Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's Greek To Me!

So I thought we would take a brief break in our Structure blogs and back up for just a moment.

I've been getting a lot of feedback about well, confusing a lot of people.

The terminology I use is a tad... archetypal... #ok #fine #old

I like it though because it distilled down the elements of every great story so that we can move them around the storyboard like chess pieces.

The Opportunity cuts across all forms of literary fiction to the basest of shock horror. It doesn't matter the genre or the tone or the style of writing. These basic story 'pillars' of story structure must be built to last or your story will start to fall apart about the middle of Act 2.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself (I just get so excited talking story, I can't help myself #manytimesqualitiesinsomeonewhoneedsprofessionalhelp #ohwellIwillriskit)

Let's start at the beginning and get some terminology down:
The Opportunity is the job, the girl, the motorcycle, the little blue or red pill the Hero is offered. It will take him away from his old life and introduce him to his new life.

It is either everything he has hoped and dreamed of (which will turn out NOT to be true, well, at least at first) or his worst nightmare.

By the 1st 10% of the book or script this chance for the Hero to change his life MUST be introduced. Equally promptly our Hero says no thank you.

He can't bring himself to make the change. Because even though the Opportunity may look like the best thing that's ever happened to him, our Hero resists change... at all costs.

I'm also getting asked a lot about who in the heck this Magician is and whether or not I am talking about only fantasy.

Quite the opposite. I am talking about every story written. SOMEONE must have more knowledge than the Hero. Right? Otherwise where is the intrigue? The revelation in the end?

Sometimes this Magician is God and is found through prayer and meditation, no matter, your Hero is getting trained or mentored by somebody!

Now sometimes there isn't one, single person that fulfills this role. Normally if you can't find an obvious Magician to the story, the love interest or villain will fulfill this role. Why does this matter so greatly?

Because we have to know when to WITHDRAW the Magician from the story. We must know when to cut the umbilical cord and force our Hero to go it alone.

Alright, for this blog I am going to refer to Star Wars and The Matrix... a lot. Not only because they are some of my favorites for structure, but also because just about everyone has either seen them or knows them fairly well.

I could go on and on about Catcher in the Rye (or a thousand other books both classic or current), but I doubt most people would nod their heads, going 'oh I totally remember that!' as they do the little red or blue pill offered to Neo.

Let's do Star Wars first:
Luke dreams of leaving farming behind.
Adventure stumbles into his life in the form of the droids He is intrigued and drawn to the Magician, Obi Wan. He is offered what he has always wanted: a free ride off this rock.

Hence, the Opportunity. Notice how early the Opportunity is introduced. Right off the bat. We don't know what exactly the droids mean, but clearly they mess with Luke's life the moment they come on scene.

But once Luke is offered everything he swears he wants, what does he do? Does he jump at the chance? Does he rush home to pack his bags?

No. He is too scared. Too intimidated by this 'opportunity' that he refuses. His aunt and uncle need him. HE needs his old life. He is tethered to it.

So what does the universe do? Oopss... kills off his Aunt and Uncle. Now his is FORCED to take the opportunity.

Neo has a very similar arc. He is dissatisfied with his life and is offered a way out by Trinity, but he refuses. It isn't until his life is shattered by the Agents and he is FORCED to go to Morpheus (the Magician).

I could repeat this story over and over and over again. Each with its own twist and turns. Unique in form, but the same in structure.

Now the questions becomes: What is your Hero's Opportunity?

Can you state it in a single sentence? If you can't, you probably need to dig deeper. The clearer the Opportunity, the clearer his resistance to it and the more poignant his ultimate capitulation to it will be.

i.e. the better you can sell it :-)

Alright, I think I covered all the questions that have headed my way about the Opportunity, but feel free to leave more in the comments below.

Next blog will be more about the Magician so we have a clearer understanding of him for next week's 3 part series on Act 2 and its fundamental structure :-)

#ohwait #Ididntyellatyouyet

Now go apply this and write your 2 pages per day!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Act 1 Part 2 #thatdoesn'tsoundweird #right?

For any new readers...

This is the second piece regarding Act 1. We are using the 7 Act Structure to justify my ramblings on about the fundamentals of the Hero's Arc and how it affects... you know... what you write down on the page :-)

We left our poor hero being offered the Opportunity. He, of course, rejected it out of hand.

Why would he do such a thing?

While a part of him is in deep denial about his inner wound, there is an equal part of him that is aware of it and fears it can never be healed. This part of him can sense that the Opportunity is a potent elixir that they fear will kill them rather than heal them.

So, the hero tries to go back to his 'old life.' You know, the one before your story got a hold of him. But it doesn't fit right, damn it.

If he used to sleep with scanky ho's they don't satisfy him. If he was content as his job as a store clerk, the work now chafes.

The universe, angered at his refusal now punishes him by making his life a living hell.

This section of your work is normally 15% of the total page count. (for a 500 page book that is about 75 pages, if a script about 15-20).

Remember right after a major occurrence such as the Opportunity, you have 'bought' yourself some time to do some softer work, character, scene setting, setting up a later pay-off.

You can probably do this right after the action settles down from him rejecting the Opportunity, but very quickly you need to start directing your hero towards accepting his lot in life.

Now the Opportunity normally looks like exactly the OPPOSITE of what the hero outwardly desires. If he wants sex, the opportunity represents love. If he wants money, the opportunity is to work with homeless people.

He can't see past the nose on his face.

The exception to this rule is that normally found in comedies. In this case the Opportunity can look EXACTLY like what the Hero wants. He wants money? Well, then he just inherited the biggest mansion on the hill.

Of course it turns out to be haunted or is located on American Indian sacred land, or something else horrible. In this case, the secret behind the opportunity is the true opportunity.

In the case of the 'tricking' our hero into taking the opportunity this section of your story involves everyone and anyone trying to warn him away from taking it until he finally throws in his lot against everyone's objections (except perhaps the magician who knows the secret behind the opportunity).

In most stories however, this section is filled with the Hero resisting any and every effort to get him to take the Opportunity. But the universe is at work behind the scenes, making him miserable.

This section becomes a pressure cooker, hammering at your Hero until finally, in the end, he can't stay in his old life any more and MUST take the Opportunity.

Many times in this section the magician is introduced to help spiritually guide the Hero. Many times the Love Interest also makes an appearance to tempt him into his new life.

The point of this section is to create conflict and tension. The more the Hero resists the Opportunity, them faster and harder he will be propelled into the second Act.

Do not go easy on him!!!!!!

The decision to take the Opportunity must be torture! He must not willingly go into his new life unless he is being tricked!

Alright then, that pretty much wraps up the first 1/4 of your story!

And did you see all those stepping stones that story structure gave you. Practically every page along Act 1, you know what has to happen!

So no excuses! WRITE!!!!!!!

Check to see how much resistance your Hero put up to the Opportunity. If he didn't scrape his fingernails and knuckles clutching so hard to his old life, then you weren't rough enough! :-)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Act 1 - A Structural Bonaza

In this series of blogs we are going to use the 7 act structure since it breaks down a story into smaller bites for us to handle.

I'm not huge into preamble, so let's get started!

Overall, Act 1 is chalk full of arc, set-ups, and establishing tone.

Your problem with Act 1 shouldn't be what to write, but how to cram all the stuff you have to into this section!

On average Act 1 should be about 25% of your total page count.

Even more important is the 1st 10% of your novel. The Act 1 (within the 7 acts structure)

Within this 10% (for a novel that is about 50 pages for a script 10) you MUST....

Introduce your hero.

Identify or at least hint at his inner wound

Well establish his outer motivation

Introduce the opportunity (which can heal his inner wound, but usually is the antithesis of their outer motivation). Or at least the idea of the opportunity.

Have your hero reject the opportunity out of hand as the single stupidest thing he has ever heard of. #duh (wouldn't have much of a story if the hero just said - thanks, I would like to be healed, give me the balm. The only exception is if the hero is 'tricked' into believing the opportunity really is serving his outer motivation.)

Introduce an assortment of supporting characters including but not limited to side-kick, magician, and love interest.

All themes must be at the minimum introduced here (the color red, auto-racing as a metaphor of death, whatever you want!)

If you have a MAJOR paradigm shift or HUGE pay-off at the end of your novel, this is where the set-up needs to begin as well.

Establish place, tone, genre and setting.

I told you we were going to be some busy little bees!

ACT 1 is really a snapshot of your hero's life before your story happened. He's just trucking along, in total denial of the cancer that is eating him up inside (his inner wound) when BAM! your story hits with a left hook.

We need to see what your hero was like before being called to his Hero's Journey. It is the only way we are going to know how much he changed is by seeing his starting point (and believing it).

But remember we don't have a lot of pages to get a LOT of info across so each attribute you pick better be important.

Let's say later in the story your hero saves the world because of her love of chocolate. Ok, you better establish NOW that she's a chocoholic!

If you have written your 1st Act, go to the 1st 50 pages.

How many of those elements have you infused in your writing?

If not ALL, you have some rewriting to do.

If you have none of them, more than likely you started your story 'too early' in the hero's life.

The opportunity MUST be dangled in front of the hero and he MUST reject it by no later than page 75 for a novel and page 12 for a script.

If you can't see it get it in there, you are most likely over-writing.

Don't believe me? Re-read those 1st 50 pages. If you aren't talking about all the things listed above, what are you talking about? And are they really more interesting than your hero's wound, the opportunity, and your major theme?

Because those things are the backbone of your story. There should be nothing else more important.

Many people mis-identify back-story as important and fill these early pages with way too many 'recollections' and 'remembering back when.'

In this first section SHOW don't TELL is so important. Anything that is in the past, should be moved out of this section and put into the 2nd half of Act 1 (or even better sprinkle all that stuff throughout the novel in tiny snippets, revealing character and back history along the way).

Remember, these pages are your SELLING pages, if an agent or publisher won't read past these they will never get to that really 'cool' scene on page 89.

For those of you who haven't written your 1st 50 pages, GET TO IT!

This is the beauty of structure. Even if you are stuck, you now know at least the questions to start asking yourself.

What is my Hero's wound? How do I show that subtly?

What is my opportunity? How is that both appealing and terrifying to my hero? How could it heal him? Why does he reject it?

What are the major themes I want to get across in my novel and how can I start to seed them here?

See? Structure gives you so much help!

Okay, tomorrow we will finish out Act 1!

Your assignments are above, so go for it already!

As always.... if you would like me to check out your blog, please put the exact web address in the comments below, and I am also open to suggestions for future blog topics!

Structure Girl!!! A Super Hero for Writers!

Yes, Structure Girl is my alter ego.... So if I'm the mild-mannered one you can only imagine what she's like!!! LOL

Actually she's cool as long as you are open to and know the rules. She doesn't even care if you bend or break them as long as you are doing so in an educated way.

Fiddle with the hero's arc all will-nilly? Well, then she' ll have some serious issues with you!

But overall Structure Girl is all about the 'helpful.'

Because that's what structure provides for a writer. Nothing but help.

We talked about formula a little yesterday; that was to lay the ground work for today.

You see your hero's arc is already written....

He has a wound but is in denial. Just about everyone can see the glaring, festering wound but him.

He is presented an opportunity to heal it.

He either rejects it or embraces it because he thinks the opportunity is something else (you inherit a mansion, only it's all haunted, kind of thing).

Over and over again he denounces his hero status. The villain kicks his ass, over and over. Things get worse and worse until finally the darkest moment.

At last the hero 'gets' it and accepts the mantle of hero and sets out kick some ass.

Whether he wins or not is your call, but his wound his healed, even if that means sacrificing himself.

See? The structure of the hero's arc is already laid down. It has been the same down the ages.

Now, I can imagine some of you are bristling at this point (I've taught this subject way too many times!)!

"My story is unique!!! "

Yes, you are quite right, it is. To have it readable and sellable, however, the structure beneath it is exactly what I outlined above.

"My writing is art! I'm not going to write off a boiler plate."

Ya, sorry, but the boiler plate is there whether you write off of it our not. You want to argue with someone? Pick a fight with Joseph Campbell's ghost or the other forty million scholars that have come to the same conclusion.

You see, everyone feels pretty comfortable with the 3, 5 or 7 act structure. Why is it such a stretch that there is a much more detailed structure underlying even that?

But hey, I can't stop you from rejecting the rules of story. However it is a little like refusing to learn how to type.

Then trying to write your story by hunting and pecking at the keyboard, blindfolded. You can probably accomplish something but holy cow it's going to take forever and you are going to get super frustrated and maybe even give up because the process is just too hard.

I don't want that to happen to you. As I have said, I like your story too much.

What I am suggesting is to embrace Structure. Commit to understanding it fully to help you express the unique story that is yours and yours alone. No one else can tell your story the way you can.

Imagine the Taj Mahal. It has an underlying structure. I would bet a fairly complicated one. But because of the artistry, I can't see it.

Or Cirque de Sol.

For me it is an experience that;'s nearly at the height of human artistry.

Yet under that stage, baby, there are some heavy freaking machines. There were equations, and stress tests, and all kinds of rules that had to be followed to create such beauty.

Writing is exactly the same.

The other thing that structure can give you.... if you allow it, is a sense of security. You really no longer have to ever be afraid of the 'what comes next...." problem that many writers early in their career have.

Structure Girl knows what comes next. For each and every page of the novel or script. If you know the hero's arc and a few other universal rules, you will too.

That's why the blank page never scares me anymore. I may not know the 'best' way to write forward, but I know HOW to write forward!!!

Why? Because the hero's arc, and the structure it provides, tells me what needs to happen next.

And come on, if that isn't a super power, what is?

And the best part? Everyone can achieve it!

Your Assignment:
If you are bucking this concept, re-read the blog, I swear there's helpful stuff in there. If not, peace be with you.

If you are grooving to structure, then hold on to your hats, because we are going to dive deeper and deeper into structure to provide the support you need to write your story!

Also if you would like me to check out your blog, please put the exact web address in the comments below, and I am also open to suggestions for future blog topics!

Have a great day... And go write 2 pages for the love of God! :-)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

To Formula or Not to Formula... That is the Question!

And the answer is YES to Formula!

Ha! You thought I was going to be all down on the formula thing.

Nope. I love 'em.

Now, don't get me wrong, they have gotten a bad rap. It's not the formula's fault really, it is the lack of craftsmanship some people have applied to formulas.

You see a movie or read a lame book, and go... UGH! How formula-matic was that? I knew what was going to happen from the first minute.

That is a BAD use of formula. However, every great piece of literature or film has a formula beneath it.

Don't believe me?

The basic 3 act structure that has been around since oh, the Greeks, is a formula. Shakespeare used formula after formula. Even putting a period at the end of a sentence is formula.

How about we think of it less as a formula (with all the baggage that goes along with that name) and consider it a chemical equation.

Or a roadmap. Or a blueprint. Or a cake recipe.

Whatever it takes for you to accept that fact that the vast majority of writing a story is laid out well in advance.

The Hero's arc. Narrative Drive. Plot points.

They are all pre-determined. You can certainly try to reinvent the wheel, but why bother?

We've got our chemical equation to tell us how our story should proceed.

Now, how you, as the unique writer that you are, bring those qualities to life, that is where the artistry lies.

Formula is another topic I find it strange that many newer writers resist.

To me, knowing that there are conventions and equations means that I am not out there fighting the good fight alone. I've got back up.

If I get stuck, I just turn to my equation. I figure out where I aught to be, then adapt that to my story.

It is so much EASIER than flailing around in the mud.

Now, I'm sure I haven't convinced you with this blog entry, but it has prepped you for where I am coming from with tomorrow's BIG blog...


She'll be here tomorrow to save the day (or at least days upon days of writer's block)!

Until then, WRITE #already

Dialogue. Most writer's Achilles' Heel

I was lucky, I came up on the screenwriting side of things where dialogue is the ALL. #proseismyproblem

But if you look across the spectrum of novelist, up to and including best sellers, their dialogue leaves a little (#ok #fine #alot) to be desired.

Why? Because most writers treat dialogue as a mouthpiece for exposition. Whatever they need to be stated, they simply say through their character's mouths!


It's not just the author's hand, but worse, his blow horn!

Dialogue should come up through your character's core so that it sounds authentic and unique.

How do you know if you have accomplished such a lofty goal?

Take a random piece of dialogue and speak it a loud.
#1 - Did it hurt your ears or make the dog bay?
#2 - Read it to someone fairly familiar with your characters.
Could they pick which character it came from?
Could they tell which Act if came from #ohsorry #thatisforalaterblog

Repeat this 6-7 times.

If you've had to 'edited' on the fly - meaning you changed up the words because they were hard to read aloud (or stumbled over words frequently) or your friend can't tell the difference in the character's voices, you've got some dialogue issues.

"But my characters said exactly what they meant!"

Ah, yes, another cardinal sin. Dialogue that is 'on the nose.'

Think cheesy news broadcaster. That is some 'on the nose' dialogue.

In life, people lie all the time, to themselves even. Think of how often you have 'colored' or 'softened' the truth so spare someone's feelings. And usually over fairly minor things.

The big stuff? Heck, we spend most of our lives avoiding the 'big stuff.' #justaskmytherapist

Yet, your story is filled with "BIG" stuff (otherwise why are you even bothering to tell it?).

People also change the subject, ignore parts of a conversation they don't want to answer, obfuscate, and wander off track.

Your characters need the same reluctance to spill their guts. They need to have all the same frailties and foibles as real people when they speak.

For practice, take a piece of your 'problem' dialogue (something difficult to say or hear).

Now, make the character extremely reluctant to part with that information. Don't be afraid to extend the dialogue or even have the other person 'coax' it out of them.

Do you want to belabor everything a character says? Of course not, but the bigger the reveal, the more time you should take 'finding' the truth!

Find 10 examples of your dialogue that are not easily identifiable as a single character's voice.
Rewrite them until they are unique to that character.

Go find another 20. Rewrite those.

Get used to each 'voice' being special and unique :-)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

1,000,000 Word Mark. The "Magic" Moment in a Writer's Life

I can't remember who said it, but it was a famous author.

For the life of me, I can't remember his name, but, oh how, I remember the feeling when I read his words as if it were yesterday...

(what follows is a gross approximation at best) "Something amazing happens once you cross that 1,000,000th word mark. It's as if a curtain lifts and the keys to the kingdom are bestowed upon you."

And yes, I did hear angels sing.

I've repeated that story numerous times and been surprised by people's reactions.

For many it brings on a sense of despair. How will they ever get there.? Why does it take so long? Why is the craft of writing such hard work?

For me it was liberating. To know that somewhere down the line I was going to actually figure out what in the hell I was doing was a solace.

Writing is like any other form of artwork. You only get better by DOING.

Look at pianists. They practice 8 hours a day, their entire lives. Why should we writers get off any easier?

And if you are struggling to write consistently, look on the bright side, by just sitting down and pounding out about 500 words a day (that's just 2 measly pages), in 5 years you will be there!

Think of all the time that has passed you haven't been writing those 500 words per day and how much closer you would be today if you had!

For me, that quote was so comforting because I knew that I wasn't on a wild goose chase. That there was an end point to the gnawing doubt and fear. I could suck it up until I got to 1,000,000!

Now long before I got to the million mark, my fear and doubt began to evaporate ("doing" tends to do that for ya), but oh baby, that sweet, sweet moment when I crossed 1 million. That author wasn't exaggerating!

I had actually forgotten about the quote when 1 day I had a write a script to be shot that weekend for a contest and was asked to ghost someone's article.

I dove right in. No panic. No 'what am I going to do?" jitters. I just wrote. And as I was writing I thought, "Wow, I really do know what I'm doing."

A light bulb went off. That damn quote.

After I was done, I counted up all the words I had written. 1,001,520!

It really was like a magical switch.

Sure, there's still so much more to learn, but the basic stuff? The mechanics of putting words onto the page and having them make sense had become second nature. Storytelling was baked into my bones.

And I've seen it in so many other authors as well. Once you get enough writing, critiquing, and re-writing under your belt, you can help but be transformed.

I'm not saying you can't write amazing stuff before that mark, I'm just saying even if you haven't yet, you probably will now!

The moral to this blog?

Write daily.
Put those words on the page.
Practice your craft, because truly, one day the magic will happen for you!

Commit to write 15 pages per week for a month.
See if that alone doesn't give you at least a glimpse into the kingdom!
#youcanthankmeMay16th :-)

Writer's Block is Bull....


Yep a bunch of cow dung.

Do writers get blocked, oh heck ya.

Is it some mystical, magical curse that can only be lifted by praying to the writing gods and sacrificing your first born? Um, no #notsomuch

It is fear.

That's all. That's it. Just fear.

Afraid you aren't as good a writer as you would like to be. Afraid you were stupid to even start writing in the first place.

And if you think this 'curse' lifts once you become rich and famous?

Well, unless you have confronted your fears and quieted those voices whispering in the back of your mind that you will never measure up to Faulkner, your superstitions only grow.

Now you worry that people will finally realize you are a fraud and should never have paid you that advance. That now that money is coming in, you actually have to earn it.

Talk about paralyzing? I've seen a big fat advance choke the creativity out of writer faster than a cheetah on a smooth savanna.

So stop giving writer's "block" more power than it deserves.

If you feel stuck. You are feeling fear.

Ok, great. So has ever other writer in the history of mankind. Do you think William come out of the womb as "FAULKNER?"

The beauty is we've all been afraid before and will all be afraid again.

How do we move through this fearful phase?

We talk to the fear. Find out why it is showing up, then if it doesn't want to go away permanently, we very nicely ask it to please take a seat in the back so you can get on with the writing phase.

You've got a story to tell!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why is @WritingNoDrama so mean?

Ah, I'm only 2 days into the launch, and already I can hear the hue and cry.

Carolyn doesn't care about (fill in the blank)

She doesn't care that (blank), (blank), and (blank) are holding me back from writing.

You know what? You are right. I do NOT care....

Well about the excuses.

What DO I care about?

Your STORY. You know, the one that's trapped inside of you because you keep buying into all those excuses you gave above.

I'm not here to be your advocate, but your story's.

I love your story. I haven't even met it yet, but I know how much I love it. Western. Sci Fi. Deep Psychological Thriller. Chick-lit. Yeck, I'll take Kid-Lit. Doesn't matter the genre or the writing level, I love it.

Because of my deep and abiding affection for your story, I am rather annoyed at you.

Why? well, because the universe gave you this awesome story (to tell to me, and well, I guess others) and you are selfishly bottling up inside. Keeping it for yourself.

Now luckily your story is far more forgiving than I. It is patient and will wait until you come to terms with writing it.

I, however, find patience highly overrated and know that we can get to that process a heck a lot faster if we just stop listening to all the Doubting Thomas' in our head and just sit down and write the damn thing down!

So whenever you get upset with me or feel like I am pushing you too hard or am not taking enough care of your feelings, remember, I'm in your story's corner, routing for you to let it out!

And come on, that's got to be just a little bit charming #atinybit #ananogrambit

Your assignment (if you chose to take it, although why anyone wouldn't is beyond me) is...

For a day, every time you delay your writing with an 'excuse,' imagine you are closing a vault door on that pretty little story you've got inside.

Is that 'excuse' really worth holding your story hostage?

Let me know how it goes in the comment box below!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shut Up & Write Through It!

Having trouble turning that 2nd act? Your "opportunity" being a problem child?

Sure we can talk about a bunch of different techniques and solutions to the issue, but at some point you've got to...

Shut Up & Write Through It!

Hero seems too passive? Then write 3 paragraphs of him kicking ass. They don't even have to be linear within your story arc. Just write the opposite of whatever in the hell he was doing that was so freaking boring!

Then, after you have proven to yourself that your hero can, in fact, kick some grade-A ass, you can go back and re-write whatever scene was bugging you.

Oh, wait... I can hear the wailing now......

But, but, but, Carolyn you don't understand my hero is complex and I have a set of magic rules that won't allow him in the presence of a water snake to...

Anybody guess what I'm going to say?

That's right! Shut Up & Write Through It.

The beauty of that advice is that it cuts across all genres. Westerns, Serious Lit, Sci Fi, Non-Fiction, even Erotica for that matter.

And yes, I can give more specific advice on plot issues or character development, but in the end, you've got to WRITE your way through your problem.

But, but, but, Carolyn... "Don't I have to THINK my way through it first?"

Sure, take 10 minutes and think about it. Get some advice from friends, but then in 11 minutes, sit down and WRITE THROUGH IT.

Most writers that are stuck and not achieving the writing goals they have laid out for themselves (and this includes newbies all the way up to NYT Bestsellers) are OVER thinking and UNDER writing.

More than likely you got stuck in the first place is because you are actually freaked out about writing as a whole. You feel worried, or nervous, or undeserving. So, of course, the creative juices are going to stop flowing.

Once what was a wide, swift river carrying down your storyline, is now a trickling creek.

And the only way I have found to turn that beautiful faucet back on is to WRITE.

Trust yourself. You'll figure it out.

Even if you don't there are plenty of people who can help you.

But I'm telling you, sometimes the only thing you need to do is...


P.S. For that chick with the complex hero that can't do magic in the presence of a water snake...
1) Trust me, your hero isn't that complex.
As all heroes, he simply wants something he doesn't think he can have. And in this case I can almost guarantee you it is a babe :-)

All a plot is, is a series of obstacles keeping him from this objective. The magician is there to see that he has the knowledge to overcome any of these hurdle.

2) Not being able to do magic is probably the best thing that ever happened to your hero. Stripping your hero of his power and making him confront his mortality is as old as Achilles. It forces him to dig deeper. His true complexity is revealed in how he handles getting the wind knocked out of him.

Alright, my left pinky is getting tired of holding down the 'shift' key to type all these SHUT UPS and WRITES.

So, your assignement is to take a scene, paragraph, poem, that just isn't 'working' and write your way through it.

Don't judge. Don't self-edit, just let the re-write flow and see where it takes you.

Let me know how it goes either on the stream or in the comment box below! :-)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shut Up & Write!

Um... yah... Those are words you are going to hear a lot out of me...

But I'm not telling YOU to shut up (well, I kinda am, but you forgive me in a just a moment), I am telling those crazy ass voices in your head that are whispering so insidiously that you "aren't a writer"or "how dare you try to write."

So be forewarned, if I get the sneaking suspicion that you are listening to those voices, I am going to say, what?

Oh ya... SHUT UP & WRITE

Sure I love to talk about act structure and the hero's journey and playing the magician off the love interest, but none of that does any good if you just nod your head then go and hide under your bed or 'lose your laptop' or get 'too busy' to write that next scene.

Do I remember what it used to feel like to hear those voices and have them try to ruin my writing career? Yep.

Some of them still crop up every once in a while, but I am lucky enough that either they are quieted or I notice they are nothing more than a voice and move on.

I would also love to say that this is going to be a touchy-feely blog or that I'm your biggest cheerleader.

But, alas, that's not how I roll.

I love writing, I love editing, I love re-writing, and I love helping writers who want to improve their writing and take their craft seriously.

I'm sorry, we just have too much real, practical, important craft stuff to cover for me to coax anyone into believing they are a writer.

So here is my philosophy. If you groove to it, great. Follow this blog and we'll be BFFs.

Can anyone write? Of course they can.
Can everyone write well? That depends on how much they wish to improve.

Can we all be Stephen King? No.
Can we all write up to our full potential? Yep.
Is that full potential to the level of King? I have no freaking idea.

But so many people seem to need to know if they'll ever be as good as King before they even try to be as good as their garbageman (which I shouldn't say, because he might have some wicked prose).

My advice for today?

Give yourself permission to write badly. I mean stinky, crappy, your cat shouldn't even read it badly.

Because, you know what?

Some days that's all you are going to write.

And even that heaping pile of gooey bad writing is better than no writing at all!

Next blog...

Shut Up and Write Through It!
#wow #Idosayshutupalot #butitsforyourowngood #orsoshesays