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Four “Off the Page” Skills to Practice Now

As we think about our work as writers, sometimes we forget that there are “off the page” skills that we need to develop as well. We spend a lot of time on craft, focused on dialogue, character arcs, plot outlining—everything we need to make a strong story. But building a career as a screenwriter—or as any kind of creative—involves more than writing. Entrepreneurship, professionalism, productivity habits, and presentation skills are four “off the page…

Screenwriter Lands Manager through Stage 32 Education

Happy Monday Stage 32! I am beyond thrilled today to share the Stage 32 Success story of long-time Stage 32 member, blogger, author, and screenwriter, Shannon K. Valenzuela. Shannon has written several amazing blogs for the Stage 32 community, and a few weeks ago she told me live on Instagram that she just landed a MAJOR literary manager through Stage 32 education! Shannon is an incredibly talented and altruistic writer, and her story is a testament to the power of networking, setting …

Beyond Story: Setting Learning Objectives for Your Writing

Being a storyteller is a gift and a calling. It requires immense courage to put your work out in the world -- to say, as Seth Godin puts it in his new book The Practice: Shipping Creative Work, “Here, I made this.” He empowers us to think of ourselves as change-makers and reminds us that the world needs us to show up. And he also says something else about the practice of creative work that I think is incredibly profound: “The career of every successful creative is par…

Designing Your Creative Year: Plotting vs. Pantsing

It must be the storyteller in me, but I love endings and beginnings. December and January are my two favorite months of the year, in part because of the way they invite us to pause and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re headed. I’m a planner and a goal-setter by nature and by practice, and I thought I’d share with you how I design my creative year by approaching it like a story. As I’m sure you’ve all discovered, there’s a long-standing…

Lessons from Lyric Poetry for Screenwriters

I started my creative writing journey as a hybrid poet and storyteller. I remember sitting in the back of my parents’ car at the age of 7 or 8 writing haiku poems in my notebook. I loved the beautiful but intense creative pressure of the haiku form -- trying to capture the essence of things in 17 syllables is extraordinary. Later, as I learned more about poetry, I moved into sonnets and villanelles -- both forms that have strict syllable counts and metrical requirements. But I also…

How to Do a Layered Rewrite

Prewriting and rewriting are my two favorite parts of the writing process. Prewriting sets you up for success so that when you spill everything out on the page in your first draft, it gives you something solid to work with. But rewriting is where you get to take that material and make it truly reflect the best of what you have to give to the world. Even if you strive to create a first draft that’s as close to the final form as possible—which is my own personal writing objec…

5 Common Scene Struggles and How to Fix Them

Do you have a friend whom you dearly love, but who just can’t seem to tell a story that doesn’t leave you wondering what’s for dinner or what you’re going to watch on Netflix? Maybe your friend tells stories like this: “and then...and then...and then...and THEN…” -- as if just raising the pitch and volume of each subsequent “then” raises the intensity of the story? Or maybe they’re so vague you’re not sure you know…

The Ancient Rules of Storytelling

Human beings are animals that tell stories. And like so many other things that come naturally to us -- running, for instance -- we can improve on our natural ability through the development of proper technique. Writing is both an art and a craft, so study and practice are the keys to mastery. And so, like Po in Kung Fu Panda or Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back, we are each on a quest to find the Master who will teach us how to become the writers we were born to be. Is it John T…

Story Tetris: Discovering Your Story through Structure

I have a confession to make. I’m a Tetris addict. Thinking fast to fit those little blocks together with no gaps -- it is such a satisfying challenge. I love M.C. Escher and Mandelbrot fractals and the mathematics of the golden ratio for the same reason: the precision and manipulation of form.     Maybe it’s because my dad is a software engineer and he introduced me to flow diagrams when I was like seven years old, but to me, there’s nothing quite as ex…

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