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




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ARCHIVES OF November, 2012

What It Takes

What It Takes

Monetizing Slush

By Shawn Coyne | Published: November 30, 2012

Like Sylvester McMonkey McBean, Simon & Schuster and Random House have built star belly machines. Image credit: Dr. Seuss.

My first job in publishing was as editorial assistant (secretary/apprentice) to the editor in chief of a major publishing house (since dissolved and folded into a division of Random House Inc.). One of the first things presented to me was a very large pile of submissions that one and all referred to as the slush pile.

I don’t know the derivation of the term, but I suspect it has something to do with the irritating mixture of ice, snow, rain, and garbage New Yorkers have to slog through during the winter months—the slush that forms only minutes after the beauty of a fresh snowfall.

The slush pile is a heap of unsolicited manuscripts from would be Tolstoys dumb enough to submit their work to a publishing house without an agent or an “in” with one of the editors.  We had contempt for the people who sent this detritus our way and it was a real chore to slog through it and mail back the standard rejection letter of the era.  It usually began… “We apologize for the impersonal nature of this replay, but the volume of submissions we receive precludes our responding individually to each one…” and then it would end with some generic rejection that if done well would discourage the writer from sending anything else…ever. Remember I’m an old guy who started in publishing when the U.S. Mail and the typewriter were the primary means of conducting business. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Major Keys and Minor Keys

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 28, 2012

We were talking last week about thinking in terms of multiple drafts. The corollary is to concentrate on only one objective per draft — e.g., stakes, rhythm, theme, length, and so forth.


Debate #1. When the Prez slipped into a minor key, it almost finished him.

Another one I like is Major Key and Minor Key.

I’ll go over a manuscript or screenplay, for example, looking only for these. I’ll ask myself, How much of this piece is in a major key? Are there moments in a minor key, and, if so, where are they and why are they there?

What do I mean by “major key” and “minor key?”

Action movies are major key. Films for kids. Comedies use a lot of major key. Shakespeare said all comedies should end with a wedding. Most weddings (in real life as well as in fiction and film) are major key.

Independent movies often go heavy on minor key. They start out depressing, get more depressing, then build to a climax of extreme depression. Or sometimes they’ll descend to a non-climax, which is even more depressing.

(I’m not knocking this, by the way. Indie films are meant to be interior, moody, reflective. I love ’em.)

Major-key scenes are big, bright, straight ahead. Car chases. Fist fights. Head-to-head clashes in soap operas.

A minor-key scene is thoughtful, unhurried, internal. Minor-key scenes are shot in shadow or muted color. Often they are “private moments,” with only one principal on screen. Sometimes they are silent.

The Godfather has many minor-key scenes, even sequences. So does Casablanca. Lost in Translation is almost all minor-key. Transformers II not so much.

Some films play keys “against type.” The violent scenes in Taxi Driver were shot in a minor key instead of a major. This made them twice as creepy and twice as scary. Remember when Travis Bickle massacres everybody at the end? Or even the “You talking to me?” scene. That was in a minor key. Much of the violence in The Godfather pictures is played as minor-key. The Sopranos too. Bloody scenes in vampire movies are often shot against type, in a minor key.

Minor-key scenes are more intellectual. One associates them with seriousness, depth. The danger with minor-key moments is they can become pretentious. (Pretentiousness sometimes wins awards.)

A great book or movie or album should, like life, have a balance of major-key and minor-key moments. It should follow the symphonic model: take the same musical theme and explore it in both major and minor keys.

A restaurant can have major and minor keys. We may enter to a bright, welcoming reception area (major key), but ask the maitre d’ to seat us at a moody, romantic booth (minor key) in the back.

Burger King has no minor-key seating options. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

Outreach, Part III: The Book Trailer

By Callie Oettinger | Published: November 23, 2012

Two weeks ago I watched a work-in-progress version of Josh Hanagarne’s book trailer.

It’s one of the best I’ve viewed. Why? It tells a story—and left me with something I wanted to share.

That thing that stuck with me the most? His mentions of those people who wouldn’t let him fail—those friends and family members who encouraged him to move into today. AND: the images of him bending nails.

In the June 2011 post “Do Book Videos Work?” I wrote:

We don’t need videos—but they do help.

If I was writing the post today, I would amend that line:

Book trailers aren’t a requirement—but they have the potential to help.


Posted in What It Takes
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