"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: February 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Key Ingredient in All Great Stories

Nice to see ya. To see ya, nice.

Finally moved to our new home in the country this week. Been packing and humping boxes and furniture for days and everything aches!

Which is why I'm a bit late getting my latest course up on The Writing Academy. Should be ready sometime next week.

It's a good one: Secrets of a Freelance Writer, a massive video course that contains every tip, tactic, and trick I've employed to make a great living over the last 25 years - being only a freelance writer.

Look out for that soon!

Keep Writing

Rob Parnell
Your Success is my Concern
The Key Ingredient in Great Stories
During some sleepless-night downtime recently, I was thinking about stories and what made them work, and what made them satisfying to read.

I mean, pretty much anyone can sit down and write - but it takes a little extra thought to write a story that other people will care about.

And I wondered what that was.

Was there a secret ingredient?

And, if so, is there one word that could sum up what makes a good story?

I believe there is.

It's not form or content. It's not characterization or plotting. It's not even talent.

I believe you can sum up what makes a story compelling in one word:


It's clear to anyone that studies short stories and novels, even autobiographies and other literary forms that good stories are made up of characters overcoming obstacles.

Without obstacles, there's no point in telling a character's story.

Without something to fight or yearn for, or dream about, the reader can't identify with and / or get involved in a hero's plight.

Think about it.

If you're introduced to a static character, you know that something is probably going to happen TO them.

But if you're introduced to a dynamic, thinking character with an agenda and something to overcome, you pretty much know that something is going to be done BY them.

And we like characters that take action or respond positively to adversity.

It's human nature.

Whether the characters are beset by natural disasters, personal tragedy or is simply being pursued by bad guys, we want the heroes to triumph, to survive...

Because I think survival, in whatever form, is at the heart of the human condition.

We are programmed, as a species, to carry on, to keep seeking wisdom, truth and enlightenment.

And unless you include these elements in your stories, you're not creating writing that readers will enjoy reading.

I remember having trouble writing when I was young.

I wrote, sometimes a lot, but I couldn't quite understand what was wrong with my writing.

It seemed unsatisfying.

I wrote about real people, fictional people, antiheroes mainly who were perceptive and challenged - but my stories never seemed to go anywhere - and when they did, left my readers cold.

But I realized after a while that my early attempts at writing weren't really ABOUT anything.

There was little for readers to enjoy because I hadn't grasped that readers want purpose and resolution to stories.

They want characters that are more than ordinary, more than real.

Simply observing and recording reality, then tinkering with it to make fictional stories isn't quite enough.

That's only half of the writer's job.

The other half requires that you show, through your insight, that there is a POINT to your tales.

That not only do they explore themes, you try to make sense of them too.

Readers, writers, every human wants to feel as though there is meaning out there.

And that, whatever happens to us, we will continue to grow, learn and gain wisdom.

Because a life with no meaning, no hope, no purpose, is no real life at all.

And to survive is not just to carry on living,

it is to overcome whatever life throws at us. To partake in the game...

...and win.

Keep Writing!

The Easy Way to Write
Keep Writing!
The Easy Way to Write

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Makes a Pro Writer?

Already half way through February and our new year's resolutions are looking vague and somehow inappropriate for 2017. 

Funny how that works. You get all excited about new projects one minute and then the next, you wonder what it was that inspired you.  

It's all part of being a creative artist. You need to focus, make decisions based on moments of clear thinking, and follow through - whether motivated or not.

If you wait to be "in the right mood" before you start, you'll never get anything done!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
What Makes a Pro Writer?

They say writing is more than a skill, a pastime, or a way of making a living. 

It is a vocation - like being a nurse or missionary. 

In order to commit yourself, and impress those that would read your work, you have to want to do it for nothing.

Indeed this is how many of us become writers - it's something we feel compelled to do, whether asked to, required to or not!

Certainly I've noticed that when you first start dealing with publishers, your enthusiasm, commitment and talent are of primary concern. Any talk of money too early in the process will see you ostracized very quickly.

You're supposed to want to write for yourself - for Art's sake - first.

I guess it's about trust. The people that would help us get our work seen - in other words, published - need to be sure that our motives are sincere. That we write for some purpose other than just to make money.


Robyn and I have discussed this aspect of the writer's dilemma many times - and we have a counter argument.

Writing is time consuming, hard work sometimes, and almost impossible to sustain a good living at for most writers - 97% make less than $10,000 a year according to the last survey I read.

It's clear that if writers don't get paid, they can't continue writing- at least not without considering poverty as a career choice.

Given the vast millions that publishers make, I've always thought that they should pay new writers to submit work - but of course that's never going to happen! There's simply too many would be writers who are willing to chance it based on nothing more than a vague possibility of success.

But This is To Your Advantage

Because for every one hundred writers that try and fail - either through discouragement, the apathy of publishers, or the sheer force of having to pay the rent - there's one, like you, that ain't givin' up!

But how do you sustain the momentum - the will and the courage to continue?

Easy. Get obsessed. Dream about your writing success. Fantasize about it every moment of every day. Create a compulsion within yourself that cannot be undermined.

Be insane. Be illogical. Be unrealistic!


Over the years I've noticed something very telling. The writers with the most talent don't always rise to the top. But the writers who don't stop and won't take no for an answer, and just keep going regardless of criticism and bad experiences, are the ones that make it - every time.

Reflection Strengthens Determination

Actively thinking about your writing is not just about trying to improve or responding positively to feedback, it's about organizing your thoughts and reactions to to what people say about your writing. You can take criticism well or badly. It can fire you up or destroy you. It's your choice.

I used to think I wasn't good enough to be a professional writer - and my lack of success reinforced that view.

But I had it all wrong. What I failed to understand at the time was that, if you just keep going, respond to feedback and keep plugging away at new projects, you become good enough over time.

Your technique improves. You begin to write more effectively and tell better stories. But none of that matters if you don't have the single minded drive to overcome the apparent obstacles to your success.

It's too easy to get discouraged. The system is designed for that to happen - to weed out those that are not determined.

Take heart, if you are fully committed, there are no obstacles that cannot be overcome, there are no barriers - real or imagined - that you cannot triumph over.

In the words of a very old cliche - and things become cliches, remember, usually because they're true:

"There is nothing you can't do once you set your mind to it."

So, this year -go for it!

Keep writing!
Creating Better Writers

The Easy Way to Write
Keep Writing!
The Easy Way to Write

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day Price Massacre

Everyone talks about Black Friday - but I thought, "There should be another crazy sale at this time of year!"

So here it is: 95% OFF everything until midnight tonight.

The St Valentine's Day Price Massacre: see below for prices as low as UNDER FIVE BUCKS for entire writing courses!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write
Keep Writing!
The Easy Way to Write

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Your Mother Should Know. Yeah, Right.

Welcome to this week's uncertain world.

I don't know about you but when I listen to the news, I think the world is becoming more like George Orwell's 1984 every minute.

This morning Trump said, "We will not allow intolerance."

Does anyone else hear the absurdity of that statement? It's Orwell's Doublespeak. 

Anyway, this newsletter is about improving your English, rather than corrupting it!

Write From The Start - From Inspiration to Publication and Beyond

Keep Writing,

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern

"Getting paid for writing is a triumph of tenacity over intelligence."

I love this quote - it's one of my favorites - not least because it's one of my mother's.

Mommie dearest has always regarded writers as odd sorts.

The idea that we would spend a large portion of our day knocking out words for no obvious reward has always struck her as, in her word, silly.

A waste of time basically and not the sort of occupation for a sane person.

She may be right but that doesn't stop it from being a compulsion for me - and most other writers I know.

I remember once when she came to visit me - which only happens about once a decade.

I was at a particular low point. Can't remember why. I think I'd just lost my way after a deal fell through. One of those times, you know?

It was with great glee and insistence that she leaped on my misfortune and told me the situation was a God-given sign that I should give up all this arty stuff and settle down - get a proper job and be normal, as though that's a cure for everything.

That one time, I mistakenly thought she was on to something and I got a job as a purchasing manager for a big city investment firm.

God how I hated that place - although the experience of working 9 to 5 did teach me a lot about human nature - more especially the dark side of my own!

Three years, a broken marriage, and a nervous breakdown later, the City and I parted on bad terms and I vowed, "Never again." 

Like you do.

I shouldn't have listened to my mother but I did.

It wasn't her fault.

I guess she thought she knew best but didn't really get my total inability to work for other people.

As I say, not her fault. Mine entirely for not understanding that you really do have to follow your own instincts, even when they seem 'contrariwise'.

A decade later I was able to tell mom about some of my paid writing credits and the quote above erupted from her.

She meant it in a derogatory way, as mothers often do, in case you were wondering. Implying the intelligence that would have me 'settle down' was again being corrupted by my 'arty' side.   

So be it. At least now I'm happy... probably all the more for having hovered near the abyss of the rat race and backed away from its empty allure before too much toxic exposure.

Yes, you need for an almost blind faith in yourself as a writer. But a faith that is moderated by the feedback you get.

And I don't mean feedback on your writing.

I mean the experiences you encounter.

There are many sharks out there - not all of them evil.

Some just want you to work for nothing because you're there - and they think that's what writers on the Net do.

Working for free is okay sometimes - if it's going to lead somewhere.

Most times it doesn't. Especially online.

It takes a particular tenacity (that word again) to recognize good opportunities - and profit from them as a writer in a world that is set up to regard writers as odd arty types who will (too often) work very hard for nada.

For a long time, I've been preaching that real writing work - and the real money for it - is off-line but I know this is not what modern would-be authors want to hear.

They want to believe the hype they hear from certain writing gurus.

Especially now that the Net is such a big part of many writers' lives.

Many of us need to believe that the Net can help - and it can, wonderfully, IF you know what to do, how to use it, and when, and why - but never rely on it to provide for everything.

In the meantime, my best advice would be: "Don't take advice from your mother!"

She doesn't always know best.

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!