I read a lot of books, fiction and non-fiction, and today’s post comes from the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron.
I’m digging this book a lot and it’s used in a lot of writing programs because of its logical approach to storytelling that a lot of books about writing simply avoid. I could list a dozen good tips but when you’re starting a story I think this is one of the best.
What’s the point of your story?
You have to ask yourself a lot of questions when putting together a story, what’s it about, does it have a theme, who are your characters, yadi yadi yadi. But an interesting question she suggests you make is what’s the point of your story?
As I climb through the second draft of my book this question proved to be quite insightful. What is the point of my story? I have struggled through my book because of this very question. My point hasn’t been very clear. I’ve tried to do an elevator pitch for over a month now and I just can’t get a concise summary together in less than a couple of sentences. In asking myself this question, along with many others from the book, I have come to realize that my book has two very distinct questions and they don’t necessarily complement each other.
As a result, I went back to my original idea, the seedling that got me interested in writing this novel in the first place. I’m now trying to focus on that and to strip away the surprising layers of fat that have developed over the course of a couple of drafts and get it back to its core.
I think it’s a good exercise for any novelist, as so many of them that I start and never finish are just splintered with different points. I suffer from perfectionism like many writers, but I think this is one of those times when asking a question and trying to give an honest answer can only help in the long run.
Good luck and happy writing…and that’s the point of this post 😉
The wife and I were lucky enough to see the climbing documentary Free Solo last night with a Q&A from the director and climber Alex. Spoiler alert: he lives!
The movie was great and I highly recommend it. But of course for me everything comes back to writing and this was no exception.
Alex climbs a crazy difficult mountain face without a rope and the entire time I was thinking about what a puss I am for complaining about struggling to write a paragraph. If he doesn’t climb with absolute perfection he will die and if I struggle to figure out what my imaginary character does in the next scene I take a nap and try again tomorrow.
I suppose it just puts life and my writing career in perspective. Yes, writing is hard, but there’s always something harder. There’s always someone willing to risk far more than I am on a given day. So if you’re a writer like me, just put your head down and keep going. What’s the worst that can happen?
Sometimes you need to just go to YouTube and watch some silly stuff. For me it’s a YouTube channel called WheezyWaiter. This dude is just funny and his wife is VERY patient with his antics and even plays along at times. Thanks for making me laugh in-between writing meltdowns!
Today I was procrastinating on the socials and saw yet another post featuring an extreme political angle. And I wasn’t angry. In fact, I experienced something I haven’t experienced in a long time when reading something political. Indifference.
I’m done being a victim of the media’s attempts to rattle our cages. I am a good person and everyone I know is a good person. Stop using us as your pawns. The battle is over and we’ve all lost.
It’s time to start talking to each other as people again. It’s time to stop yelling through our keyboards and ruining life long friendships because an article forces us to take sides that are inevitably going to divide us. I’m done and from what I can see on the horizon, I’m not alone.
It’s a rainy Sunday here in Los Angeles and while I don’t have much to chat about, I will share a useful resource.
Thanks to my imaginary friends over at Writer’s Digest for this summarized version of Ronald B. Tobias’s book “20 Master Plots and How to Build Them”. I don’t use this to come up with a plot, but I do use it when I’m brainstorming ideas and looking for which direction I want to go with my story.
Here’s the link: http://www.writersdigest.com/wp-content/uploads/Master-Plots-Exclusive.pdf
I’ve worn many hats over the years. I’ve been a radio disc jockey, a film director and cinematographer, a video editor. I worked with a great music supervisor, I created a podcast and I even tried my hand at stand-up comedy. But the one job title that I’ve always carried with me has been that of a writer. In fact, none of my prior jobs has ever not included writing as a key component of it at some point. And yet I’ve fought it endlessly as being a job in and of itself.
A lot of it has to do with a lack of confidence in my abilities to truly be a writer, in particular a published author. And despite the fact that I have written dozens of scripts (mostly short form, but a script all the same) I always viewed writing as a component of another job rather than the job itself.
That changed a few months ago and now I find myself in a daily struggle between past, present and future. I debate embracing my past life as a camera person and video editor. Money is nice I say. And then I read my current draft of my book and one day I love it and the next day I want to burn it to the ground. But when the dust settles on the day I’m still a writer and it’s an incredible feeling. Stressful as all hell? Sometimes. But when the words and stars align, it’s the great feeling ever and I’m incredibly proud.
I guess the point of today’s post is to just stick with it. I’ve stopped everything a few times in my life and said, “I’m a writer!” and then got scared, quit and went back to my normal job and depression soon followed. Apparently I just wasn’t ready yet or I was too scared to commit. Those days are done though. I’m a writer and if you want to be one, just be one and don’t overthink it because you need that brain power to tell your stories.
Happy writing my friends!
Sure you can wear whatever you want, but I have to fully support Gary Vaynerchuk’s attitude here. If you live for the weekend, then you’re shit really is broken.
As a writer it never stops. Saturday is the same as a Tuesday and that’s a good thing. I love writing, even if it’s just a journal entry or something on this here blog. I don’t dread Mondays because there’s nothing special about them, it has the same potential to be awesome as any other day. I get to live my life to the best of my ability and that’s all you can ask for. Now every day isn’t going to be perfect. I get up at 6am almost everyday, meaning that at least once a week I don’t get up until 6:30 or 7am. I work on my book every day, but some days I’m lucky to get a paragraph out much less a few thousand words. But as long as I’m trying, I don’t beat myself up over it.
The irony is that roughly a year ago I was a mess. I was overweight, out of shape and rudderless with my career. Now I’m disciplined, hitting the gym 5-6 days a week and balls deep into my first novel. Believe me, if I can turn it around, anybody can, just stick with and trust the process of change you put in front of yourself.
Now have a great weekend, oops, never mind, lol.
I’ve been watching the Neil Gaiman Masterclass lately and he had the simplest, but oh so good, piece of advice. He suggested taking a common cliché and just turn it a little bit to make it different.
In his short story “October Tale”, he wrote about a genie and the woman who rubs the lamp. Rather than following the common beliefs about genies and the three wishes, he asks the big what if, as in what if the person who got the wishes doesn’t need them. It’s such a cute story and adds a completely original twist to a fairly commonplace story.
For me this advice was huge. I’ve been struggling with my book’s second draft because I felt like I was following too many tropes. By turning things just a little bit here and there my entire story is blossoming in a fresh and exciting direction.
Like most people, the day comes when you have to go to the dentist and get a cleaning and all that. Well, unlike most people, I have the most British teeth this side of the pond (aka Los Angeles) so every time I go to the dentist it’s a crap shoot as to what terrible procedure I’ll have to endure. Well today was no different. Cleaning, x-rays, fluoride, check, replace two old crowns with rotting teeth underneath, yep that sounds about right.
Which brings me to today’s personal lesson about writing and going with the flow. I frequently try to plan my writing out, from outlining to character and location sheets along with lists of equipment and specifics my characters would use. In the writing world this is sometimes called a “plotter” though I like to call it “OCD Planner”. The flip side is called a “pantser” as in flying by the seat of your pants. I don’t do well with just going with the flow, but every time I do the results produce random and, quite frankly, my most creative work.
The point being that as I was sprawled across the dental lounge chair it made me think, “This wasn’t how I had planned for my day to go at all! It’s kind of like I’m pantsing the dentist.” Of course I followed this with a laugh which the dentist didn’t understand, but the point was made. Maybe I should try to be more of a pantser with my writing, because it literally isn’t pulling teeth. Thank you. I’ll be here all night and happy writing!
This article is a trip, like a really life “Talented Mr. Ripley” story. Leave my silly website and read it now. You can thank me later.
Short post, quick thought.
It bothers me when people say they hate the Patriots or any other sports team that is consistently successful. This strikes me as a loser mentality. Now I’m not saying that I think those people are losers, I get it, it can be frustrating when you want something and someone else always seems to get it. But the problem here isn’t the winning team, it’s your attitude about them.
Instead of disregarding them, maybe it’s time to start looking at what they do right. Robert Kraft is a good team owner. He doesn’t cave to an ego centric player’s demands, but he is loyal to players who have done him right. On any other team, Tom Brady would be out and Jimmy Garappolo would be the starter (as a Niners fan, thankfully this isn’t the case), but Kraft knows that Brady isn’t just a football player. He’s smart, he’s loyal and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win. Tom Brady also has an insanely dedicated regiment to his life as a football player. Sorry, but he makes sacrifices that most athletes would never make.
I grew up cheering for the Lakers during the Magic and Kobe eras, I get it, people get tired of seeing the same team win all the time especially when you don’t live in a big city. Nowadays, it’s the Warriors era in basketball. Do I hate them? Nope. I want to beat them and I know my Lakers aren’t complacent and sitting back griping about it they’re doing their best to get back on top, because that’s what winners do. And at the end of the day, doing your best has to be enough, even if you’re the Rams.
As the Super Bowl rolls into our lives today I keep seeing stories of bitter Saints fans complaining about how their team was robbed because of a bad call. In my quick opinion, yes it was a bad call, but your defense still failed to stop the Rams on the next possession and that Brees interception didn’t happen because of a bad call.
Either way this whole thing has me thinking about taking accountability for one’s actions instead of focusing on someone else’s. Personally I do this far too much in my writing or more specifically, my lack of it.
I woke up too late, I got sidetracked on an errand, I watched TV, I browsed the web…the excuses pile up higher than my dirty laundry which will of course become another excuse.
It’s time as a writer and as a person to stop blaming the world and to start looking in the mirror. It’s not Game of Thrones’s fault I didn’t hit my page count today, it’s 100% me. And until I can wake up every day and remember that, life will just end up being a series of bad calls and I’ll never achieve my goals.
I’m a big fan of both, but only one gives me anxiety, which would be our dear friend writing. And so when I’m stressing out and wanting to quit I remind myself of how related they truly are.
When you are cooking a dish you think about what you want to make (idea), then you go to the cupboard or store and get the ingredients (characters, settings, basic plot), after that you follow a recipe (outline, beat sheet) and when it’s done you cook/eat it (publish). Sometimes it’s good, other times it’s inedible, but no matter what you know you’re going to be eating again in a few hours so you have to move on.
I’m sure I read this somewhere along the way and I wish I could credit the originator of this theory. Either way, it’s a very comforting analogy and one that gets me through a lot of tough spots. I love to cook, I do it almost every night for dinner and it calms me down after a long day of writing. Which makes it all the more ironic I suppose that I find the two tasks so similar. Cooking rarely stresses me out, so I look forward to the day when I can treat the two tasks equally.
Happy writing and happy eating 😉
I finally finished the first draft of my new book, The Children of the Screaming Church. Unfortunately, this draft is closer to being a major rewrite than a final version, but such is life. My characters are sounds, my dialogue is pretty good, but my plot is still not feeling right. What was that quote from the Big Lebowski, “Sometimes you eat the bar/bear and sometimes, well, he eats you.” So onwards and upwards to draft number two!
Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors/teachers, so if you follow my blog you’ll see me talk about him plenty. This interview with Stephanie Ruhle is completely on point, enjoy and get unstuck.
If you’ve come here, it was probably by accident or because your search for “manga tentacle porn” and the “daily struggles of a smart ass writer” met in the Google cosmos. Either way, I welcome you.
This blog isn’t designed to teach or share some sort of bountiful wisdom, it’s just to show you that there’s others out there like yourself. People who stare at the screen every day and in-between bouts of crippling depression, procrastination and multi-hour naps somehow get the work done.
You are not alone, even though while you’re reading this you probably are. Hmm. Ok, so maybe you are alone.
So faithful reader, I will try and post my daily adventures as boring as they might be and in the course of multiple weeks, days and years hopefully we can bond over the mundane, share our creative endeavors and have some fun doing it.
I’m also into motivational people, so I may share links to them from time to time and if I ever get my act together I’ll post more episodes of my podcast and movies I’ve made in the past. It’s a lot of work and as stated earlier, I have a lot of shit to overcome on a daily basis just to wake up, so quit riding me. I kid. See you soon.