Search Results: Report From the Trenches

It Ain’t Pretty

By Steven Pressfield | 17 Comments

About a year ago I wrote a series of posts titled “Report From the Trenches.” They were about a particularly ugly run of months when I was struggling to make a book-in-progress work. The good news is that in the end (I think) the process succeeded. The bad news is I’m back in that same place on the next book. I never learn. I forget each time how back-breaking it was the time before. One of my favorite movies of the past few years is Margin Call, written and directed by J.C. Chandor. It’s roughly about the market crash of 2008,…

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Let There be Blood

By Steven Pressfield | 8 Comments

  I know I keep promising to finish with these “Reports from the Trenches.” But I’m still deeply in the muck and mire myself, and each week brings a fresh insight. So … This week’s flash is about blood ties. I first learned this trick from a wonderful book called Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. Mr. Zuckerman is Ken Follett’s literary agent and something of a legend in the business. Blockbuster can be heavy going because it presents its case in such detail, but I recommend it highly nonetheless. Here’s one of the book’s brilliant insights:               Tie…

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Every Story Has a Shape

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

I’ve always been a believer that our stories exist before we write them. Our job as writers, once we stumble upon these tales, is to bring them up into the sunlight in such a way that their best and most truly intended contour is revealed. What has screwed me up on my current project—the subject of this “Report from the Trenches” series—is that I excavated the story wrong the first time around. If we think of the tale as a giant dinosaur fossil, I inadvertently chopped off the legs and dug so deep under the skull that the whole damn…

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Blind Spots

By Steven Pressfield | 14 Comments

  I’m gonna get this quote wrong, I’m sure. It’s from Kierkegaard, as cited somewhere (in The Moviegoer, I think) by Walker Percy:  

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The Hard Is What Makes It Great

By Callie Oettinger | 13 Comments

I’m a few years and thousands of pages into a project—and am starting over. I had an “all is lost moment.” It hit around the time Steve published his first “From the Trenches” article. I cried. I sulked. I said something shitty to my husband. I thought my world was falling apart—that everything that could go wrong had, or did, or soon would. I was wrong. I’m alive. I’m working. I’m healthy. Most important: My kids and husband are healthy and doing their amazing things. What helped me hurdle the moment? Steve #2. In his “Resistance at the Ph.D. Level” article,…

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Editors and Resistance, #1

By Shawn Coyne | 14 Comments

I’m going to take a break from my wonky analysis of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and give you my take on Steve’s post from Wednesday, “Report from the Trenches, #1.” The central question I want to explore is “What form of Resistance do Editors face?” Well, like the hedgehog, Resistance knows one important thing about the editorial process… An Editor is a midwife. The only one who truly knows her value is the birther. The Big R lies in wait inside this truth.

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Everybody Loves the Bad Guy

By Steven Pressfield | 4 Comments

  Shakespeare, Milton and Dante all understood villains. They loved villains. Their villains are their greatest creations. The Bible is loaded with spectacular villains, as are all cultural myths from the Mahabharata to the Epic of Gilgamesh to the saga of Siegfried. Great villains eclipse even the heroes who vanquish them. Flash Gordon was a pale shadow alongside Ming the Merciless. Clarice Starling was cool, but who could forget Hannibal Lecter? The villain not only steals Paradise Lost but walks off with the most unforgettable line.   SATAN Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.   Film directors…

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Nothing New After Act Two

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

  One of story checkmarks you learn writing for the movies is   Every main character should be introduced in Act One.   This precept is probably not as critical for novels, where we have more time for the story to unfold and for new faces to appear. But it still seems to me a good rule. Get everybody onstage early. (Including key props and concepts like the ’66 Ford Thunderbird convertible that Thelma and Louise will have their adventures in and the Tyrell Corporation’s invention of the latest series of replicants.) The last thing we want is for some…

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The Female Carries the Mystery

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

  I’m re-reading one of my favorite books on writing, Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! Goes To the Movies. Blake Snyder (who died tragically at age 51 in 2009) was a screenwriter who did a lot of thinking about what makes a story work and what makes it not work. His first book, Save the Cat!, is a classic. One of Blake Snyder’s writer-friendly inventions is what he called “BS2,” the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. The beat sheet broke a story—any story from the Iliad to La La Land—down into about sixteen “beats,” e.g. Opening Image, Theme Stated, Catalyst, Break…

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Giving Myself Some Props

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

  Okay, it’s done. Today I wrap Draft #14 of the project that’s been kicking my butt and send it in to Shawn. Will it fly? We’ll see. But for the moment (a short moment), my job becomes about self-validation, i.e. giving myself some props. These “Reports from the Trenches” have been going on now for five and a half months. That means I’ve been rewriting a crashed-and-burned manuscript for that long.   Good job, Steve! Whatever happens, you have risen to the occasion. You have performed like a pro. You did not crap out (okay, maybe you whined and…

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