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Interview with Author, Mike Maden, writing for Tom Clancy (Part 2)

Mike Maden

Q. what it is like to be a co-author on this hit franchise?

MM. I’m certain that Tom Colgan got the wrong phone number and accidentally called the wrong guy when he offered me the chance to be

Tom Clancy

an author in the Tom Clancy franchise. (To the other Mike Maden out there: sorry about that. Okay, not really.) It is such an honor and privilege to write in this world and to hang out with the iconic characters that he created. I care deeply that I get the characters right and to do the research to the best of my ability. It is a tremendous responsibility to carry on the Clancy legacy but it is also a heck of a lot of fun. It’s also crazy weird to see my name beneath Tom Clancy’s. My only regret in writing for the franchise is that I never got to meet Tom who sadly passed away in 2013.

Q. Did you write some of the teleplays or contribute as a consultant?

MM. Having written screenplays in the past, I would dearly love to contribute to the Jack Ryan TV franchise put out by Amazon Prime. Sadly for me, the creators of that show don’t need my help. They’ve re-imagined Jack Ryan senior as a young man operating in today’s world rather than in the 1980s when he was first created by Tom Clancy. Judging by the huge fan base they have (including me) I’d say they have their hands firmly on the tiller. And in a way, I have the best of all worlds. Because the TV series features a young John Krasinski, readers think the series is about Jack Ryan Jr. (which is my bailiwick) so I’m getting all kinds of credit that I don’t deserve—and at the same time, I get to watch a really great TV series without having to do any of the hard, hard work that those folks have to do to create a smash hit.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MM. Every time one of my novels appears on the shelf it seems like an impossible gift. Why in the world is my name on the cover? How did that happen? How have I managed to win the lottery eight times in a row? I am one blessed dude. Speaking of blessed, I also have a secret weapon at my disposal. My amazing wife is always my first reader but she goes the extra mile and also reads the entire manuscript to me out loud before I send in the first draft to the editor. All one hundred thousand words. (She is a saint.) Sometimes a sentence reads fine on the page in your mind but when read aloud it punishes the ear like nails on a chalkboard—syntax, cadence, word choice all have a different resonance when heard as opposed to read. And the typos? Those last, lurking, invisible wee beasties that are the bane of every writer? She manages to scare them out from under the covers by the sound of her parched and rasping voice. (Okay, not all of them. But a lot of them. Thank heavens for professional editors who wrangle the rest of them.) Here’s my pro tip for the day: audiobook sales are becoming a huge percentage of total book sales. By doing an “audio” edit, I’m creating prose that will read and sound better for amazing audio talents like Scott Brick (www.scottbrick.net) who has read all of my Clancy stuff.

Research is very, very important. Of course, no one was better at research than Tom Clancy and his fans expect it of me as well. A lot of my internet research focuses on weapons and technology. But I prefer spending time in the countries featured in my novels in order to provide context for the characters and story. It’s also a way to show respect for the people and cultures I write about. Fortunately, I travel with a beautiful and amazing research assistant who happens to be my wife. Here Angela is in Spain helping me thoroughly research a plate of freshly sautéed pimientos de padrón for FIRING POINT.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

MM. My favorite tool is my giant white board—which is actually a 4’ x 8’ piece of white panel board I bought at Home Depot for about $15 . I use a lot of “mind mapping” to brainstorm my way through each story problem—or just dream. I do all of my writing on my laptop (MacBook Air) and I break the first draft completely on Scrivener which is the best word processing program in the world to do it—and it’s very inexpensive.  The subsequent drafts that the publisher and I trade back and forth are on Word because that is their software of choice. My 4’ x 8’ white board (newly installed, soon to be marked up with my next story):

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

Hiking the Julian Alps

MM. I have a strict word count I hold to slavishly seven days a week. If I meet my word count early, I stop and do something fun as a reward. But I will work as many hours as it takes to hit my number even if that means I don’t go to bed. At the end of the day, I can’t hand in my calendar to my publisher and show them how many days I worked. My contract specifies that I must turn in 100k words of polished prose so my focus is on words and not hours worked. Neither publishers nor readers care how hard you work. They only care about what you write.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

Did you miss Part I of this Interview?

For the answer come back on June 26th for the conclusion of this wonderful Interview.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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Look Inside ~~ How.To.Write.A.Play/Journal

                                                                                   Introduction

I created this journal/workbook to encourage other playwrights to pursue their dreams.  It doesn’t matter that you are just beginning your journey as a writer. Whatever your level of writing may be I have tried to create a journal for the playwright inside all of us. Perhaps you have been journaling for years and want to try your hand at a stage script.  Or you are a more experienced writer and need a little inspiration to get you started on your next project. Regardless of your experience, I hope you find this journal encouraging and a safe place to store your characters, your story outlines, and your private ideas for future plays.

Only when I began to write seriously did I come to realize that I had been writing my entire adult life.  But back then I considered it just ‘scribbling’. 

A thought I didn’t want to forget, or a feeling I had to capture.  Or a phrase that I was inspired by. I have written over fifty plays of all lengths. 30 of these are short, often ten minute, plays for teens in the classroom. No sets, no props, no costumes. Being an actor and then a director (in a past life) I have read hundreds of scripts and I urge you to do the same. It’s great research on being a better playwright.

But most important, have fun. Stop to enjoy the process. You will stumble and fall. If you write something that is bad, remember, that’s what re-writes are for!   

                                                              Table of Contents

                          Section 1…How to Begin…                                                           

                          Section 2…How to Write a Play…                                          

                          Section 3…Creating Rich Characters…                             

                         Section 4…Story Telling                                                           

                          Section 5… Protagonist, Antagonist, Conflict  

                          Section 6… How to Block…                                                   

                          Section 7… Snappy Dialogue…                                            

                          Section 8… Set Design…                                                         

                           Section 9… Formatting your Play…                                  

                         Section 10.… Terminology…                                   

 

 

The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.

Mark Twain

How to Begin

   To stare at a blank page or screen this is the scariest thing of all and sometimes causes a writer to give up before they have begun. Ray Bradbury said, “Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.”   Forget for a moment about writing a Tony award winning stage play. Begin with the first outline of your story.  Don’t let people tell you it starts with the first word that’s just silly. Practice writing that first piece of dialogue. For example:

SAM. (Pulling the stranger out of the street.) Watch out! Didn’t you see that bus bearing down on you?

JANE. (Clinging to his arm.) No. I wasn’t thinking I didn’t see thank you.

And…

BILL. (Sitting at the steel table.) What the hell am I doing here? What was I thinking visiting a convicted killer?’

And…

VIOLET. (Laughing and clinging to the hand strap.) Slow down, Al! You’re gonna kill us. BUTCH. Shut your pie-hole, Vi. That Sheriff is hot on my bumper.

And…

BRITTANY. (Sitting in a waiting room and muttering.) My first audition since I hit Hollywood and what if I fail?

BRET. (Standing in the doorway.) Ms. Jones? We’re ready for you.

And…

TONY. (Cringing behind his desk.) Don’t read that, Mr. Nelson. The poem’s not finished. JOANIE. (Sighing, murmurs to herself.) He’s so handsome. He doesn’t even see me. I wish I was as pretty as Mary Jane.

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 You have an idea for a play in your mind.  Write down the first idea.  Write two ideas that are different.  Now choose the one that is your best idea.  Ideally, the first few lines of a play should capture the audience from the first utterance. This will launch your writing and your play. 

 Be certain that the main characters are well developed before you get too far into the dialogue (See Section 3.) 

 This is the chapter for ‘character building and character analysis.   Use this chapter to not only develop your characters but to jot down your observations of real people that you’ve seen and heard.

         Listen to people. Notice how they speak; the cadence of their speech, the slang that they use. 

               I can only tell you how my stories come to me.  I’m certain it’s different for everyone.

An idea will pop into my mind.  For several days it will germinate and then it starts to write itself.  When my brain is full of ideas, dialogue, and people I have to sit down at my keyboard and transfer it.

 Do not feel as though you must have a whole script ready to write.  I’d never get anything written if I put that kind of pressure on myself.   My hope is that you find this work book/ journal helpful in that way.

                    Now, write the first few lines of dialogue for your first or newest script here:

“A will finds a way.” Orison Swett Marden

Following each section are blank, lined pages for you to write on, experiment with ideas, and practice dialogue. Each  blank page is embedded with a famous quote to inspire you on the road to becoming a playwright. 

                                                                                                                                            “When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m  thirsty, I drink.                                                                                                                                                                                   When I feel like  saying something, I say it.” Madonna

                                                                               

“An actor without a playwright is like a hole without a

doughnut.”  George Jean Nathan

 

To See More Pages, Click Here 

 

There’s another journal/handbook for creative writers, covering fiction, playwriting, poetry and much more.

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LOOK Inside

Maybe you journal and are looking for a simple, easy to use journal for your daily entries. Blank, lined pages with inspiring quotes from famous people to keep you writing. 

Look Inside

(MORE)

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

How To Format A Screenplay

TS.  ‘ACTION drives a screenplay, that and plot.  DIALOGUE drives a stage play so it better be damn good. In my opinion, if your action is good in a screenplay, the dialogue can be mediocre and often is in blockbusters. If your dialogue is crisp and interesting and helps drive the story, you’ve done a better job than most in Hollywood.’ 

While you can buy books and software to do the job for you it’s always good to have a grasp of the general spacing standards. The top, bottom and right margins of a screenplay are 1″. The left margin is 1.5″. The extra half-inch of white space to the left of a script page allows for binding with brads, yet still imparts a feeling of vertical balance of the text on the page. The entire document should be single-spaced.

The very first item on the first page should be the words FADE IN:. Note: the first page is never numbered. Subsequent page numbers appear in the upper right hand corner, 0.5″ from the top of the page, flush right to the margin.

Screenplay Elements

Below is a list of items (with definitions) that make up the screenplay format, along with indenting information. Again, screenplay software will automatically format all these elements, but a screenwriter must have a working knowledge of the definitions to know when to use each one.

Scene Heading
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

A scene heading is a one-line description of the location and time of day of a scene, also known as a “slugline.” It should always be in CAPS.

Example: EXT. WRITERS STORE – DAY reveals that the action takes place outside The Writers Store during the daytime.

Subheader
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

When a new scene heading is not necessary, but some distinction needs to be made in the action, you can use a subheader. But be sure to use these sparingly, as a script full of subheaders is generally frowned upon. A good example is when there are a series of quick cuts between two locations, you would use the term INTERCUT and the scene locations.

Action
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

The narrative description of the events of a scene, written in the present tense. Also less commonly known as direction, visual exposition, blackstuff, description or scene direction.

Remember – only things that can be seen and heard should be included in the action.

Character
Indent: Left: 2.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 4.0″

When a character is introduced, his name should be capitalized within the action. For example: The door opens and in walks LIAM, a thirty-something hipster with attitude to spare.

A character’s name is CAPPED and always listed above his lines of dialogue. Minor characters may be listed without names, for example “TAXI DRIVER” or “CUSTOMER.”

Dialogue
Indent: Left: 1.0″ Right: 1.5″ Width: 3.5″

Lines of speech for each character. Dialogue format is used anytime a character is heard speaking, even for off-screen and voice-overs. Normal upper and lower case is used.

Parenthetical
Indent: Left: 1.5″ Right: 2.0″ Width: 2.5″

A parenthetical is direction for the character, that is either attitude or action-oriented. With roots in the playwriting genre, today, parentheticals are used very rarely, and only if absolutely necessary. Why? Two reasons. First, if you need to use a parenthetical to convey what’s going on with your dialogue, then it probably just needs a good re-write. Second, it’s the director’s job to instruct an actor on how to deliver a line, and everyone knows not to encroach on the director’s turf!

Extension
Placed after the character’s name, in parentheses

An abbreviated technical note placed after the character’s name to indicate how the voice will be heard onscreen, for example, if the character is speaking as a voice-over, it would appear as LIAM (V.O.).

Transition
Indent: Left: 4.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 2.0″

Transitions are film editing instructions, and generally only appear in a shooting script. Transition verbiage includes:

  • CUT TO:
  • DISSOLVE TO:
  • SMASH CUT:
  • QUICK CUT:
  • FADE TO:

As a spec script writer, you should avoid using a transition unless there is no other way to indicate a story element. For example, you might need to use DISSOLVE TO: to indicate that a large amount of time has passed.

Shot
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

A shot tells the reader the focal point within a scene has changed. Like a transition, there’s rarely a time when a spec screenwriter should insert shot directions. Once again, that’s the director’s job. 

Sample of what your page should look like:  [Source: The Writer’s Digest]

 

 

 

other related posts by this blogger:

Available now!


How To Write a Play


How To Format a Play
How To Format a Novel

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    January: Sue Grafton ~ In Memory
                                                                                   
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