Ellen's Tips
  • On Writing
  • As a writer your job is to make choices and WRITE THEM DOWN!

    Until you write them down you’re thinking, not writing. You become a writer when you make the trip from your head to the page. It’s a short trip, but a scary one.

    You can’t try to make the trip, you leap! When you leap, you are writing!

    Wasn't that fun? Now you can look back and read it. Because the truth about writing is that while it's usually not as bad as you feared, it also usually needs a rewrite. But don’t rewrite while you’re leaping – you'll fall.

  • Red Flag
  • TRIES – Here's a trick that will strengthen your writing without even "trying".

    Look over your outline or action descriptions; do you have a character "trying" to do things? For Example: Jen tries to get in the apartment. DO THIS: Take out the word "tries" and go for it – have your character DO whatever it is you described her as "trying" to do. For Example: Jen sticks the key in the lock and it breaks off in her hand. Even a simple, Jen turns the doorknob, it’s locked, is better. And now that she's done something, you can go on and write the next thing your character does. She kicks the door and screams obscenities. She slides down the door in a heap on the floor and cries.

    Here's another example. Say you wrote: Brad tries to get money from his mom. Take out "tries" and write what he does: Brad offers to clean the bathroom for $20. Or, if he's more rebellious: Brad steals $20 from his mom's purse. You see? What your character does can be photographed, and we, the audience/reader can see it too. What he "tries to do" is vague – there's no image of him in action yet, it can't be photographed. Cut "tries" and have him do it.

    BONUS: STARTS – Use the same trick – take "starts" out of your descriptions. Your character doesn't 'start' cooking, he throws bacon on the grill; she doesn’t 'start' up the stairs, she trudges to the first landing and collapses. Of course, there are exceptions – a character can 'start' the car, as in The Godfather, when the beautiful Apollonia, Michael's (Al Pacino) sweetheart in Sicily, turns the key in the ignition and it blows up, killing her. If you've got something that full of action and story consequence, okay – otherwise, don't 'start' the action, DO the action.

    If you use these tricks in your outline I guarantee when you write the scene with dialogue and action it will be more effective for a visual medium and a more exciting read for your reader.

    QUIRKY – Have you described a character(s) as "quirky"? Okay, now you need to go back, and go on. Quirky is shorthand; a placeholder. What is it that makes your character "quirky?" How is she quirky? What does she do that would make someone think she’s quirky? Shorthand is okay for someone else to evaluate your character, but your job as the writer is to create the "quirkiness." To do that, you define it. That’s creating a character. And that, my dear sweet creative soul, is you being a writer.

  • Quote
  • "...when you're writing a television series. You have to write when you're not writing well. I wrote 88 episodes of The West Wing. One of them is going to be your 88th best. And I'm not good enough for my 88th best to be very good." Aaron Sorkin

  • What's Up in the Kitchen
  • This month’s project: Cheesecake

    I make a pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving (which I have to say, is pretty great) and a friend asked if I’d make it for the dessert table at his wedding – flattery will get you everywhere. So I said “For your wedding?! Sure, I’d be honored.” If you’d like to download the whole story and the recipe, click here.



    Dont't know where to start?
    Started, but don't know where you are now? Where to go next?
    Feel like "this will never work!"
    I can help.

    Come early in your process!

    It's more cost effective and more productive to work with me BEFORE you write the first draft. I'm your coach, not your buyer. It's not supposed to be "ready."

    My development approach applies to both one hour and half hour pilots (yes, short video projects too), and within that process I tailor the work to the individual writer and the particular needs of the specific project.

    I offer guidelines and tools for the creative development of your ideas within television series requirements. What you get is a path to the realization of your project with support and reassuring markers along the way.

    BEST BUY: The most cost effective and quickest way
    to develop your series pilot


    Concentrated and focused individual coaching. We do hands-on work with specific notated feedback in each session. Our goal is to bring you to the point at which you are ready to write the outline for your pilot episode.

    Part I – What's it all about? We clarify your premise and the world of your pilot.

    Two 60 minute sessions

    Part II – Who's there?

    • A – We focus on your development of the Central Character.
    • B – Emphasis on the supporting characters and their relationships.
    Prep Material *: Central & Supporting Character Templates

    Two 60-minute sessions

    Part III – The Story. We take your character development to the next level into stories.

    Two 60-minute sessions

    Part IV – The Pilot. We break the story for your Pilot Episode.

    Two 60 minute sessions

    XTRA CREDIT – How's it going? A check-in to see how your pilot story is developing.

    30 minutes

    * Prep material tools and templates provided by Sandler Ink when you register for your consultation.



    YOUR QUESTION: Is there a way I can start a little slower?

    MY ANSWER: Sure, you can opt for a:


    The premise is the most important element in the creation of any pilot. It must contain the DNA for your series and be the guiding light for all your development choices. In this consultation we address the aspects of your pilot's premise including:

    • Concept
    • Hook
    • Genre
    • Demographic
    • The World of Your Show
    • Character Drive
    • Your Passion

    We break down the elements for clarity. We explore your connection to the idea and make it part of your premise. We build the elements into a commercial concept and a working premise line which you can use to guide all further development of your show. You will have the basis of an effective pitch as well.

    Two 45-minute sessions + PLUS a 15 minute follow-up for review of your revisions and provide suggestions for your Next Steps.



    YOUR QUESTION: After I’ve done this, can we continue?

    MY ANSWER: Sure, I’ll offer you follow-up options when we complete the Basic Premise development.


    I read your completed draft and provide you with a thorough script analysis. I advise you on rewrites for story clarity and character through-lines. I offer specific suggestions of cuts and additions. I address all format issues and offer practical adjustments. I provide you with a copy of your script with my written comments as well as go over all my notes with you verbally.

    90 minutes



    YOUR QUESTION: The fee to read and analyze script is astronomical! Why?

    MY ANSWER: A) Hours of prep time are required for me to read and break down a script in order to analyze it effectively, see where the problems are and make meaningful notes to guide your rewrite. B) I hope the high cost will encourage writers to opt for the more cost-effective development consultation which I consider to be a more artistically effective process, one that produces a far better and more vital script. Bonus: If you have been through the development process with me where we have addressed structure issues early on, I then read your drafts at a much reduced rate.

    YOUR NEXT Q: But I’ve already written the pilot script, is there any way to get feedback from you for less than that exorbitant fee?

    MY A: Yes! Almost all script problems are in the story structure, not so much in the dialogue, so you can opt for a:


    If you have already written a draft of your pilot episode, a Story Analysis Consultation is a productive, cost-effective alternative to a Script Analysis Consultation.

    Part I – You are provided with a comprehensive Prep Questionnaire which examines the story structure and character through-line of your pilot episode. I read and make notes on this material. Then we discuss the story issues in a one-on-one consultation with notated feedback and specific suggestions for story structure improvements.

    Part II – You provide a rewrite of your story based on the previous session's notes and I review those revisions with notated feedback and specific suggestions.

    Two 60-minute sessions + PLUS a 30 minute follow-up for review of your revisions and provide suggestions for your Next Steps.




    Here's another option:

    If you think your pilot needs an overhaul, you can treat your current script as development research on your characters and work on the re-development of your pilot with a BASIC PREMISE CONSULT or a PILOT DEVELOPMENT PACKAGE. After you go through the development process, you might discover a new (and more effective) pilot story and you’ll want to re-write your pilot script. If we have been through the development process together, I will then read that completed draft at a much reduced rate.


    Sessions are held on Zoom. You can be anywhere in the world. All you need is a computer and a broadband connection.

    NOTE: Your sessions are recorded and you are provided with a download which you can save and review at your convenience.


    Consultations are scheduled at your convenience and arranged to accommodate specific conflicts or time-zone considerations.

    Sessions can be re-scheduled without penalty with 24-hour notice.

    Confidentiality guaranteed. Ellen will never discuss your material or work with any other individuals or companies.