"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: February 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Write of Passage

First Cut
The 'world premiere' showing of FIRST CUT was last weekend - during a party shoot at our house. A fabulous time was had by all. Thanks to everyone who came and jumped in all the right places!

The movie is now entered into the Brooklyn Film Festival - so its New York premiere should happen sometime this year! I'm entering it into the LA Shriekfest too.

I've just finished the trailer which I'll be putting up overnight!

Keep watching and writing!

Write of Passage

I was looking up executive producers of TV shows last night - like you do. In the US especially, an executive producer is often a writer too, responsible for helping oversee a script into production.

I was curious to see how some people went from writers to becoming show creators. After a while I began to see a pattern.

There was clearly a route - albeit a relatively 'slow' one - whereby a writer may get a gig on a show, perhaps a one-off screenplay, followed by further commissions to either write for the same show or another.

After half a dozen or so shows it seemed that some writers made the transition to positions like assistant executive producer, probably responsible for editing, proofing, tightening up other writer's screenplays etc.

I mean, rarely is anything a screenwriter produces going to be exactly right first time. When you're dealing with TV shows, there's lots to consider like character arcs and the affordability of the shooting. 

It's often up to executive producers to make all those 'executive' decisions like 'where are we going to shoot this scene for most effect within budget?' and 'would this character do and say these things at this stage in his or her story arc?'

All things we take for granted when watching but are usually the result of a lot of meetings and rewriting and tweaking before anything gets shot at all.

From being an assistant executive producer - read: writer - it seems a natural progression to actual executive producer, either on the show you're cutting your teeth on - or other shows you might get involved with.

These kinds of jobs require a completely different mindset from what the rest of the population is familiar with. 

Not only do these jobs require that writers implicitly understand story structure, character development, plotting and all the usual stuff we here at the Easy Way to Write have to learn. But they also have to be good at talking about it, pitching new ideas, sharing their thoughts constructively and being able to work with self discipline and produce consistently good creative work with a degree of finesse.

On top of all this there's no job security.

People often forget that most TV and film work is undertaken by freelancers - a whole army of people who are prepared to work without any kind of job security.

Their work takes them to the end of a particular project - and then, they have to start again. Hopefully each time having a credit on their resumes that will make getting the next job just a little easier.

(This is why the credits seem to go on forever these days!)

To be honest I don't know many people who can live like that.

And yet we have a entire industries - books, TV, music and film - that require us to either accept that job security is a thing of the past - if there ever was such a thing - and be flexible enough to enjoy not knowing what the future may hold - creatively and literally.

Could you be this type of person?

Thankfully I've always been this way - never really comprehending why so many of my friends and family are obsessed with getting a good job that will see them through to some illusion of security.

Even outside of the creative arena, there's not much job security around. Most people work several jobs during their careers - and get shuffled around and laid off all the time, sometimes spending long periods unemployed, feeling wretched and ironically desperate to get back to jobs they hate just to pay those pesky bills...

I digress.

It seems that when you have enough experience as an executive on a TV show you're probably ready to start pitching your own ideas for shows to colleagues, networks and production companies.

Now, it's perfectly possible for a new writer to also walk into the same places - even networks and production companies - and pitch their ideas for TV shows and movies. 

But of course there's always the trust factor at play.

It's much more likely that you'll trust someone with executive credits to actually deliver a visual project that works. 


Because someone who's actually worked on shows understands the process - and has demonstrated that they can work successfully within the industry.  

New writers with great ideas come along all the time. But it's not always the writing and the ideas that matter. It's whether the writer has the strength of character and determination - the correct mindset - to see a project through to completion, that matters most.

And you can only convince anyone you have that kind of character by 'showing' and not 'telling'. 

Doing it as opposed to merely talking about it - or even writing about it!

Speak to any producer and while the creative aspect is hugely important to get right, it is the money and the logistics of production that take up about 80% of their time.

But I think the reason why so many writers become executive producers these days is because the industry is realizing that unless writers are intimately involved in the production side of things, the projects often falter through 'little' things like inconsistency, lack of direction, bad writing and any kind of gag on creative freedom.

It's one of the reasons why the Australian TV and film industry is so bad these days. 

Australian producers and funding bodies tend to think that writers make things difficult and are really too hard to work with. Probably true.

My feeling is that there's no real 'school' for Australian writers - who don't know how things work so they really don't know what's required. 

Hence, Australian writers are often not allowed in to gain the experience necessary to help the industry.

The old Catch 22.

Also, writers here are often seen as egotistical and difficult - as well as having no real talent for good writing. 

Actually I agree. 

In my experience, the overall standard of the TV and film writing of Australian wannabes is appallingly bad - and without serious investment in talent, will probably remain so for a long time.

Again, I digress...

Much better are the systems in place in the UK, Canada and of course the United States - all of which produce great TV and film, worthy of much praise and accolades.

Here's the thing.

At the end of the day we live in a merit based society. 

Those that succeed are most trusted to helm other successful projects.

A writer who becomes part of a successful project often gets another bite at the apple - but ultimately, you're really only as successful as your NEXT project.

TV and film, even books and music, initially get funding and investment based on their perceived profit potential. 

And the truth of it is that the more experience you gain and the more success you have, the more likely it is someone will fund your next creative project.

True, it's not exactly a recipe for job security.

But you didn't become a writer for the hours - or the pay - did you?

Heaven forbid...

Keep Writing!
 rob at home

"Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any." Orson Scott Card


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Being Happy First

Dear Fellow Writer,

Get my NEW THRILLER (and free stuff):

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"Two days and 354 pages later I'm splayed out with chocolate stains on my face. I am sated." Roger Kenyon, Amazon reader review.

"This is a very good read - be prepared to be totally taken in to this world of scary horror. Loved it!"
Wendy Williams, Amazon reader review. 

First CutThe premiere showing of FIRST CUT is this weekend - during a party shoot at our house.

It's now entered into the Brooklyn Film Festival - so its New York premiere should happen sometime this year!

I'll be putting out a 30 second trailer for it soon.

Keep watching and writing!


Being Happy First

There are two types of people out there.

Those who can get everything they need - and those who need everything they can get. 

Which are you? 

At first glance you might think that it's the rich - the minority - that get all the things they want, because they have the money to buy it all.

Similarly, you'd probably think that it's the monetarily challenged - the rest of us - that need everything that comes our way.

There's a lot of problems in the world caused by this dichotomy.

There's a perception that there are scarce resources. As a result, people feel justified taking everything they can get - especially for nothing. It makes us feel better to 'get stuff' whether we pay for it or not.

And having to give it back - especially when we didn't pay for it - seems anathema to most people's sensibilities.

You see it on Judge Judy

People are given cars on loan or lent money by a wealthier relative or friend - and then immediately take the attitude that the car or the money is theirs - and they don't really need to give back the wheels or repay the cash.

I think this attitude stems from a basic human need - something almost primitive, like a caveman collecting animal bones - that equates 'stuff' with self esteem.

We feel bigger when we have more. Whether that's more money, more technology, more cars, more houses, whatever. 

It's an illusion of course but the reason why it's so effective is that it not only makes us feel better, it impresses those around us too.

You see this played out in life.

We're convinced that the guy with the big house and flash car and all that money is someone we should aspire to emulate.

And despite what we might think of the rich guy's morals or ethics, we still want that for ourselves. Even when we find out that the rich guy's house and car and lifestyle are a result of massive debt he's working his ass off to pay back!

You've got to work out what you really want.

Freedom? Creativity? Independence?

Or to be a slave to money or to the system?

If you're an artist or a writer or a filmmaker - and you're reading these newsletters of mine - you're probably not rich. Not yet, anyway. (Although I do have - mentioning no names - some very famous subscribers on my list!)

But the thing is, being able to get everything you want is not the same as having everything you need.

Spike Milligan - a clinical manic depressive - once said money doesn't buy happiness - just a more comfortable version of misery.

It's a cliche of course - money can't buy you happiness. 

The real trick is to be happy first.

You might not get everything you want. But as Mick Jagger put it, you'll probably get what you need.

And though we poor folk often don't want to hear it - true happiness is about wanting fewer things. 

Once you have the bits and pieces that facilitate your creativity, what else do you really need?

Phil Collins once said that famous people invariably make far too much money. More money than is justifiable or even sane. And that brings with it huge responsibilities - and massive problems of its own.

Personally, I'd prefer to have just enough to do what what I want whenever I want to do it - and that's being wealthy in my view.

If I wanted to run a huge multinational corporation I know I could do that. But I don't want to. I'd rather be happy and be able to produce books, films and music projects to my heart's content.

I mean, why would I want to spend every day in boardrooms, arguing over marketing strategies, product placement and demographic targeting? Or sitting through long business lunches getting fat and alcohol dependent. Sounds like hell to me.

Fact is, if you're truly creative, or aspire to be, you've already got everything you need inside to be happy.

Then, you're already rich because you have access to everything you need!

It's about changing your mindset - your attitude.

And having clarity of thought (a must for a serious artist.)

Stop believing that your happiness is dependent on external 'stuff' and I guarantee you'll notice a marked improvement in your life, your relationships and, most importantly, your creativity.

Keep Writing!
 rob at home


"At the beginning of any writing project is the agonizing period in which nebulous ideas dance before the mind's eye like memories of a dream, and vaporous vague shapes take on human form and begin to answer to their names." James Cameron


Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Rule of Five

The Rule of Five

Whatever you're writing, a good rule is that you expend five times more effort editing than you did creating the first draft.

That way you'll be sure to find mistakes, tighten up the text and generally create something actually worth reading.

So, if it takes you an hour to write something - be prepared to spend five hours editing it to perfection.

This may seem extreme but honestly, if being a lifelong writer has taught me one thing, it's that presentation and effectiveness is everything.

And, being a teacher of writing for over a decade, I can honestly say that it's clear many new writers are loathe to look at what they've written even once before they're convinced it's ready.

Probably because, if they did, they'd see that it was essentially worthless.

As Hemingway famously said, Everyone's first draft is crap.

There are five issues that are important when editing.

1. Punctuation

2. Grammar

3. Logic

4. Clarity

5. Style

Let's look at how these issues need addressing when editing.


I am constantly amazed at how few writers understand the importance of using correct punctuation.

Punctuation is like the internal framework to a house. Without it, the building falls down.

When you use punctuation incorrectly, readers subconsciously know they are dealing with ineffective writing. As hard as they try, readers are being misled by the sloppy use of commas, periods and speech marks in particular.

Punctuation is a universal language in itself - completely separate from words. It is imperative that you use punctuation correctly for two reasons. 

One, to get your meaning across. And two, not to look like a complete fool - as you do when you use punctuation incorrectly.

Always check whether that comma is in the right place - or whether you need it at all. 

Become fascinated by punctuation - how it works and what it's for. 

Professional writers are genuinely intrigued by punctuation even after years in the business. You should be too.  


Every new writer wants to change the rules.

I've lost count of the times I've heard: "But this is how I do it. This is what works for me. I am inventing new rules for the world to learn from, etc."

All complete tosh.

Let me state something categorically for you:

In sentences of less than five words - five again - it is SOMETIMES okay to write ungrammatical sentences for effect.

The rest of time, it is crucial that your sentences follow the accepted rules of grammar - that is, mainly, that you need an obvious subject that doesn't get lost in the middle of a whole bunch of verbiage.

Grammar is designed to help you make yourself understood.

The English language is enormously flexible. You can string together words in all kinds of ways that are harmonious, arresting, terse and beautiful. But if your sentences lack the correct structure, they quickly become meaningless.

And you'll end up looking like a fool again.

Are you beginning to see why you need to spend five times longer on your editing than on your writing?

And yes - it's okay to bend the rules sometimes. Like starting a sentence with 'And'! But generally only when you know what you're doing - and know exactly which rules you're breaking!


In many genres of writing, you have to assume that your reader doesn't know you at all - especially how your mind works.

The only way your reader knows you at all is through your writing. 

Just because something is obvious to you doesn't mean it's apparent to anyone else.

Writing is about 'selling' propositions to people, even in fiction.

When you describe a scene, an emotion or a person, you need to consider whether you have done so effectively. Have you used the words that any reader will understand? Or have you merely said enough to push your own buttons?

Writing is about placing pictures in people's minds. Look back at your writing when editing. Will a particular picture be clear? Will it be the right one? Does your writing actually conjure up solid images at all?

Or is your writing vague? Contradictory? Or confusing?

One thought, one intellectual proposition, most flow logically to the next. 

Emotional beats in fiction must be 'sold' effectively, scenes must unfold with clarity and sufficient detail. People must seem real - with realistic motivations.

Get these things wrong - through lazy writing or lack of editing - and you waste opportunities to really connect with your reader.


Clarity is connected to logic - but also important in its own right.

Keeping your writing clear and transparent at all times is about two things.

One, when editing you need to look at each sentence in turn and ask yourself whether you have said what you need to say in the most effective way. 

You need to get used to re-writing sentences that say the same thing. Usually the most effective way of saying something is to use as few words as possible. 

Don't fall in love with your long complicated sentences. They're not better for being longer. Grammatically, longer sentences can often become problematic - for you and your reader.

Real clarity comes from simplicity of expression.

It is not literary to use long sentences to impress your reader, especially if your meaning becomes obscured in the process.

Clarity is about saying what you mean. And knowing what you mean can be one of the hardest things a writer ever has to learn. Indeed, it's a life long learning process in itself.

Two, transparent writing simply helps the reader get past the words to the real sense of what you're writing about

Connecting with a reader is not about impressing them with your words. It's about creeping under their radar - and planting thoughts and images deep into their minds. And you can only do that if your writing is crystal clear.


Only when you have thoroughly vetted your work using the above four 'rules' can you turn your mind to the issue of style.

Style is a nebulous thing. It's often not obvious until you've written a novel or three.

One thing is certain. Style manifests only after the writer has paid careful attention to punctuation, grammar, logic and clarity - and usually for some time - until these things become second nature.

In other words, you can never have a style first - and then work on the 'rules'. 

It doesn't work that way around.

Style comes with experience - and a full understanding of how writing works in any one particular genre or discipline.

Style is really about whether the writing fits the subject matter - and whether your mode of expression is appropriate for the work.

Plus, it's largely a judgment call based on your experience.

To conclude:

The rule of five demands that you consciously try to improve your writing at all times - for your entire life.

We all make mistakes - but only the obstinate or the stupid keep making them over and over.

Personally, I am always horrified and embarrassed when a mistake I've made is pointed out to me.

Perhaps that's just me.

It doesn't seem a common trait in many writers - who continue to write blindly, convinced of their own brilliance, oblivious to any and all of their obvious errors - in punctuation, grammar, logic, clarity and style. 

Don't you be an obstinate dumbass.

On average, spend five times longer editing your manuscript than you did writing it! And really think hard about your writing... 

Before you send out a manuscript, ask yourself repeatedly whether you have addressed every aspect of the rule of five.

And if you're one of those people who just writes and never questions the genius of your work, shame on you!

Your obstinacy is actually hurting all of us - not just you.

Be a smart writer. 

Use the rule of five to your advantage.

Keep Writing!
Rob Parnell
The Writing Academy


"A professional is someone who respects his trade, tries as hard as he can to perfect his work, and realizes that one failure is not the end of the world. Or two, or three." Nathaniel Benchley

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Free 30 Day mentoring Program

Dear Fellow Writer,

I am still unashamedly bribing you to read my NEW THRILLER:

This week an esteemed subscriber asked me about the process I used to write this latest 349 page novel - and I had intended to write an article about it today.

However, the article was turning into a bit of a novel in itself, so perhaps next week I'll write a more condensed version of how I wrote Kindred - and why it took almost 3 years to complete!

First Cut
Plus, in case you've been following this other thing, I have finally finished making First Cut, my latest horror movie - a 30 minute piece - and I'm ready to start submitting it to film festivals around the world.

I'll be putting out a 30 second trailer for it soon.

Keep writing!


My 30 Day Mentoring Program

My subscribers often ask me what they get in my 30 day novel mentoring program - the one that comes FREE with my famous Easy Writing System.

Here's the lowdown:

After you've studied my Easy Writing System, including Fiction 101 and The Easy Way to Write a Novel, then I'm usually happy to personally help you write over a 30 day period.

Most times, people set a date and off we go. 

Writers often assume that if they give up trying to write 5000+ words a day for a month then somehow they've failed. 

That's not how I see it.

That's why, for me, there's no pressure for you to work every day or even to stick to the 30 day time limit. 

To me, the most important aspect of trying to write a novel in 30 days is the mindset this creates in the writer. 

Being a professional writer, which most new writers say they want, is really about dedication - and creating the first draft of a novel in 30 days, no excuses, teaches you volumes about your potential for professionalism and commitment. 

Later, when you're writing full time, it's this mindset that will keep you going through thick and thin. 

All else - success, bestsellers, awards, fame - is vanity in comparison. 

Fact is, you need to be able to write consistently and finish things to a deadline, especially if self imposed, if you're ever going to make a living from writing novels... writing anything in fact.

Most new writers have problems committing to finishing projects - a common enough issue for many aspiring novelists.

This can be a very frustrating problem when you really need to get your career started.

By hopping backwards and forwards between unfinished projects, you're basically putting off the day you can begin your career - which may be subconsciously why you're flitting from one project to another in the first place!

FREE Writers Resources

As you will read in my ebooks and courses, one of the conditions I place on the 30 day mentoring period is that it is for new works only.

And by 'new work' I mean novels written after you have studied and absorbed and understood my writing system.

Revising 'old' novels is a painstaking process that can take anything up to a year or two. For the writer, an independent editor - and a long suffering mentor.

It's often so dreadfully time consuming in fact I would say revision was most times a pointless and unnecessarily nerve-wracking exercise - especially when you could be writing new novels that actually work the first time around!

Revising our old work is usually horrible and tedious!

No, that's not what the 30 day mentoring is for.

Basically because, if you're trying to fix an old MS, you'll most likely only get a short way through before you realize you probably need to start again.

This is because we change as people - as well as writers - over time and that each successive time we go back to an old project, we have changed - which means the books must inevitably change - which of course means that UNTIL you finish a book, it is likely to be in a constant state of revision.

This is all fine for an amateur author.

Not so great for a professional, who must STOP and FINISH writing a novel in order to get it out into the world.

If ever you want to write the first draft a novel in thirty days, get my Easy Writing System and I'll be there for you, whenever you need me.

But of course the real issue is, will YOU be there when YOU need YOU!

Self motivation and the determination to finish projects by certain deadlines is crucial to your future success.

When it comes to preparation for writing a novel the easy way, I hope you'll have read and thought hard about my writing advice - especially when it comes to structuring fiction. This is what I'm good for!

And, I can attest, as long as you have a good template for the whole story - complete with its ending - then you're good to go.

But you must learn to write and complete a story quickly.

Going back half way through something at some point later rarely, if ever, makes a story better!

Again, this is what the 30 day 'test' is all about. It's about writing a story IN ONE HIT, including the ending. Finishing.

That's what I want to help you with.

Editing old MSS never seems to work. I used to do it myself until I realized I was just wasting precious time when I should be getting on with writing new novels I can write quickly, consistently and without distraction, all in one go until they're done. Finished.

Your old stuff just holds you back.

Mostly because we're better writers by the time we go back and try to fix unfixable manuscripts.

This is also why I don't like to offer critiques on work written before you came across my teaching.

All I can do is tell you what you did wrong - and send you back to my courses.

Fixing old manuscripts is just too hard.

Learn to let go of your old stuff.

Honestly, you wrote it when you didn't really understand many fundamental rules - like the stuff I teach in all of my courses!

If you want to be successful as a writer, and you're not already, then this I think is what you need to prepare yourself for:

Dump everything you've written to this date and start fresh, knowing that this time, baby, it's for real!

Keep Writing!
 rob at home

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!