Writers… Ever Been on the Verge of Quitting?

If so – and you aren’t alone – read this guest post from story coach Jennifer Blanchard.

The first time I sent my Story Coach, Larry Brooks, a story plan for him to analyze, I thought I’d nailed it. I was waiting to receive his email saying I had a great story and my genre would eat it up.

What I got back, was heartache.

Not only did he say I didn’t have a story, but he pointed out several really big plot holes and one particular scene that, if I used it, would ruin the whole story.

It was bad.

And he didn’t give much positive feedback, if any. Not because he’s mean and wants me to suffer, but because positive feedback isn’t going to help me improve. (What’s good doesn’t need to be fixed, everything else does.)

I haven’t ever admitted this before, but a small part of me wanted to quit in that moment. To throw in the towel and say that I would leave the writing up to people with actual talent.

Except I wouldn’t be where I am in my life today if I listened to the voice that tells me to quit. So I pushed through and decided maybe that wasn’t the right story, and I worked on another one. 

A few short years later, my debut novel is out in the world (a story that Larry also analyzed, told me had potential, and he made a small tweak that changed everything).

Being a novelist–especially a pro novelist–isn’t for quitters. It’s for writers who know they can get better and improve by learning craft, by studying story, and by not trying to do it all alone. 

That’s where I found myself in the moment I felt like quitting. I knew I could quit and find another hobby to focus on (God knows I have plenty of them!). But in my heart I knew I was a novelist. So I had to go on.

What I did instead of quitting was practice more. I re-read Story Engineering. I watched more movies and deconstructed the plot points. I re-read the novels I love, to see how they did it.

Three things you’ve gotta have if you want to be a pro novelist:

    1      Thick Skin–as thick as possible. The thicker the better. You have to be able to hear really bad things said about your story and not even flinch. (REALLY TOUGH, I know.)

    2      The Ability to Brush Things Off–you can’t take anything personally. Ever. Because it’s never really about you. It may be about your work or your writing, but it’s not about you as a person. Making mistakes, in writing or elsewhere, doesn’t mean you’re flawed and not meant to be a novelist. It just means you have more to learn.

    3      A Strong Grasp On Craft–period. There’s no way around this. You have to know craft, understand craft and master implementing it in your stories. If you can’t do that, you’ll never make it. (Harsh, maybe. But I’m here to help you cut years off your learning curve, not keep you spinning your wheels forever.)

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that being a good writer is enough or that you can write a really good story without knowing craft. It’s not and you can’t. 

There are opportunities everywhere to learn more about craft. Books. Workshops. Coaching programs. Writing groups.

If you’re ready to learn craft, here’s an enormous opportunity for you to do so:

Your Story On Steroids

One bestselling novelist. One pro story planner. Four days. Portland, Oregon. April 3-7. The Benson Hotel. Your writing will never be the same again. (And there’s a special massively discounted price available until Valentine’s Day!)

>> Learn More

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is an author and story development coach who helps emerging novelists be more effective storytellers and cut years off their learning curves, so they can write kick-ass books and get published faster. Grab her free story structure cheat sheet and start writing better stories today.

7 Comments

Filed under Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

7 Responses to Writers… Ever Been on the Verge of Quitting?

  1. Stephanie Raffelock

    Thanks for an insightful post, Jennifer. Like you, I had one of those “maybe I should stop writing and take up knitting” moments with Mr. Brooks when he evaluated something that I was mistakenly calling a “novel.” Best, most painful, most inspiring event of my writing life that changed everything! “Good writing is just the prerequisite,” he told me. And as you point out, the rest is all about the honing of craft. See you in Portland in April!

  2. I had the *exact* same reaction when I got my first round of the Brooks Beating. I was totally deflated and, yeah, there was genuine heartache. I didn’t have what it takes. Who am I kidding? Maybe I am wasting my time. All of that passed through my mind.

    But a good night’s sleep does wonders. You mind keeps thinking about this stuff. Soon, I found myself digging deep into my premise, chasing down all the gremlins Larry found. And then I sent it off to Larry to show him how much it had improved.

    Sure, it was better, but still not good enough. The hunt for my story continued and it got even better.

    The end result is the revision I am currently working on. The verdict is in: the story is WAY better. Every scene is latching itself to the spine of the story. The subplot is more clearly defined with much higher stakes. There is no question about what the hero wants or what his conflict is. And here’s the most important thing: Every scene moves the story in some way. The battlefield is littered with darlings. And I could write a small book on all the concepts that came to light going through this process.

    All of this came from a basic concept and premise analysis. It may not sound like much, but Larry will come back at you with an enormous volume of insight, most of it in the form of questions that lead you to places you never even thought of.

    Is my story good enough to publish? Will readers buy it this time? Will it make any money? I don’t know; only time will tell. But I do know that my story would not have found its way to its current state without Larry’s analysis. That right there is the most important thing I can say. He probably moved me a good year along the learning curve by hitting me in all the right places.

    Yeah, it’s gonna’ hurt. You have absolutely got to be a professional about this. You’re paying him money and he takes that very seriously. You want validation? Got talk to Mom. You want to know what’s wrong with your story and how to fix it? Go talk to Larry.

  3. MikeR

    Here’s another triplet-of-points to ponder:

    (1) WRITING a story has nothing(!) to do with READING one!

    (2) (but…) “For all these years,” all you ever did – all you ever had to do(!) – was READ.

    (3) “If all these people did their job as excellently as they DID(!)” … you never even [had to] pause[d] to consider … “that they even existed.” Editors, proofreaders, printers, truckers, warehousers … nothing.

    Every performer … musician … editor … knows about “The Line.” The Line of Illusion between the Audience (nee: “Paying(!) Customer”), who merely wishes to buy a bit of Escape … and “those whose job it is To PERFORM The Magic Trick (or to see to it that The [Magic] Show Must Go On!”

    If you dare to “peek behind the little curtain,” Be Prepared. After all, in any and every professional endeavor, PRODUCING “a professional-grade PRODUCT” is not-at-all the same thing as … “grabbing a bag of popcorn and CONSUMING one.”

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