Month: January 2020

Write-ins: 5 February

Drop-in gatherings for no-excuse writing.

Join us for a 90-minute stretch of focused writing in the company of familiar faces and perhaps a nosh or beverage.

We’ll keep the first hour dedicated to pens on paper, so bring your notebook/laptop and whatever writing project is on your front burner. Not working on anything specific right now? No problem. We’ll have a few prompts and writing ideas to get you rolling on something new.

For those who wish to share your work or your writing process, let’s discuss! We’ll lift the silence for the last half hour.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
City Council
233 Broad Street, Nevada City, Calif.

Coin, Country, and Comma

If there is one point of grammar I insist upon, it is the use of the serial comma. Across the pond, it’s affectionately known as the Oxford comma. Simply defined, it’s the final comma that comes before “and” or “or” in a series.

Footsteps on the Road to Learning, or, The Alphabet in Rhyme (1849)

Many style guides consider the serial comma optional; however, lack of said comma may open the door to unwanted misinterpretation.

A little comma can make a big difference.

Read here why award-winning author Sir Philip Pullman is urging his fellow citizens to boycott a newly minted coin that omits the Oxford comma.


“I’ll Get You, My Pretty!”

I often think about the dangers of preciousness when doing any kind of art… writing included. Perhaps, writing especially. We often work so hard to come up with just the right word, tone, image, or idea that once we’ve landed on that perfect solution, it can become nearly impossible to part with it.

And yet…

True discipline comes with the ability to do just that: let go of our pretty little darlings. No clinging. No saving them in little boxes. No holding on for future use. Cut them up, turn them to kindling, and set fire to them.


Illustration by William Wallace Denslow in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Our precious darlings can imprison us—limit us to seeing the part and not the whole. They can prevent us from being objective about our own work and make us more rigid in our process, rather than more flexible.

Letting go of preciousness forms the foundation of good practice, improved technique, and continuing fluidity in the creative process. We will make more art—after all, that’s what we do. The more we make, the more we can see that what we once thought was precious perhaps isn’t that special after all. The more we do, the more skilled we become, the more we learn from our own shortcomings—and, the more confidence we have that there will be many more little darlings to come.

Let the Screenplays Begin!

The early bird deadline for the PAGE Screenwriting Awards is January 20 this year.

Image by Futuregirl from Pixabay

Congratulations to colleagues who have placed in past contests and success to those who I know are applying in 2020.

Not yet ready to submit your work for review? I encourage you to plan now for next year, and for inspiration, immerse yourself in some of the best screenplays past and present for free here:

Simply Scripts

The Internet Movie Script Database

The Screenplay Database

So, screenplay writing isn’t your specialty? No matter! Scan scripts for snappy dialog, rich subtext, and visual writing styles. It can only serve to up your game.

Write on!

Simply Character

Some of my favorite windows into character are revealed in the smallest of gestures, those seemingly benign details that exist between action and dialog.

The Maltese Falcon (1st edition cover)

Here’s how Dashiell Hammett describes Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, published in 1929:

“He talked in a steady matter-of-fact voice that was devoid of emphasis or pauses, though now and then he repeated a sentence slightly rearranged, as if it were important that each detail be related exactly as it happened.” [The emphasis is mine.]

And here’s how Sam Spade describes the man in the story he’s relating:

“He went like that … like a fist when you open your hand.”

It’s an act of writing almost like sleight of hand, but with an impact in the imagination that reveals far more than the sum of the words.

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