What Does ‘Well Read’ Mean?

First up, let’s agree on the definition. Here’s one from the dictionary:

Well read, adjective. Having a lot of knowledge from reading widely; knowledgeable. Synonyms: knowledgeable (about), well informed (about), well versed in, widely read; erudite, scholarly, literate, educated, cultured, literary, bookish, studious.
Example: “She was very well read in this field”. 
The key words that stand out for me there: knowledge, widely, well informed. 

Should you read? HELL YES

I work with writers every single day who profess they ‘don’t’ read, often because they ‘don’t have time’. And you know what? Contrary to popular belief, some of them are even good writers despite this. 

But guess what: the well-read writers are ALWAYS better. They have more understanding of the craft, not to mention a bigger pool of interests and influences to draw from. Not rocket science. As far as I’m concerned:

  • Screenwriters should read scripts (in their genre and not)
  • Novelists should read novels (in their genre and not)
  • It’s a great idea for all writers to look at ALL mediums
  • ALL writers should look for new ideas, new POVs, to challenge themselves (yes, even abhorrent ones, or positions that are called ‘problematic’ online by the likes of Twitter. The key question for a writer is always WHY?)

DO NOTE THOUGH – You don’t have to read ‘the classics’ or what you think you OUGHT to read. You can read whatever you like. Fiction. Non-Fiction. Screenplays. Articles. Whatever. Just read WIDELY, from many different sources, about many different things, about many different worldviews, POVs and VARIOUS STUFF.

On Stephen King

This is what veteran uber-writer Stephen King says about reading:

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Needless to say, I totally agree with him. Yes, you can obviously get away with doing the minimum amount of reading, especially if you’re talented. But reading only serves to make you a BETTER WRITER. What’s not to like??

Finding The Time To Read

“Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in … Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I love the idea of reading being a writer’s ‘creative centre’. Reading this, I realised I felt the same way too. Like King, I take a book everywhere I go. (In fact, I take two, plus my Kindle, since batteries might run down or I might not be able to access the Cloud. Eeek!!)

But in real terms, it’s never been easier to read stuff. There’s a gadget in your pocket that can beam ANY type of reading material to you in a matter of seconds, via apps and social media. A lot of it is 100% free, the rest for pennies. That’s right – YOUR PHONE!

Personally, I think 10 hours per week reading is do-able for most writers. You may need to have a strategy if you have something particular you want to do, like read more books. If time is at a mega premium for you, why not put aside time for reading:

  • On your commute
  • In-between appointments
  • For ten minutes at lunch break
  • Whilst your kid watches CBeebies for 15 minutes
  • Whilst you’re stirring the dinner
  • Instead of watching that re-run of The Simpsons for the umpteenth time
  • Instead of ‘debating’ stuff online (aka calling someone an arse)

You could even set a timer. I do. I ensure I have one hour per day to devote to a novel. I have radically increased my reading in the last three years because of this. I can usually read a 300 page novel in about four-six hours (depending how engaged I am), so that means I can usually read at least one book per week. Boom.

I also research and read about subjects that interest me. At the moment, I am interested in Search Engine Optimisation, Blogging techniques and The American Wild West, particularly the different tribes and languages of Native Americans. I’m also slightly obsessed with Hugh Glass (that’s the dude that got mauled by a bear and, it turns out, was also a pirate AND a prisoner of the Pawnee tribe! Wow!).

So, work and play. Combine what you can, read other stuff as and when you want. This doesn’t have to be difficult – it shouldn’t be!  Research can be fun, plus you can save it up for later:

  • Books
  • Scripts
  • Plays
  • Articles
  • Blogs
  • Maps and old artefacts
  • Interview transcripts
  • Threads and tweets (without responding)



I find it useful to take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I managed to read and review a whopping 90 books last year, plus I made a reading pledge to ensure I read more books by marginalised voices. But why not come up with a pledge of your own? Friend me over there if you like.

Happy reading this weekend!

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Right now, diversity is the name of the game in storytelling, so it’s no accident a movie like THE SHAPE OF WATER won ‘Best Picture’ at The Oscars last week. (Whilst Jordan Peele’s GET OUT was technically more ‘deserving’ of the so-called diverse tag, it is still a genre movie … Whereas historically, The Oscars have always been more appreciative of drama movies, even ones with sci fi elements like TSOW).

I won’t pretend THE SHAPE OF WATER was my favourite movie of the year because it wasn’t, but there’s still plenty for writers to learn here. Let’s go:

1) Outsiders have the most interesting stories right now

Writers are often outsiders, hence their fascination with characters who are outsiders as well (and probably characters who are writers, too). That said, up until now, outsider characters in movies have been frequently side-lined to secondary role functions. This has been for the mythical ‘broader appeal’ to the ‘most’ people in the audience. That’s a BIG change in the last year or so.

So, regardless of how you feel about THE SHAPE OF WATER (and it’s certainly a ‘Marmite’ movie in that people to seem to love OR hate it), as a writer it’s quite the thrill to see to see such a an unusual female lead in Elisa. She’s a reminder that a successful story does NOT have to have a ‘typical’ female protagonist at the heart of the story: she is no hardcore hottie, nor is she comedic. She is a holistic character, with thoughts, feelings and problems all her own.

KEY QUESTION/S: Why is your character an outsider? What is his/her role function? Why is s/he in this story? What does s/he DO that’s different to the ‘norm’? MORE: Stop Saying ‘Diversity’. Start Writing VARIETY!

2) The status quo, ‘norm’ or ‘ideal’ can act as great antagonists

The antagonist is Richard Strickland, who is charge the shadowy government facility Elisa cleans at. Whilst it’s clear he’s evil from the start, we’re invited into his worldview too: he NEEDS to be in charge, he needs to be admired. But he also wants to be feared, just like he fears humiliation.

He also craves perfection. He has the so-called ‘perfect’ life: the lovely house, the wife, the kids. But crucially, it’s never enough. He doesn’t want a wife, he wants a doll (hence his fascination with the supposedly ‘silent’ Elisa, whom he wrongly believes would be even more obedient). He’s not interested in his kids, nor does he care about his house. He loves his car, because it’s something people see first. It’s all just about status to him.

In other words then, toxic masculinity is the key antagonist of this film. The juxtaposition of his rotting fingers then hints at how damaging this worldview is. His car gets smashed up. At the end of the film, his last words are even, ‘I always deliver!!’ But he is reduced, defeated, a loser.

KEY QUESTION/S: What does your antagonist’s POV symbolise in your story? What does s/he do? How does this relate to your protagonist’s journey? Why? MORE: How To Create A Memorable Antagonist

3) Disability does not have to define a character

Elisa is mute, but she can hear. There is some confusion at first about this on Strickland’s part (a stand-in for anyone in the audience who may feel they ‘deserve’ an explanation for someone else’s disability, illness or chronic condition).

This also provides the opportunity for some backstory about why she is this way, but ultimately the HOW is not that important*. Whilst Elisa’s mutism is a part of her and the way she relates to the other characters and the storyworld, crucially it does not define her. When so many characters’ stories are about their disability, this is refreshing.

Backstory is important for all protagonists, but just because you have picked a ‘diverse’ character as your lead DOES NOT mean you should define them by that diversity.

(*Or maybe the HOW is important … It depends how you see it. THIS ARTICLE in Forbes makes a compelling case for Elisa’s backstory and how it relates to the rest of the plot, which is really interesting. I can’t say I saw it this way whilst watching, but that doesn’t matter. The writing is good enough to support this interpretation, which is great. Plus either way, Elisa is still not defined by her disability, which in real terms may not be a disability at all! Check it out).

KEY QUESTION/S: What is different about my character? Why? How does this relate to what s/he does in the story or the other characters around him/her? MORE: 4 Easy Tips On Writing An Awesome Disabled Character

4) It’s all about ‘the same … but DIFFERENT’

Much has been made on social media about how TSOW is ‘really’ just SPLASH, plus imho it’s also a version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (only with a fish-man). For some, this means TSOW is derivative and thus supposedly ‘unworthy’ of Best Picture.

I call shenanigans. ALL concepts in storytelling are ‘versions’ of something that has gone before. Some are obvious – like TSOW – others are less obvious. Fact is, there had not been a version of this particular story played out LIKE this one, before … Unless you count Abe Sapien’s romance with Princess Nuala in HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (which guess what, was also by Guillermo Del Toro!).

KEY QUESTION/S: What is my story LIKE? How is mine DIFFERENT? MORE: 7 Steps To Road Test Your Concept

5) Secondary and peripheral characters HELP or HINDER the leads

Giles is the stand-out secondary in TSOW in my opinion. In movies, when a protagonist is silent, like Elisa, we need a character who is the ‘voice’ (much like Timothy Q. Mouse is in DUMBO). Giles then is not just a translator for Elisa, but a sounding board.

In a lesser writer’s hands, Giles would have come off flat and boring, but Giles is three-dimensional: he’s an older gay man, who like Elisa, is an outsider. He’s a little vain, a little cowardly, but he’s also a talented artist with dreams. Ultimately Giles has integrity and compassion. He is understanding when the creature kills his beloved cat and he will ultimately stand up for what is right.

Zelda, Elisa’s best friend and colleague at the cleaner’s, is another great secondary. She has built a persona for herself as someone who is loud and effervescent, to deal with the crap in her life. This centres not just around racism in 1960s America, but also her husband, Brewster. Zelda wants a quiet life, hence her reluctance to help Elisa, but ultimately she will come through for her. We know this, because she always keeps Elisa’s place for her in line at the clocking-in machine, from the very beginning of the movie.

Moving on from ‘helping’ to ‘hindering’ then, we have Dr Robert Hoffstetler, who is an intriguing mixture of both. The Doctor has his own problems, which spill into Elisa’s world. He’s told by BOTH his bosses – American and Russian – to kill the creature, so he helps Elisa for the sake of science, or what’s ‘right’. This of course means he is the weakest link in this story, which can be exploited by Strickland.

From there, we have General Hoyt. In charge, he doesn’t care HOW things get done, as long as it gets done. Refreshingly, he doesn’t have to resort to threats (at least at first): instead, he appeals to Strickland’s desire to get things done, both flattering him and hinting at what *could* happen if he doesn’t. Hoyt is Strickland’s own antagonist in effect, which then places the second man at loggerheads with Elisa and the creature.

KEY QUESTION/S: Who are my secondary characters? What are their role functions? Do they HELP or HINDER my protagonist? Why? MORE: 5 Male Secondary Characters Who Teach The Protagonist

6) Never give up

Elisa’s journey in THE SHAPE OF WATER connected with many people. Her desire to do what’s right made her a hero in many people’s eyes. Standing up for the underdog – even if it’s a weird fish-man – is something many audiences can relate to.

More importantly, Elisa’s devotion to the creature never wavers during the movie. No matter how weird the plot got, her love for it was never in question, nor did she betray it, or even attempt to walk away. She is pure of heart and in a world of flawed heroes, this feels new.

As a Del Toro fan, I can see certain parallels with his career as well. Every filmmaker must want an Oscar, not to mention the adulation of his/her peers. It’s taken Del Toro a long time to get to this point, with much blood, sweat and tears along the way. But he made it. He got Best Picture. Good for him!

KEY QUESTION/S: What is my character’s journey, literal and metaphorical, here? Plus why do I want to write this story? MORE: THIS Is The Difference Between Amateur And Pro Writers

Good luck!

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1) Not realising that it’s NOT ABOUT YOU

One of the most important things I learned about giving notes is to make it about the script and not the writer. This is not personal. This is about a piece of writing. This is about improving that writing and it’s not saying you’re a bad person or a bad parent or a cheating husband or any of that. I once had a client whose pilot was about a husband and wife divorcing and the notes wrote stated that the wife was unlikable and hard to connect to. He was furious and told me so, slamming me on social media. Later we found out the character was based on his wife with whom he was going through a difficult divorce.

TAKEAWAY:  Don’t project yourself onto the notes. You may have work to do. We ALL can improve in everything we do. Even Martin Scorsese gets a bad review now and again. MORE: Top 5 Feedback Mistakes Writers Make

2) Not finding the RIGHT consultant or feedback-giver

This might take time and word of mouth probably helps a lot but find the right consultant or script competition – however you’re getting notes – for you. Look for one that writes in a way that works for you (like whether you need oral or written directions to the store). Some consultants focus on commercial viability, some hammer the writer on the don’ts and not enough on the do’s. Some offer suggestions and teach, some break notes up into CHARACTER/THEME/STORY and so on and others simply go from back to front and take you page by page. Ideally the consultant isn’t just telling you what’s wrong but telling you what’s right and where things can be improved. As well, they ought to teach or give suggestions as to how to make changes. FYI, Finish Line goes front to back and offers suggestions on how to fix things as well as gives overall ideas in a page of general comments. We don’t use ‘you need to’, ‘you should’ nor do we address commercial viability. We are about the writing.

TAKEAWAY:  Getting notes isn’t supposed to be a sado-masochistic process. Find a company or person that is honest and communicates truths the way you hear them best. MORE: How To Use Feedback Effectively

3) Treating notes like they’re written in stone

Everything written is a suggestion. No one ought to tell you how to change your script so it’s not your script anymore. That’s not their job. Your script is your ownership and your voice and some blood, sweat and tears has likely gone into it. Don’t take a note if it doesn’t feel right. If you’re questioning something, and you can afford to or have access to helpful friends/writing colleagues, send your script to a few places and see if you get the same note from all. If it changes what you want to say, don’t take it unless you agree what you want to say needs changing.

TAKEWAY:  Good script consultants are helpful but they aren’t you. You know what you want to say better than anyone. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. MORE: 6 Things to Remember When Dealing With Feedback

4) Not following up or asking for clarification on notes

When choosing a place to get notes from, inquire whether you can have follow-up questions with your consultant (via email at least). Notes are coming from someone skilled in the craft of writing, using terms like ‘inciting incident’ and referring to different acts and scene structure. If you are not a seasoned writer, some of the terminology in notes may be foreign to you. We always offer writers the opportunity to follow up in order to make sure the entirety of the notes is absorbed. if you get notes and simply think, “I have no idea what this means” you’re probably not going to do any revisions.

TAKEWAY: Get the most you can for the money you pay. Make sure you can get clarification if you need it. The customer is the boss. MORE: 5 Ways To Evaluate Your Feedback

5) Judging the consultant or feedback-giver

I once gave notes to someone who ripped me apart because I didn’t know certain hipster speak and my note was that I felt that it was distancing my ability to relate to the story. If I am feeling that way, others might too. We may not all be as cool as you. Make sure you keep scripts readable, even if you want to make them unique. There are lots of ways to create an environment without making it exclusive.

TAKEWAY:  You don’t have to agree with everything, but do consider everything. MORE: Top 5 Winning Tips From The Finish Line Script Competition

BIO: The Finish Line Script Competition www.finishlinescriptcomp.com offers 6+ pages of development notes and allows you to resubmit new and improved drafts for free. We are currently open for Early Bird Submissions. When you purchase 6+ pages of notes you’re automatically entered in the competition. We’re all on a learning curve in life – find someone who is there to help you along the way!

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B2W likes to offer perspectives from writers on the ‘X Things I Learned’ series, not just about writing or careers, but also some of the weirder things our lives may include from time to time … Cue children’s author Maz Evans, who went SUPER viral on Twitter recently!

If you’re on there, you may have seen this play out in real-time, like me. Here’s what Maz learnt during a crazy 72 hours and I’m sure it’ll pop up in her writing at some point. It’s all material! Over to you Maz …

It was no big deal. I was awaiting a flight to Glasgow, banging away on my laptop as usual. A man tossed a business card on my table. ‘Get in touch if you’re ever looking for secretarial work,’ he said in passing. ‘I’m always looking for fast typists.’

I stopped him, returned his business card with a smile and said that as I was working on a Sunday, I was the one who could use secretarial support. But given that anachronistic gender assumptions weren’t part of the job description, he had just failed the interview.

He roared with laughter, apologised for being ‘a bit of a dinosaur’ and offered to buy my lunch. I quipped that as I’d been inundated with job offers sitting there, I was flush, so no thanks. He laughed, we wished each other a safe journey and I went back to my laptop. I recorded this little fraction of life on Twitter, as I regularly do, and boarded my flight. That really was it.

But when I reached Glasgow and switched my phone back on again, I had over 10,000 notifications on Twitter. And over the next two days, they just kept on coming. My tweet had gone viral – and I was about to get a crash course in what happens when social media goes nuts.

Here are the 5 things I learned from 72 crazy hours:

1) Timing is everything and nothing

Maybe this tweet surfed on the wave of discussion about the professional treatment of women, maybe the Twittersphere was bored of a Sunday. But my feminism is neither new nor especially remarkable – I had posted many such wry observations before – why this one flew, I’ll never know. MORE: 6 Ways To Great Ideas From Social Media

2) The world is good

The overwhelming majority of tweets were supportive and congratulatory – or found it funny, as did I. It’s so easy to get hung up on negativity – as a writer, I am painfully aware of this – but actually, most people are good and kind. Oh, unless a certain right-wing daily newspaper decides to print your (unauthorised) story. Many who commented on that are akin to the non-descript fungal fodder I scrape off the back of my fridge. MORE: 5 Debates On Female Writers That Really Need To Die

3) Wow, we’ve got a long way to go

That said, what staggered me was how many respondents couldn’t see that this man’s behaviour was at best, presumptuous, at worst, sexist. The main criticism I received was that I had been arrogant and the man was just being nice – how would I have responded if he’d offered a similar job to a man? Or a more senior job to me? But that was rather my point. He didn’t. MORE: Top 5 Social Media Mistakes

4) Sisters aren’t doing it for themselves

Sadly, I have made this observation in life, but some of the most vicious attacks I received were from other women. Some felt I was demeaning secretarial work, which couldn’t be further from the truth – I worked as a PA for years, no-one respects that profession more than I. But if we are divided, we’ll continue to be conquered. Girls, we need to stick together. MORE: 5 Problems With Female Leads

5) And this too shall pass

For three days, I dreaded looking at my phone. I received everything from celebrity endorsements, to rape and death threats. I took neither more seriously than the other. But it made managing my Twitter a total nightmare as I use it to communicate with my readers and those tweets were getting buried. But then it petered out. The world kept on turning. It was another bizarre moment in my crazy life and it passed. Just like everything always does. MORE: How To Use Social Media To Market Your Novel

Am I wiser, more cautious, chastened for the experience?

Am I heck.

It was a bit of a lark and life moves on. As one of my favourite literary heroines, Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing remarks, ‘foul words is but foul wind and foul wind is but foul breath’. I have a thousand new Twitter followers and a comedy newspaper cutting to show that it happened.

And if this writing malarkey doesn’t work out, I have a nailed-on job offer. No harm, no foul.

BIO: Maz’s debut children’s novel Who Let the Gods Out was published by Chicken House in February 2017 and was selected as the Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month. It entered the bestseller charts on its first week on sale, has sold to 17 countries worldwide and has received over 20 award nominations, including the Carnegie Medal, Branford Boase, Books Are My Bag and Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Year. The sequel, Simply the Quest was published in August 2017, Beyond the Odyssey in April 2018 and Book 4 will publish in 2019. Maz also narrates the audiobooks for the series. Follow her on Twitter as @MaryAliceEvans.

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So I’ve been waiting a while to publish this one … Not just so the Bang2writers can catch up (seriously, if you HAVEN’T watched this, what are you waiting for??), but also so BAME commentators, especially Black Twitter, can have their say on the movie FIRST. Because: obviously 😉

So, here’s my thoughts on the much-lauded BLACK PANTHER, plus what I feel writers can learn from this story and its execution. Ready? Let’s go …

What’s Working

Well, where to start … Sooooooo much to love here. Here goes, though:

i) Behind the scenes

I’ve been a huge fan of Ryan Coogler since he exploded onto the filmmaking scene with the brilliant FRUITVALE STATION just five short years ago with 2013.  I absolutely loved CREED in 2015, so when it was announced he would be behind the much-anticipated BLACK PANTHER, I knew we’d be in a safe pair of hands.

Even so, this is a particularly luscious offering of a movie. The costuming, the storyworld, the role functions of the characters, even the way they hold themselves …  It all looks fantastic, as we might expect. The fact Coogler has so-far only worked with female cinematographers (such as Rachel Morrison, here) makes this fact even sweeter. In short, intentional inclusion WORKS, on all levels, both cast and crew.

Though I watch all the Marvel movies for the sake of my kids (and my writers, via this blog!), I had very little background knowledge (or interest, if I’m honest) of the Black Panther character when I went in, yet the exposition is handled for the most part very well, so fans and non-fans alike can get on board the story with ease.

ii) Theme & Storyworld

Theme is always important in the Marvel storyverse, but I am struggling to remember one as layered and capable of multiple interpretations as BLACK PANTHER. I have seen many commentaries, both for and against Erik Killmonger’s behaviour; or Wakanda’s hiding from the world; plus what it means to be a hero or present stories that promote black empowerment. With a story this good, I suspect the conversation will be ongoing for years to come yet – good!

Explorations of duty, sacrifice and redemption are key in the hero’s journey and BLACK PANTHER is no exception here. T’Challa is presented with unpalatable truths about the way ‘right’ things are done in Wakanda, yet crucially everyone’s reasons for doing what they do are not for bad reasons, but for the mythical ‘Greater Good’. In other words – no one may be 100% ‘right’, but no one is 100% ‘wrong’ either … More in keeping with REAL LIFE, than movies. In a comic book movie. Wow!

Lastly, what I loved here was the representation of both tribal and technological motifs, presented side by side. This was mostly presented in the character of Shuri, T’Challa’s kid sister. She is a rounded, three-dimensional character in her own right: a highly intelligent, capable inventor, doctor and scientist. But just as importantly, she has not lost her roots either, as we see her dressed and involved in the various celebration dances, such as when T’Challa is crowned king. When so often movies say women must be one thing OR the other, for Shuri and the other characters to be BOTH should not be underestimated.

iii) Heroes & Villains

In a world of white saviours and lone wolves, T’Challa is a breath of fresh air in the Marvel storyverse. Though I’ve seen many (white) commentators arguing the toss online that Blade was the ‘first, true black superhero’, T’Challa is wildly different to his predecessor. Yes, T’Challa is a ‘black superhero’ but this is within the context of his own storyworld, populated by his Wakanda countrymen (and women). In comparison, Blade is an anomaly, living very much in a ‘white world’. This is because movies are usually presented via what commentators call ‘the white lens’ – white people are the default, which in turn usually influences the racial characteristics of story by default, too (even when created by BAME people).

In addition, T’Challa’s unusual characteristics include compassion, like Diana in DC’s WONDER WOMAN (which will also plays a massive part not only in his own story arc, but also the narrative of BLACK PANTHER as a whole). When heroes pursue vengeance and/or isolation so regularly, this compassion makes T’Challa unusual. Blade in comparison is yet another lone wolf, like Mad Max, Wolverine or any other number of white heroes. (Incidentally, I love the first BLADE movie, as well – but that doesn’t mean Blade’s role function in the actual story is ground-breaking, even for 1998. It was instead the fact Wesley Snipes was heading up a successful superhero movie, a big surprise back then).

I love  great villain, so Erik Killmonger was electrifying. Played by Coogler’s muse/lucky charm Micheal B. Jordan who brought a real humanity to the role, Killmonger is a real reminder the BEST villains can be empathised with. When so many antagonists have nonsensical plans, or behave totally unreasonably for no reason (other than they just ‘can’), Killmonger is both a monster AND humane. What’s more, Killmonger is absolutely RIGHT in his convictions, even if the way he goes about them is totally wrong.

The women, of course, were my favourite. I took my Wee Girls, aged 11 and 6, to see the movie and they were in awe of Nakia and Okoye (their favourite part, and possibly mine, was when Okoye tackled the baddies in the casino in that awesome, flowing red dress). I also loved the fact they were not ‘just’ back up – at one stage, both women race after the bad guys, leaving T’Challa, who has been stunned by a blast they have managed to avoid (suggesting they are better prepared for battle than him!):

Nakia: Do we just leave him behind??

Okoye: He can catch up!

What’s more, their picking up of the mantle when they believe T’Challa is dead was fabulous. How many superhero movies have we seen in which the hero ‘dies’ and yet the story continues, unabated, for more than a couple of minutes? I can’t think of one apart from BLACK PANTHER.

What Needs Further Development

BLACK PANTHER is a critical and commercial success (not to mention an adapted, pre-sold, commissioned work), so anything offered up here is not so much about what would make it ‘better’ for audiences or critics, but rather craft elements writers could consider avoiding in their speculative works. After all, getting our ORIGINAL screenplays and novels sold, especially without the financial backing of various money moguls mean we may have some additional hoops to jump through. Here goes:

iv) Structure and Plot

As with so many Marvel films, Act 1 is far, far, far too long. Whilst exposition was handled pretty well overall, it did have moments of overkill in my opinion. For example, the  bedtime story introducing us to the Black Panther myth and Wakanda at the beginning – again, reminiscent of WONDER WOMAN – did little to advance the story. Also, given we’re introduced to Wakanda two more times (first via T’Challa and Nakia, then again via Everett K. Ross, Martin Freeman’s character), I don’t think it was needed … OR they could have had the bedtime story, but NOT so many subsequent reminders. Whatever the case, it was just too much for me.

Similarly, all the stuff going after Klaue – especially the scenes in Korea, in the casino – ‘bumped back’ the REAL meat of the story. Now, I did love the Korea scenes – Okoye’s red dress fight is already iconic and will go down in movie history before long – but this is nevertheless a classic example of produced movies getting away with what spec works cannot.

v) Double Villains

So, this somewhat unwieldy Set Up meant we ‘reached’ the real crux of the story – Killmonger’s revenge on Wakanda – rather ‘late’ in the day in my view. Andy Serkis as Klaue is brilliant as ever and a real scene-stealer … Almost TOO much of a scene-stealer, in real terms. Killmonger is such a great villain in his own right that making him play second-fiddle to Klaus so ‘long’ felt like a misstep, to me.

Now, obviously Klaue is important in getting Killmonger TO Wakanda in the first place (and ensconced with his people). This means Klaue’s sudden death at Killmonger’s hands is a fantastic reversal, but FEELS like it could be hoodwinking the audience (ie. Klaue may come back to life at some point and pop up somewhere else). This is because we’ve literally spent ‘too much’ time with him. If his role function is to be what I call The False Leader thriller trope, Klaue needs to killed quicker to take advantage of this notion … Probably a good ten minutes earlier I’d bet, if we took a stopwatch and timed it.

vi) Everett K. Ross

I don’t know why Hollywood is so enamoured with the likes of Brit comedic actors like Martin Freeman, but **shrug** (he at least can do an American accent and act a bit, unlike some **COUGHJamesCordenCOUGH**). Apparently Ross is in CIVIL WAR too, though I’d forgotten, which speaks volumes. (I’ll never understand ‘agent characters’ like these, they’re just ‘Expositional Joes’ – there solely to explain various stuff. They’re often needed for that function, maybe he was for the last movie – I don’t remember! – but it’s still a dull role function, imho).

So my problem was not Freeman really but the fact his character was in this story AT ALL. Seriously, WTAF is Ross doing here? He stuck out like a sore thumb for me and NOT because he was white, but because his role function was so redundant. I’ll explain.

Some would argue he’s the classic ‘point of view character’ – the aforementioned ‘Expositional Joe’, there to help the audience access an unfamiliar storyworld. But Ross turns up far too late for this, especially given the first we see of him is in Korea (after the plethora of exposition to do with Wakanda and Black Panther!). This means by the time Ross wakes up in Wakanda (after taking a bullet for Nakia – another heroic white guy, spare me!!!), we have YET ANOTHER introduction to the country via Shuri. Blimey.

I have a friend who works in the Studio system in Hollywood who says these type of characters turning up and sticking out like a sore thumb ‘smell of studio’. In other words, some movie mogul pulling the purse strings insisted Everett K. Ross was included, to ensure audiences can follow. I would bet real money this is what happened here. Whilst Expositional Jos are sometimes needed for this purpose, I just think Ross was totally extraneous in this case. But hey, Freeman has his fans, so whatevs.

vii) Vibranium

Look I love a MacGuffin, particularly in thrillers and adventures, but Vibranium is SO useful, it’s quite ridiculous. There’s literally nothing it can’t do! It provides technology and transport, but also weaponry, medicine … It can even disappear, store energy, you name it. Is there anything it can’t do??

Plus in real terms, it’s not a ‘true’ McGuffin. Yes, Vibanium may have provided Wakanda with its way of life and technically, this way of life is what Killmonger wants to help his people fight oppression all around the world. But this element is sidelined towards Act 3, with Killmonger abruptly switching and  favouring revenge for his father’s death over the Vibranium in any case. Which takes me onto my last craft point …

viii) The Showdown

I talk a lot in my Thriller Screenplays book about ‘The Showdown’, aka Act 3. Everyone remembers a great ending, because the plot should escalate – even accelerate! – towards it, smashing through any number of obstacles, whether literal, metaphorical, or both.

Marvel has been widely criticised craft-wise for its third acts across many different films and BLACK PANTHER has been no exception.

For me, there are elements that work and elements that don’t, here. I loved the final fight amongst the citizens of Wakanda as a whole: I thought Coogler et al did a great job of pitting the people against one another, for those aforementioned ‘good/bad’ reasons.

This lead to a believable and authentic fracturing of relations between the characters, signified in Okoye and her lover, W’Kabi on opposite sides. What’s more, the arrival of M’Baku and his mountain-people, signified in the chanting of ‘Oooh! Ooooh! Ooooh!’ makes us punch the air – especially considering not only had M’Baku adopted a Switzerland-like stance before this, T’Challa had kicked his ass spectacularly at the waterfall.

Meanwhile, T’Challa and Killmonger have their one-on-one fight. We already know the Vibranium trains will figure somehow – Shuri had gone to great lengths to explain them to us, earlier – and sure enough, they create obstacles in the fight that for me, threw up comparisons to the Act 3 fight against Darth Maul in STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. Ack!

If that wasn’t red flag enough, Killmonger has donned his own Black Panther suit to fight T’Challa. In other words yet again our intrepid hero fights his doppelgänger self at the end of the movie. We have seen this trope most recently in LOGAN with the X24, but a variety of others including the IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, INCREDIBLE HULK and ANT-MAN franchises.

For a movie as otherwise innovative as BLACK PANTHER, this seemed a bit too familiar to me. I’d wager this ‘smells of studio’ too – makes me wonder if some money-man has said what HAS to go into the endings of these movies in the Marvel franchise, given they’re all essentially the same. Shame.

What Writers Can Learn

Regardless of any craft issues I might have perceived (or perhaps even despite them?), there’s still plenty to learn in BLACK PANTHER. When it comes to our own stories, most of us can only dream of the kind of success and acclaim this movie has received. But it’s important to remember we can ALL note of the innovative and revolutionary lessons here and apply them to our own screenplays and novels.


Regardless of whether you’re writing a screenplay or novel, or what type of story or genre you’re going for, there’s plenty of meaty craft lessons writers can take away here, such as:

  • Take note of how heroes are perceived traditionally and how they might have changed over the years. Don’t just recycle the same old traits, again and again. Politics aside, it’s BORING!
  • The best villains have plans that make SENSE, so we can emphasise with their counter-struggle. This doesn’t mean we condone their bad behaviour (whatever Twitter might say to the contrary).
  • Always remember your female characters. You don’t have to have a female lead, but if your characters are secondaries, make sure they are not ‘just’ back ups, there for HIM to facilitate the plot and his emotions. Again, this is DULL and modern audiences – both viewers and readers – just won’t stand for it.
  • Even classic themes like ‘Good versus Evil’ can be far more layered than you think. The best stories and character motivations can be viewed multiple ways and bring so many viewpoints to the table … It goes beyond just being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’
  • Make sure the Set Up of your screenplay or novel does not take TOO LONG – this will impact on the real meat of the story and again, modern viewers and readers just won’t stand for it.
  • Careful not to ‘double up’ too long on similar character role functions, plus don’t involve ‘Expositional Jo’ characters for the sake of it.
  • If you’re using a MacGuffin, don’t make it too easy or forget about it as you switch abruptly to something else.
  • Endings count. Don’t go for the tried-and-tested, always push boundaries. Your screenplay or novel  might not ‘pre-sold’ like BLACK PANTHER, but one advantage of speculative works means you can go for the truly unusual, shocking or devastating. Don’t fall back on reliable or cheesy tropes.
  • Lastly, surround yourself with people who SHARE your vision and who will work tirelessly with you to make your dreams happen.

By keeping the above in mind, you can produce excellent work too. Good luck!

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  https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-29888419-3773478736-1-originalWe all know format is the LEAST of our problems as screenwriters … but *how* do we improve our writing craft?? My course with LondonSWF, Advanced Fundamentals of Screenwriting at Ealing Studios, London (Oct 20th-21st, 2018). Over two days, we will put writing craft under the microscope & you will learn tricks to elevate your writing to the NEXT LEVEL. Don’t miss out!

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What’s The Concept?

Concept, premise, controlling idea, seed of the story … Whatever you want to call it, you need that THING at foundation level in your story to be clear and compelling, otherwise your story is SUNK.

Put simply, if you don’t have a great concept at the foundation of your screenplay or novel? YOU GOT NUTHIN’! Supersadface.

It can’t be true … can it??

How Concepts Kill Spec Scripts & Unpublished Novels

YES! It is true. The short version: if your concept STINKS? Your pitch won’t work. You will never get off the starter blocks – no one will like your logline or short pitch, so won’t even read your work. Ack.

But even if by some miracle someone DOES agree to read your stinky concept screenplay or novel? Guess what happens – the draft won’t work, either. Yes, even if your writing is otherwise well-crafted. Yikes!

By the way, even if your concept is GREAT, if the execution of your craft is not? You STILL won’t advance, because agents, producers and publishers are afraid you can’t follow through. Noooooo!

In other words, we want BOTH:

Great concept & great writing = SALE. 

What Is A Logline?

A logline is a short, pithy description, usually between 25 and 60 words, of your story. A logline basically encapsulates your story – your concept (they’re sometimes called ‘short pitches’ too, especially in novels).

Loglines should not be confused with taglines, which are the little PR/marketing lines on movie posters. Loglines/short pitches are what the screenwriter or novelist must interest an agent, producer or publisher with to get their work SOLD.

From there, said agents, producers and/or publishers must ensure they put the concept across to readers and audiences in a compelling enough way to ensure people buy watch or read those stories.

Why Loglines Matter

Here’s the thing: experienced script editors and readers CAN TELL if you have concept problems at foundation level FROM YOUR LOGLINE. True story!

Buuuuuuuut this is what you should do:

  • Writers should START projects with a logline. This means you can iron out any difficulties from the foundations of your story UP. It also means you don’t start writing one thing … and end up writing another, or overcrowd the story with too many threads or conflicting ideas. This is why B2W always recommends you road test your concepts.
  • If writers have difficulty with a concept at foundation level, this WILL translate to the writing. There are many classic problems and pitfalls with loglines. This is because many writers describe ‘around’ the story and don’t really interrogate the concept and how it works. Other writers may gloss over the logline, or don’t even bother with one until MUCH later. These are always the projects that run into terrible difficulties in the drafting process. The writers who really work on their logline and ensure their concept is working and firing on all cylinders spend less time in what I call The Story Swamp, because planning WORKS.
  • It’s a great idea to REVISIT your logline in the writing of your project. Even when we’ve worked on our concepts, we may have a flash of inspiration that means we end up going a different way in the actual writing. This is obviously fine, but it does pay to go back to our original logline so we can see WHERE we’ve parted ways. This means we can assess if it works and not waste our time (which no one ever has enough of!).
  • If you start with a logline, you have a ‘baseline’. This can be comforting to many writers, but more importantly, when someone says ‘What are you working on?’ (and they will!), you can answer!
  • You will never be in that hideous No Man’s Land with a draft and no concept. Again, this saves time. I’ve known writers to have to ‘carve out’ a story from draft after draft for YEARS … whereas writers who start with a road-tested logline can finish in a matter of months or even weeks. What’s not to like!

Watch The Video

So, what should go into YOUR short pitch or logline? I break down exactly what writers should be including, plus common mistakes in pitches and loglines and how to avoid them. SUBSCRIBE TO THE B2W YOUTUBE CHANNEL – pass it on!

DON’T FORGET – You can do peer review on  your loglines and short pitches in the B2W Facebook group. See you there!

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As an author of over 150 non-fiction books, it is safe to say I have made my fair share of mistakes over the years. However, in my opinion, making mistakes as an indie author will only serve to make you a better writer and publisher. In this article, I will share with you the top 5 mistakes indie authors make. Read and digest each tip carefully to maximise your writing and publishing efforts. Ready? Let’s go …

1) A poor book cover design

I have seen many authors spend months (sometimes years) writing their masterpiece, only to fall at the final hurdle with their book cover design. It does not matter how good your content is, if your book cover design fails to promote and show off your book adequately, you will not sell many copies. You do not have to invest heavily to get a great book cover design created. Simply use outsourcing websites, such as Upwork.com, to find an outstanding book cover designer.

TOP TIP: Search Google for ‘Best Book Cover Designer Upwork’ and you will be presented with the best book cover designers Upwork.com have to offer. MORE: 8 Essential Tips For Working With Book Cover Artists

2) A substandard or non-existent Amazon author page

Amazon makes it incredibly easy for authors to create a compelling author page. Your author page is vitally important for showing your readers who you are, what you’re about and how passionate you are about your work. Make sure you set up a great looking Amazon author page by visiting Amazon Author Central.

TOP TIP: Amazon allows you to create a promotional video for inclusion on your author page. Use this opportunity to show off your book and tell your readers what the book is about, what inspired you to write and how it will benefit them. Keep the video under a minute in length, for maximum impact.

3) No BISAC Codes

When you upload your book to both Amazon CreateSpace and Amazon KDP, be sure to select the correct BISAC codes for your book. BISAC codes are a set of industry standard codes that determine which category your book should appear in on Amazon. These categories help readers on Amazon to find your book faster. As an indie author, it is your job to determine the major heading which best describes the content of your book. Once you have decided on the major heading for your book, you can then drill down further and select a sub category for your book to feature in.

TOP TIP: Before you upload your book to Amazon, study the full list of BISAC codes at the website: http://bisg.org/page/bisacedition. MORE: 5 Strategies For Self-Publishing On A Tight Budget

5) Publish in Kindle, but not print

Amazon makes it incredibly easy for indie authors to publish their book in both Kindle and print format. The simple fact is, some books sell better in print than Kindle, and vice versa. On that basis, make sure you publish your book in both print and Kindle format to ensure you gain maximum exposure for your written work.

TOP TIP: Get your book converted to .EPUB for the Amazon Kindle KDP platform and you should be able to use the same file to upload your book to the Apple iBookStore, Nook and Kobo platforms.

5) A lack of marketing activity

Once a book is published and on sale through Amazon, it is tempting as an indie author to sit back and hope the book starts selling. In fact, it’s at this stage of the process that you should really start to ramp up your marketing activities. The key to long-term, sustainable book sales is to market and promote your book consistently, over a long period of time. As part of your marketing strategy, be sure to focus on the following areas:

  • Guest posts on relevant blogs and website
  • YouTube videos based on the chapters of your book
  • Facebook competitions and book giveaways
  • Twitter promotions
  • Interviews with local media and niche websites
  • Book review requests
  • Book tour promotions

There are so many ways you can promote your book once it is published. Yes, book promotion can be hard work, but the rewards can be fantastic if you put the effort it.

TOP TIP: If you are publishing a non-fiction book, create YouTube videos based on the educational elements of your book. YouTube is free to use and in my experience is a great way to drive free traffic to your book. Make sure you place a link below the YouTube video to either your Amazon sales-page or your website, where people can buy a copy of your book. MORE: How to Use Social Media To Market Your Novel

BIO: Richard McMunn is a number 1 bestselling author and award-winning publisher. To learn more about how Richard can help you write and publish a book in any genre, visit his website at the following link: http://www.bookpublishingcourses.com/.

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You may remember this infographic from when it was doing the rounds three or four years back, so I thought I’d revisit it and see if anything has radically changed in how I view it from B2W’s POV as a script reader and script editor.

Since this blog always posits there’s no ‘right’ way to write (just multiple WRONG ways!), I thought I would take a look at the recurring problems section of the graphic. Today I’m putting all 38 of these issues under the microscope and offering up my thoughts. (By the way, whilst the infographic relates to screenplays, it’s worth remembering most of these problematic storytelling elements, plus their solutions, apply to novels as well).

Ready? Let’s go …


Can’t see it? CLICK HERE (or on the pic) to enlarge it

1) The story begins too late in the script (69 scripts)

Frankly, I’m unsurprised this one has turned out to the biggest problem – it’s the craft issue I give the most notes on, as BOTH a script reader in reports and as a script editor! Screenplays just HAVE to hit the ground running and introduce characters and story hand-in-hand. (Psssst! A great tip for writers struggling with this is to plan your story BACKWARDS, from the ending FIRST).

2) The scenes are void of meaningful conflict (67 scripts)

Again, something B2W advises on all the time. Static scenes are probably one of the biggest issues I see, but also scenes that just don’t advance the story. Lots of writers think of structure in the holistic sense, bit often forget about the actual scenes. Check THIS POST out for more.

3) The script has a by-the-numbers execution (53 scripts)

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘the same, but different’ — producers don’t want stories that are completely out of the left field, but equally they don’t want scripts that are too samey either.

4) The story is too thin (53 scripts)

If a story is ‘too thin’, I’d venture this means there’s NOT ENOUGH CONFLICT. I see this happening when writers are not sure of the genre conventions of their chosen story, or when they don’t want to inflict the maximum possible pain/obstacles on their characters.

5)  The villains are cartoonish, evil-for-the-sake-of-evil (53 scripts)

The antagonist thinks s/he is the protagonist! Plus the best antagonists are those who have a plan that MAKES SENSE. Just because we ‘get’ why these people are doing terrible things doesn’t mean we condone their actions (though occasionally we may even PREFER and ROOT FOR the antagonist, why not??).

6) The character logic is muddy (47 scripts)

If characters have no consistency in their actions, then this is a big red flag. (Note however that consistency relates to the story those characters are in, not necessarily ‘real life’, even when dealing with true stories).

7) The female part is underwritten (46 scripts)

The big one! I’m only surprised there wasn’t more of these, tbh. That said, there are now so many writing resources tackling female characterisation, hopefully it’s finally getting through to writers that poorly written female characters will not be tolerated.

8) The narrative falls into a repetitive pattern (45 scripts)

There needs to be a sense of GROWTH or ESCALATION across a narrative (whatever that means), otherwise the story becomes ‘B.O.S.H’ (Bunch of Stuff Happens). If you want your reader to invest in the story, the plot has to take us TOWARDS something.

9) The conflict is inconsequential, flash-in-the pan (44 scripts)

Like number 4 on this list, conflict suffers when writers don’t want to throw EVERYTHING at their characters. It may also be a problem when writers don’t really know what conflict IS – some think it’s all about arguing, rather than action.

10) The Protagonist is a standard issue hero (39 scripts)

Everyone loves a hero … This is one of our enduring archetypes. But the hero becomes stereotypical when so-called ‘heroic’ tales and traits get rehashed. LE YAWN!

11) The script favours style over substance (35 scripts)

Now, I obviously couldn’t say for sure, but I would bet real money lots of these scripts were non linear. There needs to be a STORY REASON for non linearity, not because it ‘looks cool’. I would also wager these writers may have gone for stylistic dialogue a la Sorkin and Whedon, which I see a lot of.

12) The ending is completely anti-climatic (35 scripts)

The ending needs to be some kind of crescendo, showdown, resolution, denouement … Otherwise it’s not dramatically satisfying. Even in the case of the understated ending, there is some kind of sense that things have been resolved (at least for now).

13) The characters are all stereotypes (34 scripts)

Too many writers mistake stereotypes for archetypes. The short version: stereotypes are the ‘simplified’ version; archetypes are the ‘original’ version. Subtle, but crucial difference there. There’s so many resources now to help with this! There’s really no excuse.

14) The script suffers from arbitrary complexity (31 scripts)

If your script is too complicated, readers can’t invest in the story. It’s a good idea to figure out the logline in advance to test out the concept at the heart of the story.

15) The script goes off the rails in the third act (30 scripts)

Too often, writers seem to think, ‘Gotta wrap this up!’ in the third act and write all sorts to get it resolved … But then the ending doesn’t feel natural. Other times, writers try and go for the shock ending but have failed to set up adequately and it seems to come out of the left field.

16) The script’s questions are left unanswered (29 scripts)

Screenwriting is in the business of set up and pay off. Whilst some ambiguity is allowed, we still need  enough information to make up our own minds. Don’t leave us hanging.

17) The story is a string of unrelated vignettes (29 scripts)

Episodic structure is fine, if a writer has worked hard at ensuring it makes logical sense. Dramas that take in long periods of time may use episodic structure. But if there is nothing to create a connection between these episodes (like a person’s lifetime/ages in a biopic!), then what’s the point?

18) The plot unravels through convenience/contrivance (28 scripts)

This may come under number 15, or perhaps a clue or similar will be found that means the script can end. Even if it’s seeded earlier, if it feels contrived, it will still be dissatisfying.

19) The script is totally confused (28 scripts)

I call these WTF scripts. Sometimes you can read 120 pages and get to the end and say, ‘I have no clue what this is about’. Might seem unlikely, but 100% true story!

20) The script is stoic to a fault (27 scripts)

AKA Boring AF. Next!

21) The Protagonist is not as strong as need be (24 scripts)

If a protagonist doesn’t WANT or NEED something, then it will be difficult for them to drive the action. Every writer knows this, yet sometimes the mission or point of the story is just is not clear.

22) The premise is a transparent excuse for action (22 scripts)

Characters running about, fighting and exploding things is cool – but there needs to be a STORY attached. Audiences are bored of plain spectacle … Besides, this is a spec script. It’s not a movie yet!

23) The character backstories are irrelevant/useless (21 scripts)

This happens when writers believe ‘good characterisation’ is about what the characters were doing BEFORE the story even starts. But we learn far more about characters from how they deal with events IN the story. I mean, we never saw iconic characters like Ripley or John McClane having flashbacks, did we? There’s a reason for that.

24)  The supernatural element is too undefined (21 scripts)

If you’re using the supernatural, or fantasy/ sci fi elements in your script, we need to know what the ‘rules’ are of that story world … what is possible? Otherwise it will seem contrived, complicated or both.

25) The plot is dragged down by disruptive lulls (19 scripts)

This is that B.O.S.H problem again – remember, we need a sense of growth, escalation, PUSHING THE STORY FORWARD (whatever that means).

26) The ending is a case of deus ex machina (19 scripts)

Very often audience members THINK they’re seeing a DEM in produced stuff, but it’s not really. However, in the case of spec scripts, they happen all the time: something will be ‘flown in’ to solve all the characters’ problems FOR them. However, if you seed the solution earlier, the ending will work. Set Up/Pay Off again. Simples.

27) The characters are indistinguishable from each other (19 scripts)

Characters may all sound the same; or they may be differentiated, but we just don’t know what their role function is, or what their character motivation is. Or perhaps both. Whatever the case, we need to know WHAT role a character is performing in the story to understand WHO s/he is.

28) The story is one big shrug (17 scripts)

Whilst this may seem subjective (and can be), ‘WHY this story?’ is still a biiiiiiiig thing. If you don’t know WHY you’ve written this story, or WHO it is for, or WHAT we’re supposed to be getting out of it, then there’s NO POINT.

29) The dialogue is cheesy, pulpy, action movie cliches (16 scripts)

Action movies may have cheesy dialogue most often, but there are certain bits of dialogue that should NEVER be said, regardless of the story being told.

30) The script is a potboiler (15 scripts)

In other words, this story is a derivative money-grab that makes the writer seem like a hack. NO THANKS! There will be plenty of time for that later, this is a SPEC SCRIPT, your passion should shine through on the page.

31) The drama/conflict is told, but not shown (14 scripts)

‘Show it, don’t tell it’ may have become a bit of a cliche in its own right, but it’s still worth thinking about how dialogue may undermine the potential conflict in your script. We don’t want acres and acres of TALK. We want to see ACTION pushing this story forward.

32) The great setting is not utilised (13 scripts)

If you’re going to set your story in a potentially visual and dramatic place like a space station, Alaska, underwater, a Brazilian shanty town, inside the human body, a casino, a wild African plain (or wherever), then you’d better BRING IT INTO THE STORY! Otherwise, why bother?

33) The emotional element is exaggerated (13 scripts)

The 1990s are over; Dawson’s Creek and the whole mumblecore thing is done. Super-exaggerated emotions, even in drama, is not cool. Understated is the name of the game right now. This may change, but for the moment you have to stay up-to-date.

34) The dialogue is stilted and unnecessarily verbose (13 scripts)

What parts of 29 and 31 did you not get??

35) The emotional element is neglected (11 scripts)

Just like number 33 on this list, the opposite can also be true. Fancy!

36) The script is a writer ego trip (10 scripts)

Writers with an agenda are boring, especially when they’re trying to convey how clever they are. (Yes, that didn’t stop certain writer-directors, true, but that will be why most of them had to make their own stuff themselves!).

37) The script makes a reference, but not a joke (7 scripts)

This one is harder to pin down, but I wouldn’t mind putting a wager down this references the so-called ‘Signal From Fred’.

38) The message overshadows the story (5 scripts)

I call these ‘soapbox scripts’ – in other words, the writer is so intent on their message, the story suffers as they deliver it wth all the subtlety of a brick to the face. That’s not entertaining, especially when it’s ‘just’ on the page as a screenplay.


I found this a really interesting exercise. Obviously I can’t know any of the exact reasons the scripts got rejected as I never read them myself (or even know what they are!). That said, there is plenty here I recognise as an experienced script reader, illustrating that scripts get rejected for the same-old reasons, now more than ever.

So, intriguingly, though this infographic is a few years old now, it still has MUCH to tell writers on WHY their scripts get rejected. Make sure you download it and/or bookmark it today!

Want even more screenwriting tips?

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One thing I hear all the time is, ‘I really don’t know how you get it all done!’ 

It’s true: I write books, blogs and screenplays; I edit and read scripts; I do copious amounts of research and reading; I run workshops and do talks and organise events; I do networking, social media outreach and content marketing (Oh and raise kids, cook and travel and all that other pesky life stuff, too).

But my secret is not time travel, magic or making small elves write all my books. In fact, my secret is actually something ANYONE can do – ROUTINE. Having a routine involves just two things:

  1. working out a strategy that ensures you deliver results
  2. sticking to it like GLUE

In terms of number 1) I’ve written before about goal-setting and evaluation, which is part of your strategy. Working out HOW to get things done and BY WHEN is key to this. Many people want to write a screenplay or novel (or whatever) and may even start or finish a draft or two, but soon run out of steam because they have not worked out how they’re going to get it done, or when they will finish. Other writers may think they’re doing good work, but end up going in circles because they’ve not set an end date on their project. They just end up rewriting endlessly, so can’t move on.

From there, with reference to number 2) it really is as simple as DOING IT. I do my best writing in the morning for example, but I also need fresh air to get the brain cogs whirring (plus it’s not a great idea to sit down all day behind a computer). So my day looks something like this:

  • Breakfast with the kids and school run
  • Go for a walk somewhere and/or do errands
  • Do my emails and admin/social media (1 hour maximum)
  • Writing until lunch
  • Reading / writing script notes/ Skype meetings until 3pm
  • School run again
  • More emails and admin

Of course, there will be days that differ, especially when I’m editing my novels (that always needs doing YESTERDAY, so I’ll binge it). Also, sometimes I’ll be doing meetings IRL.  But generally speaking, the above is my routine and it works for me – as you can see, it’s nothing MAJOR! But every little bit counts.

What’s YOUR routine for getting writing done? Leave in the comments.

More Links To Get Writing Done

How To Set Meaningful Goals And Stick To Them

How To Be Successful, Defined By 5 Facebook Memes

Check Out The Habits Of Successful Writers

Top 5 Reads For Every Successful Writer

5 Habits of Highly Productive Writers

Top 10 Commandments For Successful Writers

10 (More) Commandments For Successful Writers

11 Habits That Can Transform Your Productivity

25 Writing Secrets of 25 Famous Authors

50 Industry Insiders Share Their Filmmaking Secrets

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If you’re a writer with a blank sheet of paper in front of you, chances are you’re currently optimistic. The possibilities stretch out in front of you, and the world you are about to craft begs to be written. But a word of warning. If you want to finish the story, you’re going to have to manage those expectations.

This might seem like a negative post – but don’t read it that way! For all these lies, there are ways to fix them!

1) ‘This will be easy’

At the beginning of a story you’re convinced that you’ll get through this project with ease. There will be no snags and you’ll complete the project in record time with a smile on your face and constant happy feeling in your heart. Does that ever happen? Something in real life will come up – a car breakdown, a funeral, a wedding. And that’s before you think about the actual process of writing! Writing might be a lot of things, but it’s never easy.

FIX IT: Grab a piece of paper. Write down how you feel about the project now, before you start it. When the wobbles happen, dig that piece of paper out and use it to give yourself a little boost. MORE: 30 Doses Of Inspiration From Fictional Teachers & Mentors

2) ‘The words will flow from me’

You might find that, to begin with, you find the story extremely easy to get down on the page. The word count and the page count increases and you start to think that the whole project will be a breeze. Done in a month perhaps? A week? Then, one day, you stare at the screen and no words pop into your head and you’re stuck. If you’re not prepared for this, it can be an awful feeling.

Fix it: Targets! Set a daily and weekly word count goals that will stretch you, but still allow you to have a day or two at a slower pace. Even when you have a bad day, you can feel positive about where you’re going.

3) ‘I know how the story will work’

Some of you might be a lot more rigid when it comes to plans and story outlines than I am. Writers I know go into a story expected a few twists and turns to appear in the story, usually caused by brain waves and flashes of inspiration when in ‘the zone’. Once you start getting feedback and thoughts from your beta readers, you’ll find the story changing bit by bit. So if you start writing with a rigid mind-set, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

FIX IT: You could always plan your story out to the most minute detail. Personally, I simply keep a track of the changes I’ve made, so that when my story moves off on a tangent, I can always return to the plan if I need to. This gives me reassurance that, not matter how crazy the story gets, I have a “safety blanket plot” to return to.

4) ‘I won’t get distracted’

I don’t mean distractions like the kids shouting downstairs, or feeling a burning desire to update your Facebook page (or comment on the Bang2Write one). I mean new writing opportunities and other competitions. When you read them, new ideas will come along and they will try and push out what you’re working on.

FIX IT: Most competitions are repeated annually. So, if you have an idea for a story that works for a particular competition, write it down, put it to the side and wait for next year. Then finish what you’re working on!

5) ‘I’ll easily find time to write’

Finding time to write is one of the biggest challenges that most writers face. The ‘real world’ distractions I mentioned in the previous point will all conspire to take your writing time away from you. Before you know it you’ll be in bed, exhausted and with nothing achieved. That’s when you need to start to plan your time and settle into a writing routine.

FIX IT: Think about the time that you have over the coming weeks and months. Plan and share a writing routine with your friends and loved ones.

6) ‘My first draft won’t need much editing’

How many times have you fallen into this trap? Then on a read-through you’ll realise that your main character’s mother changed names half way through the story. Or someone forgot about the treasure chest key. Or, in one of my favourite anecdotes, a character didn’t get dressed again after the sex scene, so he’s been technically naked for the entire third act. And that’s before you get any feedback from beta readers.

FIX IT: Stop referring to your first draft as a first draft. Call it draft zero, or stop calling it a draft at all. Doing this will change your expectations for the work, and allow you to feel better about all the changes.

7) ‘My feedback will be excellent’

Does anyone have this feeling when you send something to beta readers? You think all your readers will come back with tiny tweaks and the occasional typo. Instead, they show you some massive plot holes. Or, worse, where they ‘didn’t get it.’ Your confidence is blown and you give up on the work.

FIX IT: You choose your beta readers, so make sure that you have a good mix of expertise in there. You should embrace the different opinions, but remember, it’s YOUR work at the end of the day!

8) ‘I won’t have any doubts’

At some point, everyone has a crisis in confidence over the piece their working on. You might see something similar on TV, or you might think that no one will ever want to read or watch it. You might stop loving the characters, or the theme of the piece. The size of the crisis usually depends on the individual (and the ego) involved.

FIX IT: Similar to number 1, to solve this you should scribble down how you feel when you finish a chapter or a scene, or have completed a set piece so amazing you think the world will be talking about it for years. Then, in periods of doubt, look at your notes to yourself.

9) ‘Everyone will love this’

Nothing is universally loved. So you shouldn’t expect it of your work. In fact, you shouldn’t be writing for everyone anyway. Choose your target audience! For better or worse in the age of the internet, everyone has an opinion and not everyone will love your work.

FIX IT: Find your audience. Do some research and see what your target audience like, what they love and what they hate. Then make sure your project speaks to them. Everyone won’t like it – but I guarantee someone will!

10) ‘This will be my big break’

Big breaks aren’t real. They are the culmination of hard work and constant production. For most writers that ‘big break’ moment is not a distinct moment that then makes everything easy. So please stop expecting that your next work will start you on the road to easy street. MORE: My Simple Writing Breakthrough That Kicked It All Off 

FIX IT: Fit your project into a long term plan. Instead, look for the smaller mini wins that will start to build towards a career. The more you get your name out there, the bigger your name and the better chance that the big wins will come your way.

So don’t despair – you might be lying to yourself, but with a little bit of self-awareness, you’ll soon get the story finished!

BIO: Phil runs a blog dedicated to helping writers be more productive at www.writewithphil.com. His aim is to give new writers the tools that they need to make the most of whatever time they have, regardless of whether they are writing full time, part time, or in their free time. Phil has a master’s in Creative Writing from Queens University Belfast. As well his blog, he has writes for theatre and has had plays performed in London and Birmingham. His first novel, The Unjudged, is due out in 2018.

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