Monday, July 16, 2012

22 Rules of Storytelling, Part Three

I thought I'd scheduled this post! I've been hunkered down revising and am almost finished with this draft, so I haven't been coming up for air very often. Soooo, here's today's post--apologies for the lateness...

Last week, I went over the plot-related items from Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. Today, I want to focus on the rules related to revision.

Rule #2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
Losing your audience is the kiss of death. That’s the first step in losing your fan base, which will end up killing your career. That’s not to say you have to always write for your audience, just that you have to keep them in mind as you write. You can still do what’s fun as a writer, and you can take time to explore fun stuff for yourself in exercises and such. But in your finished work, don’t forget about the audience.

Rule #3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
You might still have the same theme when you reach the end of your story, but it should at least have more depth. And, you should have some sub-themes to go with it. If you don’t, then you missed some key exploring points along the way. Even the best planners can’t see everything from the start. Explore your story in great depths—you’ll be surprised at what it can become.

Rule #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
YES. Streamlining doesn’t make your story boring. It makes it easier for the reader to follow what’s going on. You can still have lots of depth and a complicated plot, but don’t bog your story down with the unnecessary.

Rule #8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
It’s easier to revise than it is to write perfectly the first time. The perfectionist in your head will always point out mistakes and shortcomings, and you will never finish. Give yourself permission to write crap and you’ll get farther, faster.

Rule #11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
Exactly! It can be scary to write that first draft, especially for new writers. If it helps, then don’t tell anyone what you’re writing, and write with the intent that you’re the only person who will ever read it. It’s okay if it’s crap (see above rule), because you can go through and revise to make it better. Then, you can find a few trusted individuals to share it with.

Rule #12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
More brainstorming! Brainstorming is a writer’s best friend. It’s a really useful tool for truly exploring your story and seeing where it can go (see rule #3). If you do it right, your story and your characters will surprise you—and your reader will be surprised as a result. If you can’t surprise yourself, you won’t be able to surprise your reader.

Rule #17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
YES. Some scenes refuse to be written the first time, and that’s okay. Make a note as to what is supposed to happen, then move on. After you’ve finished your draft, come back to it and I’m betting you’ll know how to write it.

Next week is my last post on this subject, and I’m pulling out the rules that apply to the general craft of writing. If this interests you, please stop by!


Kelly Hashway said...

I love #11 and #17. So true!

Ann Herrick said...

I think rule #3 is so true! "Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it."

Unknown said...

Number 8 has been my mantra while fastdrafting. Every time I struggle with a sentence or phrase I remind myself to get the gist of it down on paper and I can fix it later.

E. B. Walters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine Stine said...

Interms of brainstorming ideas, it's very true what you suggest about discarding the first few things that come to mind. I tell students to make lists of ideas, and inevitably it's the 6th or 9th or even later idea that is stunning.

Unknown said...

#11 and 17 are spot on. #2 is a tough one. When you're starting a series, well, you don't have an audience yet, so you write for you and you write from your heart. If you went with what's hot and what teens are into, all the books will be the same--YA genre has been accused of doing this, making all the books seem the same. They said vampires were out and no editors was interested in vamp books, yet Stephanie went ahead and revived it with her books. Also, everyone's view is subjective as seen in reviews...someone will hate what you've written and some will love it. How do you balance that? I don't know. I say write from your heart and yuor fans will stay with you.

Unknown said...

You know, #5 is my favorite. I like to cut as much as I can.