May 30, 2012

Story Engineering

by Nikki McBride Spencer

So I finally purchased “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks after thinking about it for months. If you don’t remember, Larry gave us a stellar presentation at this year’s ANWA conference. He says there are six core competencies one must master to write a book worth publishing. They are: Concept, Character, Theme, Structure, Scene Execution, and Writing Voice.

I’ve read books on plotting and outlining before, and they always left me with a bitter taste and a sense of defeat. I truly couldn’t get my head around how to outline without loosing the magic of organic writing. It seemed to me that if I decided what to write before I wrote it, everything was boring. No WOW moments to be found. No fun surprises, no gifts from the muse. It seemed that outlining was not for me, but it also seemed that all organic writing was way too slow and plodding, and always a struggle to come up with the next thing.

Enter “Story Engineering”. This is the first book on structure and organization that I’ve been excited about. He explains things clearly and I love the efficiency of his method. The light bulb is finally going on. Sure, it’s still dim, but I’m only on page 31.

I read a few paragraphs, then the muse seizes me and I run to the iPad, open Phraseology and start putting my concept in words. I go back and read a few more paragraphs, then the muse kicks up again and I am compelled to write a few more words. This has happened several times—which is why only page 31—and I’m loving it.

He says that when he writes this way, he is able to complete his books in about 8 weeks (after the outline is done, I’m assuming...we’ll see what he says in the rest of the book). Because he writes using this tried-and-true technique, his first novel was sold to a major New York publisher on the very first submission.

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?


  1. I just got this book too! Now to make time to start reading it...

  2. I've heard two of his lectures, and I've semi-enginered my last couple of stories, got the basics down and I know where I want to go, but an actual outline still alludes me. Yes, Larry has a best seller, but I just went to Amazon to check out the content of his fiction, and of course they'd sell well--they have sex in them. Whenever you have a woman on the front cover with her wrists bound in rope, you're going to get a lot of a certain interest, and in this day and age, that can send you right to the best seller's list. I tried to see what his actual first fiction novel looked like, but Amazon won't or can't put that cover up, or even describe the story--don't know why.


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