Daniel P. Calvisi: Blogging With the Big Boys

I'm excited to welcome a very special guest today: Hollywood insider Dan Calvisi, a Story Analyst and screenwriting pro. Not only is Dan going to give great blogging tips, he's also giving a free download offer just for SlingWords readers.

Daniel Calvisi, NYU Tisch alum, is a professional Story Analyst and script doctor with major movie studio experience, having worked as an A-list reader for the executives who developed the films CHICAGO, LIMITLESS, SCREAM, ULEE’S GOLD, ONE FINE DAY, CHOCOLAT and SPY KIDS.

He has coached hundreds of writers for over a decade, taught at the college level, written for "Script" magazine and is the author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

Dan and I met online a couple of years ago when I subscribed to his newsletter. I found the items he posted fascinating so I relayed that info to him by email. He replied, and we've kind of stayed in touch ever since. When he told me he was going to hang out his shingle as an indie author with his book on screenwriting, I offered some advice based on what I'd learned. I invited him to spread the news about his book, and, to my delight, he accepted. You're in for a treat.

Before I turn this over to Dan, I want to tell you that I can describe his book Story Maps in one word. Brilliant. Of course, I'll post a review tomorrow and use a lot more words, but I just want you to know that I highly recommend his book.

He's offering a special deal today to SlingWords readers. Buy his book, and he'll GIVE you his Booster Pack for free. At the bottom of Dan's post, you'll find buy links with instructions on how to get a FREE copy of Story Maps Booster Pack, a $9.95 value.

Now, may I present Daniel P. Calvisi.

by Daniel P. Calvisi, author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

Writing a quality blog is not enough to reach a broad audience and boost sales of your books. You must blog smarter than your competition. If you employ some very specific, smart techniques, you will boost your traffic and increase sales.

Through trial and error, in writing my Act Four Screenplays blog and working with an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professional, I developed a set of precepts that I try to follow on a regular basis.

If you're like me, you enjoy blogging and you take pride in posting informative and meticulously edited articles, but...you struggle with posting on a regular basis. It always takes longer than you thought it would, doesn't it? (Especially, if you're a perfectionist, like me.) After a while, it feels like work.

I feel your pain.

In fact, as I write this, I haven't blogged in over a week. Maybe it's almost two weeks—I'm too scared to check. But at least I now know I'm doing myself a disservice, because I've learned this first lesson...


You should consider regular blogging not as a hobby, but as a vital part of your job. It is crucial marketing for your product, whether that's your e-book, your consulting services or your award-winning line of hand-carved lawn gnomes. When I blog regularly (three times a week is a good goal for me) I notice an increase in my site ranking (which I monitor with my own Google searches and a Google Alert on the keyword "Act Four Screenplays"), my site traffic (which I check using Google Analytics), e-book sales and the amount of email queries I receive from curious site visitors. As my SEO guy told me once, "Google rewards you for creating more pages on your site." Sometimes, it's an incredibly fast return on your investment; just minutes after I posted a blog on The Shawshank Redemption, I sold an e-book to a web surfer who just happened to be searching for the keyword "shawshank structure!"

It's simple: When you post more content for the Google bots to index, your search engine ranking can only increase.


As a professional Story Analyst and an author of a book that focuses on breaking down movie narratives, it is my DETAILED ANALYSIS of popular movies that gets me the most notice and makes me stand out from my colleagues, not my pithy observations about trends in entertainment. In short: your core expertise is your blog's bread and butter. For example, my detailed analysis of The Dark Knight garnered me twenty times the traffic of my quickie post about an old comic book I found that had a mention of James Cameron. With that said, the Dark Knight analysis took fifty times longer to write than the comic book quickie, so you have to weigh the time commitment.

If you don't have time to go into detail on your topic of expertise, err towards the timely and popular. For example, I wrote two blogs on the use of Setups and Payoffs -- the first analyzed Kill Bill and the second compared Revenge of the Nerds to The Beastmaster. Guess which one got the most traffic? Yep, Mr. Tarantino. He's been slightly more active in the past twenty-five years than Robert Carradine or Marc Singer.


Recently overheard in an internet cafe near you: "Hell, no, I don't need yet another e-book to put in my iBooks queue! Wait, did you say FREE? Wait, where's that download button?"

On my site, I've won over a lot of readers by offering free "Story Maps" of well-known films, like Rocky or Raiders of the Lost Ark. My 10-page Story Map of The Dark Knight is a big fan favorite (but fyi, the updated version is only available in my book!). This not only gives them a sample of what they can find in my e-books but also instills trust in my story analysis skills so they will sign up for my newsletter and consider hiring me for consultation work.


My SEO guy encourages me to write short, punchy blog posts that are rich with the proper keywords (targeted search phrases that pertain to your topic and will drive traffic to your site (you can use the Google Keyword Tool for research). He recommends these short posts be at least 250 words long (tip: I go to wordcounter.net to check the word count on my posts), the logic being that if they are too short, Google won't consider them to be a full page on your site and won't bother to rank them.

These "quickie" posts are particularly difficult for me to write, since I am so detail-oriented and I take pride in offering more thorough articles to my readership. But every so often, I get inspired when I come across a compelling story online that I feel will be of interest to my readers, so I bang out a short but sweet blog post.

If you've noticed a trend in your topic of expertise, you can assume many others have (whether that's reflected in the blogosphere or not), so give us your unique take on it. In addition to being active on Facebook, I like to read the Comments sections on various sites for tips on emerging trends and links to cool landing pages. If you can be the first to point out this "cool" thing you found to your readers, they will appreciate it.

For example, I was really enjoying the ad campaign for the FX television series "American Horror Story," so I decided to blog about it. It was a quickie, but it gave me a chance to include some striking images and embed some fun YouTube clips. Since I posted this blog during the peak of the online ad campaign to launch this new show, I'd like to think that I benefited from a lot of search activity and captured some decent Google ranking. This is what I call...


A "Big Boy" is a huge site or topic that is currently capturing tons of traffic. If Google is going nuts indexing this site, its keywords, its outgoing and incoming links, then you should try to "draft" off of it to give a boost to your own search engine ranking. Think of yourself as a row boat that floats up next to a pirate ship at full sail and throws a line over the bow, catching a ride.

Linking to these sites, getting backlinks from them (by posting linked comments in their forums) and embedding their keywords in your posts will help you benefit from their bigness. Timing is key. You should act fast to capture an emerging topic that everyone's blogging about or a site that just went viral.

Or, look ahead to predict a tidal wave of traffic so you can ride the wave. For example, I had an idea for a blog post where I compared my profession, the Screenplay Consultant, to a recording studio. I was going to use photos from that silly scene in Boogie Nights where Dirk Diggler and Reed Rothchild record awful pop tunes in the studio. But then I saw an article on Rolling Stone about the upcoming 25th anniversary of the album Nevermind by Nirvana, one of the biggest selling albums of all time. As a big Nirvana fan, I knew I could add some unique insight that would ring true. So I ditched the Boogie Nights angle and worked in Nirvana. I don't know if this helped my Google ranking but it sure didn't hurt when millions of fans around the globe searched for stories about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I made sure to include the keywords "kurt cobain movie" and "nirvana movie" as many of these articles and commenters were discussing various biopics that have been in development over the years.

Is a new Dan Brown book coming out? Upcoming election? Draft on it! Did a famous figure just die? Chase that ambulance! (virtually speaking, of course)


My student Robert Rich has taken my Story Maps method and ran with it -- he created a site named ScreenplayHowTo.com dedicated to movie analysis, and he's uploading pdfs that are even more detailed than mine. We decided to team up and write linked blog posts on the same topics. For example, he wrote an analysis of the movie Risky Business, so I wrote a post on it and linked back to him, and then he added a link back to my post. There's value in both posts as we offer unique takes on the subject. For example, I met the writer/director of Risky Business, Paul Brickman, back in film school, so I shared that personal anecdote.

Robert has also set up an affiliate program with my e-book on BarnesAndNoble.com, so he's not only promoting my book but he's making money off it, should any of his readers purchase a copy.

Another value to my readers is that I can provide a link to his free downloads, for example, his exhaustive Story Map of The Shawshank Redemption. So now we both have that lovely keyword "free download" waiting in our posts, just itching to be discovered by a hungry Google bot.

I hope these tips have given you some inspiration to develop a blog strategy of your own. As always, I say...

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

Daniel Calvisi

2 Ways to Get a FREE E-BOOK worth $9.95: Offer expires Oct. 31, 2011!

1) Purchase the Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay e-book from Dan's website and he will email you a FREE Story Maps Booster Pack e-book, which contains 12 Story Maps of recent and classic movies, including Black Swan, Up, Juno, The Social Network, Rocky and the Sex and the City movie! This is a $9.95 VALUE for FREE.

2) Purchase the e-book from iTunes or Smashwords AND post a review and Dan will email you the free Booster Pack (just email your receipt to Dan via the Contact form on his site and he'll reply ASAP)


  1. Awesome! I really feel I've learned something today. You've whetted my appetite, so now I'm going to have to buy your book. :) Thank you, Dan!

    Cynthia Wicklund

  2. what a great blog and information...informative yet fun...congrats Dan & Joan

  3. What great insight to blogging!!! Thanks so much, Dan!!!

    Joan, you've brought us another great post!

  4. Hey, thanks for visiting. What I like best about Dan's post is that it illustrates what he is blogging about. Nice to have an example, isn't it?

    Y'all have a great weekend.

    Best wishes,

  5. Sooooo helpful. Buying the book!!! Thanks Dan and Joan!

  6. Daunting! Now not only do I have to find the time to post to my own blog and my Jungle Red Writers group blog, but I have to make sure that key words are embedded throughout what I say. It's like writing a crossword puzzle

  7. Rhys Bowen ... Hey, judging by the content of your comment, you already have a handle on what Dan was talking about. *g*

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

  8. What a great post! Thanks so much, Joan and Dan for sharing this information. Joan, you already helped me so much with blogging, but Dan's tips are points well-taken. I was just thinking my blog posts are too long and Dan describes his struggle to make his posts short and punchy. I'm going to have to work on that. And tagging too and the link backs. It's all in the details, one step at a time, but without this help, I wouldnt even know where to start!