Friday, June 15, 2018

Word Forms Exercise

Fill in the blanks with an appropriate word or phrase. Answers 1. We took a circuitous path. 2. The circular motion of the merry go… Continue reading
from English Grammar

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Pros and Cons of Getting Published

Do you ever worry that getting published—that worrying about the business of writing—might sully the purity of your artistic expression and dampen your passion for the craft? Many writers struggle with the concessions required of the publication process, but you needn’t fear them; it’s all part of the experience. 

One of the more interesting things Alice Hoffman told me when I interviewed her for the first time many years ago was how “strangely pure” her MFA experience was. There was no talk of publishers or agents or markets, no talk of genre or trends or readership. According to Hoffman, in her MFA program they only talked about writing.

By the time we met, Hoffman had published over 20 books and I’m sure she had had a lot of conversations about those books that had nothing to do with writing. It’s inevitable. As Don, my very first writer friend often said, “Don’t forget that publishing is a business!” I knew he was right about that, but when we became friends I had not yet published anything and so the whole business thing felt very abstract.

This was just fine with me. I did not see myself a businessman, which in my private lexicon was a dirty word. I considered myself an artist, and artists, I believed, were more interested in what they made than what they made was worth. Except I also very, very much wanted to be paid for what I was writing, and I hoped that when I did get paid I would get paid a lot because, you know, food on the table and all that.

There were, you see, some advantages to not getting published. As long as what I wrote wasn’t published I would not have to sully the pure writing experience with the ugly, businessperson’s question of value. As soon as someone bought one of my stories, I would have to contend with the number assigned to it, would have to decide if that number was it’s true value. I liked numbers, but the problem with them is that there is always one larger. If my story wasn’t published, its value could remain unmeasured.

This was hardly the only advantage. If I didn’t publish my stories, I would also never have to work with an editor. If you work with an editor, you must allow someone else to have input on your story. You spend your whole life dealing with other people and their ideas. You go to the page so you can hear your ideas. Then along comes this editor and you’re back to listening to other people. If I didn’t publish my stories I would never have to subject my writing to society’s ceaseless idea competition.

Don’t miss William Kenower’s presenations, “Fearless Writing” and “Fearless Marketing,” at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, August 10-12, 2018, and check out his book on the same topic.

And if I didn’t publish my stories no one would ever be able to criticize them. I would never have to read a bad review in a newspaper or blog or on Amazon. I would never have to decide whether this stranger who didn’t like my story was delusional or incisive. No one would get to tell me my stories weren’t interesting, or funny, or useful, or profound. As long as I didn’t publish them, the only opinions about my stories that mattered were mine.

Finally, as long as I didn’t publish the stories they would always belong to me and me alone. I knew what happened when you read a story you loved: It became yours. It didn’t matter if you didn’t write it. If you loved it then you’d imagined, you’d felt that story’s grief and joy and desire, and no one could possibly tell you that that experience didn’t belong to you. As long as I didn’t publish my stories, I would never have to share what I loved; I could have it all for myself.

There was, however, one significant disadvantage to not publishing my stories, and it wasn’t the lack of money or recognition. As long as my stories remained unpublished, I would never understand that the publishing was less important to me than the writing. Until I began publishing my work regularly, the question of whether my stories would be published, and where they would be published, and what people would think of them when they were published, dominated my writing experience. Until all those questions were answered, I felt as if I was forever waiting for test results from a doctor.

When those results did come back, when I sold my first story, worked with my first editor, received my first bad review, heard from my first appreciative reader, you could say I did not bother to read my diagnosis. Nothing that happened after I began publishing my stories actually changed my relationship to writing, which had been my greatest fear all along. The real question I wanted answered was, “What if writing’s not fun and interesting and inspiring anymore? What if it just becomes another job?”

I am happy to report that writing is still a pure experience as long as I allow it to be. As long as I only think about writing while I’m writing, I enjoy it as much as I ever have. But if I think about writing and publication, or writing and my platform, or writing and my bank account, it’s no fun at all. In fact, if I try to think about two things at once I usually want to quit everything. That’s okay. The instant I forget about the business of being an author and bring my attention back to the story I want to tell, I remember where I want to be and who I have always been.

Learn more in William Kenower’s online course: Fearless Writing — How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence

The post The Pros and Cons of Getting Published appeared first on

from Writing Editor Blogs –

Tenses Exercise

Fill in the blanks with an appropriate tense form. Answers 1. The party invitations have been sent out. 2. The invention of the space rocket… Continue reading
from English Grammar

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 440

For today’s prompt, write a generation poem. A generation poem could be about the X-generation or the baby boomers, sure, but it could also be about generating poems and/or power. Or re-generation of limbs. Or any number of other topics you wish to generate.


Get Published With Poet’s Market!

The 2018 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer, includes hundreds of poetry markets, including listings for poetry publications, publishers, contests, and more! With names, contact information, and submission tips, poets can find the right markets for their poetry and achieve more publication success than ever before.

In addition to the listings, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–so that poets can learn the ins and outs of writing poetry and seeking publication. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to the poetry-related information on All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a Generation Poem:

“new generation”

call me old or call me crazy
but the new generation is
nothing if not loud and lazy

with their wild music and dancing
through the night and into the day
as if they’d prefer romancing

to getting tied down to a job
that pays well with a desk and pen
and stapler and a sweet key fob

instead it seems they would have fun
and i hope they keep that romance
until their generation’s done


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He knows hope springs eternal in the new generations.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


Find more poetic posts here:

The post Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 440 appeared first on

from Writing Editor Blogs –

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

English Vocabulary Exercise

From the given options choose the word which means the same as the keyword. Answers 1. The fox tried desperately to free itself from the… Continue reading
from English Grammar

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Rhupunt Winner

Here are the results of the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the rhupunt. And yes, I also selected a Top 10 list.

Read all of them here.

Here is the winning rhupunt:

Non-Domestic Goddess, by Tracy Davidson

I want to make
our wedding cake
but I can’t bake
to save my life.

My kitchen skills
are full of spills,
plus broken grills
and burns are rife.

My food from hell
makes stomachs swell,
emits a smell
from here to Fife.

To stop more squeals
it’s ready meals
and fast food deals
for this house-wife.


Build an Audience for Your Poetry!

Learn how to find more readers for your poetry with the Build an Audience for Your Poetry tutorial! In this 60-minute tutorial, poets will learn how to connect with more readers online, in person, and via publication.

Poets will learn the basic definition of a platform (and why it’s important), tools for cultivating a readership, how to define goals and set priorities, how to find readers without distracting from your writing, and more!

Click to continue.


Congratulations, Tracy! The rhythm of the rhymes are excellent, and it’s a ton of fun.

Here’s my Top 10 list:

  1. Non-Domestic Goddess, by Tracy Davidson
  2. Distraction, by Jane Shlensky
  3. sleeping ugly, by Jacqueline Hallenbeck
  4. And I chose you, by Margo Suzanne LeBlanc
  5. Mouse Murder, by Taylor Graham
  6. Love’s Passage, by Lisa L Stead
  7. The End of Childhood Days, by Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming
  8. The Old Tycoon Remembers, by Will Preston
  9. The Phonophobic’s Fourth, by Bruce Niedt
  10. Almost Dinner, by Heather Paquette

Congratulations to everyone in the Top 10! And to everyone who wrote a rhupunt!


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff.

He loves learning new (to him) poetic forms and trying out new poetic challenges. He is also the author of Solving the World’s Problems.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


Find more poetic posts here:

The post WD Poetic Form Challenge: Rhupunt Winner appeared first on

from Writing Editor Blogs –

Monday, June 11, 2018

Screenwriting Tips & Insights from Michael Zam, Writer of the Emmy-Winning Series Feud: Bette and Joan

In this interview, Emmy-winning screenwriter Michael Zam offers screenwriting tips for beginners and veterans, and discusses his success with the Emmy award-winning FX series Feud: Bette and Joan, starring Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Stanley Tucci and more.

Michael Zam, is an award-winner screenwriter, and popular film instructor at New York University. He also teaches theater studies in London. Zam and his writing partner, Jaffe Cohen, wrote and sold a screenplay that became Ryan Murphy’s Feud: Bette and Joan, an eight-part Emmy award-winning dramatic television series on FX about the talented actresses Bette Davis and John Crawford. The sirens were sworn enemies of the silver screen, and victims of a manipulative and sexist Hollywood studio system, rampant ageism, and their own cattiness. I asked Zam about his success and path to fame.

Need more screenwriting tips? Want to adapt your book for the screen? Learn more about screenwriting at our sister site,

Can you talk about your experience writing for FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan?

It started with a screenplay that I wrote with my writing partner, Jaffe Cohen, in 2006 called “Best Actress”. It ended up on the Black List (list of producers/agents/managers who mention the best unproduced scripts they had read that year), and that got us a lot of attention. It landed at Plan B Entertainment, Inc., Brad Pitt’s company. Ryan Murphy was planning to do it as a film. Then, when he exploded in television with series Glee, Nip/Tuck, and American Horror Story, he expanded the concept, and turn it into a TV series, based on the complex relationship between actresses Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (played by Jessica Lange). Our screenplay served as the foundation for the series, and we did some writing for the show. We shared an Emmy with Ryan for the pilot script.

Who was your inspiration for writing the screenplay?

We were inspired by the movie, “The Queen” with Helen Mirren, she had just won the Oscar for that role. We didn’t want the screenplay to be campy or overly reverent, we wanted it to be fun, juicy and emotionally real. With Joan and Bette, each admired the other in areas, where they felt they weren’t good enough. For Joan, Bette was the great actress and Joan wanted her respect, but Bette looked down on her. And, for all her talents, Bette grew up in a puritanical family, and didn’t lose her virginity till she was twenty-four. Joan, was free about her sexuality and more confident about her beauty, and Bette envied that.

What was most important for you to have in the screenplay when you first wrote it, and what kind of research did you do beforehand?

We were amazed how much of the story we had known from both of us being around people who knew movies. To prepare we read every Joan and Bette biography, watched all their movies, plus What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? over and over, plus read an article called Inside Oscar’s 50th, where Bette’s peers who had shared her dressing room dished about her wild wit. For instance, according to the LA Times, Bette Davis famously said when she heard of Joan Crawford’s death from a heart attack in 1977 “You should never say bad things about the dead, only good… Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”

Can you share how you interacted with Ryan Murphy for the television show?

After our screenplay was turned into a TV show, Ryan and the show runner outlined the series. We exchanged emails with Ryan about the characters and backgrounds and offered suggestions for opening the story up. We also specifically wrote episode 7 for the show, which was the show down episode between the two Feuders. In the episode, and in real life, they have a big confrontation when they return to Hollywood after filming Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte in New Orleans, an attempt to recreate the magic of their pairing in the hit movie, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? When Joan discovers that Bette has the ear of the director and producer, Robert Aldrich, and that her big scenes are being cut, she goes nuts. Joan called in “sick” and refused to work. Eventually, the studio fired Joan and she was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. It’s a juicy story.

Online Course: Beginning Television Writing

People usually do projects they can relate to. How did you relate to this one?

Me and my writing partner were both gay guys, we were over forty, and both had lulls in our careers as writers, like Bette and Joan at the time of Feud. Unlike them, we were friends, but needed to find a way to work together that suited us. We’d tried working together before on projects that hadn’t gotten off the ground.

Are there any craft tips you can share based on your experiences with Feud?

I learned a lot about how to break up the 110-page format of a screenplay into a limited series. I also learned how to expand a story, without slowing it down too much, using words, visuals and every tool at your command.

What is the birth of a screenwriter? Did you always write?

I always wrote, even as a little kid. I’ve always loved movies and tried to write sketches based on the television shows I loved: Saturday Night Live and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The Dick Van Dyke Show was on repeats when I was a kid and they always looked like they were having such a good time.

What advice can you give to screenwriters?

  • Don’t be afraid of writing. You have to realize you can only tell a story from your perspective, and you have to trust that.
  • The key to being a good screenwriter to write the action of the script and always use the most specific, active verb or visual you can use. For example, writing she walks, doesn’t say as much as she saunters, skips or runs.
  • A great simile helps. For example, if someone is walking into an expensive house that is like the Emerald City for them. It’s more fun to write that way because it reveals something about the character.
  • Every word in your screenplay counts and is a chance to reveal character. Make your characters flawed but human. If you get stuck go back and ask specific questions that identify the primal need—whether its survival, acceptance, love or security—they are trying to fix that they can’t. The stakes for what they want have to be high enough so the audience can relate to it.
  • Finally, you have to want to do the work.

How can a budding screenwriter begin to build confidence?

All screenwriters should be actively watching movies and asking basic questions, such as what does the character want, why do they want it now and why do I care? They should also be reading scripts and not just movie scripts.

What is your favorite part of being a screenwriter?

Having written (it’s true). I love finding the key that unlocks the character and makes the story work. It is usually some want they don’t know they have. Some early hurt. For example, for Joan Crawford, the few times she felt loved from her stepfather, was inappropriate. Bette was hurt that her father wasn’t around and her family had a Puritan ethic, where she had to always appear useful.

You wrote a musical, “The Kid” which ran in an off-Broadway production in 2010 and received five Drama Desk Award nominations in 2011. Was that writing process different than writing the screenplay that became Feud?

Musicals are actually structurally closer to screenplays, which are visual and action-driven than to plays. As in a screenplay, there needs to be a dramatic question that is woven through the story. In musicals, you need a character with a strong want and the character must reach the point where he can no longer just say what he or she needs to say. He or she needs to sing it.

Do you have any hobbies you can share, that might surprise people?

I love to swim and so does Jaffe and we find that it is a way to get the endorphins into your body to get back to writing. Plus, water is very womb-like so it loosens up the imagination.

If you could give a word to describe your publishing journey what would it be and why?

Consistency. For many years when I wasn’t doing as well professionally as I am now, I had to remember that I like to write and consistently do it. I’d also read a lot and go to the movies with people who wanted to talk about the movies. This is also my hobby in a lot of ways. Every day I remember I’m lucky to be doing what I love.

What is your next project?

We have five projects going on. One we are excited about is a screenplay about Vivian Leigh and Lawrence Olivier. The other are really thrilling television projects, that haven’t yet been announced. I’m also writing several projects myself, including a new musical.

It’s been a great year.

Learn more about screenwriting, TV writing and adapting books for the screen in services and from The Writer’s Store, including the upcoming webinar Writing the Dark Comedy. The webinar deconstructs and examines the Dark Comedy (or “Black Comedy”) genre, what the conventions of the genre are, how they succeed in creating a unique blend of horror, shock-value and comedy.

The post Screenwriting Tips & Insights from Michael Zam, Writer of the Emmy-Winning Series <em>Feud: Bette and Joan</em> appeared first on

from Writing Editor Blogs –