Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Re-establishing my process

I'm very close to resuming writing my novel. About six months ago I stopped writing. This was a good thing. I was in the process of getting ready to move from Texas back to California, and with packing, making the move, finding a new residence, and getting settled in, I needed to take a break. It was at this time that I discovered Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Perfect timing. I had been struggling with my story, and was getting frustrated and discouraged. I read Larry's book before leaving Texas, and the insights and information gave me a lot to think about as I traveled West. What I found were the solutions to my story problems. After getting settled, I set my book aside, and focused on structuring my novel. To be honest, it was HARD work. I'm still not sure I got it all right, but fortunately, Larry offers an amazing deal for a full story-arc evaluation that I am currently in the queue for. I don't know how long this offer will be available, but it is a great opportunity for any one that wants professional story coaching. You don't even need to have a manuscript, in fact it is specifically not for full manuscripts. You just need to know your story, write up a synopsis of your story, and answer a series of questions Larry provides. Trust me, the questions will make you THINK. They will challenge you in understanding your story, and the result will be a clarity that you didn't have previously. Larry will respond to your answers, giving you guidance and high-lighting problem areas. 

My process has evolved as I have learned more about writing. I've had a few false starts, taken a few steps forward, a few steps back, and modified my work flow. Story Engineering has had the greatest impact on my process, simply because it has given me a process that ensures my story, assuming it is compelling and well written, will meet the expectations of agents, publishers, and readers. That doesn't mean I will get published. There are too many other factors to assure that. But, it does mean I will have adhered to the principles of story telling that readers expect. 

My process used to be to do an outline and beat sheet, with my scenes identified. I did a lot of thinking about the story and characters. I outlined the book from start to finish, understanding it would change and evolve as I wrote, discovering scenes that didn't work, creating new scenes, maybe even introducing new characters. It was a pantser approach based on a skeleton outline and beat sheet. Larry showed me how to put meat on that skeleton. I have already started working on a follow up to my first book, and it is a joy to have the tools and knowledge to identify the plot points, pinch points, and establish a cohesive structure that holds it all together, and gives me a framework for writing the story.

Here's a couple of things I would encourage you to do:

If you are open to an insightful, comprehensive process for creating your story that meets the expectation of readers, agents, and publishers, it will change your writing life.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In the thick of things

It's been a while since my last post, due to moving, and a struggle to make sense of what I'm writing. I thought the issue was structure, and mistakenly thought it was just a matter of fixing it. But, I discovered I wasn't equipped with the tools and knowledge to structure my novel. Enter Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I read a lot of books on plot and structure, but it was Larry's book that finally gave me a clear view of the elements required to create a cohesive structure that covered the essential elements needed for a novel. I have spent a lot of time working on this, and I am now close to getting back to writing. I know, there are many that prefer to just write, let their muse and the characters dictate the direction the story goes. There's enough debate on the writing forums that I don't need, or want, to go down that path. I am a firm believer in story architecture, but also believe that structuring a novel has NO impact on your ability to be creative in your writing. In fact, I find that it enhances creativity. I think there is a misconception that outlining, plotting, beat sheets, and establishing structure is a hinderance to being creative. Where my outline is my road map, my beat sheet is my travel guide, and as such, stimulates my thinking as scenes are created, in context of the over-all plot and structure. Does the blueprints an architect creates hinder his creative design? I would pose that it's the blueprints that save him from mistakes that will be costly and time-consuming to fix later.  As Frank Lloyd Wright said (paraphrased): "You can fix it on the drawing board with an eraser, or in the field with a sledge hammer".  Story architecture gives you more than just a road map. It assures, assuming your story is engaging and well written, that your novel meets the expectations of the publisher and reader.