The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The (Writing) Machine

Over the last decade, I’ve used and taught a writing model I call “The Machine”  I’ve decided to try to boil down the basic advice to about ten steps, and you will probably excuse me if I do this in public.  Here are the ten steps that come to mind.  In the coming days I’ll work to refine and explain them:

“The Machine”
1) Create an output goal (a story a week, or a story every other week.  Or a thousand words)
2) Read 10 X what you write.
3) Read one level “up” from your writing goal.
4) Keep your stories circulating in the mail
5) Don’t try a novel until you’ve sold ten short stories.
6) Once you’ve finished your first draft, ask “what is the meaning of my story” and re-write from the beginning to sharpen this.
7) Model the healthy attitudes, actions and beliefs of the writers you admire.
8) Follow structure until you have mastered it (selling at least 10 short stories), then try freestyle.  If you have problems, revert to structure until it is internalized.
9)  Separate the “Flow” state from the “editing” state.  
10)   Develop a circle of writers and readers to evaluate your work.   Choose the smartest, toughest critics you can find, and learn to take the discomfort.

These ideas have served me and my students well.    Study them, absorb what is useful, and reject the rest.  More later…


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