Get it written.  Get it right.  Get it published. 

Click HERE to have your story plan evaluated and empowered. Ridiculously affordable, astoundingly valuable.

About new story coaching submissions: I will be out of the office until the week of October 26, 2015.  If you are ready to opt-in to one of my story coaching programs, feel free to do so using the applicable Paypal option (see left column), with the awareness that I will get back to you upon my return.  Or you can wait and contact me then, your call.  Thanks for your patience... even story coaches need a vacation now and then.

First Page Jitters… and a Model of Excellence

On Day One of any writing class you’re likely to be reminded how important your first page is.

I once participated in a panel discussion with an agent who claimed he could tell if he wanted to represent a book after reading only the first page. For the record, I heartily disagreed with the veracity of that claim (as did Terry Brooks, also on the panel), because about the only thing one can tell for sure from a first page is the level and appeal of the writer’s voice, leaving at least eleven other major categories of story criteria that absolutely cannot be discerned from a first page, by anyone.

That said, the first page has one primary mission: to motivate the reader to keep reading.

It’s a form of hook — more accurately, a hook for the hook — but that’s not even a fully accurate description. The highest function and goal of a first page… again… is to make the reader keep reading.

To see this in action, click HERE.

It’s from another blog called The Kill Zone, where I post every other week.   I also do an occasional “First Page Critique” for them, and this is just that, an author’s first page subjected to the harsh light of analysis.

I’d like you to see this for two reasons.

First… it’s stellar. Instead of modeling mistakes and weakness, this page is a shining example of a killer first page that met the goal.

And then, even so, there were ways to strengthen it.

In addition to my short analysis, also read the comments (especially the one by James Scott Bell) that add further feedback. Every single commenter shared the same conclusion… this one is a winner.



Travel Update: beginning next Wednesday, I’ll be away for three weeks, returning the week of October 26.  I will have a few new posts appearing during that span of time, including a few guest posts, so please tune in.

Re: All things Story Coaching…

… if you are on the cusp of pulling the trigger on a new story coaching project with me, know that I cannot respond until the week of October 26. Feel free to opt in (only for the Kick Start Concept/Premise Review; other levels will need to wait until I get back). To help you get a jump start on that, you can get your Questionnaire right here — Quick-Hit QUESTIONNAIRE  — and the Welcome Letter here: Quick-Hit WELCOME LETTER.

Upon my return I’ll pair up notice of your payment with your submitted Questionnaire answers, and get back to you shortly.  Or, you can wait until my return to submit your answers… or to sign up in the first place.

If you aren’t sure, this is a chance to preview the Questionnaire and the Welcome Letter, which itself is a massive source of content via a dozen or so links to key tutorials.

I’m going to France to celebrate our 20th anniversary with my wife, Laura, visiting Burgundy, the Loire Valley and then Paris! 

Bon Voyage! 



Filed under other cool stuff

Bradley Cooper on Concept. Really. Sort of.

Earlier this week Bradley Cooper appeared on The Late Late Show with James Cordon. Among other things (and other guests), a topic of discussion was a new TV series premiering next month called Limitless, which Cooper produces and, we are promised, will feature him as an occasional guest star (he’s not the lead/star of program, however).


This is interesting – and germane to the above headline – because the series is based on a 2011 movie of the same name, in which Cooper was the star.  The concept was this: what if there was a pill that allowed you to access the full power and potential of your brain, but there were side effects and unpredictable consequences from suddenly becoming the smartest and most competent person on the planet, although burdened with the suddenly enhanced foibles and obsessions of that same brain.

Hijinks would certainly ensue.

Notice there is no story yet, no characters, either.  Just an idea, a notion, a proposition with serious dramatic potential.

Cordon asked Cooper how this happened, and more surprisingly, how Cooper came to be associated with the TV show, when this just doesn’t happen in Hollywood (movie stars producing and appearing in TV spin-offs of their films).  His answer says volumes about the power of a compelling concept, and in doing so becomes a sparkling example of one of the primary criteria and benchmarks for just that.

You can see and hear that answer here, via Youtube.

In essence, without using the word “concept,” he said this: when a core idea is this deep and strong and compelling, it can be spun into any number of stories… because it is not the story itself, but rather, the conceptual framework or notion for any number of stories.

This, folks, is the essence of concept.

That 2011 movie was just one story – one premise – arising from that singular killer concept.  The first season of the TV series will bring us 13 more unique premises, each different than the last (26 if it lasts the whole season), all derived from the very same concept.

That’s what we’re trying to achieve when we create a concept for a novel.  

Not necessarily the achievement of a TV series (though I think we can all agree, that would be so cool), but rather, an idea so conceptually strong that is compels and draws interest even before you throw in a premise that introduces a specific hero with a specific quest.

Concept is the driving dramatic framework of every dramatic  television series, as well as the likely explanation behind a new bestselling novel (Hunger Games, anyone?).  Castle, Scorpion, Veep, Ray Donovan, Orphan Black… The Help, Girl on a Train, Broken, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, The Martian, All the Light We Cannot See, Twilight… name your favorite show or novel, this same phenomena is happening: one concept, birthing any number of specific story premises.

In the case of novels, though, the author runs with just one premise (until the book becomes a series, in which case they apply a new premise to the same concept)… the very best premise they can come up with that is driven by the core concept driving it.

This is one of several key criteria for either concept or premise.

Click HERE to listen in to a FREE 90-minute TeleClass on this subject…

… with me and story coach  Jennifer Blanchard.


Important Story Coaching Notice — as of today I will be putting a temporary hold on new/incoming story coaching projects, as I head off to France for three weeks with my lovely wife (Laura) to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  I will return to work on October 26.

If you were/are on the cusp of submitting a new project for coaching, you have two options:

  • You can go ahead and use the Paypal links to opt-in to the coaching level of your choice, and you’ll be first in line to receive your program materials (including the appropriate Questionnaire) upon my return (a few days prior to October 26th).
  • Or, you can wait until then and contact me at that time, or when you’re ready

If you’re ready now and can contact me this week, I’ll send you the Questionnaire so you can begin working, and we can catch up on the paperwork (a polite term for fee) when I get back.

Thanks for your patience, I look forward to working with you when I return, newly-hatched French accent and all.


Read my new post on The Kill Zone, put up this morning, “On Fishing For A Story.” 


Filed under other cool stuff