Q3 ’13 Storyfix Newsletter — Explanations, Invites, Goodbyes, a Blurb and a Reboot.

With a couple of killer story coaching deals.  That’s the reboot.

It’s been a while.

Over a month, in fact, since I’ve posted something new here, though this space has been more than suitably filled with great guest posts from my go-to writing gurus.

Where have I been?  Picture me on a beach next to my supermodel wife, margarita in hand, reading the pre-release VIP version of Demille’s newest novel, because they want a blurb from me.

Because that’s how I roll.  Yeah, that’s how it is in the blogging business.

Not.  My wife qualifies, but that’s not how the last month went down.

More like a long trip to the old ‘hood to hang with family (“Gee, you’re funnier in print…”), some bothersome health stuff and a few worthy writing and story coaching diversions.

Missed ya.   Missed this.  Not kidding about that. 

Writers Digest West Coast Writing Workshop – September 27 – 29, Los Angeles

That’s me on the agenda for Sunday (the 29th), 11:10 am to 12:00 noon.  My topic:

 Storytelling Excellence Through The Avoidance of Mediocrity

Basically it’s this: do everything like Michael Connelly and Gillian Flynn would do it.  And if you catch yourself saying (to yourself) “I’m really just writing this for myself, I’ll do it however I want because I don’t care what happens to it and I still believe that characters actually DO talk to their creators,” try another strategy if that’s not working for you. 

Which I’m guessing isn’t.

The Writers Digest website invited me to write a blog post to help ramp up for this conference.  You can read it HERE… I hope you will.  It begins with what seems like a joke – “Three writing conference attendees go into the hotel bar…” – but isn’t.

Also, Writers Digest Magazine commissioned me to do a feature article for their January 2014 issue – look for “Stuck In The Middle: A Mid-Draft Fix For Every Story” in that issue.  While they’ve excerpted (a strange word, that) several slices of Story Engineering over the past two years, this will be the first of what I hope will be a continuing presence for me in that magazine.

Farewell to Vince Flynn and Elmore Leonard

We lost two of our best recently. 

Flynn was spectacularly successful in what you might call the homeland security genre, and was taken from us too young.  Always jarring when the news hits.  I have to admit, when I heard he was best friends with Rush Limbaugh I experienced a WTF chill (that’s a bit like Colin Powell hanging with Dennis Rodman), but he was a brilliant storyteller, a writer I admired.

Elmore Leonard was… well, Elmore Leonard.  Maybe he wasn’t your chosen literary flavor, but for millions and for decades he was the Frank Sinatra of modern hard boiled crime, with a voice based on not really having much of one at all, the Chairman of the Board of minimalism. 

If you haven’t read his “10 Rules of Writing,” from a 2001 piece that first appeared in the NY Times, you owe it to yourself.

By the way, I completely disagree with #2.

Deadly Faux” (Turner Publishing) releases in three weeks.

October 8, to be exact, though odds are (because this is what Amazon does) it’ll be out in Kindle prior to that. 

In case you missed the memo, “Deadly Faux” is my new novel, my first since 2006, and the sequel to my 2004 novel, “Bait and Switch,” which was my critical home run (Turner is re-releasing it in early November ”13)… largely because of its snarky well-chinned hero (who speaks to me when I least expect it; the Limbaugh line above was his).

This is my chance to walk the Storyfix talk.  Haters, load your weapons, my shields are down.  If you have published, or when you do, you’ll know that feeling, it’s like standing on second base naked in Yankee Stadium (for most of us, in the middle of the night).

Then again, “haters” of my work (read my Amazon reviews for Story Engineering and Story Physics, they’re out there; I don’t mind critics or criticism, but some of these yahoos cross the line) tend to divide between not recognizing or understanding the infrastructural physics that make a story work (I think of them as the hey-asshole-theearth-is-actually-flat-after-all… right? readers, among other things), or they are allergic to my conversational, passion-driven writing. 

I could go on, but I’ll take my – to date –24 to 2 box score (5-star reviews vs. 1-star reviews for Story Physics, and 126 to 6 for Story Engineering) and shut the F up about it now, and moving forward.

The first “Deadly Faux” blurb is out, and it’s really rather… humbling. 

Amazing, actually, if you’re me.  The kind of blurb or review an author waits a lifetime to receive from someone besides his mother (unless your mother is J.K. Rowling – who is younger than me – or Mary Higgins Clark, who isn’t).

This blurb comes from James N. Frey, the esteemed writing mentor and author of the iconic “How To Write A Damn Good Novel,” which remains high on the charts since its publication in 1987. 

Here’s what he says about “Deadly Faux” – 

“Crime novelist Raymond Chandler was widely acknowledged in his day as the Poet Laureate of The Dark Side (he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake). He died in 1959 and ever since there have been many pretenders to his throne. Among the best are James M. Cain, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, James Lee Burke—all masters of the craft, all wordsmiths of the first order, but none of them had Chandler’s gifts. After half a century of being on the lookout for a crime fiction writer with a voice that rivals Chandler’s, one has finally appeared, quietly chugging his way up the bestseller lists with Darkness Bound, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, Serpent’s Dance, and Bait and Switch. His name is Larry Brooks. The guy has a slick tone and a crackling, cynical wit with lots of vivid descriptions (of both interior and exterior landscapes), and the sparkling figures of speech dance off the page and explode in your inner ear. Though as modern as an iPad 5S, he is truly and remarkably Chandleresque. He’s dazzling. Check out his new one, Deadly Faux—it’s sexy, complex, intelligent; a truly delightful novel with more plot twists than a plate of linguine swimming in olive oil.” 

Heady company.  Heady stuff. 

I’ve been waiting my whole career to use the word verklempt and mean it.  May your inner ear explode, too.  I hope you’ll give me that chance.

And if you’re wondering if this entire post is just an excuse to put this out there… I get that.  Half true.  Honestly, if it was you… wouldn’t you, too?

Two Killer Story Coaching Deals

If you’ve read this far, I’d like to reward your patience and support. 

As you know, I provide story coaching services, and I do it in a unique way that doesn’t require you to choose between this and a trip to Maui.  I offer a Kick-Start Concept Evaluation for $35 (because it’s short, it is what it is ), and a fuller look at your entire story arc, via a challenging and detailed Questionnaire that will test you on your own story, for $150.  

The latter, in particular, covers the majority of issues that put a novel or screenplay in jeopardy, so from that perspective this is, like, the most ridiculously valuable and useful and underpriced story coaching program, like, ever.  (I’ve done about 200 of these in the last 18 months, with only one vocally unhappy client.  Because she didn’t understand the 101-level terminology in the Questionnaire.)

My first “deal” makes it even more affordable.  Because the principles described in my newly released writing book, “Story Physics” are key to the feedback, I’ll incent you to pick up a copy with these two spiffs: 

Send me the receipt from a digital download of Story Physics (dated from today, September 19, through October 31), or tell me which bookstore you bought it from, and… 

  I’ll send you the actual book proposal sent to Writers Digest that resulted in this book (something you can use to help model your own book proposal), and/or…

   I’ll discount the $150-level Story Coaching service to $125, through the above date (though, once in, you don’t have to actually send in your Questionnaire answers until, well, whenever you’re ready.)

If you opt in to this, send me an email (storyfixer@gmail.com) with the words “COACHING DEAL” in the subject line.  (For the story coaching part, I use Paypal… feel free to use that email-recipient address to launch there, or I can invoice you.)

The OTHER discount… and this is an EVEN BETTER VALUE…

… is for my most useful and valuable review level of all: the FIRST QUARTILE Manuscript Analysis, which also includes the same full story plan Questionnaire.   Here’s why this is a remarkable opportunity:

By reading your first 100 pages or so (up through your First Plot Point), I can – with nearly 98 percent certainty and accuracy – determine the state of your novel.  Strengths and weaknesses, and issues to address.  Using the Big Picture context of your Questionnaire answers, I’ll know if the concept and premise have been successfully and effectively launched, if your Part 1 set-up has met the criteria for an effective opening quartile, and if the whole thing will float in a sea crowded with grouchy agents and editors and stellar manuscripts seeking the same outcome you are.

The price for this is normally $450 (25% of the full-manuscript evaluation fee).   Get it booked by October 31 and I’ll discount it to $400.  The value is almost identical as that delivered from a full manuscript read… at less than a quarter of the cost.

Do the math on this one.  It pulls the unreachable squarely into the realm of the possible for almost anyone who is serious about writing a publishable story, and leveraging the value of story coaching to get there.

More Storyfix content coming soon.

If you have something specific you’d like to see explored here, or clarified, please let me know.  Thanks for your time today… it’s good to be back online with you.





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12 Responses to Q3 ’13 Storyfix Newsletter — Explanations, Invites, Goodbyes, a Blurb and a Reboot.

  1. If you just name your wife Margarita, problem solved. Since discovering you (for which I take full credit amongst my peers), I’ve been following a trail of others who have taken up the banner of plotting righteousness. K.M. Weiland has been my favorite. She’s like a younger, prettier you. And she probably likes Rush (Limbaugh, not the band, but maybe both). I had the pleasure of sitting before James Scott Bell at the ACFW conference last weekend. Again, here’s another brilliant story teller who’s writing theory blends itself perfectly with yours. How have I missed this before? He even showed film clips of the major plot points. But I’m glad to see the king of outlining and planning is back on his blog. Give Margarita a kiss for me and keep us updated.

  2. Welcome back, Larry. I’ve enjoyed the guest posters – a pleasant change of pace – but it’s always exciting to see the king return to the palace. But I have to tweak you. Early on you poke fun at those who “still believe that characters actually DO talk to their creators,” and then you remark about your “snarky well-chinned hero (who speaks to me when I least expect it…” Now you know what we mean! 🙂 My main character, especially, always speaks to me. Right now, she’s nagging me to continue her story.

    GREAT review. Congrats. I’ll be picking up the ebook when it comes out. Also, some very generous discounts you’re offering. Unpublished writers should pounce on them.

  3. Good for you Larry! Continued success!

  4. Pamela Moriarty

    Welcome back! Congratulations on the rave review from Mr. Frey!! Well deserved!! Deadly Faux is very Raymond Chandler and nobody could write that genre like Chandler – until now!!! Hope your ‘pesky health issues’ have satisfactorily resolved and you’re all better. Read “Story Physics” at least four times! The perfect extension of Story Engineering, which I read at least six times, if not more! This is one writer who you saved from drowning in the morass of her own words for which I’m eternally grateful! You put the joy back into writing for me. Good to have you back!

  5. Robert Jones

    Welcome home, Larry!

    Congrats on the Frey review. I would’ve put that one out there myself–in a heartbeat 🙂

    I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’ve been totally missing the movie/novel deconstructions this year. Few things are better than teaching by example and seeing how it all plays out in other people’s work. And it’s always more fun to do those sort of things in a group on SF.

  6. Although I’ve been a longtime fan of your first book, Story Engineering, this is my first visit to your blog (welcome back, by the way). I just want to say thanks. Story Engineering forever changed my writing (in a decidedly good way). I even put your ideas to the ultimate test by breaking down the first Harry Potter book (a mega bestseller if there ever was one) according to your plot points and pinch points. I was impressed – so impressed, in fact, that I dedicated four more posts to it (http://tinyurl.com/lte9p7f . . . because who doesn’t want more blog traffic, right?). Congrats on the new book (yes, sadly, there will always be haters), and perhaps I’ll take you up on that lovely deal. Happy writing.

  7. Zoe F.

    Welcome back Larry, I reckon you were missed by quite a few around here too 🙂

    I would like to read a post that explains your progress on the outlining process for ‘Deadly Faux’. One that tells us the specifics on your own process, like how long you spent on the outlining of your story structure, I can’t imagine it being as time consuming for the teacher as it is for us students. So some idea of the progress on each stage from idea to all the way to the point you began your draft. How specific did you get from the point where you had all your major plot points hashed out and the start of the draft? Did you plan every scene? And if so in how much detail? And I always love finding out what inspired an author to give them that little seed of an idea that turns into their concept as well?

    I would advise anyone reading this post and considering the discounted questionnaire to just go for it. I went for it earlier this year and still haven’t submitted it back to Larry yet as it’s served as the most interrogative plot defining tool I’ve ever come across. It forces you to dig up answers that will give you deeper clarity on your story which will change the way you construct/reconstruct everything in relation. I’m sure Larry’s feedback will be just as helpful when I do submit, but the questionnaire alone is worth the money.

  8. Robert Jones

    I’ll second Zoe’s request. I think I suggested one time a possible deconstruction of “Deadly Faux” when it was released. But a series in terms of “How I did it” from conception to completion, sounds even better.

    It would make for some great teaching, since Larry knows all the answers and doesn’t have to guess what the author was aiming for structurally. And it would work in terms of promoting the book in a unique way and could run for a while. So at the risk of the haters saying, “This guy has done nothing but shamelessly promote his book for weeks, or even months,” maybe some other folks should chime in if they would like to see this.

    We could all say we twisted Larry’s arm 😉

    On a totally random note, is anyone else who might be using an iPad having trouble posting lately. When I hit “Submit,” nothing happens but a blank screen. I have to hit the “back” button several times and keep submitting until it finally goes through. Kind of a pain.

  9. @Robert Jones

    I have this same problem on a Mac and on a Windows machine. It’s not the iPad, but the problem only shows up if I am slow to post the response: for example, a long, wordy comment like many of my comments!

    @Larry Brooks

    Elmore Leonard has some interesting videos on YouTube about writing. I had no idea he had died. I’m glad he chose to share his wisdom before he passed. I am always glad when the experts in their field are willing to share their wisdom so that those who come after can stand upon their shoulders.

  10. Robert Jones

    @Jason–Thanks. I noticed that if I copy my response, refresh the page, then paste it back in, it will go through without a problem. Something definitely freezes up if you delay submitting more than a few minutes.

    On writers sharing wisdom…I too am always appreciative. Having worked with a number of writers and artists in my former career, I’ve come to believe that those who don’t share are either just not the teaching type, or they don’t want to spoil the mythos that they are something special, that they have unique methods that they feel others might swipe. Or they just don’t want to look foolish because writing consists of a lot of pacing, staring at walls, maybe some meditate. We also get a lot of our ideas from other people’s work that inspires. I’ve known some who blatantly swipe all their ideas, just changing things up slightly because ideas of their own come very rarely. Or maybe they’re really insecure at heart, afraid their own ideas aren’t good enough. That’s more common than you might think among creators. We either fly too high, or too low, the middle ground a fearful place where mediocrity lives, balance inconceivable.

    That being said, we are all riding the coat-tails of all who came before us. Point being, to admit that takes away from a lot of otherwise percieved greatness if the creator’s ego has gotten bigger than their brain. Writing is hard…as many of us here have come to know. The struggle for ideas can be monumental or accidental. It’s through a lot of practice and reading good books (or even some not so good ones) that we develope an instict to know when something is working and when it isn’t. So when it clicks by any method, the writer is grateful.

    I know I am.

    I’m always trying different ways to come at my story. Much like I’ve learned previously in my art training to experiment with different tools–I believe the writer in me should do the same. You never know when something might be right for you, or combine different techniques and develope one of your own crazy methods.

    I believe talent is made through study and practice. Many people, for example, like to draw at an early age, or enjoy playing sports. But how many of them become great athletes, or artists? Only those who keep pushing and testing their limits. And that number is a sorry few when held up against the number of folks who claim to have no interest, or talent…as if it were a gift one needs to be born with from on high.

  11. Olga Oliver

    Welcome back, Larry. Missed you. Ain’t it nice to get back home?

  12. Dave H

    Also glad to see the Frey connection. I really enjoy his books. As I recall he (and Jack Bickham, I believe) give a lot of credit do Dwight V. Swain as their mentor. In looking around for Swain’s work I found a couple good fiction how-to volumes, and some rather nifty story-telling in 1950’s sci-fi and fantasy mags. I”m just mentioning all that in case Larry wanted to add any insights about that chain of ‘learning about fiction’ that seems to run pretty deep with those guys.