Do You Use Templates When Creating Fiction?

I recently listened to a podcast where an author claimed that if a writer did not use the hero’s journey template, they will never be a successful author. This is ridiculous and I totally disagree.

When writing fiction, a writer can either follow an established story template or not. By a template, I mean the basic structure of the story is already outlined by the industry. The writer just needs to fill in the details.

There are other templates, such as for romance stories. With the hero’s journey template, it can be found in genres such as thrillers, suspense, science fiction, and others. In it, the protagonist (hero) is called to adventure and refuses the call until someone tells them to stop whining and go. The hero goes on the adventure, is challenged by people and obstacles, confronts an ordeal, wins the reward, and confronts a final challenge before arriving home.

It is true that in some genres a writer must follow a template like this because the reader expects it. The category defines the story line. And that is okay. Sometimes a reader just wants sameness like a warm blanket on a cold night. I like these stories, too. Sometimes. However, many authors do not follow these templates and have popular, successful books that sell.

My favorite books did not follow a template like the hero’s journey. These novels went free-form without definition. The writer expanded their story to what it should be and not confined by barriers in a template.

Following a template makes for faster and easier writing. Just fill in the blanks and readers will come. But in the end is the writer satisfied with what they wrote or did they wish they had more freedom in their story?

Previous blogs on this:
Writing by Templates
Yes, there are stories to tell

2021 Grant Writing Goals

In my last blog, I explained my creative writing goals for the year. This blog is how I set my grant writing goals. I’m more specific with the grants.

I have created a spreadsheet and listed all the foundations I plan to submit throughout the year. This spreadsheet includes the foundation’s name and contact information, such as the website and a point of contact. It also includes what focus areas the foundation had last year. More importantly, the spreadsheet includes the date when the application opens and closes.

Every grant writer and nonprofit manager should develop a yearly list of grant applications with this information. I have seen some managers’ list on a white board or written in a notebook with only the closing date. The list needs to be more than this.

It should have enough information so a nonprofit manager knows at a glance what the focus areas are, the dates, and where to access the application (e.g. the website). The staff should have access so they know when supporting data is needed.

Some people set a date when to start the application, at a point before the grant opens. I do not do this. I wait until the application goes live.

Foundations may change things and a grant writer could waste time using a previous application. I wait until the application goes live, so I am sure what is required.

One key to successful grant writing is organization and planning and keeping a list helps. I have seen nonprofits miss a deadline and a good chance at money because they forgot to submit the grant request. Don’t forget to make a list of grants for the year. When everything is spread out, the possibility of all that funding builds hope.

2021 Creative Writing Goals

I’m setting writing goals this year. Something I haven’t done before. Usually, I fumble along until I surprise myself with some accomplishment. Now I have my first book published and I formed a limited liability company (LLC) for my writing. So, I thought I should be more organized.

My first goal is to put more time into my writing. This means freeing up time from other projects such as grant writing. I’ll still write grants, but for fewer nonprofits.

I will also not send short stories to magazines. This is time consuming and competition has increased over the past year, although I may try again later. It is a great confidence builder to be published by someone besides myself.

With more time, my second goal is to publish more books. I’m in the final editing stages of my second book and I am editing a third book. I have a fourth book written, but it may need a lot of editing.

I plan to publish these books through my LLC, which needs to be better organized. Right now, my LLC is little more than a legal name. I need to create a more defined business structure. Maybe have meetings with myself.

My fourth goal is to leverage my LLC and put more effort into my so far futile attempt at marketing. This is the biggest unknown to me. For example, I’m supposed to have a marketing plan, but what do I put in the plan?

There is plenty of guidance and suggestions to help self-publishers market their book. However, I found that the details are unique to each book and author. I’ll probably do a blog post on marketing in the near future.

Now that I’ve written my goals, I just need to remember them.

When the Nonprofit Changes Personnel

Grant writers, like myself, may not be on a nonprofit’s board or part of the staff. Yet, grant writers should be aware of changes to board members and staff that may impact submitted grants.

As an example, some grant applications require at least one person on the staff to have special certifications. Losing these people or moving them to another part of the nonprofit could disqualify the nonprofit. While the nonprofit did not change their mission, they changed the qualification for the grant.

The biggest impact is when an executive director leaves. While the departure of a board president may change some things, the executive director is more closely tied to the nonprofit’s operations and grant requirements. Also, most grant applications are linked directly to the executive director at the time of submission.

When changes in personnel occur, grant writers should inform the decision makers what the effect is on submitted grants (if any) and inform the foundation of these changes, if necessary. There is an ethical dilemma if the nonprofit does not want the foundation to know about changes in personnel.

There are many reasons why a nonprofit would not want these changes known. Some reasons are valid. However, if the changes impact submitted grants, the foundation should be told.

Grant writers have a responsibility to the nonprofit and to the foundation when it concerns a grant they wrote. I make sure everyone knows of the personnel situation if it impacts a grant I wrote. The nonprofit and foundation can decide what is best.

Yes, this is “covering your ass.” But I always believe open communication is important and prevents problems later. The nonprofit may lose the grant, but the foundation will likely appreciate the honesty.