I spent a whole lotta time on my retreat talking about story and craft, something I enjoy only slightly less than the writing itself.
My usual advice is to JUST WRITE because I think there is huge value in going through the process of story creation multiple times. But I have to remember that I naturally fold learning into everything I do, but not everyone does. Sometimes, I share specific strategies I use that seem obvious to me, but appear to be completely new to other people. We all have our own ways of learning, but I thought it would be instructive to share.
I’ve written story in lots of formats (short, long, serials, series), but when I decided to write a nine book series for Penname, I knew I needed to take things up a level. So I studied the structure and tropes of soap operas. I broke down some popular long-running series in my genre. I needed to construct a scaffolding that would capture readers and compel them through 9 fricking books, so everything had to be Top Shelf in terms of structure and character and stakes. Then, using my understanding of midpoints and THESIS-ANTITHESIS-FUSION and a dozen other storytelling techniques, I constructed that scaffolding in advance. Even now, as I’m writing Book 5 of 9, I’m cognizant that this is the midpoint of the series and there are certain things this book has to deliver. That scaffolding is holding up well, but even as I sit to write this midpoint chapter, I’m discovering new things about my characters and my story as I write. Just tackling this project counts toward “bettering my craft” – the next time I set out to write a trilogy, I’ll be using this same technique of envisioning the three books as a whole, rather than writing the first then figuring out how to build on that foundation.
What have you done lately to take your craft up a level?