Barbara’s success story

Using structure to create an engaging story

Storytelling is a valuable tool, whether you are writing a thriller or a management book, but also speakers, trainers, coaches, and entrepreneurs can greatly benefit from these techniques. Learn from others! In this blog, I share fiction writer Barbara’s success story.

I had always considered fiction writing as a purely creative process, but thanks to Barbara I now know that there are ways to structure your story that can significantly improve your storytelling and your writing process.

Barbara came to my writing retreat to work on her first novel. I had never seen anyone work on a book in such a structured way, especially not a fiction writer.

She had created several spreadsheets. The first was a detailed overview of each character, including their preferences, personality, clothing style, and their use of language. Another kept track of the weather conditions for each day of the story, which spanned over 75 years! She even kept a note of the newspaper headlines for each day.

“I want to make sure that when people in my story meet, that the weather that day and the things they talk about at the bus stop are real, even though my story is fiction” she explained.

Even though my books are autobiographical, Barbara’s tips have been a great help in crafting the stories in my writing. Many of the writers that I mentor and support have also used this structured approach to benefit their storytelling.

Barbara Sevenstern is a communications advisor, mother, and the author of ‘Familiegeluk’, her first novel.

“It took me 6 years to write my book. Holding it in my hands proved that anything is possible. You can do it too!

I have always wanted to write a fiction book; in the end, it took me six years to develop my idea into a successful ‘feel-good thriller’.

It was hard work, but I was determined. I joined two of Esther’s writing retreats, attended several other courses and masterclasses, and invested in coaching to improve my writing skills.

My preliminary research was incredibly detailed. I made excel lists of the weather and newspaper front pages for the years covered in my book. I also worked out the personalities of my main characters in detail, which ensures that my scenes are lively and realistic and that my characters come across with real depth.

During one of the writing retreats, I had the opportunity to pitch to a publisher, who made me an offer. They prepared all the publicity to perfection, which was an essential factor in getting my book featured on so many bestseller lists.

I am now working on my second book.”

I recently interviewed Barbara about her story and her book. This (Dutch) interview is very inspiring!

For my own autobiographical books, I have also experimented with storytelling and learned to make my stories more lively. One of the structures I often use and recommend is ‘The Hero’s Journey‘.

Make sure to explore the art of storytelling that made Barbara’s and my books so successful, and use it in your book, whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

Are you serious about writing your book?

Don't reinvent the wheel, like I did. As the author and co-author of more than 30 books, writing coach for hundreds of people and organizer of 20 writing retreats, I have finally found the best system for writing a good book: the 'Reverse Writing' method. If you begin at the end and create a good structure before you start writing, you will be able to follow your energy, instead of the page numbers.

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