Peggy Bechko & The Publishing, Writing & Reading Revolution!

revolution-1by Peggy Bechko

Publishing and by extension, writing, are in the throes of a revolution the like of which has not been seen since the invention of the printing press.

Out there is a whole brave new world (or maybe not so brave but undeniably new).  If you’re a writer in nearly any field you can’t have missed the chat, buzz and hair-pulling about the new direction publishing is taking. If you’re a reader (and writers are readers in addition to their writing hats) you can’t have missed the rapid changes; the introduction of electronic readers, the ability to read with smart phones and tablets and of course the old paperback, hardback, newspapers and magazines still fight for their place in the market.

But, as always there’s more than one side to a coin. You’ll read some articles raving about it’s the best time ever to publish, that things are shifting rapidly in favor of the author. After all there’s self-publishing now with Print On Demand and EBooks, along with the traditional publishing paradigm. Things are great, right? Things can only get better and better.

Then there’s the writer who tells us about the decline in book sales and e-book sales. So it appears people are buying fewer books each year, that people want their stories ‘visual’ meaning video and graphic novels, anything to avoid reading the written word. They want to return to childhood when they saw one big illustration and six words on a page. So, in the long run, things are actually getting worse for writers, right?

Here’s the thing. In my estimate they are better, to a point. There are more opportunities for writers. The major declining sales argument stems from statistics gleaned from the big publishers and book sellers. The ‘wonderfulness of it all’ stems from the folks in love with the new direction things are taking whether it’s Print On Demand or E Books. In either case the writer is usually asking why can’t I get published or if self-published, why aren’t my books selling as I’d believed they would?

Okay, readers, here’s where you come in. You’re the central element. What motivates you? Do you have enough books in a wide enough variety within your grasp to read when the mood strikes? Yep, I have old fashioned books on old fashioned shelves, but I also have a Kindle (it’s crammed full) and if there was some tragedy and I escaped my house falling down with only my pets and my Kindle I’d be well supplied with reading material for months – with the capability of downloading more once I reached a computer and could access online resources. Or hitting a Wi-Fi hot spot where I could download direct to the Kindle.

So what does all this mean? It means that readers have a whole lot more choices to. Where once they looked for bargains at yard sales, used book stores and promotions at the ‘Big Box’ booksellers, or just went to a library, now they can add to that list access to plenty of digital material much of it low cost or promotionally free or buying used books online. And don’t forget the thousands of public domain books that can be downloaded from many sites free.

Let’s face it, Amazon became the giant in this arena and now people can download books to their reading devices and take an entire library, including business oriented reading material in pdf format, anywhere they go. And readers can download even more anywhere they can tie into an online connection.

And for those readers who still love to hold a book in their hands and caress it, there are literally thousands of additional titles now that would never have hit the shelves courtesy of Print on Demand from such sources as CreateSpace. This is good and bad with the thousands of writers jumping in to take advantage of the sudden, new opportunity.  There are some exceptional writers who are gaining exposure. Then there are the ones who can’t spell, can’t punctuate, haven’t taken the time to edit and manage to turn some readers off altogether. C’mon guys, if we’re going to do this let’s all get professional.

So, bringing it full circle, the writer needs to realize the reader is not simply now spoiled rotten when it comes to choices, that reader is positively swamped.  The reader still has all of the old resources (how that will change in the near future remains to be seen) plus the ever expanding online universe offering used books and Ebooks.  And the competition is fierce. Who wants to pay the publishers’ inflated prices for the newest paperback when there are so many other choices?

In the end it’s kind of scary out there for writers – in addition to being very exciting. Supply right now outstrips demand in a big way creating one heckuva buyer’s market for the reader. There always were writers who simply shouldn’t, but now they do and they’re pumping hundreds of thousands of new books into the market (most of which aren’t worth reading).

On the other hand, oh, joy for the writer, thousands of writers have beaten the odds. There have been spectacular break-outs. There have been writers published electronically who have gotten very nice contracts from traditional publishers. There have been writers who have done so well on their own they’ve refused said contract from said traditional publisher.

As the writers we need to clean up our acts, get some beta readers so you know that book is worth reading, edit it and polish it up both with all the grammar and language angles and with the formatting for the new venue angle. In other words take time to think not only as a writer, but as the reader you are as well. To get the reader to choose one writer’s work over another the writer has to make it worth the reader’s while.

It’s one thing to offer a book on a free day to attract readers – it’s quite another to make that read so fascinating, so compelling that that reader remembers your name and watches for your next book.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.

9 TV Shows That Began on the Internet

Why are we so into Peer Production, Indie Video, Web Series, Digital Content, or whatever you – and we – want to call it?

This is why:

videocamby Michelle Regalado

There are many potential paths to network television, and one of the more popular methods these days is to earn an online following first. Here are 9 shows that began on the web and then transitioned to the (other) small screen.

1. Broad City

The Comedy Central series, created by and starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, follows two young best friends navigating their way through everyday life in New York City. The show first gained popularity online, with Glazer and Jacobson producing two seasons of the then-web series from 2009 to 2011. The series transitioned to the small screen after Amy Poehler caught wind of it and decided to executive produce a TV version of the show, helping it find a network.

Broad City first made its small screen debut early last year and has since become enough of a hit to earn both a second and third season renewal, the former of which only just premiered in mid-January.

2. Web Therapy

The improvisational comedy series, starring Lisa Kudrow as therapist Fiona Wallace, debuted in 2008, winning a Webby Award for Special Achievement: Outstanding Comedic Performance in 2009. In 2010, Showtime announced plans to adapt the online episodes for broadcast on television, with extra scenes being shot and added to each installment.

Despite earning mixed reviews during its first season, the show was renewed. The second season earned a far more positive critical reception, as did the third. The show is now wrapping its fourth season, which included celebrity guest stars like Jon Hamm, Billy Crystal, and Alison Janney.

3. Ugly Americans

The animated sitcom follows the life of Mark Lilly, a social worker employed by the Department of Integration in an alternate reality version of New York City that’s inhabited by monsters and other creatures. The show began as a web series by Devin Clark, entitled 5 On with Alan Whiter. Writer David M. Stern (The Simpsons) then helped convert it into a television show, with Comedy Central premiering the first season in 2010.

The show ran for two seasons from 2010 to 2012, before getting canceled.

4. Drunk History

The series, created by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner and featuring an inebriated narrator struggling to recount an event from American history, first launched on Funny or Die in 2008. Comedy Central then picked up the series, with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as the show’s executive producers.

The series made its television premiere in July 2013, with a second season the following year. Last summer, the channel announced the show had been picked up for a third season, set to air at some point this year.

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How Do TV Writers Develop Episode Plots?

The following is a more pragmatic take on the whole coming up with TV ideas thing. What do you think?

Kate Powers' coolest credit - writing RECTIFY

Kate Powers’ coolest credit – writing RECTIFY

by Kate Powers

It’s not uncommon for a writing staff to use a visual reference tool to track the breaking of one or more episodes. I’ve pretty much only worked in rooms where we favored 3-by-5 index cards on 3-by-4 cork boards, but many shows prefer white boards, or in some cases magnetized white boards and dry erase “tiles” that function like cork boards. A lot of the time, this is in addition to the near-constant note-taking of writers’ assistants.

It’s nearly impossible to hold all the ideas under discussion in your head for the week or two (or three) it takes to break an episode. When an idea lands, adding it to an external, physical list of known beats means that’s one less thing for writers to remember as they continue to discuss variation iterations. (Typically the most senior person—the showrunner, if she’s in the room, or her second in command if she’s not—decides if an idea has “landed,” but it’s usually pretty consensual. There’s a sense that the whole room likes that version and wants to see where it leads.)

Shows vary wildly in what they consider to be a “fully broken” story. Some rooms won’t send an episode to outline unless the scenes are broken almost down to the level of line-by-line dialogue. (Faithfully recorded by the assistant, of course, and then referred to by the assigned writer when he or she sits down to write.) Other rooms—usually those where time is at a premium and room time is limited to a few hours a day, or possibly just a week or two at the start of pre-production—content themselves with a day or two of discussion per episode, landing on act breaks and major character reveals, but leaving the rest to writers’ ingenuity.

Many writers, particularly those who come from features or don’t have a lot of TV experience, prefer the latter style of breaking, because it gives them more freedom to explore the stories they want to tell. But since every episode of a show has to both “feel like the show” and fit into the established season arcs, scripts tend to get more rewritten when they’re based on underbroken stories. Television is a deeply collaborative medium, and although I readily understand why writers want to put their own stamps on the material, at the end of the day, our job is to serve the show and the audience. For that reason, I tend to prefer breaking a story in the room down to the nobs on the cabinet, so I can deliver something that doesn’t generate more work for my boss—but that’s just how I’m wired.

Shows also differ in their approaches to breaking stories. I have assistant friends who pitched and sold stories on their shows—and became writers in the bargain—because they worked on shows where magicians using their skills to pull off high-stakes heists was an entirely viable starting point. In my own career, the almost universal jumping-off point has been: “Where is X’s head at?” and then working backward from a character or characters’ internal emotional or psychological states to thrust them into the worst possible situations. Once in a while, you’ll come in with an image or a dream about the characters, and those pitches are always welcome, but the next sentence is always: “OK, so how do we build a bridge to that?” And then we start from “Where is X’s head at?”

It’s a very tentative, brainstorm-y process, where you say things like “Well, what if … ” and “Yeah, or a maybe just a slightly different version, like … ”  A lot of ideas get thrown out. And sometimes you pitch a line of dialogue: “Dave’s like, ‘No, that’s not my job!’ ” and someone else turns to you says, in character: “Who’s job is it, then, Dave?” and before you know it, the two of you are having a conversation in the voices of those two characters. At those moments, I’m always very grateful for the writers’ assistant, because God knows I am incapable of actually hearing what I’m saying—I’m too busy pretending to be someone else.

Found on Quora

Where Do Your Story Ideas Come From?

And now, a day devoted to continuing Peggy Bechko’s discusson of where ideas come from…cuz let’s face it, for most of us getting great ideas sounds a lot easier than it is.

stories.indiewireby Tambay A. Obenson

Recalling my recent interview with Ernest Dickerson, and the part of the conversation about black filmmakers dipping into a broader pool of stories as well as genres, taking risks, tackling material that’s off the beaten path, instead of following to the so-called path of least resistance when it comes to what Hollywood expects of black cinema (assuming Hollywood is your eventual goal)…

It all got me thinking about how we (black filmmakers) settle on the stories that we want to tell; what inspires them; where we look to find them, etc…

It’s been about 10 years since I last directed a film, and I plan to finally get behind the camera again this year, and make another film after so long. I have an idea of what I want to do that I’m working on currently.

So, speaking for myself, in answering the question about how I come up with stories that I’d like to tell, this is how it usually goes for me…

What happens most often is that I have a theme or a specific subject that I’d like to tackle on film. That’s usually where it starts. For example, I’d tell myself that I’d like to tell a story about greed (which is central to one of the scripts I’m working on right now). And then I’d build a story around that, which I think is where the fun really begins for me, because the story you come up with can be as imaginative as you allow your imagination to run.

Why be restricting – especially at the very start? When I sit and begin to think up the story that I want to tell based on the theme/subject that I initially choose, I let my imagination run wild, and, no matter how crazy, absurd or fantastical an idea might seem, I write it down anyway.

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How the BROAD CITY Writers Make the Show So Funny

Yeah, we see the problem here, so just between us, if you don’t find BROAD CITY hilarious, you may not want to read on. OTOH, if you do jump into this article, you may find the actual methodology quite valid and worth exploring. (And, hey, if so, let us know, ‘kay?)

broad cityby Aly Weisman

With its second season [closing last] Wednesday night, Comedy Central’s “Broad City” has quickly become a cult favorite.

The show’s casual and off-the-cuff feel is part of the appeal, but behind-the-scenes there’s a long writing and production process before anything makes it onto the air.

“Writing is the first act of our three act experience of the show of acting, shooting, editing,” one of the show’s stars and creators, Ilana Glazer, tells Business Insider over the phone.

“It’s pretty stressful, the deadlines come quickly,” she adds, “but those deadlines actually make us feel like we’re running around Broad City, too. It has the same feeling of the show and we feel like the process of rushing to come up with good ideas for an outline and make it into a script, the process feeds the product.”

Despite the improv backgrounds of “Broad City” creators and stars, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the show is actually written by a whole team of writers.

“What it looks like is a room of writers who we came up with here [in NYC] in the comedy community, and we all come up together with these bigger concepts of what the episodes could be and we all kind of write every episode,” Glazer explains. “We come up with the outlines and a writer or a writing team may go off and write the script but I think the whole writers’ room is all over every episode.”

Adds Jacobson: “Yeah, because the script then comes back into the room and we all go over the script together. The whole process is very collaborative.”

And for the most part, all actors stick to the script.

“The show is very, very much scripted,” says Glazer. “We use some new little details in and out of scenes, but we do stick to our script a lot. Just in general, how it works on set is we do two or three scripted takes and then we say to the actor: ‘Okay, now just put it in your words, just so it feels natural.’ What we usually end up taking from people’s improv is flourishes people put on.”

Adds Glazer: “The way the shows feels very present and in the moment is exactly how we write it. Our No.1 goal is always the comedy and the funniest thing over other goals of like plot, or where they end up. I feel like we’re very much about the moment that the characters are in and what’s the funniest expression of their experience.”

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Peggy Bechko Blogs: World Building for Writers


by Peggy Bechko

Here’s what writers face every day. It’s simple really. If they’re creating a world that is known, that is, some version of the earth or the country you live in or the town, or whatever, research is necessary to fill in the background of your story. Experience, webcrawling, visiting libraries, whatever it takes. It’s still pretty straight-forward.

The hitch comes in when a writer sits down to create any kind of what is referred to as ‘speculative’ fiction. That’s when it gets to be great fun. Or at least it better be fun or I advise you not to do it.  Here’s where the writer has the opportunity – even the necessity to create fictional worlds, cultures, languages, the whole shebang. Think about writers like J.R.R. Tolkien  Orson Scott Card  Edgar Rice Burroughs and others.

So, how does a writer go about creating a whole culture? Well, the industrious writer can simply steal one. By that I mean he or she can use an event in history, say the fall of the Roman empire the characters can be ‘renamed’ and recycled; just keep the core values and what’s at the base of the culture still there and plunge in. Only problem is, if your skeleton is too visible lots of history buffs are going to say, hey, this isn’t original – it’s a remake!  And another thing to think about is if you want to add something to the mix, like the paranormal or magic or some such and don’t think it thorough as to how it would affect the underlying skeletal culture things get complicated.

On the other hand you can construct a whole new world by borrowing bits and pieces of various cultures that appeal to your storytelling instincts and add dollops of your own unique elements.  But beware, you’re now on your way, on that slippery slope to creating your own worlds and cultures – gasp, building fictional cultures from scratch just like JRR Tolkein did.

Admittedly this is the toughest route to take, but it’s very cool. Problem is (isn’t there always one or two or …. Well, you get it) the writer has to keep everything straight as the story is created. This creates a literal minefield of problems that can explode in the writer’s face.  You think you can mess up a story with plot holes? Just try holes in story background when you’re creating your own whole culture. Think about it. If no one is allowed to harm a bird, why are they sitting at the table eating turkey? Why do your characters fear the terrible dragon if each village has its own ‘hero dragonslayer’? If they live in verdant, lush farm country why are they starving and not farming?

The examples are a bit extreme, but you get the drift. The writer must be aware at all times of these little things, keeping track of them, finding ways to work them into the story or work a way around them.

So the writer, in beginning to create a culture from scratch, such as the rich and varied world of Lord of The Rings really should plan things out in broad strokes from the beginning. Ask himself questions like where do the people live? Mountains, desert, forest? Is it hot, cold, mild? Scorching heat or blizzards or both? Are they near lakes, rivers, creeks, the ocean?  It needs to be taken into consideration what types of resources they have. Is the soil fertile? Farming? Do they have the wheel and/or metalworking? Do they have a buried asset like gold, diamonds or something with the worth of oil even if it’s black and yucky?

Where do they live? In caves? Houses? What kind of dwellings? Straw, clay, brick, wood?

And what kind of food do they eat? Deer and rabbits? Fish? Do they have rare and exotic spices? Do they raise livestock like cattle, chickens, etc.? Or maybe they fish farm. Or perhaps they eat some fruit/veggie/meat the writer has created from scratch as well.

It isn’t easy this culture/world-building. The writer has to consider things like if using the paranormal or magic or SciFi elements, how does that work in and does it make sense throughout the story? If the main character can ‘see dead people’, i.e. paranormal, is that character feared? Courted for his abilities? Messed up because this is driving him crazy?

And that would lead into what the people of that culture believe in. If very superstitious they might well shun the Seer of Dead People as being some kind of threat. If that’s the case is there an organized religious leadership that would come out against the character?

If advanced, curious and intelligent, they might seek his guidance. Or, they might not believe in anything, so then where does the culture/story go?

And what do they have at their disposal? There’s quite the debate about vaccination right now. What if the society had no access to anything like it, no vaccines, no way to fight infections?  What kind of a society would that be?

And who’s in charge? In the Harry Potter books it certainly seemed the magically inclined were actually in charge despite what the ‘muggles’ might think, yet of course the magically inclined did not rule in that series of books.

On the other hand, governing might be left to that guy who Sees Dead People as he the small population like him are privy to information the ‘normal’ person of that culture is not. And if they are the ‘governors’ then what kind of governing? Tyranny? Monarchy? Representative Government?

Take into account things like who their friends and enemies are, do they have trade, is there a war (if so what are the weapons and how are they procured?) or are they in the wake of a previously fought war?

When building a new culture there is a lot of extrapolation involved and a lot of follow-through.

Truly it is a very difficult task, yet a very rewarding one.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.