I first read Nobody wants to read your sh*t – why that is and what you can do about it by Steven Pressfield several years ago. Pressfield is known for several books.
In Nobody wants to read Pressfield shares insights on various genres of writing in sections on advertising, fiction, screenwriting, and nonfiction. It is a great book on writing, and I particularly share the title because the core message is still relevant. Many writers – from authors of emails to books – forget that the message is not about them.
In the real world, no one is waiting to read what you’ve written. It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy. Streamline your message and make it so compelling that a person would have to be crazy NOT to read it.
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?
It isn’t enough to catch the reader’s eye. You can do that with cute kittens or a wet T-shirt. It must make the reader/viewer think.
If you Climax is not embedded in the your Inciting Incident, you don’t have an Inciting Incident.
What are the universal structural elements of all stories? Hook. Build. Payoff. A beginning that grabs the listener. A middle that escalates in tension, suspense, stakes, and excitement. And an ending that brings it all home with a bang.
How to write a boring memoir
Nobody wants to read consists of several short chapters – by short I mean 2-3 phone screens. In Chapter 96, “How to write a boring memoir,” Pressfield shares a story in the way that many writers would organize the narrative. In the subsequent chapters, Pressfield emphasizes the importance of theme and climax to add drama to nonfiction.
Below is Chapter 96.
Your great-great-grandmother crossed the prairie in a Conestoga wagon. You have photos of her; she looked exactly like Julia Roberts. Grandma Julia fought off bushwhackers and marauding Comanches. She gave birth on the trail. To twins. In all, she raised eleven children, buried three husbands, lived to be 106 and was twice elected mayor of Pocatello, Idaho.
Okay. Let’s take this great story and screw it up royally.
- We’ll begin with Grandma Julia’s birth.
- Continue through her childhood and education.
- Cover the Conestoga period.
- Describe her various marriages, her child-rearing experiences, her political career.
- End with Grandma Julia expiring in a nursing home in Mar Vista, California, surrounded by her loving family.
What have we done wrong? We told the story, right? We got every detail in there. Why are even Grandma Julia’s most admiring descendants nodding off when they read our pages?
What we did wrong was we violated the rules of storytelling.
I definitely recommend that you read Nobody wants to read your sh*t. It is a book I share with others frequently. In addition to the provocative and relevant title, the book is an easy read.