Monthly Archives: December 2015

Redux: “Get Out of Your Own Way” – a Guest Post by Art Holcomb

Apologies for yesterday’s technical problem, which sent this to you with only a headline and no context.  Thanks to Joel Canfield for the quick fix.  Anything by Art Holcomb is worth a second try… so here you are.  Enjoy.



“An exhaled breath must be cast away before you can take another.”

-Thulani Jengo

Years ago, a friend of mine was writing a mystery about a famous abandoned house in Northern California.  David had teased me with this book for a very long time and after much cajoling and nagging on my part, he agreed to let me read it.

He finally showed it to me at a party over the Christmas break from college.  He sat me down in his spare bedroom, handed me this beautiful leather binder, thick with each chapter tabbed and labeled, and then quietly left.

I was in for a treat.  I held my breath for a moment.

And I read . . .

And, as I read, I grew even more excited.  The first chapter was good, opened well, excellent visuals, with pacing and language that was capable and accessible.  And I loved the characters.

The first chapter had been 34 pages long and absolutely left me hungry for more.

I flipped the tab marked CHAPTER TWO over and  . . .

Blank paper.

Twenty blank pieces of typing paper.

I went through the rest of the binder and it was the same thing: 18 more tabbed sections of blank white typing paper.

About which point, David couldn’t wait any more.

He came in and nonchalantly asked how I liked the story:

ME: I love it! Where’s the rest?

DAVID: Well, that’s all there is so far.

ME: I thought you’d been at this for a while.

DAVID (proudly)I have been.  I’ve been rewriting the first chapter until I got it right.

ME: For how long?

DAVID: Eleven years this February.

I couldn’t believe it.  I was startled at first and then I experienced something that surprised me:

I started to get angry.

I’ve been helping writers achieve their goals for a long time. And I wasn’t upset that David had been working on a story for eleven years; I, in fact, had several ideas that I’d been working on since I was in high school that I was never able to get out of me.  But eleven years on the same chapter, writing it over and over again, refining, polishing, rewriting, perfecting?  This was less a labor of love and more like Sisyphus pushing that boulder uphill.

At this rate, David was scheduled to complete his Great American Novel 54 years after his death . . . assuming he got past the first chapter.

At this rate, David was absolutely doomed to failure.  This was a squandering of what I saw as a real and special talent and it upset me.

We talked about this for hours that night, but I was never able to get him to see that this was less a novel and more a delicious sort of penitence.  That unless he let that chapter go and moved on, this wonderful story would be relegated to that binder forever. That he was paralyzed by a  real fear which lay just beyond the tab marking CHAPTER TWO.

David and I grew apart in the years that followed and, in that time, I met a number of people like him, who were caught in a loop, unable to take a step out of their comfort zone.

I’ve often wondered what separates the Davids of the world from the writers who go on to have long careers and satisfying relationships with their talents?

In the end, I think it comes down the combination of FAITH and TRUST.

FAITH that you have more than one idea in you, that you don’t have to be defined by a single effort, that your next chapter can be better than your last.

And TRUST in the breadth and width of your own talent, and that not only can you see yourself completing that novel but that it will be just one part  in a great body of work . . .

And, most of all, Trust and Faith that you will have an audience out there.

In the end, regardless of how any single effort comes out, you have to be able to let it go when finished . . .

And take that next breath.

Success always lies in the difference between what a person can do and what that person WILL DO!

And the absolute truth is – I know you can do it.  If you’re stuck, reach out to an expert like Larry and get some help from someone who has faced this before you. You’ll find that, with help, you can quickly find your way back to the road to success.

Make your talent count for something.  Work hard.  Dig deep.

And then . . . move on to the next challenge.

ART HOLCOMB is a writer and writing teacher. He and acclaimed novelist Steven Barnes have developed a system to get your writing on the fast track and get you producing great stories every year.  Drop them an email at to find out more about their upcoming webinar for new writers in January 2016.


Still running two year-end story coaching discounts, one of offering a $900 savings… both described in the preceding post.


I want to share this paragraph from an email I sent to a coaching client today.  He’s a terrific writer with a monster story on his hands (and, he’s very coachable), one that he and I are wrestling to the ground with an iterative process of pitch, breakdown, feedback, revision and more feedback.

I hope you find value in this:

This is the reason stories get rejected: the author whips it all into a stew of a story, and they fall in love with it.  With the very notion of it.  And then, under critical eyes, they explain and defend, and when the critic doesn’t seem to shut up, they rationalize that the critic just doesn’t get it, or – and this is worse – that the criticism doesn’t matter.  First time authors, in particular, are well served to really listen and be open to change, when change is indeed called for in the spirit of making the story stronger.


Filed under Guest Bloggers

Year-End Story Coaching Discounts

It’s a cash flow thing.  

My story coaching business and speaking schedule tends to slow down as the year closes.  I need the work, and you may need some story coaching.

That’s a win-win opportunity for us both.

The biggest year-end discount, and it’s a whopper, is offered for the…

Full Manuscript Read/Analysis Service

The goal is to see if your manuscript is ready for publication (either traditional of self-published… there is no difference in the criteria for either strategy).  If it isn’t, I’ll tell you succinctly what works and what doesn’t, and do my best to suggest fixes and upgrades (that’s something that nobody on the planet can guarantee, by the way, just as nobody can guarantee publication; that said, I hope I’ve earned your confidence that I’m as capable of providing a blueprint for revision as anyone out there).

My current price for this service is $2250.  The discounted price is… less.  A LOT less.

Yeah, $2250 is a bit more than my prior fee, but the nature and scope of the feedback provided has evolved.  More is better where feedback is concerned, and so I now deliver more of it.  This analysis looks at – and gives an evaluation for – twelve different story elements and essences (the Six Core Competencies, and the Six Realms of Story Physics), all in context to an overall evaluation and recommendations for upgrades and fixes for your next draft.

My coaching document might be four pages, it might be 24 pages, but in either case you’ll have what you need to move forward with confidence.

The discount I’m offering, if you can pay now (in December), is 40 PERCENT off the regular fee… which translates to a discounted fee of $1350, a savings of $900.  (The fee for this level of service reverts back to $2250 come January 1, 2016.)

Full payment ($1350) is required by the end of December 2015 to grab this discount.  Contact me directly to arrange payment at the discount (see below).

But the good news is… you have until March 31, 2016, to actually submit your manuscript.  Which gives you time to actually finish it, without pressure or rush, maybe even read my writing books and see what revisions you can come up with on your own.

A 40 percent discount on anything is a good deal.  A 40 percent discount on something worth well over two grand… that’s a killer deal.

There is one other coaching/evaluation discount on the table.

The current fee for my Bundled Story Plan level of service (see below, or click HERE) is $395.  Through December 31 of this year, however, you can lock in your involvement at a $50 savings (pay only $345, provided you can remit payment by December 31, 2015; once enrolled, you can opt to commence the service sequence at any time during 2016).

My fee structure has recently changed for my other Questionnaire-driven story element evaluations, including the way the Full Story Plan Evaluation works.  It is now regularly-priced (at $395) as a bundled service (the fee includes each of the three levels) to incent opting-in for the whole coaching enchilada, completing the three levels in sequence (1. Concept/Premise Analysis, 2. Dramatic Arc Analysis, 3. Full Story Plan Analysis).

To learn more why this makes sense (there’s a really good reason that it does), and more details on how this works, click HERE.

To opt-in and grab these discounts…

… contact me directly – at – to request an invoice and ask any questions you may have.

Other story coaching options at the regular fee remain available using the Paypal buttons in the left column, which also show the regular fee structure for these discounted programs.  To grab the discounts, don’t use those Paypal buttons, write me to request an invoice (via Paypal; you do not need to be a Paypal member to use this venue for payment).

Unless you’re opting in to one of the one-off programs, in which case… please do.


Click HERE to nominate your favorite writing post of the year, and thus, your favorite writing website of the year.


Filed under other cool stuff