Writing Tip of the Week: Writing the Ending First

Every story has an ending, a finale, or a denouement.  It’s the feeling that everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow, the threats defeated, and the main character has grown and learned from their trials and tribulations.  What the reader started with in Chapter One is a far cry from where we are as The End approaches.

Starting a story can be a challenge.  Ending one can be equally challenging, but it has the potential to be easier to write than the first chapter of a story.  So, what if you wrote the big finale first and worked backward?

Let’s talk about it!

The End is Inevitable

At some point, you will be writing the final chapters of your book.  If you are already in the drafting phase, you have an outline detailing or sketching how the narrative will go from start to finish.  You have the basics down, but you can’t get into the opening chapter even with the outline.

Give yourself permission to skip to the end.

Does the finale of your book excite you?  Can you envision how all the pieces of the story’s puzzle come together in those final chapters?  Good.  Then start there.  Pick a point toward the end of the story and write until you get to the last word.  

You’ve now laid out the foundation on which the rest of the story can build.

What happens before to lead to the finale?  And before that?  And before that? 

Does the finale alter the events, locations, characters, or choices you sketched in your outline?  

If so, go back through your outline and fine-tune things.  

Begin Again

Now you know where all roads are leading.  It’s time to examine the first chapter and determine where your main character begins their journey.  

You may have to change a few things, or you might have to gut the entire beginning and start over, which is sometimes part of the creative process.  Knowing your story’s direction and end is essential.  It lets you know what your main character is moving toward and whether or not they achieve or fail at their primary goal.


I enjoy writing the finale first, even in draft form.  I like to see where I take the characters and how the conflict is resolved.  It can give me insights into how the characters can grow and develop throughout the story and allows me to examine how their arc begins based on where it ends.

Writing Exercise: Look to the Movies

Find a few movies you’ve never seen and watch the final fifteen minutes.  Now, based on that information, write a quick paragraph about where you think the main character’s journey began and what may have happened to lead them to their current situation.  

Then, watch the movie and see if you were right, close, or way off in your assessment. 

Final Thoughts

The ending of a story is a key piece of the narrative puzzle.  If you’re having trouble developing a solid beginning, work on the finale and move backward to see how events led to the ending you wrote.

Doing this has helped me develop stronger character arcs and decide on better starting points for my characters in several scripts and stories I’ve written.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: Describe the Weather

Weather.  It’s around us 24/7, and it can impact our lives positively and negatively.  It can also be a great topic to explore in creative writing.  What the weather is in your story can show us how your characters react to external forces interfering with their lives and give the reader insight into who they are.

Let’s get started!

Exercise #1

What’s the weather like where you are right now?  If you looked out the window or stepped outside, how would your five senses react to what you are witnessing?

Write a paragraph describing your current weather using your five senses.  Remember to show and not tell.

Exercise #2

As I said in the intro paragraph, the weather is an external force that can impact a character.  Think back to when a weather event impacted you positively or negatively, and write a 500-word short story about it.  

What led up to your encounter with this weather event?  Did your response to the weather make things better or worse?  How did you resolve any problems related to the weather event?  If it was a positive event – like perfect sunny weather while on vacation – how did the weather make for a perfect getaway?

Exercise #3

Take one of the fictional characters you’ve created and plunk them into a crazy weather event.  How will they react?  How will they describe the weather?  What conflict-driven issues could they have as they work to get out of the weather event you’ve placed them in?  

Write 500 words about it and have some fun with the weather and this particular character.  Did you learn more about your character by putting them through something like this?

Final Thoughts

The weather in a story is as important as the story’s location.  It’s important to not neglect the weather in your narrative and to find creative ways to show and not tell your reader what the weather is.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: The Power of Doing Nothing

A lot of us today feel the need to always be doing something.  Anything.  Whether reading, doom-scrolling on our phones, talking, exercising, or any number of activities, the lack of doing something can make us anxious or feel unproductive.  And while there is a case to be made that being productive is a good thing, there is also a strong argument about doing the exact opposite…


I know; it sounds like a crazy concept.  But author Neil Gaiman uses doing nothing as part of his creative tool kit, and it’s definitely something to consider using when you sit down to write.

So, let’s talk about it!

Why Do Nothing?

Giving your mind a chance to relax can help you focus on your creativity.  This is especially true when you are in the process of writing.  It’s a way to free your mind and create a safe space for ideas to flow and float to the surface of your consciousness. 

It can be a challenge to do this, but if you are already writing, taking a moment to stop and think instead of panicking about not having an idea or next sentence in mind can be a great way to give yourself permission to take a creative breath before moving forward.

The hard part will be not doing something else, but with practice, you can train yourself to decide when you sit down to write to either write or do nothing.

Would this Work If I Was Doing Something Else?

Short answer: Yes!  I often come up with ideas or new concepts for stories or chapters when I’m on a walk at work or working out, even when relaxing at the end of a long day.  Allowing yourself to be creative while not feeling pressured to create can help you develop ideas.

Just make sure you have a notepad or phone handy to jot any ideas down.

This is my personal view, and it works well for me.  It is important to find creative tactics that work best for you and stick with them.  

Neil Gaiman: In His Own Words

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s Neil Gaiman, in his own words, speaking about allowing himself to do “absolutely nothing, or write.”

Final Thoughts

While it’s easy for us to become overly distracted by everything in and outside our lives, giving yourself permission to do nothing can have great creative benefits.  Taking this concept into an activity that doesn’t require much thought can allow your brain to work out creative concepts.  

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Reader Question of the Week:  What Are You Reading?

Late last year, I wrote a post about creating reading goals for 2023, and I wanted to check in with you and see what you decided and how it’s going.  I chose to read 30 books this year, and I also made the decision to only read books I currently own and not buy any new ones this year.  

And I know that will be harder to do as the year progresses.

Thirty Books?  That’s crazy!

It seems like a lot – more than two books a month – but I have created a strategy to ensure I can reach the goal and not spend all my free time with my nose in a book.

I started the year reading shorter books, and I also added in plays and screenplays to the mix that can be read in one or two reading sessions.  This allows for a buffer zone when I pick up a longer book and am reading that for an extended period.

If you have kids, any children’s book you read can also count toward your reading goals for the year.

There’s no reason to cause yourself unneeded anxiety over making a big reading goal for the year.  There are books of all sizes and page counts you can integrate into your schedule to help you reach your goal.

How many books are you planning to read in 2023, and how many have you read so far?

Do Audiobooks Count?

I say, absolutely.  If you can get through it faster by listening to it than by reading it, it counts as a book you read.  Some people obtain information better through listening than reading, so this is another great way to learn and increase your book reading total.

What audiobooks have you listened to this year?

Did You Pick a Reading Strategy?

As I mentioned above and in the post from last year, I have been switching between fiction and non-fiction with every other book.  This year, I added screenplays or plays between each book to break things up.  

I’m sticking with non-fiction about actors from The Golden Age of Hollywood for now, and once I’m done with those, I’ll move on to world history.  

Fiction-wise, I have the final two Game of Thrones books (until Martin finishes the final one), a stack of Stephen King, and a few other fiction titles I’ve wanted to get into.

It’s always good to have some plan and know what you will be reading next to keep your momentum going. 

Do you have a reading strategy in place?

Final Thoughts

I love reading.  It’s good to have a strategy in place that you can use that can help you know what to read next and keep you on track.  Adding smaller books or audiobooks can help you bridge the gaps when it comes time to read a longer book during the year.  

It’s also important to enjoy what you read and have fun learning or being entertained by what you’re reading.

Happy Reading, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Question of the Week: What Are You Drinking?

I’m not a person who can eat when they write; the food can become a distraction and be messy.  The aftereffects of sleepiness can also cramp one’s ability to create.  I prefer to have something to drink instead.  Nothing complicated.  Just something there with me to keep me hydrated or caffeinated so I can stay focused and keep writing.

Let’s talk about some!


You can never go wrong with water at your side.  Whether bottled, filtered, or from the tap, water can keep you hydrated and prevent you from becoming distracted by thirst.  This should be a must-have beverage with you when you write, even if you have other drinks.

Coffee or Tea

A little caffeine never hurts – unless you have a sensitivity to it, then I would either skip it or use it in moderation – and coffee or tea can help give you an extra boost of energy for those long writing sessions.  Suppose you’re like me and like to write into the wee hours of the morning.  In that case, a little jolt of caffeine can help re-engage your mind after a long day at work and help you get into the creative mindset for your writing sessions.

From Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Tim Hortons, Dunkin, or store brands, there’s a wide range of coffees and teas to experiment with and find the one best suited for your writing needs.

Energy Drinks

While there is controversy surrounding the over-consumption of these, energy drinks can provide a quick boost of energy that can help you stay focused and keep writing.  It is essential, however, not to overdo it and drink more than one at a time.  

I always supplement drinking one with water, not mixed in, just on the side.  At least for me, this cuts down on the jitteriness that can often come with drinking an energy drink with a high caffeine content.  

If you have never had one, pace yourself when you do, or stick with coffee or tea for your beverage stimulant needs.


Another method to get caffeine and energy fast is drinking soda.  When writing, it can give you that extra push to write a little longer.  There are plenty of caffeine-based sodas on the market, so if you prefer to go this route instead of energy drinks, you can find one with the best amount of caffeine.

Final Thoughts

Yes, authors of the past drank booze when they wrote, but I want to encourage you to stay engaged and clear-headed when you write.  The key to using coffee or tea, energy drinks, or soda when you write is to help you stay focused, but make sure you don’t jump in head-first to try them if you haven’t before.  Always test small doses of caffeine first, and work your way up.

Water, however, should always be part of every writer’s tool kit.  Your body and mind need it, and you’ll feel better in the long run if you stay hydrated when you write.

Happy Writing and drinking, and I’ll see you next time!

What are some of your favorite drinks to consume when writing?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Writing Tip of the Week: An Audience of One


When you start to work on any writing project, whether it’s a novel, screenplay, poem, or short story, it’s important to remember that you are the initial audience for the project. This may seem obvious, but often we can get so wrapped up in trying to figure out what others want, what the anonymous readers or viewers may want, that we can get off track when writing something meaningful to ourselves.

The key to creating something that resonates with others is ensuring it resonates with you as you develop and write it.

Let’s talk about it!

Remember, You’re Your #1 Customer

You. Yes, you, The Writer, are the first to read your novel, screenplay, or other written work. Does it make you laugh? Does it generate the right emotional beats as you read? Are you drawn into the story? Can you relate to the characters?  

These are all great things to consider as you write and work on subsequent drafts.  

Every published novel and produced screenplay had to, at some point, connect with the writer of that work to make them confident enough to share it with others. If you are pleased with what you’ve written and feel it’s ready to share, that may indicate you’re on the right track.

What If I’m Not Happy with What I’ve Written?

If you’re having issues connecting with the story and the characters or are not enjoying what you’re writing, STOP!

Especially if it’s not a writing assignment, there’s no reason why you need to slog through a creative endeavor that feels like a punishment. 

Some stories can be more challenging to craft and assemble than others. However, even the challenges should be a positive endeavor, not one fraught with agony or frustration. And while you will always have to contend with various story problems, those shouldn’t make you want to quit writing altogether.

My suggestion if you dread working on a writing project: Walk Away. Work on something else. Working on another unrelated project can free your mind to work through the issues you’re having with the other story.  

Then, if I decide to go back to that problematic project, I may have the answers I need to get it done.

Enjoy the Whole Process

Writing takes time, and it takes patience. And it takes your creative effort to make your story a reality. From idea to final draft, you must find ways to enjoy what you’re working on since you will live with this story and its character for several months, if not years.

Because of this, you need to think of yourself as the primary audience for your work. You’re writing a story you want to read or see on the screen. Your excitement and energy will help invigorate the story and keep you and the project going.

Allow Yourself to Focus on Y-O-U

In our ever-present social media-obsessed, 24-hour news cycle, 1000 new shows streaming per day world, it can be a challenge to sit down and focus on your own creative needs. But we need to shut out the noise and nurture our creativity and stories to find sanity and balance in our everyday lives.

Yes, eventually, your stories will be consumed by others. But today, at this moment, as you sit and write and create, it’s all yours. Yours to build, to change, to evolve. Don’t let negativity from inside your mind or the outside world take that away from you.

You owe it to yourself to create.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: Pick a Favorite Movie

Last time, we played around with movie visuals, working to see if we could figure out what was happening in a movie without sound or dialogue.  In that exercise, you picked a movie you’d never seen.

This time, pick one of your favorite movies.  Old or new.  Any genre.  Doesn’t matter.  Once you have one or a few in mind, you’ll be ready for this exercise.

Let’s get started.

Watch the Movie

You love and enjoy it, so watching it again shouldn’t be a big deal.  But this time, as you watch, make notes about why you like this particular film.  Is it the story?  The characters?  The dialogue?  The visuals?  The film score?  What draws you into the film and holds your interest time and time again?

Are there specific scenes that are memorable to you?  Why?  What makes those scenes or sequences stand out in your mind above the others?

Read the Script

Find the script online and read through it.  Does the script give you similar emotions or feelings to the film?  Are there any changes you notice between the text of the screenplay and the completed film?  If so, why do you think these changes were made?

Watch the Movie Again with a Critical Eye

I’m not asking you to change your opinion or enjoyment of the movie you’ve chosen.  Watch the film in this exercise and analyze what works and doesn’t.  What are the strong points of the story, characters, etc.?  What are some of the weaker moments in the film?  

Would the film still work without them, or are they needed to move the story forward?

Re-read the script.  Were these scenes in there, or were they added later?

Why Am I Doing This?

By digging deeper and analyzing your favorite films, you can learn how these screenwriters crafted a narrative and how the filmmakers interpreted the words into a completed film.  Your task as a screenwriter is to create a compelling world on the page that can be elevated by other creative talents to become something still representative of what’s written.  

Final Thoughts

A screenplay is a blueprint for a massive construction project that becomes a beehive of creativity populated by actors, production designers, directors, costume designers, digital artists, composures, and hundreds – if not thousands – more.  

Taking the time to dig deeper into the initial creative process and the text that was turned into the film, learning from in its original form, can help you understand the screenwriting process and the work needed to bring those words to life.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: A Visual Exercise

This week’s posts have been about the craft of screenwriting.  Screenwriting is primarily a visual medium; its main goal is to translate the text into visuals for the screen.  This means that technically, a person should be able to watch a film without sound and have a general idea about what’s taking place.

The Exercise – Part One

Find a movie you’ve never seen – thousands are on all the streaming services, and YouTube has movies free with ads – and watch the first 30 minutes of the movie WITHOUT SOUND.  That’s right.  Mute that TV or device.  You’re just watching the visuals presented on the screen.

Write down what you see and what you think the story is.

Who are the characters?  Can you tell what their relationships are based on their body language and performances?  

What’s the location of the story (if you’re given a graphic that tells you where the setting is, what visual cues make it clear that that’s where the film is set?)?

Can you figure out what the basic premise of the story is after the first 30 minutes?  What’s happened in that time?  What has changed for the main character or characters?  Was it clear based on the visuals?

Based on what you’ve seen in silence, do the visuals make you want to keep watching?

Part Two

Now, watch again with the sound on.  How accurate were your notes?  Were the film’s visuals effective and strong enough to convey the story, setting, and characters without the audio elements?

Part Three

Watch the rest of the movie – hopefully you picked a shorter film and not an epic – muted, taking notes and working to see if you can discern how the rest of the story unfolds through the visuals only.

Then, watch the film with the sound and see how accurate your notes were.

Final Thoughts

We watch movies for the visual experience, so it’s important as a screenwriter to understand the impact that quality visual description can have on the final produced product.  By writing and crafting a strong visual narrative, you can then use dialogue to enhance the story rather than carry it completely.  

Remember: You want to show the audience the story, not tell them about it.

Happy viewing, and I’ll see you next time!   

Writing Tip of the Week:  Writing Your First (Short) Script

Big-budget blockbusters have a lot of moving parts.    From huge ensemble casts, overpowering visual effects, big set pieces, and crazy action sequences, watching can often be an immersive and overwhelming experience. 

Now, imagine the process of writing it.

We all have a story on the same scale as an AvengersAvatar, or Pirates of the Caribbean movie.    And while jotting down notes and ideas is a good idea, when writing your first script, you want to think smaller.    Much smaller.

How much smaller? Let’s talk about it.

Back to Basics

Your first journey into screenwriting should be something less than a 140-page epic.    Think short film.    Three to five pages.    One setting.    Two characters.    Character A has a goal or plan, but character B opposes them.    Now there’s conflict in your story.    These two people are at odds in one location.  

But before you sit in front of your laptop and write, you’ll want to plan and outline your story from start to finish.    What are the story beats?    How does the conflict progress?    Who are these people?    Where are they located?  

Give yourself the creative freedom to play around with multiple ideas before deciding on one to take to the next step of becoming a short film script.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Screenwriter)

Once you’ve nailed down your story, setting, and character, you can begin the script’s drafting phase.

This allows you to practice writing descriptions, character intros, and dialogue on a basic scale in the screenplay format. You’ll notice how fast a page can fly by as you write due to the formatting.    When you rewrite, how can you trim things down to keep the script between three and five pages and still have a coherent story?

Show, Don’t Tell

Film, as you know, is a visual medium, and the audience is meant to be shown things that help inform the story.    The last thing you want to do is tell your audience something you could show them instead.

If your script has a married couple, how can you convey that through visuals?    If they are a parent and an adult child, how can you clarify their relationship before someone says “Mom” or “Son”?

Fun with Dialogue

Once you’ve written your dialogue for both characters, read it out loud.    Can you revise it to make it sound more natural?    Can you cut it down and make the pacing faster without losing the context of what’s being said?  

Remember, real people speak in fragments.    They often trail off or even change subjects halfway through an answer.    Unlike dialogue in a novel, script dialogue is intended to be performed by an actor, so it should be easy to speak. 

Final Thoughts

The best advice I can give you is: Have Fun.    Create.    Experiment.    Outline.    Write.    Rewrite.    Play around and enjoy the process.    As you get used to the basics, you can move on, writing another scene that adds to the story, adds to the conflict, and keeps things moving.

Happy Screenwriting, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: So, You Want to Write a Movie?

We’ve all told ourselves or a group of friends at once in our lives, “I could write something better than that!” And, while that may be true, few people ever act on that proposition in a way that proves they can craft a compelling 110-page story for the big -or, in today’s world, streaming – screen.

If you are curious about how to get started, let’s talk about ways to familiarize yourself with screenplays and scriptwriting.

READ Screenplays

Much like a novelist should read books, an aspiring screenwriter should take the time to read many screenplays from different genres and decades.  Screenplays for movies you’ve seen and ones for movies you haven’t seen.  

By doing this, you’ll notice how screenplay formatting has evolved over the years.  Camera angles were typed into screenplays for decades, but now they are added sparingly, if at all.  You’ll see how different writers in various decades incorporate flashbacks or dream sequences and how they introduce a character or setting.  

A screenplay is an amazing piece of art, acting as a blueprint for a larger entity – a film – but also delivering a compelling and complete story in a limited number of pages and page space.  There’s no room to elaborate or explain; get in, deliver the info, and get out.

And despite these limitations, screenwriters can keep you turning the page as fast as any novel can. 

There are many, many websites available that offer up .pdf versions of screenplays.  One of them is www.thescriptlab.com which constantly adds scripts to its library.


Once you’ve read several scripts, find a few for current movies – preferably the SHOOTING SCRIPT – and watch the film as you follow along with the screenplay.  How did the creative team, the director, and the actors bring the words on the page to life?  If you haven’t seen the film before, is what you envisioned when you first read the script what ended up in the film?

Learn the Structure

How is a screen story told?  How is it different than a novel?  Many books are available that break down screenplay structure, along with websites that present methodologies that can help you take your story and craft it into a screenplay.  From Robert McKee’s Story to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, and Eric Edson’s The Story Solution, find what works best for you and try it out.  

Learn the Formatting

The basics of screenplay formatting have remained fairly constant over the past few decades.  However, minor changes have been made that can mean the difference between your script looking amateur and like a pro’s.  

I recommend reading the Best Screenplay nominated scripts from a previous couple of years to see what these writers did regarding formatting.  It’s also important to seek out produced screenplays that give examples of how to format text messaging or social media-related items in a script if you plan to use them in your story.  

Do I Need Special Software?

You can find free screenwriting software online if you’re dabbling in the screenwriting playground.  If you want to take it seriously, software like Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter is available and is considered the industry standard.  Both can be a bit pricey, so if you want to try writing a script for fun, find a free program first.

Final Thoughts

I love screenwriting.  I love reading scripts.  I love the process of developing and writing a screenplay.  It’s a fun, creative experience.  Learning from the masters, exploring how stories are crafted, and comparing the script to the finished film are great ways to get excited and energized about the process.  

Happy Screenwriting, and I’ll see you next time!