Michael Hauge interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Jul 8, 2017 1:51:37 PM
Michael Hauge interview with David Alan Binder
Bio: MICHAEL HAUGE works with people who want to change more lives, and make more money, by telling compelling stories. He has been one of Hollywood’s top coaches and story experts since 1985, and has worked with countless screenwriters, novelists and filmmakers. He has consulted on projects starring (among many others) Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon.
Applying those same, powerful storytelling principles, Michael also coaches independent consultants, speakers, marketers, entrepreneurs and business leaders on using story to transform the lives of their audiences, clients and customers.
Michael is the best selling author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, as well as the 20th Anniversary Edition of his classic book Writing Screenplays That Sell. His latest book, Storytelling Made Easy: Persuade and Transform Your Audiences, Buyers and Clients – Simply, Quickly and Profitably, has just been released in digital and print formats.
Michael has presented seminars, lectures and keynotes in person and online to more than 80,000 participants worldwide.
According to Will Smith, “No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.”
1. How do you pronounce your name?
Like the city in the Netherlands, Hague. Only spelled Hauge and rhymes with vague.
2. Where are you currently living?
Sherman Oaks, CA
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
Regularity is the key to getting things done. My friends Marc LeBlanc and Henry DeVries are business partners, and they say “What you do every day is a lot more important to what you do once in a while.” It is the regularity of writing that gets things finished, that keeps you moving forward. If you wait until the spirit moves you or if you decide, “Well, I’m going to put everything else first, and then if I have enough time I’ll squeeze in some writing,” it just isn’t going to happen. If you write every single day, even if it’s for 15 minutes, then you will end up producing something faster and better as well.
[Note: In case anyone Googles it; Gretchen Rubin is also attributed to saying something similar, “What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while.”]
4. Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
There are a few things:
I’ve been a script consultant in Hollywood for more than 30 years, I’ve worked with novelists for decades as well, and I consult on storytelling with speakers, consultants, marketers and business executives.
For those who are in the fiction arena – screenwriters, filmmakers, novelists – it’s critical to think about the market for what you’re writing. Once you come up with an idea or story concept, ask yourself who is going to want to see this movie or buy this book? If you’re just writing something because it’s of interest to you, or to honor your dead grandmother, or to vent your feelings about your ex, it’s unlikely to advance your writing career.
You need to be thinking about what makes your story a blockbuster or a bestseller. Or at least why enough people are going to buy enough tickets or copies that it will triple its cost of production. Or more to the point, what is going to make a movie studio or producer or what is going to make a publisher believe that it’s going to make money?
You want to follow your passion and write something that is important to you, that you care about deeply, and that you have a fascination with. But if you’re writing just for yourself and not for a mass audience, do journal writing, or the morning pages Julia Cameron describes in The Artist’s Way.
5. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books?
I don’t have any tricks to my process; I just sit down and start doing it. Keep in mind that even though I work with storytellers in the fictional arena, my books are all nonfiction, and are designed to instruct people and guide people and help them to be better, more successful storytellers. So for me, my books are about things that I’ve been talking about for some time.
I lecture about screenwriting, fiction writing, pitching and storytelling for business. I also write articles on my website, and most of all I coach people on storytelling. So the content of my books is pretty clear to me before I begin.
There is nothing magical to the process, except carving out the time do it, and just getting something on the page that I can edit and improve later.
6. What about newer writers? Are there any particular issues likely to arrive early in one’s career?
Often the biggest hurdle to overcome is regarding your writing career as a real career, and not just a hobby. That means giving it priority over other things that can consume your time: your day job, groups to which you might belong, your friends, and even your family. You have to ask yourself, “Am I treating this as seriously, and with as much commitment, as I would if I were working for a company and getting paid for it?”
I know this from personal experience; the first book I wrote, Writing Screenplays That Sell took me 5 years from the time the time I decided I wanted to do this and do it until it actually got published. The way I usually describe that is to say it was 6 months of writing and 4 and a half years of procrastinating. With the second book I wrote, Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds, I had a deadline of with the publisher of six months. The first two months I was too busy to work on it, so I got that book written in 4 months and the other took 5 years. It was because the deadline made me give it top priority. You need that kind of commitment to your writing even when you have no deadline – no commitment to anyone but yourself.
7. How many books have you written?
I’ve written three and collaborated on one more.
8. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer?
My whole career has been about telling storytellers tips and tricks. But one that would apply to all writing disciplines, even if you are writing nonfiction, or instructional books or a biography is that you must incorporate storytelling into your work. This is what will make it emotionally involving for your readers. You need to give examples of people who have lived through the themes or messages or lessons you want to teach, so that your readers can learn them through that vicarious experience.
The best stories are very simple. They are built on a foundation of character, desire, and conflict. They are always about a hero who wants something desperately and they faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve it. You must know early on who your hero is, what finish line she wants to cross, and what she’s up against both externally and internally.
Then every element of the story must contribute to that simple through line. Whatever happens either moves the hero closer to her goal, or it creates more conflict for her.
You want to stay with that simple journey, and don’t start taking side trips into extraneous events or commentary. Don’t fall victim to the idea that a story is just a series of things that happen.
In all the consulting that I do with writers and storytellers, whether they are writing fiction or nonfiction, novels or scripts or speeches or self-help books or marketing emails, the number one weakness I see is that the writing is just too complicated. It meanders all over the place, readers can’t follow it, and they can’t stay emotionally involved because they’ve lost sight of what they’re rooting for.
9. What are some unusual ways in which you promote your work?
I don’t think I do anything unusual. The primary way my work has been promoted over the years is through lots and lots of lectures and seminars and speeches. I’m presenting my material all over the world, so my name gets known and people who have heard of me buy my book. Then they might recommend it to other people and so on. That’s supplemented by articles that I write about storytelling that appear on my website and in my newsletter, and then are picked up by other sites or other bloggers and so on. My assistant does social media promotion for me, and I often blog for other people or get invited on podcasts.
If you are a nonfiction writer, it’s critical to get in front of people and share your information. My latest book, Storytelling Made Easy, shows people how to transform people’s lives – and make more money – by telling better stories in a business context. If you are a public speaker or a consultant and you want to pick up clients, or if you’re a marketer and want to sell your services or products, storytelling is critical.
When you’ve mastered that, and can convince audiences and readers of your expertise, and show them your personality, then you can market your books – and your services – in back of the room or in your emails or your interviews or whatever.
The bios and the emails and the advertising about your appearances will include the titles of your books and your contact information. If you are not using your book as leverage to get in front of groups of people and offer your services or expertise or wisdom, you’re not doing everything you should to market your book or yourself.
10. One of your books is Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read. What are the main principles for pitching a novel? How would that differ for a nonfiction book?
When you are pitching a novel or a screenplay, what you need to do is identify some key elements of the story and then convey those as clearly and as succinctly as possible. You’re not trying to tell the story itself. If you try and tell the story in any kind of detail you are going to run out of time. Andy potential buyer or agent will be too busy to hear a long, drawn out story. You’re just trying to get them to read your manuscript – nothing more.
For fiction those key elements are:
a. Who is the hero?
b. Why do we connect with them, why do we empathize with them or identify with them?
c. What is their visible goal for the story, what is that visible finish line that they want to cross by the end of the story?
d. What is the conflict, what are the giant obstacles that the character will have to face in pursuing that goal?
e. What are a couple of similar novels in the same genre that would appeal to the same readership or the same demographic? (If you can’t come up with at least two, then you’ve probably come up with a story that a publisher is unlikely to want to publish.
f. When it comes to nonfiction it is somewhat the same but you want to really narrow in on what is the problem that this book is going to solve for people. Because if your advising anyone, then you are helping them to solve a problem.
If you write historical nonfiction, the problem may be that readers don’t know enough about World War 1, or the Women’s Movement, or the discovery of radium, or whatever it might be.
Again, you have to be very succinct and direct. You don’t want to get lost in a thicket of details, you want to hit the broad strokes of the problem and your solution to it.
11. Your latest book, Storytelling Made Easy: Persuade and Transform Your Audiences, Buyers and Clients - Quickly, Simply and Profitably is designed for business people who aren’t professional storytellers. Would anything you explore relate to writers of non-fiction books?
No matter where they appear, stories are emotionally involving. Ultimately, the actions we take all grow out of emotional decisions.
What a story can do, that data can’t do, is give your reader the emotional experience of taking the action you’re recommending. Telling your readers or your audiences that a thousand people followed your advice, and 990 of them were successful, it sounds impressive but it doesn’t carry any feeling.
But if you take just one of those 990 people you tell the story how he overcame serious obstacles and succeeded by following your advice, your readers will identify with him, and they will have experienced his success on an emotional level. This is a much more powerful way to persuade people and move them to action.
If you are writing nonfiction that is historical in nature or journalistic in nature it will also be much more powerful if you can include individual stories about the characters that were part of the history you are writing about.
12. What saying or mantra do you live by?
There are actually three. My father-in-law [Art Arthur*] was a screenwriter for almost 50 years (he was also a mentor of mine) and he used to say; there are three secrets to success at screenwriting.
The first is “don’t get it right get it written”, which means if you obsess over your writing being great, it’s never even going to be good. You’ll simply block yourself. No matter how crappy you think your writing is, just get something down on paper (or on the computer screen). You can make it great when you edit it.
Art’s second maxim was “the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair”. We all would have like to have written a book or a movie, but are we willing to plunk our butts in front of the computer every single day and do the work? You have to be willing and committed to doing that to be a success.
His third rule is to “reject rejection”. When you are trying to get your script or manuscript sold, or to persuade an agent to represent you, you can’t take rejection personally. A “no” simply means your story or your book wasn’t right for that company or that person at that time. Just keep dogging after the people who are going to respond to it. And KEEP WRITING!
*Art Arthur, Michael’s father-in-law, was a screenwriter and writer of the following from IMDB:
Hello Down There (story), Gentle Ben (TV Series), (written by), Daring Game (story), Off to See the Wizard (TV Series) (original story), Birds Do It, I Around the World Under the Sea, Flipper (TV Series), Daktari (TV Series) (creator - 1 episode), Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (story), Zebra in the Kitchen (screenplay), Flipper's New Adventure, Rhino! (screenplay) (story), Sea Hunt (TV Series) (written by - 26 episodes) (writer - 1 episode), Ripcord (TV Series) (written by - 1 episode), The Aquanauts (TV Series) (written by - 3 episodes, The Man and the Challenge (TV Series) (written by - 2 episodes) Battle Taxi (story), Song of India (writer), Northwest Stampede (screenplay) / (story), Heaven Only Knows (screenplay), The Fabulous Dorseys (story and screenplay), Seeds of Destiny (Documentary short), Love, Honor and Goodbye (story), Riding High (screenplay), Salute for Three (story), Lady Bodyguard (screenplay), Priorities on Parade (original screenplay), Dr. Broadway (screenplay), True to the Army (screenplay), Sleepytime Gal (screenplay), Sailors on Leave (screenplay), Sun Valley Serenade (story), Tight Shoes, Hudson's Bay (contributor to treatment - uncredited), Everything Happens at Night (original screen play), Day-Time Wife (screen play), Kentucky Moonshine (screenplay), Love and Hisses (screenplay) / (story), Charlie Chan on Broadway (original story)