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Just Write: Creativity and Fear

We have many different names for the fear that comes along with creative pursuits. Sometimes we call it “Imposter Syndrome.” Sometimes we call it “Resistance” (because, I think, sometimes we hit writer’s block because we’re listening to fear). Sometimes we call it “The Inner Critic.” But no matter what we call it, the effect it has is the same: it’s Snow White’s poisoned apple, that creates a paralyzing slowness that congeals un…

Short and Sweet: 4 Tips for Writing Tighter Scripts

Many writers want to know how long their scripts should be. And the answer is almost always, “Shorter than you think.” This is especially true, dear creatives, as we start out our careers. The other day on Instagram, writer/actor Shawn Parikh laid to rest the excuse “but Aaron Sorkin gets to do it” – namely, write massively long scripts – by reminding us, gently, that we are not Aaron Sorkin. For us mere mortals, 90-110 pages will do just fine. But w…

The Power of Mentorship in the Creative Journey

As creatives, we can all probably remember the first person who took notice of the unique turn of our minds and chose to affirm it – whether that was a teacher, a parent, a friend, a sibling, or an early fan of our work. This person’s words might have given us exactly the encouragement we needed at exactly the right time. The truth is, it’s very easy for the self-doubt, the self-criticism, Imposter Syndrome, fear, and the inner forces of Resistance to win the day. Ther…

Designing Your Creative Year in 2022: 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…

5 Tips for an End-of-Year Creative Review

Anyone else finding themselves looking at the calendar these days going, “It’s what month already? How?” Don’t get me wrong – I love this time of year. It feels good to be finishing something – and it especially feels good to think about the new beginning right on the other side of it. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that I love talking about process. I love systems that make it easier for me to achiev…

In the Details: 5 Tips for Effective Story Research

At my kids’ school, they’re putting up two new buildings, and I had the chance to watch them pour the concrete for the walls as I sat waiting in the carline the other day. What was really remarkable to me was the fact that in order to get to this step, they’d first had to assemble an entire framework that served as the mould for the walls. They’d basically built a building to build the building, in a manner of speaking. And then (because I’m a writer who li…

The Starting Line: Understanding Character Want and Need

Hello creatives! I’m digging into a topic today that’s so important to the success of your project because it creates the inner conflict we love to see in our characters. I’m talking about want (desire) and need -- the external and internal drivers of character choice. To help me explore this concept using a fresh perspective, I’m going to draw on my experience getting on the starting line as a runner and obstacle course racer. Looking at a race is a great place…

Feedback: Beyond the Script

My fellow creatives, we’ve chosen a path that’s not for the faint-hearted. You have to believe, all the way down into the core of your being, that you can do this thing -- that you can create worlds, that you can bring imagination to life. And we ride the pendulum, sometimes on the daily, as it swings between godlike swagger and the abject fear of not being enough. And then there’s dealing with feedback. We are our own harshest critics in so many ways, but we all have…

3 Strategies for Better First Drafts

As a literature professor and a writing coach, I see a lot of first drafts. In fact, you might even say that first drafts are my specialty. My job in both cases is to guide the writers to a better understanding of their craft and to help them get clarity on the steps that will elevate their projects. Some drafts are in better shape than others when they hit my desk, and so I thought that I’d offer some strategies here to help you improve your first draft process. But first, a defi…

Character Outlining Gets a Makeover

When I was first starting out as a writer, I spent most of my prewriting time on plotting. I initially approached planning out my fiction like we’re all taught to approach essay writing: it’s all about the outline. So that’s where I’d always start: with plot. Please don’t misunderstand me. Story structure is vitally important, and I’ll advocate for taking the time to craft an airtight plot all day long. But, as we know from our Aristotle, character is…

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 …

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