Jonathan Baldie, Author Spotlight


Stories have a unique power to immerse, delight, and educate. So why do some stories work and others fail? The 24 Laws of Storytelling distils the lessons learned from stories past and present into a practical handbook that you can use for any story you decide to write.

This book will teach you the principles you need to immerse your audience, deliver immensely satisfying drama, and educate better than any textbook or lecture can. There’s no need for any special tools, expensive writing software, or Hollywood contacts. You only need to learn from the successes and blunders of past stories.

By extracting the timeless writing principles from master storytellers such as Christopher Nolan, Stephen King, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, George Lucas, Alfred Hitchcock, and many more, this unique work will provide a fascinating insight into the laws of storytelling and how to use them to create your own masterpieces.

Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Jonathan Baldie whose book The 24 Laws of Storytelling informed and captivated me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love writing guides but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Jonathan Baldie, a biography of the author and an interview between us both will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Jonathan Baldie!

Jonathan Baldie is a writer and software developer. He has a degree in mathematics and lives in Stoke-on-Trent, England.

Now, how wonderful does Jonathan Baldie sound?! The author is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between us both, I hope that you enjoy the author’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!

Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself

I live in Stoke-on-Trent, England, and have worked 9-5 as a software developer for a few years, which probably doesn’t sound very related to book-writing! My writing career can probably be traced back to when I first contributed to a student newspaper called The Edinburgh Journal while I was at university in Scotland, reporting on simple stories related to students and Edinburgh life. I’ll never forget the great feeling of seeing my name on a story in a paper newspaper—it grew my confidence and made me realise I can do more.

Through a school friend I then joined a political blog, where I worked my way up the ranks and managed to negotiate and conduct an interview with David Miliband, then the UK foreign secretary and candidate for leadership of the Labour Party. He tweeted about us after our chat and it was such a defining moment in my early writing career. I then started my own blog and hired some student writers. It got pretty big, bigger than I could really handle for someone so young for that age, and I learned a lot about managing my personal work limits. I had overextended myself and paid the price for it, but it’s a lesson I’ve kept ever since.

Although it didn’t end as well as I’d liked, it led to a couple of opportunities, the best of which was a freelance writing job. It involved interviewing some figures and writing a chapter on postal services for a book published by the UN, called Play global, act local, think postal. Electronic postal services might seem a pretty random topic but it was my first “official” piece of published writing, and the first I earned money for. As a broke student passionate about writing, this was both a nice source of income and the birth of a (hopefully) long writing career.

Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?

My most recent book is called The 24 Laws of Storytelling: A Practical Handbook for Great Storytellers. As the title implies, it’s a non-fiction book on fiction writing that uses stories and historical examples to show you the timeless principles of stories that created immersive experiences and emotional resonance in their audiences. It’s perfect for all kinds of writers, novelists, and film-makers, and I wrote it primarily to give them a toolbox of strategies to help make their stories great. It’s also my first ever book that I’ve published.

Believe it or not, my initial goal was actually to write fiction, being a superfan of great story franchises like the MCUStar Wars, and The Lord of the Rings. I wanted to throw my hat into the ring and write my own great stories. But all the storytelling books I read were either too linear or too woolly and unfocused. With the former, I hated that each chapter was prefaced with a dozen definitions. You should never need to do that, tell a story that conveys the lessons instead. With the latter, I felt like I’d read 200 pages of the author stroking their own ego without gaining any practical advice.

So with 24 Laws I set out to write the kind of practical handbook I wish I’d been able to learn from when starting out. One that eschews definitions and preaching, and instead actually embraces the very medium we’re trying to study: stories. Every chapter is self-contained, can be picked up and enjoyed by anyone, and includes at least one story or historical example. My goal was to make it both practical and entertaining, something I always have in my sights when writing anything: you’re writing for someone else to gain, not for yourself to stroke your own ego.

I hope to make forays into fiction writing in 2019 or maybe beyond, whether by writing novels or screenplays. I’ve recently joined a local writing group, which by the way I would 100% recommend, but they are all fiction writers. I love having friends to discuss storytelling concepts with. But it’s also shown me how good these people are at coming up with short stories and flash fiction. It’s encouraged me to foster a love for writing flash fiction, which I do every now and then for fun. I might collate my pieces into a book of their own at some later date.

What would your advice be for aspiring writers?

1) Plan, research, and outline. This will make it so much easier on yourself down the line. Writing becomes less about summoning immense creative energies every day, and more about producing actual work.
2) Make your book (or other work) either extremely entertaining or extremely practical.
3) Yes, people do judge books by their covers, as much as we hate to admit it. I invested a lot into my book’s cover, and it’s no doubt contributed to its sales.
4) As Anne Lamott puts it in her classic book on writing, great creative works we can be proud of aren’t produced in an immense burst of great genius, but Bird by Bird. Piece by piece. Day by day. Word by word.
5) Find a great, independent copy-editor and listen to her advice. Don’t take any of it personally, her job is to make your work great, so let her do just that.
6) If you have an idea that you love, don’t ever think “Oh, someone’s covered this before.” No one can write in your unique style, or approach it with your perspective. Just write to your heart’s content and let your own style flourish.
7) Finish projects. Don’t let things stew in unfinished Word documents or Evernote folders. Writers write, so do that.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?

A fiction book needs to tell a great story, and usually follows a few of my 24 Laws 😉 But seriously, you can boil these storytelling techniques down to 1) creating a character the audience loves and setting up real stakes for them, and then 2) torturing the character by threatening everything they hold dear. There is of course more to storytelling than this. But when done right, conflict and tension are the primary drivers of your story’s interesting drama, and provide endless meaning for your character’s personal growth.

A non-fiction book has to either be extremely entertaining or extremely practical, and to best convey its lessons, it needs to tell stories. Never lecture your reader with statistics and scientific studies–you can throw as much solid information at them as you want, but it’ll never stick in their mind as well as a well-told story. An interesting story seduces the reader by holding their attention, which opens up their mind to new knowledge. We’re wired for stories, and we’ll always learn more from them than any monotonous lecture or textbook.

What is your writing process like?

When I get an idea for a book, I don’t immediately make a start on it. Instead, I let it mull in my mind for a couple of weeks, maybe even a couple of months. I’m always reading or researching for some project, so I try to notice moments where I find material that can support it. If I’m finding that over the course of a few weeks the idea has burrowed further into my mind, and I find it fascinating enough, I know it’s worth pursuing.

Then when I am ready to start, I begin researching and producing notes. As I build up a body of notes, I can see a loose structure forming, and I gradually mould this into a book outline. The outline gets clearer and firmer over the weeks and months of researching and planning. For my second non-fiction book, I’m doing this to even more detail than with 24 Law: that might seem a tad hypocritical, but I’m really following my own advice.

Now, a thorough outline makes the drafting process so much easier, because instead of having to spend every day languishing in writer’s block, I know exactly what I need to write. I have a clear structure to write towards. I’m also clearer on a lot of the ideas because I’ve spent months researching them. Also, I don’t have to spend every day summoning immense creative energies–I can direct that expensive mental energy into an interesting writing style. This in turn saves so much time in the editing phase.

With 24 Laws, I finished the first draft after about four months, and then a further two months editing that into three successive drafts. Each draft was tighter than its predecessor, my focus being on removing unnecessary clutter. This meant that when I passed it to my brilliant copy-editor Rebecca Allen, she was able to finish a week ahead of schedule. As I wrote before in question #3, you can’t just rely on your own self-editing, because you’ll inevitably miss your own mistakes. A strong copy-editor will find errors, inconsistencies, and typos you’d never find in a million years of proofreading.

I’m happy to adapt or change any part of the writing process. When building strategies for long-term creative projects, you have to be like water, changing and finding the processes that best work for you. I’m a natural strategist and always afraid of stagnating by over-relying on some tool or technique. Be open to changes and never feel afraid to lose by branching out.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?

I tend to write in the mornings, though I’ll write in the evening a lot too since I currently work a 9-5 job to support myself. I’m a strong believer in treating writing with discipline. I can rely on my ability to show up at my desk every morning than on a burst of genius that may or may not arrive. I’m going to repeat myself again, but as Anne Lamott says, creative works are built up Bird by Bird, in small increments.

I suppose my main piece of advice here is to be patient and pay attention to your work. I see too many writers rush headlong into their novels, they completely Pants (deliberately don’t plan) it, and wonder why they hit roadblocks three weeks into the writing process. My method is slower and more plodding and probably less romantic in the moment, but it more reliably produces results.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I love reading! My favourite author and biggest writing influence is the non-fiction author Robert Greene. His method of writing books has two key aspects: 1) using historical stories to convey a lesson, and 2) speaking in a direct, authoritative tone to the reader. As I explained earlier, first aspect makes it so much easier for the reader to absorb your book’s lessons, because a good story naturally leads you down a path where your mind is open to receive new knowledge. He’s also talked about getting under your reader’s skin: with 24 Laws, I knew that by claiming that there are “Laws” of storytelling, I’d unsettle a few people in the writing community, and that’s actually a good thing: an emotional person is more likely to talk and think about your book.

My fellow writer friend Kristen Kieffer (@kristen_kieffer) recommended the fiction book The Song of Achilles, which I’m about a quarter of the way into. It’s not my usual genre, I can tell you that! But it’s good so far. I’m also reading A Lab of One’s Own by Patricia Fara, and re-reading The Joyous Science by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?

My next book is another non-fiction, but it’s a departure from the topic of fiction writing and into history, particularly stories of interpersonal conflicts and outright battles. I’m exploring the lessons we can learn from these historical stories, which is proving fascinating. You should see how many notes I’ve made already! I’m still outlining this book and hope to have it out some time next year. I also have a couple more book ideas that I’ll pursue after this one, and in the New Year of 2019 I’ll be releasing a hardcover and audiobook edition of The 24 Laws of Storytelling which is really exciting too.

Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Jonathan Baldie! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more about Jonathan Baldie, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.

Goodbye for now book lovers,

Amazon U.S. – Amazon U.K. – Goodreads

Jonathan Baldie: Twitter – International Buying Link

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