Story Therapy

Your book needs help! That wasn’t a question; more a bit of psychic detective work—you wouldn’t be on this page if you didn’t need help.

Story Therapy is my program to help you develop your story to its fullest potential. What you get is personalized assistance, a detailed evaluation, complete with strong suggestions on what to do, step-by-step, as well as voice or video calls to discuss your work.

Let me give you some examples of how this is a fantastic service. First, it is affordable. Second, it is very detailed. You will have no doubt at all what needs to change.

Where you see XXXX, I am protecting the privacy of the authors involved–these are actual responses which served as a starting point for further discussion. I present 15 case studies. These are actual letters that the authors received.

If you are interested in learning more about Story Therapy, please check out the Pricing and Contact pages.

CASE STUDY #1

The art of Story Therapy is a detailed critique that points out the strengths and weaknesses, and ways to correct the issues that exist. Now, some may argue that there is no one way that is correct, and that my opinion is merely a subjective one. That is certainly true. Nonetheless, I am not dealing with authors that have many bestsellers under their belts; they don’t need me. Mostly, I am dealing with new authors, writers who have yet to be able to differentiate between the love for what hey have written, versus the power of writing for the reader. As a writer with many years of experience in identifying these issues, I am in the perfect position to offer a blunt, useful evaluation, with suggestions for changes. The author is free to reject any and all these observations, nonetheless, I have found that the vast majority of authors take these suggestions seriously.

 

CASE STUDY #2

A few observations. You have a novel-length manuscript and your pacing with dialog and action seems appropriate. What struck me, in the reading, was a lack of connection to the characters. In part, I attribute that to the first person POV which relegates the story to a telling rather than a showing. I would recommend third-person which allows you to step beyond the narration to add whatever material needs to be included that the I character might not know.

Define your characters well before you start the novel. Each must have an arc, a growth in a positive or a negative way. For some characters are compelling as they fall into a steep decline, while others overcome their limitations and grow. One of those must happen from each character.

The story itself should not be linear (A-B-C) as that lessens the impact, especially if you have a potentially compelling setting.

Other small notes – do not include a © with your title as it scream amateur. Your work is automatically protected upon creation. If you wish to file copyright you still do not need the symbol. That is all for your legal protection.

Hope this helps. Keep writing and working your craft.

 

CASE STUDY #3

Thank you for the submissions of both stories, XXXX and XXXX. I am afraid that I cannot use them in their present form, although there are elements that would encourage me to say that with reworking they could be solid.

Both suffer from the same problem – What is the point of the story? This is a flaw that happens to so many writers, good ideas, neat characters but the overall storyline is lacking in a purpose. Characters must grow (or decline) but not remain. A good short story is not a snippet of still life, but a dynamic overall premise.

XXXXX opens interestingly with the ellipses and pulls you in, however it leads nowhere. Why these criminals? What is the point and the interaction? Twist? Perhaps XXXXX is making notes to sell as a novel, which gives him a sinister motivation. Perhaps he dies in the end. But just existing serves the character no purpose. Perhaps the twist is that XXXXX is the prisoner and one of the ‘patients’ is the real counselor? See what I mean.

XXXXXX is just depressing. With a sister-in-law like that, you might just kill her, after all, she signed your own death sentence. The characters were not strong enough for me to feel compassion for them. This is where you need to focus. Flesh them out more. People all have quirks, good and dark sides, that drive motion in action and provide conflict.

If you wish to rework these, consider the elements and resubmit, I would be happy to look at them again.

 

CASE STUDY #4

While your ability to tell a story on any subject is strong, this story has no purpose. There is no arc – that character learns nothing. It is merely a snippet of time.

If you refine this story to have a purpose, and the characters do something, it then becomes a short story. Right now it is a snippet only and as such, I cannot use it.

Keep submitting, though.

Thanks,
William

 

CASE STUDY #5

I read through your book quite thoroughly, and wanted to offer some useful feedback, especially given the sensitivity of the topic.

As a book, in its present form, Alt Publish is unable to act as publisher. While you have presented a detailed examination of depression and your personal experience with how it affected (and affects) your life, it is not a novel. Rather, it is more of a therapy journal which, in itself could be useful to share with others in print, however not in its present form.

For such a book to be successful it must have several criteria. Included among these is a conclusion that is a point of growth and stability to give the reader a useful guide for their own life. Your ending is not so much a solution as it is reaching a point where you are ready for the next phase of your life. In addition, since you are presenting this in a novel format with characters, you really need a lot of dialog in order to flesh out both your own character as well as the other people with whom you interact. I also recommend that the language patterns show someone quite young, and this, in my opinion, detracts from the seriousness you try to convey. Have someone read it back to you to see how to tighten this up.

My suggestion for you is not to take this as a rejection of your work, but rather an opportunity to examine it in a more critical light, and refine it into something that could well be an important comfort to others suffering depression. There is a market for personal journals that offer self-help, including resource lists that could make your work quite strong and marketable. It’s just not there at this point.

I would also like to recommend another book you should read — you can get it from the library, or on Kindle. The author is Tony Lockhart, and the book is called “Unsettling Life.” While it is not about depression, it is more of a personal journal that brings readers on the journey of his life, much as I believe you are trying to do. You may find the style and presentation useful.

Just so you know, now that I have replied, your submission is deleted from our computers. I do not keep copies of submissions. I know you, or your parents, were concerned about theft. You can file a copyright registration on your works for a very nominal fee, not that it is needed. By law, your work is copyrighted from the moment you create it. Having notes and rough drafts also show that you created the work. Hope this information helps.

XXXXX, I want to thank you for taking a chance submitting to Alt Publish. I hope that you will take my suggestions to heart and certainly would be happy to revisit it again after changes have been made. If you have questions, please feel free to email me, or even message me on Facebook. I am happy to help you take the next step.

 

CASE STUDY #6

Sorry. I’m not able to do anything at this time with either the short story or the novel. While the story has a harsh reality, I would hardly consider it dystopic. It is predictable and the character has still to reach an arc of achievement in order to make this a strong story.

XXXXXX, I find glosses over the depth of character into narration and then, when dialog is provided (formatting is off also) does not serve to provide a compelling reason for the reader to remain with the story.

I suggest a story map that helps you identify each character, their back story, goals and problems that each encounters. This helps you to format in a way that helps the reader
remain focused.

I suggest a heavy revision. To write this story you need to be very focused on each element.
Asking why at each point will help you to develop strength of character. Heavily editing out what is not needed will help you strengthen the way the story reads.

I hope this is helpful for you. Thank you for your submission.

 

CASE STUDY #7

I read through the story over the weekend and can see how much you have worked on it and improved. I wanted to get back to you so as not to keep you in suspense, but I will need to offer a more detailed explanation later this week.

In short, the last half of the book was very riveting, and was quite powerful for a reader as the facts of XXXXXXX emerged, and I could not put it down until the end.

However, rereading the beginning I felt that the information about his mother would be better left to the end part. To be more specific for you I have to go through it again.

I also believe that the title needs to be changed to something far stronger. It needs to make the reader aware right off the bat. Again, more thought needed and I would need to send you the manuscript marked up so you have a clear idea.

The beginning should be almost first person, XXXXXX’s viewpoint of sights and smells and fear and sadness. And perhaps something that starts off the massive angst that becomes the search to help XXXXXXXX – perhaps another child found dead in the street, with people walking around the corpse until the Police finally arrive. Because the whole image you are projecting is one of being lost in this mass of humanity where anything outside of the normal does not stand a chance. And that is what makes the story compelling – and also that it is a true story.

I also suggest, since it is a true story, perhaps including some photographs (B/W) that can serve to also illustrate the setting. and perhaps for the cover a closeup on XXXXXXX’s face with the eyes, nose and mouth filling the cover. If you wish not to use his photo I can find a stock image that is similar.

Title – XXXXXXXXXXXX is too soft and gives the impression of a story of a girl, rather than the difficult journey for you both. Something blunt and to the point like XXXXXXXXX or XXXXXXXXX or something like that – give some thought. I will also.

If you would like to proceed let me know and I will get you a contract. It works the same as the BYCT – no costs and we royalty share 50%. You and I would work on editing and proofing and once we get closer (not too far from now) we will send out some advance reader copies to get reviews and generate some buzz before the release.

You’ve done well. I look forward to hearing back.

 

CASE STUDY #8

Thanks for such a fast rewrite, however, this version is still not what I was trying to
convey to you. The character has not developed, the plot not altered. Readers will know
what your story is from the start and that destroys the purpose of the telling. To have a
twist, or to have the story change to not be what is expected makes it interesting.

I had suggested revenge, but there are many other ways to twist the plot. Perhaps, after
all that, it turns out that SHE is the rapist, and plans her actions and revels in her power
by being the rapist. Perhaps she targets softer men, or drugs them. That way you back
and forth inter-story combines both her rape and her moves as rapist. Just a thought.

There are many ways to change this, but a minor change, as in this submission, does not
work. Your reader is investing time, and having just a story of a girl raped, let alone a
freshman, is no different than one might read in the news. You have to give them
something to invest their time in.

I recommend you Google a story called Mrs Dutta. It is about an elderly Indian mother
who loves her son. He was sent to America for school, and remained, married and had
kids, much to her dismay since she is far away. He had finally convinced her to leave her
friends and move in with his family, which she proudly does, thinking she will be of great
value. But she finds that it is not so, and is now torn between the love for her son and her
need of a life. Great story, not as you expect, written very poetically, and the reader is
brought along. You want to see what happens. THAT Is the key to a story. The reader
MUST want to see what happens.

Your story is told. The reader has no buy in, cares little for the character because you
have not given a reason to care. It is a scenario that happens in life all the time. It is what
you do with that which determines whether a reader wants the story or rejects the story.

I tell you this not to be harsh, but to point out that if you want to write a great story, you
have to understand the subtle points of story telling. And your story cannot be straight
forward. Not unless you have something that makes the characters different enough that
the
reader says “Didn’t see that coming.”

I hope that is helpful to you. Don’t give up.

 

CASE STUDY #9

Again, your writing is very evocative and the story promises potential. However, transformation, no event, no change takes place. It is a snippet of time with no lessons for the reader, no premise with a conflict and a resolution.

In this case, you must ask why you present these characters? They are fleshed out but are like puppets on a string with nowhere to go. Someone needs a change. Something must happen that affects the characters.

**** I recommend to you a short story by Ernest Hemingway called “Hills Like White Elephants”. You can read it online here: https://genius.com/Ernest-hemingway-hills-like-white-elephants-annotated

The story is simple, and the two characters are rich. But the story is subtle and reading it one never knows until later what they talk about as they await the train. In this case, they are discussing the girl being pregnant and whether she should go through with an abortion. See how Hemingway weaves the story around the point he tries to convey.

The characters change as the story continues.

**** Another story is Mrs. Dutta: https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/98apr/dutta2.htm

The direction is clear. There is change. Telling a story requires a change to take place.

I hope this helps you. Work on this story some more.

 

CASE STUDY #10

I did go through your submission “XXXXXXXXXXXXXX,” and while it is not something I can use, let me give you some feedback. The first point is that it is mostly narrative rather than a balanced mix – you are telling rather than showing. In addition, our starting point ‘My name is XXXXXXXXXXX and I am an incredible human being!’ already loses the audience by its assertion – this should be something the audience will discover to be true or false on their own. This statement is repeated frequently, as an affirmation. Without the context of dialog and scene structure, the impact of your intent is lost.

You should be plotting out with index cards, each card a scene. You then arrange the scenes into placement, then tie that together with dialog and action points.

What you have reads more like a synopsis which means that you are explaining the story rather than allowing to come to life. Take what you have done and cut it into segments. Then ask yourself WHY that bit is important and how to make it important for the readers POV.

You always start a story with an action moment.

Hope this helps. Keep at it.

 

CASE STUDY #11

Your story was well written, and it was clear that you have put a lot of effort into it. As a dystopic story, it drew on a theme that has been extensively written about. This makes it difficult to write a strong story without crossing into territory that has been covered in many different ways. That said, there is always room for something new, however it makes it that much more difficult to achieve, and something that a very experienced writer would have difficulty with.

Your tell the story rather than show the story. It is more a narration of what is happening than allowing the reader to vicariously experience your main character – who has no name – and her fate. To this end, dialog would have been far more helpful, something that could have been achieved by having two characters instead of one, able to communicate with each other. As a writer, this allows you both the verbal and the nuances, in addition to the narration, in order to fully convey the feel of the setting.

Short stories must start with a trigger event. The trigger on the gun has just been pulled. Now what? Your character is in a passive state and this makes the reader pause to question why. A stronger start would have been the gurgling in the gardens – perhaps she hears it as a mumbled birthday song, thus the cake, and we find that they have been shot as a mercy killing by the military.

Your narrative then explains to the reader all the bits that are missing, which should be covered in a conversation between two dying friends. Throughout the story the reader is expecting that there may be some hope for your character, however the ending details the decline and that questions the point of the story itself. Why did you take us on a gloomy journey that leads to death? My opinion is that the ending should have been left open, with the facts, and the setting implying that in all likelihood death was coming; but still leave hope.

I have no doubt that you are feeling deflated right now. Don’t be. Writers need a thick skin because it is a tough business and perfecting the craft is not something that happens immediately.

While Alt Publish cannot accept this story for publication, it is a story that you can change, strengthen, rework, supercharge, and I would encourage you to do so. It is from this process that we learn how to hone in on our strengths and recognize our weaknesses.

I offer a link to a famous author, Kurt Vonnegut, who discusses how to write a good short story. I hope it will be useful to you. https://youtu.be/nmVcIhnvSx8

If you do rework this story – and I say “if” because many writers won’t – feel free to resubmit it to Alt Publish from our website and I’ll be happy to revisit it.

 

CASE STUDY #12

For women there is no strong romantic element that is compelling. Would they be interested in just the historical element?

For men there is not a lot of action. The mystery is more cerebral than physical. And also there is no sexuality.

I still maintain that it is a very good story. Now I wonder whether the order needed to be changed, start with XXXXXX and once we establish the relationship with XXXXX, and the romance as such. Then, as the story reveals the links to the XXXXXX, that the truth of her past emerges until it becomes the big reveal, along with the truth about the XXXXXX?

If you wish to spend time to restructure the story, I would focus on making the XXXXX story stronger. The romance with XXXXXX stronger. And then the discovery of the past, and the revelation of the history (which could be told toward the end, at the XXXXX, in its entirety, rather than interspersed.)

I would reclassify it as a romance, a thriller, mystery, and not focus on the history as a category. Both XXXXXXX and XXXXX need to be far richer than they are for this to work.

If this is something you wish to try, you would be mostly focusing on developing the romance between them, so that the audience is hooked on that, before the reveals start, which would mostly be moving all the XXXXX chapters into one series of chapters at the end, as the story of XXXX’s past is revealed.I do not believe that it would need rewriting, just repositioning.

Give some thought to this. I maintain that the book is a good story. The people who have read it, like it. But it needs to be changed into something that is … irresistible.

 

CASE STUDY #13

A few observations. You have a novel-length manuscript and your pacing with dialog and action seems appropriate. What struck me, in the reading, was a lack of connection to the characters. In part, I attribute that to the first person POV which relegates the story to a telling rather than a showing. I would recommend third-person which allows you to step beyond the narration to add whatever material needs to be included that the I character might not know.

Define your characters well before you start the novel. Each must have an arc, a growth in a positive or a negative way. For some characters are compelling as they fall into a steep decline, while others overcome their limitations and grow. One of those must happen from each character.

The story itself should not be linear (A-B-C) as that lessens the impact, especially if you have a potentially compelling setting.

Other small notes – do not include a © with your title as it scream amateur. Your work is automatically protected upon creation. If you wish to file copyright you still do not need the symbol. That is all for your legal protection.

Hope this helps. Keep writing and working your craft.

 

CASE STUDY #14

Thank you for the submissions of both stories, XXX and XXX. I am afraid that I cannot use them in their present form, although there are elements that would encourage me to say that with reworking they could be solid.

Both suffer from the same problem – What is the point of the story? This is a flaw that happens to so many writers, good ideas, neat characters but the overall storyline is lacking in a purpose. Characters must grow (or decline) but not remain. A good short story is not a snippet of still life, but a dynamic overall premise.

XXXXX opens interestingly with the ellipses and pulls you in, however it leads nowhere. Why these criminals? What is the point and the interaction? Twist? Perhaps XXXXX is making notes to sell as a novel, which gives him a sinister motivation. Perhaps he dies in the end. But just existing serves the character no purpose. Perhaps the twist is that XXXXX is the prisoner and one of the ‘patients’ is the real counselor? See what I mean.

XXXXXX is just depressing. With a sister-in-law like that, you might just kill her, after all, she signed your own death sentence. The characters were not strong enough for me to feel compassion for them. This is where you need to focus. Flesh them out more. People all have quirks, good and dark sides, that drive motion in action and provide conflict.

If you wish to rework these, consider the elements and resubmit, I would be happy to look at them again.

 

CASE STUDY #15

While your ability to tell a story on any subject is strong, this story has no purpose. There is no arc – that character learns nothing. It is merely a snippet of time.

If you refine this story to have a purpose, and the characters do something, it then becomes a short story. Right now it is a snippet only and as such, I cannot use it.

Keep submitting, though.

Thanks,
William

 

 

If you are interested in learning more about Story Therapy, please check out the Pricing and Contact pages.