Month: July 2015

Horse Sense: “Lay a Little Heavy on the Business Side” Revisited

By Callie Oettinger | 7 Comments

(This post first ran July 4th of last year. I’m revisiting it now on the heels of a visit with a young artist who I hope stands his ground and fights for a fair deal.) Would you have said no to Elvis Presley? Imagine Elvis calling you back in the day. He loves a song you’ve written, wants to record it—and even invites you down to the recording session. You’re excited and start telling your friends the news—and then (and this is a big AND THEN), a few days before the session, Colonel Tom Parker (a.k.a. Elvis’ manager) calls you…

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Blake Snyder’s Fun and Games

By Steven Pressfield | 18 Comments

Have you heard of Blake Snyder? He was a screenwriter and writer of several terrific books about screenwriting (tragically he died in 2009 at fifty-one) including Save The Cat! (23 printings so far) and Save the Cat Goes To The Movies. Highly recommended. Blake Snyder was famous for his “beat sheet.” This was his original, funny, idiosyncratic (and very insightful) way of breaking down a story into its constituent elements. There are fifteen beats in the Blake Snyder beat sheet, starting with “Opening Image” and continuing through “Set-up,” “Catalyst,” “B Story,” “Bad Guys Close In,” “Dark Night of the Soul,”…

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Learning the Craft

By Steven Pressfield | 22 Comments

If you and I want to be taken seriously as writers, it goes without saying that we have to study the craft. However we do it (read Aristotle, enroll in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, study McKee and Coyne and Stephen King), we must learn the timeless principles of storytelling with the same thoroughness that a brain surgeon applies (we hope) before he starts drilling into our skulls. That’s the craft. But there’s another, even more important element to this enterprise. Our craft. What I mean by “our craft” are those stylistic and storytelling instincts that are unique to you and…

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Contracts and the Art of Driveway Grading

By Callie Oettinger | 10 Comments

I’m married to a numbers guy who taught me the art involved with math and business. Before him, I ran from numbers. This afternoon, I spoke with a guy who said there’s an art to grading a driveway. Thinking back to what my husband taught me about numbers, I don’t doubt the art of the driveway grading, but I doubt art as an excuse. The driveway guy is trying to sell me a new driveway. I live at the bottom of a hill and need a driveway that includes a dip leading up to my garage, so the garage is…

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Atticus Finch 2.0

By Steven Pressfield | 22 Comments

One of the hardest things for a writer to do is to take criticism. Notes. That dreaded memo from your editor that says, “Back to Square One, baby.” So I must give major, major plaudits to Harper Lee for what she did (according to the stories we’re all reading in the Times and elsewhere) after turning in Go Set A Watchman to her editor Tay Hohoff at Lippincott in 1957. The sensational aspect of the current Mockingbird/Watchman kerfuffle centers on Harper Lee’s radically different characterizations of Atticus Finch in the two books, specifically the less-than-knightly portrait in Go Set A…

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A One Page Story Bible

By Shawn Coyne | 8 Comments

[Join to read more of Shawn’s Stuff] The subject of today’s post comes from dedicated commenter and Story Nerd, David Kaufmann. For those of you who’d like to suggest topics for my posts for What it Takes, feel free to email me at Shawn at  I can’t promise that I’ll be able to answer every question, but I’ll do my best to respond.  I’m a digital idiot, so please don’t be offended if you don’t hear back. I still haven’t responded to an invitation to my 25th College Reunion. Sharing your topics of interest will help me…

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Making A Scene Cut Two Ways

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

I once did a rewrite on a porn flick. The producer wanted to impart a couple of guidelines before I began. We met for breakfast at a coffee shop in Santa Monica. What he told me has proved incredibly useful over the years—in all kinds of writing, including the most literary. “Every skin flick makes the same mistake,” said the producer (who was a thoroughly nice guy, like a suburban soccer dad). “When the movie gets to a sex scene, the story stops dead in its tracks. That’s my first marching order to you, kid: keep the story going through…

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What Kind of Pitcher Are You?

By Callie Oettinger | 23 Comments

I’ve spent the past week thinking about a comment Steve made in an interview and a comment my son’s baseball coach made during a practice. At the 20 minute mark in the interview, August Cole asked Steve what happens when he doesn’t do the work. Steve replied: “I get symptoms . . . I’ll start to get in trouble . . . When you don’t do your work, vices start to creep into your life—and they get worse and worse and worse. They start out with potato chips and wind up with crack smoking or something like that.” During the baseball…

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The Writer’s Skill

By Steven Pressfield | 21 Comments

The artist’s world is mental. The sculptor may manipulate clay, the software writer may work with code, but, like the filmmaker and the mystic, their real tools are Shadows and Light. The sphere of the artist is the mind. Her currency is imagination. She asks (how can she not?), “Where do ideas come from?” Did Rhapsody in Blue come to Gershwin in the shower? Was J.K. Rowling baking a pie when she first imagined Hogwarts? Or was he at the piano and she at the typewriter keyboard? Like the Zen monk or the meditator, the artist enters a mental space.…

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