A Writing Breakthrough in Progress

In the 1990s and early 2000s, I spent many early mornings struggling to learn how to day-trade the financial futures markets under the benevolent wing of a quadriplegic friend who had earned a good living day-trading for decades. He is no longer with us, God rest his soul.

I gave up the learning process in 2005, realizing I couldn’t develop the requisite nerves of steel.

In retrospect, the thing that still baffles me is how well the public “retail” traders were managed through the dissemination of bad group-think information. The non-trading public “knew” that day trading was gambling. No one could win in the long run. The retail day-trading public saw through this lie, but their “experts” made a living teaching, not trading. These experts had the retail traders brainwashed into following a variety of well-known chart setup patterns and retail trading systems.

The professional traders inside huge financial corporations took advantage of this brainwashing and also contributed to it.

A pro could look at a futures chart and know exactly where the retail traders with their simple chart setup patterns would have placed their automatic stop-loss triggers. This allowed the pros with liquid billions at their fingertips to micro-influence the market at strategic moments, causing it to “run” the retail trader’s stops.

This was how they collected the retail day-trader’s money as a matter of routine. I bet they’re still doing it today.

The only way I ever beat the pros at all was to wait (and wait and wait for months) until there was a huge intraday crash that was too great to be manipulated by the pros. On these rare occasions, I would short a “skirt pattern” (also known as a “leg pattern”) which consisted of a brief, roughly 2-point pullback on the 3-minute es chart during a rapid, steep downward intraday trend.

Too much information, I know. It bores me, too.

But I mention it because I see something similar going on now in the scriptwriting community.

Years ago, when I discovered Save the Cat by the late Blake Snyder, I could see the advantages of plot planning (or outlining a fictional story before writing it). I later learned that Snyder was not the first to offer a one-size-fits-all story outlining plan. No big deal.

But gradually I watched as an endless parade of writing gurus presented similar strategies, most of them resembling The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. It began to smell like “group think” rather than teen spirit.

So when I came across a YouTube video by Film Courage featuring Corey Mandell’s bubble-bursting message, I listened carefully.

He was saying that any script or screenplay that follows a one-size-fits-all story structure will be tossed out by the current gatekeepers in Hollywood. I mentioned this here.

Not having any interest in Hollywood screenplays, I wondered if Mr. Mandell’s advice might apply to my rock-n-roll dream, novel writing.

I joined his mailing list and soon heard about “creative integration,” the concept of separating a writer’s conceptual mind from her/his intuitive mind, building each aspect up separately, and then integrating the two so they can work together rather than always being at odds.

This convinced me to take the first of his three classes in scriptwriting. I just finished the first class and will begin the second one in September.

So far, his approach to story creation seems unique and ingenious. I’ve been at this fiction writing thing since the mid-90s. I’ve spent thousands on writing education, and I’ve read over 80 how-to books on the subject, so it really surprised me to find an entire world of new writing advice that I hadn’t heard a peep about before.

In the first eight-week class, Corey spent a bit over half the time teaching his principles of left-hemisphere, “conceptual” story creation. This was pleasantly and totally free of the typical story structure advice where a particular category of events must happen at about the 10% mark, and then some other category of story event should happen at the 25% mark, and so on.

Instead, Corey’s “conceptual” training focused on the emotional experience of the reader and how to influence it deliberately and logically.

This was spellbinding stuff. But the other half, his “intuitive” training, is the big deal for me. So far it’s improving my process profoundly. Here’s how and why…

Although I’m an intuitive writer (a.k.a. a seat-of-the pants writer and not a natural plotter), I have a genetic SNP that’s associated with a curious trait: the tendency to respond actively and permanently to negative feedback by avoiding the criticized behavior. Weird, yeah?

So all the “never do this” writing advice I’ve read in books and received in schools has transformed me into a writer who edits obsessively while I’m writing. When writing fiction, I always feel that the words I’ve written are awkward and need to be rearranged to sound better and avoid embarrassment.

This makes me a ridiculously slow writer. It also leads me to edit out all life, personality and voice from my fiction prose for the sake of efficient wording.

It’s not the end of the world, but it’s an interesting setback. The kind of problem I enjoy fixing.

And the thing is, the part of Corey Mandell’s method that excels at teaching “conceptual” writers how to write “intuitively” seems to be teaching me, an “intuitive” writer, how to write without obsessive editing.

He does this by creating a judgement-free writing zone. The details are probably proprietary, otherwise I’d spell them out for you now.

But for me, fixing my writing programming will require practice over a significant time.

It’s like anything where new neuronal pathways must be established and then widened through precise repetitive practice over an extended length of time, (“neurons that fire together wire together” with myeline) while old inefficient pathways must be allowed to atrophy naturally with disuse.

So for me, learning about Corey Mandell’s method is one remarkable thing, but developing any ability at all to use the intuitive half of it for my unique writing problem is an entirely different thing: a long process. An enjoyable one, fortunately.

I’m still not sure if I’ll ever write a screenplay, let alone send one to a Hollywood gatekeeper who through some miracle of divine intervention might read the first page before throwing it away. But as a novelist in perpetual training, I wholeheartedly give Corey Mandell’s class my highest recommendation. (I’ve completed only the first class of the trio, remember.)

Of course, the other point of this article is to cast light on this fact: Western culture is subject to intense information control and “opinion moulding.”

If information is power and power is money and money is food for your children, then it makes sense that anyone with secret info would hoard and protect it. The UFO community claims that the “deep state” or “national security apparatus” spends at least twice as much money on secrecy as they do on R&D or science. If true, it would fit the pattern of secret info hoarding and opinion moulding that pervades society.

The ubiquitous dogma of micro-managed story structure (Save the Cat et al.) arising from within the writing community, especially prevalent in the “retail” scriptwriting community, 99% of whom can’t sell a script, is a glimpse into something both strange and routine.

It probably results from natural market forces that mislead a majority so a minority can continue to make money and keep their trade secrets away from retail scriptwriters. Thus they avoid turning their customers into competitors. It’s the same as the old day-trading divide: professionals versus retail day-traders. Similar to the UFO secrecy divide and motivated, I think, by the same feelings that recently possessed Facebook to censor Ben Davidson, one of the most fascinating young minds on Earth right now. He talks about his censorship by Facebook in a brief video that’s well worth watching right now…

 

Conspiring with love and respect,

Morrill  Talmage Moorehead, MD


Newsflash for Scriptwriters

Sorry, I bet you already know this. I didn’t because I’m not a scriptwriter, but here it is:

If you build your Hollywood script around a “paradigm,” “formula” or “set of rules,” we’re now told that nobody in Hollywood will read it.

I heard this from Corey Mandell on YouTube. He was a successful script writer for 11 years then quit the profession because he disliked the lifestyle and hated how angry it was making him. Now he teaches scriptwriting. Yeah, I know, but watch his video. This guy’s sincere, knowledgeable and authentic.

Although Corey doesn’t spell it out specifically, the “too predictable paradigm” he’s talking about has dominated Hollywood forever and is probably best delineated in Save the Cat, by the late Blake Snyder, God rest his genius soul.

Now Mr. Mandell says Hollywood is looking for “pitch-perfect, authentic” scripts. These do have a structure, but as best I can tell from listening, the new “structure” bends to the story rather than vice versa. Wish I could say more about it.

Here’s one of Corey Mandell’s videos. It’s part of a series of 15 short videos, full of wisdom and value if you write stories of any kind…

For novelists (as opposed to scriptwriters) who seek traditional publication, a gatekeeper’s trend away from rigid story structure may come soon, if it’s not already here.

I wish I knew. If you know, please tell us in a comment below.

Even for indie novelists, it’s probably worth trying to discover whether the traditional gatekeepers are now rejecting “paradigm structured” novel manuscripts. Because you never know, maybe Amazon readers are changing too.

Cheers,

Talmage

Disclosure Statement: I have no affiliation with Corey Mandel.

 


Please help me decide…

I’ve been raving about The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne for a while.

As a Big Five editor for 25 years, Shawn’s grid method was so sought after that successful authors would leave their publishers to work with him. But the stress was making him miserable, so he left the pressure cooker, finally creating a balanced life where he does what he loves: developmental editing, which is, in Shawn’s words…

“…working with somebody who is very dedicated to what they want to do, and taking the time and working methodically through a process so that they become a better and better writer.”

He’s doing that now with Tim Grahl on a podcast that’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard.

Of the 85 books about writing fiction that I have on my shelves and in my Kindle, The Story Grid is a significant outlier. In terms of reducing bestseller magic to concrete, reproducible, often indispensable parts, Shawn’s book is in a league of its own.

His grid process is ingenious, detailed and requires sustained effort to learn and follow – about like everything else on Earth that works any sort of wonders. (Speaking of wonders, please check out The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.)

So I applied for one of 25 slots to learn The Story Grid’s developmental editing techniques from Shawn Coyne in Nashville this September, and to my surprise, I was accepted. I’ll be listed on his site as an editor offering his methods.

Now I need your help in deciding something that’s really important to me. I have 6,733 followers here.

Tell me if I should…

1. Use this site (storiform.com) for my future developmental editing service as well as my blog, probably with a lighter-colored theme, or…

2. Should I make another site for the editing service?

What do you think?

I just need a 1 or a 2 as a comment below. (If you have time, more advice would be appreciated, of course.) Or email me.

Thanks so much,

M. Talmage Moorehead