Steven Barnes is a New York Times bestselling, award-winning novelist and screenwriter who is the creator of the Lifewriting™ writing course, which he has taught nationwide. He recently won an NAACP Image Award as co-author of the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with actor Blair Underwood and his wife, Tananarive Due. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and Cable Ace awards, writer of the Emmy-winning “A Stitch In Time” episode of The Outer Limits, winner of the Endeavor and the NAACP Image Awards, NY Times Bestselling author, Steven has written comic books, animation, newspaper copy, magazine articles, television scripts and three million words of published fiction published in seven languages, making him one of the world’s most honored, diverse and popular writers.

October 13’s “30 Day Story Writing” after-action report

So we had another great webinar Saturday, where T and I chose an idea, and then dove into process: how do you turn an idea into a story?  To avoid pure instinct and emotion, I discussed the technical aspects, questions like “Who, What, Where, Why, How, When?” and patterns like the Hero’s Journey.


If I had ANY lack of clarity or faith in my ability, I would never begin a story until I had applied these tools, understood the overall shape and HAD AN END IN MIND.   I wouldn’t write it unless It felt like it would be fun, and also could see a direct way to write it. There are ALWAYS unexpected problems, so starting with something that has energy and direction is a must.


I don’t know what the final title will be, but the brainstormed possibilities were great, and right now I’ve chosen “Fugue State.”  I like that.  Multiple meanings that allow us to twine thematic elements and subtext. Yummy.


One of the most important things was THE PROCESS ITSELF.  Brainstorming (between multiple people) mindstorming (when by yourself), the importance of foolishness, how to collaborate without tearing each other apart (one person holds the kill switch, always.  It varies between projects: if T’s name is first, SHE had the kill switch and did most of the mechanical work.  And vice versa) and so on.


So I hope people are watching the PROCESS as much as the CONTENT.   Most readers only see the finished PRODUCT, and that is the least useful in terms of learning, like trying to figure out an internal combustion engine by looking at the paint job.


Anyway, serious fun.  Today, I just transferred the simple paragraphs of description into WRITER DUET, a great on-line screenwriting/collaboration software.    Wednesday, I’ll break it down into scenes and Friday I’ll add dialogue.


On Tuesday and Thursday, I’ll work on the current Larry Niven project, “Ghost Writer.”   And every day, I’ll tweak the Mississippi Shuffle script.  By the way…I sent it to my agents last Friday.  Fingers crossed!



Write with passion!


(www.lifewrite.com is the way to join the fun.   Be a part of history!  Our goal is not just to write a story, but a GOOD story, a PUBLISHED story, and one good enough to be win an award.  Hey!  I dream big.)

My most important thing today:

My most important thing to accomplish today: rest. I’ve not taken a day off in almost eight weeks, pushing to create my new script. The title: MISSISSIPPI SHUFFLE. Just turned it in to my agents yesterday, and while it is far from perfect…I think it has the potential to be the best visual art I’ve ever created. LOTS of work to be done, yes.


But…I can feel that my regulator is “stuck” on “on.” I have to chill, calm down, work out (done: Kettlebell intervals) and sleep until my body feels “light” and my throat doesn’t feel scratchy. Then probably eat sushi and watch movies. Done my basics for the day: more than a sentence on that story (219 words, actually, two paragraphs describing a possible story arc) and when T gets back from UCLA i’ll run it past her. If she agrees, tomorrow I’ll integrate her thoughts. Saturday on the webinar I’ll discuss all the thought patterns I’ve employed so far. Then next week…I’ll write a short script, as if it were a 15-minuteTwilight Zone episode. If it still works, the following week I’ll turn that into text. And the week after that…we polish. Not the only way to create a story (it’s the opposite of “Pantsing”) but it allows me to detail every step of the process for the students.


You can still join us!  Go to www.lifewrite.com and get ready to create A HALLOWEEN STORY IN A MONTH, WITH A SENTENCE A DAY!


(The trick, of course, is that the “sentence a day” is the MINIMUM. No one says you can’t do MORE.  Heh heh.)


Now, what was that most important thing? Oh yes!  A nap!


See ya!



Fourteen Solid Notions

We’re pushing into the “Sentence a day…horror story in a month” territory.  Today I’ll be choosing one of the two main ideas we came up with.  And I’ll let the students know which it was.   But meanwhile, in  a completely different arena, I’m getting some business coaching, and was given the following list of principles. And (surprise surprise) every one of them applies to writing this story.   As there are many students who are working on their OWN project along with me, I thought I’d share it to stimulate conversation:

  1. Do the Work
  2. Show Up Hungry
  3. Not use your current or past situation as an excuse
  4. Not make someone else responsible for your results
  5. Be polite to your naysayers
  6. Only compare you to you
  7. Earnestly attempt to answer all questions on your own
  8. Buy success with your own time
  9. Take imperfect action, viciously
  10. Not freak out at the clock .
  11. Choose to get uncomfortable every day…
  12. Be brutally honest about where you are
  13. Kill parts of your old self (if not all)…
  14. Lean in


Good stuff, yes?  Join us!   WWW.LIFEWRITE.COM

Steven Barnes

First Question From Saturday!

We did a webinar Saturday, the first of the “Write a Halloween Story in a Month With a Sentence A Day” class we’re doing all month. (you can join at http://www.lifewrite.com)

Got a question today from “Judy”:


“Good morning Steve, I enjoyed the 1st. part of the short horror story we’re going to build together. I wasn’t able to tune in live as I had guests from out of town. I can already feel the anxiety starting that always seizes my mind when I want to write. I think that I have pinpointed my issue. I don’t have a full understanding of story structure. I have some great books that I have read and am reading but the “click” moment that everyone says will happen, isn’t happening. Is there a foolproof approach that I could use. I’m tired of freaking out about it. It’s zapping the fun out of a creative process that I want to get better at. Thank you. Judy”


Judy isn’t alone in this.  “Pantsers”, people who can just sit down and write, can be very intimidating. In reality, everyone is a “Pantser” about some aspects of life, and not in others. All “Pantsing” is is having all the component skills at that “Unconscious Competence” level so that you can enter flow state and run with it.


If one of those component skills is NOT integrated, you hit a road bump. Frustration, fear, and “writer’s block”.  If everything is fine, just drive down the road and enjoy the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. But if the car breaks down, pull over, pop the hood and haul out the tool box.


Lifewriting is the tool box.    What is Judy’s need? To have a form of story structure that will serve her, that she can then integrate to the level of Unconscious Competence.    O.K.–got her covered.


The Hero’s Journey.  Yep, back to basics.  A story is like a circle. Once you understand geometry, if I give you three points, you can draw the rest of the circle.   So…IF you will apply the HJ to a dozen movies (movies are great because the storytelling if usually more direct and easier to extract than stories and books, more of which can be experimental in structure), you are going to start to get “A-hah!” moments.  Then, once you understand how it works, you can play with it.  So…ask yourself the questions implied by the ten steps:  EVEN IF YOU CAN ONLY ANSWER THREE OF THEM, YOU SHOULD START TO GLIMPSE THE REST OF THE “CIRCLE”.

  1. Hero Confronted with the challenge. Who is the hero? What is their challenge?  Does it take them by surprise?  Could they see it coming? Why or why not?
  2. Hero Rejects the challenge.   If the challenge will change their lives or make them grow, it is likely to be frightening on some level. Why?
  3. Hero accepts the challenge.  Why do they finally own their situation? How are they forced to, or allowed to, engage?
  4. The Road of Trials. What are the steps a character must take to resolve this? Where must they go? What must they do?  What actions must they take, and what will they learn as the result of taking them?
  5. Allies and Powers.  What must they either express of their core capacities…or what must they learn? Who are the people they must align with or learn from to achieve this goal?
  6. Confront Evil and Fail.   The largest defeat usually happens in the last 1/3 of the story. What is it? What goes catastrophically wrong?
  7. Dark Night of the Soul.  This defeat will empty them out, destroy their self-image, or throw them into the depths of despair.  What is their psychological response to the structural disaster?
  8. Leap of Faith.  Always one of three things: faith in himself. Faith in his companions, faith in a higher power.  Which is it, and why?
  9. Confront Evil and succeed.  What is the victory?  How does it come about?
  10. The Student Becomes the Teacher.  What transformation occurs as a result of the action?


Now…note that this is the basic structure of story. It can be twisted, turned, minimalized, repeated, expanded or shrunk. Every story actually does variations on it, but I can take ANY story that has been at all  recognized as “story” by a significant number of people, and show how it fits.


I consider it a perfect starting place, because, unlike any other structure, you can also apply it to your “journey” of writing.


  1. Judy is confronted with a challenge to write a story in a month.
  2. It’s scary to do, because she doesn’t understand structure.
  3. She decides to take the challenge anyway.
  4. She starts writing and planning.
  5. She asks me for tools to help guide her.  (“What is structure”?)
  6. She WILL hit a major stumbling block.  Possibly, this was it!  Most likely, though, it will be found along the way.
  7. She will feel fear, despair, even want to quit.
  8. She will find a way to keep going (or…she will QUIT!  In which case this story ends there, but it is a part of a larger life saga)
  9. She will finish the story.
  10. She becomes a more accomplished writer. Possibly, she will be able to teach others how to travel this path, because she now has greater knowledge.


See how this works?  If not, take a dozen movies and “map” them on this pattern.  Choose simple, straight-forward movies, not complex delicate emotional dramas.  They can be harder to “map”.


By the time you do that…you’ll be a different writer.  Stronger and clearer on your process.


Now get to work!


Write with Passion!




Jewel Barnett said THIS of Saturday’s brainstorming session, where Tananarive and I are writing a story in a month with a sentence a day, starting TOMORROW:


This was so epic!!  I was so amazed at how everything flowed and the learning and sharing was definitely out of this world!”


There will be 3 more Saturday sessions, and you can join any time, as the previous sessions will be made available (hey, I’m taking today off.  Don’t bug me!).  You can still sign up at: www.lifewrite.com


What is our immediate goal? To construct a story right in front of you, based on your prompts. T and I have identified two possibilities, and I’ll explore them tomorrow.  You’ll get a link to the document on which the brainstorming is happening–at least one sentence, I promise you.


What is the better  goal? A REALLY good, solid, but realistic goal?  We SELL the story.  And document the process. What do we have then?  A record of a story, from concept to publication.


And what would be PERFECT?  (Hey…I’m not only on a tightrope, but there are SHARKS in that pool down there!):  Not just selling, but winning an award.   Hey, I can dream.


If THAT happens, which cannot be predicted…then we have a document unique in the history of writing instruction, and it will be an utterly amazing course.   Following the creation of a story from inception to completion to publication to celebration. Every step detailed and “exploded” so you can see our thoughts and approaches.


Can you even IMAGINE how valuable that would be? That is so exciting to me. My perfect student is ME, 40 years ago.  THAT kid.   And if I could create something like this and send it back in a bottle, can you even IMAGINE how I would change his life?  Holy crap.   I can feel THAT juice!


Would YOU like to read over his shoulder as he learns? Then help us create this.   Join us.  Participate and create your own story  using the tools we’re going to lay out for you. And…have just too much fun watching us tiptoe above the sharks.



Write with passion!





I pointed Jason at the wall sign of  rules for his Morning Ritual, the things we do in the five minutes we spent every morning.  First, remember, we hug. NO MATTER HOW STRESSFUL THE PREVIOUS NIGHT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.


The things on the list are things like “check homework” “check spelling” “go over math”  “explain anything parent doesn’t understand” and so forth.  About ten different distinct steps from the book “How to Double Your Child’s Grades In School” by Eugene Schwartz.


I asked him: is that a WHAT, a WHY, or a HOW?  He studied the list for a moment, and then said: “its all three.”


No, I said. There’s no EMOTION there.  No “Why”.     I’d say it is a HOW.  In other words, the WHAT is to raise your grades to a B average.   The WHY would be “so I can play football. So I can succeed in school. So I can learn HOW to succeed at anything and have the life I want.   So that my parents will be proud of me” (remember the hug?)


The HOW is to spend five minutes every day doing the things on that list.   Now…that said, each individual HOW can be focused on to create a mini-WHAT:


WHAT:  Check Homework to be turned in.

WHY: to  complete the “recipe” for the Five Minute Ritual>Which leads to academic success> which leads to life success if I learn the larger lessons.

HOW:  Find my homework, bring it to the table, read through it, make corrections, put it back in my backpack, turn it in.


Can you see how each of these can also be broken down? WHAT: Find my homework…


Can you see how “Do Morning Ritual” can be part of that larger plan? And what is the ultimate level of that plan?   IMO: “Be happy.” in the sense that all life is a search to avoid pain and gain pleasure, this makes sense.  But to be happy LONG term, it is necessary that this not be “drugged out bliss” or “eating Screaming Yellow Zonkers while watching cartoons all day” happiness.  It has to be in alignment with adult values and obligations, involve self-growth and community sharing, family connection and healthy disciplines.  Without ANY of these, there is serious pain waiting down the road.




From this model, any lack of success will either be a problem with the “What” (I didn’t have a clear outcome), the “Why” (I didn’t have sufficient motivation to overcome inertia) or the “How” (I couldn’t break the larger outcome into smaller and smaller bites until I had something I could do TODAY without being overwhelmed.)


This applies to ANYTHING.   Working on my new script, I finished the first 126 page draft in a torrent of writing, 5-10 pages a day for a month.   And…I got scared at the thought of the re-write.  This PRECISE same thing happened to me when I wrote my first TWILIGHT ZONE episode, and my first OUTER LIMITS episode.   Fantastic first draft, struggling with the re-write

Why? Because the “editor” part of me ain’t the “writer” part of me. They only know each other professionally.  Hell, they don’t even wave to each other on the street.

So the editor says: EEK!  I can’t do this!

And…he’s right.  What I have to do is break the work down into small enough chunks that the editor can handle it…and WHILE he is handling it, what Stephen King calls “The Boys In The Basement” work and play, like elves that make shoes while you sleep.


So…All my “editor” has to do is read over the script, and just fix easy, simple things like spelling, while I notice what else needs to be done.  Hey, I can even do this while watching television!


Then make a list I call “Bits and Questions” (spelled “!&?”) at the start of the manuscript.  Just a list of shit to think about or do…eventually.  NO RUSH.


Read though the whole script again and again.  Print it and make corrections on the paper. Or…just do it on the computer.    ONLY fix the easy stuff. And keep listing the things to be done in ‘!&?”


Every time I go over it, I can “feel” the overall pattern of the story getting stronger and stronger.  It is like a geometrical figure: give me three points, and I can draw a circle.  My unconscious mind starts sensing the overall arc of story, as well as the individual epicycles of each character arc.  Its all balanced.  I focus in, I pull out.   Always RELAXED.   Try to do too much on a single day, and I’ll freeze.


But the WHAT is “the best story possible”

The WHY is satisfaction, self-expression, money, career growth, contribution, fun.

The HOW is to move in, pull back out.  Only pluck the “low hanging fruit” of the easiest ‘fixes” every day.


And if I do that?   The “hard” problems are pushed back, but my unconscious mind is still chewing at it.  And every day, a layer of ‘hard” problems becomes “easier” “Low hanging fruit”.  The big problems become new “WHATS”, and THOSE get broken down day by day, nibbing away at them, never taking enough to choke and panic.


And at some point, ALWAYS, it gets to be fun. I notice that my !&? List is getting whittled down.  That the things to “fix” get smaller and smaller. That problems that used to seem insurmountable are now complex but not terrifying.  Its just…work.  Focus.  Discipline.  Having fun.



If I can teach Jason this one thing: WHAT > WHY > HOW, and get him to pump up his emotions every morning, identify the 1-5 most important things to do every day, and evaluate whether or not he took care of business, I will have given my boy a huge chunk of what makes my life work.   Then he can add tools like Lifewriting, and learn to intensify his Morning Ritual, or improve his ability to maintain flow state, or model, or whatever.


But he’ll be on his way.  Heck: Good Lord willin’ and the river don’t rise…he already is.






(P.S.–if you want to see this process working LIVE to create a new story, watch me and T do a high-wire act creating a story in a month starting Saturday!  WWW.LIFEWRITE.COM)

Another Success Story! You’re Next!

“Hey, I wanted you to know that the story I wrote during the class I took with y’all (a few years back) is up on Apex Magazine’s site. It’s called “A Siren’s Cry is a Song of Sorrow”. (The writing prompt was write about something you never told anyone.) Thanks so much for the class. It was really useful for me!”–Stina Leicht



Do you have any idea how happy it makes us to get letters like this?  THIS IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT.   Helping writers raise their game.   That means:

  1. If you’ve never finished a story…finish one.
  2. If you’re blocked, unblock
  3. If you’ve never submitted, submit.
  4. If you’ve never sold…sell.
  5. If you aren’t selling regularly…do so.
  6. If you want to constantly improve your craft…do so.
  7. If you want to enjoy the process more…ENJOY IT!


No one can promise you will become Stephen King or J.K. Rowlings.   But what we CAN do is get you on the path to writing, finishing, submitting, publishing, improving.   GUARANTEED.


I was an unpublished, unhappy newbie, my guts churning every time I asked a friend to read my work, every time I submitted.  It was PAIN. Real, deep, aching agony…mixed with hope and enough faith to keep me going.  Then one day I found a mentor, and everything changed.


T and I have mentored countless writers, but we are searching for ways to help more of you, without it draining our own precious energy and time. The solution is posts, free webinars, and low-cost educational experiences, live and downloadable.  This seems to be the best mix we can offer.


For the next year, we’ll be doing weekly webinars hammering in the “Sentence a day to a book a year” approach. In November we’ll focus on the “Nanowrimo” contest, but in October we’ll focus on writing a spooky story.


And T and I will be holding your hand and walking you through the entire process, from initial idea to finished, polished product.  I’m aiming this squarely at a younger version of ME, as T is aiming it at a younger version of herself.


If this sounds like you…if you want to create your own work, or are fascinated by the creative process and want to get a deep, deep look inside…JOIN US starting this Saturday at 3pm Pacific, every Saturday until November 3rd (there will be one break).   I’ve never ever heard of anyone doing something like this–you will give us the core ideas, and we will develop them LIVE. You’ll hear us fight and fuss.   You’ll have dynamic links to the documents themselves, to actually watch the work in progress.


It’s gonna be messy: creativity is not a pretty sight. But I’m willing to be vulnerable.  Are you willing to show up?   Sign up today!




See you Saturday!


Write with Passion!



First, Get Your Head Right

I was listening to a video of a lady named Stacey Martino, an internet millionaire who coaches broken marriages, talking about how she would get it all back if she lost everything. No money, product, reputation, Rolodex, NOTHING except her knowledge of how she did it the first time.    WHAT WOULD SHE DO IN THE FIRST MONTH?


What a great question!   The thing that was so terrific is that she really could access that place inside herself.  The scenario HAD really happened (as if often true of successful entrepreneurs–most of them have gone flat busted in the past).  It happened with money, and with her marriage:  her husband walked out on her, and realizing she really was responsible for at least half the problem,  she went on a balls-to-the-wall campaign to win him back.  She was utterly miserable, broken-hearted, overwhelmed with a sense of depression and despair. And somehow, she climbed her way back out of that place.   She not only did it, but she learned lessons she has used to save thousands of other relationships.   The fascinating thing was the similarity between a “30 Day” campaign to save her marriage and the campaign to save her business.


In both cases, she took full personal responsibility for her fate, and realized that the only way to handle this was to start with her own attitude, her mindset, her “energy.”  She spend, and would spend, the first week GETTING HER MIND STRAIGHT.  GETTING HER EMOTIONS RIGHT.  Stripping away every bit of insecurity, guilt, fear, blame and shame away, leaving clarity and commitment.  “My net worth does not equal my self worth” was an affirmation she used during her recovery.


If her mind wasn’t in the right place, she wouldn’t be able to function.


Starting Saturday, Tananarive and I are going to show you how we would write a story in a month.   The reason I want to do this is that I want to show EVERYONE exactly how the process of creation can work. I am totally aware that many people are “pantsers” and just flow with it. GREAT!  All that is is “Unconscious Competence” in all of the pieces leading to success, integration of the ‘Editor” and “Flow” states, and deep permission to succeed.  Intellectual, emotional, and physical arenas all integrated. WHEN IT WORKS, IT LOOKS AND FEELS LIKE MAGIC.


Most people, most of the time, don’t have this “flow” sense at this level.  Not all the time, or anything close to it.  Even the greats talk about their struggles, and many of them make the mistake of using drugs or alcohol to access that space. Inevitably, they lose the ability to do it WITHOUT the intoxication. And the next step is…they can’t do it even WITH the intoxication, and then they are blocked, and screwed, and often destroy themselves.


T is more of a “Pantser”, but she does research exhaustively, and that is when she is thinking through structure.   I tend to think of an idea, people it with characters, then ask how their hopes and dreams and needs connect to the story.  She starts with Yin and ends with Yang. I start with Yang and end with Yin.   Whenever we’ve worked together, one or the other of us takes the lead on the first draft, and the other helps with planning, bouncing questions, psychology (male or female, for instance) and rewriting.  Outside in to inside out.


But first GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT!  It would be easy to feel “blocked” with performance anxiety, if I didn’t have a process.  Just…do it in a particular sequence.   The first is GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT.


That is the Morning Ritual.  For business, for relationships, damned straight for fitness, for creativity.  GET YOUR HEAD STRAIGHT.  FIRST.  Everything else flows from that. If you are accomplishing, with joy, without such a ritual, you have this at “Unconscious Competence”–you are automatically managing your mind, body and emotions.  Good for you!


But if you struggle, if you aren’t accomplishing as much as you want, if you aren’t able to wake up knowing who you are, what the most important thing to accomplish today and WHY you want to do it…then a MORNING RITUAL can be a life saver.   Movement, thought, and emotion all connected, deliberately and consciously, every day.


I can promise you I’m going to need that like crazy. I have no idea what story prompts will be thrown at us. Or how they will develop into a story.  It is POSSIBLE that I’ll freeze, or some business or personal thing will gobsmack us.  And then I’ll have to get my head right and plow on, or fail massively, right in public view.  Arrgh!


Join us, starting this Saturdy, as we start across the tightrope, sharing everything we know about the process of creation.   It’s going to be scary…but hey, isn’t that what Halloween is all about!


Write with Passion!



(and yep, this is designed to be a perfect run-up to Nanowrimo!)

Who Knows what evil (and self sabotage) lurks in the hearts of writers?

I’ve been having such a wonderful time working on the script (Hint: the initials of the title are “MS”) that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. No, I have no idea if I’ll be able to sell it, or if it will get made, or if it will be good.  If I focus on those things, I’ll go crazy.  My task is to focus on what is right in front of me: doing the very best job I can bringing these characters and this situation to life.


I was a lonely, bespectacled, nerdish little kid, who lost himself in books and movies to protect his heart from an often cruel world.  No father in the home, dreams of being a writer that no one believed in.  Stories of heroes who triumphed over adversity saved my heart.  I wanted to create those stories myself.


The Hero’s Journey says that moving from one level to another you will ALWAYS hit the “Dark Night of the Soul” and God knows I did, again and again.   It felt like I never got anywhere, and in combination with the discouragement from my family and school, it often felt like I was trying to climb Everest wearing a concrete jacket.


And even after I “made it”, that same struggle was part of the process. The only difference was that I now recognized that I wasn’t in an endless loop, I was in an upward spiral.  As long as I paid attention to the steps, remembered my long-term objective, modeled success and maintained sensory acuity…as long as I defined my goal in achievable terms (in other words, not “be the best writer in the world” but “publish consistently and constantly improve, while having fun and making enough money to live”) I would hit problems, but also have a wonderful life.


Right now, at this moment, I’m having that wonderful time.   And wanted to speculate why this is happening, so that you can have similar fun in your own work. And…life. If you’ll just take a step back, you will be able to see how to create moments of grace in any arena of your life.


  1. I’ve done my million words.  Almost four times.  So all the basic skills are at “unconscious competence”.  I don’t have to think about the basics, which allows me to go into flow and just…write.
  2. I have “safety rails.”  By working from an outline, I know that if I execute the outline, at the very least it will be a competently structured piece of work.  This allows me to ignore the negative voices in my head.  “Pantsing” is fine…if it works.  When it stops working, you need to have a fall-back position.
  3. The subject taps into my passion.  It is like nothing I’ve ever written. And…it is exactly in line with everything I’ve ever done.   It is absolutely a “Steven Barnes” story.  I would LOVE to sit in an audience and watch this movie.   It comes from my heart.
  4. I set myself a doable amount of work every day.   Five pages of script ain’t that much, especially if its mostly dialogue.  Writing dialogue is EASY if you know your characters and just let them talk.
  5. I gave myself permission to suck.  That’s right.  SUCK.  First drafts are “suck drafts”. I don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or whether it is any good at all.  JUST GET IT WRITTEN.   The “writer” part of your head is NOT the “editor” part of your head. They are different aspects of your mind, and except for a fortunate few, are not friendly to each other.  The “writer” is the little boy, the “editor” is the pitiless adult.  SEPARATE THEM.  In general, I don’t do both in the same session.  “Pantsers” are usually switching back and forth between them rapidly and fluidly, and that is wonderful.  I can do that.  Maybe I “should”.  But I found that this process works very well for me, and seems to help me climb that “upward spiral” of improvement with minimal stress.


There are other things too.   We’ll talk about them on our “Write a Sentence A Day” webinars, starting October 6th at 3pm Pacific.   I’ll be discussing process and connecting it to real production, in real time, and embarrassing detail.   Watch me humiliate myself…or get a major win. Who knows?  Who knows what evil (and self sabotage) lurks in the hearts of writers?

The Shadow Do.


Write with Passion!



Totally FREE Webinar: Crowdfunding your movie!

You’ve been studying Black Horror and screenwriting– now it’s time to learn how to crowdfund your short film or web series. Check out our panel of experts to learn the good, the bad and the ugly of raising the money to bring your work to the screen – and why it’s important to create your own film/TV projects. This webinar is one of your FREE extras for signing up for The Sunken Place.

Here’s your registration link: https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238449714/aa4d4c8db3

Here are Saturday’s panelists:

Xavier Burgin

Xavier Burgin is a Sundance Lab Fellow, an HBO Short Film Finalist, a part of the Ryan Murphy Television Half Foundation, and one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business for 2017. Xavier’s filmography has been accepted in The American Black Film Festival, HBO Short Film Competition, Raindance Film Festival, Urbanworld Film Festival, Anchorage Film Festival, and many more. Xavier is a fellow of The Sundance Institute’s Youtube New Voices Lab where his web-series, Lame Lance, was one of eleven projects selected. Xavier shadowed on the set of American Horror Story as a member of the RMTV Half Foundation, a diversity directing program created by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Scream Queens). (We also worked on an upcoming project that hasn’t been announced yet.)


M. Asli Dukan 

M. Asli Dukan is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist who works primarily in the genres of speculative fiction as a subversive artistic and liberatory practice. She has screened at numerous film festivals around the country including, the Newark International Film Festival, the Imagenation Film and Music Festival, the Langston Hughes Film Festival and the Blackstar Film Festival. In 2017, her mixed-media, augmented-reality installation, the “Resistance Time Portal”, which centered Black radicalism in a futuristic narrative, made its debut in the Distance≠Time exhibition at the Icebox Project Space. She has been the recipient of several grants, awards and fellowships, including a 2016 Transformation Award from the Leeway Foundation, a 2016 NBPC 360 fellowship from Black Public Media, a 2018 Philadelphia Independent Media Finishing Fund and a 2018 Flaherty Seminar fellowship. In 2018, she completedResistance: the battle of philadelphia, a near-future web series about a community’s struggle against surveillance and state violence. She is in post-production on Invisible Universe, a documentary about Black creators in speculative fiction and in development on the anthology horror film based on the book, Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson. She holds an MFA from the City University of New York and currently resides in Philadelphia.

See her web series “Resistance” at https://youtu.be/WsGoVOXeGSw

Luchina Fisher 

Luchina Fisher is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. She wrote and executive produced the documentary “Birthright: A War Story” and has produced three nationally broadcast documentaries on Gladys Knight, B.B. King and the history of Title IX, as well as numerous segments for television. Her work has appeared on Discovery Health, A&E, ESPN, National Geographic Channel, ABC and in syndication. She is also the writer, director and producer of two award-winning short films.

See our short horror film, Danger Word, at www.dangerword.com