by Art Holcomb
A quick thanks to Larry for making me feel welcomed as we join forces to make STORYFIX into THE premier site for writers anywhere.
For those of you who don’t know me: I’ve been a working professional writer for more than forty years and have been successful at selling stage plays, more than 150 comic books (including The Avengers and The X-Men), screenplays, animation and non-fiction. I sold my first stage play at the tender age of thirteen and I worked with all four modern Star Trek TV shows (TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise). In recent years, I continue to write screen and stage plays, and have dedicated my time to teaching and training screenwriters and novelists through private coaching and my audio training seminars.
In all – and like Larry – I’ve worked hard to make sure that you have the educational information and insights that you need and demand so that you can move ahead in your writing career.
But what exactly does that mean?
How can we chart our progress as writers? Are sales and self-published works enough to consider ourselves a success?
I believe that writing is an apprenticeship – a profession that requires hard work and dedication, as well as several failures along to way to drive home the points of this craft. There are actual levels of success in writing, as there are in any other profession and, before we move on, we should talk about those a bit. Because modern-day info-nuggets like hacks, top-ten-lists and secrets to writing are common, but could never be enough to really train you to be a writer.
For our purposes here, let’s divide the career path of a writer into four groups, not unlike those stages your hero may go through in the course of his or her story.
THE ORPHAN: This is where we all start. We all began with a desire to write but little idea what that means. Perhaps we discovered the emotional satisfaction of writing when we were young and found that getting our words down on paper was a great way to deal with the ups and downs of teenage life, and learned just how our mind and soul worked through the mirror of writing. We tried – and found – that the art of creating could make us feel happy and fulfilled in ways we never knew before. Words gave us our voice and thereby our power.
In this stage, we had:
- HEARD that there were books and blogs
- SEEN the ads for classes and seminars, and
- WONDERED whether there were conferences and gatherings of like-minded writers . . .
. . . and we continued to write.
THE WANDERER: This, then, is the LEARNING stage of writing: You fully accepted the Call to Action that your passion demanded. You learn that there are rules to the art and you begin to build your own highly personal writer’s tool box, adding new insights and techniques with every word you wrote. You start to look critically at your writing, and finally gather the nerve to show it to other for comments. You actually completed your first works at this stage and made the stunning realization that you have more than one story inside you. You could not wait to see your work in print or on the big screen. You’ve perhaps made at least one sale by this time and have found a real hunger for more. You could almost feel your future book in your hand and could not wait to see your name on the cover and in reviews.
It’s here that you first become frustrated with your work and started learning that the true art comes in the rewriting – not the first draft.
At this stage, you:
- BEGAN READING the books and blogs
- WENT to your first conference
- TOOK the classes and seminars. . .
. . . and you wrote.
THE WARRIOR: By now, you have finally gone ALL IN! You have chosen your form, and have read all the great writers in your genre. You may have lain awake aching over the fact that you fear you may never be as good as them. You have begun submitting regularly and have written several manuscripts that no one will ever see as you work to build your craft, moving from the traditional role of apprentice to the position of journeyman. By now, you have made several sales and have begun to gather a real following of fans. You are firmly in the CRAFT of writing now and can see on the horizon the level of ARTIST waiting for you. You have seen the wider possibilities of your stories, created worlds in which a multitude of stories could be told, and have move solidly from Writer to Creator.
At this level, you:
- STUDY the books and blogs
- WORK the conferences
- LOVE the many classes you take
and you write…
THE ARTIST: By now, years have passed and your name is known to thousands. You start receiving fan mail. You are finally writing the works that you were born to write and creating deep emotional stories that inform, delight and evoke real and lasting emotions in your fans. You’re asked to speak at conferences and your body of work is such that you believe it’s time to start giving back to a new generation of Orphans, Wanderer and Warriors. Your books have an honored place on the bookshelves of writers everywhere and younger writers study you and long to write as well as you do.
At this level, you:
- WRITE the books
- SPEAK at the conferences
- TEACH the classes –
. . . and you write!
Can you identify your level?
In the coming months, Larry and I will be talking about different things, sometimes talking about the same things in different ways, but our mission is always the same: to offer quality craft information to you – to cut through all the static of the Internet and the marketplace, to offer information that is meaningful, valuable and rare.
And we’ll talk about each of these levels individually – and what it will actually take for you to LEVEL UP!
In all, we want to talk about the things that no one else is talking about.
So, the next few posts are going to be special:
Today, we talked about the levels and stages a writer goes through. Next time, I will talk about the REAL reasons you have yet to accomplish what you want to accomplish. There are aspects to your writing life that are missing – I call them the Six Pillars of Writing.
In the coming months, you’ll see us talk about the pitfalls and traps that modern writers – like yourself – face every day. We’ll explore the fundamentals in a new way and ask you to write the absolute best story of your life. And we’ll discuss in detail both how to best create a novel or screenplay from a single idea – and how to resurrect an abandoned or problem story once and for all.
And I’ll bring you Tales from Hollywood and expert information from editors, agents and professionals.
So stay with us and you won’t be disappointed. Many of you have been here for while, perhaps years, and to you we commit to raising the bar even above the high level this site has always aspired to reach.
There is always learning to be had.
In all, it’s going to be a wild ride.
And, as always, just keep writing!
Next Up: “The Career-Making Dichotomies of Storytelling,” from Larry.
We’d like to hear from you. Contact us if you have something specific you’d like us to cover, or to offer this readership community. We can’t promise we’ll get to everything (because there is a hierarchy of urgency to all of this), but we promise to address the things that really make a difference.
Contact us at: email@example.com.