When You’ve Gone Off-Course

Hello, friends.

It’s the start of fall today, and I tend to feel better in the fall. The wind has those brisk notes that lets you know winter’s coming and soon we’ll be nested in blankets. It’s a time of birthdays in my family, camping, and visiting the woods, which is much easier to enjoy when it’s not blazing with heat and humidity.

I still feel a bit stunned that it’s already this far into the year. Didn’t 2017 just begin a few weeks ago? It’s been a busy year with working on my health, starting a whole new career path in my private life, and finishing out some writing projects. Recently, I had a conversation with my agent during which I told her that I really didn’t know what to do next. I had a lot of ideas but nothing quite clicked. Some things have been in limbo, and while you’re always told, “Write the next story,” sometimes figuring out what that next story should be isn’t so simple. My agent, in her wisdom, gave me some exercises to work on designed to stimulate the creative mind. One of my biggest faults is, when trying to explain what a story is about, I try to tell all the parts instead of distilling it down into its simplest components. I’m not terribly good on homing in on the barest essentials of a story because I want so much to tell you about the setting, the characters, the theme…so the plot gets a little lost.

My agent said, “I want you to take a bit of time and come up anywhere between 5-20 concepts. This is shorter than an elevator pitch. It’s one sentence designed to make yourself and others desperate to know more about the story.” Take the movie Titanic. It can easily be summed up as: Poor boy falls in love with a rich girl while sailing on the ill-fated Titanic. It begs questions: what’s going to happen, will they survive, and more. You have something to root for and know that there are stakes involved.

It’s not just coming up with a great hook or a high concept idea. It’s trying to find the essential story that gets you excited. The list of concepts could be as off-the-wall, terrible, things you know you’ll never write, things you’re desperate to write–it’s all designed to narrow your focus. You’ll see recurring themes and figure out just what kind of stories you’re drawn to tell. Somewhere in that list, you’ll find some gold. It can take time and it can take practice to find something you’re really enthusiastic about. But as with anything, it becomes habit after doing it often enough and that, in turns, makes it easier.

And, yes, I have found what I’m working on next.

~S

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