Can You Judge A Book By Its Cover?
Blake Snyder is a successful screenwriter, who has written a book, called Save the Cat. The cover has an eye-catching image of a cat hanging off the end of the rope. No doubt that the image is provocative, but can the words inside the book live up to the picture on the outside. Even though the manuscript takes a back-to-basics attitude, the information inside should help anyone involved with the strange and bizarre art of screenwriting, improve their craft.
Since its publication in 2005, Save the Cat, is still considered to be a contemporary treatise on screenwriting. Interesting enough, the title comes from the scenario, where the hero of a movie does something nice……. like save a cat. According to Blake Snyder, the author, every movie should have a “save the cat” moment, though nowadays, most movies fail to employ such a scene.
Save the Cat presents a lot of good ideas like studying genre, reading screenplays and writing a good logline before you begin constructing your script. However the part that impressed me the most, was an explanation how a 120 page feature film script can be broken into three basic acts, just as outlined by Aristotle way back when. In Save the Cat, Snyder strongly suggest that you give extra weight to the second act, thus creating Act I (25 pages), Act II (60 pages) and Act III (25 pages). In turn, this will create a 110 page feature film, which according to the author is an ideal length for a screenplay. Most important are three points of interest, which Snyder has conveniently named the catalyst, the midpoint and the synthesis….and these should respectively at page 12, page 55 and page 85. And this folks….is your formula for writing a screenplay.
Coping With Reality
Screenplays really are strictly structured items though length can vary (slightly) and of course content is very important also. So how does one right a marketable script. That’s still a mystery to me, but Save the Cat does provide a fun read, if nothing more. Also it can make you the hit of a Hollywood party in case you find yourself in that location.
What Is KDP ?
KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. In a nutshell any ebook that is formatted for electronic publication and then published on Kindle e-readers through Amazon is part of Kindle Direct Publishing. To be part of KDP your little e-book can be available on other venues (i.e. Nook, Smashwords, Apple, Sony etc.)…..but there has to be uniform pricing. Many authors have opted for this route in the brave new world of Indie publishing, especially those with a high online profile and a good marketing plan.
How About KDP Select?
In addition to the basic Kindle publishing platform, Amazon now has a special option for self-pubbed writers that offers 90 days of exclusivity on the Kindle. To participate in this relatively recent program, the author has to remove the e-book from all competing markets and only have the electronic item available on Kindles. After the 90 days is up, the author has the option of renewing the Select program for another 90 days. In exchange Amazon makes the title available to its Amazon Prime members. Membership in Amazon Prime must fork out 80 bucks a year, but in exchange, they receive access in the form of free downloads at any time to any title published on the KDP Select program. In return the author receives a fee directly from Amazon that comes out of a separate fund. I know this may seem hokey, but so far in 2013, each Amazon Prime download (or borrow as Amazon calls them) is worth about 2 dollars US. In other words, a popular writer with a 1,000 borrows would receive approximately $2,000 for those downloads.
Is It Working?
Though there seems to be some skepticism about the long term future of this arrangement, many authors seem to be content with the KDP Select program so far. Some of the advantages of this program appear to be its ease of entry,Amazon’ts prompt tracking of online sales and the possibility of high volume sales for popular authors. As a result Kindle millionaires is a new buzzword for those who have been following the rise of e-book Indie authors.
It should also be noted that Amazon has some pricing guidelines for those who participate in KDP Select. Also they allow the author to choose 5 days of free promotion during each 90 day period. These free promos are available to anyone with a Kindle E-reader or compatible computer program, and not just those who signed up for Amazon Prime. On these chosen days prospective readers can download the ebook for free. This results in a large number of downloads on the free days. These free downloads may or may not result in sales after the free period has ended. The main drawback for the free promotion days is that the situation creates a large body of e-readers who expect every electronic title to be free……. More about this later.
Roger Ebert, the noted Chicago film critic, passed away last week on April 4, 2013 after a long battle with cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands. This struggle with the all-too-common disease dated all the way back to 2002. Since his 2006 surgery, Roger had been unable to speak or eat. Rest in peace …… Roger Ebert, who was 70 years old at the time of his passing.
Life As A Film Critic
Roger Ebert began his movie criticism in 1967 by writing reviews for the Chicago Sun Times. He continued writing for the SunTimes right up until his recent death. In 1975, the same year he won a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism, Roger Ebert began co-hosting a local movie review program, called Sneak Previews. Mr. Ebert’s big break came when he teamed up with the nationally-known film critic Gene Siskel and introduced Sneak Previews to a national audience. This partnership continued until Gene Siskel passed away in 1999. Since Siskel’s passing Roger Ebert continued with his televised movie reviews until cancer curtailed his activities.
A Strange Corraboration
In 1970 Roger Ebert branched out from film criticism into screenwriting. This unusual venture not only included work on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Beneath the Valley of the Vixens, Up! and an unproduced screenplay starring the Sex Pistols, called Who Killed Bambi. Even though Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is now regarded as a cult classic, his screenwriting activities have never received anywhere near the attention that his film criticism did.
Popular Films That Roger Ebert Didn’t Like
Now that Roger Ebert’s writing career is one for the history books, all kinds of lists are popping up about the Illinois native’s likes and dislikes. The following is a list of popular films that Roger Ebert did not like. They include Clockwork Orange, Donnie Darko, Dead Poets Society, Fight Club, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Reservoir Dogs, Full Metal Jacket, Straw Dogs, Blue Velvet, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Harold and Maude, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Leon: The Professional. I’m sure there are many more, but maybe this short selection will shine a light on some of Mr. Ebert’s likes and dislikes.
Eberts #1 Films For the 21st Century
On a positive note here are Ebert’s #1s going back to 2000. Argo (2012), A Separation (2011), The Social Network (2010), The Hurt Locker (2009), Synecdoche, New York (2008), Juno (2007), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Crash (2005), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Monster (2003), Minority Report (2002), Monster (2001) and Almost Famous (2000).
And to accent the passing of a well-noted American literary figure, today’s news stories (April 8, 2013) include a mention that the infamous Westboro Baptist Church will stage a protest at the Chicago funeral of Mr. Ebert. The reason……not too long ago in March…. roger Ebert wrote; “Just another day at Westboro Baptist”, in reference to a gay man who went undercover and wrote about the notorious religious institution. Maybe Mr. Ebert will get the last laugh – after all.
Is This A Golden Age For Writers?
Just recently, Stephen Marche, in his Thousand Words About Our Culture column for Esquire, raised this exact question. To back up his assertion, he put forth numerous graphs and figures, showing that adult readership and book sales are up. Some of the facts are quite convincing; such as increase in both hardcover and ebook sales. For the first half of 2012, adult hardcover sales rose over 8 %, while ebook sales jumped by a whopping 34 %. Also on the increase are the percentage of adult Americans who read literature and the average number of books (of any kind) that are read by individual readers. This is definitely encouraging news.
A Writer In the White House
Now serving in his second term as U.S. President is Barrack Obama from Illinois, a successful politician, who helped further his political career by writing two widely read books, Dreams From My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006). Though most presidents, now publish after they leave office, it is less common to find presidents that used the written word to enhance their political career. John Kennedy and Richard Nixon are two past presidents, who have made it to the White House aided by a successful book publication.
A Good Time To Be A Successful Writer?
Maybe what Stephen Marche should have said is that it is a great time to be a successful writer. Breaking in is still difficult, and perhaps complicated by the huge number of competing writers, all trying for a slice of that same pie that is not nearly big enough to accommodate all those who wish to enjoy some of the sweet rewards.
A Silver Lining For Marginal Writers
One positive development for the struggling writer is the ebook market, which seems to lend itself admirably to the unknown wordsmith. The ebook does not guarantee success for the upcoming writer, it just levels the playing field a little bit. It still takes a lot of skill and perseverance and perhaps a little luck to breakthrough.
Orthodox Christmas Not everybody in the world celebrates Christmas on the 25th of December. The most notable exceptions are the Orthodox churches of Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Moldovia, Montenegro and Serbia, along with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Merry Christmas to all those who are celebrating today.
My New Year’s Resolutions For Writers
Since Christmas is finally coming to an end and the chilling cold weather of January is about to descend on us, perhaps it is time for all dedicated writers to snuggle up next to the fire and start putting pen to paper. We may be glad we did, when winter turns to spring and our literary endeavors are rewarded with publication credits and movie rights……… Just dreaming, but here are my ten resolutions anyway.
1. Post more often at Yeyeright (This resolution probably won’t last through the month of January, but it’s worth a try anyway)
2. Say Good-bye to the content market (presently, I have content available at Demand Studios, Hub Pages, Associated Content and Helium. Although I now receive only monthly royalties, Demand Studios has been the only one that was worthwhile, and even that was close to marginal)
3. Attend at least one writers conference (Several years ago I attended the Grub Street conference in Boston and I enjoyed it very much. I think it’s about time I try another conference)
4. Finish my uncompleted novel (It’s been uncompleted for several years)
5. Finish my uncompleted screenplay (Screenplays are much easier to finish than a novel, but very difficult to sell. Actually, this is the one resolution I might skip.)
6. Party more (This might be the most important resolution for any writer, no matter what his or her genre may be)
7. Join a writer’s group maybe ????????(I have never been much on writer’s groups and don’t think 2013 will change that.)
8. Travel to Europe (I have been there twice already. Another visit may be in order.)
9. Submit ideas, articles and short fiction to more markets.
10. Sleep-in more often (This resolution goes hand-in-hand with resolution #6)
So there you go with my New Year’s Resolutions. Let me know what resolutions you intend to make and actually keep.
Help Yeyeright Keep His New Year Resolutions
End of the Mayan Calendar
On December 21 during the winter solstice the Mayan calendar comes to an end. Reaction to this long-awaited event varies greatly. Some would say so what, while others might ask what’s a solstice. Not surprisingly, the actual number of people who believe that the world will come to an end are actually pretty small.
A Strange Encounter
It was a chance encounter in a Santa Fe coffeehouse. The 30-something year old male was planning to be in Mexico for the upcoming solstice to witness the shortest day of the year from a Mayan temple; and have a good time with other observers of the annual celestial event. The prospective traveler did not really expect the world to end, but he did seem susceptible to the New Age idea that this ancient date might usher in a new era of peace and understanding among the human population that now is believed to number around 7 billion. Also, he was reading a book called, Phobos by Steve Alten.
Steve Alten’s Mayan Trilogy Series
Steve Alten is an interesting, if not unusual writer. He is probably best known for his Meg series, a collection of four novels about a giant prehistoric shark found in the deep waters of the Pacific. Steve began his career in college sports medicine, then he decided to write a novel in his spare time. Writing the novel was easy, but selling the manuscript was more difficult. By the time he nailed down a two book deal, he had quit his sports job, gone through his life savings and was barely getting by. His more recently relesed Domain Trilogy uses the Mayan Temples for a backdrop to a fantastic sci-fi complete with time travelers and extra-terrestrial aliens. The three novels in this series are called Domain, Resurrection and Phobos: Mayan Fear.
Solar and Lunar Eclipse
Recently a small lunar eclipse was observed in the Northern Hemisphere. However, not too far in the recent past a much more pronounced solar eclipse occurred in Australia and the South Pacific. Even though these two events have occurred close to the End of the Mayan Calendar, there is no evidence that they are related. In fact, most scientists do not attribute any special significance to the End of the Mayan Calendar. It is no different from our annual Roman calendar, which ends every 12 months, except there is a much longer time frame involved with the Central American document.
NASA and December 21, 2012
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA, our 4 billion year old planet will not come to an end on December 21, 2012. The alignment of the planets will have a negligible effect on our planet, nor will the planet, Nibiru, crash into the third planet back from the sun. The experts say that if a tenth planet was headed our way, it would show up in the night sky as a very bright object for many weeks before impact. And furthermore, solar activity is expected to remain at its’ current normal levels for the next several years.
Ah shucks, looks like I’m going to have to do my Christmas shopping after all.
Everybody Comes To Rick’s
The storyline for the 1942 movie, Casablanca, began as an unpublished play, entitled, Everybody Comes To Rick’s. The play was written by Murray Burnet and Joan Alison in the summer of 194o, but after failing to find a Broadway producer, the playwrights sold the rights to Hollywood for $20,000. The play was based on real life travels that Murray Burnet made with his wife, Frances, to Vienna, Austria during Nazi occupation in 1938 and also to the south of France at the same time. Neither of the two authors ever visited Morocco. Instead, the plot revolved around a bar in France that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. The popular drinking establishment was frequented by a strange mixture of French citizens, Nazis and war refugees. Entertainment was provided by a black jazz pianist.
Casablanca, The Movie
After extensive rewriting and revision by a team of screenwriters, Casablanca became a movie that was released to a wartime audience in 1942 by Warner Brothers. Although not the most popular WWII film release, Casablanca did go on to win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Since WWII, Casablanca has become a classic and is often rated as one of the best motion pictures ever made in the United States.
Rick’s Cafe Opens In Casablanca, Morocco
It was not until the 21st century that there was ever a restaurant or bar in Casablanca called Rick’s Cafe. Those memorable shots of the popular club seen in the film were created on the backlots of Hollywood during the war, which might explain why such an intriguing set was created. The scenes of the crowds at the bar and the music of Sam at the piano have stayed in film lovers’ minds ever since the cinematic masterpiece was first released.
A Book Called Rick’s Cafe
Actually the full title of the book reads as Rick’s Cafe: Bringing the Film Legend To Life In Casablanca. The author is a petite woman, originally from Portland, Oregon who pulled the whole enterprise off and now that Rick’s Cafe has become a must-see for those touring the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, the manuscript only gives added insight into the amazing task of making the recreation of this nightclub-restaurant – a reality. Overall, it is amazing story of getting a business started in an Islamic nation, where the King and the royal family still have a lot of clout. Fortunately for the author and story, Moroccan royalty have proved to be a moderate oasis in a region of the world that can be quite irrational and dangerous at times.
About the Author
In the opening years of the 21st century, Kathy Kriger was a U.S. citizen employed by the U.S. Foreign Service in Casablanca, who decided to open a restaurant. Now that the restaurant has been going on for several years and making a profit, Ms. Kriger has decided to put her story down in words, accompanied by a few pictures. Released just this month (November 2012) the book tells a story of how one individual conceived of the idea, raised the money, found a place and then made the interior space conform to the images seen in the movie. It is a heart-lifting story well worth the time spent reading………and perhaps a visit if you are ever in the neighborhood of the ancienne Medina of Casablanca.
Help Support Yeyeright
I first attempted to complete a NaNoWriMO manuscript back in 2008. I came close to making the 50,000 word minimum set forth by the non-profit organization, as being an “official” novel, but ultimately, I fell short by 5,000 words. Besides making me very tired, the international coordinated event did inspire me onward and upwards as a writer. The most profound result was a collection of a half dozen or so short stories that I expanded into a full-length novel; which according to most industry professionals ranges from 65,000 to over a 100,000 words. In the real world 50,000 word novels are rare, though definitely not non-existent.
So by spring of 2009 I had my first completed novel. Without delay I went about the exciting task of trying to hook an agent for the completed manuscript. The result was disappointing to say the least, but still, I had completed the task to the point where I had a finished manuscript that could be shown to prospective readers and buyers. I was even successful in obtaining one reading by an insider in the publishing industry, who gave me lots of good feedback, but no sales.
Flooding The Market
Namowrimo has been amazingly successful. After a modest beginning in July 1999 with only 21 writers, the annual writing event has seen a steady increase in participants. Last year (2011) saw approximately a quarter million perspective novelists up from 200,000 in 2010. Of those 250,000, just over 36,000 were declared winners, which means they were able to put together 50,000 coherent words in a period of 720 hours. No wonder it is becoming more and more common for literary agents to close their doors during the month of December. The submission rate from unpublished Namowrimo authors must be astronomical.
This year I am rewriting the novel that I began in 2009. It has been sitting in a drawer (actually stored on a hard drive is closer to the truth) since then and I figure it is well nigh time to bite the bullet and get a respectable first draft completed. I just started the project yesterday and have yet to reach even a thousand words. Even so, I feel very good about spending this November and beyond in the rewriting mode.
My Adventures In Duluth, Minnesota
This week finds me bumming around Duluth in both search of work and a place to live. Having not found success at either one leaves lots of time to explore this lakeside city with my camera. Here are some of the results.
Along the east side of the city there is a long shoreline with a couple of lighthouses, a boardwalk, a rose garden and several parks. Following are some images from the lakeshore area.
The Magical Drawbridge
This drawbrige, built in the early 20th century, is one of the few where the main platform rises vertically. The structure is a Duluth landmark, photo by author.
The camera is a great tool for creating abstract images and designs. This is what I found in Duluth.
Superior Street in downtown Duluth cuts across a steep hillside that is filled with stores, banks, office buildings and even a casino. I’ve spent too much time at the casino and not enough looking for work. This storefront window on Superior St. sells T-shirts.
Since Bob Dylan just gave a major interview with Rolling Stone Mag, there is more coming soon on the man from northern Minnesota.