The clues to a great story

The clues to a great story

I very much enjoyed film-maker Andrew Stanton‘s TED talk, “The Clues to a Great Story.”


Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punch line, your ending. It’s knowing that everything you say, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal.


probably the greatest story commandment: “Make me care.”


Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.

The 100-words-a-day plan to a great story

a great story idea

I have been writing every morning, in spite of all that is going on in my life right now. I only aim for 100 words. Heck! Who can’t write 100 words?

This simple goal has opened the treasure chest of storytelling. Each day, I write far more than 100 words before stopping (317, 512, 877, 319, 316, 739, 619 … ), but best of all it has me sparking all day and night with ideas. I’m thinking about these scenes all the time.

And it has made me so cheerful! Writing is a type of euphoria.

If you are in writing doldrums, I highly recommend the 100-words-a-day plan. It’s magic. You’ll see.

Please let me know what you think in the comment section below. Ask me anything! I love getting comments.

Tilling new ground: preparing to write

(Cover of Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, an excellent and motivating book on writing. “Send!”)

I dreamt last night that I was tilling new ground. It was hard going, shovel-load by shovel-load, turning the hard, caked earth. Slowly, I worked the edges, moving toward the centre. I thought: it’s hard clots; I will have to break it down further. I will have to add mulch.

I woke realizing that that was a perfect metaphor for what I’m doing now, preparing the ground for writing about Hortense.

Of course I then got completely distracted by another sort of digging: revision of this website. There’s nothing quite like HMTL to get one’s brain in a knot.

And now: getting ready to leave for the beach for two weeks, taking my thick stack of plot index cards with me. And my computer, of course, with the amazing Mac plot software Aeon Timeline on it. (More on that later.)

So: off to clear the desk and finish packing. I leave you with this:


I especially love #10: Creativity is subtraction. What do you think?




Lost in your story? Here are some tools to help find the way.

I was just in a on-line discussion with a group of authors. One of them had lost his way in the novel he was writing, and a number of us, knowing the “lost realm” well, suggested the tools we used to help us get back on track.


I recommended Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. I’m using his system now to help me see the shape of the two YA’s I’m writing, and I used it last year, as well, to find my way out of the maze of The Next Novel. His book is irreverent, far-from-literary, but it gives you plot basics with a good dash of humour. Plus, it’s short and to the point.


Another author recommended “The Hero’s Journey”,  a fantastic on-line site—here—based on the great book by Volger, The Writer’s Journey.


Both these books are written for scriptwriters. My own conviction is that scriptwriters are story-specialists, and that novelists can learn a great deal from them.