She says she has already had three past lives in this lifetime. After 28 years of being a trainer and working with over 150,000 people all over the world, she started a new career as a screenwriter, author and script reader. She wrote 2 screenplays and a musical. These days she is working on a documentary and a novel based on one of her screenplays. You can find more on website www.veredneta.com.

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Gotta Be Honest

Bang2write is known for being honest in its feedback. Note that doesn’t mean brutal, vitriolic or cavalier. Writing is tough and writers have to make all kinds of sacrifices to get words on the page. Nothing winds me up more than readers and feedback-givers who don’t exercise due care. Every piece of work is an expression of someone’s hopes and dreams. I take this very seriously.

But I do have to be honest. I would be failing in my remit as a script editor if I do not put honest notes at the very heart of what I do. So, realise what I say next is said with honesty, but also love …

The majority of stories I read are not really stories at all.

What This Means

But what do I mean by this? Well, when I read speculative drafts or short pitches aka loglines, they are often what I call ‘non-stories’. These can be broken down like this …

  • We don’t know who we are rooting for in terms of characters, or why
  • The conflict (ie. problem or issue) is not clear
  • We don’t know what the story is in terms of genre, tone or type
  • It might be too ‘writerly’ – interesting to the writer, but no one else
  • It might be too samey – we’ve seen this type of story, this way ‘too many times’
  • The writer has placed too much on an *issue*, so it seems too educational
  • A combo or all of the above

In other words, the concept just doesn’t sell itself ‘off the page’ to me. As I’ve said multiple times on this blog, if you don’t have a great concept, you’ve got nothing. What’s more, knowing your concept from the offset can help you write, since it creates a powerful baseline to work from.

Concept is really important and one of the key elements writers underestimate … Not only in terms of writing screenplays and books, but in terms of getting agents’, producers’ and publishers’ interest.

What Is Concept?

By concept, I mean what happens in your story at grass roots level. The premise, the controlling idea, the seed of the story if you like. So when someone says, ‘What is your story about?’ you can tell them.

I know this sounds obvious (and it is). Yet lots of writers start writing without working out what their story is *really about* this out in advance. Then they get stuck writing the draft … Or they can’t get anyone’s interest like agents, filmmakers and publishers because it feels too unclear/muddled.

Yet, if these writers had created a baseline to work from at concept level, all of their troubles could have been avoided. Honest guv!

How To Avoid Screwing Up Your Concept

I always recommend Bang2writers ‘break story’. I use ‘The 5 Ws’, which I borrow from the world of journalism. These are WHO-WHAT-WHERE-WHEN-WHY, like this:

Too many writers only look at their concepts at surface level. In contrast, these 5 questions will enable you to dig as deep as you need to really ‘break open’ your concept.

You don’t have to adhere to them slavishly. As you get more experienced, you will get a knack for it. These questions are my #1 go-tos now.

  • Who is my protagonist?
  • What is my genre/story-type?
  • What does my protagonist want or need?
  • Which types of obstacles are in my protagonist’s way (including the antagonist)?
  • What could happen if my protagonist is not successful?
  • Other stories that are LIKE mine?

Here’s an example using one of my books, Do No Harm

Lily, a young single mum with a six year old son from her previous marriage

Crime fiction, domestic-noir style (set in the home, not police procedural)

She wants to be happy with her new husband Sebastian, who is a much better match for her

Her ex-husband Maxwell and her son’s father, who will get in the way of her new relationship with Sebastian because he is an obsessive stalker

Lily’s relationship with Sebastian could fall apart; even worse, maybe Maxwell will take her child away from her

Modern books about stalkers like The Wife Between Us; Paper Dolls; You. Also classic movies like Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle


I know all this stuff might seem like procrastination. It is not. The writers who know what their stories are truly about are the ones that …

  • … FINISH their drafts instead of tying themselves in knots and
  • … CONNECT with their target audience

Most writers totally underestimate the importance of concept and breaking story hugely. You can do yourself a HUGE favour by doing this research and creating a baseline for your project. It will help you write AND help you get industry interest in the long term. What’s not to like?? MORE: Top 5 Concept Mistakes Writers Make

Good Luck!

Take Your Writing To The NEXT LEVEL!

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Time Management Secrets

There’s not a writer alive who feels they have all the time in the world to get their next piece written. It’s a constant battle between the need to put in the hours on the one hand, and the fact that you can only be creative for so long on the other. The secret is to really make the most of every single minute of the day and make the smart choices that allow the words to flow effortlessly onto the page.

Let’s take a look at a few of the secrets the very best writers use and then see how to put them into action.

1) Embrace the art of ‘deep work’

‘Deep work’ is the term for any cognitively demanding task that requires intense focus — writing be a great example. If you want to be able to write, then that’s exactly what you need to do. That means no checking Twitter every 10 minutes, no chatting to your friends whilst you brainstorm, and no editing in front of the TV. If you want to get the most out of your day, follow these 3 simple tips:

  • Note down all of the possible distractions that surround you when you write
  • Commit to developing your concentration by treating it as a skill
  • Record how long you’re able to go deep each day and try and beat yesterday’s score

2) Keep your phone in a different room

The prime suspect that’s responsible for distracting you will likely be your phone. It’s a constant source of stimulation and it’s primed to grab your attention at every waking hour. The moment you glance at it to check a message you’re breaking your concentration. You may think it was only a couple of seconds, but it can take minutes for your brain to get fully back on task. Ignore the productivity apps that are out there and go back to basics by leaving it in a different room.

3) Make sure you’re working solo

When you’re writing you need to be nothing other than focusing on your thoughts. Don’t meet up with friends to chat. Don’t see it as a chance to catch up over a coffee. Don’t work in groups.

If you want to really put in those hard creative yards you’re going to have to isolate yourself for a couple of hours and really get down to it. You’ll probably find it a little intimidating at first, but the results will be more than worth it.

4) Plan more, edit less

You can’t just decide to write a novel and cruise through with no plan. The secret to improving writing productivity lies in planning. Put the work in before the writing starts so that each session has a clear focus. It’s what will enable you to make the most of every minute. It’ll also give you a well-defined direction and way forward. MORE: Why Planning Beats Seat-of-Your-Pants Every Time

5) Take time off when you’re not writing

Every writer thinks they don’t spend enough time putting pen to paper, but often that’s just not true. Spending 10 hours a day at your desk isn’t the way to get creative, it’s the way to burn yourself out.

If you want to be as productive and creative as possible when you’re working you need to make smart choices outside work:

  • Take a break from your phone this evening — read a book instead
  • Leave the TV off and go for a walk with the dog
  • Go to the gym and then meet a friend in town for a coffee after work

Activities like these will allow your brain to recover from the day’s mental exertions so that you’re full of new ideas tomorrow. Ideal if you want to make more progress than you ever thought possible.

6) Find a place and stick to it

Finding the perfect place to write can be a tricky process, but it’s certainly worth it when you consider the upturn in productivity and creative output. Coffee shops are the clichéd place to find a writer, but the open-plan nature can be just a great way to drain your ability to concentrate.

Ideally, you want a room on a quiet street, plenty of natural light, and quiet neighbors. There’s no real secret here, you just need somewhere with the absolute minimum of distractions.

7) Establish a natural daily rhythm

There’s a lot to be said for a routine, and rhythmic working is perhaps the best example. If you get used to writing at the same time each and every day, you’ll soon fall into a pattern of subconsciously gearing your entire day around it. This instantly removes the constant overthinking about when and where you should write today. You can then use all of that spare mental energy to focus on finding the words that bring your script to life.

8) Understand where your time is going

Ask any of the world’s most successful professional writers how they manage their time and they’ll tell you to first understand where your time is going. It’s a great point because if you don’t know where the waste is, how are you going to correct it? Here’s how you can easily figure out what’s going on:

  • Work a standard day just as you always have done
  • Time block your activities in 15-minute intervals
  • Add up the wasted time and productive time at the end of the day

9) Set a daily word count to aim for

Having a target to aim for is important. There will be days when you don’t meet it, but the point is you need to have something to focus on. Start off with a modest goal you can easily accomplish, and then gradually increase the difficulty level. You’ll find that you naturally discover ways to adjust your approach to scheduling and freeing yourself of distractions so you can meet the harder word counts.

Final Thoughts

Managing your time as a writer is really about managing your attention and focus. If you’re constantly distracted during work it doesn’t matter how long you sit there for. Work on freeing yourself from the distractions that reduce your creative output. Your phone is the easiest place to start, so try leaving it in a different room and let the creativity flow.

Good Luck!

BIO: Amanda Sparks, pro writer and editor at Essay Supply, lifestyle writer at Huffington Post. I am fancy doing perfect things for this perfect world, and help people make their life easier with my lifestyle tips. Connect me via LinkedIn!

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