Tips for Writers Editing Our own Work

It ain’t easy judging our own writing. Sometimes we’re our harshest critics, berating ourselves for not meeting  irelevent or uninformed aspirations. Other times we’re way too soft on ourselves. Is it even possible to find a happy medium?

Critical-Thinking-Skillby Brian McDonald

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
– Thomas Mann

Don’t write for other writers. People are drawn to writing for different reasons and many people do it to seem smart. If you have a good first act, most will never recognize it, because they’re not really clear on what a first act does. They know nothing of construction, but will turn their noses up at the idea of it anyway. The less they know about it the more they will object to it.

The one thing I have noticed about people who are exceptional in their creative work is that they are always trying to get better. That’s how they got good in the first place. These people judge themselves against the best work. They aim for the top.

Just worry about the craft and the art will take care of itself.

The term self-expression has had a harmful impact on storytellers. Stories are not about the storyteller. If your focus is on yourself, then it is not on what is best for your story.

Learn to look at your work as if it isn’t your work. Be as hard on yourself as you would anyone else.

Learn from the masters. Figure out how they did what they did, why it worked, and apply it.

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LONGMIRE Showrunner Steps Up on Why the Series was Cancelled

Longmire Capture

As you may or may not know, LONGMIRE, the most-watched scripted drama in the history of A&E, has been cancelled. We here at TVWriter™ were divided about the show. Some of the minions loved it. Others wouldn’t even try the show out cuz “old people, you know?”

In view of its ratings success, both camps wondered why the series was dropped – and now we have the answer, straight from the horse’s mouth. Proving that Facebook is good for something after all, LONGMIRE showrunner Craig Johnson has posted his take, and it gives us a wonderful – or maybe horrifying – insight into the television executive mind.

Here’s what Craig had to say just yesterday:

There’s an old saying among cowboys—you ride for the brand. If you’re hired on, you do your job the best you can and you don’t whine or complain about the outfit—but there does come a time, if you are mistreated with intent, when you leave that employ and need to clear the air.

If you’ve been stapling barbed wire up in a lineman’s shack for the last couple of weeks, you might not be aware that the A&E network cancelled Longmire. We’re all still kind of reeling from the news that a network would cancel the highest-rated, scripted drama it’s ever had, a show that was consistently one of the top ten cable shows of any given week—one of the top 25 of the summer including the networks.

A lot of people have been asking me why?

The excuse that the network used was that ratings were down from the previous season from 4.2 to 3.9 million, but with adjusted DVR recordings, Longmire was still holding steady at close to 6 million… And that’s with A&E cutting us down to ten episodes and giving us a less than enviable lead-in–four-year-old reruns of Criminal Minds that were pulling -72%, no promotion or advertising, and a general ambivalence to the show as a whole.

The other excuse was that the show wasn’t pulling as much as they wanted in the 18-49 demographic. We more than hold our own in the 25-50 demographic—now, I’m no television executive (thank goodness), but I don’t know of any 18 year-olds out there who are buying Dodge trucks. I still remember being told that Longmire pretty much sold itself, “Oh, we’ve got advertisers lined up to such an extent that we’re turning people away.”

So what gives?

A&E has made it clear that it wants to own and produce the shows it airs, and the one it doesn’t own, the highest-rated scripted drama they’ve ever had– Longmire—is not theirs. They’ve had success with Bates Motel (which, even with A&E’s blessings and full support, has yet to achieve the ratings Longmire has) and have had disasters like Those Who Kill (which was cancelled after only two weeks), but then they were trying to strong-arm Warner into selling them Longmire. Now, if I remember correctly, Warner Brothers were the ones who taught Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney how to be tough guys back in the thirties… Good luck with that, A&E. Maybe that next reality show, Tattooed Eskimo Swamp Hunters will turn out to be a winner.

At this point in time, the producers and Warner Horizon are pitching to other networks in hopes that one of them is smart enough to take on a proven winner like Longmire, and we’ll hopefully land in an environment that appreciates and supports the show.

People have been asking what they can do to help in finding Longmire a new home, and the best thing you can do is continue talking up the show in all the social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, blogs or the net-sphere. If you’re looking for a place to register your support, sign up for Twitter (it’s easy, even Walt could do it) if you aren’t already on there and join the blitz tonight (Monday) at 10 PM ET/9 C/8 MT/7 PT—the Longmire time slot—and keep tweeting and retweeting #longlivelongmire.

From the response that A&E’s garnered from dropping Longmire, it looks as if it may be the biggest PR disaster for the network. People are actually contacting their cable and satellite providers and requesting that A&E be removed from their subscription packages.—they have had to hire on extra operators for the amount of complaints that have been registered.

Wow.

In closing, I think those executives at A&E forgot to take one thing into consideration—we’re cowboys, we ride for the brand and we don’t walk away.

See you on the trail,

-Craig

In the words of our Beloved Leader, Larry Brody, “The best kept secret in show business is that it’s a business.” Looks like the secret’s starting to get out.

Have You Visited “Cartoon Hangover” Recently?

YouTube Preview Image

You should.

Visit, we mean.

Really.

We mean it.

For the quickest, most enjoyable lesson ever in writing economically, visually, and entertainingly, the way TV and screen writers should, don’t just stare at this post.

Click.

Click!

Research Tools Every Writer Needs

TVWriter™ has found a new website that we think every writer should know about. It’s called Aerogramme Writers’ Studio (no, we don’t know why – yet), and it’s chock full of info like this:

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by Kelly Gardiner

‘Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliché, it’s the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression.’ – Robert McKee, Story

All writers need research. Whether you’re writing a memoir based largely on your own life, a story set in a neighbourhood you know well, a fantasy in a created universe, or a feature article, research can add depth, verisimilitude, and those telling details that further plot or character.

I write historical fiction, which involves more research than some other forms – luckily, I love the process of imagining, seeking, finding, interrogating and then integrating (or not) material that helps me populate an imagined past and draw its people.

So here are a few things I’ve learned that can help you, no matter what form your writing takes.

Find, don’t search

It seems so easy to look stuff up, doesn’t it? A quick Google search, and there’s a world of information at your fingertips. But is it what you really want, and is it any good?

Some tips on searching well: first, start with a broad query then refine it. You can add extra words to it if they are useful refinements, but don’t just keep adding terms. Think about what material you want to find. Who would write that? Try to imagine the words they would use to describe it. A good example is health information. If you want to see results from a whole lot of health forums on which people discuss their symptoms, use common words. If you want to read informed medical advice, search using terms a doctor or medico might use.

If you’re having trouble, you can limit your search query by using inverted commas. For example, if you want to look up a quote or a line from a poem, try putting quote marks around it, like this: “Feed your talent” – if you just type feed your talent, you’ll get results with the word feed or the word talent. You only want results with both words, and in that order. Inverted commas make it much easier to find titles of books or specific concepts. You can also limit your search to a specific site of general web domain – just type your keywords then site: and the domain, eg site:gov – or file type, eg  type:pdf.

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