Thursday, April 3, 2014



OK, in re-reading Part I, it's obvious that there is nothing more boring than reading a story with a writer (especially a braggart) as the lead character!

But, this is about writing & it's my assumption no one else is REALLY reading this, so here's part II...

The winning script was completed at a 48-hour retreat put on by the good folks (Signe & Bob) at the Great American Pitchfest (GAPF).

The setting was inspiring for a spooky thriller: the haunted hotel where Stephen King wrote "The Shining" in the Colorado Rockies.

To capitalize on the weekend's theme, I decided to set aside all my historical story projects and work on an idea for a paranormal thriller I'd outlined one weekend after learning about a heartbreaking unsolved murder.

With screenwriting guru Pilar Alessandra to guide us through a day of exercises to get us going, a group of dedicated writers sat in an old room filled with ghost-like vibes, and eked out our outlines and several pages, then for the next two days we wrote...and wrote. Two of us completed our scripts while everyone went away with a strong start.

About a month later we all converged on GAPF to pitch our now complete and polished projects. I had lots of requests.

The next month I took my story to my private critique group and they tore it to shreds. I took the notes to heart and made revisions then entered a couple of contests, just to get more outside feedback.

The feedback was helpful, so I made more revisions/tweaks and entered several contests, again just hoping for feedback & MAYBE a placement.

Apparently those final revisions did the trick. The script has done well in all but one of those contests, winning the grand prize at StoryPros.


Now back to the historical stuff that really floats my pirate boat...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

GRAND PRIZE: I won another contest! A big one this time.

GRAND PRIZE: StoryPros International Screenplay Contest

My script was up against about 825 scripts, so it's kind of a big deal.

If I can't brag on my own blog, where can I?

I received notification at the end of a very long & ironic day on December 15, 2013. I had spent the entire day sending prizes for my services for the first cycle of a contest that I had just co-founded: Reel Writers Screenwriting Competition.

When I got the call, I didn't know what to expect since I found a phone call (from anyone) to be an odd method of contact for an online contest. It never once occurred to me that I could have won. In fact, when the very nice guy, Jeff, told me I was Grand Prize winner, I did not believe him. I thought someone was messing with me. When he convinced me it was legit, & that he had personally really loved the script, I had to stop him & ask...which one?

Two of my screenplays were entered in the contest. While I had done some tweaking to make both better, I had actually entered them into the contest for the feedback. It had mildly surprised me when both had moved on to the finals round, but I attribute that to good prose.

I know that I have an advantage over other writers with my good grammar skills (though I'm as susceptible to typos as anyone, & without someone else to edit me, mistakes do happen!). And I do know the "language of screenplay" better than most spec writers. After all, it's what I do for a living - correcting others' prose.

But as a fluid storyteller, I do struggle quite a bit. I fully understand the craft, but it's very difficult to execute.

So it never dawned on me once that I was a serious contender for any prizes! And it was anyone's guess which script had captured their judges' attention.

Shroud of Mystery is the realization of an idea I'd had back when the Shroud of Turin was in the news a lot when scientists had erroneously carbon dated it, pronouncing it a fake from the Middle Ages. It's probably the best original story idea I've ever had. However, turning it into a compelling thriller has been a very difficult process, & frankly, it still needs a lot of work, even if it did make it to the top 4% of the pile.

Evangelina was an idea that germinated a year or two ago after watching one of those dumb paranormal TV shows that try to convince people that there is "evidence" where in the end there always is none. This episode was no different, but there was a storyline that caught my attention. A teen claimed to be communicating with the spirit of a dead girl with whom she identified. It turns out that the dead girl's story is all over the internet, so there's no mystery how the teen got all the details about the dead girl, but what struck me in the story was how that poor girl was murdered 20 years ago, & not only has the crime never been solved, but mediums like these phonies on the TV show have been coming out of the woodwork to keep the tragedy active, dangling hope in front of the mourning family without ever providing any answers.

So I asked: What if a medium turns out to be schizophrenic, truly believing that she's communicating with the murder victim, but never really sure since it's possible she just read about it on the internet & forgot?

Thus, my grand-prize-winning script was born: Evangelina.

I can't end my story about the contest without mentioning the extraordinary way I was able to flesh out my story from idea to script, but I'll save that for next time...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1st place for short screenplay.
To read the version I sent to the contest, CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gross Dialogue Tip

Trust me - the following is not a commercial of any sort. This is about dialogue, so bear with me for a moment (or just skip down to the very last few sentences if you're in a hurry!)...


Have you tried this new product?

It was featured in a recent SHARK TANK episode.

Now, in your head, how do you pronounce it?

Some will say
“Pro-nerg” as Mr. Wonderful did.

Some will avoid pronunciation. It’s all letters:

The correct pronunciation is “Pro N.R.G.” Get it? Pro Energy.

So why isn’t it spelled
 Pro N.R.G.?

ING Direct had fun with this problem in their early marketing, always making it to look as if ING was the end of a longer word being blocked somehow. Meanwhile, they insist now to be called
“I.N.G. Direct” - so why are they not spelling it like that!?

The ambiguity and confusion hurts marketing. Ambiguity is not good in marketing and can be disastrous in screenplays.

And clarity is why screenwriters (and novelists) must spell things out in dialogue, including numbers, symbols, initialisms, abbreviations, etc.

But it’s only ONE reason why. In screenplay, the other reason is to keep the truth of the page. One scripted page equals one minute of screen time. Reducing
“seventy-five smackaroos” to “$75,000” does not represent the time it takes to say it, and it does not make it clear how to pronounce/phrase it.

Which indicates a third reason to spell out things in dialogue in screenplays: How things are said reveals your character's voice:

mobster: seventy-five big ones
banker: seventy-five thousand dollars
Joe Schmo: seventy-five thousand bucks
IRS form: "$75,000" 

And the fourth reason is clarity. In dialogue, the "IT girl" would be a shout about that girl who possesses the X factor. The "I.T. girl" is the girl who works in the Information Technology Department.


IN DIALOGUE, always spell out your initialisms AS THEY ARE PRONOUNCED:
F.B.I., O.K. (or okay), T.V., etc.

Acronyms are a whole different animal. Pronunciation trumps all, so there is NO punctuation: MADD, VISA, INTERPOL, etc.

To be clear when you have a word that could go either way, your actor will know what to do depending on how/if you punctuate:
ASAP, A.S.A.P., AWOL, A.W.O.L, R-O-L-A-I-D-S, etc.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A "Gross" Ghost in a Misty Forest

New stuff happening, has happened, will happen.

Screenplays have been completed!

Novels are underway. Non-fiction bios are outlined and ready to go.

But it's not just all about ME and MY projects. It's about other people's work these days.

The more screenplays and books I proof, edit and analyze, the more people I meet who want more help. And I've found I have a knack for seeing the forest despite the trees - when I look at other people's work.

Of course I continue to be blind to the forest when looking at my own trees, so my own work is much more slow going. But that's OK.

We all think we can fix other people's work, but it's not usually true. We often look at something that needs fixing & we end up imposing our own ideas on it.

I would have a lot of ticked clients if I were doing that. What I've been doing is looking at the work before me as completely belonging to its original creator, and figuring out how it can be reshaped to truly meet that creator's vision.

Thus, more "ghost writing" work has come my way, and I must say that I enjoy SOME of it. I've turned down more than I've taken so far. There does need to be a gelling of minds for ghost writing to work. But all of these special requests have sparked the need to expand my range of services, and there's a bunch of new stuff on the horizon.

So, meet Tammy Gross - Proofreader, Writer, Analyst, Ghost Writer AND "other" (watch for updates to the sites...)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Screenplay - DONE! (sort of)

Wow - Lesson learned.

Just write the stupid thing!

That's not an American colloquialism. If you're attempting a "first draft" of anything - write it. It's stupid. It's putrid. It's ugly. Just write it.

Once the stupid thing is done, the real work can begin. That's where I'm at now: REWRITING.

Took me two years to figure it out. All the books say to do it, but making yourself "write through the bad" is really, really tough.

On my birthday in October 2010 I finally finished the "puke draft" where I spewed out all the green slime (& some pretty terrific stuff, too) onto the pages. 171 pages. It should be 120 pages. When it's done for real, it will be sleek & GREAT. I hope.

Time to get to the real work now...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Online Resources - a Gross compilation

I was reading an 1888 book about the family of one of my historical characters. In the very detailed description of what a pilgrim girl wore in the 1680s I found the quoted phrase "loose gowu."

What is a "gowu?" I went on an online quest, as I often do. But I did not go to google, as most people would. This was one of those times when I went through the whole journey, as detailed below, only to end up questioning whether the word was a typo in the original text, having possibly meant "gown."

This was perhaps my first unsolved mystery in all my research (about generic data), because usually I need go no further than the following to find my answers...

  1. - factual & well researched origins of words and phrases
  2. & - factual & well researched
  3. WikipediA - usually well documented, but facts need to be verified, especially with "legendary" info (50% of the info on 18th century pirates is incorrect, citing disputable references). Most other reference sites are stealing from WikipediA.
  4. google books - it's amazing how many out-of-print books they have digitized. You can both read the original text & search it online by key words! Text is converted by OCR, so it's hit or miss when searching. You can also read several pages of newer books that have "preview" available, though inevitably the page you really need will often be missing.
  5. - actually offers previews of many books, where you can often find the missing pages not previewed in google books. A bit tedious, but worth it for that gem you need.
  6. Project Gutenberg - volunteers are digitizing out-of-print historical books & documents. Fallible OCR technology.
  7. google maps & google earth - for places, just go look at it! If you can download the FREE google earth software, you'll be amazed what you can see & do. I like to FLY!
  8. FamilySearch - detailed genealogies. The Mormons are dedicated to rounding up all of our ancestors. Much like WikipediA, the info here is only as good as what is inputted by well-meaning but sometimes mistaken family historians. So, it's a good starting point for genealogical research, but not the end-all. Refer back to google books after finding some connections.
  9. British History Online - very exciting transcriptions from Colonial & British documents dating back to the 11th century. Compiled by dedicated scholars whom I've personally met. Much of the info is free, but for about $40/year you can upgrade to have full access.
For a monthly or annual subscription fee, some other fully accessible online resources include:

  1. British History Online - £24/year (approx. $40/year)
  2. footnote - $80/year - digitized documents from the USA National Archives - much easier to use than the National Archives websites
  3. The National Archives in England - per item fees when specific documents are available/digitized, such as papers from the Colonial Office which are often referenced in British History Online & historical bibliographies (for example, enter "CO 37/10" in the "Go to reference" search box). Online searching here is a bit frustrating. It's much more fun to go to the actual Archives in Kew, England.
If all these fail, just use google & lots of discretion!

For more details on these & more on-site resources, you can check out my July 8, 2009 blog.