Michael Stackpole’s Secrets

Michael J. Stackpole

Do you struggle to shape your disparate ideas into book-length plots? Get practical advice on how it’s done from the guy whose Star Wars books inspired the upcoming film.

For almost two decades, I obsessively read books and blogs about writing in search of clues to unlocking genius. A few years ago, I realized there must also be podcasts about writing–still a new media form at the time. Sure enough, I searched a keyword combination that led to just such a podcast, produced by Michael Stackpole.

Stackpole was unknown to me when I first listened to his podcast, called “The Secrets.”  Lately he’s garnered attention because of the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One film, which appears to be rooted in his novels. At the time, however, I knew nothing about the Star Wars and BattleTech books he’s written. What I did know immediately was this: his generous podcast was loaded with excellent advice about the craft of writing and storytelling. Gleefully, I downloaded all the episodes to my iPod and re-played them incessantly. I couldn’t get enough.

What’s the secret to writing a story of any length? Sitting down and doing it, of course. Often that we lack confidence or can’t see where to start. Stackpole’s calm, reassuring voice helped me with both.

Among the podcast episodes was a series covering how to write a novel in 21 days, replete with practical direction for creating characters, dramatic arcs, etc. Go, treat yourself to a copy of his 21 Days to a Novel, which collects and expands upon the exercises originally introduced in his podcast. And attend one of his workshops the next time he’s on the circuit. (Here’s a summary account from Cat Rambo.)

Sadly, Stackpole hasn’t posted a new podcast episode in awhile. But I still listen to those classic podcasts on my iPod from time to time. And he remains busy. He teaches through Arizona State University, and at his website he’s posted a free set of High Intensity Writing Workouts–exercises that I recommend highly.

So, go, seek out what Secrets episodes remain available. Subscribe to his newsletter. Read his books. And if you see him, thank him from me for his generosity.

P.S. A cool fact about Stackpole from Wikipedia: “An outer main-belt asteroid discovered March 23, 2001 by David B. Healy was named 165612 Stackpole.”

Ever attend one of Stackpole’s workshops? Read any of his books? Share about it in the reply section below.

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