Friday, December 12, 2014

Guest Post: Donald Michael Platt, Author of Bodo the Apostate


(Also check out my review, dated December 10, 2014!)

I am please as punch to have Donald Michael Platt visiting the blog today to tell us about different styles of writing (fiction books, tv shows, etc.)~


This has been an amazing year for me. I have two Indie publishers, and each released my novels within three months of each other.

In June: 

Close to the Sun follows the lives of two Americans and a German from childhood through the end of WWII. As boys, they idealize the exploits of WWI fighter aces known as chivalrous Knights of the Skies. 

Hank Milroy from Wyoming learns his first flying lessons from observing falcons.  Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen accumulated during WWI. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field. 

The young men meet exceptional women. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe believes she is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German intelligence. Elfriede “Elfi” Wohlmann is a frontline nurse. Mimi Kay sings with a big band.

Flying fighters over Europe, Hank, Karl, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat victories and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and firebombing of entire cities. Callous political decisions and military mistakes add to their disillusion, especially one horrific tragedy at the end of the war.

In September:  Bodo the Apostate

“… in the meantime, a credible report caused all ecclesiastics of the Catholic Church to lament and weep.” Prudentius of Troyes, Annales Bertinianianno 839

On Ascension Day May 22, 838, Bishop Bodo, chaplain, confessor, and favorite of both his kin, Emperor Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, and Empress Judith, caused the greatest scandal of the Carolingian Empire and the 9th century Roman Church. 

Bodo, the novel, dramatizes the causes, motivations, and aftermath of Bodo’s astonishing cause célèbre that took place during an age of superstitions, a confused Roman Church, heterodoxies, lingering paganism, broken oaths, rebellions, and dissolution of the Carolingian Empire.


Because I have sold to film, TV, ghosted for a health food guru, written two NF books as a with, and have had five novels published by the Indies, Back Porchervations asked me to describe the differences writing in so many diverse venues. Some may be obvious; others are unique to each writer’s experiences.

In essence, except for writing novels, every other writing situation becomes a collaborative effort, and often the writer loses control his script or contributions.

Writing novels for me is a gratifying lone wolf procedure. No collaborators, no meddling by outsiders if one is tough minded, and one may reject opinions offered by beta-readers, agents, and even publishers. Most important of all, the property is always the author’s. 

If you choose to write for film or TV and do not have an agent or representation by a showbiz attorney, you will be adrift with few exceptions.

Selling to film and TV was the most frustrating for me and for other lone wolf types I have met because they are the most collaborative of all, and the writer has little control and receives less respect than publishing a novel. Unless you are a film and TV buff, I doubt if anyone can name a celebrated writer of screenplays or TV seriesAlso, one must be gifted at pitching. If you say too much, you’ll be told, “Nah, that ain’t gonna work. If you say too little, you’ll be asked, “How you gonna play it?” and again hear, “Nah that won’t work.” Many pitch stories better than they can write; for others it is the reverse.

One thing to avoid is spec writing (no pay in anticipation of a big reward (always without an agent)even for a once big name actor, producer, or director. Someone has a vague story idea and promises if you write/collaborate, he can get the final product to the right people who will greenlight it. That approach generally gets one nowhere. Many of us in Hollywood have had our agented scripts “lost” after big names agreed to read them

If you have your own screenplay, you will lose control of it unless you are so tough minded you will hustle for money to direct and produce it. However, you may be offered big money and then lose the ability to protest changes. You script may be perfect for an actorbut he may die or become ill. Then the replacement may require changes in dialogue and action scenes. And with that comes his preferred writer from the same agency.

Hired gun or as it is called in Hollywood "work for hire can be lucrative. You may be asked to improve a screenplay or even write a full revision, but the person in charge retains all rights. Then you must know in advance what his end game is. I wrote for someone who failed to tell me he would not release the screenplay unless a studio hired him to direct. Twice studios offered to purchase the script. Twice he rejected them because they would not let him direct. It was never sold with that restriction during his lifetime.

When I sold my script to a TV series, I lost total control. Without informing me, the editor changed my ending and had a writer from the same agency as the star rewrite it with deus ex machina cliché finale. At least the fabulous Ida Lupino directed the episode.

Two great ways to make money is to be a staff writer for a successful comedy TV series or work in series development. In the 1980s I encountered a writer at CBS who made $200,000+/year writing pilots. At that time all five of his had failed to be produced. He kept his job. The biggest money for a writer comes when he creates a series, produces, and writes many of the TV scripts.

Ghosting or writing as a with also is collaborative. Two caveats with that: Can one get along with the person doing the hiring? In all cases yes, I did, and I was paid handsomely with perks and adventures included. The writer may have freedom to organize the book, as I had with all projects for which I was hired, and freedom to “dumb down” medical vocabulary and the subjects’ uses of language while keeping their voices.

I have several great anecdotes about turning points that failed to turn while experiencing many inside stories about Hollywood, Las Vegas, and lives of the super-rich.

To conclude, writing as a hired gun in Hollywood, or losing control of your script, working as a ghost or as a with, all can be lucrative and exciting, but for this lone wolf novelist it is the same as selling one’s soul for a price.

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