Thursday, May 25, 2017

JUNOWRIMO - Don't start a new book! Finish the old one!

                        Get free Story Structure extras and movie breakdowns

So who's doing Junowrimo?

It was inevitable - once a year Nano was never going to be enough. Now there's a whole community built up around Junowrimo so writers can take a month in the summer and bash out the first draft of a book.

As it happens I'm teaching not one, but TWO of my rare Screenwriting Tricks For Authors workshops in June - the DC Romance Writers weekend conference and the five-day intensive I do every year at the West Texas AMU Writers Academy. So I've been leading my workshop participants through some basic prep that would work really well for Junowrimo prep as well - here are the questions if you want to play along.


     1.  The genre of your book. 
 
     2.  The premise of your book - the story in one or two sentences.  (Read about premise here
)

(If you DON'T have a book idea yet, that's fine, too - just let us know and we’ll give you alternate homework.)

     3  This is the most important:  Compile a list of TEN books and films (at least five films, please)  in your genre that are somewhat similar to your book structurally.    

We learn best from the storytellers and stories (in any medium) that have most inspired us. And as authors we 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. 

     4. For extra bonus points, write out the premises of each film on your list (in one or two lines, only. This will be hard, but very, very good for you. 
 

For people who are struggling with nailing down a premise sentence, it helps to answer these questions first:


• Who’s the story about? 
 
• What’s the setting? 
 
• Who’s the antagonist? 
 
• What’s the conflict? 
 
• What are the stakes? 


Getting these answers and a bit of biographical information on my students helps me focus the class so that everyone gets the most our of our time together. And you know what the biggest Junowrimo takeaway from their answers is?

Most people SHOULD NOT be writing a new book in June.

Oh, they should be writing a book, no doubt. But I suspect what most aspiring authors need to be doing is using Junowrimo to FINISH an old book.

It is astonishing to me how many people in my classes have six, seven, eight projects in various stages of completion. It's not astonishing at all that most of these people are unpublished. Because published authors are writers who suck it up and FINISH their books. They deal with the reality of what they have written instead of the fantasy of what they thought they were writing. They develop the Teflon skin that allows them to put their work out there to be criticized and yes, rejected. Lots of rejection.

Some of these unfinished projects will never be good enough to be published. The unfortunate truth of writing is that you won't know that until you finish. But you have to become a writer who finishes what you start, even if you then have to throw a whole completed project away once in a while. That is part of the process of becoming a professional writer. You must figure out how to FINISH every book you write.

Part of that process is picking the right premise to begin with. But another critical part of that process is ramming your head into a concrete wall (metaphorically speaking) until you're battered and bloody but you finally figure out how to make that particular book work. Some books are just harder than others, but you must demonstrate to the Universe that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make ANY book work. It's a trust thing. Your books must trust you to fully commit to them.

And that time is NEVER wasted, even if you never make money off that book. It is professional and more importantly - CREATIVE development.

I have a book hidden in my files in the Cloud that I could be making quite a lot of money on if I just self-published it. People would buy it and a lot of readers would enjoy it. But it's not as good as the rest of my books and I don't want it out there pulling my reputation just slightly down. I finished it, and then put it away and wrote another. It was a big gap in my publishing schedule. But my next book was Huntress Moon, a real breakthrough in my writing, and the book I was meant to write. I don't think that's a coincidence. I think my creative mind and the Universe understood that I was finally ready to do more with my writing.

So I beg you all, just as I am begging my workshop students. If you haven't finished the book you're on, DON'T start a new book for Junowrimo just because.

Commit to the book you're already writing, in whatever stage of the process you're at, and use Junowrimo to finish THAT one.

And then go get published.

- Alex


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


Our textbook for my classes is STEALING HOLLYWOOD. The alternate text is WRITING LOVE, for more romance-centric writers. Both have the same basic structure material, but Stealing Hollywood has more material and more mystery/thriller examples, and Writing Love has more romance examples. The e books are 3.99 and 2.99 each.

                                        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  $12.99
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:




        

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What does your protagonist WANT? (Dear Evan Hansen)

                            Get free Story Structure extras and movie breakdowns


Hey, long time no blog, right? How is everyone?

I know, I've been very, very silent here, due to all the craziness. I've had a triple deadline - Book 5 of the Huntress series (out in October), the pilot for the TV series, and a piece for a non-fiction anthology called "Hollywood Vs. the Author", also out in the fall. And, oh yeah, the so-called President of the United States just FIRED the head of the FBI who was heading the investigation into said so-called President's COLLUSION WITH THE RUSSIANS, as well as so much conflict of interest I have no idea why the entire country is not out lining the streets saying NO MORE OF THIS RAPACIOUS BULLSHIT.

Personally I've had a lot to say and it hasn't been about movies.

But I finally got all three projects in last week and I am exhausted with outrage over the not-so-slow-motion collapse of our democracy.

So here's a short blog, because this article caught my eye in between all the latest news of the Criminal-in-Chief:      How Ben Platt Became the Toast of Broadway - Dear Evan Hansen

(And if you're not subscribed to the NY Times, why not? Now more than ever…)

I am always saying that looking at musical theater is an excellent way to learn how to present Key Story Elements like Inner and Outer Desire, Into the Special World, the Hero/ine’s Plan, the Antagonist’s Plan, Character Arc, Gathering the Team – virtually any important story element you can name. Musical theater knows to give those key elements the attention and import they deserve. What musicals do to achieve that is put those story elements into song and production numbers. They become setpiece scenes to music. And you know how I’m always encouraging you all to SPELL THINGS OUT? Well, there no better way to spell things out than in song. The audience is so entertained they don’t know you’re spoon-feeding them the plot.

Yes, I know, you can’t put songs on the page. But - you can most certainly learn from the energy and exuberance of songs and production numbers, and find your own ways of getting that same energy and exuberance onto the page in a narrative version of production design, theme, emotion and chemistry between characters, tone, mood, revelation – everything that good songs do.

And one thing Broadway does very, very, VERY well is the DESIRE song.

It is critical for you, the author or screenwriter, to tell your reader/audience what your protagonist WANTS. Not just in Act One, but as early as possible in Act One. We must know what the main character wants so that we can want it for them. Or so that we can see how wrong the character is about what s/he wants so that we can root for her to get what s/he NEEDS instead.

Because the TWIST of almost any story comes from the protagonist NOT getting what s/he wants, but rather what s/he really NEEDS (or sometimes - getting what s/he wants in a totally unexpected way).

Let me just say part of that again. The reader/audience must know what the main character wants so that we can want it for them. This emotion is the basis of our engagement in the story.

And no art form is better than musical theater about spelling out what the protagonist wants in a way that doesn't just engage, but electrifies our emotions. Take a look at a few DESIRE SONGS in a row (that's what YouTube is for, people).

 “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” (My Fair Lady), “Reflection” (Mulan) –) “I Hope I Get It" (A Chorus Line). “If I Were A Rich Man” (Fiddler on the Roof), “I’m The Greatest Star” (Funny Girl). 

Or just take a look at this one, "Waving Through a Window", from Dear Evan Hansen. 






I don't think I have to say anything else - that amazing explosion of DESIRE speaks for itself. But don't you want that kid to get what he wants? Don't you even long for it?

That's emotional engagement. Do you have it your story?

Think about it.  And please take three minutes to call/fax/email your representatives and save our democracy.

- Alex



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

A few announcements:

- Tomorrow,  May 15, is the deadline for submitting feedback for me and my producers on the Huntress TV series. Everyon who answers the questionnaire will be entered in a drawing to win a Kindle Fire or $100 Amazon gift card. The questionnaire is here.

- I have a few Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshops coming next month.

     - Washington DC Romance Writers - full weekend workshop:  Washington DC Romance Writers

     - West Texas AMU Writers Academy (Plot Your Novel in a Week) -   West Texas AMU Writers Academy


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

                                        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  $12.99
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: