Category Archives: other cool stuff

A Few Storyfix Updates

Greetings. I know I’ve been MIA for a while now… my apologies. I also know I led with this exact opener a few months ago… embarrassing. I get it.

Colleagues are telling me I’ve basically lost equity in this site. I prefer to think of it as hitting the Pause button. I’ve never intended to abandon Storyfix, my intention since the beginning of the year has been to reinvent, revitalize and relaunch it.

Why all that? Because after nearly 1000 posts (over 700 of which remain available here), it began to feel like I’ve lined all available walls with thoughts and teaching and modeling and case studies for all facets of craft and process. I found myself getting entrenched in an unwinnable debate about the continuum of process options, and frankly found the discussion frustrating.

I needed to step away. And while I’ve been away (I’ve still been out there teaching at workshops around the country, which is the absolute highest level of what I do on several levels, as well as posting on a few other websites), my resolve to teach writing the right way, the smart way, the enlightened way, has clarified.

Because you see, the writing process is negotiable. The underlying principles of craft – what makes a story work – are not. The key to everything, especially for newer and/or struggling writers, resides in understanding the core and the nuances of that statement.

I return to the battle emboldened. Less tolerant of ignorance. Willing to call out the bullshit (and it’s everywhere) when I see it put forth. More committed to helping writers see through the fog of the conventional writing conversation by providing principles, tools, examples, and processes that elevate and empower, rather than reinforce stagnation and frustration.

There will be a refurbished story analysis service, as well, priced to deliver the highest value for serious writers available anywhere on the internet.

Thanks for your patience. This is going to be an intense, wonderful and rewarding ride on both sides of the PUBLISH button.


Art Holcomb to join Storyfix on a more regular, visible basis.

Art and I view the storytelling proposition through a very similar lens. If you don’t know Art, use the search function here to find his guest posts (nearly 30 of ’em), and click here to see his website, where you can access his highly regarded audio training programs.

Art will be posting here more regularity, appearing at least twice a month.  That’s in addition to my posts, which will appear at least a month, as well.

The result will be the most advanced craft thinking available on the internet, targeting all levels of knowledge and experience. There are no cloud-dwelling muses here, urging you to channel your inner consciousness and listen to what your characters are telling you. A crashing silence awaits if that’s how you write.

Rather, what you’ll get here is fierce hardcore story craft. The principles that underpin it. Delivered by two literary linebackers (have you seen us?) waiting to flatten whatever lack of understanding or misinformation stands in your way.


October Workshops

I’m booked for two October workshops, at this writing:

Central Ohio Fiction Writers (an RWA sanctioned group)

Saturday, October 21, 2017 – Columbus, Ohio

An all-day class, delivering a comprehensive deep dive into differentiating craft, applicable to all genres, with a focus on romance and adult contemporary love stories.

Click here for details.

And then, the annual…

Writers Digest Novel Writing Conference

Friday and Saturday, October 27/28, 2017 – Pasadena, California

Two sessions: Concept/Premise as the differentiating story essence (Friday), and Raising the Bar on Your story (Saturday).

Click HERE to view the conference website, see all 30 presenters and the full schedule.


Blog to Book – an interview by Nina Amir

Check out this article/interview that appeared on Nina’s site, wherein I wax nostalgic about how Storyfix, the blog, became Story Engineering, the book. If you’re a blogger as well as a novelist or screenwriter, you might find you’re already nursing an opportunity to find yourself in the nearest Barnes & Noble.

Click here to check it out.


New training videos coming this fall.

You may be aware that I have five video training modules out. More are in the pipeline, arriving later this fall.

Art Holcomb has new audio-based training (with workshops) and ebooks on a regular basis. Click here to see his latest.


Storyfix to undgo a facelift.

I’m vetting designers now to bring a fresher look to this website.

I’m also interested in hearing from you, the Storyfix community, for your counsel on forthcoming content. Use the comments here, or email me directly, to suggest specific topics and focuses you’d like Art and I cover in the coming months. This is your tool, so please contribute your thinking to help us help you.

A compendium of posts – mine – from

You may know that I’ve been posting to the for well over a year now. There is a diverse group of contributors there, including a couple of well-known authors you may have heard of, not the least of whom is my craft colleague in arms, James Scott Bell.

Click HERE for a sequential thread of these articles. It’s an entire book’s worth of content and perspective.

Next week I’ll be sharing, in full, another guest post I contributed recently to Writer Unboxed, which stirred things up a bit. Because, you see, on that site and on Killzone there are authors who ascribe to this approach to story development: “There is no right or wrong way to tell a story, unless you do it my way,” – their way, in this case – “in which case it is the right way.” One of them suggests writing cannot be taught (right after this assertion he refers you to his upcoming workshops), and another claims he can impart everything of value he’s ever been told onto one side of a 3 by 5 card, which is interesting.

Too bad they’re both full of complete and utter crap on those fronts. Because simply by putting it in print, some poor writer will believe it to be true.

Here at Storyfix, Art and I are committed to shining a light on principle-based story development, with a qualitative focus on what empowers stories, rather than what simply finishes them.



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A Return to Hardcore Story Craft

Hey storyfixers… I know I’ve been MIA for an inexcusable length of time. Thanks to Art Holcomb for filling the void a few times while I went about the business of reinvention, rejuvenation, ducks-back-in-a-row stuff, and a general inventorying and understanding of why people read my work, why they come and then go away, and what writers are truly looking for when it comes to mentoring, teaching and the discovery of totally free information that will take them deeper into the craft of writing and the pursuit of their writing dream.

Some may believe – inaccurately – that the title of this blog, and of my latest book (Story Fix), imply I’m all about editing and rewriting, when in fact the most valuable thing to be found here is a perspective on what it takes to develop and implement a viable story from the square one comprised of a compelling premise (emphasis on the word viable, because not all ideas are worthy of a story… this being one of the most toxic misbeliefs floating around out there) using provable, universal and perhaps heretofore unclear (and therefore rarely or vaguely described within the general writing conversation) principles of storycraft.

Let me state the complex in a succinct way:

I believe in, teach, write about and can substantially prove the value in mission-driven, criteria-based story development. I’m betting you may not have heard the writing proposition framed quite that way… and I’m also betting than the notion of criteria – not a magic pill, but a strategic logic – already appeals to you. Especially if you’ve been at this a while.

Too many writing gurus preach benchmark-free story development. And yet, stories that work always – not almost always, but always – touch on specific benchmarks, structural and otherwise… so why aren’t we talking about and writing in context to them?

We’re going to continue a deeper dive into all of this.

If you seek an alternative to the vague frustrations of “writing what you feel, because there are no rules, damnit, so we can just write without thinking about it too much,” all without some sense of how to navigate the creative options along the path… if you seek that higher ground, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m certainly not the only “guru-type” selling you the truth (Art Holcomb, for example, is spot-on with everything he says about storytelling, as is James Scott Bell, among others… read us all, and soon you’ll notice the commonality, as well as the nuanced differences), but I have coined some specific labeling and modeling, perhaps uniquely so, that many say make these principles immediately accessible.

I’ll also shine a light on what’s risky, and what isn’t valid thinking.  

Take the common advice, “just write,” for example.

“Just write” can, if taken in a less than fully-informed way, become the most toxic writing advice you’ll ever hear. Yet, if you can wrap your head around the core principles you’ll encounter here (including the over 700 posts that are available in the Archives; use the search function to find articles on virtually anything concerning the craft of storytelling), you’ll find a rich new context from which to write your stories. You’ll discover an informed context, rather than simply writing what you feel without an understanding of how that fits into a professional storytelling paradigm.

Those who succeed at the “just write” approach usually do so – and will defend that advice vehemently – precise because their core storytelling instinct is already informed by these principles. Even without knowing that’s what’s going on.

I read recently (in a Writers Digest article) that mega-author JoJo Moyes (11 million books sold, and counting) claims to not know how she did that, and that when she begins a new book she feels totally lost. That’s what I’m talking about… obviously, her instincts are keen and her ear highly developed… perhaps, as she claims, without even knowing how or why.

Better to know, I hope you’ll agree.

This is advanced stuff.

And yet, it is the very foundational bedrock of what the new writer needs to understand. It is, in that way, paradoxical in nature, because the advanced craft of writing is no more than a deeper understanding of what newer writers must encounter and grasp (even if only instinctually) before they can truly get far from the starting gate.

So that’s my ongoing platform: framing the most basic, hardcore criteria and nature of the elements and essences of storytelling in ways that will clarify and make them more accessible to both the new writer and the working writer going forward.

If anything has gained me a spot at the table when it comes to writing about writing, it is that I seek to cull out, summarize and present the elemental essences of a story – both in terms of parts and reading experience, in function and in form – in a way that resonates with many. Even – perhaps especially – after they’ve heard it from others, or in courses from names like James Patterson that are really, when you boil it all down, some form of “this is how I do it” shallow rehash of the obvious, without a real thinking-writer’s template for understanding what a story needs to be, regardless of how you get there.

Even the novels of the deniers demonstrate the very principles that I will show you. Everything I offer up has that end-game in mind: a story that works. Really works.

Without bloodletting, suffering or years of frustration over a massive pile of rewrites.

Do you really want to take years to get there, and then not truly understand how you did what you did? And then, how to do it again, even better?

Can you really do what Stephen King does, the way he does it and advises you do it, too? Have you bought into the myth of relying on under-informed instinct, when you have access to the learning that will turn on the light of a higher understanding?

If you know what you’re doing – and believe me, this is something that can be learned – you can nail your story in two drafts. Art preaches this, too, in case you need outside confirmation. The more you understand about story criteria, the more you’ll apply it to the stories you develop.

Almost always, when “famous novelist” writes about writing, they will be focusing on process – their process – rather than the criteria and fueling of the end-product. It’s like LeBron James talking about his training and diet, rather than the fundamentals of the game he plays. Like, how to play defense against Stephen Curry.

So what’s next here?

I’m developing a multi-part series on “Core Craft for the Emerging Novelist,” which exists within one of my new video modules, as well. Look for at least 14 posts in that series.

I am doing a deconstruction of the novel, “The Girl on a Train,” which illustrates how the principles become visible, and therefore, confirming your understanding of how and why those principles apply. Look for that soon, inserted within the multi-part series I just mentioned.

Until then, here’s some hardcore content for you to chew on… right now.  This link will take you to a post I wrote for Brian Klem (October 2013), which first appeared on the Writers Digest website that he manages.

A little taste of what is possible when you hunger for more craft.



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