Sunday, March 29, 2015

Revised Story Elements Checklist

Welcome to the SAW writers who took my workshop this weekend! I hope you all had as good a time as I did. You're a fun group.

You can find the Story Structure articles here, and pick up where we left off. I've also added a Q & A page to the blog to make it easier for people to ask questions (and for me to find the questions you ask!). And those who are interested in indie publishing can find posts on that indexed here. Other topics are also linked at the top of this page.

And just a quick note to everyone, new and old, to let you know - I've revised the Story Elements Checklist for the new Story Structure textbook, and I'm sending it out to my Story Structure Extras mailing list this week. If you haven't signed up for this free subscription list, you can do it here:


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(This is a new list and is NOT the same as receiving the blog by email or RSS feed. You must opt in with your email address to receive Story Structure Extras.)

Happy Spring!

          - Alex

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Artist's Way

You haven’t heard much from me for a while. I’ve been insanely busy - emphasis on “insane” - with all the preparation and marketing involved with the Huntress series, relaunching Huntress Moon and Blood Moon and launching Cold Moon with Thomas & Mercer in a rollout over just five months.

But that’s not all there’s been to it. The last part of last year was really hard, in a professional sense.

The delays in the release of Cold Moon made me anxious and depressed. At the same time that I was grappling with that, I committed myself to a complete overhaul of Screenwriting Tricks for Authors before taking it to print - and ended up doubling the material in the book. I’m thrilled with the result and I know you all will be, too, but it took time away from my fiction writing and stretched me more thin than is really healthy for me, or anyone for that matter.

Also, I’m writing Book 4 in the Huntress series and I seem to be writing three different books at once, which, while it is probably exactly the process I need to be going through, is also hugely confusing.

And oh yeah – I started Book 1 of a new series set in Scotland and in LA.

All of this while I have been adapting to life in a new country. That marginally speaks English, but not always. Especially after a few pints.

Are we starting to get what’s wrong with this picture?

It was time to stop the madness and reassess.

The good news is, I didn’t have a complete nervous breakdown.

The better news is, I knew how to heal myself.

Some of you may be familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Waya classic on creativity, spirituality, and recovery. It’s a twelve-week program sort of based on twelve-step programs, but for artists and creativity.

The Artist’s Way is a huge commitment. You do Morning Pages every day (three mandatory pages of free form writing) and an Artist Date every week, plus numerous assignments on top of that. This is what I decided to do on top of everything else I was doing. Crazy, right?

But I knew I had to do something.

Workaholism is a big problem for me. Let's be blunt - I get a lot of rewards from it. Certainly it pays off in a career sense – it’s kind of the job description for a screenwriter and pretty much for an author, too, if you want to make a living at it. There’s another big payoff, too. When I’m insanely busy I don’t have to think about myself much. Or at all.

But you know…. that’s maybe not so great.

The Artist’s Way is designed by someone who has had all those issues and knows the score, including all your sneaky little tricks.

The first time I did the program, I didn’t make it all the way through the twelve weeks. I rarely did the Artist Date. I openly scoffed at and ignored most of the suggestions for fun stuff. And I certainly didn’t do some of the scary deeper work – like the week of reading deprivation. (Yes, that means an entire week of no reading. I know some of you out there just stopped breathing at the very thought).

But even not doing it full out, the breakthroughs that happened for me at the time I was working the program and in the year or two after I did it were extraordinary. I finished Huntress Moon, decided to e publish it instead of going for another traditional publishing deal, and did it to big success. I got back all of my backlist of traditionally published books and launched those books as e books. I wrote my YA thriller The Space Between, and wrote a romance version of Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. I started teaching a college film class, which I loved. And, oh yeah - I met this guy Craig Robertson…

This time through, the breakthroughs are already coming fast and furious. Sometimes I’m taking two weeks to do the work suggested for a week. Sometimes I’m skipping stuff. I put off the reading deprivation while I was doing copyedits, but I did it last week, a full week, and WOW. (I’ll write about that in a separate blog.).

I already feel so much more aligned and focused. I can’t wait to get started with my day in the morning. In the midst of some pretty dangerous burnout, I am healing.

It is an immense relief.

So a huge thank you to Julia Cameron, for saving my skin - and soul - again.

And for you all, some questions. Did you know about The Artist’s Way? (It’s not just for artists and writers. It’s for everyone. We’re all creative beings at our core.) Have you ever worked the program?

Or is there some other way you’ve found to take stock and heal yourself in times of burnout? I’d love to hear!

      - Alex

Some great giveaways are ending soon:

            1, First, this month, to celebrate the rollout of the Huntress/FBI series, Thomas & Mercer is giving away 50 audiobooks, a set of all three Huntress books signed by me, and a Kindle Voyage!  You can enter on my Contests page.  

            2. Homicides of March:  You can enter here for a chance to win 41 paperback thrillers, including Huntress Moon. Yes, 41!!!   

            3. And finally, if you’re not already on my mailing list, you can get a free e book by joining here.  


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Scottish Association of Writers - Story Structure workshop

I'm at the Scottish Association of Writers conference the weekend of March 26-28, as the keynote speaker and teaching a Screenwriting Tricks workshop.

Here are the questions I always ask workshop attendees to answer when I teach -  for those attending, or for anyone who wants to play along with the workshop at home! Hopefully all you blog regulars have done this already, but it's always good to do it for each new project:

The whole principle of what I teach is that we learn best from the storytellers and stories (in any medium) that have most inspired us, and that we as authors can learn a whole new dimension of storytelling by looking specifically at films that have inspired us and that are similar to what we're writing. So here are a few questions/exercises to get you thinking along those lines:

     1. Tell me what genre you're writing in.

     2. Make a list of ten movies and books - at least five movies - that you feel are similar in genre and structure to your work in progress or story idea (or if you don’t have a story idea yet, ten movies and books that you WISH you had written!)

     3. Write out the premise of your story. If you're unclear on what a premise sentence is, here's a practical explanation with examples.

     4. And it can't hurt to review the Three-Act Structure.  But we'll be going over all of this in class!

If you're new to this blog, you can take a browse through the Table of Contents.

And if this way of looking at story appeals to you, 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

Monday, March 09, 2015

New Story Structure Extras List: The Wizard of Oz

by Alexandra Sokoloff

I'm implementing a subscription list for free Story Structure Extras This is a separate mailing list that will receive free mailings of extras like full movie breakdowns and advance copies of books.

If you'd like to start receiving extras like that, you can sign up here.

If you sign up for the list, you'll only get emails with free materials and news of my new book releases.  If you're already getting news of my new book releases, you won't get double emails. I hate spam as much or more than anyone. (If you do get a double email this month, please let me know and I'll get that resolved - this system is still in beta.)

This month's movie breakdown is The Wizard of Oz. Which is also included in the ten movie breakdowns in my Stealing Hollywood workbook.

STEALING HOLLYWOOD   ebook $3.99, print 15.99

And if you're wondering why I don't just post the full breakdown here on the blog, well, a couple of things.

I've been troubled by the discovery that some people are using this blog and then posting in writing forums or in Amazon reviews things like "You don't need to buy the books, it's all on her blog. Just print it out."

Yes, seriously.

Now, first of all, the Screenwriting Tricks workbooks are written in an order, for a reason.  I've put a LOT of time into structuring the books to take reader/writers through a process that introduces concepts for maximum understanding. Yes, you can get the same information by trawling through this blog, but it's NOT the same as working through one or the other of the books in order.

Second, the workbooks are $3.99.  That's less than a latte at Starbucks. Printing out separate blogs is going to cost you at least ten times that in printer cartridges alone, not to mention the cost of the time it takes to do that. And I, the author, get nothing for it when you do that.

If you don't want to pay it, that's fine, that's why the information is all here on the blog. But when people are going out and telling other people NOT to buy the books because it's all free on the blog, I start to wonder why I'm blogging at all.

There's a serious mental disconnect going on if people who say they want to be authors are taking the information I'm giving them to help them do that - and then sabotaging my living that way.

Karma generally sorts out that kind of behavior. :) And my overwhelming experience with this blog is that you guys are honestly appreciative and generous in your feedback and support.  Not to mention that I learn as much from your comments and questions as you're learning from me.

But it's made me think a little about how to proceed.

I want to do more movie breakdowns - I'd really like to work up to doing one a month. But it's a grueling thing to do.  Every one of them means several weeks of work, on and off, that I don't really have time to do, since my core living is as a thriller writer.

So I'm experimenting, here, and for now the movie breakdowns I do are going to be for this new subscription list, so I know they're going out to people who have at least enough commitment to this blog to subscribe to it.

But I'll be re-posting part of the breakdown here so that people who want to discuss the movie can ask questions in the comments of that post.

As always, all feedback appreciated!

Hope you're enjoying your Spring!  I'm sure we'll get it in Scotland eventually….

-   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 15.99.

                                           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 print, all countries 


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)


Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE


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