steering the craft

who’s the boss of your book?

 

One of my Path of the Storyteller students recently asked a great question: After making a commitment (which she is nailing, by the way!) to just buckle down and write her draft to the end without looking back, she’s already wondering how to face what she now fears may be an unmanageably sloppy first draft. 

Who can relate? It’s one thing to rewrite a sentence, but how can you not feel overwhelmed by the thought of fixing ALL THE THINGS when what you’re staring at is a sixty thousand word draft?

Deep breaths, my friends. You are the boss of your book. It has no choice but to do what you say.

That’s the subject of this livestream. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed at the prospect of seizing the reins of your runaway draft— or gripped by the fear that your attempts to unravel the knots will only make things worse—this talk will remind you just who’s in charge!


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so, what’s your book about?

 

Ah, the blank page! Writers want to fill it with words, words, and more words, but my hot take on this (and this is what I teach in the Path of the Storyteller program) is that our #1 job as writers is to tell a great story.

It's not that words don't matter. The skillful deployment of language is how we extract that story from our own imaginations and place it in the minds of our readers. The art of storytelling and the art of writing craft are the twin disciplines we all must master if we want to satisfy our readers and write books that are built to last. 

To that end: In this week’s talk we unravel the question that all writers dread:

What’s your book about?

Can you answer that question?

Can you answer it in one sentence?

In other words, do you know what story you're telling?

We can spend a long time scribbling without knowing the answer. In this talk I explain why that is too often the case, and I offer a framework for distilling a specific, useful answer to...

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what hero really means

hero livestream replays Jul 06, 2021
 

Writers who are new to studying story structure often struggle with the idea of the hero. 

The term “hero” has connotations, after all. Does it mean someone strong? Someone male? Someone who can leap tall buildings in a single bound? Questions that come up include:

“But what if my story has two (or more) main characters?”

“What if my hero is afraid?"

“What if my hero is kind of a jerk?" 

“What if my story is about a community?”

In this week’s livestream, I dig into these questions about the many possible permutations of the hero.  What kind of hero does your story rise from?


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog. You can leave your questions and comments below.

To watch live and ask questions, subscribe to the YouTube channel here.  

And you can join the Path of the Storyteller...

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writing from the heart

 

That first tender urge to write stirs from something quite personal and private. We have an idea, a feeling, a desire to capture in words something that moved or mystified us. 

And yet, to write well means charting a path from that most private beginning to a more reader-centric focus. How exposed do we need to be in our work? How thick of a skin must we cultivate to actually publish? What about privacy? Is there stuff we shouldn't write about? 

Writing advice is plentiful, and writing craft matters (a lot) — but your writing comes from YOU. How do we writers balance the deeply personal impulse to write with the external concerns of putting our work into the world? That’s the topic of this week’s livestream. 


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the...

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the last word about first person POV

 

I've heard it too many times from too many writers: Isn’t first person easier than writing in third? And isn't writing in the first person more intimate that writing in third? Doesn’t first person have more voice than writing in third?

Nope, no, and not so, my friends. And yet these notions persist. This week I want to put them to bed, once and for all. We’ll bust the myths and examine just how much complexity lurks in this deceptively simple way of telling a tale.

Lots to say about this topic! Expect some discussion of one of my favorite butlers in literature, too. 


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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hack your writing process

 

Writing happens inside the skull of the writer, which makes it hard to observe!

We can be inspired by the finished work of our idols, but we never get to actually watch them do the thing that we ourselves are so earnestly trying to learn to do.

The process remains a mystery, and so developing writers inevitably wonder: Am I doing this right? Is it supposed to take so long and be so hard? How much revision is “normal?” And so on.

This week I talk about the writing process: what’s realistic, common pitfalls, and how to make your process the best it can be. 


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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writing for the reader

 

I do get a little cranky sometimes about all the ADVICE out there that’s aimed at writers. 

I say that as someone who gives a lot of advice to writers myself. I take this role seriously because I take good writing seriously, just as I take the courage and vulnerability of those who feel called to write seriously. 

No one falls into the profound work of storytelling at the level of mastery by accident. Instruction and mentorship are invaluable. The giving and taking of advice is a necessary thing.

But that said: Who are we trying to please when we write? Agents? Editors? Random advice-givers on social media, or pros sitting on panels at writing conferences?

Are we writing to please ourselves only? Or is there someone else out there whom we ought to be keeping in mind? That’s the topic of today’s discussion. 


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To...

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middles, not muddles

 

The middle of your book is the longest part—and for many writers, the toughest to muddle through.

It’s not hard to see why. How do you think of ALL THE THINGS that your hero must do and endure during that long second act? Do you wing it as you go? Map it all out in advance? Figure out the ending and try to work backward?

Let’s talk about the process of creating a dynamic second act that won’t leave you (or your reader) feeling lost.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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close, closer, closest

 

When it comes to the space between our readers and our stories, getting close is what we want.

How close? Closer than you think! But how do we “close the distance” between reader and tale?

This question of distance is one of those dare-I-say advanced topics in writing craft that is often woefully misunderstood—so often, in fact, that well-meaning agents and editors have been known to give terrible advice about it.

I’ll talk about that more in this week’s livestream about zooming in.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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what to leave out

 

Everybody’s talking about Hemingway this week.

Well, maybe not everybody. But many of us who think deeply about writing have the new three-part PBS documentary about the life and work of influential 20th century American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, on the watch list.

Hemingway started out as a newspaperman, and his voice as a short story writer and novelist was noted for its punchy minimalism.

That makes this a good week to talk about brevity. Compression. The art of leaving stuff out.

Many writers know that “cutting” is part of revision, but it’s not always easy to know what to cut. Let’s discuss.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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