Category Archives: Uncategorized

Writers… Ever Been on the Verge of Quitting?

If so – and you aren’t alone – read this guest post from story coach Jennifer Blanchard.

The first time I sent my Story Coach, Larry Brooks, a story plan for him to analyze, I thought I’d nailed it. I was waiting to receive his email saying I had a great story and my genre would eat it up.

What I got back, was heartache.

Not only did he say I didn’t have a story, but he pointed out several really big plot holes and one particular scene that, if I used it, would ruin the whole story.

It was bad.

And he didn’t give much positive feedback, if any. Not because he’s mean and wants me to suffer, but because positive feedback isn’t going to help me improve. (What’s good doesn’t need to be fixed, everything else does.)

I haven’t ever admitted this before, but a small part of me wanted to quit in that moment. To throw in the towel and say that I would leave the writing up to people with actual talent.

Except I wouldn’t be where I am in my life today if I listened to the voice that tells me to quit. So I pushed through and decided maybe that wasn’t the right story, and I worked on another one. 

A few short years later, my debut novel is out in the world (a story that Larry also analyzed, told me had potential, and he made a small tweak that changed everything).

Being a novelist–especially a pro novelist–isn’t for quitters. It’s for writers who know they can get better and improve by learning craft, by studying story, and by not trying to do it all alone. 

That’s where I found myself in the moment I felt like quitting. I knew I could quit and find another hobby to focus on (God knows I have plenty of them!). But in my heart I knew I was a novelist. So I had to go on.

What I did instead of quitting was practice more. I re-read Story Engineering. I watched more movies and deconstructed the plot points. I re-read the novels I love, to see how they did it.

Three things you’ve gotta have if you want to be a pro novelist:

    1      Thick Skin–as thick as possible. The thicker the better. You have to be able to hear really bad things said about your story and not even flinch. (REALLY TOUGH, I know.)

    2      The Ability to Brush Things Off–you can’t take anything personally. Ever. Because it’s never really about you. It may be about your work or your writing, but it’s not about you as a person. Making mistakes, in writing or elsewhere, doesn’t mean you’re flawed and not meant to be a novelist. It just means you have more to learn.

    3      A Strong Grasp On Craft–period. There’s no way around this. You have to know craft, understand craft and master implementing it in your stories. If you can’t do that, you’ll never make it. (Harsh, maybe. But I’m here to help you cut years off your learning curve, not keep you spinning your wheels forever.)

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that being a good writer is enough or that you can write a really good story without knowing craft. It’s not and you can’t. 

There are opportunities everywhere to learn more about craft. Books. Workshops. Coaching programs. Writing groups.

If you’re ready to learn craft, here’s an enormous opportunity for you to do so:

Your Story On Steroids

One bestselling novelist. One pro story planner. Four days. Portland, Oregon. April 3-7. The Benson Hotel. Your writing will never be the same again. (And there’s a special massively discounted price available until Valentine’s Day!)

>> Learn More

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is an author and story development coach who helps emerging novelists be more effective storytellers and cut years off their learning curves, so they can write kick-ass books and get published faster. Grab her free story structure cheat sheet and start writing better stories today.

6 Comments

Filed under Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

An Easy Approach to Story Building : The Bedtime Story Model

A Holiday Gift to Writers, from Art Holcomb

Novelists and screenwriters are like cousins twice removed. We only cross paths occasionally but, when we start swapping stories, it can be fascinating what each can learn from the other.

(Larry note: it’s also fascinating how much they can resist each other.  Which is a shame, because despite popular belief, there is so MUCH crossover relative to structure and craft.)

I have been using a model to help some of my film students find and complete their ideas for a screenplay when all they have is a basic notion and a main character. It was developed by a great screenwriting instructor, Pilar Allesandra, in her groundbreaking book, The Coffee Break Screenwriter.

It wasn’t long before I realized that it offeredpowerful applications for novelists as well. By giving you the basic story model of a fairy tale, it leads you through the story-creating process and gets you thinking about structure without realizing it! I recently shared it with Larry and he encouraged me to share it with you here.

How to begin: Start with an idea that you’ve been thinking about, and fill in the blanks as you go along.

Give it a try on your current project or something new. I think you’ll be VERY surprised with what you come up with:

The Bedtime Story Model

ACT 1 (same as “Part 1” in novel structure): Once upon a time there was a ____________________( main character) who was ____________________ (character flaw). When ____________________ (obstacle) happened, she ____________________ (flaw-driven strategy). Unfortunately ____________________ (screw up). So she decided ____________________ (goal) and had to ____________________ (action that begins a new journey).

ACT 2A (which is Part 2 in novel structure): In order to take this action, she decided to ____________________ (strategy). Unfortunately ____________________ (obstacle) happened, which caused ____________________ (complication)! Now she had to ____________________ (new task) or risk ____________________ (personal stake)

ACT 2B (which is Part 3 in novel structure) : Where she once wanted to ____________________ (old desire) she now wanted ____________________ (new desire). But how could that happen when ____________________ (obstacle)? Filled with ____________________ (emotion) she____________________ (new action). But this only resulted in ____________________ (low point).

ACT 3 (which is Part 4 in novel structure) : Fortunately, this helped her to realize ____________________ (the solution)! All she had to do was____________________ (action using new lesson)! Using ____________________ (other characters), ____________________ (skills) and ____________________ (tools from the journey) she was able to ____________________ (victorious action). Unfortunately, ____________________ (final hurdle). But this time, she ____________________ (clever strategy)! This resulted in ____________________ (change of situation)

(Larry note: the three-Act structure for film is as immovable as those faces on Mt. Rushmore, so we must accept that.   But don’t be fooled at a first glance.  Because given that its “Act II” has two separate and equal-length elements, separated by the Midpoint and each with its own contextual mission — the first being a response to the hero’s call as launched by the First Plot Point, and the second post-Midpoint quartile being a proactive attack on the obstacles blocking the hero’s path — it’s really four parts after all. 

Just to be clear, both models are almost exactly the same architecture , so don’t be confused.  Part of that sameness includes a sequence of four — not three — contextual “quartiles” (roughly; hence, the quote marks) with their own contextually-driven missions relative to how they forward the story’s narrative.

That said, screenwriters — and the teaching of screenwriting in general — is orders of magnitude ahead of the conventional wisdom offered to novelists (although, I have to say, Storyfix is an exception, because one of my goals is to bridge that gap; its one of the reasons Art contributes here… we are on the same page on almost everything about storytelling.  Any time you can step into a screenwriting learning opportunity, grab it, it’s pure gold.)

We thank Pilar for this model and I encourage you to pick up her book, The Coffee Break Screenwriter from Michael Wiese Publications.  It holds a treasure of storytelling techniques that you can adapt for your latest novel.

Pilar runs a great writing studio in Southern California and you can learn more about her work at onthepage.tv

Until next time – Keep Writing!

Art

Art Holcomb is a novelist and screenwriter who teaches motivated private clients how to move from aspiring to professional writers. You can read more about him, his writing tips and his services at artholcomb.blogspot.com .

Or you can write him at aholcomb07@gmail.com.

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized