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About Writing Right: The Blog


Have you ever wondered if, after stumbling upon a really unique and dynamite idea for a screenplay, you could actually pitch it to Hollywood? If so, join the 50 million other writers who were wondering the very same thing. Here's the simple answer: Yes, you can. That is, you can pitch it, but you can't sell it.


Huh? you say. Why is that?


Here's the distinction. You can pitch an unfinished screenplay but can't expect to sell it because you're an unknown talent with an unseen commodity from a writer with a nebulous history. Can you guarantee a producer or director that you can meet deadlines? Deliver on your promises? Sustain a script from opening setting to final scene? Work with other writers to refine your script as called for? Of course not—not by a long shot. Not if you worked from now until doomsday to do so. And I know that to be true because you never would have considered the possibility if it weren't.


In addition to that, you don't know anyone in Hollywood, meaning no one has had any experience working with you; so, no one can attest to your talent, character, morals, and work ethics. Nor can they know how pliable (translation: cooperative) you are to work with. Read More 

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Somebody wrote in the other day, asking which is easier to adapt to film--a novel or a screenplay--and why. Here's what I told him.

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Hmm. Methinks thou art a trifle confused. Asking that is a little like asking which is the tastier fruit, an orange or a shoe. There is no comparison because a screenplay is the film in written form. It's the directions for every character, setting, and scene within the film. I suspect the confusion arises from your using "screenplay" when you meant to ask which is easier to adapt, a novel or a stage play (which is the written form of a theatrical or stage production).


While neither is a breeze to adapt to film due to film's unique reliance on camera placement, evolving scenes, lighting, special effects, etc., I think I would prefer adapting a stage play to film due to the fact that the stage play has already blocked out the dialogue, scenes, flow, and other elements necessary for a visual presentation—that is, a performance. In so doing, it has eliminated all non-visual aspects of the presentation commonly contained in a novel. Read More 

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Someone expressed concern about the possibility of including fictional work within a nonfiction book. Is that possible? Here's how I replied.

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Absolutely a nonfiction book can have a fictional story within it. Especially when used to illustrate a point or shed light on a specific topic, ethnic group, or culture, fictional tales shared throughout history can be potent teaching mechanisms. Even though these fictional stories are part of the larger work, the book still remains nonfiction, or a factual work, because the main body of the work is nonfiction.


For instance, in a recently published book on Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of a major Indian tribe in modern history, I used Cherokee and other tribal tales to enrich an understanding of the complex cultures of Native Americans. Within the book, (following each nonfiction chapter), I interwove various indigenous tales, such as The Mother and the Corn, The Long Way Back, The Cherokee and the Women, The Ending of War, The Lost Cherokee, The Race Between the Crane and the Hummingbird, Two Wolves, and The Coyote and DeathRead More 

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Someone asked the other day what I thought a good writer would charge to ghost an article for him. I had to think about that for a while, even though I've been ghosting for others for years. Here's what I finally came up with.

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What you'll need to pay to hire a quality writer to ghost an article for you depends upon a number of factors, of course. Among the things I need to know before accepting an assignment are these:

  1. The complexity of the article's subject matter. Is it a piece on the health advantages of owning and caring for pets, or is it an explanation of the Theory of Relativity? That makes a huge difference because that will determine how much research I'll have to invest before ever setting pen to paper. For me, as for most other folks, time is money.
  2. My familiarity with and appreciation of the subject. If it has something to do with writing, publishing, or English grammar, I'll take it. I'll even give you a cut rate. If, on the other hand, it's a look at why sexual identity is no longer strictly a binary consideration, I'll take it, too. But I'll have to double my rate.
  3. The deadline. If I have a long lead time, I can charge somewhat less because I'll be working on other projects in between. If you're on a tight deadline, though, that's another matter, and I'll have to take that into consideration when setting a price. Read More 
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