Creative Writing Masterclass: Start Writing Your Own Stories | Brian Birmingham | Skillshare

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Creative Writing Masterclass: Start Writing Your Own Stories

teacher avatar Brian Birmingham, Screenwriter, Copywriter

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

45 Lessons (3h 38m)
    • 1. Welcome to Class

    • 2. What is Creative Writing & What is the Course Project?

    • 3. Exercise 1: Choose Your Story Prompt

    • 4. Elements of a Great Story & Why Do We Write?

    • 5. General Grammar Rules & Rule Breakers

    • 6. The Core Elements of a Story

    • 7. Characters - What Makes a Strong Character?

    • 8. Characters Types - Protagonist, Antagonist and Supporting Characters

    • 9. Character Analysis - Harry Potter

    • 10. Conflict: Building Drama in Your Story

    • 11. Plot: The Beginning, Middle and End of Your Story

    • 12. Setting: Where Your Story Takes Place

    • 13. Theme and Point of View

    • 14. Story Analysis: The Great Gatsby

    • 15. Story Analysis: The Great Gatsby

    • 16. The Differences & Similarities of Fiction and Nonfiction Stories

    • 17. Writing Creative Nonfiction Stories

    • 18. Nonfiction Analysis: Prompt

    • 19. Nonfiction Story Analysis: Father Time

    • 20. Exercise 3: Brainstorm Your Story Elements

    • 21. What Medium is Right for Your Story?

    • 22. What is a Writer's Style?

    • 23. Style Analysis: Ernest Hemingway

    • 24. A General Overview of the Writing Process from Idea to Publishing

    • 25. Outlining: How & Why We Outline

    • 26. Writing Your Synopsis

    • 27. Building Your Story in Your Outline

    • 28. Exercise 4: Outline Your Story

    • 29. Tips for Writing Your First Draft

    • 30. Exercise 5: Write Your First Draft

    • 31. Goals and Key Elements of Editing Your Writing

    • 32. Edit the Aesthetics

    • 33. Show Don't Tell

    • 34. Assess the Goals of Your Story

    • 35. Strengthen When Necessary

    • 36. Exercise 6: Edit Your First Draft

    • 37. Methods for Sharing Your Writing + Getting an Agent

    • 38. Self Publishing Your Writing

    • 39. Submitting to Literary Journals and Magazines

    • 40. More Recommendations for Publishing Your Work

    • 41. Self Publishing eBooks and Printed Books Can Be Easy

    • 42. Amazon Kindle Tutorial: Publishing Your eBook and Print-on-Demand Book

    • 43. Seeing Your Book Sales & Amazon Marketing Best Practices

    • 44. Final Thoughts on Creative Writing

    • 45. Thank You

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About This Class

Write your own stories, essays, books. Learn grammar, structure, and how to publish with this creative writing course.

Have you ever wanted to write? Do you have ideas for stories but don't know exactly how to tell them?

Creative writing is how you do it, and this course will teach you everything you need to start writing today.

This creative writing course is perfect for you whether you want to write short stories and essays, fiction or nonfiction books, novels or novellas. If you're curious about writing but need to learn how to get started, we invite you to join this class.


This course is taught using real world writing experience as well as analysis of professional and historical fiction and nonfiction work.

This course is also highly actionable. Throughout the course you'll be practicing all of the concepts. By the end of class, you should be well on your way to writing your own story.


Brian Birmingham is a writer in the Film and Television Industry working as a screenwriter & copywriter. Brian is passionate about all kinds of writing and is excited to show you modern writing techniques.


Start with an introduction to creative writing including why we write, the reasons to write, and how to find ideas for your stories. The first part of this course lays the groundwork for being a good writer. This includes:

  • Learn why we write, and the key elements of great writing.

  • Learn grammar, an essential aspect of good creative writing.

  • Learn what a writer's style, which includes things like point of view, theme, grammar usage, economy of words, and more. You'll learn how to find and develop your own style.

  • Learn the core elements of storytelling, and creating drama through conflict. Learn the structure of a narrative (inciting incident, rising action, climax, and resolution). Learn different common structures, settings, and character development.

  • Learn the difference between writing for fiction and nonfiction, and how storytelling elements remain similar in both forms.

  • Learn how to choose the right medium for your story.

The later part of this course covers the process of writing. This includes:

  • Learn tips and strategies to write more and create a writing routine.

  • Learn how to outline your story from plot, character, synopsis and formatting.

  • Learn how to write your first draft, then how to edit your work.

This course concludes with lessons on how to find a home for your work. In today's world you have many options for sharing your stories with the world from self-publishing to working with a publisher.  This course even contains step-by-step tutorials on how to self publish your book with Amazon.

If you want to quickly and easily learn creative writing, this is the course for you.


Brian Birmingham

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Brian Birmingham

Screenwriter, Copywriter


I work in the Film and Television industry as a copywriter, where I spend my days writing everything from print taglines and trailer copy, to special shoot scripts and additional film dialogue. I've contributed to a variety of high profile campaigns, ranging from Toy Story 4, to A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, to Black Panther, and many more.


I have always had a passion for film and writing. I received my Bachelor's degree in screenwriting from one of the U.S.'s top film schools, Loyola Marymount University. While there, I interned as a script reader at several production companies, including Jerry Bruckheimer, Happy Madison and DreamWorks. Ever since, I have dedicated myself to learning, understanding and refining the craft of writing, and conti... See full profile

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1. Welcome to Class: Do you want to learn creative writing? If you have an idea that you want to turn into a story, whether it be a short story or a novel, a screenplay, or a stage play, this is the course for you. Creative writing is something that can be a challenge for anyone who feels the need to express an idea or a thought that they have in a way that is impactful to their audience. This course is going to cover the essential elements of storytelling that will help you to take your idea, to organize it into a cohesive story, and to craft an outstanding piece of writing. We're going to cover everything from characters to conflict to setting point of view, theme, everything that goes into making a story as good as it can be, and how to take all these elements, make them work together and form a story that only you can tell with only your perspective, your voice, your unique worldview. We're also going to cover different ways to put your work out there. If you write a great story that you're proud of and you want to share with the world, you want to get it published, we'll look at some different ways that you might go about doing that. I'm so excited to help you tell your stories in a way that only you can through creative writing, and that's what this course is meant to do. 2. What is Creative Writing & What is the Course Project?: Let's begin with an introduction to what creative writing is. You might already know this, but this is going to be any writing that is outside the scope of technical or academic writing. This is going to be true for both fiction and non-fiction. It's going to contain a narrative, characters, ideas, imagination, some form of all or a few of these and it's going to communicate an idea to the reader. That's the essential component of any creative writings. You want to make sure that you are expressing yourself and communicating clearly in a clever or creative way, whatever it is that you want to express to your reader and to your audience. How will this course work? We're going to just have you work on a personal project. You don't have to share this with anyone. This is just something that you can work on through the course and hopefully all of these lessons will guide you along and help you to bring your idea into a completed project. If you have an idea for a short story, or a novel or a screenplay or an essay, that's great. You can just use this to guide you along and help you to make that a complete piece of work. But if you don't have any idea and you just want to learn about creative writing and you have no concept of what you want to write that is totally fine. Hopefully this course will inspire you to find the right idea for you and to get going on your personal project. These are some works that we're going to discuss in this course. You do not have to have read all of these, but if you have, it will help you with some of the examples and references later on. I hope you're excited to get going in. We're going to dive right in with our first exercise. 3. Exercise 1: Choose Your Story Prompt: For our first exercise, we're just going to simply select a prompt that we're going to use to work with through this course, if you don't have one of your own. This is just a list of some thought starters, you can take it or leave it, do something completely different, whatever you feel comfortable with. But if you're out of ideas and you want to start on something and you don't know where to begin, hopefully this will give you something of a starting point. Autobiographical, this is just going to be a first-person experience that you want to share from your own life. You can craft that into fiction, non-fiction wherever you want it to be. But that can be a great way to get started and to tell a story that you're going to know better than anybody else. Social consciousness, this is obviously a big part of any writing, is just any commentary on society and culture. What your perspective of it is. If there's something that strikes you and makes you passionate and interested, then maybe there's something that you should look into for crafting whatever story you want to tell. Fish out of water. This is just a simple story setup. You take one character who is not comfortable in the situation that you're going to put them in, and let them learn and grow and struggled through that situation. That can lend itself to plenty of story possibilities. Time. I think if you can put a restriction on the timeframe that your story takes place that forces you to be disciplined in the way you tell it, in the events that can happen, and sometimes having that more narrow focus can help you really nail down what you're trying to tell. If you're really struggling, sometimes you can just think, I'm going to tell a story set in one day and that's going to be it. That'll help you to see where things go. A great example of this would be Ulysses by James Joyce, which is a 700 page novel that takes place over one day. Then animals. This is just something that anyone can relate to, whether it's a more conservation focused or kids focused. Whenever it wants to be. If you want just not deal with people in the world and you want to tell a story through a completely new lens that we wouldn't maybe see otherwise, then turning to animals can always be a great way to go to open up a whole world of story possibilities. Make sure whatever you write you make it personal. If you're trying just to tell a story and it's of no relevance to you whatsoever, no matter what that story is, is going to fall flat. I think if you can take anything from your life and weave it into whatever story you're telling, however you choose to do it, it's going to amplify the writing that much more. Make sure you use all of your personal thoughts, beliefs, opinions to inform your writing. No matter how fantastical or wild or imaginative your story is, it should always be grounded in something that is relevant to you. That concludes our introduction, and we're going to move on to the next section of why we write. 4. Elements of a Great Story & Why Do We Write?: For our next section, we're gonna talk about why we write. To start with this, which is interesting introspective question, but I think it's really important to know if you're going to be in any creative writing pursuit, why you want to do it in the first place? What are we doing when we write? First of all, we should be expressing some idea or reflecting some perspective of our own in writing form. We're also going to be communicating some message to our audience. Whether that be a personal message, a social message, whatever it is, you have to have something to say when you're writing and you're creating a reflection of your own world view introspective. For me, I think good writing is an author taking their personal view of the world and finding a way to make sense of it through writing form, through story because story is the one thing that we all have that we all can connect to and relate to. Some reasons to practice creative writing. Passion and interest. This is obviously number one. You have to have a real desire to want to tell stories however you want to tell them. If that passion and that drive isn't there then that's going to definitely hinder you down the road. Make sure this is something that you're really drawn towards. If you're taking this course, then you're probably already on the right track to do that. You have stories that you want to tell, whether these are stories you've made up or that you have in your imagination, in your mind from personal experience, there are stories that you have within you that you need to get out somehow. That is a key reason to want to start creative writing. You have worldviews and experiences that you want to share. This is the same thing, but just you have ideas and opinions and philosophies and ideologies about the world that you think are worth putting out there whether it be in a straightforward journalistic fashion or an essay fashion or in a wildly imaginative story. This is something that you just need to get outside of yourself and get out into the world. That's a great reason to take up writing, to study the craft, and to want to improve it and get better at it and get better at expressing yourself in the stories that you want to tell. Reasons not to practice creative writing. Fame or acclaim is a big one. Obviously, I think people view authors as these very famous, interesting people but if that's the key reason that you want to be an author, a writer of any kind, that's not a good enough reason to start writing. Money. A lot of writing is not very lucrative. Sometimes it is. Whether it is or not, can't be at the focus of why you want to write or you're never going to write well, because that will be your means to an end and that's a very flimsy basis to pursue your goal. Then also viewing your audience as a means to an end. In other words, just trying to get yourself propelled to fame or money or whatever through an audience and not caring about what the audience might make of your story or take away from it or relate to. If you're viewing your audience in that way, then they're going to see right through it and your writing is going to suffer because of it. Why do we tell stories in the first place? It's a part of human nature. It's something that people have been doing ever since people have been on this planet. It helps us to make sense of the world around us and to take all of these abstract wild ideas and happenings and just organize them into something that's comprehensible and that you can pass on to generation and generation. It's a reflection of different people's lives and worldviews and perspectives. Obviously, every single person is different. Every single person views the world differently. Everyone has a different story to tell. I think good creative writing is going to allow people to share these different views and ideas and philosophies with each other and that's what keeps storytelling alive in the world for generations to come. On that note, it just connects us and it helps us to relate to each other. Once you can see another person's worldview, you're going to see that person differently. The more storytelling that we have out in the world, the more we feel like we all can know each other, know how people view the world differently from us, similarly to us, or whatever it may be. It entertains us. I mean, some stories are just entertaining even if they connect with us on a deep emotional level. If we have a profound experience reading a novel or watching a movie or reading an article, it's ultimately something that we can come away satisfied from. That's really important obviously. Then lastly, it helps to just make sense of the world around us. It helps to distill everything that we're all going through and experiencing through these different lenses and just rationalize the world that we live in. That's one of the great things that storytelling of all kinds does, is it just helps us to organize our thoughts and ideas in different, unique, and imaginative ways. Considering all of this that I have just talked about, you should start maybe asking yourself what kind of stories you want to tell if you don't know yet? What can you bring to the table as a writer, as you being you as a unique individual, and what stories can you tell that nobody else can? I'm just going to run through a couple of rhetorical questions to get you thinking about that. One, what perspective can you offer that nobody else can? You're going to see the world differently from every single person around you, so what can you take from that and bring into storytelling that's going to be different from your siblings, from your friends, from people who live across the planet from you? What makes you unique? Question 2, why do you want to tell the stories that you want to tell? If you have a story within you that you are just dying to get out and get on paper and get into the world, what is it that's driving you to tell that story and why is it so important to you? Question 3, what is the best means of telling your story? Because every different medium is going to have a different impact. A film is going to be different from a short story, and a novel is going to be different from an essay, and a poem is going to be different from a podcast so what means is the best to express your story in the best possible and fullest way? All that being said, start thinking about that, take the prompt or the idea that you have, let it live in your brain a little bit, and think of how you might want to go about pursuing the story that you want to tell. Then we'll spend the next section touching on grammar. 5. General Grammar Rules & Rule Breakers: Our next section that we're going to talk about is grammar. We're going to just look at a general overview. I'm not going to sit here and tell you all of the rules of grammar or even the most fundamental rules of grammar usage, because that would be really miserable for everyone. I would just recommend making sure you really familiarize yourself with proper grammar. There are plenty of resources out there that you can look to and it's going to vastly improve your writing no matter who you are. Let's just look at some general elements of the way grammar factors into creative writing. Understanding of grammar is arguably more important than anything else because if you don't write well, then no matter how great of a storyteller you are and how great your characters are, it's going to make everything fall apart. It's really essential that you understand the fundamentals of proper grammar usage. It's the foundation of all good writing and it's essential for communicating clearly what it is that you want to communicate with your story. It's seldom used properly in our day-to-day lives. We all send e-mails and text messages and the like with all of our friends, coworkers, families, and no one pays much attention to grammar because that's just the way our means of communicating are structured. But when you're writing, you need to make sure that you're actually using proper grammar to get your points across. Without a grasp of just the basics you're going to struggle with your writing and that's just basically to say that if you know the rules and you get good at it, then you're not going to have to always be thinking about it and have it in the back of your mind and have it be a distraction for you. So familiarizing yourself with the essential rules and elements of it are going to be very important. You might be reading novels and notice that there is improper grammar usage from really notable authors. We're going to look at a couple and just break that down. First, James Joyce. I mentioned Ulysses earlier and if you've read that novel, you know that the last 24,000 words only have two instances of punctuation. There's two periods and one comma in all of that text, which is obviously improper grammar. Jane Austen uses double negative in Emma, saying 'She owned that considering everything, she was not absolutely without inclination for the party' instead of just saying she wanted to go to the party. Then Shakespeare, who is arguably the best writer at all time, has been known to end sentences with the preposition, which everyone says is improper as seen in this example from The Tempest, 'We're such stuff as dreams are made on', on being the preposition there. Why is this okay that these people can break these unbreakable so-called grammar rules. In Ulysses, that whole last section represents a stream of consciousness from the character whose point of view the chapter is being told from so the use of no grammar and no punctuation in that whole chapter is representative of that stream of consciousness and gives that effect when you read it. Jane Austen uses the double negative to highlight these characters pretentiousness and the way they over convolute the way they speak to sound smarter and actually, in turn, sound less intelligent. Then Shakespeare ending with the preposition, this is a long-discussed rule and basically, if it sounds better to end with a preposition than without, then that is okay. People will make you feel like you can never do that and then you'll have a lot of clunky writing. But if it flows better, if it works, that's acceptable and you can quote me on that. It's not uncommon in literature to see bad grammar but the thing to remember is that the people who change or bend or break whatever rules of grammar are being broken, they're usually doing it for a reason. They know what they're doing and then they're choosing not to adhere to that. That's completely different from not knowing and just winging it and getting it wrong because the difference is always very obvious. When is it not okay, ever? A few examples, no matter who you are, just won't be right. One apostrophes. People get apostrophes wrong all the time, such as it's or its, so knowing when to use a property apostrophe is essential because you just can't get around that one. The same with homonyms like there, your, and then knowing when to interchange those is very important and I'm not going to go into all the details of when to do that, but make sure you know what you're doing when you use words like that. Then misplaced modifiers, which is going to be an adjective or an adverb describing the subject of a sentence that's in the wrong place. For instance, if you say Bob came home and made a sandwich exhausted, that doesn't sound right compared to Bob came home exhausted and made a sandwich. Make sure that your modifiers, your adjectives, and adverbs are always as close to the subject as they can be in the sentence, otherwise, the whole thing is going to fall apart. I think these are the things you'll see the most in writers who don't have a firm grasp on grammar and I would just implore you to make sure you familiarize yourself as much as you can before you begin writing, and especially when you're revising. We'll just leave it at this for now and move on to more fun sections like storytelling. 6. The Core Elements of a Story: Now we're going to cover a lot of the essentials of storytelling as a whole. Regardless of the genre, or the medium, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, these elements should always be a part of any story being told. Character, obviously these are who are going to drive your story forward. Conflict, without conflict you're not going to have a story. Plot, which is the way the story builds and unfolds. Setting, this is going to be where your story takes place and it's going to affect the overall tone and mood and style and ways your characters interact with each other. Theme, this is essentially what your story is about, what kind of ideas that it is exploring. The thing to work out is how you make all of these elements work together and work cohesively to tell a great story and to tell your story as well as you possibly can. 7. Characters - What Makes a Strong Character?: Let's start with character. I would argue that character is more important than anything in story because if you write a great story with bad characters, the whole story is going to fall apart. But if you have compelling characters that people want to be with and want to root for and want to see and who are dynamic and interesting, that's going to carry so much of the weight of what you're trying to do when you tell a good story. How do you craft interesting or exciting and dynamic characters? You want to make sure they have a desire. This is something that they want and this is what they're going to pursue through the story. You also want them to have a need. More often than not, this need is going to be something that they don't realize that they need and it's going to be different from what they want. That's going to be a big catalyst for how your character grows and changes and what defines their arc throughout the course of the story. They need a weakness. If they're perfect and not flawed at all, they're not like any human at all. They need to have something that's going to hold them back and that's going to make it harder for them to reach their want or their need. They need an arc. No one wants to watch someone who doesn't change over time. No one wants to be friends with people who don't change over time. All of us need to change and grow and learn. Our characters, especially in a short time frame, need to also grow and change and learn. They need three-dimensionality. You'll hear people say this a lot and not clarify what the three dimensions are. This is going to be their physical, psychological, and sociological makeup. How they've been molded by their environment, which is the sociological; how their physical appearance has affected the way they have their own worldview and how that has also affected their psychology or the way they think, the way they perceive the world around them. Knowing all these things about your characters is going to help you create stronger characters and help you to define their arc within your story - whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction - because these are all traits that we all possess. Why are these qualities so important? This is just human nature distilled into some essential elements that are going to affect your story. I think a way to look at this is that you need to view your characters and the people who you're writing as full-fledged human beings with a full life. What we're seeing in the story is just a snippet of that life. You can't just focus on them in the story. You need to think of them as a whole and what makes them human and what makes them real. Even if they aren't human and aren't real, what about them can we connect with? Once again, these are just qualities that we all resonate with and understand. This is going to be essential in crafting dynamic characters and portraying people in fiction and nonfiction alike. If you read, say, a great piece of literary journalism where you're telling someone's story, the writer who's going to write that story is going to showcase all of these elements in their characters. That's what's going to make you understand the story better and that's what's going to make them more fully fleshed out characters, as opposed to just who they are on a surface level. Getting to know them on a deeper level is going to make them that much more compelling to read. 8. Characters Types - Protagonist, Antagonist and Supporting Characters: Let's talk about protagonist. In any fiction or nonfiction story, the protagonist is going to be your main character. This is who's going to drive your story forward and who we're going to stay with, and even if there's [inaudible], there tends to be one character who stands out from the pack. I would recommend making sure you know who your protagonist is when you're writing so that you can craft your story around them pursuing what they want. That's going to drive your story forward and we're going to follow your protagonist as they try to get to their goal and struggle to reach that goal and learn along the way. Your protagonist out of all of your characters is going to have the most significant character arc. They're going to go from one end of the spectrum to the other through the course of your story and that's what's going to make your story really compelling and rich, and detailed, and interesting. Your protagonist is going to be a source of other critical story elements, there are going to carry theme. They're going to be part of the conflict, the setting. All of this is going to be centered around your characters and especially around your protagonist. Then you have your antagonist. This is going to be the primary opponent who your protagonist faces in their journey to get what they want. They're going to stand in the way of your protagonist reaching their goal, and they're going to bring out along the way the best and the worst qualities of your protagonist, which is going to reveal more of their three-dimensionality to us as the reader and as the audience. There are some stories where you might think there's not a clear cut antagonist, but you need to view this as anyone who stands in your protagonist's way, whether it's willingly or unwillingly, they're hindering them, getting what they want and they're making them have to pivot and adjust and recalculate their plans to get where they need to be physically, emotionally, mentally, and for the story's sake. This is going to drive the conflict of your story. Your protagonist and your antagonist, clashing and getting in each other's way is going to be the biggest source of what drives your story forward, how the conflict is going to build, how your protagonist is going to grow, and how the story is going to unfold around them. Lastly, this needs to be a fully realized character. I think a lot of people see an antagonist as just an evil being or entity, or just something that is written to stand in your protagonist way. Every good antagonist in any story has their own reason for doing what they're doing. They need to be coming at it in a way where they feel what they're doing is absolutely right, even if you feel it's absolutely wrong. A great antagonist has qualities that make them more than just a hindrance to your protagonist and other characters. They need to be making their case for why they're right and why the protagonist is wrong, for instance. Make sure you put a lot of thought into these characters because they are just as important as anyone else, and maybe even more important depending on the story that you're telling. Supporting characters. These are going to be the characters who support your protagonist or antagonist, essentially the other major players in your story. Every additional character in a story, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, needs to serve a purpose. They can't be there just because it worked for you, because you wanted them to be there. They have to serve a purpose in the overall story, in the message you are communicating, in the idea that you're expressing. Make sure you know why they're there. They need to help your protagonist or antagonist grow or change in some way and they need to be a key component of that whole journey that they go through. Then great supporting characters also have their own arcs, their own desires, and their own needs that they need to work out. Even if they're not as profound or fully developed as your protagonists, that still needs to be an essential quality of these characters that you're writing. 9. Character Analysis - Harry Potter: To look at how some of these elements factor into a well-known character, we're going to examine Harry Potter. What is Harry Potter's desire? He wants to go to Hogwarts and learn how to become a wizard. That's his main thing. He wants to get out of his abusive aunt and uncle's home and go live his own life and that's the main goal he is pursuing when the story begins. What he needs is to become a hero and defeat the evil Lord Voldemort, who is terrorizing the whole Hogwarts community and step up into be who he is, always been meant to be, which he doesn't even know until the story unfolds further. There you can see a really clear difference between the desire and need. If he just got what he wanted, the story would be over in 30 minutes or 50 pages, but once he learns the need, that changes his whole pursuit and the whole story has to change along with it. What is his weakness? Primarily, he's young and inexperienced. He has no idea what he's doing when the story starts and he's lost his parents, so he doesn't have that support system that he would need at the start of the story to fully realize who he's meant to become. This sets him at an immediate disadvantage. He lacks self-confidence and he has a lot to overcome to reach what his need is. If you're thinking of this as a writer, you need to think that you know the need and you know where the story is going, but your character does not, so you have to craft the way they're going to learn all this information as the story unfolds and by proxy, the way the audience is going to learn all this information and be told this story that's being told. What's Harry Potter's arc? He goes from a young apprentice who has no experience to this master wizard and hero over the course of the first novel and then all the proceeding novels as well. That's a pretty clear cut example of just taking those fundamental elements and then crafting an entire story around it. Through all of that, we get a sense of his three-dimensionality. This isn't all given away right off the bat. We learn his backstory. We learn where he's from. We learn the way he thinks, the way he views the world through the story as a whole and so I think making sure you're revealing all these things about the character through their experiences and through the adversity they face is a great way to consider structuring your story and it's also a great lesson in why it's so important to know everything about your character and it makes him that much easier to write and that much more compelling. I think this is a good example of how a character can be crafted and how a whole story can take off just from that. In conclusion on character, this is a pretty fundamental overview, but hopefully this helps you to have a good starting point to consider the characters you want in your story and how they're going to shape the story as a whole. Make sure your characters struggle in the story. If they don't struggle, there's no story. Make sure they learn. We want to see them learn about themselves, about their friends, about the world around them. They have to grow. In other words, they have to have a profound character arc. If they don't have an arc, then the whole story is going to fall flat, and they need to change. This is also the result of that arc in the story as a whole, and the impact that it has on them. Then make sure every character is necessary to your story too. Well, there's the protagonist, antagonist supporting characters. Everyone has to be orchestrated together to serve their purpose in telling the story that you want to tell. Make sure every character, every moment, every interaction is necessary for your story as a cohesive whole. Just remember your characters are going to carry your story, so they have to be fully developed, well thought out, and known before you even start writing. In the next step, we're going to take a look at conflict. 10. Conflict: Building Drama in Your Story: Next, we're going to talk about conflict. Conflict is arguably the most important part of story because conflict is what creates drama and drama creates story and if you don't have any conflict then you're arguably not going to have any story at all. Great stories are going to increase the conflict throughout that's what they mean by thickening the plot or building the story. The conflict becomes increasingly difficult on your characters. Whatever that source conflict maybe we're going to get to in a little bit, but making sure that this builds as your story builds, whatever story you're telling is going to be essential in keeping the story going strong. Doing this makes it more challenging for your protagonist to achieve their goals and that's also going to make it more significant when they learn things, when they grow, how they react to different sources of conflict are going to reveal more about their character and lead to their character arc. These two really have to work in sync with each other and obviously, if your characters just easily get what they want, then that's not going to be an interesting story. No one's really going to care. If someone wants to go to the store, he goes to the store, has no problem. That's not a story, that's just a thing that happened, so make sure that you make it really difficult on your main characters and really force the ways that they're going to grow and achieve their arc throughout the course of the story. You're going to use conflict to build your story and what I mean by this is you're going to have the stories start small. This is going to be an ordinary situation that we can all relate to you and as the story goes on, it's going to build more and more and that's going to reveal more about all of your characters, your settings, your themes, everything that we're going to get to in a little bit. You have to make sure whatever sources of conflict you choose to use in your story are going to build the story as it moves forward. You're not going to want to reveal every source of conflict upfront, if you just have big expository scenes in the beginning that explain everything that your protagonist is going to be up against every adversity, every obstacle, then we're going to see it coming. Nothing's going to be surprising or engaging for us as the reader, as the audience. Make sure that you parse this out throughout your story. That being said, you want everything to unfold naturally if things are just increasing in drama and tension for the sake of increasing in drama and tension, then that's also going to hurt your story greatly. Something to think about is what your character has to go through and what ways you can achieve that through conflict, what obstacles they might have to overcome to get where they need to go, to learn what they need to learn, and to become who they need to become. Then you should let it push your protagonist to the limits. That's just to say that conflict should not be easy. Once again, make sure that you're going to put someone in a really difficult situation where they have to use every element of their three-dimensionality, everything that's inside them to overcome it and to get what they need out of the story. There are multiple sources of conflict that you might find in a story. This could be from an antagonist to time, whatever is at stake. Conflict is a tough thing to describe as anything concrete because it's just going to be these factors, these moments, and events in your story that are going to help your protagonist grow and achieve their goals. We all face conflict in our lives, whether it's traffic or something a lot more extreme. The loss of a job or a loved one, whatever it is, everything that challenges us as people and affects us in our lives is a source of conflict and is a source of story in our life and I think putting all that into a story is a good way to make sense of the ways that we grow and the ways we react to the world around us. Let's look at a few sources of conflict and think of how these might factor into your story. Person versus person, this is a simple protagonist versus antagonist situation. Just like we were talking about with Harry Potter. You have Harry Potter and Voldemort on one end. That's the most person versus person situation you can have in a story, and a lot of stories use this and they use it really well. It's really natural. This is part of human life. Using a person versus person source of conflict to drive your story is a great way to go. Person versus nature is another force when someone is just at the whims of their natural settings in the world around them. An example of this is The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. This is the story of someone who is pursuing this great marlin and the drive of that person to try to do that and what they have to face in order to do that. The sea, this gigantic fish, the adversity they overcome in going out into nature and trying to conquer it. A person versus nature is a great way to build story and to reveal a lot about your characters. Then person versus self. This is just something that we all deal with. We all have sources of conflict within ourselves and just the way we grow from our own internalization and our own ways of thinking and ideologies. An example of this is Ulysses by James Joyce, which stays with our main character Leopold Bloom throughout the whole story as he goes through this day in Dublin and grows through the interactions he has, the thoughts he has, and everything that happens to him in that story. This is not to say that whatever story you're telling has to have one of these only it can have any number of these sources of conflict, but it has to have at least something. Starting to think about the way that these sources of conflict are going to affect your character as they pursue what they want to pursue is a great way to start thinking about how your story might build and what things you can put your protagonist through to communicate the message that you're aiming to communicate in the story that you're writing. 11. Plot: The Beginning, Middle and End of Your Story: Now we're going to talk about plot. A lot of people think a plot of the story is just the order of things that happened, and that's not entirely true. Character and conflict are going to be essential in building the plot of your story. Like I said, this is not just a storyline, this is not just a beat-by-beat sequence of what happens, a plot is a sequence of events driven by cause and effect that build your story. This cause and effect is the result of the conflict that your character faces. Every conflict that your character faces is going to cause an effect in them, and that's going to lead to the next sequence of events, the next scene, the next moment that they have to face and get through to get where they need to go. You know where your character is going, you know what's going to come against them, building all of these together and putting them in that strategic sequence to tell your story and communicate your message as best as you can, is going to be your plot. Knowing how you're going to structure your story means having a clear sense of what the beginning, middle, and end of your story will entail and how you're going to tell those aspects of your story. Let's start first with looking at the beginning of a story, or as it would typically be known in any kind of book, play, novel, as the first act of your story. You can go about revealing this information any way that you want to, this is just a typical overview to help you set up your story and find ways to cohesively put it together and structure it, and communicate whatever it is that you want to communicate with the story that you're telling. In the beginning, you're going to want to establish your characters, your story, and your setting. You want people to know who we're going to be following, what they're after, where they're going to be in, and where they might go, and what this story might hold. This doesn't have to reveal everything that's going to happen, but it should give us a sense of the story we are about to follow and the characters that we're going to follow along on that story. The end of the first act should end with a plot point or a big revelation, this is going to be something that your character never sees coming and forces them to completely throw out everything that they thought they knew before and change direction. Doing this is a great way to install character growth and to show how characters react to different situations. This, of course, is going to be driven by conflict. Making sure that after that first act, after you get the story moving and things going in the right direction, you throw a plot point in that's going to change things for your character and change the direction of the story and keep us engaged in what's going to happen next, which is going to lead into the middle of the story or the second act. This is always going to be the toughest act to write because it's a lot of space to fill, a lot has to happen. Knowing how you want to plot your story, how you want to structure your conflict and your characters and have them all work together to reach the goal that they need to reach, is really difficult. It's a lot of information to put in, it's a lot to distill. But that's what writing is, it's about just finding the best way to build those moments and to keep that story moving and to keep this engaging and interesting and on-point with what you're trying to accomplish. This is just going to be rising action. You're going to have that first plot point and then things are going to pivot and move towards the goal in a new way. That's called rising action, that's the sequence of events that's going to continue to drive the story forward after the first plot point threw it off its course a little bit. In this rising action, the plot will build and the conflict is going to increase. That's what I mean by plot building. The conflict is going to get more challenging. It's going to be harder on everybody. The way that everyone reacts to that is what's going to continue to drive your story forward. Then, just like the first act, your second act should end with another plot point, another big reversal that your character doesn't see coming. That once again is going to throw them off course of what they're trying to achieve, make them pivot, think, restrategize, and continue moving forward as best they can after they've gone through everything that they've already gone through. Then the end or the final act, this is simply going to have your climax, which is the final revelation. This is the point of no return essentially, this is where your character is going to face something where their decision is going to be irreversible. Whatever happens in your climax is going to set the course for the rest of the story. This is your biggest plot point, if you will, the biggest reveal, the biggest traversal, the biggest make or break moment in your character's journey to get what they need. Great writers can just do this so well that you don't even see the climax coming, you don't expect what's going to happen, and you don't know what's going to happen after. The resolution, of course, is what happens after and how the whole story wraps up, and how your character gets to where they need to go by the end of the story. Typically thinking, even though you have three acts, these aren't necessarily going to be your story exactly divided into thirds. The first act is going to be shorter than the second act typically because you have to put a lot more information and a lot more has to happen in that second act to build the story towards the climax. The third act is typically going to be the shortest of any part of the story because that's just where everything comes to fruition. It all happens. Everything has led to that final act. There's no set formula for how long this has to be, you as the writer can determine where these major changes in your story are going to take place, but typically speaking, the second act will be the longest, the first act will be the second longest, and the third act will be the shortest. 12. Setting: Where Your Story Takes Place: All right, so next we're going to talk about setting. Setting is going to be simply the place, time, and backdrop for your story. This is where and when your story takes place, and of course, this is going to have major implications on the story that you're telling. Where you set your characters and where you set the conflict they come into and where they have to go about pursuing their goals, and when they have to do it is going to have huge implications on what they go through. A story set in 1940 is going to have a completely different feel from a story set in the future, for instance, so let's look at some novels and the settings of those novels and how they affected the the story as a whole. First, we have Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This is a fictional and real-world coming together where it's set in London in the 1990s, and part of the story takes place in the world that we know and part of it takes place in this underworld that only the characters of the story know. Having that blend of real and fantasy just adds a really cool element to the story and really reinforces the sort of fantastical tones of that story, of the characters, and of the themes and the moments that happened in that story. Misery by Stephen King. This takes place, essentially entirely in one woman's house the whole time. There are a couple of scenes outside at the beginning and the end. But having that really confined space makes the story as terrifying and creepy and suspenseful and intense as it is, and I think if you expanded the scope of that story and had a different setting, it would not have the same feel that it does obviously. Pride and Prejudice is set in 19th-century high society, England, if it was set anywhere else, it would not be the story that it is today and the characters wouldn't be who they are. This also goes into the way that sociology affects your characters in their three-dimensionality so the upbringing they have, their environment where they are is going to affect the way they talk, the way they act, and the way they behave around their friends and colleagues and other people who come into the story. Again, Ulysses by James Joyce is just set in Dublin in 1904, and it's just a complete real-world situation where you have Dublin as it is at the time the story takes place and that serves as a backdrop for the entire novel. Then, Huckleberry Finn, you have the Mississippi River, which serves as the sort for the journey that Huck takes through the story as he sets off on this big adventure down the river in the story, and it also is crucial to the setting of that story and its themes, and the way that it all plays out in the end. As you can see, these are all completely different places, completely different environments. But if there were any different the stories would not be what they were. Setting is sometimes something that we think about as just being a convenience or something that just makes sense to the story we're telling. But we really need to think about the way that the setting affects the story and the field that it's going to create in the story, the mood that it will create and how it will affect your characters and change what they go through and change the way they perceive the world. 13. Theme and Point of View: Now, we're going to take a look at theme. In the simplest sense, the theme is the central idea of your story. This is a pretty difficult thing for a lot of new writers to grasp because theme just feels like this elusive and mythical element of storytelling, but it's really not as complicated as a lot of people might make it seem. I think a good way to look at theme is to just try to distill it into one word. For instance, love, grief, betrayal, loss, identity, whatever it might be. This is just the idea that your story is centered around in the central point of focus for the message that you are communicating in the story that you're telling. This is related to, but separate from your story's premise, which is more connected to the worldview. The premise is just the moral truth that you're trying to explore with your story, is the idea that you want to get across that tells people your view of how people should live, your view of what society should be, how people should act, whatever it might be. This is a lot more complex than themes so we're going to leave that alone for the moment and keep this in simple terms and just look at theme as being that one identifying factor. Obviously, there can be multiple identifying factors that constitute theme in the story that you're telling. The theme of your story or these ideas that you're exploring are going to have major implications on the mood, the tone, the characters, every aspect of your story. Definitely, keep that in mind. Of course, like I just said, a story can have multiple themes that are explored, but I think it's important that all of them are connected to what the general premise of your story is. If you're exploring a whole bunch of different ideas, everything's going to feel disjointed and unconnected and unorganized. Everything should feel connected and cohesive and organic to everything that you're trying to communicate in your story that you're writing. Let's look at some considerations for a theme. Generally, a theme is going to be a common and cross-cultural point of view or perspective. This is just going to be something that we can all relate to. If your theme is love, if you're telling a love story, that's something that is experienced by people all over the world and that's going to connect people to your story for that reason alone. That's the thing I'm talking about a theme where it's just that identifying factor that makes your story relevant to more than one person, to your audience as a whole. It should explore different perspectives. If we're sticking with love, there are a million different ways to look at a love story. There are a million different love stories out there. What perspective, once again, can you, as a writer who is only you bring to this theme? What can you take from this genre, from this idea and make your own? Then theme should never be stated explicitly. Obviously, if we're going to continue with the love idea for theme, no one is going to say that this is a love story. We're going to know by the way the story is told. That's putting it in the simplest terms. But that's just to say that your characters should never just say what's happening in the story or what this is about. We as the audience should discern just from reading it, what this is exploring and what it's about. I think another thing with theme is that the best way to have it factor into your story is to let it happen organically. This isn't something that you need to pick out ahead of time and make sure that it's going to be in your story. I think when you read a first draft, it becomes very clear to you as the reader what you're writing about when sometimes, that's not the case when you dive in and that's part of what writing is. It's just sort our ideas on paper, seeing them for the first time in a different way, and then distilling in revisions what the story is ultimately about and what it's exploring. Don't get too hung up on theme and trying to work it all out and have it nailed down before you start writing because it's something that can just happen from writing itself, but it's something that I think is important to identify so that you can know exactly what you're dealing with in your story. On this point, it's really important to just make sure you have a point of view. Whatever you're exploring in your story, make sure you're telling it from the perspective that only you can offer. Make sure you have a take on it, you have an opinion on what you're saying, you're on a side and you're not just writing what you think you know, you're writing what you actually know. Make sure your point of view, your voice, your perspective is clear in every element of your writing. For the next section, as I said before, we're going to look at how all of these story elements factor into The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I chose this story because it's one that most of us have read in school or outside of school. It's a very straightforward, classic work of American literature and it hits all of these points very clearly throughout the story. If you've read it, great, if not, I would recommend reading it before this section. But if you aren't able to get to it, hopefully, this will still help you to see how all these elements factor together to form one cohesive narrative. 14. Story Analysis: The Great Gatsby: So before we dive into The Great Gatsby, let's look at just a little bit of background about the novel. It was published in 1926. It's a depiction of the American dream and America itself during the Jazz age, which is when it was written. It received positive critical reviews when it first came out. However, it did not sell well, and it was re-examined after F. Scott Fitzgerald is death. That's when it was re-established as this literary masterpiece in classic that it now is today. Like I said, everything that I just covered with the story elements is a lot to take in. It's a lot to look at and know how that can all work together to form a cohesive narrative. Hopefully, in doing this we can break down the characters, we can break down the setting, the plot, the themes, and see how all of those come together to make this novel what it is, and craft the story into what it is. Let's begin with characters and the first character that we're going to look at as Nick Carraway, who is the first person narrator of the story and the whole novel is told through his perspective. He's Gatsby's neighbor and he's optimistic at the stories beginning and drawn into this opulent and extravagant lifestyle that surrounds him in his new home in Long Island. As the story progresses, of course, his optimism and his disillusionment with this whole lifestyle fades gradually. That defines his arc through the story. He goes from seeing this lifestyle from the outside on a superficial level to seeing what it does to people, what it is at its core and why it's really false way of living and how false all of these people are as the story goes. That's a pretty clear arc that you can see right there. It's really successfully told through the story, especially since we get the whole story from his point of view. Then next, of course we have Gatsby. He's a millionaire. He's really mysterious and enigmatic and no one knows too much about him. He throws these huge parties and he's in love with Daisy, who is next cousin, who lives just across the way and he throws these parties in the hopes that she's going to attend one of them in that he can reconnect with her because as we learned, they had their own relationship in the past. Daisy Buchanan is a huge element of the story. She is a socialite from Kentucky. She's married to Tom Buchanan. She had a previous relationship with Gatsby. She has seemed to move past it. He is yearning to do anything that he can to get back with her. Tom Buchanan who's Daisy's husband. He is from Chicago. He's this machismo, big, tough guy, former football star, really imposing, really arrogant, and just generally a terrible person. Why focus on these characters? There's obviously a handful on the story, but just these characters alone really drive the whole story. They are the sources of conflict. They carry the theme of the story and they have the most interaction with each other. They're orchestrated together and each of their arcs affects the other. The way those arcs are orchestrated really builds the story into what it has become and gets the point across that is explored in the story which we're going to get into a little bit later. Let's look at the conflict in the story. We have our central characters. We know who they are, what they want, what they're about, what is the conflict that they're going to face, that's going to drive the story forward. First, Nick befriends Gatsby. Not a source of conflict in itself but that gets the ball rolling for the story to unfold as it does. Gatsby is in love with Daisy, which is an obvious source of conflict, since she is married to Tom and that is enough to just set the ball rolling at the beginning of the story. Obviously a lot more conflict is going to come into play as the story goes on. But knowing that as the setup is enough to get the story started and to look at the way the plot is structured around these characters in these conflicting ideals. In the beginning, Nick moves to West Egg next to Gatsby's house. He meets with Daisy in East Egg lives across the way from Gatsby. Then he gets invited to one of Gatsby's big parties. That sets up a good amount of the characters and basis for the story to take off from. Then of course, he meets Gatsby and that sets the whole story in motion. The middle of the story. This is where Nick is going to learn about Gatsby's past, he is going to know that he has created this facade that he is not who he says he is. He's still mysterious and enigmatic. You don't know exactly how he has come into all the money that he has come into and how he is who he is. But you know that there's something dark and secretive about him and his past and Nick gets a glimpse into that. Then as the reader, we get a glimpse into that which is obviously a huge turning point in the story. That's like this plot point where Nick sees this opulent lifestyle and then there's a turn. There's something behind it that's not all that it's cracked up to be and not all that it appears to be on the surface. That's a huge moment in the story that sets the rising action moving in to the second act of the story. Then Gatsby uses Nick to meet with Daisy. He learns that they're acquainted. He gets to know Nick better and figures through that acquaintance, he can finally meet Daisy again as he's been trained to do for so long by throwing all these big parties. They meet, they reconnect and then Tom confronts Gatsby, and then that is a huge source of conflict in itself. Once again, this is just these four characters in the events that happened in the story, the conflict they face that drives the story forward. Obviously, Tom confronting Gatsby is a bigger source of conflict than any that we've seen in the story so far. When he does this, Gatsby demands that Daisy admit that she is still in love with him. Once again, a huge source of conflict because now Daisy is put on the spot, Tom between this strong, imposing man and this mysterious millionaire and Nick is the witness to it all and seeing this lifestyle that he is so romanticized at its dirtiest, its nastiest and what its core really is. Then Tom reveals that Gatsby is a bootlegger and that's how he has all his money. He achieved all of it illegitimately, and he is a criminal essentially. After this happens, Gatsby drives Daisy home. Tom is certain that he has told Gatsby off that it's over. He makes him drive Daisy home and wants him out of their lives forever. Their car strikes and kills a woman on the way home, which is another huge source of conflict. You can see how this is all building and achieving the ultimate message that was meant to be achieved in the story, and keeping the story engaging the whole time and putting these characters through these extreme ordeals that is going to push them to their limits and reveal the truest side to themselves. So that is a big plot point that leads to the end. Where do you go from that happening? Gatsby tells Nick about the incident. He says that Daisy was driving when they struck the woman, but he is so in love with her and so infatuated with her that he is willing to take the fall on her behalf. Tom tells the woman's husband about Gatsby because they have relationship as the woman's husband being Tom's mechanic. He is told that Gatsby is the one who killed his wife. Then this man comes to Gatsby's house, kills him, and then kills himself and the whole facade of everything that's been built up to this point just comes crumbling down under this situation. In the end, very few people attend Gatsby's funeral, which is a big moment because obviously all of these parties, all this extravagance, all of these these people who have always been in his house were not there out of any sense of authentic feeling or relation to him. They were there because it was all part of this big facade of this rich, opulent, and extravagant lifestyle. That tells a lot about his character and about who he was and about the themes of the story, which we'll get to later. Then Nick returns to the Midwest. He goes to Gatsby's, looks out at the dark, sees that light that Gatsby was looking at from the beginning across the way at Daisy's and that just serves as this ultimate symbol for this shining light, seeing this beacon, not knowing it for what it is. He decides to leave it all and go back to where he was, which completes his arc from chasing this lifestyle to seeing what it is and deciding to want nothing to do with it and going back to his hometown. That is a really successful plot, I would say, the way that this is structured to build this story, to take these key moments of conflict, to push these characters to their limits, to reveal all this information parceled throughout the story and not all at once and give these characters arks that feel authentic and legitimate and organic. That's obviously easier said than done. But when you look at a story like this or any story that you pick up, start to think about the way the plot is build. Think about the way the conflict affects the characters, what they do, how they move forward, and how that tells the story that the author is telling. Once you start to break this down and read more and more, that structure is going to become a lot clear. There's no one right or wrong way to do it, but every writer has a structure that does this. That builds the conflict and pushes the characters through that conflict. Keep an eye on that and everything that you read going forward. Let's look at the settings that are utilized in the story too and how they affect the story as a whole. You have East and West Egg, which are these sort in Long Island that are in opulent community removed from the rest of the city. Which is a great setting for the story because you feel like you're with these characters in their world and confined within their environment whenever we're with them. Then you have New York City. You have this high society lifestyle that's depicted in New York and on Long Island. Then you also have what is described as the valley of ashes, which is where the mechanics work, which is the place of despair and poverty that exists within the same world where all of this opulence is happening. Using these settings gives you a sense of these characters in their home and also gives you a sense of the disparity that is right there with them, that they are all turning their noses up too. That ultimately comes into the story in the biggest possible way in the end. It seems simple, but just those selections of settings and the time frame that it was written obviously affect the story as a whole and make it what it is. Let's look at the primary themes that are present in this story. Obviously, the American dream is the primary theme of the story. That's what this whole book is about, that's what the story is about. It's about the disillusionment and the falsehoods that defined the American dream, especially in this Jazz Age of extravagance and opulence. The way that's explored in the story is really profound and really has a huge effect on the story told. You have class disparities, which factors into the same idea of the American dream. You have Gatsby's achievement of wealth and success and all under false pretenses, while you also see the other side of society, you see the struggling classes in this valley of ashes and the hardships that they endure. This also explores gender roles and expectations in a very big way. Daisy's role in the story is really profound in that she is just put at the center of all of this toxic masculinity with Tom, with Gatsby, with everyone, and her role in society and the other female characters in the story really shine a light on the way that life was at that time, especially in that type of environment, in that setting. Then of course, you have love and loss. At the end of the day, all Gatsby wanted was Daisy. All the money, all the parties, all the mystery, everything meant nothing without her and losing her was basically enough for him to lose his own life through the circumstances that happened in the story. You can see what I mean by just these themes being these ideas that are explored, but this comes from writing the story. This comes from fine tuning the story into its most essential elements in making sure that everything fits together cohesively and naturally as all of these do. Hopefully, with this book you can see how these elements come together. If you read anything else going forward, you're going to start to identify these and knowing how this all works is going to make you a better writer. Reading is going to make you a better writer. Analyzing is going to make you a better writer. There's no formula for writing a great story. Anyone who tries to write with a formula is going to fail because it's going to feel formulaic and stilted and generic. But you need these critical storytelling elements no matter what kind of story you're writing, even if it's a creative nonfiction piece because this is what drives story forward. This is what makes your story make sense. This is what makes it tangible. This isn't a set of rules, this is just a set of elements that are going to be present in any well-told story. Start thinking about the way these factor into the stories you read and then also of course, into the stories that you hope to write. 15. Story Analysis: The Great Gatsby: For this next exercise, this is something that you should just do on your own and hopefully, whether you have an idea or not, these questions will help you to get thinking in a way that's going to shape your story. I think before any writing is done, before pen is set to paper on the actual writing of your story, it's important to think about questions like this. I'll just run through a few. Why are you telling the story that you wish to tell? If you don't have a reason for your story, then I think you're going to really struggle to write it. You need to have that why, that reason to tell the story that you just feel that you need to tell, that you need to get down on paper. Why now? Some stories are told that just feel completely irrelevant to anything going on and that doesn't mean that you have to write a story that's completely socially current or relevant or whatever. But maybe there's an idea in there that feels modern, that feels new, that feels different. Why is this story going to work now and not 10 years ago or 20 years ago or 100 years ago? What is different about this? What makes it worth telling right now? What kind of characters are going to inhabit your story? If you have the idea or you have an idea of a certain character or a select few, what other characters do you think will be necessary to help that character along and to achieve what you're trying to achieve, what the story that you're telling? What kind of themes or ideas will your story explore? Once again, not set in stone, but just something to get you thinking about what your story is about as well as who is going to be in it. Then what's the best means of having your story told? That's just, once again, how do you want to do is? Is this going to be a screenplay? Is this going to be a stage play? Is this going to be a novel, a short story, an essay? What's the best way for this story to be put into the world in a way that's the most comprehensible, the most beneficial to get your point across? Start thinking about these questions. We're not going to start writing quite yet, but hopefully this will get you ready to dive in when we are ready to. Then I'll see you in the next section when we're going to talk about the differences between fiction and nonfiction. 16. The Differences & Similarities of Fiction and Nonfiction Stories: Now that we've covered the essential elements of storytelling, let's look at fiction versus non-fiction. Fiction, of course, is going to be writing that as not based on any true stories, events, or people. Non-fiction is writing that is based on true stories, events or people. It's really simple as that. But we'll get into some more details on different elements of both of these forms of writing. A wide array falls under each category. Let's break down the different ways to look at fiction writing first. This is going to be novels, novellas, short stories, plays, screen writing, poetry, podcast. Any of these can be fiction. These can be stories that are completely made up by the author. With all of these different means of telling stories that you write, we're going to look at different elements that might factor into how you want to tell the story that you want to tell. Let's start with genre versus literary fiction. These are two distinctions that do and do not matter. I'll explain why in a little bit, but I think it's still important to know what each one is and what they both entail. Let's start with genre fiction. This is going to be more popular fiction that falls into a specific genre. This is going to appeal to fans of a certain genre. Every genre has its fans. I think genre fiction can categorize where that writing is going to fall in the spectrum of novels that are coming out. Popular genres are going to be things like horror, crime, sci-fi, western, romance, historical fiction. All of these defining elements, these genres that these novels will fall under. Genre fiction authors, you can see this list here breaks down just these different really notable authors who have created incredible works of literature over the years, who have created works that would be considered to be genre fiction if you're looking at it this way. Obviously you have horror, fantasy, crime, sci-fi with all of these great writers listed in this category. Hopefully that gives you a little bit of a clearer picture of what people are going to mean if you hear anyone asking for a genre fiction. Literary fiction is going to be a lot more vague. It doesn't fit into specific genres always. It can be drama, comedy, elements of both. This is usually going to be a lot more character-driven, thought-provoking, socially conscious, or politically oriented writing. This is often going to be character-driven and more thought-provoking and socially conscious or politically oriented, and this is not at all to say that genre fiction doesn't do this, but this is just a more vague term to describe writing that does this in a way that doesn't fit into one of the genre categories that I mentioned earlier. This doesn't follow a formula, but once again, no writing should follow a formula. All that I mean by that is if you have a crime story, for instance, or a murder mystery, at the end it's going to be revealed who the murderer is. That's just the way that genre is going to work. No matter how you write it or how great of a writer you are, that's not a formula, that's a standard of the genre. Literary fiction doesn't follow anything of that standard other than the basic storytelling techniques that we mentioned earlier. Here's just a list of who would be considered to be literary fiction authors. Super non-comprehensive, but just to give you an idea of the works by these people, and why those works would typically be considered to be literary fiction more than they would be considered to be genre fiction. But why does this matter? Why are we talking about it at all because isn't just all writing writing? In a way, yes, but the good thing about these distinctions is it can help define yourself as a writer. It can help you identify different elements in stories that you really like from writers you admire. If you want to write horror, you're probably going to learn more from reading someone like Stephen King than you are from Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen. It can make you think about the way that you tell your stories and how you want to tell them. If you want to be a horror writer, for instance, and you read a whole bunch of horror novels, you can see what other people have done, where they've been in, where you want to go with it, how you want to change it, what can you do differently? Once again, this is going to be a more narrow focus of study and reference for you than just reading anything that comes to mind that you want to read. It helps you to stay in that lane of whatever you're particularly interested in, and it can help you find a home for your work. We're going to get to that later on and to submitting. But there are a lot of literary journals that weren't specifically horror fiction or specifically fantasy, specifically speculative fiction. Whatever it may be, having that more narrow focus can help you to not just be one in a pack of a wide variety of scripts and can help you get your work out there in those specific markets and out to those fans of that genre. Why does it not matter? It can obviously be too limiting. You can just try to think, well, if I'm only a crime writer, then I can only write crime novels, which is absolutely not true. You do not have to be one thing or the other, and there are plenty of authors who do both. Margaret Atwood, for instance, has written sci-fi and literary fiction. They're all books, they're all novels, they're all great. You don't have to limit yourself to these categories. Good writing is good writing. Don't stress too much about what you are. But the reason to identify it is to just help you know where you might fit in as a writer among other authors. 17. Writing Creative Nonfiction Stories: Now that we've taken a look at fiction and how their story elements factor into fiction, let's take a look at creative nonfiction. In this section we're going to explore the ways that creative nonfiction differentiates itself from factual nonfiction by utilizing the same story elements. When I say factual nonfiction I'm talking about more academic or technical writing that doesn't use narrative, characters, dialog, and all of these other elements. It's more straightforward factual nonfiction as the name would suggest. Let's look at how these story elements factor into creative nonfiction storytelling. What are some means of writing creative nonfiction? You've got memoir, biography or autobiography, nonfiction books which is different from a novel. A novel is fiction, full length book of a story that is told that is not fiction is a nonfiction book. Essays, journalism, inspiration, self-help type books. Any of those types of books that you see out there are nonfiction. Creative writing, plays can be based on true stories and events. Screenplays, obviously there are plenty of movies based on true stories that are great. Just like fiction, podcasts can also be based on true stories such as any number of them that are out there. True crime podcasts for instance take the story and break it down into these elements to tell the story at hand. All of these forms of writing are going to use storytelling elements to build the story and use these elements of creative writing to connect with the reader on the way that the writer wants to connect with them. Let's look at these elements of nonfiction. Like I said, just like fiction, it has all of the same elements but one different factor that you must have in creative nonfiction is a commitment to truth. If you're not telling an authentic story then that is going to hamper your ability to write creative nonfiction. So making sure you have everything at your disposal, all of your facts straight, everything right is essential in creative nonfiction writing. You're going to have scenes to build the story through specific moments. This is a way to show the story instead of telling it, instead of saying this is what happened, this is how it happened. Distinguishing the scenes and breaking down the elements and structuring a plot around it is going to help you tell a better story. Dialogue is going to be essential in nonfiction. This is going to help you to develop the characters in the story. If you're writing for instance a screenplay or a play based on a real event and you don't have all the dialogue because it wasn't recorded, that's where you as the writer need to do your research, do your due diligence to get to know these characters being portrayed inside and out so that you can write dialogue in a way that feels authentic to them as a character. That's why these movies that you'll see based on true events are called based on a true story instead of being just a true story because you have to take some creative liberties when you're doing that. It's just a matter of making sure you know enough to take creative liberties in a way that's going to have that commitment to truth and that's going to stay true to the story you're telling. When you utilize dialogue whether it be in a screenplay or a play or a book make sure that you're being as true to these people as you possibly can be for the sake of the narrative and that it's distinguished as being based on and not factual quotes from these people who are real people being portrayed. This obviously doesn't apply to journalism. If you're writing a journalistic story you cannot write quotes for your sources. That goes without saying, this is more for structuring a narrative around a true story. Story and character arcs, the reason that these are so profound in storytelling is because they resonate with us because this is what we all go through. When you're writing creative nonfiction you need to find those story arcs and those character arcs that we go through and distill them in the story that you're telling. If you look hard enough and you take all the research and the facts, they will be there and it's a matter of picking and choosing what moments do you want to use to structure your story, to build your plot and to tell the message that in the story that you want to tell. Make sure that this has a beginning, middle, and end just like anything else. Find those moments that are going to set up the part of the story that you're telling and then how it's going to all unfold all the way through its conclusion. Then the story needs to develop just like any work of fiction word. You're going to have to find those moments once again to build the story and make sure it unfolds naturally and organically and stays true still to its source material which is obviously not easy to do but when you have a grasp of the core elements of storytelling, it will make it that much easier for you to find those moments when you're writing your story and put them all together in the best possible way that you can. Similarly, your characters need to move the story forward and develop along with it. Just make sure that you're finding those moments in these people's lives who you're writing about and the ways that they grow through the story that you're telling whether these are people you know or don't know or it's yourself, really examine the growth in the arc that happens within each of these people. I think in fiction and especially a nonfiction a point of view is essential when you're telling a true story you need to have a clear cut perspective on it. If you are gray about it or you're not sure then your story is not going to be strong. Knowing where you're coming from when you tell the story is going to be essential in telling the strongest and most impactful story that you possibly can. So utilize your own perspective to influence the way you tell the story. That means have your own perspective on the story you're telling. Take it for what it is, examine it, think about it, learn it, research it, know it, know the people, and develop your own conclusions and your own opinions from it. This doesn't mean that you have to try to drive these opinions home through the story or that you have to try to impart these opinions on your reader but having that clear cut opinion is going to help you to tell the story in a way that only you can tell it. Make sure you really know your source material when you start writing a true story and know how you feel about it and how you want those feelings in that perspective to shape the way you tell the story. Then of course you should have a connection to the story otherwise there's no point in telling it. That goes without saying. If something draws you to tell a story for instance, make sure that connection is felt in the way that you tell the story. That passion and that interest and that desire to get the story out there needs to come through in your writing. Make sure you're finding the element of the story that speak to you most and expressing those in the best ways that you can and going through whatever you have to, to make sure that interest is expressed in your writing. Theme, just like in fiction, life is full of themes and stories that represent different ideas or thoughts. Finding the theme of whatever story you're telling is going to be really important and how you shape it, structure it, and what happens to your characters and what they glean from it. In other words, what is your story about and what can we learn from these real-life events being portrayed? If you're telling a story, ideally you would think that the true story you're telling has some moral truth, some lesson that we should be gleaning from it, whether you're writing it from a biased point of view or not, knowing what that truth is and knowing what you want to get out there is going to shape the theme of your story. So really do some deep thinking on the themes and ideas that are going to be expressed in your story. Finally is to cohesively meld those into what you're writing to tell your story as well as you possibly can. In other words, what connects this story to relevant human experiences and thus connects it to your audience. Once again, you are writing for your audience not for yourself. You're not writing to make yourself heard, you're writing to relate to people, to reach people and if you don't have the audience in mind then you're going to lose sight of why you're writing in the first place. Knowing these themes can help you to find those ways in which you are going to connect with your audience and what's going to be relatable to everybody and what's going to hit home, what's going to resonate emotionally, and what is true about the story that's true for plenty of people all over the world even if it's from a completely different vantage point. Then of course, the commitment to truth. Again, this should be obvious if you're telling a creative nonfiction story, that commitment to truth is going to be essential in telling the story well. Make sure you're always fact checking, doing your research, and not exaggerating the moments of a story for a dramatic effect. I think all of us have probably seen movies that are based on a true story but have clearly taking it into completely different realms outside of what's real and authentic. The audience is going to know, they're going to see through that. I think any story can be compelling if it's told well enough. If it's something that really resonates with you then you need to find the ways to just make even the most mundane moments that are essential to the story you're telling. Stand out on the page, stand out on screen, stand out however you're telling them and to stay true to the story itself. If you're a good writer and you've become a good writer to make it interesting to the people who are reading it. Avoiding exaggeration, creative liberties, all that with creative nonfiction is essential in quality creative writing and just stay true to your story. That's I think going to be your guiding light when you're writing creative nonfiction. Stay true to the story you're telling. Don't try to think of ways to embellish it. Tell the story in the best way that you possibly can with the assets that you have available to you, with the information you have available to you. If you're a great writer then it's going to show if you stay true to the story that you're telling. 18. Nonfiction Analysis: Prompt: To examine a piece of creative nonfiction, we're going to look at an essay by David Sedaris. I would recommend reading David Sedaris to anyone, he is a great essay writer, he's very funny. He writes personal essays just based on his own life, his family, the people closest to him and takes this mundane situations and really embellishes them with his very unique sense of humor and perspective on the world. I would recommend reading a lot of his stuff, any of his stuff. But we're going to start right now, Father Time, which is an essay he wrote that appeared in The New Yorker. A link to this essay is going to be included in your resource guide. Before going forward into the next section, I would recommend going and reading the story, and then when you come back, we'll look at the way he employed these literary devices in a story that is really pretty straightforward and simple, and how they all work together almost under the surface of the content of the essay to build a narrative and keep the reader engaged. So go off, take a look at that and then come back and we'll break it down. 19. Nonfiction Story Analysis: Father Time: Let's examine some of the literary devices that were employed in David Sedaris's essay Father Time. If you just read it, maybe you noticed, maybe you didn't. But the story is built with scenes. Obviously, a lot of dialogue is used. There is character and story development. Themes are expressed and explored. It's all told from a very distinct point of view, which is obviously his own. This is all told with a commitment to truth. Let's take a look at how each of these breakdown in the story. First we're going to look at the way the scenes are used to build the story that he's telling here. They build the story throughout. You start with him receiving the news about his father being put in this home. Then it goes to him visiting the home, then it's him at his home, and then together with his family. These are pretty simple scenes, but the way that they're structured throughout the story helps to get the whole point across, that is telling this isn't just a stream of consciousness retelling of a story in random order. This is a clearly structured setup that he has to achieve what he's after. It doesn't always read that way when you read essays like this. But when you break it down, you can see how it's built to tell the story that he's telling and how this has a clear beginning, middle, and end. The use of dialogue is obviously very prevalent throughout this story. This gives a good insight into the characters. It adds a lot of humor to the story in the select bits of dialogue he chooses and uses. It helps to build the story by showcasing these different characters perspectives as it unfolds in the way that they're thinking and behaving. Then it also just puts the reader in the moment. This is an example of showing and not telling, it's not telling you it happened. It's letting you be there, be present, and feel like you're part of these conversations that are happening. The dialogue used in this essay serves many purposes to make it as impactful and interesting as this. This essay also contains story in character arcs that you probably noticed. The characters obviously carry the story. This is all told from his perspective and the people around him in the story affect the way that he handles the situation, the way he views the situation, and the way the whole situation unfolds. Characters change as a result of the situation at hand. There are perspectives change. It makes people think about things, their life, their loved ones. What has meaning differently, even though this is laid in under a lot of humor. Then the use of these characters in these moments really build upon the themes of the essay. What themes are explored in this essay? We have time obviously being the biggest factor. It's called Father Time. It's about these different generations of people and their perspectives on life in the world they're living in. He's in the middle of it. Speaking to all of these different characters on every end of the age spectrum, which also has to do with aging. The way we all progress through life with these kids who are ignorant to everything to him, who's becoming existentially aware of everything to his father who is reaching his final days. Then this sort of idea of existentialism and loneliness. What everything means, what it means to have someone with you. All these themes are a little heavier than the story might suggest, but they're all explored in the story itself when you break it down to its core components and look at the way that it's written. Point of view. Obviously, as we are saying, you need a unique perspective. This style is very unique to the way David Sedaris writes. He has a very dry, straightforward, sort of dark sense of humor that is really engaging and interesting and funny. It allows them to explore a lot of subject matter in a way that's unique to him in his worldview. Themes emerge under the style of writing. This goes to showcase a good example of what I was saying when you don't want the themes to be stated expressly or explicitly, you want it to be a part of the writing as a whole. That's exactly what he does here. This is not a story about loneliness and existentialism necessarily. But these themes emerged through the content of the story itself, when you can do that and make people perceive these ideas and themes in ways that they're going to perceive them that are different than what you're writing, then you've really done a great job as a writer and not just trying to preach your own ideas about these things. You're getting your ideas across through a story and through your own writing and letting readers come to their own conclusions about what's being explored. Then of course, just a strong sense of voice. He writes with the very self-assuredness of who he is and the way he perceives the situation and that comes through in the story. He doesn't really shy away from anything that he's talking about. I think that's something really important to keep in mind when you write is to just be confident in your own voice, in your own perspective of the world, whether it's funny or dark or whatever it might be, make sure that comes through in a way that is unique to you. Then similarly, there's a strong sense of perspective. Any number of different people could have perceived this situation in any number of ways. This is the way that he perceived it and it comes through on the page. Keeping in mind your own voice and your own perspective of situations is really important when you're writing your stories. Lastly, we have the commitment to truth, like we talked about. Obviously, this is a personal story. Something that happened to him and his recounting of it is his perception of real life events. Then he selects the events in this whole timeframe that are relevant to the story being told. This is what I was talking about with discerning those different moments from a wide span of time, piecing them together to structure a story that's going to be cohesive, that's going to do everything that fiction would do. That's someone who's writing a story from scratch would do to tell a compelling story. You have all the subject matter. How are you going to go through and pick and choose those moments that are going to build the story the way that you needed to build and stay true to the subject matter. This is a great example of all of that. Hopefully this helped you to understand how the elements of storytelling can factor into fiction and non-fiction alike. All of it is essential to getting the point across that you need to get across. With that being said, let's move on to our third exercise. 20. Exercise 3: Brainstorm Your Story Elements: This exercise is not a very tangible one. It's just something for you to start thinking about. This isn't something you need to have worked out all yet. You don't need to know how these elements will factor into your story. Start brainstorming. That's a great way to go and we'll talk about this more with process. I would recommend, especially right now, for this exercise to just start carrying a notebook around with you. Start jotting down ideas you might have about any of these story elements and how they might factor into your story. Keep that with you. Write down little bits of dialogue, little lines, little thoughts, whatever it might be to start generally building the material that's going to make your story. Start doing that. We're getting that much closer to actual writing. But this is all part of the process. It's part of understanding what is going to go into your story, how you're going to make it the best story it can be. Now we're going to move on to our next section, which is finding your medium. In other ways, the best way for you to tell your story and how are we going to go about discerning what the best medium is for you. 21. What Medium is Right for Your Story?: Let's take a look at finding your medium. We're not going to spend too much time on this. More likely than not, you know how you want to tell the story that you want to tell. But I think it's still good to look at the different ways you might go about doing that. What medium is right for your story? First of all, is it fiction or nonfiction? That's something that you know and that's going to affect the way you might go about telling your story. The next thing you really want to look at is short versus long form. Is your story more suited towards a shorter or longer telling? We looked at the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and an essay by David Sedaris. Obviously, one is a full length novel. One is a handful of pages. Neither could have worked as well as they did have they been the opposite of what they were. The Great Gatsby wouldn't have been as impactful as a short story. Father Time would not have worked as a full length book. Discerning the subject matter that you're pursuing in your story and the point that your characters going to go from the beginning to the end is going to give you a sense of how long your story should be and what it might be better suited to. If you have an idea that explores a shorter moment of time, you might want to consider telling it as a short story. But it's all up to you and the themes you want to explore and what you want your character to go through from point A to point B. Just start to think about what your story is best suited for. What material you have to work with in your mind already and where you think the story might go. Then how should your story be told. If you have a story that feels very heavily visual and that would benefit from being seen rather than read, then you might be better suited writing a screenplay or a stage play. If you have something that's a lot more introspective and philosophical and you have a lot of thoughts to get out, then maybe prose is a better way to go. Obviously, there are any number of ways you can go about telling your story, but just try to visualize your story. See what you want it to be, what ideas you want to explore, and then try to decide how you want to go about writing it from there. Some writers only write novels, some only write screenplays, some stick to essays only, short stories, whatever it might be. You might be wondering how you're going to go about finding your specialty and what you are best suited to write. Of course, you could always do any number of them. If you're a writer, you're a writer, you're going to tell the stories you need to tell, how you need to tell them. The first thing to think about is genre versus literary fiction or nonfiction. This is going to have a big impact on you as a writer. If you want to write stories that you are making up better, entirely your own, that aren't based on anything but your own imagination, then obviously you're writing fiction. If you want to focus on more reportage, more real-world events in specialized and non-fiction. Knowing which one you want to specialize in is going to help you to distinguish maybe where you're going to start on your path. Once again, you can always do either. But knowing where to start, you should just follow what you're most drawn to. Another great way to know what writer you want to be as looking at what you like to read. You should be writing what you want to read or what you want to see, what appeals to you, what inspires you. If you're inspired by essay writers, then you should probably try your hand at essays. If you're inspired by screenplays and movies, and you should try your hand at screenplays. Just think about the writers and the works that have had a big impact on your life. Why they've had that impact and how you might be able to contribute to that art form. Then once again, you don't have to lock yourself into anything. I think the key thing when you're trying to find your medium is thinking of the story you want to tell right now. Thinking of the best way that you're going to go about telling that story. Giving it a try, writing it, seeing how you feel about it, and if you love it, then you can continue to pursue that medium. If not, maybe something else is going to be better suited to your talents as a writer. Just start thinking about how you're going to go about telling the story that you have in your mind right now, whether it's going to be short or long, visual, prose, just give that some thought before you start writing because that's an important thing to distinguish before you dive into anything. That being said, once you have a sense of what you're going to be writing, we're going to take a look at what defines a writer's style. 22. What is a Writer's Style?: Now we're going to look at what writer's style is and how you define what your style is going to be. What is a writer's style? This is an illusive question and it's hard to give a really definite answer to. But we're going to look at a lot of components that constitute what defines a writer style or unique sense of voice, unique way of writing. This is something that you recognize every time you read a great author. Sometimes you don't even need to know who wrote it to start reading and know who the author is. It's the same thing if you hear a great musician playing their instrument, you can just know by their own sound what it is, or look at a painting and you can know who the painter is. It's how you can take your tools and everything that you have at your disposal as a writer and arrange it in a way that's unique to you. This is going to require taking the key elements of storytelling that we've been covering throughout this course and making them your own. These points here, point of view, narration, theme, characters, setting, and plot, are all going to affect what will define your unique voice and your unique style as a writer. Syntax is essential in what a writer style is. This is essentially just the way you choose to arrange your words and arrange your sentences to convey meaning. Anyone can take the same idea and write it as a sentence, and you could have a million different variations of that sentence. How you specifically structure the way you write is going to play a huge role in defining your unique style of writing. Once again, this is just how you choose to arrange words as well as your sentence structure. The same way that different words will build your sentence. Your sentences are going to build your paragraphs the way you choose to organize that, the length, the amount of figurative language, the amount of alliteration and onomatopoeia, and all of these little tiny aspects of writing that are going to come naturally to you over time, the more you write, are going to help distinguish you from other writers out there writing other great stories. This is how you're going to set the overall tone and mood and feel of whatever story you're telling, whether you're writing a comedy or a horror or a drama, the way you choose to write and the way you choose to arrange words on a page to convey whatever message it is you're trying to convey in your writing, is going to have a completely profound impact on your reader and that's something that you always want to keep in mind as a writer is how it sounds, how it feels, not just all the technicalities, all the rules being followed. What is the overall sense that your story carries with it? How do we do this? Like I said, this is a really elusive concept to put into words. There's not one thing, or two things, or three things that will quantify what a writers style is. But there are certain things that you can start looking at when you're writing to help you see your style in a different way. First, an understanding of grammar is key, like we talked about earlier. Once you know all the rules of grammar and you know how to build sentences, that gives you the freedom to play around with those sentences, to play around with the way you use words and arrange them in different ways. It's like being a musician and knowing how to arrange cords, how to arrange measures, how to put everything together to form a song. It's just a big puzzle that you need to work out in your own mind. Knowing the rules of grammar is going to be immensely helpful in you doing that. A strong point of view is always going to be essential. That's why I keep bringing it up. If you know the story you're telling, you know how you feel about it, you know what it means to you. That's going to come through on the page and the way you use the words to express that passion and that interest is going to be critical in defining yourself as a writer. A firm sense of the story is obviously essential as well. You need to know everything about your story. You need to know your characters. You need to know where it's going. You need to know why everything is happening in the way that it is. That just puts you in control and gives you a lot more confidence in your ability to structure your sentences and your words and your paragraphs exactly as they need to be to tell the story exactly as you want to tell it. Of course, paying attention to other writer's styles is really important as well. When you're reading authors who you admire, try to nitpick the different things that they do. What differentiates them from the pack, what makes them unique in the way that they choose to write their stories. Then of course, practice. You're not going to be able to know yourself as a writer just by deciding before you start writing. You're going to need to write over and over again and fail over and over again. You're going to read stuff that you've written that you know, is exactly what you're going for. That's the stuff where you can take little bits of it, break it down, analyze what you did right, and what defines you as a writer. Just writing constantly is going to be essential and just knowing that this isn't going to happen all at once, that it's going to take a lot of time, a lot of persistence, and a lot of patients. But you will get there if you keep doing it, and you keep analyzing your writing, and being critical of your own work. Then of course, all this talk about style means nothing if you don't have a good story. The story has to underlie your style. Otherwise, if you have style about substance, you just have words on a page that might sound finer, be cool or whatever. But if it doesn't have any meaning behind it, if it doesn't pack that punch that you wanted to, then it's going to fall flat and it won't constitute what would be considered to be quality writing. Make sure that your story is always at the center of what you're doing in that whatever style you're using to tell that story, just enhances the story that you're telling. We're going to take a look at Hemingway as an example on what defines style. 23. Style Analysis: Ernest Hemingway: We're going to take a look at Ernest Hemingway's Iceberg Theory, which is something that you might hear about in writing a lot and it comes from this quote from Death in the Afternoon. "If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows, and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." In other words, this is saying that if you know enough about your story, if you have all that background information, your character's backstories, why everything is happening the way that it does, that does not all need to go on the page. That's going to come through in the moments that you choose to put in your story, and in the way that you write. Hemingway especially is known for very terse, short, punchy writing that is right to the point but gets across everything that he needs to get across in the most select few words possible. This is something really important to keep in mind that style, because if you know your story well enough, then you can just pick those moments exactly as you need them to tell the story that you're trying to tell. Let's look at Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises. The initial draft of the story starts with a pretty bland sentence, that is, "This is a story about a lady." This goes on to detail all the expository information about this character in way more information than it needed to be. Again, this is the first draft of the story, not the finished one. It just was not really a strong writing sample, it wasn't a strong way into the story. It gave too much information away right off the bat. Most of these first two chapters, at the insistence of his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald who we just studied, were cut and changed and he rewrote and restructured the open of the story. The finished draft opens with: "Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion at Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn." This is obviously a much more interesting way into the story. It is a lot more intriguing. It gives you some information about Robert Cohn who turns out to be more of a secondary character in the story. But more importantly, this tells you a lot about the narrator. The story is told through his point of view and this gives you right off the bat a little bit of insight into the way that he views the world and these people around him. Obviously that takes out a bunch of information that was not necessary, gets right to the point, opens the story in a really intriguing way. What's the difference between this and the earlier draft of his story? It's more ambiguous, it introduces this new point of view, it gets right into the story without wasting any time at all, and it opens the story up to reveal itself naturally and to be told more naturally from this character's point of view. Then throughout this writing and all of his other rating, he maintained that succinct form of writing, that direct to the point punchy writing that just tells the story at its barebones exactly as it needs to be told with everything that underlies it off the page but inferred by the reader, that allows us to read between the lines to be more engaged in the story and see what's happening. I think this is a great example of how style can be used to completely define the way a writer tells a story and to vastly improve the way that a story is told. Think about this in your own writing. Think of everything you know about the story that you're telling and how you can get that across in the most interesting way that doesn't give everything to the reader all at once. That lets us think, that lets us get immersed in the story and get to know these characters over time gradually and more organically than if we just stated it all right there on the page. Some closing thoughts on style. We'll leave it at this and then we can get into process. But just some things to know, every author is going to have a different style. Every great author has a voice and that is something that you're going to have to find for yourself through your writing over time. Your style should be a reflection of you as a writer, and of you as a person. It should reflect your view of the world and the way that you perceive things around you. If you're funny, you should reflect that on the page in your writing. If you have a more dark and twisted view of the world, then that should come through in your writing as well. When you're writing, you need to be as open and honest and true to yourself as you can possibly be and that's going to make your writing much more authentic and that much stronger. Then you definitely don't want to just imitate a style of an author that you like. This is something that happens to a lot of writers who are starting out, especially unconsciously, you might just read someone who you love, you've read 10 of their novels, and then you find yourself writing in that style. It's going to happen, that's fine. But just make sure you can recognize when you're writing in a style that feels less like your own and more like someone you admire, and then find the ways that you can differentiate yourself and what it is about your writing that stands out apart from that writing and how you can nail down those differences and define yourself as a writer. Once again, this is something that's just going to come over time. Don't put pressure on yourself to figure it out when you're writing your first story or your first draft, or even your 10th story. This is something that just has to come naturally, but it's something that's good to know about and to think about, especially when you're analyzing your writing and looking to improve as a writer. Making sure you know what sets you apart from the pack is essential in doing quality writing. That's it for styles right now and now we're going to move on to process. 24. A General Overview of the Writing Process from Idea to Publishing: We're going to start off with just a general overview of creating a writing process for yourself. What is process? This is basically just going to be how you go from taking your idea from a simple concept into a revised finished piece of creative writing. From the time you start formulating this idea to the time you finish it, a [inaudible] is going to go into that. It's going to take a bunch of time, patience, practice, research writing, diligence, and everyone goes about this a little bit differently. This is going to be about you finding what works best for you as a writer. Hopefully, these tips will help out just a little bit in that process. I think there are certain elements that should be a part of anyone's writing process and that's what we're going to go into right now. Routine is going to be essential. No matter who you are having some sense of consistency in your writing is going to be critical for you in getting your work from point A to point B. From that idea to that finished draft. This doesn't mean that you have to work on your project every single day, but you should have a consistent routine that you follow. Some people might do better working eight hours a day, seven days a week. Some people might just want to take three days and work for 15 hours. It just depends on the person. Everyone works differently. Some people work better in the morning, some at night. But finding what works for you is what's most important. What can you do that you can be consistent with when you're working on your writing. Obviously, this means you have to hold yourself accountable, know what's right for you. Just this can come also through trial and error. For instance, I tried writing nights one time, after work, and trying to stay up late and work. It was not for me at all. I did terrible work. I hated it and I was miserable and I found I was much more comfortable waking up early and writing. Knowing yourself and knowing when you're brain is going to be working the way that you'd need it to work is really important. It just takes that trial and error. Then that routine is just going to be essential. Just once you know what works for you, pick that timeframe, pick that moment of the day that is just perfect for you to be quiet and focus and get your work done and make that a part of your daily writing routine. You'll hear a lot of people say that when you're working on a project you should be writing every single day. I don't necessarily agree with this. I think, especially when it comes to your project if you're not feeling like writing what you want to write then your writing is likely not going to be great. I think there's a fine line between knowing when to push yourself and when to make yourself do the work when you don't want to and knowing when it's just not the right time for you. However, I do believe that writing every day is really important for any writer. But it doesn't always have to be your project. This is a good way to practice your writing. Let's say you're in the middle of writing your short story and you're hitting a slump. It's not going well. You just aren't feeling the story and you need to step away from it for a while, that's totally fine. You shouldn't feel bad about having to do that. But this is probably a good time to just pick up a journal and just do some journaling. Or to write something else that you aren't as passionate about just to try it. I think just putting that pen to paper every day and just trying to write every day is going to make you a better writer. If you're a musician and you're picking up your instrument every day, you don't have to be writing music, but you're going to be learning new things along the way the more you work. Make sure you're doing some form of writing every day. Just don't put the pressure on yourself to do fantastic, great, brilliant writing every day or you're going to drive yourself crazy. This all goes to say that you should just let yourself fail. Sometimes you need to write without the pressure of doing great work, and that's totally fine. Try something that no one's going to read. Try writing a story that's completely different from anything you've ever written. Write something that you just plan to throw in the trash after. Whatever it is, just let yourself fail. Let yourself try new things and step out of the confines of needing to make this perfect piece of work, just try to get something written. I think that's what writing every day should be and how it should work. Because that's just ultimately going to make you do better work when you go back to work on your own project anyway. Another essential part of any writing process is just exploring all the possibilities of your story. Once you have that idea, it can go in a million different ways. Any writer can take one idea and turn it into endless stories. Starting to explore those possibilities and knowing what's going to be right for you and how you want to tell your story is really important and there are a few great ways to do that. The first is free association writing. This is where you're going to take the idea that you have in your head and just start writing. Whether you're typing or writing by hand, don't think, don't pause, don't take any breaks. Just let yourself write for a certain amount of time. Whether it's five minutes or an hour or two hours. Write anything that comes to mind. Write as you think. Let yourself just go wherever it's going to go and you might find ideas that you never thought you would have for your story that are going to be perfect. Or you might find a lot of ideas that won't work, which is just as important. Free association writing is really critical once you have an idea in mind. To just let yourself explore the possibilities of that idea without any background information first. References and comparisons. This is just to take a look at other similar projects to the one that you want to write. If you want to write a horror story, maybe you'll read some Stephen King. If you want to write a fantasy story, maybe you all read something by J. K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman or Tolkien or whoever it might be. This isn't to try to find ideas to take from them or anything like that. It's just to see how different people go about writing similar projects to your own. They can all be different, but be similar in genre, in ideas explored, in a tone, whatever it might be. But knowing what other writers have done, who have been where you're going right with this project is really important to know what you can do differently and how you can structure your project the way you want to. Always looking to references is really important to broaden your horizons. Know everything that's out there and to help define yourself as a writer and help shape your story into what it can be. Research is always going to be critical whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction. More so for nonfiction for obvious reasons. But if you're writing a fiction story about a basketball player and you don't know that much about what it means to play in the NBA, then you can start doing that research. Start interviewing people, start looking online, reading books, whatever might inform your story, and give you the knowledge that you need to tell it as well as you can. This goes for anyone who's writing a story that's personal for them as well. Because as much as you might know, a subject or a character, or whatever element might be at the center of your story, there's going to be surrounding elements that are going to take some digging that you might not be able to just pull from your own mind. Making sure you have a really thorough understanding of what you're writing is really important and research is essential for any form of good creative writing. Then ask yourself questions that your readers might ask. If someone's looking at a story idea, what are those first thoughts that are going to come to mind? What are they going to want to know about these characters and this story in this world that you are creating? Starting to put yourself in your audience's shoes and seeing the story from their point of view is going to help you see more clearly your story from a different perspective and a different light. Really do that deep thinking, that digging into what your readers might make of this story, and what you're trying to communicate, and how you can bridge that gap with your writing. This is a great quote by Sylvia Plath, "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." This is all to say, make sure you're going to be confident in your story and in your process. This is all to say, know yourself, know your voice, your opinion, your view on the story, and why you feel so compelled to tell it. Know your story, make sure you've done the research, you've done the digging, you've explored those story possibilities, and have an idea of where you want it to go. Know your goals, know what you're trying to achieve with this. Have an idea of where you're going. You need that roadmap to have that self-confidence to write your story as well as you possibly can. Make sure you have a sense of all of these things; a good sense of story. This is going to be immensely helpful in your writing process, whatever that process might entail. All that being said, we're going to go on to the next section of process, which is outlining. 25. Outlining: How & Why We Outline: Now we're going to look at what goes into crafting an outline for the story that you're telling. Why come up with an outline instead of just taking everything you've gotten from that first initial exploration and going for it. Outlining is an essential part of the writing process no matter what you're working on. This is where you're going to be able to see your stories start to come together for the first time without having to get everything all in one place all at once. You can slowly build your story as you want to build it, see it, make any adjustment that you need before writing. This is a really crucial part of your writing process. This is where you get to ensure that all of the right pieces are in all the right places to build your story. This is how you can distill everything so far, which is a mess of just ideas and thoughts and descriptions into one cohesive narrative. Even if it's not polished, it puts it all together in a way where you can start to polish it. Once again, outlining is recommended, but it's not necessary. How you choose to go about writing your story is ultimately up to you. You might choose to just dive in. But I think for most writing processes, it's important to get some sense of an outline, and we're going to explore the depths that an outline can or doesn't have to go into later on. But if you are going to craft an outline, here are some ways to go about doing that. The first thing is plotting your story. We have all of our elements of storytelling that we've talked about: character, conflict, plot, setting, point of view, and theme. By now, once you're starting your outline, you should have a pretty good idea of the story elements and how they're going to factor into your story. How do we take all that and put them together? The first step to go about doing this is to come up with a list of beats for your story. We talked about the difference between plot and storyline. Beats are going to not constitute plot. They don't have to be in the order that you want to tell them, but come up with all those moments that you think your story needs to have. Every scene, every idea, just make a bullet point list of all of these things and hopefully you can start to see it come together a little bit more clearly, and start to see where things are going to fit in in your story. Once again, this can be just as simple as a bullet point list, a few words for each bullet point, whatever you feel comfortable doing. But I think keeping it concise for now is going to help you in the long run. Once we have these bullet points, we can take that and build it into the foundation of the story or in other words, what the plot is going to be. We're going to look at some of these other story elements, how they factor in, and then go into the specifics of building it all together. Make sure those beats are all there. Then we're going to look at the next step of the process. If you have a sense of the story beats, you have to know how you're going to orchestrate your characters within those beats. Take a look at all the characters that you have who are going to factor into your story. Something to ask yourself is, does each of these characters have a specific arc or a unique point of view? Is every character necessary to the story? Are there moments missing in these characters' developments? Once again, story is driven by conflict. Conflict drives character arcs. How does the conflict in your story beats continue to drive your characters, especially your protagonist's arc throughout the story? Starting to look at that in those beats and find those moments, those key elements of conflict that are going to shape your character from point A to point B is going to be essential in crafting an effective outline. As you see, the story come together in this way. You're going to see more how your characters serve the story. This can open up new possibilities for you to have your characters do things that you weren't necessarily expecting they might do in the story or to take directions or make decisions that you didn't see coming. Finding these story beats and this character development in making these all work together is going to be really helpful for you down the line if you can do it effectively here. Once again, looking at your characters, you can just write out their actions, their changes, everything in just these short bullet points, and weave it into the bullet points that you have going and know what kind of story you're trying to tell here. Then once you do this, you can adjust as necessary. This is always going to be easier to do in this stage than it is in a completed draft of your project. Looking at things just at their core, most basic parts makes it easier to shift things around. Some people like to do this by writing on index cards, for instance, and putting them on a bulletin board, moving them as they have to. That's a really effective way to see your story come together. You can write it by hand on your computer, wherever you're comfortable with. But orchestrating these characters in a way that are going to serve the story and prove their RX and prove the message of your story is really important at this stage. Next, we need to look at if your message is being delivered. Once again, all creative writing is about communicating something to your audience, delivering some kind of message. Does the current iteration of your bullet points in your character arcs deliver in doing that? I think to look at this is look at your points and think what message is being conveyed here and is it what you're trying to do or is it not, and is it maybe something better than what you are trying to. Just start to see what is coming together through these little parts in building them and what message is starting to come through from that. That's really important and you can always shape and adjust as necessary. Is it missing the mark? What can make it more clear if it is missing the mark and it's not what you wanted it to be? Is it too on the nose? Once again, you want to leave a lot of the discerning to be done by your audience and not put everything on the page, and not put everything so straightforward in your story. How are your characters and your moments of the story ultimately building towards what you're trying to achieve as a writer? Obviously, things can be straightforward. There's nothing wrong with that. It's not like subtlety is the key form of good writing, but creativity is really important in making sure that you're doing what you're trying to do in a creative and new way is essential. You can see here maybe where you're missing the mark or where you're doing a fantastic job depending on how your story is shaping up. Let's look at some elements of good writing when it comes to delivering your message. Foreshadowing is a great way to go. If there's a big moment that's going to happen later in your story; a big reveal, a big plot point. How can you subtly set that up early in the story to hook the audience to get that engagement and that interest and that intrigue and then deliver on that promise later on? Revelations. Once again, we need to go through the journey that your characters are going to go through. We need to be in this world. We need to watch them go through their struggle together. What's going to be revealed to them to increase the conflicts, to make their journey and their goal more difficult to achieve. What is the antagonist going to pull out that we never saw that coming, that your character never saw that coming? Making sure those revelations are there to really build your plot to drive that cause and effect sequence. Scene after scene is really important in just trying to pinpoint where those are and where they might be missing is going to help you to shape your story right now before you get into a first draft. Then character arcs, obviously, your characters all have to grow, especially your protagonist. If it looks like from your points, your character starts in one place and ends in the same place, then something is missing from your story. Try to make sure those arcs are really driven, really organic, and really deliver on the message that you're trying to deliver with your story. Do all of these fit into the story that you're piecing together? That's something for you to go through, figure it out, and adjust as necessary. Something I think is always important is knowing how your story is going to end before you start writing. I don't mean having a vague idea of it, I mean having a clear-cut ending in mind. Knowing the ending before anything else is going to help you to start from any place and get there because you know where you're going. You're not going blind and you know all the different ways that you can get there. But knowing that ending is really going to help you in writing, I think that's a key to getting past writer's block to getting past being stuck with your story is having that destination in mind. Really think about the ending of your story and what you want that to be. You mean if you don't have as clear of an idea of every other aspect, that's still going to help you to move your story along and move it in the right direction. 26. Writing Your Synopsis: With all this outline writing, I think it's also important to talk about writing a synopsis. A synopsis is just going to be a way to see your story take shape and to know what the general essence of that story is going to be and that's going to help you out a lot too in building a more full story around that. Writing on a short synopsis, literally just a paragraph, two paragraphs, whatever you feel comfortable with, is a good way to distill those key moments and to see your story in its most simple, cleanest, smallest, digestible form. Doing that can also give you a sense of if this feels right or wrong for what you're trying to do with what you're writing. Once again, this doesn't have to be more than a couple of paragraphs just to give yourself an idea. No one even has to see this necessarily. Certain writing competitions or publishers will like to see a synopsis. But for the sake of your first project or whatever project you're working on, just think of writing this for yourself to tell the story to yourself a little bit. I think doing this as a really rough sketch of your story is important. Don't think that this has to be exactly as the story is going to turn out. But if you're going to do a painting, for instance, it helps to just do a pencil sketch on paper. That's not an exact representation of what the final product is going to be, but it gives you an idea of what it might look like. I think a good way to think of this is what you would read on the back of a book or the back of a DVD case, just that short description of the story. What would that be for the story that you're trying to tell? Then this will help you to get more of a sense of the story's essence beyond the more rigid bullet points, the more technical aspects, the orchestration of characters and building the plot. This just helps you to see the tone, the feel, the story that you're telling. 27. Building Your Story in Your Outline: Now we're going to look at piecing all of this together to build your story into what it can become. Now, with these bullet points, with this organization, what's shifting things around, you have everything roughly in place for the moment. You have a general idea of the story that you're telling, and now it's time to piece it together as a full fledged outline. Once again, how you want to write your outline is totally up to you. A lot of people go about it in different ways. If you want to be more in depth, you can be as in-depth as you want to be, if you want it to be really vague, and short, and concise, then that's perfectly fine too. It's totally up to you. This is just to give you a road map for when you start writing for what your story is ultimately going to become. My recommendation is to just write out a couple of sentences for each scene of your story. You have all these bits and these bullet points. How can you break these down into scenes, and build those scenes into sequences, and organize these sequences into the best possible strategic place it meant for the story that you're telling. How can you tell us more effectively? Maybe you're going to take a moment that happens later in the story and move it up as a flashback or as a flash forward, and then go back in time, maybe you will start with a flashback. There are a million different ways to go about this, but once you have the pieces in place, you can start to build it exactly as you want to build it to most effectively tell the story that you're trying to tell. I think just those few sentences are really helpful because it doesn't get you too lost in what you're doing, it just gives you a clear sense of what the scene is, what's happening, where it fits into the overall story, and since you know your story by now, you can keep this concise. This isn't for anyone but you, as long as you can get it across to yourself what is happening, that is what matters most. A short descriptor of each scene like this is going to give you a sense of how your story builds, it's going to give you a sense of how it flows, if there are moments that feels slow or they drag on and kill the momentum of everything, if there are moments that are missing that go too fast, seeing it all together gives you that sense before you start writing, and it gives you a sense of the pacing of your story. You want to make sure that you're telling this in the most effective way that you can so, if you need it to be slower or faster, you can find ways to alter your outline, so that that will be reflected in your first draft. Most importantly, this is going to give you a sense of all of your story elements, and how they factor into the story, how strong or weak they are, where there's room for improvement, where it works really well, and what worked well, then how you can use that throughout other parts of the story. Seeing how all this comes together is really going to be helpful for you once you've began on that first draft. Once again, it totally is up to you. Some writers love outlines, some do not. Here are a couple of quotes I pulled. This one is from JK Rowling, who is a big proponent of outlines in all of her stories. She says, "I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write." Which is a great approach. I know that with her writing, she has color-coded, really intricate detailed maps essentially of her stories, and that helps her to craft them into the amazing stories that she tells. Then you have Stephen King, on the other hand, who doesn't outline at all, he says, "The thing is, I don't outline, I don't have whole plots in my head in advance, so I'm really happy if I know what's going to happen tomorrow, which I do. As a matter of fact, I know what's going to happen in the novel I'm working on, and that's enough." I think that's pretty admirable, but something, maybe only people with Stephen King's level of talent can do. Not that you all don't have Stephen King's level of talent, but as for me, I think that is a really challenging and difficult way to write. That can easily get you lost. I'm on a middle ground personally where I like to just have a sense of the story, but leave it open to change if I want to. I think that's the thing where certain writers who don't like outlining have some [inaudible] with it, is that it can make you feel like you're locked into what you're doing, and then once you get to the actual writing, there's a lot less room for creativity, and imagination, and fun, and ways to take the stories in different directions, which I totally get. I still think having a firm road map and knowing your ending, and leaving yourself open to take the story in new directions when you're writing is a great way to go. I would highly recommend outlining, at the very least, just having a page of the key moments of your story. Generally, I think it's good to have a few pages depending on what you're writing, but having an outline is immensely helpful when you're writing your first draft, as long as you don't let it lock you in and make the first draft more of a chore than an actual fun creative exercise. 28. Exercise 4: Outline Your Story: That being said, we're going to move on to our next exercise, which you may have guessed is crafting your outline. Use what we just learned, take your time, take all these elements, build the story, there is no time frame for how long this can take. You can spend a day on this or a year. It just depends on the project. It depends on how in-depth you want to be. But I would just urge you to go, make an outline that you think is going to be really helpful for you when you move on to write your first draft. Think about that too. Think about what it will be like when you sit down with that blank piece of paper, that blank screen in front of you to start on your first draft, what are you going to want at your side to help you tell your story as best as you can. Take your time, use these elements, build your story, and make it the best it can possibly be, and leave yourself open to changing it if you have to in the first draft. Then we'll see you in the next section, which as you probably guessed, is writing your first draft. 29. Tips for Writing Your First Draft: Now we're going to take a look at writing the first draft. How to begin? First off, just get over the fear of the blank page at something you hear all the time when people talk about writing. It's honestly, in my opinion annoying. You have everything you need, be confident in yourself, you're going to do great. Every element that is going to go into your story has been worked out already. I think that's just the most important thing to know. You have the sense of your story, of your characters, of your setting, of everything you're doing already, and now, it's just a matter of putting it into a cohesive piece of work. You have your outline, so you know where you're going, you have your road-map and simply put, you are ready to write your first draft. There's not much more you have to do other than just start writing. Here are some tips that will hopefully help you as you go. For one, don't edit as you go. I think a lot of people can get really hung up on this. They'll write five or 10 pages and then go read through them and then edit them, and then start on the next section of whatever they're writing. The best way to write a first draft is to just go through it. It doesn't mean you have to go fast, just means you have to go through it in order, write it out, and just don't worry about reading anything that you've written until you've finished that first draft. It's going to take a lot of pressure off of your mind. It's going to help you to get out of your own head about stuff you've written that might not be right. Definitely, I would never, ever recommend editing as you're writing your first draft. Obviously, it helps immensely to write in a distraction free environment. Make sure when you sit down to write, you don't have your phone right next to you ready to turn on and pull you out of the moment. You don't have anything on your computer, your Internet that's going to pop up and take you out of the moment. Eliminate all distractions from your writing environment. Make sure it's quiet. You can just be there their thoughts with these characters, with the story that you know, and focus entirely on the writing for the time that you're going to be writing. I think it's really important to know how to write anywhere. If you want to work on your story and you're on vacation, for instance, you don't need to feel like, well, I'm not in my preferred writing space, so I shouldn't worry about it. Learn how to write on the go, in hotel rooms wherever you are, just make sure you can eliminate those distractions. Put yourself in the right mindset to work, and that's going to free you up a lot in life just to not have to be confined to one space to write. Learning to just eliminate those distractions and get focused on your story is really important to be able to write anywhere. Then always carry a notebook with you. When you're writing your first draft of whatever you're writing, an idea might come to you out of nowhere when you're not by your computer or not at your desk. Having something on hand to just get those thoughts down can be super-critical because the story is already in your head. Whether you're not consciously thinking about it at the forefront of your mind, in the back of your mind if you're passionate about the story you're telling, it's always there. It's always looking for something that can help your story. Keeping that notebook on you in case some idea pops into your head out of nowhere is going to be immensely helpful to just get it written down and have it for your story. The most important tip of all, in my opinion, is to just accept that your first draft is not going to be good. It does not mean your story is not good. It does not mean that all of your elements aren't going to work as they should. First drafts are always going to be off. They're never going to be perfect. Most of the best aspects of any writers writing come through revisions. The first draft, is just about getting it all down. Once again, don't edit as you go, write through the whole thing, get your story on paper, and don't worry about making it perfect. You should try to do it as best as you can, but accept in your mind that it's not going to be right when you read it again later, and that's perfectly fine. Just know that you need to get it down. You're going to read it. You're going to like a lot of it, I'm sure, but it won't be exactly right, and that's perfectly fine. That's perfectly normal. That happens to every writer in everything that they write. Just accept that. It's going to help you immensely. It's going to take a lot of pressure off of you and it's going to let you do the best writing that you can possibly do. This is a great quote from the writer Terry Pratchett. The first draft is just you telling yourself that story. This goes along with not putting the pressure on yourself to have it be polished and perfect on the page. This is just going to be an opportunity for you to see the story and all of your story elements, in your plot and everything come together for the first time. It's going to help you to see where there will be room for improvement and how you can strengthen it in the next pass. Just take this draft, take your time, write it how you want to, tell yourself a story, and then you're going to make it that much better when you edit it. 30. Exercise 5: Write Your First Draft: As you probably assume for the fifth exercise, we're going to write the first draft of our story. Once again, you have everything you need, just take your time, enjoy the process. It's not always fun, writing is really difficult, but there's an immense satisfaction that comes from having written something, from having taken that idea that you have and putting it into creative writing and putting it into a form of writing. It's not always going to be easy, but the satisfaction that comes from it, if you want to be a writer, is really immense in really just worth all the work that you're going to put into this. Try to enjoy it if nothing else for that reason. Then after all of that, we're going to take a look at editing your first draft. Go out, go write your stories, and enjoy it, and we'll see you in the next section. 31. Goals and Key Elements of Editing Your Writing: Now we're going to examine some elements of what should go into editing your first draft. Let's take a look at what the goals of editing your story is going to be in the broadest possible sense. Correction, this is the most obvious goal of editing. Just finding those problems that exist in your story, and fixing them however you might need to do so. Concision, this means finding all those moments that are in your story that don't need to be there, that are just going to slow the story down and pulling those out, making it as tight and streamlined and effective as they can be. Of course, improvement, you just want to make the story better in every way that you can. It sounds easy, it sounds like the task is just to go through and make it better, but there are a lot of ways that you can go about doing this, and a lot that goes into doing this well that we're going to examine. Let's look at these key elements of self editing and then we'll go into a little bit more detail of each one in the following slides. Aesthetics, this is simply your presentation, formatting, grammar in the way your story looks, and feels, and reads, almost from just seeing it on a page more than the content itself. You want everything to look right, you right it to be presentable, or you're not going to be taken seriously as a writer. If you have a great story and terrible grammar, terrible formatting, spelling, all this stuff, it's going to really hurt you as a writer. This is going to be an essential part of all editing, no matter what part of the editing process you are in. First impression, obviously, you want your writing to make a strong first impression on your audience. Finding ways to show instead of tell, which all of us writers tend to do sometimes and going through and finding the ways to improve that is going to strengthen your writing immensely. An assessment of your goals, obviously you knew what you were getting into when you started this, you knew what you wanted to do, you knew your story elements, your message that you are trying to convey, seeing how all of those come together and finding the ways to improve them is going to be key in editing your work. Then strengthening overall where necessary. With all these being the case, let's go into just a little bit more detail on each one of these. 32. Edit the Aesthetics: First is the aesthetics. This is the overall presentation, and obviously, I think on your first pass of editing your work, this is going to be a little bit less at the forefront of what your goals should be then, unlike a later pass and on a pass where you're really trying to polish it. That being said, it's still good to know what your work should look like, and you can format it as you need to, to make it begin to feel like a more polished piece of work. This is going to be probably one of the easiest parts of editing because it doesn't have as much to do with content as it has to do with the overall look of your work. Formatting. Obviously, this should be double-spaced. This helps anyone who's reading your work to see it a little more clearly, you don't have these big blocks of text, and anyone who might take your work and edit it for publication is going to want to have those margins to work with, so double-spacing your work just makes it easier for everyone. Numbered pages. Make sure that every page is numbered. Once again, this will help you with editing. This will help you if you give your work to someone for notes and they give you a page number or they need a page number to reference, and it just helps to give a sense of the length of what you've written. All paragraphs should be indented five spaces, just make it clean. If you're doing a mix of tabbing and double spacing paragraphs and all that stuff, your work is just going to look like a mess, so consistently just doing those five space indented paragraphs is going to make your work look that much more professional. Then obviously choose a legible font. This should go without saying, but some people choose some of the wackiest fonts that Word has to offer and it's never a good idea, so do something simple, Arial, Times New Roman, Courier as we have here, stuff like that just makes it a little bit easier for everyone to read and it doesn't distract anyone from the work that you have. Then, of course, grammar is a big part of aesthetics. Make sure everything within your story is grammatically correct. I'm not going to keep talking about grammar, but as you can tell, it's pretty important. Let's take a look at first impression. First impression, what do I mean by this, and how does it factor into editing? Does your story start strong when your reader area audience picks up, whatever you've written and starts to read, are they going to be interested? Are they going to be hooked, or is it just a banal expository open that nobody is going to care about. That's going to bore everyone and not get them engaged in the story. Knowing your story now, and knowing what you're telling, does it start as strong as it possibly can? The beginning of a story can establish a scene, it can introduce a character and conflict, and it can raise questions for the reader. All of these are great ways to start a story. You should get everyone engaged by introducing these characters, introducing a little bit of what they might be up against, and leaving some mystery for us to want to learn about. Leaving something for us to want to continue reading and continue to see where this goes. Look at the start of your story, especially, and see if it really hooks your story and as best as it possibly can. One great way to do this is not to begin with backstory. If you're trying to get to your main story and you're backtracking as much as you can to give all this information to us upfront so we know what's going on, that's not going to be as interesting as if that's parceled out throughout the story. I think a good way to think of this is come into your story as late as you possibly can, find the latest moment when the story can begin and we can get the full scope of what's going on through, what else happens. Make sure you're not starting with a bunch of background information. Just get into the story, let us figure out what's going on as the reader and if it's written well, that's going to serve your story that much better. You want to place your reader in the present moment. You want them to be dropped in as the story is happening because that's always going to be more engaging than having to learn something before being placed into what's happening. Take a look at the start of your story, make sure it starts as strong as it can and that your reader is going to be engaged from that first sentence. 33. Show Don't Tell: Show, don't tell. This is another thing that you're going to hear a lot as a writer. A lot of people will say this without fully explaining what they mean by it. It sounds simple, but it's not quite as simple as it seems because obviously you're telling a story. How do you discern what is being shown, versus what is being told? A good way to start is to just play out the story in your reader's mind. This, once again, involves putting yourself in your reader's shoes and seeing what they may make of what's on the page, not knowing what's in your mind. This can be achieved through the use of imagery and effective descriptions of the scenes in the world's you're building. Strong verbs and not using just generic, the most simple way to communicate what you want to communicate. Use something that's going to really drive home the point that you're trying to drive home, not something that just simply works in the moment. Using specific details where necessary and this plays into imagery. If you want to create this vision in this reader's mind, you need to pick all the right words and structure them in the right way to really make sure that they are seeing what you're trying to communicate in their mind, not just reading about it on a page. Don't underestimate your audience. You don't need to explain everything to them and I think a lot of writers fall into that trap of just trying to explain what they want to be communicated in their story. If you put them there and you put your reader in the moment that you want them to be in, then you're already starting to show more than you're just telling a story. Let's take this sentence for example, Joe really loved Mary. This is once again a simple verb, a simple sentence, and it just tells you how Joe feels about Mary. But really, this doesn't show you anything. Love can take any number of forms. He might have any level of different admiration for her based on the circumstances and if you're just having a sentence like this in your story, it's not going to show the reader anything. It's just going to tell them this fact that doesn't build the story in a unique way. If you have something like Joe wrote Mary a letter every single day and never finding himself at a loss for words while expressing his profound admiration, then you're like, well, Joe really loves Mary a lot. He writes her a letter every single day. He never runs out of things to write, which we all know is difficult and that gives us a sense of this really intense admiration he obviously has for this Mary character. I think this is the general idea of what people are saying when they say show, don't tell. Give us the specific details, give us insight into these characters and what they feel, what they think and what they believe, more so than just what they do and that's the way to look at it. Make sure you're really getting into your character's personalities, persona's, activities, behaviors, and just expressing that more than just the story beats. That being said, this could always go too far and just have a bunch of what amounts to stage direction that's completely irrelevant to your story and takes the reader out of the moment. Make sure you're conveying only necessary information. Let's look at the sentence, for example, Bill stood up from his seat, put both feet on the floor and stepped one foot in front of the other across the room until he reached the front door through which he exited. Obviously, if he's going to stand up to exit through a door, he's going to walk. That's just more information than anyone needs. Bill exited through the front door, is a much simpler way of just conveying the same piece of information in a simple way. I think knowing when to show and when to tell is really important too, and that's going to increase the impact that these moments have in your story. Because you're going to show only those necessary moments, only the moments that we need to know to learn about these characters in the story moments. Not a bunch of unnecessary detail to put us in a moment that is completely irrelevant to the story. Someone leaves through the front door, unless it factors into the story in a big way that he puts one foot in front of the other, that just is going to slow your story down and make your writing pretty difficult to get through. Make sure you really discerning what moments are showing and telling and really make sure you show those important moments. 34. Assess the Goals of Your Story: Obviously an assessment of the goals that you set out to achieve what this is going to be a huge part of editing. Are all your story elements there? That's everything that we've been covering throughout this course. Do they all factor into the story in the way that you wanted them to. This character, conflict, plot, setting, point of view and theme. Now that you have your first draft written, you should be able to see, like we said, a rough sketch of all of these working together. You should know how you want them to work together, and if they don't, now you can start to see where you can make those adjustments, how you can increase the conflict if you have to, make things harder on your main characters. Explore the themes and the more unique or subtle way, change the setting to match the tone that you're trying to convey. Whatever it might be, you're going to see all of this so much more clearly now that you have a draft. Knowing that it's not going to be perfect in that first draft, how can you make all the right adjustments to strengthen these points where you need to? Simply do they work the way you want them to. If they do, that's fantastic. If not, start thinking about the ways that you can make those improvements and adjustments. Then does your story communicate what you want to communicate? If you're trying to say something about love that's different, then is that coming through in the story that you told? If not, what's missing? What can you do to make that more clear? So all of this, of course, is easier said than done, but it's all going to be specific to your story. You know what everything has to do for the story to work in the best way that it can. With the your given story, your characters, you're setting, your plot. How can you make everything work the way that you need it to work? Knowing all the information that you know, I'm sure you can go through and adjust as necessary and really strengthen the writing that you've already started. 35. Strengthen When Necessary: Let's look at some other ways to strengthen your writing too that are outside of the general scope of story. Something that a lot of writers struggle with is active versus passive voice. Of course, when you're writing a story, you want your reader to be present in that story, which means you're going to want to use the active voice more than the passive voice. A key way to do this is to just make sure you're avoiding those words like was and were, and you'll want to make sure that you're putting your reader in the present moment, even if you're describing an event that happened in the past, which sounds complicated, but it's really not as difficult as it seems, and just finding these little tweaks and making these small adjustments is going to have a huge impact on your writing. For instance, let's look at this sentence. Mary was weirded out by all of Joe's letters. That tells us how Mary felt about Joe, which is obviously not reciprocating the way he felt for her, but it's told in a pretty banal, and boring way and it's that was right there that just makes it more passive. It tells us how she felt about it, but it doesn't really give us a firm sense. Joe's barrage of letters shook Mary to her core. As you can see, just shifting it that way, getting rid of the was word, using a different verb, and changing the sentence altogether gives you a totally different sense of how Mary felt about Joe's letters. It's a lot more interesting for the reader. You're reading it as if it's happening, even though this happened in the past. Looking for those types of words and making the changes that you need to to strengthen those sentences is going to really vastly improve your writing as a whole. A key way to think about this is to just put the subject of the sentence first. As you can see in the passive version, Joe's letters are the subject of the sentence, and that's what affected Mary. Putting Joe's letters at the front of the sentence, changing was to shook Mary to her core, is just essentially going to make the sentence that much stronger and just once you move those little bits around and cut those certain words, your writing is going to really show an improvement for it. Another way to strengthen your story is to look at how it reads. One way to do this is to read it out loud. It doesn't sound like that would necessarily help, but you'd be amazed if you have a sentence or a paragraph or a page or whatever it might be on paper, and it looks fine but feels off. If you just read it out loud, all of a sudden you can hear the differences. You can hear what's off and what's wrong in that sentence. That's a great technique to use to just make sure everything sounds the way that it should. Try to avoid those LY words because more often than not, they're used as a crutch when you can't find the right verbs or nouns to convey the meaning that you're trying to convey. Going through, strengthening that, and just really being nitpicky on those verbs and nouns is going to improve your writing as well, because these adverbs are just going to assist nouns and verbs that don't quite work and that's going to show in your writing. It's going to make it feel a little bit weaker and not quite as on-point as it could be. Spell checking. This sounds obvious, but your computer is not going to catch everything in spellcheck. There are plenty of homonyms, there are plenty of different ways to spell the same word, and you could have a misplaced your or its or whatever it might be, so make sure you go through manually, check your words, make sure that things are spelled correctly because if you have a bunch of misspelled words and typos in your story, no matter how great the writing is, that's not going to bode well for its presentation. I would always recommend not just trusting Word and trusting yourself to go through and find those little bits that might be off. Everyone misspells words, even the best writers out there, so that's something to always keep in mind when you're reading through your drafts. Then, of course, getting a second opinion. It just is always hard when you're the only person reading and changing your work when it's only your perspective that is affecting the change, and for the first revision or a couple of revisions, that might be fine. Some people prefer it that way. I prefer it that way for the first revisions because I don't want to get a second opinion until I feel that my work is strong or where it needs to be. That being said, though, it always helps when you have trusted family members and friends who can take a look at your work and give you honest feedback. This can't be those friends who are just going to tell you that it's great because they want to be nice to you and not hurt your feelings. You want to find those friends that are going to tell you that if something is wrong, it's wrong and it needs to be fixed. Make sure you have those resources that can give you those opinions and you can take those opinions as you will. You don't have to implement every piece of feedback that you get from people, but it always helps to get a second opinion. Once again, use it as you see fit. Some people might have one great idea and one terrible idea and you can use the great idea or however you want to go about it. But it's always helpful to get out of your own head and get other people's thoughts on your work. Then the best writing is going to come from rewriting. There is no set number of revisions that you need to do in order to complete your manuscript. You just need to keep working at it until it's where you want it to be. Some writers will spend a decade or more on one novel because they're changing it as much as they need to to get it where it needs to be. Some people nail it in a week or a month or whatever it might be. There is no hard and fast rule for this. When you're editing your script, just know that it might take many, many revisions to get it right, but if you have that clear vision and that clear sense of your story in your mind, then you're going to know when it's right. You're going to know when it's exactly what you want it to be, no matter what anyone says. Doing whatever it takes to get there is always going to be worth it if you can get there in the end. A tip, this is actually something I've learned from something that Stephen King actually said, which is that he likes to give himself six weeks after writing his first drafts to read them. He puts them in a drawer, goes off, does other things that are not writing-related, just enjoys whatever hobbies you might have or whatever, and then comes back six weeks later to read it. The reason for doing this is you get the story out of your head. You've written your first draft, you haven't yet gone through it, you haven't read any of it yet, you haven't made those revisions, and when you come back to it after that much time, it's like reading something from another writer. It's like reading something that you didn't write yourself and that makes you a lot more critical and a lot more able to see your writing from a different perspective and analyze it differently than if it's something that's fresh in your head that you just put on paper. I think this is a great way to go, whether it's six weeks or whatever amount of time you want to take or are comfortable taking, but I think just getting away from your work for a little bit after you've written it and then starting your revision process is always going to help you. 36. Exercise 6: Edit Your First Draft: All right. For our next exercise, we're going to edit the first draft of our work. Once again, do this at your leisure. Do this when you see fit. If you're going to take the time off, that's fine. You know the questions to ask yourself. You know, what's going to make your story strong. Go make your writing as strong and effective as it can possibly be. Enjoy the process, take your time with it. It's worth putting in the time and the effort that it takes to make writing great. Take your time, edit your draft and then we'll see you in the next section which is finding a home for your work. 37. Methods for Sharing Your Writing + Getting an Agent: Let's take a look at finding a home for your work. Once you've finished whatever project you're working on and you feel it's as strong as it can be, how are you going to go about getting it out there into the world? There's actually quite a few ways to do this. There are several methods for getting your work out there and getting yourself published once you have that completed piece of writing. We're just going to touch on what these are without going into too much extensive detail. I want to note too that this is more related to prose writing to novels, short stories, essays, more so than it is to teleplays, screenplays, stage plays, which are a completely different method. Hopefully if you have a nice piece of prose that you're proud of, you can look into these methods and see if one is right for you to get your work out there. One, getting a literary agent, this is someone who will represent you to help get your work published. Self-publishing. This is the means of going about getting your work published on your own terms, submitting your work to literary journals and magazines, and then just some other ways to go about putting your work in the world. We're going to start with getting an agent and how you might go about doing that. Let's say you have a novel or a short story that you've written that you're really proud of, you have another one that you're about to start working on and you want to find someone to represent you. It's obviously very difficult to do, but it's obviously not impossible. Let's look at the methods of how to go about doing that. The one thing you're going to need, no matter what is a polished manuscript. You need something that you can show someone that they're going to read, that is you putting your best foot forward. If your manuscript for whatever it is that you've written is not as strong as it can be, then you need to make sure that you are going to go back, make it as strong as it can be, as confident as you can be in it, and put that best foot forward before you put it out to anybody. Have the intention to continue writing. No agent is going to want to represent a writer who has written one thing and just wants to get that out into the world. They want writers who are going to continue to generate work, who are going to continue to use their talents to create new stories and continue to develop their craft and put new work into the world. Have a firm sense of yourself and your writing style. Once again, we said style comes from a lot of work of writing, but you should know where you fit into the spectrum of authors who write similar material to you at this point. Have a sense of the stories that you want to tell in addition to the one that you told and how you're going to go about telling them so that you can present yourself in that way if you meet with a manager or an agent. This is going to involve doing your research. I think I would recommend starting with looking at authors who you really admire and digging a little bit to see who they are represented by. Because different agents are going to represent different types of authors. The same agent who represents a comedy writer is not necessarily going to represent a horror writer. You want to find an agent or a list of agents whose ideals are in line with your style, your tone of writing. Finding these people's agents, making that list, and this just involves a lot of diligence, a lot of looking around online, a lot of digging to get that list together for yourself. Compile that list, have those agents who you want to reach out to. Then once you have that, you're going to want to send a query letter. This is just an introductory letter that is sent from aspiring writers to agents to introduce themselves and their work. You want to tell them about yourself, who you are as a writer, who you are as a person, in what manuscript you are trying to present to them to represent. The purpose of this is to see if they're going to be interested in representing you and your manuscript and helping you to get that published. These letters are most commonly sent via e-mail, not snail mail. That's something also to keep in mind. You're going to want to get these email addresses so that you can send this out to a wide array of agents who might be interested in your work. Let's look at what a good query letter does. It should be personalized. No one wants to receive a form letter, a to whom it may concern letter that could have been sent to any person. Make sure if you've done the research, you know who these agents represent. You can mention why you're reaching out to them and why you feel you'd be a good fit for them. Mentioning relevant connections is a great way to go. You never know who you might be connected to. If you're talking to family members say, who do know literary agents and get you in touch, then mentioning that connection is already going to bridge a certain gap that exists between you being an aspiring writer and an agent looking for someone to represent. If you can find those connections, find those things that might set you apart from the pack, that's always going to be beneficial for you. You want to pitch your story in a succinct and compelling way. This is not going to be a long, detailed synopsis or treatment of your story. This is going to be just a tight sentence or two about what your story is about to give in that succinct time frame the best essence of your story and capture its tone, its plot, its characters, all that in a succinct way which is difficult to do. But once you have everything written, you can pull the necessary moments to do that and include it in your query letter. Your letters should reflect your voice, and your personality, and give an indication of who you are as a person. Of course, it should be free of grammatical errors and typos. If you send a letter that's poorly written, it goes without saying that someone's not going to be very interested in seeing if you've written a good manuscript because you can't write a good email. Make sure that it's clean, concise, everything is as polished as it can be, and then keep it concise too. Everybody's busy, especially agents and managers. No one wants to read a really long rambling letter with all the information of you pouring your guts out about yourself in your story and all this. You've already gone through this concision process with your editing, how can you craft a concise letter to reflect who you are as a person, what you want to write, and what your manuscript is about to an agent? What does a bad query letter look like? You don't want to be too casual. You don't know these people, so you shouldn't be acting like you're old buddies or anything like that. You want to be polite, respectful, mannered, and to the point. Don't want it to be over-long which we just talked about. You want it to reflect your ability to write well. If it doesn't reflect your ability to write well, then that's not going to bode well for you. You might be a great writer who wrote a poor query letter, and that can already be a hindrance before anyone even takes a look at anything that you've written. Make sure it's well-written. Make sure it's structured nicely. Make sure it gets all the points across that you need to in a concise way. Getting an agent, of course, is not easy like I said. But it's also not impossible. People get represented every day. It just is going to take a ton of patience and persistence. It's really hard if you've spent all this time crafting this manuscript that you've put your heart and soul into and you can't get anyone to represent it, but it's no reason to stop writing, it's no reason to despair over. Sometimes people just aren't looking to take on new clients. Sometimes your work might be great, but not exactly right for the agent you reached out to. It's going to be difficult but not impossible. It's just going to take a lot of time, a lot of effort, and just a lot of persistence. 38. Self Publishing Your Writing: If you don't want to go that agent route, you can always look into self-publishing. This is where you're going to independently publish your book or your manuscript without an agent or a big publishing house. If you look online, you're going to see there are several platforms out there, including Amazon, where you can self-publish your book. Let's look at some of the upsides of self-publishing. You have full creative control. No one's going to change your manuscript. No one's going to tell you to make notes. You get to write it exactly as you want to and put it out into the world exactly as you see fit. You'll bypass the traditional methods of the big publishers, which involves maintaining an agent and having that agent pitch your work to big publishers and trying to get those publishers to publish your work. It's a long, difficult process with many gatekeepers. When you self-publish, you're going to go right past all of that and just put your work out there. You're going to get higher royalty rates if it sells well, if you have an agent or a publisher or both, they're going to collect part of the royalty of your work that sells. So if you self-publish, you get to keep more of that. It's a means to get your name out there. You get to put your work into the world. You get to have the satisfaction of having written something, published it, and put it out there. If it's great, hopefully, people will take notice and that can help you to build a name for yourself as a writer. Of course, too there are downsides to self-publishing. If you don't have a large following already, for instance, on social media or whatever it might be, then you're going to have less visibility than you would if you were going through a big publishing house and sometimes having that visibility, that publicity, that marketing is really crucial to sales. Depending on what your personal situation is, that might hinder how many people see the work that you put out there. You have to take on all the upfront costs to yourself. If you are publishing something outside of an eBook format, for instance, you're going to have to handle the distribution. You're going to have to handle the printing. You're going to have to handle the cover art. All this stuff is going to fall on you instead of on the publishing houses. If you're willing to put the upfront cost into it, then that might not be an issue for you, but if you're not, that might be something to look into, and something to weigh out in your decision as to how you want to go about putting your work into the world. Obviously, this is going to come with a lack of professional support. You're not going to have the resources of agencies and publishers and editors to help get your work out there and make it as strong as it can be. You have to take on everything on your own, which some people don't mind at all. It's just a personal preference as to how you feel about doing that. Distribution is going to be a little bit more of a challenge, which is going to tie into those upfront costs that you have to take on. All of this is worth weighing out and looking into for yourself to see if this is the right route for you or if perhaps submitting to agents is a better way to go. I would say to you, it's also worth looking into independent publishers. They are the big publishing agencies that are publishing the mass-produced books that you see out in every bookstore. But there's always just like independent film studios. They're independent publishers who are putting work out there from writers just like you who are just starting out, who have work that needs to be out in the world. Doing some research into that could really help too because some of them will allow for submissions without an agent. Make sure you just do your homework, do your research, and see if there are any publishers that are right for you out there. 39. Submitting to Literary Journals and Magazines: Speaking of submissions, let's take a look at submitting to literary magazines and journals. This is especially great for short story and essay writers. There are a huge number of journals out there and essays that are publishing work from writers who are submitting to them. Big ones would be something like The New Yorker or the Atlantic. But there's also a plethora of smaller, more niche, more focused literary journals out there that are publishing work by unrepresented writers. Doing some research into that can really help you to find a home for your work and find places where you can submit your work. This doesn't require having an agent. You can submit all on your own. A lot of these submissions are going to be free, so you don't have to take on any costs to do this. You can just do your writing, put it out there, and try to find a home for your work. Before doing this, do your research. If you've written a short story that might not be right for where you want to submit, let's say you've written a horror short story that you want to submit to the New Yorker, you might go read some of their short stories and see that they don't publish horror. But that's not anything to get discouraged about. That's just to say you should find a place where your work will be more suited. Do some research into the journals out there and see what might be right for the story that you have. This means knowing what material these magazines or journals typically publish and finding specialized journals that match your style, if that's what you want to do. Then don't just go for the big names either. There's obviously a temptation to have the prestige of a publication in a big magazine or journal. But especially when you're starting out with writing, if you can get published anywhere, that's a huge feet and a huge accomplishment. Really do your research into what's out there and just try to get your work published. Get it out there, get your start. Don't just automatically go for the highest bar. You obviously can, there's nothing wrong with that, but starting with other journals that might be more suited to your specific style of writing and your specific subject matter, is a great way to go to try to actually get publication. Then be persistent. Like anything, this is going to be tough. It takes a long time. There are tons of writers submitting to everything, so don't be discouraged easily, just keep doing it. Keep writing. If you're passionate about the stories, you're telling the story you have, then just keep trying. 40. More Recommendations for Publishing Your Work: I just want to cover some final recommendations to just to keep in mind as you write and try to get your work out there. The first one is read. Reading is always going to make you a better writer. Seeing what other people are doing, whether it is relevant to what you want to do or on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, just seeing what people do with words on paper, seeing how people organize their thoughts and tell their stories in all these different ways is immensely going to help you write, so just keep on reading. Everything that strikes your interests, pick it up, read it. It's just the more you do this, the better you're going to get at writing, and the more you're going to take it in, and the more it's going to be a part of the way that you view the way that you write. Writing. Obviously, like I said, you want to write every day. Even if it's not the project you're working on, just keep writing and keep practicing. Research. Like I said, this is going to be part of every aspect of writing, whether you're researching content for your story, researching agents to reach out to, researching of literary journals that you want to submit to, researching the ups and downsides of self-publishing. Just keep being curious, keep asking questions, keep looking for answers and information. The more you do this, the more you learn, the more confident you can be about writing the best work that you can and putting it out there in the best way that you possibly can. Creating a website always helps too. If you have written stuff that you love and let's say you've gotten some small publications or you've self-published something, that's great. Put it online. Make online presence for yourself. Put yourself out there in the world and let people know what you're doing and just keep doing it. This is just a great way to share what you've done with everybody. If you're interested in self-publishing, then check out this next section. Phil is going to walk you through how to upload your book on Amazon, which he has successfully done. 41. Self Publishing eBooks and Printed Books Can Be Easy: Hi. I'm Phil Ebiner. I've been behind the camera for most of this class but I've partnered with Brian on all of these classes. Perhaps you've taken one of my classes. I really hope you're enjoying this one on creative writing. I wanted to share some of my experience and teach you how to self-publish your own books using Amazon, Amazon Kindle if you're doing eBooks, or there's also an easy print-on-demand. While Brian talked about self-publishing being a little bit more difficult, it is, there are some ways to make publishing an actual physical book easier. Here's an example of my own book. It's a book based off of one of my best-selling classes of the photography masterclass. This is a print-on-demand book, meaning you don't have to do any sort printing, paying for 1000 books from a print shop that you're going to have to distribute and ship and do all of that work. You can basically upload a printable option of your book, it's somewhat formatted a little bit different than an e-book, and it's print-on-demand. When someone purchases it, they actually print it out for you and ship it, deliver it, everything, and you don't have to do anything. It makes it pretty easy once it's up and running. What I love about self-publishing my books is it opens myself up to a wider audience. I teach online classes, I have a lot of content on platforms like YouTube or social media, but I get a lot of traffic in people finding my classes from my books that are hosted on Amazon. Let's jump behind the computer. I'm going to walk you through how simple it is to create your own book and publish it on Amazon. Then, I'm also going to give you a more in-depth overview of the dashboard that just goes through the analytics and how to track how many sales and downloads you have, all of that coming up in the next couple of videos. I hope you enjoy. 42. Amazon Kindle Tutorial: Publishing Your eBook and Print-on-Demand Book: We truly live in an amazing time where it's easier than ever to publish your own eBook or paperback book. Head over to and sign in; you can use your Amazon account or you can sign up for a new account here. Now, there are other platforms for self-publishing, but Amazon is the one that I use and the one I'll show you in this class. Click, "Sign in or Sign up" and go ahead and sign in to the KDP dashboard. You'll see some things here that are a little bit different because I have some existing books on the platform, but we'll look at that in the next lesson. Right now, all I want to show you is pretty much the easiest way to get started. That's by clicking the "Kindle eBook" button right here, plus right there. Up above, you'll see different options that I'll go over in just a second. But if you have an eBook version or a paperback, you can click either one. Like I said before though, there are some different options. I would start with the eBook option because there's another button that allows you to quickly translate it or create a paperback version from what you've already done with your eBook version, so I would start with the eBook version. Then it's pretty much step-by-step stuff that you should know if you've written your book, I'll walk through it really briefly. But you just select your language, you put your book title, a subtitle, if you have a series of books and this is part of a series, this is where you add that series information, if you have different editions of the book, here is where you put that, here's where you put your authors, editors, anyone else that you want to credit as part of your eBook or your book, contributors here as well. Down below you put in your description. You have to check that you either own the copyright or if you want to make it a public domain work, you can do that which allows anyone to use any part of your book without having to get permission. Most of us are going to be choosing the copyright option, and then you choose your keywords. All of these sections have some great drop-down menus that can give you a little bit more information if you're confused or if you need some assistance in selecting keywords or categories. I'll come back to that in just a second. But I'll just show you the rest of this menu. You have your age, if it's appropriate for just kids or what have you or specific grades, so if you're writing for junior high, high school, college, that kind of thing, you can put your grades here, and then lastly, you can choose whether to release it now or you can put a preorder if you're currently editing it or working on it and you're creating it for a future release. Back up to the keywords and categories, these are very important because this is how people are going to find your book likely unless people are going to search specifically for your book title or your name if you share your information on social media or at an event or something like that, most people might find your book if they search for fantasy book or for photography instructions or photography for beginners, that's the thing that I use as keywords. For keywords, you really want to just think about if someone was searching in the Amazon search bar, what will they be typing to be able to find my book? You don't have to worry about repeating things like your name or the title of your book because that is already metadata that is a part of your book posting that will help it show up in search, so you want to use other keywords that are related to the genre, the subject matter, things like that. Categories is another way that people can select or find your book. If you click "Choose Category", you can see that you can choose up to two. My suggestion is to try to find two separate unique categories. For example, I would not go under fiction and say you have something like, let's go under science fiction. I would not check general science fiction and then cyberpunk science fiction, that's because that means people who are looking under categories for books, there's a less likely chance that more people will see it because both of these subcategories or sub-subcategories are underneath the same line of categories. Versus if I uncheck general and then let's go to another one, maybe it's a cyberpunk graphic novel, just for example, and under here it's science fiction. Now, you have all of these different pages, there's five different roots of the tree basically, you could think of it as ways for people to get to your book. Hopefully, that makes sense. I try to find the two categories that you want it to make sense because you always want to match the expectation of the person searching for a book on Amazon when they see your book. You don't want to choose space opera because you think space opera is like a popular topic and there's a lot of people searching for space operas nowadays, you want to make sure that it's matching exactly what it is. But I think you have the opportunity of selecting two separate categories that are different enough to get more people viewing your book but still apply to whatever your book is about. Hopefully, that make sense. That's really up to you though to find the categories for your books. One thing that you can do is go under these categories on Amazon or search for books that are similar to your book. For example, if you're writing a magical story, fictional tale then maybe you look for Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter and then you can see on that book's page under the description what categories they're actually using. That's a great way if you have no clue what category you should choose to be able to find one that might be good for your book. I'm going to click, "Save and Continue." I'm going to have to fill in a bunch of information before I can go, so fast forward this. Onto the next page, you have the content aspect of your book. The first thing is an option for digital rights management. This is basically a way that Amazon Kindle can prevent the distribution of your book just willy-nilly from one person sharing to the next person. It has back-end tools to prevent that sharing so that someone can't download it and then just start selling it themselves or giving it away and sharing it with people on other Kindle devices. You might want to check on, yes, it's important to note that you have to do this first though and it can't be changed after you publish your book. You can read more about it here under this dropdown menus. Next, you can click, "Upload eBook Manuscript." This is where you upload your book file. It can be a DOCX file from Word or any of these other formats. We're not going into formatting eBooks in this course, that's out of the scope of what this class is. I would suggest either learning how to do that yourself because there are certain formatting rules, especially with images and things like that, so that your book appears properly to a Kindle reader, or there are lots of services online that are specific to Kindle formatting or you can find them on platforms like or where you can have a freelancer take your Word document, your Google Doc document and basically convert it to an eBook friendly ready file able to be published here. That's where you upload that file. Then you have an eBook cover Upload option. Here you can actually build your cover here within Amazon's cover creator option. That's, of course, an option if you don't know how or don't want to create it separately. I personally would choose to edit it on your own computer just so that you have all the capabilities, I don't think this cover creator is the best in terms of all the features that you might want. But if you just want a basic cover, hey, you can, by all means, use this option. There is also some great free tools like which is great for creating graphic design, elements like covers if you don't want to learn something like Photoshop, which is a more powerful graphic design tool. But here is where you upload that cover. Also, you want to make sure you click on "See our cover guidelines" button because this is going to give you all of the correct dimensions and all of that stuff that you'll need for creating your cover. Lastly, once you've uploaded your manuscript, your cover, you can preview it here and you can go through it and see what it's going to look like for a reader which is super important. Lastly, if you have an ISBN and this is just that specific number that's going to categorize your book and help people find if this is the right version, the right edition, everything specific to this book. But if you don't have an ISBN, then you don't need to put one here. Here you can put your publisher if you have a publisher. Lastly, we're going to go to the pricing page. I jumped over to my photography masterclass book because I would have had to upload a fake book and all of that, previously. But now you can actually see what it looks like, whether you have an existing book and you want to edit the price, or if you're uploading it for the first time. The first thing to check is this KDP Select enrollment. This is something that is a separate enrollment page. But what this allows you to do is hold different deals. You can give your book away for free. You could do discounts and you get a part of the KDP Select program, which has its own set of promotions, and things like that. Which I think is beneficial if you are self-publishing and you don't have your own audience and you don't care about Amazon trying to drive traffic to your book, which sounds great. More information and how you enroll on that, you can click here. There's also going to be options from the main KDP dashboard page to sign up for this. You can choose whether to sell your book everywhere or specific countries or territories. You can choose what marketplace it's in, if you are publishing it to a different Amazon countries marketplace. Then lastly, you can choose your pricing here. It can be a little bit confusing, I know. I want you to just pay attention to these numbers. You first see this option for 35 percent or 70 percent. While you might be wondering, why would I only want to take 35 percent instead of 70 percent? That's because it gives you more control of your pricing. You see with the 70 percent selected, your price must be between 299 and 999 for all market. It automatically is going to determine what the price is and all of these other markets, so you don't have to worry about that. But you just set your main US dollar list price, or I'm assuming if you're in a different marketplace, your marketplace will be the first one up here, and it will convert it for all of the other marketplaces down below. But if I check on to the 35 percent option, you can see now that you can set a price between $1.99 and $200. If you have a book that you want to sell for a higher price point, you have to select that lower tier, which is quite a different drop in that price or in that revenue share. But if people are paying more for it, depending on the math, be making more per sale with even that lower revenue share. That's up to you to decide what the pricing is. If you're just starting out and you have no clue, I would just go on to Amazon and see what other books in your categories and similar to your books are charging and probably price similar to them. The next option is to have this book lending, which gives kindle readers the option to actually lend a book that they've downloaded and purchased to their friends or family for a 14 day period. It's like a library thing and it's built into the kindle platform that they can't just hold onto it forever. In my opinion, I love sharing books and I think most of you would agree that just being able to write a story and get it out there is great, and the more people that read your work, it's probably better. You will reap the rewards and make money in the future because more people read your work. I think that's an awesome idea, but that's up to you. You got to make sure you accept the terms and conditions. Then you basically click, "Publish Your Kindle Book." Up until now, if you've uploaded your manuscript it should go through a process of once you upload that document in that last page on Kindle eBook content. It will actually look through and make sure there's no errors or things like that. If there are, it will let you know. If you get to this point in this progress page and you click that button, you can basically be right there, publish your book to Amazon Kindle. That's how you upload and publish a book to Amazon Kindle. It's pretty dang easy. Let me just go back really quick to my bookshelf and I'll show you how you can then take an eBook and convert it to a paperback if you want. If you just have a book here. For example, I have this book right here and this one here that are just eBooks. If I want to create a paperback or a hardcover, just click the create paper back button. It's going to basically ask you for most of the similar information. It has some specific ways that the author and things like show up. Different options, it looks like for adult content that kind of thing. Then it has a separate option. If I continue, here is where you can get your own KDP ISBN number. You don't get an ISBN number if you just publish an eBook, but if you want to publish a paperback, you actually get your own specific to Amazon Kindle, but it's cool. Or if you have your own you can submit it there. If you've got your publication date. Then here is where you actually choose the size and structure of your book. Here you can choose black and white color, type of paper, and that kind of thing, as well as the size. Depending on the size, you're going to have to adjust what your manuscript looks like. You can't just upload your standard Word document that's edited to an 8.5 by 11 inch page. You have to edit and create your book with these dimensions. Or you can upload what you have and you can adjust things here after you upload it. But it's better to do it ahead of time. Book cover, you upload here. It's going to be similar, but a little different perhaps than the eBook cover because it's going to be a different size and aspect ratio. Once you upload all of that, again, you have a launch preview or option that gives you a digital preview of what the print book will look like. Then the same thing for the next page is going to be the pricing. You can set your pricing according to what you think your paperback or your back book is worth. That's how you upload your books as an eBook and as a paperback book. In the next lesson, I'm just going to go over the dashboard and talk about a couple of other things and features that you might want to be aware of in terms of getting your books in front of more eyeballs, hopefully making more money from it, and also analyzing the report. I'll show you my own reports for my books as well. Thanks for watching. 43. Seeing Your Book Sales & Amazon Marketing Best Practices: So now we're back on the Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard. Once you have a book or multiple books as we saw before on my dashboard, you can see them here and just see if they're live. You can see the basic information about them. You can easily convert them to paperback or hardback, all of that kind of thing. Now, I want to show you the Reports tab and the marketing tabs and the community tab, which isn't anything very special or unique or confusing. The Reports tab is all of the information your sales dashboard that you can keep track of how well your books are doing. Here you can see the orders of my books over the past 30 days. What I love about putting my books on Amazon is that it's very passive for me the way that I run my e-book business, since it's not my main source of income. I just treat it as this nice bonus check that I get every month. Down below you can see the actual payment that I'm going to get every month. Not every month, but from this past month, so 100 bucks or so. Since I started posting books on Amazon, I've made $1000s from these books. Like I said, most of it completely passive. It's not like I'm driving traffic to my books. I'm not really an author. I just write non-fiction books based off of my course material. It's just another stream of income which is very nice to have. Down below, you could also see, or in-between those two charts, you can see the KENP pages read. Kindle has a program where it's like a subscription model, basically where you get paid based off of how much your books are being read. You can see how many pages are being read per day, which is pretty darn incredible. Back up under units ordered, you can choose to see the paid E-book versus paperback versus hardcover. This yellow, orange line, these are all my E-book sales. The paperback are the gray cells. Like I said before, this is all done for you printing, print on-demand. I don't have to do any of this, but my book is getting into people's hands because they are purchasing it from Amazon, which is pretty cool. I don't have any free units or hardcover units from the past month. I don't have any hard cover versions of my book actually. Let's go back to the last 90 days and I want to show you something which will take us to the next page on this dashboard which is marketing. See all of these four lines right here. These are the free units of my E-book. If I turn this off, you can see that there's a correlation between when I did a free promotion and when I start to seal another sales bump. When you enroll in the KDP select Program, which we saw an option for in the previous lesson, or if you go to the Marketing tab, we'll see that in just a second, you can do quarterly free promotions where anyone can download your book for free. If you don't think anyone should read your book for free, you don't want to give it away, that's fine. But for anyone who just wants to get your book in front of eyeballs, whatever way possible, I highly suggest this method, especially when you launch your book. You can launch it for free, give it away to family and friends. When you do that, you can actually start to rank higher on the search engine results. That's why whenever I do this, I do get a bump of sales right afterwards. If we went back for years and years, which you can't do within, they only have the data for the past 90 days here, you would see bumps every time I do a free sale, and without doing a free sale every quarter or so, my books would probably not be selling that much anymore. I think it's a great way to just breathe a little bit of actual life into your books. You can see I didn't do any promotion myself. It just showed up on Amazon's freebies because people are searching for free books. I got over 10,000, 12,000 sales or downloads of my book. That's just people that might read my work. Extra eyeballs, extra people who now know about me, my courses, my knowledge, things that people that might jump to a course of mine, jump to my website, jump to my social media and become a follower, which I think is very beneficial. So how do you do that? Before I do that, there's just all kinds of other dashboards for just the payments. For example, so we can see the payments from all the sales periods. All kinds of different analytics here, just everything you need to now. If you go to the Marketing tab though, here's where you have this enroll in E-book into the KDP select program. All of my books are a part of this. They also have some other options here such as Amazon ads. If you want to actually pay for ads for your book, things like that, I haven't done myself so I can't teach to that. But within the KDP program, you can run a price promotion, which is either a free book promotion or a discounted Kindle deal. As it says, you can do one promotion per enrollment period, which is every four months, each quarter of the year, you can do one of these. If you click create a Kindle KDP deal, let's go to the photography masterclass. Click ''Continue''. Here is where you can choose what marketplace and when you want to start it. Here I would choose the date, the time, and then you can choose the discount. If I want to do the free option, which let's go back to marketing, free book promotion. My freelance kickstart bug isn't eligible because I have done a freebie in the past three months or so, four months. Let's click photography masterclass again, continue. Then I just select the day. I think it's best to do it five days in a row rather than random days, like do two days or three days or whatever. Might as well do it for the whole period to get that hold, that traffic because on that third and fourth day of the promotion, your book starts to rank better. Even when you are done with the promotion, your book's going to rank higher the more it's been downloaded. So just do it for that full five days. Now if you want to check out my book for free, you would have to download it during that time period. I can do that for the rest of my books. You can see all of your promotions down below. There's some other marketing options here which you can read through. That's the one that I'm going to show you because that's the one that I've participated in. But as you can see, there's things like ads and other things here. Jumping back to the community tab, this is just where you can answer questions, ask questions, connect with other authors. If you're looking to do that, that's where you find it. That is the KDP self-publishing option. I hope these tutorials have helped you understand how to use these tools and really just gives you a great place to self-publish if you want to go that route. Thank you so much for watching and best of luck, if you do publish your book through Kindle, let us know in the chorus, post it to the course discussion board, or tag me at Phil Ebiner on Instagram. I would love to see your work and share it with my audience and give you props for doing so. Thanks so much and we'll see you in another lesson. 44. Final Thoughts on Creative Writing: Conclusion. We're going to wrap this up with just some final thoughts on creative writing. I know this was a lot of information to take in and digest and break down. But hopefully, this is all helping you with your writing, and hopefully this will help you strengthen your writing and become the writer that you want to be. Let's just look at these final thoughts that I think are always worth keeping in mind as you go forward. One, you're going to improve the more you write no matter what, even if you don't think you're a great writer, or you have that looming sense of self-doubt that we all have sometimes, just know that statistically, scientifically, the more you write, the more you practice, the better you're going to get. If you're not feeling like you are as good as you want to be, that is totally fine. Just keep going at it. You will improve the more that you do it. No writer is an overnight success, no matter who you might see on the news as having just sold a novel out of nowhere. All of these people have been working at it for a long time. No one just writes a book and becomes instantly successful. No one writes anything and just becomes instantly successful. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes diligence. Success often just looks that way because it's highlighted in, whatever news, story reading, whatever you might see out there, but you don't see the people just toiling away their computer day in and day out working to get there. It's going to take time, it will always take time, and don't be discouraged if your first works in the earlier works or whatever, the first two years of your work don't get out there, keep going at it and it's not going to happen overnight. Knowing that will give you an immense sense of peace. Push boundaries and try something new. You're going to learn the rules, you're going to know them. What can you do that's different? How can you go beyond the scope of traditional writing to do something completely unique and completely different that is entirely your own? I would just say no one who does this does so without knowing what those boundaries are. Make sure you have a firm sense of the rules of storytelling, of what the limitations are, what the formulas are, whatever that is. Once you know everything, that's when you can go well beyond the scope of what's been done before, try new things, experiment, and do something that nobody has ever seen before. Then be okay with rejection. No matter who you are, no matter how great you are, rejection is going to be a part of writing. Every single writer in the world has faced rejection and faced it more than once. Just know that it's going to be part of your journey as a writer, as a creative writer, as a creative person. It's fine. Learning to be okay with that is going to make your life that much easier. Be okay with rejection, know that it's going to happen, see it coming, and it doesn't mean anything. It just means that whatever you wrote, whatever you got rejected for is just not right for right now. Just keep at it, keep progressing, keep improving, and stay dedicated to what you're really passionate about. On that note, do it because you love it. I think that's the key thing. If you love writing, if you love the satisfaction of having had an idea, having had these thoughts and organize them exactly as you want to on paper and told stories that are important to you, then that is the best possible reward you can get from writing. Just keep doing it because you love it. If you're passionate about it, don't stop, don't be deterred by rejection. Keep at it. The more persistent you are, the more luck you're going to be. 45. Thank You: Thank you all so much for taking this course. I really hope you enjoyed it. I hope you got a lot out of it and learned more about the story than you might have known before. I would say, keep at it, keep writing if you're passionate about it, just don't stop doing it. The world needs more people, more perspectives, more stories to be told that haven't been told before, so stick with it. I hope you love it. I hope you enjoyed this course and good luck with whatever you pursue in your writing adventures.