Oooo… creative writing is an Art!
No it isn’t. It’s as formulaic as hell. The only people who want you to think that creative writing is an Art is the, uh, entire publishing industry, and um, the writers they sign up, oh, and academia.
Wait a minute.
The Publishing Industry, their Writers, and Academia? Why would they? Oh, they’re all working together.
Until, you start to become a serious self publisher, indie author, author-preneur etc. and you listen to everyone else (outside the industry, working their ass off) and discover all the indie craft books on structure. Then you realise you’ve been sold a lie. There is no ‘muse’, it’s not an Art (unless you don’t want to sell anything). Writing fiction is about as structured as training to become an Architect.
WHY WAS I NOT TOLD ABOUT THIS? I WENT TO UNI TO LEARN CREATIVE WRITING AND NO-ONE TOLD ME!
Why don’t publishers want you to know about this? Because they want you to believe writing is hard. Because they are inundated with manuscripts. Because they believe the hype that writing is an Art. The same ‘because’s’ apply to (many of) the Writers hired by traditional publishers, and Academia (who essentially ‘feed’ the Traditional Publishing world with new authors).
Screenwriting (as a genre) has proven time and time again that there’s a well trodden path to writing excellent commercial narratives. Their industry is full of templates and guides to ensure the formula is perfect and audiences are satisfied. If you’ve written a script which doesn’t stick to a formula, you’ve written a dud.
The same is true for long form fiction, but we’re not told this. We have to discover it for ourselves. I’ve done the digging so you don’t have to. This means, that even if you don’t have a ‘creative’ brain, you can still write fiction, as long as you follow a formula!
So, here’s what I now know.
There’s a lot of templates to write great long form fiction. Here’s a few of the best fiction formulas I’ve discovered:
- Lester Dents, Fiction Formula
- Shaun Coyne’s, Story Grid
- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
- The Writers’ Journey, by Christopher Vogler
Then you dig deeper and find:
- John Truby’s – Anatomy of Story
- Larry Brooks, Story Engineering
- The Three Story Method by Zach Bohannon & J. Thorn (coming soon!)
Once you start digging, you realise that there’s so many fiction formulas that it becomes confusing. Which one?? Which one??
The answer is: any one or all of them.
Your premise, characters, theme, and plot points, overlaid on top of any of the methods will work. You’ve just got to decide which one fits your approach (what you know about your writing style, genre, and strengths so far) and go for it.
The only mistake you could make is by not using one. Am I saying you must use one?
If you don’t, you’re a novice. Pro’s know structure inside out and everyone else (including you and me) needs to PROVE their storytelling prowess first. After all would you buy a house from an Architect who didn’t account for the houses foundations first? Nope. Me neither. Story structure is the Foundations for your story. Without this, your story will literally crumble into a messy heap. Once you’ve clearly shown your storytelling chops, you can wander as far away from it as you want and your fans will follow you.