The files Steven Pressfield works with

Steven Pressfield has written a series of posts on how he organizes his writing using a simple set of files.

It makes for a nice contrast to over-complicated solutions using intricate Scrivener projects or overwrought Ulysses setups.

It isn’t too far off from the simple folders-plus-files system I’m using for this blog.


Right now I’m on the sixth draft of a fiction project. (In other words, NOT the first draft, which goes by completely different rules.) When I start to work each morning I open onscreen five files

Files I Work With by Steven Pressfield (1232 words).


After the second round, when our group was almost ready, Bob would call us together and have us pin our two finalist campaigns to the wall. Then he’d ask, “Okay. What’s missing missing missing?”

Invariably something was. Usually a pretty big something, if not two or three big somethings. Meaning we’d miscalculated in our rush to get the work done. Maybe one of the campaigns was inadvertently offensive to women. Maybe there was some glaring void in logic. Maybe one campaign was dependent on a single visual and couldn’t be “pooled out” into multiple ads or commercials.

We’d have to go back to the drawing board and fill those holes.

Files I Work With, Part 2 by Steven Pressfield (1601 words).


The project I’m working on now has 52 chapters, i.e. the equivalent of scenes. My file, Scene by Scene, lists them all, with a short paragraph or two describing what happens in each scene.

The file is 20 pages long, single-spaced.

Why do I do this? What purpose does this file serve?

First, it helps me see the story globally, to get a sense of its flow and its rhythm. The actual working file of the story (#1 above) is 200 pages long, single-spaced. Way too long to get a bird’s-eye view of.

Files I Work With, #3 by Steven Pressfield (1214 words).


I know, I know, these are soap opera stunts and many of us like to think we would not stoop to such shenanigans. But this is story telling, and you and I are in the business of telling stories. These are the skills of the craft. Even if we elect not to exploit them shamelessly, we need to know what they are and we need to know how to use them.

But back to “Files I Work With.” Taking a page from Shawn’s The Story Grid, I will track each “line in the water” in my Scene by Scene file. (I probably should have a separate file for each, but I’m too lazy.) The questions I’ll ask myself as I survey each “line” are:[…]

Files I Work With, #4 by Steven Pressfield (952 words).


My CULLS file contains everything I’ve cut from the manuscript I’m working on. I don’t delete anything permanently. I just stash it in literary purgatory.

Files I Work With, #5 by Steven Pressfield (551 words).