Check out my guest post today on www.WriteToDone.com.
And if you’ve come here from there… welcome!
Today’s post is from my new ebook, “101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters.” Coming soon. Like, in a week or so.
Tip #28: Raise Your Writing Bar. Then Belly Up.
Stories can be like love affairs. In the beginning it’s all so exciting. Each day brings new bliss. Another sensual, orgasmic experience. The future looks so bright. The object of your desire can do no wrong.
And then reality sets in. Bliss turns to banality. Desire turns to dejection. You begin to doubt.
And nothing kills your love affair – or your story – quicker than doubt.
Maybe you’re settling. Maybe you’re jumping into story ideas before their time, or making love to concepts that simply aren’t strong enough. But you stick with it because you’re committed.
You will force this thing into existence if it’s the last thing you write.
And it very well could be.
Not all seemingly great ideas make great stories. Sometimes your first round draft choice turns out to be a bust. Sometimes you really do need a long courtship before you tie the knot.
More often, though, a good idea tanks because it doesn’t get the development it deserves. The writer settles.
The more difficult the process you bring to it, the easier it is to settle. And nothing is more difficult than writing draft after draft in search of your story when you aren’t in command of story architecture in the first place.
Are you in command of the elements of story telling excellence?
Tell yourself that your next project will be your breakout. That it’ll have the stuff to become a bestseller or a blockbuster spec script sale. Understand what that will take, and then don’t settle for less than a process that covers all the bases.
And yes Virginia, there is a process. It’s called story architecture.
The writing blogs are full of commiseration about works-in-progress and a writing process that is totally organic and therefore lengthy and imprecise. Trust me on this – the only organic process that is time-efficient is one executed by someone who already has complete command of the basics of storytelling structure, content and form. People like Stephen King or Dennis Lehane or Michael Connelly. If you own it like they do, then start drafting, you don’t need a plan. It all flows out of your head like sonnets from Shakespeare.
Those of us with lesser command of the craft are, by definition, using the drafting process to discover the story, which is like trying to learn to fly an airplane without ground school first. The temptation to settle can be overwhelming, or worse, insidiously transparent.
Good isn’t good enough to get published. Editors’ desks are piled high with good manuscripts. You need a story and an execution that sparkles with originality, craft, thematic and emotional resonance and, most of all, commercial appeal. Even if you consider yourself the most literary of writers.
Literature is just a story that really, really works.
Is your concept wildly original and inherently appealing? Is your hero worthy of empathy and hope? Are the varied technical milestones of story pacing and construction all in the right place, rendered with just the right touch? Does the story evolve, do the characters arc in a way that touches the heart and mind of the reader? Does the ending strike just the right cord? Is the writing efficient, sparkling with personality and wit and warmth and unique voice?
Maybe this isn’t as easy as it looks after all.
By raising the bar, I mean refusing to write a story that doesn’t hold the inherent potential to achieve the greatness required to grab that editor by the throat. Or, one that won’t get the story architecture process it deserves.
Many newer writers set off down the storytelling path on the strength of a sparkling idea, without regard or thought to the myriad criteria and multiple dramatic elements that go into a successful story. Or, story architecture.
But for the writer who is willing to invest in that process – whether the road is organic or blueprint-driven – the rewards are great.