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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > September 2017 > CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE


Creative writing is all about decisions, but which are the right ones for you? Gary Dalkin helps you find your path.

How many stories are there? According to Christopher Booker’s monumental volume on the nature of story, Seven Basic Plots… well, he sort of gives it away in the title. Booker argues that there are, essentially, only seven archetypal stories (for example, Rags to Riches, or, Voyage and Return), and that writers rework them through endless variations. As Robert McKee writes in Story – Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting: ‘The archetypal story unearths a universally human experience, then wraps itself inside a unique, culture-specific pattern.’

Or to put it another way, there may only be seven plots, but there are countless possible variations on them. And this is where you might get stuck. It is not that your choices as a writer are too few, but too many. You have notebooks or computer files bursting with character sketches and potential scenes and sizzling bits of dialogue. You know the sort of book you want to write, at least in the abstract, but the exact approach you should take just won’t fall into place. You can get paralysed by choices you have to make before you even start writing, overwhelmed by the blank page. In principle you have your story, but you just can’t be certain of the best way, the very best way to tell it.

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About Writing Magazine

What are the five secrets of writing a bestseller? And how do you grow your little seeds into big ideas? Find out how, in this month's issue of Writing Magazine. In our inspiring star interview, bestselling author Laura Barnett and leading singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams talk about their exciting creative collaboration, and describe how saying 'yes' to working outside your comfort zone can lead to extraordinary creative results. Keep up to date with the latest publishing opportunities and writing competitions in Writers' News!

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