Monday, April 22

Scriptwriter - Script coverage - Script editing

     Last fall I was offered an opportunity to co-write a screenplay. To be perfectly honest, I was originally asked to edit a screenplay, which I was happy to do. This is where it gets interesting. My scriptwriter/client asked me if I’d like to help him finish the script. Again, I was happy to do so. Then he asked me to go over his treatment and see if there was anything I’d like to add.  As you’ve probably guessed, I really, really did want to add a few things here and there.  Well, my new partner liked what I’d written, so he welcomed me aboard and I was off and running.

     I’m not only happy I did, I’m also very proud of the fact that the script turned out to be a good one.
Here are the details:
Co-writer: Darrell Malone (Darrell is also in charge of getting the script sold. And, he’s the star of the picture)
Storyline: An interesting look at the game of football, following a player from elementary school flag football all the way to the Super Bowl.  With football as the backdrop, the characters learn a lot about themselves and how what they do off the field affects those around them.  BULLYING becomes part of the theme of this script and how the players learn that words hurt as much as actions. Very effective drama with a dash of humor and romance.
Lots of football games played and lessons learned about the power of fame and misuse of that power. The main character redeems himself and learns the importance of love and family.

     I'm very proud of the script work I've been doing. If anyone is interested in reading a sample of LIVING BLINDLY, email me:

     I've also tried my hand at Script coverage and find this work extremely interesting.  Again, if you'd like to see a sample of my work, email me:

Monday, August 21


I offer to edit five pages of your manuscript for free.
Please write for details.

No obligation whatsoever.

Email for details:

Wednesday, March 16

Check Out INKYGIRL.COM - writer's resource

You have to go check out Debbie Ridpath Ohi's website. Remember Debbie? She created that great Inkspot website of years gone by, the site that helped me gain the confidence I needed to write and edit for profit. She gave me my first chance at being a columnist. In fact, I think I earned my first writing dollars from Inklings Newsletter. Anyway, she's back with this very cool site, She's added a list of paying markets for writers and lots more. Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author of Writer's Online Marketplace. Rock on, Debbie!


Saturday, January 15


A good query letter can be a writer’s single most effective marketing tool. But only if it can instantly grab the attention of the reader and keep that attention. A good query letter gets to the point quickly and makes it easier for a "tired, blurry eyed" editor to sit up and take notice.
I enjoy helping writers market their manuscripts once they have been edited. Because of this, I’ve put together a series of query letters that got noticed by agents and publishers. In fact, several of these letters can be credited with helping the author make a sale.
There are a few basic elements that go into a good query letter. I’ve broken these elements into example in an attempt to make them easier to put into practice. Remember, these are just examples. See if you can see the common elements you can incorporate into your own query letters.

ELEMENT 1. The "attention getting opening":

Sometimes the opening takes the form of a question.
This example was used to market a children’s book.
Do you think children should be helped to understand the difference between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy?
This example was used to get attention focused on a mystery/thriller.
What really happened in Dealy Plaza on November 22, 1963? Did the head of the FBI and the Vice President play a part in the events of that day?

Sometimes just a friendly opening sentence catches the attention of the reader.
In this example, the author used a bit of familiarity to draw attention to his mystery novel.
I noticed that you agented a book I enjoyed, [Author's name]'s [Book's name], and thought you might be interested in seeing my mystery, A STRANGE AND BITTER CROP.

Sometimes an interesting statement works just as well.
In this example, the author hopes the saga of a World War II Army Nurse would help get attention.
In war-torn 1942, Army Nurse 2nd Lt. Ernestine Koranda began a most perilous voyage. Sailing from New York with task force 6924T her troopship made it down the German submarine infested Atlantic Coast and on to Australia. She survived the harrowing trip only to be killed in an airplane crash on her way to her wedding!

Element 2 follows the attention getting opener with a paragraph that helps "justify your project." Why are you writing this book in the first place and why would anyone want to buy it? Who’s interested anyway?

Element 2: "Justify the project." Add interest by incorporating "market information and endorsements."
Market information first:
This paragraph (or sentence) is for a children’s book series.

THE EXPEDITION book series was successfully tested on elementary school students. Parents, teachers and children's librarians have expressed an appreciation for this concept.
This paragraph draws attention to the audience, those interested in WWII Hospital Ships:

This is the untold story of the thirty nine hospital ships that operated during World War II. Each ship is covered from her launch to final demise, with the main emphasis on the ship's career as a hospital ship. WORLD WAR II HOSPITAL SHIPS is aimed at and will find an audience in Military Personnel, Merchant Seamen, Physicians, Nurses, Historians and Ship buffs

Now we’ll talk about the endorsement section:.
The two paragraphs that follow hope their endorsements will show the reader the book is in good hands:

I developed the idea for this series while producing the program "What Does A Writer Do, Anyway?" designed to encourage elementary school students to enjoy creative writing. My program was heartily received by the [local] Community School system.

A STRANGE AND BITTER CROP has been reviewed by Jenny [last name], an attorney who clerks for a superior court judge, Rick [last name], an attorney for a legal aid society, Cheryl [last name], a psychotherapist who specializes in treatment of rape survivors, and a rape survivor who prefers to remain unnamed...(continued...)

... Additional help was provided by a member of a rape crisis line, Dr. Karen [last name], forensic anthropologist for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Stan [last name], sheriff of [name of county], Georgia.

Now we move on to Element 3, the final section of an attention getting query letter. The "About the Author" paragraph is where you get to talk about yourself. This is no time to be modest! "The closing" is just that - the last part of your letter.

Some of these paragraphs combine several styles in an attempt to impress the reader. The writers here are saying, in essence, "I’m the one to write this book."
"About the Author" and "Closing:"

Other works have helped me in creating this children's book series. I am the author of TV GREATS-STAR TREK (Zebra), publisher of RUNNER'S FORUM NEWSLETTER, was Managing Editor of WORKING WRITER MAGAZINE,...(continued)...... served as Research Specialist for INFORMATION SERVICES INTERNATIONAL, co-produced two writer's conferences/workshops - WRITERSFEST I and II, served as a book reviewer for SYBEX BOOKS and was a guest lecturer at WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR CREATIVE STUDIES with the program RESEARCH IN FICTION: GETTING IT RIGHT.

This author highlighted his educational background:

My educational background includes a bachelor's degree in English, a master's degree in psychology, and a doctorate in counseling. I have studied under Harriette [last name], a graduate of Yale University's writing program. As a life-long Southerner, I have lived and worked in large cities and rural areas...(continued)...

... The characters, settings and events in A STRANGE AND BITTER CROP are an accurate portrayal of both the past and present South. Also, my short story, UNFINISHED BUSINESS, is scheduled to be published in THEMA magazine in May.

This author shows he knows his subject and is enthusiastic about the project:

Born and reared in Texas, I have been a practicing attorney in Dallas for the last twenty-three years. I hold a BBA from Texas Christian University, a JD from Baylor University Law School and an LLM from New York University Law School. (continued)...

...THE THIRD MAN reflects both my life experiences, my professional experience and my interest in the subject matter. Familiar with the workings of the Justice Department and with the legal systems in Dallas, I've patterned many of the scenes and characters after real places and people.

Most people would think that writing a closing to a query letter goes without saying. A closing is a closing is a closing. But remember, the reader is still making up his mind about what sort of person you are. And you can also count on the fact that the reader is short of time and attention span. Get to the point.

"The Closing:"

If my children's book series is of interest to you, I would be glad to send you the complete manuscript for THE EXPEDITION.

Enclosed is a stamped, addressed envelope. I look forward to hearing from you.

I have also written a follow up novel, THE KHOMEINI PROPHECY. Please let me know if you would be interested in reading THE THIRD MAN with a view toward representing me.

End of examples. "Editor’s note to follow."

Be sure to use each element. Attention getting opening, justify the project, about the author and closing a just a few such elements. Also, keep in mind that these are just examples of query letters that have worked. The majority of them consisted of only one page. None exceeded a page and a half.

You can include other elements, of course, but the above letters got the attention of either agents or publishers. Two of these books were sold recently and the authors are confident that they wouldn’t have gotten their foot in the door without a GREAT query letter.

Put these examples to good use.

Friday, January 7


In her book, FROM PEN TO PRINT, Ellen M. Kozak wrote; "Any occupation has a down side, and writing is no exception. It requires the direct application of the seat of your pants to a chair in front of your typewriter or word processor, whether you want to be there or not....It is work without immediate satisfaction. If writing is not to become a chore more dismal than dishwashing, not only must you want to write, you must need to write and you must love to write. If you're just in it for the glamour, try the stage, or politics."
What does this mean? Writing is work. You say you're up to the task, you like a good challenge? You've sharpened your pencils and stacked your legal pads neatly in front of you. But what about all those horror stories you've heard about writing a book? Is there any way to avoid problems? Can you really write a book and get it published? The first thing you need to do is write this down. Ready?


Did you get that? Good, because those six words are the most important words a writer will ever hear. Commit them to memory. You can't write if you don't read. Once you've done your reading, you need to do your writing. Now that you've mastered the most basic rule of writing, let's go through a few of the most common challenges facing writers today as well as a few solutions to those challenges.


Can you avoid rejection? No. Every writer gets rejected at one time or another. Since you can't avoid rejection, it might help to look at a few of the reasons why it happens.

1). You haven't found an appropriate market. Are you sending your children's book to a publisher known for its How-To books? It would be better to see which publishers, or agents are the most comfortable with buying or representing your type of manuscript.

2). You haven't kept up with what publishers are buying. When THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER was hot, publishers were buying all the submarine books they could get their hands on. Then the trend was courtroom drama or books about bridges, or wife-beating celebrities suspected of murder. Ask yourself what's current, what's hot. Check BOOKS IN PRINT to see how your book is the same, but unique. More on this later.

3) You manuscript needs improving. Try to find an honest critic, someone you respect, who will give you an honest, unsentimental evaluation of your work. This probably won't be your mother, unless she can promise more constructive criticism than praise.

What if you discover your work has all three of these problems? Ask yourself a couple of questions. Do I know who will be buying my book? Have I REALLY taken the time to read other books in my genre? Juvenile, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction, historical romance, nonfiction, biography, how-to?
How does my book match up with what I've been reading? Take note of publishers who are selling these books. Sometimes you can find the names of agents or editors who handle your type of book by reading the author acknowledgments in the beginning of books you admire.
Another trick is to find some people to read your book. Elementary, junior high, high school and community college teachers may be interested in using your manuscript for a class project. I took my juvenile book to my son's former third grade teacher. She was excited about using it as a class project, and asked me to lecture on writing. I stuck around after the lecture and heard the teacher READ a chapter from my story.
What a shock! The most amazing thing I learned from that half hour session in a third grade classroom was that THIRD GRADERS were actually going to read my book. I admit I'd never thought about what it would sound like to third graders, my potential audience.
I also took the time to ask the teacher for a list of her favorite books, the ones she picked to read to her class. Then I went out and read books from that list. I learned a lot about what kids enjoy reading, and the rhythm of what they like to read. Just reading your manuscript out loud can tell you a lot about your story. Try it!
DON'T TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY! Learn from the rejections you're getting. Categorize your rejection slips. Pre-printed, highly impersonal post cards go on top. Then photocopied letters on 3/4 size paper. Then the form letter printed on an actual full sheet of paper, then a full sheet with actual typing. If there's a signature in INK, that's a bonus. Next, a letter typed, signed in ink, with your name and the name of your book on it . . . You get the idea.
If they offer comments, take them to heart. You know you're on the right track if they tell you why they're rejecting you. Do they all say the same thing? You could stubbornly conclude, "they don't know what they're missing," by rejecting your work. The reality is, they know EXACTLY what they're missing! Remember, they're not rejecting you personally, only what you sent them. Above all else, fix the problem and send your manuscript back out there.


Writers have many resources available to help them get published. One of my favorites is to adopt a librarian. Librarians love to help library patrons. It is more than just their job. I've adopted several librarians and it works quite well. Just follow a few simple rules. Be courteous. Smile. Ask one question at a time. Be specific and patient. If they say they have to get back to you later, believe them. Let them get back to you.
Approach them when they're not busy. With my children's book, I asked a children's librarian what books they get the most requests for. Ask them what they like and what they recommend to patrons. Believe me. It works.
The library is also a great place to find books about writing. You'll find Writer's Digest Books like, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S BOOK AND GET IT PUBLISHED, HANDBOOK OF NOVEL WRITING or James Michener's WRITER'S HANDBOOK. There are magazines about writing, WRITER'S DIGEST, WRITER, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. From these you'll learn what publishers are buying, and you can see their projections for the next season.
Other resource books include The LITERARY MARKETPLACE (LMP), WRITER'S MARKET and publisher's catalogs. You can send for catalogs directly from the publisher and that way you'll see sizes, shapes, colors and content of books that publishers have already bought. Ask to be put on mailing lists. Check out book reviews on upcoming books like those found in The NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW.
Of course, there is the Internet. With this resource, the world can be at your fingertips. Many of the books and magazines I’ve mentioned can be found on the Internet, along with lots more..


So, what's the bottom line? Is it possible to avoid all the perils of publishing? The answer to that is no. You can learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Decide right now if you want to be a politician or writer. STOP TALKING and START WRITING. Rewrite. Learn the craft of writing by writing. Writing takes WORK. Study your markets. Get your manuscripts in the mail and keep them there. That's how you sell what you write.
Getting a book published is like a marathon, not a short sprint. Learn by doing. Listen to your own voice. Trust yourself. And never forget: READ, READ, READ. And WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.


Here’s a quote from one of my favorite books about writing:

"Perfectionism. The ‘I have to get it right the first time’ syndrome. I know. You want to make it brilliant the first time out. It’s a nice idea, but it just doesn’t work that way. The way perfectionism works is to tie you up in knots, sending you fleeing from your desk and making you so crazy you can’t write a word. If you want to create massive writer’s block, insist on being a perfectionist." –Joel Saltzman - IF YOU CAN TALK, YOU CAN WRITE

Thursday, January 6

A Great Book Proposal

A great book proposal is a MUST for non-fiction and as important a selling tool as the query letter is for a fiction project. I’ve come up with a general outline for non fiction book proposals you might find helpful. There are several excellent books about writing book proposals so make sure you check out a few at your local library or bookstore.

The number one priority for a good book proposal is readability and that’s not just in your writing style. Be sure your printout is in a font size large enough for an editor’s tired eyes to read easily, usually 12 point. Plain, white 20lb bond, copy paper, is also important. Now you can concentrate on making sure your writing sparkles. Remember, fun and compelling beats dull and boring every time.
Let’s look at the book proposal’s basic format. Here are eight suggested headings to use:

THE OVERVIEW : The overview should include a very powerful opening statement or hook.
Example: "Can the simple addition of a common mineral to America's drinking water save millions from death..?"

Your OVERVIEW should go on to answer these basic questions, hopefully in one or two concise paragraphs. What is your book about? Why should it be written? How do you plan to write it? Why are YOU the best person for the job? If you had five minutes face to face with an editor to discuss your project, what would you say?

THE MARKET and THE COMPETITION : Now you get to use all that market research you did at the library pouring over Books in Print and all those notes you took when you interviewed the bookstore manager. You are familiar with all the books in your book’s genre, and you are confident that your book fits into a niche, yet is unique.
Example: "There is no better time for a personal biography of William Shatner. With the success of STAR TREK MEMORIES and STAR TREK MOVIE MEMORIES, interest in Captain Kirk is high. The TEK WARS movies, written, produced and directed by Shatner can be seen on the USA cable network..."

PROMOTION: What are you going to do to help sell your book?
Example: "I have had over 25,000 hits on my WEB site at [site address]. I will utilize the internet in every way possible to promote this book including web sites, user groups, list-serves and directories. I will draw on my extensive contacts with researchers around the world for the book's forward, endorsements as well as ad blurbs for the jacket..."

THE OUTLINE and SAMPLE CHAPTER(S): Outline is self explanatory. Just make sure these sample chapter are top notch, the best you can do. Send the first three chapters. Editors like to see how you handle the beginning of your book.

CLOSING STATEMENT : A book proposal needs a wrap up, a closing statement.
Example: "STAR TREK AND OTHER ENTERPRISES will leave the reader satisfied and happy. My upbeat biography of William Shatner will generate excellent reviews, translating into high sales and increased value as a STAR TREK collectible..."

Remember, you have to sit yourself down and actually WRITE the proposal if you have any intention of selling your non-fiction book. A good book proposal can help you sell your book BEFORE you write the entire thing. And don’t forget to keep your writing style fun and upbeat. Research the markets and get that proposal out there.