A Holiday Gift for Writers With a Dream

My wife and I have been brainstorming how to handle this Christmas Eve post. We’re thinking it should be something akin to a gift, though I hesitate to label anything smacking of counsel a gift.

But this is different. This particular sparkling gem of a tip can be the difference between your writing intentions and your writing reality.

Because if you ignore it, chances are your writing dream won’t come true.

What I’m about to share with you may seem obvious, perhaps even trite. So please, resist the urge to shrug it off and, instead, study these words closely.

Think of it as a gift to yourself. One you’ll thank yourself for later.

Here is just possibly the most important truth that you’ll ever hear about writing:

When developing your stories, you have two choices:

– you can bend the principles of storytelling to fit your story…

– or you can bend your story to fit the principles of storytelling.

Only the latter will get you published.

You may not be sure what those storytelling principles even are. If that’s you, I invite you to dive into the archives and/or stick around in 2010, because that’s all we talk about here at Storyfix.

Or, there are a million other places you can look for them. Literally.

Just don’t listen to anyone who claims – who even hints – that there are no rules, no principles, of storytelling. Especially if that someone is you.

Both you and they couldn’t be more wrong.

That particular lie is the great killer of writing dreams. If you catch yourself tempted to buy into it, realize that your writing dream is teetering on the brink of writing disaster.

You simply cannot write a story any old way you please and expect it to get published. It just won’t happen.

Like an athlete or a musician or a pilot or a surgeon or any other professional, you must practice and apply your talents within a given and largely inflexible set of principles that comprise the physics of your craft.

Physics that are as universal, eternal, dependable, essential and inflexible as gravity, taxes and death itself.

Step off a cliff and you’re going to die.  That’s physics.  Step off a cliff with the right set of wings and you’ll soar. That’s physics, too.

A pilot who in mid-flight says, hey, think I’ll rip off a wing right about now, see what happens, is going down.

A surgeon who says, hey, think I’ll administer the anesthesia after I slice this guy open, will end up with a career washing dishes.  In prison.

This is not a joke.  There is no humor in physics.

You’d be shocked at how many writers approach storytelling with a similar naïve defiance of the truth — the pure unmitigated physics — of today’s gift of writing wisdom. Don’t be one of them.

Give yourself the gift of surrendering to this truth. To the principles of storytelling.

Happy Holidays to you and yours. Enjoy your gift, and use it well.

And then, dream on.

The Get Your Bad Self Published Series will resume after Christmas.

If you are enjoying Storyfix, please nominate us as one of the 101 Best Writing Websites, by sending an email to writersdigest@fwmedia.com.   Be sure to put “101 Best Writing Websites” in the “Subject” line. Then just write one or two sentences that identify Storyfix.com by name, and why you believe it is worthy of your nomination.

Sure, Writers Digest Books is publishing my Core Competencies book, but those folks work on a different floor. I appreciate your support.

12 Comments

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12 Responses to A Holiday Gift for Writers With a Dream

  1. V. J. Wilcox

    Happy holidays to you too, Larry. When I first started reading your blogs, the subscriber number was in the 300s. Now it is over 1200. You are obviously meeting a real need. Thank you for all your efforts to educate and uplift. Keep up the good work and we’ll see you in 2010.

  2. Shirls

    Larry, may you and your family have a wonderful, blessed Christmas and thank you for the gift. Your blog has been the best gift since it began – generous, honest and full of the magical eureka factor for those who have eyes to see. I predict a lot of published novels in the next few years dedicated to you and StoryFix.

  3. I couldn’t agree more — I have three published novels (imprints at Random House and Simon & Schuster) and I learned about plot and structure through studying screenplays and books on screenwriting (and this proved the difference between my last unpublished novel and the one that landed me my first contract). Screenwriting is helpful partly because it is a different medium and drives home the point that good writing and good storytelling are two different things. Storytelling has its own underlying principles that remain the same whether you express those principles through writing or screenwriting or dance or finger puppets or whatever. I’m fascinated by them and continually honing my understanding of them. Which is one reason why I found your ebook helpful, Larry, and inspiring — I’m writing in a slightly different direction now and needed a bit to be brought back to basics, since the novel had stalled for reasons that now seem so obvious to me (I had forgotten to ask myself the right questions).

    Structure is beautiful. It’s like structure is the house that the character lives inside. It releases power and creative energy. Structure seems to have gotten confused with plot which seems to have picked up some dirty connotations — formula, hackwork, whatever — which is ridiculous, and a shame.

    I discovered your site through Kelly Diel’s Cleavage, by the way, and it’s on my list of must-read blogs.

    All best.

  4. Thank you both for this gift of truth. And for all the other gems contained in your blog.

    By the way, your so very valuable e-book STORY STRUCTURE-DEMYSTIFIED was a partial inspiration for my latest blog post at http://birthofanovel.wordpress. com.

    Merry Christmas!

  5. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Larry! I sent in my nomination.

  6. A gift indeed. We just hate to hear it. 🙂

    I’m late as usual but there’s still Orthodox Christmas on January 7th, so, Merry Christmas! Have a wonderful and safe New Year!

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