Sunday, November 18, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Best Writing Advice

I recently discovered that the Amazon pages of my books are continually compiling the most highlighted quotes from my books.

To explain for those of you who might not have an e reader - yet - you can highlight passages of books that you read on your Kindle to refer back to at your leisure. Whether or not you, the reader, know that this information is being compiled online is a different question. Some books you might not want to have those special passages highlighted, if you see what I mean.

But the Big Brother aspect is a different post. This highlighted quotes feature is actually totally EXCELLENT news for me because it means today, instead of a long blog post on what I think is important advice, I can just give you a pithy list of what readers think is the best advice in my Screenwriting Tricks books. And you all know how much I love lists.

So here you go:

Top Ten highlighted quotes from Screenwriting Tricks for Authors.


- The premise sentence should give you a sense of the entire story: the character of the protagonist, the character of the antagonist, the conflict, the setting, the tone, the genre.

- All of these premises contain a defined protagonist, a powerful antagonist, a sense of the setting, conflict and stakes, and a sense of how the action will play out.

- Write a one-sentence premise that contains all these story elements: protagonist, antagonist, conflict, stakes, setting, atmosphere and genre.

On a character’s GHOST or WOUND

- We all unconsciously seek out people, events and situations that duplicate our core trauma(s), in the hope of eventually triumphing over the situation that so wounded us.


- The arc of the character is what the character learns during the course of the story, and how s/he changes because of it. It could be said that the arc of a character is almost always about the character realizing that s/he's been obsessed with an outer goal or desire, when what she really needs to be whole, fulfilled, and lovable is _______ (fill in the blank).


- Our fear for the character should be the absolute worst case scenario:

- The lesson here is - spend some quality time figuring out how to bring your hero/ine's greatest nightmare to life: in setting, set decoration, characters involved, actions taken. If you know your hero/ine's ghost and greatest fear, then you should be able to come up with a great setting (for the climax/final battle) that will be unique, resonant, and entirely specific to that protagonist (and often to the villain as well.)

On PLAN (and ACT II)

- This continual opposition of the protagonist's and antagonist's plans is the main underlying structure of the second act.


- STACK THE ODDS AGAINST YOUR PROTAGONIST. It's just ingrained in us to love an underdog.


- Top ten highlighted quotes from Writing Love

- “Every genre has its own game that it’s playing with the audience.”

- The game in the romance genre is often to show, through the hero and heroine, how we are almost always our own worst enemies in love, and how we throw up all kinds of obstacles in our own paths to keep ourselves from getting what we want.

- A great, emotionally effective technique within the final battle is to have the hero/ine LOSE THE BATTLE TO WIN THE WAR.

- This continual opposition of the protagonist’s and antagonist’s plans is the main underlying structure of the second act.

- I’m a firm believer that just ASKING the questions will prompt your creative brain to leap into overdrive and come up with the right scenes. Our minds and souls long to be creative, they just need us to stop stalling and get our asses in gear.

- So once you’ve got your initial plan, you need to be constantly blocking that plan, either with your antagonist, or the hero/ine’s own inner conflict, or outside forces beyond her or his control.

- Very often in the second act we will see a battle before the final battle in which the hero/ine fails because of some weakness, so the suspense is even greater when s/he goes into the final battle (climax) in the third act.

- The final battle (climax) is also a chance to PAY OFF ALL YOUR SETUPS AND PLANTS. Very often you will have set up a weakness for your hero/ine. That weakness that has caused him or her to fail repeatedly in previous tests, and in the final battle (climax) the hero/ine’s great weakness will be tested.

- “Get the hero up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Get him down.”

- After I’ve finished that grueling, hellish first draft, the fun starts. I do layer after layer after layer: different drafts for suspense, for character; sensory drafts, emotional drafts, each concentrating on a different aspect that I want to hone in the story, until the clock runs out and I have to turn the whole thing in.


And that happens to be the step I'm on right now, pass after pass after pass. Sometimes it feels more like sewing than writing. But miraculously, it's coming together! How's everyone's Nano going?



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.  Any format, just $3.99 and $2.99.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amaxon DE

Amazon FR

Amazon ES

Amazon IT

If you're a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories.

Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE


Laura Libricz, Authoress said...

I just hit 30,000 words! Now I'm going to go clean my kitchen. The two tools I like to use the most are the Narrative Structure Cheat Sheet and the Story Elements Checklist. I don't use index cards--my house is really small and I wouldn't know where to put them. But I keep my Checklist as a word doc and that's where I try out my brainstorming before I put it into my NaNo doc. It's slow-going, but I want a structured WIP when I'm done, not just 50,000 words that I can delete. And my favorite words this week: What If?

Edith said...

Great quotes from great books! As for NaNo - I'm chugging away, and bit by bit I' getting there. No one's more surprised than me! :)

Unknown said...

Big Brother be damned, that has to be about the coolest feature ever. Thanks for sharing.

Chemist Ken said...

I was five days into NaNo and doing fine with my already outlined story, then ran into a brick wall when I realized the plot needed to be changed around. It really cuts into your writing productivity when you're spending all your time trying to figure out the new plot. Oh well, there's always next year.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Laura, congratulations! Fabulous!

I'm glad to hear those are your picks. I think myself that those are the two most comprehensive things I've ever posted/published here.

What if? is key, isn't it?

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Edith, I'm so happy for you! That's the great thing about Nano, people just DO IT.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Ken, you're exactly where you should be. Plotting is half the book. Figure it out now and the pages will continue to fly. No one said that wasn't writing.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Amanda, I agree. I love it.