Friday, May 21, 2010

Writing Without The Drama Workshops

I wasn't planning on giving workshops until the fall, but I've had a bunch of requests, so... carpe diem!

There are stories to be helped so I say damn the torpedoes! #actuallyIsaythatalot #butthatisawholeotherstory

The basic structure #youknowhowIlovestructure of these workshops is...

General writing workshops:
2 hrs long

Everyone participates, but no guarantee that your work will be chosen to discuss specifically. In these workshops, only small snippets of work will be reviewed to use as an example to the group. These excerpts are NOT submitted nor reviewed before the workshop.

You do NOT need to volunteer your work for review. You can simply soak up the knowledge :-)

These are 'drop in' workshops. While I prefer pre-registration at least 48 hours in advance, you can sign up and pay for these sessions until 15 minutes before the workshop.

Topics will vary based on participant's needs (I like to focus on what the group as a whole needs in the moment rather than pre-plan a topic #Iamadventuresomelikethat).

No more than 10 students in a session

Normally $25/workshop, Right now, I'm offering them at $10/workshop #jumponitnow #maygoupatanytime :-)

Semi-private workshops:
2 hrs long

Each person gets at least 20 minutes on their work therefore your writing sample (up to 10 pages) must be submitted 48 hours before the workshop for review by me and any other participants.

Since we are going more in-depth into critiquing during these sessions, everyone must have some 'skin' in the game i.e. have their work up for review (I find this keeps people's critiques more gentle knowing theirs is coming up next).

These are NOT 'drop in' sessions. Registration must occur 48 hours before the workshop so we have time to review the material.

These workshops are a hands-on critique/evaluation/re-writing session, really digging into how your work can be improved with the eye to publication

No more than 5 students in a session

Normally $50/workshop, Right now, I'm offering them at $25/workshop #jumponitnow #maygoupatanytime

Private consultations:
2 hrs long

Um, I think this one is self-explanatory #allyou #allthetime

Normally $200/workshop, I'm offering private coaching at $100/workshop #jumponitnow #maygoupatanytime

2hrs is about the time it takes to really go in depth, however for private consultations we can discuss a 1 hour session for 1/2 off. #again #ifIaminagoodmood :-)

I will also be adding more lecture style classes to cover the major aspects of writing such as: Outlining/preparing for a story, world-building, re-writing, preparing book proposals for non-fiction, prepping your manuscript for agents/publisher review, the ins and outs of self-publishing, and MARKETING for authors!

Please feel free to leave comments below if you are interested in any of these topics or add some topics that interest you!

I promise a warm, fun, informative time for one and all!

Now to be fair, I want everyone to realize despite the above, I am going to still say "Shut Up and Write" #alot #really #Iamnotjoking

Remember my allegiance is to your story so I am only interested in participants who are really dedicated to improving their craft AND getting their story out there!

You have been warned :-) :-) :-)

If you're really ready to take your writing to a whole new level of dedication and craft, please email me at and we'll hook you up :-)

P.S. Payment is through PayPal so please have an account ready. Also the sessions will be hosted on a web conference site so either you can phone into the workshop (standard rates apply) or use the microphone on your computer. We will be sharing my desktop/screen, but no one will not be able see yours so no need to panic about privacy :-)

Any questions, don't hesitate to email me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Hero's Arc or a.k.a. What It's ALLLLL About!

No matter your cool plot devices or statement about the human condition, your story really boils down to your Hero's Arc.

It is the overwhelming driving force in your story. All plot points hinge on it. Whether or not you hook your reader is much dependent upon how well you fulfill this arc.

The arc is the meat that lies over the bones of story structure. Without the arc fully completed your story will feel 'light' and bony (ok, I just made that up to fit with my imagery, but roll with me here!)

Many people bandy about the term "Hero's Arc" but don't fully understand it.

Simply put, your Hero starts in one emotional place and lands in a COMPLETELY different emotional space.

One way to test an arc is to ask your Hero the same question at the beginning of the story and again at the end.

For ex: Neo from the Matrix.
"Would you risk everything, including your life, for the greater good?
Act 1 Answer: Duh, of course not.
Act 3 Answer: Duh, of course!

Another good question for him:
"Do you believe in true love"
Again the first answer is NOOOOO, the Act 3 answer is an emphatic Yes.

Usually the question revolves around self-sacrifice, feeling their worth as a Hero or their ability to love or be loved.

The closer the question comes to identifying his inner wound, the better.

Questions like:
Can you ride a skateboard?
Are not really what we're talking about.

The greater the difference in their answer, the steeper the arc. The more poignant the question, the deeper the arc.

Test your Hero. Ask him a question regarding his inner wound. What are his answers in Act 1 and Act 3?

Leave them in the comment box below and I will randomly answer back how steep I think his arc is! :-)

Next Blog: What's a Hero Gotta do to get some respect?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wrapping up 7 Acts... in 1 Blog!

Yep, that's pretty much how I roll.

I thought it might be nice to tie this all up with a little schematic for you to refer to when looking at your underlying structure #andbecauseitwasfunformetomakeit

The 7 Acts are broken down by dividing Act 1 into 2 sections, Act 2 into 3 sections, and Act 3 into 2 sections as follows:

Act 1
First Section is 10% of total pages - Snapshot of Hero's old life
Second Section is 15% of total pages - Hero resisting the Opportunity

Act 2
First Section is about 12.5% of total pages - Hero learning about his new life
Second Section is about 25% of total pages - Building up to Tentpole, Tentpole and aftermath
Third Section is 12.5% of total pages - Building towards Climax

Alright, hope this has been helpful!

Check your work against these numbers. Are you within 5% for each act section?

If not, make sure your story has narrative drive!

Next week's series... The Hero's Journey or a.k.a. How he kicks ass and takes names :-)

Act 3
First Section is 20% of total pages - the Climax/Resolution of all plot points
Second Section is about 5% of total pages (or less) - The Denouement, tying up loose ends.

The End... Of This Story that is #alwaysleaveroomforasequel

The second half of the 3rd Act.

You've shot your wad on your climax #sotospeak

Your Hero is healed.

What more is there to do and say?

Lots. Well, at least 1-2% of your entire story that is.

This section is called the denouement.

It is where we get to see your Hero fully integrated into his new life.

Is he happy? Is he in a living hell? That is your call, but we do need to see where he is and how he is feeling.

Did he get the girl? Has the magician returned?

How tormented or dead is the Villain?

Is there any room for a sequel? Any wiggle room at all?

This is where you put that all out.

As you can see this section needs to be short and to the point, but it is ever so essential.

Our audience needs this section to feel the story is wrapped up. That there are no loose ends.

That doesn't mean "pat" answers or full resolution, but closure.

Alright, next blog is an overview of the 7 Act Structure then next week we go deep into the Hero's Arc!

Have a great #writing week!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Your Climax... Literarilly speaking of course

Act 3 is what is all about.

All that hard work. All that writing. All that setting up.

Is going to come to fruition... but only if you execute it properly.

How many books or movies have fallen flat or worse been ANTI-climactic?

You do not want an audience to invest all that time and energy in your work than have an *epic fail*

So how do we avoid disappointing them? Well, first read all the blogs about Acts 1 & 2. I can guarantee you if you haven't done your job there, there is no salvaging Act 3.

Again, if the underlying structure isn't sound, this is where your story will crumble.

Again, we are breaking down this act into 2 sections.

This first section is where the Hero has just put on his very powerful mantle of Heroism: Hope.

He kicks some serious ass. I mean, crowd is on its feet cheering kind of ass kicking.

But, shockingly he begins to fail. He might even completely fail.

What? But how could this happen? How could he put on the mantle and still not have what it takes to win?

It is because he needs help.

Realizing he is a Hero isn't enough, he must learn humility as well. He must bow his head and realize he can't save the world...well, at least not alone.

Once he accepts the help (with open arms), then and ONLY then can he finally vanquish the villain.

This moment of accepting help is the moment when his wound is healed.

Because, you see, the only reason you need a villain is to actually poke the Hero in his wound to remind him that it is there. Once it is healed, the villain can adios.

Within this climax, the moment the Hero knocks the villain down and he doesn't get back up needs to be... well... exciting.

If you have done your character and scene work up and to this point, he can go hog wild on the action, tension, and suspense.

The rest of your book was winding the rubber band, tighter and tighter and tighter and then released it in controlled chaos.

You should be surprised, but not shocked. Anything and everything that happens here MUST be set up before.

Your Hero cannot suddenly FLY if we have never heard of him flying before, that kind of stuff.

Well, that's all the room I have right now, but I will hit up this act in later blogs since it is so CRUCIAL to the success of your story!

Leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing for a Free "Climax Evaluation." That's right, people I am putting on some performance pressure :-0

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Darkest Hour

The last section of Act 2

Last blog we got our Hero out of the Tentpole, barely.

The group is shaken. Disheartened. The Hero many times has gone off to pout.. I mean go it alone. Of course to protect his friends, not because he's scared (never that :-)

The Hallmark of this section is that the Hero FINALLY realizes either the world or his soul (or both) is truly at stake.

He may still try to go it alone, run to draw off the villain, or commit to the fight, however he still refuses the Hero's mantle.

He doesn't see its use.

So we go into the final battle with the Hero's loin girded, however this isn't enough.

The battle is epic, and the hero loses. Badly.

He is truly broken. Striped down. Bare. Hopeless.

The Villain has the knife dangling above his head...

But takes one last kick to the groin.

Instead of shattering the Hero though, this last insult galvanizes the Hero.

He isn't going to take it any more.

He stands and he... FIGHTS, only this time with his Hero's mantle on.

And that mantle he has been rejecting for 2 acts has some pretty amazing powers.

It gives him HOPE.

And therein lies the turn of Act 2.

Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered to win a free "Turn of Act 1 Evaluation" :-)

The Tentpole or as I like to call it... Your mini-climax

Because that is what it should feel like.

As you move into that long 125 pages of the middle of Act 2 it can feel dry and barren, yet this section needs to be anything but!

If anything, the Tentpole (which whose action should fall right about smack dab in the middle of your book) needs to look and feel like the 'final showdown.'

But let's back up to the beginning (of the middle :-)

As we learned last blog, your Hero has been properly introduced to his new world thanks of the Opportunity and um... well... hates it.

but too bad, he still has to learn the rules and spend some time whining about how he isn't a hero at all.

However, we need to get this party started so the villain very conveniently increases the threat and menace.

What characterizes the move into the second section of Act 2 is the Hero's realization that the villain is in fact, dangerous.

Our Hero begrudgingly admits something is rotten in Denmark and agrees to do something about it.

Of course, that does NOT include him accepting the Hero's mantle. He's just a guy with a set of skills that might be able to help. That's it. Don't count on him.

Now, occasionally your Hero's arc will have arrogance be a major part of his character, in this case, he wants everyone to COUNT on him, but he can't lose... You can see how well that's going to go.

So your Hero and his band of misfits knows the final days are here and gear up for battle --> Your Tentpole

Even if you are writing literary fiction, there is a battle. It may be to win the hearts and minds of men. It may be for their soul, but it is a fight.

Everyone MUST believe that this is life or death. That this battle will define the conflict.

It does NOT. But it needs to FEEL like it is going to. Do NOT hold back here so that your climax is better.

NO! Throw everything you have into this Tentpole. Every clever idea. Every trick. Everything.

But what does that leave for your climax? It leaves you to dig deeper, be more clever. Find a few more tricks up your sleeve that are better and more ingenious.

Your Hero must not only lose this battle but get schooled in the process. He MUST be bloody and bruised.

Everyone (ok, maybe not a everyone since somebody usually dies here to increase the stakes) escapes by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin.

This proves to our Hero definitively that he was never meant to be a Hero. Did you not see how he just failed ever so miserably?

He is usually pissed off at the group for dragging him into this mess and many times will separate himself from the pack.

The world feels in limbo.

But because of this here is where you have a little more room again to do scene setting (many times the Hero is hounded out of familiar territory) and more character work (how he handles defeat is HUGE to who he is and what his inner wound is) so use these pages wisely :-)

Next Blog, finishing out Act 2... in style!

Is your Tentpole exciting enough? Is there true threat? Does your reader really believe the world could come undone? If not, crank up the stakes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And again, leave a comment to be in the drawing for a free turn of Act 1 evaluation! :-)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Act 2 Part 1 - A Brave New World

Yes, that is what this first section of Act 2 consists of...

Your Hero's new world with new rules, new players, and of course, new pain.

This section should take up about 62 pages or so.

And trust me, you are going to need every last one.

Also remember your Hero's 'taking' of the Opportunity is a big deal, usually with some action, so right at the beginning of Act 2, you have a little room to 'breathe.'

A little time to scene set, after all you just dumped your Hero in a completely different world (sometimes literally if we are talking sci fi or fantasy). You need to orient us to this new landscape.

And you have some time to go deeper into your Hero's character because how he responds to this new world provides a ton of very valuable insight.

However, you can't linger or lose narrative drive since you also need to be building towards the Tentpole.

Your villain has to be dogging your Hero. Your Magician, Love Interest and/or SideKick need to be building him up, prodding him to become the Hero he is meant to be.

And of course, your Hero must be declining the mantle of Heroism over and over again, coming up with lamer and lamer excuses, yet revealing his inner wound, more and more.

In this section of Act 2 he can even be in denial that there is a problem at all. He may minimize the Villain's power or influence. He may even try to return to his old life, but the universe simply won't let him.

See? What did I say, those 62 pages are hardly enough to do all of this!

Your assignment:
If you ran long in Act 1, take a look at your character work with your Hero. How much of it can you pull down from Act 1 and move to this section?

Unless the character work was SPECIFIC to his old life, you should be able to easily move it :-)

And again, leave a comment to be in the drawing for a free turn of Act 1 evaluation! :-)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Act 2 – The “Meat” of your story

As I mentioned yesterday, Act 2 is huge because it has to be huge. A lot happens because it really is its own ‘mini-book’ within your book.

Act 1 was your Hero’s life before your story. Act 2 is his life IN your story.

So as you can imagine you are nearly beginning your novel again.

Why? Because the Opportunity usually moves your Hero away from his ‘comfort’ zone and home which requires you to set up a completely new setting, a completely new job, a completely new world.

And he doesn’t know the rules to this new world, so this is really the beginning of his mentoring (either by the Magician, the Love Interest, Villain, or the Universe).

This is act where we focus on character and putting all the mechanisms in place for the climax of your story.

Now, the first part of Act 2 is all about introducing your Hero to his new life and offering him “The Hero’s Mantle,” or continue the “Call to Action.”

Your Hero is asked to be well, a Hero. He, of course, declines. He’s no hero. He’s just a guy that wanted a quick rich scheme.

But luckily for us there’s a villain that wants to kick your Hero’s booty. And do so he does, driving up the stakes, putting everyone in more danger as we drive towards the “Tentpole.”

The middle of your story needs a MAJOR action piece. It needs to look and feel like this is the END. Your Hero truly believes if he can just win this one, everything will be fine.

So, of course, he doesn’t. As a matter of fact, he gets his ass kicked and kicked hard.

He loses whatever faith he had. He feels broken and even more certain that he is not the Hero everyone else thinks he is.

Many times he will decide to ‘go it alone’ and pull a lone wolf thing, which of course only endangers everyone he loves more.

Many times at the Tentpole the Magician is lost (dead or apparently dead). Also the love interest may be kidnapped here or at the Turn of the Act.

We must strip the Hero of his resources so he can figure out who he is.

As we drive towards the Turn of Act 2 things go from bad to worse, to horrible to Armageddon. The stakes are no longer our Hero dying, but the world (or at least his world).

If he hasn’t lost or walked away from the Magician, Love Interest, and Side-kick by now, he needs to.

Your darkest hour (the moments before the turn of the act) must be filled with desperation and hopelessness.

Alright, that’s the overview of the act. Tomorrow we will start to break down the act into nice little bite sized pieces.

Your Assignment: If you’ve written your Act 2, check where your ‘Tentpole” is (the climax of the action should be within 15% of your mid-way point) and how awesome is it.

Did you raise the stakes enough? Does it feel like it should be the climax? Or is it simply a pale imitation of your climax?

Again, I’m looking for feedback to this series of blogs so I’m having a little contest.

I am going to pick a random commenter from the week and give them a free evaluation of their Act 1 turn.

So comment away (I am only counting 1 per day and since I’m like this, I am only picking the winner from a pool of couchant comments. If you write “You rock!” while true, will not be in the pool. I am looking to expand the conversation ☺)

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Ok, maybe not Wahoo, but a little yeah!

Fine, maybe not even that because as difficult as it was to cram everything into Act 1, Act 2 is almost too long to comprehend. It seems to stretch out for freaking ever!

It accounts for 50% of your story. In a 500 page novel that is a long ass 250 pages to fill.

This act is usually where the thread starts to fray. Writers lose their way and meander, losing narrative drive and bleeding out all the tension they built in Act 1.

How do you avoid both the fear and the failing?

Simple, break down Act 2 into three parts.

In this case, smaller is better. It makes the act more manageable by giving you specific guideposts to hit at specific points in the story.

You know I love numbers so let’s get started.

In the 7 act structure, Act 2 is divided much like a traditional three act story. ¼ is the 1st part, about ½ the pages are devoted to the middle section and ¼ to the last section as you move towards the turn.

Today though we are going to go over the ground rules of Act 2 then next blog discuss what Act 2 does for us and our Hero then the next three blogs will be devoted to breaking the act down into its smaller components (so don’t start to hyperventilate or panic when you see EVRYTHING that has to be done. I promise I will make it feel manageable by Friday’s blog).

Act 2 Overview:

Act 2 should start around page 125 in a novel and about page 25-33 (depending on the ultimate length of your script, however the standard these days is coming closer and closer to 100 total pages rather than 120) in a script.

If you are more than 150 pages into your novel and haven’t turned your act yet, you’ve got a problem. More than likely you have either started your story out too early (as practice start reading your story at Chap 3, how much did you really lose by not having the info in the first 2 chapters?) or you are spending way too much time on building character or scene setting.

Act 1 needs to MOVE. It is a snapshot of your hero before your story happens. Sure you need to stake out your genre, your tone, hook your reader, and introduce your Hero, but it really does need to be ¼ of your novel.

Because we have a LOT to do in Act and we are going to need each one of those 250 pages to do it!

Next blog: Act 2: Kicking booty and taking names #seriously

Your Assignment:

Where does your Act 1 turn? Is it within 10% of the page 150 mark (page 25-30 of a script)?

If yes, awesome! Move onto the next blog ☺

If not, did you go over? If yes, have someone read your Chapter 3. Now have them describe your novel. How close were they to your vision. What tidbits did they miss and how easily could you move your story forward and just incorporate those few items?

If not, were you short? If yes, then you didn’t spend enough time in your hero’s “old life” long enough or didn’t spend enough time really making the “Opportunity” as excruciating as possible for your hero.

Alright, until tomorrow!

Also I’m looking for feedback to this series of blogs so I’m having a little contest.

I am going to pick a random commenter from the week and give them a free evaluation of their Act 1 turn.

So comment away (I am only counting 1 per day and since I’m like this, I am only picking the winner from a pool of couchant comments. If you write “You rock!” while true, will not be in the pool. I am looking to expand the conversation ☺)