This week I want to announce an exciting new venture—a brand new YouTube channel for aspiring writers — Get Writing.
Yes, after ten years of writing about writing on http://stavroshalvatzis.com I’m finally stepping into the youtube arena to provide additional help for emerging writers.
The channel will complement my usual blog spot, providing analysis and commentary on the myriad of writing techniques, but will add that all-important audio-visual dimension to the mix.
“Get Writing is a new YouTube channel that adds an audio-visual dimension to the material found on this website.”
Additionally, I will be inviting to the platform a selection of subscribers, some of whom are established authors, screenwriters and film makers to share their knowledge as well as to discuss their forthcoming projects with us. Film and book reviews are also on the radar, as is my sincere attempt to answer your individual questions through YouTube’s comments section.
And despite my initial performance on camera being ever-so-serious and wooden, I believe the channel is poised to become an invaluable resource for aspiring writers. So, click on this link, or search, “How to write fabulous scenes” within YouTube, subscribe, and let’s Get Writing!
A Television Series Bible is a marketing document containing an outline for a new television series. It has to inform, entertain and captivate the reader if it is to have a chance of going into actual production. Here are some pointers.
Do you have a strong concept, preferably a high concept, upon which your series is based? Remember that the series bible is a pitching document. It must capture the producers’ imagination and engage their emotions from the get-go. What if someone had pitched Jurassic Park as a tv series back in the day? I can’t think of a studio not snapping it up.
Have you included a crisp logline for the show, and a captivating one-page pitch—essentially a synopsis of the series—that establishes the story world, goal, theme and tone of the show? The set-up logline for Breaking Bad might be: When a docile, cash-strapped chemistry teacher is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he starts cooking meth to provide for his family with the intention of stopping when he has accrued enough cash. But pride and ambition result in a change of plans.
Does each season have a clear season question that is answered only at the end of that season? Does the entire series have a series question that is answered only at the end of the series? The season and series questions are compasses that guide each episode as it marches towards answering those very questions. For example, in Gotham, one season question might be: Who will win the hoodlum war amongst the rival gangs? The series question might be, will Bruce Wayne survive to become the Batman—and in what shape or form?
Have you included short character biographies and episode synopsis, as well as ‘snapshots’ of intriguing objects from each episode—a picture or sketch of a gothic, jewel-encrusted crucifix side-by-side a pair of long fangs, for example, may go a long way in capturing the glance of a producer. What about a blood-stained suicide note to a lover?
Is your bible design germane to the subject matter? Is it attractive to the eye? Textured backgrounds with lots of sketches are fitting for period or fantasy pieces. Neon colours and backgrounds are more appropriate for science fiction.
Have you made clear in the character biographies what’s at stake for the important characters, both internally and externally? In other words, do we know what the protagonist’s goal is? Do we know why the antagonist, or, antagonistic forces, oppose this goal? And importantly, do we know what shortfall the protagonist has to make up in terms of a secret, a wound, and/or a moral or physical flaw, in order to achieve the goal? The character’s developmental arc is tied up with the plot arc. Both have to be conceived as two sides of the same coin.
Have you included a short synopsis of a second and third season? You need to show producers that your series has legs. Hence the importance of the series question. In Breaking Bad, the series question is: Can Walter White survive his cancer, ruthlessness and greed? Showing how you intend to develop your series is an important aspect on whether your series will be picked up or not.
“Television series bibles vary in style and content. The thing that makes the best bibles stand out is precisely an element of uniqueness rooted in their design style and subject matter.”
Making sure that your television series bible addresses most of these pointers will go some way in giving your pitch a chance of being noticed by producers.
In today’s competitive market an indie writer needs to keep her eye on at least two targets – writing skills and marketing, and it all starts with the title.
The belief that all a good writer has to do is keep writing—that recognition will come knocking on his door in due course, is optimistic. For every writer that succeeds many others don’t. The truth is that wide-spread recognition, if it comes at all, has to be actively pursued, coaxed, grown.
Entering competitions, doing readings of your work, building a large online presence, giving guest lectures at book clubs and colleges, can help—but start by grabbing your potential reader’s attention through a great title followed by a captivating logline or blurb.
I have discussed loglines and blurbs elsewhere on my blog. Today I want to look at the importance of a story’s title.
“Not only does a title hint at what your story is about, it is an indispensable marketing tool, too.”
I asked a friend of mine, an avid reviewer of kindle books, how she picks which story to read first amongst the many others she receives each day. She told me she lets the title and book cover do that for her.
When I worked for Elmo de Witt Films, one of my tasks was to look out for promising screenplays. There were always dozens of them in a pile on my desk waiting to be read. The ones that caught my eye first were always screenplays with great titles.
The story title as a marketing tool
A great title ticks one or more of the following boxes:
It points to a genre. It hints at the story behind it. It has emotional content. It is not the name of a character. It sets up a question, hints at a puzzle, intrigues one in some way.
Titles such as, Apollo 13, Rich and Famous, Gladiator, The Madness of King George, and Alien leave us in no doubt as to what the story is about. Others, such as Blade Runner, sound so cool and compelling they make us want to know more.
But titles such as K-Pax, The Island,August Rush?
Not so good.
The title, Emma, may have worked for Jane Austen over two hundred yeas ago, but names of (unknown) people don’t generally make for good titles.
I typically come up with ten or more titles for a new book or screenplay and ask family, friends, and students to pick their favourite from the list, before making my final choice. I consider it time well spent.
Choosing a compelling, eye-catching title for your story is the first small step in getting your novel or screenplay noticed.
If you enjoyed this post, or have a suggestion for a future one, kindly leave a comment and let’s get chatting.
So, you’ve written your literary masterpiece and posted it up on Amazon with a logline, book cover and description, which, in your opinion, is darned perfect.
But if your book is so great and your description so spot-on, why isn’t anyone buying it? You’ve promoted it, so you know readers know its there, but where are the sales?
There is a good chance that your logline—that short description at the top of your Amazon product page meant to set up your story in an intriguing and succinct way, falls short.
It may even suck altogether.
Finessing the Logline
In a logline containing a couple dozen or so words, each word weighs a ton. There is a limit to how much tonnage you can load up on the scale. You’ve got to ensure that each word is there because it makes an invaluable contribution to the overall sentence. Superfluous and ill-chosen words make for superfluous and ill-chosen loglines. If a word doesn’t contribute to tone or meaning, strike it from the sentence.
If your logline fails to hook your readers immediately they will drift over to another page in search of something better to read.
Brevity and precision aside, ask yourself whether your logline paints a picture of what your story is about and poses an intriguing question the reader is dying to have answered.
But there is another crucial thing a logline must do. It must play fair with the reader. Your book cover and logline are the promise you make your readers: Buy my book and you’ll get the sort of story I describe. Fail to do so, or change the genre halfway through the book, and you may disappoint or even anger them, with devastating results when they come to reviewing your book.
Don’t get me wrong. Readers love surprises. They hate predictability. But if you promise your readers a drama, don’t give them a satire. They’ll punish you for it.
Upon first publishing my sci-fi/mystery/thriller, The Level, on Amazon, which currently is being developed into a feature film by the A-List Australian producer, G. Mac Brown, I offered the following description:
A man, suffering from amnesia wakes up in a pitch-black room, tied to what feels like a wooden chair. He discovers he is a prisoner in an abandoned, labyrinthine asylum hunted by shadowy figures out to kill him. An enchanting woman dressed in a black burka appears out of the darkness and offers to show him the way out, if only he can remember who he truly is. But the truth is more terrifying than anything anyone could have ever imagined.
The book did well, jumping to number 22 on the Amazon top 100 Bestseller list in its category. But a chat with a fellow writer drew my attention to the possibility that my description was missing a vital ingredient: the scifi/technothriller element. In fact, as it stood, the cover and logline screamed: Horror genre! And while there are strong thriller/horror elements in the story, I realised I wasn’t playing fair with my readers.
So, I reworked my logline and came up with the following:
A man with no memory hunted down the twisted corridors of a derelict asylum by murderous figures…
A computer programmer desperate to eliminate a flaw in her code before the software is released to an unsuspecting public…
Two lives bound together by a terrifying secret.
This logline has the elements of the previous one, but adds technology to the broth — a huge part of the story. It plays fair with the reader.
Using precise, economic language, posing an intriguing question, and playing fair with the reader in terms of genre are some of the most important elements in crafting an effective logline.
Winning habits are those habits that make the tasks we have to perform easier by automating them, to a certain degree. Certainly, they give us the momentum we need to embark on our tasks by virtue of repitition. The harder the task, the more the benefit acquired through habit.
Going to gym at a certain time of day is one such habit that I find helpful. Sitting down to write each day is another. Here are some suggestions that make for successful writing:
1. Read voraciously. Stephen King reminds us that if we don’t have time to read, we don’t have time to write. Watch plenty of good movies too. If novels and short stories teach us about the inner journey, as well as character complexity and depth, movies teach us about pace, the outer journey and economy.
2. Enjoy and celebrate your creative journey—the mistakes too. Goethe once said: “By seeking and blundering we learn.” Sound advice indeed.
3. Join a writer’s group for networking, information, feedback and moral support.
4. Know your industry. Read dedicated magazines, subscribe to relevant blogs and websites. Try to learn something new about your craft each day.
5. Dispel negativity from your writing life, despite the growing number of rejection slips. Dean Koontz garnered 75 such slips before his first sale. Each book or screenplay represents enormous effort, dedication and faith. Negativity eats away at your resolve, self-belief and energy. It has no place in your process.
One important winning habit to acquire is to write regularly—every day if you can. Not each session has to produce inspired or superlative work. The point is to establish a routine.
6. Don’t second-guess, or edit your work while writing. Let the material pour out of you. Correcting and polishing are for the editing stage.
7. Be persistent and committed. The great concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz once said: “Never give up, never give up, never give up.” You shouldn’t either.
9. Believe in yourself and in your abilities. If you don’t, why should anyone else?
10. Learn to take criticism. Feedback, fair or foul, is requisite and inevitable. Paz Octavio, the Mexican poet and writer said: “What distinguishes modern art from the art of other ages is criticism.”
Fostering winning habits that develop and sustain stamina ought to make your goals as a writer easier to achieve.
So, you have a new release—you’ve written a new novel, posted it it up on amazon, and are hoping to generate some buzz to make it stand out from the millions of other books vying for the readers’ attention.
So, what now?
Advertising your new release:
1. Make sure you have an intriguing, eye-catching cover.
A book cover is the first thing a reader sees. Without a first good impression the chances of your book being noticed decrease dramatically.
2. Make sure you have a catchy, to-the-point longline that allows the reader to grasp the gist of the story with minimal effort.
What has the world’s most powerful quantum computer, operating on board the space station Gravity, discovered about the birth of the universe that it is refusing to divulge? Chief programmer Sam Yeager is sent to find out, only to learn of a plot to sabotage the machine that could result in the death of the crew.
3. Feature a snippet of a great review on the cover itself.
Reviews have become increasingly difficult to procure, thanks to Amazon’s draconian limits placed on reviewers. Counteract this by sending your book off to readers you respect and quote a line or two from them on the cover itself. Here’s what author Donovan Roebert said about Before the Light:
“Calls to mind some of the best and most meaningful stories of H.G. Wells.”
I placed this memorable quote on my cover to entice the reader.
4. Use social media to announce the arrival of your book and follow it up with a series of interesting posts.
In another article I will look at where and how best to advertise you books for optimal results.
A great cover, good reviews, and social media support are essential in getting your new release noticed on platforms such as amazon.
This post is unashamedly about my latest novelette, The Nostalgia of Time Travel. The novelette represents a new departure from my usual writing, although I’ve tried to keep external events that are at the core of every genre-driven tale a strong feature of this story.
The novelette is part of my ongoing attempt to bring a more authentic, literary approach to my stories while still managing to retain a strong outer journey—something I began exploring in my previous novel, The Land Below.
Here’s a short description of The Nostalgia of Time Travel:
After the accidental death of his wife, Miranda, Benjamin Vlahos, an American theoretical physicist relocates to a remote resort town in Northern Queensland to work on a set of equations to prove that time travel to the past is possible. As he struggles with the math, a deadly cyclone approaches, dragging with it ghosts from an unresolved past.
As always, I’ve worked with nuggets mined from different genres in an attempt to keep the story fresh and unpredictable, but I’ve taken extra care to keep the emotional and psychological dimensions authentic.
Here’s an early indication from the first Amazon.com review. I’d love to hear from others whether you think I’ve succeeded.
It’s a book for people who enjoy exploring the complexities of human nature By hannah on August 8, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A thought provoking novel, that excels at creating a rich, layered world for his characters, with lines you want to read out loud, just to hear them. It’s more of a book for people who enjoy exploring the complexities of human nature, rather then just a waiting for the next plot point.
If you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others. If you have a suggestion for a future one, please leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the bottom right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.
AN INDIE writer’s path to success is difficult one. The journey not only demands writing excellence, but marketing acumen as well. In this post I want to highlight a free and useful utility for indie writers working on iPhones and iPads that may make the marketing part of the journey a little easier. I have it on good authority the app is about to be released on android, too. Its name is Penned.
Penned allows you to create a profile and upload sample chapter(s) of your book in a genre of your choosing. I found the interface to be intuitive and easy to use, although it did crash a couple of times on my iPad.
The app allowed me to upload chapters from three of my novels: Scarab, Scarab II, and The Level for display. Like Wattpad, the programme links writers with readers and other writers, encouraging comments and debate on the work presented. Anyone liking what they read on Penned can go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever their work is sold, and buy a copy there. I’ve received several comments already, and have even seen a slight bump up in sales on my Amazon page, which, for an indie writer, is all to the good.
Of course, there are many other forums for this sort of discussion, exhibition, and discovery of work to occur, but what is especially cool for an indie writer about a relatively new app is the terrain has not yet become crowded. Needless to say the situation may change as the programme gains exposure and popularity.
Any effort to increase the number of places where indie writers can discover, exhibit, and discuss work has to get a thumbs-up, and Penned certainly gets mine.
Why don’t you give it a try? The space provided by this app may be just the place where you make your next big breakthrough!
Penned is a great free app for writers and readers that allows you to upload and share sample chapters of your work. It’s a great new way to discover new talent, as well as to introduce yourself to others.
This short post, is, unashamedly, about the release of my new novella, The Level. I started writing it in Brisbane, Australia a couple of years ago, before pausing to complete Scarab II: Reawakening – the follow-up to my successful first novel, Scarab.
Scarab’s amazing popularity on Amazon (it reached the #1 spot both in the US and the UK in the science fiction/high tech category), persuaded me on this course of action. Mission accomplished, I returned to The Level with gusto. Whether this new novella will reach the heights achieved by Scarab, we will just have to wait and see.
Below, is a short press release of The Level, as it appears on my amazon page.
A man, suffering from amnesia, wakes up in a pitch-black room, tied to what feels like a wooden chair. He discovers he is being held captive in a derelict insane asylum haunted by inmates who are determined to kill him. Help comes in the form of a beautiful, mysterious woman dressed in a black burka who offers to show him the way out, if only he can remember who he truly is.
If you enjoy your science fiction spiked with mystery, suspense and thrilling twists…
If you’re fascinated with the pervasive nature of love, consciousness and the limits of personal freedom…
Then scroll to the top of the page and grab this brand new novella, now!
There you have it. Effective? You be the judge of that. Perhaps you can write in and give me your opinion. I’d greatly appreciate it!
Better still, you could grab your own copy of the book and write a short review on amazon!
The Level is a novella in the science Fiction/Psychological/Thriller category, which explores the nature of love, consciousness, and personal freedom in the setting of an abandoned insane asylum.