|Posted by kerf on October 1, 2016 at 2:55 PM||comments (0)|
It's been a while I have to say since I last wrote. Where does time go? I wish someone would tell me.
I am back to working on my book 'Let Him Hang' - I believe it's advantageous to you and your writing to cast aside something that isn't working for a while and go back fresh. Let Him Hang is a hard book to write - the story of a young man who believed his new country would look after him, the land of milk and honey no less. Yet two years of arriving he is standing in front of a judge who has just placed small black cloth on his wig and told my man he is to hang. I've rewritten it a few times coming at it from various perspectives, and still Fred is evading me. Has that happening to you?I'd like to know.
I found a great book the other day that will, I think, benefit all writers: Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot : How to Write Gripping Stories That Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats : https://www.bookdepository.com/Mastering-Suspense-Structure-and-Plot-Jane-Cleland/9781599639673 - see what yout think.
I find reading various articles on characterisation very helpful. Writing a script for screen is similar to writing books in three ways,: characters, plot and dialogue - they are everything. See: BALLS OF STEEL: Finding Character Motivation, Conflict and Compassion by: Jeanne Veillette Bowerman: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/balls-of-steel-finding-character-motivation-conflict-compassion
or this : 5 Types of Heroes Everybody Loves: http://screenwritingumagazine.com/2016/07/25/5-types-heroes-everyone-loves/?
In 5 Rewrite Strategies That Actually Work it tells you to go through your book's/ your script's storyline and dialogue and make sure it belongs to the correct principal character. Check it out : http://screenwritingumagazine.com/2016/07/12/5-rewrite-strategies-actually-work/?
One of my favourite reads has to Stephen King's book on Writing. He nails it everytime.
For dialogue there is nothing like Aaron Sorkin, of 'Social Network' and 'Newsroom' fame. His characters and dialogue are always right on the button making it a joy to watch any of his films and TV series. You can read what he has to say on writing here: http://www.slashfilm.com/aaron-sorkin-screenwriting-tips/ ; When I have time I intend to take his master class and benefit from his vast knowledge. You have to get out of your happy slippers, your comfortable jeans and frayed jumpers, and lift your backside off that well worn computer chair and go walking outside arounds towns and villages and cities and see what real people are doing, how they talk and behave. Sorkin says 'Just stick with your voice. Write as well as you can and move on.' Use your 'voice'.
His Master Class, by the way, if you want to enrol: https://www.masterclass.com/classes/aaron-sorkin-teaches-screenwriting?utm_content=1331944#/
Writing books is, I know, very different to writing scripts for TV or film but we can all learn something from various mediums. It's comforting to just sit at your desk and write, but you have to write about something you know. Listen to the tone people use in their voice, their dialect, watch how they behave in various settings, their habits. Create characters your readers will empathise with or hate, give them their own 'voice'. If something is not working for you, leave it, go and write something else or sit down with good friends and discuss why something that's irritating you in your book is not working, get their perspective. And read, read, read. Never stop doing anything that can make your writing great.
Or you can write and let me know what ails you - you never know, I might be able to help
Now... go forth and write!
|Posted by kerf on July 17, 2016 at 7:25 PM||comments (0)|
Hi everyone, after a six week spell in the UK, visiting family I am back to wintery New Zealand.
Just to let everyone know I have added Research to my services. I have papers from Massey University in Sociology, Anthropology, Human Development, History - plus I have years experience in researching backgrounds of my books. So if any of you out there need help with your research, please do contact me.
I'm now working on a novel - time travel, if you will, set in England in the Maggie Thatcher years of the 1980s in the city of Liverpool and the beginning of the Battle of Britain in an idyllic village in south east England. I'm enjoying the process and the research, which is always fascinating.
Have a brilliant day
|Posted by kerf on April 24, 2016 at 5:00 PM||comments (0)|
I love Stephen King's book on writing. He is the master, so here are eight writing strategies Stephen King shares that have helped him sell 350 million books:
1. Tell the truth.
"Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all... as long as you tell the truth... Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work... What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave."
2. Don't use big words when small ones work.
"One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up your household pet in evening clothes."
3. Use single-sentence paragraphs.
"The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story... to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.
The single-sentence paragraph more closely resembles talk than writing, and that's good. Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?"
4. Write for your Ideal Reader.
"Someone -- I can't remember who, for the life of me -- once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this.
I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, 'I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?' For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha... Call that one person you write for Ideal Reader."
5. Read a lot.
"Reading is the creative center of a writer's life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books -- of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone's favorite, the john."
6. Write one word at a time.
"In an early interview (this was to promote Carrie, I think), a radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply -- 'One word at a time'-- seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn't. In the end, it's always that simple."
7. Write every day.
"The truth is that when I'm writing, I write every day, workaholic dweeb or not. That includes Christmas, the Fourth, and my birthday (at my age you try to ignore your goddam birthday anyway)... When I'm writing, it's all the playground, and the worst three hours I ever spent there were still pretty damned good."
8. Write for the joy of it.
"Yes, I've made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it... Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side -- I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever."
|Posted by kerf on April 20, 2016 at 7:35 PM||comments (0)|
Sometimes you get stuck, your brain hits a wall and refuses to clear. This is what you should do:
Say all of your dialogue aloud to make sure it works and each character is distinguishable.
If you're stuck on a scene, close your eyes, open a completely new document, and begin free associating without thinking about the words you are typing.
Start writing and reward yourself with snacks after a set period of time.
Set a deadline.
Create an argument between characters if a scene feels flat and contains a lot of exposition.
Get up out of your chair and go do anything else and come back to it.
Instead of watching a movie, listen to it, what people are saying if you are having trouble with dialogue.
Transcribe a few well-written books to get a feel for the writing if you are struggling. It's a technique F. Scott Fitzgerald used with Charles Dickens novels.
Altered states can help free your mind. If you're the clean-living, non-alcoholic type, going for a run or meditating can produce the same effect.
Unplug your internet.
Do anything that makes you extremely uncomfortable, like taking your laptop into the freezing cold or writing immediately when you wake up without doing anything else.
If you already know how it's going to end, don't finish a scene from the night before so that you can get your creativity flowing the next day and push right into the next scene.
Make a collage of photos that relate to your story or resonate with you in some way.
Put your manuscript away and don't read it for two weeks after finishing the first draft.
If you're having trouble envisioning a character, imagine a famous actor in the role and write for that person.
Adopt a different writing persona by pretending you are someone else while writing. This will help you approach problems in a different way than you yourself normally would.
Good luck with your project
|Posted by kerf on March 14, 2016 at 3:55 PM||comments (0)|
How To Keep Writing Even When You Feel Like a Fraud
It’s ok to admit it.
When you think about writing, vicious thoughts may pop into your head:
“Why would anyone listen to what I have to say?”
“I don’t have what it takes to do this.”
“Everyone can see that I don’t know what I’m doing,”
So you don’t publish as often as you should. You agonize over every word, comma and example.
You procrastinate sitting down and actually doing the work.
The official name for this is Impostor Syndrome. It’s when high-achieving individuals struggle to own their accomplishments, and have a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.
If this is you, you’re not alone.
Great writers including Maya Angelou, Seth Godin, and Tina Fey, have all felt like frauds—impostors.
But inspite of these feelings, their careers have thrived.
And if you approach your impostor feelings the right way, you too can keep writing successfully.
Why writers commonly experience Impostor Syndrome
In her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Dr. Valerie Young underlines the importance of understanding why you often feel like a fraud:
“When you have an ‘impostor moment,’ it’s tremendously helpful to understand the possible reasons behind it. That’s because when you shift away from the personal, it allows you to put your responses into perspective more quickly. It’s the difference between thinking ‘Yikes, what an incompetent fraud I am!’ and knowing ‘It makes perfect sense that I’d feel like a fraud. Under the circumstances, who wouldn’t?’”
Over more than twenty years of research, she has identified common reasons why people experience impostor feelings.
#1. You were raised by humans
Our upbringing influences many of our quirks and personality traits.
If your parents pushed you to get all A’s or didn’t praise you on a regular basis, it may have triggered certain behaviors and feelings as an adult.
It can make you a perfectionist; constantly pursuing approval from others, and having a difficult time owning your success.
#2. You work alone
When you don’t have others off whom to bounce ideas, it can be easy to second-guess yourself.
This, combined with not always having clear performance standards or anyone to give you feedback or positive reinforcement, makes it easy to lose perspective and succumb to negative thinking.
#3. You work in a creative field
It’s scary putting your work out in the world. When others can see and make judgments about work that cost you blood, sweat, and tears, it’s understandable why feelings of inadequacy may pop up.
Joanna Weibe, the founder of Copy Hackers, is an in-demand conversion copywriter and conference speaker whose ebooks have sold more than 50,000 copies. But she still struggles with not feeling good enough. Joanna expressed her thoughts about it this way:
“I’m most limited by my belief that I’m not good enough. It stays strong no matter what I accomplish. When I finish a talk at a conference, I beat myself up for days or weeks afterward—so badly that I have to take a sleeping pill for the week following the event… I’m so certain of the inevitability of my failures—large and microscopic—that I don’t even like to schedule a newsletter to go out if I’m not sitting at my desk when it does… because what if a link is broken? What if there’s a typo? Ridiculousness… The more you put yourself out there and the more public you get, the more vulnerable you make yourself to the opinions of others. If I let that crap traumatize me, I’d never do or say anything again.”
How to cope with impostor feelings
If you’ve experienced impostor feelings during your writing career, you’ll recognize one or more of the following coping mechanisms people use to deal with it.
While these coping mechanisms can help protect you from feeling like a fraud, they come at a price. And if you aren’t careful, that price could negatively impact your career.
Have you ever found yourself researching an article or subject well beyond what others would consider wise?
If so, you may be guilty of over-preparing to prove your capabilities. While hard work is necessary for success, going too far in preparing for an assignment could be detrimental to your output.
As Dr. Young notes, “Such behavior is driven by the belief that the only reason you’re successful is because of your Herculean effort. So every aspect of your work is approached as if it were crucial.”
#2. Holding back
Are you guilty of not bidding for jobs, being slow to pitch guest posts, or deferring work on your book until you feel more “ready?” If so, holding back may be your coping mechanism of choice.
Dr. Young cites this common rationalization for taking this approach:
“It’s far less painful not to try than to expose yourself to others’ judgment of your work and risk falling short. Plus, if you never really give it your best shot, you can always claim (if only to yourself) that you could have been a great writer, artist, leader, or lawyer—that is, if you’d really tried.”
Do you put off your writing until the last minute? Do you find yourself doing every possible task to avoid putting your butt in the chair to get your work done?
If so, procrastination is what you’re using to avoid exposing yourself. You prefer to delay, until the last minute, the anxiety that comes with putting your work out there.
#4. Never finishing
Do you have several half-written blog posts or the draft of a book collecting dust on your hard drive?
When you can say you are “still working” on your masterpiece, you can save yourself from others being able to judge it.
How to keep writing despite feeling like a fraud
Follow the proven path of these successful writers, to prevent impostor feelings robbing you of your potential.
Here’s what Maya Angelou said about feeling like a fraud:
“I’ve written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
And Seth Godin:
“I feel like a fraud as I read you this, as I brush my teeth, and every time I go on stage. This is part of the human condition. Accept it. Now what?”
And Tina Fey:
“Ah, the impostor syndrome!? The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud. Seriously, I’ve just realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”
The common theme is that they feel these feelings, but keep shipping in spite of it.
Maya Angelou felt like a fraud, but she still published eleven books, and many plays, poems and essays.
Seth Godin feels like a fraud, but he’s written eighteen books, and publishes a blog post every day.
Tina Fey feels like a fraud, but she written a book, movies, and television shows including Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.
If you want to thrive as a writer, you must keep writing and publishing—no matter how you feel.
#2. Assemble a posse
Don’t make your writing journey alone. Engage often with other writers and creative people.
Express your feelings, and share the projects you’re working on. Kyle Eschenroeder of Startup Bros recommends you find at least one person to say “I feel like a fraud” to. That simple admission defangs the feelings and robs them of their power.
Your crew can give you moral support and feedback to help you along with your work. They can also hold you accountable, and knock some sense into you, should they notice you’re letting impostor feelings get the better of you.
#3. Make yourself bulletproof
If you want to succeed as a writer, you’ve got to write.
How others respond to your art should have no impact on how you view yourself or your work. You’ve got to put your focus on the work, and divorce yourself from the outcome of it.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the famous author of Eat, Pray, Love, provided some wonderful advice on how she did it:
“So after the weird, disorienting success that I went through with Eat, Pray, Love, I realized that all I had to do was exactly the same thing that I used to have to do all the time when I was an equally disoriented failure. I had to get my ass back to work, and that’s what I did, and that’s how, in 2010, I was able to publish the dreaded follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love.
And you know what happened with that book? It bombed, and I was fine. Actually, I kind of felt bulletproof, because I knew that I had broken the spell and I had found my way back home to writing for the sheer devotion of it. And I stayed in my home of writing after that, and I wrote another book that just came out last year and that one was really beautifully received, which is very nice, but not my point.
My point is that I’m writing another one now, and I’ll write another book after that and another and another and another and many of them will fail, and some of them might succeed, but I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live.”
You are not a fraud…
… But if you let impostor feelings prevent you from writing, then the vicious voice of your inner critic will win. Your feelings will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because if feeling like a fraud prevents you from writing, then you are not a writer.
Writers write. They publish.
And they do it again and again.
No matter how they feel.
So the next time those impostor feelings show up, say hello, acknowledge them, and then – keep writing.
Because you have something to say. And the world needs to hear it.
|Posted by kerf on March 7, 2016 at 8:45 PM||comments (0)|
Storytelling: Art or Science?
A novel may have 100,000 moving parts that combine in a structured manner, so perhaps we should look at storytelling as both artful and something driven by natural laws (another name for science!).
Which natural laws, you ask?
Laws regarding what compels us, what moves us, what holds reader interest, and what constitutes drama versus the static imagery and analysis of a still photograph.
If you accept that understanding readers lies at the core of what makes an idea interesting, then you’ve signed up for the science of writing novels.
But which brand of human-or literary science is this, and how do we apply its principles to storytelling and writing success?
How do we make our novels work?
When we read a novel, we have no idea how the author got there, how the words actually reached the page in the order they did.
And so, using a sea of craft textbooks, workshops, online forums and word-of-mouth resources, we are mostly on our own to determine how the novel we are writing will actually get written.
And here is where the room divides.
Twice, in fact.
Because there are actually two conversations where writing a novel is concerned. Two realms of knowledge the writer will experience, because both are unavoidable.
The first is the story development and writing process.
Process, at one end, could be a detailed outline (which can take many forms, none of which is an actual draft) that identifies each scene in context or goes all the way to a full awareness of the entirety of the story’s character and dramatic arcs.
The other end of the process continuum is the absence of any specific awareness of the forthcoming story, a void from which the author embarks on a draft seeking to discover the story’s beats and arcs, and even the ending, as they go along.
The former is a story planner or plotter. The latter is an organic writer, or pantser (from the term seat of the pants).
Most writers eventually do some form of both (even as they lean strongly towards one), a writer’s place on the continuum may vary from project to project.
The liberating news is that neither is right or wrong… because of the other realm that you will face eventually.
Again, that first realm, planner or panstser, is one’s process.
The second realm of the writing experience is an objective assessment of how well the process works from the reader’s perspective.
The first is like interviewing for a job. The second is whether or not you get the job.
This second realm is how the story ends up playing out across its pages. It consists of benchmarks, standards, editorial and reader reviews and the metric of market performance itself, beginning with whether a novel lands an agent or a publisher—or not.
The good news is that there are specific elements, sequences and criteria for all this, the sum of which forms the core of what is known as the craft of writing a novel.
Be clear: your process is not your craft.
Your process is the pursuit of craft. When your process gets you there, and the story is judged competent, it works. And vice versa.
Because there are so many valid ways to write a competent story, your process is not story engineering. Rather, it is the collective menu of natural laws and literary devices that are at your disposal, and how you apply them to the job, be you planner or pantser.
In other words, what you write, and why. The sum of those essences and elements is your own personal version of story engineering.
Process–any process–makes no guarantees.
Putting 80,000 words on paper, with a bare minimum of engineering–a beginning, middle and end–does not mean the story will work. Indeed, if that’s all you believe is involved, success will set a very high bar.
Too many writers, however, believe their process is all the engineering that’s required. They neglect the raw qualitative grist that will render the process effective.
Your process isn’t the thing that gives you access to those qualitative criteria and tools.
There are as many successful organic make-it-up-as-you-go novelists as there are ardent story planners, and neither can lay claim to a “this is how it’s done” winner.
A seductive trap awaits the new writer here. Because when you hear a famous keynote speaker at a conference say something like “I can’t wait to get to my office every morning to see what my characters will do today,” it’s easy to think you’ve just heard the Holy Grail of storytelling, the golden key to your own optimal process.
Certainly what works for Stephen King does indeed work… for Stephen King. That and only that is beyond debate. Unless you are Stephen King, with his experience and innate story sensibilities. Even then, his process may or may not be your best choice. Truth be known, while King is the most famous pantser on the planet, his first drafts are very much like the evolved outline of many a successful story planner.
Choose your process wrong, though, and you distance yourself from the second realm: story engineering that will make your story work.
Whatever gets you there is the best process, because that’s your best shot at optimizing the requisite engineering of a story.
It shouldn’t be about which is more fun or which feels more flexible and creative in the moment. An outline is every bit as pliable in the writing moment as no outline, and only someone who hasn’t tried it can claim otherwise. Even then, they speak only for themselves; it’s not the deciding vote on which process is best for everyone.
Thus, the enlightened writer looks beyond process to understand the true nature of form and function.
And that is what makes such a writer a story engineer.
A lack of this understanding is why so many new writers too often write themselves into a corner or need a dozen drafts to reach a professionally high bar.
The more you know about story craft, the better your process will be. You’ll likely use some of both approaches along the way. And you’ll need fewer drafts to get there.
But what is this engineering?
Story Engineering: The True Nature of Form and Function
We live and work in a largely genre-driven world. Each genre has its own expectations about the nature of the story world, the role of both hero and villain, and the depth and flavor of dramatic tension that form the essence of a story.
Even literary fiction benefits from engineering versus random tinkering. Because like genre fiction, literary fiction writers also deliver stories about not just a protagonist, but a protagonist with something to do, a problem or need or situation that demands a response, driven by stakes and potential consequences (motivation and risks), and in the face of some form of active opposition (antagonism).
These are natural forces of dramatic fiction. Your process doesn’t excuse you from them; in a perfect world, it brings you closer to them.
These elements are rarely in dispute. What is more often the subject of debate is the nature, place and pace with which these elements are introduced into a story, and how they evolve over the arc of the narrative to optimize the reading experience in terms of emotional resonance, empathy, and the rise and fall of dramatic tension.
And that’s where the truest form of story engineering comes into play. It’s called story structure, and while it thankfully remains a fluid and flexible author obligation, it is also built upon a core sequential flow that looks pretty much the same every time.
It’s like gravity, that way–a force you can harness, or if not, it can make you crash and burn. It doesn’t care what you call it, it just is.
This flow is the starting point to an understanding of story structure, and therefore, writing success.
It is more than just beginning, middle and end. Overlaying that obvious hopscotch blueprint is a more precise model for the unspooling of a story.
Basic story engineering gives us a four-part story flow which, when stated, won’t surprise you because of its natural, organic obviousness.
Yet it remains the most commonly fumbled aspect of storytelling among authors who haven’t yet developed a story sensibility to know the length and contextual mission of the four parts themselves.
Story Structure: The Four-Part Flow
Here then, is story engineering 101, expressed as the contextual mission of four roughly equal segments of a story.
Every scene within these four segments is driven by a mission that aligns with that context, which is that the hero needs to work for their desired outcome, they can’t succeed too soon or too easily, and the motivation and consequences that drive the progression of it all need to be artfully introduced and spooled out as part of the dramatic reveal.
It looks like this, in roughly equal quartile lengths:
Introduce your hero in pursuit of a goal, present a story world (time, place, culture, natural law), inject stakes and set up the mechanics of an impending launch of (or twist to) the plot (your core dramatic arc). This is what your hero will spend the rest of the story investigating, pursuing and wrestling with.
After the setup, the story needs to launch (this is the First Plot Point) and then settle into a lane that shows your hero responding to a new or altered path with stakes in play and some form of obstacle (antagonism) causing the hero to react to something they may not understand (pursue more knowledge). Or if they do, they need to deal with it in a way that keeps their ultimate goal on their horizon.
If the hero is too heroic too soon, there isn’t much drama for the reader to engage with, so we wait until this third quartile to show our hero evolve from a seeker/wanderer/responder to become a more proactive attacker of their problem or goal, both relative to the goal itself and the presence of an equally-evolving obstacle (a villain, storm, disease, approaching deadly meteor, or whatever is the source of tension and drama in the story), moving closer to a showdown and some form of…
This is where all the moving parts of your story converge to put your hero face to face with their goal, and whatever blocks their path to getting what they need to get.
If this smacks of formula, ask yourself when was the last time you read a genre novel that didn’t play out like this, to some degree.
Nearly every published (and successfully self-published) novel today aligns with this four-part flow to a significant and usually obvious degree—something you can test yourself, now that there are labels and missions attached to the four parts.
Like athletes playing on an identical-sized field within their sport, or painters having only the borders of a canvas to work within, or sculptors having only so much marble or clay to work with, genius and creative freshness is measured on what does fit within the parameters of this model.
There are, of course, other story engineering tools on the writer’s craft bench, all fueling the author’s conceptual appeal, dramatic tension, hero empathy and dramatic tension with understandable, reachable, and predictable paths and outcomes.
If you are a beginning novelist, this four-part structure flow–the story engineering model–will never steer you wrong; you’ll have the opportunity to see your narrative soar and achieve writing success.
Pablo Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” This is exactly the lane in which story engineering puts you, once you align with these principles.
You no longer have to guess what goes where, and why.
It’s still on you to conjure up the grist–from the original idea, concept and premise, to the specific story turns and twists. But they now have a place waiting for them to land.
Read this article and others on Write to Done: http://writetodone.com/writing-success/?inf_contact_key=c2ac89a7c7bba636b2a114687e5552a23dc99b65e32e1e13ccc7d62bf01e12a6
|Posted by kerf on February 12, 2016 at 6:15 PM||comments (0)|
Optimizing Your Work Station for Health and Productivity (infographic)
Check out some good advice - stop that RSI, bad backs, sore wrists:
|Posted by kerf on February 8, 2016 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
I thought this was an interesting article - its about passion, about loving what you do and being able to let go of your doubts, your insecurities, about your writing - and JUST GO FOR IT!
Check out the songs 'Black Parade' and 'Famous Last Words' on Youtube
Kevin T. Johns, writing coach
37 Flowertree Cres.
Ottawa ON K2M2R8
In late 2006, the rock band My Chemical Romance and director Samuel Bayer set out to record two music videos back-to-back. By the end of the shoot drummer Bob Bryar would have second degree burns on his body, lead singer Gerard Way would be hospitalized with torn muscles in his legs, and one of the greatest music videos in history had been created.
The first video shot that day was “Welcome to the Black Parade”, the centerpiece of the band’s new concept album, and a massive production. Drawing from the aesthetics of German expressionist cinema of the 1920's, the video tells the story of a man who dies from cancer and is escorted to the afterlife via a parade of death.
The pedigree that director Samuel Bayer brought to the production, having worked with the likes of Nirvana and Green Day, was undeniable, and costumes for the shoot were produced by Academy Award winning designer Colleen Atwood.
By all accounts the resulting big budget high concept music video was a total success, with over 40 million YouTube views. Front-man Gerard Way described it as a perfect visual representation of The Black Parade album as a whole.
The second video of the shoot was for the song “Famous Last Words”. The concept – meant to maximize the double shoot’s budget by re-purposing sets and costumes from the “Black Parade” – was simple: the band would perform the song while surrounded by flames.
“Famous Last Words”, in essence, is a performance video, with little more than the flames and costumes to augment the musicians. And yet the “Famous Last Words” video surpasses “Black Parade” on virtually all levels, and has now reached over 75 millions views on YouTube.
The band begins the video already in a state of frenzied passion, and, throughout the course of the song, the energy and intensity continually grows until it seems as though total annihilation of the performers is inevitable. There are moments when the viewer witnesses the performers’ shoulders heaving up and down as they gasp to bring the burning air into their lungs.
The passion of the lyrics and music, combined with the evident anger, desperation, exhaustion, and deterioration of the band over the course of the song merge to produce an utterly unforgettable and emotionally visceral viewing experience.
When I learned Way and Bayer were seriously injured while making the video, I was not the least bit surprised. The video screams danger at every turn.
There is an authenticity to the performance, the lyrics, and the music. It’s that raw and passionate authenticity that makes “Famous Last Words” one of the greatest music videos ever made.
Too many writers strive to create the “Welcome to the Black Parade” video with the words. They want perfect prose. They want massive production value. They want award-winning collaborators and an aesthetic that demonstrates how smart they are by paying homage to well-respected niche high art productions of the past.
Forget perfection. Rejection the past. Give up on proving to everyone how clever you are.
What I want you to do is create YOUR version of “Famous Last Words”.
When I read your writing, I don’t want high production value.
What I want authenticity. I want PASSION and I want DANGER.
I want writers who are willing to get burned while creating their art.
My Chemical Romance were up for the challenge. Are you?
Kevin T. Johns, writing coach
|Posted by kerf on December 11, 2015 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
The blank page on the computer stares a hole into your soul, haunting you.
Perhaps you’re writing your first book, and are terrified it’ll flop.
Dismal sales. Indifferent reviews. Crickets on social media.
The fear of pouring your heart into a book and watching it go nowhere stops you dead in your tracks.
The brutal truth is that thousands of books are published every year, and nearly all of them get lost in the noise.
Does that make you wonder if the idea of writing a book is a big fat waste of time?
Not if you have the right system…
The system that worked for me when my book Free Your Fear–Making the Leap to Six Figures became a bestseller in two different categories on Amazon.
If you follow the 10 steps outlined below, you’ll have a fighting shot at how to publish a book that’s a smash hit.
BEFORE YOU START WRITING
#1. Pick Your Topic
This is no time for blindly throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. Be scientific about uncovering a topic that people truly care about.
Head over to Amazon and run searches on a few topics you’re passionate about. Keep your eyes peeled for keywords and themes that pop up repeatedly.
What’s been written? What’s succeeded? What’s fallen flat? If you want your book to make a splash, your best bet is to choose a topic that sits at the intersection of:
Your strong interest or experience, and
What readers want to learn
For example, in the past few years, people have been thronging to learn how to build tiny houses. Weird? Maybe. But hey, popular is popular.
And popular means people buying books on the subject.
So if you have expertise in this area, or interest in learning enough about it to write a book, congratulations! You’ve found your topic.
Take verbatim notes on the reviews. Readers will tell you—in their own words—what they want, as well as what they don’t.
Trust your gut when choosing a topic. If it’s popular and personally compelling, you’ve got a winner.
When you pick a topic that resonates with both author and reader, your writing will ooze energy and passion.
#2. Become a Mind Reader
You’ve zeroed in on your topic.
Go back to your Amazon notes. What powerful words and phrases cropped up throughout the reviews? This stuff is a copywriter’s (or author’s) fantasy!
For instance, certain phrases crop up repeatedly in the reviews on a bestselling book on tiny houses and the minimalist lifestyle.
buy less stuff
feel weighed down by things
value experiences over possessions
simplify your life
get rid of clutter
value experiences and memories
more time and money to travel
You’ve got phrases verbatim from your target readers. Pepper them liberally throughout your book and your marketing.
With a hypnotic opening that echoes the thoughts and feelings of your ideal reader, you’ve begun the seduction process. Your reader falls under the spell of your powerful words. They’ll nod their head and feel deeply understood.
This is why the reviews from Amazon are nothing short of a goldmine.
#3. Stand Out from the Noise
Let’s assume the tiny house niche has a lot of competition. This is great.
Because if there are many books on your topic, it means there is a horde of readers waiting to read your book.
How do you stand head and shoulders above the noise?
Easy. Ask yourself: what’s controversial about tiny houses?
Is a tiny house only about saving money? Perhaps it’s more a statement of independence. Maybe it’s about bucking the norm, pulling up stakes and going off the grid.
Find the unorthodox idea, technique or philosophy nobody else is exploring.
When you find that new angle, put it unabashedly front and center.
STRUCTURING & OUTLINING
#4. Unleash Your Creative Genius
Here comes the fun part. Write whatever comes into your head. Get a little crazy. Heck, get very crazy. Let the writing flow.
Pour ice water on your internal critic.
Watch as new, unexpected ideas and connections come gushing out.
Some writers use mind-mapping software. Here’s one I created using the free MindMup.com software:
Others swear by a whiteboard. Some love word association. I love grabbing an old-school yellow legal pad. Choose whatever you’re most comfortable with.
The medium isn’t important. The creative ideas you unearth are.
With all your ideas collected in one place, you’re ready to build the scaffolding for your book.
#5. Bring Order to Chaos
You’ve got a pile of ideas about tiny houses, but you need to find a cohesive thread. Do any points or concepts group together logically?
Think from the perspective of your reader. They’re reading your book to learn something about tiny houses. Your book needs to teach them to crawl before they can walk or run.
Begin at the beginning and take one step at a time.
Here’s what an example outline might look like:
History of Tiny Houses
Cultural Values Shift
The Big “Why”
More Experiences, Less Stuff
Getting Started & Tips
Setting a Budget
How They Did It
Where Are They Now?
Tips From the Pros
This is only a partial example. The point is that your ideas will begin to form a logical, orderly structure, the backbone for a successful outline.
Finally, you must learn, in the words of Stephen King, to “kill your darlings.” Your darlings are ideas and sections that seem intriguing at first blush but don’t gel with the theme of the book.
Cut them ruthlessly.
When you cut the deadweight, your outline truly starts to come to life.
WRITING THE BOOK:
#6. Research, Research, Research
With your mind-map and structured outline, you have a focused research blueprint.
Now’s the time to research the technical data and facts. You’ll save loads of time by avoiding research dead-ends that have nothing to do with your book.
The facts, statistics and concrete examples you dig up are what will give your book a boost of authority.
And authority is what sets bestselling books apart.
#7. Seduce with Stories
When you’re writing to teach and inspire, you’d better bring some storytelling chops.
Because before reading and writing came along, stories were the tools our ancestors used to impart their knowledge, inspiration and wisdom.
Use one of the following storytelling techniques.
An example from your own life. Have you made the switch to a tiny house? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
Interview / quote an expert. You don’t need a formal interview. Even quoting someone with in-depth knowledge of tiny houses is enough. The more experience and expertise they have, the more credible you’ll look.
Remember, success stories are always in fashion.
#8. Win Hearts and Minds
This is where wannabe authors fall flat on their faces.
When we put our work out there, we want everyone to love us and shower us with praise.
But let’s get real. Tiny houses aren’t for everyone.
If you take a strong stance, you’ll polarize people. Accept this fact of life. On the other hand, if you tiptoe around controversy, you’ll slaughter your chances of success.
Readers fall in love with writers who have opinions and the guts to stand by them.
Will some readers dislike what you say? Of course!
But this also means that your tiny house book will resonate more strongly with the right audience. These are the readers who will champion your ideas.
Here are a few examples of books written in an unapologetic tone.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
The End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson
The Power of No by James Altucher
#9. Find a Ruthless Editor
Most people are too damn nice.
They don’t want to hurt your feelings. They tell you your writing is brilliant when it’s a pile of garbage.
They do this because they like you. Nobody, save sociopaths, enjoys hurting someone’s feelings.
But there’s a time for relationships and a time for business. (Tip: Your friends and family are fired as editors.)
Writing a book is serious business.
Your editor will help polish rough and rambling words into a sparkling, cohesive piece of prose that leaps off the page and sucks readers in.
A great editor will bring tough love in spades. More importantly, you’ll love them for it.
The editor you hire will ideally:
Have a portfolio of edited books.
Have a clear idea of what your book is trying to achieve.
Give dispassionate feedback.
Improve the grammar, flow, clarity, and cohesion of your ideas.
Not be afraid to call you out when your work isn’t up to par.
So go on and pony up the cash to hire an editor who won’t sugarcoat the truth.
#10. Become a PR Powerhouse
It’s a sin to leave marketing to chance. Without attention, even great ideas die.
“If you build it, they will come” makes for a memorable quote, but it’s a recipe for disaster when publishing your book.
You might wonder how you’ll compete with established authors, and publishers with huge marketing budgets and distribution networks.
Thanks to the explosion of digital publishing, the playing field has been forever altered in your favor.
Sure, authors with a track record of success still get hefty advances from behemoth New York publishing houses.
But as an upcoming writer, you have an arsenal of marketing tools at your fingertips.
You’ll find marketing and promotion tactics in Part 2 of this series, but the starting point is this: You must begin to think like a publisher.
How to Write a Blockbuster: What’s Next?
You now know (nearly) everything I have learned about the process of writing a bestselling book.
But all the tips, tricks and inspirational quotes in the world won’t help you—unless you commit to doing the hard work.
The only silver bullet out there is your determination to take consistent action, even if it’s imperfect.
Are you up to the challenge?
Believe me, small, daily actions will obliterate your feelings of confusion, overwhelm and fear.
Each step builds on the last. Trust the process, stay in motion and watch as your momentum, confidence and wins pile up.
If you show up, I promise that the results will come.
Imagine the sense of pride you’ll feel when you can call yourself a bestselling author.
I’m rooting for you. And so are your readers.
Now get to work, and create something incredible.
|Posted by kerf on December 2, 2015 at 12:50 AM||comments (0)|