Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

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Having an Admin day with Evernote

I’m excited about spending the $34.99 on Evernote. If you haven’t, I recommend it. I was running into using up all of my bandwidth in Evernote on the free plan (usually ten days into it). So I resolved to go ahead and spend the money.

I spend the money, and was excited to do it. Really, Ever note’s plans are very inexpensive – I was just unwilling to spend $70 a year for more bandwidth than I use. If my use increases, I’ll double my plan gladly.

Now, here’s some things to keep in mind with Evernote. What works for Michael Hyatt may not work for you. Michael a few years back found he simply couldn’t get everything organized within Evernote in a way he was comfortable with. So, he streamlined, and compacted almost all of his notebooks into about 4, and reduced all of his tags to about half a dozen. Other people adopted his system, and it worked wonders.

I need a different system. Absolutely nothing wrong with how Michael Hyatt does it. nothing at all. But I need a different system, something that works for me.

My wife is something of an unofficial expert on mindsets. She’s read a lot, trying to understand how I can create piles of stuff everywhere, but I know where everything is. so she investigated, and found that there are all kinds of people who think in different ways. I work best SEEING what I have. That’s why I create piles of stuff subconsciously. Although I’ve been working over the last 10 years to get my piles of stuff neatly put away, my brain still works best seeing things.

Other people need to get things put away, but you just know, “I threw it all in that drawer. It’s in there somewhere.”

Someone who hides things as part of their organization strategy will NEVER be able to adopt the “99 notebooks and 113 tags” system that some people use. And I can’t use Michael Hyatt’s minimalist approach. Works for him, not me. Be sure to visit his blog and read that post for yourself. Decide if it works for you. If so, great! If not… here’s my system.

I have 55 notebooks and notestacks, all organized in a way that makes sense to me, and would probably drive someone else crazy, unless they think how I do.

I have 192 separate tags, nested and stacked in a way that makes sense to me.

So, here’s how I did it. I made a notestack “Writing”, and then I stuck a bunch of folders in it like “magazine articles” “Writers’ College Notebook”, etc.  To put an article in two notebooks at once, just right click on the article inside Evernote, and “Copy to”.

I then load up each article with as many tags as are relevant.

I hate the word relevant, by the way. It’s so post modern, and I get very annoyed by post modern philosophy.

Anyway, what ends up happening as I clip a million things into Evernote is that very often, I don’t tag anything. Just assign a notebook or notestack. Why? I know how I work. Don’t interrupt my research phase, or I’ll stop researching.

Then I plan out one admin day a month. I go through and edit, change fonts, and tag. If I’ve done fifty clippings over the last month, then I’m planning on doing… well, eventually, my entire Evernote collection. I may only get the ones I added over the last month. But every two or three moths I scroll down to the bottom and begin checking – did I put enough tags on this? does it need editing? Change the fonts for readability? Did I put it in the wrong notebook?

Tagging really is the key to effective Evernote use. The more tags you load a clipping with, the easier it will be to find it. Now, often a clipping will only have one applicable tag. That’s the way it is!

But I find that over six months, I’ll add one or two more tags to the mix, and some of my old clippings could use that tag as well!

Plan out an admin day for Evernote.

The Incredible Cost of CoSchedule

I recently did some searching on the cost of using something better than Buffer to plan out my tweets. Twitter is great, but the average life span of a tweet is 6 minutes. That means if I post a tweet at 11:41 AM, it’s gone by 11:47.

In the space of time it takes you to go get a cup of coffee, my tweet has lived and died.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Coschedule is awesome. I can write a tweet, and click the “repost” or whatever their buzzword is for it… and that tweet will automatically be rescheduled a number of times for up to three months from now.

If I write two days’ worth of tweets and hit repost, my tweets will all be rescheduled, and ensure that not a single one of them dies unseen – and the benefit is my schedule over the next month is being populated from just a few days’ tweets.

Sounds good, right?

CoSchedule starts at $40 a month. Yup. That’s just under $500 a year.

CoSchedule started at being much less expensive. And as I did research on it, I found their move to $40 a month cost them a lot of clients. The story was always the same – I got on them when they were $19 a month. Then the price kept going up and up and…

There’s a nice median of pricing. I can sell two units of something for a thousand dollars, or I can sell ten thousand units at a hundred dollars. As long as I’m meeting costs and staying in the profit margin, I’m making more at the lower price.

CoSchedule is falling into that trap. And a lot of the websites I was going to were saying, “You know, it’s just me writing this. Nobody else is ever going to use my account. You should have the corporate stuff for $159 a month (and tiers of that), and then individual plans. Free with limited, then $50 a year, then…

I mean, it works for Evernote! I recently paid the money to upgrade Evernote to the lower paid plan and let me tell you, I’m as happy as can be!

Evernote has apparently more users than there is people on the face of this earth. Which is great – this means we’ve got Martians using Evernote as well!

If Evernote is selling a million memberships at $35 a year, shouldn’t CoSchedule think of the same thing?

Try a test run. Lower the price. See if your sales jump.

I’d gladly go to CoSchedule for $35 a year. But $40 a month?

It’s going to have to wait until my blog is producing income.

The Spark Sheet

Every once in a while I read of an idea, and I just don’t get it. The Spark sheet was something I read about, and essentially I dismissed it as, “Um… that’s just plot points. Those already have a name. I know. Intro, first turn, midpoint, second turn, climax, end.”

But as I thought about it and pondered it, I realized there was another way to think of it.

Anything that sparks your interest.

Okay.

That’s different.

I’d been stuck writing my plot points on some projects. When you write out the first 14 of them, no problem. The next 7, um…

What happens to me, and I suspect a lot of others, is that you’re afraid of choosing the wrong idea for a plot point. When you think, “I’ve only got 15 plot points on this sheet”, you tense up, and are afraid to make the wrong choice.

If you think of it as something that sparks your interest… well then! That’s easy!

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know  that I’m a proponent of the sequence of save the cat (even for novels), 21 point spark sheet, then a 60 point spark sheet.

Why this sequence? Because this way you’re hammering down your structure, and I can see the story. Once I know how to see the story, I can write the story.

If I only end up with 50 sparks, I’m not to worried. Somewhere between 50-60 is your goal. 48 sparks, not enough.

Conclusion

You need at least 50-60 plot points in your novel or movie. All you have to do is plan out your plot points in an increasing number of sheets to eliminate stress and inhibit creativity. Your last step will be to move this work into Scrivener, and then begin writing.

Theme

Writing composes several elements – dramatic, grammatical, structure and theme. Theme seems to be the often neglected part of the story in beginners, yet it’s often the take away lesson. Try describing any book in a breakdown of “What’s it about?” and what you describe is essentially the theme.

“Good versus evil” breaks down into “the ultimate triumph of good over evil”, “The strength of innocence”, “Love conquers all.”

“evil gets its payback” can be broken down even further into “Evil is self defeating”, “you just picked on the wrong person”, etc.

The way you break down a movie or a book into one answer – “what’s it about?” is the theme of your book.

While your book is emphatically about “the protagonist needs to…”, and all the dialogue and scenes need to emphasize that and move that forward, essentially your writing – seen in a bird’s eye view – must reinforce the theme.

I’m not so much worried about “Does this scene reinforce my theme?” I’ve read many a book where the theme was missing from the many of the scenes. But when you view it chapter by chapter, the theme is there, slowly reinforced as the book makes its way to the inevitable conclusion.

You only need to be slightly conscious of theme as you’re writing your one-sheet for your novel, or when you’re writing your 60 spark point sheet. Does this plot point concern the theme? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The majority of times, it should in some way concern the theme. A theme of good triumphs cannot take place in every scene – it has to look like the protagonist is losing – but the overall purpose in your mind is that of the ultimate win of the protagonist.  And that’s how you reinforce the theme. Setbacks seem to violate your theme, but when he comes out on top – you’ve won.

When you’re writing your novel or screenplay, your second edit should be the theme edit, essentially a checklist. You can put it in the chapter summary of Scrivener as you go through it – did this chapter reinforce – if only slightly – the theme? If the answer is no, rework that chapter to make sure the theme is there, and furthered slightly by the plot elements.

Conclusion

Theme must be present in your books.

Editing your novel 1

Every writer sets out to write their novel, and thinks once you’ve finished writing it, it’s done. There’s even a famous scene in a movie about a writer’s tradition when he finishes a book, his one cigarette, his bottle of wine.

Actually, about all you get is a smile, self satisfaction, and some relief. “It’s done. I spend six weeks writing this and it’s done.”

On to the next one!

But know that once book two is finished in six more weeks, you now have to edit book one.

It’s going to take several passes.

The line by line revision doesn’t happen at first. It happens later. What are you looking at first?

Structure.

Do you have a character arc?

Is there suspense and conflict in every scene?

Can I cut this scene out? Will the story be nonsense without it?

Did I build the conflict big enough?

Did I hit all of the points I preplanned out?

If the story changed (and it always does), did I find substitute conflict points?

Do I have 50-60 spark points?

A dozen pivotal scenes?

Very often the first edit pass is almost like a retelling of the novel. It’s going to take a couple of weeks just to get through this first stage.

This stage is crucial. Nine out of ten novels fail at the premise. And since novels often change – sometimes drastically – you have to go back through and ensure the conflict still works. That means your structure can go from workable to unworkable in the process of writing.

If you don’t do this first step, then forget the rest of them.

Suspense (the denial of something) and conflict  (the interrupted attainment of something) must be present in every scene. This is one of the major steps in this first revision.

You need to examine the plot points, which you should have listed in Project properties in the Inspector. Did you hit them all? Did one or two of them lose power in the process of writing? This does happen. If it did, did you choose a substitute story point?

There has to be three turns – first turning point, midpoint, second turning point.

You have to have the climax building in the last 10% of your book. Literally, by word 59,500 you must begin the final conflict stage in your book. This has to build up. If it was a movie, this would be the car chase.

If you have a denouement, it must be short. Don’t have a 60 page wrap-up at the end of your book. If you’ve got that, you cheated the second turn and didn’t build up enough for the climax.

Ready? Now go and edit book two. Get some daylight away from this book, then we’ll come back and start on second pass.

ProWritingAid.com

This is a really helpful tool I recently found! They have tools ranging from suggested style improvements (or at least, highlighted selections where you need improvement!), grammar checker, Spel chek, Readability, cliché’s, sticky sentences, vague words, diction, repeated words, repeated words (yes, I made a couple of puns in this blog post – see the spell check one!), sentence length, consistency, and more!

Seriously, this was like attending a writer’s conference just to load in a sample chapter and go through all the reports!

In many ways, learning to use all the reports on this website actually are like having an editor sit with you as they red line a hundred sentences!

For example, one of my scenes had the word “in” about 500 times. It was horrible to see the word there so many times. Words that are overly repeated again and again lose reader interest!

I cannot emphasize this really enough! By the way, Prowritingaid found 8 close repeats in the sentences above, and it labeled the sentence “It was horrible to see the word there so many times” my only sticky sentence. 67% of the sentence was overly common words, and they claim readers stumble over it.

I got this score from this blog article:

Your vocabulary was more dynamic (unique words/total) than 99% of ProWritingAid users

Prowritingaid is free, but limits you to 500 words at a time.

Strange Movie Trivia and Goofs

When I watch movies, I see a lot of mistakes that are done, and sometimes careless things are done for the sake of drama. Other times it’s ignorance.

And sometimes I find out trivia.

Here’s a whole bunch.

  • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – Charlie apparently was picked to win the factory right from the start. It’s a theory that apparently is shared by some of the child actors who starred in the movie. Ever notice that Slugworth is there right on the spot whenever anyone “Finds” a golden ticket?
  • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – The photograph of the elusive man who faked winning a golden ticket is Martin Bormann, Nazi.
  • Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – there’s a play on words, also a Nazi conspiracy allusion – Fickelgruber’s Fudge is a play on words on Hitler’s name (shickelgruber). Apparently, Hitler gave up being a dictator to be a confectioner.
  • A Bridge Too Far. Staff Sergeant Eddie Dohun and Captain Legrand Johnson are played by the wrong people. Eddie Dohun was a  smaller man, and Legrand Johnson was physically much bigger. Johnson was more experienced in combat, Dohun hadn’t been in as much. Johnson was shot in the shoulder and head, and Eddie Dohun picked him up and carried the larger man to a jeep, then pulled a gun on a medic when the medic refused to operate. If the two actors had switched roles, it would have been more true to life.
  • A Bridge Too Far – The scene where James Caan pulls the .45 on the doctor to operate on Johnson is a big oops – the safety is clearly on. I guess they never told Caan how to take the safety off of a Colt.
  • Almost every war movie – actors blink while supposedly accurately shooting people. If you see them blink, they flinched… and missed.
  • Godzilla – the scene of the reporters in the news office. The editor is one of the suit actors who played Godzilla. The reporter with the pencil behind the ear is the other one.
  • The Seven Samurai – the entire cast is also in Godzilla. All the same actors. Both movies were filmed at the same time.
  • Godzilla – legendary director Akira Kurasawa would stop by in breaks of filming his movie to watch the filming of Godzilla.
  • Band Of Brothers – “Cowboy” John D. Halls is not the character John D. Hall, radio operator from New York. To save time, both characters were apparently combined, possibly by accident during a re-write. John D. Hall died when his plane was shot down. “Cowboys” John D. Halls, from Colorado, died at the Brecourt Manor assault.
  • A Bridge Too Far – Colonel Stout is really Colonel Sink. The group of soldiers who are there when the Sonne bridge is blown up is actually Easy Company. Major Winters recalled the ludicrousness of making it through D Day to almost getting decapitated by flying timbers that just missed his head.
  • A Bridge Too Far – the German spoken and the Translated subtitles sometimes don’t match. I have to watch scenes sometimes a couple of times.
  • Braveheart – There’s a scene where Mel Gibson is surrounded by a group of exceptionally hairy looking Scots. That’s the real Clan Wallace around him,
  • Braveheart – a lot of the actors in Braveheart with key roles had never acted before. Their audition for the movie in several cases consisted of them sitting and talking with Gibson, who would just tell them they had the role.
  • Patton. I’ve got a lot of good trivia for Patton. Hauptmann Staiger is giving a briefing on D Day footage. One of the generals trying not to yawn is actually the director of photography.
  • Patton. Chet Hanson and Omar Bradley were on the set to watch filming. During one scene, they used Bradley to block the scene where Karl Mulden would sit. The scene accidentally made it into the final film. You’ll see a brief camera change and… the person in Karl Mulden’s seat is General of the Army Omar Bradley.
  • Patton. The jeep driver in the “reincarnation” scene is the real Chet Hanson.
  • When George Scott showed up for the first camera test and put on the uniform, Chet Hanson described it as “one minute he was an actor fellow, and the next second, we were in shock, because somehow he suddenly was George S. Patton.”
  • A Bridge Too far – the “Red Devils” trooper who swims the Rheine  to tell Sosabowski that they need help. Except the real story was, it was a Commander, not a private.. and it wasn’t Sosabowki, it was Col. Sink of the 101st.
  • BAT 21 – I stopped watching it when I realized that MACV-SOG was omitted from the film.
  • BAT 21 – the infamous scene where Gene Hackman cries out, “people are dying all around me” is an invention. The real person had no problems killing the soldier with his knife.

Hope you enjoyed these – I’ll do more another time!

Evernote for Authors

As an author, I’ve come to really value Evernote.

For instance, I’ve had to look up historical information, geographical information, temperature, weather, customs, language, names, name meanings, historical personality, cars, houses, etc.

Evernote gives you a place to store all that.

You can bookmark things like name generators. You can clip locations, inventions, all kinds of research. Think of Evernote being a filing cabinet. And every now and then you have to re-organize it to make more sense.

Try Evernote for a year, free. If after that you’re finding you’re routinely running out of space for it, consider upgrading to plus.

You’ll need one admin day a month to go into Evernote, and update tags and make sure you clipped articles to the right notebooks.

It’s important.

Writing Several Books at One Time

One of the most difficult things to do is work on several projects at the same time. It’s actually recommended against.

I find myself in this same situation, as I’ve been hired to work on a screenplay, but as long as I meet my page counts, then I still can put some time into my other projects.

I’ve got several novels I’m working on, and I don’t want to let any of that lag behind. I’ve got several of my own screenplays I’d like to get done (and maybe enter some contests this year).

To get all this done, I’ve got to work on several projects at the same time.

To get this done, which most people actually can’t do at one time, you have to make sure of four things:

  1. Time management
  2. meet priority deadlines first
  3. plan your work
  4. know and be able to SEE your work.

The last step is something I’ve been VERY emphatic about on this blog. If you’re burning the candle at both ends and the middle, the only way to pull this off is to be able to visualize it. You have to be able to say, “This is the throw the plate scene.” You have to know the essence of the argument that leads to throwing the plate, you have to know why they throw the plate, what the aftermath roughly is. If you can’t SEE the scene in your head, you’re going to end up with a huge case of writer’s block.

Time Management. First is time management. You’ve got to know what needs to be done by when. I’m one of those people that is always trying to find the best time management system and software, so that’s no big deal to me. I’m almost resigned to having to design my own software, and get someone to write it!

Meet Priority Deadlines first. Someone’s paying me money, so their project comes first, above and beyond mine. I have to meet seven pages of script, no matter what. If I start getting bogged down, then the script is all that’s getting written.

Plan your work. This is ESSENTIAL.  Get your save the cat, or your list of plot points, a synopsis, SOMETHING. You must know where you’re going in every project. It’s not enough to know what’s next, you may want to write another plot point first, because that will help to write the earlier one! KNOW where you’re going to go!

know and be able to SEE your work.

If you can’t see your work, how all the scenes fit together, I guarantee you’re not going to finish it. NOTHING is more demoralizing to a writer to have a bunch of unfinished novels.

start using the three step plot process – the Save the Cat 15 step template, your 21 point story template, then a 60 point template.

60 points sounds like a lot, but John Truby insists that every novel and movie  has 50 to 60 pilot points.  I was able to write out 8 spark sheets in 3 days last week – its just a matter of mindset.

if you think plot point,  you’ll be paralyzed – what if I choose the wrong thing? What if I limit myself?

But if you think, “this is something that sparks my interest, a scene I can’t wait to write…” then filling that sheet out becomes EASY. and QUICK.

Fun.

Writing should be fun, enjoyable. You write because essentially that’s how God designed you – you HAVE to write.

I HAVE to write. No matter what else I’ve been doing all my life, I’ve come up with ideas for movies and books.

Write your novels. If you’re stuck in the same situation I’m in, where you’re working on many projects at once, statistics say it’s a recipe for disaster. You’re not likely to make progress in any of them – unless you use serious time management techniques, solid planning, and know where you’re going before you get there.

Scene Construction 2

What is a scene, at its basic level?

this is a big question, really. And the answer to effective writing is in answering this question.

According to David Gerrold, screenplay writer and inventor of the Tribble, “A scene is a confrontation between two persons.”

Confrontation is conflict.

Every scene must have its conflict.

If you master this, people keep turning pages to read your books.

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, you’ll remember me describing a truly terrible book that I couldn’t put down at ALL.

Why?

Because the author had this DOWN. He wrote suspenseful conflict in every scene. People were dying left and right, and you flipped the pages quickly to discover if the heroes were going to survive.

If the beta reader stops reading the page 80% of the way down to flip the page, you’ve got it made. You’ve mastered this.

That’s your goal.

Every scene is about someone trying to do something, or get something, or say something. Sometimes they get it. That’s a reward or payoff. Most of the times they don’t.

That’s conflict.

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