Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

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Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Sommer Leigh » 16 Jan 2011, 00:06

Since the beginning of the year there seems to be a little bit of doubt creeping in to some comments like - do I have time to keep writing, should I keep writing, am I wasting my time, when is it time to move on - and I've been thinking about this quite a bit because I've started to feel a lot of pressure from my own WIP. The plot holes seem insurmountable, my talent too small to fill them.

This doubt got me thinking about a series of YouTube videos I once loved on storytelling by Ira Glass. I swear I could listen to Ira Glass read the back of a cereal box and be inspired, but this series of 4 videos really spoke to my doubting neediness and so I thought maybe they might speak to you guys too.

Part 1 is mostly about storytelling for radio and tv, but the meat of his message is still applicable to all storytellers.
Part 2 is about how long it takes to find a decent story - that not all ideas are worthy of telling. Sometimes a good idea isn't a great idea and it is ok to kill them. "By killing you will make something else even better live... Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap."
Part 3 is about the gap between wanting to be good and getting good. "The first couple of years you are making stuff - what you are making isn't so good... It has ambition to be good but it's not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. Your taste is good enough that you can tell what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you. You can tell it is still sort of crappy. A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people, at that point, they quit... Everybody goes through that... You got to know it is totally normal."
Part 4 is about trying to imitate others instead of being yourself. It is mostly about being a radio personality, but the applications of his advice are wide especially in the growing social network we're surrounded by.

I think we could all use a healthy dose of Part 2 and Part 3. What do you think?




May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Holly » 16 Jan 2011, 00:16

Sommer Leigh wrote:Since the beginning of the year there seems to be a little bit of doubt creeping in to some comments like - do I have time to keep writing, should I keep writing, am I wasting my time, when is it time to move on - and I've been thinking about this quite a bit because I've started to feel a lot of pressure from my own WIP. The plot holes seem insurmountable, my talent too small to fill them....


Sommer, thanks for the videos. I'll take a look.

If you see plot holes, it means you've grown. That's a good thing, not a bad thing.

I set deadlines and sent my work to other people, which helped me to finish. If I can do it, you can, too. Best of luck.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Sommer Leigh » 16 Jan 2011, 00:26

Holly wrote:
Sommer Leigh wrote:Since the beginning of the year there seems to be a little bit of doubt creeping in to some comments like - do I have time to keep writing, should I keep writing, am I wasting my time, when is it time to move on - and I've been thinking about this quite a bit because I've started to feel a lot of pressure from my own WIP. The plot holes seem insurmountable, my talent too small to fill them....


Sommer, thanks for the videos. I'll take a look.

If you see plot holes, it means you've grown. That's a good thing, not a bad thing.

I set deadlines and sent my work to other people, which helped me to finish. If I can do it, you can, too. Best of luck.


Thanks Holly :-) It does feel good when I can tell in my gut there is a problem. It feels even better when I know exactly what the problem is. But then days or weeks go by of trying to figure out a solution and I'm drained. I know at 2am some morning the solution is going to wake me and I'll be all night writing it down and I just have to wait it out and keep working, but yeesh. The waiting can be killer. Not completely self-destructive, nothing a good inspiration can't fix, but still tough.

I hope you like the videos!
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Holly » 16 Jan 2011, 01:01

Hi, Sommer. I just watched all four videos... great, practical stuff that applies to all forms of storytelling. He's so down to earth. I love his radio voice, too. Thanks for putting them up here.

Do you share your work? I email my chapters to someone, plus meet once a month with a small group. My group met yesterday morning over coffee. One woman knew something was wrong with a scene, but couldn't put her finger on it. We were able to tell that she had two beginnings, one when the protagonist entered a building, the second when the protag remembered a conversation when her daughter dropped her off five minutes before. We told the writer the scene would work better if the daughter came in with the protag so the conversation took place in real life, not memories.

The point is if you're stuck, either with plot/structure, or writing that doesn't seem to come together, other people can often pinpoint specifics to set you on your way again. That's the case for me, anyway.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Sommer Leigh » 16 Jan 2011, 14:49

Holly wrote:Hi, Sommer. I just watched all four videos... great, practical stuff that applies to all forms of storytelling. He's so down to earth. I love his radio voice, too. Thanks for putting them up here.

Do you share your work? I email my chapters to someone, plus meet once a month with a small group. My group met yesterday morning over coffee. One woman knew something was wrong with a scene, but couldn't put her finger on it. We were able to tell that she had two beginnings, one when the protagonist entered a building, the second when the protag remembered a conversation when her daughter dropped her off five minutes before. We told the writer the scene would work better if the daughter came in with the protag so the conversation took place in real life, not memories.

The point is if you're stuck, either with plot/structure, or writing that doesn't seem to come together, other people can often pinpoint specifics to set you on your way again. That's the case for me, anyway.


I love Ira! Glad you liked the videos.

I do share my work. I kind of knew throughout the whole draft that I had flubbed a part of the plot, I just didn't know how to fix it then and I still don't. Although I think I'm getting in my own way now. So far the people I've had read it see the problem (though several don't think it is as big a deal as it feels like to me) but can't really help me fix it. I have ideas but now I'm waffling over what will be the best way to fix it. Like I said, I think I am getting in my own way. Sometimes I just need a shove.
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Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Holly » 16 Jan 2011, 16:04

Sommer Leigh wrote: I love Ira! Glad you liked the videos.

I do share my work. I kind of knew throughout the whole draft that I had flubbed a part of the plot, I just didn't know how to fix it then and I still don't. Although I think I'm getting in my own way now. So far the people I've had read it see the problem (though several don't think it is as big a deal as it feels like to me) but can't really help me fix it. I have ideas but now I'm waffling over what will be the best way to fix it. Like I said, I think I am getting in my own way. Sometimes I just need a shove.


You're probably at a crossroads. You've grown as a writer, so you can tell that something doesn't work as well as it should. That's a good thing.

My novel had an area that just didn't work. Once I identified the heart of my story, the real core, the subplots fell into place. I was able to rewrite scenes that were a stretch before or just didn't work.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Holly » 16 Jan 2011, 16:06

Sommer Leigh wrote: I love Ira! Glad you liked the videos.

I do share my work. I kind of knew throughout the whole draft that I had flubbed a part of the plot, I just didn't know how to fix it then and I still don't. Although I think I'm getting in my own way now. So far the people I've had read it see the problem (though several don't think it is as big a deal as it feels like to me) but can't really help me fix it. I have ideas but now I'm waffling over what will be the best way to fix it. Like I said, I think I am getting in my own way. Sometimes I just need a shove.


Those videos were a great 3 AM fix.

You're probably at a crossroads. You've grown as a writer, so you can tell that something doesn't work as well as it should. That's a good thing.

My novel had an area that just didn't work. Once I identified the heart of my story, the real core, the subplots fell into place. That, and remember to be simple.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby lindenmcn » 22 Jan 2011, 10:45

Fabulous, and exactly what I needed to hear today, as I am faced with a restart on a huge manuscript I had thought, after 3 years, that I was done with. Thanks.
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Re: Ira Glass on Storytelling - some advice we could all use

Postby Claudie » 24 Jan 2011, 17:15

Alright, I took ages to finally watch these and boy, were they worth it! Thanks for the great links, Sommer.

I especially like Part 2. I mean, he compares putting stories down on tape or paper to... atoms. How could that not resonate with the biochemist geek in me? ^^
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