The Story Cure
|December 6, 2017||Posted by admin under Creative Writing, Grammar & Punctuation, Resource|
Written by Dinty W. Moore
Published by Ten Speed Press
Distributed by Penguin Random House Canada
Reviewed by Christine Gordon Manley
Publication date: May 2017
I’m in the process of writing my first full-length novel. I’m not new to writing. I’ve written many many (many!) words over the years. Words found in dissertations, articles, blog posts, editorials, academic papers, short stories, essays, children’s books, grocery lists, notes-to-self, post-it reminders, and teachers’ notes (to name a few).
But this novel is a whole new experience. At almost 70,000 words and counting with no main source of conflict in sight (sigh), it’s a whopper. I earn my paycheques as an editor so I’m no stranger to knowing the stages of writing. I tell myself not to worry about the word count at this point (or the fact that I’ve forgotten about certain characters and have no idea what they’re doing while I’m focusing on other characters). I can cut words later. I know what characters are weakly developed. I’m aware that I’m not hooking the reader yet.
Knowing all these problem areas is great (okay, maybe “great” isn’t the right word to use here), but knowing how to fix these areas is a whole other kettle o’fish.
Enter the Story Cure.
In this easy-to-read book, Dinty Moore offers advice on crafting your story, and this advice is not only relatible, but it’s tangible. Things that can be implemented. Step-by-step processes.
For example, to ensure your story doesn’t make your reader yawn (my word here, not Moore’s), Moore recommends you write down every single source of conflict. Use a separate post-it note if that helps. Moore doesn’t just mean epic sword battle-type fights here. He means every type of conflict. So, if a character is late for a meeting and is stuck in a traffic jam, that’s conflict. If another character gives someone an unexplained dirty look, that’s another. Misunderstandings, missed messages, wrong addresses, misplaced wallets, career changes, health problems, grief … these are all potential sources of conflict. So, you write all those down and post them where you can easily see them while writing. The goal here is to not go too long in your story without referencing or addressing one of those conflict points. Exactly how long will depend on the length of your story, but keeping your conflict points in mind will keep you on track.
No, your story doesn’t need to be a roller coaster of action. “Conflict” doesn’t have to be dramatic. It’s probably best not to have your characters go from fight to fight to fight (unless you’re writing a war novel or science fiction or some other action-packed genre), but a good mix of the conflict types not only gives a more realistic portrayal of life, but will also ensure that (1) your characters themselves aren’t exhausted (even Harry Potter had to stop and rest and eat every now and then!) and (2) your reader isn’t a wound-up ball of stress.
While Dinty states that this guide is best used when at the beginning stages of their project, writers can use this book at various stages of writing. When I received my copy of The Story Cure, I had written over 30,000 words of my novel. But I’m still finding helpful exercises and tid-bits at over double that word count. In fact, if I’m stuck (and trust me, I get stuck a lot), I reach for this handy guide and pick an area to work on. Often, working through something or thinking about something in a different way unblocks me and lets me carry on where I left off.
Some of Moore’s tips you can implement as you write, like the conflict bit. In the novel I’m working on, for example, one of the characters announces a pregnancy about half-way in, and I had no clue this would happen until the words were on the page (thanks for taking over the story, Character S). There was no way I would have known this plot turn before I’d started writing, so, rather than compile every single source of conflict I’d intended on including before sitting down to craft the story itself, I keep a living and changing list of conflict spots as I go along.
Moore knows what he’s taking about. He’s written several books himself, in various genres, and he teaches creative writing.
You don’t need a guidebook when writing. But having one at your side feels like your own coach, cheering you on and giving you practical advice along the way.
It makes the process a little less lonely.
While doing some research prepping for this review, I came across this quote by the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, Grant Faulkner, that summarizes how I feel about Moore’s Story Cure:
Writing a novel is a daunting task, a labyrinth filled with thorny obstacles of all kinds. The Story Cure provides tonics for many of the ailments that can plague a novel, but most importantly, it probes the key part of any creative endeavor: the heart of the story.
Thanks to the Book Doctor himself, Dinty Moore, I may just one day finish this novel of mine. Maybe. Hopefully. Eventually… (I may require a few more tonics along the way…)
For more information about this book or to learn how to get your very own copy, visit Penguin Random House Canada here.