Chasing My White Whale

Jun 14, 2016 by

Are you chasing a metaphorical white whale, something that continually gnaws at you, encompasses you, and is on the verge of driving you stark mad? If so, you must be a writer of some sort. Maybe an artist. Perhaps both.

A great book all writers MUST read.

A great book all writers MUST read.

Today was I treated to the release of Steven Pressfield’s new book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, via an email from Shawn Coyne’s website. It’s almost 200 pages long as a PDF but I read the entire thing in an hour or two. (If you follow the link you will be taken to a PDF version of it to read on your own. I do not know how long they will leave free access to it.)

This is the book that includes the core messages, structures, concepts, themes, additional resources and practices all good writers should employ if we are to become better craftsmen.

I was turned on to the power of Shawn Coyne’s book, The Story Grid, while taking a revision class for novel writing at Southern Methodist University in early March of this year. Coyne’s book, website, and iTunes podcasts–I have all 34 of them downloaded and play them in loops–have had a profound impact on my writing.

But it was Pressfield’s book today that really sums up much of what I’ve been taught while in the Writer’s Path Program at SMU under the direction of Author J. Suzanne Frank, who has worked so hard to build the program into a highly reputable one.

Pressfields’ book is a must read for anyone daring to write a novel, screenplay, or non-fiction. He’s done them all–even a failed attempt to edit a porn flick, which ultimately taught him two of the most important lessons he’s ever learned about writing a scene.

RULES FOR EVERY STORY

Pressfield lays out several important principles within his book, but I have already typed out these eight points and pinned them to the cork board over my writing space as a checklist as it were for story development. I encourage you to copy them as well.

  1. Every story must have a concept. It must put a unique and original spin, twist or framing device upon the material.
  1. Every story must be about something. It must have a theme.
  1. Every story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Act One, Act Two, Act Three.
  1. Every story must have a hero.
  1. Every story must have a villain.
  1. Every story must start with an Inciting Incident, embedded within which is the story’s climax.
  1. Every story must escalate through Act Two in terms of energy, stakes, complication and significance/meaning as it progresses.
  1. Every story must build to a climax centered around a clash between the hero and the villain that pays off everything that came before and that pays it off on-theme.

I enjoyed this book–particularly the parts where he was speaking to me as a fellow writer–where he describes what writers must endure in this life while in pursuit of publication or satisfaction or whatever it is that turns inside of us that our spouses, parents, siblings, children and friends do not get about us, and may never understand in full, lest they are tempted to chase the same white whale that causes a writer to keep going when every sane person in their life is telling them to stop.

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