Month: July 2016

Is “Good Enough” Good Enough?

By Shawn Coyne | 18 Comments

As many of you already know, over at The Story Grid Podcast, I’ve been serving as newbie fiction writer Tim Grahl’s developmental editor. We’ve been at it for about nine months now and while Tim had to discard just about everything from his first draft, we’re making steady baby-step progress as he pivots into a new narrative direction. It has been enormously gratifying to witness how the fundamental story principles that took me so long to understand are beginning to embed themselves into someone deliberately learning the craft. But it’s a frustrating process too. And that’s no knock on Tim.…

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What is the Theme of Your Life?

By Steven Pressfield | 22 Comments

    Here’s an exercise to drive you crazy: Ask yourself, “What is the theme of my life?” I suggest this for two reasons. First, because it’s so hard for us as writers to grasp the idea of “theme.” What the hell is it anyway? How is it different from “subject?” From “concept?” An exercise like this (aside from being fairly mind-bending) is a great way to get a sense of exactly what “theme” means. My second reason is because I was watching the documentary about Tony Robbins last night, “I Am Not Your Guru.” I only got to watch…

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How To Pitch: You Had Me At Hello

By Callie Oettinger | 13 Comments

“Hello,” worked for Jerry Maguire, helping him win back his girl. For pitching, if someone says, “You had me at hello,” it means you’ve won a place in the trashcan instead of in that person’s heart. The pitch below is an example of a recent “Hello/Hi” pitch sent to Steve. It’s followed by a mark-up pointing out areas to avoid if you find yourself making similar pitches one of these days. Hi, My name is Xxx Xxx and I am the social media manager of Xxx Competition. Established in 2012, we are one of the fastest growing Xxx competitions and…

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A Man With a Code

By Steven Pressfield | 7 Comments

  Call this post “Dudeology #3,” as we continue our exploration of The Big Lebowski, with an eye specifically to the writing of first drafts. We were talking in a couple of previous posts about the preparatory questions a writer asks himself or herself before the first word of a first draft goes onto paper. For me, the first two are: “What genre am I writing in?” “What’s the story’s spine, i.e. its ‘narrative highway’ from Act One through Act Two to Act Three?” The third question for me is, “What’s the theme? What is my story about?” Which brings…

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Would you read the next sentence?

By Shawn Coyne | 19 Comments

10. There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives. 9. Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her. 8. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. 7. They shoot the white girl first. 6. I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship…

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The Spine of the Story

By Steven Pressfield | 4 Comments

  Here we are, getting set to plunge in on our first draft. But what do we do before that? We said a couple of weeks ago that our first question to ourselves, pre-pre-first draft, should be: “What’s the genre?” Okay, great. Let’s say that we’ve done that. We know our genre. Our story, we’ve determined, is a sci-fi action-adventure. Or maybe it’s a love story. Or a Western combined with a supernatural thriller. Good enough. We’ve got that covered. What’s next? For our answer, let’s refer back to Paul (“Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull”) Schrader’s excellent guidelines for pitching:  …

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Hug the Sh*t

By Callie Oettinger | 18 Comments

There’s a scene in Fredrik Backman’s book My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry when Elsa, the main character, recalls a piece of advice from her grandmother: Granny always said: “Don’t kick the shit, it’ll go all over the place!” Why should this advice matter to you? While Granny never out and out says it in the book, the unsaid yin to the yang of her advice would likely be: Hug the sh*t. Sh*t in this context is anything that gets in the way of what we want to do, anything unexpected that pops up and has us exclaiming…

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Dudeology #2: Combining Genres

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

  We were talking last week about The Big Lebowski being a film in the Private Eye genre. But what really makes Lebowski so inventive and so interesting is it’s a mixed genre. It’s a Slacker/Stoner tale (like Dazed and Confused, Go, Clerks, or any Cheech and Chong movie) conceived, structured, and executed as a Detective Story. What does this mean for you and me as writers? It means that mixing genres is one of the most canny and fun tricks we can pull to come up with something new and fresh and exciting. Mix the Private Detective genre with…

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Insanely Generous

By Shawn Coyne | 21 Comments

What decisions did we make to launch Steve’s new book? Did we actually follow my packaging and marketing principles from my past What it Takes posts? Despite many missteps, I think we did. It’s worth a review. This is a longish article for the diehards, but there is a pretty cool stat as the payoff, so either skip to the end…or bear with the inside publishing baseball and get the how and why behind the insane number of eBooks we gave away the past two weeks. The first and best packaging decision made was…Steve’s….and I loved it straightaway.

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