Tips for Writing a Best-Selling Novel: Lessons from Star Wars

Apr 10, 2012

So my son is completely obsessed with Star Wars, and I've now seen it more times than I ever wanted. When I got sick of it, I turned on the DVD commentary from George Lucas. I was shocked how much I learned as a writer from him, especially on episode IV (the original Star Wars). Here are a few key points I wanted to share today.

Before Star Wars was made, almost no one believed in it. Even WHEN it was being made, almost no one believed in it. In fact, Star Wars opened in only about 40 theaters, because few theaters wanted to take such a crazy movie on. Within just a few weeks, it was a complete box-office smash. Several decades later, it's a cultural phenomenon.

Here's what I pull from that:

1. If you REALLY believe in something, stick with it, no matter who tells you otherwise.
Why did no one believe in Star Wars? Because the story was so far out there for its day. No one knew what to think of it, or of George Lucas. So it sometimes is with us. We're writers. Creators. If we don't believe in our own creations, no one else ever will. People can tell you your story idea is ridiculous, or just give you the "that's nice" look when you tell them you're a writer. But you ARE a writer. You CAN create incredible things. Don't let anyone stop you from believing that.

2. Just because things are hard doesn't mean they're not worth it.
When Lucas finally got a single person at Fox to say yes to Star Wars, everything that could go wrong did. Bad weather on sets, equipment malfunctioning, producers wanting to kill the movie because it was over-budget, you name it. Lucas fought tooth and nail for his movie the entire way, and it paid off. Good things rarely come without, at minimum, hard work and set backs.

3. Do big things.
Lucas didn't just settle for making his movie. He didn't want to stick with the limited tech of his time, so he created his own special effects studio. He didn't want to settle for stock sound effects, so he recorded his own. He didn't just want to make a good movie, he wanted to make the absolute best movie he could make. It was hard, it was expensive, and nobody believed in him. But he did big things, and he got big things out of it. Don't settle for less-- do big things.

Finally, my friends, here's George Lucas's advice to all the actors when they finished a scene: "faster, with more intensity." Go do your thing, and make sure it is fast and intense! And now I want to know: what's one thing you've learned about writing or being a writer this week?


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24 comments:

Myrna said...

That was really great advice!

J. A. Bennett said...

That is great advice! Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who believes in myself. But that's okay becasue I should chase my dreams anyway! Great post!

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Thank you for this informative and inspirational post.

I just finished cutting 30 pages from chapter 2 & 3. I read them over and over and they were just too slow. Now the pace is faster.

Jenilyn Tolley said...

I like this! It makes me want to watch the commentary as well. It's hard to think of Star Wars as something that no one believes in because it's so HUGE.

Shallee said...

It's really worth watching! I watched the documentary that came with our DVDs too. There was a lot of good stuff about the writing and development of the story, too!

Jolene Perry said...

That more often than not - less is more.
For ME anyway, who tends to be wordy . . .

Heather Day Gilbert said...

You don't know how much I needed to read this today! Thanks for the great post!

Tanya Reimer said...

This was just the motivation I needed. The kick in the butt to keep me trying.

I love watching the interviews at the end of movies. They are what inspire me. Stephenie Meyers still sticks with me, “So why are your characters so hot?” She answered sooo cool-like, “Because I wrote them that way.” Yup. Don’t you just want to say that to some idiot?

So what did I learn this week about being a writer? That really, I have to be out of my freaking mind. I just finished drafting Ghost on the Prairies and if I can get that published-- with minor explosions-- it’ll be a miracle. Why can’t I just leave well enough alone? Why must I always stir the pot? I’m insane. Only answer.

Mary Mary said...

That I'm not in control when it comes to what the agents have to say about my work. Every one of them has a different spin, so what can you do?

I like #1. So true!

Cherie Reich said...

Great advice!

One thing I remembered about writing this week is that it is so much fun. I've been caught up on everything else and didn't have as much to write, so now that I'm back to it, it's just great. :)

Emily R. King said...

Spectacular post! I wholeheartedly agree with all three points you made, but especially number one. :)

Leigh Covington said...

Shallee... you are amazing. This is just the kind of inspiration that I needed right now. I believe in all of this and I think sometimes we just need that reminder! You ROCK!

Jenny S. Morris said...

Do or do not. There is no try. LOL. We tell my sons that ALL the time.

I believe there are many people in our lifetime that have been like Lucas. Something new and different will be scoffed but you have to follow it through.

Love this post! My hubby uses Star Wars as an example EVERY time we talk about a 3 act plot or book arc.

Angela Cothran said...

Love this! I recently saw this commentary too! I love the advice he gave his actors. Intensity is the name of the game :)

Adrienne said...

It's amazing that the movie got made at all! I love his advice. "Faster and with more intensity." I'll have to go back over my MS with this in mind.

Traci Kenworth said...

Great advice.

Rachel Morgan said...

Wow. I'm not really into Star Wars, but those are some good lessons! Especially having the guts to go BIG!

Anthony Dutson said...

Very well put! I've always loved hearing the stories about the film crew rolling their eyes when they'd do a scene because they just didn't have the vision.

Terry Pratchett had to write several books in his Discworld series before people realized his genius. 39 books later, his brand of fantasy is loved by millions.

Ruth Josse said...

Great advice! I love hearing success stories like this. One thing I learned this week is that I like writing and can't give it up. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Excellent writing advice! :)

It seems like so many famous stories started out with one person--and then exploded once they'd pushed through the rest of the industry and reached the public.

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, "If you REALLY believe in something, stick with it, no matter who tells you otherwise" is something I need to keep in mind more often.

Fab post!

DL Hammons said...

That is a great message....from Lucas...and you! Believe in yourself...and the work! :)

David P. King said...

My son also has a Star Wars obsession. He also has a LEGO obsession. I better not tell him about Star Wars LEGOS. :)

Shelley Sly said...

I loved this -- as a writer AND a Star Wars fan. It's a good thing Lucas didn't give up. A great lesson to us all.

 
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