Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Engineered for Success

A guest post from Bryan Wiggins

How Larry Brooks Helped Lead Me to My Path to Publication

 I don’t remember what classroom I sat in, or which teacher was my guide, but one day as I scratched away in my composition notebook at my tiny wooden desk in Green Tree Elementary School, I picked up the trick I’ve been using ever since to present my thoughts upon the page: the outline. That organizational tool’s ability to plot a premise, build its argument, and cap it off with a conclusion, powered me through school from my first book report to my final term paper.

When my daughters began their own editorial explorations, I shared the outline as the trail of conceptual breadcrumbs they could lay down to help them find their way. That began my writing relationship with both of them—one that continues to this day—although the red pen is just as often found in their hands as in mine.

Ten years ago, when the challenge of writing a novel lured me from the poetry I’d puttered with for so long, I turned to my trusty prose pal and used an outline to sketch my first plot. Soon, I was off and running, creating scene after glorious scene, and, ultimately, a wonderful mess. I tried free-writing my way out of it, eventually penning a therapeutic essay I titled 80,000 Mistakes. In it I fussed and fumed about the 80,000 words I’d tapped into my Mac in the early morning hours, trying to build a story arc that finally collapsed under its own weight. But I ended my sorry screed with a promise to myself: I simply would not quit till I’d figured out the novel’s form.

I filled my Kindle with every book that looked like it could help me crack the craft—more than two dozen of the titles that every hopeful Hemingway knows, mixed with others that only a form freak like me would read. The light began to shine with books like John Truby’s, The Anatomy of Story; it taught me how to lay that all important foundation—the premise—in a way that would carry me, if not to publication, at least to a tale that might add some meaning to my life. Jack Bickham’sScene & Structure was another bright spot, one that revealed why the stories I struggled with had been so episodic. From it, I learned the cause and effect relationships that create the chain-drive of a story, linking the series of scenes and sequels that keep readers’ fingers flipping far past bedtime.

But the tome that brought it home was Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. It was the bridge I’d been searching for—one strong enough to support the weight of 100,000 words or more, to carry the world I’d built in my head to shine within my readers’ hearts.

I used my skills as a graphic artist to make a map of Larry’s formula, memorialized as the four-page “novel blueprint” you’ll find linked at the end of this post. I pasted the damn thing onto a foam core wall and posted it behind my laptop to refer to every single morning as I poked through my first novel, trying to put into practice again and again the principles I finally learned well enough to write from by heart.

I caught fire from my new learning, giving a couple of talks through the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance to pass on what I discovered in a Keynote presentation, complete with screenshots showing how I’d woven Story Engineering into my Scrivener template to keep me oriented as I dove in and out of scenes. I even convinced Boston’s Grub Street writers’ center for a guest spot in the big leagues, presenting at their national Muse and the Marketplace writers conference. There, in a room full of other hungry story structure seekers, I was rewarded with the questions and comments that let me know I was playing a small but vital role in passing on the torch that Larry first lit for me.

The Winter Queen was the first novel I built from Story Engineering. It rests right where it belongs —deep within the depths of my hard drive—as the fertile failure that taught me so much. My second, however, was (will be?) published onSeptember 27 by Harper Legend, a brand new imprint of “visionary digital fiction” from HarperCollins. I’m currently deep into the creation of its sequel, using the same Story Engineering concepts and constructions that have carried me so far.

Recently, I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned with members of the Pine Cone Writers’ Den, the ten-member writing group that meets monthly in my home. I sent one writer the novel blueprint a few weeks ago, and was delighted to hear it helped her break through to her book’s final phase of development. I invited another member over one Saturday morning, stretching a copy of the blueprint across my kitchen table as we discussed her memoir’s big story beats. We traded the red pen to plot just where those pivotal posts might fit within Story Engineering’s structural plan. I sent her home with that map and the hope that it serves to help stitch her string of moving spiritual passages into the published piece that finds the audience she deserves.

It’s too early to tell just how far those principles may take her, or the rest of us. There’s no question, however, that the most important book I ever read about the way to build a story will always play a part in mine.
Click below to view the Novel Blueprint document, which Larry uses regularly in his writing and workshops.


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Art Holcomb Wants to Talk To You

A personal message… and a massive Storyfix-only discount on one of the best learning opportunities I’ve ever seen.

You know Art. He’s a regular contributor here, and one of the most respected storytelling mentors in the business. (Use the search function to the right, just put in his name and you’ll get a list of his Storyfix posts, which are all stellar. Craft, mindset… he covers it all, as well as it can be covered.)

Art has been doing teleseminars for some time now, which he prices really affordably. Especially given the delivery of one full hour of his narrated, topic-specific mentoring, often accompanied by a guide you can print out. From that base he’s developed a comprehensive 10-week training course, called “Story Skills.”  It’s an idea-to-final-draft tutorial on the marriage of process and product, all within the context of reaching for a professional level of storytelling.

Not just getting it done… but getting it done at a publishable level that competes with the best novels in the business.

Click HERE for a specific description of each week of the course.  

If you’re serious about learning the craft of storytelling, this is a rare and rich opportunity to learn from a master.

The link will take you to a web page written specifically for Storyfix readers, offering a massive discount (over 50 percent!) on the regular fee for the program.  Heck, it’s a bargain at the regular price, but for us he’s offering it xclusively at a ridiculously low price.

Don’t let this one slip away.



Want a FREE copy (Kindle) of my new book, Chasing Bliss: A Layman’s Guide to Love, Fulfillment, Damage Control, Repair and Resurrection ?

If you’re one of the first ten to respond, you’re in.  (Sidenote: the paperback is now available, as well, though because of the cost of production isn’t part of this offer.)

Maybe that title speaks to you.  

I tackle this material the same way I approach the complex and layered challenge of telling stories — by breaking it all down into component parts, looking deep into the nature, function and application of each layer, and then rebuilding it all into a relational model in context to how the parts fit and how they can be optimized in the real world.

In other words, how to get your relationship back on track, maybe even better than ever.  How to reignite the passion and defuse the past. Literally, how to pursue a state of bliss at a level you may have written off as fantasy.

Relationships are hard, inconsistent and fragile.

We need to strive to become the best version of ourselves before we can expect the same from our partners. That’s what this book seeks to explore, while providing tools to help you understand, evolve and create a better life together.

Read the initial reader reviews HERE. I think you’ll be encouraged if you do.

Also, you can learn more — including an in-depth author interview — at

This is a no strings offer, good until midnight on Wednesday, August 31.  Just send me an email.  Because I’m traveling this week I may not respond immediately, but know that if you beat the deadline, I’ll send you a copy no later than next week. Hopefully it’ll help, as well as entertain. And maybe you’ll be up for doing an Amazon review if it does, and pointing your family and friends toward it, too. 

A caution though… this is tough stuff. The truth often hurts, and Chasing Bliss doesn’t flinch from it. But truth is the only path that takes us forward, because when truth collides with courage, amazing things can happen.

(Note: this isn’t an affiliate relationship. I don’t make a penny off of Art’s products, nor he mine. We recommend each other because we believe in the messages, the means and the inherent opportunity at hand. My goal with Storyfix has always been to get as much elite information into your hands as possible, as accessibly as possible. This represents that goal.)

Chasing Bliss FRONT cover final jpeg (2)


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