I spent four years in college learning about writing and many more years reading everything there is about it. In all that time, I’ve been frustrated by the same thing: many writers are very bad at explaining why they are successful. The best comparison I can think of is the high school math teacher who is a genius when it comes to math. He gets in front of class and zips through the problem. Because most of the process was intuitive to him, he doesn’t know what parts are difficult, where to slow down, and where to explain things in more than one way. And like the math genius, many writers who have found success have done so through brute force determination or a natural intuition for good storytelling. The end result is that they don’t even quite know why their stories work.
So my frustration has been gathering bits and pieces from gurus, none of whom seem to have a complete and no-nonsense guide to good storytelling. That brings me to my second frustration. Writers love to hear themselves talk. We can’t just say, “Do it like this.” I’m even doing it now to an extent. I feel the need to wrap a simple idea in metaphor and context. But my point is that so many writers get wrapped up in how they explain the writing process that they forget to say anything worthwhile.
Despite having read almost all the books on writing out there, I never gained more then a momentary sense of inspiration. Sometimes I felt that I was gaining fragments on the real answer, but never the whole thing. Eventually I decided the only way to find the answer to the secret formula would be to meticulously pour through book after book, noting similarities—pulling them apart to find out what made them tick. But no writing guides out there wanted to make it simple. No one wanted to strip away all the fluff and get to the core of it. At least I thought so until a few days ago.
Before I go any further, for the sake of full disclosure, I want to point out that this this is an Amazon Associates link. If you plan to buy the book after reading my synopsis, you can use the link to jump straight to it on Amazon. It’s the same price and product, but using this link supports me and my site. Anyway, enough side-tracking. Let me explain why this book succeeded where so many others have failed.
Read This Book!
(If you run adblock you won’t see the link here to Larry Brooks: Story Engineering)
Brooks makes the bold claim that if you try to publish a book without including (and executing them professionally) any of the six core competencies, you will not be published. He says that every good book needs concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution, and writing voice. Maybe you’re saying, “yeah, nothing new.” On the surface, no. But Brooks breaks down each concept into simple, easy to understand parts. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll feel as though old hags had been trying to explain writing to you in riddles all your life until Brooks popped out of a coffee shop and said, “What’s all that mumbo-jumbo? You just put this here, and that there. . .”
Seriously. You’ll feel like someone handed you an instruction manual on how to build a table instead of a haiku about counting the wood grains and trying to become the screws.
Brooks even goes as far as breaking down a rough approximation of what page certain milestones typically should occur (and if you’re waving your old-school ink pen or knocking over your typewriter in rage at the idea of writing being put in some sort of box, he does an excellent job of explaining why his process is liberating rather than constricting).
Perhaps the most convincing reason to pick up his book is what it has done for me in just a few days. Like probably half of my readers, I have always considered myself a pretty good writer. Sure, I have some rough edges and things to work on, but at the end of the day I thought I had gained a good grasp of storytelling and all of its intricacies. After all, it has been a huge part of my life for years now. Yet. . . My precious little ego bubble was rudely popped a few pages into Larry’s book. Granted, it was a sort of happy pop. Maybe like a water balloon on a hot day.
But as soon as I finished reading, I felt a new kind of confidence. Instead of a vague sense of promise and potential, I felt as though I actually had a mold to pour my effort into—an assurance that if I was capable of building my story on the blueprint Larry outlined, I would be successful. It’s also worth noting that my confidence didn’t come from his promises, but from the strength and logic of his points. There’s a resonant rightness to what he says, and if your own brain didn’t already tell you he was speaking a truth, he brings examples from other bestsellers to back up his points.
If you do anything for yourself this week, make it buying and reading this book. I apologize in advance for all the editing this book will make you realize you need to do on your current project.