Thursday, January 17, 2019

Stealing Hollywood workshops in the Highlands and Caribbean!!

I'm thrilled to be able to announce two Stealing Hollywood intensive workshops, both in settings that could jump start anyone's creativity.

March 23-24: Highlands Writing Intensive

For my UK friends (and other Scotophiles), I'm doing a weekend intensive in the Highlands, on the gorgeous, unique grounds of the Pagoda in Grantown-on-Spey. You can stay the whole weekend on site in a lodge with indoor swimming pool, or there are day pass options as well.

Information and registration






November 3-10: Eastern Caribbean Writing Cruise

Join me on the luxury liner Allure of the Seas for a writing retreat/Caribbean cruise!


Cruising Writers is hosting this seven-day cruise to St. Kitts and St. Thomas, with a two-day workshop and individual problem-solving sessions, Q and A sessions, and of course shore excursions and all the amenities that the Allure has to offer. Check out the Cruising Writers website for information, itinerary and registration.



About the workshops:



                             STEALING HOLLYWOOD: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors

Award-winning author/screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff's internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks for Authors story structure workshops and workbooks use movies to teach authors and screenwriters essential film structure and visual storytelling techniques, and have helped hundreds of aspiring authors to publishing deals and professional authors to craft better books.

This two-day masterclass will illuminate the Three-Act, Eight-Sequence structure of film writing and how to use it to plot your book idea and/or rewrite your novel to make it the best book it can be - and have the most fun you’ve ever had doing it!



DAY ONE

Hour 1: The Three-Act, Eight Sequence Structure

In the first hour to hour and a half of the workshop we’ll cover the basics of the Three-Act, Eight-Sequence story structure of film and television and how/why it’s so useful to translate it to writing novels.

Even die-hard pantsers quickly grasp that this is a rhythm of storytelling they’re intimately familiar with, from all the tens of thousands of movies and TV shows we’ve seen in our lifetimes (scary, isn’t it?).
Even more than that, editors, agents and our readers subconsciously EXPECT this rhythm/story pattern. So if we authors don’t deliver, a reader quickly gets uncomfortable that there’s something wrong. We all know this pattern. I’m just putting names to the steps and making it all conscious.

Also in this introductory hour or two I break down the concept of Setpiece Scenes – one of the most useful visual storytelling tricks we can steal from movies.

And I go over The Index Card Method/Story Structure Grid method of plotting (or rewriting/emergency help if you’re a pantser!).

For the rest of the day we’ll go through ALL the Key Story Elements of each Act, and how every one of these 20+ elements appears in approximately the same act, no matter what genre the writer is working with. I’ll tailor examples to your genre and movie preferences.

-       Elements of Act I
-       Elements of Act II: part 1
-       Elements of Act II: part 2
-       Elements of Act III


DAY TWO:

On Day 2 we put what we’ve learned into action with a Movie Screening. We’ll watch a movie while I talk through it, pointing out all the Key Story Elements and how they work, along with Filmmaking Tricks that authors can steal for their books. This fun and hugely helpful session locks in the story structure concepts and teaches authors to use their favorite movies as writing guides.

For the rest of the day we’ll go further into the story elements as well as focus more in-depth on visual techniques. The workshops are very interactive, with questions encouraged throughout.

Get ready for the journey of a writing lifetime!



Thursday, January 03, 2019

New Year's resolution: Practice Story

(Or - How to watch movies and TV to be a better writer)

So it’s the New Year and people are making resolutions right and left, or swearing off them because “they never work” and all that, right?

I think the better way of going about this is to ask yourself: What can I do this year to be a better -------? 

Fill in the blank—and the real answer is always “be a better person”—but since this is a writing blog, I’m going to deal with the subset of the person you are that is called “writer”.



I was doing some research and watching random Youtube videos on various subjects and I ended up down one of those Youtube rabbit holes and came across this one.




Robin Sharma has a lot of good ideas for achieving excellence in your field in this video, but the one that struck me as incredibly relevant to what I teach is the “60 Minute Student.” That is, do something for one hour every day and you will be the top in your field, whatever that is.



So I want to start the year with something you can do every day. You can do it with a New Year’s hangover, you can do it when you’re depressed, you can do it when you’ve got the kids all day, you can do it even when you have no desire to do anything at all. And it is the absolute bottom line basis of what I teach in my books, and workshops, and blogs.



Practice story.



If you commit some hours at the beginning of this year to learning how to analyze film story structure, then you truly can practice story by osmosis every single time the TV is on, which for many of us is every day, too many hours a day.



Once you have dedicated some time to doing it consciously, you will be able to do it unconsciously and you are growing as a writer every time there is a television remotely in your vicinity.



Don’t you want that?



Craig's and my Boxing Day movie was The African Queen. We were only watching it to space out after two straight days of family. Two very wonderful days. But you know – also family. So the only real intention was to space out on the couch and watch a great movie.



But because both of us practice story for a living, we were also having two great hours of being students of our craft.  

The African Queen is a fantastic movie to watch to get clear on the concept of SEQUENCES. It is an amazing, heartbreaking movie to watch for the concept of the HERO/INE’S GREATEST NIGHTMARE and ALL IS LOST moments – maybe the best I’ve ever seen outside The Silence of the Lambs — with both characters facing their greatest nightmares in completely devastating scenes that set up the excruciating choice they must face to complete their mission. It is a world-class love story with equal hero and heroine’s journeys, and the classic film Romancing the Stone would not exist without this powerful antecedent. It is the best movie ever for its resonant double entendre of The African Queen, as we see Katharine Hepburn becoming a queen before our very eyes.



So if you’re new to consciously analyzing story structure, I urge you to do it with a movie that I can talk you through, first.  Take one of the movies in either Stealing Hollywood or Writing Love, or one of the movie breakdowns that I send you when you sign up for my Story Structure Extras List. One that you already know well is a good choice. One that seems similar to what you are writing or want to write is a good choice.




First, read about the Three-Act, Eight-Sequence Structure. You can download a free sample of Stealing Hollywood, which will give you the basics you need without you having to commit to buying the book. :) 
 
And then go through the movie sequence by sequence, reading my notes before each fifteen-minute sequence, then watching the sequence, then stopping at the end of the sequence to reread my notes, and make your own notes. Proceed through the movie one sequence at a time. Do that two or three times if you’re inspired to – make this movie your “teaching movie”, as Michael Connelly calls it.



After one screening, you have vastly expanded your understanding of story structure.



After two screenings, another whole level of structure will be revealing itself.



After three screenings, your mind will feel like it’s been blown open and you will be rabid to do it with another movie, and then another, and then another.



And you know what? It’s perfectly okay to stop “writing” completely and do just a month of This. Because This IS writing. And after that month, you will come back to your own book or script with a level of mastery unlike anything you’ve experienced before.



Happy New Year, and happy writing



-        Alex

 

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=====================================================


All the information on this blog and more, including full story structure breakdowns of various movies, is available in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks.  e format, just $3.99 and $2.99; print 13.99.


                                      STEALING HOLLYWOOD

This new workbook updates all the text in the first Screenwriting Tricks for Authors ebook with all the many tricks I’ve learned over my last few years of writing and teaching—and doubles the material of the first book, as well as adding six more full story breakdowns.


 


STEALING HOLLYWOOD ebook    $3.99
STEALING HOLLYWOOD US print  $14.99
STEALING HOLLYWOOD print, all countries 








WRITING LOVE

Writing Love is a shorter version of the workbook, using examples from love stories, romantic suspense, and romantic comedy - available in e formats for just $2.99.



Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon/Kindle

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE


---------------------



You can also sign up to get free movie breakdowns here:


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Nanowrimo Now What? - Rewriting

by Alexandra Sokoloff

Now that we've had some time off from the frenzy of writing that was November, we need to get back to those drafts and - yike! - see what we've got.

This is assuming two crucial things:

       1. You have FINISHED your draft. If not, keep writing to the end.

       2. You have taken enough time off from that draft to clear your head. If you just finished on November 30, you have not taken enough time. A week minimum, two is better, three even better.

But once you have taken the time off… how the hell do you proceed with the second draft?

                    Get free Story Structure extras and movie breakdowns

Well, first you have to read the first draft. All the way through. Not necessarily in one sitting (if that’s even possible to begin with!).  I usually do this in chunks of 50 pages or 100 pages a day – anything else makes my brain sore.

(And yes, if you’ve been paying attention to the Eight-Sequence Structure, that would mean I’m either reading one sequence or two sequences a day).

I picked up a tip from some book or article a long time ago about reading for revisions, and I wish I could remember who said it to credit them, because it’s great advice. Grab yourself a colored pen or pencil (or all kinds of colors, glitter pens - go wild) and sit down with a stack of freshly printed pages (sorry, it’s ungreen, but I can’t do a first revision on a screen. I need a hard copy). Then read through and make brief notes where necessary, but DO NOT start rewriting, and PUT THE PEN DOWN as soon as you’ve made a note. You want to read the first time through for story, not for stupid details that will interrupt your experience of the story as a whole. You want to get the big picture – especially – you want to see if you actually have a book (or film, if that’s what you’re writing).

If your drafts are anything like mine, there will be large chunks of absolute shit. That’s pretty much my definition of what a first draft is. X them out on the spot if you have to, but resist the temptation to stop and rewrite. Well, if you REALLY are hot to write a scene, I guess, okay, but really, unless you are totally, fanatically inspired, it’s better just to make brief notes.

When you’ve finished reading there should - hopefully! - be the feeling that even though you probably still have massive amounts of work yet to do, there is a book there. (I love that feeling…)

Once I’ve read through the entire thing, I make notes about my impressions, and then usually I will do a re-card (see The Index Card Method). I will have made many scribbled notes on the draft to the effect of “This scene doesn’t work here!” In some of my first drafts, whole sections don’t work at all. This is my chance to find the right places for things. And, of course, throw stuff out.

I will go through the entire book again – going back and forth between my pages and the cards on my story grid - and see where the story elements fall. There is no script or book I’ve ever written that didn’t benefit from a careful overview once again identifying act breaks, sequence climaxes, and key story elements like: The Call to Adventure; Stating the Theme; identifying the Central Question; Central Action and Plan; Crossing the Threshold; Meeting the Mentor; the Dark Night of the Soul - once the first draft is actually finished. A lot of your outline may have changed, and you will be able to pull your story into line much more effectively if you check your structural elements again and continually be thinking of how you can make those key scenes more significant, more magical.

(For a quick refresher on Story Elements, skip down to #10 at the bottom of this post, and the links at the end for more in-depth discussion.)

Also, be very aware of what your sequences are. If a scene isn’t working, but you know you need to have it, it’s probably in the wrong sequence, and if you look at your story overall and at what each sequence is doing, you’ll probably be able to see immediately where stray scenes need to go. That’s why re-carding and re-sequencing is such a great thing to do when you start a revision.


STORY ELEMENTS CHECKLIST

ACT ONE

* Opening image
* Meet the hero or heroine
* Hero/ine’s inner and outer desire.
* Hero/ine’s problem
* Hero/ine’s ghost or wound
* Hero/ine’s arc
* Inciting Incident/Call to Adventure
* Meet the antagonist (and/or introduce a mystery, which is what you do when you’re going to keep your antagonist hidden to reveal at the end)
* State the theme/what’s the story about?
* Allies
* Mentor (possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story).
* Love interest
* Plant/Reveal (or: Setups and Payoffs)
* Hope/Fear (and Stakes)
* Time Clock (possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story)
* Sequence One climax
* Central Question
* Central Story Action
* Plan (Hero/ine's)
* Villain's Plan
* Act One climax

___________________________

ACT TWO


* Crossing the Threshold/ Into the Special World (may occur in Act One)
* Threshold Guardian (maybe)
* Hero/ine’s Plan
* Antagonist’s Plan
* Training Sequence
* Series of Tests
* Picking up new Allies
* Assembling the Team
* Attacks by the Antagonist (whether or not the Hero/ine recognizes these as being from the antagonist)
* In a detective story, questioning witnesses, lining up and eliminating suspects, following clues.


THE MIDPOINT


* Completely changes the game
* Locks the hero/ine into a situation or action
* Can be a huge revelation
* Can be a huge defeat
* Can be a “now it’s personal” loss
* Can be sex at 60 — the lovers finally get together, only to open up a whole new world of problems


______________________________
ACT TWO, PART TWO


* Recalibrating — after the shock or defeat of the game-changer in the Midpoint, the hero/ine must Revamp The Plan and try a New Mode of Attack.
* Escalating Actions/ Obsessive Drive
* Hard Choices and Crossing The Line (immoral actions by the main character to get what s/he wants)
* Loss of Key Allies (possibly because of the hero/ine’s obsessive actions, possibly through death or injury by the antagonist).
* A Ticking Clock (can happen anywhere in the story)
* Reversals and Revelations/Twists. (Hmm, that clearly should have its own post, now, shouldn't it?)
* The Long Dark Night of the Soul and/or Visit to Death (aka All Is Lost)

THE SECOND ACT CLIMAX

* Often can be a final revelation before the end game: the knowledge of who the opponent really is
* Answers the Central Question


_______________________________

ACT THREE

The third act is basically the Final Battle and Resolution. It can often be one continuous sequence — the chase and confrontation, or confrontation and chase. There may be a final preparation for battle, or it might be done on the fly. Either here or in the last part of the second act the hero will make a new, FINAL PLAN, based on the new information and revelations of the second act.

The essence of a third act is the final showdown between protagonist and antagonist. It is often divided into two sequences:


1. Getting there (storming the castle)
2. The final battle itself

* Thematic Location — often a visual and literal representation of the Hero/ine’s Greatest Nightmare
* The protagonist’s character change
* The antagonist’s character change (if any)
* Possibly allies’ character changes and/or gaining of desire
* Could be one last huge reveal or twist, or series of reveals and twists, or series of final payoffs you've been saving (as in BACK TO THE FUTURE and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE).

* RESOLUTION: A glimpse into the New Way of Life that the hero/ine will be living after this whole ordeal and all s/he’s learned from it.

And I'll be posting more about how to do different kinds of passes for particular effect. But for now, I think all of the above should keep you busy for a few days...   

Alex



=====================================================


All the information on this blog and more, including full story structure breakdowns of various movies, is available in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks.  e format, just $3.99 and $2.99; print 13.99.

                                      STEALING HOLLYWOOD

This new workbook updates all the text in the first Screenwriting Tricks for Authors ebook with all the many tricks I’ve learned over my last few years of writing and teaching—and doubles the material of the first book, as well as adding six more full story breakdowns.

 


STEALING HOLLYWOOD ebook    $3.99
STEALING HOLLYWOOD US print  $14.99
STEALING HOLLYWOOD print, all countries 








WRITING LOVE

Writing Love is a shorter version of the workbook, using examples from love stories, romantic suspense, and romantic comedy - available in e formats for just $2.99.


Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon/Kindle

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE


---------------------



You can also sign up to get free movie breakdowns here: