Saturday, April 5, 2014

Serendipity Times Two

Scott D. Parker

Last week, I wrote about Aaron Allston’s Plotting: A Novelist’s Workout Guide and how it has helped me in how I think about my various works in progress. Now, I want to share a little about serendipity.

A week ago, I stopped in our local Trader Joe’s to pick up a couple jars of their cookie butter. (In case y’all didn’t know, this is basically a sweet peanut buttery type concoction that uses graham cracker type cookies to make a speadable treat. I spare my body the bread. I just eat it by the spoonful!) Seeing as it was late afternoon, I stopped by the tasting area for a quick shot of free coffee. As I was sipping the java, the man behind the counter did the thing that happens to me a lot. “Has anyone ever told you that you look like that guy on Gray’s Anatomy?” [When I say a lot, I mean about once a week.] He then drew a blank on the other guy to whom I am compared. “Um, that guy who was married to Madonna.” He struggled for a moment and then I nodded. “Sean Penn.” We started talking and we got around to our professions. “Technical writer who also writes fiction,” I said. “Independent filmmaker,” he said. It was a fun realization to know that a couple of folks in a grocery store who just started talking both had creative professions. Shortly, he commented that while screenwriting was something he knew how to do, he wasn’t sure he could write an entire novel. Well, I mentioned my process and [cue Allston] let him know about Allson’s book that I was then still reading. My enthusiasm for the process of writing and how the tenets in Allston’s book got me to refocusing my energies on the process of writing was clearly evident. He smiled and told me that my enthusiasm actually made him more excited to write. I gave him a card with Allston’s book title. Perhaps he went home and ordered it online.

Then, a day later, a co-worker who is a motivational speaker and a writer asked me how I prepare for writing a novel. Specifically, she asked me how I outline. Boom! I told her (via very fast typing in Skype with a lot of misspelled words-I was excited) how I used to outline, which basically was not much of one. I had a buncha scenes in a string, but not much else. And, it just so happened, I told her, that I was reading Allston’s book which not only described his process but provided a rough and writing outline. I think I helped sell another book.

On my own front, I’ve already used the things I learned from Allston’s book to start working on my unfinished novella. I’m already seeing a way not only to finish it, but tighten up the entire story. Thanks again, Mr. Allson.

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