Month: April 2015

Recent reads – The Profession by Steven Pressfield

Since listening to Shawn Coyne on The Creative Penn podcast, I’ve been obsessed with the Story Grid – advice for editing novels.

The Story Grid (book soon to be released) is a story design system and a step-by-step process for analysing and improving your writing. It teaches you to be your own editor. Definitely one for process-minded, plotter, spreadsheet nerds like me.

Shawn Coyne works closely with Steven Pressfield (of War of Art, which I blogged about in my recent post on Kicking Resistance in the nuts) and one of my recent completed reads was Steven Pressfield’s The Profession. While reading, I had one eye firmly on the Story Grid system, looking for the tips and structure outlined by Coyne. Luckily, The Profession is also a cracking read.

The Profession is set in the near future, following the story of Gent, a soldier for hire. The Middle East is a mess of corporations, tribal war lords and nation-states, all vying for supremacy and protecting their interests by hiring mercenaries. Gent, after years of warfare and campaigns, knows no other life.

I am a warrior. What I narrate in these pages is between me and other warriors. I will say things only they will credit and only they understand.

Gent works for a disgraced US General, Salter. His devotion to Salter is absolute. He loves this man and unquestioning, follows this man into anything.

Now, on the face of it, this is a book for blokes. It’s a geo-political thriller with gun fights and machinations, warriors and mercenaries and there’s a lot of gear porn in it. Loads of description about guns and bombs and helicopters. Information I skipped over.

Yet underneath the testosterone, there is something epic about this story, something mythic. I’m no historical scholar and Pressfield’s other works include Roman historical novels,  but there was something familiar about the tale of Gent and his loyalty to Salter. It resonated. Is it based on a myth or is it completely original? I’m not sure and I don’t care. Richer than your average thriller, I was moved by Gent’s anguish as he faces the tests of his love and devotion to Salter and choosing right from wrong. It felt bigger than just blowing stuff up.

Back to the Story Grid, I flicked backwards and forwards between reading this for pleasure and looking for the elements of the Grid in it. One of the key elements of the Story Grid is internal and external value at stake. Although I was looking for the structure through out the book, this was a great example of the battle between the main character’s internal and external values. How the character changes through the story and how inner conflict and external conflict play out.

I recommend The Profession for an intelligent, fast paced read (and for writers, I recommend the Story Grid.)

Inspiration – indigenous people and the power of storytelling

My novel in progress, Return to the Monolith, has a plot line about indigenous people being forced off their tribal lands and ostracised. It also raises how colonials have ignored and discredited the wisdom of indigenous people. Their wisdom and knowledge of the land honed through thousands of years of living in the landscape

This week I saw this news story from ABC about scientists verifying the myths of the Aboriginal people explaining how palm trees got to Central Australia. This story has been handed down through generations for possibly 30,000 years. The power of storytelling?

The researcher mentions how science can learn from the knowledge of indigenous people. The researcher goes further to suggest that more Aboriginal myths, including those about mega fauna (and how I love my mega fauna!) should be analysed further for factual information.

Let’s hope there is more of this collaboration between indigenous people and scientists to share their knowledge. Science does not always know best.

Kicking Resistance in the nuts

Usually I’m annoyingly motivated. Since deciding to take this writing thing seriously, I turn up every day in front of my computer and write/edit for as much time as I have available. Sometimes thirty minutes at lunchtime, sometimes a whole day.

But this week, the Resistance monster has sniffing around, getting in the way. Despite some great feedback recently, the Resistance monster’s been telling me I’m rubbish, telling me I’m wasting my time with this writing malarkey and generally making me not want to write.  As Steven Pressfield says

“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit”.

Steven Pressfield talks a load about Resistance in his classic book “War of Art”, about how Resistance is everywhere. Pressfield believes Resistance is the main cause of unhappiness in the world as it stops everyone from achieving their true heart’s desires. In a recent blog post, he outlined how Resistance can even possess your loved ones, dissuading and sabotaging you from your truth path. The cure is “doing the work”. Sitting down every day and putting your fingers on the keys and just bloody writing.

I’ve felt the Resistance but done it anyway, yet I was still lacking in mojo. I felt I was only going through the motions of editing, the joy was not there.  Until yesterday.

What helped? Exercise. I smashed out a hard kettlebells session then took a long walk with no music or podcast distractions. My mind free to wander, ideas started to flow and the motivation started to creep back in. I got excited about my project again and couldn’t wait to get back to my keyboard and push through my edits.

Phew, I fought him off and kicked Resistance in the nuts.

This time.

But like any evil villain, he’ll be back….

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