Above: The main screen for WriterDuet, the online screenwriting website. I've been very happy with the free version.
Below: Several versions of The Screenwriter's Bible.
Readers of the blog may recall my short story The Undoing of Maggie Jinkowski, which won first place in the short story category at the Hampton Roads Writers Conference in 2019 and was recently included in the Kitsap Writers Group Anthology. I was recently asked if I'd be interested in adapting it into a screenplay format. Not a formal offer to produce it or anything, just gauging interest and seeing how it goes. I decided to give it a shot.
One of the resources recommended to me was WriterDuet, a website which already knows the right formatting for a screenplay and will help guide you in writing it. It made the basics super easy and you can use it for FREE. You can also export your project from the website to Word or a PDF. Highly recommend if you're looking to get your feet wet in screenwriting but worry about getting bogged down in formatting.
Another resource I tried out was the Screenwriter's Bible. It's a big book and has resources for almost any stage of screenwriting you're in. From format to best practices to story telling. It was very helpful in explaining to me how to do some of the more complex strategies I wanted to use, like flashbacks and voice over. There are many editions of this book out there, so don't feel pressure to buy the latest, an older edition will get you started just fine.
Between the site and the book, I have a pretty nice draft of my story that should work in a visual format. The hardest part was translating Maggie's thoughts to something an audience could see or hear. It helped a lot that I'd read some screenplays before, so I was familiar with what the final product needed to look like. Next step: sending the draft to my friend who showed interest and seeing what he has to say!
Wish me luck!
Have you ever adapted a story for the screen? Have you ever written an original screenplay? What resources helped you the most? Let's discuss in the comments!
Photos of covers on my kindle just don't look good. Such a bummer! So here's an official cover from MacMillan.
The Kaiju Preservation Society is a contemporary adult scifi that I'd classify as biopunk. And by contemporary I mean contemporary--it discusses the COVID-19 pandemic. The plot is not about that, but the MC loses his job right when the pandemic hits, as many people did, and that kicks off his need for a job, which leads him to working for The Kaiju Preservation Society. For those, like me, who don't know, a Kaiju is an already established thing outside of this book, and basically refers to Godzilla and Godzilla-adjacent monsters from Japanese films. When the MC, Jamie, starts his job, he's sent to a parallel Earth where Kaiju are the apex predators. The KPS's goal is to study them, as they have a bunch of fascinating biology including the fact they run on nuclear energy. The book follows some antics, some cool biology, and of course, the eventual problem that puts the Kaiju in danger.
I loved this book. The voice was humorous without being cringy, the biology was fun but not an info dump, and the pacing was on point. This wasn't the type of book to ruminate on the plot and discuss character arc--it's popcorn and a romp. Not only did I enjoy this, but I'd also enjoy a movie adaptation. I was also a fan of the inclusion of Naimh, a nonbinary character, whose nonbinary-ness was never made a Thing.
So what didn't work for me? Honestly, there are so few things to complain about. Was Jamie a bit of a dull protagonist? Yes. Did I care? No. The book wasn't about him as much as it was about this society and the alternate world. Jamie was basically the cameraman. But I don't even care because the rest was so fun.
I've started using this book as a comp title for my manuscript. For those who are here as readers rather than writers, I'm listing this book as one that is similar to my own when I tell literary agents about my manuscript. What do they have in common? The sense of humor is similar (wise cracks and wit, but not too much), the plot relies a lot on biology (aka biopunk, same genre as Jurassic Park), and the audience (people who like appropriately funny biopunk.) My book also has a nonbinary side character, a corrupt corporation, and animal (in the broadest sense of the word) rights activists.
This book is for you if you want a popcorn movie as a book. If you like Godzilla, you'll probably enjoy all the references that I didn't get. It's your genre if you enjoyed Jurassic Park or Dan Kobolt's Domesticating Dragons (which sounds like fantasy but it's not). It's not for you if any mention of the pandemic is going to put you off. That's understandable, save this for another time. It's also not for you if you're looking for literary style, romance arcs, or want everything to be character driven.
Have you read The Kaiju Preservation Society? Have you read more of John Scalzi's books? Which ones would you recommend to fans of TKPS? Let's discuss in the comments!
The books and two of the book marks (the third bookmark was ruined by rain) courtesy of my BOTM subscription. Photo by Kate Ota 2022
I received a three month subscription to Book of the Month Club for Christmas this past year. Now that my three months are up, I thought it would be worth reviewing.
Book of the Month Club (of BOTM) a service where each month, you get to choose from 5 (or, starting in March, 7) new traditionally published books. Some are debuts, some are an author's subsequent books, and some authors have been featured multiple times. Near the start of the month, you receive an email with the books to choose from. They tend to have different genre options, for example one month I chose from a thriller, a mystery, non-fiction, romance, and another romance. Unfortunately, the additional two choices in March didn't offer more genres, just repeats of ones already represented in the pool. You get to see a blurb, some additional details like lengths and tropes, and a review. Your chosen book arrives somewhere in the middle of the month with a cute bookmark.
Interestingly, BOTM is not some new thing, it's been around since 1926.
$12.50/month or $16.99/month, depending on your membership plan, per their FAQ page. Despite searching, I couldn't get more details about what the plans were without rejoining and paying $15.99 for another month of books. Why wasn't I given more options for my rejoined membership plan? Their website needs way more transparency here.
You can skip months if nothing looks good or you're busy, and you're not charged for the skipped month.
If giving as a gift:
$49.99 for 3 months ($16.66 per book)
$99.99 for 6 months ($16.66 per book)
$179.99 for 1 year ($14.99 per book)
You can also add on books (for extra cost) if you can't decide between the offered books.
I tried not to repeat genre choices in my BOTM picks because I wanted a sense of the different books they offered. I chose Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins, a contemporary thriller; A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross, a secondary-world fantasy; and Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma, a contemporary romance. I found it a bit hard to choose a book each month, but not because they all sounded great. It was because none ever really tickled my fancy. I never said "oh this one's for me!" There also appeared to be an over abundance of thrillers and romances compared to other genre options. That may be because BOTM has been running long enough that they know what their typical users want and select. I guess the question really is: did I enjoy the books I got? You can read my reviews of the three books and see that each of them left me lukewarm. I'd never say any was my favorite, but I wouldn't say they were poorly written either.
The website was easy to use (although not easy to find out the subscription package prices for non-gifts) and they emailed me when it was time to choose a new book, when the book shipped, and when it had been delivered. Some of their other more marketing-minded emails were too frequent though.
Is It Worth It?
If you're tired of hunting for books and are a voracious reader, you'll probably enjoy this subscription. Especially if thrillers or romances are your jam. If you're more into SFF, you'll have fewer choices. If you would happily pay $16.99 for a hardback of a new book (which is a pretty good price. For example, at Barnes and Noble, the hardcover of Reckless Girls is $22.49) then this is a great service for you. If you'd rather buy paperback or ebooks, it's easy to get these books cheaper.
I do think it's an excellent gift! I thought my sister was super creative in thinking of this and felt like three books that I'd pretty much get to choose was a good deal. I'd happily receive this subscription again, and maybe even gift it.
Have you subscribed to Book of the Month Club? Do you find it worth the price? Let's discuss in the comments!
Wilbur liked the book, maybe because the pink matches his skin! Photo by Kate Ota 2022
Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma is the third and final book from my Book of the Month subscription gifted to me for Christmas. It's a contemporary retelling of Taming of the Shrew set in New Jersey focused on two desi leads, Kareena and Prem. Kareena desperately wants to buy her late mother's home from her father before he moves away to retire. Prem is collecting investors for a community health center focused on South Asian needs. Their paths collide at a bar, where a hot makeout session becomes an awkward entanglement when Prem leaves Kareena with her sweater vest stuck on her earrings. Prem ends up losing investors, but his mother says if he gets engaged, she'll give him money. Kareena is in the same position--her father will give her the money for her house if she gets engaged. But do they do the fake dating thing after Prem declares on his local TV show, The Dr. Dil Show, that love isn't real? Nope. This book goes in a different direction.
I liked that this book wasn't super predictable. I mean, yeah the HEA is inevitable because that's the genre, but romances are all about the journey. I also liked reading about a culture different from mine, because it made it harder for me to guess what would happen and it added in some obstacles I hadn't read about before. Also the descriptions of the food. Good lord, I want some panipuri now!
On the downside, I disliked Prem. Part of the experience of reading a romance is making the reader root for the couple, but that's not what happened for me. Prem came off as very condescending, and not just at the beginning where you assume he'll change. Maybe if I saw it acted out I'd see his tone was nicer, but on the page I hated the way he spoke to her. He was also super possessive, like one step away from pulling an Edward Cullen and watching her sleep at night. Not cute. He had a semi-redeeming moment toward the end, but otherwise he was not for me.
Overall, I think you'd like it if you enjoyed Season 2 of Bridgerton but wanted more desi culture, if you like the adversaries-to-lovers trope, and if you're fine with fairly graphic sex scenes. Not for you if you're more of a chaste reader or not into possessive romance.
Next week, I'll write about my overall experience with Book of the Month and let you know if it's worth the price!
Have you read Dating Dr. Dil? Did you like Prem and can you convince me he was not being as condescending as he sounded? Let's discuss in the comments!