1. Rules of the Page

2. Theory

3. Story

4. Fine-Tuning

5. Use or Abuse—Self-Editing

6. The Active Ingredient—Emotion

7. Showing

8. The Second Time Around—Rewriting

10. Under the Sun—Uniqueness. Universal Plots.

11. Point of View

12. The Ticking Clock—Fitting It In

13 Dead Weight—What You Can Ignore

14. The Long and the Short of It—From Short Story to Novel

15. Hitting the Wall—Blocking and Unblocking

16. Stage and Screen

17. To Market to Market—When to Submit, How, and Why Conclusion


A good story cannot be denied. Like falling in love, it's irresistible. It hits you before you have time to think. It touches your heart before it reaches your head. You're drawn in—whether you want to be or not. And you don't stand around asking, "Is it good?" or "Is it real?" These questions don't even come up. I've been walking through a room where a dramatic scene is playing on the TV, and been struck by a single line, a line that pulled me into the story. I have to stop and see what is happening. That's the kind of story you'll learn to write in this course.

The craft and techniques of Immediate Fiction are those used by all great writers. Whether a story is true or not doesn't matter. The craft is identical. A good story creates an experience and puts you in it, living and feeling it as if you were there.

All of this we're calling Immediate Fiction, because good stories are immediate. They're happening here and now, around you and in you, in the moment. But this is also about crafting and creating stories and about how to get yourself to sit down and do it. With Immediate Fiction you will begin writing immediately, the moment you sit down. there are even techniques to help you sit down. And don't think getting yourself there and sitting down can't be a problem—even for the best of writers. "Ninety percent of life is showing up," the saying goes. Immediate Fiction will make it easy to show up.

After you do sit down, you won't be wasting time wondering what to do or where to start or how to get in the mood. You don't have to be in the mood or wait for inspiration or the Muse to strike, because with this method the Muse is you. You'll learn how to become your own Muse and not waste time looking for magic to come from somewhere outside yourself.

Immediate Fiction is the craft of story, but it's also the craft of self-finding what you have and making it work for you. So, it's immediate in two ways. What you create is immediate, and how you create is immediate. You're creating immediate fiction immediately.

One thing it's important to be aware of at the outset is that no problem is too small to paralyze you, and none is too big to be conquered. Problems are as big or as small as you make them. Writers have a knack for magnifying tiny troubles into great obstacles. So, if you've been doing that, don't worry. You'll learn how to get out of it.

This course is laid out with first things first. Follow it straight through, and you'll do fine. Each part starts with the theory behind what we're setting out to accomplish. The theory gives you a deeper sense of how things work. The first chapter covers the creative process—what to keep in mind to stay out of trouble. Chapter 2 is a short exploration of stories (the why of story-why every reader reads, why every writer writes). That flows right into chapter 3, the actual craft and technique of creating stories—how to do it— how, what, when, and where. You start writing at the end of chapter 3, with exercises designed to uncover what you have and tap into the drama in your ideas. Each chapter has its own set of writing exercises at the end.

Since each chapter flows into the next, you don't need to skip around, but if you're dying to get into the heart of putting a story together, go straight to chapter 3. Chapter 4 refines the story elements more precisely, making it even easier to breathe life into your story. Chapter 5 covers self-editing, staying on track, avoiding pitfalls—figuring out what you have and what to do with it. Capturing emotion on the page, and evoking it in the character and the reader, are covered in chapter 6. Chapter 7 covers the basic technique for creating the experience on the page in full scenes. Chapter 8 moves into expanded rewriting techniques —what to do when you go back over your work. Work methods, different ways of approaching your story, are covered in chapter 9. Originality (what is it? how do you achieve it?) is covered in chapter 10. That chapter also explores universal plot forms. Chapter 11 covers point of view. If you feel you have no time to write, chapter 12 will show you how to get going in just minutes a day. Chapter 13 covers extraneous concepts and methods that often confuse the issue—what you can do without. Chapter 14 explores the difference between a short story and a novel and how you can turn any short story into a novel. If you're seriously blocked, go straight to chapter 15. Chapter 16 shows you how to turn your story into a stage play or screenplay if either is your goal. Chapter 17 covers what you need to know to market your work—how to submit, where to submit, agents, publishers. Even though the chapters are arranged in a specific order, each stands alone and deals with its topic completely.

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