Let’s call him Joe.
Joe is another of those courageous writers who consented to running their coaching Questionnaire answers (the Kick-Start concept/premise evaluation), with my feedback, here on Storyfix . He turned me down at first, uncomfortable with the notion that someone out there might want to “borrow” from his concept.
I assured him this wasn’t at risk. In fact, that in a forum like this, that’s almost zero risk. Not because the concept won’t spark a moment of envy — it might, actually — but because in a community like this, story ideas are like dreams… we all have them in abundance, and often we wake and don’t remember what all the nocturnal fuss was about. And even if we do remember, they aren’t worth anything (including being stolen) until they are executed well.
That’s the hard part. Go ahead, steal an F-35 stealth fighter plane, see what you can do with it.
I wanted to share this because Joe came to this process very enthused. He didn’t say it, but I think he believed he was ready to write the story, and that it was a solid plan, even that it was a potential bestseller. To be the bearer of bad news isn’t my idea of a good time, but like a doctor (okay, a vet or a mechanic, if that seems less self-aggrandizing) delivering a diagnosis and a therapy plan to someone who really didn’t know they were terminal, I have no other choice.
The writer pays for just this type of feedback, the kind that will save you a year of your life writing a draft that won’t work, going away with a notion of roadmap that will save the story, or at least give it a chance.
The problem here is, once again, a concept and a premise that don’t know one from the other, and then a story plan that doesn’t live up to the missions and criteria of the various elements. Joe had read — studied, he assures me — Story Engineering, so this evaluation reflects a common challenge for the new writer.
In essence, this stuff is a lot harder than it looks. An idea you are passionate about does not legitimize the compromise or redefinition of what a novel requires. That’s like saying a supermodel can be a good actress, simply by the jaw-dropping nature of their looks.
You can’t shortcut it, you can’t bend the definitions, and most of all, you can’t/shouldn’t confuse your passion for a story idea with the discipline of getting the moving parts in the proper form and function to make that idea work. In this case I don’t think Joe was “bending” the definitions, per se, but rather, that he hadn’t really wrapped his head around them.
Don’t let your killer story idea blind you to what must be done with it. Those are the very things that make your killer story idea WORK, no great idea ever has stood alone.
As usual, your input is appreciated. This is an concept and a theme that can work, should work, but (IMO) needs a complete architectural overhaul before it will. Let’s help him get there. You’ll see that I’ve mounted a soap box toward that end. In reading again before this posting, I was tempted to add even more feedback… but I’ll leave that to you guys for now.
You can read the feedback to the story plan here: Bully concept.
(I’ve additional feedback in the comment thread below; it’s the #2 placed comment, after Robert Jones’ usual brilliant take on it all.)
Click HERE and HERE for more on these coaching programs. “Save a year of your life…” just sayin’.
Here are some conference/workshop dates on my calendar, in case you’re in a traveling sort of mood (or you already live on the West coast).
May 16-18, Wenatchee WA — the annual “Write on the River” conference. Click HERE to see a summary of the sessions; I’ll be doing a 101 structure workshop on Saturday, and a three hour Master Class intensive on Sunday morning for those who want a Big Picture context.
May 22 — I’m doing an online webinar for Writers Digest University, an upgrade reprise of a session called “From Good to Great.” Look for signup details soon (click HERE to read a summary of the previous version of this; the analysis included will be different, and the content shifted toward front-end viablity… just what Joe needs in the case study above).
July: stay tuned, I’ve been invited to teach in Beijing — not a typo — in conjunction with the Chinese publisher who is releasing Story Engineering there, in their language. Never been there, travel tips happily accepted.
August 1-3, Portland OR: teaching once again at the Willamette Writers Conference, doing three sequential sessions on building your story from the idea (blank page) up.
August 15-17, Los Angeles CA: the West Coach Writers Digest Conference — A Novel Writing Intensive. This just came in as I was writing this post, but I’m so in. May be doing a day-before “masters” class (a separate ticket), as well. I did this one last year, a really amazing experience. Check back for updates on specific sessions, and check all the Writers Digest online venues (and the magazine) for registration info.
October 3-5, Edmonds WA: doing a Friday intensive (long) sesssion at the annual “Write on the Sound” conference (not to be confused with the Wenatchee WA “Write on the River” conference… those WA writers really like their bodies of water). A great event, lots of great sessions all weekend. Website is not yet updated, check back for registration (it’s still early, many conferences don’t open up registration until 10-12 weeks prior).
October 11-12, Tampa FL: presenting at a retreat for the Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA). Not sure if you have to join to attend, but I’m betting they’d love to see some new faces. (Same story, website needs updating on this retreat, but there is general contact info available.)
October 24-26, Surrey, British Columbia: presenting at the Surrey International Writers Conference (specifics to be determined; check the website later, like the others).
I’ll update these as information hits the airwaves.
New Review Online
As I’ve mentioned, my first published novel, Darkness Bound, (Onyx; it was my USA Today bestseller), was published in 2000, and has been recently republished by by Turner Publishing, who published my entire backlist in conjunction with the release of Deadly Faux.
Well, a reader has posted another review of the novel, which you can read HERE. The story is dark and dangerous and sexual (be forewarned, if not enticed), but in a good way, and Wayne’s review is a nice overview of the steamy psychological context of the story. (The cover shown is from the original edition.)