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.

The Downfall of the NBC Comedy

Once upon a time, NBC ruled the comedy roost. Now, well, when was the last time you even tried to laugh at an NBC show that was actually trying to be funny? In the immortal words of Harvey Kurtzman, “Wha– happened?”

parks-and-rec-640x426by Nick Cannata-Bowman

The climate for comedy television in just the last few years has seen a massive shift, as shows have gone off the air and been replaced by other inferior offerings. No network has seen this happen more though than NBC. There was even a time in their history when The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Community were all on in the same two-hour block Thursday nights. Since then, The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation have all come to a satisfying end, while Community was unceremoniously canceled, only to be picked up by Yahoo! for its streaming service.

The aftermath following what amounted to a golden age of NBC’s comedy lineup hasn’t been pretty. There’s a veritable laundry list of quickly axed shows that make up their programming graveyard, leading one to ask: What in the name of all that is holy happened? The answer is that CBS happened. Somehow, CBS has made itself into the single most-watched network in the country, on the strength of shows that no one will ever describe as smart comedies. It’s been carried on the backs of three-camera sitcoms like Two and a Half Menand The Big Bang Theory, as well as dramas like The Mentalist and NCIS.

This has left NBC scratching its head, with its history of critically acclaimed comedies that no one watches, in favor of the more mindless offerings over at CBS. This has left them attempting to duplicate that success to no avail, tanking both their ratings and the quality of their programming.

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How to Be Braver In Your Everyday Life

…Which is especially important if your everyday life is the writing life. Cuz nothing we can think of takes as much raw courage as facing that terrifying foe the blank page.

Well, almost nothing. Anyway:

courageby Patrick Allan

We all wish we could be a little braver, but fear can still permeate into our day to day activities. It keeps us from taking action, progressing at work, and even causes us to procrastinate. Here are a few ways to boost your bravery and take every day on with courage.

Bravery is mental toughness, knowledge, and confidence all wrapped up into one trait. With bravery you can make tough decisions, take action without wasting time, and approach uncomfortable situations comfortably. You need bravery when you take on new tasks at work, confront others who rub you the wrong way, and even when your work suffers because you’re afraid of doing something less than perfect. When you become braver, you become more capable of taking action and handling the things that come your way.

Bravery is not something you’re born with, though, and it’s not something you can acquire overnight. Like all desirable traits, it’s something you work at developing. Joel Runyon at Impossible HQ breaks the development process down plainly. If you want to be braver, you need to:

  1. Be terrified of something.
  2. Do it anyways.
  3. Be moderately less scared than the first time you do it.
  4. Repeat

Otherwise there’s only one alternative:

  1. Be terrified of something.
  2. Do nothing
  3. Still be terrified

Of course, there’s more to it than “doing it anyways.” It’s important to note that bravery is just as much about understanding risks as it is about taking them on. Jumping into something blindly isn’t necessarily brave; it can actually be quite foolish. What bravery really comes down to is learning how to repeatedly turn uncertainty—which is what drives most of our fear—into approachable, calculated risk.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to be brave with something if you’ve never been exposed to it. By doing what you fear, little by little, you slowly, but surely take away the uncertainty of it all.

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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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What can we say except that we love this?

Talk about feeling real.

And the music ain’t bad either:

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We minions at TVWriter™ are really looking forward to this show’s debut!

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