Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

A Free Reading Guide to Use with ‘Story Engineering’

A guest post by Jennifer Blanchard

(Quick pre-read note from Larry — Jennifer Blanchard represents the best possible outcome for me as a writing teacher, blogger and author.  She’s someone who had looked for clarity for many years relative to how to write a novel – really write a novel – and when she found my website, and then my book, “Story Engineering,” she says it changed her life.  To be honest, she’s not the only or the first person to say that, but she’s the absolute best living proof-statement to this day relative to how this understanding – not so much me personally – can  truly empower your writing life.  I’ve watched her blossom not only as an author and a professional, but as a purveyor of writing wisdom in her own right, with an on-going stream of helpful guides and ebooks and blog posts and guided programs that take the craft forward in clear and value-adding directions.  A month ago I had the privilege of c0-presenting a 4.5 day “master class” workshop with her, and listening to her wax eloquent on the various facets of storytelling craft was an amazing thing to behold.  She is one of the most prolific, positive, high energy writers I’ve ever met.  Someone we should all listen to.  It humbles me that she reflects on her work with me as she does here.  Every writing teacher should be so blessed to have someone not only get it to the degree she gets it, but represent the material as she does.  I am in her debt in so many ways.   Larry)

Like so many of you reading this blog, I had my life totally changed by discovering Larry Brooks and his story structure model. For me, this was back in early 2009.

At the time I was on a mission to find the information I was missing, the information that would allow me to finally write a cohesive, engaging story (because up to that point everything I had tried was a total disaster).

Googling around and checking out articles, I somehow managed to come across a guest post by Larry on another blog. That guest post led me to StoryFix.com.

And the rest is history.

That article totally changed everything for me. It brought story structure front and center in my mind and helped me to see exactly why nothing had worked for me previously.

I was hooked.

Hooked on Larry. Hooked on story structure.

And since I had read every freaking writing book and took every freaking writing workshop and college class I could find about writing novels, and still never came across the story structure info I learned from Larry, in that moment I made it my mission to spread the story structure message far and wide.

So in late 2009, when Larry put together an eBook called: Story Structure: Demystified, and asked for beta readers, I jumped like a sugar addict jumps for a cupcake.

I got my hands on that eBook and I read it cover-to-cover. Five times in the same week. I even printed the whole thing out and put it into a binder so I’d be able to have a hard copy to read and make notes on. (And, of course, I wrote a glowing review.)

A year later, this amazing, life-changing eBook became, Story Engineering, published by Writer’s Digest Books.  It remains one of their bestselling titles on writing craft, and was followed by two other killer writing books that build on that initial revelation.

I make it a point to re-read Story Engineering at least once a year (sometimes twice!). Because I want to stay connected with the core stuff required to write a killer story.

If you’ve read Story Engineering, you know what I’m talking about.

This book is by far the bible of storytelling. I recommend it to every single writer I come across. I shout from the rooftops why people need to read it and follow it.

Because it’s just that good (which you already know if you’ve read it).

The Story Engineering Study Guide

I wanted a way to keep the information from the book right in front of me at all times. Almost like Cliff Notes for Story Engineering.

So I created a reading guide to go with the book. It’s a simple PDF that I used to keep track of what I learned in each section, and any additional questions I had or things I needed to get clarification on.

And I’m gifting this reading guide to you, so you can also use it to keep the principles of storytelling at the front of your mind.

You can download the free Story Engineering reading guide here.

How has Story Engineering (and Larry Brooks) changed your life? I’d love to know! Share in the comments.

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is an author and story development coach who empowers emerging novelists to take control of their writing destinies, by helping them master craft and create a pro writer mindset. Grab her free Story Structure Cheat Sheet and put the principles of structure to work in your story. Visit her website here.

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Art Holcomb on… The Nature of Talent

A guest post by Art Holcomb

Let me tell you a story . . .

I had my first public success as a writer when I was 13. I wrote a play as part of a six grade class competition that — against all conceivable odds — went on to be professionally produced at a theater in San Francisco in 1968.

It ran for 6 weeks.

A play.  Written by a sixth grader.

What a wonderful feeling – perhaps the greatest feeling of my life to date. And I learned an important lesson about myself that day – which was that I could create!

In the years that followed, I came to live for that rush, for the fire I felt.

Sadly, as a result, I became quite prideful, and even a bit stuck up. Because I discovered that I had TALENT! I believed that I could do something that few others could do.

And so it has for many years. I wrote and published and was convinced that I was a star.

But then a day came in college when I called upon that talent to get me through… and it failed me.   I came up empty – literally – and thought I was done for sure.

I felt like that, lost in an ever-increasing dry spell . . .

. . . that lasted for 11 years.

After trying everything I could to create again, I reached out to someone who was to be my first writing mentor – famed science fiction writer David Gerrold.

I was so desperate that I drove over 120 miles once a week just to attend a class with David.

The weeks that followed were like torture – watching other students thrive while I still struggled to even one well-written sentence together.

At some point, David took me aside and we talked frankly about what was going on. As a result, he soon had me start doing the work: setting deadlines, shouldering my way through my daily pages and disciplining myself to produce work on a regular schedule.

Eventually, my productivity and quality came back and I got back in touch with my abilities once I realized that creativity works best in harness and under the thumb of a good work ethic.

I realized that I was able to change my life – once I stopped believing that my talent controlled my destiny.

And I learned the real truth about that TALENT:

What was once a source of great joy and power had, in fact, done exactly what the universe intended for it to do – give me just a glimpse of what it was like to be a producing artist – to be the writer I could become.

Because talent only gives you the taste of that fire, the rarest preview of all the things that could be.  It tells the lucky recipient of a future lying just beyond the horizon.

But the truth is – that future lies ahead for anyone willing to fight for it.  Because talent never lasts.

It was a long hard battle for me to reach that sense of fire and joy once more.  To be able to PRODUCE and to CREATE.

I never took it for granted again.

I never again mistook my skill for my talent.

I am here today to do perhaps what no one else has ever done for you.  To tell you what I know to be absolutely true.

That, for each person willing to do the work, there is a fire that can live forever inside of you. A fire to create, which warms the soul and ignites the imagination.  My life would be hollow without it and I am grateful every day that I get to write and create and weave stories that can move friends and strangers alike.

So — enjoy your talent — but always see it for what it is: just a taste of the fire. And know that you cannot depend upon it forever.

Know that a lifetime of joy from writing comes from a lifetime of struggle and dedication, and that – if you do the work every day – the universe will reveal itself to you as you reveal yourself to it.

So – keep writing. Keep going deep into yourself.  Demand more from yourself at every turn.

Because what is waiting for you just beyond that horizon – will amaze you.

(Larry’s comment: Amen.)

ART HOLCOMB is an accomplished writer, Hollywood script/story advisor and well-known writing teacher, as well as a frequent contributor to Storyfix.com. Check out his website HERE.

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Art was recently interviewed by Creative Screenwriting Magazine, where he is a frequent contributor.  It’s a great look at the man and his contribution to the writing conversation, which includes a long-running contribution to this website and to it’s creator… check it out HERE.

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Storyfix was recently named by Angela Han’s website, Global English Editing (www.geediting.com), to their list of “The 120 Most Helpful Websites for Writers in 2016,” placed at #2 in the “Helpful Tips on Writing” category (out of 19 named, and ahead of some of the monster sites you’re familiar with).  Click HERE to check it out.

They also have a helpful roster of the “55 Most Helpful Apps for Writers.”

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If you haven’t done it yet, check out my upcoming Mega/Master 4 day writing workshop, co-presenting with Jennifer Blanchard in Portland, OR, April 3 -7.  Go HERE for more information, or click on the ad in the left column. There’s still room, and we’ll even feed you.  But fair warning: be prepared to go deep, where your darkest fears and wildest writing dreams dance to music you may not yet understand… but after this, you will.

 

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