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Saturday, 28th November 2013 is a day most will never forget.

Images of a wrecked Porsche that took actor, Paul Walker’s, life spread around the world like a virus, dominating news channels, the internet, and especially social media. Family, friends, co-stars, and fans joined together to cry, grieve, and attempt to understand how something so devastatingly horrific like this could happen to such a decent guy.

But beneath all the mourning, it leaves one unanswered question. What will happen to the Fast and Furious franchise?

FAST 6, which was released earlier this year, earned a reportedly $800 million worldwide, and FAST 7, already 3 months into production, was tipped to top that, leaving Universal with one hell of a decision to make. How do we continue?

The Crow

Or, do they continue? How does a movie survive when they lose one of their main stars halfway through filming?

When The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus lost actor, Heath Ledger, one third of the way through filming, production was temporarily suspended and Ledger’s role was eventually recast using three actors: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell.

After the accidental death of Brandon Lee, co-star, Sofia Shinas no longer wanted to film The Crow and went back to Los Angeles, leaving Paramount to pull out from having any involvement altogether. It was only after Miramax stepped in and invested a healthy $8 million that the film was completed with the help of CGI, flashbacks, and a stunt double.

Hmm, now there’s an idea. After all, CGI is better than it has ever been, and Paul Walker’s brother did stand in for him while making the movie Running Scared. Could he do it again and finish filming the 7th FAST instalment?

Of course, the studio could just kill Walker’s character off altogether. But this whole franchise is about street racing, fast cars, and lot’s of crashes. Maybe not the moral path to take considering the way in which Walker’s life prematurely ended in reality.

Then there is the good old rewrite, which the script will undoubtedly go through. But to what extent? Will Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, be written out completely? Or will a mash-up of footage be re-edited to finish those all important scenes?

One thing is for sure. No matter how shell-shocked and saddened studio executives and director, James Wan are at the news of Walker’s death, the FAST franchise is one of the studios biggest earners. FAST 7 will be made, distributed, and inevitably become one of the biggest grossing films of all time – it’s just a case of how and when.

Paul founded the charity, Reach Out Worldwide.

Cast members taking a (funny) break on the set of Fast and the Furious 6
(Warning: There is the use of bad language in this clip)

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Picture from http://ineligibleforgreatness.com

We’re all writers, right?

And every story starts with a beginning. So I thought I’d share the beginning of my writing journey with you.

Like 95% of writers, I have always loved writing. Back in the eighties, 1985 on a Friday night if memory serves, I used to video tape (remember those)?, a TV cop show called Dempsey and Makepeace.  Then on the Saturday morning I’d get up at the crack of dawn, before anyone else, and watch, write, and rewind the show until I’d written the whole script. Makes me laugh now, knowing how easy it is today to find scripts on that revolutionary tool called the internet. But, back in ’85, I had to make do with a VCR, writing pad, and my trusty biro.

The crime stopping duo

So what was my reason for doing this?

Why, to adapt the episode into a novel of course.

And my passion for writing never dwindled. Well, I misplaced it for a few years while I went to college, worked in a chartered accountants, slogged my guts out at OK! Magazine, and wrote a car off while at Essex Police.

Then, a few years ago I began writing articles for magazines and my passion returned.

So, how did I get to where I am now? Well, I have two different stories.

The first involves a lady you all know very well; the fabulous Kristen Lamb. By sheer luck, she came across a chapter I’d written on the internet, and through sheer generosity, she emailed me some critism. And, there began my novel writing career and my friendship with a true hero.

Up until that point, I’d only written one novel; a romantic thriller called ‘The Stalker’. Friends had read it and loved it and naturally I thought, “Hey, I’m onto a winner here.”

I worked hard with Kristen as she bomboozeled me with plotting, character profiling, the three act structure, conflict, ARC’s, inciting incidents, antagonists, protagonists, minions, Big Boss Trouble-makers and, oh yeah, pulling me out of my comfort zone, I realised what a load of rubbish I’d actually written. The story was okay but the characters were so boring and one dimentional – worse, they had no flaws!

Of course, now I’m a fully fledged psychotic nutter and there’s no switching off my imagination. In fact, my tag line “I could write for Days of our Lives” as seen in my banner, is Kristen’s description of me.

So began my second novel. Only this one I was writing the Warrior Writers Boot Camp (WWBC) way. After months of researching, character profiling, plotting, and re-plotting, I was ready to start writing another thriller……

Only Jason Statham could play my villain

And then I met Natalie Hamilton-Duggan. She’d just finished film school in London, wanted to write a paranormal screenplay, and asked if I’d like to help. At first I was a little apprehensive. I am not a massive YA paranormal fan. Sure I like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood, and Supernatural is one of my favorites, but I’d had enough of vampires. They’d been done to death. After a full five minutes deliberating, I agree to become a co-writer. I knew nothing about script writing but what the hell. There was one condition though….. No Vampires!

So, together we began to plot out a story. Kristen’s WWBC training became invaluable and I applied it to screenwriting the same as I had my novel.

Now I was working on two different stories in two different formats at the same time.

It was during this time that Kristen invited me out to Texas to attend the DFW Writing Convention. I thought, why not? I could pitch my novel to an agent and see what they thought.

Also, Natalie and I had finished the script to the now titled “Legend”, and decided to take the plunge and stop in L.A. first, you know, to see if we could get a bite out there. We emailed hundreds of queries and waited.

Wayne Alexander, an entertainment lawyer, read it and promptly emailed it across to Amy Schiffman, a manager and literary agent colleague of his at IPG. She loved the script and wanted to meet us.

So out go Natalie and I, wet behind the ears, totally out of our depth, and expecting the whole experience to swallow us whole. We couldn’t have been more wrong. We loved Wayne and Amy, and they seemed to love us. Amy became our manager, gave us a ton of ideas to start work on, and asked if I would adapt the script into a novel.

After three whirlwind days in L.A., Natalie and I flew to Texas; where I pitched an idea for a book I hadn’t even thought of writing two days previously. Luckily the agent loved the idea and asked to see a chapter or two when I’d written them. Oh yeah, as if that wasn’t amazing enough, Kristen gave me a fabulous stetson and took me shooting, and I brought a wicked pair of cowboy boots.

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That’s me in the centre

Since then Natalie and I have written two TV pilots and I’m half way through writing ‘Legend’ (the novel version). I’ve two agents in the UK who are also waiting to read it.

With regards to WWBC, I now help Kristen teach other writers, along with my WWBC team mates and writing buddies, Piper BayardNigel BlackwellKerry Meacham, and Xandra James. I just hope I can help them as much as Kristen has helped me.

So, what’s your story? How did you start writing? How long have you been writing? Do you have an agent? Have you been published? How did you feel seeing your book in print? Have you even just taken a chance and come up trumps?

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James Lipton and the Actors Studio did it for fun with the actors…..Now, I’m doing it for fun with the writers.
 
 
Jane Espenson is a writing machine.  Not only did she write and work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of my favorite TV shows of the nineties (and I’m not afraid to admit it), but she also helped me out and shed light on where the word ‘frak’ originated. Yes, according to Jane, frak is a Battlestar Galactica phrase; and by the amount of times ‘frak’ has arisen in these interviews as a writers favorite curse word, I’d say we have quite a few Battlestar fans here.
 
So, who is American script writer and television producer, Jane Espenson?
 
Born in Ames, Iowa in 1964, Telly loving Jane first chased her dream of becoming a writer at the age of 13 after realising army medical  TV show M*A*S*H accepted spec scripts. Even though she was still in junior high, and without the promise of a dime, she scribbled out a draft episode….. Still yet to be submitted.
 
Years later, while Jane was studying computer science and linguistics at University of California, Berkeley, she decided to try her luck at writing again. This time her target was Star Trek: The Next Generation. As part of a script submission program open to amateur writers, and which Jane refers to as the “last open door of show business”, she submitted several spec scripts.
 
In 1992, Jane landed a position with the Disney Writing Fellowship. From here, she worked on a number of sitcoms. These included ABC’s comedy Dinosaurs and Touchstone Television‘s short-lived Monty.

 
Now in her early thirties, Jane moved to TV’s Ellen as both writer and producer. However, after only a year, she decided she needed something different to comedy. Dramatic writing caught her attention and she applied to Mutant Enemy Productions for a position on the hit show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
 

Spike: Jane's favorite Buffy character.

Joining season three, Jane remained until the shows climactic end five years later. These five years saw her promoted from both writer and executive story editor to co-executive producer and in 2003, Jane shared the Hugo Award for Best Short Dramatic Presentation with co-writer Drew Godard for writing the episode “Conversations with Dead People“.
 
All in all, Jane wrote 23 episodes for Buffy, starting with “Band Candy“, and finishing with Buffy’s penultimate episode, “End of Days“; and was the only staff writer to be credited on more than five episodes in a single season.

2005 saw Jane editing BenBella Books Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. And in 2009, co-wrote several comic book stories for Tales of the Slayers, Tales of the Vampires and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, the one-shots Jonathan and Reunion and the limited series Haunted.

Having already wrote a third season episode, and co-writing another, Battlestar Galactica welcomed Jane in 2008 as co-executive producer. She worked on every episode for the fourth series and wrote webisodes, and in 2010 moved over to Battlestars spin-off series Caprica, where she was co-executive producer and took on show runner duties midway through the first season.

She left Battlestar with a Streamy Awards after winning Best Writing for a Dramatic Web Series for Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy

In 2010, after claiming to be a fan of Torchwood, in particular the third series, “Children of Earth“, Jane joined creator, Russell T Davies, for Torchwood: Miracle Day, writing episodes 3, 5, 7 and co-writing episode 8 with Ryan Scott. Both writers also collaborated on the webseries, Torchwood: Web of Lies, starring Eliza Dushku.

Jane co-wrote and produced her first independent original web series with co-creator Brad Bell, entitled Husbands, which revolves around the life of two newly married gay men and premiered at http://husbandstheseries.com on Sept. 13, 2011.

Even though Jane has written episodes for dramas The O.C., Jake in Progress, and Gilmore Girls, she is without a doubt, best known for writing science fiction and fantasy. TV shows such as Battlestar Galactica,  Game of Thrones, Torchwood, Angel, Dollshouse, Warehouse 13, and Once Upon a Time have all received her magic touch and are a force to be reckoned with in the ratings.

Jane is currently working as a consulting producer and writer on the ABC‘s series Once Upon a Time. 

So, what did the woman who invented the name of the drink “Zima” while working for a marketing firm make of our questions?

 1.  What is your favorite word?  Bubble
 
2. What is your least favorite word? Bitch
 
3. What turns you on?   Wordplay
 
4. What turns you off?    Waiting
 
5. What sound do you love?   Peeping
 
6. What sound do you hate? Peeing
 
7. What is your favorite curse word?   Frak
 
8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?   Zookeeper
 
9.  What profession would you not like to do?  Assassin
 
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?   ”One more time around.”

 
   
        
So, what was your favorite Buffy character? What was/is your favorite Espenson show?
 
Contact Information

For more information regarding Jane Espenson, please check out her Website, Facebook, twitter

If you want more of me, I can be found on FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Linkedin

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A while ago, we talked about how a novelist should write a log line (see: What is a Log Line). Well, today I thought we could talk about how a screenwriter should write a log line.

Wouldn’t the log lines be the same? Well, kind of, I suppose.

A literary agent wants to know what your novel is about. Here’s mine for my current novel.

A vengeful Reaper, hell-bent on finding the key to unlocking Heaven’s Gateway, must choose between good and evil before the town mayor sacrifices the girl he loves and overturns God himself.”

But, a producer wants to be hooked from the outset. Hook them and you’re on your way.

So, how can we do that?

Basically, a log line consists of three things. Seems simple doesn’t it?  Nothing in life worth having is simple. *Cheesey grin*.

So, lets take a closer look at what these three things are.

1.     A main character, who
2.     Has a mission or a goal, but
3.     Faces a major problem or some kind of opposition.

First, our protagonist is our main character . The goal is what he/she wants and the obstacle is what is stopping he/she from reaching it. 

Two things to remember,

1.     The main conflict MUST be clear.
2.     Main logline is 25 words or less.

Remember, a log line is usually one sentence, 2 at the very most.

For example:

In the movie, ‘The Crazies’, the protagonist is the town Sheriff.
His goal is to find out why some towns folk are going ‘crazy’.
His obstacle is he must fight off hundreds of ‘infected’ people to do it.

This can also be turned around and looked at like this:

In Wrong Turn, the protagonist is a newly graduated doctor.
The problem is he’s crashed his car in the middle of the wilderness and is being hunted by the local inbreeds.
His goal is to find a way out of the woods so he can get help.

In my story, The Legend, the protagonist is a Reaper.
His goal is to open the gateway to heaven and exact revenge on the entities that imprisoned him.
The problem is, to do this, he will have to kill the girl he has come to love.

Now we have that down, is there anything else we need to create that great log line? Hell, Yes!

First, we must be perfectly clear. We may understand what is going on, but the agent/producer is reading our log line for the first time. They have absolutely no idea what our story is about.

And, we must reveal our biggest hook. What is the most exciting or compelling thing about our screenplay? The log line is your time to reveal it.

Last but not least, we want our reader to picture our movie the moment they read the log line.

Here’s an example from the movie Law Abiding Citizen:

The protagonist and the goal:

A family man killed the member of a gang who murdered his wife and child. 

The hook is:

Once jailed, he escapes to kill off the rest of the gang, one by one, before returning to his jail cell and thus having the perfect alibi.

So my log line would be: “After centuries of searching, a vengeful Reaper finally uncovers the secret that will open the Gateway to Heaven, only to find that in doing so he has to sacrifice the woman he loves.”

The hook is what will have your reader wanting more. It’s what will make it stand out from everybody else’s.

So, how do you start to write a log line?

Write the hook first. Then you will be able to write the log line so it’s delivery is clear and precise.

Remember, an agent or producer will only request our script if our log line is good. Only then do we have a chance at selling it.

There is a really cool video via ScreenWritingU which will tell you all about this in a super fast three minutes.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Start writing those log lines in the comment section.

Have you had a script requested of the back of a log line? Do you find writing log lines hard or easy? Come on, don’t be shy….you know how I love talking to you guys.

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There is no way to sugar coat this so I’ll give it to you straight. I like to talk. Anyone who knows me will agree. Sometimes, I just don’t shut up.

But, to us novelists and scriptwriters, dialogue is an extremely important factor of our work. Dialogue is good. Dialogue is a major player in forming our personality and creating our character. Just ask my husband. He will tell you that my dialogue sums me up as a nag 🙂

So, writing dialogue should be a walk in the park, right? After all, we all talk on a daily basis, some of us even in our sleep. We are knowledgeable experts in the field of speech. We’ve been using words to argue and laugh our way through life for twenty, thirty (or us old ones) forty plus years. We know what we’re doing. We don’t need help in this area. Right?

Wrong.

Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarrantino are arguably two of the best dialogue writers around. If you’ve read any of Leonard’s novel’s (and I do advise you to, if only for the dialogue), or watched any of Tarrantino’s movies, you will understand what I mean. They give their characters a ‘voice’.

By a voice, I mean your characters need their OWN voice. New writers often make the mistake of giving their characters THEIR voice, meaning all their characters sound the same as their author.

But how do I know when you’ve done this? What are the tell tale signs?

In his book ‘Save the Cat’, Blake Snyder talks about a simple test you can do to check whether you have bad and flat dialogue. Take a page of your script and cover your character names. Then, by reading the dialogue, see if you can tell which of you characters are speaking. It’s simple, but extremely effective.

So, just how do we go about distinguishing Bob the Postman from Betty the Accountant? Doesn’t all the dialogue look same, and it’s the movie actors who breathe life into them?

Hell, no! Novelists don’t have the luxury of actors. The dialogue we give our characters to speak can be the difference between novelists and screenwriters getting published or ending up on the slush pile.

Take these examples:

“If Mr Johnson catches you with that, you’re certain to be suspended, maybe even expelled.”

“Yo, dude. If Jonno sees ya, you’ll be outta here. No messing.”

See how both lines are saying the same thing, only in different ways?

Dialogue is conversation. Make it real. However, don’t forget the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule. You don’t need three pages of a husband and wife discussing their marriage problems, when a husband eyeing up the sexy waitress is enough.

Now, I thought I’d have some fun and set you a little quiz. Below, I have listed fifteen lines of dialogue from various films. All you have to do is guess the movie and the character saying it. It’s so easy, I don’t really know why I’m bothering 🙂

I’ll post the answers in the comment box on Monday.

OH, and no cheating on Google.

  1. “You can’t handle the truth!”
  2. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
  3. “You had me at ‘hello’.”
  4. “What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than – than, than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!”
  5. “I know what you’re thinkin’. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”
  6. “They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.”
  7. “Get away from her, you BITCH!”
  8. “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  9. “I am not an animal! I am a human being.”
  10. “…I’m NOT gonna be ignored.”
  11. “Wendy…darling. Light of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya… I’m just gonna bash your brains in. I’m gonna bash ’em right the f–k in.”
  12. “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
  13. “They’re here!”
  14. “Fellas, last year I made three million dollars. But your fifty thousand was the most fun. Are you ready? Then, let’s go get ’em.”
  15. “I was a better man with you, as a woman, than I ever was with a woman, as a man. Know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.”

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I used to wonder if there was a correct path I had to follow to become a successful writer.

I’m sure that isn’t unusual. After all, haven’t you all wondered the same at some point or another? And, wouldn’t you also admit to having listened to many writers tell their story in the hope of finding the answer?

Let’s take J K Rowling. Every writer knows that story; the woman who invented ‘Harry Potter’ on a delayed train from Manchester to London. In 1993 she was a single parent living on benefits. In March 2010 she was listed in Forbes as the 12th richest woman in Britain with a fortune of £560 million ($798 million).

Okay, so I have taken the most extravagant of examples, but was her path an easy one? ‘Hell no!’ (I bet she’d use those exact words if you asked her :D).

She was turned down by nearly every major publishing house until finally being accepted by an editor who worked for a then not-so-well-known Bloomsbury.

Or, what about Stephanie Meyer? She apparently had a dream and wrote a book called Twilight’, solely for her own entertainment. On her sister’s insistance, and ignoring every submission guideline known to man, she sent her manuscript to fifteen agents. Bagged one, and sat back to let the publishing auction commence. In 2010, Forbes ranked her as the 59th most powerful celebrity with annual earnings of $40 million. No wonder her husband has quit his job.

For any writer whose just starting out, it seems there are certain rules one must follow. Those rules are:

1)      Write a book. This is self-explanatory, and if I have to explain it further then you really should think of a career change.
2)      Find an agent. Some argue this. I personally think (if you find the right one) they are worth their weight in gold.
3)      Send your agent a query, synopsis, or even a chapter or two.
4)      Your super agent will have your book published within months.
5)      Count your millions as they roll in.

Okay, so there are a few holes in 5 and 6 but, in essence, these are the rules we, as writers, are told to follow.

So what is the reality?

Honestly? I think it’s a lot to do with luck. Of course you have to be able to write, although I’ve read a few books and asked myself the question ‘how the @%$*?’

But how many of you out there have found an agent via a chance meeting, word of mouth, being in the right place at the right time, or just by holding your breath and taking that brave leap of faith?

The pathway to success is a maze. There are twists and turns and lots of dead ends. We get scratched by overgrown hedges, worn out from all the walking and if we fall we get totally mud splattered. However, if you perceivere and you’re carrying with you a good idea that’s even 75% well written, I really believe you will conquer that maze and exit into publishing madness.

My current story? The novel I’m working on at the moment is an adaptation of a script I wrote with fellow writer Natalie Duggan. We were asked over to LA where I was told ‘get it written as a novel’. Two days later I was at the DFW writers convention pitching it to an agent. I was nervous, unprepared, had no chapters, no synopsis….nothing. But, he liked it and requested I send him the first few chapters once I’d drafted them. Was this down to talent? Maybe a little. After all,the LA trip was based on a pilot we’d written. Was this down to luck? Again, probably. The script had been sent to our lawyer who read it just as our manager telephoned regarding an unrelated matter, and just happened to mention she was looking for new writers. Hell, maybe it was just good old fashioned Fate stepping in.

It certainly helped that this agent had worked with our manager before. It certainly helped that I had the ‘TV pilot’ angle to ‘glitter and dazzle’ the pitch. Hell, it helped that the agent didn’t seem to mind the complete unprofessionalism of pitching a book I hadn’t even started to write!

I was told by author, Linda Regan, that a big part of being accepted by an agent is YOU. If you are interesting, then you are half way there.

Now – This is my favorite part of blogging. I love reading your comments and stories….. So, I want to hear your stories – good, bad or just downright cringeworthy. You tell me the things you have done to try and win the heart of an agent or publisher – no matter how embarrassing – and the success stories involving luck, fate and a sprinkle of bravery.

(Like my Facebook page and join myself and other writers for a natter – to my American friends, that means ‘chat’.)

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Does our success as writers have more to do with luck than talent? Or do you think talent prevails over luck every time?

Well, speaking on behalf of my own experiences, I know it has a little to do with both; talent cannot function without luck and vice versa.

Recently, I co-wrote a Supernatural TV pilot, called ‘The Legend’. I had never written a script before, knew nothing about layout and formatting, but dug in, worked hard, and voila, a pilot was born.

At the end of February, my co-writer friend and I were attending the DFW Writer’s Conference in Texas. Now, I class myself as a thrill seeker, but my co-writer went a step further and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to stop by L.A. and ‘pitch’ the TV idea to some Hollywood bodies. Laughingly, and if not just to humour her, I agreed.

We queried everyone we could think of and arranged some meetings. One meeting in particular surprised me. It was with an entertainment lawyer. I asked my friend why she had contacted an entertainment lawyer, to which she simply replied, “why not?”

That entertainment lawyer read our script and loved it. At around the same time a manager contacted this lawyer, and at the end of their telephone conversation asked if he knew of any ‘new’ writers. He looked at our script and emailed it over to her. She read it, loved it, and promptly contacted us.

Two new script-writers left her office a week later with several projects and ideas to write; she wanted to see anything and everything we wrote.

In essence – we had a manager.

All that came from querying a lawyer. Now I’m not telling you email every lawyer you can think of; we also met with an actor and a producer – both of which have attached to the project. But with each person we met, we were recommended to someone else, and each contact is now a person we have met with personally and can email ideas and projects without the need of a query letter. Hence we have a VIP backdoor where only solicited work is allowed to enter.

So yes, I believe your career is made with a mixture of luck and talent:

Luck – Maybe we didn’t go about querying in the correct manner, but we did it politely and professionally…..and we got the face to face meetings we wanted.

Luck – We happened to be liked, and first impressions seem to be everything in this business.

Talent – That all important synopsis were our hook, and led our readers into wanting the script.

Talent – The script is why wanted people to meet us.

Without these key ingredients, I would not be sitting here now, blogging about my experiences. I walked away from L.A. a very busy girl, but having my writing described as very well written and with strong voice was a boost to an area of writing I am very new at, and being praised as audacious was fun – I mean, me, audacious? Honestly 😀

So, tell me if a mixture of luck and talent has led to any of your successes.

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