Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Wannabe Writer or a Wannabe World Traveler?

A Guest Post by Nann Dunne

For just a few minutes, instead of thinking of yourself as a wannabe writer, think of yourself as a wannabe world traveler. You’re standing in your hometown, smack-dab in the middle of Kansas City, Missouri, with a map in hand. You must decide which way to go to achieve your goal of traveling the world. Perhaps these thoughts pass through your mind:

• If I go east, I’ll have to travel through the crowded eastern corridor and then to Europe or Africa. Those are large continents where people speak different languages from mine and I won’t be able to understand them. Not sure I want to start that way. Maybe do it later.
• If I go west, I have to travel through deserts and high mountains. From there, I’ll have to take a ship, go across a number of islands, and then hit the oriental countries whose customs are so different from mine. I’m not sure I’m ready to try that route.
• If I go north, I’ll go through Canada and have to cross over the Arctic Circle and the North Pole before I land in civilization. That sounds pretty difficult to set out with.
• If I go south, I have to go all the way through Mexico and South America, and like north, I have to cross Antarctica and the South Pole before I get on real land again. I think that way’s too cold to put at the beginning of my journey.

Too Many Choices?

So there you are, map in hand, with plenty of choices and directions on how to get there. But you know what? Too many choices have stymied you. Suppose you narrow it down and decide to first go to New York City. Your map shows you hundreds of ways to get there, and still you hesitate. The choice of routes is overwhelming. You decide not to move until you know exactly WHERE you want to go and exactly WHICH streets on the map to follow to get there. So you sit in your hometown and puzzle over the answers, hoping somehow they’ll be revealed to you.

Suppose, instead of sitting there thinking about it, you get moving and keep heading due east. Eventually, you’ll near New York City and then you can aim directly toward it. You might take a wrong turn or two, but as long as you recover your direction and keep traveling toward the general area of your destination, you stand a good chance of getting there. Doesn’t that sound better than sitting there waiting for answers that might never come?

Now Switch to Writing

Let’s look at you now as a wannabe author. You’ve read tons of books on writing, plotting, theme, characterization, setting, pacing, revision, etc. You’re overwhelmed with information. You keep hearing that before you begin to write, you should know your characters intimately; you should choose a memorable setting; you should know your beginning, middle, and ending; you should know your First Plot Point, Midpoint, Second Plot Point, and Pinch Points; in fact, you should know the end of your story before you begin it. And the only way to achieve all this is to outline your story ahead of time.

That’s what all the outliners say.  (Larry’s note: well, not ALL of them, and certainly not me, someone who does advocate outlining in some form; while I may have sounded like that’s what I was saying in the past — pantsers are a very sensitive lot — that’s NOT what I mean, then or now… find your story HOWEVER you need to find it, that’s what I mean, and on that count, Nann and I are on the same page.)

And you know why they say it with such authority? Because that’s what works for them. They don’t seem to fully comprehend that any other way of writing could be as efficient or as rewarding. The big flea/ flaw in that ointment/argument is that the wannabe writer who doesn’t have all those answers in hand and doesn’t know how to puzzle them out ahead of time is in danger of giving up in frustration.

Maybe You’re a Pantser

I believe most writers are pantsers. Outliners tell us that pantsers wander all over the place in search of their stories. Maybe that’s true of some pantsers, but by no means is it true of all of them. I know many pantsers who have written tight, concisely written, well-plotted stories—perhaps while outliners were still searching for answers to put in their outlines. And no one will convince me that many outliners don’t also write and delete parts of their stories that wander beyond the outline. Some admit they change their outline as they go, sometimes even their ending—and doesn’t that sound similar to pantsing?

I’m not putting down outliners. My point is that if you’ve tried outlining and can’t make it work for you, DON’T GIVE UP. Maybe you’re a pantser at heart, and your story will unfold as you write it. Maybe using parts of each method will work for you.

A long time ago, a writer whose work I respected, and still do, had words similar to these to say about writing. “You want to write a story? Pick one or two characters, put them in a setting, and start writing.” (Larry’s note: be careful here, this is a viable way to SEARCH for your story… not a way to write a draft that works; that ONLY happens — to ANYONE — after you’ve FOUND your story.)

I tried that simple advice, and it has worked for me. In the processes of choosing a character and deciding on a specific setting, my brain swirled with many ideas of conflicts—and other characters—she might run into. The more I wrote, the more ideas that came to mind. I kept all the scenes connected to either the plot or related subplots that occurred to me along the way. About halfway through each story, a possible ending came to me and I aimed all the threads toward that end.

I still write that way. But I believe writing is a constant learning process, and so I tried outlining my current Work In Progress. When I finished, I had lost interest in the story and couldn’t write it. I kind of felt I had already told it—only to myself, of course. But to me, part of the joy of writing is “discovering” the story as I write it. I literally deleted that outline and have been writing the story from scratch. But that’s me, not necessarily you.

Either Method Can Work

My method suits me. I currently have five works of fiction published. They’re not Pulitzer Prize winners, but a lot of readers have told me they enjoyed them, and all of them, including the first two that were published eleven and twelve years ago, are still selling at a regular pace.

Pantsing works. Outlining works. Whichever method feeds your need, write, write, write. Don’t just sit there over-thinking it. You can’t finish if you never start.

About Nann Dunne

Author of: Dunne With Editing: A Last Look At Your Manuscript
Check it out at www.nanndunnebooks.com.
See Nann’s fiction at www.nanndunne.com.
Nann’s blog: www.justaboutwrite.com/blog

*****

From Larry…

Done with your NaNoWriMo?  Here’s hoping.  Now what?  Hmmm….

Go HERE to read how another another blogger is blaming me for not finishing her NaNo.  In a good way.

Go HERE to get the skinny on getting several thousands of d0llars worth of professional coaching on your story (including your NaNo)… for only several dozens of dollars.  Not an exaggeration.

 

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New: Two Affordable Story Coaching Options… That Can Put Your Story Over the Top

Today I’m launching a new story coaching package, this one even more affordable than the recent $100 service that was rolled out (with great success, for me and for the takers) a few months ago, and remains available.

This new one, a high level conceptual analysis, is only $35.  

That’s not a misprint.  And it can save your story’s life.  Even before you’ve written it.

I developed both programs for just this reason… I see too many stories that are compromised at the design stage.  No matter what your creative process, the end-game is the same: a story with solid dramatic chops, a rich and compelling set of characters, great pace, vivid settings, powerful themes and a visceral impact on readers.

I don’t have to actually read your draft to see if these are in play… indeed, you don’t even have to have written one yet.  By looking at the bones of the story I can determine how these essential elements will combine to tell your story.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Here’s a brief review of both plans.

Story coaching: the application of analysis and feedback toward the improvement of your novel or screenplay.

When I analyze a story, I use 12 effective literary criteria to discover the richness, and the soft spots, of a story: the Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling… and the Six Realms of Story Physics.

I’ve written books on both, by the way… which you can check out HERE and HERE.

The process is like an MRI for your story.  At the price of a dinner or two.

It costs thousands for a full manuscript analysis.  Worth it, too.  Call me if that’s your preference, I do these all the time.

But if you don’t have thousands to spend… if you only have a few dozen dollars to spend on this… then I have something exciting to offer.  Something that’s completely original in the story coaching business.

You don’t even have to have a finished draft.  In fact, this process is equally effective and empowering for story plans as it is for completed manuscripts.

How does it work?

Rather than reading an entire draft, I ask you questions — the Questionnaire itself serves as a powerful story development tool — and based on your answers (and, at the higher level, a short narrative synopsis), I then analyze your story for its inherent dramatic potential.  I’m like a building inspector in that regard, poring over a blueprint rather than walking the halls of a building the day before a grand opening.

To use another analogy… it’s like an MRI for your story plan.  If there’s something questionable there, I’ll call it out for you, with rationale and creative options.  Before it kills you.

The Two Options

The new program is called “The $35 Conceptual Kick-Start Story Analysis.”  I’ll help you frame and define your story concept, and then analyze how well it relates to the most important moment in the story, which is the First Plot Point.  This relationship is critical, and it’s the most common weak-link in stories that aren’t dramatically sound. Get this key moment wrong and the story is handicapped, often fatally so, before it even begins.

I’ll assess how your plan works at the conceptual level, and back up the feedback with rationale and creative options.

Click HERE for more on this new program.

The existing program is calledThe Amazing $100 Story Coaching and Empowerment Adventure.”

This is a deeper set of questions (in and of themselves serving as a rich story development template) which, along with your narrative synopsis of your story, allows me to evaluate the story’s concept and narrative structure, including each of the four contextual/sequential parts and their key transitional milestones, along with critical elements of story physics.

Click HERE for more on this program.  Over 100 writers have opted in since June, and the results include everything from Epiphanies to re-boots to sudden fits of renewed enthusiasm and hope.

Both levels offer RUSH OPTIONS for a few more dollars, for which I’ll work longer days (rather than bumping anyone from the line).

Let me know if you have questions.

I encourage you to give this a try… it can save you a year of frustration and perhaps a rewrite… maybe even a rejection letter.

*****

I do this for a living.  This… as well as writing books on storytelling and related posts here on Storyfix… and writing novels of my own (my newest, “Deadly Faux,” comes out late 2013 from Turner Publishing, who are also re-releasing my entire backlist of titles).  That said…

Just to round out the story coaching menu here...

I do FULL manuscript evaluations at a base rate of $1500 (please, do compare this to other providers, who may or may not have a bestselling book out on the criteria for story functionality…).  Those who used the $100 level coaching package to develop the story later pay only $1200 for a finished draft review (based on 80,000 to 1o0,ooo words).

I also do PART 1/FIRST QUARTILE ( through the First Plot Point) evals for $400, which includes the same Questionnaire used in the $100 program.  The first “act” of a story makes or breaks the entire project… easily 75% of the problems encountered in a full analysis are either vividly evident or suspiciously lurking in the first 100 pages.  Those who later opt to have the full manuscript analyzed pay only $1200 (additional) at that level.

Some writers desire ongoing coaching during the development process… I do that work at $50 an hour, using a draft-down against a deposit for a few hours.  Most projects require only four to 10 hours of coaching.  These clients also receive a full manuscript review for a discounted $1000 fee.

I don’t believe in brutally honest feedback.  Just explicitly honest feedback that is useful and relevant, which, when it isn’t what we want to hear, can sometimes feel a bit on the brutal side.  I wax the same level of enthusiasm when I see gold as I do when I see a crack.

My goal is to make your story better, plain and simple.  Sometimes we have to get out of our own way to make it happen… I coach that, too.

 

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