ENROLLING NOW! The Path of the Storyteller program starts in January, and seats are still available. Click here to learn more.
A question for you: When is the perfect time to act?
To start a new project?
To break an old habit?
To finally drop something that’s not working?
To pivot? Reboot? Change course? Face facts?
I think most of us know in our hearts when SOMETHING needs (or has long needed) to change. But that doesn’t always mean we take action.
Often, there's a panicked answer that rises within us:
There’s too much on my plate.
I’m already overwhelmed.
After I get these ten other very trivial things sorted out, THEN I'll be able to finally deal with That One Important Thing that I’ve been putting off for years
We’re all this way. People (and writers are people, don’t forget!) never seem to run out of ways to say “Eek! I’m not ready for this."
My dear storytellers, I’m not doing a livestream today. Instead, I’m tidying up, searching for the purrrfect cranberry sauce recipe (one of these years I’m going to nail it, though honestly I never met a cranberry sauce I didn’t like), and taking things nice and slow.
I’m so grateful for you all. It’s a treat to be part of a community of writers like you—thoughtful about the work, interested in learning how to do better, and aware that the true path of the storyteller is not just a hobby or even a profession, but a vocation.
We’re all part of the long lineage of storytellers. As you probably know by now, this job is not for the faint of heart!
We hold a mirror up to the world so that it might see itself a little more clearly, and (we hope) take one more brave step toward the light.
We ransack our own hearts and hurts and weave our private treasures into tales that make...
ENROLLING NOW: The next Path of the Storyteller program starts in January 2023. If you’re interested in learning more about my in-depth training in story structure and writing craft, click here now.
First person point of view can be so me me me. All that time stuck inside someone’s head!
Yet many writers mistakenly think that writing in first person is somehow easier than writing in third, precisely because of this endless monologue quality.
Who hasn’t gotten on the phone with a good pal and talked for an hour without ever once running out of things to say? The words just pour out.
Isn’t writing in first person is more or less like that? So we may naively think, and writers desperate for word count may find the notion of turning on a word spigot very appealing.
Now, listen, my dear storytellers: Writers may long for a word spigot, but readers all want the same thing: a great story, vividly and memorably told, and populated by iconic...
Anyone who’s read my Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books knows I like making up words.
The most popular invention in that series was “optoomuchism,” which is the tendency to take optimism much, much too far. Spending your Powerball winnings before actually checking to see if you have the winning ticket would be an example of optoomuchism.
Well, today, dear storytellers, I have a new word for you: prodraftinating.
It’s what happens when we use drafting as a means of procrastinating.
Now, before you get all flustered, know that I want you to be drafting your books! I want you to have fun doing it, too. Creative work is a form of play, and it should feel like that while you’re drafting.
But what I want you to consider is that scribbling pages of words without making actual choices about what happens is a red flag. It’s using that good “look at me, I’m drafting!”...
More than the falling leaves, more than bags of leftover candy, more than the vast, strange displays of decorative gourds everywhere you look—nothing says November more than flocks of writers head-down, scribbling madly to meet daily word count goals as if their very lives depended on it.
Yes, storytellers—it’s NaNoWriMo season! National Novel Writing Month is here again.
I’m all for anything that gets writers’ creative juices flowing. In today’s livestream I’m offering my top ten tips for having a fun and productive NaNoWriMo. But these tips don’t only apply in November. Think of them as all-weather advice for managing your creative energies.
Whether or not you’re sprinting through a draft this month, I think you’ll find these tips useful. Leave a comment below and let me know!
What? Sacrilege, right? Let me clarify.
Most writers start drafting by typing Chapter One. Then they do their best to scribble down as many words as they can, on as many days as they can.
The more words per day, the quicker the draft is done, right?
And isn’t the draft supposed to be a hot mess that we fix later? Isn’t getting to “The End” our primary goal?
I do know this is all very common advice. But I say no.
When we draft, we are first and foremost drafting a story.
The words of the draft don’t matter (yes, let them be a hot mess!) because we cannot possibly know what words are needed (or what scenes are needed, or what characters are needed) until we have done the foundational work of coming up with a story.
That’s what the draft is for.
I don’t mean we need to start with a turn-by-turn outline. I’m an inveterate...
Oh, my dear storytellers. If I had a nickel for every time a struggling or would-be writer has said those words to me! I would have all the nickels in nickeldom.
But are these words even true? Is “lack of discipline” the correct diagnosis when a writer finds themselves unable to focus on the work for more than a few minutes at a time?
Or stares at the screen and decides to do laundry instead?
Or avoids the writing chair for days, weeks, years on end, until their dream of writing threatens to wither altogether?
Even if these writers are correct, and discipline deficiency is an actual condition they suffer from, it’s not a helpful diagnosis. Adding “more discipline” is not a simple matter of taking a vitamin supplement. Any kind of behavior change is notoriously difficult.
And what if “discipline” is not the issue at...
Storytelling is everywhere.
Yes, it’s in the books we write and read, the movies we watch, the TV shows we binge and even the jokes we tell—but it’s also in politics, history, science, education, you name it.
Story is how humans think and how we make sense of the world. It's how we connect the dots between data points and turn them into meaning. It’s how we form our identities, individually and as groups, cultures, and nations.
Story is powerful stuff. And if you want to see a super-compressed, super-effective morsel of storytelling in action, I give you three simple words:
Just do it.
This trademarked ad slogan from athletic shoe brand Nike dates back to the 1980s and remains instantly, globally recognizable.
Why is that so? And what can we writers of fiction learn from this concentrated bomb of story energy?
In this livestream I unpack the...
I hear from a lot of writers, as you can imagine. And when I ask what holds them back the most, nine times out of ten the answer is: story structure.
This is all very fixable, of course. But here’s something fascinating: When writers do begin a serious exploration of story structure, they may soon feel taken aback.
There’s so much technique involved. So many concepts! It starts to feel like a list of rules.
Their early attempts to learn and implement this new knowledge may not feel very creative at...
I often talk about the dangers of a “passive hero.” That’s the kind of main character who has no clear overall goal for the story.
Imagine if Dorothy didn’t really want to get back to Kansas! She arrives in Oz, looks around, and shrugs. What’s that story going to be about? Beats me.
It’s not hard to see why your hero shouldn’t be passive.
I don’t mean the would-be novelist who says they’re going to write but never gets around to it. That is a real issue, for sure. Some combination of limiting beliefs and simply not knowing how to get started is usually the culprit.
I’m talking about the writer who sits in front of their laptop and grapples intently with last week’s scribbling, their stack of research, their journal full of themes and concepts—and yet comes away...