Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Free writing seminar blog post in a box

Thinking of going to an expensive writing seminar?? Stop! And read this instead!

You're probably aware of my feelings about how-to-write books and seminars. Short version: not a big fan. If you're just starting out and want a general overview, any one of the (cheaper) books is fine, they all pretty much say the same thing. As for seminars, there are some that can be useful, but I'd strongly advise against the ones that charge new writers several hundred pounds for a bunch of platitudes and common sense principles. Especially the ones delivered by people who aren't working writers - if you're going to pay someone for writing advice, at least make sure they've written stuff that got made. I don't like seeing people get ripped off.

Some of the bigger, so-called "script gurus" go on tour with their seminars, charging large amounts for stuff you can find out online for nothing. One of them is in the UK now, charging over £500 (not including VAT!) for a 3 day seminar. Whether you feel you get something out of it or not, that's a lot of money to hand over. But many actual, working writers happily answer questions and share their knowledge on their own websites, for free. They could probably make a lot of money selling their advice, but they know how hard it is when you're starting out, and want to help.

And that's where this blog post comes in. It's a free seminar! A seminar in a box! Except it's not a box. Or really a seminar. It's mostly links from my past blog entries, because I know them, with links to other essential sites and articles. But it's free! It's not a 3 day seminar, but you can read it over 3 days if you like. And it won't cost you several hundred quid. If you find it useful, and think it was worth something, why not send a few quid to your favourite charity?? I'd much rather places like Cancer Research, Lifeblood, Children in Need or the Red Cross got the money instead of some rich "guru" who likes taking cash from people who earn a lot less. Update: Childline could really do with some help right now, Adrian Mead's book below gives the profits to them, and/or you can donate to them directly here:

So, welcome! Sit down. No, you two can't sit together, you'll just chat - you sit there, and you go over there. Quiet at the back. If you see me drinking from a bottle inside a paper bag, that's just water, I swear. Let's start!

Starting and breaking in

My big writing FAQ, featuring how to get started, how to get better, getting an agent, feedback, and my writing routine:

How I taught myself screenwriting:

Finding inspiration, trying to break in, and how Eminem helped me keep going:

How I got an agent:

General meetings for writers - what to do, even what to wear:

Phill Barron on common writer complaints:

Adrian Mead's book on the nuts and bolts of starting a writing career (profits to Childline):

Writing the script, and the writing process

Kurt Vonnegut explains, very simply, the big secret of how to tell a story:

How I got the Torchwood job, my initial episode idea and how I developed it:

Summary of every screenwriting "how-to" book, ever:

Introducing characters on the page:

Naming minor characters in the first 10 pages:

Writer's block - what is it?

Writer's block - how to deal with it (also covers my writing process):

Restructuring a script using notes and a skeletal outline to keep things clear:

Things to avoid when writing horror movies:

Backing up your work:

Jason Arnopp on the magic of Draft Zero:

Chuck Wendig's 25 ways to plot, plan and prep your story:

Antony Johnston's fantastic article on his writing process:

Bill Cunningham on structuring a 90-minute genre script:

Paul Cornell's short story tips:

Script frenzy - a fun way to motivate yourself and write a script in 30 days:

Getting your work out there, and working in the industry

Doing drafts and getting notes:

Pitching (including several links to other writers and their pitching tips):

Dealing with rejection:

My 5th blogthday revelations - things I've learned along the way:

My busiest ever two weeks, or "what happens when you take on too much work":

The panic that sets in when you first get paid to write something:

Getting slightly well known, or "internet famous":

Jason Arnopp on the myth of "luck":

Chuck Wendig's 25 questions to ask yourself as you write:

Danny Stack on getting your script read:

John Rogers on pitching:

Guest speakers

BAFTA Guru is a new site full of interviews with writers, directors, actors and crew who make TV, movies and games. It's a goldmine of expertise and information: is a new site from John August, answering screenwriting questions - how to format a script/montage sequence/slugline etc:

Joss Whedon's top 10 writing tips:

Danny Stack's screenwriting articles, and PDF files on how to be a professional writer (read ALL of these):

John August's blog, full of writing advice:

Collection of story writing tips from many more authors, on the SFX site:

William C. Martell's free script tip per day, and excellent Blue Books of writing tips (the Blue Books aren't free, but are well worth it):

And there we have it. Plenty of stuff to get through, and take you through plotting, writing, re-writing, breaking in, and working as a writer. Every other website mentioned has got plenty more stuff to read, so have a look through the archives and find out even more. Check out the links on their sites too, there are many, many more professional writers out there, giving free advice. So save yourself some money...