Begin at the Beginning
Writing doesn’t make sense.
Not financial sense, not time sense, not even logical sense.
Not to be negative, but if you were to log all the hours it takes to produce a book, a business advisor would immediately tell you to abandon the project – and they would be right.
But we don’t write because it makes sense on paper. We write because we need to express ourselves via the written word. The output is different for each one of us, but the urge is the same.
When you sit down to write, there will be a million resources at your disposal and their efficacy will vary depending on the kind of writer you are.
I got serious about fiction when I was working full-time and I just didn’t have the time for writers groups or books that refused to be specific about what stories need to be successful in the marketplace.
That’s the key bit there. My goal was to write stories others would want to buy. This is tricky because the story is part of me, but ultimately, I shape it for you.
The story needs to be bigger than the writer.
It’s Ok if it stays small and is only about you, but if you want to draw others in, you’re going to need to take it far beyond yourself, beyond what you envisioned in that first rush.
So the resources I gravitate toward are very functional and lean toward the essential elements of story.
Screenwriters are wonderful in this regard because they unabashedly break stories down to their moving parts (character, conflict and resolution), understanding you can always break the rules with good reason.
Here are a few resources I’ve come to rely on:
- The Screenwriter’s Bible – by Dave Trottier – Everything you ever needed to know about writing a killer story and screenplay
- Dan Harmon’s Story Circle – Featured by StudioBinder, breaks down the four acts of a story based on your hero’s journey
- Story Engineering – by Larry Brooks – Lists the six competencies every story needs along with the elements of 4-act structure
Novelists often fear books like these inspire formulaic writing. I believe they provide a list of survival tools you’ll need in the wilderness of manuscript development and finalization.
Can we be real for a moment? The average novel can range between 120,000 to 200,000 words and take 3-5 years to write, edit and complete, if you have a day job.
You can write organically, and if that’s your style, please do. However, if you want to reduce the amount of time you’re spending on the piece, wouldn’t you want to know you need to introduce the villain or central conflict in the first 10-20 pages and identify your hero’s quest in the first 50 pages at least?
Does your hero even have a quest?
Sure they do. Everyone wants something and your job is to take your readers on a journey with a lovable character as they struggle to find that one unique thing that will complete them (and us), whether it’s love, a McGuffin or saving the world.
Screenwriting materials help me zero in and find the answers to those major questions before I set aside the next 6-12 months of my life for a new work.
Hope they are useful to you too!
Tamaishi by Ian Tadashi Moore
An illustrated children’s novel for readers, ages 8-12. What is the story about? Tamaishi (tama: 玉, “lit. jewel” ishi: 石, “lit. stone”) is the story of Tama, a curious pebble from the Valley Where All the Little Things Live. On a journey of self-discovery, Tama crosses the valley and explores the depths of the Great Sea. When…
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