Classes, FAQ’s, Etc.

I offer an online series of classes or live lecture on my favorite subject, The Difference Between Screenwriting and Novel Writing.  I’m happy to offer this to your writing group.  Please email me at:

Click on the link below to take you to the lecture or article.

Classes ~ Lectures

Below is a brief bit of my introduction and an outline.  I enjoy presenting this information in an informal manner with plenty of time for questions and interruptions.

So why did I fall in love with screenwriting?

It’s active, it’s dynamic and I love thinking in terms of motion, sound, light.  You go to a movie and you’re surrounded for 2 hours by sound, music, dialogue and movement.

You’re bombarded with images so that you don’t, or shouldn’t, have time to think about them, you just go with the flow. A bit different than a book right there.  You cannot reread a “page” of a movie and make sure you’ve “got it,” unless you replay it.

Remember a movie moves.

But I get ahead of myself….”

Outline of Lectures 

  • Lecture I “The Format and Structure of a Screenplay.”
  • Lecture II “Your Senses Are Used   Differently.”
  • Lecture III “They Say a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.”
  • Lecture IV “Say it Ain’t So”
  • Lecture V “Tidbits and Bibliography” & “What is Meant By High Concept”
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Articles I’ve Written


 (This article won CRW’s Outstanding Newsletter Article of the Year, 2005)

You may think this is a no-brainer question, and I can hear you right now saying, “Silly woman, of course it’s important.” Well, read on and see why I even bother to bring up the  question.

Recently, during a BIAY (Book In A  Year) progress report, a pre-published writer made the comment; “When I’m on the  clock, I wouldn’t dream of missing a deadline, but I get sloppy when I’m off the clock.”

Her comment instantly reminded me of countless other times I’ve heard or seen variations of deadline sloppiness. So I started questioning why a writing deadline is less important than any other deadline. Isn’t this a career? Aren’t you on the clock?

Again, I’m hearing you say, “But I’m not making any money at this…yet, so it’s really not a career.” Let’s see if the definition of career changes your mind. From the Oxford Dictionary: Career> noun 1. An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life, usually with opportunities for progress.

Now are you convinced you’re endeavoring in a writing career? I hope the answer is a resounding yes.

It is my strong belief that if you have a page count deadline, a contest to enter or a proposal to send off, your deadline is no less important to meet than a NY Times best-selling author’s deadline.

But it isn’t only the pre-published writers who can be sloppy with a deadline. You’d imagine a published writer would be crazy to miss any deadline, be it a personal deadline to finish a book   so it can boost a career, or a publisher’s contractual deadline. Yet it happens. Careers have stalled or ended because of missed deadlines.

I know life intrudes and even with the best intentions, a deadline can slip away. But you must not allow slippage to become sloppiness. WHY am I so emphatic about this? Because if you can’t keep   to your deadlines now, you’ll have a much harder time meeting your contractual, career boosting deadlines. By putting word after word on the page so your   deadline is met is what gets a book, a proposal, a magazine article DONE. Then you have your next deadline to set, getting your work to a publisher, an agent or critique group. You make progress.

And that’s what it’s all about.

So if you have trouble meeting the deadlines you’ve set or have been set for you, honestly reassess why, sometimes your answers will astound you. Set deadlines that make you stretch, but can still be met. It’s good practice for the rest of your career.

Now off my soap box and on to my next deadline.

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Articles Written About Me   

By Mary E. Hjerleid    

(This article won CRW’s Outstanding  Newsletter Article of the Year, 2003)   

“It takes a lot of  courage to show your dreams to someone else.” ~ Erma Bombeck

Leslie Ann Sartor’s junior high school English teacher told her folks at a parent-teacher meeting that she would never become a writer. “The teacher said I wasn’t paying attention to the skills part of the class and that I only wanted to dream up stories and write them down,” Leslie recalls.

And Leslie believed her for a long time.

When Leslie called her mother to tell her she was going to write a book, her mother reacted with surprise. “‘I’d hoped you’d return to writing someday,’ she said. After a long pause, I asked her what she meant and she said I stopped writing that night.  Obviously I was crushed by the   teacher’s remarks.  Then recently when I was visiting Mom, she handed me a folder of all the stories I’d dictated to her before I could write.”

Like other writers, romance writers start out in this genre in different ways and from different backgrounds. Although Leslie began as a romance writer, she has since moved on to screenwriting. When I asked Leslie what she thought was the main difference between novel writing and  screenwriting, she laughed and said: “I miss using all those words.”

She went on to say that, “Screenwriting is like shorthand. You have little room, so every word must do double or triple duty.”

Although Leslie has not yet published a novel, she  has moved away from commercial fiction to screenplays. Her first contract was to adapt a non-fiction book Mother of the Pound into an epic-sized  theatrical romance, re-titled Cry of the Dove.The love story is built around the Jewish struggle in the Middle East during the turmoil of World War II. It builds up to her   heroine’s brave step through a door into either death or imprisonment, which   started her people on an exodus to freedom.

Leslie said she had to very  careful and portray the Middle Eastern mentality correctly—both the Jewish and Moslem side. She was able to embellish the plot and add a stronger romance,  although the true story is pretty fantastic without her embellishment. “Also, one of the concerns is that my main characters, the hero and heroine, are still alive,” Leslie said with a gentle laugh.

Leslie’s decision to switch from novel writing to  screenplays came from spending part of her childhood in Pacific Palisades, California. “It seemed as if every other person there was in the film industry.  When I was older and living in Colorado, I realized that I’d always wanted to be part of such a fantasy world, to make thousands of people laugh, cry, and above all, think.”

After moving to Denver, Leslie had an opportunity to study screenplay structure, and jumped into it feet first. By this time she was married and had her own business.

Her first introduction to screenplay writing was horrible, she said. The instructor was so egocentric and destructive to the dreams of his students that she once again dropped that desire.

However, another opportunity came up and this time Leslie met a great teacher who became her mentor—Robert Gosnell. Mr. Gosnell still teaches and has over 20 years of practical experience. His Elements of Screenplay provides an overview of the screenwriting process from the point of a working screenwriter and provides an overview of Theme, Story, Character, Dialogue, The 3 Act Structure, Format and related elements. He also gives information on trade unions, agents and marketing, with an occasional (!) anecdote thrown in.

A question that plagues many writers today is the  use of a pseudonym. Leslie indicated that she actually went through this  dilemma. “I was worried that Leslie Ann Sartor wouldn’t be taken seriously for the heavy subject matter of Cry of the Dove. I batted names back and  forth and finally decided on Leslie A. Sartor. It could be male or female. A Beverly Hills attorney actually thought I was male. It didn’t hurt my ego one bit.  Well, maybe a tad, but I didn’t care as long as he liked my work, and he did.

“I think the trend is fine in the literacy world for the use of pseudonyms and it can give an author different brand names. However, I’m totally against forcing an author to use one.”

When I asked Leslie to share one of her writing  secrets, she said, “When writing, whether it is film or literature, you must  make the viewer or the reader care that the characters reach their goal.  In a   romance, if you make sure they reach it together, not simply bending to the will of powerful attraction or whims of outlandish circumstances, you’ll have your  audience hooked.”

Another secret Leslie shared with me is that, “You cannot write to a premise, theme, or goal—unless you know what must be proven at the end of the story. The premise leads the players to the goal the author   wishes them to reach. The goal is what your readers have been waiting for and need, even if it’s not the outcome they desire. It’s not always easy to come up  with a premise that can be proven, but it’s vital at some point for the writer to realize that goal. And then rewriting comes in.

“Emotion is also vital, but unless you know what kind of forces get the emotion going, you have little momentum to your story. In other words, pick any emotion you want for your character, but make sure that   you as a writer know why a character feels that emotion. That’s what moves the story forward and makes the reader/viewer care.”

With hard work, Leslie Sartor has also found that each scene can sparkle, shine, and light the inside of movie theaters and living rooms for years to come, much like a good romance novel.

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Just click a question to take to the answer

Where do I get my ideas?

On my About Me page, I explained how the Cry of the Dove adaptation came about.  But even though the true story contains plenty of drama, it still needed some embellishment including a villain that was directly in conflict with my characters, Louise and David, putting them in harms way, and how their love for each other and their faith drove their decisions.  David, the author of the book told me of a  childhood friend who was Moslem and Majeed came to be.

In the case of Shadow Seeker,  I wondered, what if your whole life was built upon a deception?  Thus my characters Jennifer and Mark were born.  I then read countless news articles of children who are never told about their parentage, either from adoption, or out of wedlock and the possibilities for the story’s direction were endless, but it quickly began to narrow to the sad fact that Jennifer was a pawn and her life was destroyed.  Mark, too, was a pawn, but found the strength to embrace and accept his heritage–on his terms.

For Stone of Heaven, I’d read a small article in the newspaper about the rediscovery in Guatemala of a   vast deposit of blue jade, as well as a blue jade road, being uncovered by   Hurricane Mitch in 1998.  Imagine all the possibilities with that bit of real   information!  I studied  various versions of the Popol Vuh (the sacred book of the ancient Quiché Maya.)  While I took liberties with the actual Maya myth of Itzamna Ahu, there are other culture’s myths that are believed today, such as jade being a lazy stone and twins possessing powers that mere siblings don’t.

The Christmas Legacy came about because Audra Harders  needed a concept for a novella.  I suggested a Scrooge-like story set in the Old West, complete with children, (alas no ghosts.)  However this Scrooge was female.  Well, Audra noodled with it for awhile and decided novellas   weren’t her cup of tea.  I asked her if I could run with the idea and she graciously gave it back.  My Scrooge eventually left the old west and became a conglomeration of all the high profile business women of our time, BUT Ella is distinctly her own person.

Iokaste came about when I was writing freestyle using the prompt “something at the end of your street.”  Well, I’d wanted to write a Disneyesque story for a long time and space has always intrigued me.  My heroine and hero are uber smart siblings who don’t fit in and want to be someone other than what they were born to be. Emotions we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives.

Peace to the Pied Piper came about when I realized the generations following the “Boomers” think that the boomers copped out by getting jobs, buying houses and generally becoming   responsible people and didn’t continue the movement they started in the late 60’s. The story follows a musician driven to create a legacy for himself, and a girl who wants to taste the forbidden fruit of the counterculture before following the path her parent’s have decided is right for her.

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What’s the difference between scripts and novels?

Wow, that’s a biggie and I wish I had time to give you a complete answer!  I actually have a lecture on that very subject that I’ve given to online classes and writer’s groups.  But my short answer is twofold; page count and words.  You have approximately 120 pages in a script to tell a complete story vs. 250+ for a novel

Secondly, there is NO INTERNAL NARRATIVE as there is in a book, so you know the character’s thoughts by how he behaves–a physical proxy–the subtext of the dialogue, his actions or perhaps his inaction.  And some people believe dialogue is the last element you add to a script.

So, whereas a lot of readers read novels for the sparkling, tense, vibrant dialogue, you watch a movie to see what’s happening.

As I said, there’s so much more, but I hope I’ve given you a bit of the difference.

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How much time do you spend writing?

I’m a great believer in meeting deadlines.  I’ve written an article about that very subject if you want to click on the line.  I try to write consistently.  There are some days the time flies and I can’t believe it’s time for the evening news and I accomplished so much.  Other days the words and ideas seem to be stuck in tar and the hours are long and tedious.  Thank goodness most days are a middle ground of those extremes, though I’d love to be in first category more often.

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