Clues to a Great Story: The TED Talk

“What this scene is doing…is making a promise that the story will lead somewhere that will be worth your time.”

The brilliant filmmaker behind stories like WALL-E and Toy Story, Andrew Stanton, brings us a TED Talk about learning how to tell the best and most effective story. He shares his insights on writing and drafting and using your own experiences to gain inspiration. I plan on listening to this Talk more than once, because even during my first listen, I could tell that this successful man had some amazing tips to share.

Aspiring writers? This one’s for you.


The Mind of a Wavering Future Author

How is that every time I think I know what I want,
I don’t?
How can half my life be devoted to one thing


And one thought can upset an entire dream?

I want to write


But what to write about? What for?

I could be a screenwriter,
A writer of films.

I’ve always loved movies. Why not?

I could write children’s books,
the next J.K. Rowling.

I like kids. Kids like me. Why not?

I could write textbooks,
The How-To of life.

I hate textbooks. Better job security. Why not?

I could write reviews for a magazine or paper,
Ebert for a new age.

Maybe they’ll give me free things. Opinions are nice. Why not?

I could be a film director, photographer, artist,
But just maybe on the side.

I don’t know enough about those things to do them for a life.

I could work in a bookstore,
Just to get me on my feet.

What if I end up liking it? Owner of a bookstore. Why not?

I could be an editor,
Of a magazine or for publishing.

But really that’s not writing at all.
And what I love is that I love to write.
And despite all these questions, that’s what I want to do.
But how do I know if what I’ll write is right?
Will it make me happy

And if I finally do decide on a job, where will I be jobbing from?
Probably in the same place
Where all the jobbers go.

What about books? That’s what I’d always planned to do,
Is it bad to have these thoughts,
To feel like I’m cheating
on my dreams?

And what is it about college,
where you’re supposed to

Find yourself,

that makes you question


I’m Sorry This is Late Deadline Writing Memes

Due to reasons which I will discuss in next week’s post and reasons I will not (I had a test this morning and spent the greater half of the day in the car), this post is being posted very late in the evening. In the spirit of lateness (and exhaustedness), here are a few deadline-inspired items you fellow writer-folk might enjoy.


“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” — Douglas Adams

Moderately Meditated: Self-Editing

English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is it so hard to self-edit?

Most people would say that it’s important to be able to shut off the inner-editor so that writing quickly and freely becomes a much more manageable task. But what do you do when your editor needs to be switched on?

One of the hardest parts of writing isn’t actually the writing itself, but the editing. This is especially true for authors trying to edit their own pieces. It’s very difficult to critique something you put your heart into. But if you are lucky enough to notice that something is wrong with your piece, you may not be lucky enough to know exactly what it is.

Last night I found myself grappling with a self-editing issue. My solution? Ask someone else. After emailing a friend and persistently knocking on the door of a fellow English major, I got some feedback. Even after a really helpful editing session with my friends, I still had a hard time fixing my piece. How do I figure out exactly what my story needs to be better?

I finally managed to fix a few of the issues my classmates pointed out, but only after staring at the screen for a long time (maybe longer than necessary). Eventually I sat myself down (literally) and asked myself what it was I wanted to communicate with this story. What’s my point? What’s my conflict? Why should anyone read this?

I’m not sure if I can answer those yet, but I did “finish” my story (are they ever finished?).

Fellow writers! Help! Any insights? How do you go about editing yourself? Helpful tips are welcome!

Quote #10

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” — Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

How to Handle the Unexpected and Job Quest #2

When it comes to routines, I’m a bit of an expert. In fact, if I were to be the best at anything, I would be the best at routines. I love the monotony, the ease, and the utter predictability of an orderly and unsurprising day.

But how often does a day work out that perfectly?

Not often. Life (AKA an absurd amount of work) happened this week and I was forced to cope with one of its many unexpected challenges.

Unexpected Food VI.2: Spaghetti on a tube

Though not quite as unexpected as spaghetti in a tube…

I had a plan for what I was going to write for my Friday post. My topic (which I will hopefully get to write about very soon) was one I hadn’t written about in a while and I was excited to get started. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the project in enough time to start writing about it, and I hadn’t taken pictures or obtained the necessary materials for fact checking.

So what do you do when the only blog idea you had been planning for that week ends up falling apart?

Freak out. Maybe shed a few tears. Then check the running list of topics you have been steadily adding to since you began your blog and pick one to write about.

Don’t have a list? Make one. Don’t like your ideas? Write about how you were prevented from writing about what you wanted to write about. And if you’re absolutely and completely desperate, read my Top 5 Tips to Combat Writer’s Block. It probably won’t help.

On an unrelated and yet forcibly related note (because I had nothing else planned), I took another stab at applying for a writing job this past Sunday. This job sounded perfect because it’s located near my college campus, is paid, and has flexible student-friendly hours. Excellent.

It seemed straight-forward enough: In addition to light office work, my job would be to write newsletters and feature stories about businesses or people who had made donations to the school. Not exactly what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, but it’s finally a real writing job and would look good on my resume. In my effort to impress my future employer, I wrote what is perhaps the most professional cover letter I have ever written. I spruced up my writing sample (thanks to emperort for the edits!) and my existing resume and sent it off Sunday night in the hopes that it would be the first thing my new boss would see that day.

And it was. But rather than getting the quick, positive response I was hoping for, I received a fast, soul-crushing rejection. In no way objected to me (I don’t even know if she read my application), the woman whom I thought was to be my job savior wrote back and let me know that the position was already in the process of being filled, but that they would keep my application on file for future reference.

Once again, my job dreams have been swept out from under me. Time to mourn.

Who said being a writer was easy?

Quote #9

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” — Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain