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by John Robert Marlow

If you’d like to know when new blog posts (and new book chapters) appear—I’ll have the newsletter up and running the week of June 14. For the moment, send an email with “MYSAM SUBSCRIBE” in the subject line to subscribenewsletterATmakeyourbookamovie.com, and I’ll let you know when it rolls.

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INTRO TO FREE ONLINE VERSION

The original MYSAM (Make Your Story A Movie) book was traditionally published by Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin in 2012. What you’re reading now is a sort of v1.5, partially updated while I work on MYSAM v2.0, which will feature expanded coverage, including information on digital/streaming and series, which are far more important now than they were when MYSAM first appeared. This version 1.5 may go offline when v2.0 comes out.

If you’d like to be notified when new MYSAM chapters and other material (full-length interviews etc.) appear on this site, sign up for the MYSAM mailing list, which should be up and running in June, 2021. I’ll also let you know when v2.0 comes out in book form (and offer you a discount to boot). You’ll get no more than one email a week (probably fewer), and your information will not be shared.

Feel free to link to this page or the MYSAM Book Page, but do not post or otherwise publish or share any of this content elsewhere without prior written permission. Written permission to post online excerpts totaling 500 words or less (all posted excerpts combined) is hereby given, provided you attribute the text to “John Robert Marlow” and include (with each excerpt) a working and clearly-legible link back to this website’s homepage.

This online version is a work-in-progress; should you spot any typos, bad links etc. (here or elsewhere) feel free to drop me a note at the address on the Contact Page.

This website and the Make Your Story A Movie book
© by John Robert Marlow, all rights reserved.

MAKE YOUR STORY A MOVIE: INTRODUCTION — THE POWER OF HOLLYWOOD

“Looking back,” says Rex Pickett, author of the novel Sideways, “I wish I hadn’t taken the measly $5,000 advance from the publisher. Had I waited until the film was released, I’m told the book would have sold for $1,000,000.”

Rex divides his life into before-and-after episodes. “Before the movie, I was nobody. My life was complete shit. The day the movie went into production, I made $300,000. Suddenly everybody wanted something, and I had four agents working for me.” Read more…

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THE ONLY QUESTION THAT MATTERS

When you’re selling a story (or trying to), there’s one thing everyone wants to know. To find out, they will ask you a simple question. And they will pre-judge your tale not on its merits, but on the answer you provide.

Before we get to the question itself, find a stopwatch. If you don’t have a “real” one handy, bring up a virtual stopwatch. Either way, hit START the second you’ve finished reading the question below. Do not hit STOP until you’ve answered the question—out loud—to the best of your ability. (For a more accurate evaluation, have someone else ask the question and time your answer.) And here…we…go.

What’s your story about?

Ticktickticktick. Did your answer require more than 10 seconds? Did you hesitate or fumble? If so, you need a logline. Did you explain who your main character is, what he or she wants, and what keeps them from getting whatever-it-is they want? If not, you need a logline.

In fact—you need a logline, period. Everyone does. Because if you blow the answer to that question, nothing else matters: few if any industry professionals (in Hollywood or New York) will read your story, and there’s a good chance no one else will, either. This is so for several reasons.

Let’s start with your average book reader, because that’s a simpler equation. They’re scanning the bookshelves (real or virtual) deciding on their next read. They’ve got a bazillion titles to choose from. If you don’t hook them fast—intrigue them with your concept—they’re gone, and onto the next thing. You do not, at this point, have the pitch or the whole back cover to make your case. You have one sentence—because if they don’t like that, they’ll never get to your pitch.

Now let’s deal with New York and Hollywood. First and foremost, the people who represent and purchase books and screenplays are incredibly busy. They need a way to decide which stories are worth a closer look, and which are not—without actually taking the time to read those stories. The brutal logic of the situation is this: an agent or producer can read 1,000 loglines in the time it takes to read a single screenplay. If we’re talking average-length novels, the figure is more like 3,000 loglines. These people are never going to read everything. They can’t. It’s just not possible.

Once they have read the stories they’ve decided (based on those loglines and the pitches that came with them) to read, they need a way to get stories across to other busy people—quickly. And, finally, they have to market the stories they buy to a public besieged by the marketing machines of a thousand competitors.

This is where the logline comes into play.

And so it follows that few things are more useful than a good logline. It will keep you focused as you write (or revise) your story, and it will persuade complete strangers—agents, managers, acquisition editors and production executives—–to read your book, screenplay, or whatever it is you’ve got. A bad logline, on the other hand, will make you and your tale less welcome than a circus clown at a graveside eulogy.

A great logline can get a terrible story read (or partially read), and a terrible (or average) logline can get the best story in the world round-filed before a single page has been turned. It’s that important. It’s also expected—so you don’t really have the option to ignore this. Read more…

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HOW NOT TO WRITE

Most writers, when they get around to writing, sit down and do just that—start writing. The story grows with no real plan or, at best, a fuzzy idea of where things are going and (maybe) how they’ll get there.

I know this because, as an editor, I see the less-than-stellar results. And when I ask how things wound up this way, the answer is most often the same: “I just started writing.” For most of us, this is not the way to write things worth reading.

Imagine a skyscraper constructed with no blueprint: floors are added and subtracted on the fly; some floors are bigger than others; stairways connect random floors, but don’t go from top to bottom; someone decides to fix the stairway problem with an elevator, punching a ragged hole through every story; only half the rooms have power or plumbing, and there’s an Olympic-sized pool on the roof, so they put the helipad in the basement.

That’s what happens when you just start writing. I see it all the time—as do agents, editors and producers sifting through mountains of submissions. Sure, these problems can be fixed—I help writers do this all the time—but it would be a whole lot easier, faster, and less stressful to get it right the first time. And, not coincidentally, to make a better first impression on that agent, editor, or producer—because if your first impression isn’t your best, it may be your last. Read more…

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If you’re like most people, when you hear the phrase “world’s most dangerous jobs,” WRITER and OFFICE WORKER are not the first words that leap to mind. But as it turns out, these occupations are more dangerous than anyone suspected. We’re not talking war correspondents in the latest foreign hellhole, or investigative journalists shadowing the Russian Mob. No; we’re talking Joe or Jane Writer (or Office Worker), who sits at a desk all day every day, or nearly so.

And therein lies the problem.

One might reasonably conclude that sitting in a chair all day is less deadly than, say, dodging bullets in Burma—but as it happens, that may not be the case. Scads of recent studies have brought to light a rather startling fact: sitting can be deadly—and the more of it you do, the deadlier it gets.

All of which begs the question: Short of giving up writing for marathoning—what to do about that?

This piece will explain the problem, and explore an increasingly popular solution to the dilemma it poses: how to get traditionally deskbound work done without risking an early grave. Treadmill desks—which accommodate sitting, standing and walking positions—make it possible to not just prevent sitting-induced maladies, but actually make ourselves healthier while working. Future posts will cover a number of enabling accessories that can help ease the transition, and make the new normal more comfortable/ergonomic. Read more…

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We’re Back

by John Robert Marlow

We’re back. Things have been slow around here lately, for several reasons. I’ve been researching the heck out of indie publishing because that’s how I want to go with the second edition of the MYSAM (Make Your Story A Movie) book—and with an upcoming sci-fi series I’m working on…

The blog was hijacked by a plugin that turned malicious and (for reasons unknown) insisted on establishing a connection to an IP address in Bulgaria. (Really.) I had no clue, but someone over there caught on and took the IP down. Which meant the plugin could no longer connect to its IP of choice—but kept trying. Which, in turn, caused a permanent timeout error and prevented anyone and everyone from visiting this website. Including me. Which, not surprisingly, brought the problem to my attention…

My host said I’d have to wipe the blog and start over. I didn’t really care for that answer, so I kind of sneaked in the back way and slew the Bulgarian. And, so…we’re back! “We” being me, Jacqueline, and faithful office mascots Gatsby and Daisy. (Meet the whole menagerie on the Bio Page.)

A few things from the “old” blog have been moved around, but it’s all here (or will be soon). And here are some of the new things you can expect to see starting in June, 2021…

  • The entire first edition of the Make Your Story A Movie book, lightly revised and posted here in several installments.
  • Craft-focused articles on fiction and nonfiction (books and screenplays).
  • Interviews with authors, screenwriters, directors, producers etc. (As I get to them; this may take a while, as the interviews need to be transcribed.)
  • An updated list of the Top 100 Highest-Grossing Movie Adaptations of all time. (This may be the last such list for a while, as COVID has severely altered the once-easily-trackable box office landscape.)
  • An email list with advance and exclusive subscriber-only content.

Hope you like the renovations!

P.S.—I’m aware of the double-images issue and am trying to track it down now…

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