A Writer’s Journal, Day #1057

This is Day Two of our week-long, one-post-every-day “Journal of Finishing A Novel.” (See yesterday’s post for Day One.)

I'm shocked ... shocked to think that Bogey and Ingrid are metaphors!

Today’s work will be a lot scarier than yesterday’s because today I’ll really get into the meat of the climax–a long scene that has to work or the whole book fails. My method for dealing with this kind of anxiety is not to think about it at all. I’ll just do it.

Couple of notes:

1) By no means will today’s work be “winging it.” I know exactly what beats have to be hit and in what order. The climax’s shape has been dictated by every scene and sequence that has gone before. That’s why they went before.

The two primary characters—protagonist and antagonist—have been set up by dozens of scenes and moments, so that the reader will know both who they are as characters and what they represent in terms of the book’s theme. The two minor characters who will appear have also been set up by numerous beats throughout the story. I know how they have to clash and what the outcome has to be.

The physical setting for the climax has also been established in the reader’s mind by earlier scenes—both what and where the site is and, more importantly, what it represents thematically.

I’m a big believer that every character and place in a story must not only be “itself,” but must represent an aspect of the theme. So that—in Casablanca, say—Bogey represents something, Ingrid Bergman represents something, the plane to Lisbon represents something. In the climax when Bogey puts Ingrid on the plane but doesn’t get on himself, that act—even without dialogue—says everything thematically that the story wants to say.

All that being said, I can’t do this climactic scene today “by the numbers.” It depends on passion and immediacy. There’s no way to make that happen except the way actors do it—by getting into the moment emotionally and letting it rip. So, though I know what I have to do today, I don’t know how. That’ll come in the moment.

2) I’ve read that Michael Crichton, as he approached the climax of a book, used to get up earlier and earlier in the morning—till he was getting out of bed at two-thirty and driving his wife crazy. He finally just moved out of the house, checked into a hotel (the Kona Village, I believe) to hunker down to a writing blitz till it was over.

I’m the same way, but without the hotel. It’s too hard otherwise. I have to screw my emotions up to a fever pitch because Resistance gets so high. The earlier I start, the better. That’s my style anyway. I’m not a midnight kinda guy.

And so to work. See you tomorrow.


Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1


A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Ivana Sendecka on August 19, 2010 at 3:16 am

    This is my daily mantra:-)
    “So, though I know what I have to do today, I don’t know how. That’ll come in the moment.”

    So back to work=shipping.
    cheers to all doers from Slovakia

  2. Guy on August 19, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Thank you for sharing your daily grind against resistance. It’s exactly what I need right now. Best wishes for continued success.

  3. Brian on August 19, 2010 at 4:32 am

    Awesome. Simply awesome. Thx for sharing! 🙂

  4. SJB on August 19, 2010 at 6:55 am

    “-a long scene that has to work or the whole book fails.” Yikes! Resistance does seem to be bringing out the heavy artillery. Those bungalows at the Kona Village look delightful.

  5. Borna on August 19, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Keep it up Steve! We are all awaiting your next book and we know that you can meet all out expectations and then some!

  6. Steven on August 19, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Mr Pressfield, thank you very much for your posts.

  7. Andrew on August 19, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I had never heard that Chrichton story before. Although having heard it, it makes perfect sense.

    Best of luck with your climax. I’m surely will be titilating 🙂

  8. Owen Garratt on August 19, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Interesting about Chrichton, and not a bad way to tackle it…I do something similar when I draw; I just have to go somewhere else. I didn’t realize exactly why – I thought it was to eliminate distractions, but there’s likely more to it.

    Maybe resistance feeds on the distractions?

    P.S.(Your stuff is a zillion times better than Crichton’s. Just sayin’)

  9. Peggy Payne on August 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    My writer clients get tremendous help from your War of Art book/CD. I do too.

  10. avidya on August 20, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    This is like standing in the corner of a fighter. Knowing what is going through his mind and all you can do it give advise. For how he will react and fight will flow and just come without thought.

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