Worshiping at the temple of Structure

Over the weekend I spent two full days with Story Engineering author/speaker/guru Larry Brooks. Now I didn’t swoon (which apparently disappointed him) but I did learn two things…

  1. I write awesome beginnings
  2. My middles are crap

My endings are erratic so I’m going to ignore that for the moment. But I’ve been spinning around the middle of my novel for almost a year, and now I have some tools that I truly believe will get me through the muck of it.

At least I hope so…

I won’t give away Larry’s secrets – which he gives away on his website – but I will say I spent half the night, post Day One, tearing apart my half finished novel which garnered me the first two pieces of information. Then as I tried to fall asleep – ideas about how to make almost everything I’ve written and not sold better flooded my mind until I just had to tell the damn muse to shut up because there was no way I was going to be able to learn anything Day Two if I didn’t get any sleep (besides the migraine issues).

What I was hoping this weekend would provide is grist for the planning mill… I was terrified that I was hanging too much of my future productivity on this one weekend, thank the gods I was proven wrong.

There is a plan…a structure…a skeleton from which to hang the meat of your story on.

I’m still working on what I started Saturday night – taking the novel as it now exists and divide it into the four sections of story, and vetting the currently written scenes and how they fit into the overarching concept. And what a relief to know I had a concept… so much of Day Two was spent in search of one as different writers offered up their stories or germs of stores to the group to be reviewed.

The interesting thing about that (and probably why I love Rose City Romance Writers so much) is that in the romance world there is room for all of us. No “new” writer is a threat, no established writer feels possessive of their craft, time or contacts. I was talking to a children’s writer who sat next to me and was so surprised that the weekend ended so positively. She said most Children’s events ended with a quiet sense of desperation.

I spent joyous part of last night talking through it with Jo and for the first time ever felt like I had head wrapped around the plot.


Don’t get me wrong – this is a bullet but not magic – it is going to take a hell of a lot of work to get my novel to the structural polish suggested by Larry’s structure. But having a structure, knowing where to stick my tent pole in the ground so I can write to it, is wonderfully liberating.

On a different note, my Mac has slowed down to a crawl so my depression (followed by a bout of self-pity) has to be officially over – I only have 37.95 GB left on my Mac’s hard drive and that is not enough for another season of NCIS. And I need to delete many of the ones I have to get my writing tool back to optimum working condition.

’tis good to be back.




Filed under Process

18 responses to “Worshiping at the temple of Structure

  1. Pingback: What I Just Learned from a Room Full of Romance Writers

  2. Larry’s ideas are mind-changingly helpful. Story arc has a beat sheet. I wish I could have attended.

  3. Tess, it was a good weekend. I like tent poles, too. I’ve decided I’m a “plantser”, and pantser who has to write from pole to pole Larry Brooks provided good information with which to organize your writing. Alexandra Sokoloff is another who is phenomenal 🙂

    • Susan Oh, I love her. I’ve been reading Alexandra’s writing information on http://www.murderati.com which I try and read most weeks. I love to pants – and it got me through a hand full of short stories (sold) and a few novellas (nice notes no sales) – I knew this was something I was missing. Yes… plantsers.

  4. It was a great weekend, wasn’t it? I learned a lot and had such a great time seeing and meeting everyone. I’m a big plotter so Larry’s talk was right up my alley. I came home and took a hard look at my current project and realized I’d rushed a few things in my haste to meet my deadline and now am going back and reworking. I had skipped ahead from the set up straight to attack and completely missed the whole response portion. Ugh.
    And yes, the conference ended on a positive note. Romance rocks!

  5. christycarlyle

    Hi Tess – I’m a fellow RCRW member, but couldn’t make it to the Intensive. I was linked over to this blog post of yours by one on Larry’s website. It sounds like a GREAT presentation and I’m sorry I missed it. I’m trying to garner as much information as I can from Larry’s site and all the notes and comments from the Roses who attended. Great post and I can certainly understand story structure problems and the joy of seeing a light at the end of that murky tunnel. Thanks!

    • Thanks Christy, I admit to being a little drunk with the new information. As luck would have it my vacation fell the week after the conference – so I’ve been plowing on. I picked Larry’s book after the first day and there is a lot there, I’ve been reading it in segments between bouts of post-iting but I also found most of it on the website too. ~ Tess

  6. Hi, Tess. Great seeing you this weekend. Yes, the workshop was awesome. Christy, read Larry’s book–Story Engineering. He talked a lot about the principles in the book.


  7. Shea

    “I was talking to a children’s writer who sat next to me and was so surprised that the weekend ended so positively. She said most Children’s events ended with a quiet sense of desperation.”
    What???? I think Larry Brook’s book is great, and I’d love to attend a workshop of his; but I’ve attended many children’s writers events and always come out energized and inspired. Romance writers aren’t the only ones who are positive and supportive.

    • Hi Shea, I was only showing one person’s point of view – it was not meant as a generalization. I do have to say, having been in and out of various writer’s groups for over 20 years, I find the supportive joy that this particular group of women bring to RCRW to be beyond anything I have experienced in any of my various professional lives. There is some strange magic going on there and I was trying to illustrate it through an outsider’s perspective.
      Was there a particular event that you enjoyed the most? I would love to know. ~ Tess

  8. Larry Brooks was a great speaker! I now have more tools to use for writing. I came away reinvigorated to write and finish the darn book! And it was wonderful having all the agents and editors so available all during the Intensive workshop.

  9. Hi Tess,
    I felt the same way when I first learned about story structure. Amazing, isn’t it?

    Although four-act structure was not new to me, hearing it presented the way Larry presented it helped to clarify certain parts that were a little foggy in my mind.

    I LOVE the deconstructions Larry does on his website. Nothing like examples to solidify things for me.

    Now I’m off to buy Larry’s books for reference.

    • Whoop! I’ve loved the book, and have been watching/reading several of the examples that I didn’t know. I too knew the basics of the 4 act structure – it was how he linked it to the plot/pinch/mid points and how that linked to scenes. It’s funny, so much was right there but sometimes you have to find the language that connects before it really sinks in. Cheers Sarah! ~ Tess

  10. It sounds like you had a really productive weekend. I’ve read Larry’s ‘Story Structure’ book and started to work with the principles he lays down — it’s full of excellent advice. I see you’ve now got the book in your Good Reads box 🙂

    Sorry to hear about your Mac woes. If it’s something you’d like help with let me know. My day job is helping people with their Macs (teaching, troubleshooting, general advice) — see http://www.MacMadeEasy.biz — and as I also work via Skype distance isn’t an issue!

    • Yes, loved Larry! I’m on vacation this week and hoping the productivity will continue So checking out MacMadeEasy – thank you! I’ll put all that in my Scream list for when I have to scream Help! 🙂

  11. Tess,

    So enjoyed your post on Larry’s workshop. Sounds like it was truly awesome, and wish I could have been there.

    I downloaded his book, but your and other writers’ deconstructions as pertains to romance writing are very helpful. I love the visual chart Larry’s pal Rachel made, and in a response to her blog post, someone used Foxit Software to create a chart that can have info loaded right into it. Even better!

    Can’t wait to start my new story using these tools.

    ps. Your blog is a good illustration of how blogging can help build an author’s audience. You are funny and pithy, and now I want to read your work. 😀


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