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So You Want To Be A Writer?

One great thing about the internet is that it’s a great place to look to for information, for advice and tips on how to do things. I’m a writer and I’d like to share my thoughts on that book we are all desperate to write. I’m no expert and I still only class myself as a beginner so feel free to ignore everything I say! I have my first book, Intergalactic Terrorist, published with Amazon to download. It’s not the first book I’ve written, but the first I’ve published. I’m currently writing a new book – at least I am when I can find the time! I also write screenplays that I develop through Berry Productions, my indie film company so a lot of what I’m about to say will work for writing for film/tv/theatre as well! I’ve had highs and lows. I’ve had confidence boosters and knock-backs. So if you’re thinking about writing a novel – here’s what I believe you must break through in order for it to be a success.

Is your story actually any good?

Books2They say everyone believes they have one good book in them that they are just dying to get out – one great story that needs to be told. This could be true. It may be true also that that one great story actually isn’t as great as you think it is. Now I’m not trying to tell anyone that their story they need to tell is going to be terrible. I am saying that people are very judgemental and in today’s society we only demand the best. A lot of people’s stories will fall short of being the best and end up judged by the masses.

I have story ideas all of the time. Nearly every day I come up with a new adventure that I want to create either in novel form or as a film. Most of these I choose never to pursue because I know, as much as I enjoy coming up with the ideas and creating the characters and settings, that the story is just not good enough to be unleashed on an audience and I know it never will be. Yes, I’m one of these judgemental people. I, like we all do, judge other people’s work all of the time but the person’s work I judge the most is my own. I feel I have the self critique to tell if an idea, with a little tweaking (not twerking – that’s whole different ballgame), could work, or if it would fall flat and should never be heard of again.

So step one in telling that brilliant story you have in you, is judging yourself. Is it is honestly a good enough story that anyone will want to read?

Do you know how to write a book?

Books1Excellent! You’ve made it past initial doubts. You have decided that your story is the best story ever told and that everyone needs and will want to read what you have to write. The next hurdle we face is actually writing the bloody thing. So everyone has at least one great book in them? But can everyone actually write a novel? Writing takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Yes, all you’re doing is sitting by your computer all day tapping on your keys – but that in itself is tiring. First, how do you have the time to write? I don’t. I work as a video producer, have family and friend commitments, and I’m also an independent filmmaker. I don’t have the time to write! But I find the time. I’ll develop super powers and fly around the earth backwards so fast that I turn back time if I have to in order to write. What I’m trying to say is that it’s time consuming.

When was the last time you wrote a story? Are you always writing ideas down or was it at school? Do you remember how to structure plot and character and how to build a storyline up to those ever important, edge of your seat moments? Did you ever know how to? It’s hard, especially if you’re not used to doing it. Luckily in this age of communication there are hundreds of websites and blogs for tips and advice. Pop it into Google and let someone help you with ways to do it. Of course, other people’s ideas won’t work for everyone. But you need to find a way of writing that suits you best, a way that creativity can flow whilst hitting all of those important grammatical and structural niches that those judgementalists will demand!

What do you do with it when it’s complete?

Books3Months have gone by. Years maybe. Your story was so great you couldn’t let it die. You’ve neglected your job, family and friends and you’ve written the damn thing and you’ve followed all the advice and it is a brilliant piece of art! Now what? Everyone’s different of course but the obvious thing to do would be to read it. Go back to the beginning and read the full thing (I know you were reading it as you went along but you need to read it as a whole entity). I guarantee there will be parts you want to change. Chapter 12 that you wrote at 3am that was your best bit of writing is probably a bit of mess because you were so tired you’re fingers hit the keys on autopilot.

So you’ve re-read and it rocks! Now close the computer and go and live your life. A week, maybe two later, reopen your book and read it again. That’s right, fully. With that little break to clear your head you will find a whole load more things you need to change. It could be anything from stilted dialogue to confusing sentences. And spelling mistakes. There will be many! Then after you’ve read it, get someone else to read it. Someone that is a reader and knows what makes a good story – but someone who can be totally honest with you and tell you, if it’s shit, that it’s shit. Then someone else needs to read it. Someone who is good at proof reading. Maybe someone who is good at proof reading that you know won’t like your tale of robots and alien sex slaves because all they read are period dramas. These people are good because they’re not judging the story – they already know it’s not for them. They’ll concentrate on the grammar and spellings.

When it’s been read and re-read and read again by yourself and multiple people (maybe even pay for a professional to read it – always helps!)  you want the world to read it right? Your options are traditional publishing – sending it to agents and publishers, expect rejection after rejection, wait years and years and hopefully someone will actually read it and think it can make them some money and hey presto – or self-publish it on a site such as Amazon – where you can publish your book for people to download within a couple of hours, but at the risk that your book, even after all the re-reading you did, is still shit and everyone that downloads it will tell you. I’m not going to tell you which you should do – that’s for you to decide. Neither is right, neither is wrong.

Taadaa! You’ve done it! Well done! Now, I know I sound quite pessimistic, and I’m not I promise, but it isn’t easy to write a book and a lot of people think it might be.  There are far too many self-published authors at the moment who’s books are simply not good enough. I’m not saying mine are any better, that’s for all your judgers out there! But if you’ve got the commitment to get that story written and get that book published then go for it. And most importantly, keep writing. Each book you write should be better than the last – you never know, you might have the next best seller in you!

Good luck and I look forward to reading your book!

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Written by Joseph Monahan – writer/director at Berry Productions

@josephmonahan

Download Joe’s comedy sci-fi book, Intergalactic Terrorist.

 

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Writing the dreaded Film Treatment…

FilmmakersWe’ve just written our first full application package for funding from iFeatures, who are in conjunction with Creative England, BFI, BBC Films and National Lottery. They have a great scheme where they take a filmmaking group (writer, director and producer) who are ready to make their first feature film and help them with training and ultimately a £350,000 budget.
Only three teams will get that money though so the competition will be really stiff! To filter out the wannabies from the big boys, they have made an application process that is pretty damn hard. They are looking for:
– A ten page treatment for your proposed film
– 500 word statements from each team member and a group statement
– Examples of previous work
– Biographies for each team member

So there’s a lot to do. We only had a month to do it as well, so the pressure was on. We’ve finally completed and submitted with much relief. So I thought I’d tell you about our writing process and what we did to make our application the best it can be. After all, if you are planning on applying for funding, these are the types of things that will be required and be great skills to have. We’re no experts though, so feel free to ignore everything I’m about to say!

TREATMENT
Writing HelpA treatment is the full story of your film from the very beginning to the very end. The reader must know every major plot point and all of the character development throughout the film. No cliffhanger endings to make the reader want to know what happens at the end. They want to know you can deliver a full story from start to finish.

Not only does the reader need to know what happens in the film, but they also need to be able to visualise the film when they read it. So you need to describe the settings, and the situations in the scenes. If something stands out about specific characters you need to tell it.

Also the way it is written needs to fit with the genre of film you hope to make. If you’re planning a horror then your treatment needs to be tense, unnerving and scary. If it’s a comedy then you want to try and make people laugh.
It’s a difficult task as you’ll only have so many words/pages to use, as specified by whoever you’ll be sending your treatment to. Therefore every sentence has to be planned carefully. Don’t rush through it, but don’t drag it out too much either. Once you’ve got the pacing needed to tell the story, it needs to flow naturally and be easy for the reader to follow.

One of the things that is easy to slip into is the ‘He did this’ and ‘She did that’ scenario. No one wants to read a list of what Bob did or said as this will quickly bore a reader to death. The key is to find clever ways of telling your reader what Bob did. And of course beware of too many spelling or grammatical mistakes. One or two will be passed unnoticed but too many will make you seem amateurish.

Ultimately, what will sell your treatment more than anything else is a great story. If you still feel like your story could be better then you are not ready to send it anywhere!

If you can master your treatment then you should be unstoppable. Of course even the perfect treatment doesn’t guarantee success. Be sure you have researched into who you are sending it to first. Check that they are interested in the type of film you are sending them or don’t already have anything too similar in their back catalogue. Also a lot of luck is involved. Luck that it gets to the right person at the right time. Give it your best shot though – the worst that can happen is they say no!

STATEMENTS
You will usually have to submit statement’s from at least the writer, director and producer of your film (if you have them on-board). This will require you to write a piece (you’ll be advised how many words) about yourself, what you can bring to the project and how you will work alongside your team members.

WriterIf you’re the writer then obviously your written statement has to be well written. Really well written. This is your chance to prove how clever you can be with words and sentence structure and grammar. Mistakes here will cost you. You also need to find a way to prove to the readers how you are connected with the story. What made you think of it? Why do you need to tell it? What were your inspirations? Also a bit on how you work as a writer would be helpful. They need to have confidence that, not only are you good at what you do, but you can also get the job done and not abandon it halfway through. Show that you’re a team player too and that the input, advice and critique of others is important to your writing.

DirectorFor the director, you need to show why you want to take this film on board. Ultimately this is going to be your vision so how are you going to make that happen. How can you use your skills and your life knowledge to bring this to the screen? Why do you feel compelled to? An understanding of the story, the characters and the themes and messages you are trying to tell is a must. You need to show how passionate you are about this film and that you will sell your own Grandmother to get it made! They also need to know that you are good at what you do. Links to previous work is a good idea.

Producers have to be just as committed to this project as the writer and director. It is becoming encouraged more and more for the producers to understand the way films are made and to have some creative input, so show what you know about film. What will your background bring to the project? You also need to convince the reader that you are the perfect person to sort out the budget, organise locations, actors, equipment that might be needed. You are the man/woman to go to when stuff needs to get done. Prove it.

Now I’d never say to lie on these things, but exaggerating or embellishing on the truth slightly is something that all of your competitors are going to be doing so you need to do it too. As long as, if asked, you can back it up. Don’t tell them you’ve written a best-selling novel if it’s obviously a lie.

Most importantly, have fun with it. At the end of the day, most people watch a film for entertainment. This is your baby, your story, your film. If you cannot be entertained by it then how will anyone else?

Good luck with submitting your ideas to the world! I look forward to watching your film!
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Written by Joseph Monahan – Writer/director at Berry Productions – @josephmonahan

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