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!


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


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




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 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: