Writing Advice

Why “Start Your Novel Is With Action” is Bad Advice

The cliché "start your novel with action" has a flaw—and it's a major one: What good is the action if it isn't grounded in context that’s important to the story or draws you to the main character? It's much, much better to start your story with tension, like a character conflict or a character...

Can You Publish Letters From Other People in Your Work?

Q: I plan to write a series of prank letters to politicians, celebrities and manufacturing firms, and then publish my letters and the replies in a book of humor. Do the replies to my letters become my property to publish in my book? —Gene M. A: Letters sent to you aren’t your property—or, at...

Does Selling All Rights Mean I Can't Use the Same Topic Again?

Q: If a magazine buys all rights to a non-fiction article I wrote about my granddaughters’ medical problems, can I have other articles or a book published which would include the same information? I use the same description of the disease for everything I write about it.  So far I have only published articles...

How Do I Juggle Story Ideas?

Q: I have a hard time staying with my stories. Every time I start one, I think of another story plot and I never get back to the other one. What should I do? —Rachel T. A: Buy some index cards, and keep them next to you while you work on story No. 1....

Can I Write for Multiple Genres?

Q: I’m interested in writing in many different categories: adult fiction, young adult fiction, picture books, poetry and, possibly, memoir. Do I need to choose just one to be successful? —Laurie B. A: Absolutely not. While there are clearly advantages to focusing on one genre—platform building, audience base, honing your skill set—many authors have...

What To Spec This Year…

Thanks to Sam for spotting Alex Epstein‘s link to Alex Freedman‘s study on what TV specs to write this year… and what not to.  Very interesting– and helpful!  Click HERE to check it out… You might also like:No Related Posts

How to Improve Your Writing Style

Q: How can I improve my writing style? —Lily S. A: Read, read, read and practice, practice, practice. When taking in a good book or article, home in on what resonates with you and then underline those parts. Ask yourself, What made that such a great read? Our style is generally influenced by our...

Meet Rick Qualliotine, Co-EP

I’m writing this while sitting in the office of our Co-Executive Producer, Rick Qualliotine—the only person at The Wanda Sykes Show who has actually PAINTED HIS OFFICE… making this easiest the coolest office in the place (one wall is a bright warm orange-yellow).  Rick started his career in theater, producing plays and stage shows,...

Two and a Half Men: Giving Characters Tangible Wants & Conflicts

I often talk in my TV-writing classes about the importance of giving characters TANGIBLE wants, obstacles, conflicts, etc.  In other words, we sometimes give our characters internal objectives and obstacles– like the desire to find love, absolve guilt, give forgiveness, be at peace, etc.– but it’s important to find physical, tangible, or visual ways...

Can I Query Before I Finish My Novel?

Q: I’m currently writing my first novel and am about halfway finished, but I have completed an outline and synopsis. Can I start querying agents now? A: Being a first-time novelist, it’s important to finish your book before sending out any query letters. Without a track record, you have no proof that you can...

SHARLA'S QUESTION: Are web scripts useful writing samples?

Hey, folks— Today’s reader question comes from Sharla.  First of all, I have to say—Sharla, MAJOR THANKS for your super-nice comments on Small Screen, Big Picture!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it… and I’m glad you found it helpful! As for your question… here it is: “I’ve been hearing everywhere that...

READER QUESTION: How Do I Spec a Serialized Show like "Damages?"

Today’s reader question comes from Chuck, who asks…“I love ‘Damages’, the show.  How would you spec a show like Damages when the entire season is one long arc – like one long movie?  Same as ’24.’  Is that possible?” Well, Chuck, the short (and unfortunate) answer is: I probably wouldn’t spec a “Damages”… because...

Joss Whedon's Writing Tips

Special thanks to Brian Klems for finding this awesome piece with Joss Whedon‘s top ten writing rules (compliments of Catherine Bray, 4Talent magazine, and Danny Stack).  I found this super-helpful… especially the first one, which– quite honestly– is a HUGE problem of mine. Anyway, happy MLK Day, and click HERE enjoy some sage advice...

Dealing with Writer's Block

Q: Do you have any advice on overcoming writer’s block? I am currently taking a course on this subject and wondered how professional writers deal with this common problem. —Jane Thomas A: Writers have only three true enemies: time (or lack thereof), computer viruses and writer’s block. Defeating the first two is easy—set a...

Breaking into Television: My Interview with Alex Epstein

Hey, folks– Just wanted to point you to an interview I recently did with Alex Epstein, TV writer and author of Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box and Crafty Screenwriting: Writing Movies That Get Made.  Alex writes the “Complications Ensue” blog, which– if you’re not already reading it– is a terrific blog about...

READER QUESTION: How Do I Write Fight Scenes?

Today’s reader question comes from Mel, who posted this in response to my review of Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond movie.  Mel writes… “I… have been thinking about fight scenes. How are they written? How do people make them jump off the page and come to life?” Well, Mel, at the risk...

TV Writing Interview: Part III… Take a Listen

Hey, everyone– Here’s the third part of the 3-part podcast interview I did with Judith Parker Harris and the Alive! Authors Network.  Take a listen… we talk about the politics and logistics of being a TV writer, frequent mistakes aspiring writers make, and how to break in and launch a successful career. Click HERE...

Best Book Recommendation EVER!

Hey, everyone– I’m super-psyched to announce that my new (and first) book, Small Screen, Big Picture: A Writer’s Guide to the TV Business (which officially comes out November 25), is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble! The book is a user-friendly “business guide” for aspiring TV writers.  It explains...

TV Writing Interview: Part II… Take a Listen!

Hey, everyone– A couple weeks ago, the Alive! Authors Network posted the first part of Breaking In and Breaking Through the TV Business, Judith Parker Harris‘s 3-part interview with me about TV writing… how to get your foot in the door, get noticed, and excel in the world of television. Well, Judith has now...

Chatting About TV Writing… Take a Listen!

Hey, everyone– Just wanted to invite you all to listen to a recent podcast interview I did on the Alive! Authors Network… all about TV writing and the TV industry. This is the first of a 3-part interview I did, called Breaking In and Breaking Through the TV Business, with podcast host Judith Parker...

PITCH WORKSHOP/READER QUESTION: The Importance of Loglines

Hey, everyone— Just wanted to give a quick follow-up to Tuesday’s episode of the Script Notes Pitch Workshop… and an answer to a question asked by Scott, the author of Tuesday’s Pitch Workshop entries.  Scott writes: “Wow, thank you so much for all your help. You are completely right, I know what the story...

PITCH WORKSHOP: ENTRY 4

Hey, everyone— Today’s submission to the Script Notes Pitch Workshop comes from Scott, who submits loglines for two feature ideas.  So before we dive in… Scott—thank you so much for sending these!  The Pitch Workshop is one of my favorite parts of doing this blog, and I always wish people would use it more. ...