Thursday, February 26, 2015

Writing the Screenplay BEFORE You Write the Novel

Last week at the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium I went to a fantastic panel on screenplay writing. I learned a lot of valuable stuff, like the fact that there's about a gazillion screenplays that you can read FOR FREE on the internet. Also that if you want to write screenplays professionally, you need to plunk down your $200 for Final Draft because industry professionals can smell a screenplay that has been formatted in any other way.

But the most amazing, game-changing idea I heard in that panel was this. If you want to write a novel, write the screenplay FIRST.

Susan Kaye Quinn has already done a few fantastic posts on Scribblers Cove about using screenplay structure in a novel, but this takes it a step further. Here are some benefits of writing the screenplay before you write the novel:
  1. A screenplay is more fun to read and to write than an outline.
  2. Using the storytelling structure of a screenplay will help your novel's pacing.
  3. When you write a screenplay, all you have to do is focus on what's going on and what's being said. Later on,when you write the novel, you can worry about how to convey that to the audience in an artistic manner with well-refined prose.
  4. It is easier to adapt a screenplay to a novel than the other way around.
  5. It is easier to adapt a novel to a screenplay if that novel has been a screenplay in a previous life, possibly making a movie option more likely to come along.
If you want to try your hand at writing screenplays but don't want to cough up the money for Final Draft, here's a website that will show you how to turn Microsoft Word into a great screenwriting tool. I did it yesterday and it took me less than an hour, and now I'm flying through writing my first screenplay.

Keep writing, everyone!
Rebecca J. Carlson

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Flash Fiction Blog Launch: Story Flare

Hi everyone!

I've started a flash fiction blog,

About a month ago my sister-in-law said she wanted to help me get my writing career going. She asked me how much time I could spend a day on writing.

"I used to have two hours," I said, "but now..." I made a long list of excuses.

"It sounds to me like you think you have to have a huge block of time every day if you're going to write at all," she said. "Try this. Tomorrow morning, get up fifteen minutes early, set a timer for fifteen minutes, and write one short story. You can spend all day thinking about it, but you can only write for fifteen minutes. And no revising."

I tried it. It was amazing.

First of all, my word count more than tripled. I used to do 800 words an hour, 1000 was a really good haul. Now I'm pulling 600 to 700 words in 15 minutes every morning. Second, I stopped feeling depressed that I wasn't writing anything. Third, it only took fifteen minutes. I barely even noticed that there was any time missing from my day. Best of all, there's something intensely liberating about being able to move from one idea to the next in only a day, instead of obsessively slaving over the same story concept for years.

Of course I was sending my sister-in-law the daily stories. Once I'd been doing this for several weeks she told me to start a blog. So I did.

Come on over and check it out.

What can you do in fifteen minutes?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Writer Who Knew Too Much

I've got a passion for story craft. For me, the only thing that can compare to the thrill of writing fiction is learning about writing fiction. I've got a whole shelf full of books on writing. When I go to a conference or workshop I'm looking for the next nugget of wisdom, the next clue to my quest of creating the ultimate reading experience. In the past few years I've filled more notebooks with notes on craft books and symposium lectures than I have on my own novels' world building, character development, and plot outlines.

Uh oh.

The last time I took a creative writing class my professor said I was doing a fantastic job of avoiding using passive voice - at the expense of varying my sentence structure. I needed to relax and just write.

When I face the blank page, my head churns with all the things I need to keep in mind. Tension. Pacing. Character. Beats. Voice. I type one sentence and none of that is happening. Maybe I should just go read "Character and Viewpoint" again.

No! I've been doing too much learning about writing and not enough writing itself, so much so that I've created very high expectations for myself but I haven't been building the skills to meet them.

Any suggestions?

I have a few for myself.
  1. Spend more time writing. Always a good thing.
  2. If you have to learn something related to writing, try studying up on some of the other skills you're going to need as an author, like marketing and public speaking.
  3. Let the first draft be horrible. Just get the words on the page, worry about everything else later.
Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I am exhausted right now, but it's been a fun week. I launched my latest book, A Safe Space, which is a coming of age/reverse Cinderella story. My main character is a child star who's just aged out of her role on her hit show and is now unsure whether she can keep acting into adulthood. Unfortunately, she doesn't have any of the millions she earned as a child; those were all mismanaged away, so she faces adulthood like we all do, empty handed and in desperate need of a plan.

Meanwhile she's got an all consuming, inexplicable crush on a personal trainer at her gym. He's arrogant, abrasive, and often taunts my main character, which is the last thing she needs. However, his behavior isn't consistent towards her, and she has the nagging feeling there's something more going on.

There is, but I'm not going to tell you what. I had a blast writing this book. It's my eighth novel and while I'm still not making a living, I feel like I'm gaining new skills all the time. But most importantly, I'm very happy with my career. If it takes me decades to build up a shelf I can live off the royalties of, those will be some fun decades.

Here are buy links:

And then here's a fun giveaway. One of the prizes is a pen of your choice from my Etsy store!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An Author's Failure ... or is it?

I wish I had excellent words of wisdom oozing from my brain to share with you regarding my writing journey. Though my love is found in writing fiction, I often feel inadequate when it comes to my experiences with my career though I have experienced quite a bit!

I started out with a small publisher who simply extended her service under CreateSpace, though she is an excellent cover artist and formatter. I crashed and burned when I tried to get my books to book stores and though CreatSpace's distributors could get your books directly into brick and mortar stores, I learned the hard way that my books were NOT set up that way.

I had to bring my own box in and sell it differently than other authors at book signings. I have been taken advantage by these stores (not all, most have integrity). What's sad, is that this is a race of one as an author.

I understand that we are networked and support one another, but realistically, we are so busy surviving life with a regular job that writing is a side thing though it does NOT feel that way. How can we make more time for flailing writers who need our expertise? Oh, yes, there are many writers out there who are willing to mentor and share secrets, but those are very rare to find!

Needless to say, I lost all confidence in my career when my old publisher decided to restructure her company and everyone became Indie: we would utilize one another's expertise and help get our individual books published that way.

Though Darkspell was my first published, it was not my first written. I have been writing for over twenty years and decided to push that one the hardest. I became lost and eventually orphaned from my publisher, but I kept writing and writing.

Though I have stumbled much thereafter, I have not given up on my love of writing and have come across second chances that feel like a slow take-off, but I have been led where I am at for a divine purpose that only the future will tell.

As Emily Mah had mentioned, Cinderella stories are far and few and success is dependent upon the view of the beholder. For some, success is simply getting that book published. After all, that is a significant goal accomplished!

What hard-learned experiences do you have that you'd like to share?


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My column on The Business Side of Writing

Hi all, very sorry to disappear for several months there. I'll talk more about what kept me busy in a later post. All during this time, though, I've been a regular guest blogger on Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog for the Association of Mormon Letters, and I really should be cross posting links.

This month I posted on how to find the right agent for you. Rather than the usual advice about how to query and how to find agents, I focused on where you should be, emotionally and professionally, when it's time to find an agent. I've found agent querying to be a pretty intensely weird process, and I don't envy agents at all, with some of the authors they have to deal with. Unfortunately, I don't think it's all that hard to stand out, but to see more on that, head to this month's post.

Meanwhile, hello again! I've missed talking to you all!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Book Launch for Christmas

Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that crewmate Quinn has some books coming out next month, a late middle-grade contemporary fantasy called Faery Swap and a steampunk YA romance, Third Daughter. You can read all about it here.

Happy holidays! And if any of the rest of you have a book release to tell us about, post it at the cove!