Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Book I’ve Been Avoiding My Whole Life

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 9, 2014

I never talk about a book while I’m working on it. It’s bad luck. The Muse doesn’t like it.

"The Lion's Gate," non-fiction coming May 6

That’s why, although I’ve been working for the past three years on a project that’s been all-consuming for me, I haven’t offered a peep on this blog.

But now the book is done. It’s in production; the first finished copies are coming off the presses now. The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War will be published by Penguin/Sentinel on May 6.

Now that the book is finished, I’m gonna become a blabbermouth. I’m going to write about it here on the blog. We’ll start next week. Posts will appear on Mondays and Fridays (Writing Wednesdays will continue uninterrupted each Wednesday, after the initial kick-off post next week.)

The Lion’s Gate is a non-fiction book about the Six Day War of 1967, the war that re-drew the maps of the Middle East and laid the foundation for most of the turmoil that has been roiling that region—and the world—ever since. But it’s a lot more than that for me. I’ll start talking about that next week.

Beyond the subject matter of the book, I’ll get into detail about the writing process. It’s okay to do this, I believe, as a means of helping my fellow-artists-in-the-trenches, of demonstrating for their benefit that I’m just as nutty as they are, and that my way of working is just as crazy as theirs.

Moshe

Moshe Dayan, seen here in the famous photo by Micha Bar-Am, is a central character in "The Lion's Gate."

I’ll write about what I did with The Lion’s Gate and why I did it—from conception of the idea to finding the theme, to working with Shawn both as agent and as editor, foolscapping the structure, putting together a Book Proposal, finding a publisher, making a deal; then researching, writing, re-writing, editing, and finally through marketing, promotion, publicity, etc.

The Lion’s Gate was a monumental personal test for me. In many ways it’s the book I’ve been avoiding writing for my whole life. I’ll start talking about that next week too.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

54 Responses to “The Book I’ve Been Avoiding My Whole Life”

  1. April 9, 2014 at 2:39 am

    Congratulations.

  2. Basilis
    April 9, 2014 at 4:08 am

    So here it is…

  3. Mary Doyle
    April 9, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Congratulations! Can’t wait to hear more about the process of bringing this book to completion.

  4. April 9, 2014 at 4:55 am

    Great to wake up to the news that you have a new book coming out. Can’t wait to read it!

  5. Fiona
    April 9, 2014 at 6:20 am

    YES!!!!! I can’t wait for the next blog posts and to buy this book. Thank you! !!

  6. Brandt
    April 9, 2014 at 6:29 am

    Congratulations. Great news! I’m looking forward to reading your new book and learning more about the process. Cheers.

  7. April 9, 2014 at 6:31 am

    This is great news. Congratulations Steven. I have learned so much from you and know I will learn so much more as you write about this accomplishment. Again, congratulations… And I look forward to seeing you in a few days.

  8. April 9, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Congratulations!

    Let the book be very successful!

    There is a question on the process which is gnawing on me. I would be very glad if you could spare a part of your post answering it.
    Could you please tell us about the process of going from outline to treatment (I understand it is more relevant to fiction than non-fiction).
    What are your stumbling blocks there? What most important questons do you keep in mind when doing the treatment? Does it happen that the treatment backfires and makes you change the outline? When you compare the treatment to the finished text, do you find that you boil down from treatment or you further expand?

    Thanks so much for your blog.

    • April 9, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Anna, I don’t usually do an outline. I start with the Foolscap Method. If you look on the right hand side of the Home Page of this site, you’ll see a panel marked FREE STUFF. Click that and it’ll take you to a couple of videos I did about that method.

      • April 15, 2014 at 2:49 am

        Thanks so much! It is exactly what I have been missing – have seen mentining of that method in your posts several times, and even have googled it. And it was much more simple!

  9. April 9, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Hooray!! I’m thrilled that you have written about this war and the results of this war. I get so frustrated now when the root of so much conflict goes back to this war – and yet no one talks about it.

    Well done! :) Thank you for devoting 3 years of your life to bringing this story to life.

  10. April 9, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Congrats!
    I’m thinking the business side is different depending on who you are (or aren’t) where you can get a deal and write the book later, wouldn’t most newbees need to write the whole thing first? What’s it like negotiating your own deadline? Do the publishers want it within X amount of time and you say you can do it by Z time and you both agree on Y?

    • April 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      John, for fiction, yes, a newbie would have to write the whole thing first. But for non-fiction, someone who had credibility in a field (say, a brain surgeon or an ornithologist) could conceivably get a publishing deal based on a good Book Proposal. As for deadlines, I’ve always found publishers to be reasonable. They just wanna have a date they can count on, as long as it’s not “from here to eternity” into the future.

  11. Fernando Verano
    April 9, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Congratulations Steve! Good job!

  12. April 9, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Well you could write the phone book and I’d gobble it up! Can’t wait! Comes out soon too! Yay!

    And kudos to you for not sharing anything about it with us! Everyone knows that jinxes the book!

    This looks like something my dad would like too so I’ll pass it along for Fathers Day!

  13. April 9, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Do let us know when we can pre-order. I want to be one of the first in line!
    I love the title – for reasons obvious to those who have studied that war.
    The Six-Day War was a seminal event in my life, not only at the moment, but in repercussions that became evident to me only years later.
    I was in high school at the time, and the Six Day War presented a contrast with Vietnam I could not avoid, metaphysically, psychologically, or politically.

    Knowing from your other work how monumental The Lion’s Gate will be, not only do I wish you tremendous success with it, Steven, but I want to thank you, in advance, very deeply for writing it.

  14. April 9, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Steve,
    Well done. Again. I’m listening to “Tatoos on the Heart” by Gregory Boyle, stories of “Home Boys Inc” a business for gangbangers the Father helped create in LA. Highly recommend. While doing my morning chores of feeding cats, cleaning litter boxes, letting the dogs out–Boyle talks about compassion. This damn story has had me sniffling all morning, so I’m emotionally ‘primed’. Boyle talks about getting his Hommies to tell him the name their mothers call them. It usually ends in tears.

    I have wondered exactly why I love this blog so much, and I finally understand. Here is why I return, “…that I’m just as nutty as they are, and that my way of working is just as crazy as theirs.” That admission, because of my already weepy eyes–surges emotion again.

    I don’t think it was conscious–but here is what I understood when I read that: “I’m not alone.”

    This place is a refuge, not unlike the chapel in Boyle’s story. I look forward to the insight, vulnerable admissions, and kinship I feel knowing others have gone before me.
    bsn

  15. April 9, 2014 at 7:10 am

    I was in Athens when the October War, the Yom Kippur War, broke out. Israel was still losing when Moshe Dayan said, “Hafez Assad thinks it’s 200 kilometers from Damascus to Tel Aviv; I’m here to tell him it is 200 kilometers from Tel Aviv to Damascus.”

    I was so impressed I volunteered, though it was hard explaining to Israelis why a non-Jew would drive a fork lift near the Golan Heights because of a man with an eye patch, a sense of adventure and a bit of self doubt for missing the Viet Nam War.

    Great topic, no one better to write about it.

    • April 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Good on you, Erik. I salute you and your fork lift!

  16. Elizabeth
    April 9, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Congratulations, and thank you so much for letting us in on the process of creating it.

  17. April 9, 2014 at 7:33 am

    So exciting Steve!!! Awesome!!

  18. April 9, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Love seeing your photo of it, great shot!

  19. April 9, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Awesome. Your book comes out on my birthday. I don’t generally read books about “war” except for the War of Art! But your new book sounds fascinating, especially in light of world situations today. Look forward to buying and reading it. Good luck!

  20. April 9, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Congratulations Steve!
    Thank you for being there as a mentor/guide to us who leads by example.

  21. April 9, 2014 at 8:02 am

    BAM…congratulations.

  22. April 9, 2014 at 8:02 am

    BAM…congratulations on the new book!

  23. April 9, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Can
    Not
    Wait

  24. Donna Michel
    April 9, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Wonderful news and Congratulations! Can’t wait to read your newest!

  25. April 9, 2014 at 8:23 am

    This is going to be powerful without a doubt. I was in Israel last year, and since that time, that amazing place and the people have never left my thoughts. Thank you so much for taking us along on the ride. Can’t wait.

  26. April 9, 2014 at 8:29 am

    FANTASTIC!
    I’ve only (since your White Whale post) started diving into the project I’ve been avoiding for a couple years. I’m really looking forward to learning all the details about your journey and I’m so very grateful for all the thing you share — most especially the struggles that make me realize I’m not alone on this vast journey as a writer. It’s funny that I always thought once I got a deal and got one published that it gets easy and all the scary stuff just dissipates….but it seems to be just the opposite.

    Still, I couldn’t ever give it up (and oh, how I’ve tried!!!)

    Best of luck on the book! It sounds fascinating!
    Jen

  27. Pamela Seley
    April 9, 2014 at 8:32 am

    3 years in the making is a long time. You are the most generous writer I’ve ever encountered that you are willing to share with others your process. Your new book, “The Lion’s Gate,” and what it means to you sounds intriguing and can’t wait to read it and your future posts. Today the Vietnam War is taught in history classes. When I was in school it wasn’t, we were living it. Congratulations, Steve!

  28. April 9, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Heartiest Congratulations, Steve. Happy to be a student in your camp!

  29. Nely
    April 9, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Oh my goodness! My jaw dropped when I read this post. In the past two months I have been studing Israel etc., and wanted to study this war. I can wait to read your book. Thank you.

  30. April 9, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Thank you, in advance, for what this will being to us through The Lion’s Gate. One of the exceptional emerging world leaders I mentor will be sharing with me today about his latest trip to Israel and Palestine. Thank you for your own courage in getting this done.

  31. Sharon
    April 9, 2014 at 9:09 am

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

    I’ve been to Golan Heights and of course the Wall, the Old City and various gates. What a great title!

    Thank you for writing the book and sharing your process. I commend you for staying quiet – a prophet knows their time.

    Blessed be, Shalom, I can’t wait to read it!

    • April 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      it IS a terrific title, isn’t it, Sharon? I can say that because Shawn came up with it. He’s good!

  32. Randy
    April 9, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Congratulations Steve!

  33. April 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

    I can’t tell you how excited this makes me. I’ll be keep in track of the news for sure.

    So the next question inevitably is: What’s the NEXT project?

    • April 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Can’t talk about it, Dave. See Paragraph One of post above.

  34. April 9, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Congrats Steven! Can’t wait to read the book and any details you’re going to share about the process.

  35. Sonja
    April 9, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Congrats, Steven! I don’t know much about this war, so I will definitely get it.

    Any nuggets about the process would be a godsend—I’m deep in the trenches, and no victory in sight…

  36. gs
    April 9, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Hopefully a DRM-free version will be available for purchase somewhere. I do my best to boycott DRM in products I pay to own, but in this case I’ll make an exception if necessary.

    • Sharon
      April 9, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Buy the hardback, in fact Amazon already has it for presale so I imagine the brick and mortars will have it on display. As The Lion’s Gate is with a mainline publisher by a famous author on a current subject, I won’t be surprised the indie stores carry it as well.

  37. Elizabeth R.
    April 9, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Looking forward to learning about this particular war.
    I was working as ‘confidential secretary’ to the chief of police in San Diego when it started. Our public relations officer was a handsome young Jewish man, Sgt. Bill Kolendar (later the San Diego County Sheriff) and remember some of his comments the day that war ended. I can hardly wait to delve into ‘The Lion’s Gate.’ You excell in bringing events to life, enabling the reader to hear, smell, taste, and feel them. Write on!

  38. Kent Faver
    April 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Congrats and thanks for being so generous.

  39. April 9, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Congratulations, Steve! As a history buff, I look forward to reading “The Lion’s Gate” and can’t wait to see your perspective on the topic. Thanks in advance for allowing us a behind-the-scenes look at the process of writing this, along with your tale of why this book was such a challenge for you. You continue to be such a tremendous inspiration. You go!!

  40. April 9, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Congratulations on the book. Well, more so on the completion of the book. I just finished Turning Pro last month and I’ve been working at it everyday. I appreciate your newsletter updates to keep me moving and remind me to keep doing the work.
    Thank you for completing your book.

  41. April 9, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Wow So exciting that you have a new book coming out. And I find it very inspiring that it is the book you’ve been avoiding. Inspired by the personal test. Im already inspired to get to work on the things Im avoiding. Thanks Steven!!

  42. April 15, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Cangrats!! Looking forward to read about your process!!!!

  43. April 16, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait to jump into this book! I fell in love with Gates of Fire and have been a fan in the lurking ever since.

  44. rae
    April 16, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I fit nutty and look forward to your next blogs.

  45. byHisgrace
    April 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Looking forward to the book! Does it cover God’s hand in the victory?!??? Heard someone address this recently.

  46. April 19, 2014 at 6:26 am

    The book is ordered. I can’t wait to read it.

    Thank you for mentioning again about your muse, and how she likes her privacy.
    My muse does too, I just realized.
    In the past, I have blabbed about what I was working on, and then been surprised when my muse lost interest and disappeared.
    She is back now, telling me to be quiet.

    I look forward to reading the back-story next week.

    All the best,
    Pamela