Get it written.  Get it right.  Get it published. 

Click HERE to have your story plan evaluated and empowered. Ridiculously affordable, astoundingly valuable.

Writers… Ever Been on the Verge of Quitting?

If so – and you aren’t alone – read this guest post from story coach Jennifer Blanchard.

The first time I sent my Story Coach, Larry Brooks, a story plan for him to analyze, I thought I’d nailed it. I was waiting to receive his email saying I had a great story and my genre would eat it up.

What I got back, was heartache.

Not only did he say I didn’t have a story, but he pointed out several really big plot holes and one particular scene that, if I used it, would ruin the whole story.

It was bad.

And he didn’t give much positive feedback, if any. Not because he’s mean and wants me to suffer, but because positive feedback isn’t going to help me improve. (What’s good doesn’t need to be fixed, everything else does.)

I haven’t ever admitted this before, but a small part of me wanted to quit in that moment. To throw in the towel and say that I would leave the writing up to people with actual talent.

Except I wouldn’t be where I am in my life today if I listened to the voice that tells me to quit. So I pushed through and decided maybe that wasn’t the right story, and I worked on another one. 

A few short years later, my debut novel is out in the world (a story that Larry also analyzed, told me had potential, and he made a small tweak that changed everything).

Being a novelist–especially a pro novelist–isn’t for quitters. It’s for writers who know they can get better and improve by learning craft, by studying story, and by not trying to do it all alone. 

That’s where I found myself in the moment I felt like quitting. I knew I could quit and find another hobby to focus on (God knows I have plenty of them!). But in my heart I knew I was a novelist. So I had to go on.

What I did instead of quitting was practice more. I re-read Story Engineering. I watched more movies and deconstructed the plot points. I re-read the novels I love, to see how they did it.

Three things you’ve gotta have if you want to be a pro novelist:

    1      Thick Skin–as thick as possible. The thicker the better. You have to be able to hear really bad things said about your story and not even flinch. (REALLY TOUGH, I know.)

    2      The Ability to Brush Things Off–you can’t take anything personally. Ever. Because it’s never really about you. It may be about your work or your writing, but it’s not about you as a person. Making mistakes, in writing or elsewhere, doesn’t mean you’re flawed and not meant to be a novelist. It just means you have more to learn.

    3      A Strong Grasp On Craft–period. There’s no way around this. You have to know craft, understand craft and master implementing it in your stories. If you can’t do that, you’ll never make it. (Harsh, maybe. But I’m here to help you cut years off your learning curve, not keep you spinning your wheels forever.)

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that being a good writer is enough or that you can write a really good story without knowing craft. It’s not and you can’t. 

There are opportunities everywhere to learn more about craft. Books. Workshops. Coaching programs. Writing groups.

If you’re ready to learn craft, here’s an enormous opportunity for you to do so:

Your Story On Steroids

One bestselling novelist. One pro story planner. Four days. Portland, Oregon. April 3-7. The Benson Hotel. Your writing will never be the same again. (And there’s a special massively discounted price available until Valentine’s Day!)

>> Learn More

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is an author and story development coach who helps emerging novelists be more effective storytellers and cut years off their learning curves, so they can write kick-ass books and get published faster. Grab her free story structure cheat sheet and start writing better stories today.

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Part 4… of a 10-Part Series on Story Craft

About the workshop I’ve been promoting here… check at the end of this post for news about a recent MAJOR TUITION REDUCTION

Part 4: Your Hook

Breaking bad, Good, or Otherwise.

This isn’t just for the sake of clarity.  Within each of the four contextual quartiles of a novel – each quartile with its own context, in this order:

1. setup (wherein you create reader empathy, establish stakes and provide foreshadowing, all BEFORE the main plotline launches)…

2. response (to the First Plot Point, which launches the hero’s quest on a new, steeper pathl aka, The Plot)…

3. attack (on the problem at hand)… and…

4. resolution – wherein all paths lead to a final confrontation between the hero and the antagonism, in context to the decisions and actions taken that lead to this point.

Okay, that’s a chewy list.  I encourage you to read it again, and perhaps yet again, until it clarifies.  Because this is one of the major elements of craft that separates professionals from newbies, the published versus the unpublished, or if you’re self-publishing, buzz versus dead silence.  (If you’d like a little more on this, click HERE to read a longer tutorial on the Big Picture role and justification of story structure, no matter what your writing process.)

Literally the first structural milestone in any story is the “hook”…

… which should appear within the first twenty (or s0) pages of your manuscript, the earlier the better, usually in your very first scene. It can take many forms, even as a Prologue when called for (nothing wrong with Prologues, by the way, despite what some famous authors say… even the opinions of the rich and famous are only that – opinions… you can find a contrary valid opinion on virtually everything).

The hook has a singular mission, regardless of how it plays within the narrative: to capture the reader’s attention, curiosity and even emotional engagement, even before they actually know enough about the story to understand why.  A hook can drop the reader smack into the middle of a chase scene, a moment of truth, or even a fast-forward preview of a scene that will actually take place at the very climax of the story.

Or, it can frame a situation or deliver a moment of tantalizing foreshadowing that rivets the reader to the pages, even without a clear sense of what it all means.

One way to determine if you have a viable hook is to look at the nature and degree of information dispensed in your first pages. If you are focusing on description of location and the nuances of a culture, chances are it’s not a hook. A hook is about something happening, or about to happen, or a situation that puts extreme stakes into motion.

The acid test is the presence of action, or imminent action, in the hook moment, something fraught with threat and danger and the implication – this is not the time to explain why, that comes later – of stakes.  If the reader can put themselves into that moment of darkness and risk or promise, even before they’ve come to know and love your hero, then chances are you have a viable hook working for you.

If not, you are skipping over one of the most powerful structural tools available.  Without a killer hook, you risk losing your reader before you get to the good stuff, which is always a rookie mistake.

Don’t make it in your story.

Want more?  Would you like to go deeper into the basic essentials of craft?

Join me and story coach Jennifer Blanchard in Portland April 3 through 7, for a deep dive into the full realm of story craft – definitions and criteria included – covering this and many more elements and essences of a successful story… a story so powerful it’s almost as if it’s on steroids… all presented in context to your writing process, whatever that might be.

Click HERE for a description of the workshop — which is, as of this weekend, being offered at a massive discount from whatever previous price level you’ve seen — and a link to the enrollment page.  

Click HERE for a closer look at the four-day agenda.

OrHERE to go straight to the workshop’s website.

 

 

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