One of the first things many PW mentors do is assign “homework”. That may come in the form of beat sheets, or their favorite craft book, or just asking for an outline, or… whatever. Each mentor is different. And each mentee’s MS and needs are different.
But you don’t need a mentor to assign that homework to take advantage of the idea.
Take a break from writing and read a craft book, or three. I mean really read them. Story Genius, Verbalize, Save the Cat (or Save the Cat Writes a Novel), Writing with Emotion Tension and Conflict… Whatever. Pick one. Pick ’em all. (and closer to PW, ask any mentors you know you’d like to submit to for their suggestions!
Here’s the thing – none of them are inherently “better” than the others. They’re just different approaches. And what works for you, and your story, is going to depend on how you process information, how you work, and where your weak points are. (yes, we all have weak points.
I have yet to find one single book that I can hold up as my Holy Grail and say I follow it to the letter. But I’ve learned something new, something interesting, something helpful, from each one I’ve read. Even the ones that I read once and then tossed into the donate box.
For every person who sings the praises of one book, there will be another who hates it and wants to pick it apart for what’s wrong with it. And that’s OK. Everyone has different needs, and a different way of working.
Personal example: Parts of Story Genius really resonated with me, but I struggled with Lisa Cron’s super-in-depth approach. But I do use parts of it, and it helped me find a deeper level of character development, and take a character readers had trouble connecting with and turn her into someone readers quickly identified with.
Conversely, I barely made it through The Emotional Craft of Fiction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book, and I know many who found it very useful. It just didn’t resonate with me personally.
Bottom line: READ CRAFT BOOKS. Then get in there and apply the concepts to your story.
What others have to say:
Check out this post from Kate Meadows (another 2018 PW mentee). She wrote a detailed post about her crafting process–and using Story Genius.