In the morning, I completed my reading of a 350-page novel, submitted by a new student, a novelist writing a family saga that spans more than 50 years! In the afternoon, she and I had a story conference where I evaluated the draft and helped her to define the scope and focus of her rewrite. She and I will then meet once a week and I will guide her through this arduous task.
In the evening, I taught my NYU class, Writing The Screenplay In Ten Weeks, based on my book, and worked on eight screenplays with a group of talented and dedicated screenwriters! Each week we read aloud a scene from their scripts, then design and refine the next piece of the story that will be written.
I am a novelist as well as a screenwriter and have had the privilege of working with many writers on all kinds of stories, as well as helping writers to adapt their novels into screenplays, their screenplays into novels. I have also helped many writers conceive and write original novels, screenplays and non-fiction books. After more than 12 years, I am clear on what makes a story good, whichever form you’re writing in. A good story is hard to define, but easy to recognize as soon as you begin to read it. Because I am a coach as well as a writer, it’s my job to find a way to define a good story, and help writers get sold, published and produced.
Here’s a brief checklist that I use to guide my students and myself:
1. Have a good title
2. Have a great concept that appeals and suggests possibilities.
3. Create characters with strong voices and have a real understanding of their true need in contrast to what they believe they want.
4. Structure the story as a mystery to be solved with secrets to be revealed, and keep it as simple as possible.
5. Don’t get it right, get it written!
Good luck and happy writing!