Four Reasons To Enter Writing Contests

FOCUS Entering writing contests has many advantages, beginning with how it forces you to focus on a single goal. It’s easy to become distracted, moving from one writing project to the next, without actually finishing any of them. Making the decision to put all your efforts towards writing a great piece for a writing contest might be just what you need.

DEADLINES I find that writing without a deadline is extremely difficult. I allow myself to think I’ll get around to finishing a project sometime, because I don’t have a deadline, and end up in an endless cycle of procrastination. I recently entered a screenwriting competition, and the looming deadline was just enough motivation to finish writing the script.

REWARDS If you win a lottery, it’s great to have the cash, but you don’t really have a sense of accomplishment. Anyone can buy a lottery ticket. However, if you win a writing contest, you’ve demonstrated that you have significant talent and that’s something you can be proud of.

YOU WIN, EVEN IF YOU LOSE So, you focused on one project until it was finished, paid the entry fee and entered it in a writing contest. Even if you’re not competing with the general public (like a lottery ticket), your entry is still up against all the pieces submitted by other writers. What if you don’t win? You now have a new item prepared for the literary marketplace, and that puts you way ahead of someone who has a dozen unfinished projects.

Copyright © 2023 by J. Paul Cooper

Update: My story, “The Challenge” has been included in NEW SPACES, an anthology of science fiction short stories published by Lintusen Press, a collaborative micropress.


I Think I Have a Great Story Idea

I’ve lost count of the times I thought I had exceptional story ideas, but they didn’t produce the literary success I had anticipated. Does that mean I was wrong? How do you know whether a story idea is indeed, “great.”  

It seems obvious that J.K. Rowling had a fantastic story concept with the Harry Potter series, since each novel was an international bestseller, and they were all adapted as blockbuster movies. The first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, however, was rejected by twelve publishers. If J.K. Rowling had given up after eleven rejections, would it have meant the story concept was flawed? No, but a manuscript with significant potential might have been lost forever.

What about originality? Can a story idea that has themes like those found in other books or movies, still be considered original? The television series Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were set on space stations, and for five years (1993-1998) both were on air at the same time. The movies White House Down, and Olympus Has Fallen were both about a terrorist attack on the White House and released in the same year, 2013. Can you imagine telling animation companies that they must stop producing movies with talking or singing animals, because it has already been done? A story idea must have some distinct elements, but writing a story that is absolutely unlike anything else that has been previously written, might be an impossibility.  

The reason so many stories can have similar themes yet retain aspects that set them apart from other stories, is because they flow from the minds of unique individuals. Two writers will not image the same characters or create identical worlds. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R R Martin both include dragons, and battle scenes, but you’d never get them confused.

Perhaps exceptional story concepts are distinguished by how many ways they are adapted. The novel, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo was adapted as a feature film The War Horse (2011) by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis. It is also a play, adapted from the novel by playwright Nick Stafford.

Although it’s not something you can anticipate while writing, the possibility exists that you won’t know you have a great story idea while working on a project. Writer Stieg Larson died in 2004, before his crime trilogy, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, became international bestsellers and were later adapted as feature films.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee publishing companies will accept your manuscript, even if it’s based on a great concept. Scarcity is a reality that affects all aspects of life, including literature and editors are forced to reject manuscripts with great potential, because budget constraints limit how many books they can publish.

The most important question, however, is whether you’re going to write. Your story idea might result in a bestselling novel, an Oscar winning screenplay, or a Tony (Antoinette Perry Award) winning play. It might be an eBook forgotten in an endless sea of thumbnails, or another screenplay that’s never produced. Is it worth it? Absolutely! What I’ve observed in other writers, and experienced myself, is there’s sense of accomplishment when you finish a writing project, and joy in the process as you let the creative juices flow.

I’m starting a new project. I don’t know whether publishers or producers will think my concept has potential or if they’ll just ignore it. Nevertheless, I will be writing, because I think I have a great story idea.   

Copyright © 2023 by J. Paul Cooper            

Do Your Characters Have Quirks?

It’s been many years since I’ve seen this character on television, yet I can still hear his voice when I’m walking through the dessert section of the grocery store, “COOKIES!” Why? There were no expensive CGI effects on Sesame Street. You remember the Cookie Monster, because no other character is quite like him, he’s one of a kind. You can see a reflection of yourself in the Cookie Monster, because he’s obsessed with cookies, and everyone is obsessed with something.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “I’ll be back,” in The Terminator (1984) you’re anticipating his next move. It’s an action movie, so you know that someone’s going to get killed, or something is going to be blown up. If you’ve watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban (2004), you remember Professor Snape saying, “Turn to page 394,” despite the fact he didn’t say it during an exciting scene. Allan Rickman developed a cadence for his character’s speech that was so unique, you can’t forget what he says.

Watching a B movie, the first thing you’ll notice, is there’s nothing about the characters that you can relate to, they’re just cardboard cutouts; constructed from layers of cliches. They don’t feel “real.” One science fiction movie I started to watch, began with a soldier who has gone rogue, he’s ignoring his commander’s orders to stand down. How many times have you seen that happen in a movie? A maniac has kidnapped a woman, and he’s acting exactly as you’d expect a maniac to behave, wild eyes, screaming, making threats, etc. What’s unusual, or memorable about these characters? Nothing.

As you’re writing, think about whether the movie that’s showing on the movie screen in your head is a B movie. Do your characters have any traits that will make them memorable? Consider Saving Private Ryan (1998); all the characters are wearing uniforms, so they aren’t distinguished by their clothing. but each one has a distinct personality that makes them feel like real individuals. And that’s what draws you in, it allows you to wonder what it would be like, to be in their situation. Likewise, if Captain Jean Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) feels like a real person, then you can imagine what it might be like commanding a starship.

There are endless options when developing characters; age, gender, height, clothing, speech (cadence, accent, slang), occupation, food preferences, where they were born, where they’ve lived, there hopes and dreams, who they’ve loved, how they voted…. Throw in time travel and things get really interesting; he was born in 21st Century, but has been sent back to live in the 17th Century. If you’re writing science fiction, you’ll have to stretch your imagination to make an alien character stand out from other aliens!

The reason you can create unique characters, is because you are a unique human being with a unique imagination. You hear people say, there was only one Steve Jobs, or there was only one Jimmy Hendrix, and that’s true, but there is also, only one you. Keep writing!

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

Who Knows You’re A Writer?

Since you talk about it, your friends, family, and co-workers know that you’re a writer. If someone asked any of them, they’d say it’s your hobby. For many writers, however, it’s more than a hobby, it’s a passion, it’s who they are. So, how do you make the point that you’re serious about the craft of writing, and reach people that can help you develop a career?

Submit Your Work: This may seem like an obvious step to take, but it can be frightening, especially for beginning writers. You may have written a literary masterpiece, but no one will know will recognize your talent, unless they can read it. It’s possible to spend years on a novel, constantly making changes, and never submit it to a publisher, or self-publish it. It’s true that if you never make your writing public, no one can criticize it, but it also means no one can appreciate it.

Join A Writing Organization: Many writing organizations have member pages, where you can include a photo, a brief bio, items that you’ve had published (or self-published), and information about the types of writing you’re interested in. Recently, after someone saw my profile on a writing organization’s website, I was invited to be a guest author on a television show about writing. It will be aired later this fall on a community television station; so only few people will see it, but it does demonstrate how having a profile can be effective.

Look For Unusual Opportunities: Two of the most unique writing opportunities I’ve come across have involved coffee and beer. The first involved short stories being published on cardboard coffee cup sleeves, the ones they put on cups to protect your hands from the heat. The second one involved a brewing company, they were looking for short plays (54 words) to print on their beer cans. In both cases, the author’s name was included, so potentially thousands of people would see the names of the winning writers.

Start Blogging: If you’ve been reading blogs by writers, now’s the time to join us, and share your passion for, and knowledge of writing with everyone. You’ll never know what your potential is, or who will read your blogs, until you get started.

Note: I was profiled in the “A Day in the Life” section of the Calgary Guardian ( on October 26th. I also finished writing a feature-length screenplay and entered it in a competition.

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

A Player at the Literary Casino

If you’re a writer, you’re a gambler, even if you’ve never played blackjack or roulette. You make bets at the literary casino with the most valuable, irreplaceable resource – time.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is deciding how much time you’re prepared to wager on a single bet. You start writing a short story, but soon realise that fully developing the concept will require a much larger project. You were prepared to gamble a few hours on a short story, but are you willing to go all in with several months or a year on a novel?                                                 

When you’re a player at the literary casino, you must be flexible, ready to change the game. You have a great story idea which you plan to write as a novel, but then you find out a local theatre company is looking for new plays. Why not roll the dice, and write one based on your story idea? If your play is chosen, your name will appear in the program; an excellent opportunity to raise your public profile. A good review mentioning your name in a newspaper or magazine would be even better     

Playing at the literary casino requires strategy. Once you’ve finished writing a book, do you send the manuscript to a traditional publisher, or do you self-publish? It could take months or years to find a traditional publisher willing to print your book, but it’s more likely to be placed in physical bookstores and libraries, than self-published books.

If you want to keep costs down and publish your book immediately, you can self-publish an eBook. The downside is that, if it’s only available as an eBook, it won’t be as visible as physical books on shelves and display tables.

Due to the popularity of self-published eBooks, a new industry has developed: pre-made eBook covers. Although it’s convenient, you have to be careful, because some of the eBook cover designers offer the same cover for multiple sales. In other words, you could end up buying a cover that has already been used for another writer’s eBook.

Especially for writers without an agent, trying to sell feature length screenplays is probably the most challenging game at the literary casino. It’s a high-risk gamble with time, because many film and television companies won’t read a screenplay unless it’s submitted by an agent, and some agents won’t take you on as a client, until you’ve already sold a screenplay, or at least had one optioned.

Fortunately, there are still some film companies willing to accept unsolicited screenplays from writers without agents. Before they read your screenplay, however, you’ll have to sign a release agreement, acknowledging that they may have already received screenplays with concepts similar to the one you’re submitting. It will be difficult (if not impossible) to take legal action if they produce a film with a concept similar to the one you’ve submitted. Despite the potential risk, I’ve submitted screenplays to numerous film and television companies, after signing release agreements. If you want to play this game, you better have steady nerves.   

Imagine that you’ve just had a screenplay accepted by a film company. If they’re willing to pay you up front, that’s great, but you might be asked to make a wager on the film itself. An independent film company with limited resources might offer you a deferred payment option, promising you a portion of the film’s profit. Although it’s possible the film won’t make any money, and therefore you won’t get paid, don’t walk away from the table yet; there’s still the onscreen credit to consider. The cold, hard reality is that until you have an onscreen credit, the film and television industry doesn’t know you exist. Even if the deferred payment option doesn’t put any cash in your bank account, you should make sure you get an onscreen credit for your efforts.   

Consulting with a lawyer is always a wise decision before signing contracts. As with agents, lawyers know what has to be included in contracts,mmn to protect your interests.  

What’s exciting about the literary casino is that once you learn the basics, there’s no limit to the games you can play. The writing skills you acquire in high school and university are the building blocks you need to write blogs, articles, essays, short stories, plays, novels, non-fiction books, and screenplays. Once you decide to play, the only question is how much time you’re willing to wager. The stakes get higher, the more hours you spend working on a project, but so do the potential rewards.

A warning to anyone interested in betting their time at the literary casino; writing is addictive. There are novelists and screenwriters who’ve earned millions through their craft and could retire at any time, but continue to create new material. They can’t stop, because they love the game.   

Bullet Train: A Movie Review

Bullet Train (2022) is a wild ride from start to finish, with plenty of plot twists and great fight scenes that keep your eyes glued to the screen. But, it isn’t just the action that holds your attention, it’s how the story unfolds and how unique characters interact with each other.

Have you ever watched a B movie, and immediately notice that the actors seem to be portraying stereotypes, rather than real human beings? It could be the dialogue is so poorly written, that the actors don’t have much to work with. On the other hand, even if the story is based on great source material, if the actors lack talent or experience, they might still sound like the after-hour voice recording for a drug store, “If you’d like to use our automated prescription service….” Fortunately, in Bullet Train, screenwriter Zak Olkewicz had great material to adapt, there were experienced actors who could bring the characters to life, and Director David Leitch knows how to film a great action scene.

One of the characters introduced in Kotaro Isaka’s novel Bullet Train is Prince, a malevolent teenager who manipulates schoolmates and adults, enjoying their suffering. Joey King’s portrayal is spot-on, as she effortlessly switches from the heartless vixen, to the scared, vulnerable adolescent, influencing the actions of other passengers.

Lemon is an assassin, and what makes his character memorable are his constant referrals to the the children’s series, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (1984-2021). The sharp contrast between the brutal killer and the childlike obsession makes him seem like a real person, because he doesn’t fit a particular stereotype. The same technique was used with the character Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix (2007.) Delores Umbridge always wears pink, and her office walls are lined with images of kittens, yet she’s a cruel, pitiless tyrant.

And then there’s Ladybug, the main character portrayed by Brad Pitt. It’s easy to relate to Ladybug, because he seems to be plagued by bad luck. We’ve all had days when we can’t seem to get anything right. Just imagine having a day like that, but you’re on a train with a group of assassins, and just one wrong move could cost you your life.

Why is Bullet Train a great movie? It begins with Kotaro Isaka’s brilliant novel, introducing interesting characters and a unique setting. In the screenplay, Zak Olkewicz tightens the plot, and eliminates unnecessary characters. Director David Leitch finds just the right balance between action and story, accentuating the dark humour. And finally, the actors bring the characters to life. If you can’t leave your seat, because want to know what happens next to the characters, then the filmmakers have been successful.

P.S. I continue to celebrate small wins. I had an article, “Taking A Shot At Unscripted Television,” published in the July-September 2022 issue of Westword, the Magazine of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

The Essay: More Than Just a Homework Assignment

When you hear the word, “Essay,” does a homework assignment immediately come to mind? Even if you were given a wide choice of potential subjects, an essay was still something you were required to do. It was work in the worst sense: drudgery. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of essays as an opportunity to think deeply about a topic you’re interested in, and in the process, improve your writing skills.

One advantage of writing an essay, is it prepares you for working on larger projects. If you find the thought of starting a four hundred page novel or non-fiction book intimidating, writing an essay is a good place to start. You often hear writers talk about getting into “the flow,” when they become so absorbed in their art that time seems to stand still and there is no limit to their creativity. Once you experience “the flow,” the larger projects won’t appear so frightening; instead you’ll have to set time limits on how long you’re going to write at each sitting.

Another benefit of writing essays is it forces you to focus. Whether you’re writing an essay to submit to a newspaper or literary journal, you’ll have to stay within a specified word limit. Since brevity is key, you’ll have to carefully choose your words. It’s an excellent tool for learning how to edit your own writing, as you start to recognize the difference between sentences and paragraphs essential for a coherent argument, and those which can be deleted.

Have you ever had the experience of listening to a political speech, a commencement address or a sermon, and feel as if the speaker made all the important points he had to make in the first ten minutes, but is still talking thirty minutes later? That’s why it’s important to read through an essay several times before submitting it to an editor; making sure your writing is tight. A common error is to use the same word over and over again: It was a really intense storm, the wind was really strong, and the waves crashing on the shoreline were really big. Repetitive words are distracting for a reader, and it only takes a moment to look up alternative words in a thesaurus.

One more reason to write essays: It’s a way to introduce yourself to editors, and the readers who enjoy their publications. If you haven’t had any success pitching articles or short stories to magazines and literary journals, check and see if the publications accept essay submissions. A published essay is a valid writing credit with your byline on the page. I recently submitted an essay to a major newspaper. If it’s accepted, then my essay will be available to thousands of readers. If it’s rejected, at least I’ve made contact with the editors of a national newspaper, and who knows where that may lead.

Is there a newspaper, magazine or literary journal that you’ve always wanted to be published in? Why not take a few minutes and see if they publish essays? You never know, it could be the opening you’ve been looking for.

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

It’s In The Bag

It’s a very simple, but effective premise; your character finds something he wasn’t expecting to find, and is faced with a moral dilemma. The 2007 movie, No Country For Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, and A Simple Plan (1998) adapted from the novel by Scott B. Smith are both based on this simple concept. In both cases the main character finds a bag full of cash. These are excellent examples of beginning with the question “What if?” and then thinking about the worst possible outcomes. You’re basically giving yourself the freedom to be paranoid.

Starting with this one idea, finding something unexpected in a bag, has immense potential. What if the coach of a professional soccer team is organising the team’s equipment before a game and finds a severed head in one of the equipment bags? Who put it there? How did that bag get mixed with the team’s equipment? Was it there to send a message to someone on the soccer team, who owes serious money to a very aggressive loan shark and/or the mafia?

Is your novel or short story a Western? A bag full of cash could fall off a wagon, or stagecoach. Are you writing a science fiction screenplay? An extra crate could be found in the hold of a deep space cargo vessel, containing an unusual device. What happens when a member of the crew tries to activate it, and is successful? Does she find herself in another galaxy or dimension?

To ratchet up the tension, you can have your character do the right thing and still end up in a life threatening situation. He finds a large cache of cocaine and calls the police. Unfortunately for your character, a crooked cop takes the cocaine, but doesn’t drive it to the station or record that he’s taken custody of the illegal drugs. A short time later, members of a drug cartel, who owned the warehouse where the drugs were found, arrive in the city. Now, the corrupt police officer needs to kill your character, before the cartel members talk to him.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. The next time you’re not sure where to go with a story, try asking these questions: What could my character find, that would complicate her life? What could my character find, that might get him killed? What could one of my characters find, that would send the story in an unexpected direction?

Keep writing, there’s still time to tell great stories in 2022!

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

Just One Idea….

You never know where inspiration will come from, or whether you’ll have the same idea twice. It’s essential, therefore, to get into the habit of recording your creative ideas and make sure you don’t forget them. Every scene you imagine, every character that pops into your head, has the potential to be developed into a complete story.

A few years ago I was walking to church when the final action scene for a Police Thriller filled my mind. (You’re a writer, you know what it’s like, that mini-theatre in your head!) From that one scene I started wondering how the cop got herself into such an unusual situation, and it eventually became a feature-length screenplay that I’ve submitted to several film and television companies.

The good news is you don’t have to worry if your schedule prevents you from immediately focusing all your time and energy on writing. It seems that once you’ve taken the step of writing an idea down, your subconscious takes over, filling in all the details. And, as more of the story unfolds in your mind, you’ll become eager to start writing, get into the flow, and immerse yourself in the world you’re creating.

When you have a creative mind, it feels like you never seem to have enough time to write, especially if you have a full-time job. (And regardless of how it may be treated by society, being a stay-at-home parent is a full-time job too!) You can, however, consider it a good sign that you aren’t running out of ideas; that just proves that you have a healthy, active imagination.

It doesn’t really matter where the original idea may fit into the story, or whether it will eventually become a play, a novel, a screenplay, or a short story, since a good story idea can be adapted for just about any format. The short story you’re writing can be expanded to become a novel, or you can adapt the novel you’re writing as the basis of a screenplay.

You can start immediately, by recording your ideas in a journal, sending yourself an e-mail, or writing a note and sticking it in your purse or wallet. One great idea can change a writer’s life.

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

The Stranger

It’s a useful habit to develop, when you see an interesting movie or television series title, look it up on the Internet Movie Database Scroll down to the Writing credits, which are listed directly beneath the Directing credits. This is a great way to discover authors you may not have known about. That’s what I did when I noticed The Stranger (2020) listed on Netflix. The series is based on the novel by Harlen Coben published in 2015.

It’s an excellent series, and unique, because it’s an American story, adapted for a British setting. The main character’s children play lacrosse in the novel, but play soccer in the series. (Apparently, soccer is referred to as football outside North America and the NFL would be called American Football. There’s also the CFL-Canadian Football League-with rules slightly different from the NFL.)

What I appreciate about casting in the United Kingdom is that the characters feel more like someone you might actually live next door to, or work with. There seems to be less stress on how good-looking someone is, and more emphasis on whether the person actually fits the role. Realistic characters, combined with the very real possibility of being the victim of an internet blackmail scam, and you have a story that draws you in. The novel is a page-turner, and the series is hard stop watching.

I was surprised I had never heard of this author before, because Harlen Coben ( has the kind of career many writers dream of. As well as an impressive list of published books, several have been adapted for series by Netflix. Looking up The Snowman (2017) on the Internet Movie Database is also how I learned about Jo Nesbo, a very successful Norwegian author.

I realize that envy isn’t a healthy emotion, but it can be discouraging when making the transition from part-time to full-time writer feels impossible. I suppose the question we have to ask ourselves is: Do I love writing? If you do love writing, then there’s really no reason to stop. My plan is to keep writing until the funeral home employees take me to the crematorium, and I don’t complain about the heat.

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

Note: If you haven’t heard about it yet, there’s an interesting development in the self-publishing industry: Smashwords is being acquired by Draft2Digital. I have two eBooks with Draft2Digital (Hunting Teddy Bears, Jack: a Lady’s Cat) and one with Smashwords (What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper.)

The Logline: A Starting Point

As it’s used in the film industry, a Logline is a one or two sentence description of the story idea for a movie. I’ve submitted screenplays to many film companies; some ask for the logline, a one or two page synopsis and the screenplay, others just ask for the logline and the screenplay, but they always ask for the logline.

A fun exercise to get your creative juices flowing, is to make up loglines for your favourite movies. A logline for Titanic (1997) could be: A young woman engaged to marry a rich businessman falls in love with a struggling artist, as the Titanic crosses the Atlantic Ocean on its doomed voyage. You’ve probably already created numerous loglines and didn’t even realize it at the time. Think of how many times you’ve watched a movie, then turned to a friend and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if….”

If you have a great story idea, but it isn’t clearly defined yet, a logline it a good starting point. It doesn’t matter whether it’s going to be a screenplay, a novel, a short story, or a play for live theatre; it allows you to take something that is abstract and give it a tangible form that you can work with. I recently heard a bestselling science fiction author, who has experience in the film and television industry, say that if you can’t describe a novel in two sentences, it can’t be made into a movie. Considering how much can be earned by selling the film rights, that’s a good incentive to learn how to create loglines.

Note: I ended 2021 with some encouraging news about my scifi eBook, Hunting Teddy Bears. It received a 4 out of 5 rating on both Goodreads and Overdrive. Another copy was purchased by a library as well. I enjoy the small wins, while I’m still working towards the big wins.

Just Another Sermon?

A two hour movie screenplay is about 120 pages, but a writer may spend several months working on it. Unless it’s a larger church with more than one speaker, a pastor may have to write an outline for a forty-five minute sermon every week. And there is great responsibility involved, because the pastor isn’t just offering an opinion, he’s preaching the Word of God. He doesn’t answer to an editor for his words, he answers to the Lord Jesus Christ.

A pastor visits patients in hospitals, chairs board meetings, leads counselling sessions, officiates at weddings and funerals, attends church functions and, of course, answers countless emails and text messages from members of the congregation. And somewhere in that demanding schedule a pastor has to find time to spend with his own family, and write a sermon before Sunday morning. It’s no wonder that burnout is a constant threat.

Once a pastor finds time to write his sermon, he has to consider the constantly changing makeup of the congregation, as people move from one church to another. I’ve met people who were raised Roman Catholic in Pentecostal churches, and people who were raised Pentecostal in Baptist churches. A pastor also has to think about the level of biblical knowledge in the congregation, because there will new converts, as well as eighty-year-old Christians, who have been reading and studying the bible for over sixty years. The sermon has be understandable by new converts, yet still provide the mature Christians with useful information.

Because many sermons are now available over the internet, a pastor has to accept that members of the public may be offended by what he says. In John 21 Jesus, was referring to leading and instructing Christians while he was speaking to Peter. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” He didn’t say it would be easy.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Sixty or Six

According to, author Ben Mezrich has a net worth of approximately eight million dollars. That’s not surprising, when you consider how many of his books have either been adapted for movies or are in development. The same is true for Michael Lewis, who (from the same source) has an estimated net worth of twenty-five millions dollars. They can afford to travel around the world to do extensive research and conduct interviews for their narrative non-fiction books.

I recently listened to Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. She spent months at a time on the road, living among Americans forced by economic hardship to live in vans and camping trailers. She was able to do that, because she’s a professional journalist and was being paid to write about her experiences. And when the book was adapted into a film in 2020, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Perhaps this is why so many part-time writers tend to write fiction. If you work in a warehouse or office to pay the bills, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to leave your job for several months, and pay for airline tickets, car rentals, hotel rooms and meals as you travel to do research and conduct interviews. I’m not suggesting it’s impossible, but it is beyond the reach of many writers.

I know several writers who would list themselves as full-time writers, but that isn’t an accurate description, because their income is a patchwork of various sources. They’re freelance editors, they teach seminars and courses, they coach writers, they create digital covers for eBooks, and they’re writers-in-residence for libraries and universities. Some writers are constantly applying for various government grants, but that isn’t a stable income, because grants only last for a limited time. One playwright I interviewed for a magazine worked as the director of a drama ministry at a large church, taught a course at a bible college and had a small theatre company.

I’ve often fallen into the trap of thinking I’m not a real writer, because I don’t spend the majority of my time writing. But, as I’ve learned over time, that’s the case for most writers. What if you never make a living as a writer, is that a valid reason to stop doing what you have passion for? If that’s the case, then the golf courses would be empty, and no one would be playing hockey, baseball, basketball, or football unless they had pro-sport contracts.

There’s nothing wrong with hoping that someday you’ll write a bestselling novel or an award-winning screenplay, but even if that never happens, you can continue to enjoy the creative process. It doesn’t matter whether you have sixty hours a week or six hours a week to dedicate to your craft; if you love to write, you’re a writer.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper


A Writer-In-Residence is a professional author who has a contract for several months or a year with a library, university/college, or writing organization. It’s usually a paid position that allows a writer to concentrate on a project, while at the same time interacting with the public. The public aspect of the Writer-In-Residence position could involve readings, seminars, workshops, and one-on-one consultations.

A one-on-one consultation with a Writer-In-Residence is an opportunity to have your work reviewed by a professional author, and it’s usually free. You can’t, however, expect a Writer-In-Residence to read an entire novel manuscript, so it’s more likely he or she will consider a chapter of a novel, or a short story. The Writer-In-Residence isn’t a substitute for an editor, but he or she can offer advice and encouragement. A one-one-consultation doesn’t necessarily involve writing that you’ve submitted, it might be a conversation about writing careers with suggestions about where to begin.

I’ve submitted materials to a Writer-In-Residence three times; two times I met with an author in-person, and once it was all completed through e-mail. The last author wasn’t a local writer, but a distinguished writer who was visiting the library for two days. He met writers for twenty minute, one-on-one consultations, but that was before Covid-19 changed the world and just about everything went online.

Does your local library have a Writer-In-Residence? If it does, there will be a section on their website with an introduction to the author, details of what type of writing the Writer-In-Residence will review, and the maximum word count for submissions. Send in a sample of your writing, ask some questions, and let a Writer-In-Residence help you to become a better writer.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Pain Now, Rewards Later

Isn’t it ironic? The harder you work, the closer you come to reaching your dream, the more it hurts when the dream doesn’t come true. The next time you drive past a baseball diamond, consider how many of those players will start when they’re five or six, continue through high school and college, but never play in the Major Leagues. The same is true for all those students who dream of becoming doctors; even if you have scholarships and don’t finish university with a huge debt load, if your application to Medical School is rejected, it’s going to be devastating.

My dream was to become a lawyer, so the year I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science), I submitted applications to thirteen Canadian Law Schools. The summer of 1987 was a long one, because I received thirteen rejection letters.

Here’s a question to consider: Do you think that all of the men and women who write the scripts for Medical Dramas are doctors? It would certainly make sense to have surgeons as consultants, to make sure they get the facts right, but the writers aren’t all graduates of Medical School. Another question: If you had the opportunity to work as a writer on a Medical Drama, wouldn’t it be helpful to have some basic understanding of Biology? Of course! The knowledge you gained following your dream to become a doctor, could be very useful for a writing career.

Just image that one day a great idea for a murder mystery, that takes place in a baseball stadium, comes to mind. If you’ve played baseball, you already have useful knowledge. All those hours spent on the baseball diamond learning the rules of the game, watching how coaches interact with players, and experiencing the fear of letting down your team, will help you develop believable characters.

Being rejected by Law School has inspired me to write a feature-length screenplay and a short story. I haven’t sold the screenplay, but the short story, “An Appointment With Life,” was published. You can find the link in the Published Writing section.

I hope that you’ll find some time to write today. The world becomes a more interesting place, when creative minds are at work.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

The Governments and the Safety Guardians: a 21st Century Parable

There was a crisis, and Governments wanted to prove they were building houses, office towers and bridges faster. A cry went out, “We have to do something!” Governments around the globe said to themselves, “If we don’t do something, it will look like we’re doing nothing, and we’ll lose the next election.” And so, Governments turned to Big Companies for a solution. Big Companies responded by developing something, that would be known as the New Government Approved Process.

Safety Guardians were praised by Governments around the globe for their hard work and dedication. Respected for their training and experience, their role in society was to pay close attention to new processes used for the construction of houses, office towers and bridges. However, tension soon developed as some Safety Guardians became concerned with the New Government Approved Process.

The concerned Safety Guardians claimed that the New Government Approved Process had been developed and approved too quickly, and that there were cracks appearing in the foundations of houses, office towers and bridges being built with the New Government Approved Process. The opinions expressed by the concerned Safety Guardians was embarrassing for Governments, so Governments lashed out at the concerned Safety Guardians, accusing them of spreading disinformation and ruining economies. Governments told the Safety Guardians that if any of them questioned the New Approved Government Process, they’d lose their jobs. Many of the Safety Guardians fell silent.

Journalists heard that the concerned Safety Guardians believed the New Government Approved Process was unsafe. But, Journalists knew that Governments controlled production grants, tax incentives, and broadcast licences. They were scared they’d lose their jobs, if they didn’t support what Governments said about the New Government Approved Process. Some Journalists, who respected the opinions of all Safety Guardians, questioned the New Government Approved Process, and just like concerned Safety Guardians, they were accused of spreading disinformation and destroying economies.

Governments wanted to make sure the New Approved Government Process wouldn’t be questioned by the public. It wasn’t long before citizens were required to carry cards swearing their support for the New Approved Government Process to eat in restaurants, go to theatres, or let their children play in sports.  

In less than two years Governments had silenced the majority of the Safety Guardians, most Journalists were praising the New Government Approved Process, and many citizens carried cards swearing their support for the New Government Approved Process. Governments boasted that the New Government Approved Process would bring an end to the crisis; houses, office towers and bridges were being built faster that ever. The concerned Safety Guardians, however, knew a serious problem remained unsolved…there were still cracks in the foundations of houses, office towers and bridges.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

A Night at the Opera

The first exposure to science fiction that I remember, was Star Trek, the original series. I was supposed to be asleep, but I had slipped out of bed. I stared from the top of the stairs, while my father and an older cousin watched the show on a on a small black and white television below. Some guy with pointy ears, who I’d later learn was Spock, was leaning over and looking into a box. Canadians are supposed to be obsessed with hockey, but when I was young, if I had a choice between watching Hockey Night In Canada, or a science fiction series like Lost in Space, The Starlost or Space 1999, I’d be dreaming of deep-space travel, not winning the Stanley Cup.   

Although I was constantly creating stories in my mind, I didn’t give any serious consideration to writing until I was studying Political Science at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. The Introduction to Political Science class was using The Canadian Polity: A Comparative Introduction, a textbook written by one of my Professors, Dr. Ronald Landes. I thought to myself how impressive it was that his name was on the cover. At about the same time, Rev. Ross Perry, the Pastor of the church my family attended, had a short book published; Prime Ministers of Canada Quiz Book. It would be several years before I start writing, but the seed had been planted.

 Although I hadn’t heard the term yet, when I started writing short stories, they were Space Operas. Space Operas are basically stories that take place in space, without the need for a solid scientific explanation for what happens in the story. You throw a switch, there’s a flash of light, stars are passing by at blinding speed, and you’re somewhere in a distant galaxy. Star Wars is a classic example.

Space Operas offer freedom for the writer. If you’re writing a thriller about a cruise ship taken over by terrorists, you only have so many options. The first limitation is where the rescue takes place;  you might have the terrorists keep the cruise ship at sea, run it aground, or perhaps sail it up a river. In a Space Opera, the ship could travel through an asteroid field, sling-shot around a planet using it’s gravity, visit any planet or space station in the universe, or perhaps, travel through time. All the terrorists have to do is push a button, or throw a switch. If they have computer chips implanted in their brains to interact with the ship’s mainframe, or have telekinetic powers, they can just think about it.   

A novel that doesn’t take place in space has another limitation as well; all the characters are human. They may have different cultural backgrounds and motives, but they all have relatively the same degree of intelligence and physical strength. In the John Wick movies, the main character seems to survive the impossible, but it’s assumed that it’s because of his extensive martial arts training and natural abilities.  In a Space Opera, you can complicate the protagonist’s task, by introducing alien characters with strength, abilities, intellect and weapons an earth-bound hero is unlikely to encounter. You can also spice up your Space Opera buy having your heroine interact with artificial intelligence, either robots, androids, a ship’s operating system or all three. Data from Star Trek the Next Generation is one of the most recognizable android characters.

 It’s amazing when you think about it; you open a book or eBook, and in an instant you can be immersed in a new world. Why is it that we can read novels or watch movies, where events unfold that make no sense in our regular lives, and yet there doesn’t appear to be any conflict in our minds? It’s called “The Suspension of Disbelief” and I first heard it described by writer Fred Stenson while he was promoting his book on the craft of writing, Thing Feigned or Imagined.  It’s basically a contract between the author and the reader; as long as the writer doesn’t violate the rules of the world she’s created, the reader agrees to accept what occurs in that world. If the writer violates any of those rules, there has to be a valid reason. In the Harry Potter series, characters need some type of magical item to fly, like a broom or an enchanted car or motorcycle. Lord Voldemort can fly without the help of a magical item, but his character is known to experiment with magic to create exceptional results. He can fly without a broom, because he’s Lord Voldemort, so no rule has been broken.

 Space Operas also give freedom to the reader; an opportunity to escape from the stress of ordinary life. Consider a Nurse working in an emergency ward during the Covid-19 crisis. She never seems to escape the virus; as she drives to and from the hospital, there are digital signs on the side of the highway reminding everyone to social distance. At the entrance to every store where she shops, there’s a poster ordering shoppers to wear masks and social distance. At the end of a long shift at the hospital, she opens a paperback, or powers up her eBook reader and escapes into a Space Opera. A moment later, she’s walking through a space station. As she reads the author’s description, she looks around, watching aliens of every sort moving through its vast atrium, stars visible through the clear ceiling. Continuing through the station, she arrives at one of the docks where a deep space freighter waits for her to board with the rest of the crew. As the story continues, she finds herself on the bridge, as the freighter leaves the space station and accelerates past stars. How are they travelling at such high speeds? No need to worry! The Captain gives an order, the Navigator pushed a button, and the interstellar, plasma-loop, hyper-something drive will take you anywhere.    

If the author is a skilled writer, before she finishes the first chapter, the reader is prepared to stay with the crew and face whatever challenges come their way. The reader gets to know the crewmembers intimately, not just what rank or duties they have, but where they come from, who they admire, what their fears are, and who they want to hook up with.  

 In order to create a story, the reader has to work with the writer. An author writing a Space Opera can describe an alien character with orange pupils, but each reader will see a unique  shade of orange in her mind. That’s the wonder of the human imagination; as the writer gives a basic description of  a space station, or an alien world, the reader’s mind fills in the details to create images. If a million people read the same novel, a million distinct stories are created in their minds. It’s as if every single person has a movie theatre in his or her head, and they are all watching unique movie adaptations of the same story.

Today there are countless genres, from Magic Realism to Urban Fantasies. As for me, I still like to sit in the captain’s chair on the bridge of a starship and enjoy a Space Opera. Travelling across the universe is no problem; I’ll just push a button, and the reverse anti-matter, hyperkinetic, time-space, whatchamcallit drive will get me there.    

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Take a Trip to….

Have you ever watched a video, as a Travel Guide describes all the major tourist destinations of a city? Do you remember the sickeningly sweet, cheerful voice? That isn’t helpful if you’re writing a novel, it’s much better to get the feel of a city, not the packaged version. Travelling overseas, no matter which end of the globe you’re starting from, is expensive. Although it’s much better to actually be there, you can be your own Travel Agent and arrange a virtual trip using Youtube.

Begin by choosing your destination, using “Flight To” or “Flying To.” With so many people taking videos during their vacations and business trips, you can decide which airport you want to start from and which airport you want to land at. You can watch a video recorded by someone sitting in Economy, or a video from First Class that includes a segment about the airport lounge and the luxurious amenities enjoyed throughout the flight. During the arrival, you can watch the aircraft land from a passenger’s perspective or the pilot’s point-of-view.

Now that you’ve arrived at your destination, how would you like to see the country? You can take a trip by car, bus or motorcycle. If you type, “Driving in….” you can find videos recorded during daylight hours, or at night, over quiet mountain roads, or through city traffic. Cars and buses don’t interest you? Not a problem, just type “Train ride,” or “Subway routes” with the name of the city or country, and you’re on your way.

While virtual trips will never replace a real experience, it is an option that wasn’t available to previous generations of writers. Watching a video recorded by a camera mounted on a vehicle’s dashboard or mirror, is about as close as you can get to sitting in the passenger seat, without spending a fortune to get there.

If you’ve been dreaming of a story set in a distant land, I hope this post will encourage you to write that tale, so we can all enjoy it. It’s your voice, your passion. Write.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

If you want to….

If you want your voice to be heard….Write.

If you want to share your stories with the world….Write.

If you want to help others understand your point of view….Write.

If you want to introduce a unique concept….Write.

If you want to influence the culture you live in….Write.

If you want to make a difference….Write.


The first thing you need to know about self-publishing an eBook, is it’s an uphill battle. Announcing your new eBook on social media sites is no guarantee of impressive sales numbers. I’ve read countless posts by authors promoting their books and eBooks, and only remember a few. The problem is that our inboxes are saturated with announcements, with everyone vying for our attention.

The good news is that if you self-publish an eBook with Draft2Digital, the number of markets you can reach in a short period of time is impressive. Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books and Barnes & Noble, are some of the more familiar online stores, but your eBooks can also be found on online bookstores based in Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Australia. The point is your eBook can be found by potential readers in many countries, and you never know where you’ll develop a fan base.

Draft2Digital’s reach into the international library market continues to expand, as they recently added Borrow Box. eBooks published through Draft2Digital were already available to libraries through Overdrive, Cloud Library and Baker & Taylor. You can contact many libraries in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom and tell them your eBook is available to add to their collections.

Although there are many online platforms for self-publishing eBooks, but I suggest you take a look at Draft2Digital first. I’ve had two eBooks published through Draft2Digital, Jack A Lady’s Cat and Hunting Teddy Bears, and I’m very pleased with the results. I heard about Draft2Digital at a writer’s conference three years ago, and I’m glad I did.

Whether you self-publish your writing or submit your work to traditional publishers, please don’t stop. Your stories make the world a more interesting place.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Preparing For The End

A Shock to the System (1990) starring Michael Caine is an adaptation of the novel by Simon Brett, published in 1984. What makes this adaptation particularly interesting, is how the main character has to change for the two different endings to work. At the end of the novel, Graham Marshall is about to be arrested for three murders; a homeless man, his wife, and his new boss. At the end of the movie, he gets away with those three murders and the murder of a company executive. Graham Marshall’s transition is from a completely despicable character, to a likeable scoundrel.

For the first murder, Graham is approached by a homeless man. Graham has just been passed over for a promotion and he’s now answering to a younger man he hates. In the novel he acts out of pure rage, so even though he doesn’t intend to kill the man, he has no justification for his actions. In the movie the homeless man threatens him, so when he pushes him onto the subway tracks, at least he’s acting in self-defence.

The second victim is his wife. In both the novel and the movie it’s a matter of using his wife’s death to pay off the mortgage. What distinguishes the two, is in the novel they have two children, and he’s happy to send them to live with his sister-in-law and be rid of them. The fact he doesn’t love his own children makes the reader despise him. In the movie they have two dogs. He doesn’t keep the dogs, but it doesn’t produce the same emotional reaction.

The third victim is a younger executive that gets promoted instead of Graham. In both the novel and the movie he pretends to be interested romantically with a younger woman in office, then drugs her. His plan is that she’ll think he’s been in her apartment all night, providing him with an alibi. While she’s unconscious, he leaves the apartment and rigs the propane tank in a yacht belonging to his new boss. In both cases you’re disgusted by his behaviour, using someone who admires him in order to commit murder. Graham’s new boss isn’t described positively in the novel, but he’s portrayed as extremely arrogant and condescending on screen. It doesn’t justify Graham’s actions, but it’s easier to understand why Graham hates him enough to want to kill him.

At the end of the novel, you’re glad that Graham Marshall is going to finally face justice. At the end of the movie, when it’s clear he’s just killed an executive because he wants his corner office, you laugh. From a writer’s point of view, it’s interesting to note how subtle changes influence how the audience reacts to a character. And when it comes to portraying a likeable scoundrel, no one is better suited for the role than Michael Caine.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

If you’re curious about whether I can actually apply the advice I offer in this blog, my new eBook Hunting Teddy Bears is now available to purchase. Just visit the “Published Writing” section and click on the link.

Hunting Teddy Bears

Caslem, Earth’s first deep-space colony is attacked by a pair of assassins. A small DNA sample proves they belong to a species known as Therloxians, nicknamed Teddy Bears by humans. To provide them with an alibi, Karzon, the planet that hired the assassins, has them registered as prisoners at a mining complex on the Karzonian home planet. 
Fearing that Earth computers have been hacked, the Earth Security Divison has to find and train someone who is off the grid. Coulter Hazlow, a student at the Western Canadian Space Academy in Calgary accepts the assignment. All Coulter has to do is travel into deep-space, get thrown in prison by a brutal totalitarian regime, find and kill two professional assassins, and escape from a prison no one has ever escaped from before. He’ll need some help.   

I’ve just self-published this eBook using Draft2Digital. The ISBN is 9798201994990

Making History

If you’ve ever listened to motivation gurus, one of their favourite techniques is to begin by talking about regrets. They ask you to imagine what it would be like to grow old, your memories filled with nothing but remorse for all the things you didn’t do when you were younger. Unfortunately, whether they intend it or not, the message they’re sending is that unless you do amazing things all your life, you’re insignificant. It’s a lie.

It has been five years since one of my best friends died at age fifty-one. He came to Canada from Laos in his early teens, after spending two years in a refugee camp in Thailand with his family. He struggled learning English, which may have been due to a hearing impairment that was discovered later in life. He had a hard life, and never achieved the kind of success that most people would describe as “making history.”  But, he did make history, just as we all do.

You can think of time as a river, and each of us is a stone in that river. As each person is born, he or she is added to the river. When someone dies, he or she is removed from the river. My friend was in the that river, influencing how it flowed for fiftfy-one years. One of my aunts, if she survives just two more weeks, will have influenced the flow for one hundred years.

If you look at a river, the larger stones may be more visible, but where the river flows is ultimately determined by the influence of all the stones in the river combined. When we think of great battles, we often focus on the leaders, but aircraft don’t fly unless someone fills their tanks with fuel, soldiers don’t have the energy to fight unless they have been fed, and ships don’t head to sea, unless someone keeps the egines running.

Let’s not forget that just like every stone in a river has an impact on the flow of water, every one of us has an influence on the flow of history. You don’t have to be on the cover of an entertainment magazine, have a bestselling novel or an Oscar winning screenplay to be significant. If you’re reading this essay, then you’re still in the river, influencing the flow of time. Keep writing, make some history.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Masterful Storytelling

I enjoy watching disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 2012 (2009), San Andreas (2015), Geostorm (2017)and Greenland (2020). In an instant you’re immersed in a life and death struggle as the protagonists put their lives on the line to protect their families. Because of the amazing CGI special effects, you feel like you’re right there as skyscrapers collapse, meteors crash through the atmosphere, tsunamis flood coastlines and massive volcanoes erupt.

There’s no doubt these movies are entertaining. As a Writer, however, I wonder if I’m drawn into these stories because of great writing, or am I just overwhelmed by cinematic shock and awe. Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), written and directed by Dan Gilroy is an example of a movie based on great writing, which does not rely on expensive special effects to overpower the senses. Denzel Washington, who portrays Roman, once again demonstrates his amazing versatility as he creates a character you can both pity and admire in the same instant.

Roman J. Israel Esq. incorporates many of the ingredients required to develop great characters. Roman, is flawed, vulnerable, and doesn’t have the self-confidence or physique of a military special forces operative. That’s why he’s someone the audience can relate to; when Roman hurts, you hurt.

Suddenly forced to transition from a backroom research position to the courtroom, due to the death of a legal partner, Roman struggles to find his place in the new environment. Many people can relate to his situation, as every day they are forced to go to jobs where they feel like they’re trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. And that’s where the magic happens, when someone watching the movie thinks to themselves, I know just how you feel Roman.

And then Roman makes a life-altering decision. He has lived a lonely life on the edge of poverty and when he finally sees an opportunity to break free, he gives into temptation and rolls the dice. I found my emotions were tied in knots, because I was happy that Roman was finally enjoying the life he had dreamed of, but dreaded what might happen if someone found out what he had done. The complicated, contradictory feelings that this story produces, demonstrates that this is truly masterful storytelling. If you’re reading a book or watching a movie, and you find yourself wondering what you would do in a similar situation, that means the writer has made the story personal. Special effects can keep your attention for a couple of hours, but only a great story can reach your heart.

I highly recommend that you first read the screenplay, before watching Roman J. Israel Esq., so you can truly appreciate how great the story is, before you see Denzel Washington bring Roman to life on the screen. I found the screenplay at Script Slug  

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

An Excellent Pairing

In this post, I would like to be your literary Sommelier and offer you a tasteful book/movie pairing. Both offerings are from 2019, an excellent year, and concern the creation and influence if the iconic media company Netflix.

My first suggestion is the memoire, That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph. What I really appreciate about Randolph’s writing, is the way he describes how success was achieved at Netflix through hard work and innovation, without it becoming a mutual admiration society. He doesn’t try to make anyone, including himself, seem like some godlike, flawless, all knowing genius. Instead, he gives credit where credit is do, and acknowledges failures as he describes how much effort was required to stay the course in the early years of the company’s development. Although it’s a memoire, it is as enjoyable and enlightening as non-fiction narrative works by Ben Mezrich, Stephan Talty and Erik Larson.

Although it isn’t an adaptation of Randolph’s book, the documentary film Neflix vs The World directed by Shawn Cauthern and written by Gina Keeting is an excellent pairing. As well as describing the company’s early years, Netflix vs The World goes on to explain the epic battle between Netflix and Blockbuster for the video rental market and how it came to a surprising conclusion. If you’re old enough to remember renting VHS tapes at a video store, this documentary will offer you a clear explanation of why the industry has changed so dramatically. The mix of interviews, news reports and television commercials over that time is both entertaining as nostalgia and informative as history.

The real significance for writers, however, is served up in the latter segments of Netflix vs. The World as it describes Netflix’s foray into producing original material and how that has influenced other streaming services to start their own productions. If you’re a screenwriter, the market for your work has just expanded. And since short stories, plays for live theatre, and novels are adapted for feature films, it has the potential to impact all writers. That Will Never Work and Netflix vs. The World remind us how fast the media landscape can change, and writers like you and I need to be paying attention and be ready take advantage of those changes.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Nine Hundred Libraries

I was facing the same dilemma as every other author of a self-published eBook. How do I make my eBook, Jack: A Lady’s Cat, stand out? Was there anything I could do to bring it to the attention of readers and perhaps receive some positive reviews?

When I released my first eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper in 2016 I had some success with libraries, but unfortunately, the title was too long, and the cover was boring. I was convinced that the cover of Jack: A Lady’s Cat was much more eye-catching, thanks to a cat who looks great in a bow tie. Sometimes a decision is based not on guaranteed success, but just because you can’t think of a better idea at the time. So, I decided to commit.

While searching the internet I found extensive lists of libraries in Alberta and Ontario, so that’s where I started. By the time I finished those two provinces, I had contacted over two hundred libraries. I then continued e-mailing smaller number of libraries in the other provinces and territories. I also contacted libraries in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I wanted to contact libraries in all fifty states of the United States of America, and decided that the best approach would be to pick the top ten largest cities and towns for each state. So, how do you work your way through five hundred libraries? On weekdays I’d contact ten libraries, on weekends I’d contact thirty or forty libraries.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned through contacting nine hundred libraries: Many libraries will not consider self-published books or eBooks, unless it’s written by a local author, or it’s about a local subject. Some libraries don’t have any room in their budgets for self-published authors, they only purchase books and eBooks by established, best-selling authors. Some libraries will only consider your book or eBook, if you send them a copy to review. Libraries are more likely to buy your self-published book or eBook, if it already has some positive reviews.

The bottom-line? Jack: A Lady’s Cat was released at the end of November 2020. So far, I’ve sold seven (7) copies to libraries. Surprisingly, I don’t regret the effort I invested in contacting libraries. Regardless of the disappointing sales results, at least nine hundred library employees now know about my eBook, and also know that I’m a Writer.

Life often comes down to a simple decision to try something, with no guarantee of success. To start moving you have to overcome inertia, but since you don’t know where you’ll end up, the decision to start moving takes courage. So, what are you going to do today, to start your next literary journey? Write an outline for a novel? Write the first scene for a screenplay? Submit a short story to a literary journal? Start doing research for a non-fiction book? Let the words flow….

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

The eBook Anthill

It feels like you’re an ant, standing on the top of an enormous anthill, screaming at the top of your lungs, “Look at me! Look at me!” A tsunami of self-published eBooks has changed the literary landscape forever. 

In one sense the arrival of the self-published eBook has been beneficial for society; many writers who could not afford to self-publish just a few years ago, can now have their voices heard. And, their voices are heard on a global scale as eBooks are distributed through online bookstores. My latest eBook, Jack: A Lady’s Cat, was available through online retailers in Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan within a week of its release. It has also been added to the digital collections of libraries in the United States, one in each of the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska and Texas.     

The greatest problem is the issue of quality; a book that’s released by a publishing house will be seen by an editor, and checked for grammar and spelling before it enters the market. If you edit your own manuscript, a basic program that checks for spelling will note if you’ve made a mistake by typing “therre.” It may not consider the misuse of “their” or “there” a problem, since they’re both spelled correctly. Whether a writer can afford to purchase a more advanced program to check for errors, will depend on his or her budget. 

Another consideration is the quality of the writing. Although all editors, to a certain extent, are influenced by their personal tastes, they strive to acquire manuscripts that are well written and have compelling prose. If a self-published author has relied on the responses of family and friends who don’t want to hurt their feelings, they may have a misguided assumption that their writing is much better than it actually is. It is true that many self-published authors hire freelance editors, but that isn’t affordable for all writers. Other options include sharing sharing you writing with a critique group, or a writer-in-residence at a library or university.   

One of the greatest challenges faced by writers who author self-published eBooks is trying to create a cover that stands out. Potential customers may never see the full size image; only a thumbnail, alongside dozens of other thumbnails on the same page. Once again, cost is an issue; not every independent author can afford to hire a graphic designer. Joining a writing community is essential for independent authors, because members of the group may be able to help you with the cover art, and provide beta readers to review your manuscript before it’s published.  They can also offer you advice regarding the best self-publishing platforms to use, and pitfalls to avoid. Self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to be alone.

A significant change for self-published authors in the last fifteen years has been the rise of social media, and the ability to reach thousands of people almost instantly. Unfortunately, new authors soon learn that when you post an announcement about your eBook, a “like” doesn’t mean they’re going to buy a copy. It’s really just a “good job” pat on the back. Social media is a good place to start, but it won’t replace other marketing efforts.

The self-published eBook has resulted in the democratization of publishing, because now just about anyone can be an author. That said, the playing field will never by truly level; self-published writers who can afford to hire freelance editors and graphic artists to help them create eBooks, will have better products to offer. Like traditionally published writer, however, self-published authors have to accept that regardless how much heart and soul they’ve poured into an eBook, regardless of how much money they’ve spent on editing and cover art, there is no guarantee the eBook will become popular. Fortunately, sales figures don’t keep writers at their keyboards, the love of writing does. 

As more authors enter the marketplace with self-published eBooks, the anthill is becoming overcrowded. I guess I’ll just have to jump higher, and yell louder. “Look at me! Look at me!”

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Suggestions For 2021

Some of these suggestions are ones I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, but good advice is worth repeating.

I recently finished listening to The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin. I highly recommend this book, it offers practical advice and reminds artists of the importance of their work, and that sharing their work with the world is an act of generosity. The chapters are very short, so it’s ideal if you ‘re busy and need to fit your reading time into brief lulls in your schedule.

If you’re a new writer and want to learn more about the writing process, there’s no better description than a talk by Canadian science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer. It was recorded, in three sections, at the Ontario Writers’ Conference in 2010. The three videos combined only take about twenty-five minutes to watch.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Start reading screenplays. Three online sources are the Internet Movie Script Database, Script Slug, and The Script Lab. Learning how the screenwriting format works is important, because it will prepare you for potential opportunities in the future. If you have a great story idea, why not be ready to present it as a screenplay to a local film company?

Have a great year, I hope that you’ll find writing success in 2021!

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

P.S. I would really appreciate it, if you would suggest my eBook, Jack: A Lady’s Cat to your local library.

How Far is Your Reach?

If you’ve never tried this before, here are a couple of methods for finding out how far your writing efforts have travelled across the globe.

Do a search on Google ( using your name in quotation marks. The quotation marks are essential; if your name is George Anderson and you don’t use quotation marks, you’ll get all the results for George, all the results for Anderson and all the results for George Anderson. Next, do the same thing for the titles of your published books, anthologies you’ve been published in, and the titles of short stories, articles and essays that have been published.

It’s especially important to search for your ebooks regularly, so you’ll know if your ebook has been pirated and offered as a free download. I would suggest that you don’t click the link for the download, because it might be a hacker using a “free ebook” as an opportunity to plant a virus or tracking software on your computer. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t recommend what you should do, if a website claims to offer a free download of your ebook.

During a recent Google search I learned that one of my published short stories has been referenced in a government document about culture. Another time I discovered a quote from one of my short stories on a science fiction website. I also found that an article I wrote for a magazine, was on the front page of a website. Since your published work represents your personal brand, you need to know where it’s being seen and commented on.

Another great resource is Worldcat ( This site allows you to find out which libraries around the world are holding copies of your books (or anthologies you’ve contributed to) in their collections. I did a search earlier today and was shocked to find out that one the anthologies I was published in, is available through Harvard, Princeton and Yale university libraries. If you don’t get a result with a title, try doing the search with the book’s ISBN.

With so many inter-connected distributors, it’s amazing how fast your book or ebook can move across the globe. My latest ebook, Jack: A Lady’s Cat was published three weeks ago, and it’s already available through online bookstores in Canada, the United States, Japan, France, Italy, Brazil, Germany and Australia. There’s no guarantee it will become popular in those countries, but since it’s available, it’s possible.

Take some time during the holidays and find out where your writing can be found, you might be surprised by how far it has travelled.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

The Procrastination Deception

One of the reasons you may be having difficulty with procrastination, is because you’re not aware that you’re procrastinating. Here are some ways that writers procrastinate. I know, since I have mastered several procrastination techniques.

PERFECTIONISM This trap has the potential to prevent you from ever getting your writing published, including self-published work. The only solution is to accept that what you write will never be flawless. No matter how many times you read through a manuscript, or how many beta readers you use, there’s always the possibility that you won’t notice a grammatical error, or a misspelled word. So what? I’ve noticed spelling and grammar errors in books that have been reviewed by professional editors before publication. I still enjoyed the books, and I’d read other book by the same authors.

NEVER ENDING PREPARATION By this I’m referring to all the things you can do that are related to writing, without actually writing. You can attend (in-person or online) writing groups, watch interviews with your favourite authors, read blogs about writing, read or listen to books about writing, go to conferences, and listen to seminars, but never make a serious effort to write. That’s a waste. What’s the point of accumulating all that knowledge, if you never apply it?

FEAR A hard, cold reality of being author, is that some people will not like what you’ve written. I recently noticed that someone had given my eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper one star, out of a possible five stars. I also had someone who hated one of my short stories that was published by an online literary journal. Was the criticism justified? I don’t know, but it won’t stop me from writing.

Procrastination robs you of your most precious resource: time. If you’re serious about being a writer, you have to focus on doing the work. I recently had one of my short stories, “Just A Toonie” (A Toonie is a two dollar Canadian coin.) published on The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature website. The only reason that happened was because I wrote the story, and keep on submitting it, until I found an editor willing to publish it. Last weekend I self-published a young reader’s eBook, Jack: A Lady’s Cat through Draft2Digital. Will it be popular? I have no idea. Will readers find glaring errors? Possibly. What I do know is that I love writing, and it’s worth the risk.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Writing Requires….

COURAGE: There’s no guarantee that your work will be accepted, so every time you send your work to an editor, you risk the disappointment of rejection. If you want to succeed as a writer, you have to strap yourself into the emotional roller coaster and go from the anticipation of seeing your work published, to the reality of reading rejection e-mails over and over again.

PATIENCE: One of the first lessons you learn through experience, is that if you want to be a published writer, you must be willing to wait. If you send a short story to a literary journal that’s printed four times a year, hoping that it will be published in the winter edition, but it’s accepted for the spring edition, you’ll have to wait an additional three months to see your story in print.

PERSEVERANCE: What happens if the first editor you send your story to rejects it? It’s going to hurt, because you’ve poured your heart and soul into that story. Unfortunately, editors receive many more manuscripts than they can actually publish, and therefore, they’re forced to reject some well-written stories. The best option is to search for another market for your story, and submit again.

DECISIVENESS: Only you know when a manuscript it ready to either submit it to an editor, or self-publish. Only you know whether your story will work best as a novel, screenplay, or a play for live theatre. Only you can decide whether it will benefit you enough, to allow your work to be published without receiving any payment. Some literary journals are staffed entirely by volunteers, and their limited budget does not include any money for writers, but the prestige you receive having your short story or essay included in their publication, will help your career. Note: Many editors will not accept previously published material, including self-published material. Having a short story or essay published for free, may mean you’ll never be paid for it.

Only writers knows how much time, effort and emotional cost is involved in the stories we create, and yet, we keep writing….

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

You’re Not Wasting Your Time

So far this year I’ve paid to upgrade my blog to a website, and I’ve also paid to renew my membership with two writing organizations. I’ve had one short story published and anticipate one more being published by the end of the year. I won’t receive any money for the stories, but in a very real sense I will still receive payment, because every time my writing is published, it helps me establish my personal brand.

Here’s a question that you may be struggling with: If you’re not making a profit writing, does that mean you’re wasting your time and money? No, it means you’re investing your time and money in your passion.

Many people want to keep their passions as hobbies. Once they’re required to answer to deadlines, and feel pressure to make a profit, it loses it’s appeal and it’s no longer enjoyable. Perhaps you want to keep writing separate from your day job, because it helps to keep your life in balance.

Some of us, however, dream of creating a living from our passion. We find no satisfaction in going to the office, warehouse, or store where our creativity is of little value. We make no use of our ability to craft stories, while we generate quarterly reports, operate forklifts, and serve customers. It would be great to make the transition from part-time to full-time status as a writer, but if we can’t afford to leave those jobs, we’ll have accept that the opportunity to write will remain confined to our free time.

Whether your writing is a hobby, or you’re working towards becoming a full-time writer, one thing is certain; writing is part of who you are. If due to some unseen event you were unable to continue writing, it would be a great loss. It would also be a great loss for everyone else.

Think of a song that makes you feel alive every time you hear it, a movie that tears at your heart strings and tickles your funny bone, or a novel that you couldn’t put down until you finished it. In those experiences, you were sharing another person’s passion. Can you put a price on those experiences?

What will you share with the world today through your passion? There are poems, short stories, novels, essays and screenplays waiting to be written by you. Whether you’re a full-time or part-time writer, whether or not you’ll be paid for your work, you can still decide to write, and share your passion.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Reading Widely

If you’re like me, you may feel a tinge of envy when you hear a jet, wishing you had travelled more often. You may also have taken jobs to pay the bills, while you dreamed of a different career path. We’ve all passed up opportunities, made mistakes, and taken jobs, just because we had to pay the bills.

So what can you do if your knowledge of the world is limited, but you don’t want your writing to have a narrow focus?

I have never gone to a casino to gamble; the closest I’ve come to that is walking through a casino. I do, however have some knowledge of the industry through reading: Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich and Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom. How could this information be useful? If you write science fiction and a space station your hero visits has a casino, it could help you imagine a realistic setting.

While I was briefly working as a Background Performer for a Canadian science fiction series, I walked through a set that was built to resemble the Oval Office. That’s the closest I’ll ever get to the White House. Fortunately, I found an excellent book that offers insights on what life is like for Presidents: Marine One: Four U.S Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World’s Most Amazing Helicopter by Colonel Ray “Frenchy” L’Heureux with Lee Kelly. What I found most fascinating were the descriptions of the logistics involved in moving the President from one location to another, and how various Presidents interacted with their staff.

Since I’ve never been an executive with a financial institution, or a successful stock broker, how could I ever understand what it’s like to be a major player in billion dollar industries? These three books have given me a glimpse into what their lives are like: Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley describes the brinkmanship between competing casino magnates in Los Vegas. Rigged, which is about the oil industry, and Once Upon a Time in Russia, which describes the rise of Russian billionaires, are both written by Ben Mezrich. If one of your stories involves your characters making multi-million dollar deals, wouldn’t it be useful to understand some of the pressures and dangers of working in that environment?

It’s important to read widely; if your knowledge is based only on stereotypes you’ve seen on television, you’re going to write stories that are no more that strings of cliches linked together, to produce either a lousy novel, or a screenplay for a B movie that isn’t worth watching. Reading widely helps you develop a depth of knowledge, that allows your stories to be both creative, and believable.

I should note here that some novels are based on completely unrealistic stereotypes, become bestsellers, and are adapted for blockbuster movies, making the authors extremely wealthy. Although I try to offer useful advice, you’re still the author and you have to follow your gut instincts. So, if you’re flying overhead in a corporate jet, on your way to a meeting with a Hollywood producer, just give me a wave.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

To Blog, or not to Blog….

So it’s the day you normally write your blog, but you’re scared that you have nothing left to write about. Here are some suggestions to consider:

Write a book review that’s related to your blog’s theme. It doesn’t have to be an exact match. For example, if you’re blog is about writing, reviewing a book like Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits still makes sense, because being productive is important to writers. It doesn’t have to be a new book, because what’s important, are your thoughts about its content, not the date when it was published.

You can compare a book, to the movie based on it. Is the author of the book, also the screenwriter? How much time was there between the publication of the book, and the release of the movie? Are there lines in the book, that were given to other characters in the movie? Are there scenes in the book you really enjoyed, that were missing in the movie? Is the movie an accurate representation of the book?

Another option is sharing resources related to your blog’s subject. You could tell your readers about feature-length documentaries and shorter videos you’ve discovered. Are there any new websites and/or blogs with good material? You could also provide links to articles and essays that will help your readers improve their knowledge of your shared passion.

If you’ve made any changes to your website, you could describe the changes, and explain why you made them. I recently removed two videos from my website, deciding it was better to focus on writing, rather than distracting visitors to my website with cringe-worthy videos. Instead, I listed the made-for-television movies I was a Background Performer/Movie Extra in, because they were an important learning experience for me.

Write about one of your accomplishments, and describe the time and effort required to achieve that goal. How long did it take you? What have you learned from your failures? If it was difficult, how did you overcome discouragement? Now that you’ve finished, do still feel it was a worthwhile goal?

You can also list those who you admire, and explain why. What did they achieve? What are the character traits that you’d like to emulate? Which obstacles did they overcome to achieve their goals? How are they remembered? If they aren’t well known, perhaps this is an opportunity to publicly give them the credit they deserve.

I hope these suggestions help you keep slogging and blogging.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

You Have To Decide

If you want to be a successful writer, you’ll have to decide to act on your story ideas. When you have a great story idea, you need to take the next step, whether it’s creating an outline, or writing the first paragraph. It does’t matter whether the end product is a short story, play, novel or screenplay, you just have to start.

You have to decide if you’re going to be a creator. Everyone is a consumer; reading books, watching movies, playing video games, but not everyone is a creator. Writers are creators, we take the ideas in our minds, and create novels that people read, screenplays that directors use to make movies, and plays that actors bring to life on stage.

When you have some spare time, you’ll have to decide whether to binge watch your favourite television series, or write. Time is a limited resource; how you use it will determine whether you’ll have the first draft of a novel at the end of the year, or you’ve just spent countless hours being amused.

You’ll have to decide if you’re prepared to have your writing criticised. Whether it’s someone in your writing group critiquing your short story, or an editor you’ve submitted a manuscript to, feedback is necessary for you to improve your craft.

The most important decision, however, is whether you’re prepared to actually write. You can read blogs about writing, attend writing conferences, read writing magazines, and watch interviews with authors, without ever making a serious effort to write.

So, what are you going to do right now? Do you have a good story idea? Are you prepared to invest time improving your craft? Are you willing to try, and learn from your mistakes? Everyone is a consumer, but you are a creator, and now is the time to start writing.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Marketing Ideas For Self-Published eBooks

Traditionally when we think of alumni organisations, universities come to mind, but that isn’t accurate; elementary schools, high schools, and community colleges also have alumni groups. Although they might not call themselves alumni, former employees of companies also form groups to keep in touch. You can promote your eBooks by making announcements on their websites or through their magazines and newsletters. You could reach thousands of potential readers, and you already have something in common with all of them.

Another option is to write an article or essay related to the subject of your eBook, or about the experience of writing it, and post the article or essay on Linked-In. If you don’t feel it’s appropriate to mention the title of the eBook in the article or essay, you can always include a link to the eBook or your website at the end. You might attract the attention of people who are too busy to browse websites, in search of new books to read.

Do you have a Youtube channel, where you can promote your writing? This step requires swallowing your pride, because your first videos will probably be cringe-worthy. That doesn’t matter, because over time your videos will improve, what’s important is that you’re reaching more potential readers.

A labour- intensive approach that I tried with my self-published eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper, was sending e-mails to libraries. I managed to convince several Canadian and American, and one Australian library to buy copies, but it required contacting hundreds of libraries. It was worth the effort, because many people discover new writers through searching library catalogues.

Self-published eBooks are flooding the marketplace like a biblical plague of locusts, and it’s getting more difficult to stand out in the crowd. I hope you find these ideas useful.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

How I Learned About the Entertainment Industry, Without Moving to Hollywood

My first foray into the entertainment industry began with Writer’s Block. I was writing a novel, but no matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t make it work. At about the same time I read two screenplays; Matrix Reloaded and The Piano. Since I had a general idea of how the format worked, I tried writing the story as a screenplay and it worked!

I had always enjoyed movies, but now I was hooked; I wanted real experience working in the industry. Fortunately, my first opportunity arrived a couple of years later while a stay-at-home parent for several months. Since my schedule was reasonably flexible, I was able to work as a Background Performer/Movie Extra for television series and made-for-television movies. That’s how I learned about Set Etiquette; as a Background Performer I was allowed to ask questions of the Production Assistants and Assistant Director, but I wasn’t allowed to speak to the Director. Observing how much was involved in shooting a single, ten minute scene, I began to understand why it’s so costly to make movies.

My next opportunity came, unexpectedly, through church. After moving to a large city, I spent several years as a Volunteer Video Camera Operator. It was a huge church (by Canadian standards) with three jumbo screens at the front of the auditorium and four Camera Operators for each service. It was a professional operation; when you arrived at the scheduled call time, you went to a production meeting, where the order of service was discussed. Once you were live, you followed the instructions of the Video Director, telling you who to focus on. With worship teams consisting of as many as six musicians, it could become quite demanding; panning, zooming, and focusing, on keyboards, guitars, drums, bass and singers.

Three books that I’ve found helpful in learning about the entertainment industry are; What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman, On The Set: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette by Paul J. Salamoff, and Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James A. Miller. I’ve also read over fifty screenplays. Although it’s tedious, if you really want to understand what’s involved in making movies, read a movie budget line by line.

I remain involved in the entertainment industry, as you do, by writing. After all, whether you’re a novelist, short story writer, playwright, or screenwriter, you’re a storyteller. And that’s really what the entertainment industry is all about; storytelling.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Three Great Resources

Most of the writers I’ve met don’t have large marketing budgets for their self-published books. Writers who have their books printed by traditional publishers, find they have to take greater responsibility for the promotion of their writing. We’re artists, but we need to think like entrepreneurs.

A book by one of the stars of Shark Tank offers great advice and encouragement for anyone who is starting with few resources. One of the main themes of The Power of Broke (2016) by Daymond John is that if you start with little financial support, it forces you to be creative, searching for unique solutions to challenges, rather than just throwing money at problems. His life is an example of how focus, determination, and perseverance, can lead to unbelievable success. Daymond John offers readers a glimpse of the challenges he faced building a company from the ground up, while encouraging them to follow their dreams.

Another great book that encourages anyone striving to follow their dreams was written by the Producer of Shark Tank. Dare to Succeed (2001) by Mark Burnett, stresses how essential it is to take chances and be prepared to expect the unexpected. Today you know him as a very successful television producer, but after serving in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, his first job in the United States was as a live-in-nanny. If you had just left one of the world’s elite military units, would you expect to find yourself taking care of children? His goal was to establish a life in the United States, and he was willing to do whatever it took.

I found it interesting that John Daymond sold clothing out of an old van in New York and Mark Burnett sold T-shirts on a beach in California. They both had direct sales experience early in their careers. What every writer can learn from the lives of entrepreneurs, is how essential it is to develop pitching skills. Daymond John had to convince musicians to wear the clothing he was designing in their videos. Mark Burnett had to convince companies to sponsor Eco Challenge. Likewise, writers are constantly pitching ideas to editors, trying to get them to publish our books, short fiction, articles, and essays. If you write screenplays, you have to persuade film companies to read them.

As well as reading these two books, I would highly recommend that you takes a look at Evan Carmichael‘s videos on Youtube, especially the Top 10 Rules series. Here you can find countless videos describing the principles used to achieve success by authors, business leaders, motivational speakers, actors, musicians and pastors.

Keep Striving. Keep Learning. Keep Writing.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Even If You Love Writing Screenplays….

If you enjoy writing, and you also enjoy watching movies, writing screenplays feels like a perfect fit. It allows you to be involved in the entertainment industry, even when circumstances make it difficult for you to work directly for a film company. There are, however, some good reasons you should keep working on other other projects as well.

One downside to writing screenplays is that it limits how many people will discover that you’re a writer. Let’s say that you write a great screenplay, and after an online search, you find ten production companies willing to consider screenplays submitted directly from writers. If those companies don’t buy or option your screenplays, it may be that only ten people know that you write. Unfortunately, if it’s rejected by script readers, the ten people who now know you’re a writer, may not be directors or producers.

You can also enter screenwriting contests, but make sure you take the time to find out who will see your screenplay. In some cases, your screenplay will only be read by directors, producers and agents If your screenplay is one of the finalists, out of hundreds of entries. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to pay the entry fee, for the possibility that it will be seen by someone who can help your career.

The dilemma is that you could be a gifted writer, but very few people know that you write. One way to overcome that obstacle is to write short stories. You can submit short stories to magazines, print anthologies, and literary journals (print and online.) Being published raises your profile as a writer, and you can include in your Bio, that you write screenplays. If talent agents or directors read your short story, they’ll know that you’re a talented writer AND you write screenplays.

Another way to raise your profile as a screenwriter, is to write articles and essays about writing and film, with the goal of establishing yourself as an industry expert. As always, include the fact you write screenplays in the Author’s Bio. Since a script reader or director may read hundreds of screenplays with similar themes, wouldn’t it be useful if they recognized your name?

I recently tried to raise to raise my profile as a writer, by starting a Youtube channel. I hope you find the video I’ve posted, “What If You’re A Really Good Writer?” amusing, despite the fact it’s a cringe-worthy early attempt.

Keep writing, the world needs to hear your voice, your passion!

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Is Your Idea Original Enough?

Many film companies won’t read a screenplay unless it is submitted by a talent agent or lawyer. If, however, you do find a film company that agrees to read one of your screenplays, they usually won’t read it unless you first sign a Release Agreement. One of the clauses in the Release Agreement will require you to acknowledge that someone working for the film company, or perhaps another writer like yourself, may have already submitted a concept that is similar. No matter how original you think your idea is, there may be other writers working on stories with very similar themes.

However, just because other writers may have similar concepts, shouldn’t discourage you from developing your story ideas. Consider these facts: White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen were both movies about an attack on the White House, and they were both released in 2013. Despite the fact Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 were both series about space stations, and they appealed to the same demographic, between 1993 and 1998, they were on television at the same time.

Although The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins books, is the best known story about teens fighting to the death, it wasn’t the first one. The first Hunger Games movie was released in 2012. The Japanese movie Battle Royale, based on the novel by Koushun Takami, was released twelve years earlier in 2000.

So, how do you distinguish your story concepts from other writers? Characters: Gandolph in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies are both powerful, charismatic wizards, but they have very different personalities. Setting: Dragons are used in The Hobbit trilogy, the Harry Potter movies and The Game of Thrones series, but the worlds in which they live are unique. Dialogue: What accents will your characters have? Will they sound like they’re reading from a dictionary, or will they use slang?

You should do your best to avoid copying another writer’s work; some of the worst B movies ever made were the result of a Director trying to copy a blockbuster. There are, however, many variations on a theme. The Twilight Saga movies and the Blade trilogy both concern vampires, but they approach the subject from very different perspectives.

Here’s the key point to remember: It’s the writer’s voice and how he or she approaches a subject that makes a story unique.

The only question is: What are you going to write today?

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Fascinating Trivia For Writers

The next time you’re looking at a book in a library or bookstore, or you’ve just watched a movie trailer, visit the Internet Movie Database and find out who the writers are. You’ll discover….

Actors Write Screenplays: Tom Hanks stars in the WWII drama, Greyhound (2020), and he also wrote the screenplay. It’s an adaptation of the novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester.

It isn’t unusual for two movies to be based on the same source material: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) are both based on the novel, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey.

Sometimes writers adapt their own work: Aaron Sorkin wrote a successful Broadway play, A Few Good Men. He then wrote the screenplay for the movie A Few Good Men, which was released in 1992.

Narrative Non-Fiction books are popular with Directors and Producers looking for source material: Narrative Non-Fiction books present the facts, but describe the people and places surrounding events, so it feels as if you’re reading a novel. Ben Mezrich, Erik Larson, and Stephan Talty are examples of Narrative Non-Fiction writers finding success in the film industry.

The title of the source material may not be the same as the movie title: Some of the best examples are in the science fiction genre. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is based on the short story The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clark. Blade Runner (1982) is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

One movie is all it takes: Once one book, play or short story you’ve written has been adapted for a movie, everything you write is immediately considered potential source material. Consider the Internet Movie Database listings for Philip K. Dick and Ben Mezrich; their careers are excellent examples.

Do you have a story idea that’s been rattling in your brain like marbles in a tin can? Perhaps today you should take some time to write. You’ll never know the full potential of your storytelling talent, until you start.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Rolling The Dice

As I’m writing this blog post, an independent film company is considering one of my screenplays. I have no idea how many other movie scripts they’re reading. For all I know, they may be looking at hundreds of screenplays by more talented writers.   It’s easy to talk yourself out of submitting your writing, just by thinking about how tough the competitions is, but that isn’t fair to you or your potential readers.

If you say to yourself, I’ll never be able to write like Suzanne Collins, or J.K. Rowling, the only answer I can think of is, “Good.” Why would anyone want to read a book by a writer who is just copying a famous writer’s style, when they can enjoy the unique voice of another writer? Although I think The Hunger Games and Harry Potter series were both very well written, I love reading books by new writers (or at least new to me), and immersing myself in the worlds they create. The series I’m reading now is The Expanse series by James S.A. Carey, and before that, the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve.

Is your writing good enough? That’s a difficult question to answer, because writers can have perfect spelling and grammar, yet no one reads their books. What one reader considers a cliche, might be considered appropriate for the situation by anther reader. When I read The Meg by Steve Alten I thought it had too many cliches, but it was a bestseller, and it was adapted as a movie as well.

It’s really about style. My wife didn’t enjoy reading The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, she found his detailed description of every rock and shrub irritating, just too much detail. I didn’t finish reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis because it didn’t include enough detail for me to enjoy the story.

You, the writer, have a choice to make. There’s no guarantee the book you submit to an editor, or self-publish, will be a bestseller; but it may be. It’s likely that some readers won’t appreciate your writing style, but even the most popular books are disliked by a portion of the people who read them. Whether you choose traditional publishing, or self-publish, the only way to discover how much potential you have as a writer, is to keep submitting material; and roll the dice.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper




You’ve Been Busy!

Come on, you can admit it; you dream of walking the red carpet, and accepting an award to thunderous applause. What you may not have considered, is that if you’re writing a short story or novel, you’re already creating a movie in your mind. And what’s really amazing, you’re the whole crew.  

First of all, you’re the Screenwriter, because the story idea originates with you. There’s no movie without a script. And, since you’re the person who initiated the process and are responsible for it’s completion, you’re also the Producer.

Another major decision is where the film will be shot. Because you, as the writer, is making that choice, you’re the Location Manager. Whether it’s being filmed at an outside location or inside a studio, someone has to make sure everything is in place to create the correct atmosphere for the scene being filmed. You’re responsible for what’s revealed to your readers, so you’re also the Set Director

Aren’t stressed-out enough by your hectic schedule?  When you make yourself a sandwich and brew a cup of coffee, you become the Caterer. If you’ve ever been on a film set, you know that the individuals who make sure Actors and Background Performers are ready when filming starts, are the Production Assistants. The voice in your head, telling you to get back the keyboard and keep writing, that’s you, the Production Assistant.

And last, but not least, someone has to bring all the elements together, and take control of the story. That’s you, the Director. So, if you ever find yourself exhausted after spending a couple of hours writing, now you know why….You’ve been busy! 

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Before You Submit

One evening last week I was reading a short story out loud, getting ready to present it at a writers’ meeting. Here are some reasons you should read your material out loud, before you submit it to editors or producers.

Reading out loud is the easiest way to determine if your sentences are a reasonable length. A rule of thumb is, if you need to take a breath while reading a sentence, you need to either add a comma, or make the sentence shorter. It’s better to vary the length of your sentences, so it will feel more natural to your readers. Sometimes your reply to a question will be lengthy, but at other times it will just be “yes,” or “no.” If a character in your story doesn’t not know how to reply to a statement, you can always write, “Hmmm,” as his or her response.

Can the reader pronounce the names you’ve given to locations or characters? This can be an issue for science fiction and fantasy writers, when they’re struggling to come up with unique names. If you read a name out loud and find it challenging to pronounce, then you should seriously consider changing it to something simpler. If your main character’s name is Irlzolriqil, it will be distracting.  Readers who spend too much time concentrating on how  pronounce a name or place, won’t enjoy reading you story.

Taking the time to read out loud, will also help you to find spelling errors, because the software you use, may not recognize the different contexts used with words. “Break,” and “brake,” are both spelled correctly. If the software detects misspelled words, it will only advise you of a problem, if either word was spelled “brek” or “brak.”

If you’re going to read out loud, a good resource is How to be Heard (2017) by Julian Treasure, which is available as either a book or audiobook. An excellent speaker to listen to is Les Brown; you can hear several examples of his passionate style on Another excellent, though less well known speaker, is Ashwin Ramani. You can find examples of his style in the Sermon Archives at Probably the best speaker I’ve ever heard, is science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. You can find numerous examples of his speaking style on

Reading your stories out loud is an inexpensive way to improve your writing and will help you prepare for a successful writing career. And I want you to have a successful writing career, because the world needs to hear your voice, your passion.

Copyright © 2019 by J. Paul Cooper



You can’t climb a mountain, unless you believe you can make it to the summit. You have to be optimistic, in order to overcome the inertia and start moving. At the same time, you have to risk the disappointment that will result, if you don’t make it to the top. That is the writer’s dilemma.

Earlier this year I sent a follow-up e-mail to a producer I had submitted a screenplay to. I didn’t receive an answer from the producer, as if I wasn’t even worth the few minutes it would have taken to write a reply.

If your work is refused, and it will be, what are your options? If you stop writing, then you’re allowing the individuals who rejected your work, to decide your future. Why should their opinion prevent you from reaching your full potential as a writer? Some of my short stories were rejected several times, before they were published.

If you’re convinced that a short story has great potential, but it keeps being rejected, perhaps you could take it to a Writer-In-Residence at a local library or university. If you’re a member of a writing group, you could submit it to be critiqued at the next meeting. Since this may not be possible in your situation (or you’re concerned your story might be stolen), another option is to set aside the short story for a few weeks and work on another project. Returning to a story after a break will allow you to see it with fresh eyes, and you may discover new ways to improve it.

If you’re discouraged, learning how bestselling writers approach their careers can be a great help, and Youtube is an amazing source of information. Several successful writers are featured in Evan Carmichael’s “Top 10 Rules” series. You can also search your favourite authors’ names, and you’ll find videos with them delivering keynote addresses at writer’s conferences, speaking at libraries and being interviewed.

I hope you keep writing, because every time a new, passionate voice is heard, the world becomes a more interesting place.

Copyright © 2019 by J. Paul Cooper



It doesn’t matter if you have a successful writing career, or you’re just getting started, Writer’s Block can be devastating. Here are some ideas to help you get back on track.

Read or listen to: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Discouragement begins when you’re hoping for that big break, but it seems as if you aren’t making any progress. Jeff Olsen reminds readers that it’s all about consistency and persistence; very few people are overnight successes.

Read or listen to The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. This book contains great advice regarding how to develop positive attitudes and start moving toward your goals.

Watch this three-part video featuring Canadian science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer. Recorded at the 2010 Ontario Writers’ Conference, Word by Word, Robert J. Sawyer discusses the process of building a writing career. You can find it on listed as : Robert J. Sawyer -P1 of 3 to P3 of 3 – OWC 2010. It takes about 25 minutes to watch all three parts. (I’ve mentions this before, because it’s a message that every writer should hear, and Robert J. Sawyer is an excellent speaker.)

Watching videos of novelists and screenwriters discussing their craft is an excellent learning opportunity. If you’re serious about a writing career, why not learn from the best? It’s essential to watch how they conduct themselves while speaking to audiences and being interviewed, since those are skills you’ll need to develop.

If you’re writing a novel, but suffering from Writer’s Block, write an essay. If you’re writing a screenplay, but need to take a break, write a short story. The key is to switch gears, but keep moving forward as a writer. Give your subconscious some time to work on the problem, and when you return to the project in a few weeks, you’ll probably have a solution. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a novel, a screenplay, a short story, essay or stage play, the world needs to hear your unique voice.

Copyright ©  2019 by J. Paul Cooper

Be Your Own Motivation Guru

Note: This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of Opal: The Magazine for Canadian Authors and Writers. Pages 23-25

There’s enough information about motivation and success to fill every spare moment of your life with books, eBooks, audiobooks and videos. An endless stream of motivation gurus saturate the marketplace, some taking a more relaxed, reflective spiritual approach, others adopting a high energy, super-charged persona. Gleaned from that eclectic mix of wisdom and hype, here are a few practical concepts that writers can apply in their careers.
If you were guided into a room filled with of targets, handed a bow and arrow, and told you could win a thousand dollars if you hit “the target,” you’d need to ask two questions: Which target am I supposed to hit? How long do I have? This is the reason why its important to Write Down Your Goals.
The first step is to consider which goal, if you were to finish it, would have the greatest impact. As you write down your main goal consider what other skills would help your attain it, and write those down as well. If you goal is to write a novel, what other activities would you be involved in? Since being established in the literary community will help you promote your novel, you could write short stories and submit them to literary journals while you continue working on the novel. As a published writer, you’ll need to do public readings, so watch for open mic events, which are excellent opportunities to gain experience.
Note: Although a novel is used as an example, the goal you choose to focus on does not have to be a major project. If completing a short story, essay or poem will aid in building your self-confidence as a writer, then they may be the ideal goals to pursue.

Set a Deadline For Your Project. One of the problems faced by writers when they have no deadline for a project, is they can be constantly distracted and never finish it. When you write down your main goal, also record a deadline for when you intend to finish the fist major stage. “I will have a first draft of ‘Title of Project’ finished by November 14, 2018.” If you haven’t completed the first stage by the deadline, don’t be too hard on yourself, just set another deadline and keep writing. When you’ve finished the first stage of your goal, set a deadline for the next one: “By March 14, 2019 I will complete ‘Title of Project’ and Submit it to Publishers.” Once again, if you miss the deadline, create a new one and keep writing. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to discourage you, the purpose is to help you keep focused.
If you can’t imagine yourself standing on the top of a mountain, you’re unlikely to start climbing, which is why you should Visualize Your Success. Everyday, take a couple of minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself receiving writing awards, addressing large crowds of fans and signing autographs. Does it sound silly? It’s one of the methods athletes use to prepare for major competitions. A downhill skier imagines flying down a mountainside at 100 km/hr to win a gold medal and a writer imagines walking up to a podium to receive an award, but they are both moving towards attainable goals.
As is experienced by many writers, there will be times you’re so discouraged by rejection or the slow pace of your progress, that you’ll be tempted to give up. When you start to hear yourself say things like “you’ll never be a successful writer,” or “you’re just a…..” it’s time to Counter Negative Self-Talk With Affirmations.

An affirmation is basically a positive statement to remind yourself of your potential and drown out devastating negative self-talk. Here’s an example:
I am a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur
I am talented, intelligent, resourceful
My creative potential is unlimited
Another threat to completing a writing project is perfectionism. If you believe your work has to be perfect before sending it to an editor, you could spend years endlessly rewriting the same manuscript over and over again. Keep in mind that Perfectionism is a Form of Procrastination, and it may be holding you back. Every writer at some point has to decide whether to show their work to the public and risk potential criticism, or give up the dream of being published. Your project will never be perfect, but it may be just what editors and readers are looking for.
Since writing is part of your life, and life is unpredictable, expect roadblocks and Don’t Limit Yourself to Just One Path. If you’re climbing through a mountain pass and it’s blocked by a fallen tree, you don’t just stand there and stare at the tree. You might try pushing it aside, climbing over it, walking around it, or going back a couple of kilometers to find another path.
If you’re a screenwriter, but you’ve been unsuccessful in selling your completed scripts, perhaps you should write a novel. It may be that the novel catches the attention of the producers you need to impress and open doors for you. If you’re a playwright and can’t get a play you’ve written performed, perhaps you can adapt it as a short story and have it published in a literary journal. Keep in mind that the story is essential, formats are just various ways of telling that story.
Although it’s true that sometimes you have sit at a keyboard with just you and your thoughts, You Don’t Have to Go It Alone. Joining a writer’s organization will give you the opportunity to meet others who are just as enthusiastic about the art of writing as you. It’s also a non-threatening environment where you can read your work and receive suggestions on how to improve it. Perhaps the most important reason to join a writer’s organization is you can benefit from the experience of other members. To use a Canadian analogy; when you’re guiding your canoe down a river, avoiding one rock hidden beneath the surface can make a huge difference.
The best advice, however, for anyone interested in a literary career is: Just Get Started, Write. You can read books about the writing process, watch interviews with successful writers, join writing associations, and attend writer’s conferences, and never make any substantial progress, if you aren’t actually writing. Although learning about the writing process is important and getting to know other writers is helpful, to become a proficient writer, you need to practice your craft, you need to sit down at the keyboard and work.
Why is it important that you write? If a literary agency sent agents across the entire planet, among the 7.6 billion inhabitants, meeting writers of every nationality, race, and religion, they would only find one you. You are unique and so is your voice and your passion. Share your opinion, give us stories to lose ourselves in, create characters to cheer for, tear at our hearts strings and tickles our funny bones… just write.

And The Winner Is…..

Last weekend I attended When Words Collide, an annual conference for writers and readers held in Calgary. I enjoyed several seminars, and I also read a short story to a small audience Saturday evening.

Before the conference, I entered the Robin Herrington Short Story Contest. (The results are announced at When Words Collide.) First Place has a prize of CDN $125 and the top ten stories are included in an anthology, In Places Between.

Sunday morning I went to the final judging, where the top ten pieces were offered critiques by four judges, and the results were announced. I thought the short story I submitted was unique, well written, and I expected to win.

By the time the judges were half-way through the list, and my name hadn’t been mentioned, I reduced my expectations from winning, to at least being included in the anthology. As the last short story was discussed, I had to accept the fact my story wasn’t even one of the top ten.

Earlier this year, however, I learned that one of my short stories was accepted for Power: In the Hands of One, In the Hands of Many. It’s an anthology soon to be published by the West Coast Science Fiction Association. That story was written quickly to meet the submission deadline, and I wasn’t optimistic about it being accepted.

If you’re trying to decide whether to enter a contest, or submit material to an editor, remember that it isn’t a simple “yes or no” proposition. One person could love your story, another think it’s a piece of junk. It’s like listening to the radio; a song comes on and you wonder how anyone could possibly enjoy it, yet it’s a huge hit and millions of people love the song.

Whether you self-publish or send your material to traditional publishers, what’s really important is that you give others the opportunity to hear your voice and feel your passion. Keep writing my friend, keep writing….

Copyright © 2018 by J. Paul Cooper

If you haven’t read it yet, my eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper, is available through and several other online retailers, as well as several libraries in Canada and the United States.


The Fear Factor

Does this sound familiar?

I know it’s imperative that I complete the science fiction novel I started, yet I find myself doing everything, but finishing the novel.  I’ve watched Youtube videos and read by books by several motivational speakers, so I understand the importance of setting goals and taking action. I’m constantly reading books by great writers, which is one of the ways you improve your craft. I take the time to write articles and short stories, which is still writing, but if I keep taking side roads, I’ll never reach my final destination.

Isn’t it strange how two completely different fears can have the same result?

I fear failure. Once I finish the novel, I know that I’ll start submitting it to agents and/or publishers and I’ll have to face the very real possibility of rejection and criticism of my work.  Having a short story, essay or article rejected is not a big deal, because I didn’t put that much time into the process.  However, I’ve also had several feature length screenplays turned down, and I know how much those e-mails sting.

I fear success. Success would mean giving up my job as a forklift operator, and taking full responsibility for my life. I would no longer have a predictable work schedule, or a  regular paycheque. How much would I be paid to speak at libraries and writers’ conferences? How much would I earn from book royalties?  Could an agent sell the film rights to my books and short stories? If I had a popular novel, would directors and producers finally take my screenplays seriously?

And yet, I want to find out. I want to know whether I have what it takes to be a successful writer and the only way to find out is finish the novel. Do you have a major writing project that could change your life? Perhaps it’s time you made that final effort to cross the finish line. You could be signing books and doing interviews sooner than you think. For writers, it often only takes one book or one screenplay to move from obscurity to being a headliner at writers’ conferences.

Copyright © 2018 by J. Paul Cooper

The Bizarre Experience of a 21st Century Canadian Writer

It was seven o’clock in the morning in the spring of 2016 and normally I would have been standing in a circle with the other warehouse employees, being assigned my duties for the day. Immediately after the huddle, I’d begin by completing the daily safety inspection of my forklift. On this Monday morning, however, I was going to be inspected. At any moment my name would be called, and I’d follow a nurse into the next room to prepare for a colonoscopy.
No one looks forward to having a camera, regardless how small it is, pushed up their nether regions, but if it can reduce the risk of colon cancer, it’s worth the temporary discomfort. I just wanted to get it over with. If the doctor said I was clear, I wouldn’t have to undergo the procedure again for ten years.
I checked my smartphone to pass the time, hoping for an e-mail that didn’t invite me to complete a survey, or remind me of a relative’s birthday. I was hoping for an e-mail from an editor or a producer. I’ve been writing for over twenty years and I’m always waiting for replies for the short stories, essays and screenplays that I submit. I work in a warehouse to pay the bills, I write because it’s my passion.
One of the television and film companies I had recently submitted a script to was in South Africa. Modern technology has opened up markets around the globe for writers; you can contact companies through their websites and then submit your work by e-mail. Before the internet became a reality, researching writing opportunities in Africa and submitting scripts would have been much more difficult, perhaps impossible.
As the nurse called my name, I put my smartphone away and walked through the door. A few minutes later, after changing into a hospital gown and answering a few questions, the nurse wheeled my bed into a room with a large monitor on one wall. With the help of some mild sedation to help me relax, the procedure wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I had anticipated. So there I was, it was a beautiful spring morning and I was looking at the inside of my colon.
Meanwhile, a producer was preparing to send a response from Johannesburg. It was decision time, either the producer was going to make an offer or reject my script.
The procedure was over in less than twenty minutes and my colon was fine. An hour and half after I arrived at the Colon Cancer Screening Centre I was back at the main entrance, waiting for a family member to pick me up. When I looked at my phone, the first thing I noticed was that I had received an e-mail from the film and television company in South Africa.
As I read the politely worded e-mail, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the situation.; it had taken less time for the e-mail rejecting my screenplay to travel from the other side of the planet, than it had taken for the camera to travel through my colon. The wonders of modern technology….

Copyright © 2017 By J. Paul Cooper

Book Review

Becoming A Writer-Staying A Writer by J. Michael Straczynski

Benbella Books 2021 230 Pages

If you just read about J. Michael Straczynksi’s success writing scripts for television series, as well as feature length screenplays, and comic books, that alone would be enough to convince you to buy Becoming A Writer-Staying a Writer. And it would be a good decision.

Having worked in Hollywood for decades, Straczynski offers a wide range of advice useful for both new and experienced writers. My favourite chapter was Annnnd Here’s The Pitch. If you hear the term “pitching” the first image that comes to mind might be a movie producer’s office in Hollywood. Straczynski, however, notes that an editor who is publishing your first novel, might want know about the second book you’re planning to write as well. This is useful knowledge, since many writers conferences include pitch sessions with agents and editors.

I appreciate Straczynski’s approach, as he discusses both the challenge involved in approaching agents, and practical steps you can take to develop a reputation as a solid writer. According to the author, having short stories published and offering to write a script for an independent filmmaker’s first short film can help in that process.

Straczynski’s book discusses technical aspects of writing, as well as emotional issues like Writer’s Block and Imposter Syndrome. Becoming A Writer-Staying A Writer is a perfect balance of straightforward advice and humour; Straczynski never denies that writing is a difficult process, but he reminds us why it’s important that we keep trying.

Copyright © 2023 by J. Paul Cooper