The Next Big Thing

December 19, 2012

Last week I was tagged by Travis Richardson, (whose novella  Lost in Clover was recently published),  to participate in The Next Big Thing; where writers talk about their upcoming projects.

Without further adieu—

What is the working title of your book (or current project?)

The title has been recently changed to Detective Rules.  Throughout the book, the lead character, Guy Graff recites rules he learned while attending detective school.  Rules such as, Detective Rule #3:  You can lose a sock when doing laundry but don’t lose the guy stalking your client.  For most of this book’s incarnation it was called Shopping Can Be Deadly but I decided didn’t properly portray what the book is about.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book’s genesis started in a letter I was writing to girl I was dating at that time.  Yes, there was a time when people actually wrote letters.  That scene in the letter, where the woman enters Guy’s P.I. office and tells him why she wants to hire him is now gone.  But the character was created then and I felt secure in my writing style.  Detective Rules is my ode to all the detective/P.I. novels I’ve read growing up.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s not a hard-boiled detective story and it’s not as light as a cozy so I call it something in between: soft-boiled or a mystery/comedy.  

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Guy Graff is twenty-six years old but he looks like he’s eighteen and gets called “kid” a lot.  Back in the day I would have said Michael J. Fox could play Guy Graff but today, somebody like Daniel Radcliff.  Kim, one of his clients and eventual love interest: Jennifer Lawrence or Amanda Seyfried.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

It’s Guy Graff’s first ever P.I. case and his clients are being killed while they shop in Beverly Hills – and worst yet; before they pay him.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

It’s always been my dream to go the traditional route; find an agent and have it published by a big publisher.  After this final polish that’s the direction I’ll be going.  However if I can’t find an agent or publisher I will definitely consider self-publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your screenplay?

 The first draft took around two years.  Much of that first draft was written during some UCLA workshops and writers’ groups.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 It’s similar in tone to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.  It’s also like Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole’s series if he went with more humor and less seriousness.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My love of mysteries instilled into me by my Mother.  I looked at the detective novel and said to myself, how would your write it with your voice and hence; Detective Rules.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

 I’ve mentioned it has humor but the story is also about finding friendship, trusting and pre-judging people and of course; the need to be paid your retainer upfront.

That’s all from me.  Next Wednesday Kwei Quartey – author of Wife of the Gods and Children of the Street will be answering questions about his Next Big Thing.

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When do I know when I’m finished?

April 12, 2012

You’ve worked on your script/novel for months or even years with dozens of rewrites.  You’ve had all the time in the world to complete it.  You want this baby of yours to be perfect; rejection proof, before sending it out into the judgmental world of agents, managers, production companies, publishers.

So when do I know I’m truly finished ?

Have you completed this screenplay/manuscript checklist?

  • Did you read your script/novel straight through at one sitting?
  • Did you specifically look for emotional turning points, three act structure, and clear plot points.  Are they working?  Are they strong?  Contain big emotional moments?  Does the story slow down at any point?
  • Did your characters have arcs, uniqueness and consistency?
  • Did you read your dialogue out loud?  Is it on-the-nose dialogue or more complex by using subtext?  If it’s a script, have you had a reading of it with actors or friends?
  • Is your prose clear and clean and in tone with the story?  If it’s a script, are the action/description lines short but powerful and add great visuals?
  • Do your scenes or chapters flow?  Does each one move the story forward?  Can some be cut or combined?  Is there complexity to them?
  • If it’s a screenplay, can you make it more cinematic, or add set-up/payoffs or interesting transitions?
  • If you feel you’ve completed all the above steps, you’ve earned the right to put it in a drawer for a day or two.  After a short time away, re-read it again.  Still working for you?  Good.
  • Do your first polish draft.  Look at each word and each sentence. Are there misspellings or wrong punctuation? Did you vary your word choices? Have you replaced the “to be” verbs with more powerful action verbs?  Is the script/manuscript in the correct format?

After all that, if you feel like you want to tweak it more –   STOP!!!  DON’T MOVE!   TAKE YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD!

Writers that still want to fiddle with it, tell me: “I think I’m almost there but I still have to find that perfect ending” OR “I just have to nail a killer opening and then I’m done” OR “If I just punch up my dialogue a little more, then it’s ready.”

You are afraid to finish.  You’ve worked on this dream project and now it will be judged.  It will be out of your hands and you are about to find out if someone else likes it.  You are staring in the face of rejection. That’s scary. But if you’ve followed the above checklist it is almost ready.

What do you mean, “almost”?  There’s more?  But I thought you said I was done.  

You are, almost.

Click on Part Two to see Part Two.

Part Two of WHEN DO I KNOW WHEN I’M FINISHED will delve into getting feedback and from whom before you finally send it out.


CUT OFF YOUR FIRST 20 PAGES NOW!

January 17, 2012

THAT’S RIGHT,  YOU HEARD ME.

Try this: As an experiment, copy your script into a new document but cut off the first 5 or 10 or 20 pages.  Read your new 30 pages.  Does it start with your hero in action?  Is your script zipping along?  Were those first 20 pages mainly backstory?  Don’t worry, you can place any missing vital information later.  Don’t start explaining who this person is.  Set him in action then slowly reveal him.

Examples:

FIRST TWO PAGES.  Man wakes up.  Man kisses his wife.  Man drives to work.  Man goes into an office building.  Man goes up elevator.  Man on rooftop takes out a rifle.  Man starts shooting.

OR.

FIRST PAGE:  Man opens a rooftop door.  Man goes to the ledge.  Man takes out a rifle.  Man starts shooting.

Which grips you?  Which one will keep the reader/producer/agent, who only read the first 20 pages, going?

It always goes back to: SHOW DON’T TELL.


Using “Beat” is boring. Give it a life.- ReWriteDr tip

September 2, 2011

A spec screenplay is a reader’s experience.   When you use the word, “beat” that experience becomes boring.  A “beat” is just a place holder when nothing happens.  Gee, that’s exciting to read.  Using a gesture or movement can actually add to your scene.  It can show character or tension.  For instance:

CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (beat) I want to talk about us.

Examples of substituting “beat”.

CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (smiles) I want to talk about us.

CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (looks down) I want to talk about us.

CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (slaps the table) I want to talk about us.

CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (takes a deep breath) I want to talk about us.

Each substitution of “beat” added character or tension to the scene.

Should you never use “beat”?  95% of beats should be an action.

A “beat” shouldn’t be a pause in life; it should have a life in your script.


ReWriteDr Tip: YOUR TITLE PAGE – What should be on it and what shouldn’t be on it.

July 26, 2011

Your title page is your introduction to the reader.  What to make a good impression?  Format it correctly.

Do put on the title page

  • Title
  • written by
  • Your contact information.

That’s all!!!!

THE BEST SCREENPLAY EVER

written by

Stephen W. Buehler

(In the lower left or right hand corner, email address, street address and phone number)

  • stephen@rewritedr.com
  • 4804 Laurel Canyon Blvd. #506
  • Valley Village,CA91607
  • 818-510-1716

If you wrote the screenplay with someone else you use the “&” sign. – You’re a writing team.

written by

Stephen W. Buehler & Albert Einstein

The “and” is used when the first writer has now gone and they’re hired a second writer.

written by

Albert Einstein and Stephen W. Buehler

Don’t put on the title page:

  • WGA registered – If you want the receiver of your script to view you as a professional, they assume that you have already  registered your script – that’s what professionals do.  Amateurs put WGA#.
  • The © symbol.  Same as above.  It’s not necessary.
  • “All Rights Reserved”.  Same as above.  It’s not necessary.
  • Any image, design or cute figure.   Keep it clean and simple.

If you place those items on the title page, you’re saying, “If you steal my idea, I’m going to sue you.”  Wow.  That’s not a good way to start a relationship.  They know the score and they hope you do too.

You want them to read all the pages of your script.  Don’t make them stop at the TITLE PAGE. 


ReWriteDr’s favorite books on screenwriting.

July 15, 2011

There are plenty of screenwriting books out there.  Everyone one has their favorites.   Certain books seem to speak to you just at the right time.  However, over the years the following four books are the ones I’ve gone back to again and again.

1.  Syd Field’s – SCREENPLAY is still the holy book when it comes to structure.  It’s been around forever but it’s still relevant today.  It should be the first book any new writer reads.

2.  Linder Seager’s – HOW TO MAKE A GOOD SCRIPT GREAT is excellent with character development and the rewriting process.

3.  Blake Synder’s – SAVE THE CAT, (The last screenwriting book you’ll ever need), isn’t quite that but written in a  causal conversational manner, it reinvents the Beat Sheet.  Plus it renames 10 different genres according to what they need to accomplish and how your script should fall into one of them.  It’s a new way of thinking about screenwriting.

4.  Lastly, William M. Aker’s – YOUR SCREENPLAY SUCKS! – is a great checklist after you’re done a draft and before you send it out, besides being just a fun read.

What are your favorites?