"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: September 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Create Your Own World

As if I'm not busy enough already, a local director has asked me to write the music for his latest production - and have it to him by the 11th of October.

So on top of the two pitches for TV series we're producing, running Magellan Books and the EWTW and editing my latest novel during the day, I'm composing and recording music in the evenings...

No Rest for the Wicked, as I once sang!

BTW, as well as Lydie M Denier, I'm proud to announce another Hollywood star has chosen Magellan Books to launch her latest book to coincide with her new TV series in October. Cool, or what?

More news on that soon - coming to an inbox near you!


I'm probably one of the last people in the world to read "What the BLEEP Do We Know?"

By now most of the ideas in it are well publicized and known thanks to movies like The Secret and the media blitz that accompanied it a few years back.

A lot of self help gurus are still peddling the Law of Attraction or their version of it - so it's interesting to revisit some of the precepts now that the big splash has more or less passed.

In case you don't know, the premise of BLEEP is this:

Quantum physicists have established that, at the very fundamental level of atomic structure, measurement of subatomic particles seems dependent on - or at least relative to - the observer.

Much as modern physicists hate it, self help gurus (now, oddly, called 'philosophers' in some circles) say this is proof that consciousness affects, even shapes, reality.

And by extension the theory says that, through our intentions and interactions with matter, we actually create our own lives.

On a metaphysical level, ancient cultures and mystical traditions have been saying this for centuries - but only now do we have 'proof' from the scientific community that this may indeed be so.

Of course the majority of serious scientists are extremely upset they've let this particular Schroedinger's cat out of the bag. Some say they've been misquoted - and that the current theoretical ideas about the quantum world are too important to be trivialized by the general public.

BLEEP doesn't agree. One of their main arguments seems to be that this stuff is too important to leave to matter-bound scientists with no imagination. They want this life and perception altering information out there - in our hands - so that we can finally understand exactly how consciousness and our universe rely on each other for their existence.

One of the sections I liked in the book was where Dr Andrew Newberg said that the quantum problem was like discovering we're actually all living on some kind of big Star Trek holodeck - where the information about life's building blocks don't make any sense unless there's some huge computer 'outside' merely simulating our existence.

Of course, any self respecting Christian would say that this huge computer was God - and that we're probably not supposed to fully understand this stuff.

But that aside, if we really can shape our destinies with our thoughts, then this is surely where the real fun starts.

But can we really shape matter? And control our lives?

I guess it's a question of degree. How much control do we potentially have?

The problem is that as wonderful as these ideas sound - they don't appear to actually work to any great degree.

After all, the Global Intention Experiments by Lynne McTaggart have, notwithstanding the hype, been largely disappointing.

Much as we might want to believe it, there's seems no real definitive evidence we can get rich just by thinking about it.

However, having faith, acting upon our dreams and sticking to our goals, now that's what works - and is practically provable.

At the very least we now have some scientific data to act as a back-up to these basic self-help tenets:

That if you really want something, and go after it, then you'll get, not necessarily where you want to go, but most likely where you need to be - to achieve at least some degree of success.

I know this has worked for Robyn and I - and has worked for many of our subscribers.

BTW: did you know that over the last eight years, the Easy Way to Write has fostered over a dozen New York Times bestselling authors? We have their names on our subscriber database to prove it - not that they broadcast this fact to anyone! But I respect that - and their right to privacy.

It's just nice to know we may have helped in some way.

Anyway, I think the main point about the BLEEP factor is that now you have no excuse.

It's clear that the message is to take full responsibility for your actions. Because you just never know how much you really are creating your own reality - and that - and this is the kicker - your lack of success could be ultimately of your own making.

The next time you want something amazing to happen to you, start believing it's at least possible - and take positive action to let the universe know of your intentions.

To quote Star Wars - why not - fiction is just a valid reality as the real thing, isn't it? At least to our subconscious, which can't tell the difference anyway.

When Yoda lifts the downed starfighter with his mind, Luke says: "I don't believe it."

Whereupon Yoda replies, "That's why you can't do it."

Keep writing!

The Easy Way to Write


“Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself." George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Writers have a tendency to complicate things.

We think that's what is required of us.

Character depth, we tell ourselves, is what counts.

Plot complexity, we think, is what impresses.

Layers of story threads woven into a sophisticated tapestry will mark us out as a literary master, we want to believe.

But actually in the modern marketplace I don't think this is true.

At least not when it comes to selling our work to agents and publishers, producers, indeed the general public.

Just look at the way books, TV and films are pitched to us - in the media especially.

You might think that it's journalists and editors that create these little snippets and brief synopses designed to encapsulate our work.


It's us - we have to do it.

Novelists write their own back-blurbs.

TV listings are derived from the screenwriter's original log lines...

Even after we've written something as word-weighty as a novel, we have to learn how to distill down the essence of our ideas into bite-sized pieces that are succinct and easily digestible.

This is a skill all its own.

Most every writer will tell you that the synopsis is to be dreaded.

Creating a shortened version of our work seems to go against the grain.

To somehow cheapen and disfigure the face of the manuscript.

But the publishing industry doesn't see it that way.

The film industry is worse.

In today's world, unless you can encapsulate your work in 15 words or less, you're often not even going to get a look in.

In most cases - in movie production offices - you are judged solely on your 'short pitch'.

It seems grossly unfair that you can have your manuscripts rejected (unread) because the person on the other side of the desk doesn't like the sound of your pitch.

This has happened to me so many times, I know it must be the way of the world now.

Of course it works in reverse too.

I've had agents, publishers and producers react to the most facile of short pitches - and commission me - based on 'the idea' rather than any question of whether I might be up to its execution.

I guess this is because it's only writers that care about the words.

The rest of the industry - or the vultures, as I like to call them - have this notion that it's (and I've heard them confirm this) the "ideas they can get excited about" that make the deals with publishers, agents, distributors and financiers who seem to revel in the buying and selling of writer's creative ideas.

They don't seem to realize that writers are more than just 'idea generators' who should be discarded if they don't come up with at least six new ones a day - and commercial ones at that.

I had a lovely email conversation with a cherished subscriber this week.

He was having trouble fleshing out one of his characters.

He was trying to understand what he needed to do to make his character come alive.

He asked me about inner conflict and how that could be represented on the page.

After years of studying these issues, I gave my response:

"A character's inner conflict is not something you need to think of first. It's the character's agenda - his goals - that define his modus operandi. And it's the story's antagonists (the people who will stand in the way of the character's agenda, or the so called 'obstacles') that dictate the story. This leads to an outer conflict - the story's events - which imply the 'inner conflict' - that is, the personal, sometimes unspoken, changes the character must undergo to become 'the hero.'

"Indeed, a character's inner conflict often happens in the reader's mind - and is not always on the page.

"This is all basic stuff you need to learn to make stories work - and being able to fashion writing using these principles are techniques that professional writers are supposed to know how to encapsulate instinctively."

But it sounds complicated, right?

It's not - but that's the dilemma.

How do you distill ideas into their most basic form?


Study and practice.

You need to work on getting those 'short form' pitches into shape. And work just as hard on them as you would your longer works.

In a sound-bite world, we need to write better sound-bites than spin doctors, politicians and news readers.

You need to know your stories so well that you can squash them to any length.

From a six word sentence to the one paragraph 'elevator pitch' to the one page synopsis - and you need to memorize them, just in case you ever need to use them.

I know.

I know this is not what you signed up for when you became a writer.

But I have learned the hard way that this is pretty much a requirement in today's world.

Your writing career can live or die on a verbal pitch to the right person at the right time.

You might be at a convention, or meet a publisher at a party, or be interviewed by a potential fan in the street - you never know when a succinct version of your book will come in handy.

Best thing is - if you're good at making your ideas sound good - then your skill as a writer is often taken for granted.

Keep writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy


"It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much doing nothing." Gertrude Stein

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Seven Simple Strategies to Cure Writers' Block Forever!

I've always been loath to tackle the subject of writer's block. A personal, largely superstitious thing - but still I get asked what writers should do about it - all the time!

So here goes:

1. Crisis, What Crisis?

First off, you need to deny that there is any such thing as writer's block. This debilitating condition can only hurt you when you give it the privilege of a concrete name. Take away its name and you begin to take away its power over you.

Tell yourself, there is no such thing as writer's block. There is writing and not-writing. Only writers have a name for something they're NOT doing.

Think about the absurdity of builder's block, or doctor's block, or pilot's block. Any kind of inability to write is similarly absurd.

Writing is like breathing - something you learned to do a long time ago without thinking. Stop thinking about it - and just do it.

2. Stop! In the Name of Love.

If you've run out of ideas or you're struggling over the next sentence, take a break.

Many writers agree that a short pace around the garden, or a quick stint at housework, taking a shower or partaking in a brief period of meditation can help to shift your mindset away from a block.

You need to interrupt mental stagnation by briefly doing something else. Again, you need to stop thinking about the writing and give your mind the space to develop another way in.

A short break will give you a new perspective. Don't think about the writing, focus on the ideas, then go back to your desk and put those thoughts on paper, or the screen.

3. Everybody Say, Word Up.

Play with words. Make a game of it. For instance, take two unrelated words from the dictionary and make a sentence out of them.

Make a list of cues to pin on your wall. My first kiss, my best train ride, the last time I saw Paris etc. When stuck, use your cues to kick start your mind. Don't write, simply notate your thoughts.

Describe anything in your room. Describe someone you know from memory. Anything to get images on the page.

Again, don't think about the words, think about the thing you're describing - the characteristics, the emotions evoked, the conclusions made - and put those impressions onto the screen.

The quality of the writing is unimportant. Getting your thoughts out is all that matters.

4. Twas a Dark and Stormy Night...

Every writer has been there before you. See how they made it through by taking a book and copying out a paragraph, word for word.

Edit it. Try rephrasing some of the syntax, the clauses, the dialogue. When you do this, you're in another writer's mind.

Not so different from your own, is it?

All of us writers live in the same place. Some of us - the more prolific - are just better adjusted to the environment. They see the reality within and behind the words. Don't let the words get in the way. They're not important. What is important is relating the thoughts and impressions that the words represent.

Get past the words, leapfrog them, to get to the images in your mind. Don't say you don't have any ideas because your brain is full to the brim of them - and the more you write, the more you'll realize the truth of this phenomenon.

5. Gah! You Cannot Be Serious.

There's nothing quite like reading something terrible to make you feel you could do better.

Choose a dire paperback, read and scoff, then get back to your desk.

Whatever you do, don't stop and think about writing. Thinking about writing is not the same as writing.

The only time I ever got blocked was around ten years ago when a writer friend told me a story of mine didn't make sense. It took me a whole year to realize that no amount of thinking was ever going to improve the story. I sat down then to fix it.

More writing and editing is the only way forward. Stop writing and you die a little, and your writing dies with you.

6. I'll Have What She's Having

If you can't raise the enthusiasm to write, fake it.

Habit is king when it comes to writing. The more you do it, the easier it gets - because you lose the inhibitions created by lack of practice.

Plus, when you spend ten minutes writing, even if you're not really enjoying it at first, then somehow the subconscious kicks in and begins to write for you.

You've got to bypass the logical rational mind - the critic - and go to the source of your creativity, the subconscious - that never-ending well of ideas that is always bursting for a means of expression.

From childhood we are taught to suppress out imagination. As writers, we need to consciously become kids again. Let your inner mind run free and make mischief.

7. Take This and Come Back in a Week

Here's the solution to writer's block that always works.

Write it out.

When you're blocked, tell the page, I'm blocked. Ask for guidance, in writing. Work through your block on the screen, typing one painful word after the other if necessary.

"Come on, brain, you've got to help me. What should I write now? Just one more line, that's all I need to get me back on track."
Don't stop until the block has passed. ONLY stop when you feel you could write more. Always leave a little extra writing in reserve for the next time. Tomorrow.

In general, whatever you do, don't wait for inspiration.

Not only does this approach not work, it's messing with your brain and giving it all the wrong messages about writing being some kind of special activity. It's not.

Writing should be automatic to you. Just something you do, like eating, breathing or sleeping.

Now, I hate to put a downer on stuff at this point but if none of the above seven strategies work, then maybe you need to give up.

Because, simply put, if you're not writing regularly, you're not really a writer - and maybe you never will be. So stop beating yourself up and shut down that avenue. Stop torturing yourself and go back to flipping burgers for a living.

Does this idea scare you?

It should. Because at this point you have two choices.

Stop now, for good - or go write something!

Best of luck, my friend.

I know you can do it.

Keep writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

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