The Evolution of This Blog
First lemme thank everybody who has signed up for FIRST LOOK ACCESS and is following the Foolscap videos (#1 last week, #2 this week) and the introduction of The Authentic Swing (all only available through FIRST LOOK ACCESS). Wow, what a sentence. Totally incomprehensible to anyone who is not a regular reader of this blog.
Thinking about this got me mulling how publishing has changed and how this blog has evolved over just the past four years. Here’s a bird’s-eye view:
When I sit down to compose a Writing Wednesdays post, I open a folder in my MacBook titled “AFGHANISTAN.” From there I go to a subfolder called “TRIBALISM VIDEO PROJECT 2009.” Finally I get to “BLOG POSTS.” Then I start a new file representing the current week’s post.
But let me go back even farther, so that crazy paragraph makes sense.
This blog started four years ago, based on an historical novel I had written called The Afghan Campaign. The Afghan Campaign is about Alexander the Great’s invasion of the Afghan kingdoms in the 330s B.C. That book evolved out of a single chapter, called “Badlands,” in an earlier novel about Alexander the Great. I had been struck, in the research for both books, by the parallels between Alexander’s campaign 2300 years ago and our own American campaign in that same part of the world in 2009 and the preceding years.
I thought American policy was wrongheaded and even tragic (not only for our U.S. forces but for the Afghan people) and that our soldiers and Marines were getting killed needlessly because U.S. strategy was not taking into account the lessons of the past.
I decided to make five short videos on the subject of tribalism in Afghanistan. From that evolved a short speech that I gave to Marines at Camp Pendleton, midshipmen at the Naval Academy, and other places. I was trying to influence policy. I wanted U.S. officials to take tribalism (and the tribal mindset among the Taliban, al-Qaeda, etc.) more seriously, in fact to see it as the central element and common denominator of the opposition our troops were confronting in Afghanistan.
I shot the videos. But what could I do with them? We tried to give them away to established channels on the web. Nobody wanted them. We updated my rudimentary static website, making it a blog-based, interactive site, and put the videos up there. We called it “It’s the Tribes, Stupid.” It was totally military. We linked to Small Wars Journal and other mil/pol sites. The blog had nothing to do with writing or anything literary. We published a 55-page paper by Special Forces Major Jim Gant called “One Tribe At A Time,” which laid out a totally new way to fight the war in Afghanistan. (Am I boring you yet? Hang in there!)
Maj. Gant’s paper made a big splash in the Pentagon and elsewhere. The blog was actually getting traction in military circles. But now a new element entered the picture:
The readers of The War of Art posted and asked about topics related to Resistance and Writing, and Callie said, “If you want to speak to both audiences, you need a blog series for writing, too. We’ll call it Writing Wednesdays and run it once a week. Each post can be like a continuing chapter of The War of Art.”
I said, “Yeah, but I’ll run out of ideas after four or five posts.” That was, what, 200 posts ago.
Gradually the Afghan element fell away. Shawn began writing posts about the publishing biz and the editorial process. Callie began writing on aspects of professionalism and publicity. That went on for about two years.
By now long-form projects began popping into our heads. Stuff that wouldn’t fit into a single post or even a hundred. In other words, books. Shawn had wanted for years to write a long, serious piece about the editorial process. His title is The Story Grid, based on the visual way he edits a writer’s manuscript.
He’s working on it now. It’ll be done in a few months.
Meanwhile I wanted to write something about the writing of a first novel, specifically my own, The Legend of Bagger Vance. That’s the book we’re rolling out now, The Authentic Swing.
Is this the future of publishing? Probably not in the broad sense. Nothing will replace mainstream publishing houses for serious fiction (and not-so-serious) and for most forms of non-fiction. But it’s possible that in certain niches, you and I (meaning the writers who read this blog and others like it) may be able to find a way to get site-specific and community-specific stuff into the hands of readers who are interested and not go completely broke in the process. Or, put another way, we might return to the original writer-writes-for-reader concept instead of the publisher-formulates-product-for-bookstore paradigm of conventional publishing. Stephen King is doing it. So is J.K. Rowling. Why not more?
Which brings us back, in some crazy way, to tribes. Seth Godin in his book, Tribes, predicted this phenomenon years ago. He foresaw the rise of virtual communities of like-minded individuals, who would share expertise on their subject of interest, whether it was cooking, horsebreeding, or writing.
Our intention here on this site—me, Shawn, Callie, and Jeff—is to see if we can make that work. The ongoing process, this week and next, is our first real attempt to see if there’s a demand and if we can contribute to the conversation.
So thanks, you guys, everybody who is participating (skeptically or hopefully) so far. This week is Foolscap Video #2. Next week the full Authentic Swing. Thanks too for the great feedback and response so far. We’re learning. And we’ll share what we’ve learned.
If we can do it, maybe others can too.
Of course I want the exerpt of the authentic swing … so I head over to amazon to download the kindle sample I’m certain will be there. Yet it’s not. The book is not there at all. It’s obvious that I’m not first mover here, either, because the search comes up as soon as I start typing ‘Steven Pressfield’. I know this is all for free, and I love that, but you really ought to have your ducks in a row, marketing wise, when you launch a new book.
Love you to death, though 😀
Thank you for your comment.
THE AUTHENTIC SWING has not yet been released. The introduction to the book is available via FIRST ACCESS LOOK, to those readers interested in early access to Steve’s projects.
The same holds true for the Foolscap videos he mentioned. Steve set up FIRST ACCESS LOOK as a thank you to his readers, offering them a first look at new projects and special offers, before they are announced to the rest of the world.
What the four of you are doing for all of us is amazing – there IS a demand, and as long as this blog is here I’ll be here every week. Can’t wait to read The Authentic Swing, but now I have to go Foolscap this novel of mine. Thanks for everything!
I agree with Mary–what the SP team produces and shares is amazing. It is also unselfish and unconditional, which makes me want to support it even more. The content of this site and Steven’s books have made me a better creator, and I’ll be forever in debt for that.
Thanks to you all.
Strong and interesting piece today, Steve. I like learning more about you and your process of getting from one point to another. I especially relate to your note of “Tribes,” and in more ways than one. A Native American, I host a site on Facebook that is very tribal called Native Defender. It grows daily and the followers are impassioned and thoughtful. I daily post Native History, customs, traditions, news, and thought-provoking questions. For example, many didn’t know that President Lincoln signed the death orders in 1862 for the largest mass hanging in US History. That year 38 Native Americans were hung in a single day. Of course, between the lines I am often promoting my books. Three of the eight are Native American books and one was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by Random House. Yes, I have found my “Tribe” and last week the site reached 140,000 people. Keep up the great work, Steve, as I know you’ll do!
We should be thanking you – all four of you. Not just for the energy and encouragement, but also for the commitment, openness and invitation to join. Thanks.
“… we might return to the original writer-writes-for-reader concept instead of the publisher-formulates-product-for-bookstore paradigm of conventional publishing. Stephen King is doing it. So is J.K. Rowling. Why not more?”
I’m not religious, but I want to say a hearty amen!
This is a time of turmoil in publishing, but it’s also an exciting time where new possibilities for both writers and publishers are popping up like mushrooms after a rain.
I have benefited enormously from your blog in all sorts of ways. Thank you.
The foolscap videos, authentic swing, Shawn’s book: more excited about this stuff than if I knew Seth was writing another book (hey, I’ll bet he is.)
You yell charge. I’ll carry the banner up the hill, no questions asked.
I think what Ulla meant was, “I’m ready to buy the new book!” Me too, but the Foolscap videos (and everything else) are extremely helpful, sincere, and inspiring.
Keep up the great work.
I was initially drawn to your site by Maj Gant’s paper, and your discussion of tribes. I’ve been a faithful reader ever since. Don’t stop writing about military history, stories of the “fighting man,” and battle against all types of enemy–be they Persian, German SS, or Resistance.
Can’t thank you enough for taking the time to create the Foolscap videos. The way you simplified the process and critical elements gives me the confidence to push forward.
This idea is really awesome. That being said, I really love all of your (the team’s) posts every week.
A book outlining your creation process would be amazing and I think the tribe following this blog would be totally committed to it.
I’m now a follower of the blogs and have read three of Steve’s books…
As an unpublished screenwriter for many years (did make my own film from one of the short scripts, however), I had previously used the “Foolscap Method,” but called it simply a one-pager. Great stuff, boiling down to a story’s essence.
Just finished my first screenplay after a two-year hiatus. Using “The War of Art” and the others as guidance, I’m developing my own set of writing rituals, watchful for all forms of resistance, and plugging away. And anxious to start the next script.
And so a hearty THANK YOU!
I’m writing from New Zealand … the soon to be holders of the Americas Cup! Did you ever imagine that your influence would stretch this far? I think that the analogy of team NZ facing off against Oracle is a good one to use for anyone trying compete in the publishing world against the Big publishers. It requires ingenuity first, hard work second and the ability to work within a budget … The palying field has never been more level than it is now, but as Seth says … you gotta DO THE WORK!
Keep this Blog goin … it is always great for inspiration and encouragement.
Although Oracle won the Americas Cup this year, I hope that indie book publishers do well, anyway.
I’ve signed up for First Look Access, but I can’t find a link to the videos for Foolscap #1 & #2. I’ve been waiting to hear about Foolscap and I’m eager to see them. Can you tell me where they are on the site? Thanks.
Thanks Steven Pressfield, i’m from Brazil and i am following this blog that is helping my project!