Saw II Writer/Director Darren Lynn Bousman On His Latest Film, Abattoir

by Ashley Scott Meyers

In this episode of the podcast I sit down with screenwriter and director Darren Lynn Bousman about his latest film Abattoir. We also discuss his early days as a struggling writer and how he got his first break with Lionsgate when he got to write and direct Saw II.

You can listen to the audio portion of the podcast by clicking here or through iTunes by clicking here.

You can also read a transcript of this episode.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:35+00:00 December 19th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

Build Your Author Platform With This Free Marketing Spreadsheet

You know by now that whether you write fiction or nonfiction, growing your author platform is key.

Connecting with readers before, during and after you write your novel showcases your commitment to agents and publishers—and creates an audience for your work.

But with the myriad ways to find readers, it can be overwhelming to get started and stay consistent. Should you blog? Focus on your email list? Be more active on Twitter or Instagram? Or try something else entirely?

Defeat marketing anxiety

After I started my writing podcast, I wanted to find new ways to reach out to potential listeners.

I decided to boost my Twitter presence, get on Instagram and restart my newsletter. But with limited time (I want to write, too!), I kept putting off posting and hitting “send.” I felt like I couldn’t get a handle on my platform.

I’m a big fan of spreadsheets–I already use one to track my submissions to lit journals and magazines. But it took me a while to realize that I could use a spreadsheet to fight the overwhelm I felt when I went on Twitter or checked the traffic to my website.

The day that I did, I started posting.

Maximize your marketing with this handy spreadsheet

A spreadsheet–you can download your very own customizable copy of mine here (it even comes with instructions)–can help you in several ways.

First, it allows you see the entire picture.

Your platform might have several pieces: social media, blogging, guest posting or other venues where readers find your work. Noting where you are sharing what can keep you from saying the exact same thing over and over again. It can also help you remember to share your content in different places; you can turn a guest post (like this one) into a tweet and a link for your newsletter.

A spreadsheet can also help you see which avenues are most effective for your goals.

By keeping tabs on traffic to your website, you can narrow your focus to the most useful tactics for you. I’ve had a lot of fun connecting with fellow writers and podcast listeners on Instagram, but you might get more traffic via Twitter or YouTube.

Focus on what works

Tracking your efforts can also keep you from getting discouraged.

Rather than feeling lost and unsure of what to try next, you can look at what has worked and what hasn’t and adjust your course. You’ll have a record of what you’ve done that you can check against blog traffic, newsletter sign-ups or content downloads.

For example, I kept track of podcast downloads after sharing each episode on social media; instead of feeling bummed whenever downloads stayed flat, I used this data to help me decide where to spend my time.

Time is what it all boils down to: writers, perhaps working at another job or taking care of family, have very limited time, and marketing can easily eat up most of it, leaving little for you to actually write. My spreadsheet doesn’t track every single tweet you send-;what it does is give you space to brainstorm and plan what you want to say in each place that you share your work, so that you can spend an hour or two planning, and then just a few minutes checking in each day or each week.

Make it work for you

Whatever system you use to plan your marketing, make it work for you.

I used my spreadsheet for a few weeks, then tweaked it to reflect what I actually needed: a sheet for each place I shared my work, with columns for dates, ideas and whether or not content had be scheduled or posted.

This system maintains my sanity, maximizes my writing time, and keeps me from reinventing the wheel every time you log on to Twitter. You can add more detail (what time to post) or less (I include space for links and images) so that it does the same for you.

Download your copy here–and please share tweaks that make it better for you!

How do you get a handle on your platform?

The post Build Your Author Platform With This Free Marketing Spreadsheet appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:35+00:00 December 19th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

5 Powerful Tips to Write Travel Stories Only You Can Tell

Packing up your writing gear and heading somewhere warm and sunny for the holidays? Or just a trip back home?

It doesn’t matter where you’re off to—there will be a story waiting for you.

Our travels are made up of great stories—ones filled with drama, cultural misunderstandings and frustration, as well as serendipity, joy and transcendence.

Writing about these stories will not only fulfill your storytelling itch, but also improve your general writing skills. Whether it’s refining your powers of observation or enhancing your ability to reflect on meaningful experiences, writing about your travels can be a masterclass in everything from memoir to nature writing to world-building.

Write the travel story only you can tell with these five tips.

1. State your quest

Every journey is a quest, whether you know it or not.

Ask yourself: How did it start? What are you aiming to do or achieve?

Your quest can be as abstract as ‘find myself’ or as specific as ‘swim in the Atlantic Ocean.’ It can be as monumental as ‘change my life completely’ and as small as ‘replace the glass ring my best friend gave me in 1999.’

This quest doesn’t have to be the ONLY reason you’re going to this new place. It can be part of the reason, or become important once you arrive and spend time in this place.  

Think about it: all good travel memoir books and essays have a quest at their center.

In The New Mecca, George Saunders is trying to form his own impressions of Dubai outside of the media’s portrayals of the city.

In Vietnam’s Bowl of Secrets, David Farley is after the secret recipe to a dish found only in the Vietnamese town of Hoi An.

We all know that Elizabeth Gilbert has a suite of deep quests in her famous travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love. She wants to move on from the crippling male relationships in her life and find a deeper meaning to her existence.

Once you start writing about your quest, your readers will want to know: does she achieve her quest? Does she get the thing she wants? Keep your reader guessing until the end.

2. Plant a question in the reader’s mind

What’s the difference between a well-read story and a not so well-read story?

The opening. Plant a question for the reader as early in your opening as you can. The question doesn’t have to be life-or-death or profound. It can be very simple.

Such as:

I suppose I should have warned Rand. (from Pranzo in Italy)

This is a very short and simple opening. But do you want to know more? Of course you do! You want to know what she should have warned Rand about. And who is Rand anyway?

The question needs to provide enough intrigue to keep the reader interested. There’s a fine line between creating curiosity or puzzlement, so don’t aim to befuddle your reader. You must also answer your question at some point in your story.

As soon as you plant a question, the reader is going to be curious about what happens next. It’s simply human nature to want to know the answer. It’s all in the way you phrase the opening.

3. Tell the story of what drew you to this place

What were your impressions of this place before you arrived? Dive deep into your memory to uncover some specific basis for these impressions.

Was it the video game Carmen Sandiego and the sounds of those foreign cities names: Jakarta, Katmandu, Kuala Lumpur? Was it a religious studies class freshman year, where you watched a video about monks in Sri Lanka?

It could be literally anything. Even having no impression is an impression—how did this place slip your radar completely?

You may think this information doesn’t matter. After all, everyone wants to go to a place like Hawaii, don’t they? Sure, it’s a dream trip for many. But what is that dream for YOU? Only you can tell that story.

Writing about your initial impressions of a place and how it met or didn’t meet your expectations will make for a much richer travel story.

5. Tell a small story

Don’t try to write about everything that happened during your summer in Sri Lanka or even your week in Hanoi.

Choose a very small story instead.

For my travel memoir, my story covered the two years I spent in the United Arab Emirates.

Of course, A LOT happened. But each chapter is made up of a small, specific story that illuminates something larger about that two year experience.

Here are some examples of the small stories I told within my book:

  • A student who tells me a secret
  • The day I yelled at my all-male class
  • Visiting the Gold Souk in Dubai with my boyfriend, where he buys me a fake engagement ring

I smoothly connected those stories so that the entire book read as a unified story.

Nothing dangerous or profound needs to happen. These small stories are satisfying because of their small scope and the change that’s revealed at the end.

6. End with a change

Travel changes us. Every time. So how did you change? Did you accomplish your quest?

Whether your answer is a yes or a no, you learned something in the process of trying to achieve it. All travel memoir stories end with some kind of change. It can be huge, or it can be very small. Just a shift in perspective is quite enough to satisfy a reader.

Whether the change is a realization that you actually enjoy traveling by yourself or that you do feel a connection with your grandmother’s village in Sicily, telling and showing the reader your transformation will make your story memorable and worth sharing.

Take these tips with you on your holiday travels. You’ll have something exciting to write about in the new year.

Remember, no one else but you has traveled to this place at this particular time, and had the thoughts and experiences you did.

Share them as precisely and deeply as you can.

Do you write travel stories? Share your experiences in the comments below.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

The post 5 Powerful Tips to Write Travel Stories Only You Can Tell appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:35+00:00 December 16th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

5 Legal Agreements Every Screenwriter Must Know

by Ken Aguado (@kaguado)

Whenever I speak to aspiring screenwriters, I go out of my way to emphasize the importance of being legally prepared for the job. Not surprisingly, most new writers come to their interest in film and television from an artistic perspective, and sometimes things like contracts and other legal matters are not high on their list of priorities. And let’s be honest, it likely many of them became screenwriters because they were able to convince their parents they weren’t cut out for law school. I can relate.

Of course, most aspiring writers know that contracts are a fact of life, but perhaps they believe they’ll worry about it when they sell their work — someday.

There are three main reasons this thinking is a mistake:

  1. Filmmaking is a business, and businesses run on contractual agreements.
  2. Contractual agreements help define the business relationship between people and/or companies.
  3. If you don’t define the business relationship with your collaborators or employers, they may not be your collaborators or employers for long.

Before I get to my list, let me say two things.

First, I’m aware that reading my list is not the same thing as going to law school. But if you work as a screenwriter, you’re likely to run into most or all of these agreements. Do you really want them to be a surprise?

Second, all aspiring writers should start to cultivate a relationship with an entertainment attorney. Frequently, new writers are so focused on getting an agent or manager that they don’t realize their first representative is likely to be a lawyer. If you’re willing to pay, you can always get a lawyer. And when your first deal comes along, you don’t want to have to tell the buyer, “Hey, hang on for a month while I try to find someone to make my deal.” Deals are fragile in Hollywood. You should have a relationship with an entertainment attorney before you need one. Make it one of your networking goals.

There are many kinds of contracts used during the course of the filmmaking process, and below are my top five for screenwriters.

Option/Purchase Agreement

Sometimes (misleadingly) called an “option agreement,” this kind of agreement is used to secure the underlying rights (to your screenplay, for example) that will become the basis of a film or television production. Most screenwriters have heard of this kind of agreement. It allows the buyer to control your screenplay for some period of time without committing to the higher cost of purchasing your screenplay to actually produce the thing.

Writer Agreement

Essentially a labor contract, this is an agreement a screenwriter might sign if they’re being hired to write (or rewrite) something. A writer agreement or artist agreement can run ten pages or longer and includes many terms that are subject to negotiation. This kind of agreement is usually a form of “work made for hire” contract. “Work made for hire” is fancy legal talk for an agreement that allows your employer to own the artistic work they’re paying you to create.

Collaboration Agreement

A collaboration agreement is used when two or more individuals put their efforts together to achieve a common goal, for example when two screenwriters decide to co-write a script. It’s a relatively simple agreement that specifies the goals, assorted responsibilities, ownership, and other basic aspects of the relationship between the collaborating parties. There is a sample collaboration agreement available for free download on the WGA website. Check it out. Never co-write a script without having a collaboration agreement with your co-writer.

Representation Agreement

As the name implies, an agreement between an agent or manager and their client. The agreement allows the representative to act on behalf of the client in very specific ways, and to be compensated accordingly for doing so. If the agreement is with an agent, then the terms of the agreement will also be subject to state laws and union agreements intended to regulate agents and their relationships with their clients. This is not the case with managers. Managers are mostly unregulated and this allows them to do things like produce their client’s work. By the way, a representation agreement with a lawyer is usually called an “engagement letter.” Essentially the same thing, but not as romantic as it sounds.

Shopping Agreement

In the last 20 years, the business of selling scripts has become much tougher. This has led to the use of a less formal contract called a shopping agreement. Veteran writers often loathe this kind of agreement because they think it’s unfair, but here’s what you should know. A shopping agreement is typically initiated by a producer. The advantage for the producer in this arrangement is that she or he can, at no cost, shop the writer’s screenplay with the assurance that they’ll be “attached” to the project should it get “set up” with a financier under a more formal agreement. The advantage for the screenwriter is that the producer is out there trying to get the writer’s script made, but the writer has not had to surrender control of the rights. This gives the screenwriter a lot of power should the producer find a proper buyer for the script.

Of course, you should never sign any contract without having an entertainment lawyer represent your interests. Just make sure you use an entertainment lawyer and not Uncle Ed, who does elder law.


Ken Aguado is a producer and co-author, along with Douglas Eboch, of The Hollywood Pitching Bible. Follow Ken @kaguado.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:35+00:00 December 15th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

'The Batman' And 'Gotham City Sirens' Eye 2018 Releases

Warner Bros. is expected to announce plans torelease Ben Affleck’s standalone superhero movie The Batman in 2018, ahead of that year’s October release of Aquaman starring Jason Momoa. Production of the Caped Crusader’s solo outing commencesin March/April of next year, although early stages– including casting and final rewrites to the […]
Source: Forbes

By | 2016-12-15T10:46:41+00:00 December 15th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

How to Save Money as a Freelance Writer: November Income Report from Nicole Dieker

A good freelance career will last a long time — which means we need to prepare for the lean years, as well as for our golden years.

With that in mind, here are my numbers for November:

Completed pieces: 50

Work billed: $10,150.33

Income received: $7,789.40

In October’s income roundup, I noted that I had hit a new freelancing milestone: earning more than $10,000 in a single month. I also billed over $10,000 of income in November, but I won’t receive all of the payments until mid-December.

I am well aware that these high earning months won’t last forever; this income milestone is tied to a large project that will complete at the end of 2016, and after the project ends my monthly income is likely to dip into the $5,000-$6,000 range for a few months.

This upcoming income drop isn’t worrying me, though. Boosting my earnings in 2016 enabled me to pay off all of my outstanding debt, as well as build up a four-month emergency fund. These two actions did as much to help my freelancing career as anything else I did this year.

Saving for the lean times

Prior to becoming debt-free, I was putting 20 percent of my pre-tax income towards debt repayment — which means that if I earned $5,000 in a month, $1,000 of that would go straight to debt.

Now that I’m debt free, I get to use that 20 percent of my income for other things, which means I can earn a little less as a freelancer and still feel like I have the same amount of spending money.

Plus, having an emergency fund means I have cash in the bank to help me during an emergency or a lean period. I don’t anticipate a true lean period coming any time soon, but as we all know, freelancing is often unpredictable!

Most importantly: earning enough money to pay off my debt and save up an emergency fund means that I have more financial room to make choices about my career. I don’t have to take any job I can get, especially if the job is low-paying or is unlikely to benefit me long-term. I have the freedom to choose who I want to work with, which is likely to lead to better client relationships and higher earnings in the future.

Saving for retirement

On the subject of “the future:” the other thing I’m doing with my $10,000 monthly paychecks is setting up a retirement fund.

I have an active 403(b), thanks to the four years I spent working at a nonprofit before I became a freelancer, but I can no longer make contributions to that accountwhich means I need to start putting my freelance earnings in a new investment vehicle.

Why did it take me so long to start thinking about saving for retirement? Well, I’ve been thinking about it the entire time; it’s just that I wanted to use my freelance income to pay off my debt first.

Since I write for personal finance sites, I know there are advantages and disadvantages to paying off debt before saving for retirement, versus putting a little money into a retirement account now and paying off debt more slowly. In my case, especially because I already had the 403(b) set up and earning interest on prior contributions, it made sense to pay off the debt as fast as I could.

At the beginning of 2016, I did the math and figured out how much I needed to earn to set aside $5,500 to put into a Roth IRA. I know that freelancers can also make contributions to a SEP IRA, and instead of being limited by the Roth’s $5,500 annual contribution maximum, freelancers are allowed to contribute a larger percentage of their income — this’ll vary depending on the type of business structure you have, so talk to your CPA to see how a SEP IRA might apply to you.

I am going to talk to my CPA about SEP IRAs in 2017. However, this year I knew I wouldn’t be able to save much more than the $5,500 contribution to the Roth IRA, which is why I set it as my retirement savings goal. As you might remember from my conversation with Gina Horkey, we’re more likely to reach our goals if we know they’re something we can realistically achieve.

Which means that I’ll have $5,500 set aside by the end of the year, thanks to those last few big paychecks, and I’ll use it to restart my retirement fund.

I’m not planning on 2017 being a “lean year;” I can’t predict which freelancing projects I’ll be offered, but I can anticipate that I’ll continue to work with the majority of the clients I’ve been working with in 2016, and that I’ll continue earning at least $5,000 a month or more. If I need to make some difficult choices, I’ll have an emergency fund to back me up; if I have another high-earning year, I’ll be able to put more money towards savings and retirement.

What about you? How are you using your freelance earnings to prepare for the future? I know that not everyone is earning enough money to pay their own bills, much less save — that’s how I got into all that debt to begin with — but if you are earning enough money to get by, how are you making sure that money will help you not just today, but also tomorrow?

The post How to Save Money as a Freelance Writer: November Income Report from Nicole Dieker appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:35+00:00 December 15th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

The 2016 Black List

The 2016 Black List is out! Download a copy of the list right here. You can also look back at Black List’s from year’s past here.

The Black List is a compilation of the year’s most sought after unproduced scripts. There are certainly politics involved in getting on the list, but no writer would scoff at the chance to be included. Screenwriters can benefit from studying the list by seeing what types of ideas are grabbing the attention of producers and agents right now. This year you’ll see a lot of true stories and biopics, which is in keeping with the trend of the last few years.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2016-12-14T10:44:25+00:00 December 14th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |

How to Conduct a Year-End Review for Your Writing: 25+ Questions to Consider

As the year comes to a close, it’s time to grab some eggnog, reflect on the year past (and the year to come) and complete a crucial piece of self-assessment.

It’s time for your annual review.

When you work for a company, you typically have an annual review that reflects on your year’s work, accomplishments, areas for improvement, career trajectory and goals for the next year. These reviews are often tied into compensation and raises.

A freelance writer’s annual review is no different.

Except this time, it’s not a boss peering across a boardroom table at you. It’s just you sitting somewhere comfortable and thinking about your writing and all the exciting things to come.

There’s nothing intimidating about conducting your own annual review. It’s a gateway to growing as a writer and setting your own trajectory. It’s a useful exercise for everyone from novelists to part-time freelancers to those who write for a living full-time.

Prepare for your review

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of emails, social media messages, client phone calls and the demands of the holiday season. But take an hour or two, block it off on your calendar, and find a place where you can avoid distractions.

Whether you prefer a sunny nook in your home or a corner table at your favorite coffee shop, find a place where you won’t be disturbed. Turn your phone on silent, block alerts and notifications, and settle in with a cup of coffee or some eggnog and get ready to reflect.

Get your materials together

Be sure you have everything you need for your review.

If you conducted a self-review last year, be sure to bring it with you along with any lists of goals or accomplishments you may have.

Bring your digital or physical calendars, assignment lists, profit and loss sheets and accounting or bookkeeping information. Also bring your computer or a journal and pen to reflect and plan for the year to come.

How to begin

I usually begin my annual review by going over last year’s review.

It’s always interesting to see where you were a year ago and where you are today. I often find that my priorities and aims shift over the course of the year. Some projects find their way to the back burner while other projects emerge and take a prominent role.

If you don’t have a written review from last year, that’s fine, too. Instead, take some time and go through your calendar or assignment list from last year and reflect on your clients, deadlines, and projects.

Take a few moments to write about how you felt the past year went. Start by writing about your biggest successes of the year and your biggest challenges. Looking at calendars and records from the past year often helps to jog your memory. Then, you can move on to specifics.

What should I evaluate?

A few categories to consider evaluating are:


  • Did you make as much money as you had hoped to this year?
  • How much did you make over the course of the year?
  • How much did you bring in each month? What were your busy seasons and your slow seasons?
  • What is your target income for next year?
  • How would you like to meet that target? Evaluate your current clients and see if it makes sense to raise your rates.

Work/life balance

  • Did you find time to balance your work commitments and personal life?
  • Did you have enough time to devote to your mental and physical health, relationships, hobbies, pets, etc.?
  • What would you like to do to improve your work/life balance in coming year?

Business growth

  • Did your business grow, shrink, or stay the same this year?
  • Would you like to grow next year, reduce your business in some ways, or stay about the same?
  • Are there certain clients you would like to focus on?
  • Would you like to find new clients? If so, what kind of clients? What are the most important characteristics for clients to have?
  • Would you like to reach out into new areas or fields (such as writing about business or medicine)? What can you do to establish a foothold in those fields?

Professional development

  • What did you do for professional development this year?
  • What would you like to do next year? Professional development can include attending conferences, cultivating new contacts, networking, writing retreats, service in your field, applying for grants and fellowships, earning awards, finding a mentor, or joining professional organizations, among other possibilities.

Administrative practices and bookkeeping

  • What worked well this year in terms of administrative practices and bookkeeping?
  • Do you need a new process to receive and keep track of payments?
  • Do you need a new system to keep track of assignments?
  • Is your calendar system (physical or digital) working well for you, or would you like to revamp it in the new year?
  • Also, consider your tax situation. Do you have any major business changes you need to consult your tax professional about? If so, it’s a good time to schedule a meeting before the rush.


  • Evaluate how your tech systems are working. Will you need a new laptop soon? Do you need a new flash drive or two?
  • Is there software you’d like to buy or upgrade? Consider what you need and think about whether it makes sense to make these purchases before the end of the year, and consult with your tax professional to see if you can write them off on this year’s taxes.

Social media, website, and branding considerations

  • Consider your social media presence. Are you pleased with your frequency in posting, followers, shares, likes, etc.?
  • Would you like to branch out to new social media networks?
  • How about your website? Does it need a revamp?
  • Is it time for a professional headshot?
  • Do you need new business cards?

Set goals

Now that you’ve taken some time to consider the past year and think ahead to the new year, make some goals.

Set both short-term (monthly, quarterly, yearly) goals as well as longer-term (5-year, 10-year, etc.) goals. Set some easy-to-reach ones, but also reach for the stars and pick a few aspirational goals, things you would love to achieve but won’t be easy.

It helps to make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-sensitive) and set dates to check back in with them and evaluate your progress.

Quarterly check-ins

Now that you’ve set goals and are ready to work towards them, take out your calendar and set a few times to check in with yourself and review your goals. Some people prefer monthly while others prefer bi-monthly or quarterly check-ins.

Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind by either printing them out and putting them somewhere you’ll see them often or even creating a crafty display to remind yourself what you’re hoping to achieve in the year to come.

Here’s to a healthy, happy, and successful new year!

The post How to Conduct a Year-End Review for Your Writing: 25+ Questions to Consider appeared first on The Write Life.


Source: Writer Life

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:35+00:00 December 14th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |