Thursday, February 1, 2018

New Year Planning to Get Your Writing Done This Year

I was talking with my friend, Sherry, recently when she asked me if I make goals for the new year. She's a home-schooling mom with fewer kids to school for the first time in many years and she was planning what she wanted to accomplish with her writing this coming year.

As it happened, I was just thinking along those same lines, so we had a conversation about what I do which seemed helpful, and even fun, for Sherry. So I thought it might be helpful to you too, or at least inspire some new ideas and fun ways to keep your writing goals ever before you this year. (Tweet that!)

New Year Planning

Her original question was: "So do you plan out a writing schedule and what projects you want to complete each year? That's what I'm in the process of doing."

Yes, at the first of the year I plan what I want to accomplish during the year. I don't so much make a schedule, just a to-do list.

Back when I was freelancing more magazine articles, my annual goals looked more like submitting or querying a certain number of magazine articles monthly. But several years ago now as the magazine market began to dry up--at least the paying, print magazines--or shifted to non-paying online markets, my querying and submitting to magazines waned.

That shift led me to more book writing and delving into screenwriting. With bigger projects in the works that take longer to develop and produce, I needed a place to write down which projects I wanted to work on. I needed to ask myself just how much I could accomplish in one year? And of all the half-baked ideas, or half-written projects, which one(s) did I want to focus on this year? Which could I complete? (Tweet that!)

With all the other stuff that gets in our way as writers -- the email and the social media to build our author platform and/or to promote our books or whatevers that are already out there for sale -- plus the correspondence and the workshops we need to prepare to teach and the conferences we're going to attend... Actually accomplishing the writing part of our jobs can get edged out, take a back seat, be put on hold until we have a block of uninterrupted time without all this small niggley stuff nipping at us. (Tweet that!) Time when we can actually concentrate and get some writing done is hard to trap. It's not just me. Or you. For most writers I've talked to, the deeper into this journey we get, the less time and energy to write we have. (Tweet that!)

What helps me: The List. Seeing that list of what I want to work on, and hopefully complete, this year.helps me stay on track.

Usually the list is longer than I can accomplish. But it helps me hone down to what's really important to me to do. And also to focus in on which projects are the most ready to write or to complete.

I Use a Big White Board

Several years ago I purchased a large white board. Originally I used it to map out the first stories I was working to develop. But I learned that didn't work so well for me because I couldn't take the story off to reuse the board again without losing everything I'd worked on! So that white board was out of commission for several years with a story I never completed figuring out and so never wrote.

I finally took a photo of all my work on the white board in order to preserve it to use later if I wanted to, and then I could feel free to erase it all. I won't do that again.

Now that my white board is free again, I've used it for several years to list what I want to do each year. My white board is also 2' x 3'. And if you're going to go buy one, spend a little more money and get one that's magnetic.

Some of the magnates I've found.
Besides being great fun, you can do a lot with magnetic boards. You can buy multi-colored magnates to hold notes. (Sherry said she uses sticky notes but sometimes they stick to the cat and get carried away.) You can also get magnates with clips to hold multiple papers or other items. I even found some magnates that are small cork boards with one pin in each of them. There are all kinds of fun and colorful magnates to use on your white board.

While you're at the store, pick up a multi-pack of different colored dry- or wet-erase markers. As creative people, we like multiple colors. They inspire us. So splurge a little and get whatever inspires you. For the best price, pick these up during the back-to-school season. This year I found a package of "2 in 1" with each of the four markers having two colors, one at each end.

Also get some white board cleaner because even the dry-erase doesn’t come off easily after it’s been there a while.

Here's What I Put On My White Board

I use different colors for different categories. For example, since I want to write both film screenplays and books, I use different colors for each of those categories. I might use blue for screenplays and green for novels. I use a different color, like maroon, for the list of e-books I wish to complete this year.

Pay attention!
On my white board I also note important dates as they become available, such as deadlines for submitting writing projects or entering screenplay contests.

For really important items that I want to be sure I don't miss, I use a bright, alarming color -- such as red -- so that note doesn't blend in with everything else.

Blues and greens and even maroons give me a sense of calm. Red makes me pay attention.

Like my cork boards where I plot out my stories, I do not mount my planning white board to the wall. It can sit on my table or file cabinet, or even the floor, and lean against the wall. I leave it loose so I can lay it down to write on and carry it around to different work spaces when I need a change of space.

Still on my to-do list.
I cannot tell you the great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction it gives me to put a big check mark on my white board when something listed there is finished! Each check-off is truly something to celebrate.

Again, my list usually has more items on it than I can accomplish. But it challenges me to do more than I would if I didn't have those goals and wishes always before me as the seasons and the calendar days tick away.

In the End...

Have you ever heard the saying, "If it's not on the schedule, it won't get done"? (Tweet that!) My white board makes me look at my projects and consider when I'm going to schedule each one and get down to the business of making it happen. It makes me plan. Without it I drift from project to project without ever finishing any, or I daydream days away wondering what I'm supposed to be working on.

At the end of each year, or the beginning of the year, I update my white board. I can celebrate the erasing of all the check marks -- that is, all the projects I completed.

Then I revise the entire board for the new year. I evaluate if the projects left up there, unfinished, are still priorities. If they are, they are no doubt more developed or more ready to write. With the other priority projects finished, these can move up in priority on the list.

Magnates and colors and fun!
Oh my.
Sometimes there are projects that I've lost interest in, or are lower priorities compared to what has happened in the year I just finished.

Sometimes, like with my e-books, the list stays from year to year with me promising myself I'm going to complete them this year for sure! And yet other priorities take over again. But they are still important to me so they stay on the list. Maybe I'll get them done this year. Again. Maybe.

My board also has helped me get a sense of just how much I can get done in a year and what is unreasonable for me to expect of myself. This has been invaluable. (Tweet that!) I do try to write one new screenplay each year. This requires fully developing the story, which takes time too. And I want to write one book a year -- whether nonfiction or fiction. I know I can do this much, plus some other smaller projects. My white board has helped me figure that out.

I hope your new white board can do as much for you.

How do you plan your writing projects for the new year?
What do you hope to accomplish in your writing this year?

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 Challenge: Mature as a Writer and/or Storyteller
On January 1, 2016, I challenged writers to "Go Rogue" and use our power as writers to push the envelope for good. This year I've been thinking about how I might challenge writers for 2018. What's on my mind this January 1, 2018, is for each of us to mature as a writer and/or a storyteller. (Share that.)

I'm thinking about this because recently I've seen comments from writers, people who wish to write, writers who wish to get their books or articles published, as well as screenwriters who'd like their scripts produced, that reveal their work might not quite be ready. I can tell by what they say that their writing has not yet matured to a place where it is publishable or producible because of comments that reveal the don't understand genres or the differences in what publishers publish or producers produce.

Discovering we're not "mature" in what we do is hard to take. I know because I've discovered myself there at times. I can see in my past where I thought my writing had matured, and yet I was not seeing the publishing results that I wanted. Now, looking back with the distance of time, I can see how my writing just wasn't ready yet. I couldn't see it for myself at the time. I thought I was mature. Have you ever thought about why we always think we're mature and then later realize we're not?

Maturity, I think, can be deceiving and elusive -- even for writers. (Share that.) Doesn't it seem that wherever we are in life, we think we're mature?

Think of a young child telling her Mom, "I can do it myself!" and struggling to tie her shoes. Or a first grader who is so much more mature than a kindergartner. What about the senior in high school who is so much more mature than a sixth grader, or a college senior who is light years ahead of that high school senior. By the time we're twenty (or thirty...or forty) we're sure we're really mature now. And we are... comparatively.

But maturing never stops as long as we're on this earth. And writers are no different.

I'm sure wherever we are, we think we're mature. And we are... comparatively. As long as we've continued to grow. But we also thought we were mature writers two years ago and, if we've continued to write, we have matured more. Then, of course, we think we're really mature now! Two years from now, what will we think? That we weren't really as mature of a writer as we thought we were?

So, what's my point? My point is, as writers we need to continue to mature -- in our ability to write well, in our ability as storytellers, in every way -- so that at some point we will cross that elusive line that puts us in the place where we are finally published or produced. (And even then the maturing should not end.)  (Share that.)

How do we get there? I can think of three ways all writers can continue to mature in their writing. There may be other ways to mature in our writing, but without doing these three consistently, I don't believe any writer can mature. (Share that.)


It is impossible to mature as a writer without actually writing. Occasionally I meet a wanna-be writer who is studying and preparing but who thinks he won't write until he knows enough that whatever he writes will be a success. Like riding a bicycle, you can't learn how to do it without actually doing it -- and failing.

Don't be afraid of failing in your writing. It's all profitable because it's all training on the road to success. Rejection of your writing when you submit it is never fatal. (Share that!)

I don't think it matters what you write: articles, books, fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, short stories. Just write. If you're not sure where to start, write something short, like an article, a 1,200-word true story for Chicken Soup for the Soul, or a short fictional story. Write a children's book, either fiction or nonfiction. Any of that is great training for writing longer pieces like novels, novellas, or non-fiction books.

We learn and mature by writing.


Study writing. Study story and story structure and how-to write books.

Study publisher's guidelines and writers market books to learn what they want to publish. Study grammar and good writing.

Take a workshop online or attend a writers conference. Get out some old tapes or DVDs of workshops and listen to them again.

Get a new book about writing (or get one off your shelf you bought but haven't read yet. I have lots of those.). Which overlaps with the next section...


If we want to mature as writers, we cannot neglect learning from others who are ahead of us. Writers must make time to read.

          Read what you want to write.

If you want to write for magazines, read the magazines you want to write for. (Or, if you love reading a certain magazine(s), that's probably a good market for you to write for!)

If you want to write novels, read novels in the genre you want to write in. Learn from them. Pay attention to how the author did things, like how she presented information, introduced characters, gave backstory, grew suspense, did dialogue.

If you want to write screenplays, read screenplays.

If you want to write children's books, you should be reading them.

          Read how-to writing books.

I'm building a collection of writing books and products that I recommend. Find my recommendations in Dianne's Online Store.

          Read blogs.

There are so many great blogs out there it can be overwhelming. Here are a few of my favorites:

On writing books:

On marketing books:

On writing children's books:

Finally, join Goodreads Reading Challenge and challenge yourself to read more this year. I love tracking what I get read each year. That helps me read more. I didn't get nearly as much reading done last year as I wanted to. I want to step it up in 2018.

I hope this coming year is a wonderful year for you of growing and maturing as a writer and/or a storyteller and making your publishing dreams come true.


#Writers, here's a challenge and helps for maturing in your #writing this year. (Share this.)

Related Article: 

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Holidays - A Writer's Interruption?

Thanks to 
It's that "wonderful time of the year" again. December. Christmas is crowding in and crowding everything else out.

I used to get frustrated with holidays - any of them throughout the year. They are such an interruption to writing and usually come when I'm on a roll.

I'm changing my attitude. Holidays are good. God gave us holidays for a reason. (For you purists, yes, I know God didn't give us Christmas in the same way he gave the Israelites Festivals and holidays. But he gave those holidays and set the example.) Holidays are a time to slow down. Or stop. To think. Remember. Remember what is important. Be thankful. Re-evaluate. Re-focus.

Without holidays time just spins past and we risk not even noticing. (Tweet that!)

So December is a time to analyze what we've done this past year and where we're going in the next one. Are we going to get done the goals we set at the beginning of the year? Or is it another year to be disappointed? Goals unfinished. Writing projects undone.

Some of us have been doing this writing-thing for a while. We've seen many Decembers roll around in our writing lives. It can feel like December after December of unmet goals turn into years gone by and the writing projects we set out to do years ago remain unfinished. (Tweet that!)

When I started out in this gig, my big dream was to write a novel. Guess what is the one thing I have not done? (Well, I've written a few unpublished novels. I've learned a great deal from writing those.) I've written more than 300 published magazine articles and short stories, hundreds more online articles, six nonfiction books, contributed to twenty more books, and have written five feature-length screenplays. But not a publishable novel.

Can  you relate? Does this feel familiar? What's a writer to do?

How to Accomplish Your Goals

Then the next logical question is what do we do about it? As I look ahead to this next thirteen months - December through next year - here are my thoughts about it at this moment:

1. Make a new plan.

I never subscribed to that "write every day" rule. (Tweet that!) I much prefer to have a large chunk of uninterrupted time when I can concentrate on a big project. But I never get there. I've always thought I needed to get everything else done first so I can enjoy my big special project. But I never get everything else done.

Time for a new plan. I'm going to take the advice I've heard often and try to write every day. I know the word count will add up. I know I'll be chipping away at that big goal.

Does this strategy sound like it can work for you?

2. Reevaluate your schedule

What has cluttered up your time? All that "everything" I mentioned in #1 above is just stuff. Yes, it's stuff that needs to be done. Email and platform-building and marketing, oh my. But you know what? It can wait.

I'm putting my writing first this next thirteen months. Not "everything else." (Tweet that!)

3. Start a New Job

Writing is a job. It's our work. Our career. (Even if you have another one with a paycheck.)

So I'm going to claim my most creative time for my writing. And I'm going to guard it.

My most creative time is first thing in the morning. (That is, after I read my Bible for a bit and feed the cat and give her her insulin.) If I start with Facebook, email, or something else it eats up my time. By 10:00 other things come into my world that demand attention. I need to get writing done before then. Ignore all else. Even the phone.

What is your best, most creative time? How can you block off and guard that time for writing?

One day a week I must go out of town. Okay, that's worked into my schedule. I make up for it on Saturdays.

What must-dos are on your schedule? How can you work around that to still get your writing time?

Like a job you show up for or get fired. That's what writing should be. Honestly, I think most writers should be fired. (Tweet that!) They, or we, are not doing our jobs. Do you want to keep your job as a writer? Then get to work. (I'm talking to myself. Mostly.)

4. Make new goals.

Monthly. Weekly. Daily. We know how quickly the end of the year rolls around. Again.

Do you make yearly goals? I do. But obviously these must be broken down to monitor how we're progressing.

My new "write every day" goal does not have a word count attached. I have no idea how many words I'll write each day and that's okay for now. I'm making progress.  (Tweet that!)

Also without a deadline attached is research. I want to do research for some projects I've had in mind for a long time. I've always felt January is a good time to do that but I've yet to get it done.  This January, I'll try again.

What new or renewed writing goals are your going to make?

5. Never give up on your Dream

Don't they say dreams come true in December? Renew your dream. Your Christmas wish.

For me, I'm renewing my dream of writing a novel.

What's your renewed dream?

Thanks to 
Let's work harder than ever before through the coming months to make our dreams come true. Let's put words away in a manuscript like savings in a bank and watch them build up. (Tweet that!) Remember I'm right there with you, saving toward the same goal. I hope my Christmas gift to me next year will be a finished novel.

6. Be grateful for what has gone before

All that other writing is not wasted at all. It was learning. Even those unpublished novels I've written were learning projects.
  • Articles taught me how to put words on paper and how to communicate thoughts coherently and succinctly.
  • The nonfiction books taught me about publishing and the marketplace and selling books.
  • Contributions to 20 books gave me confidence and standing in the writing and book world.
  • Screenplays taught me story structure and building characters and worlds and, again, writing and communicating coherently as well as telling a story succinctly.
All of this learning has been necessary for me to get to where I know I can write the novel I've always wanted to write. So here I am. (Tweet that!)

It's time.

It has been a long journey - more than 25 years of a writing journey for me. But all of it has brought me here. And now I can't wait for the new year. I'm already writing daily. I've already started my novel. I can't wait to see where this leads in the new year.

But first, I'm grateful for the interruption of holidays.

Related Articles:

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

3 Magic Questions for Writers that will Strengthen Your Story
This past summer I had the opportunity to take an online workshop called "The Master Screenwriter" from Derrick Warfel,  a film producer. In the workshop he shared some wisdom from Paddy Chayefsky, a three-time Academy Award winner for Best Screenplay.

This is about STORIES - so it's not just for screenwriters but also for novelists, short story writers, or whatever story you're writing.

Chayefsky kept three questions taped above his typewriter. Derrick Warfel said it's amazing how many scripts he sees that don't answer these basic questions. (Tweet that!) He said if writers would answer these three questions, they'd be a long ways ahead of most of the other writers out there.(Tweet that!)

If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, check your story now and see if you're answering these questions.(Tweet that!)

Whatever story you're writing, maybe you need to stop now and consider these questions to make your story stronger. (Tweet that!)

So what are these three magic questions?

1. Who is your main character?

Obviously this is not just the character's name, but who they are as a person. Their weaknesses and strengths. Their experiences. Their fears. It might include their job. Or their family. Or their connections.

This is not just make up quirky character traits time. This is making wise choices about who this character needs to be to carry the story. (Tweet that!)

2. What does he/she want? (Very badly!)

In every story, the main character must want something. This drives the story forward. If your character doesn't want something, and want it badly, this is a warning sign. (Tweet that!)

It may mean a lot of things (that I haven't thought of), but one thing I've thought of that it might mean is that you're going to have a passive main character. By "passive character" I mean a weak character, which is uninteresting in a story. Nobody roots for a passive character.

A passive character is one whom things happen to.  But that character doesn't actually do anything. They don't get mad. They don't get up and fight back. They are passive. They just sit there. They are a victim. Everyone feels sorry for a victim, but we don't root for a victim until that person gets up and fights. Beware of passive characters.

For more about passive characters, see my blog post from November 1, 2015: Writing Stories: What Your Story Needs - Part 1

3. What's keeping him/her from getting it?

Finally, whatever your main character wants, there needs to be a barrier to him or her getting it.(Tweet that!) It could be a big evil person or monster. It could be something monstrous in nature, such as big storm or natural disaster.  Or it could be something within themselves which they need to overcome. But there has to be something or someone standing in the way of your main character getting what they want. Otherwise, they'd just go get it and the story would be over (and pretty boring), right?
So what about your story-in-progress? Have you answered these three questions? If not, maybe you should stop now and find the answers. I can pretty well guarantee you'll have a stronger story if you do.

Need more help? Try this:


 Think of your favorite novel, story, or movie and answer these three magic questions for that story. Here are some suggestions. How would you answer these questions for:

  • The movie Lethal Weapon
  • The classic story "Cinderella"
  • The movie Finding Nemo
  • The movie Despicable Me
  • Your favorite movie.
  • Your favorite novel. 
  • The story, novel, or screenplay you're writing now.

Here's an example:  

The movie: Die Hard

Who is the main character?
A hard core, street smart New York cop visiting Los Angeles where the other cops don't know him.

What does he/she want?
He wants to reconnect and reconcile with his wife who moved to LA to take a great job.

What's keeping him/her from getting it?
The terrorists who have taken over the skyscraper where his wife's office is holding its Christmas party and have taken everyone, including his wife, hostage.

Now, how would you answer these three questions for your story? (Tweet that!)

Do you find these three "magic" questions helpful to you as a story writer?


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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Be Intentional in Your Writing

Someone once told me there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide people into two groups and those who don't. Okay, well, if we can have just a little fun with that, based on my observations, I wonder if we can divide writers into two groups:   (Tweet that!)

  • Those who write because they love to write. These are the writers who say they "can't not write."
  • And those who write because they have something they want to say, a message, something they desperately want to get out to the world.

Two Kinds of Writers

Sure, there's definitely some overlap here. Perhaps there is some of both in most of us. But there are definite differences too.

Those who write for the love of writing say they would write even if they never got published, even if nobody else ever read what they write. They write because they love to write. Maybe it's the story creation. Perhaps it's the discipline of thinking out loud, having to capture thoughts in concrete enough terms to put them on paper. I'm not sure what these writers love so much about writing that keeps them addicted. What would you fill in that blank with? The point is, for these writers, if someone could somehow tell them they couldn't write anymore — make it illegal, take away all pens, paper, computers, whatever… — they'd find a way. (Tweet that!) Writing for them is like breathing. They have to. They'd do it anyway… regardless.

Those who write because they have something they desperately want to say might not feel the same way about writing. They write because they see writing as the best possible way to get their message out to the widest possible audience. They are not satisfied with spreading their message one on one, to the circle of people they can influence. They want more. Writing and publishing is their way of seeking that "more," that bigger audience. For these writers, if someone could somehow tell them they couldn't write anymore — if someone made writing illegal — they would find another way to get their message out. They would speak. They would go on TV or radio or the Internet or whatever, but they'd find another way to get their message out… regardless. (Tweet that!)

Do you identify with one of these groups of writers more than the other? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment?

The Writing in Front of Our Faces

Do you ever look at the top sellers or suggestions for books on Amazon or Goodreads? Or what's on the first tables you see when you walk into a bookstore like Barnes & Noble? Whether it's Amazon, Goodreads (which is owned by Amazon), or a brick and mortar bookstore, when I glance at what those companies put before my face, I'm somewhat surprised.

Only somewhat surprised because I know those titles represent "the world" and what, apparently, most people want to read. (Though I'm even skeptical about that. Judging by what I see on TV and hear on radio, it could very well be what companies WANT us to think is what most people want.) But most of the time it's not anything close to what I'd like to see, hear, or read.

What does surprise me is the topics and types of material that tops these lists of what is selling. In fiction I see lots of titles and book covers for stories that are "romance," but they are clearly steamy, sexual, who knows what the writer has put on the pages between the covers. I don't want to find out. I don't want to read that stuff. Many of these books are unabashedly called "erotica." I don't want to read this stuff.

If you're thinking these ads are coming up on my feed because that is what I search for, look at, or buy, you're wrong. I've never searched for, clicked on, looked at, or purchased "romance" of any kind or "erotica" ever. Again, I don't want to read that stuff.

Then there are the stories that bash our nation, or one political party, or that portray all law enforcement officers as crooked, dirty, underhanded, and violent.

Are these types of stories the most popular — not only for readers to read but is this what writers are writing? I don't want to read that stuff.  (Tweet that!)

Why Is This Important?

Why do you write? Do you just want to write stories that sell? So you can make money? Do you follow the trends, hoping to get in on the ride to the top? Are you a follower? Just doing what seems to be popular? Are you satisfied with indulging people's worst sides, helping them go deeper into degradation, taking their society with them?

Or do you have something important to say? Something that will lift your reader to a higher place, a better place? Do you have a message that will be good for your readers? Do you have some insight or knowledge or story that will help your little corner of the world, or your society, or your nation, or your world become a better place? (Tweet that!) If so, are you intentional in writing that message or that story?

Be Intentional in Your Writing

However you chose to write, whatever genres you choose to indulge in, I hope you will choose the nobler side.  (Tweet that!) I hope you choose to write what might be less popular in order that you might make the world a better place, not a worse place.

Have a message — a good one. Be a noble writer. Choose the good. This doesn't mean stories have to be fluff and sugar. Be a leader, not a follower.  (Tweet that!) Have a good message. And be intentional about making your message known through your writing.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Grow as a Writer in One Week During the Coming 168’s “Write of Passage” Contest

You're familiar with NaNoWriMo and its benefits. Writers spend a month writing a 50,000 word project. Have you ever taken the challenge? For me it has been a wonderful exercise that accelerated my learning curve — because of the relatively short deadline. The challenge packs a lot of learning into a short amount of time.

One week 

Well are you ready for another similar challenge? How about writing a short screenplay in a week? (Tweet that!)

Mentored writing exercise

Not up for a one week challenge? Well what if I sweetened the pot by adding a mentor to journey through that week with you? That's right, for the price of entry you'd get a writing mentor who would look at your story and script several times throughout the week. (Tweet that!) You'd get feedback from your mentor, someone with experience. They would make suggestions and give advice. Wouldn't that be worth the price of admission?

But wait. You're thinking you have no interest in screenwriting? Ok. Think of it like this: It's all about the story. You could have a one week, mentored challenge all about story. (Tweet that!)  And if you don't know it already, STORY is KING.

Challenge - a theme and a Bible verse

I'm talking about the 168 Film Project's "Write of Passage."  This is a short screenplay writing contest. You get to write a short screenplay — 12 pages max — in one week.

You can't start early. You can't enter a script you've already written. That's not fair.

You have to write your story on two things the 168 Film Project assigns you: a Theme. And a Bible verse. (Tweet that!)

That's right. You're assigned your writing topic.

Does that sound intimidating?

What if I gave you one of those two pieces of information right now? Would that help take the edge off? Every year the Theme of the 168 Film Project's "Write of Passage" is announced in advance. The Theme for the 2017 "Write of Passage" contest is … <drum roll, please>: "POWER."

So now you have half of the information on which you would base your story. Is your imagination running wild? Got an idea? That's great. But hold on. You still need the other half of the information you'll be basing your story on. That's how they keep you from starting early (which is cheating). You'll be assigned the other piece of information at the start of the timed contest. It will come in the form of an assigned Bible verse.

Once you receive your assigned Bible verse, you'll think about that and the theme "Power" and you'll come up with an idea. Then you'll brainstorm a story idea. You might run your idea past your assigned mentor, called a "Development Executive."

Then you'll start to write.

The Rules.

From the start of the timed contest when you receive your assigned Bible verse, you'll have 168 hours to write your script and turn it in. 168 hours? That's 7 days times 24 hours. 7 x 24 = 168.

One warning: If you like to write stories that would be "R" rated if a movie, due to their graphic nature, this contest might not be for you. This contest is looking for redemptive stories. That doesn't mean you can't write hard stories about tough issues. You can. It just means this contest is not going to like graphic images, gratuitous sex or violence, foul language, especially using the name of the Lord as foul language, that kind of thing. It's a bigger challenge to write an in depth story without that kind of thing anyway, so that's good for us. (Tweet that!)

There are some other Rules. You can read them here: Write of Passage FAQs

It's a challenge. It's not easy. It can even induce fear and trembling in writers. (Tweet that!) But do you think you're alone? Of course not. Other writers experience the same anxiety. Similar panic. The same pressure to come up with a story. The same delete key. Just like the poor writer struggling to come up with a story in this short video:

An entertaining "Write of Passage" promo video!

But if you'll give it a try, you'll grow as a writer. That's pretty much guaranteed.

What you'll need:

You may need to learn a little about screenplay format. And you'd need to grab a free screenwriting program. If you already have Scrivener, that will do the job. Scroll down on this page to find a selection of Screenwriting Software you can get and use for free: Write of Passage FAQs

You'll need a basic understanding of screenplay format. Need an example to follow? Read previous "Write of Passage" scripts here, and pay attention to the formatting: Write of Passage Top Scripts

Your screenwriting software will put things where they're supposed to be, you just need to know what goes where and how to tell your program to put it there.

The Perks. 

You mean there are perks besides the practice in creating a story? And the feedback and critiquing and suggestions and mentoring by an experienced Development Executive (DE)?

Well there's a cash prize. And your script may get produced. You writing would get exposure. You'd get some experience. You'd get some focused practice in. You'd get feedback from your mentor, that is your DE. Plus, you'll get all that in one week and then you can get on with your life and your other writing projects. (Tweet that!)


For all this focused, personal mentoring, the price of admission is pretty inexpensive when you think about it. The sooner you sign up, the lower the price. Sign up here: Write of Passage Contest Entry. Enter now for the best price.


The writing week for 2017 is October 9 - 16, 2017. That's a Monday to a Monday. 168 hours. One week. It's coming soon. You'd better sign up now!

Again, even if your interest is not in writing screenplays, this is a great opportunity to grow in your ability to develop your stories into stories that will capture the hearts of your audience, whether that is for readers of novels, stories in your nonfiction writing, your story-telling in your speaking engagements, or other opportunities. And if you are interested in screenwriting, this is an excellent opportunity to get your feet wet, get started, or advance in that desire. (Tweet that!)

Learn more about the 168 Film Project's "Write of Passage" contest here. I hope to see you competing this year.

Related Article:

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Three New Free Sites You Can Use to Create Marketing Materials (PLUS Update on My Film)

I discovered some new sites which
helped me make this movie poster. They
might help you market your book
or other project.
I want to write a follow up article about what's happening with my short documentary, "The Door," but I know some of you are looking for ideas and helps for your own writing, so I'm also excited to share some new-to-me free web sites I discovered while making my movie poster (seen on the right). I used five different sites, all free, to accomplish these techniques. Two sites you probably already use, but three are new to me. With some imagination I'm sure you can use theses sites, techniques, and ideas to come up with great posters or images to market your books, e-books, your own short films, or whatever you're creating.

First, the update on my documentary film "The Door"

In my May post I wrote about my adventures and lessons learned while filming my short documentary, "The Door." Towards the end of the article I wrote this:
As I write this, the Camera/Editor, Mike, and I spent the past two days editing the film. I couldn't be more pleased. I can't tell you a lot more about it until it competes in the 168 Film Festival in August, but I'm thinking I'll write the August post about what happens between now and then. 

Since then a lot has happened! The film will premier at the 168 Film Festival at the Regal Cinemas Premiere House at LA Live in Los Angeles on August 26 - 17, 2017.

My film is scheduled to screen Saturday afternoon. You can see it on the 168 Film Festival Screening Schedule in Block 5.

I'm very pleased our 168 film, The Door, has now been nominated for two awards! Wow!

  • Best Documentary
  • Evangelista Award 

The Evangelista Award "honors the writer for creating the tool that best facilitates the telling of the Gospel of Jesus and the Method of Salvation. Directness, Simplicity and a minimum of distraction are core values. Evangelista has raised the bar for Gospel Films. All films except Write of Passage Spotlight are eligible."

Of course if you're in the area (or not!) and want to come the film festival you may. See 168 Film Festival ticket information here.

If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch the movie trailer for my film here: The Door Movie Trailer.

You can also catch a few seconds of my film in the 168 Film Festival Clip Reel 2017 here. We're at 1:03 - 1:06 seconds in.

I'm so pleased to also have had a part in developing the screenplay for another film in the festival. You may know that for many years I've been a "Development Executive" for the 168 Film Project's "Write of Passage" short film writing contest in October. Last year one of the writers I mentored, with the help of my Assistant Development Executive Sherry M. Cook, was Laura Woodworth. She wrote the script "In Tune" and this year she produced it for the 168 Film Festival! You can see "In Tune" on the schedule in Bock 7 Sunday afternoon. "In Tune" has also been nominated for five, count 'em, FIVE awards! I can't wait to see the film at the festival! Learn more about "In Tune" here.

Three Free Sites You Can Use to Create Marketing Materials

So are you wondering where I got my movie poster? I made it. It took some doing. And some learning. I'm thinking what I learned you might be able to use to create posters, postcards, images for Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, business cards, Facebook and Twitter headers, banners… or whatever else your imagination can come up with to market your own stuff — books, e-books, whatever you're doing. So here's the free sites I used to create my poster. (Tweet that!)

I took me several steps to get there. And each step took a different site. A few of these you've probably heard of or use yourself, but I'm pretty sure some will be new.

I have to confess that I did not keep notes (wish I had) and I was bouncing around so many sites trying to fix problems that were cropping up that now I can't remember everything I did. But I will do my best to reconstruct what I did here.


First, I needed to create an actual movie poster. (Tweet that!) I know we've all seen a million of them. I was thinking of all that information on them that tells who stars in it, who directed it, who produced it, etc. Actually, I was thinking of all the formatting that would go into that and it just seemed daunting. I didn't have the time for it. But didn't I remember seeing some free movie poster templates somewhere?

I was sure I'd seen one on But when I went to look I couldn't find it.

So I went searching for a free movie poster template. Some of the sites I searched out required a payment to remove watermarks or to get a higher resolution poster so it wouldn't be blurry, which was disappointing to discover after I created one poster.

Then I found a site called Poster My Wall.

If you go there, look at at the white poster with the woman's face. It says Recina Phalange (the woman actor's name, I assume?) at the top and the title of the movie below her chin is "Headline." That's the poster template I used for mine at the top of this page.

Obviously I switched out the photo with a slide my editor captured for me from our film. We chose a scene that captured an emotional image at a crucial point in our film and saved a frame for the poster. You could use your book cover or an image (if the rights allow) for your poster.

After I switched the image on my movie poster using the editing tools on Poster My Wall, I edited the text to insert the information for my own film, deleting what didn't apply, copying and pasting to duplicate where I needed more.

I had a little trouble editing it to look the way I wanted. I ended up taking the project to (which you probably already use) to do some more editing. I couldn't get the production team information on top of the photo (onto the pavement under the actor's feet) so I had to figure out something different. I ended up removing the image and replacing it with a plain background. I first put a white background behind the text, which didn't work because the text was in white so it disappeared. I then tried a black background and the text popped.

I then saved that image as a jpeg and took it over to (which you probably also already use) where I cropped the rest of the picture out so I had just the image of the text on black at the bottom of the poster.

I had wanted that info at the end of my movie trailer like the "real" movie trailers, but I didn't know how to make it happen. Now that I had it as an image, I could go over to, make a new copy of my trailer, and add that slide at the end. Bonus!

Again, I had a little trouble making everything happen that I wanted so I ended up doing more editing with There I was able to get the picture as I wanted it, the movie crew info at the bottom, and the "168 Film Project" text at the top. Turns out it was very handy later to have the poster on I keep going back there for more editing.


So that's how I created my movie poster. But then something interesting happened. The 168 Film Festival announced the list of award nominations and my film was nominated for two awards! Before I knew it, I saw other films' posters popping up on Facebook with that little thingy we've all seen (I didn't even know what to call it!) with the leaves and the award nominations or winner inside. I learned those are laurel leaves and so these are called "laurels."

I asked the 168 Film Festival where to get them and they made them available on But… but but but … Next dilemma: How do I get them from there onto my movie poster? Or web site? Or wherever I want them?!

Yes, download them, save them. But… but but but … they were black laurel leaves and text on a white background. I already knew black text wasn't going to show up on my dark poster. So where do you get the ones with white laurel leaves and text?

And furthermore, when I did try to add my new laurels to my poster, it made a big white square covering too much of my poster and being too loud or bold. How do people put JUST the image on top of another one without blocking out a whole square? (Tweet that!)

I've always noticed the Lord gives me the hints I'm going to need when I don't even know I need them. (Tweet that!) In the email from Mark at the 168 Film Festival letting me know where the laurels were available, he "just happened" to mention that I could "invert" the colors if I needed to on a "transparent background." Had he not said that, I wouldn't have even known what terms to google.


So I knew I wanted to "invert" the colors. (Tweet that!) That's what it would be called to change the white background to black and the black text and leaves to white. (If you already know this stuff, please don't laugh.) So I googled for how to do that. I found ways to do it using MS Paint, which I knew was on my computer but that looked complicated. As usual, I was in a hurry and didn't have a lot of time for this!

Then I found the site Pine Tools and its "Invert Colors Online" function. It was so easy to figure out: click "Choose file." I chose the file of the laurel I had saved to my computer. Click "Invert!" Done. Save the new white text and laurels on black background to my computer.

I went back to my movie poster on where I wanted to add the laurels. But I discovered a problem. The laurels now had solid black background, which meant they blacked out whatever was behind them. The transparent background was gone. Now what?

Back to google.


I tried a couple different sites before I found Lunapic and its "transparent background" at the bottom of the Edit menu.

Again, it was very easy to use and did a great job. Click "Choose file." Choose the white on black images of the laurels I'd saved to my computer. It asked me to click on the color I wanted to become transparent. I clicked on the black background. (Tweet that!) The background became gray and white checkerboard. Done. Save the new black on transparent laurels to my computer.

By the way: I was careful how I named each image when I saved them. "Nom Best Doc on trans bkgrnd" for example, so I could be sure of which saved image I wanted at each step. Plus each version of each laurel would be together and easy to find.

I took my new white text and laurels on transparent background images back to my movie poster on and put them on top of my poster. Fantastic! The inverted color to white and the transparent background worked perfectly! HowEVer I had a very hard time getting the three of them the same size, lined up right, centered, etc. What to do now?

Then I had an idea…


I went to and used their "Collage" feature. I used the three images lined up like ducks in a row and inserted each of my three white laurels with transparent backgrounds. (Tweet that!)

Oops. Problem. The laurels had a lot of space around them, especially at the top so I needed to crop each one first. I was careful to crop them to exactly the same size (in pixels). Then re-saved them.

When I put the cropped version into Picmonkey's collage, they were perfectly sized and lined up. Then I saved THAT image and took it back to Canva.

(It seems now that somehow I had to make sure the background stayed transparent, but I can't remember now. If you can't figure that out, you can always take it back to Lunapic and redo the collage with a transparent background.)


When I put my Picmonkey collage with my three white on transparent laurels on top of my poster, I was able to line it up and position it to look great. Then saved it to my computer.

"The Door" movie poster before the
laurels were added.
Whew. Yes, all this was a lot of back and forth and experimenting to figure out what worked, but I'm so pleased with my movie poster.

I can imagine ways to use these techniques to market my books. For example, when I revised one of my e-books that had become outdated, I wanted to put a "Newly Revised" image on the cover but I didn't know how. Now we can create it, invert colors if needed, make a transparent background, or keep a colored background if we need it to show up on our cover.
"The Door" movie poster after the
laurels were added.

And why not make a movie poster-style poster for your book? It could be fun! I hope you enjoy these three new free sites — Poster My Wall, Pine Tools, and Lunapic — you can use along with and to create great marketing materials for your books, e-books, films, blogs, Facebook ads, and more.

In September I plan to post about the coming 168 Film Project's Write of Passage writing contest. If you're interested, sign up now for the best price.


Don't miss out on any of the great information shared in this blog. Use this link to subscribe to receive each post of "Butts About Writing" in your email box. Or text BAW to 1-781-262-3877