Here’s to Beautiful Writing

September 15, 2012

Here’s to beautiful writing because we’ve worked so dammed hard to make it beautiful.

~ e.j. runyon

Bridge in fog



This summer, having finished

a)   my Graduate Certification in Online Teaching & Learning, and

 b)   my manuscript for my upcoming how to write fiction book, and

c)   my Camp NaNo June & August effort: first draft of ‘All Soul’s Day’, a new WIP

I decided to treat myself to a software program called Scrivener for the upcoming November 2012 NaNo effort – – an untitled novel. I did this because of my new way of thinking and planning for new work. You can read more about it here – the concept being, I can use Deconstruction of an existing story as a way into my own work.

Since I have what I feel is a new way of approaching my writing – well, why not have a new way of getting it all on the page? Hence the gift to myself of the Scrivener software.

I’m a research and resource fiend, and once the software was downloaded I went looking for help on using it.  I stumbled onto this blog post:

Scrivener Use Case interview: It looks like something just up my alley. And it’s more detailed than I expected. The craft elements of structure Neil Cross  (Booker Prize nominated novelist, and TV scriptwriter in the UK) talks about are very useable even without new software.

With those above hunks of ideas under my hat, I’m also dragging in some advice from playwright Dale Griffiths-Stamos’  on how the thematic, over arcing problem/question, which your MC is trying to get sorted, needs to permeate your entire work. (My words not hers. She says it a bit more smoothly).

I learned about her work with Abe Polsky, another playwright, when I attended the Santa Barbara Writers conference quite a number of moons ago.  They called this concept the ‘Magic Hamburger Method’.

Think of the two buns of your story hamburger: that which is going to hold all the meaty writing all together in your hand: Top Bun: your central Problem and Bottom Bun: your central Theme – they reach from beginning to end.  One is the physical plot problem we’ll see on your page, the other is the intangibles we’ll get via subtext and motif, for a lack of a more elegant way of explaining it.  Find these folks online and email them for more on the Hamburger Method. I’m not doing it justice.

Okay, so I have the tools, and the sage advice, but I figured mores the merrier.

I decided on mixing in one other item for this mélange. I finished off by folding in salient points remembered from Robert McKee’s wonderful book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting. This is a great book.

Especially the idea (and again I’ve internalized the advice, so I’m taking this from my memory rather than verbatim from his book) about having your characters actions and motivations do a ‘double duty’ where those action and reactions and motivations is in there, driving things along; because of the subtext you’re trying to convey about your characters.

So: this is my path for my next fiction effort. Advice and how-tos from Neil Cross, Dale Griffiths-Stamos, Abe Polsky, and Robert McKee.

Where’s the message in my telling you all this? Have you found it yourself?

Yes? No?

All this advice is coming from folks who write or have written scripts and plays. They work in an even more visual medium than your average fiction writer.  Following this kind of advice may turn my next effort into a more beautiful, visual one, as I wrote about in the July post The Visceral, Physical, and Visual.

At the least it might make you come at your work with a new perspective.

Add your voice to this discussion – post a comment and let’s get talking about it.


4 Responses to “Here’s to Beautiful Writing”

  1. I believe one of the things I did, years ago, that really gave my novels a boost was to attend McKee’s and Truby’s screenwriting week-ends in L.A. Yes, a book can do it, too, but the lecture/classroom experience was probably even more valuable. Anyway, I feel as though the structure you learn in screenwriting is INVALUABLE.

  2. ejrunyon Says:

    How would you say the shift manifested for you, J.?

  3. […] Here’s to Beautiful Writing « E.J. Runyon’s Author Blog. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in […]

  4. Scrivener’s great. I don’t use it for everything, but for organizing a new project it’s fantastic. I wrote last year’s NaNoWriMo on it, actually, and so far I’ve done all my revisions there, too.

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