Saturday, October 22, 2005

Alerts, Warnings, Cautions

Beware of fake screenwriting gurus!

If you've spent any time on the internet at all, then you know the bottomfeeders of the human race regard cyberspace as their playground. Some of them will invade a productive functioning community only to sow discord. Anonymity is their friend. Still others are quite proud of the harm they cause or would like to create if only they had a brain. Quite a few of the cyberassholes of the universe are motivated by the mental illness that exists in that empty space between the elevator car and the top floor it can't quite reach.

Others are motivated by greed. Or ego. Or maybe a combination of both with a few sprinkles of humanity's less admirable qualities thrown in for extra spice.

One favorite target of the scumsuckers are my fellow writers because you all have a great beautiful dream. Your dream equates to dollar signs to these creeps. Or maybe they just enjoy stomping on dreams because they don't really have one of their own. And just maybe, they are on the way down as you rise.

To help you steer clear of the sharks (as much as it might be possible), here are a few clues, red flags if you will, to watch out for (and please do visit the links that will follow this post):

Agents who are signatories to the Writer's Guild or AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives) do NOT charge reading fees or fees by any other label. If this is how they make their income, then you have to wonder just what failures they must be as an agent since they are supposed to be making their agent's percentage off of selling yours and other writers' work. An agent whose main source of revenue is reading fees or selling how-to videos or collecting "honorariums" to appear at expos and speaking engagements isn't really earning their keep by agenting. Make sense?

Yes, Virginia, there ARE very legitimate screenwriting and novel consultants (otherwise known as "doctors"). But, if you ever hear a script or book doctor sales pitch from an agent ("Love your work but it could use a little polish...") run in the opposite direction. Not only do legit agents not charge you fees in their own name, they will not schluff you off on some fee-charging "doctor." I think you can probably figure out that oh-so-encouraging agent is collecting an oh-so-fat kickback from the old quack.

I repeat... legit agents will not schluff off legit talent. If you are lucky enough to get a read, the legit ones will tell you straight up that 1) "Yes, I'm interested," or; 2) "Don't quit your day job," or; 3) "Liked it, but I'm not doing transsexual vampire rom-coms at the moment." If you are good and you have work product that will sell, that agent isn't going to be shipping you off to Snidely the Book/Script Doctor.

Do beware the self-appointed gurus and raging egomaniac know-it-alls of writing. You can find them spending extreme amounts of their time trolling forums and communities looking for new recruits. These sharks can sniff out a fresh dreamer from miles away. The bottomfeeders of the fake expert variety may turn a pretty phrase or two (that they've probably picked up from someone else) and they may even flatter you but, after hanging onto to them as if they were your precious dream's one and only life preserver, after a while do ask yourself, "What have they done for me, lately?" Aside from selling you their latest how-to video or pamphlet or ticket to a lecture or however else they may be shilling for dollars, that is.

What have they actually DONE for you? [COMING SOON: What Happened When One of These Fake Gurus Thought I Was a Threat to Him and I Didn't Even Know Who the Hell He Was!]

Same goes for those who can't do even a half-ass job of passing themselves off as an expert on anything, much less how to write a novel or screenplay or anything else but they will still demand full obescience from you and anyone else who exists in what they regard as "their" domain even though some online writing communities may have hundreds of members. These folks are cult leader wannabe's and they'll never live out their wet dream. The Ego knows only his/her own brilliance. It simply is not possible that you have an intelligent thought of your own. If you should dare to shine on their parade, oh lordy, be prepared to be the object of their rage.

Some will even come unhinged to the point of complete obsession which can, and has, turned into some fairly vicious cyberstalking. I know of one girl who'd allowed one of these nutcases to review her screenplay. She expressed her gratitude for his time and effort, agreed with much of what he had to say and challenged a point or two. That was four years ago and he still hunts her down to post obscenities and hate-filled rage anywhere and everywhere he can locate her on the internet. She'd been a member of my writers' messageboard community and we'd posted cordially to one another a few times. For that alone, he's placed me on his to-be-stalked list, as well.

Beware if you have true talent to not let your light shine too bright amongst strangers on the internet. Take your time building trust. Meet in person if possible. Exchange emails. Get to know the folks who seem most helpful but still, be very careful in letting people know just how talented you may be if it becomes plain to you that your new-found acquaintances can't match your talent with their own or they've forgotten what it is to dream. If they get a glimpse of your potential, sometimes they will hate you for it. And if they've formed themselves into a gang expect them to do what gangs do.

Yep. There are actual adults out there in cyberspace who have built and lovingly tended websites dedicated to the objects of their hate and rage-filled obsessions. It never occurs to them that they have made prisoners of their own selves while the object of their obsession is out living Life. Sometimes, a very talented life.

A SPECIAL CAUTION FOR NOVELISTS, SHORT STORY WRITERS AND POETS: Beware of The Great Anthology Scam! It may come dressed up in different packages, but it has one aim: to separate you from your money. One example is the fake contest come-on in which you are solicited to enter a competition and only if your work is declared one of the winners will it be included in a "special anthology volume" of extremely talented writers (which you will be allowed to purchase for some exorbitant sum). Sure sounds like something pretty special, doesn't it? But that's only until you find out that EVERY SINGLE ENTRANT IS DECLARED A WINNER! Everyone wins, no matter what stinking steaming pile of shit they've submitted. And there you are... one of the crowd. Not exactly a career-enhancing move. But these bozos don't always get away with their scams. And paybacks can be a bitch.

So there you have a few signposts and flags of the red variety for you to watch out for on your own internet journey to learning and wisdom and making dreams come true. Don't you dare let any person on this planet tell you that you have no right to dream. You have every right. Now, go learn how to make that dream come true!


Writer Beware= Fake Contests= Writer Alerts= The Bewares Board= Writer's Rip-Offs by Angela Booth= Whispers and Warnings= Warnings for Writers= Storm Warnings= Don't be scammed= You Too Can Sniff Out Scams!= EPIC= Literary Agent Watchdog= Agents/Publishers NOT recommended= Scams to Watch Out For= Wronging Writers: Don’t Get Taken= Before You Write That Check (Scam Prevention)= Advice about Vanity Publishing= How to Sniff Out Literary Scams! =Beware of Rip-Offs

Some Fun Quizzes for Writers

Yeah, yeah, yeah... we all love to procrastinate and waste time so here's a few goodies to distract you from what you really should be doing:

Which Shakespeare Character Are You?

Which Woman of Shakespeare Are You?

Which Romeo and Juliet Character Are You?

How much do you know about Hamlet?

Are You Cool Enough to Be a Literature Nerd?

Have fun and come back here to share your results!
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Copyright FAQ & Myths

We'll get to the subject of screenplay structure in just a bit, but it's time to take a pause to insert some common sense and a little self-protection into the old gray matter. It's absolutely astonishing what writers don't know about the subject of copyright! Who'da thunk it?

I've seen self-proclaimed "professional" writers make the most outlandish claims about copyright. It's usually self-serving so as to facilitate their own abuse of someone else's copyright. But, sometimes, the misinformation is dispensed out of pure ignorance.

One self-proclaimed "professional" thought to allow the copying and publishing on her failing messageboard the words of other writers, stripping off author names and links back to any original source so as to create the false impression that she and her buddies were the original authors of the purloined words. And she claims to be employed as a writer by a major New York newspaper... all the while, engaging in wholesale stealing of articles from other newspapers' websites.

Well, that didn't last. You don't fuck with the Washington Post and expect to get away with it, my dears. And now she's forced to hide in shame behind a not-so-secret gateway and that has effectively isolated her from the rest of cyberspace. Which is at it should be.

But, it was truly amazing and amusing and maybe even a little scary how ignorant she and others of her ilk turned out to be re: all things copyright. And that has become my impetus for publishing here (WITH FULL CONSENT OF THE ORIGINAL SOURCES) a few truths on that very subject. Shall we begin?

QUOTE: "Copyright in the United States is legal protection that is given to literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works created by "authors" and fixed in a tangible medium, whether such works are published or unpublished."

QUOTE: "The Copyright Act of 1976 generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following things with the work: to reproduce it (make copies), to prepare derivative works based on the work (like a movie based on a story), to distribute copies to the public (like selling your photographs), to perform the copyrighted work publicly (like playing recorded music in bars or nightclubs of a certain size), to display the copyrighted work publicly (unveil a statue or sculpture), and with respect to sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission (certain types of webcasting)."

QUOTE: "The use of words and text from pre-existing sources, such as articles, books and other published and unpublished written works, images (including photographs, graphic designs, videos and reproductions of fine art) and music as integrated into a web page or viewed while surfing will be governed by the copyright basics applicable to each such area. As a result, neither webmasters nor surfers can exercise any of the exclusive rights of the author or owner of the copyrighted words, images or music without the author or owner's consent."

QUOTE: "Similarly, the fact that text or material is available on line does not mean that it can be copied and used by web masters or surfers without an appropriate agreement. Even if the text appears without a copyright notice, it may nonetheless be protected and cannot be used unless properly licensed."

QUOTE: "Copyright notice is no longer a prerequisite to copyright protection in this country, but it does put U.S. visitors on notice that you claim exclusive rights in the expressive content of your page."

Those last two quotes seem to be especially difficult concepts for the "gang that couldn't write straight." Or anything of their own.

And now for some myths about copyright...

"If someone posts something on the Internet -- text, a picture or icon, a sound or video clip -- it's up for grabs or 'in the public domain', so I can take it and use it however I want."

WRONG!!! In fact, publication on the Web has become almost as common as, and from a legal standpoint is really no different from, publication in the traditional print or broadcast formats. Most newspapers, magazines, television networks and other news and entertainment organizations have Web sites that compliment their more traditional TV, radio or print publishing activities. In fact, some commercial magazines and news sources -- such as Salon and Slate -- are published exclusively on the Web. Other businesses, like record labels, use the Web essentially as a means of interactive advertising, offering such things as exclusive photos and sound or video clips of their artists that the old-fashioned record store display just can't provide. All of these "Web publishers" are just as interested in commercially exploiting their intellectual property, and in preventing its unauthorized or undesired use by others, as are the traditional print and television media. They're also just as entitled to do so under the copyright laws.

"If something doesn't have a copyright notice or something containing the © symbol, it must not be copyrighted, so I can take it and use it however I want."

THE FACTS: Also not true, at least not anymore. While such a notice used to be required when a work was published, since 1989 a work is deemed immediately and automatically protected by copyright as soon as it is "fixed in any tangible medium of expression," -- that is, as soon as it's committed to paper, film, audiotape, videotape, computer file, etc., and is no longer just an idea in its creator's head. The fact that it is subsequently published or displayed without a copyright notice doesn't change that fact one bit. So, just because you don't see a copyright symbol doesn't mean the graphic or audio file you'd like to copy and use on your Web page isn't protected by copyright; to the contrary, and particularly if it was created within the last 10 years, it almost certainly is.

"But I'm not charging people anything to view my Web site, and I'm not selling anything; doesn't that mean I can use anything I want?"

Absolutely not. Whether you're using someone else's copyrighted work for a commercial or profit-making purpose is only one of numerous circumstances that are required to be considered in the legal test for determining whether the use is "fair." For example, just because you're not charging visitors to your Web site to download an audio file or view a photograph doesn't mean that you're not depriving the owner of that work of an opportunity to do so, and thus cutting in on his potential profits.

An excellent article about the copyright owned by persons who write newsgroup (forum, messageboard, etc.) posts can be found HERE:
It is indeed a violation of copyright to copy or cut and paste in total a message from one messageboard or group to a different one unless you are the original author of that same post or the owner of that forum or messageboard (you own all content of your messageboard or forum or group).

Online Infringement
The Copyright law was recently amended to help owners of copyright to get their works removed from infringing sites on the Internet, by requiring host OSPs to institute a no-infringement policy, provide an accessible agent to receive claims of infringement committed by its subscribers, and to remove the infringing material expeditiously after receiving notice, among other things. If the OSPs follow these rules, they can escape liability to the copyright owner. The infringing party, of course, remains fully liable for his or her acts of infringement.
The Copyright Office website ( has a list of OSP agents and instructions for copyright owners whose works are being infringed online.

Copyright Exists Automatically Upon Creation
Beyond creating a copyrightable work, an author need do little else to gain copyright protection. Neither publication, nor registration with the Copyright Office, is required today to secure copyright.

What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement is the exploitation of any of the rights of copyright -- the right to copy, distribute, display, perform, and make derivative works based on the protected work -- by another without proper permission.

What are the penalties for copyright infringement?
A copyright owner possesses the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the work in copies, to perform and display the work, and to produce derivative works based on the work. Anyone who infringes these exclusive rights without the copyright owner's permission faces severe civil (and possibly criminal) penalties: he can be judicially restrained from further use of the work, unauthorized copies could be impounded or destroyed, and the infringer could be liable for actual damages, profits earned from the unauthorized use of the copyright owner's work, and, if the copyright is registered, for statutory damages and attorneys fees.

Can I be sued for using somebody else's work?
If you copy, display, distribute or prepare a derivative work based on another's copyrighted work without his or her permission, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you.

Information obtained from Friends of Active Copyright Education (FA©E), an initiative of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A., at:
From the Legal-Database Website ( "Works put on the Internet are considered “published” and therefore qualify for copyright protection. A work put on the Internet is not considered public domain simply because it was posted on the Internet and free for anyone to download and copy. You need permission from the site owner to publish any materials"
I really, really strongly urge everyone to visit this site, especially if you plan on using the internet in any fashion. The link to the internet section of this website is HERE:
Feel free to leave comments and discuss, but I am NOT a lawyer and cannot dispense legal advice. If you have a legal question, I recommend you visit one of the above linked websites or pay a visit to
Oh. Yeah. If there are any lingering questions, here's a nifty little volume that might come in handy:

Friday, October 21, 2005

Screenplay Basics - Format

If you are new to the screenwriting game, you might be wondering, 'WHERE DO I START??" Well, relax. Learning screenplay format (what goes where on a page of script) really is as easy as learning your ABC's. There's nothing easier which makes it absolutely astonishing just how many hundreds of unprofessional crybaby wannabes hanging out on screenwriter messageboards throughout cyberspace will try to sell you the bill of goods that professional presentation doesn't matter one itsy little bit. Ha ha, just remember these self-proclaimed experts are still hanging out on an internet messageboard instead of hanging out making their next screenplay sale. Don't buy into their bullshit. If they haven't succeeded then, for the most part, they don't want you to succeed, either. They will steer you wrong. Every chance they get. And they will hound anyone who dares to speak the truth.

First impressions DO matter. Put on your Common Sense Thinking Cap. D'oh. There. That didn't take long, did it?

Understand that there are tens of thousands, if not millions of people who have a screenplay under their arm. Most of the first-time spec scripts out there you wouldn't insult your parakeet with by lining their birdcages with that stuff. And most of that "stuff" more closely resembles what drops on TOP of the liner.

No. DON'T be discouraged. And never, ever give up YOUR dream because of what someone ELSE has said. Replace all vestiges of despair with determination. "I think I can.. I think I can.. I think I can," said The Little Engine That Could. That needs to be you.

To kickstart your effort to learn what you will of the subject of screenwriting, I present to you the following links all of which relate to basic formatting and theory of screenwriting. Check back again soon. I've got more links than anyone else I know of when it comes to helping out my fellow writers.

Is Screenwriting Right for You?

The next three links present the same basic information, but you may find one resource more useful or easier to understand than another:

Screenplay Format by Charles Deemer

Screenplay Manuscript Format

Standard Screenplay Margins

And if you have any lingering doubts about the importance of making a professional presentation of your work, go have a look at what John August said in his IMDB column:

"In talking about presentation, I'm forced to fall back on my ugly person/beautiful person analogy. Sure, a bad script can be perfectly formatted, and a good script can look crappy, just as an ugly person can wear beautiful clothes and a supermodel can wear rags. But would you recognize Cindy Crawford in a potato sack with muddy hair?

If your script looks bad or is difficult to read, no one will bother to try.

Proper formatting is the least important aspect of a screenplay. But it's also the easiest by far. Any moron can format a script. So if your script is badly formatted, you're a sub-moron. A caveman. A troglodyte. Or at the least, a very lazy writer who doesn't take his craft seriously..."


I shall return with a little something for you about screenplay structure.

And so it begins...

I tried this once before and got extremely frustrated with not being able to redesign the blog to look the way I wanted and to have the features I wanted to add. So, I'll try once more and see where it goes. I'm already thinking maybe I should have done the advanced FTP thing to my own server so I can do what I want. But we shall see what we shall see...