Saturday, July 11, 2015

Working With A Partner


Working with a partner can be --to paraphrase Dickens--"the best of times and worse of times."  I know, I've been through them all!  There are actually three different types of partners: good, bad and indifferent.  And I think I've probably worked with all three, each in a different way.  Finding the perfect partner is like finding the perfect mate to marry.  You need someone who could have been your soul mate (perhaps in another life or in another sex).  That someone is hard to find and so you go through a process. 
There are pros and cons of working with partners and there are ways of dealing with partners to make sure the worse doesn't happen.  If I had but known....Even so, I probably would have rushed foolhardy into the "danger" because despite it's problems, working with partners can be a refreshing change. 
Why work with a partner?  Well, for one thing, writing can be lonely.  Some people find that they are more creative in the company of someone they like.  It's nice--when you get along--to have the repartee and to be able to bounce ideas off your co--worker.  For another, you don't sound so crazy when you are voicing your story outloud.  And in the best of times, it can be fun.  You also have a shoulder to cry on when the editor comes back with rewrites that you disagree with or don't thing need doing--or even if she rejects the project totally.
Of course, in the worst of times, it can be double ulcer producing!  Believe me, I know this from experience!
Always have everything in writing. 
After almost every partnership, I usually say "Quote the raven 'nevermore," but like the people addict I am, I usually do it again.  Passing the bakery and smelling the danish, I almost always go in.  Sometimes I buy, sometimes I don't, but it always tempts me, especially if I like the idea.  However, I have developed a check list of my own to see if the "danish" is fresh or stale. 
That's not to say I don't write on my own.  I do and usually have several of my own projects going--almost always at the same time I'm working with a partner.  Mostly, it's preserve my own sense of self that can sometimes get swallowed up in the partnership since with the team work the voice is neither uniquely yours nor hers but a mellow combination of the two. 
Before my collaboration on The Book of Poisons, I had attempted to work with partners before, but it never quite went anywhere.  Usually, it would be a co-worker from my real life nursing job, or another friend who had an intriguing idea.  More often than not, I've had people come up to me with "brilliant" ideas they wanted me to write with or for them.  Mostly these ideas were mundane and stereotypical and not worth my time or energy.  I would tell the seeker that it was a good idea but best that he/she did it on their own. 
Unfortunately, most of the time, the people who wanted to partner with me were novices who knew very little technique and even less of the work it took to produce a book or script.  One friend, who I met at work, had a great idea. I said "Let's do it together." Only I found out later, he had no idea about how to write a script, what work was involved, or how long it would take.  When I had finished the second draft, he gave me some notes…and felt that he had contributed 50% - even though I had done the majority of the story line myself as well as the writing.  (Though according to a copyright attorney, if you have nothing in writing, the law says that you do owe them 50%!)
One time, I attempted to work with someone who had a novel idea based on some real life experiences that I found intriguing. 
However, once she saw what work it was to actually produce a book--which she, and many like her, thought could be thrown together in a long weekend, she backed out.  Since she had helped to create the "child" plot, I decided in this case--and others similar--that joint custody was too much to fight for and let them keep the baby. 
With Anne, I made my standard offer.  Her idea had intrigued me.  We had been folding newsletters for Mystery Writers of America.  Because I'm a nurse, she asked me medical questions for a novel she was working on.  "There ought to be something about poisons that everyone can understand," she said.  I quickly agreed.  She stated she had checked out the books and there was nothing that was understandable for the lay person. 
Because I don't believe in stealing ideas, I feel I have two choices when I hear a good idea: to buy out the idea giving the author created-by credit, or suggest they join me in writing it.  The latter is what I did with Ann. 
The Book of Poisons was the first book I finished in collaboration and I learned quite a few things about working and not working with a partner.  I learned even more when doing Red Sea, Dead Sea with another partner, then with Dragon's Seeds, and later with my partner for Against Her Will..
In Book of Poisons, we had divided up chapters - and I ended up rewriting much of her work; in Red Sea, Dead Sea - The Fanny Zindel series, we worked side by side and bounced off ideas, and in Dragon's Seed and Against Her Will, I did outlines, and characters and then read and revised what my partner had done before doing my own chapters.
While it seems like it might be less work to write with a partner, it is actually sometimes more--especially if that partner doesn't do his/her share of the work.  Other times, it feels as if the partner is doing more work, at least initally.  But even so, depending on how you work, it can be more time consuming since you have to match schedules.  Not an easy thing to do with two busy people. 
You must be prepared to not only work hard, but to sublimate your ego.  The story is ALWAYS the bottom line.  If what you are suggesting works the best for who that character is, than fine.  In Red Sea, Dead Sea, I wanted Fanny to be more religious, but Rayanne had a good point about making her more like the majority of the Jewish population so that a greater readership could relate to her. 
It's also important that you are both passionate about the story you are doing, that you both like the character or the concept and both are convinced it will sell well. 
Often we start out with one concept but even working alone, the baby grows and decides on a different career than what we had planned for him--even more so with a team effort.  When two parents raise a "plot child", the baby often comes out totally different than either expected. 
When there were plot and other problems arising out of the partnership that we couldn't seem to resolve on our own, Rayanne and I (the Fanny Zindel series) decided to go to a marriage counselor.  Yes, you read right.  A marriage counselor.  In the height of our working together, we were seeing more of each other than we were of our respective live-in mates. We would discuss not what we wanted, but what was best for the character and what she wanted.  The fact is, when you spend a lot of time with someone issues are bound to arise and it helps to have a third party to listen and sort things out.  It worked to keep us both sane. 
How do you meet the perfect partner?  As I said, I've run into people that I've partnered in different ways.  Sometimes I've sought them out, sometimes they sought me out, sometimes it was just plain luck, and other times, I was paired up by my wonderful agent. 
With Rayanne, I was doing a private duty case and my patient, a quadriplegic, had to get her car fixed.  Rayanne, also crippled from a work accident many years ago, was getting a hand control on her car.  When I entered the waiting room with my patient, she was reading a Harlequin romance.  "Oh, I write those types of books," I said.  "So do I," she responded. 
I sat down next to her, we began talking.  I was editing my mushroom chapter for The Book of Poisons and handed it to her.  "Here, help me with proofreading this."  She agreed and during the course of the morning, we found we were both animal lovers and into metaphysics. 
Because of her accident and constant pain, Ray had essentially stopped writing.  We became friends and I dragged her screaming and kicking into a screenwriting class with me and then we did a screenplay together, Mujrder Me Twice, which has been optioned several times but so far not produced. 
When I came up with the idea for Fanny Zindel and Red Sea, Dead Sea, I ran it by her.  She came up with some wonderful plot twists that I hadn't thought about and she was able to ground and make logical some of the events that I had just hanging.  So we decided to try writing the book together. 
That brings me to this part.  Now that the nitty gritty of choosing a partner is done, how do you actually work together? 
There are a variety of ways and each couple have their own way of doing things. 
I know one couple living in L.A. and N.Y. who are a successful team.  Jo Schaffer who worked with me on Against Her Will lives in Utah.   Another partner now lives in South Carolina.
As I said with Jo, I had the basic outline for Against Her Will, having started the story many years before based on my experiences as a psychiatric nurse on a teen ward, and allowed her to take off on her own version from there.  I then read what she did, made corrections, added my own sections, and we went forward from there. It was a longer process than I anticipated, but it turned out well.
With Anne (The Book of Poisons), we did much the same only we didn't live quite so far--LA verus Orange County.  She did up her assigned chapters and I did up mine.  However, when it came time to merge the two very distinct voices into one, I had to do the rewriting as Anne declined believing in her very naive way that a good writer never rewrites.
With Rayanne (the Fanny Zindel series) who lived onlt twenty minutes from me, it worked quite different  We both had identical computers and word processing systems so we would switch back and forth from her place to mine, sitting side by side at the computer and composing as we went.  Sometimes she would talk and I would type, other times visa versa.  We would laugh at our typos and be outrageous with our character, we would also be close enough to scream and tear each other's hair out--practially.  But the good thing was--as I said above--we were friends first and foremost and almost always calmed down enough to see reason and what was best for the story. 
Even though she only had two books published prior to our writing together, she was nearly at my place in development since she had certain strengths that I lacked and I had others where she fell. 
When it comes time to publish, you have to make a decision--did you use separate names, or did you merge our names into one.  With most of the books, I prefer to use my own name and my partner use hers.  This is because I have a following already and want people to know I have written it. 
Most publishers prefer one name rather than two because it's harder to shelve and to catalog, but they will accept it, if that's what you want.  Usually the first name listed, when it's a duo, is how the book is found in book shelves and in libraries.  So whose name goes first? 
Usually the one who has done most of the work or the senior partner goes first.  In Red Sea, Dead Sea, Fanny Zindel was my original character and so my name went first.  In The Book of Poisons, it was my medical knowledge and I did a greater percent of the work so that we put Anne as a with rather than a by. 
What happens after publication?
Look at how you both operate and ask, if the worst happens with the book, will we still be talking to each other.  If the answer is yes, it will probably work out.  The trouble is, sometimes we don't know if the answer is yes or no because we don't know the other person well enough to know how they will operate under strain of deadlines and rewrites. 
Basically what it comes down to is that you need to trust and respect your partner.  Long term collaborators are special people.  You have to share not only the money, but the limelight.  However, you can also share the expenses and the fun.  It can be a fun and satisfying experience and one that you don't mind repeating occasionally. 
Here are some things to consider:

things to know before you work with a partner

 

1.  It's important that you both be professional and both know what is involved in writing a book--that may mean one rewrite, it may mean several.  Whatever the editor wants goes, even if it means putting your own projects on hold to redo what you thought was already done. 
2. Communication lines need to be kept open at all times and it's better if you and your partner to be are friends before hand and have common interests to keep the friendship going because it's going to help solve some of the disputes along the way.  Also friends care more about each other's feelings and are more likely to compromise than are two acquaintances. 
3. Comparable skill and competence is crucial.  Sometimes there can be exceptions to the rule, but in cases where I've worked with amateurs, I've often been reduced to screaming, hair-pulling matches where as with other professional writers we knew that the "Play's the thing" or in this case the story or the plot was foremost.  As with Rayanne, when we were doing the Fanny Zindel series, Red Sea, Dead Sea, Bagels For Tea, and our newest, A Jewish Byte, if we could show how our point helped the character or story better than our partner's, that person would win the argument. 
If you are both are the same level of development, chances are you will complement each other in the story.  From experience I can tell you that where the skills are unbalanced feelings of resentment, impatience and unequal contributions make for hard feelings. 
4. Have something of your own that you are dabbling with while doing the partnership so that you don't feel swallowed up.
5. Always have a detailed contract talking not only about shared work, but shared costs--usaully it's 50-50 for both--but what happens if you are offered a sequel and one doesn't want to work on it, what happens if one dies, what happens with public relations, who pays for what, what happens if one doesn't want to finish the book, do you cut your partner in on the profits if you decide to write a sequel and he doesn't, whose agent to use, and how final decisions are to be made if neither can agree.  The contract doesn't have to be in legalese.  It just has to make the points in plain English. 
The easiest thing to do about sequels, I found, is to say that anything arising out to the book will be negotiated separately and that this contract is no guarantee that we will be working together again in the future.
Be as detailed as you can.  I got stuck paying for all the promotion for The Book of Poisons since Anne stated that she hadn't previously agreed to that.  She had, according to our contract, and I could have taken her to small claims court but in the end, decided not to waste my time.
6. Choose a third party that you both respect to help you settle differences--be it your agent, a marriage counselor, or another writer. 
7. If you both have agents, consult with both so that neither feels left out.  Perhaps they can share the work on the project.  If you have a contract with them, they might expect their 10-15% anyway.

8.  Be professional.  Stay calm.  Nothing is forever--even the good ones.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Interview up

See my interview on writing and writing tips -
An interview about me - Serita Stevens- runs in the new Mysterical Magazine. Scroll down to interviews.
http://mystericale.com/index.php…

Monday, May 11, 2015

Learning About Mystery--

Tomorrow May 12, 2015, at 10:30 am PST and 1:30 ET I will be giving a free mystery writing seminar.  An accomplished writer of numerous books and scripts, I also teach writing.  Everyone is welcome.  Please go here for the seminar https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/live_events/solved-the-mystery-of-writing-mysteries
Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Writing What You Know

Do You Write What You Know?

Writing what you know if often an adage told you upcoming writers.   In some ways, this is a truism.  It helps, especially for new writers, to start off with a topic or an area of their lives that they are familiar with. 

Hence, when I was first starting out I started a manuscript, Against Her Will, about teens in a psychiatric ward, based on my experience working in one.  Wow! Were they messed up. Of course, some of them were just thrown in there because their parents were the broken ones and couldn't handle their kids.   Naturally, I made myself and some of my friends as nurse characters - the jaded one who had been there for some time and was just sticking around for the paycheck,  and the idealistic one (me -= lol) who really wanted to help those kids.  Many of the kids in the book were based on ones that I really met at the hospital. 

The manuscript was never finished because having already made a few books sales - This Bitter Ecstasy and Daughters of Desire  - both historical romances - I was already at a point when I could sell a story and obtain a contract based on a few chapters and an detailed outline.  Since I didn't have a buyer for Against Her Will, it languished in my drawer. 

I went back to it a few times to see where I could perk it up and even started writing a script for it, but then other projects took precedence.  

Last year, when my wonderful manager new manager, Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo -Helin-Fountain Agency, asked what other projects I had, I dragged Against Her Will out of the closet.  To my amazement --either we writers have a low opinion of our work or one that is too high--  she loved it.  

Because it had been so long since I wrote the first outline and chapters, I had to go back and check some of my facts on current conditions to make sure that the story was up to date.  So, even though I thought I knew the material, it still required some research. 

Now, getting back to the original question - yes, it helps if you know something about your subject. But with lots of research, you can write about almost anything.   

When I am facing an area that I am not familiar with, I first go to the children's section of the library. Those simplified books explain things to me, give me a background and terms that I can grasp, so that I can advance to the intermediate and adult material on the topic and not be totally lost.   It takes time and effort to do this research, but it's worth it in the end. 

I have been asked, especially when I am researching something tedious like a historical period or a tangent of the topic, why I don't hire a researcher. But there is no substitute for reading the material yourself.  It is usually when you are slogging through diaries and historical texts that you will find that one quote, that one description, that inspires you and makes your character or setting come alive. 

So, while it helps to start with something you are familiar with, you don't have to stick with that.  You just have to be prepared to work it… and work it takes…but it's worth it in the end.

Because of my other deadlines and projects, she teamed me up with another accomplished writer, Jo Schaffer, and together we finished Against Her Will which is out now with True North Press and garnering Hollywood attention. 

I hope you'll pick it up and enjoy it!



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Creating AYour Own Source Material

Creating Your Own Source Material –

Producers these days are looking for source material – books, articles, stories, plays or anything with other backing.  They like knowing that there is a fan base already established for the story they are buying.   So why not double your chances of a successful sale?
Each story has its own home; Its own best way of being told.  Some stories, however, can be told in more than one form.  To do this, however, takes knowledge and understanding of what the other forms need and how they are prepared.  Each form requires a different way of thinking and a slightly altered writing style.  You can do it, but it takes thought and time to learn.
As an established writer of both books and scripts, I do many book/film deals.  One may think it is only a matter of learning a different format, but it is truly more than that.  There are many similarities since a good story is, after all, a good story, but there are also differences.   
 Many hold the myth that writing scripts are easier.  I believe that is false.  It takes just as much work to write a compelling script as it does a fascinating book, but the techniques vary a bit.
Some of the things that are the same in books and scripts are this –
PLOTTING
No matter what you are writing, the work requires good structure- including inciting incidents, plot twists and dynamic scenes; well-drawn characters – both protagonists and antagonists - with their own goals, flaws and desires; and, of course, dynamic endings. 
CHARACTERIZATION
For all my stories – be they books or scripts – I do a complete character biography of ALL of my characters.  These people must be well-rounded and believable.   You must understand their journey and their arc.  This includes the secondary participants, as well, since they can often effect the plot, the theme or have their own subplot, which can promote the theme.   
Many new writers think that physical description is crucial to the character. It’s not.  It’s their attitude and what action that they are involved in that tells us about who they are.   Be sure to balance the good and bad aspects of the person. No one is all good and very few people are all evil.
OUTLINING
Outlining, may not be for everyone, but I find, is essential to make sure that I cover all the plot points and plant the twists and clues in the right places.  It helps me to keep the stakes high and focus on the genre I am writing.  It also helps me to do more than one project at a time as I can see what needs to be done on that story for that day.  It doesn't mean I stick like glue to the outline.  It does mean I use it as a guide.
THE FIRST PAGES
Beginnings, the first few pages, are crucial for both books and scripts.  Today, unlike in the past when the author could meander about history and setting, stories must start with action and jump into your characters.  We must be hooked immediately with the problem, situation, identify the setting, and get to know the main character, at the same time.   Not an easy task, but it can and, often, is done.
In neither case do you get the luxury of wandering around your setting. Back stories , if referred to here, must be only hinted at to give the reader a reason to want to continue reading.  Prologues can sometimes be used in books, and occasionally in scripts, to set the tone, but should be used sparingly. 
TITLES
Titles are another bugaboo for many writers.  Your title must give a hint about the genre and the story.  While titles are not copyrightable,  it is a good idea to research your title and see other stories with your same title as you do not want to be identified with a story that did not do well.  One of my stories, now being done as a script, The Unborn, has been used as a title for many films and books and in order to make mine more unique, I changed it to Unborn Witness
UNDERSTANDING ONE’S AUDIENCE
The writer must understand their audience. Who are they writing for?  Don’t say that your story is for everyone because very few stories are.  It’s na├»ve to think that all will like your work.  Are you doing a chick-flick?  A mystery? An action or thriller?  Is it something that young men will like more than women?  It is something for the older viewer?  Understand who the reader is and write for them. 
PROOF READING
Grammar and spelling must be checked no matter what you are writing.   We are writers and there is no excuse for doing this poorly.  I often write my first draft quickly and miss things but it's important to go over what you have done.  I find that even after re-reading my material several times, mistakes can be found and I have an outside reader to go over my material before I hand it in. 

There are, however, many differences between writing scripts and writing books.   
NOTES
Script writing, even more so than book writing, is a team effort.  As a novelist, it is easier to write alone in Iowa.  You might get notes from your agent and/or the editor, but you are more autonomous as writer.  Whereas being a scriptwriter, you will find notes come not only from the producer, studio, director, actor, and others.  You must understand that the script is a blueprint for a movie.  You must understand that not everything you write is gold and if you cannot accept notes and be willing to change, you will not get very far.   There is an art to listening and accepting notes. 
FORMAT
While it looks like format is the main difference between scripts and books, this is just the tip of the iceberg.   As for formatting, I like Movie Magic the best because they do not charge for tech support as Final Draft does.  No matter which program you use, understand things like the use of parentheticals, slug lines, etc.   Read produced scripts to see what the format is and don’t have numbering or camera angles on your spec script as that marks you as a novice. 
PAGE COUNT
Length is one big thing.  While a book can be as long as your publisher will allow it and most books are a minimum of 300 typed pages or much longer, a script can be only 90 to 100 pages. (120 used to be accepted, but lately, a shorter page account has come to be expected.) Should you turn in a script longer than 120, you will, especially if you are an unknown writer, have difficulty getting read no matter how protest at the merit of your story. 
APPEARANCE
White space is crucial.  The overwhelmed reader will often flip through the pages.  If the pages are too dense with narrative, they might just put your script down. 
POV
Point of view in the script is far more focused than a book.  While in books you can alternate POV and tell parts of the story from other characters and even go off onto subplot tangents, the script should be mainly from the main character and that protagonist should be active in solving their own problem.   It is said that the main character should appear in, or be part of 80% of the scenes. 
NARRATIVE
Writing short sentences creates suspense in books, but even more so in scripts.  Less is more here.  Be succinct in your writing.  While in books you do not want huge unbroken descriptive passages, narrative in scripts should be, if you can help it, no more than five lines.   The white space actually pushes the reader forward where as the longer paragraphs slow them down.   
When writing your book, you must consider and explore all your senses. What is the character feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, sensing, etc?  In scripts, you are limited to the visual.  In both, specifics are important, but even more so in scripts.  Leave the script’s stage dressing to the designers. 
DIALOGUE
While books can have more on-the-nose dialogue, subtext is crucial in the script.  No more than five lines of dialogue.  Think of the poor actor trying to memorize all you have written when you have a huge monologue.   Try reading it out loud, yourself.  If you must have a dialogue longer than five lines, try breaking it up with an action line. 
VISUALIZATON
Books will allow you to get into your character’s head and talk about their feelings and hear their thoughts.  Not so in scripts.  Everything, and I mean everything, must be visual.  If you say that the character is angry, how do we know, what do we see? 
BUDGET
Especially if you are a fairly new writer, if you want your script to be produced, you have to keep the budget in mind.  The fewer the characters, the less it will cost.  When doing an adaptation of a book, I often find that I have to combine excess characters.   Think about the locations you have, cast of thousands, car chases, uses of animals and use of children.  It’s okay to write them if you only want to have this as a reading sample, or if it really is crucial to the story, but keep it to a minimum. 
PAYMENT
Another myth is that the book writer is paid handsomely for their rights.  This, alas, is often false.  Since the production company, often before they sell the story, must pay to have the script written, will hire another writer to expand and focus the story into what is needed for a script. 
The book writer - who in today's publishing world might be lucky to get a small advance from the publisher, sometimes must kiss their stories goodbye and let the A-list script writers to do what they will do.  That doesn’t mean you, the book writer, can’t do a first draft of the script.  It does mean that you will be, if you are lucky, partnered with an established scriptwriter that the studio or production company feels more confidence in. 
Books turned into film are often vastly different from the printed word for a variety of reasons.
As I said, it is possible to do both, but you need to be aware of the limitations of each and what is required of each format.   It might take you longer to write the book because you have to write more words, but the script requires just as much prep time in characterization, plotting and research as the book does. 
Good luck.
___
Serita Stevens is an established writer of books, scripts, articles and she teaches, as well. Based on her lectures at various universities and conferences, as well as mentoring individual students.  Her recent book - The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books And Scripts - Motivational Press- is based on her teaching at USC/ UCLA and other major schools and conferences. 
Trained as a forensic nurse, she also assists writers with their medical and investigative questions for their works. 

For more information about Serita, see her site www.seritastevens.com and her blog at Google blogspot.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Against Her Will

On Thursday April 9th, 2 pm CDT please join me on Slingwords for an interview with the ever popular Joan Reeves as I talk about my newest teen drama AGAINST HER WILL.  http://slingwords.blogspot.com/2015/04/thursday3some-against-her-will-by.html

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Seminar speaking

Serita Stevens, award winning writer of books, scripts and teacher of writing, will be speaking at the Universe Multi-Cultural Film Festival 2015 on April 18, 12 pm at 550 Deep Valley Drive -Rm 163 , Rolling Hills Estate Ca 90275 on the top of developing your characters and your story.  Her newest books at the The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books And Scripts (based on her teaching at major universities)  and Against Her Will - a teenage drama.  for info go to www.umfilms.org/2015/2015UMFFF

I will also be speaking on here -

AFTV "WRITERS INTENSIVE" MONTHLY SEMINAR SERIES -- "Pre-Paid"­­ Event



  • Sunday, April 19, 2015

    2:00 PM to 
  • WESTSIDE PAVILLION

    10800 WEST PICO BLVD., COMMUNITY ROOM A, AT WESTWOOD & PICO BLVD, LA 90064, LOS ANGELES, CA(edit map)
  • Paid

    Price: $15.00/per person - this pre paid price for members -


  • AN "OFFICIAL" LAFTV  EDUCATIONAL EVENT FOR SCREENWRITERS, AUTHORS, AND  FILMMAKERS AT EVERY LEVEL -- networking before and after.
    EACH MONTH, 1 of 3 EXPERIENCED INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS, WHO ARE MEMBERS OF THE LAFTV Meetupwill generously give their time to share their knowledge with our members and lead a low-cost, monthly LAFTV "WRITERS INTENSIVE" SEMINAR SERIES.  Our expert members will share their knowledge, ideas, insights, and suggestions regarding some amazing topics pertinent to the advancement of writers to get them to another level in their craft and career pursuits! Each session covers a wide variety of helpful topics, PLUS Q&A
    The APRIL 2015 WRITERS INTENSIVE session will be hosted byLAFTV Meetup member, writer and teacher, SERITA STEVENS(SEE BIO BELOW). 
    TOPIC: 
    "Be Your Own Publicist – Finding and Working With Agents & Managers"
    AGENTS & MANAGERS SEGMENT: 
    You've completed your script/manuscript, NOW WHAT?
    Among the things a writer/director/producer or actor needs to master is being proactive in finding and working with agents or managers as well as maximizing opportunities to publicize their work -- knowing what works and what doesn't. 
    •  Why do you need them and when
    •  5 places to find agents/managers who will accept unproduced writers and how to approach them
    •  Key elements to writing the query letter to get agents and managers to read your work
    •  How to get agents/managers/publishers excited about you and avoid turning them off 
    •  What you should expect from a literary agent or manager
    •  3 ways to get your material seen WITHOUT agents  
    •  How to be proactive in your career and relationship with your manager, agent or publisher
    •  How to know when it’s time to move on.  When is loyalty too much?  
    •  What do they get commissions on? What do they own and not own?  (if anything at all)
    PUBLICITY SEGMENT: 
    •  Why is it necessary for writers?  When should you hire a publicist AND how much should you spend? 
    •  15 ways you can promote yourself 
    •  Rules to abide by in the promotion of yourself and/or your product 
    •  How to utilize your network to get to word out about your and your product.
    •  Identifying your publicity angle and target audience. 
    •  Facebook and Social Media: what to post and what not to post. How often should you tweet or make Facebook notes? When is too much too much?  How not to become a nudge.
    •  Different ways that you can get the word out besides social media.
    •  What does it really mean to network and how to do it appropriately. 
    BY THE END OF THE CLASS YOU WILL KNOW:
    • How to promote yourself and your product to AGENTS, MANAGERS and MEDIA OUTLETS to MAXIMIZE your results 
    • How to keep momentum going through your entire writing career. 
    ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:
    Serita Stevens, LAFTV Meetup member, is an accomplished, award-winning writer of over 39 books, stories, and scripts, as well as a teacher of various genres of writing. Several of her scripts have been produced and many more optioned. Serita has been published with Pocket Books, Simon And Schuster, Random House, Fawcett, Bantam Books, Dell, Intrigue Press, Writer's Digest, St Martin's Press, Palm University Press, True North, Motivational Press,  Quill Press, Leisure, Zebra, Kensington Books,  Deutschland Press, Inland Press, Silhouette First Love, Harlequin, Oak Tree Press,  Hard Shell Press,  Scene of the Crime Press, Law Technology, Avenue M, L A Splash, Springhouse Publishers, Adoption Today,  and many other publishing houses. 
    Serita teaches at numerous universities and conferences. Her latest book, "The Ultimate Writers Workbook for Books And Scripts" is published by Motivational Press and is a hit on the lecture circuit.  Serita enjoys helping new writers reach their goals and mentors many students.   
    COST
    LAFTV Members:  $15
    (Note: Your statement will show this transaction as a payment to: Women Helping Women Network) 
    NON-Members: $25  
    ALL WALK-INS: $30  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Free seminar

I will be doing free webinar on mystery writing at 10:30 am PST on Tuesday March 24th. https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/live_events/solved-the-mystery-of-writing-mysteries Serita Stevens

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Are You Writing a Book, a Script, or both?

                Writing Scripts  and Writing Books - You Can Do Both If You Are Willing To Learn The Difference  


As an established writer of numerous books, articles, stories and scripts – some produced and some optioned, I am well aware the difference between the two forms.  Each story has its own unique point of view and own way that it is best told.  Some scripts will transform easily into books (and visa versa) and some will not. 
There is a myth that screenplays are easier to write than books.  That is false. 
Another myth says that writers of books are (will be) paid handsomely for their rights and that Hollywood is just waiting for your book.  I wish that were the case.  
Don’t forget they have to hire a screenwriter to rework the book (often on spec or for very little pay) and take all the risks while trying to sell the book/script to the larger producer or studios.  (Seldom will the studios pick up the book on their own. They usually wait for the smaller producers to bring it to them.)
Sometimes producers will take your book just because they have fallen in love with your title (which in truth cannot be copy written) and other times they will take your story and change it around so drastically that not only won’t you, the writer, be able to recognize your own story, but you might even want to hide in the closet when the movie comes out. 
It is possible that you, the book writer, can write the script.  That doesn’t mean they will buy your script as is, but it does give the producer a sense of where the book can go when it is converted. It might mean you will be paid a little more for doing the first draft.   If a studio does get behind your story, they will probably hire an A-list writer who has already had some successes to redo the script.   In fact, there might be more than one writer on your story.  If the studio isn’t happy with the first writer, they will hire another. 

There are many similarities of both scripts and books. 
For one thing both have to be powerful stories with engaging characters, great beginnings, middles and endings.  
As with all writing there is the eternal question of plot versus character.  I, for one, am a proponent of the characters reigning.   You can have the most wonderful plot, the perfect structure, with all the twists that you can think of and the novel or script can still fall flat.  If you don’t have engaging characters that the reader and view can identify and bond with, to root for, feel sorry for and want to see succeed in their goals – both internal and external – than your story will go nowhere.   Bios need to be done on each and every one of your characters.  Understand your characters journeys and their arcs. Don't just concentrate on the main character.  Think of your secondary characters as well.  They  have roles and provide conflict.
I am a firm believer in outlining.  It helps you to establish set ups and pay offs, plant clues and twists, as well as seeing where you are falling short.  Knowledge of structure is important.  There are various sources that insist the inciting incident must happen by such a page, act breaks on another page, etc. and while the foundation is looser in the books, it still has to be there.
In both books and scripts, the beginning must be exciting and compelling.  The first ten pages are crucial.  Descriptions of the character have to be shown through actions and not through physicality as many novice writers are want to do.  Some readers and producers won’t read passed the first few pages if they are not interested.
It goes without saying that grammar and spelling must be PERFECT.  A few typos on the page will alert the reader that you are not concerned with your story. 
The stakes must be high and get higher as the plot progresses. 
Each genre has its own formula.  Certain elements must be followed for the genre you are writing.
The research must be authentic.  If you don’t know something, ask.  Experts are usually willing to help writers. 
Titles are crucial.  As we said earlier, titles cannot be copy written, but they should mean something to you.  They must give a hint of the genre and entice the reader.  Usually I will research my chosen title as I don’t want my story to be associated with others of the same title that are not (as good as) my story.
Proper formatting is important in books – double spaced with proper indentation, but in scripts format is critical and people can be picky - using it as a reason sometimes to reject your baby.   Scripts, especially, need plenty of white space without long passages of narrative and explanation.  (A script reader will often glance through the pages and if it looks like a heavy read, they will put it aside maybe to be read later, maybe not at all.)
Industry standards are Movie Magic (which I prefer because they don’t charge for tech support) and Final Draft.  Though there are several other programs out there and you can create your own using proper margins on Microsoft Word.
When I wrote the prequel of Cagney and Lacey book for Dell, I decided that I wanted to write a script for the show.  However, when I turned the script in, the story editor lambasted me.  If I couldn’t get the script format correctly, he wasn’t even going to read what I gave him. 
Fancy covers, ornate fonts, and presentations will mark you as a novice. 
In both books and scripts, you must understand your audience.  Who are you writing for?  Do you understand them?  Your book or script is not going to be for everyone – as novice writers would like to believe.  If you are writing a young adult, you must speak current teen talk; if you are writing mysteries you need to understand the beats and format of a mystery.  You need to know a bit about marketing.  Who will your readers be?  Be sure that you are writing for your readers and not just writing for yourself.  (If you are that's okay, just be aware you might not be selling it.)
In either case, do not talk down to your readers.  Do not explain too much to them.  Plant clues but don’t shout out everything or repeat too much.  Don’t depend too much on exposition to tell your story.  Let it show in action and in dialogue.
Know that that rewriting is a way of life for writers. Seldom is your first draft the perfect one that we would like to think it is.  By not wanting to rewrite, it means your story might not sell immediately or at all.  Not everything you have written is gold.  Be willing to change. 
 In one script, I rewrote it eight times based on notes from various people and finally realized, as all writers should, that they need to listen to their hearts for their story.  As a script writer you get notes not only from other writers, but producers, actors, directors, and agents, whereas as a book writer, you only have to listen to your agent and editor.   Script writing is a team sport where as novel writing is more singular. 
You have to learn to interpret the notes and understand what they really mean when they ask you to put a monkey in that scene or change your main character from a male to a female.  Try to get to the root of what they don't understand and what you can do to change it without destroying  your story.
However, if more than two people make similar comments about your story, about not understanding your character or their motive, than you need to consider.  Is the story that you are getting across the same one that you are trying to tell?  What are they reading?  Is it what you are really writing?  Maybe you know the character and her back story well, but it's not coming across on the page.
Sometimes persistence is the key here to a sale.  (One story I started over fifteen years before – my young adult AGAINST HER WILL - is finally seeing the light of day and will be out March 2015.  It just wasn’t the right time then and yes, some changes did have to be made.)
In both ways you need to understand how to write a synopsis and treatment. 

Now for the differences

Novels can be as long as you want them to be – within publishing reason, of course.  The price for printing is higher than before and many publishers have limits on their book length. They also want to take into consideration the fact that reader’s attention span is shorter than it used to be.  No longer will they sit for a thousand page manuscript as they did in Dickens’ days. 
Scripts, on the other hand,  are growing shorter and shorter.  Once 120 pages was the standard.  Now scripts should be between 99-110 pages.  In fact, some horror scripts are only 90 pages. 
Novels can have multiple view points.  While you follow one main character, it is permissible for the writer to go off on subplots and explore the life of the secondary characters.  It’s also possible – top an extent – to explore the setting, location, time period and politics of the story.  In the script, one needs to stay true, as much as possible, to the main character, following their actions and reactions.  In fact, your protagonist should plan to be in 90% of the scenes. 
Writing a script has been likened to writing poetry. Less is more. Symbols are often used.  Language and sentences are best short and terse.  Though even with books, the shorter your sentences, the more tension in your story. 
Flashbacks and voiceovers are discouraged in scripts unless they really move the story forward.  If you have to put them in, they must be kept short.  While you don’t want to go into too many flashbacks in books, especially at the beginning of the story, you can weave more back story in during the process of the tale. 
Everything in the script must be visual, whereas in books one can go into the character’s thoughts and feelings. Showing and not telling is even more important here.  One doesn’t necessarily say that Andrea was angry, but Andrea clenched her fist; her face flushed.  See the visual.
Whereas books can go everywhere and anywhere, have space fights and alien crashes, in writing the script, especially if you are an unknown or new scriptwriter, a low budget for filming your story – which is really a blueprint for the film – should be considered.  Oh, you can write in car chases and exploding buildings, but unless you are Michael Mann or otherwise well known, you will have trouble selling the script with expensive effects.  That script might stay on your shelf until you have proven yourself with lower budget stories.  Things like animals and children also add to the expense of a film.   That also means keeping the number of characters and number of locations down to a minimum.  No hordes of angry mobs.  So it’s better if you can find another way express that scene.
If you are adapting your book to a script, you will want to see which characters are really crucial to the story.  You might find yourself condensing the number of characters and simplifying the story.  Books can go through generations and extended years.  In a script, you will find that you want to condense the time period of your story and heighten the ticking bomb to increase the suspense. 
In scripts, especially you need to have a succinct log line of no more than two lines that indicate the genre, a little about the character and their conflict and obstacles.  Though it is good, even as a book writer, to understand and have a pitch for your book especially when you attend conferences, etc.
Agents also differ in the script world.  While you do need representation to be considered credible, agents are not as necessary for the newbie scripter.  A screenwriter, especially one just starting out, is probably better with a manager than an agent, who will really only get behind you if you are already selling well.  The screenwriter can also get an entertainment attorney to assist them with sending out their material. 
Lastly as a novelist, you can write from anywhere.  Yes, you can write scripts anywhere, but it helps to be in Los Angeles so that you can be available for industry networking and meetings.  Mostly, face to face meetings only happen once your agent or manager arranges them, but who knows what producer or showrunner you might run into at Coffee Bean.   Of course, Skype does wonderful things these days and internet sites as www.Stage32.com can put you in touch with executives to pitch to even from Europe.   Hollywood is a relationship industry so that more personal networking you can do, the better. 
As I said before each story has its own narrative form that fits it best.  If your book has too many subplots and too many characters, maybe a script isn’t right for it.  If your book has too many “talking heads” (dialogue) and not enough action scenes, you might have to add some.   It’s easier to go from a script to a book since that can be used as a detailed outline for your book.
The fact is that each type of writing takes a different mindset, but basically, no matter what you are writing, you need a fabulous story. 
So start writing.and check out my new book The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books  And Scripts - Motivational Press - on my site www.seritastevens.com



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Where's The Money?

A friend of mine who had self-produced several of her own movies has decided to turn to writing novels because she sees it as another way to increase her income.  She asked me how much money I made with my books.   Like many people, she had the mistaken notion that writers with many published books should be rich.  I wish that were so. 
I probably disappointed her greatly when I told her that writing books did not, for the most part, make a fortune.  The reason a million dollar contract for a writer like Stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark gets notice is because it’s unusual.  
Several years ago when my daughter was acting on Stan Lee’s Who Wants To Be A Superhero, we were filming at a downtown park.  A homeless guy approached a friend of mine asking for a hand out.  My friend responded, “I don’t have money.  I’m just the writer.” 
Writing is one of the few professions where you are expected to produce first before you get any payment at all. (And sometimes, you get nothing even after major revisions are made.)  
In a recent lecture, Brad Schreiber equated it to when he was a house painter.  There he would get half upon the start of the job and the rest upon finish.  But the house owner didn’t come in the middle of the job –or even just as your were finishing --  (as editors or producers are want to do) and say, “Gee, maybe it would look better blue and not yellow.”  As a painter, he would have gotten paid for painting the yellow house and a new fee if the owner wanted it redone as blue.  In writing, that is often not the case.  Unless you are well established and have a good agent or good attorney to negotiate your contract, the revisions are often on your time and your money. 
Today, with so many major publishing houses consolidating and becoming fewer and fewer, and with the rising up of more independent smaller publishers, the advances (money paid to the writer against the royalties)  that writers used to receive have become less and less.  If the author receives an advance at all – and many places no longer give advances at all – it’s likely to be a few hundred to only a few thousand.  Since the money paid as an advance is paid back to the publisher BEFORE the writer sees a royalty check, and since fewer and fewer books are published, that money might be the only check that the author sees.  (One of my publishers only printed enough copies so that the advance would be paid back.  They did not do a second printing even though the book was selling.) 
Dividing up the advance against the time it takes to write your book, you might be lucky to get a few cents per hour. 
Most publishers these days, unless they are positive you are going to be a best-seller, are not willing to get behind you and put money into publicity and promotion for you.  (This is, of course, a catch-22 because if publicity isn’t done, people don’t know about your book and don’t buy it. Look at the PR done for 50 Shades of Gray.  I don’t think it would have sold as well and the movie wouldn’t have made so much money if people were not just curious about what could be so great about it.)  You, the author, are responsible for paying for your own ads, tours, postcards, etc. 
Filmmakers, especially those who are independent, and who are savvy in the business, learned long ago that you have to plan on the promotional budget for their movie being equal to or even double and triple the cost to make the movie.  Most of them do not make money from their movies. They do it for the love of  it. 
Then there are those who self publish and have no idea of how to publicize their book or what is really involved in the business aspect of it. 
I am often told by new writers that they want to write, but they really hate the writing.  What they really want is the “fame and glory” of being a published or produced writer without having to do the hard work, doing the revisions, understand the business,  or do the promotions necessary. 
If you want to write, I explained to my friend, you write for the passion of it and because you have a story that you are burning to tell.  You do not write with the plan of getting rich from your books.  Even if your book is discovered by Hollywood, chances are the option/purchase price will not be what you hope for or envision and the subsequent film will be totally different from the book you have written.   
I hope you’re one of the lucky ones and get a fat advance with a lot of publicity, but don’t hold your breath.   Write because you love it, because you have a story that is burning inside of you that has to come out.  Don't listen to nay sayers - especially family who think you're not doing anything worthwhile.   Just write your heart out.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Asking for Favors!

Asking For Favors

Grr - Some people! A person I met at an event asked me to get my manger to refer him to an agent.
However, he refuses to let me see his synopsis or script to evaluate it so I can see if it is worthy to send to her.  He doesn't understand that he is using her valuable time that she could be spending with her clients or making deals for us.  He further refuses to understand how, if she puts out and refers someone who's work is not up to her standards or to the liking of someone she is submitting to, that her word will be mud in the future and they will most likely not take any more calls from her. 
He goes on and on how wonderful his script and story is and that he would be attached as director to the project.  That is another no-no.  One simply does not insist on being director of your project unless you are funding it yourself.  The investor wants to make his money back and wants someone who is accomplished in the field. Seldom will they want to take a chance on an unknown.
I told him that she was too busy with her own clients right now that if she referred anyone to one of the top agents, it would be me or one of the people she is already working with. Then he proceeds to argue with me on all the great and glowing responses he is getting from heads of departments - Spielberg's PR, Ron Meyer's assistant, and I forget who else.
I asked him if they were so enamored of his work then why didn't they make a recommendation for him? His response is that they said they just don't do that. But they do if they really like your material. 
            If someone does not understand that it takes a TEAM effort to make a film and refuses to work with other people than I really can't help him because he will argue with everyone about how great his shit it. 

PEOPLE ALL OUR WORK CAN USE IMPROVEMENT AND NOTHING IS GOLDEN. 
IF YOU ARE ASKING SOMEONE TO GO OUT OF THEIR WAY TO HELP YOU, THAN DON'T ARGUE WITH THEM ABOUT HOW GREAT YOU ARE!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Speaking engagement

I will be speaking at the Big Story conference at the LA Valley College on Feb 20-22  on topics as developing your ideas, writing scripts vs books, and developing your characters.
For a discount go to www.wcwriters.com/specials  Seats are limited.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Where Does All The Time Go?


I am not sure where the minutes and hours disappear to.  My husband says that I am very bad at setting priorities and often let other things take over when I have pressing deadlines to accomplish. He might be right at that.   But does one really decide?  Everything seems to be important. 

I know for sure that my time sense is warped. I will tell him that I will be in to watch TV with him in ten minutes.  Several hours later, I am still typing away.  I enter the bedroom and he'll joke "Who is this strange lady coming into my room?"

Currently, I am working on three new projects - a thriller book and it's adjacent script- “The Unborn Witness,” and “A Matter of Principle” --a true historical that I've been hired to write, but I also have two scripts – “Mother-in-Law” and ”Match Made In Heaven”-- that desperately need to be punched up, not to mention several other projects in the wings.   I have two lectures – On The Difference In Writing A Script vs a Novel” and “Mystery Writing” - yet to prepare for a conference that I am speaking at shortly, as well.*  I am not really sure how I balance them all, yet somehow I manage to get everything done on deadline. 

I dutifully write out a schedule the night before. But do I stick to it? Hell no.  I wish I could be more disciplined, but I'm not. 

When I wake in the morning, after my darling husband brings me coffee and breakfast in bed (he's definitely a keeper), the first thing I reach for is my phone to see if there have been any earth shattering messages during the night.  Usually there's nothing, but that doesn't stop me from then checking my emails.  Some mornings I have over 500 to get through from the day before.  Most of them are junk and I know it, but I dally here way too long.  What I should do is set a timer and allow myself only a hour - okay maybe an hour and a half - to go through them, but there are days when I look up and it's noon! 
I try to make whatever business calls I have during that morning time, as well, but that's not always possible. 

I hope I don't have any doctor or other appointments because they have to fit in, as well.  I also, having just rejoined the gym, need to make sure I schedule time for that as the exercise keeps the blood flowing. Sometimes my best writing thoughts come while I am walking the treadmill or doing leg curls. (I make sure I always have a notepad and pen in my bag.)

Sometimes it’s one in the afternoon before I actually get to my writing. 

Then there's the social networking. I am not a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter addict, but my manager and publishing reps say that it's crucial to keep my news and face in front of people and add to my fan list.  So I try doing that - at least every other day.   I also have to worry about get books out for review, get interviews for my current books – The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books And Scripts” and “Against Her Will” –a ya drama coming out in March, and write to libraries and schools to get my books listed. 

Then, of course, there is family. I am constantly torn about spending time with them or spending time on my writing.  My daughter has longed complained that I am at the computer 24/7.  That’s not really true, but she seems to have some resentment against my writing, and is among those who feel that if I am not making tons of money from my writing, I am not successful.  (I can’t tell how many times she’s told me that I should just go back to nursing because it makes a decent wage.)  So I try to spend as much time with her as I can.  (Though being a teen, she really doesn’t want to spend much time with her mother.)  We have planned to set aside one afternoon a week when we go shopping, the movies, or out to lunch. Let’s see if that works.  

So, yes, I have devised a plan.  I allow myself an hour and half (sometimes two) on each project.  I can do this because I am a determined outliner and meticulously plot out all my stories.  I know then what chapters or scenes have to be written now and what issues my characters have to address.  If I get stuck, I go back to my character biographies, but having detailed synopsis keeps me going full speed ahead. 

Luckily, my wonderful man cooks dinner (or brings in take out) so that I can spend more time writing.   He does like my presence with him, so, thank goodness for laptops, I write in bed, while he watches television. 

It’s a full day.  At times, I don’t go to bed until past midnight.  Since my wonderful manager, Italia Gandolfo, is a late night person, as well, it’s often when I communicate with her.  

Before going to sleep, I think about any scenes I had trouble with or questions for my characters to address the next day.  Sometimes, if I am lucky, I dream the answer or it comes to my subconscious as I am in twilight.  Of course, pen and paper rest on my nightstand. 

Ah, yes, a writer’s life never ends and I’m still not sure where all the time goes. 



*The Big Story, weekend of Feb. 20, 2015, in Van Nuys, Ca – for a discount go here – http://www.wcwriters.com/specials - and tell them you were referred by me.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Notes or Not?

Doubt?  We all have it. Even those of us who are successful or moderately successful have doubts about our writing abilities.  Is it good enough? Does it meet up to the standards out there?  Is my work as good as the last thing I published or produced?
We are often judged by our last success.

So we ask people - friends, family, those in the industry, strangers - to read our work and give us comments. Who we ask for those notes often has a vital impact on our psyche.

Your mother, sibling or friend can read your work and say how marvelous it is because a) they love you and want you to be happy, b) they think you can do no wrong or c) because they have no real idea of story, character and structure. They can also be negative because they want you to a) grow up and get a real job, forgetting about your "stupid" dream to publish or produce or b) because maybe they are jealous that you have a modicum of talent that they don't.

So we join a writing group.  They're supposed to be our peers and at least understand story, structure and character.  Some of the writers in the group are good, some may even be excellent and some are just not there yet.  They might give you notes on your story that are well-meaning and meant to guide you, but they are guiding you, often, in the direction of the story that they would have written with those characters.  Did they really understand where you were going with that story or with that character?  Maybe you weren't clear enough on the character's inner motivations?  Maybe your perception of the story is totally different from what they are seeing.


You ask professionals for their opinion.  (Some you might even have to pay for.) Evaluate who they are - what experience do they have?  Do they like historicals and you gave them a thriller? Do they like science fiction and you gave them a comedy?  Match your story to their professional qualities.

You don't, however, want to burn your bridges by asking them to read your material before you are sure it is ready because you might, especially if you have a relationship with them, be burning your bridges.  However, just because they are professionals does not mean that they will always be right. Not even agents are infallible.   Maybe they, too, have not understood your vision of the story or have their own take on where they think they story should go.  Their notes might be cryptic, as well.  They can say things like the story is flat.  Does that mean it doesn't have enough action?  Or that the character's arc is not developed well.  (That could be because you didn't do a complete character biography before you started and really didn't know your character inside and out - internal and external goals along with flaws and wounds - before you began writing.  Or if you did this, it's not coming across on the page.)
They could suggest "What happens if you change this character to a male?  Or a monkey?  Not matter what they -or you- think they are saying - the bottom line is that they are not getting the story that you set out to write.

Without being defensive, and sometimes the comments can hurt since after all these stories are our "babies," you have to ask for specifics. What about the character didn't you like? What about this section didn't you understand?   And even once they have given you that, ask again, what else didn't you like?

You don't have to listen to everything people say, but you do have to pay attention.

When I was first writing, my ex-husband who thought I was wasting my time, gave one of my manuscripts to a college professor of his.  The woman read my book about Deborah, the Prophetess, (which later was published as Lightning and Fire) and told me in no uncertain terms to forget about writing and go back to my housework!!  I took the train home and cried that night and then, clenching my fists, told my ex that I was not giving up.  I put that book aside for a bit and later, after I had honed my craft a bit more, was able later to revise it to the successful book it later became. Some of the comments the woman had given me, I later realized had some value to them and I was able, when I calmed down, to incorporate them into the final version.

 However, the rule of them is that if more than one person has a problem with a particular issue in your story, than you should consider what they are saying. Maybe not to take their change literally, maybe you want to keep the character a female and not a male, but to certainly be aware that something different needs to be done here.

The bottom line is that these our our stories and we are the creators. So what we do with the notes is totally up to ourselves. We can take them or leave them.  How badly do you want to see your material published or produced is the other question?  What does this story really mean to you?

In one particular case of mine, transforming my award winning short story "The Unborn" into a feature script, where the origin of the story was about domestic violence and the murderous after math, I found that my writing group didn't comprehend where the story was headed. They wanted me to make it more of a thriller, to take out the supernatural elements within the story and create a straight mystery.  More than one professional liked it (not loved it) the way it was once I made it into the thriller that the group through it should be.

The fact is, I was not happy.  My soul cried out because the original story, as I said, had been about domestic violence and the whole theme had gotten lost in the various versions  - nearly 18 rewrites - of the script.  The bottom line for me came when I realized that I had to for my own sanity return to the original story premise.  After consulting with my agent, she agreed that I had to revert to the logline that I had started out with.  While my theme is based in scientific facts, I would add some of the supernatural elements that she liked, keep some of the mystery elements that my writing group liked, but the new story, while a product of team work, was still going to be my creation.

Playing around with the plot and characters, I found that rewriting the story as a book (which is where I first started my writing talent) helped me to see where I had gone wrong and explore the characters more in depth. That process is proving to be fruitful in the adaptation back to script.

Remember to be true to yourself, to your passion and your story, but pay heed to what others are saying.  If your story is not clear, than see what lines are needed to clarify it; if the structure needs work than dabble with it, and go back to who your characters are and what they - not you the writer - want. Sometimes the story has to rest and percolate in your brain for a while before it can be perfected, but you will eventually succeed.

Look for "The Unborn Witness" to appear sometime soon both in book and script form.