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

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ARCHIVES OF October, 2012

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Setups and Payoffs

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 31, 2012

One mistake that beginning writers often make is to forget about setups and payoffs. Sometimes they’ll have great setups but no payoffs. Other times they’ll invent a fantastic payoff, but fail utterly to set it up.

Al

"Don't tell me that, Carlo. Because it insults my intelligence."

I used to make those mistakes all the time. I’d kick off Act One of a screenplay with all kinds of provocative premises. Then I’d forget about ’em and fizzle my way to a no-bang climax. Or I’d have a dynamite finish that fell unannounced out of the sky.

Think about a joke. It has two parts: a setup and a punch line.

A novel is no different, nor is a screenplay, a short story, an op-ed piece. Dance performances have setups and payoffs. So do songs and albums, video games, restaurant and office interiors, IPOs, legal briefs, even paintings (which you might think are static) have setups and payoffs.

Relationships have setups and payoffs; marriages, divorces, blow-ups, reconciliations. Wars have setups and payoffs. A bar mitzvah has a setup-and-payoff. So does a bris.

The movie that has the widest and most satisfying spectrum of setups and payoffs is, in my opinion, The Godfather. Think of all the mooks who got what was coming to them in the end: Barzini, Tessio, Moe Greene, Carlo, Paulie, Tattaglia, not to mention the earlier payoffs delivered upon Hollywood big shot Jack Woltz with the horse head in his bed—and Virgil Sollozzo and police captain McCluskey, gunned down by Michael in Louis’ Italian restaurant. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
10 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Your Time Is Gonna Come

By Shawn Coyne | Published: October 26, 2012

This past Tuesday, Simon & Schuster shut down an entire publishing division.

The publisher, editor in chief and three additional editors of The Free Press are leaving the company. The other editors and support staff were transferred to the remaining publishing groups—The Simon & Schuster Group, The Scribner Group, The Atria Group and The Gallery Group.

What were once five opportunities for a novelist or nonfiction writer to have their work published at the S&S conglomerate are now four. The Free Press will transition into a “backlist” operation, meaning no new acquisitions will be published under that imprint name. Over time, The Free Press will join the ranks of other publishing concerns and colophons that only exist in second hand bookstores.

I’m sure that no one over at Simon & Schuster is jumping for joy over this. Every one of the editors asked to leave the company is highly skilled and from my estimation, profitable too. When I say profitable, I mean that the dollars they bring in from the projects that they acquire pay for their salaries and overhead plus leave a little left over to contribute to the corporate bottom line.

These aren’t lazy people who weren’t holding up their end of the employer/employee relationship. And the decision makers who were tasked to slash expenses and reduce overhead aren’t nasty mustache twitching suits either. They are hardworking pros who had to make extremely difficult choices.

So if you have qualified editors capable of returning a profit margin to an umbrella organization that takes care of keeping the lights on, dealing with payroll, managing inventory etc., why cut production?

The short answer is that the return on investment for book publishing is just not enough for a corporate empire. (It’s like that great movie SLAP SHOT…the owner shuts down the Hockey team for the tax write off, the fact that Paul Newman has miraculously turned the team into winners and an entire blue collar town will have one less reason for getting up in the morning matters little. I’ll not quote the Newman character after he learns of the owner’s decision.) (more…)

Posted in What It Takes
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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Too Much Mojo

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 24, 2012

We were talking last week about acquiring mojo, which I defined as that state when we are going gangbusters in our writing, art, or business. It’s “flow.” It’s “the Zone.”

Flintstone

Our ancestors didn't work 52 weeks a year

The only problem with having Big Mojo, in my experience, is you can’t keep it up for long. I know I can’t. My nervous system can’t take it. Three weeks maybe, four tops.

What do I do then? I flake out. Deliberately.

I knock off. I get outa Dodge. I take a break.

Years ago, I had a small freelance business. I used to get into trouble because I couldn’t say no to my clients. I was afraid if I weren’t available 24/7, they’d dump me. What happened was I never stopped working. I’d work myself to the point of collapse. I didn’t know how to stop. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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