Storyfixing… Explained

Check out the new Peer Review submission from Lake Lopez, the first 5000 words of his novel, “Sinister.”  Who could resist that title?  Please check it out and gift him with your feedback.

If you’d like to post your own work on the Storyfix Peer Review Page, and then stand naked in the harsh light of evaluation from your peers (who feel your pain and your excitement), click HERE.

If you’d like to read and critique other submissions, click HERE.  Please do.  These writers have put it out there, let’s give them a return on their time, money and anxiety.  Because we are them.

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This morning I received an email from a Storyfix reader requesting information about my “storyfixing” services.  This is my response, offered here because I’ve made some shifts in emphasis and pricing.  And… I’m available.

I “analyze” stories in all their iterative forms.  Meaning, I read and coach story ideas, summaries, treatments, elevator pitches and outlines… and I also analyze complete manuscripts (drafts).  My fee depends on the length of your submission.  Frankly, the deliverable output from this — my “coaching document” — can be as lengthy for a submitted 20-page treatment as it is for an entire draft of a novel or screenplay, since I’m analyzing and coaching the very same elements within them.  That’s why the fee isn’t mathmatically linear, but rather, the sum of several variables in the process.
 
In my view, the earlier in the story development this coaching/storyfixing interaction takes place, the better.  It’s more efficient for the writer to find and fix a weakness at the development stage (as in, within a treatment or even at the idea phase) than after it’s all been executed.  Makes sense, right? 

Then again, most people approach me with “finished work.”  That’s a tough one, sometimes, because if they’re “finished” they usually, naturally, think it’s really good, which can mean they’re really looking for affirmation, rather than constructive feedback.  The latter can sting a bit (I try to be gentle, but clear), but it’s what they’re paying for, and it’s what I deliver. 

I also affirm, and joyously so, when I see something well crafted on the page.  I’ve sent several writers directly to the world of agents and publishers because their work was spectacularly ready.
 
Another thing you should know… I don’t just criticize.  I try to add value. 

I offer up solutions to problems and pitch you on creative alternatives that I believe will make a story better.  Sometimes there’ s a middle ground between the identification of a weakness and simply a better idea (IMO) for that moment or element in the story, and those boundaries tend to blur in the process. 

The whole interaction is like I’ve read the book and we’re sitting over a mocha at Starbucks for an hour so so, kicking ideas and feedback around interactively.
 
I apply and juxtapose my story development model — “The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing” (also the title of my book) as the standard and benchmark for everything I comment on.  I actually scan for all six core competencies and their component parts to ensure that the story is fully robust.  When one is missing, misused, misplaced or misunderstood, that’s what I call out in my coaching document.  And that’s why the document can get lengthy sometimes. 

I also offer feedback in a less structured way, as well… sometimes all six core competencies can be in place and the story is still flat, so I try to help fix that with fresh and/or evolved creative thinking.  My most rewarding experiences have been when I offer up an idea and it hits home.  Like, “have you considering telling this in first person rather than omnicient third?” and then support the idea with strategic rationale, and have the writer say, “whoa, dude, never thought of that, I see it now… genius!” 

No, not genius, just a process of “optimization.”

That’s the target.  Every story is nothing other than a bucket full of ideas.  Too often they are short-changed, incomplete or not as compelling as they could be. 

The goal is “optimization” as much as it is triage.
 
I do any type of “storyfixing” in terms of genre, though I will say I’m less enthusiastic about fantasy, science fiction and hard literature (stories that aspire to a Nobel prize, rather than a huge commercial impact).  My favorite projects are thrillers, mysteries, adult contemporary, historical, romance and everything in between. 
 
I can send you sample “coaching documents” if you’d like.
 
As for fees… I’m changing my pricing structure.  Frankly, in my effort to make this service accessible in this economy, I’ve been doing it on the cheap, and it’s breaking the bank on this end.  My new pricing is still cheap, compartively, and for the same reason.  For a full manuscript my base fee is $1500 (more if the book exceeds 450 pages).  For treatments I charge by the length, with a base fee of $300, more if the document is longer.  I’m hoping to focus on (attract) the developmental documents (high level concepts, treatments, outlines, etc.), but let me be clear, I’m still in the business of doing whole manuscripts.

Hope this answers your questions.  Let me know if you need further info.

Have a project you want critiqued from a Six Core Competencies point of view?  Let’s talk. 

Are you in a workshop state of mind?

I’m presenting a two-part, one day workshop for the Southern Oregon Willamette Writers on Saturday, October 1, in Medford, Oregon.  Contact Phil Messina for more information at p38messina@msn.com.

I’m also doing a massive, slightly disturbing two-day workshop for the Oregon Writers Colony — going deep into the Six Core Competencies story development model — on Oct. 29 and 30.  Click HERE for more info on this one.  There are folks coming in from all over the country for this career-juicing experience, hope you can join us.  Space is limited, so take action soon.

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Click HERE to see the online version (with the printer’s pitch… sorry) of my new business card.  Has a new logo design, too, which will soon make its way into the banner for this website.

What it doesn’t show is the back of the card, which is just the logo and my new tagline, which represents my writing, my teaching, my relationships.. and my life:

Mission-driven.  Passion-infused.

5 Comments

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5 Responses to Storyfixing… Explained

  1. Larry, thanks for another great post. I discovered “Storyfix” a couple of weeks ago, and I appreciate all the savvy info. By the way, you’re a good salesman, too; I couldn’t resist “Bait and Switch” (LOVED it!) and am now devouring “Story Engineering.” For years I’ve tried to get a novel written, but could never pull all the parts together. Now I know why. You’ve put into words what I’ve wanted to accomplish but didn’t know how. Wish I would have read it 20 years ago!

  2. Bonnita Davidtsz

    Hi Larry, Thank you for your stunning post. Subscribed six months ago and rushed out to get ‘Story Engineering’ – and what a boon it has proven to be! At last feel I’m slowly
    getting the hang of it all. Would love to submit my (half-completed, trillionth draft) first chapter, plus the culled 80,000 words from the original 120,000 eventually, but I note from this week’s post that you’re not keen on ‘hard’ literature, which I think is the category it would fall into.

  3. Curtis

    Larry,
    The “tell” of a writer as you know better than I do is “voice.”

    Are you o.k.? Mellowing out? Worn yourself down? I’ve never heard you write words that didn’t sound like they were driven to the page by a steam hammer. I hope everything is o.k. with you.

  4. Pingback: Why My Workshops are “Slightly Disturbing”

  5. Well…I’ll have to start saving up for a price like that (and, yes, I realize it’s cheap; I’m just flat broke). But I should probably find someone else to do my “storyfixing”, as my current manuscript is a fantasy.

    Is there any particular reason you don’t like fantasy? Just personal preference?

    Anyway, this was a great post, though I have to agree with Curtis that it wasn’t up to your usual par. Do you dislike selling yourself?

    Have a great day, and happy writing!