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You Can Make-Believe Your Way Into Your Dreams

A little over a year ago, I became a best selling author on Amazon. I sold 1,007 books in 30 days and hit #1 in the Authorship category.

And when I looked back at what, specifically, I did to make it happen, I was surprised (but not all that surprised) to find out it was mostly the acting as if stuff that helped me manifest it.

Yes, I already had a following and other books out and momentum. But I’d had that for years. It wasn’t until I started to pretend I was already the successful writer and author that I dreamed of being and taking action from that place did things like hitting #1 start to happen to me.

Here’s the cool thing about creating your writing dreams: you can pretend your way into them.

You can figure out where you want to go in your writing life, and then you can make a list of all the things you’d be doing and being if you were already that person, and then you can go and take as many of those actions as possible, as if you already are that person.

Just like you played make-believe as a kid and pretended you were a teacher or a mom/dad or an actor or a cowboy or a princess or whatever you liked to pretend to be (for me it was always teacher, artist and storyteller). You can do that right now with your dream writing life.

Here’s an example:

When I’m developing and planning a new story and I’m ready to write the first draft, I always build a Scrivener file for it. First I create two folders inside the file: 1) Written 2) To Be Written. Then I add a text file for each scene in the order they’re listed in on my roadmap to the “To Be Written” folder. And if I know the name of the story already, I’ll put it on the title page and rename the manuscript as well.

This is my starting place. And then I marinate.

I’ve got the story in my head and the plan down on paper. I’ve been thinking about it, marinating on it, and pulling out pieces and writing them down as they come through for weeks, if not months.

And having the Scrivener file all set up and ready to go really stirs up the inspiration. I find myself waking up in the morning with the opening lines for the story or a particular scene dancing through my head. Ready to come out.

Then I sit in front of the blank Scrivener file and I channel the words down to the page.

Before setting up the Scrivener file, I have no idea what words to use, they just won’t come out. But by pretending I already have the words and setting up the Scrivener file like I’m ready to start writing, the words come to me. Every single time.

Because I’m acting as if. I’m make-believing that I know what to write, and so I do the things I know I’d be doing if I already had the words: set up my Scrivener file.

I have a story plan, OF COURSE, I won’t write without one. But the story plan–while insanely useful–doesn’t tell me the specific words I need to write. It only informs me of what the story is about and what has to happen in each scene.

The words are a whole other beast.

So I use the acting as if principle to make the words come to me. I do this for my novels and for my blog posts and my nonfiction and even for the writing I do for my clients. I even have a client who I’m so in-tune with, when I’m writing her email copy I feel like her voice is being channeled through me. (It’s pretty freaking cool!!)

A little over a year ago, I started to pretend I was already a best selling author. I committed to writing and publishing 9 books that year. I opened myself to the idea of becoming a best seller and receiving the inspired actions to take.

Most importantly, I declared it publicly to my community that I was going to be a best selling author on Amazon in 2016. And to hold myself accountable to it, I started a group called the Bestselling Author Mastermind and I told everyone they could watch me hit #1 and I’d talk them through everything I was doing and how I was doing it.

So when my new eBook hit #1 on Amazon a week after creating this group and declaring publicly that I was gonna be a best seller, I was surprised, but, again, not all that surprised.

Because I acted my way into it.

I pretended it was already true and I took action from that place.

If I was already a best selling author on Amazon, I’d most definitely have a group where I showed people what I did and how to do it, as well as held them accountable to taking action in their own writing lives. So that’s what I did. I started the group and showed them live in real time how I became a best selling author.

When you start to let go of how you’ve always been told you should achieve things and start opening your mind to using universal laws to create what you want, you’ll be amazed at how much easier everything becomes.

Now don’t get me wrong–you still have to put in the work. I was able to easily manifest best seller status because I had built up so much momentum over the years. I just wasn’t open to receiving it until then.

But my point in all of this, is that you can very easily act your way into the writing life you’ve always dreamed of. You just have to step into the identity of who that writer and author would be right now.

It’s up to you whether you take baby steps or huge leaps. Both ways work and both ways will bring you closer and closer to being that writer and author you’ve always seen yourself as.

Dream life or bust,

 

 

 

#DreamLifeOrBust #DailyThinkDifferent

P.S. Doors to the Bestselling Author Mastermind are NOW OPEN to new members!!!! BAM is my high-level support group for multi-passionate writers and authors who want to have the habits, mindset, craft expertise, consistency and follow-through of a bestselling author, while writing and publishing their books and creating their dream writing lives all on their terms.

I’m SO pumped to welcome the new members to the group. I’ve just filled the member’s site with a ton of new content, including all of my most recent workshops. This is the BEST the member’s site has ever been.

See EVERYTHING you get in the member’s site, get the full details on the membership and sign up for the group here: www.jenniferblanchard.net/landing/mastermind

Is Your Story Idea A “Hell Yes?”

A question I hear a lot from emerging novelists is: how do I know which story to choose?

They’ll say, “I have so many ideas, I don’t know which one to write first or which one is the best choice.” And I get it; that’s a question I ask myself often–because I have story ideas coming out my ears.

My response to this is pointing to the obvious: Larry Brooks’ 6 Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling.

But then I like to go a step further.

Because it’s not just about does this story meet that criteria? (Although that is a HUGE part of it)

It’s also about, does the idea light you up? Does it sing in your ears? Did you try running from it and it just keeps catching you? 

What it comes down to is: does the story feel like a “HELL YES?” 

If you didn’t write this story, would you care? Imagine yourself at 100 years old looking back on your life and then ask yourself: am I feeling complete or remorseful?

You Know If You Need to Write A Story

You can feel it, deep down inside you. It’s a part of your being. It’s a part of your soul.

When you feel THAT way about a story idea, that’s when you know it’s the one. Not the one as in the only one, but the one you need to be developing and writing right now.

That’s the right choice for your new (or next) writing project.

And once you choose the idea, that’s when you move into the story development stage (which, for me, is using my “idea seed” as the jumping off point to find my actual story).

In that stage you actually take that idea–the one you can’t get away from–and you pull it apart. You play out scenarios. You ask a shitload of questions. Find the potential plot holes. Discover who your Protagonist is, what he wants and what he’s struggling with. Create an Antagonist with an opposing goal backed by motivation. Dig into your Concept and Premise, making sure both are solid before you even think about moving to the planning stage (where you actually figure out your structure and specific scene list).

Doing all of that will turn it into an actual story, one that a reader will freaking love.

One Final Thing

One more thing to think about is: what’s your intention for the story? Meaning, do you want to publish and sell it? Or are you just writing it for you?

If getting it into the hands of a reader is your end game, you also have to factor the reader into your “what story idea do I choose?” response.

Now this doesn’t mean make what the reader wants the main factor. Not at all.

The HELL YES is the main factor. 

Because you’ve gotta love the idea enough to spend 9-12 months (or more) on it. And it’s not easy to love things for that amount of time without hiccups or wanting to quit.

So definitely consider your reader (otherwise you might write a really good story that no one wants to read), but keep in mind the Hell Yes factor.

Here’s what I do… I take a look at all of the story ideas I’m considering and then I ask myself: which ones would a chick lit reader want to read? And then out of the ideas that float to the top, I ask myself: which one of them is a HELL YES for me? 

That’s the one I choose as my next story.

Now I may do the development, planning and write the draft, and then decide I’m not a Hell Yes anymore. Usually that means I’ve been working on the story too long and I need a break (that’s why I take 6 weeks off from my first drafts).

I know the break is over when I feel the HELL YES coming back.

That’s also why I launched my new group the Bestselling Author Mastermind. Because when the idea came to me, it was a major HELL YES, why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-before kind of feeling.

So I knew that meant I had to launch it. I had to get it out into the world.

Because I want to be the writer and author I dream of being… and I want you to be the writer and author YOU dream of being.

That’s my end game. The writing dream life. For both of us.

No matter what it takes.

If you’re committed to having your writing dream life (whatever that looks like for you), you’ll want to get in on this mastermind. We’re gonna be kicking ass and taking names on a daily basis.

>> Learn more about the Bestselling Author Mastermind

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

I read People magazine on the regular (it’s my guilty pleasure), and one thing I love about it is there’s always a “Best New Books” section, mostly filled with novels. I love reading this section to keep tabs on the new books that are coming out.

Plus, I always learn something about Concept and Premise.

Take the write up I saw for the book, Maybe In Another Life, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The write-up for this book details the plot as:

Tired of meaningless jobs and fresh from a breakup, 29-year-old Hannah goes home to L.A. seeking a new start. What she encounters first is her old boyfriend, Ethan, in a bar. Is it fate? Should she stay with him or leave with her friend? In parallel story lines, Reid plays out the consequences of each decision.

What’s Conceptual about this story is the parallel story lines–we’re seeing two stories happening to the same character simultaneously, and we don’t know which one is reality and which isn’t. This in and of itself is interesting, and an Antagonist hasn’t even been introduced.

And then the Premise happens when we see that she has moved all the way back home–only to run into her high school boyfriend (the story’s Antagonist, I’m assuming, since I haven’t read the book).

Where Story Ideas Comes From

I don’t know about you, but I love the Concept that Reid is playing with in this story. It has so much inherent conflict, and so many possibilities built right in. It’d be cool to know where the idea for this story came from, and how it transformed into the book Reid published.

‘Cause story ideas are just that–ideas. They aren’t actual stories. Not yet.

In order to count as a story, it needs a whole list of things, like a Protagonist, an Antagonist, a Concept, a vicarious experience, and something happening.

Story ideas are merely seeds or sparks of inspiration that can be turned into a story by asking questions, playing with different scenarios, and finding the most optimal choices.

But a good story can be sparked by almost anything:

  • something you hear or see in real life
  • a story in the newspaper
  • a song lyric
  • another story
  • an experience you’ve had
  • an experience someone else has had
  • an experience you’d like to have
  • a character
  • a setting
  • a year in history

This list of story sparks could go on forever…

But none of these sparks is an actual story. Not yet.

First, a Concept and Premise needs to be introduced.

An Inside Look

There’s so much that goes into what you see in the final published story. And there’s so much that came before it–the story development process, writing the draft, revising the story, editing, polishing, etc.

Problem is, you rarely ever get to see this stuff. All you ever see is the final product.

So I wanted to give you an inside look at my story planning and development process, the one I use for my stories and all of my client’s stories. I’m live-planning my new story starting next Monday. 

The idea seed for my new story comes from something that actually happened. Back in 2008, I came across an inspiring story online that totally captured my heart–a Starbucks barista donated a kidney to one of her customers.

It struck a chord with me, and made me ask a lot of questions:

  • Why would someone donate a kidney to an almost-stranger?
  • What would it be like to go through this experience?
  • How would it change you?

These questions were enough to hold my interest and spark a story idea that I’ve been marinating on for years.

Next week, I’m diving deeper into how I’m turning this idea seed into an actual story, with a Concept and a Premise.

Be sure to join my email list so you don’t miss a thing (and you’ll also get a special freebie I only give to newsletter subscribers). 

 

Image courtesy of Magenta Rose

StoryTV With Jennifer B., Episode Two: Are You Too Attached Your Story Idea?

How many times have you written something that you really, really love… but it’s just not working? And yet even though it’s not working, you still can’t give it up?

Whether that’s a character, a story line, a scene or something else, if you’re too attached, you’ve got a serious problem.

Because the initial story idea is never good enough. Not even close.

But if you refuse to let go of what’s not working, you’ll never get to the real story.

Are you too attached to your story idea? In this episode of StoryTV I talk about what being too attached is, why it’s a problem, and how to let it go.

Share With Us

Are you too attached to your story idea? How are you going to remedy this? 

How To Turn Your Idea Into An Actual Story

As a fiction writer, you have lots of ideas in your head for stories you can write. But the problem with most story ideas is this: they’re not actually stories, they’re just ideas.

In order for an idea to become a story, there has to be certain elements in play:

  1. A Protagonist—one that readers will root for
  2. An Antagonist (or Antagonistic force)—something specific to oppose the Protagonist and provide conflict in the story
  3. Stakes—something must be at stake for the Protagonist

This is bare minimum. Without these three things you don’t have a story.

A lot of times writers confuse a “story” with what I call an “idea seed.” An “idea seed” is just the beginnings of a story. It’s a blip of inspiration—a character, a scene, a situation, a location. But it’s not a story.

An Example

To help illustrate the difference, let’s look at an example.

Let’s say a writer came to me with the following idea: a small-town girl who just graduated from college moves to the big city and has to deal with life in her new environment. 

This writer has already written a good portion of her first draft, but then somewhere around the middle she got stuck. She wasn’t sure where else to go with the story.

The first thing I’d point out to this writer is that she doesn’t have a story. What she has is a character, a situation and an episodic timeline of events.

But it’s not a story.

Something has to happen, in order for it to become a story. An Antagonist has to be introduced, stakes must come into play, and there must be conflict.

What this writer has at the moment is an “idea seed.”

The story development process allows you to plant that seed and allow it to grow. You do that by asking a lot of questions.

For starters:

  • Who is this girl?
  • What are her dreams?
  • What made her want to move to the city after college?
  • What does she want in her career?
  • What does she want, in general?

Once we get to know the Protagonist a little, then we can ask things, like:

  • What could potentially get in the way of her getting what she wants?

This will help you to come up with possible antagonists or antagonistic forces that could oppose the Protagonist.

To fill in the details and continue with the example, let’s say this girl has always dreamed of being a serious journalist, so she moved to the city to get a job working at a magazine. More than anything in the world she wants to write about things that matter, she wants to make a difference in the world through her words.

OK, great—we know who this Protagonist is. Now we need to fill in the details on the “something happening” in the story. Let’s say the “something happening” is she has a hard time finding a job in her field, and someone tells her that she has to “pay her dues first,” so she decides to take a job as an assistant to the editor of one of the most popular magazines in the world. Oh, and this editor (aka: the Antagonist) is a total nightmare, bitch-boss from hell.

Now we’ve got a story rolling. But we’re not finished yet, because we still haven’t put anything at stake.

So let’s say the Protagonist has been in a relationship with the most amazing guy for almost five years now, they’ve moved in together and are on the marriage track. But suddenly this new job of hers is getting in the way—she’s not able to spend as much time with him; she breaks their plans because she has to work; and he only sees her in passing now when she gets home from work and before she falls asleep.

You see where I’m going with this one?

This relationship means more than anything to her—but so does working at a magazine and getting to make a difference with her writing. This story now has inherent conflict built right in.

We could keep going with this, developing the idea even further, adding more conflict, a strong theme, and a subplot or two. If we kept going, we’d likely end up with something similar to The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger.

BUT—this idea is still generic enough that, if developed in a different way—a different Protagonist with a different desire, something else at stake, a different type of magazine, etc.—we could create a whole new story.

The choice is yours. You get to take the idea seed in your head and play with it, tear it apart, break it down, add things, take things away and ask questions. The deeper you go and the more you’re willing to move away from your original seed—in order to optimize the story— the better story you’ll end up with in the end.

It’s unfortunate, but many writers skip over the story development stage, and jump right from idea seed to first draft. In doing this you’re missing a huge opportunity to make the most of your story idea—by developing and planning it.

The Story Roadmap Workshop

My self-paced Story Roadmap workshop will help you take the idea seed in your head and develop it into a full-blown story. Then it will walk you through creating your story’s structure and building a scene roadmap that you can use to write a strong first draft.

Story Roadmap also comes with a bonus: a free 60-minute coaching coaching call with me, so you can get feedback from a pro writing coach on the work you’ve done using this workshop.

>> Learn More About Story Roadmap

Image courtesy of Jordanhill School D&T Dept

Do You Have An Idea Or A Concept?

“Why won’t this draft work?!” I threw my notebook down in a fit of brattiness. I was on the third draft of a novel. My first novel. The one I wrote back in 2008.

I’d been writing it for months, and still nothing was going right. The story wouldn’t flow like it should, my heroine was a whiny, alchy mess, and the plot didn’t quite make sense. There were so many holes and I had no idea how to fix them.

I was in over my head. This draft, this story, was not working. I was finally ready to admit it.

Problem was, admitting didn’t change the fact that I’d spent close to a year writing and rewriting and rewriting a draft, just to still be sitting in a mess.

I had no idea what I was doing. I was ready to quit.

If you’ve written a first draft before, you know where I’m coming from. You know what it’s like to have a story feel not quite right or parts that don’t seem to fit. No matter how much you rework it.

Why Your Novel Won’t Work

Instead of quitting, I stopped working on my draft and took a short break. Immediately following that break, I had a breakthrough. I came across a website called StoryFix.com and an author named Larry Brooks. Brooks pulled no punches in talking about what it took to write a novel that “worked.”

A major thing I learned from him–from studying his teachings, his methods–was there are story “ideas” and there are story “concepts.”

Most novelists don’t have a “concept” when they start writing, they only have an “idea.” And that lack of concept is what turns their drafts into a hellish nightmare where they either rip all their hair out, quit or end up in a mental institution (OK–maybe not a mental institution, but the drafting process really can drive you NUTS!).

If you’ve experienced this before it’s because your story was only an “idea” when you started writing it, and not a full-blown “concept.”

It’s like you put the bread in the oven and baked it, but you never added any yeast or gave it time to rise (two essentials for baking bread).

You can’t write a strong first draft unless you’ve dug deep enough to have a concept for your novel. (And writing drafts based on “ideas” can kill your spirit–and your fiction career.)

So What’s The Difference?

Stories, at their core, are all about one thing: something happening.

It’s all well and good to have a story with a fancy theme, a cool setting and an amazing protagonist, but if nothing actually happens, your story’s a dud.

Think about when you tell stories to other people–what are they about 9 times out of 10? Something that happened! An action, a conflict.

THIS is what differentiates an “idea” from a “concept.”

An idea is often a seedling, such as a:

  • Location
  • Backstory
  • Theme
  • Character
  • Setting

But that’s all there is. There’s nothing to elevate the seedling to the next level.

And while these seedlings are great and are completely needed, they don’t, alone, make a story work.

A concept is the stuff great novels are made from–a concept is a full-blown picture of a journey.

Every great story (of modern day writing) has a protagonist who has “something happen,” and then he’s forced (by the antagonist) to go on a journey in order to solve a problem/defeat the antagonist/get what he wants. 

Idea Or Concept?

An “idea” becomes a “concept” when it has:

  1. A Character (Proagonist/Hero)
  2. A Goal (Something the Hero wants)
  3. A Motivation (The ‘why’ that’s driving what the Hero wants)
  4. A Conflict (The Antagonist, what’s standing in the Hero’s way of getting what he wants)

Here’s an elevator-pitch formula you can use to begin turning your idea seeds into a fully-sprouted story concept:

(Character) wants (Goal) because (Motivation), but (Conflict)

Some examples:

  • Jack Dawson (Character) wants to get to America so he can start a new life (Goal) because he’s a street rat with nowhere else to go (Motivation), but little does he know the ship he’s on is headed for disaster (Conflict). (Titanic)
  • Dr. Leo Marvin (Character) wants to enjoy his vacation and the success of his book (Goal) because he’s been working hard and has finally become a well-known psychologist (Motivation), but his newest patient, Bob Wiley, has plans of his own (Conflict). (What About Bob?)

This formula can help you take an idea seed and turn it into a full-blown concept.

Share With Us

Do you have an idea or a concept for your current novel? In the comments 1) Share your concept, OR 2) Using the formula above, turn your current idea seed into a concept and then share it with us.

Image courtesy of Andrew Tarvin