Advertiser. Scriptwriter. Author.
Do you know what these three careers have in common? According to Steven Pressfield, storytelling.
If you’ve read last week’s post or follow me on Goodreads, you’ll know that I’ve recently picked up Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why that is and What You Can Do About It. I’m a big fan of Pressfield’s no-nonsense writing style and intended to buy his book the moment I heard about it. That was until Marie Forleo gifted a free version to her mailing list subscribers (woot!).
This book is so informative and inspiring that it should be on every writer’s TBR list. Lets talk about why that is.
Similar to On Writing by Stephen King, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t walks us through Pressfield’s career as a creative. Each career has taught him something about storytelling and he’s sharing those techniques/life lessons with us in short, vignette-like, chapters. He also discusses how writers can use these techniques in all forms of writing (novel, script, self-help, non-fiction, etc.).
When I first read the title, I thought “Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Then I read the subheading and thought, “Okay. Now this makes sense.” It’s such a sneaky, yet brilliant way to get your attention!
The first three chapters set the stage for the entire book. But, well, as shameful as this is, I…uh…I skipped them. They weren’t bad! I just really really really wanted to get to the meat of the book.
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t reads like a narrative with Pressfield being the main character. So you’re getting some sweet writing advice and learning about Pressfield’s struggles with the craft. These snippets enriched the book. I not only nodded my head in agreement to much his struggles, but I was also inspired by them.
Grit and determination can help anyone succeed.
Whenever he introduces a new storytelling technique, the narrative pauses so he can explain it. He explains some techniques/lessons better than others, but I think this is because the “less explained” ones are pretty self-explanatory. He also repeats the complicated techniques throughout the prose so you can’t forget them (at least, I can’t).
Overall, this book is packed with value. The underlining lesson is that us writers must take our readers into account. If we fail to do that, we’ll have one heck of a time getting them pass the first sentence.
My Favorite Part(s)
After the first couple chapters, the book is sectioned into an additional eight parts. I liked “Book 3: Hollywood” and “Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time” the most.
“Book 3: Hollywood” is where Pressfield learns about story formula. He delves into my favorite topic, the Hero’s Journey, which is an ancient story structure that (believe or not) every story follows.
(Warning: This book isn’t technically a novel, but it reads like one. So if you don’t want me to spoil the effect for you, skip to the next heading.)
In “Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time” Pressfield uses his life experiences plus writing techniques he learned form his previous careers and applies them to writing his first novel.
This is an intense time in Pressfield’s life because novel writing has impacted his life in a negative way in the past: his manuscripts were never “good enough,” his marriage faltered, and he was jobless.
Despite all this, he still had a burning desire to be a creative and he fought for it even when resistance held him back. This struggle makes his triumph in book “Book 4” especially moving.
When Pressfield says “nobody wants you read your sh*t,” he means:
When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs—the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with every sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her?
The struggles of writing a novel:
As artists, you and I are struggling each day to dominate our material, to shape it into a cohesive whole with a beginning, middle, and an end. But at the same time, the raw entity defies us. It’s a living thing, with its own power and its own destiny. It ‘wants’ to be something. Our job is to discover what that something is—and to help it become that.
On structuring a story:
The ending dictates the beginning. I’m a huge fan of this back-to-front method. It works for anything—novels, plays, new business pitches, music albums, choreography. First figure out where you want to finish. Then work backward to set up everything you need to get you there.
Should you read it?
This book could be helpful for those who are struggling with their writing careers or are in need of some inspiration. It’s also a good read for those who love to learn new things (*wave*).
If you’re going to read this book, please do so with pen and paper. Don’t just read it, try to apply the techniques to your W.I.P. You wont be disappointed!
Since we’re talking about books, how about we be reading buddies on Goodreads?! I’m starting to post updates about the books that I’m reading (snippets of the reading material and my reactions to them) because, gosh, books are awesome.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in (or you just need a friend), send me a request and we’ll be book nerds together! 🙂