Category Archives: Story
For the last few weeks, a friend of mine, Mark Staufer, has been crowdfunding his transmedia project, The Numinous Place, on Kickstarter. I’ve offered support along the journey and watched how he has so beautifully navigated the process. I’ve also become aware that there’s a ton of info out there about “how to crowdfund” – but far less about the spiritual aspects of crowdfunding.
What’s really going on when we present a project to the world, and ask family, friends and strangers to invest money in our work? It goes beyond asking, receiving and getting a project funded. There are deeper aspects at play and if you’re not aware of them, they can catch you off guard.
What is crowdfunding? It’s the process of acquiring financial investors in a project through donations in exchange for some type of reward or involvement in the project. It’s a popular way to fund indie projects, because it bypasses the need to apply for loans or secure traditional funding through studios, publishers or corporate buyers. That’s not to say that a crowdfunded project won’t have traditional investors as well, it may. But crowdfunding is a unique process. Instead of having one or two major sources of financial energy, it has multiple, varied sources. And these sources are sources of energy.
Money is Energy
Money has different meanings and inspires different reactions in each of us, but no matter what meaning you assign to it, money is energy. An agreed-upon physical expression of energy we use to value time, our effort, and the value of things we create and desire.
When someone backs a project, they are expressing their support with their financial energy. It is not one-sided, it is an exchange of energy. Their financial energy provides energy for the various stages of production or emergence of a project into physical reality. In turn, the project shares energy with its investors, readers, viewers or consumers. And the energy sharing continues as it converts form.
When we are crowdfunding, we are asking people to share a form of their energetic power – in the form of money. And to share energy, we have to connect.
Crowdfunding is About Connecting
It’s a humbling and daunting task to ask people to share their money with you. It means we have to be willing to receive energy from others – and that’s not always easy to do because it can leave us feeling a bit vulnerable as the power shifts from creator to receiver in a project. You have to be willing to humbly and gratefully receive others’ energy – and to do that, you have to have faith in your project’s worth and value and in your worth and value.
An exchange of energy is always about connecting, but in crowdfunding it takes it to a deeper level. Sure, complete strangers often back projects. But what you are really after are those people who truly connect to you and to the project because these are the people who will become your project’s creative family. They have the spiritual energy you want involved in your project.
Connecting mean communicating. Sharing yourself and your project with people so that they have the opportunity to hear you and determine if you or the project resonates with them. Part of a successful crowdfunding campaign is spreading the word about your project so that its energy can resonate with people.
Recognize too, as my friend Mark so graciously has throughout his campaign, that support does not just mean money. Any exchange of energy toward the manifestation of your goal is support and, needed. Money is only one form of energy required to achieve your goal.
Can you ask for money without connecting? People do. And some generous people respond simply because of the person who is asking – be that you or someone else who has shared your campaign with them. But the real value in crowdfunding is in the connection. You are asking people to become part of your project’s energetic DNA – these people will forever be part of your project’s history. You want to connect with them personally and professionally, but most importantly, spiritually.
Everything is energy. We are spiritual beings of energy expressed in human form. Creative projects come from a spiritual realm and are expressed through us in a form that relates to the human spirit. So your project existed in spirit before it came to you and it has its own sense of energy. (If you are a writer or actor, you’ve experienced this in relating to characters in a script or story.) There’s more going on than meets the eye.
Your project has its own energetic force. And that force is spiritual in nature (not to be confused with religious). Which means, before you even begin to crowdfund, you start to attract your project’s creative family by focusing spiritual energy. You put spiritual energy into your project and expect to be led, guided and supported as you navigate the project’s journey.
The people who respond to your project are the ones destined to respond to it. You’ve sent out an energetic vibration and they’ve responded to it because it matched something in their energy field (i.e., connected!).
Our thoughts create our experiences, remember? Our thoughts are how we create our projects and they are also how we connect to those who will become our project’s energetic backers.
If this sounds strange to you, think about those times when you’ve met someone and it seemed as if you’d known them forever – or you were in a situation and the exact person you needed came along. There was a spiritual connection made at some point in time – either when you were both in the spirit realm, or you sent out a vibration now and they responded to it.
Crowdfunding happens because of the energetic vibrations that we send and receive. Which means, it also takes a significant amount of focused spiritual energy to run a crowdfunding campaign.
Self-Care for the Crowdfunder
We’ve already mentioned that crowdfunding takes a willingness to receive, humility and belief in yourself and project. But because it is a focused and usually time-limited exchange of energy, it can be exhausting. Crowdfunders need to be mindful of their own energy during the campaign and take steps to rest, relax and nourish their spirit.
One of the best things you can do is remember to keep a bigger, wider, broader vision while focused on your Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. The pressure from having a limited time to raise a certain amount of money – and often a big stretch in the mind of the crowdfunder, can give you tunnel vision when it comes to how your project is going to be birthed.
Relax. Let go. Trust the Universe a little bit more. And realize that your crowdfunding campaign is not the be all, do all or end all of your project. It is one method for connecting with the financial energy members of your project’s family. It’s not the only way. The time limit on a campaign can give you a false sense of urgency. It sets up a win or fail, green or red light attitude – and that is absolutely not true. You are not limited to the timeframe of a campaign to raise funds. Your project and you are bigger than that. There is more involved than meets the eye, remember?
Grow with Your Crowdfunding Project
One of the biggest rewards in crowdfunding comes from how you grow in the process. It makes you step up and put your project, vision and creativity on the line. It makes you expand your perspective on your project and it invites other people to become part of your project, sharing your vision for what is possible. But it also reminds you that it’s not all up to you.
And if your campaign doesn’t meet its goals, it doesn’t mean your project failed or you are doomed. It simply means you have more connecting to do, that there are other people destined to respond to your project. That your project is bigger, broader, wider than the time limit put on your campaign.
Have patience. Keep the faith. Be flexibly persistent. Trust in the process. Trust in your project. Trust yourself.
Before You Start Crowdfunding
Before you choose crowdfunding, take time to get quiet, block out all the noise of what it will mean to have your project funded and listen to the soul of your project. Is crowdfunding the right avenue for your project? Are you choosing crowdfunding because it is truly the best way to connect your project to financial energy or are you afraid to go for the “big guys” in your field? Do not crowdfund out of a place of fear, insecurity or shrinking.
The energy required in crowdfunding must be positive, optimistic, bold, confident and self-assured. You need to understand the energy and spiritual aspects of crowdfunding and make sure that they align with who you are and your project’s purpose. Make mindful decisions about how your project will best be served by the potential sources of financial energy. Do not choose crowdfunding as a way to avoid taking a bigger risk and being bolder. Indie projects are independent because they embody a sense of empowerment and self-determination by the individual creator. That’s the energy you want to embody if you are going to crowdfund.
Your project is counting on you to understand the guidance you are given, to move out-of-the-way of its path and allow it to make its way in the world.
Keeping the spiritual aspects of crowdfunding in mind is part of the process.
We are often unaware of how powerful our thoughts can be.
We feel something, get in a mood, dwell on a thought that creates negative emotions and don’t know how to get ourselves out of it.
We aren’t taught growing up that thoughts are actually what create our emotions, drive our beliefs and determine how we experience life. We usually think life just happens to us (and often it seems to) – and that we’re left to just react to it.
What if we could change how we experience our lives? What if we could have the power to actually create our lives?
Most of us follow a path that has been laid out by culture, society, our family’s expectations, circumstances. And we admire those few who seem to find the strength to rise up and do something different. Break the pattern. Break the mold. They seem to drive their lives instead of letting life drive them.
How do they do it? They’re not smarter, better, luckier or have more advantages. So what makes them different?
They chose to focus on what they do want and not on how things are now. They start to think new and different thoughts. Thoughts they haven’t thought before. Thoughts no one around them may have had or been allowed to have. Those thoughts lead to new possibilities as they re-imagine what is possible for them.
They start to dwell on what is possible. Open to something bigger, better, more rewarding in life. And as they focus on thinking thoughts that support that possibility, they start taking steps towards it. One step leads to another and soon they are creating a new experience. One that they want.
This is how you change your life. This is how you achieve your dreams.
Not by wishing and then convincing yourself why it’s not possible.
By thinking. By choosing to think new thoughts. And by choosing to let go of limiting thoughts.
What are limiting thoughts?
Those thoughts that keep you where you are, where you’ve always been and that keep you in the status quo. Thoughts that rise from the limit of beliefs the people around you in your upbringing held. Beliefs about what is possible and what’s not.
We often see a belief as something stronger than us. A belief is just a thought that you keep thinking. And you can change what you think.
How? By paying attention to the thoughts that are creating your life now.
- Begin by taking time to reflect on what it is you are thinking, about an area of your life you’d like to change. Ask yourself: what thoughts do I have about this? Write down a list of every thought you have about that topic. All the reasons you can or can’t change. What you heard as a child about it. What your neighborhood tends to think. What your religion says about it.
- Examine each item on your list and start asking questions. Ask yourself: how do I know this thought is true? What if it wasn’t true for me? Where did this thought come from? Is it what I really believe or what I was raised to believe? And ultimately, does this thought still serve me and the life I want to have?
- Make a list of new thoughts. Write down what you would like to experience. What would you need to believe to experience it? Start asking: “what if” for all things positive. Instead of immediately assuming it can’t happen or you can’t do it, start counter-attacking those thoughts with: what if I could? what if it happened easily? what if it was like ‘this’ [fill in your desired experience]?
- Pay attention to how each thought makes you feel. Does the thought make you feel empowered or powerless? Does it make you feel lighter or heavier? Thoughts that feel good and create a sense of positive feelings are ones that are life-giving to you.
- Start focusing on what you do want to experience, not on what you don’t. Imagine it just as you would like it to be. Vision it for five minutes or so each day. Pay attention to those limiting thoughts and when they come up, say “thank you, but no thank you” to them and then choose to replace the thought with one that supports what you do want.
- Take action. Every little step toward what you do want, matters. Pay attention to your guidance, how the Universe leads, the opportunities that occur. But don’t wait for the Universe to perform a miracle for you. You are an active participant in creating your life. You wouldn’t expect a story to appear on your screen without you typing it, would you? You wouldn’t expect a painting to appear on the canvas without you painting it? Your life, your dreams are no different. Dreams don’t come true without you. Align your thoughts to what you desire, keep a steady eye on the destination, move into action and trust that your steps will be led.
The old thoughts are going to keep raising their heads because they want to keep you safe and resist change. Keep working through them. Know that it’s normal to experience resistance and those old thought patterns are strong because they’ve been practiced so much and are easy to think. Don’t give up. Keep replacing them with thoughts that support what you want to experience. Keep choosing your new thoughts and beliefs.
Do not dwell on how things are now or the fact that you are not experiencing your desired state right now. Thoughts vibrate as energy and they attract like energy to them. That’s why when we think one discouraging thought, pretty soon we find ourselves in a bad mood and thinking more thoughts that make us feel even worse. And that’s also why it’s so hard to get out of a bad mood. We’ve “pulled in” thought after thought that supports the energy of the first thought. Breaking the mood takes stopping the thought pattern and choosing a different one.
Does this process take some effort? Yes. But far less energy than it takes to keep feeling stuck and discouraged and powerless.
Does this process work on trauma? Trauma can alter the way the brain experiences emotion and thought-processes. But much of traditional therapy approaches focus on treating the patient in a dis-empowered state and do not connect the traumatized person to their own inner power and ability to create. Trauma is powerful and must be respected, yes. But I believe the human spirit is yet more powerful. I believe nothing can be lost and perhaps everything be gained by examining what it is we think and, therefore believe, and choosing to change our perspective to one that allows us to experience a life that feels better.
Shifting thought patterns can open up new worlds of possibility and new states of being.
Learn more about shifting your thoughts in Mike Dooley’s life-changing book Infinite Possibilities.
While technology evolves faster than any of us can keep pace with – it has yet to truly change the way we read and absorb fiction. E-books and e-readers have made reading more convenient, but they still follow the format of traditional books. You just turn the pages electronically.
That is, until now.
Hollywood screenwriter Mark Staufer is in the process of changing the fiction experience – to, get this, eliminate the necessity for the “suspension of disbelief.” He’s written The Numinous Place (TNP) a first-person account of protagonist, Henry Meat, a man on a spiritual quest to discover secrets of the afterlife. What TNP does is not just tell you a narrative, it tells it through multi-media – which means along with reading text, you hear audio, watch video, read articles, newspaper reports, webpages, see photographs, listen in on phone calls, view security camera footage, and get in on lucid dreaming instructions to journey through the story with Henry.
Fascinating, isn’t it? That’s what I thought. This has the potential to change not only how we experience fiction, but how we write it. Creating an immersive experience that allows readers to enter the fictional world as deeply as possible. Bridging an elusive gap between a “character’s world” and a “reader’s world.”
I asked Mark to tell us more about TNP and his creative journey. He’s currently in the midst of a busy rewrite season on scripts and is crowdfunding TNP through Kickstarter. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the birth of the next generation of storytelling. Please check out The Numinous Place.
As a screenwriter, Mark, you’ve worked with some of Hollywood’s top talent. What inspired you to write TNP? How did this concept present itself to you?
The creative genesis of The Numinous Place has been something more akin to discovering and investigating an entire world than the usual process of story building. It’s a concept that has revealed itself to me little by little over the last decade. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly after I began to write it down three years ago.
TNP is referred to as the “world’s first multidimensional work of fiction.” You are introducing a new way to “experience” fiction. What can the audience/reader expect?
Storytelling has been around since before fire, and although the same principles have always applied, we’ve used different methods to bring our characters to life. With The Numinous Place I’m using nearly every method of storytelling to create the storyworld. The first-person narrative is linear, but because it’s told “as real” it’s enhanced with the inclusion of authentic newspaper and magazine articles, webpages, news reports, photographs, phone-calls, security camera footage, a comic and lucid dreaming instruction. It allows us to create a really believable and creepy universe that I believe people will react to on a visceral level.
What was the intention/vision behind developing this project?
The intention is to create as an authentic experience as possible. After spending so much time with these characters before giving them life “on the page” to me they’re actually living, breathing individuals. Telling story this way is the closest I’ll ever come to reproducing this interior world for other people.
Tell us about the Story. It’s about a man on a spiritual quest….??
I started with this premise: How would the world change, if science proved incontrovertibly that there was a hell. In other words, how would people act if they knew for a fact everything they did in this life absolutely had an effect on them for all eternity. Then I had to work out a couple of minor points, like how did science discover that the afterlife exists, and (the biggie) what is the afterlife like?
What was the writing process like for you? What has it been like to live/interact with the characters for so long?
I’m a slow writer, and by that I mean, I spend such a long time gestating my storyworld and characters. I laugh to myself about The Numinous Place turning me into a “method writer” in terms of having to experience a similar journey to the main character. I think we’re all on a spiritual quest from the day we’re born, it doesn’t just begin when we announce it to ourselves or to the world. But, I’ve had to increase the intensity and velocity of mine to keep up with Henry Meat’s because TNP doesn’t operate in “real time.” I should add that the actual “writing” is not fun at all. It’s never been fun for me. You have to use a cattle-prod to get me to the desk and then threaten me with time on a Judas Cradle if I leave before bleeding a few words out an hour. And then I spend weeks rearranging the words into some sort of order that makes sense. It’s agony. The words enjoy causing me as much pain as possible.
Do you envision that TNP will change how e-books/aps present “fiction experiences”?
I think all modes of storytelling will survive, but technology has given us more opportunities to explore narrative. I’m just surprised it’s taken so long for writers and publishers to embrace multimedia. It’s like the digital revolution came along and bypassed books completely.
The public and investors can be a bit skeptical about something that they haven’t experienced before. What would you say to them?
I’d ask them to step outside yourself and watch how you experience information and entertainment for a few hours. Or, if you’re still a newspaper/6 o’clock news kinda person, observe a teenager for an evening as they multitask and interact with technology and society and merge with the supermind. I never underestimate the sophistication and intelligence of my audience/target—I figure if I make it fascinating, worthwhile and honest, they’ll take the journey.
You are in the process of crowdfunding on Kickstarter. What will the funds be used for? What’s the next step?
I’m really excited by the whole concept of crowdsourcing. It puts creators and inventors directly in touch with their audience. We have quite a lot of production, design, art and tech building to do to get us launch-ready, and all the funds from Kickstarter will be used to make the app, e-book and online elements sing to each other.
Thanks, Mark, for taking a moment to share this with us. What an exciting journey for a writer to be on!
You can follow Mark Staufer on Twitter at @markstaufer.
I recently had a conversation with another writer and we agreed that when the writing flows, it’s more like channeling than writing. We also talked about how writers don’t really “create” anything, but rather are a conduit for stories that already exist…somewhere. Characters, we’ve both learned, exist in their own realm and one of our biggest jobs is to listen to them. They know their story.
If you’re not a writer, this will all seem very far-fetched and probably cause you to wonder if writers are a bit out of our minds.
Well, maybe we are. But maybe that’s also why we are writers. Because we can sense, hear and “channel” the stories that non-writers read, watch, are touched by and remember – sometimes for centuries.
Writers are the First Trustee of the Story. We meet the characters first. We develop the trust relationship with them that allows us to capture and develop their story in the most powerful way possible. We then have to translate that relationship to actors, directors and an entire crew of creative professionals who will do much of their work based on various aspects of the characters and story.
Being first in this process is an honor. One we shouldn’t take lightly. And it takes a certain amount of intuitive sensitivity, open-mindedness and a willingness to invest time, emotions and thought to nurture the “writer-character” relationship. It also takes patience, humility and a willingness to let yourself be changed by the process.
Here are some thoughts to help nurture your relationship with your characters:
You are Chosen
I believe that Stories choose their writers. And you can feel it in your spirit, right? You know when a story is something meant for you. So arm yourself with the belief that you were chosen to write the story and that no one else can take your place in this process. Another writer can work on the story, but she’ll write it as her story. Only you can bring yourself to the story. Which leads me to the next point.
You Bring Yourself to the Story, for a Reason
The stories that choose you, do so for a reason. Maybe they were preordained in a former life. Maybe they just sense that you have the right sensitivity to their subject matter. Maybe they flow out of your own spiritual experience. Whatever the reason, the stories that find you do so because they believe you are the right person to listen to their story, understand them and express it to the world. It is because of something special about you – and this covers assigned stories, too – (you don’t think you just got that assignment by chance, do you?) – you are an integral part of the process for what you bring to the story. When you start to wonder ‘who am I to write this?’ remember that the story and characters have faith in you.
At the Same Time, it’s Not Your Story
On the flip side, it’s not your story. It doesn’t belong to you. You can’t own it. The story belongs to the characters. And you need to respect that. That means you treat the story and the characters with respect. You protect it. You don’t let what’s sacred to the characters or story get pummeled out of it (to the degree you can control it). You guard what is essential to their nature and you let them guide the process. You are a conduit, a channel, a connection between the realm of Story and human understanding.
Let the Characters Lead
Many writers swear by their process of creating detailed character bios, interviewing each character with a long bullet list of questions. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t like to have someone sit down and interrogate me – particularly about painful or sensitive subjects and every detail of what makes me, me.
You can’t just make stuff up about a character either. Not a real one anyway (and by real, I mean one that will ring true to the human spirit because you were sensitive enough to let the character reveal him or herself to you in a meaningful, organic way.) Characters need to trust you, remember? You have to treat them with respect and trust them, too. Don’t interrogate.
Listen and keep listening. Ask for more. Listen at every draft and keep listening all the way through. It’s all built on trust and whether or not a character feels safe enough to reveal something that puts him or her in a vulnerable position. Be strong for your characters and be gentle, too. Let them and their stories affect you. You are not only the First Trustee, but you are also the First Audience. Let their story move you emotionally. Let yourself be the first one the Story impacts. Let it resonate in you.
Story is Revealed, Not Created
If you make up a story, the audience will know it’s made up. The human spirit can sense authenticity. If you allow the story to reveal itself to you, it will touch people in ways that you never imagined. Story is revealed. Layer by layer. Many writers swear by outlines. I find that while I generally have an idea of how a story ends, the details of the story are revealed as I write them. Later, after the first draft (when much of what is sacred has been revealed), outlining can help in shaping the story structure.
To me, if a writer knows the story well enough to outline it before he or she has interacted with the characters, I highly suspect it’s being made up. In these cases, either the writer has already spent considerable time listening to the characters and has a good grasp of what their story and nature is – or she’s trying to “force” a story. Don’t force. Listen and write it down.
Be Ready to Be a Parent, Counselor, Guide, Coach and Collaborator
Characters are troubled people. People in pain, wounded, lost, seeking their way to well-being and wholeness. You will need to be a nurturing parent, guide, friend, coach, counselor and someone they feel confident enough to trust with their dark secrets. You’re going to have to champion them on, encourage them, listen, know what part of their backstory not to share with the world, understand their fears, know when to push them to go deeper, know when to back off, and collaborate with them to get the story told, on paper, on film, in a way that connects to the audience. It’s not always going to be an easy process or an easy relationship to carry.
All of this comes out of two things: your ultimate belief that their story is meant to be shared and your commitment to going the long-haul with your characters.
Collaborate with your characters. You have a full cast of character-spirits who will eventually be represented by actors. See your lead characters as collaborators in the creative process. Discuss with them how to shape the story. Recently in a script, I knew we needed another antagonistic force. I discussed it with the lead characters. They agreed. We decided the antagonist should come in the form of an environmental group. You know, protesters, marching around with signs, right? (no offense, environmentalists). Well, guess what? The environmentalists showed up as a rough-cut biker gang. Much “scarier” than any of us had anticipated. But it was the edge the story needed. And as the story has been revised, the lead biker character has deepened to reveal a far more dangerous side of himself. Just what we needed for some well-placed conflict. The biker gang is now a key part of the story. It always had been, we just hadn’t known it.
Know What You Can Craft, and What You Can’t
As the First Trustee, you step into the role of writer and you also step into the First Director’s role. First, in that you are shaping the pre-film. You are responsible for giving the story everything it needs to survive on its own and be strong enough to survive the collaborative process to come. You must make decisions that shape the story.
You must make decisions for the story while including the lead characters in the process. Seeking feedback is important. But be careful to guard what you know is sacred to the characters and to the essence of the story. Too many outside voices influencing the story will result in a story that loses its magic. Guard against wanting to be a “great” writer at the risk of losing the magic of the story. To hold on to the magic, you need to own your role as the final decision-maker. Consult with trusted sources, consult with the characters, take what fits and enhances the story, but don’t lose sight of the core story or the core nature of the characters.
Let feedback push you to dig deeper, let it push you to push your characters to dig deeper. But remember, it’s the Story that matters – not your ego as a writer. Every story is different and needs its own space to develop. Honor that space.
You can craft a story and change it until it no longer is the story you started out with. You need to know the spine of the story and the nature of your characters to ensure you don’t lose their Story in the process. Art is art because of the artist. Remember that you are the artist.
Believe that There is a Purpose
Why do we write stories? For an audience, right? You can say that all you want, but writers write because we feel most alive and spiritually connected to Source when we are writing. I don’t know a writer who would stop writing even if he or she knew their work would never sell. We write because it is who we are. Channelers. Conduits. Because we have the ability to be a First Audience. Because of how every story we are given shapes and changes us, too. It’s thrilling, it’s adventurous. It’s challenging and it’s meaningful. There is a purpose for it, for being that connection between Story Realm and the human consciousness.
Don’t Worry, You’re Not Insane
Writers are not insane. Like many artists, we have a unique connection to the Spirit World, to realms that many people are not sensitive to. Like psychics, we can sense and intuit things about Story and Characters that others do not “read.” But that doesn’t make us crazy. And we shouldn’t be ashamed amongst ourselves to admit that this is simply part of how we work.
It’s a beautiful gift and responsibility to be Storytellers. I believe all art, music and writing comes from a Higher Source. We are surrounded by the beauty of nature that we cannot explain, is it so hard to believe that those who are called to be artists have an ability to tap into that same Source? Characters in a Story are no different than the Notes in a Symphony. They are given to the artist, shaped into a powerful form by the artist and gifted to the an audience.
Even if that audience is just the artist himself.
Revision is a task all writers must master. But it’s often seen, particularly among inexperienced writers, as something to dread.
Don’t dread revision. Embrace it. It is one of the biggest gifts writers are given – the opportunity to re-work our work to allow it to more fully grow into its deepest self. This is where Story meets up with Craft in its most intense relationship.
Here’s some tips to make it easier:
1. Start by realizing that revision requires you to let go of the Story as you currently perceive it.
It’s the Story that matters most. By Story I mean the journey toward a particular spiritual/emotional/physical realization for the main characters. How they go about this is malleable. Your Characters know their Story, but you have say in how to best reveal that journey to the audience.
2. Realize that there is more to bring out.
In the first draft, the Story pours out (and if it’s not pouring out, you may be tugging at it before it’s ready) – the first draft is the core material of the Story. It’s in its purest form – where theme, characters, dialogue – reveal themselves, undisturbed yet by the writer’s hand. It is raw, malleable material that is never meant for anyone elses’ eyes and always meant to be shaped and nurtured and tended to by the writer.
3. Take on the role of director when revision begins.
Particularly for scripts, but also for novels, your job as a writer includes the role of director when you start revision. Why? Because while you are writing, you are also directing the Story – and you have decisions to make. Director’s decisions – not just writing decisions. That means you start to take the Story apart and look at it structurally. You look at character development, you decide what best serves the Story and you get rid of or change what doesn’t. You keep the big picture in mind and you get tough with what’s working and what’s not. You also start to really get to know your characters and deal with their issues in a supportive, caring manner. You take command of the page and accept responsibility for what’s on it and what’s not.
4. Partner with your characters and let them inform your decisions.
Characters trust you with their story and that’s not an easy thing to do. They deserve respect. They also know far more than we do when it comes to who they are, what they’re after and what they’re not telling you. You have to be a very good listener. They are invested in the success of your work and they will give you what you need. Ask them. They’ll surprise you. They’ll also reveal more when you let them have a say in how their Story is told.
5. Bring in a second set of professional eyes when it’s ready.
No one will ever know your Story as well as you do, but we lose our ability to accurately perceive whether or not we have expressed the Story as well as we intended. That’s where having a second set of professional eyes provide feedback is invaluable.
6. Revise again.
After you get feedback, take what makes sense for the Story (not for your ego) and revise again. Chances are some of the suggestions made to you will take your work to a higher level. Some won’t fit and you’ll leave those behind.
7. Take responsibility for the final completion of the Story.
It’s easy to wallow in a never-ending state of revision. But that won’t move your Story to its next stage of development. You have to accept responsibility for deciding when you’ve brought the Story to the highest level you can, at this stage, with the information, feedback and understanding that you have right now. Part of this is something you’ll just know. Part of it is an actual decision to stop revising and declare it ready to stand on its own in the world. You have to determine if you’ve given it everything it needs to sustain its life. If you have, then make the decision. Declare it done at this stage.