Staying on task. . .

The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.

― John Foster Dulles

So last time I talked about focus, but this week I want to know if you’re making any forward progress?

Do you realize that progress is forward movement? Movement is not measured in anything other than motion.  Is it forward motion?  Do you know more today than you knew yesterday?  Do you have more words today than yesterday?  Do you have more character?  More plot?  More twists?  More turns?  More new developments?

In this day and age where big time NY publishers want stories with “more”, now is the time to find more for your story.  Bigger books doesn’t mean longer pages or higher word count, but more intensity.

In other words, more story.  Character driven stories, peopled with people we care about.  For those of you who feel like you tell the same story over again, this is a serious message for you.

Readers want more.

Last years high concept has become the girl next door with a more pressing problem.  More personal loss, or gain.  Something we can care about .  A lot.  Characters more driven to achieve the goal set for them in this story.

In other words, don’t hold back.  Make sure you finish your story without thinking this detail of the story will take me into the next book.

Readers want to know the story you have to tell and when they plunk down hard-earned cash for your book they want it all.  Not 85%.  When they buy your book this time, they’re interested in this time.  Not the next book.

So tell me, really. . .  are you staying on task?  And giving the reader what they deserve?  The whole intense personal story, the first time you tell it?

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Getting it right

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

– Robert H. Schuller

For most writers, it would be, the great American novel.  The truth of the matter is, you’re probably writing the great American novel right now, and it’s your story. Furthermore, no one can tell the story the way you do, or will.  If you just sit down and write the darn thing!

Sometimes, whether we’re beginners or seasoned veterans we find ourselves in a position where we are afraid to write, not just this story, but sometimes any story.  We use all the tired excuses provided for us by the the people who occupy space in our lives because they want to help us be safe, and avoid the risks and pitfalls that will cause us distress.

These people don’t want us to be “hurt” by judgements or criticism or any negative feedback at all.  They often fail to realized that we learn and grow through every part of our lives, and trying new things and not being perfect, is how we acquire new  skills and discover new talents.  We have to earn the right to be considered an expert.  We need to stretch in order to make the most of the gifts we have been given and to learn new things.  Growth is often painful and usually worth the pain involved.

So I ask myself , do you try new things even though they may not work out?  And is the trial a waste of time or a valuable learning experiencing?

Usually it’s a little bit of both.  Time isn’t wasted if you’ve learned anything new, anything useful.  Even if you learn what you’re not good at.  And sometimes you hit a vein of gold when you dig deep to learn new things.  You discover within yourself a core of useful talent that can carry you through the toughest times, and which will ring true now and forever in the story you choose to tell.

So ask yourself, is it worth it to put yourself out there for world to see and let them judge you no matter what happens, or is it better to be safe, and hide behind the shield of unsupportive friends who don’t want you to suffer, not even for your art.

Or will you be brave and attempt new things even if you might fail?

Movie Mondays

We’re a fairly visual household here in Texas, not because seeing is believing, but because we love the movies.  Not just the new movies, but also the classics.  The old black and white Thin Man and Charlie Chan series leap to mind as some of our favorites.  I am particularly fond of the movies because I love the stories.  Not just the drama—as the allegedly successful parent of two grown men— I aspire to a drama free life these days, but not when I go to the movies.

I love the Romance and the Comedy, and especially the Romantic Comedy.  I would be hard pressed to choose a one because I have so many favorites.  Classic movies like Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion are among my top picks.  Little Women, the old and the new can each bring me to tears.  But I also like to laugh, so I’d have to say that a love story with a little comedy can bring those tears into laughter and even if the Happily Ever After isn’t strictly delivered, such as in the Devil Wears Prada –or when it is–In Her Shoes–I’m equally happy.

There is no substitute for a story that takes us from laughter to tears and then to the big “Aha” moment, like 50 First Dates.

So why do writers invest so much time in a visual medium?  Because of story.

That’s correct, it’s all about the story.

When every good writer is learning his (or her) craft, they’re instructed to “jump right in”  and “get those characters out the door”, often referred to as in media res.

People who know the craft and provide us with stories we want to experience again and again know we’ve invested in the characters and so we care deeply about what will happen to them.

So, do tell.  What is your favorite story?  Please share your thoughts and tell me why your pick made you laugh or made you cry or why it simply makes you want to experience the feelings again and again.  Oh, and don’t forget to pass the popcorn!