Writing Wednesdays

The Crazier The Better

By Steven Pressfield |

My friend Paul is writing a cop novel. The characters have seized him; he’s into it totally. “But it’s coming to me very dark,” he says. “I mean twisted, weird-dark. So dark it’s scaring me.” Paul wants to know if he should throttle back. He’s worried that the book will come out so evil, no one will want to touch it. Answer: no way. The darker the better, if that’s how it’s coming to him. Why do I say this? Because for writers—particularly ones at the beginning of their careers—Job #1 is testing their limits. Finding out who they are.…

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Writing Characters Who Are Smarter Than We Are

By Steven Pressfield |

There’s a great moment in the movie Tootsie, when Dustin Hoffman—in costume as “Dorothy Michaels” but speaking as himself, “Michael Dorsey”—says, out of respect for Dorothy, “I wish I was prettier.” In other words, the character he was portraying was better than he was. That’s an amazing thing if you think about it. Working above our game As writers, can we write characters who are beyond us emotionally and intellectually? Can we work above and past our own personal limits?  I’ve heard the opposite. I don’t believe it. How does Thomas Harris (who I’m sure is a very nice guy)…

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Looking for the Overlap

By Steven Pressfield |

[While the blog takes a short vacation, here’s a post from a few months ago that I’ve always been partial to. See you in two weeks!] Writers and artists get asked all the time, “How do you decide which book to write, which painting to paint?” The person asking the question usually has a million ideas in her head; she’s struggling to determine which one(s) to pursue. Here’s an answer from my experience. A few years ago, in Hollywood, I got a new agent. He was a good agent and he did what a good agent should do: he immediately…

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Sticking Points

By Steven Pressfield |

[In keeping with last week’s “Writer’s Journal” and the idea that the Last Push on a project is always the hardest (with the possible exception of the First Push … or is it the Middle Push?), I thought it might make sense to bring back this earlier post entitled “Sticking Points.” [Two facts that all artists and entrepreneurs can agree upon is that sticking points inevitably occur–and at thoroughly predictable times in the process. Part of being a professional is being mentally prepared for these rough patches. I did an interview earlier this year with Gen. Hal G. Moore, who…

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A Writer’s Journal, Day #1061

By Steven Pressfield |

Day Six: this will be a very short post. I’m giving myself the next two days off—and giving you, dear friends, the same. Yesterday I got through the final sticking point in the draft, and now all is right with the world. I’ll wrap with this one thought: From age twenty-two till almost thirty, Resistance had me utterly defeated. The form my malady took was that I couldn’t finish anything. I’d get 99% of the way through and then I’d act out, freak out, bail out. I was powerless. Resistance had me absolutely in its grip. Now, three decades later,…

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A Writer’s Journal, Day #1060

By Steven Pressfield |

Day Five of “Journal of Finishing a Novel.” I’m in the “revisit” stage, meaning going back to finish a sequence that I bypassed in the march to THE END. We’re only a few hundred feet below the summit now; the idea of faltering has become unthinkable. Whatever it takes, we’ll do it. As for this journal, I’m going to try something today that may be so obscure that it doesn’t communicate at all—but I’ll attempt it in the hope that it’ll be helpful to anyone who’s following these posts. What I want to do is share some of my friend/editor/agent…

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A Writer’s Journal, Day #1059

By Steven Pressfield |

Day Four of “Journal of Finishing a Novel” and we’re done! Yesterday’s work took us all the way to THE END. I think it works. I hope so. But I will not drive myself crazy, chewing it over. Instead I will start today, as soon as I finish writing this post, revisiting and reworking a couple of sticking points in the narrative that I’ve bypassed on the headlong march to the finish. These go-backs can be particularly scary. In fact I’m more trepidatious about today’s work–and the next few days’–than I was about the actual climax. The alternative to bypassing…

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A Writer’s Journal, Day #1058

By Steven Pressfield |

Okay, Day Three. Momentum is strong and I will hit it hard again today. (If you’re just tuning in, please scroll back to the prior two posts—yesterday and the day before—to see what this is all about.) Though Resistance is monumental, at least for me, when I get close to the end of a project, there is one happy tailwind (beyond knowing exactly what the beats of the story have to be) and that is that in the climax to anything there’s no time for digression or description or exposition. It’s pedal to the metal all the way. Momentum, momentum,…

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A Writer’s Journal, Day #1057

By Steven Pressfield |

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

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A Writer’s Journal, Day #1056

By Steven Pressfield |

I’m going to try something different this week. Instead of one full-length post that stays up for seven days, I’m gonna do short, one-a-day “journal entries.” A new one will go up Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, all week. The reason I’m trying this this week is that, in my real writing life, I’m just now plunging in on the last ten or twelve pages of the novel I’ve been working on for the past three years. I’m thinking that a real-time, “under the helmet” look at one writer’s process might be of interest. To implement this, I’m going to borrow the…

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