Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

How Are You Going To Succeed As a Writer?

A Guest Post by Cathy Yardley

If you’ve read Larry’s books on story (and if you’re here, I’m assuming you have) then you know he presents the six core competencies of successful writing, and the six essences, the “physics”, behind successful story telling.

Here’s a perspective that will serve you on a career level:

Be your own protagonist.

I’m a die-hard plotter. I’ve discovered that planning a writing career is very similar to creating a story. There are principles that need to be in play if you’re going to achieve any level of success.

In keeping with the theme, here are six components that lay the groundwork for a successful writing career.

1. Objective.

What is your goal? Writers that succeed usually have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish. Many of the writers I work with try to downplay this, saying “oh, I just want to improve my writing” or “I’d just be happy to sell some books!”

While these may be true, a little digging often reveals their fundamental objectives. Some want to write full time. Others want to hit a list. Still others want to sign with a traditional publisher, happy to see their name on a paperback in a bookstore.

No objective is more valid than another: it’s your life. But if you aren’t clear about what you want, then you’re not going to get there. Waffling and pulling your punch isn’t going to get you where you need to go. Being concrete goes a long way towards success. “I want to improve” is too vague. And how many books, exactly, is “some”

The clearer you are, the more likely you are to get there.

2. Motivation.

It’s funny how so often we know more about why our protagonist does something in our stories than we do about why we make our own choices in real life.

This is the place to dig deep, and again, there’s no judgment. Motivation is the fuel in your engine. Ignoring what’s really motivating you might mean creating subconscious resistance down the line.

For example, if you really want to change the world with a radical theme, and you’re offered a publishing contract only on the stipulation that you remove that element to make it something less politically charged, you’ll know not to take the deal.

If you want to make gobs of money, but you continually write weird mash-up niche genre stories that are sterling in quality, but don’t have an audience, then you’re going to need to change tack (or recognize that money isn’t your true motivation).

Find the right fuel, and you’ll move forward more quickly.

3. Location.

This is more metaphorical than literal. Where are you right now in your writing career? Have you completed a novel? Have you submitted work to agents or editors? Have you self-published? Essentially, how far away is your goal?

Being honest with yourself here will help you determine what steps need to be taken in the next few components. For some, this may be painful. You wish you were further along on the path than you are, or maybe you start remembering missed opportunities, episodes of laziness, or personal disasters that impeded your progress.

This isn’t a time for guilt, blame, or resentment. Just assess and move on.

4. Velocity.

Velocity is more than speed. It’s also direction. Which way are you heading, and how much momentum do you have?

For example, if your goal is traditional publication, and you’re currently just pages away from a polished manuscript, you’d think you’re pretty close. But if you’ve been slowing down (going from revising ten pages a day to maybe two a week), accomplishing your goal is going to be harder. If you’re going in the wrong direction (you suddenly decide that you’re going to tear it apart and rewrite the second act from scratch because it doesn’t quite work) then you’re going away from your goal, especially if the culprit is more fear-based than functional.

This is where you look at what’s working – and what’s not.

5. Character.

In this case, “character” refers to your character.

In the Olympics, it takes more than skill – it takes the mental strength to stay committed and disciplined, to not get thrown by competition, obstacles or poor performance.

If you’re going to achieve your goal, it’s going to take writing skills and the right mental attitude to persevere. You’ll also need to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, doing what you can to showcase the former and support the latter.

6. Strategy.

Once you’ve taken stock of the previous components, you’re ready to put the final piece into place: creating a plan to get from where you are to where you want to go, based on what you have.

If you don’t have a strategy, you’re going to find yourself reacting to whatever shiny object crosses your path. You’ll join some new social media network because someone says it’s going to replace Facebook, or you’ll quickly throw together a proposal because a publisher just put out a sexy new call for submissions, or you’ll find yourself writing for an anthology that has a small audience and doesn’t ultimately get you closer to what you want… muttering that you “may find new readers” when asked why you’re doing so.

Strategy can and should be tracked and adjusted as needed, but without at least a base level plan, you’ll find yourself bouncing in too many directions, affecting your velocity, and making no headway towards your goals.
A devil’s advocate might point out that you can have all these components in place, and still fail. That said, without these components, you are almost guaranteed to do so.

Take stock. Chart your course. Then, armed with these foundational elements, you’ll see how much further in your writing career you can progress.

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Cathy Yardley is the author of 18 traditionally published romance, women’s fiction, and urban fantasy novels. She’s also a developmental editor and writing coach at RockYourWriting.com. Sign up for her free e-course Jumpstart Your Writing Career, and receive helpful hints on pinpointing where you might be stuck – and how to get back on track for a successful fiction writing career.

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Only a few days left (end of January) to save $450 to $600 on a Full Manuscript Analysis… even if you don’t have something ready to submit now.

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… in either case, click HERE (bottom half of post) to learn more.

Same deadline for the 25% fee savings on the Full Story Plan Analysis program (regularly $245).

Regular fee structure resumes February 1. 

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There’s Power in the Public Domain — A Guest Post by Art Holcomb

Stuck for an idea to develop?

As a writer, I’m constantly looking for new approaches and new ideas to write about. I’m guessing you do the same.

In recent years, there have been a number of books that have been written about characters developed by writers in the past – such as Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide and others that are available for any writer today to use and spin off because they are in the Public Domain.

My friend Peter Clines wrote a great twisted novel entitled The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe and parodies like Sense and Sensibilities and Zombies received such critical acclaim that they have been in development as motion pictures.

Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. That means that any writer can continue to tell the tales of the characters – by writing prequels or sequels to existing stories, adaptations and continuing adventures, or develop entirely new approaches using these characters – without paying for the privilege or worrying about copyright issues. Not only is this a great writing exercise, but it can also be very profitable if you can match your skills with a character the public is still interested in.

Below is just a small list of famous writers and their stories that are in the public domain.

Take a look and see if there’s anything that suits your fancy. If interested in learning more about how to spin off public domain stories and the different approaches you can take to develop these characters, drop me a line in the Comment section here and I’ll develop the concept in a future post.

One other thought: if you write a novel inspired by or a screenplay adaptation of these works, be sure to make your source the lead when you pitch your story to an agent.  Nothing says credibility like a little Literature, with a capital “L.”

Have fun!

Horatio Alger: Novelist famous for his rags-to-riches stories. All of his work is in the public domain. Famous stories include The Store Boy and Ragged Dick.

Hans Christian Anderson: All of this famous Dane’s works are in the public domain. Famous stories include Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Princess and the Pea.

Jane Austen: She has become one of the go-to storytellers in Hollywood in recent years. Well-known novels include Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.

Honore de Balzac: Famous stories include The Girl With the Golden Eyes and Father Goriot.

Charlotte Bronte: All of her work is in the public domain including her most famous novel Jane Eyre.

Emily Bronte: Just like her sister, all of her work is in the public domain. Her only novel is the oft-filmed Wuthering Heights.

Frances Hodgson Burnett: Best known for the children’s stories The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. All of her works are in the public domain.

Edgar Rice Burroughs: Creator and author of Tarzan of the Apes. Only some of his work is in the public domain including the original Tarzan of the Apes and At the Earth’s Core. Be sure to check the availability of his other stories before considering using his other works.

Lewis Carroll: Famous mathematician and author whose works include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass and The Hunting Of The Snark. All of his work is in the public domain.

James Fenimore Cooper: His more famous tales include The Last of the Mohicans and The Deerslayer.

Daniel Defoe: All of his works are in the public domain. His most well-known stories are Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders.

Charles Dickens: All of Dickens’s work is in the public domain. Famous stories include A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Great Expectations.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Most, but not all, of his works are in the public domain. The later Sherlock Holmes stories may not yet fall under the public domain but all of his stories before 1923 have including many involving his most famous creation Sherlock Holmes. Other well-known stories include The Poison Belt and The Lost World.

Fyodor Dostoevsky: All of his works are in the public domain including Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: All of this German writer’s works are in the public domain. His most famous works include The Sorrows of Young Werther and Faust.

Brothers Grimm: Two German brothers who were famous collectors of fairy tales. Their versions of the famous fairy tales are all in the public domain including such cherished gems as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood.

Nathaniel Hawthorne: All of his writings are in the public domain so go ahead and try to write a new version of The Scarlet Letter or The House of the Seven Gables.  Stories like these work great when set in more modern times with hip and sophisticated contemporary characters.

Homer: Not Simpson, but the Greek guy who wrote the epic poems , The Odyssey and The Iliad, both of which are in the public domain.

James Joyce: You can based your novel on some of Joyce’s well-known works like Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Franz Kafka: This unique writer has a few stories that have fallen in the public domain. The most famous being The Metamorphosis.

Rudyard Kipling: Some, but not all, of Kipling’s work is in the public domain including The Jungle Book.

Jack London: All of this great American writer’s body of work is in the public domain. His most famous stories include The Call of the Wild and White Fang.

H. P. Lovecraft: All of this bizarre horror writer’s work before 1923 is in the public domain.

Herman Melville: All of this author’s work is in the public domain. His most famous story is the required reading for high school students: Moby Dick. A thought — ever wonder where Jaws came from?  Just sayin’.

Edgar Allan Poe: Filmmaker Roger Corman has exploited much of Poe’s work and you can too. All of this macabre author’s work is in the public domain. His more famous works include The Raven, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mask of Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tell-Tale Heart.

Rudolf Erich Raspe: All of his works are in the public domain including his most famous story The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

William Shakespeare: Old Bill has been dead for a long time; hence, all of his work is in the public domain. Try your own take on Hamlet, Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet.

Mary Shelley: All of her writing is in the public domain including Frankenstein. Her other famous books include The Last Man and Matilda.

Robert Louis Stevenson: All of this writer’s work is in the public domain including the popular stories Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped, and New Arabian Nights.

Bram Stoker: All of this writer’s work is in the public domain including Dracula, The Jewel of Seven Stars, The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm.

Mark Twain: All of this great writer’s works are in the public domain. His most famous stories are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Jules Verne: All of this entertaining French writer’s work is in the public domain. His most famous works include Journey to the Centre of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, The Mysterious Island and Around the World in Eighty Days.

H.G. Wells: Only some of Wells’s stories are in the public domain but they include The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The War of the Worlds.  Most of the great modern time travel stories, both books and films, owe a nod of thanks to this author.

Oscar Wilde: All of this great playwright’s work is in the public domain. His most famous stories are The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Johann David Wyss: This writer’s most famous story The Swiss Family Robinson is in the public domain.

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Art Holcomb is a screenwriter and comic book creator. His most recent comic book property is THE AMBASSADOR and his most recent project for TV is entitled THE STREWN.  His new writing book is tentatively entitled “SAVE YOUR STORY: How to Resurrect Your Abandoned Story and Get It Written NOW!” (Release TBA.)

Larry’s add to Art’s bio: when he’s not on set doing rewrite work or chasing a deadline for a studio script assignment, he’s also a major screenwriting teacher at the University level, a story development coach and a sought-after workshop facilitator at writing conferences around the world.

 

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