Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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ARCHIVES OF February, 2012

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Fruits of our Labors

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 29, 2012

[The following is a slightly-tweaked-and-updated version of one of Writing Wednesdays’ most popular posts.]

I have a recurring dream. In the dream I’m invited to climb into the back seat of a limo that’s about to drive off to someplace fabulous. The dream always ends badly. It’s trying to tell me something.

Limo

Trust me, this baby is taking us nowhere

Publication day—or any date when we launch a project that we’ve worked on long and hard—is like getting into the back seat of that dream limo. Launch day gets our hopes up. We’re human. We’re prey to the folly of anticipating rave reviews or long lines outside the theater; we’re itching to check the grosses or the day’s sales on Amazon. I’ve been up and down with these expectations through ten books and a bunch of movies and I can tell you one thing:

Of the two possible outcomes—a flop or a hit—both are delusions.

Here’s my rule for publication day:

When Book C hits the stores, I want to have finished Book D and be deeply immersed in Book E.

Am I kidding myself? Yeah. It’s like trying to ignore the puff adder that’s slithering up your trouser leg. But the exercise is healthy. It’s good karma.

Krishna instructed Arjuna: “We have a right to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor.” What did he mean by that? He meant that the process is its own reward. The only real reward.

Enjoy the success if you’re lucky enough to get it. You’ve earned it. But don’t take it personally and don’t let it go to your head. Hemingway said if you believe the reviews when they tell you you’re good, then you have to believe them when they tell you you’re bad. So don’t even read ’em. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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What It Takes

What It Takes

The Blockbuster SuperLibrary 2.0

By Callie Oettinger | Published: February 24, 2012

Last week Shawn talked about publishers selling their own books, via his post Last Year’s Model. I want to see publishers doing more of their own selling—and I want digital libraries, too.

Meg

Meg Ryan in "You've Got Mail"

Part I: Pay Attention

1998 was the year of You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan played the owner of the independent book store being forced out of business by the big chain store going up around the corner.

Booksellers embraced the film for being on target with what was going on in the book world.

Looking back, right on target would have been a film about online sharing and innovative content selling killing the chain stores. Within a year, Napster was rocking the music industry, Apple was developing its first-generation iPod, and Netflix was launching into the video world.

As the music industry desperately chased online sharing, instead of creating it themselves, it left warning signs in its wake. The closing of landmark Virgin Megastores was one clue. A second clue came from video: Blockbuster anyone?

Part II: The Blockbuster SuperLibrary

Back in 1998 I had an obsession with the library. I was convinced that all would be good if the chain stores, Blockbuster and the libraries joined forces.

My 1998 mind frame:

  • Libraries are broke. They don’t have the resources to acquire all of the amazing books out there. At the same time, what they do provide access to is a valuable resource. Students have access to books for research, young kids can pop in with Mom or Dad for “story time,” and those who can’t afford to buy everything they’d like to read, can take books out on loan. Outside the lack of money – and the “no eating” rule – libraries had a good thing going. (more…)
Posted in What It Takes
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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Thinking in Metaphors

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 22, 2012

One of the things you learn writing fiction is to think in metaphors.

Jake

Yeah, he's Jake. But what does he represent?

The first draft of any novel or screenplay usually spills forth in blissful cluelessness. You tell yourself, I’m writing a detective story, or a Western, or some crazy genre that I don’t even know the name of. Then comes Draft #2 and you have to ask yourself, “What the hell is this thing about?”

That’s when metaphor comes in.

It took me a long time to learn this, and a lot of people had to hammer me and my work pretty hard. Words like “shallow,” “slick” and ‘Yiddish theater” come to mind (the latter criticism I took as a compliment.)

What makes Chinatown more than a detective story? What takes Shane beyond being just a Western?

The answer is metaphor.

In a shallow genre piece, the characters represent nothing beyond themselves. A car chase is a car chase, a courtroom scene is a courtroom scene. Much of what we see on TV is like that.

But all that changes when Robert Towne asks himself, “What does Jake Gittes represent? What is water (the L.A. River, Hollenbeck bridge, the lake where Hollis Mulwray takes his “girlfriend” boating) a metaphor for?

When the writer answers those questions—and revises his post-first-draft story accordingly—his material gains depth and power and universality. It stops being superficial and easy.

Who is Shane, beyond being a gunfighter who wanders into the middle of a range war? What does he stand for?

Alan Ladd as Shane, the Man With A Past, who wants to leave his past behind

The writer thinks in metaphors. Shane, he realizes, represents a Man With A Past who is trying to free himself from that past. In this case, he’s a gunman who has made the decision to hang up his guns. But he could be anybody. We in the audience understand that, even if we can’t articulate it. We have pasts too. We’ve made mistakes. We’re rooting for Shane. (more…)

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