I have an MFA in English and Creative Writing. I’ve written a novel, won my class’s thesis prize and have struggled to find a way to re-approach – that is REVISE – my work. I knew, for a very long time, how to generate pages. Technically, if you’re open to drinking, all you have to do is throw back a couple of pops and voila, you’ve got pages. Bunches of them. Not that that was MY strategy, per se.
Then, I started to study screenwriting, that incredibly formulaic, rigidly structured form that Hollywood demands. I’m not talking Truffaut, here, I’m talking Nora Eprhron. I’m a little shy to admit it, to my cohorts from my grad program but – I kind of like the rules. And what’s more, it made me feel not just excited, but a little more confident to go back to the novel and make some kind of shape out of it.
Now, some folks will tell you you can’t plan art. And to them I say – tell that to Frank Lloyd Wright. Go on. Drive up to one of his buildings, noticing how they engage the environment in which they have been constructed and then, put your hand on your hip and say, “Piffle. It’s totally formulaic.”
Here is my new thought: the PLANNING process is AS CREATIVE as the EXECUTION process. So, instead of just drinking beer at your typewriter and generating long rambly scenes without much punch or verve and no real intentional structure, you could be having FUN planning your book or screenplay or short story or short film or whatever. And save the drinking of beer for when you have friends around so it doesn’t seem so gosh darn worrisome when you do it. And what’s best – your readers, who will now number in the double digits, will appreciate your new thoughtfulness and consideration of their feelings/time.
Lastly, if you haven’t checked out Alexandra Sokoloff yet, do. She’s smart, does great story breakdowns and has a boatload of strategies for the writers of fiction from the world of screenplays. And she should know, she’s a published author who has already had a career using the tools she teaches.