Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Write Everything

January 11, 2018

A guest post by Stephanie Raffelock

For the past few years, I’ve been a committed student of story. Larry Brooks remains my great inspiration to learn the craft. He told me that I would probably have to write 4 or 5 novels to really integrate story structure.

In spectacular rookie fashion, I thought– nah not me. I won’t have to write that much for my talents to be discovered. And as if he were reading my mind he added, “talent is just the admission ticket.”

As beginning novelists, the hard truth that we don’t want to hear is: learning to write in a multi-dimensional, heavily nuanced art form like the novel is going to take a lot of practice.  And I’ve discovered that writing things other than novels can serve that practice.

Writing Every Day:  It’s exhausting to constantly work on a big manuscript. If you hang in there, you’ll learn that you can’t wait for the muse to show up, and a lot of days it’s just damn hard work and determination that gets you through the next scene. I’m a proponent of writing every single day, because practice is how you get better.

Creating In-between Days:  Every 10 days I send off pages to my coach/mentor and then I have about three or four days where I don’t touch my big work-in-progress while I’m waiting for notes. On those days, I do a different kind of writing. I’m lucky to have a couple of blogs that publish my posts on a regular basis. I also write bi-monthly for a local newspaper.

What Blogs and Newspapers Can Do For A Writer:  If you only have 600-650 words per article, you get word-efficient, quickly.  Unless your curly prose turns into essential prose, you’ll never make your deadline.  The process of writing for blogs and the newspaper is an immediate one. And the gift of that immediacy is focus. I don’t have the luxury of thinking about whether or not I have something to say, or if my work is good enough, or any of the other sucky things writers tell themselves.

Diversity: One of my favorite writers, the late Norah Ephron, wrote magazine essays, newspaper articles, screenplays and novels. Her stories were complete, her prose crisp and clean, and I’m convinced that part of what made her so good was that she wrote everything.

Fresh Ideas:  The thing I love the most about writing for the newspaper, is that all of the articles are assigned. And thus far, none of the topics are things that I would have thought to write about on my own: burlesque, kayaking from Oregon to Alaska, an interview with a comic strip artist.  There’s a story idea in each one of those things. I was hooked when the burlesque dancer I interviewed told me that she’d been adopted by a group of drag queens who taught her the business. I’m never going to run out of ideas if I keep doing this gig.

The quest to write novels, really good stories, is a journey of love that fuels purpose in my life. And writing essays, posts and articles often reveals a voice or a conviction that can inspire the larger project.  Too, I have to admit, I like seeing my work published on sites other than my own, and the Tuesdays that the newspaper comes out, are always kind of a thrill.

I want to write everything.

One day I’ll investigate screenplays and comic books (one of many reasons to be thankful Art Holcomb is here with us on this site), just as a means of rounding out what I consider to be my writing education.

What about you?  Do you work in forms other than the novel? Does that help or hinder your larger works? I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me in the comments section.

Stephanie Raffelock is a frequent and valued contributor to the conversation here on Storyfix. She is an aspiring novelist who writes about the transformational forces of life. She served an internship at The Boulder Daily Camera, and has been published in The Aspen Times and Quilter’s Magazine. She is a regular contributor on SixtyandMe.com as well as a contributing writer for The Rogue Valley Messenger.  Stephanie is the Youth Programming Director for Oregon’s Willamette Writers, and maintains a board position with Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library. You can reach out to her at stephanieraffelock.com and @Sraffelock.

*****

 

17 Comments

Filed under Guest Bloggers

“The Tragedy I See At Starbucks Every Day” – a new post by Art Holcomb

There are a few things I want you to know about this post, and all the articles that appear here from Art Holcomb.

First, I post these because I value the information he provides and the credibility of its source. Art is one of the premiere writing gurus in the business, not only in the screenwriting trade, but for novelists and playwrights, as well.

Art has launched a series of audio training programs that are game-changers for writers at all levels.  When these programs are referenced here, you should know that I’m not a paid affiliate, I don’t make a cent off your enrollment.

That said, Art and I have a mutual-respect for the work we do, because we share so much relative to the nature of the writing craft, and the value of it. It’s that last part that, perhaps, sets us apart in a digital space virtually clogged with “mentors” (so many of whom are teaching how to be a successful self-promoter and self-publisher, which is a completely different skill-set than writing an effective story, which in the heat of the self-publishing gold rush seems to have descended to footnote status).

It’ll never be a footnote here, or with anything by Art Holcomb (who might, in fact, endorse my training products, as well; that’s it as far as quid pro quo is concerned… it’s backed by belief). Indeed, for both of us craft will remain where it belongs: center-stage, at the forefront of the work, as the catalyst for careers and dreams. As I launch my own line of video-based training programs very soon (see HERE to sign up for that mailing list, which includes a FREE training module and on-going discounts), that will remain the focus and the entire reason I keep writing about this stuff.

And, why I’ll continue to endorse Art Holcomb and anything he puts out there to help up reach our writing goals.

Larry

*****

Hi – this is Art – and I’m glad to be back with my friends at StoryFix!

Let me start out by telling you a story…

I went into my local Starbucks on the way to a conference in Los Angeles the other day, and conducted the same experiment that I’ve done many times before.

Got my coffee (regular drip, half-and half). Sat down and looked around.

And there they all were. I counted twelve people on their laptops, heads down, a serious look on their faces.

Furiously writing away.

Now, as a writing teacher, I’m always fascinated with what writers are creating. And so, like a busy body (and not really having anything else to do), I asked each of them a few questions:

      – What are you writing?
      – What’s the premise of  your story?
      – How long have you been working on it?
      – What draft are you on?

And so, here’s what I found out that day, which really got my attention in an alarming way:

Of this group, six were writing screenplays, six were writing novels – a nice, even split. On average they have been working on their stories for more than eleven months each, one for more than four years. Three were just starting, the others were on – at least – their fifth draft.

And therein resides the tragedy.

As a screenwriter and playwright, I’m trained to produce work quickly. My ability to get paid depends on it.  And, as a professional teacher of screenwriters and novelists, I teach my students the all-important technique of writing fast: getting the work out of their head and onto the page… and then using all their craft knowledge and process abilities to complete the work in the shortest period of time possible.

This is a vital skill. For example, when under assignment by a studio to complete a screenplay, a writer is typically asked to produce no more than two drafts and two polishes of the work – usually in less than six weeks.

Years ago, I first looked around a similar Starbucks and saw a similar sight – writers working away on draft after draft, and getting no further along toward their goal of publication or production.

So, here was the truth of the matter.

These are likely projects that will never be finished.

These are dreams that will never be achieved.

I saw the problem as twofold:  Here were writers who needed better craft skills, as well as a better process for getting their work done.

And process was the real problem here. Because it’s something that few writers even consider changing.  Most have stumbled upon a way of writing that worked for them in the beginning and they’ve stuck with it without question ever since, perhaps rejecting any solid guidance that might challenge it.

A shame, that. A real professional is always listening, always open to new and better ways of doing the work.

Is that you?

Here’s a valid analogy: writers – especially anyone who wants to have a career as a writer – are really more like athletes.  As such, we should be constantly tweaking and modifying our process to get the most work out of ourselves. (I frequently remind myself that I have only so many hours in a day, so many days in a year – and only so many years left to leave my mark on the world.)

And so, to help writers develop their fundamental craft skills, I created a comprehensive course to teach just that (my StorySkills series – many of you have already taken it).

However, that was only part of the equation, because . . .

The best craft skills in the world can’t help you if you don’t have a way to ACTUALLY get the work done and finished.

So now, I’ve created a 6-week audio course that teaches you how to improve your process. 

It represents the same practices and techniques that professional writers apply to their work. You’ll learn my listening to the same lessons I give professionals and using the accompanying workbooks to drive the practices home.

The course is called Two Drafts -Two Polishes. It makes a system that professional writers use to write quickly to anyone who feels this need… because we all labor within the context of this need.

For more information, and to register, click HERE.

Imagine being able to get the story out of your imagination just as you see it, to be able to structure it for maximum impact quickly, and to polish it in such a way that agents and publisher find compelling. Can you imagine that? My guess is… you can taste that.

So, the questions you need to ask yourself today are:

– Am I actually completing the stories I start?
– Am I stalled in my current story… not sure what to do next?
– Am I doing draft after draft… changing the words but never finishing?
– Do I need some help?

 The fact is – there’s no point in writing if you never finish. 

It’s as simple as that.

Here is something I know is absolutely true: There is an audience out there waiting for your story.  But they’ll never get a chance to enjoy it if you don’t get it done.

Two Drafts -Two Polishes can teach you how. Just click HERE for all the information you need to get started. This isn’t a webinar to put on your calendar, it’s a training program that is yours, to experience at your pace, as many times as you like… in your car, in your office, and most of all, in your head.

Don’t be one of those lost souls at Starbucks! Take control of your process!

Take control of your writing career.

I’ll talk with you again soon.

Art

 

12 Comments

Filed under Guest Bloggers