Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top Ten Tips For Awesome Stories: Guest Post By Author David Baboulene!

Today Operation Awesome welcomes David Baboulene, author of the The Story Book

He's here to talk about how you can make any story shine a bit more. Without further ado, I give you David!

The Top Ten Tips for Awesome Stories!

In my work I have been fortunate to have conversations with famous people who have made their money from stories, including:
  • Bob Gale (scriptwriter of Back to the Future);
  • Lee Child (16 million Jack Reacher Novels sold);
  • John Sullivan (TV comedy writer of Only Fools and Horses; Just Good friends; Citizen Smith…);
  • Mark Williams (Actor in The Harry Potter films; Shakespeare in Love; 101 Dalmations...);
  • Willy Russell (Theatre supremo and writer of Educating Rita; Blood Brothers; Shirley Valentine…)
to name but a few. So, from the insights from these fine gentlemen, from my own experiences getting published and writing The Story Book, my work as a story consultant, from working on films and from undertaking my PhD in Story Theory, here are my top ten tips for awesome stories!

1) If you want to be a writer, read a thousand books.

2) Write every day. 
Make it a priority, build it into your schedule and discipline yourself to it. Set yourself a manageable word count and make sure you achieve that. Stephen King reportedly writes 2000 words a day, every day. Sunday, Christmas Day, his birthday - every day. And when he finishes a book, if he's only done 1500 words of his daily count, he gets a clean sheet of paper, writes 'Page 1' at the top, and starts the next one. Self-discipline, folks. Yes, being a writer is glamorous to talk about and a romantic place for dreamers, but the ones who make it work very hard, are professional and productive.  

3) Don't try to learn 'how to write'. 
No course or method or guru can tell you how to write. There's only one person who can tell your story your way, and that's you. Those who make it have self-confidence in writing what THEY think is great. Yes, learn about STORY - where the power comes from in stories, how they work, why they exist, how they resonate, what factors are present in all great stories - then use that understanding to get the most you possibly can out of your story ideas in your style. Then you can use your personality and your knowledge to take responsibility and write your story YOUR way to the best it can possibly be.

4) Understand story structure, but structure is NOT a starting point for story development, so don't let it drive you. 
Let your creative brilliance run wild and free and write from the heart in creating your story, then later, use your understanding of structure in problem-solving, tightening and streamlining the story.

5) Most of all, understand SUBTEXT. 
And understand the creative behaviours that embed subtext. Subtext is the substance of story. If you have no subtext, you have no story. The more subtext there is, the better the story is perceived to be by the audience. Fact.

6) Stories are about character behaviours. 
Don't think about 'plot' and 'character' as separate things. What a character does when he takes action will define his true character and what a character does when he takes action will also provide the action. Character behaviours define both plot and character. Get this right, and your story telling will be tight, cohesive and superb.  

7) All the greatest stories show us a character learning and changing and growing through the experiences of the story events (or failing to learn and grow, but the lessons are still evident to us as readers/viewer). 
Try to ensure that at least one character is offered the opportunity to climb the ladder of life. You will find that this is actually your real story, and this is what resonates with your reader or audiences and elevates your story.

8) True character comes only from putting your protagonists under pressure to make difficult decisions. 
For a mountaineer to climb a mountain might be a huge challenge, but  he'd be delighted to do it, so the conflict is not meaningful and therefore the story is not meaningful. For a mountaineer to climb a mountain to save a stranded friend... risking his own life whilst his children are begging him not to go and his wife says she’s leaving if he does... that is a story. Sit your characters on the horns of a dilemma wrapped in a choice of evils and sandwiched between rocks and hard places and your readers will be gripped...

9) Be professional and unemotional in marketing your book. 
It's really important to learn to handle rejection (there WILL be rejection...) otherwise you will never send anything off. I know many, many writers who develop their stories... then develop and develop some more... and the real reason is because they are so scared of the Judgment Day that comes the moment they admit it’s finished. There's no easy way. You have to grasp the nettle and get on with it. Put your ego to one side (the vast majority of rejections are nothing to do with your ability or the literary merit of your story); dig deep, be strong, and put it out there. When I asked John Sullivan for his advice for aspiring writers he gave me this series of steps that should define a writer’s life:

    A) Write the best stuff you can.
    B) Send it off.
    C) Go to A.

It ain't rocket science! But you do need to be brave, or else you won't get anywhere. As soon as your material is good enough, you WILL be awesome... and you WILL get a deal! And I promise you - once you’ve had 10 rejections, the 11th don’t hurt so bad!  

10) If you would like more detailed information on any of the above, get in touch with me and I will send you a free chapter from The Story Book on the topic that is puzzling you.

Very best of luck with your work. Oh, before I go, I think there might be just one more tip we could all benefit from...

11) Get off the internet and go do some writing!


Yep. That last tip was SO directed at me... *blushes*

Huge thank you to David for stopping by!! 

If you'd like to contact David, go here.

For other info on David's tour, you can check out his tour page here.

Now tell me: are there any other writing tips that have helped you craft an awesome story?


Michelle McLean said...

wonderful post, David! Thanks so much for stopping by today :D Really great tips, especially number 11 LOL I might have to follow that one and go get some writing done :D

Pam Harris said...

Awesome tips--and yes, I, too, feel like he was pointing at me for #11.

Lindz Pagel said...

Wonderful post. I'm trying to get better about point #2. Now that I'm in the revising stage, I haven't been making writing a priority everyday. But I've been getting small ideas for scenes that may or may not make it into my story, but they're fun to write all the same, and keep my writing muscles from atrophying.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Awesome tips! I especially appreciate #5 and #6. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi David! Thanks for such great tips! :D

Samantha Sotto said...

"11) Get off the internet and go do some writing!" Haha! GREAT tip. Will log off now! :D

Sara Harricharan said...

This was a great post--I'm so glad to read that today. Wonderful tips on writing...and I really needed that last one. Got to get off the internet... :P

Elsa Neal said...

Great tips. Number 9 is the one that first unstuck me, and now I struggle with number 2. If I don't write, then I won't finish something, and then I won't have to send it out... Quite silly really. Definitely something to work on.

Elsa Neal

Saba said...

Really great tips. Thank you for taking the time to share them with us. :) Yep, number 11 is meant for me too ;)

Vicki Rocho said...

Great tips. #3 resonated with me. I can't bring myself to read most writing books. I'm not sure why, but now I don't feel so guilty! ;)