Five Ways to Hone Your Focus in the New Year

‘Tis the season for tips lists, n’est pas? At the heart of what story consultants do are the abilities to take in, distill, and communicate. Here are five tasty treats to feed your hungry consultant’s (and writer’s!) brain during the coming year.

Hone Your Story Consulting Skills in 2009:

  1. Create a short checklist of the items you notice first when reading a new draft.
    This will require honest attention to your own process as you sit with a new piece. Each person’s talent walks a slightly different path so listen for yourself then write down your findings. Chances are good that you habitually pick up on similar types of items in a similar order from project to project (e.g., noticing how the writer establishes settings, then how they introduce characters, followed by the elements of their voice).

  2. Keep your personal checklist posted prominently in your workspace to remind yourself of your own strengths of observation. Soon, you may find other hidden talents developing to steal the limelight.
  3. Allow yourself to read a draft lightly and completely once through without making  notes.
    Taking in the mood and intent of the piece as an audience member takes an amount of restraint that many of us find challenging, to say the least. It takes extra time to read through this way but your writer/partner and the project will be better for it.  …Alright, typos are exempt and marking them may even take the edge off the urge to edit during that first pass.
  4. Formulate your logline for the project.
    Regardless of what information accompanies the project, after you turn that final page, take a few minutes to create a logline. This will allow you to unearth your experience of the story as read, revealing truths, gaps, and opportunities as you work. It is also handy to compare your own logline with that of your writer/partner’s or with the production company’s. Sometimes what’s on the page does not match their intent or desire; creating your own logline may provide a platform for discussion and the start of productive working sessions.
  5. Consider your communication style from all perspectives.
    A great story consultant is not only adept at ferreting out a writer’s goals and the areas in which their story can shine but also is skilled at creating a place of shared understanding. Without clear and kind communication, trust cannot be established and creativity cannot flourish between writer and coach. Take time to consider how you routinely formulate and express your thoughts, how you receive the input of your writing partners, as well as how your input is generally received. Compare your observations to your ideal working scenario then take baby steps to match the two.

Hopefully these five tips will spur your creativity and contribute to shaping your ideal working environment in the new year. Why not add your own ideas, process, and helpful hints to these five by leaving a comment below?

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