Sometimes, with our head down and our focus impervious to anything short of an earthquake, we forget to look up and see what’s beckoning within arm’s reach.
That’s me for the last six months, working on two projects (actually three, but two were particularly world-rocking) that have totally consumed me. The first is the launch of my new story coaching model, which has given me the opportunity to read and evaluate (in a condensed, creative way) well over 100 yet-to-be-published novels in the last six months.
A fascinating journey. Patterns form. Truth screams up at me.
And, I’ve been finishing the manuscript for my new writing book, “Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling.” I turned the manuscript in yesterday, which in no small part inspires this post today. The timing couldn’t be better, because those 100 novels I’ve been evaluating were the real life case studies I needed to solidify that content.
The Huge Bat-to-the-Head Learning From This Experience
It’s the clarification of the scary intersection of craft and art, and the illumination of what can go wrong when a writer doesn’t see it. Here it is:
● You can nail the core competencies with textbook perfect criteria-satisfaction… and the story still might not be publishable.
● You can bring a fresh, compelling, provocative conceptual premise and story landscape… and the story still might not be publishable.
● The sum of those two is this: you absolutely do need to understand the basic story physics at hand… but if applied to an under-cooked idea, the story won’t work well. Because your idea of a compelling idea may not be a universally-held opinion.
In storytelling, there are two realms of talent: the ability to craft a story for optimal effectiveness using fundamental principles (core competencies and story physics)… and the “story sense” to make it all seamless, powerful, compelling and original.
It’s that story sense that’s the awaiting Epiphany.
It can’t be taught directly. It is the outcome of a journey of discovery, practice and growth… just like a musician, a surgeon, a pilot, a politician, a teacher, an athlete or even a parent. Within their craft they are all exposed to the best principles and latest thinking. For the most part they receive the same level of coaching and preparation.
But only an elite few rise to the level of professional excellence. Ask your golf pro or your piano teacher, neither of whom are touring… they’ll tell you. It’s an indefinable sensibility that’s the difference between who tours and who doesn’t. At the highest professional level of achievement, the ability to make a living is entirely defined by, and empowered by, the relevant sensibilities required to compete against other professionals at that level.
It’s why Larry Bird, without the speed or leaping ability of his peers, is in the Hall of Fame. It’s why Dr. Oz is on television reaching millions, while other doctors are every bit his equal. It’s why only one guy gets to fly the #1 jet in the Blue Angels, while the Navy is full of pilots who are technically just as good.
The Pursuit of Something
It made me realize that as I wax passionate and hopefully clear on the principles of storytelling from both realms, my work is leading us toward something. As is your work.
That “something” is what I’m looking for in these stories I’m evaluating, and the explanation as to why writers with good stories aren’t executing well enough, and writers who are good at executing aren’t telling stories that are compelling enough.
There is a difference between those two.
A significant and meaningful difference. The key to it all. When you recognize what it is, you’re already on the path toward this something we are seeking.
We are seeking to elevate our story sensibilities. It is the sum of our craft and our imagination, our ability to breath life into an idea. One realm without the other isn’t enough. Both realms, artfully combined, yield an outcome that is in excess of the sum of the parts.
A story with that extra something going for it.
This is the Holy Grail of storytelling.
Some call it talent. I think it’s the wrong term… I prefer… enlightenment. We don’t have to be born with it. We discover it, moment by moment, along the path.
I pursue it by writing about it, here and in my books and in my workshops. I hope that my work fuels and empowers your pursuit of it, whatever form that may take.
The path asks you to conquer two realms of understanding: craft, as defined by the core competencies you must command… and power blended with nuance, as defined by the story physics you can and should access.
Only then will the requisite sensibilities be liberated within you.
If sharing this content has earned a few more moments of your attention, and if you’d like to share the journey with me, here are four avenues of further exploration I’d like to put out there.
My Writers Digest University Webinar – October 18, 2012 (1:00 pm Eastern)
Spend 90 live minutes with me discussing: Story Physics: Mastering the Most Important Moments In Your Story. If you don’t nail these story beats, nothing in your story works as well as it should.
Sign up HERE. As an incentive to Storyfix readers, use this Discount Code for $10 off the published tuition of $89: WDS329.
A One-Day Advanced Storytelling Workshop – November 10, 2012
“STORY 404 — Advanced Story Development and Execution for Serious Writers”
It’s one career-changing day, open to writers everywhere. Drive or fly to Portland and take your novel or screenplay to the next level.
Learn more and Sign up HERE.
My new Story Coaching Service… like an MRI for your story, for the price of a fill-up and a car wash.
Learn more HERE. There’s never been anything like this – either for the price or the value – in the story coaching business.
My new writing book, available for pre-order.
“Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling”
Check out the new cover and pre-order on Amazon HERE.