LB: Another Reason Why You Shouldn’t Ask Writers to Read Your Writing

Bruccoli on FSF
Whoa! F. Scott Fitzgerald was a Whole Lot Tougher Than We Thought

The next time you think about asking somebody – you know, like your favorite writer – to read your work and give you an honest evaluation, keep in mind that this is the kind of result you might get:

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming — the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

From F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters via BrainPickings.Org

Wonder what happened to Frances’s and Scott’s relationship after he wrote this? In my experience, once I tell a friend or relative the truth about writing – which usually boils down to “It’s hard and you’re not pushing yourself enough” – I never hear from them again.

The TVWriter™ January E-Newsletter

For those who missed this in their e-mailboxes yesterday:

TVWriter™ Newsletter – January 2013



The beginning of a new year seems to me to be the perfect time to thank all of you who have supported TVWriter™ during the past year. Our site visits/viewers have shot way up, and since I have this huge, neurotic need for an audience I’m, well, thrilled.

TVWriter™ is a labor of love for me. The site’s been active for almost 20 years, and the only thing we’ve ever advertised is ourselves so that we can stay honest and – ahem – pure. Okay, since you’re pressing me about it, the real reason I have this site and do it the way I do is because I know what it’s like to have a creative dream and how amazingly wonderful it feels to achieve it. So I want to do all I can to help others feel that too.

Just as we don’t take in much money, we try not to spend too much too. That means that everyone who works on this site – assistants, editors, writers, designers – has been donating their time and talent. So I’d like to give special thanks to the following, without whom TVWriter™ couldn’t exist:

Gwen the Beautiful, munchman, Dan Davison, Kevin Shuster, Chuck Fox, Anil Sthankiya, Kathy Fuller, Lauren Ferebee, Peggy Bechko, Bob Tinsley, Robin Reed, Josh Hudson, Anthony Medina, Robin Walsh, Jenny Reed, Frank Lee and many more who are going to be mad as hell because I’ve just spaced them out. Thanks! Apologies! Blahblah!

Speaking of help, we’re always looking for more volunteers, especially when it comes to contributors. Yes, it’s true, I’m asking you to write for us. Articles of all lengths, on all topics related to writing (TV/screen/print), television, films, and web media.

I can’t pay in money, but TVWriter™ contributors definitely get the chance to pick my brain on all things related to – well, I was going to say writing and showbiz, but sometimes you can get a little “real life” out of me as well. Email me and we’ll talk.

Here’s to a fulfilling and peaceful New Year!





The contests opened just 2 short weeks ago, and we’re off to a great start. Entries in both contests are ahead of where they were at this point last year, and, interestingly to us, are running neck and neck with each other.

The early Bird Entry thing is still in force, making the price $30 per entry instead of the usual $40. And, we’d like to point out that it’s worth it to pay now even if your spec pilot/episode/movie script isn’t finished because we’re absolutely cool with you submitting/uploading your masterpiece any time between making your payment and the June 1 deadline.,

And before we forget: Free Feedback is yours for the entering. We’ll be sending out the judges’ scores and the criteria for those scores to all entrants after the Winners are announced. (And boy are we proud of ourselves for doing this.)

For more info:

The People’s Pilot is here.
The Spec Scriptacular is here.

Or just go to TVWriter™ and click on the contest of your choice in the righthand index.



Edit Yourself
by LB

One of the most difficult tasks for any writer, new or old, is editing. In TV and films, the ability to edit your teleplay or screenplay is crucial. That’s because part of the magic of movies is that they expand time.

By that I mean that scenes invariably seem to have taken longer to play than they really did—even well-written scenes. In television, two minutes of talk usually feels to the viewer like ten. And a couple of minutes of action can seem like an entire military battle.

In order to make this work for you instead of against you, the writer must learn to delete any word or sequence that is not absolutely necessary. Speeches that do not simultaneously reveal character and attitude and also forward the story should be the first things to go. Extra words in speeches, such as “I think that maybe we can…” should be changed to, “We can…,” with the writer relying on the actor and the situation to supply the missing “personality.”

One of the ways I know I’m reading a really good script is that there’s a slight sensation of something missing. Not a lot, just the little extra oomph that, say, a novel would have. If you get that feeling when you read over what you’ve written, don’t despair. Instead, be joyful. It means you’ve left something for the production to supply.



The next TVWriter™ Advanced Online Workshop, for writers who know a little something about teleplay/screenplay format and have either taken TVWriter™’s Basic Workshop or can show an example of their current work, starts Thursday, January 24, 2013, at 6:30 pm Pacific (9:30 pm Eastern) Time and will meet for 4 weeks. As of this writing enrollment is wide open, but the Advanced Workshop always fills up so we ever-so-respectfully suggest that you hurry to:
Advanced Workshop info and sign-up form

Larry Brody’s Master Class will be meeting in a couple of weeks as well. This is the online workshop for professional level writers who want to spend a very intense month perfecting your current work. 60 pages a week! Story, plot, and characterization analyzed by our Fearsome Leader, LB himself! He accepts a maximum of only 3 students at a time in this one, and there’s 1 opening left. For specifics, hie thy way to:
Larry Brody’s Master Class info

Or find out more about everything TVWriter University is currently offering here.


That’s it for now. Thanks for your support for the “new” TVWriter™ throughout this past year. Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy and Prosperous New Year!



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Daily spec script sales reports! Info on getting started as a screenwriter! Writers’ software! Literary submissions! See what’s for sale!

Hollywoodlitsales.Com is a full service website you don’t want to miss. Check it out here.


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Silicon Valley conquers Hollywood, part 2 — There’s no business like show business

Yesterday we brought you Part 1 of Robert X. Cringely’s look at showbiz and the tech biz and how they’re each trying to screw the other trying to work together. Time now for Part 2:


By Robert X. Cringely

A friend of mine who is a securities lawyer in New York worked on the 1985 sale of 20th Century Fox by Marvin Davis to Rupert Murdoch. He led a group of New York attorneys to Los Angeles where they spent weeks going over contracts for many Fox films. What they found was that with few exceptions there were no contracts. There were signed letters of intent (agreements to agree) for pictures budgeted at $20-$50 million but almost no actual contracts. Effectively business was being done, movies were being made, and huge sums of money were being transferred on a handshake. That’s how Hollywood tends to do business and it doesn’t go down very well with outsiders, so they for the most part remain outside.

Jump to this week’s evolving story about Intel supposedly entering with a bang the TV set top box business replete with previously unlicensed cable content — an Over-The-Top (OTT) virtual cable system. This was expected to be announced, I’m told, at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Forbes then had a very naive story about how Intel was likely to succeed where others (Apple, Microsoft, Motorola, Netflix, Roku, etc.) had already failed, with Intel’s secret sauce being lots of money (hundreds of millions certainly) to tie-up content.

Yet today Intel made it known there would be no such CES announcement at all and the Wall Street Journal saysthe problem is content licensing.

I’ll tell you the problem. It’s 1985 all over again and just like my friend the New York lawyer for Rupert Murdoch, Intel is no doubt learning that it is difficult to buy with certainly something that the seller may or may not actually own. Studios and networks are selling and Intel is buying shows they may not even have the right to buy or sell.

Remember how Ted Turner bought MGM then sold the studio but kept the movies so he could play them on WTBS? Something like that.

There’s no business like show business.

Hollywood is a company town that has its own ways of doing business. The rules are just different in Hollywood. Accounting rules are different, certainly. Avatar is the highest grossing movie in history, sure, but has it made a so-called “net profit?” Nobody knows.

Tax rules are even different for Hollywood.  Personal holding companies are for the most part illegal in America, but not in Hollywood, where they have been around for 50 years and are called loan-out companies.

My point here is that when out-of-towners come to L.A. expecting to takeover the entertainment business with money alone, they are generally disappointed. Sony buying Columbia Pictures wasn’t the triumph of Japanese capitalism it was presented to be — it was a chance for the movie guys to steal from the Japanese.

When technology companies try to do business with the entertainment industry they are nearly always taken advantage of. Hollywood can’t help it. Like Jessica Rabbit, they’re just drawn that way.

Look at Intel and remember this is the company’s third such effort to get a foothold in the entertainment business, where technology companies tend to be seen as rubes ripe for plucking. Apple and Microsoft are right now trying to do exactly the same thing as Intel and they aren’t succeeding, either. Nor will any of them succeed unless they take a more enlightened approach.

My next column will spell out exactly how this could be done.

…And that column will be here at TVWriter™ tomorrow!

See-Read the Illustrated Version of the MOONRISE KINGDOM Screenplay


Nobody can say that Focus Features doesn’t know how to campaign for an award.

The screenplay for the Focus Features film MOONRISE KINGDOM (which we thought was brilliant, btw), written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, has been nominated for the Best Original Screenplay of 2013 Award by 4 different organizations:


We know this because who are members of the WGA got the pic above in an email from the production company that also included – get this – a  47 MB PDF file for an illustrated version of the screenplay.


Reading the script that way is awesome, believe you us. We wanted to share it with everybody at TVWriter™ by posting it here for download but then the usual guys in suits started freaking out about potential legal problems.

Fortunately, there’s another way to go. Well, a place, actually. Cuz MOONRISE KINGDOM, the Illustrated Screenplay is also online. All of it. The, you know, ganze magilla. (That’s showbiz lingo, AKA Yiddish, for “the whole deal.”)

We suggest that you check this out HERE. (But if anybody asks how you got the link you’ve gotta stick to the Code of Silence, all right?) Hella marketing, that’s for sure. Enjoy!

LB: If I Hadn’t Made It in Television, I Would’ve Been a Comic Book Writer

…Like my buddies Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway. (Although Gerry did a fine job of escaping that ghetto, didn’t he, by rising to Co-Executive Producer of LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, among other TV shows?).

I’ve always thought that those working in the two media had a lot in common, and recently two writers still working in comic books have cemented that theory – John Ostrander and Martha Thomases. Here’s Martha’s take on soap opera, which coincidentally happens to be right in line with, yeah, you guessed it – mine.

Thomases Art 130111 Martha Thomases SoapSoap by Martha Thomases (ComicMix.Com)

Oh, Pine Valley! I have missed you so!

But my prayers have been answered, and All My Children will soon be back, if only on the Internet. And while it won’t feel real to me unless they get backErica Kane or Zach, I think this is a real win for those of us who like our entertainment niche.

Soap operas are not new. They were a staple of radio drama and easily made the transition to television. Usually, the focus would be on one or two families, and the drama that resulted when love, greed, hate and intrigue enmeshed them with each other and their neighbors.

Conventional wisdom maintained that this kind of entertainment was for women, especially housewives. They would watch “their stories” as they did the ironing or dusted. Every day, for 30 to 60 minutes (including commercials), they could vicariously experience the lives of beautiful people, with a cliffhanger at the end, ensuring a date with tomorrow’s show. When (white, middle-class) women went into the workforce in large numbers in the 1970s, it was assumed the genre would die.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, the soap opera mutated. It invaded primetime, where shows like Dallasand Dynasty were monster hits. Soap elements – relationship dramas among the characters that couldn’t be solved with a laugh, a gunfight, or magic – invaded cop shows, doctor shows and more. Do you think you’d have The Sopranoswithout General Hospital? If so, you think wrong.

(My point is not that David Chase is a soap opera fan – although he may be – but that network executives wouldn’t have gone for the pilot without a profitable precedent.)

What ultimately drove the soaps off network television was the cost, and the continued segmentation of the audience. It’s expensive to have daily shows with big casts, big sets, and lots of writers. The talk shows that replaced the soaps are way cheaper, and product placement is much easier (although I will always remember with fondness the month that AMC had Campbell’s Soup as a sponsor, and therefore soup solved everything). They don’t get the same audience as the soaps, but they don’t need to.

The solution? The Internet. It’s taken a while for the producers to get it together with finances, and unions, but now it looks like they have.

It’s an interesting parallel to comics. Hollywood is making a ton of money from superheroes, but sales of floppies appeal to a much, much smaller audience. And, again, the Internet provides a way not only to grow the readership, but to level the playing field for those creators (and readers) who don’t want to limit themselves to one genre, or one business model.

The folks trying to resuscitate All My Children have already signed up Angie. Get Tad, and I’m there.

Did I mention that several of my friends have been writing soaps for umpteen million years too? Wonder if they can speak about comic books so wisely.