Posts tagged ‘writing advice’

November 20, 2013

Hemingway on How to Be a Writer

My beloved Brain Pickings has done it again. This time, Maria Popova has found a wonderful excerpt from Hemingway on Writing, in which Hemingway poses as “Your Correspondent,” answering the questions of “MICE” (aspiring writers.) Granted, mice is not the most flattering name Hemingway could have chosen for young writers, but perhaps with his knowledge we will one day graduate to correspondents. Hemingway writes:

MICE: How can a writer train himself?

Y.C.: Watch what happens today. If we get into a fish see exactly what it is that everyone does. If you get a kick out of it while he is jumping remember back until you see exactly what the action was that gave you the emotion. Whether it was the rising of the line from the water and the way it tightened like a fiddle string until drops started from it, or the way he smashed and threw water when he jumped. Remember what the noises were and what was said. Find what gave you the emotion; what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling that you had. That’s a five finger exercise.

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November 11, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Billy Mernit’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

Our latest list of “un-rules” comes from the always insightful Billy Mernit. Billy writes Living the Romantic Comedy, a great site that anyone writing romantic comedies or comedies in general should treat like gospel. Known as “the guru of rom-com” for his best-selling screenwriting textbook, Writing the Romantic Comedy, Billy teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and contributed two chapters to the recently published Cut to the Chase: Writing Feature Films with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

Billy published his first novel Imagine Me and You in 2008. During his many years in the entertainment industry, he has written for television and worked as both a screenwriter and private script consultant. After being a story analyst for Sony and Paramount, he has held that job at Universal Pictures for the past fifteen years. At Universal, he’s had a hand in the development of such recent successes as Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect.

Billy chose to approach his rules from the perspective of a story analyst. Here are his top three truisms:

  1. A primary goal of any spec script that’s going to market is to get the reader to identify with its protagonist. Your story requires a compelling, relatable lead character – meaning, we know what she wants and we believe she may be capable of getting it, the ways in which she overcomes her obstacles make her empathetic, and she’s complex enough to keep us interested. Your job is to get us to be her, even if this means putting what she thinks and how she feels into the narrative on the screenplay page. If we’re not totally emotionally invested in her story and seeing it though her eyes by the end of the first act, your script is dead in the water.

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August 7, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Mark Sanderson’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

Our list this week comes from the talented Mark Sanderson (@scriptcat). Mark is a screenwriter and consultant blessed to be living his childhood dream of making movies. He has done sketch comedy writing and performing with The Amazing Onionheads, completed eleven screenplay assignments and television premieres, and enjoyed worldwide distribution of his emotionally compelling films, the WWII indie feature I’ll Remember April, Lifetime Network’s holiday films Deck the Halls and An Accidental Christmas, the stylish indie-noir feature Stingers, and action-packed thrillers USS Poseidon: Phantom Below (aka HereTV’s Tides of War) and SyFy Network’s Sea Snakes (aka 20th Century Fox’s Silent Venom).

His films have been recognized at major film festivals and distributed globally. Mark’s long association with Hollywood veterans dates back to his first produced screenplay, and he has since worked with Academy Award winning producers, veteran genre directors, and Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe acting nominees.

Mark is currently busy shopping two TV pilots, moving into pre-production on his indie sci-fi comedy Area 54, and he just completed his first book, A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success. He offers workshops, webinars and screenplay consultation services at his website FIVE O’CLOCK BLUE ENTERTAINMENT and screenwriting advice on his popular blog MY BLANK PAGE (Script Magazine’s pick for Website of the Week).

Here are the rules that Mark would like to share with us today:

  1. Respect the craft of screenwriting. This includes mastering format and becoming an excellent storyteller. There is no easy way to success. If you believe that your first script will make your career, you will be humbled when you learn that your craft is bigger than you’ll ever be.

  2. Carve out a schedule and protect your precious screenwriting time.Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.”—Ernest Hemingway.

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July 17, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Kirsten Smith’s List

(Editor’s Note: This is the first in a new series of articles here at LA Screenwriter. Let us know what you think!)

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.”

We at LA Screenwriter have found that novice screenwriters often struggle with the problem of “the rules,” erring either on the side of formula or of complete disregard for structure. With that in mind, we’ve asked working writers what rules–either flexible or inflexible–guide their writing.

Our first list of “un-rules” comes from Kirsten Smith, screenwriter (along with her writing partner, Karen McCullah) of The Ugly Truth, Legally Blonde, and 10 Things I Hate About You, to name a few.

In no particular order, Kirsten’s rules are:

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April 18, 2013

Quote of the Day: Joss Whedon

Always be yourself… unless you suck.

March 13, 2013

John Steinbeck’s Six Writing Tips

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings (a site I highly suggest all writers peruse) has shared six writing tips that John Steinbeck originally shared in an interview with The Paris Review in 1975:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
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October 16, 2012

Rejection is Good for Your Writing

A new article in Nature.com discusses a study that shows scientific papers that are initially rejected ultimately have a greater impact in the long run:

Just had your paper rejected? Don’t worry — that might boost its ultimate citation tally. An excavation of scientific papers’ usually hidden prepublication trajectories from journal to journal has found that papers published after having first been rejected elsewhere receive significantly more citations on average than ones accepted on first submission.

Of course, scientific papers aren’t screenplays, but the trend holds true.

Rejection is an essential part of the writing process. Your ideas, your individual scenes, and your lines of dialogue will all be picked at and turned down countless times before your screenplay is ultimately accepted. But those mini and major rejections shouldn’t get you down — they should empower you to learn from what you’ve done so far and press forward.

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October 12, 2012

Quote of the Day: Matthew Arnold

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.

October 4, 2012

10 Rom Com Truisms

Billy Mernit of Living the Romantic Comedy recently compiled a list of 10 romantic comedy truisms with links to his articles supporting and providing advice for each point. If you’re working on a rom com, this list is essential reading:

A few readers have asked me to put all of these “truism” posts, scattered over the past 18 months, in one convenient place for persual.  So be it (just click on the numbers to get to the corresponding links).

# 1:  The primary challenge lies not in creating obstacles to keep the couple apart, but in convincing the audience that these two people truly do belong together.

# 2:  A star can open a romantic comedy, but a protagonist who doesn’t make sense will piss off the movie’s audience forever.

#3:  The depth of your audience’s emotional investment in the central romance is directly proportionate to the size of the story’s stakes.

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#4:  Solve the Woman Problem and you will get rich.

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October 1, 2012

Quote of the Day: Ezra Pound

Make it new.