Trouble getting started? Begin by writing what is most vivid (UPDATED)

By Benn Farrell – UPDATED: June 8, 2019

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That’s a cliche I used to heartily believe, but when it comes to my development of a new stageplay, I find the cliche changes to “You can teach a old dog to do old tricks in a new way.”

When I began developing my latest stageplay, still only in its first draft, I fell back on a technique I developed in college. It still famously works for me, and because of it, I was able to pump out the first draft of Hook and Ladder within six weeks.

With my ghost writing services, I would love to help anyone having trouble getting started with their creative writing project. I’d be honored to help you get the ball rolling, and this technique I have developed to get started can be transposed to writing fiction, non-fiction, stageplays, screenplays, television, etc; possibly even instructional guides. If you feel I can help you get your special creative writing project on paper, visit the Work with Me or the Ghost Writing Services pages of this Web site to learn more and don’t be afraid to reach out.

For now, here is how I am usually able to get started on a new creative project.

Freelance writing services, Content Writer, Copy Writer, Ghost Writing, Playwrighting, Screenwriting, SEO content. All writing services to add a unique value for your publication, Web site and online presence from award winning journalist Benn Farrell.

With my ghost writing services, I would love to help you get the first draft of your creative project finally on paper.

When I was in college and aspiring to be a filmmaker, I took a couple of playwriting classes while I was immersed in the performing arts of the school and the community. By then I had already written a handful of screenplays and had my own methods of development, especially ones that were linear given I started on a typewriter and not a laptop like today.

However, when I had finally made the switch to writing my scripts on a laptop, I had learned a key technique in my creative process when developing a new play or screenplay which I still use today. Even after graduating, my former instructors invited me back to workshop their writing classes to share what I had learned and achieved by that point in my writing life.

The technique I had learned, having moved away from the non-linear jail house manner in which writing a screenplay to which a typewriter shackles you, was easy to convey to new students. Every aspiring playwright or screenwriter has a story to tell for the stage or screen. In either of these mediums, usually whoever is writing the play has one, two or several scenes played out in his or her head even before they start writing.

When I was younger, when I had a new play idea, I would take weeks writing the back stories of each major character so I had a firm grasp of their life by the point my story started. After that, it was about actually writing the script. Some stage and screen writers say the two hardest words to write when starting a new project is FADE IN. I agree. It is the hardest task to write the first words of a new play, whether you have done all your background homework or not.

So the technique I decided work best for me to get past this ended up being quite easy. Eventually, I learned to refuse to write the first scene of my script first. Instead, I focused on writing all the vivid, exciting and plot turning scenes I had in my head first. Sometimes, I would end up writing the climax of the entire show as an actual scene on paper. Sometimes I would write the last scene of Act I just so I knew where I would leave my story to have the audience come back from intermission interested in knowing what’s going to happen next.

Freelance writing services, Content Writer, Copy Writer, Ghost Writing, Playwrighting, Screenwriting, SEO content. All writing services to add a unique value for your publication, Web site and online presence from award winning journalist Benn Farrell.

If I had any scene which I could see clearly in my head and know exactly what was going to be conveyed as far as content, that is exactly the scene with which I started to write first. Now these scenes were hardly immaculate, and for the most part they would eventually be re-written several times over as the rest of the script started to come together during my development process. However, those scenes served a key purpose in my script writing process as a whole. Composing the rest of the script around my most vivid scenes made completing the first draft far easier than writing from point A to point B.

Think of it as designing a connect the dots challenge, which we all did when we were kids. You have a series of dots with numbers on them, and the challenge is to use a pencil to start from dot No. 1 and draw a series of lines connecting each dot in the right order until your entire picture is completed. When you’re finished, you’ve actually drawn something. This is now the cornerstone approach I use to writing all my scripts. The scenes which are most vivid in my head are what I write first. All the other scenes between them are simply me connecting the dots with necessary plot points to get to what are ultimately my strongest scenes.

Like I said, those key scenes were usually rewritten, because as I started to get into connecting them I would usually come up with little character tweaks or maybe a new subplot or a beat or two which didn’t exactly connect to my next vivid scene. However, it would improve the dynamic of the story as a whole.

One of the worst things you can do as a writer is have such a huge ego that anything you’ve written prior to your final draft is considered gold. I have written plays which started with what I thought was my strongest scene in the entire show, and by the time I got done with it, going through all my techniques, that first scene I wrote actually became the weakest and I inevitably ended up cutting it from the final draft.

Remember, your final work is a work of art. Art belongs to its audience not to you. If you get to a point where your art is now living on its own, do not make excuses for not cutting material which may have been the cornerstone of the whole thing. That is a move based on ego, not for what’s best for your finished product.

Once again, to get started, right the most vivid scenes that are in your head first. Then to get your first draft finished, all you have to do is play connect the dots.

If you feel I can help you with this technique and would like to have me be your ghost writer for your special project, please reach out and Work with Me so we can discuss how I can assist you with your start today.

Self publish your scripts: Free to you and many benefits

UPDATED: June 7, 2019

There are several web sites on the internet which allows anyone to turn his or her finished manuscript into an actual professional-looking publication. Years ago, I used a service which remain nameless to self publish my works for the stage. However, at some point that service stopped printing books so all the publications I arranged with it were no longer available.

After my mother died, my father in her honor set out to self publish a series of novels she had been writing for years titled The Songbird Series. He looked for online publication services as well and he came up with a couple; being one of them ( has not paid me for mentioning their service).

But I when it was time to republish my stage titles, I looked at LuLu and found it offered everything I needed including cross marketing to Amazon and Barnes and Noble with ISBN (that unique barcode thing on the back of the book). So I started republishing my works, updated my prefaces or forwards, reformatted the play for Lulu’s specifications and started going to work.

Freelance writing services, Content Writer, Copy Writer, Ghost Writing, Playwrighting, Screenwriting, SEO content. All writing services to add a unique value for your publication, Web site and online presence from award winning journalist Benn Farrell.

Now my father has a background in graphic design and some of that ability has bled over to me. So when I go to self publish, I do everything from cradle to grave. I reformat my manuscript taking into consideration blank pages behind the title page, the acknowledgements and the preface pages. I also change the page numbering to be at the bottom center position and only noting the Act number and page number (ex. I.3, II.65). I also end up going through the formatting and changing the page breaks, spacing, dialogue and exposition bleeds, etc.

Once I’ve created a new pdf to the new formatting per LuLu’s specifications, their website has you upload the file into your profile for that title. From there it determines how many pages you publishing will be and adjusts the thickness of the cover spine for the next step.

There is a cover tool available in LuLu and other sites, which walk you through creating a front and back cover with available templates. I however like total control of the graphic design, so I download their cover templates and drop them into Photoshop. In Photoshop I create the cover entirely.

Usually when I’m creating a cover, I’ll want some sort of eye catching royalty art. I obtain the images fitting for my covers from sites like or Sometimes I will purchase a couple. With those sites, you can pay for a license to use the image for your publishing. I usually purchase the licenses for images replicated up to 500 times. I figure if one of my scripts hits it big and sells that many copies, then I’ll have generated enough revenue to warranty purchasing a larger license. Luckily, Lulu’s statistics helps you keep a running total of copies purchased and printed so you’ll know when you’re getting close to that limit.

My back covers include the same information. A small paragraph “about the author,” a small quote from a review of my works and my synopsis of that title. I always try to have the synopsis on the publication match the one I’ve written for the same title on my website for consistency, but sometimes space demands me to edit the synopsis down a bit. No harm in that. Just get it to the bones of the story.

If you have issues determining what should be in a synopsis, read my blog about the differences between a Treatment, Synopsis and TV Guide line.

Once my covers are created in Photoshop, I save the work per LuLu specs and upload the final file into LuLu’s cover tool. From there the site has you determine what information that title’s page will provide, then it has you determine the price. It really does a great job walking you through everything so you don’t forget anything.

The best thing about using these sites is, usually and in the case of LuLu, publishing is free. They only make money when you order copies and when you buy copies of your own works, the cost is minimal with discounts for bulk order of 15+ copies. It also asks if you want to mark up the price if someone NOT logged into your account purchases a copy(ies).

Now I don’t publish my non-produced stageplays for the purpose of selling copies. I do this for two main reasons.

One, if a theatre company decides to produce one of my works, I have links on my website for them to purchase copies for their cast readily available. I don’t have to come up with 10-12 copies of the manuscript and have that cost eat into my licensing and royalty revenue. I can simply email a manuscript if they wish and THEY can make as many copies as they want. However, as an actor, I always preferred something smaller to fit in my hand during rehearsals until I was “off book.”

Two, my published plays have a greater impact when I’m sending copies for production consideration than a manuscript. Again, manuscripts are big and bulky sometimes, while my 6″x9″ self published plays are easier to carry and read on the go. Also, with a nice sharp full color glossy cover (which I put together myself using Adobe Photoshop), it helps a producer or whomever visualize my work as having legitimate production value. I’m creating the perception of value.

so if you have a finished work you are submitting for production, think about self publishing online and using the printed publication as a promotional tool. I invite you to look into several publishing sites to figure out which one is the best fit for you.

#selfpublishing #promotionaltools

Adaptation writing: Scene mapping to determine key material

When I was younger–I know a lot of my blogs start with that–there were several books I read which I desperately wanted to make into a movie. But I would struggle with what material from these books would be most important to ensure a great screenplay adaptation.

I also struggled with the actual writing of the script.

My favorite book which I would kill to make into a thriller was written by John Saul titled “Creature.” Actually, John Saul has written a ton of books I’d love to see made into movies, or write them myself, “Darkness,” “Sleep Walk,” “Hellfire,” “The Manhattan Hunt Club,” which is presently slated for a TV miniseries adaptation according to

However, writing a novel into a movie can be daunting especially for a book to which you are emotionally connected. When I was going through Creature, wanting to write it as a movie script, my biggest problem was unconvincing myself EVERY chapter and element had to be in the movie adaptation. Thinking like that is impossible mostly because if I adapted every facet of the story, the movie would run about four hours. You have to think about theatre companies or motion pictures which adapt a work of Shakespeare. Those works are terribly long but it didn’t matter for his time when people had much longer attention spans. They didn’t grow up with television. Today, works of Shakespeare are always edited for time and its up to the writers, producers and directors to determine the best places to start cutting material. You are basically doing the same thing.

So here is what I did to prepare for writing an adaptation. Keep in mind this is a very black and white simplified way of starting to adapt previously written material. Those always alternate ways of creating anything, but I feel this is a good way to kick start your adaptation effort. As for my practice adapting Creature, I never intended to sell the movie script or obtain the rights, but I was eager to learn and create a process for myself.

Reading my blogs, you know by now I’m BIG on a writer’s process and it’s importance. I rely on my processes like food and water to live. So of course I focused on creating a process to adapt a novel into a movie script.

Since the material in the book I loved so much was the biggest demon, I had to break the book down into “scenes.” I would take recipe cards and simply write Scene One or Two or Whatever across each corresponding card. Then, I would basically break down each facet from each chapter as a scene.

So in Creature, I took each change of location in each chapter as a separate card/scene. On the card I would reread the story of that section and write down what information is given by the author within it. It may be character development items, along with scene setting or exposition, maybe a bit of foreshadowing. By the time I was done going through the entire book, I had about 100 or so cards.

It was bountiful but at least I had a map of the material the author presented. From there, I took a look at the information and looked for ways I could cross fit material into either previous or successive scenes. So if a character was sharing their dislike of another character and four chapters down the road saw the same character have an issue with people in the setting in general, I would mix that information into the same scene instead of it being stretched into more than one.

So with Creature, you have a kid who moved to a small town in Colorado. He gets bullied and later has a problem with fitting in unless he’s a part of the high school football team. That information stretched between two or three chapters was mixed onto one scene card where he expresses it to a gal pal or his mother.

Eventually, as I mixed material, I crossed out said material in scenes where it no longer would be. I would also note what page of the book my changes occurred for future reference. Soon, as I crossed off enough repeated material, entire cards in my map we’re getting eliminated and I eventually ended up with about 45 scene cards.

So I suggest, even just for practice, take one of your favorite novels and do the same thing. Once you have your map revised for adaptation, the next step would be changing dialogue into visuals and THEN changing scope for a motion picture format.

Keep an eye on my blog for further posts on these next steps in my “Adaptation Writing” series.

#adaptationwriting #johnsaul #booktomovie #processiseverything #makeiteasiertowrite

Character development: My OMIMOCIC sheet

I can’t remember when I started doing this heading to developing a new script but it’s an offshoot suggestion from Michael Hauge’s book Writing Screenplays that Sell. This book is awesome by the way for those of you just getting started in screenwriting. It helped me look at movies entirely different ever since, just saying.

Anyways, when I’m developing characters initially, I usually put together what I call the OMIMOCIC sheet. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. I guess the best attempt would be “Oh-Mim-Ock-Ick.” But for future reference in this blog I will call it a “Noodle Sheet,” because it sounds fun.

Noodle sheets (teehee) are fairly simply and a good way to start developing characters at their core. They do not include any kind of detailed backstory. All it breaks down is each characters’ outer motivation (OM), outer conflict (OC), inner motivation (IM) and inner conflict (IC).

There’s no one way to map this out but I usually create mine like a chart.

Here’s some quick definitions of each component of the Noodle Sheet.

Outer Motivation: This is what the character wants in the story. Specifically it is what he wants that’s apparent to everyone around him, especially the audience.

Example: in The Karate Kid (original) Daniel’s outer motivation is to learn karate and win the big tournament against the Cobra Kai Dojo.

Inner Motivation: This is WHY the character wants what he wants from his Outer Motivation goals. This isn’t always as obvious to other characters or the viewer/reader until the character opens up to someone or something in the material.

Example: The Karate Kid – Daniel wants to be able to defend himself and prove himself as someone who can’t get pushed around but the Cobra Kai kids who have been bullying him. Possibly, he wants to show off to his girlfriend AND win the tournament for Mr Miaggi who’s helped him gain confidence and change his life.

Outer Conflict: This is what’s directly keeping the character from their outer motivation goal and again is evident to everyone else.

Example: The Karate Kid – Daniel keeps being bullied by the Cobra Kai kids and have terrorized him into thinking he can’t win. Daniel also doesn’t have a lot of time to learn everything he can before the big tournament. So in this example, Time itself becomes a nemesis for Daniel creating an evident outer conflict.

Inner Conflict: This is where your character really gets deep. This is what is keeping the character from reaching his or her inner motivations. It’s not easy seen by other characters unless express in dialogue or some other way in the text.

Example: The Karate Kid – Daniel is afraid to lose his new girlfriend, let Mr Miaggi down and be bullied the rest of his high school days. He doesn’t think he has enough time and lacks confidence. Doesn’t think it can be done. He doubts Mr Miaggi’s methods at times. These are all inner conflicts for that character.

So what I do to map out my character noodles is create a grid with the character names vertically down the left side and write down the different noodles horizontally.

Above is an example of a stageplay I recently started developing casually. I only have three character conceived for it thus far but you can see how the grid is starting to form.

It doesn’t have to be pretty, but doing this basic development task will set a tone for when I go to write my character backstories. My backstories usually address elements of the characters’ histories which make them have the inner conflicts they do. And I’ll also have them address inner motivations from their backstory which are fleshed out and more detailed that on the noodle sheet. The noodle sheet is fairly basic, but the information I create for it is vital before I start writing my actual script.

If you’ve never done one of these sheets before, and you have a script already finished, try creating one for the finished script just for practice breaking down your developed characters.

For those of you looking to write a play or screenplay for the first time, give this a shot, you may find it becomes a vital part of your process as it became for mine.

A writing app that’s free and works for me

As the technology for writers has developed since I first started writing scripts on a typewriter, it is now possible for you to write a play, screenplay or teleplay from your smart phone. It’s true.

There are a variety of apps in your respective apps stores from which this can be done. There are also apps to help develop your story which could be helpful when you have ideas on the go.

I personally have gone through a couple apps looking for one that works for how I develop and script my ideas and the one on the market which seems a best fit for my style is one simply titled “Playwriter.”

Playwriter allows you to list scenes, characters in development and actually writer the script itself, however I don’t use it to that extent. There are no annoying ads to deal with. The only bad thing is the app does ask you to rate and review it on a regular basis.

What I like about is you can manage many project at the same time from your phone. You can manage multiple characters per project. You can start writing dialogue and scenes and the app will keep track of your locations and number of lines each characters have.

Lastly, as your typing in your scenes, the app keeps track of the total run time of your show.

It also provides an “about” space for the play and characters so you can keep your characters’ backstories in the app as well. I haven’t seen another free app offer that.

Lastly, once you written material into the app, it offers a “Final Draft” button which compiles your material and offers sharing options to email itself. This is key because the app doesn’t exactly offer proper formatting between the different mediums. However, you can email the material to yourself, and the next time you can get to your writing station, you can copy and paste the material and all you have to do is format it in your usual writing program.

There are several other good apps out there which could be a big help to development and writing of your script. Final Draft offers a smart phone version for about $10 and it formats the text for you as you go, which would save you time, but I don’t see an option for it to help if you are writing a stageplay. It seems to only offer screen and teleplay formats.

There is also a free app called Fade In but once again only offers formatting for screen formats not stage. As far as development apps, Everywriter offers some great options for designing an outline for your project as well as character outlines. I don’t usually need these types of development tools but could be handy. That app is also free.

Another great app for screen formats is Celtx. But again if you’re formatting for a stageplay, you could be left in the lurch.

The point is, apps can be an extremely helpful tool for developing and writing your next work from the convenience of your pocket. If you haven’t already, I’d dig into what apps are available in your app store and see what tools would be a best fit for you, just make sure you read the app reviews before downloading. It could save you a ton of work checking each one out for yourself.