Agent Monday: Conferences from the Agent’s Point of View (Revisited!)

Happy Agent Monday – and Happy Labor Day to you all! Last week I reposted a column about writer’s conferences and writer’s nerves, etc.  And today I’m including part two – which details writer’s conferences from the agent point of view.  Planning on attending a conference?  Read on!

Here’s part 2 of the encore post:

Asian Women Chatting over CoffeeLast week I shared some things I learned as an author about meeting agents and editors at writer’s conferences. So, BAM! Let’s switch pitch table sides. Now, as Associate Agent at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, I really am on the other side, taking pitches, sitting on the panels, and walking around conferences to meet writers and hear what they have to say. So here are some thoughts, and some tips.

First of all, like I said in last week’s post, the important thing to remember is that agents and editors are people. And most are pretty nice, too. Take the folks at the great Push to Publish conference which I’d attended (in 2012).  (NB: this Oct. 2013 I’ll be the Push to Publish pre-conference presenter where folks can spend the day with me – registration info here.) I wish I had time to hang out with these agents and editor and swap stories about our clients and our projects. But that’s one thing many conferences are tight on: time.

So as an agent, I arrive with a schedule in hand. For some conferences, I may have just been whisked over from an airport, and have barely arrived before I’m “on.” I love to meet my fellow agents and editors. But above all, I want to meet you writers! But time is short. So I meet with you during pitches, or chat with you during registration, or swap ideas with you during panel talks.  Longer conferences are great because there are more chances for real exchange. Exchange of biz cards, yes, but also exchange of conversation and ideas. There can be time during a cocktail party or in line for breakfast, or just hanging out in the hotel lounge after the main events are over.

But there are often many of you and few of us agents, so when we do get time with you, it’s important to use it well. I’ve done pitch sessions that have run anywhere from 5 minutes to 15. If a writer comes to me and is especially nervous, I understand. Sometimes however, this wastes our valuable time together as we spend our minutes more on getting focused than on talking about a book. In these cases, I think it’s best for the writer to have their pitch written out. If you just admit right up front that you are really nervous and ask if it’s okay to read your pitch, I for one will smile and say of course.  Then you can take a deep breath, read the pitch, and then our conversation can begin from there. And I bet you’ll feel better after that.

Some writers are naturals with pitches and with chatting. And for me, it really is a chat. As if we are sitting together for a moment at a coffee shop, talking shop. These writers smile, and introduce themselves and shake hands. They then sit and say something to the effect of, “I’m here to tell you about my new memoir called ‘About All That.’” And then they say their brief, focused pitch. These authors allow me to then respond with my reaction to the pitch. They listen to any questions I may have and answer them as well as they can. And they ask me questions like what do I think about this sort of book in the marketplace? They listen and allow us to interact, with note-taking happening after our allotted time.  This is all time well spent.

Sometimes writers squander their pitch time because they come to me unfocused. They haven’t thought ahead about the market of their novel (is it YA or mid grade?), or come up with a succinct way to describe the novel to me. So we spend our time together learning about the author, her approach to writing, what she wanted to achieve, the many ways she approached creating this book. Everything but what the book is actually about. And because of that, I can’t give any viable feedback or know if this novel is something I want to look at.

Sometimes writers come into the pitch with only one goal: sell!  I’m not naive. I KNOW that is the goal. But I think this sort of over-focused writer can miss out on great opportunities that lead to the sell. It’s not just about getting that jazzed reaction from the agent and the green light and that book deal. Seriously. It’s about coming into it ready to learn and pick up cues and adapt and make connections. And all of these things can lead you to the sell, so don’t be short-sighted.

Here’s an example of what I mean. A writer comes up to me very confidant with a pitch. She’s ready to sell it, and is sure a smart agent will snap it up. So I hear the pitch. I may be interested, but I’m confused about something so I ask a question. Over confident writer immediately deflates, convinced they’ve failed. Or withdraws, upset (yes, I’ve seen tears in response to questions). Or grows hostile, convinced I’m ridiculous to say no (which I haven’t even said yet) and that there is nothing more I can do for them and so they should just move on to wow the next person.  Every single one of these writers is simply blowing it. Why? Because as long as we have minutes together we can be learning from each other.

I can learn more about the novel in response to my questions. If my concerns are addressed, then maybe I will be interested. The writer can spend time building a relationship with me. Maybe this book won’t fly, but another book might in the future. Why burn bridges? The writer can also be paying attention to my reaction to this pitch. Even if I’m not the agent for you, did I become interested in certain things? Did I become puzzled? Did I express concerns about certain aspects? Then perhaps you can tweak your pitch and your queries to future agents based on this, and be more successful at your next pitch appointment. Ask me, “what do you think?” And if I say I’m not interested, ask me, “do you have any advice that I can use?”

When it comes down to it, I’m looking to work with pros. Even a debut author can be a pro. People who are open to discussion about their books, who are open to suggestions, who are folks I’d consider working with. If you are overly emotional, then I can’t picture you handling changes from an editor or meeting deadlines. If you are hostile or a prima donna, I’m never going to want to work with you. There are many talented people, and even if you are a major talent, if you are sending up flares that you are a difficult person, then I’m not interested.

When I go to conferences, I’m there to meet you, chat with you, and swap ideas. I’m hopeful that I will be finding my next client sitting right across from me. Someone who is professional and interesting and ready to work hard. I meet tons of fascinating people at every one of these conferences. Not all of them end up as my clients, of course. But many of them end up as people who I hope to hear from and interact with again.

I encourage you to remember that a pitch is more than a sell. Conferences are a place to meet people, to make contacts and to learn.  Get questions answered. Try out different pitches for your novel at different conferences and learn bit by bit which parts are most effective and which are not working so well.  Remember all of this can lead to a sell. I always enjoy meeting people who are passionate about their writing. It’s energizing and exciting.

Enjoy the process, and best of luck!

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

Agent Monday: A Typical Day

MP900387541People ask me how I am. I say BUSY!  That’s an important thing for writers to keep in mind when they deal with any agent.  Sure, we work through a large quantity of queries in our inbox, plus it takes time to read through lengthy manuscripts from prospective clients and from our own clients. But that is just the start of it all. I thought I would share with you my day.

Typically I’ll start around 6 a.m. or so. Yes, coffee is definitely involved.  First stop: my inbox. I go through queries in there first. Let’s be honest: for most of them I know RIGHT AWAY that it’s a no. Sorry, fellow writers (remember, I’m a writer too, so I don’t take your dreams lightly), but there is always a huge percentage of queries that are simply not ready for prime time. These are writers who haven’t read up on what I actually represent, who haven’t paid attention to how to actually write a query, who haven’t even spell checked their emails, and who commit a whole host of “don’t ever do that’s” in their emails.  If you can’t get one page right, then you’ve definitely lost me.

For the queries that pass basic requirements, I look closer, gauging my interest. My guidelines allow for writers to paste in the first 20 pages of the actual manuscript so I get a great feel for what’s being subbed (guess how many writers who fail to include their pages get me to take extra time to ask them for more? Yeah, slim to none…read the guidelines, people!) I ask myself is this submission fresh? Am I fascinated? Is it well-written?  Am I anxious to add this to my pile of considerable reading???  If the answers are YES, then I know something special just may be coming my way, and I request the full manuscript.  If I’m on the fence about it? It’s a no.

Okay, so my coffee’s cold and my query inbox is a little thinner.  Time for a stretch, and a second cup of coffee, and some time  attending to my other inbox stuff. Can I do an interview? Sometimes I say yes, if it’s reasonable. Can I do lunch so someone can pick my brain about the business? These days, even for people I know, the answer is always no. Hey, I love a free lunch, but I simply don’t have the luxury of time. Does a conference that I’m attending need info from me? I keep on top of these details.

Now it’s time to get serious. My clients. I open any emails I have from them (remember, it isn’t 9 a.m. yet), and acknowledge that I’ve received whatever they’ve just sent, or answer any questions they may have, or update them on stuff if needed. My clients are a prolific bunch, so I keep close track of what they’ve sent me and get to their material asap, and I always try to give them a feel of when I’ll get back to them with comments and notes (I know how agonizing waiting can be for them; I think having a realistic expectation helps).

It may surprise some of you to know that it can sometimes take up to a month to give comments on a client’s picture book. So here’s something to keep in mind: unless there’s a time-sensitive reason to do otherwise, I make every effort to get to client manuscripts in the order they’ve come in to me. So when a picture book manuscript arrives, I may be in the middle of revising a 650 page historical novel for another client, I could have just received a revised middle grade the day before, and I could be in the middle of pitching two other novels, plus making a few needed trips to NYC , and tying up loose ends on some contracts, so…. 

Obviously a LOT is going on. I keep a huge dry erase board by my desk (yeah, old school!) to keep pending things in plain sight.  Here are SOME of the client manuscripts pending right now: A revised horror short story collection. A revised picture book. A revised YA novel. A revised middle grade fantasy novel.  

Okay, so after touching base with clients, I take my last sip of coffee, set the mug aside, and get down to the day’s work. What’s up? I get my pitch and notes in order for a middle grade manuscript, and around 9:30 or 10-ish, start calling. Some editors I’ll get through to, others I’ll get their voice mail and have to call back.  I’ll keep calling throughout the day until I connect with my list of people. I use the time on the phone to of course pitch the book and convey what has excited me about the manuscript in a way that this excitement catches on. I’ll also briefly chat with the editor. Then I’ll wrap that up by emailing the manuscript to the requesting editor, along with a followup note and the author’s bio and synopsis.  I’ll record the submission in my client’s file, shoot a submission update to my client, and also update my editor files with what submission was sent when, and about anything else I may have learned about the editor that will help me target future submissions to that person. Phew.

Also, in between all of this, I’m getting ready for another new submission. I’ve just received the revised bio and synopsis of this work over the weekend from my author. I’ll comb through these and make sure they’re perfect.  I’ve already spent numerous hours last week researching editors who love this sort of book, so I have all that info ready to go. Now I just have to perfect my pitch.  I’ll start actually pitching that book to editors tomorrow, Wednesday at the latest.

ALSO today, I’m getting ready for a phone appointment tomorrow with one of my authors to talk about marketing. I already have some thoughts for her, but I want to pull together some specifics.  Her novel’s coming out in about a year, so in the meantime there’s much she can do to perk up her website and use of twitter and Goodreads, and to start making connections with likely readers and reviewers. So, notes galore shall be jotted down.

ALSO ALSO, I’m going to start a close read of a manuscript from one of my clients. We’ve already done a pass between us where I’ve given extensive notes, so I’ll be looking to see if we are ready to go out on submission or if more tweaks are needed first. Things have to be PERFECT before I’ll send ‘em out in the world. Here’s where having a background as a writer and editor really helps me out.

In the meantime, more things ping into my inbox. Emails from my agency that demand attention. Bits and pieces of info from my clients that I like to acknowledge immediately. Queries (I confess that when I take breaks I like to quickly scan through these to see if any of them are so hot that I simply must look at them right away…but most can wait).

If I’m lucky, I remember to stand and stretch now and then, and to eat.  And if my family’s lucky, I remember to stop working by around 6 and actually have something to make for dinner.  And at night? I’ll sit in my jammies and look over a requested full in my inbox.

Of course, it’ll have to be all sorts of amazing. If I’m going to take it on, ya know there will be a wee bit of work involved…

Okay, time’s wasting.  Get to work, people!

 

*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Writer Wednesday: Compare and Despair

A few days back I was chatting with my high school buddy, who is now a top Broadway producer. Cool, right?  And he, of course, knows tons of amazing actors who have differing degrees of success on Broadway, on TV and on film.  And most of them are hard on themselves, and don’t view themselves as successes, even though they definitely should.

My bud and I shared how similar this is to the world of writing.  How as a writer, you can be one of the few that finished a book manuscript, yet not see yourself as a success if it isn’t published.  Or how you can be published, but not by a top press, so you don’t see that as success.  Or you can be published by a top press, but then you don’t get a second book contract.  Or you can get great reviews, but you don’t hit the best seller list.  Or you can hit the best seller list, but your next book doesn’t do as well.  Or you can do well all around, but never get that movie deal.  Or you can get that movie deal, but the movie is a flop.  Or you can be up for the Pulitzer, but not get it…

At any stage, we crazy writers can see ourselves as failures, where any sane person on the outside can view us as incredibly successful.  My friend calls this syndrome: “Compare and Despair.”

Actors do this when they look at Patti LuPone or Ryan Reynolds and they think, “What’s wrong with me? Why them, and not me?”  Writers do this all the time too. Part of it is our natural drive to push ourselves. Our internal critic who tells us, “Really? Is that all you got?” And we answer by pushing ourselves to do even better, to work even harder.  That’s all good.

When it’s bad is when it stops us. Depresses us. Makes us want to give up. And some people do give up. That’s a shame.

Recently I had a birthday, and a well wisher posted on my wall: “You are one of the lucky ones. You have several published books and are an agent. Congrats!” Wow. I tend to not fall into the compare and despair trap too often, but that comment took me by surprise.  Lucky? Me? Why?

Even though I’m an optimist, I do have my moments of deep dark writerly despair.  I think about authors who debuted the same time as I did, but whose books weren’t orphaned, and how these authors now have many more books published along with the financial comfort that provides… Jeesh.

But then I do try to see how far I’ve come, to be grateful for what I’ve earned, and to remember to respect myself for who I am.  This is all an important part of the writer’s toolbox. If you don’t feel good about stuff, well…

It’s about perspective.  Comparing your writer’s journey to how far you’ve come personally. Like metaphorically heading to the Jersey shore and thinking, damn girl, my ass ain’t that fat.  It’ll boost your drive.

ANYHOW, if you love writing, you should do it. Work hard, of course, and shoot for the stars, but don’t forget to value where you are and every little achievement along the way. Are you better than you were last year?  Did you improve on a story that a few months ago you thought perfect? Then you are growing. Did you finish a manuscript? Try a new genre? Get the guts up to go to a writer’s conference? Dare to submit? Survive rejection and dare to submit again? Are you still writing even though the forces of the universe seem to be telling you to stop?

Celebrate.  And when others around you seem to be hitting the road to big success faster, remember that’s life. There is skill but also luck involved, and others’ success doesn’t always make sense to you (I’m thinking about Snookie, here). But that’s okay. Let it inspire you. Motivate you.

Just don’t compare and despair. Okay?

Agent Monday: Haven’t I Seen this Before?

So sometimes, well, many times actually, I open up a query in my inbox and think to myself, “Self? Haven’t I seen this before?”

And sometimes I literally have seen it before. Folks think they can send the same exact query every few months because, hey, the agent reads hundreds and hundreds of these and won’t remember. Perhaps the writer has heard stories of writers doing this very thing, and one time getting a rejection, but the other time, getting a request and then getting representation. Wahoo!

Writers, please don’t do this.  I for one actually remember my queries.  And if I’m not sure? There’s a function in my email that enables me to search you out by your email, or your book title, or your name…even by key words in your query.  And when I find a writer, who I’ve already taken my time with by reading their query and responding to it, now trying to scam me, I’m not going to be pleased at all. I even had one writer use a different email address and change her book title. Not cool, guys.

But believe it or not, this is not what this Agent Monday column is actually about. Today I want to talk about the overused ideas that I see. Stuff that everyone seems to be writing about. I’m seeing a ton of YA’s where for some bizarre reason a teen is dropped off for the summer or the year at a grandparent’s house, and there they discover secrets and of course a cute guy, etc.

I’m seeing a slew of women’s novels where the woman’s left her husband or he’s left her, or he’s died, etc. and she picks up, to the shock of her family, and moves to some remote rugged coastal home and buys some run-down hovel…and the rugged handyman, who is crusty but hot, well, “fixes” her.

I’m seeing spin offs of The Hunger Games. I’m seeing vampires and zombies. I’m seeing teens who suddenly discover they have special powers or are part of a curse, and must harness these powers, etc., to save the world.

I’m seeing a bunch of novels about orphans in the 1920s who must go across the US (always heading West) to find the only family they have left (or something like that), and along the way they ride the rails and they meet other ornery kids, some of who become friends and travel along, and of course, there’s a ratty but lovable mutt trotting by their side.

These are just but a few examples of the “types” of stories I see over and over again. How does this happen? Okay, the vampire stuff I understand, but the rest? Writers are creative people. They work alone. They are not exactly looking over each other’s shoulders copying from another writer’s manuscript.

I think part of the problem is that we are all human, and as humans we share common experiences and archetypes that resonate with us all. You can argue that there are only so many stories to be told, but I say phooey to that. You each have an original voice and point of view to share.

If you write something, even if it is perfectly polished, and I’ve seen something like it before, I’m not going to represent it. It’s that simple.

So how does a writer know if they are being original or not? Well, reading plenty definitely helps. It helps you know the genre you are targeting and prevents you from reinventing the wheel. But it doesn’t open your eyes to what’s sitting in every agent’s inbox right now (stuff that you won’t find on the bookshelf because it’s just too obvious in some ways).

I think the answer may rest with you as a writer, not taking the first idea the grabs you, or even the third, but forcing yourself to dig deeper. In Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass, he has an exercise that addresses this. Maass has you make a list of things that can happen in your book’s scene.  Then he makes you list even more.  And he tells you to take the very last thing on that list and run with it.

Think about that.  There are a slew of obvious things that bubble up in our minds when we write…things that the reader can quickly think of as well. But some of our favorite works have taken twists we didn’t see, or were set in unexpected original worlds or circumstances, or have characters so memorable they stand out in our minds even now. These factors, combined with your own original voice and point of view, result in something fresh.

Something red hot I’ll want to read.

Something that definitely won’t make me say to myself, “Haven’t I seen this before?”

In this week’s Writer Wednesday post, I’ll continue this conversation about originality, talking about what we can learn from the movie Easy A.

“The Bucket List! The Bucket List!” (If you don’t know this line, then go rent Easy A NOW.)

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

On Personal Stuff, Sunglasses and Submissions

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and didn’t eat TOO much.  Judging by the crowd at the local Y lately, I think I know the answer to that one… Why the Santa pooch picture here? Because AWWWWW!

Anyways, over the past two days, while I’ve been continuing to eat turkey in all its incarnations, three different fabulous blogs have posted different interviews with me.  One post probes into how my life experiences affect my writing, the other delves into the romantic and fun details of my works, and the last has me wearing my literary agent hat (which, I imagine, is large and has some feathers) to give out some manuscript submission tips. Check ‘em out. They might make you forget about all those holiday gifts you still haven’t bought!

Mindbending Memoir Questions

Jerry Waxler in his Memory Writers Network blog is great at asking me those “I never thought of that one before” questions. Risky stuff like: Do I write about lying teens so much because I was such a huge liar as a teen? And: When I create my novels, what sorts of real life experiences do I pull into them? Yikes! Is Jerry looking at fiction with a memoir-writer’s angle, or is he just really nosy?  To find out, click the following to read Part I of this interview and Part II. And you might also want to check out his post on coming of age in YA fiction, which highlights my novel OVER MY HEAD by clicking here.

Revelations from the Land of Chicklit

Author Heidi Hall approached our interview with questions posed from her point of view as a romance and chick-lit author… Questions like: Did you ever wish you lived your character’s life? (Um, YES!)  And: Sunglasses: designer or drugstore?  Check out this fun interview at her WriterGurl1 blog by clicking here, and if you’re looking for some great reads for the holidays, definitely check out Heidi’s books such as A Dose of Reality!

Why Some Pretty Decent Manuscripts get Rejected

Writer Kerry Gans posted a piece featuring Five Reasons for Agent Rejections of Manuscripts over at her group site The Author Chronicles. This is a great craft-oriented blog, and this post highlights five common reasons why manuscripts I read are rejected, even if they have merit. Literary agents WANT to find great work, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to get excited by a piece only to have to turn it down because it didn’t live up to its promise.  I’ve been an assistant literary agent for the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency for a few months now, and it’s amazing how many times I see these mistakes EVERY DAY.  So if you’re in the process of trying to get an agent, definitely check out Kerry’s post by clicking here.

Thanks to all these great bloggers for including me on their sites!

Marie

Can you write a book in a week? – Day 5

Okay, folks, we made it. Day 5, and I stuck it out all week long.  Now I realize that book in a week implies 7 days, but I have tix to a show tomorrow (which I’d purchased long before I knew about this challenge), and I NEED A BREAK.

Not whining. I promise. I’ve loved this experience, and as my wonderful stable of blog comment-folk has pointed out, I’ve learned a ton about myself, my writing and, of course, my new novel.

I learned that I can be ridiculously more productive if I make my writing a priority.  That means not cutting into my writing time with time-wasters like the Internet or solitaire (and in the future I plan to schedule my Internet checks for morning, lunch time, and a final check at the end of the day). It also means scheduling chores around my writing week.  Sure, it may feel casual and relaxed to do stuff all week long, but if writing is my full-time job (which it is), then what the heck am I doing paying bills and cleaning and other dreadful crap like that during my weekday work time?

Shifting things around takes a bit of planning and commitment. I learned that people will cooperate with you if they know you have an important goal.  Take note, fellow scribes: if you tell people in your life you aren’t available for 2 weeks for coffee or lunch or that meeting, they will deal with it and LIFE WILL GO ON.  Gotta respect the writing.

I also learned that by giving over a huge chunk of my mental space to my novel, that I became more creative with it. I was able to get into the world I’d written much faster, because I never really left it. Working to keep the worries of the real world at bay is a challenge, but definitely worthwhile.  No sense obsessing about something when you could be writing…and obsessing about it later.

I learned the glories of the dry erase board…flexible and spontaneous plotting!  I learned the true value of fresh air and brisk walks…great for blurry eye re-focusing, great for the joints, great for getting the creative juices rolling.

I also realized that the excitement of this does wear off after a while.  Each day I found I was getting to work just a little bit later. That the plotting problems were getting a little stickier.  That my internal critic was trying to rear her ugly head just a little bit more.  But that’s the beauty of this challenge. I kept telling myself: suck it up – it’s only a few days.  And so I did.

So, can you write a book in a week?  Maybe if you have sold your soul to the devil. Or if you don’t eat or sleep. Or if Redbull is in the mix.  But here’s what I think, at least from my point of view: You can write half a book in a week, and that includes the complete bones of the novel.  I started out with zero words. While I didn’t write every scene leading up to it, I did finish by drafting the book’s final page, which will be important later when I fill in the rest.  My plan is to take just a little bit of a break, and then go to it once again. Another five days on just this project.  By the end of that, I should have a completed first draft. In two weeks? I can definitely live with that.  Then the editing will begin.  But let’s not go there mentally just yet, okay?

In addition to telling my family and friends that I was doing this challenge, I made a point of telling the world! Through this blog, in my email away message, on my facebook, and in various group sites I belong to. I even told my agent.  Why? So I would be accountable.  I couldn’t go quietly into the night without shame…and believe me, there was a point I thought of trying just that.

Today’s word count: 3,459 words
Today’s page count: 14 pages
Overall word count: 25,329 words
Overall page count: 109 pages

So, gentle reader, it’s time for this writer to pack this experiment in. A successful experiment. One that will now, I hope, become part of my regular regimen when I want to devote time to just a novel and to nothing and no one else.  See? I put that thought out there.  I’m accountable to it, right? (Okay, I did slip in the word ‘hope,’ but still.)

Why don’t you try this with your own writing? You can do it. You should do it.

Happy. Satisfied. Book in a Week, baby! (Or, Nearly Half a Book in a Week, baby!)  Woot!

Over and out.

It’s a Myth

*This is also posted on the Liars Club blog, as part of an on-going series on writing advice…

When I think about the heart of any great novel, it goes back to the root of storytelling. To folks saying to eager listeners, “Gather around the fire, while I tell you the tale of…” And then drawing in the audience with a story so gripping, so essential, that the audience forgets the storyteller completely and enters the fictional world, becoming the main character, and embarking on an amazing adventure.

That’s why the one book I’d recommend to authors is The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.  This exceptional text draws on the work of folklorist Joseph Campbell, who spent a lifetime analyzing the world’s mythic tales, their structures, their archetypes, and who distilled all this into an amazing volume called The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  And then there was the riveting series of talks between Campbell and Moyers, resulting in a mind-blowing book called The Power of Myth. Yeah, you’d better get that one too.

But back to writing.  The Writer’s Journey follows mythic structure in storytelling, and can guide you on a psyche-based format for laying out any novel or screenplay.  The format includes a cast of roles that accompany the hero, including the mentor, the threshold guardian, the shapeshifter.  And stages of the hero’s journey, including call to adventure, meeting the mentor, approach to the innermost cave, etc. He mainly uses examples of this structure from movies, but the wisdom is based on archetypes. And as Carl Jung would tell you if he could, archetypes are deeply rooted in all human brains. You can’t get much more universal than that. Apply these archetypes to, say, a modern novel set in an edgy metropolis, and you’ve got something shaking.

I’d like to add that studying folklore and reading fairy tales – the real, gritty ones minus the Disney princesses – should be required in any author’s training as much as the classics are…Tales passed down orally reveal primal fears and desires. Scary and revealing as hell. The stuff of legends.

We writers are all lowly storytellers, really. Beckoning our listeners to come to the fire circle and hear a tale. If we want that tale to actually mean something, to hold our listeners spellbound, then I say listen to the tales of the past and pay attention to what they are telling writers.  The Writer’s Journey can take you there.