You probably know that I spent my formative years working in the theatre. What a valuable experience! Among the storytelling lessons I learned was this:
Every action has a motive.
It’s the classic actor’s question: What’s my motivation? Story doesn't happen without it. But just in case you missed that day in drama class, let me define some terms:
Action is what a character does.
There's a reason they call it acting. Characters act. They do stuff. They walk. They talk. They pour another glass of booze (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), hide behind the curtains and eavesdrop (Hamlet), and run their enemies through with a sword (also Hamlet).
Our characters explore spooky attics and travel through dangerous...
Who doesn’t love a good success story? Underdog team prevails, small town kid gets cast in a Spielberg movie, scrappy entrepreneur starts in her garage and ends up a billionaire?
Above all, a success story is a story—it shows a hero overcoming obstacles en route to a big transformation.
Success stories appeal precisely because we love stories, and because we want to mine these tales for clues about how we, too, might achieve “success.”
I’d argue that we’re always mining stories for clues about how to live and find meaning in our lives, but today I want to talk particularly about how we writers relate to this idea of success.
Success is good, right? But scratch the surface and things get complicated fast. As writers, how do we define success, and how does that definition impact our creative work?
Do we feel worthy of success? Does it trigger fears of exposure? Of losing our identity? Of disrupting...
It’s NaNoWriMo time, again!
I started this blog (and soon afterward, my weekly YouTube livestream) last year right around this time, as it seemed like there was an extra need for writing mentorship out there.
So many blog posts and livestreams later, I am amazed at how this ongoing exploration of writing good fiction continues to deepen. It’s a lifetime practice for sure.
And how has your writing grown this year?
While you you formulate your answer, I want to give a shout-out to all the Path of the Storyteller alums who finished a draft in 2021.
TRUMPETS OF VICTORY SOUND! Some have never finished a book before. Revisions are now in progress, and I am so very proud of each and every one of these awesome and dedicated writers!
Accomplishment feels good. Setting goals and moving steadily toward them feels fantastic.
But being stuck, thwarted, or in despair because all your efforts seem to be going in circles does not feel so good, am...
First, many thanks to the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group member who posed this question to me. It was a valuable nudge!
How did I learn to write? If you keep up with my livestreams and blog posts, you know I talk a great deal about the process of developing as an artist, the complexity of writing good fiction, how most writers start out “writing by ear” and then hit a wall of frustration when the writing that sounds good to them fails to gain traction with agents and editors.
And there’s that other, equally painful source of frustration: When writers struggle to understand why best writing they feel capable of falls so palpably short of the books they admire most.
They know what good writing sounds like, looks like, feels like—so why is it so hard to actually do?
Helping writers close that gap is what my commitment to teaching and mentoring is all about. But how did I close that gap?...
I didn’t start writing fiction until I was in my forties. Did you know that?
I was a single mom with two kids at home. We homeschooled. In the middle of it all, my own mom was struck with a terminal illness and I became her chief caregiver until she passed away.
I was lucky in that I didn’t also have a full-time job outside the home, but honestly, I could have used one. I taught part-time and wrote part-time and mothered part-time and was a caregiver part-time. There were more parts than time, that’s for sure!
This is what my life was like while I wrote the early books in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. I share this with you not because I think it’s shocking or worthy of any special praise, but precisely because it’s so ordinary.
Writers are people. People have lives. Life is busy and full of challenges, and we all wear many, many hats.
I often hear from writers (mostly women,...
We do like to have fun at Path of the Storyteller! For me, part of the fun is inventing ways to remember the many story structure and writing craft precepts we writers need to juggle.
Like the Alec Baldwin Rule. This is a reference to Mr. Baldwin’s iconic scene from the film Glengarry Glen Ross, with script by David Mamet (based on Mamet’s play of the same name).
If you’re unfamiliar, never fear: this meme-worthy scene is so often quoted that a quick trip to YouTube (search “always be closing”) will give you many options for watching it. Be warned, it is NSFW, unless you happen to work in in a profanity-laced real estate office selling swampland in Florida. Then, it’s perfect!)
But to the point: Baldwin’s character teaches his team to Always Be Closing. As he puts it: “A Always, B Be, C closing! Always Be Closing!”
Contextually, it’s great advice. Closing deals is the...
Think back twelve months and tell me the truth: Did your writing practice make the progress in 2020 that you promised yourself it would?
The correct answer? I don’t care and neither should you. We can give 2020 a pass. You know what impact this year had on you. It was different for each of us, but if you’re reading this, YOU WON. You're here. You made it. I'm sending you a virtual hug.
Now, a new year is upon us. There’s a whiff of hope in the air. And what we’ve been through does not alter the fact that many of us are all too familiar with the feeling of setting writing goals that do not fully come to pass.
Are we undisciplined? Unrealistic? Un-whatever your personal demon is?
The answer may be less mysterious, and less personal, than all that. In this livestream I serve up some goal-setting realness for 2021. No more writing goals that get buried in “life got...