By Larry Brooks
Published by Writer’s Digest Books (2011)
280 pages, $17.99
Review by Tom Snethen
Larry Brooks’ first published novel, Darkness Bound, sold to a major publisher on the first submission. The book became a USA Today bestseller. Publishers Weekly named another novel, Bait and Switch, as their lead entry on their Best Books of 2004—Mass Market list. Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, Serpents Dance and Pressure Points are additional published works of fiction written by Larry Brooks.
Brooks maintains a masterful website/blog for writers, storyfix.com. A quote from the front page of this site: “This blog is about getting real with your writing dream. If you want to publish your work, if you want a career as a writer, then you’ve come to the right place. No motivational B.S. here. Just the truth about what it takes to get published.”
That’s right, no motivational B.S. This blog is aimed straight for the heart of how to become a professional writer. Be prepared to learn the craft and to sacrifice amateurish habits on the Altar of Incompetence. (Larry wouldn’t say that, but I would.)
Story Engineering—Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing spent three weeks as a #1 Bestseller on Amazon’s fiction craft books list. Published reviews by professional writers acclaim this work as containing the instructions they need to improve their careers. The subject matter represents a summation of 20 years of teaching to thousands of students. Larry wrote this book to be an expanded life-long reference for graduates of his classes.
The 6 Core Competencies:
- Concept—all the ‘what if’ questions. A snapshot of a story.
- Character—establish someone for the reader to root for.
- Theme—what are you telling about real life?
- Structure—put events in the right order and make them happen.
- Scene Execution—write a proper scene with connections to those preceding and following.
- Writing Voice—This cannot be coached. Find it through practice and remember ‘less is more.’
Do not for one second believe that I have provided you with the essence of the book in the last few sentences. Brooks goes to great lengths in 280 pages to explain why each of his competencies are absolutely necessary and then details how establish them in a new work or fix a book already under way. Early attention to these 6 areas will lead to better manuscripts and fewer rewrites.
Brooks clarifies definitions such as those for “concept vs. idea vs. premise vs. theme.” These are as central to our ability to construct a story as a chess master knowing the moves of the pieces well enough to take them to war. The book contains 50 chapters in eight parts—all with a purpose, all with a ‘you can do this’ attitude. An example: one section is titled, The Six Most Important Words in Storytelling.” Brooks identifies the words and defines how to employ them as literary exercises in parallel with his 6 core competencies.
A close examination of the table of contents allows the readers to identify where their problems fall into one of the 6 core competencies. The index at the end gives a much more in-depth map to find subjects ranging from story midpoint to subplot to villain.
Many writers are all-organic, seat-of-the-pants story-tellers. They seldom get published. Story Engineering provides a sensible structure into which writers can fit their all-organic brains and build the stories that reflect all those intangibles for which they here-to-for could not find the word.
Reviewer, Tom Snethen, serves on the Board of Directors as the Financial Director for Oregon Writers Colony. He’s looking forward to retiring from his day job in the chemical industry, and turning his attention to his writing full-time.
A Generous Offer to Members From OWC Mentor, Larry Brooks
If you buy Story Engineering: Mastering The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing, Larry’s new book just published by Writer’s Digest, and you send Larry an email saying you bought it because OWC recommended it, he will send you a free e-book 101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters. Offer is open to members who’ve already bought Story Engineering, too. It’s a win-win for Larry and for you.
“If members already have my 101 Tips e-book, I’ll happily swap it out for the Get Published e-book, they just need to specify that. I appreciate the support of the OWC. You folks have played a major part in the development of The Six Core Competencies (the model was created for your workshops) and, thus, the book.”
The book was the #1 bestselling fiction craft book on Amazon for a couple of weeks, reaching as high at #516 in the overall book stats. Larry is hoping to jack it back up there, partially with promotions like this one.
He tells us, “That’s the new game out there. The publishers don’t really do anything, and we’re on our own to pimp our work in the market. I’m less sheepish about doing this with my writing craft book than I was with my novels, which are so much more subjective. So when I say this is a “win-win” deal, it’s truer than ever.”
His blog will continue with two to three major posts weekly, and Brooks continues to speak at workshops around the country. The review of Story Engineering starts on page 10.