I’ve been off the ‘Net for a few days, wrestling with a fast-moving rhinovirus variant that took me down pretty hard for a couple of days, but is backing off pretty quick too.
Not as quick as it came on, of course, but it’s been reasonably short-lived.
So today’s my first day back at work after a couple of “vacation” days…if you can call ’em that when you’re sick.
Being sick while on vacation is like a verse out of an Alanis Morissett song. So it’s only marginally better than being at work.
As it happened, the time down gave me opportunity to read. And I’ve had this bunch o’ craft books on the art and business of writing from StoryBundle.com for a little while, but only got to a few books. I figured I’d never read most of ’em, but what the heck? Turned out to be about a buck a book, all told.
So while I was down, my writing hero Dean Wesley Smith did a quick blog post on how to learn from writing craft books. Seems like it ought to be pretty straightforward – read the book, learn something.
Thing is, that’s not the way I learn. Fact is, that’s not the way most people learn, and it’s not the best way to get information out of a book.
Every once in a while, some book or other will come along and gobsmacks you. You read the whole thing in a single sitting, devouring every detail, absorbing the information and then coming up with stories and ideas just to put the new information into practice.
I felt this way when I finally, finally found someone who could help me figure out a way to make sense of the three-act story structure model. I have no idea why it made no sense to me, but when I found Larry Brooks’s explanation of it – using a model Sid Field developed for screenwriting – so many light bulbs came on I couldn’t get a new idea fast enough. So I used an existing one instead, hit my milestones, and wrote a novel.
The same thing sort of happened to me when I learned about the Hero’s Journey model. I came up with the bright idea to map one of my ideas onto that template. Ended up writing a fifteen page mini-treatment of it. Similar deal with Dramatica story theory – when I learned about it, I couldn’t stop doing it. No writing, but lots of outlines of existing ideas.
I was gobsmacked, but didn’t write anything, over David Baboulene‘s Story Book too. Eye-opening, but never so much as now.
This time around it’s been Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith and Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys. It’s your basic seven-part story format, so you can still flop an idea down on it and it will help you map a story. Then you can write – just write, without an outline, without a story map, with only the beginning ideas of a story – and if you need to fix the issues you find, should you find them, you can. Using the basics of story structure as what they’re meant to be: Diagnostic tools.
It works so much better than trying to populate a framework or template, and if you can keep it fresh for you, the writer, you can bet the reader will be kept on their toes too. Also, no formulaic stuff happens, because you don’t populate a template which encourages that sort of thing.
Anyway, I was going over a book which speaks about ways to get unstuck when you’re stuck in writing, and one of the methods involves looking at the destination. Sometimes the destination is the end of the book; i.e., the story destination. Other times, it might mean just figuring out the destination of the scene. What has to happen to get it there? That’s what you write next.
And with all this swirling and jumbling in my head, images began to form. Images of scenes from my Spectral Analysis universe, but some from other places and people too. It was strange.
The one I didn’t get any ideas for was my Scales of Justice universe. I’ve got the beginning of a sequel, but man alive, it’s been hard to get anything going on that. Or, to be honest, on anything at all.
So anyway, I took it as a good sign. When I start “seeing” the scenes, “movies” as I call them, in my head, it’s usually close to coming out through my fingers. I’m not sure what will come next, but I’ll be glad if it’s anything at this point. Novel, novella, short story – I’ll take it.
But for now, I’m still trying to get better. I’m dog-tired right now, but have about three more hours of faking it I have to do before I can call it a night.
How was your weekend? Everyone out there okay?
See ya next time.