Month: October 2014

Category Killer

By Shawn Coyne | 17 Comments

[Join to read more of Shawn’s Stuff] In honor of Halloween, here’s my favorite insider book publishing expression which represents the most desired property of any publisher, The Category Killer. What it means is this: When a book (or author) hits on all cylinders and is absolutely way above the standards of its genre—be it fiction or non-fiction—it has the potential to become a category killer. When it does, the book and the category become synonymous.

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Think Like a Studio

By Steven Pressfield | 9 Comments

When I was first starting out in Hollywood, a screenwriter friend gave me some advice that has served me well in all subsequent incarnations. “Steve, you and I, whether we realize it or not, are competing against Warners Bros. We’re competing against Twentieth-Century Fox and SONY and Paramount—and we have to think like they do. We have to be as professional as they are, and we have to think of ourselves in the same terms that they do.” My friend showed me his “to do” list. It wasn’t a smudged-up scrap of cocktail napkin like mine; it was a full-on…

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Stick It To The Doorknob

By Callie Oettinger | 9 Comments

My neighbor called yesterday. She was in the hospital and her husband’s cell phone wasn’t working. He’d forgotten to bring a few things with him and was on his way back home to pack another bag for her. Would I pop over and ask him to grab a few extra things to bring back to the hospital? I adore these neighbors and would do anything to help them, so I dropped what I was doing and stuck my head outside. Empty car port. Back inside, I grabbed a sticky pad and pen and scribbled a note with the items she…

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The Second Act Belongs to the Villain

By Steven Pressfield | 11 Comments

I learned this from Randall Wallace (Braveheart), who learned it from Steve Cannell, the maestro of a million plotlines from The Rockford Files to Baretta to 21 Jump Street: Keep the antagonist front-and-center in the middle of your story. Why does this work? Because it energizes the narrative. Think about these all-time mega-hits—Jaws, Alien, the first Terminator. The villains were everywhere in those movies and, more importantly, the protagonists were aware of and terrified of them at every moment. Still don’t believe me? Four words: Star Wars, Darth Vader. I was watching a movie called A Single Shot on TV…

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Go Dark

By Shawn Coyne | 16 Comments

[Join to read more of Shawn’s Story Philosophy] How do you choose what kind of story you want to tell? Maybe you do it by thinking up a “What if” Event—what if terrorists attacked in the middle of the Super Bowl*? Maybe you do it thinking of a “What if” Protagonist—what if the hero of my story is an inanimate object**? Obviously, you can’t have a story without events and protagonists. But is there another way to goose yourself into a feverish writing jag? One that can sustain you for an entire first draft? My advice to anyone tinkering…

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Why the Raiders Suck

By Steven Pressfield | 41 Comments

Readers who follow this blog will have already guessed what today’s post is going to be about: Personal culture. The Oakland Raiders are an example of an institutional culture. The Raiders are the poster child for a losing culture. No matter what players the Raiders draft or acquire in free agency, no matter what coach they hire or what new quarterback they install, they still stink. (Yes, I am a Raiders fan.) The losing culture is so entrenched and so powerful that it cannot be overcome. At least not yet. (Jon Gruden, are you listening?) But let’s get back to…

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Why Do Authors Still Approach Traditional Media Outlets?

By Callie Oettinger | 22 Comments

Roger Sutton made waves this past week for writing “An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed,” which begat “No, I don’t want to read your self-published books” by Ron Charles, itself a G-rated echo of Josh Olson’s “I will not read your fucking script.” If you care about my thoughts on Sutton’s and Charles’ pieces, read “Dearest Writer: Nobody Owes You Shit” by Chuck Wendig, who said exactly what I would have if I had his writing chops and wasn’t too lazy to write something myself. There’s one thing about Charles’ piece that I would like to discuss…

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Becoming Our Own Editors

By Steven Pressfield | 19 Comments

Last Wednesday’s post ended with this: The writer these days has to be her own editor. It’s tough, but true. You and I have to learn the craft, whether we want to or not. Writers today have to be their own editors because it’s so hard to find a real editor, meaning someone who understands story structure and can help the writer whip her work into ready-for-prime-time shape. The breed has become extinct, alas, at most publishing houses (or those who carry the title of editor and have the chops are so busy with material acquisition, marketing, and internal politics…

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Old Dog, New Tricks

By Shawn Coyne | 19 Comments

So in the past year, three of my contemporaries have died. The usual suspects felled them—cancer, heart attack, and that never see it coming…sudden brain hemorrhage. When people you know well begin to meet their maker, you can’t help but look beyond today’s utility bills and tomorrow’s cocktail party at the Joneses. I used to think that I’d build some sort of company that would carry on after I joined the great editorial board in the sky. But the one I thought would be my legacy crashed and burned, a gut punch that still makes me wince when I think…

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Does Somebody Know Something?

By Steven Pressfield | 13 Comments

Continuing on last Wednesday’s subject of Nobody Knows Nothing: Somebody has to know something. We can’t all be flying blind. It’s unacceptable for us to throw up our hands on the topic of our art and our livelihood. But who is that someone? In the book biz, that individual is called an editor. “Editor” is probably the least understood profession on the planet, short of “movie producer.” No one knows what an editor does. Does she spell-check your manuscript? Organize your book tour? Is it her job to get you on Oprah? Make sure that your book gets reviewed by…

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