Lessons I Learned From The Writers of Cobra Kai- Part 2
(Continued from previous post) By the time I achieved the milestone of writing The End to my beloved story, it was not only too long, but now it was way, way too long, according to what all industry experts said was appropriate for first time novels. I had no idea how to cut it down to shoehorn it into something more acceptable, and deep down, I didn’t really want to.
At a loss for what to do next, I took a step back and just let myself appreciate what I’d accomplished. Even if my story never saw the light of day, at least I’d written it, which was a victory in and of itself. And not only had I written it, but I’d also written it the way I’d wanted to, which for a people pleaser like me was an even bigger victory.
From that lighthearted place an idea came to me: what if on my next revision I pretended I was just like the Cobra Kai writers and wrote my story like it was a Netflix series? (This scenario wasn’t hard to conjure because for writers Netflix adaptation is the second most popular fantasy right after the Oprah interview fantasy)
Yes, of course, this was delusional. And silly. And followed none of supposed rules of revision. But damn, if it didn’t sound like fun! So, being the Pollyanna that I am, I got my Post-It notes and markers and set about storyboarding my novel on my wall like I was in the writer’s room on the Sony studio lot rubbing elbows with The Big Three themselves.
I broke the first part of my novel into 10 episodes just like all the popular series. Jotted out scene titles under each heading, making sure to transition from main plots to sub-plots to keep things interesting and the narrative driving forward. I even went as far as clocking each fictional episode’s reading time to keep it in blocks of 30-45 minutes like a television series. I was inspired with a capital “I”, and working on my novel was a blast!
As I got the novel laid out, I noticed how my story fell neatly into 3 ‘seasons’; each with its own arc; the first two revealing natural cliffhangers at the end and the third one wrapping up with the ‘happily for now’ ending that I loved so much.
As I stood back marveling at my wall of yellow Post-It notes, it hit me. Wait a minute. If this wasn’t a Netflix series… if these three seasons were actually books… wouldn’t this be a book series? (Seems obvious I know, but I’d really thrown myself into my TV writer persona at the time). Oh my gosh. Now I understood. I hadn’t messed up and written one too-long book. I’d written 3 just-right books! You could’ve knocked me over with a feather I was so surprised.
It wasn’t until a while later that I realized I’d done exactly what Josh, Jon, and Hayden had done with The Karate Kid universe. I hadn’t changed my story at all, I’d just turned the prism and seen my story in a different way. I’d stepped back and allowed myself a new perspective; loosened up my grip on believing only one side of a black and white story I’d created just long enough to let another possibility enter my reasoning.
It made me wonder in what other areas of my life could I turn the prism? Where else could I let myself see things in a new way. Was my body really declining as much as I thought it was as I aged? Turn the prism: Or was it, in truth, strong and healthy and still allowing me to do so many things that I loved?
Was my son’s struggle with anxiety going to be a lifelong hinderance? Turn the prism. Or was this his opportunity to define what he wanted out of life and find ways to manage his energy in a healthy way?
Suddenly there were so many new angles of thinking available to me I hadn’t allowed in before. I didn’t have to keep thinking the same thoughts I always had before. I could choose to think differently about anything I wanted to. (I mean, if I could go from loving Ralph Macchio to loving Billy Zabka, just imagine all the other ways I could change. The possibilities were endless!)
Now I challenge you to try the same technique in your life. Take a second to loosen your grip on a problem you’re trying to fix. Become lighthearted enough about it just long enough that you can step back and get a different perspective on it. Flip that prism; get more of a bird's-eye view, without all the concrete walls and logical thinking your rational mind has built up around its edges. Who knows? Just like in Cobra Kai, you might begin to see the problem you always thought was the villain of your story, was the hero all along.