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Writing Right: The Blog

WHAT'S EASIER TO WRITE--A NOVEL OR A SCREENPLAY?

If you've ever wondered about that yourself--losing sleep over the answer, wishing you had a Magic Genie to call upon--you're in luck. The answer is simple. A screenplay is easier to write than a novel by far. If you want proof, check out a novel written by a successful screenwriter. It will suck. Then check out a screenplay written by a successful novelist. It will soar.

 

Those are generalizations to which there are always exceptions, of course. But, being generalizations means they're generally true. While good screenwriters rarely make good novelists, good novelists often make good screenwriters.

 

The reason is that novels are among the most complex things on earth to write well. No contest. A novel has a million moving parts for which an author must be accountable. He has to keep track of a myriad of elements while sustaining the storyline for hundreds of pages and a hundred thousand words or more and wrapping everything up at the end.

 

A screenplay, on the other hand, is a plot being advanced by characters driven by dialogue. Sure, motivation, conflict, and settings all come into play, but the main driver of a script (either screen or stage) is dialogue. Read More 

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HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD I SPEND OUTLINING MY NOVEL?

Someone asked this online the other day. I had a thought or two to contribute to several other responses she received. Here they are.

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I think I'm in love.

 

Seriously, I'm so glad you asked this question. And, I'm just a little disappointed in some of the other responses you've received, even the ones from people who mean well but aren't, umm, right on top of things. For example, outlines are not like a "safety net." They are the scaffolding and the foundation of your novel. They help you build it firm and strong from the ground to the roof ridge.

 

And to chastise people who use an outline as not recognizing writing as a "creative endeavor"? Well, that same guy is right. IF you don't give a damn about selling, working as a professional novelist and author, or making writing your future. That's when writing is a walk in the park, a kiss in the dark, and a creative endeavor.

 

Of course, all writing is a creative endeavor. At all times. But, if that's all you want, keep a diary. If you have hopes and dreams and aspirations of making it as a full-time freelance writer and author, you'd better look for more than a "creative endeavor" to sustain you. You'd better look for quality writing that's more than an expression of your creativity. You'd better look for sustainability. Read More 

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WHY ARE GHOSTWRITERS SO CHEAP AT JOB SITES?

You know, a lot of people must be asking that question, and I'm not surprised, considering the phenomenal growth of some on-line professional job agencies of late. Everywhere you look, someone is promoting the idea of finding professional workers online.

 

Even though it's tempting, I'm not going to put down Fiverr or Upwork or any of those other job mills because some writers struggling to make a buck sign up there and, hopefully, earn a few dollars now and again. As others have said, though, professionals (I mean the time-tested pros who can write any genre in any voice and do so successfully) don't. When I'm not working hard on perfecting my own books for publication (and articles, scripts, etc.), and when I'm not out photographing, designing book covers, critiquing and reviewing books, or painting or sculpting, I take a ghostwriting or book-doctoring job now and again. When I do, I devote my full attention to the task at hand because I know the author who hired me wants to see the finished product as soon as possible. The perfect finished product.

 

I can't work for jobbers and make the kind of money I'm forced to charge because the quality of my work demands a huge amount of my time, skills, and energy. People who go to an agency looking for someone to hire are looking for top quality professionals at bargain-basement rates. They usually find them—the bargain-basement rates, that is. Top quality professionals? Uh-uh. Don't even go there. Read More 

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DO YOU REWRITE OR JUST EDIT YOUR FINISHED NOVELS?

I received this question the other day from someone whom others had already advised. I had a bit to add to their comments.

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First, rewriting and editing are not "close cousins," as someone advised you. The two are totally different concepts. And, no, the only reason you rewrite a novel is not because "you couldn't complete the idea," as some other brain said. These are absolutely ridiculous, shameful, amateurish responses. No wonder these people aren't full-time freelance writers. I'm surprised some of them are full-time freelance people.

 

Of course, editing and rewriting and reworking and refining and adjusting and readjusting and tweaking and everything else that goes into making a revision better than an earlier draft are all on the table. Are you kidding me? When you've written something and then go back to read it later, and you find problem areas, do you think you're going to tell yourself, "Well, that needs rewriting, but I'm only editing now, so I'll pass on that." Read More 

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CRAFTING A NEW BOOK'S TITLE

Coming up with a working title for a new book is easy. You just simply throw some words down on paper, and move on. Coming up with a working title that you like for a new book is a little tougher. And it's even more difficult, according to many authors, if you want to work your main character's name into the title without drowning the book's cover in words!

 

But, with that said, I have the perfect solution to your quandry. It's as simple as getting down to the basics of business, and you can do that in two words.

 

The first word is your character's last name.

 

The second word is an appropriate descriptive adjective placed before the first word.

 

Follow that up with a read-out, blurb, or sub-title (they all serve the same purpose—to further describe your book at a glance), and you're home free. Read More 

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CAN HIRING A GHOSTWRITER BE A GOOD EXPERIENCE?

Several people have asked me that over the years, even wondering if I've ever hired a ghostwriter myself. Of course, the answer is no. I've never needed one. I am a ghostwriter. That doesn't help others evaluate whether or not they should consider hiring a ghost, I know. But this might.

 

When I hire on as a ghost for authors, I work closely with them. That's pretty common. What's far less common is that I help them land a literary agent to handle the sales of the work once I've finished with my end, and I make myself available for any editorial changes that might be required in seeing the book through to publication—no matter how long the pitching process goes on. For example:

 

I finished a memoir for a client, who loved it. But, the overall consensus from publishers after a few months of shopping it around was that it was too short.

 

Okay, I got it. So, I came up with some scenarios for additional material, received the author's blessing, and, with a little more information, worked up another 15,000 words, or roughly a quarter as much as we had originally prepared. No extra charge to the author, just a little more time to round things out. When I was finished and the author approved it, we turned it over to the agent who went back to the original publisher with it. The result was a sale to a conventional, advance-paying publisher, and the book is currently being prepared for release as I write. Read More 

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HOW CAN I HIRE A BOOK EDITOR FOR NOT SO MUCH?

That's what someone asked me the other day. Of course, the answer was obvious. Here's what I said:

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First of all, your question is a bit nebulous. How much is "so much"? Three dollars? Thirty? Three hundred? Three thousand?

 

Second, what kind of quality do you want from an editor? Slop? Garbage? Fair-to-meddlin'? Decent? Good? Top-of-the-line? It makes a difference. Here's my estimation.

 

If you're like most writers who are just getting started (I make that leap of faith because experienced writers don't have to ask that question), your material is … uhh, how do I put this? Oh, yeah. Not great. Not good. In fact, it's downright sloppy, bordering on horrible. Your manuscript is loaded with typos, grammatical errors, syntax problems, punctuation mistakes, and lots and lots of developmental issues, like poor character development, wandering narrative, weakness in storyline, unrealistic dialogue, plot incongruities, and so forth. You don't know that, of course, because you don't have the training, skills, and discipline to be able to tell. That's why you need a professional editor. Read More 

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WHAT'S THE ADVANTAGE OF PUBLISHING eBOOKS?

That's the question somemone asked online recently, and the person received a ton of bad--no, make that horrible--advice. So, of course, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to set things straight, which I did.

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First, regarding the respondent who claimed that print books "often have a short shelf life, lay unused or are discarded," he couldn't be more wrong. Dead wrong. In fact, just the opposite is true. Whereas eBooks are never really part of your physical property, print books are. Unfortunately, eBooks can vanish from your possession at the drop of a hat—or the bankruptcy, sale, or merger of an eBook or eReader manufacturer or the whim of some corporate CEO. And most eBooks aren't transferable to another person, while print books are generally around for dozens of years if not longer and rarely lay unused or are discarded. Just the opposite. If someone no longer needs or wants a print book, he often sells it or gifts it to someone else to enjoy.

 

As for the same respondent's contention that "traditional bound books use precious resources," is he kidding? Books come from paper, which comes from trees, both of which are manageable and renewable. You can hardly say that about the high-tech, carbon-heavy imprint of an eReader or eBook manufacturer. Digital manufacturing is far more labor-intensive and worse for the environment. It's also subject to the fluctuating influences of foreign component manufacturers, worker strikes, unstable prices, and the unavailability of some exotic materials for manufacturing. Also, the last time I checked, eReaders don't remove deadly carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with purified, life-sustaining oxygen, but renewable trees do. And, the last time I looked, trees don't require costly, environmentally degrading electricity in anywhere near the amount that digital publishing gobbles up in order to grow and remain viable throughout an eBook's lifetime. Read More 

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SHOULD I PUBLISH WITH NEWMAN SPRINGS?

Are you kidding me? Are you serious? You're actually asking other people if you should spend good money to get your book published, when you have Web searches at your fingertips? And, for the record, how would anyone else know what you "should" do?

 

Perhaps you mis-phrased the question. Perhaps you meant instead, Would publishing with Newman Springs be a wise decision? In which case …

 

Sure. Publish with them. If you don't mind publishing with a vanity press. Don't know what that means? LOOK IT UP! It's your money, and it's your future. Why turn either one over to the opinion of a group of strangers?

 

At some point in your life, you're going to realize that you have to take control of your own life's decisions personally. No one else is going to be able to step in and tell you how to do it right. Oh, you'll always find people willing to tell you how to do things. But correctly? To your benefit? Hardly. After all, it's no skin off their nose. And no bucks out of their account! I've seen it a million times: Read More 

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WHY CAN'T YOU SUE FOR AN UNREGISTERED WORK?

A reader dropped that disastrous bomb on a writing forum the other day, and--as usual--the least qualified responses came from the commentators who least understand U.S. copyright law. Here's what I threw into the mix.

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Are you confused? If not, I can't understand why. I know I'd be confused if I had to rely upon several other commentators' abbreviated, misleading, or outright wrong responses to your question, which, by the way, begs for clarity. I assume what you're asking is whether or not you can sue someone for copyright infringement even though the work being compromised isn't registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. If that's the case, the answer is yes.

 

Here's what Parsons & Goltry, PLLC, experts in the field, has to say on the matter: Read More 

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