Questions & Quandaries Blog

Online editor Brian A. Klems has been writing for Writer’s Digest since 2003. He covers the most pressing grammatical, ethical, business and writing-related questions—and often does it with a bit of humor.


What is a Literary Executor?

Q: I was recently approached by one of my relatives (my father’s cousin), who asked if I would be her literary executor. I don’t really know what this means and thought you might be able to shed some light on the subject. Do you know what this might entail?—Anonymous A: Often...

READER QUESTION: How Are TV Writers Paid?

Hey, screenwriters— Today’s question comes from Dan, who comments at the end of Friday’s post in reference to something I had written about writing on TV shows.  I had written… “You might be hired [on a TV show] for 10 weeks… or 6 months… or even just one episode.  It varies...

READER QUESTION: From 9th Grade to Hollywood…

Today’s question(s) comed from Corey Nolter, a 9th grader who’s an aspiring screenwriter working on a research paper about his future career.  Corey asks a ton of questions, so I’m just gonna dive in.  Corey– I hope these answers help… lemme know how the paper turns out… and I expect a...

Are You Using Trademarked Words in Your Writing?

Q: An editor once pointed out that I was using brand names instead of the generic equivalent. How am I to know which words have been trademarked and which aren’t?—Anonymous A: When your character cuts his hand, does he cover it with an adhesive bandage or a Band-Aid? Does his mother...

WHAT NOT TO WRITE: Vantage Point

Hey, screenwriters— I just want to say this up front: my wife made me go. Okay, that’s a lie. She definitely wanted to go more than I did, but the truth is: I kinda wanted to see it.  At least, I had wanted to see it… before it got nothing but...

i.e. vs. e.g.

Q: What’s the difference between “i.e.” and “e.g.”? I thought they were interchangeable, but I was told that this isn’t the case. Can you please explain?—Claire Collord A: I used to have the most difficult time remembering this rule. After all, both of these terms are derived from Latin and I...

WHAT NOT TO WRITE: Leatherheads

Hey, screenwriters– Today’s post is brought to us by Martin Scorsese‘s new Rolling Stones IMAX movie, Shine A Light.  (Okay, not really, but it looks incredible, so do yourselves a favor and check it out.)  And while I haven’t seen it yet, I can only assume that it will rock hard…...

Getting Out of Book Blurbs

Q: How do I get out of writing a blurb for a friend’s not-so-good self-published book?—Anonymous A: Friends are always asking for favors—May I borrow your leaf blower? Will you watch my dog? Do you mind if I tell the police that we were together last Thursday just past midnight? As...

READER QUESTION/GUEST PERSPECTIVE: How Do I Break Into Clip Shows?

Hey, screenwriters– Today’s question comes from loyal reader Valerie, who writes… “Hi Chad!… I am interested in creating clip shows and would love to hear your valuable insight on these types of programs (ie. where/how to license footage, how to sell them (Pods or Network), general production tips, etc…).” (For those...

GUEST PERSPECTIVE: Charlie Stickney… Writing For Animation

Hey, screenwriters– One area of entertainment I’ve never worked in– but often get questions about– is animation.  And with all the booming animated projects out there– Family Guy, The Simpsons, Drawn Together, The Incredibles, The Triplets of Belleville, etc.– I decided to spend a few minutes with my friend Charlie Stickney,...

Conflict of Interest

Q: I volunteer for several organizations that have newsworthy projects. I’d like to write news articles (not press releases) about them for our town’s independent newspaper. Can I sell an article that has to do with a group I’m involved in, even if the organization isn’t paying me?—Lisa Angle A: Conflict...

When to Use a Prologue

Q: When should a prologue be used? Is there a difference between prologues for fiction and nonfiction?—Sonya Ryan A: A prologue is used when material that you want to include in the opening is out of time sequence with the rest of the story. For example, let’s say you’re writing a...

READER QUESTION: How many ideas should I present in a pitch?

Hey, screenwriters— Today’s question comes from Anita, who also happened to take one of my writing classes a few weeks ago.  Anita emails… “My partner and I have been developing several [television show] ideas, and have more ideas we are fleshing out. We have been taking meetings here and there with...

READER QUESTION: How do I Know What TV Spec to Write?

Hey, screenwriters— First of all, thanks for all the emails… I’ve got a nicely full mailbag, and I’ll do my best to get to all your questions over the next few days.  In the mean time—keep the emails coming (they make me feel really popular)! With the WGA strike over and...

Where Do Writers Find Experts?

Q: I’ve read many articles in your magazine and others that advise freelance magazine writers to use quotes from experts on their given subject, but none of the articles tell writers how to go about doing that. Where do writers find experts? How do you approach them? How do you obtain...

What is a Logline?

Q: I’ve recently decided to turn my book into a screenplay and I’ve read several articles that say you must have a “logline” if you want to sell your script. What’s a logline?—Jennifer Bickel A: Hollywood executives are so busy that they have very little time to spend on anything, including...

TIP OF THE DAY: The Magic of the Prelap

Someone once told me that if you hear something three times, it means the universe is sending you a message.  Well, I haven’t heard this three times yet, but a question came up in my writers group last week… and then I got an email yesterday asking almost the exact same...

Dealing with Late (or Missing) Payments

Q: If a writer has jumped through all the hoops (finished the assignment, submitted a proper invoice, etc.) and is not being paid, what steps should he take before resorting to having a lawyer write a letter or taking their case to small claims court, etc. —Anonymous A: Always contact the...

Get Ready for Staffing Season (with a great discount)

Hey, TV writers– With staffing season ramping up in a matter of weeks (upfronts have already been announced for May 12-15, which means staffing will begin immediately afterwards), now is the time to whip your TV spec into shape.  So I’m teaching another 10-week spec-writing workshop with mediabistro.com, beginning Wednesday, February...

READER QUESTION: Is "Boston Legal" Spec-able?

So… I got an interesting question yesterday in regards to my post about about this season’s spec-able shows.  Loyal reader Fig writes in: “Why is it that I’ve never heard of anyone writing a “Boston Legal” spec? (Or is it just me?)“ It’s funny, Fig–  when I read your question, my...

This Year's Spec-able TV Shows

Well, screenwriters– here we are… the final day of the WGA writers strike.  As I write this, writers in New York and L.A. are casting their votes to end the last three months’ work stoppage.  And the end of a work stoppage means only one thing… It’s time to get back...

GUEST PERSPECTIVE: Brad Wollack, talk show writer/producer

Hey, screenwriters— One of the most controversial topics of the last few months has been the issue of writers writing for talk shows.  After all, it’s no newsflash that most of the big talk shows came back on the air last month… in the middle of the strike… without their writers....

Will Newspapers Review Self-Published Books?

Q: The book critic at my local newspaper mentioned in an article that she doesn’t review self-published books. Is this common procedure? Are there any major dailies that do?—Joyann Dwire A: Some newspapers won’t review self-published books simply because they’re concerned about legal issues. Self-published books aren’t subjected to the rigorous...

Jen Grisanti: Part II – A Follow-Up

Hey, guys– After Wednesday’s guest perspective from TV exec/producer Jen Grisanti, in which she talks about her new company, Jen Grisanti Consultancy, loyal reader Josh and a couple other people asked if she was a manager.  So I talked to Jen, and here’s what she had to say… JEN: “I am...