James Clear's recent article The Beginners Guide to Deliberate Practice started me thinking about what a practice session for Dramatica might be like. Reading about Ben Hogan's golf game and Benjamin Franklin's writing exercises made me want to find something similar for developing our writer's intuition.
He offers some clues:
Mindless activity is the enemy of deliberate practice. The danger of practicing the same thing again and again is that progress becomes assumed. Too often, we assume we are getting better simply because we are gaining experience. In reality, we are merely reinforcing our current habits—not improving them.
But still, how do you practice something you only turn to once in awhile or at the beginning of a project?
Then it occurred to me--I already did create a program of deliberate practice:
The second effective feedback system is coaching. One consistent finding across disciplines is that coaches are often essential for sustaining deliberate practice. In many cases, it is nearly impossible to both perform a task and measure your progress at the same time. Good coaches can track your progress, find small ways to improve, and hold you accountable to delivering your best effort each day.
With the Dramatica Mentorship Program, I coach writers in the deliberate practice of writing and rewriting story encoding for various story points. The centerpiece of this program are the Playground Exercises--tasks that force a writer past mindless writing and using Dramatica as storytelling into an area where they begin to see story points as sources of conflict. By holding each and every writer accountable to truly using Dramatica to its ultimate potential, we develop an instinct for maximizing scene potential.
Writers Who Avoid Conflict
Believe it or not, some writers steer clear of conflict in their pursuit of their craft. Justin Wills, one of our writers under the program, had this to say recently about the practice of the Playgrounds:
this is helpful. one of the issues I am starting to see in my writing is holding back and avoiding conflict, which stifles my creativity and limits my writing. It's like I'm trying to get the right answer and in doing so i keep everything small and on the surface. I can see how these exercises can help me break that "safe" pattern
So many writers think they're writing conflict when really they're only skimming the surface.
I wonder if it stems from people's basic desire in their own lives to avoid it.
A salient and thought-provoking point. Writing is often thought to be a form of self-therapy. Avoiding the identification and acceptance of conflict in one's own work often signals the same behavior in one's personal life.
I feel like if I can get past this it will open my writing way up
Definitely. After coaching writers for two years with these exercises I can tell you that every last student emerges free and clear of superficial and mindless writing.
A Chance to Develop Your Skills
The Dramatica Mentorship Program currently runs $650/month. Starting in February the price will increase to $750/month (and $425/month for the Basic plan). As our clientele grows so too do our operating costs. Those already in the program and previous students can expect their rates to stay the same.
Many writers new to Dramatica think they understand how it works. They see a Main Character Concern of The Future and think Yeah, my character is concerned about the way things will be. They see an Influence Character Problem of Ending and think Yes, that Character wants things to stop. Those same writers don't understand that these story points must be sources of conflict; concerns of the Future often lead characters to neglect present day responsibilities, problems of Ending often show up in terminating valuable projects long before they have had a chance to germinate.
A Dramatica "coach", or Mentor, can keep you on track and help you develop your own writer's intuition far beyond your limiting blind spots. They can make you aware of conflict-deficient scenes and offer tools and techniques designed to bring the very best out of you. In short, the Dramatica Mentorship Program provides a haven of deliberate practice for writers who wish to be deliberate with their craft.