How to Use Your Story Engine to Drive Your Writing

How to Use Your Story Engine to Drive Your Writing

Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones their recording of thought uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. – Henry David Thoreau

I totally agree with Henry David Thoreau.

Writing is driven by heat, a burning need to say and express.

I believe it, but I don’t always make it to the page on time.

And sometimes, the mere act of opening my computer and seeing a blank page cools my engines. I stutter, like a car that has sat on the street all night getting snowed on.

It takes a while to warm up, and a while longer to really get rolling.

I would think most writers relate to this feeling.

My writing partner and co-coach, Tina Overbury, and I believe there’s a critical chapter, and a critical conflict in your book that drives the story right through to the end. We call it the Engine Room. It’s like the scene in the movie that everything hinges on, and that sets the tone of every scene. When we talk about books and movies we’ve both seen, we often play “name that engine room,” and debate which scene really drives home the author/director’s point.

As a writer, tapping into that feeling will keep you going, and keep you on connected to that critical core story that brought you to the page in the first place.

For your reader, the engine room will keep them turning pages.

Here are three simple ways you can get connected to your engine room:

  1. Talk about your story. Notice what it is about your story that gets you talking. What part do you keep repeating and re-telling on different occasions. Kick off your writing sessions with three minutes of unstructured writing on that particular piece of your story. Let loose with all the emotions that come to you when you think about this.

  2. Explore your story’s conflict. Who is fighting who? What false beliefs are driving that conflict? Why should your reader care about it?

  3. Play “guess the engine room” when you delve into other people’s stories. It might be a paragraph, it might be a scene and it can happen at any point in the story, but without it, the storyteller would have never crafted the work.

We’ve got so much more to say on this subject, and that’s why we’re hosting a workshop dedicated to firing up your Engine Room in January 2019. With four days dedicated to writing, talking about writing and one-on-one coaching, there will be plenty of time to get warmed-up and drive your story forward. We also want participants to actually BE WARM, which is why we are holding it in a warm, dry, climate (Joshua Tree, California). For more information, click here!


Meribeth Deen

Meribeth Deen is a writer, coach and makes up half of the Writer's Compass.

She passionately believes in the power of writing and storytelling, and loves helping emerging writers find their voice and deliver it to the world.

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