Category Archives: Write better (tips and techniques)

A Deadly – and Perfectly Normal – Rookie Trap That Can Cost You Years on the Learning Curve

Important post today.  With an attached tutorial that just might change who you are as a storyteller.

Don’t skim this one.  Not ironically, that (skimming) is the very thing that can cost you years (or decades, I kid you not) of development time… when it is the craft itself that you are skimming and short-changing.

There’s a FREE GIFT here, too, it is a no-strings click away, if you get that far.  If you don’t… then just maybe this post is about you.  The irony is poignant… you miss the goodness because you skim and don’t absorb the core.

Also, after that (blogging principle #1: always deliver the good stuff, the free stuff, before you even mention your own projects or services; which, in this edition of Storyfix, is presented below… I hope you’ll have a look)… something very new and unexpected for me – and ridiculously exciting…

… with a cool “June Special” offer for those hoping for a solid story coaching opportunity.

One word on that: DISCOUNT.  

But first… some really important stuff on craft.


This is a true story.  A case study in normalcy.

You don’t want to be a normal writer.  Making normal rookie mistakes.  Writing from the wrong set of beliefs, derived from the wrong interpretation of the wrong conventional wisdom.

Because so-called conventional wisdom may not be be serving you.   It may not be wise at all.

Among the 90 percent of authors who don’t achieve even a fraction of their writing dream, the vast majority can attribute that heartbreak to the shortcomings of what they believe they know about what a good novel entails, and how to get it onto the page.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve challenged the so-called conventional wisdom, throwing back the curtain of clarity at workshops and in one-on-one coaching relationships, even here within these posts, resulting writers announcing what amounts to a Great Epiphany that changes the course of their writing destiny.

It happened this morning, in fact.  Actually, the Epiphany part hasn’t arrived yet – the exposure of the need for one did – but I’m betting it will.

This is the kind of thing that makes writing teachers/coaches/guru-types crazy.  Because we’ve put the truth right in front of them, and it goes unread, unheeded, or misunderstood.  It can take several passes at it to finally grasp it with the detail required.

Today’s post seeks to cut the number of passes required before it finally sinks in.  By giving that truth to you, straight up.

Notice how, perhaps, this tale parallels your own writing journey.

You have a story.  You’ve outlined it, maybe you’re written a draft.  You love it.  You’re certain it has legs.  Secretly, you believe it – and you – have the chops to not only get published, but to become a bestseller.  You are next to certain it is that good.

Because the idea at it’s core absolutely fascinates and inhabits you.  Heck, with that idea, the novel virtually writes itself.

Be honest.  You’ve been there.

And so, because you are a diligent new writer, or an experienced writer who hasn’t lost the blush of the new writer, you decide to confirm the fact of your story’s greatness.   You send it out there in some sort of beta form.  Maybe to a story coach, to test the waters.

That’s where I come in.  Because such a story, from such a writer, arrived in my inbox not long ago.

Here’s an important context to keep in mind: this writer is smart.  

Really smart.  With enough enthusiasm to fuel a Trump rally.  With a pitch that virtually boils with confidence about the upside of the story.  But the curious truth is… that very enthusiasm is what makes this writer blind to a level of understanding that is required before the story will work to the degree he/she believes it will.

It’s what makes them skim the textbook because they can’t wait to graduate. To get the good stuff.  The stuff they believe they arelady understand.

But too often… don’t.

They believe the story is enough.  They believe that craft itself is intuitive.  Which it is, to only a certain extent.

It’s that less than certain extent that comes back to bite you.

 To severe your connection to the potential that you believe in.

When someone signs up for any of my coaching levels – this one being the first-line Concept/Premise analysis – they receive a Welcome Letter that includes not only core content (definitions and examples) but deep tutorials (nine of then, in this case, resulting in a net delivery of an entire writing craft textbook or workshop; this, as much as my time, is the essence of the value delivered for the price).

Part of the content within that Welcome Letter is a clear definition of Concept – the thing you take for granted that you understand, but based on data, probably don’t, at least fully; thus, this becomes the opportunity at hand), including vivid examples… as well as an equally clear definition of Premise… with a discussion focusing on how and why they are different.

With those nine tutorials that go even deeper into this critical and empowering difference.

They get all this first.  Before they are asked to submit everything.

And then comes the fatal moment.  

The serpent’s temptation.  The consequences of impatience.  The fruit of hubris.  The sad end-game of naivety.  This is where…

… they skim the Welcome Letter.  Or worse, more often, they don’t read it at all.

Hey, I get it.  When I smash into a box containing a new toy – phone, flat screen, computer, mixing bowl, whatever…), I rarely consult the “user’s manual.”  I mean, how hard can it be, right?  The phone walks you through the setup, who wants to read about it first?

Thing is, writing a novel is orders of magnitude more complex, nuanced and challenging that getting a new toy online.  It’s as complicated as: doing surgery… flying an airplane… healing a broken heart… inventing a new electronic device… designing a bridge or a building… I could go on for days.  All of these examples, by the way, are from writers who do those things, and once on the other side of enlightenment confess that writing a novel is as hard as their day job.

Chew on that for a moment.

You think you know all you need to know?  The odds say you don’t.

By skimming or not reading the very material that can make your story work, in the belief that you don’t need to know, or that  you already do know (without that knowledge ever being tested or confirmed), you are doing nothing less than shooting yourself in the foot.

Or in the head, in this case.

Because… his story was nothing more than fine.

It was good, but not good enough.  It was flawed in the very thing that the Welcome Letter focuses on.

The thing that separates bestsellers from the pack.  Something that resides within that very idea… the one he thought already glowed in the dark.

This writer, because he is smart and not completely controlled by a belief that he knows more than the rest of us (that happens, too), responded very openly and professionally to the feedback that his concept was flat, while his premise was pretty good, though completely too familiar.  That a stronger concept could, in fact, fuel his premise to a higher level, perhaps to a stellar level within his genre.

He got it.

A few days passed.

And then an email arrives this morning, confessing that he just doesn’t get the whole concept thing.  What it is, why it is important, and how it relates to premise, without being premise.   By the way he framed the question, he exposed what is an unavoidable truth:

He either didn’t read the Welcome Letter… he didn’t get it… he didn’t buy it… or he skimmed it and forgot it.

Which could explain the entire shortcoming of his story.

So rather than sell it to you… allow me to GIVE it to you.  

So that you might be among the few who begin their stories with this massive advantage, which impacts and defines the very square-one moment of your story inception.

Read the Welcome Letter.  You don’t need to buy a story coaching package.  In fact, I’m not doing any more coaching until late June.

This is the stuff you need to know,  to grasp, to fully understand.  

A huge percentage of writers, even those who are well down the road, actually don’t understand this.  But when you get it, you’ll see that this is the very thing that differentiates bestsellers from lesser books, the published from the non-published.

If and when you get this, you may no longer settle for – and indeed, are prematurely enthusiastic for – a story that is already flawed in the essence of what this document (and those nine links) clearly presents.

It’s not easy.  Some folks read it and still don’t completely get it.  Some never get it.  But you have to read it first.  You can’t merely skim it.  You need to study it, to absorb  it.

Then you will be a writer on the other side… among the few who do get it.  Who are orders of magnitude ahead from the first page forward, because their original idea has turned into a conceptually-driven premise that meets all the criteria of greatness… instead of simply writing your idea without that level of empowerment.

Publishers and readers are not looking for the next also-ran, middle of the shelf novel.  They are looking for home runs.  This is what you need to understand to make that happen.

Read the Welcome Letter here — Quick-Hit WELCOME LETTER .

You’re welcome.


A Story Coaching June Special

The Welcome Letter you’ve hopefully just downloaded is the first step in my Quick Hit Concept/Premise Analysis.  The normal fee for this, including the Questionnaire and analysis/feedback that follows, is is $79.

Here’s the give and take of the special:  the FIRST TWENTY takers can participate in this coaching level for only $50.

For this discounted service, delivery of my coaching feedback (two rounds; you get a chance to revise your first submission of responses to the Questionnaire, which will receive a second round of feedback or affirmation from my end) will occur before the end of June.  Normally I try to respond within five days (something I’m working on), but for this special – the very reason for it – requires me to collect these twenty submissions, and then work on them in the second half of June.

Why?  Keep reading, it’s because of the project described below.

If you want in, don’t use the normal Paypal buttons on the home page of Storyfix.

Rather, opt in by going to Paypal directly, and SEND the $50 discounted fee to me, at  Upon receipt of the Paypal notice on my end, I’ll send you the Welcome Letter (the same one you get get for free, above) and the Questionnaire for this level.

Take all the time you want in responding… hopefully, you’ll use that time to immerse yourself into the specific craft of concept/premise delivered in the Welcome Letter and those nine tutorials it links to.

If you can wait a few weeks to hear back, you can score this discount, beginning right now.  The first 20 writers to opt-in get the deal.

UPDATE: after day-1 (Friday), there are 10 sign-ups in the queue.  Grab your spot now, this max’s out at 20 enrollees!


Announcing a new book, a pet project of mine:

Chasing Bliss: A Layman’s Guide to Love, Fulfillment, Damage Control, Repair and Resurrection

I’m building an email list for those interested in this.  If you’d like to keep updated, send me an email (, I’ll add you to the list.

Chasing Bliss FRONT cover final jpeg (1)


Filed under Write better (tips and techniques)

The Whole “Story Engineering” Enchilada Overview, via 20 PowerPoint Slides

Trying to teach the full enchilada comprehensive overview of the Story Engineering writing mindset in one hour – 50 minutes, to be more accurate –  is like trying to equip a teenager for college, marriage and a corporate career during a quick lunch at Applebees.

As if one could actually keep the attention of a teenager for that span of time.

But that’s what happened to me in Las Vegas, at the Las Vegas Writers conference, and it’s all my fault.  I was asked what I wanted to teach, and then this happened.

Not that the audience was composed of teenagers, quite the contrary, they were hungry for information.  I use that analogy because… well, it makes the point.  The writers in that room were for the most part mature, whip-smart writers seeking to go to the next level.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, and to some extent, it was. 

A contextual overview of the broad span of the Story Engineering context is a valuable piece of the delivery, much like looking over a navigational map before setting out from Seattle for Hawaii in a sailboat.  One should know what one might expect and not expect along the way.

Storms and sharks and running out of gas… all of that awaits on the story development journey, as well.

Perhaps the most frustrated person in that meeting room was me.

Because I know from experience that even a full weekend workshop leaves some of the sub-sets and nuances of this learning short-changed, relegated to a stud- this-later-when-you-have-more-time take away.  The structural diagram, in particular, is a full day lecture and a full year or more of immersion (which includes actually applying it within a draft) to fully wrap one’s head around the functionality of it all.

Those seeking a magic pill or a quick fix always leave disappointed, even after that full weekend workshop.

And yet, the 50 writers in attendance (twice, over two identical sessions; some of the second day attendees were repeats from Day 1 who wanted more) seemed to hear and learn what I wanted them to see and learn, given the time constraint.  I could almost hear their brains exploding, their eyes wide and their questions astute.

Of course, the long-form exploration of this resides in my three writing books, especially the first one (Story Engineering: The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing, from Writers Digest Books), though the other two go beyond that introductory context to explore how these core competencies are empowered to work (“Story Physics”), and then how to be hands-on with them to either plan or revise a work-in-progress (“Story Fix”).

That excitement translated to what amounts to a writer’s dream come true (mine), when on the third day, just before my keynote address, they brought in 100 copies of the three titles (thanks to the local bookstore that stepped up to make this happen), which sold out in about 30 minutes or so.

Which is why I wanted to share this with you today on Storyfix. 

If you’re been around here, this becomes a valuable review of the basics, with an integration of the core competencies and story physics, all within the context of application.  If you’re new to this, then this becomes precisely what it was in that meeting room – a Cliff Notes crash course introduction into what many believe to be the most effective and clear story development and writing model out there.

Something that can truly change and empower your writing journey.

One final note here…  I tried to get this onto the post page itself, which was a no-go, thanks to whatever constrictions WordPress decided to impart to the software.

Greek to me.

So you can use this link to gain access to that PowerPoint itself; I hope you will:

LV PP to WP post II

Bon appetite.  Epiphanies may await.  I hope you find one or two here.





















































Filed under Six Core Competencies, Write better (tips and techniques)