I have had the pleasure of editing some of Ted’s work this past week, in preparation for our meeting Wednesday evening. Ted is a writer that I truly admire, and one of his best attributes, is his ability to say so much with so few words. It puts me in mind of Willa Cather, or Ernest Hemingway, two great American authors. As you can probably tell, minimisation of useless words is not a skill that I do well and is thus something that I aspire to. It is also something I attempt to remedy during the editing process.

Strunk & White in “The Elements of Style,” have this to say on the subject of omitting needless words:

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

What if I were to rewrite the first paragraph of this post, to better represent “concise” writing, as described above?

have had the pleasure of editing some of Ted’s work this past week, in preparation for our meeting Wednesday evening. Ted is a writer that I truly admire, and one of his best attributes, is [especially] his ability to say so much with so few words. It puts me in mind of [, much like] Willa Cather, or Ernest Hemingway, two great American authors. As you can probably tell, m[M]inimisation of useless words is not a skill that I do well [have] and is thus something [but one] that I aspire to. It is also something I [and] attempt to remedy during the editing process.

What do you think? Is the second attempt better? Probably yes. Is the writing more clear and concise? Definitely yes. But, and here is the real question, is it more enjoyable to read? In this case the answer is probably yes. But what about the idea of style? I am not a master at my craft, so it stands to reason that these types of rules will more likely than not, play a role in making my story easier to understand and more enjoyable to read. But what about those writers who are unequivocally masters.

What about those like John Steinbeck? Take this excerpt from “East of Eden:”

Adam looked out of his covered brain–out the long tunnels of his eyes–at the people of this world. His father, a one-legged natural force at first, installed justly to make little boys feel littler and stupid boys aware of their stupidity; and then–after god had crashed–he saw his father as the policeman laid on by birth, the officer who might be circumvented, or fooled, but never challenged. And out of the long tunnels of his eyes Adam saw his half-brother Charles as a bright being of another species, gifted with muscle and bone, speed and alertness, quite on a difference plane, to be admired as one admires the sleek lazy danger of a black leopard, not by any chance to be compared with one’s self. And it would no more have occurred to Adam to confide in his brother–to tell him the hunger, the gray dreams, the plans and the silent pleasures that lay at the back of the tunneled eyes–than to share his thoughts with a lovely tree or a pheasant in flight. Adam was glad of Charles the way a woman is glad of a fat diamond, and he depended on his brother in the way that same woman depends on the diamond’s glitter and the self security tied up in its worth; but love, affection, empathy, were beyond conception.

Now, what if we took out the extraneous words here? What would the story lose? What about the rhythm of the words? The flow? The sense that we get of the characters because of the perhaps “unnecessary” language?

Perhaps something to think about for our own writing.


On Writing

Stephen King says,

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

Take it seriously or do something else.


The Priest – by Hazel Key

The Priest

She caught him in the church. He’d sensed her presence, her movement, heard the distant echo of her heels on the worn flagstones and the rhythm of her movement as she approached. He’d felt the lift in his heart and the catch in his breath. It would be fine, he thought. She was one of his flock after all.
“Father,” she said.
He hesitated before turning to her.
“Mrs Baxter?”
“Can I have a moment?”
He looked at her deliberately then nodded, indicating they could sit, choosing a spot where they’d be visible from the main door.
“I need some help.”
She paused, then added, “It’s Tony and me.”
“I see.”
He wasn’t surprised. Melissa Baxter had been married a few years now but with children yet. Edward himself had married them.

Her expression was unusually solemn, angelic almost. Heavenly. But that was just the light perhaps, an effect of the late afternoon sun, shining golden through the coloured glass. God’s sculptor, he thought. He followed the movement of her mouth as she spoke, hearing none of it, only the glorious resonance of her voice and its echo high above. She looked at him expectantly, awaiting his response as he studied her, as he thought he saw a yearning in her that drew on him.
“Yes, I see. Well, you must have faith that the Lord will watch over you Mrs Baxter, if you stand by your husband. It’s important to-”
She was shaking her head. “You don’t understand. It’s bigger than that.”
“Uh huh, have you thought further on the subject of children?”
“No! I mean, that won’t help. Not now.”
Nervously he fiddled with the gold ring on his finger while she slid along the pew towards him, as if to help him understand.
“I need to ask you something.” She leaned close to him as she spoke. He stood up with a gasp, his throat tightening as he re-arranged his robes. He took a moment, then sat again, having edged some space between them.
“Please. It’s important,” she said.
A sudden noise behind them interrupted her and the Deacon entered. Edward turned quickly to see who it was then stood up again to face the man, growing pale and wide-eyed, like an accused in the dock as the older man approached. All the while Melissa Baxter was telling him how she must speak with him privately. He reached for his carefully ironed handkerchief, wiped the sweat from his palms.
“Can I have a word?” the Deacon asked, looking sideways at the woman. The man, grey and solemn, nodded at her, but she missed it. Her eyes were on the Priest.
“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” He was peering at Edward with his slitty eyes, turned them slowly on the woman. Edward saw the struggle in her. Her mouth stiffened and began to open in response. He hurried, “No, no, of course not. I’ll see you now Philip, we’ll use my office.”

He excused himself and disappeared into the hidden recesses with the man. When he returned 10 minutes later she was gone. Edward had never liked that Deacon. He was too full of his own importance. He talked too much.

Locking the door of the church he turned towards home. The walk often calmed his spirit, reviving his dreary soul. He thought about his life. At 35 there was still so much time ahead, so much space to fill. Where would he be now if it weren’t for his faith?

He crossed the street, relishing the walk, feeling rattled. She always had that effect on him. He thought of his family – his father. If he were able to read Edward’s thoughts! No, he dashed the idea from his mind, began to walk at a pace.

It was his father who’d steered him away from temptation, and Edward was grateful to him, of course. ‘Evil lust’ he’d said one Sunday, describing the behaviour of the local girls. Edward was just 11, and wondered at the meaning of the word lust. He’d sensed the barely concealed anger beneath his father’s calm exterior, had seen his eyes bulging and the veins in his neck darkening. Heard the terrible snarl in his voice.

Edward hastened across the street, heading for the park which lay between the church and home. Home, he thought, a misnomer since there’d be no light on, no smell of dinner on the stove, no warmth to bring the place into life. How foolish to hope there would be, how often he fell into foolish daydreaming.

He could feel the sweat beading on his skin as he recalled his father’s voice again. “These bitches poison the purity of men with their filth,” he’d said. The man’s face had boiled with a fury that threatened to tear Edward to pieces. “They are weak. We must be strong,” he insisted. “Do you understand?” Then Edward spotted the cane on the desk. He heard himself panting now, recalling the man pacing in circles around him.
“I saw you with them, Edward.” He stopped and looked hard at his son. “You touched one of them.” He went to the desk and picked up the cane. “The Louise girl, I saw you.”
Edward cried out, imploring his father to forgive him, reassuring him that it would never, ever happen again.
His father shook his head. “Nothing can be done. We must remove this stain on your soul.”
His pleas grew loud. He fell on his knees and begged him not to do it.
“This is the only way.” You’ll be a priest one day Edward. You’ll guide this family into the light.” He hesitated then added, “you must be cleansed.” Edward gasped now as he remembered the agony of the cane on his body.

Stopping at the corner opposite his house, he mopped his forehead. The place was lifeless, reminding him of the emptiness he felt after the beating. He thought of his mother. The hours she spent, just staring at the wall. Hours. Grim-faced, she’d bathed the wounds, but ignored his screams.

He continued on, past his gate, not sure where he was going. It didn’t matter. There was a furious energy burning in his legs.

His father had made a special visit to him that night, at bedtime, explaining in a gentle voice the necessity of it, for Edward’s own sake.
“Your pain is mine,” he’d said. “You’ll remember my words when you’re a Priest. You will be a Priest.”
Edward said he understood. It was worth it after all, his father having come to him like that, spending precious time with him, explaining everything. The days were always too short for a teacher who needed to work every hour of them, and so often into the night. And the kids in that remote, pitiful little town appreciated none of it, deserved none of it.
“Thank you,” he told his father as they said goodnight. “I shan’t disappoint you.” He thought about Melissa Baxter and vowed to keep her at bay. Thank God for his faith.

That evening he sat in his winged armchair with the half glass of red he allowed himself on the worst days, listening for the oven timer, feeling very weary and letting his mind drift. He felt the darkness expanding. He could see it, behind his closed eyes, something evil spreading in him, something that he feared he could not escape. Then he heard something. He listened and the sound came again, louder this time. Someone was at the door.

It was her. She smiled broadly at him. He stood paralysed in front of her, like prey caught in the headlights as she stepped forward and reminded him why she was here. They’d agreed she could call, remember? He remembered nothing and looked about worrying that someone might see her. Hurriedly he mumbled an invitation to her to enter.

She dropped herself with a flourish onto his leather couch, causing a stir in the stale air, spreading herself and looking up at him through long eyelashes.

He averted his gaze to his watch and prompted her. “I’m somewhat short of time Mrs Baxter, what did you want to discuss?” He could smell her perfume. Her green eyes had wandered to the wineglass on the table, offered her something to drink, tea maybe.
“Ooh yes please. I could do with some of that Blood of Christ that you’re having.” She laughed.

Pouring her a measured half glass from the half-empty bottle, and glancing quickly at the oven timer as he left the kitchen, he noted that dinner would soon be ready – an excuse to keep it brief.

He watched her throat as the wine flowed down inside it – sensual satisfaction visible in the movement of the muscle and sinews as she swallowed. Her skin was like velvet, covered with a fine golden down. Edward looked away, rested his eyes in the gloom. He sighed and began the stock sermon about the need for a wife to support her husband.
“It’s too late. We’ve decided to split.”
A brilliant flaxen waterfall of hair lay over her shoulders. She flicked it away to reveal the silky terrain of her blouse as she chattered on about how marriage isn’t necessarily a life-long or permanent arrangement, claiming that couples should be able to simply ‘walk away’ when things get tough.
“Mrs Baxter,” he interrupted, “if you’ve already made the decision to divorce, what do you need me for?”
She shifted in her seat, crossing her smooth tanned legs. They were long and lightly covered by a skirt of mauve, one he hadn’t seen before. She breathed deeply.
“I want you to bless my divorce.”
Edward wondered for a moment if he’d misheard. He was stunned, and then stunned all over again as he realised he hadn’t. He laughed a short, derisive, nervous laugh, in the hope she’d laugh too, but she didn’t
“You cannot believe for one minute that I could-”
“Why not? Call me crazy but I’ve been thinking about it, and I need this.” She hesitated then added with the curve of a smile creeping into her face, “surely you’re all about providing a service these days Father?” Her tone was mocking. She grinned at his open-mouthed gaze.
He sighed and shook his head. “Can I ask you something Mrs Baxter?”
“Call me Melissa.”
“It’s rather personal but I need to know.”
“Ask away!”
He wiped his forehead. “Did you consummate the marriage?”
She laughed, he felt the blood rush to his cheeks. “Of course!”
“Well then, I’m sorry, you’re no doubt aware that if the marriage has been consummated then a civil divorce is not recognised by The Church.” Her smile faded. “You and your husband are forever bound by this marriage.”

She said nothing for a moment. Then, tipping the contents of her wineglass into her mouth, she swallowed in one gulp.
“You may want to re-consider the civil divorce under the circumstances.”
There was a frigid silence while she pondered his remark, then a sudden sharp thud as she slammed her glass to the table and stood up.
“The whole idea of marriage, it just doesn’t work does it?” She glared down at him. “How can you marry someone and really know what it means to commit to a lifetime with another person come hell or high water when you’ve hardly lived yet?” She seemed to be exorcising her anger by waving her arms about. “How can you know what you’re letting yourself in for, I ask you?”
“Mrs Baxter-“
“Stop calling me that!”
She was pacing. His breath was shortening and his hands felt sodden. “Marriage is a holy state that provides a stable environment for the upbringing of children,” he said.
“Bullshit! It’s love that matters. A man and woman who love, and by that I mean having respect for one-another, that’s what a child needs.”
“Yes, of course, and-“
“It’s love that holds us together, all of us, the whole world. She was flushed and rattling off at a pace. She turned to face him. “Nothing else matters.”
“I couldn’t agree more and it is God’s love that achieves that. And it’s God’s love that will repair your marriage Mrs Baxter, if you can have faith, if you can listen. If you can talk to your husband, tell him how you’re feeling-”
She folded her arms. He continued.
“As I was saying before, marriage provides a secure and loving environment for the upbringing of children. Without that-”
“So, I’ve the absolute right to his sperm?”
“I’m sorry?”
“You heard me,” her hands flew to her hips as she repeating the question. “Does his sperm belong solely to me?”
“Well, yes. Of course it does.”
“Right, so what if he’s given it to someone else?”
He hesitated, trying to grasp what she was telling him. “I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Are you suggesting-?”
She sat heavily opposite him with her legs unfolded and slightly apart. Her feet, in strappy shoes revealing pink toenails. Vanity, Edward thought, he despised it. The ankles were slender, as were the calves that rose out of them, disappearing up inside the skirt, dragging his focus with it. He felt woozy and pulled at his collar. She explained that the ‘donation’ as she called it had been made to his brother’s wife.
“Excuse me?” Edward asked, “I don’t quite follow, via a clinic do you mean?”
Her short laugh was laden with sarcasm. “Are you wondering if he ‘delivered it direct’ so to speak, along with an orgasm loud enough to disturb the neighbours?” His cheeks, already flushed, turned crimson.
“No,” she admitted, “but doesn’t that make it worse?”
He tried to ask why but her ranting was making it impossible. Meanwhile his head was a muddle of questions, like was it legal? And what in heaven’s name did the brother think about the arrangement?
“How could he do that to me? How can I possibly have his children now?”
“Well, yes, I do quite see how devastating this must be for you. However, love, as you said yourself Mrs Baxter can overcome everything, if you were to-”
“Love? He knows nothing about love! This was planned. It wasn’t just some drunken mistake! That woman’s walking around with my husband’s child inside her!”
She was pointing to the window as if she knew the exact location of her sister-in-law at any given moment. “Talk about stroking his ego!”
“Well, technically the child would be illegitimate in the eyes of The Church. I imagine they’re Catholic?”
She stared across at him, her eyes sagging in despair, then leaned forward with a sigh, covering her face with delicate hands.
“What would you like me to do?” he ventured.
She lifted her head.
“I told you, I want you to annul it. I couldn’t give a fig that it’s not allowed in your stupid-” She straightened herself then looked down, remaining silent for a long moment. Finally she turned her liquid eyes on him. “The legal divorce is one thing but I can’t shake the filth of his touch, not without your cleansing.” Then she said, “You married us Edward, only you can do this.” Her voice was quieter now and fragile. “I need some sort of prayer, or ceremony, something from you.”
He scanned the room for a box of tissues, passing them quickly then withdrawing to a safe distance. He sat opposite her.
She wiped her eyes. “Funny how The Church creeps into your flesh, hey?”

Edward shook himself. “Mrs Baxter I can’t do this. You simply don’t understand!”
In a second she leapt up in despair and was on her knees in supplication before him, her cool hands clasped around his own and her sweet breath on his face.
“Please? No-one will ever, ever know, I promise.”
Her proximity and a lack of air had turned his brain to mush and for a moment he couldn’t verbalise a single sane reason why he shouldn’t perform her ridiculous ceremony. Yet the whole idea was outrageous, blasphemous. And then there was that nosy Deacon to consider. He’d be thrown out of The Church if it were discovered. His whole life would end.

Leaning forward in an effort to make her understand, he opened his mouth to speak and without warning her lips were on his. And they were so warm, and soft and delicious that he was paralysed by the naked pleasure of her touch. She invaded every part of him through her mouth, annihilating his defences as she flowed into him. His own existence expanded out as her arms snaked around his neck. He felt himself releasing, allowing his whole being to merge with hers, warming him. The beast in him rose up, roaring in his ears. He hungered for her now, to have her. His arms were about her exploring the flesh.

Suddenly the utterings of his father surfaced like toxic magma on his brain. ‘Lust,’ he heard, ‘evil lust! Adulterer!’ He pushed her away, disgusted and panting. What in the Lord’s name was he doing? He jumped up in the hope of finding a smidgen of sanity, half expecting her to cry ‘rape!’ or something. But no, this woman seemed as cool as a refrigerated cucumber.

She was back in her seat adjusting herself, her lips plump and red. This was unreal! This married woman, part of his congregation, had come to him for advice about her marriage and he had somehow managed, like a fool, to get himself entangled with her – lustfully! It pained him to even think the word. He must ask her to leave, and he would, if only he could rid himself of this sudden fear that if he spoke now his voice would reveal not Edward the priest but Edward the boy.

“I used to believe that God was a distinct being,” she was saying, “but I’m not sure. I’m losing my faith. I’m not sure I believe it anymore.”
Where the hell is this going now? he wondered.
“Do you Edward?”
Whether it was the question, or the seductive tone of her voice he didn’t know, but he felt a fresh weakening in his legs and a lightening in his arms. He blinked, afraid to speak.
“What are you asking me?”
“I think you know exactly what I’m asking you. God’s our own creation isn’t he? We made him for ourselves. We can make him do exactly what we want for our own salvation.”
“No, that’s not the way it is-”
She stood up. “He’s not up there floating about, he’s right here.” She pointed to her breasts. “He’s part of us, he is us. Just, he’s the better part, the best bit.”
She was looking right at him, her eyes dark and unblinking.
“I love that idea” she said, “that all I have to do is search in the right place.” He was astonished to see her undoing the buttons of her blouse as she spoke, “and I’ll find him. I’ll find myself.”
Her blouse was open now as she approached him, revealing plump soft mounds of flesh cupped in white lace. He backed away and was forced to sit as he hit the couch.
“I think it’s what people need. To know that there’s real goodness in them, and strength, that they can trust themselves.” She was almost within reach now, staring down into his face. “Will you do it?”
“All I want is a little prayer or something, to cleanse me. You’ll know what to do, in the church.”
Edward was transfixed by the voluptuous temptation before him. He felt a rush of blood that warmed his whole body. He wanted her, and all he had to do was nod.

And so he did, and she rushed at him in blind joy and hugged him. He fell backward and the next moment she was sitting over him, legs astride, one hand behind her back. Pinned down against the squeaking leather his new-found courage evaporated fast and he felt the desperate need to pray. In slow-motion she brought her hand round. He crossed himself and closed his eyes, waiting for hell to open its gates.

There was only silence. He opened one eye. She was waving a bible.
“What…? What are you doing?”
“I need you to swear that you’ll keep yourself for me and me alone.”
She reached down to his hand and held it in hers, warm and dry in her long cool fingers. “You have beautiful hands Edward,” she said as she placed his on the holy book.

Edward was vanquished. Flowers bloomed everywhere, heavenly perfume and butterflies of joy! He was chasing her in a meadow, calling her name, her hair suddenly the length of her body-

There was something cold and wet in his lap and a noise was violating his ears. He sat up with a jolt and looked about the dimly lit room. She was gone. The meadow full of flowers had packed itself into the bookcase, the sunshine disappeared inside the table lamp and the glass of wine emptied into his lap. He could smell burning lasagne and the phone was ringing. Lifting the soaked fabric of his trousers away from his groin he struggled to answer it.

“Hello,” came the voice of a woman. “This is Melissa Baxter. I was wondering if I could pop by and discuss that matter with you. I could be there in 15 minutes. Is that ok?”

Writer’s Group Convention: Brisbane

Writer's Group Conference

Today Ted, Hazel, Katrina, and myself had the opportunity to attend a Writer’s Group Convention held here in Brisbane. The Convention was the initiative of the NightWriters group and http://www.words2go.com and was chaired by the wonderful Gillian Lloyd. We had the chance to hear from several key speakers who discussed the road to publication, ways we, as authors, can hone our craft, and other topics. Some of these were simply reminders of things that I already knew, while others were more revelatory.

But as we sat there I realised that the main thing I was getting out of the Conference was the sense that I was part of a bigger community of writers. The 4 of us in our group are a great support for each other, but at the end of the day, writing is a solitary endeavour. No one else can sit at the computer and type out the words that will form YOUR story. Only you can do that. But attending conferences such as the Writer’s Group Convention reminds you that even when you are alone, as I am right now, you are still part of a larger community that is available for support and help when you need it.

As an aspiring writer it is essential that one makes connections with other writers, whether locally or virtually, and today reminded me of that. So I’m writing this to remind myself to get out and meet other writers! At the very least, they are bound to be interesting people. After all, they share a great love of mine! Writing!

Beat Sheets and How they can Help you Write your Book

In researching something to help me to plan my writing as well as assess progress as I write I came across the Beat Sheet concept which has it’s origins in the film-industry.

A beat sheet essentially sets out the structure and progress of a story, within which one can then enter the plot, scenes and events to ensure they happen at the correct point in the story structure. There are several available freely for download on the internet, the most well-known of which seems to have been developed by Larry Brooks.

I’ve taken his format and combined it with several others then modifed it to suit my needs. Here it is for your free use.


Do hope it’s helpful. Below you’ll find notes to explain the more obscure terms used.

Would love to get feedback and ideas about how this could be further developed and improved.


Beat sheet Explanations

Pinch point – an example, or a reminder, of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force, that is not filtered by the hero’s experience. We see it for ourselves in a direct form.

E.g. an action is portrayed where the pain, suffering etc. of the protagonist is being felt by the antagonistic force (action) of the antagonist. Pinch points can be very simple and quick – In fact the simpler and more direct, the more effective, eg, one character reminding another of what’s going on, a glimpse of an approaching storm, or the kidnapper beating the captive just for fun. Pinch point may need a setup scene, or it may not.

Hook moment – happens in the opening prologue scene in which a question is posed in the reader’s mind – what’s going to happen?

Opening Image – A visual that represents the struggle & tone of the story. A snapshot of the main character’s problem, before the adventure begins.

Set-up – Expand on the “before” snapshot. Present the main character’s world as it is, and what is missing in their life.

Theme Stated (happens during the Set-up) – What your story is about; the message, the truth. Usually, it is spoken to the main character or in their presence, but they don’t understand the truth…not until they have some personal experience and context to support it.

Catalyst – The moment where life as it is changes. It is the telegram, the act of catching your loved-one cheating, allowing a monster aboard the ship, meeting the true love of your life, etc. The “before” world is no more, change is underway.

Debate – But change is scary and for a moment, or a brief number of moments, the main character doubts the journey they must take. Can I face this challenge? Do I have what it takes? Should I go at all? It is the last chance for the hero to chicken out.

Break into Two (Choosing Act Two) – The main character makes a choice and the journey begins. We leave the “Thesis” world and enter the upside-down, opposite world of Act Two.

B Story – This is when there’s a discussion about the Theme – the nugget of truth. Usually, this discussion is between the main character and the love interest. So, the B Story is usually called the “love story”.

The Promise of the Premise – This is the fun part of the story. This is when Craig Thompson’s relationship with Raina blooms, when Indiana Jones tries to beat the Nazis to the Lost Ark, when the detective finds the most clues and dodges the most bullets. This is when the main character explores the new world and the audience is entertained by the premise they have been promised.

Midpoint – Dependent upon the story, this moment is when everything is “great” or everything is “awful”. The main character either gets everything they think they want (“great”) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (“awful”). But not everything we think we want is what we actually need in the end.

Bad Guys Close In – Doubt, jealousy, fear, foes both physical and emotional regroup to defeat the main character’s goal, and the main character’s “great”/“awful” situation disintegrates.

All is Lost – The opposite moment from the Midpoint: “awful”/“great”. The moment that the main character realizes they’ve lost everything they gained, or everything they now have has no meaning. The initial goal now looks even more impossible than before. And here, something or someone dies. It can be physical or emotional, but the death of something old makes way for something new to be born.

Dark Night of the Soul – The main character hits bottom, and wallows in hopelessness. The Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord? moment. Mourning the loss of what has “died” – the dream, the goal, the mentor character, the love of your life, etc. But, you must fall completely before you can pick yourself back up and try again.

Break into Three (Choosing Act Three) – Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again.

Finale – This time around, the main character incorporates the Theme – the nugget of truth that now makes sense to them – into their fight for the goal because they have experience from the A Story and context from the B Story. Act Three is about Synthesis!

Final Image – opposite of Opening Image, proving, visually, that a change has occurred within the character.

What are the Key Features of a Successful Writer?

Or at least some of them according to one observant marketing executive who over the years has identified the seven that follow as common to the successful authors he’s encountered.

Consistency – successful authors wake early and write every day for around 3-4 hours.
Inspiration – those same authors find inspiration not in monetary gain or the promise of fame. Their focus instead is to to serve the reader, to add something to their experience of living.
Platform – from early in their career those who hit the big time actively build relationships with other authors and people in the industry. Networking is a road to success.
Reading – and massively, of all genres, of good and bad writing. They also read about writing and about marketing their work. They’re hungry to learn.
Work – they work hard, they focus on detail, they get on with the non-glamourous stuff.
Website – they have a website and their own name domain (the website being the modern-day business card).
Marketing – They recognise that marketing, and knowing their reader well, are part of the job right from the very start.



Yours by Mary Robison

At our last group of six meeting, we discussed (among other things) how reading affects writing. In other words, what an author finds himself (or herself) reading, informs and infects that author’s writing. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. An agent that I met briefly last year essentially said the same thing to me. I should be reading crime writers since that is the genre that I am currently writing in. She was right, of course, but I think there is more to it than just that. I think we also need to be reading things that inspire the writer in us.

Tonight I was organising my office in anticipation of doing some writing when I came across an old print out of the story Yours by Mary Robison. Mary Robison is what you might call a minimalist writer. She writes short short stories, but her real gift is the ability to tell a story that is deeply moving and authentic as well. Anyone can write only 721 words (which is the length of Yours) but only someone like Mary can tell such a story in 721. 

I encourage you to read it. It will take only moments. Then find something to read that inspires you in the same way Yours inspires me.