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I've talked a bit about how good I consider "On Writing" by Stephen King, but now that I've finished it, I think it's pretty much a must read for anyone that wants to write fiction seriously.

Let me preface this first by saying that the book isn't a typical "How to write stuff" book. King doesn't presume to tell you the magical pearls of wisdom that will make you into the next great literary discovery, instead he just relays some of his own opinions and, more importantly, experiences that have led him to where he is.

I should also add that I am not a huge Stephen King fan, so this isn't a case of rampant fan love. I enjoyed some of his earlier books such as The Stand and The Shining, but pretty much lost interest after It. I think King is a fantastic storyteller, but I think his stories, themselves, are pretty plain.

The book is very conversational. In fact, there are no chapters (nor a table of contents), just sections labeled from 1 to 16, along with a couple of appendices, including a moving description of his near fatal accident (he was struck by a van while taking a walk on a country road) and the subsequent recovery.

Most of the book consists of reminiscing on his childhood, describing the formative events that inspired him to write and submit his work for publication. His narrative ability is striking, and he managed to keep me engrossed even when talking about the most mundane things like receiving rejection slips at the age of 14.

Starting at page 111, we enter his Toolbox section, which is what most aspiring writers would consider the meat of the book. It definitely is laden with the most practical advice.

His toolbox analogy basically breaks down as thus -- toolboxes are layered, with the most commonly accessed tools on top. Try to find and hone your important tools, and understand how to use them intuitively. Important tools include things like vocabulary, grammar and brevity. He gives very cogent, practical reasons for each of these, instead of just a bunch of academic high-falutin' stuff.

King pays homage to Strunk and White (which I would say is the #1 most important book on writing I can think of), and then talks about his own pet peeves in writing (particular phrases, use of the passive voice, and a fairly huge tirade on adverbs). He also goes on at length about the wonderful value of "said" instead of all the amateurish synonyms neophyte writers use. I've seen this mentioned so many times that I think it should be pretty much common knowledge.

He makes a very insightful statement: fear is the root of most bad writing. When you have no fear and just say what you want to say, then you come off as more assertive, and there is less mealy mouthing of statements. I know for a fact that whenever people laud my own writing (i.e. Internet posts), it's when I'm just trying to say something, not when I'm trying to write. Discard the self-consciousness and affectation.

Moving on, he goes into more nuts and bolts stuff -- possessives for proper names that end with 's' should be written as "Thomas's" not "Thomas'", etc. The paragraph is your friend -- understand formatting and layout since it is a key to flow.

Finally at Page 141 we hit the section On Writing, where it gets a bit more philosophical about writing, and where I found most of the real value. He talks about the difference between bad, competent, good and great writers, and posits that you can't make a bad writer competent; or a good one great; but that with hard work you CAN make a competent writer into a very good one.

His first rule of being a writer is that you must read a lot and write a lot. No argument here. Lots of good examples and justifications for this are presented. He also talks about what is "writing a lot", and the relative output of different authors, and then his own goals for writing (2000 words/day).

Next up is a discussion on "the writing place" and his perfect location to write (his desk at home, how it's configured, etc.). This is followed by a very good analysis of the "write what you know" adage.

King's view of stories is that they are composed of three things: narrative (the story arc); description; and dialogue. It's a pretty good break down, and he further goes on to give in depth analyses of each of these areas along with examples of authors that excel in one area and are incredibly bad at others.

Going back to a recent discussion here, King is a pretty big proponent of "the story writes itself". He does not believe in outlines or rigid formats, and instead feels that the stories -- specifically the characters -- are driving his work, not the other way around. I think this is fine, but as anyone who reads King will know, he doesn't really make very intricate story lines. In fact, The Stand is a pretty classic case of deus ex machina (and a book he almost never finished because he got stuck 500 pages into it and didn't know what to do).

I am not a large fan of stories that write themselves, but if you have that gift of narrative and don't mind writing relatively simplistic plots, then hey, go for it. Worked for King.

His notes on description are also very dead on. Reading that section made me realize that for many writers, they'll never "get it". If someone has to explain to you the difference between overly verbose descriptions and keeping succinct, well...good luck.

Greg Bear is a sci-fi writer who suffers from this. Every new character is greeted with a paragraph discussing their physical features, but in fact most people don't care. They fill in the details for themselves, and this is the case with most description. If an author neglects to note the color of the paint in the den, most readers will easily fill it in for them. Describe what's relevant; imply as much about a character as possible without sledgehammering people over the head with verbosity.

And yes, he talks about profanity. "On Writing" is clearly a conversational piece, and King makes no attempt to avoid tweaking people's sensibilities. I think he gave an outstanding rationale for using bad words -- the writer's job is to tell the truth about people, and when everyone is saying "Oh gosh" and "Golly gee darnit", you're lying to the reader. Even the nicest people in the world sometimes say "Oh shit!" when they hit their thumb with a hammer. Anyway, use profanity when appropriate and honest.

The remainder of the book talks about writer's block, revisions and then his near death incident. All very good stuff, and he can really take the most ordinary topic (revisions) and give brilliant insight into the process, although without patronizing, condescending or lecturing.

Fantastic book, and if you consider yourself a writer, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it.

I am not a huge fan of "how to write"-type books, but on occasion I run into one that approaches the topic from the right direction (observations about good/bad habits), and I'm a much better writer for simply having read the book. This is one of those few books.

-Hook
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I think it's pretty much a must read for anyone that wants to write fiction seriously.


And I think you have provided us an excellent, detailed, and helpful summary of the book. Thank you.

Ivan
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"On Writing" is a good book which I would recommend as well. I plan on re-reading it pretty soon, in fact, once I complete the outline I'm working on and before beginning the book itself.
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I really enjoyed "On Writing". It has some valuable information in it and is very well written.

I ran across a method of plotting that is the opposite from King's for those folks who like to outline and figure out every little bit of the story. It's the Snowflake Process. The website is http://www.rsingermanson.com/html/the_snowflake.html.

I like to use a process that is much less structured than this. I think it is important for everyone to see what works (and doesn't work) for themselves.

Lynn
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I think it is important for everyone to see what works (and doesn't work) for themselves.

this is true, and it depends heavily on what you're trying to accomplish.

Intricate subplots that lead to a climax, with lots of twist and turns, and all remaining self-consistent, is tough to impossible to pull off without an outline. William Gibson, Elmore Leonard, etc. come to mind.

But if your story is similar to King's, in that he develops a basic idea, throws in some characters, and then watches what happens, then a formal and heavy outline probably isn't important.

-Hook

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I like to be as detailed as possible when writing an outline, though I use a different approach than that person does. I don't use lists really, but I like to write each chapter out in paragraphs. The completed outline winds up almost being a short short story all on its own.

From my (limited) personal experience, I've found writing a story without an outline can really get me into trouble or just cause me to get "stuck" sometimes. I have one story which I was about 70-80 pages into when I got stuck and couldn't figure out how to end it. It's still sitting to this day.
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By the way, have you guys read "Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror With Stephen King", by Tim Underwood? Pretty cool, although it doesn't focus as much on writing as it does on terror, horror, etc. When he does talk about writing, though, it's very interesting. The way he describes his writing process (which is quite similar to his alter ego character's process in "Misery") is just amazing. He describes "finding a hole", through which you are sucked into the story and it practically writes itself. You find a "zone", and all is good.

I remeber another passage in that book, an interview, quite early in King's career, where Tim asks him if he had ever written anything that he thought was too awful to publish. He said that yes, he had been working on a novel and then showed it his wife, as he always did. She actually begged him not to publish it because it was "too much", and for a while, he set it aside.

The book? "Pet Sematary". The point? Well, sorry, I guess I deviated a bit from the topic here in the end, and I apologise, but I thought it was interesting... :-)
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Hook,

Thanks for the review of "On Writing." It's been a couple of years since I had read King's excellent handbook and your review has inspired me to re-read it.

As an aspiring writer, I enjoy such works that give you pointers on how to go about the process of writing, as well as those that allow you to be there at the creation of the story as well, such as Christopher Tolkien's multi-volume set on his father's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. When you see the amount of care and correction that Tolkien put into his masterpiece, it makes you wish other authors would take the same care.

It was with such thoughts that I hoped John Steinbeck's "Working Days" would fall somewhere in between the two types above, giving us an idea of how he went about writing "The Grapes of Wrath" as well as the inspirations for it. Yet it was more of a diary that I found plodding. There was more on his buying his ranch house than on what seed germinated to create "Grapes."

Thanks again for your review.

Rich
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What a timely thread! I am back in school after a 30-year absence, and I am writing, writing, writing.
I'll check out the King book at my local library.
I add my thanks for the review to the general chorus.
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I read Stephen King's On Writing and, yes, it does have some useful material yet I liked it more because it encouraged writing in your own style rather than restricting in into a mould. But again, the first part of that sentence was 'I read' and, to me, reading is the key to writing. Let me cozen up to that theme for a moment because I thing it's vital even though it's a truism.

Part of my nefarious career in writing was in hiring writers. One day, when I've had a few beers, I'll detail that part of my life (in a nubbin it was in fact learning how to be hired since I was fired many, many times) but one experience from it. I was working for a large trade magazine publisher and one of the 'tests' we gave aspiring writers wanting to join the company was to give a poorly written article (with the lead buried) and have them rewrite it. Okay as it goes but when they returned with the corrected piece I would casually ask what he or she had read recently. Almost without exception, those who had rewritten the piece and found the buried lead were readers – and voracious readers most of them.

Of course there were some that didn't read. I had one tell me he never read books, “I write them.” and when I asked how many published he went into this rant on publishers not recognizing talent and that publishers were only in it to make money supplying crap to the great unwashed. Needless to say I didn't hire him. Needless to say what he turned in as a corrected article sucked.

The other truism in writing is that writers write. My experience when I was starting up (this may work for you or it may not just like any other advice in writing) was to read the newspaper and then rewrite any piece that caught my eye. At that time I had an old Underwood and I'd peck out a revised piece. Cheap learning: a newspaper and time to rewrite stuff in a manual. Sometimes I'd buy two newspapers and see how each reported a similar occurrence. As I said, cheap learning. Good results with little cash outlay and that's a necessity when – as I was being paid as a freelancer five cents a word – it's needy time.

There's one thing in writing that I think writers should approach with caution and that's Fog and Gunning ratings. Dr. Irving Fang at NBC once devised a method of news writing for television: count the number of syllables above one ('dog' is zero, 'quadruped' is two, and so on) and keep the count to under nine for a sentence. The number can be disputed yet the idea, to my mind, bears more investigation than Fog and/or Gunning numbers.

Just a thought. Try it with your stuff. Sure, the argument is that it reduces writing to 'The Cat in the Hat' yet what's wrong with being clearer? Also, funny thing, grammar is easier with fewer syllables.

Ah, you could say, but there are times when only a polysyllabically engendered declaration is apt and you're right. Sometimes it is and that's why all advice on writing may or may not fit you.

But then again I once wrote a short that had this as the beginning sentence: 'The toaster knew he was disliked by the refrigerator and said so to the oven,' so take whatever I say as just one idea among many that's you're chose to assemble into what feels right for you.

MichaelR


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I loved Stephen King's "On Writing". It was the first of his books I had ever read and my expectations were low which made it all the more enjoyable. Something no one else has mentioned is that the first half of the book is a very comical autobiography. I laughed myself sick over one or two of the passages (particularly Bertha the farting babysitter). What I took from that is that Stephen King lived a really tough life but one thing that was constant was his love of writing. He even used writing to make trouble as a teen. So much more refreshing that papering the neighbor's house with toilet paper.

When it came to the second half of the book I remembered exactly one thing. That is why I especially appreciate your review, LongHook. You reminded me of all of the other very wise and useful points he made. As for the one that stuck with me, what he says is that if you want to be a writer, you must write. You must commit to a particular number of minutes or words and a particular number of days per week. They all say that, damn it!

It is with this that I de-lurk and introduce myself to the board. I used to think of myself not so much as an aspiring writer, but as a "wanna be" writer. After reading a few books on writing and in particular King's book, I have been forced to admit that I don't deserve to call myself any kind of writer at all. I lack commitment. The only writing I do is to these boards and emails to my friends. I have taken a couple of writing courses in the past but I have absolutely failed to follow through.

I'm going to lurk some more, attempt to become inspired, and then commit. It may only be 20 minutes a day but if I commit and like it who knows where that will lead?

Thanks to Hook for the review and to everyone for the inspiration!

P.
who can't imagine a life devoid of a copy of Strunk and White.
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It is with this that I de-lurk and introduce myself to the board. I used to think of myself not so much as an aspiring writer, but as a "wanna be" writer. After reading a few books on writing and in particular King's book, I have been forced to admit that I don't deserve to call myself any kind of writer at all. I lack commitment. The only writing I do is to these boards and emails to my friends. I have taken a couple of writing courses in the past but I have absolutely failed to follow through.

I'm going to lurk some more, attempt to become inspired, and then commit. It may only be 20 minutes a day but if I commit and like it who knows where that will lead?

Thanks to Hook for the review and to everyone for the inspiration!

P.
who can't imagine a life devoid of a copy of Strunk and White.


You've got me scratching my head here, P. I've read your posts elsewhere and you do write well. You make your points and I click on your posts knowing that it's not going to be something the dog barfed up a la PA. You're selling yourself short.

So let's talk about commitment. You say you don't have it yet I'll bet a donut to a dollar if there's a subject on a TMF board that gets you wanting to reply you will. Ah, you say, but that's fun not commitment. P, that's the whole enchilada and that's why I say if you feel you have to write 20 minutes a day to become A Writer you'll bore yourself to tears and probably wipe out a growing talent. My advice, send out more e-mails and continue writing on the boards.

Tell you what slowed me in the beginning: writing and editing simultaneously. Don't. Write first, edit later. So dump the Strunk.

The other thingy is 'to what level do you think you should write and what level of writer do you think you are? The reason that some freeze up when sit to write is that they think they have to write above the level they are because the reader either expects that level or they won't be able to express themselves fully. Don't do this either.

Writer's Top 'O the Week: if it either is hard to write or bores you then it will be hard to read and it'll bore the reader. So, P, what's your passion? If it's flying fishing then don't force yourself to write on plumbing. Plumbing, unless you are a plumber or have a clogged toilet, is boring, boring, boring. Fly fishing written by a fishing nut is fascinating.

It's more than writing what you know but writing that gets you tingly all over. It is makes you tingle then odds are it'll make the reader tingle.

Since I'm on a roll here, a few words about schlock. It amazes me that many don't realize that the reason publishers print schlock is because people love reading schlock. How many copies did Harlequin sell last month? Don't know but I'll bet whatever they printed sold fast. Biggest selling newspaper in North America isn't The New York Times but The National Enquirer If I were to go back into professional writing again I'd write for the romance market – it's hard to write for, most schlock is – but the readership is fantastic. The contracts are the pits and that's why I probably wouldn't do it yet for sheer volume a title Her Secret Lover does damn well.

But don't sell yourself short, P.

MichaelR


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Thank you so much MichaelR - I really do appreciate the encouragement.

I don't disbelieve that I have some talent. It's just that posting to TMF (at least to the boards I frequent) is never going to get me to the goal of writing 1 short story. Just one. That's all I'm asking of myself at the moment. Oh - and I would like to clean up a personal essay I have written twice. It took me a while to figure out that I didn't have a clear idea of what I was trying to convey in the writing which left it weak and not much of a read.

As for schlock - I agree. My ambition, though is to write teen fiction. I turned to reading some after I finished reading Mistry's "A Fine Balance" because I just needed something that was indisputably light to balance the gravity of that very fine book. I actually enjoyed reading the teen book and since I love teens I think it would be a gas to write teen fiction. Mayhaps some day I will.

So - thanks again for your encouraging and wise words. I'll be around!

P.

who learned she was a terrible first draft writer long ago so I never write and edit at the same time. I'd never finish a sentence if I did!
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once wrote a short that had this as the beginning sentence: 'The toaster knew he was disliked by the refrigerator and said so to the oven,

That reminds me of a story I read in Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) 20 or so years ago. I can't recall the title, but possibly Disch's "The Brave Little Toaster"?

Speaking of which, since it later became a Disney movie, and tying in the mention of "Ender" several messages back, (we) aspiring novelists shouldn't forget that a lot of books (and series) first saw life as short stories or novellas. Examples that come immediately to mind are Card's "Ender's Game," which originally appeared as a story in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, McCaffrey's stories "Weyr Search" and "Dragonrider," which also appeared in Analog and gave birth to her popular "Dragonriders of Pern" series, and even Keyes "Flowers for Algernon," which he expanded from a short story he published in F&SF. And let's not forget all of the short stories that later became movies (several of Philip K. Dick's stories, for example).

There may not be a lot of money in short stories, but they might be a good "wading pool" in which to get your feet wet and hone your skills before diving into the deep end of the novel pool. And -- particularly in the SF and mystery genres -- there's ample precedent for taking two or three published short stories involving the same set of characters and weaving them into a novel.

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Wil,

I find, with my students, that writing a really good short story can be more difficult than writing a novel or a novella. Those who get going with good character development and a decent plot have trouble wrapping it up in a short story.

But you know what they say...those who can't, teach. I write with my students and if I lurk here, hopefully I will keep that commitment...to write and share with them.

Lots of good writing thoughts here, thanks everyone!

RBS
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There may not be a lot of money in short stories, but they might be a good "wading pool" in which to get your feet wet and hone your skills before diving into the deep end of the novel pool.

More importantly, they give you credibility when talking to publishers and agents. If you just toss someone a huge novel and you say, "Oh, and I've never been published", it's going to get pushed to the bottom of the pile because odds are that you're not experienced or good enough at this point for novel length works (obviously, there are exceptions to this).

-Hook
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I think being published also shows that you've had experience being edited by someone else and delivering a work on deadline. I wonder how many writers have driven their agents or editors crazy because they were unable to do this?

CK
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I don't disbelieve that I have some talent. It's just that posting to TMF (at least to the boards I frequent) is never going to get me to the goal of writing 1 short story. Just one. That's all I'm asking of myself at the moment. Oh - and I would like to clean up a personal essay I have written twice. It took me a while to figure out that I didn't have a clear idea of what I was trying to convey in the writing which left it weak and not much of a read.

P.


Gonna disagree with you, P. Posting to TMF is useful. Any way of getting used to putting word after word adds. Period.

Take a look at Holg's profile and see what I mean. Also look up cowbuyclown. Two damn fine writers who used TMF to post their material. Why do I call them good writers? Because they both can spin a story about something that turned their crank. And this is just two: I could list most of The Feste Award contenders on that list. Ever read bookgrrl's posts? Damn it, that woman made me cry and I'm an old fart supposedly beyond tears. Ain't so, bunkie.

Let's define writer. Does having a story published mean a person becomes a writer? If so then what media? Is circulation a measure? Does TMF count because it' an electronic media and the only true media is paper?

Right now there's a glorious opportunity to be grabbed here at TMF. There was a huge dustup at The Martini Club that's too long to get into now but what happened is that it was renamed The Apple Martini Club and it's a ripe place to post something in which you can take the space to write. Bogey is the de facto moderator and he's asked for stuff.

Or try Fishing and Boating Fools My post http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=19372853 is about a trip I took to a fishing lodge and what I saw in a young girl's eyes. Could it be written better? Yes. Could the grammar be improved? Yes. But I wrote it and posted it because it turned my crank and that's all I cared about.

P. just write and write. Where is not as important now as just doing it. You could think of it this way: apart from meeting Twitty's rules TMF has to accept your stuff.

MichaelR


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RE: MR: "Gonna disagree with you, P. Posting to TMF is useful. Any way of getting used to putting word after word adds. Period."

I agree! Posting to TMF is great writing practie. (Especially fast writing.) It's said you'll only ever be as good as the company you keep, and the writing quality on most of these Boards is pretty damn good.

In order not to embarrass myself I've made a (not entirely successful) effort to avoid reusing adjectives, and avoiding reliance on the word "that". My spelling can still use some work though, and I'll blame the rest of what may apprear to be bad writing on my lack of technical expertise in typing.

RE: "The Apple Martini Club and it's a ripe place to post something in which you can take the space to write."

I've noticed this Board, but some of the Posting seemed a bit mean spirited to me. I don't have time for that, in either the real or cyber worlds.

SB (how many errors in this Post?)
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>>>>P. just write and write.

Michael: I agree completely. I'm a technical writer by trade, which means I write all day at my job. But technical writing isn't the same as writing fiction (obviously): there are too many restrictions on style. (At least I primarily write white papers, which are more open than other types of technical writing, such as manuals and help screens).

Over the years I have found that my writing has improved somewhat, largely in terms of grammar and syntax, due to editorial feedback. (If I learn the correct way to use semicolons and serial commas I won't continually have to keep correcting them in the second and follow-on drafts, for instance.) Heck, even my typing skills improved!

However, the technical writing didn't do much for my creative writing skills (which had languished since college). When I first started writing my novel, I thought it was going pretty well. The story was interesting and the writing flowed smoothly. The more I wrote the smoother the writing became and the easier it was to say what I wanted. By the time I was up to Chapter 8, I reread what I had written in the first few chapters and realized that the latter chapters were far better written. If you have followed the story of my story <g> you undoubtedly remember all the hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing I did over how to rewrite the first two chapters to increase the drama and improve the dialog. And all that "growth" occurred in the space of four or five weeks.

Had I not decided to sit down one evening after work (after writng all day) and "just start writing", I wouldn't have advanced my writing skills at all since then.

As for editing, I concur with those who say "leave the editing for later". Don't interrupt the flow when you're on a roll. On the other hand, I don't advocate waiting until an entire novel is written either. I recommend writing for as long as the muse is with you -- an entire short story or one or two chapters of a book, but then go back and edit the first draft before writing more.

I say this for two reasons: 1) Who wants to do all that tedious editing all at once, after the fun part is over? and 2) I find that frequently while editing I spot holes in the plot, or other details that need to be taken care of before I get too much farther along in the story. I wouldn't want to have to rewrite an entire chapter later because of something I missed earlier. Besides, editing is a constructive use of time when you've run out of ideas for the next chapter. Go back and reread what you've written. Fix what needs fixing, fill in any little gaps in the plot, or in the dialog, add color to the characters where needed, and so on. Frequently, while doing this I get an idea for something to write about in future chapters--not necessarily a major plot point, but some little thing that will add to the richness of the story. If nothing else, it gives me a better "feel" for the story and the characters as I fill in the details. (I'm all in favor of writing a detailed outline of the story before you begin, if you can do that--some can't; but no matter how detailed the outline is, there will always be litle details, too trivial for an outline, that will pop into your head as you're writing.)

The epilogue of my book started out that way. Looking at the story as a reader (rather than as the author), I found myself wondering what would be the result of some of the culture-changing events that my protagonists caused to occur (by bringing home alien technology). I thought of a few changes that might have taken place over the next 50-100 years and jotted down some notes. I kept those ideas in mind as I wrote the last three chapters of the book, and kept thinking of new ramifications. By the time I finished writing those chapters, the epilogue had grown to over 1,300 words. I'm now finished editing the first 15 (of 18) chapters in draft 2, and the epilogue has grown to 2,000 words--almost a full chapter in itself.

I'm no Stephen King (at least not yet! <g>), so I'm not going to try to tell anyone how to write a best-selling novel. But a lot of people find it hard to get past the obstacles of getting started and editing. My advice to anyone in this situation is just start writing. Worry about the editing later when your writing has temporarily run out of steam. It's a good way to keep the momentum going. In the 69 days it took me to write the first draft, I spent 68 days either writing or editing. The only day I didn't do either I intentionally took a break. Otherwise I did some sort of constructive work every day. Even on the days when all I did was editing, I tended to add several hundred new words to the length of the book--all those little details I mentioned, for color or to fill in gaps. It's amazing how many words you can add to a book just during editing (I've already added 2,000 words while working on draft 2--a little here and a little there). So don't look at it as time *away* from writing. Look at it as an opportunity to do a different *kind* of writing. Some days you work on the forest, and others on the trees, shrubs and fauna. It all helps you to reach your goal.

That's been *my* experience, anyway. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

Mark.
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Gonna disagree with you, P. Posting to TMF is useful. Any way of getting used to putting word after word adds. Period.


I need to make an amendment -

Writing responses to 'how can I save money on cold cuts' is not all that useful. I have only ever submitted one thing on TMF that was just writing to express my feelings and that was on ATH where I bemoaned the way extended unemployment has crushed my ego.

I will use TMF as a place to post writing - the stuff we do just because we like words, not because we are engaging in a conversation.

Thanks again for the encouragement. You are correct that there are some really stellar writers out here.

P.

as big a bookgrrl fan as the next person.
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Writing responses to 'how can I save money on cold cuts' is not all that useful. I have only ever submitted one thing on TMF that was just writing to express my feelings and that was on ATH where I bemoaned the way extended unemployment has crushed my ego.

I will use TMF as a place to post writing - the stuff we do just because we like words, not because we are engaging in a conversation.

P


You can save money on cold cuts! Tell me the story how! Seriously, knowing and telling is writing. It's all in the telling, P. Okay, you could write, “You can save 65 cents on Hormel with their coupon,” or you could write about Hormel and their couponing, or you could write about the 65 cents you saved and what you did with it, or you could write about the need to save 65 cents because it represents how you can hold out unemployment until you're hired again.

Point is, P, there's facets to everything and, if you're going to be a better writer find as many as you can. Odd are that someone else isn't doing that and then you're ahead.

I started doing The Interview that Never Happened and I'm now up to 30 of them. I've had fun writing them. True: I had a poster e-mail me and say that I should really bone up before writing the interview because my subject knew more about his field than I did. Okay, it's a shtick yet in writing them I did get a point across and had to do it so it was readable. Interview dialog is difference than other dialog and I had to learn the difference.

Since I have been fired so many times in my working life (about 16 times before I wised up and formed my own company almost 30 years ago) I remember what it's like looking for a job. My philosophy was that only one 'yes' counted, none of the 'noes' didn't. In fact my belief was every no got me closer to the eventual yes. What is your philosophy?

In that period of my life I had few, if any, luxuries. To this day I have a hesitancy to have a luxury and spend much time agonizing over getting one even though I can well afford almost any luxury now. So that's the setup to me standing in a parking lot looking at a boat on a trailer. You have the scene? I can afford it and I want it but there's something inside that's saying no, it's a frivolous luxury. Do I buy it and then spend time justifying it or do I say no, it is a frivolous expense? Stay tuned to the next chapter.

Think of this for a moment: how you see a situation and how you see it differently from all other seeing the same situation is the creative side of writing (or, at least, most of it). It's not that everyone has a story within them so much as it is that everything is a story. A fender bender, a woman having her purse snatched, whatever. Common occurrences seen uncommonly.

Bet you a dollar you could tell some interesting stories about being interviewed. Got one to tell? Tell it.

About the boat. I bought it and, yes, I did struggle with buying it. It was a 'want' not a 'need' and for years I'd stuck to buying needs first. But do you know what I named the boat? Turtle. Why? Because you'll never get ahead unless you stick your neck out.

MichaelR


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u can save money on cold cuts! Tell me the story how!

MichaelR,

The technique you are using is appropriate if P signed up for a writing workshop with you as the instructor and P as a student who committed to listening to your lectures. I believe she has clearly stated her gratitude for the support given and her intentions for the near future.

Your lecture is, at the very least, patronizing at this point. I think that it would be better for you to practice the craft yourself, using a different topic.

This board is an equal opportunity for "aspiring writers," not a do as I say dammit quorum for people who think they know all there is to know about people and writing.

I am saying this because I would like to read and post here and I am a veteran of many writing workshops. It take a very well trained writer and teacher to facilitate this. I think it would be good for all of us to practice give and take.

Where have you published? What do you write? Where did you train?

Respectfully,
RBS
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Your lecture is, at the very least, patronizing at this point.

I don't get that impression at all. It seems that MichaelR is trying to inspire and, possibly, goad P into achieving something he has the potential for, but maybe not the confidence/willingness to follow through with (yes, that was text book dangling preposition).

If someone wanted to be more critical, this is the perfect forum for it, and I don't see him doing that.

-Hook
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Where have you published? What do you write? Where did you train?

Respectfully,

RBS


Okay fair enough question. But I do question being patronizing.

Junior copy writer; copywriter and advertising production (TV); advertising production manager for Morgan Stores; catalog copywriter (Eaton's, Canadian Tire, Sears); assistant manager training writers for MacLean-Hunter Publishing; associate editor for several McLean-Hunter trade publications; editor of Promotion magazine (they lured me from M-H with the one thing I find hard to resist: money); account executive at a PR company; owner/operator of a PR company (16 clients) that merged with another; owner/operator of an advertising agency (24 clients retail and national) that sold to BBDO; and owner/operator of a freelance writing service to trade magazines in Canada and the US (sold to employees). Oh, in-between all that I wrote newspaper and magazine articles on business and economics.

All that was almost 30 years ago. In 1974 I started a consulting company and that's what I've been doing since. Now have clients in 20 countries and they pay my exorbitant fees to get my take or this, that and whatever.

Did I mention the seminars? Done about 30 odd in the past years. Mostly on personal and business improvement. Damn, I almost forgot: started a dot bomb called PreviewBooks.com where I offered half a book free and the second at a slight charge. Offered my writers (had about 50 of them) free editing in collaboration. Why it was a dot bomb was because people really don't want to read from a monitor. Oh well, I only lost $50,000 in the experience.

So I have a slight brush with writing.

P is a hesitant writer. The talent to write is there yet she holds back and it was my view she needed a boost. That's all, a boost and to recognize that her posting on TMF is good experience. Patronizing? Since I have more experience and am willing to share it is this belittling her in any way?

RBS, one question: what one thing is prime in being a beginning writer? It's rhetorical because I have my answer. Encouragement. Not a pedantic grammatical analysis but, “Hey, you have something there, now do more.”

Not as a comparative put down, no way, but what courses did you take and what did you take with you when you finished? I am really interested, honest. I fact, let's throw this open to all here: what course did you take and what did you get from it?

By the way, and I hope this doesn't come across as patronizing but I do like your posts.

MichaelR


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Not as a comparative put down, no way, but what courses did you take and what did you take with you when you finished? I am really interested, honest. I fact, let's throw this open to all here: what course did you take and what did you get from it?


You and I are from different areas of the writing world. I majored in English/Creative Writing in undergraduate school and Teaching (all aspects of English language) in graduate school.

I am not a good copy editor (horrible as a matter of fact, the course I took in graduate school was a disaster :)>). I have written large non-profit grant proposals, scientific and medical journal articles and then I turned to English in academia and have written textbooks, and other academic documents used for program development, teacher training and advancement of teaching practices in general.

I am currently a classroom teacher. It is my favorite job, to date. What you were saying to P certainly sounded close to how I would conference with a student who tells me that she has nothing to write about. We would go through a similar process together. There is no question that you are qualified to work with writers. My only point was that we need a level playing field here at TMF.

I remember two kinds of professors I had; you were one of them and because of my severe lack of confidence, I would walk through hell rather than talk to you about my piece only because of my self-consciousness. I need a lighter touch. It is just style.

RBS

Yes, writers need to write...when and what they want to write about...:)
Freedom is the only thing that gives my students the opportunity to develop as writers.
It works every year..."No, I can't do it," June: "I can't believe how much I wrote this year."
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what one thing is prime in being a beginning writer? It's rhetorical because I have my answer. Encouragement

MichaelR,

I concur with most of your comments, but (with the hope of perhaps provoking a wider discussion) I'm going to hop down on the other side of the fence here.

I don't agree that a beginning writer (I'm speaking here of someone with aspirations of writing as a profession, not a student simply seeking to improve his communication skills) needs encouragement. Rather the opposite. If a novice writer can be discouraged, then by all means he should be. And early in the process, rather than later.

Because a so-called "writer" who can be discouraged to the point of giving up by the comments/gibes of others, or by a few rejection slips, was never really interested in writing as a process/craft. He was simply enamoured of the idea of "being a writer" -- of seeing his name in print, of the prestige, of the freedom. A real writer is imbued with a passion for the process, a love of the craft, a need to express your inner feelings and thoughts. If you don't have the drive, the persistence, the pig-headedness to persevere against all obstacles, then sooner or later you'll walk head-first into a wall (be it writer's block, or a shift in market tastes, or a more talented new writer selling to the same market -- whatever). And unless you've learned to overcome discouragement and adversity early in your career, you won't have the resilience to cope.

Would you encourage a woodworker who is obviously all thumbs in the expectation that he will improve with experience. Or encourage an incompetent gardener in the hope that he'll learn what's necessary before he kills all your plants? Or might you suggest that they try some other profession for which they are more suited instead?

There are plenty of bad writers who would be better off spending their time in woodworking or gardening instead of inflicting their fractured prose on overworked book/magazine editors. And discouragement earlier rather than later in the process can save a lot of wasted time and heartache.

As for those who will ignore that discouragement and keep on writing, because the need is in their blood, in their soul -- well, they deserve to be called writers.

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Because a so-called "writer" who can be discouraged to the point of giving up by the comments/gibes of others, or by a few rejection slips, was never really interested in writing as a process/craft.

I completely disagree. When I see comments like that, I generally see it used to validate profusiveness over raw but hesitant talent. Stubborness and desire can be good traits, but they don't define being a writer. Maybe they define being a successful, professional writer, but they don't define what it means to be a writer at the core.

I have met many, many talented people that had the innate potential for greatness in different areas, and for one reason or another never achieved what they could. I have one friend who has shown a brilliant mind for computer programming, but is a system administrator instead. The reason for this is because he's "not sure" if he can be a good programmer, and so he stays in his comfort zone instead of striking out and trying to do that at which is he naturally adept.

Do not confuse confidence with desire.

And unless you've learned to overcome discouragement and adversity early in your career, you won't have the resilience to cope.

Great, just what we all need -- friends that actively discourage us from our dreams just to make sure we're serious.

Would you encourage a woodworker who is obviously all thumbs in the expectation that he will improve with experience. Or encourage an incompetent gardener in the hope that he'll learn what's necessary before he kills all your plants?

Poor analogy -- you're equating talent with desire. So you have a friend that is very good at building shelves and cabinets and bed posts, but isn't sure if he's good enough to do it professionally -- now, you're saying you should actively discourage this person just to test their desire? Now THAT is patronizing. I'd knock the crap out of a "friend" that did that to me.

As for those who will ignore that discouragement and keep on writing, because the need is in their blood, in their soul -- well, they deserve to be called writers.

No, they deserve to be called stubborn.

-Hook
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I'm not going to get into an argument on what makes a "real" writer. All I'll say is that a writer writes. That's it.

CK
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I'm not going to get into an argument on what makes a "real" writer. All I'll say is that a writer writes. That's it.

Which brings us full circle.

This started when I said I couldn't consider myself to be an aspiring writer because I am not committed to writing and don't do it on a regular basis. I other words, I'm not a writer of any sort because I don't write. MichaelRead countered by saying that clearly I do write and oh, by the way, you have some talent so don't sell yourself short. RBS somehow took what he said to be patronizing (I never did) and then SamuraiWil chimed in with a bit about how you can't claim to be a real writer until you have been actively discouraged but keep writing anyhow. LongHook then jumped in and reaffirmed that there is a great distinction between insisting you can write and not letting anyone tell you otherwise and actually having the talent to write. To this Chocokitty added - if you want to be a writer you have to write.

The circle is a beautiful shape. In reality and symbolism it signifies eternity, connection, reincarnation, and boundaries. Writing is like that - there is no end to the number of words we can write, rearrange and use to connect and define. If we don't like the words the first way we wrote them we can re-write them and either come up with a better way to express the same thing or express something else.

Michael - I more than appreciate the encouragement and have taken it all to heart. As Annie Lamott would say, I'm going to take my writing Bird by Bird and just keep those words coming.

SamuraiWil - you strike me as one of the nightmares people dread when they go to writer's conferences. The kind of person who just rips someone's writing to shreds in the belief that your ability to ruthlessly dissect and criticize another's writing is of more value than the writing itself or that in so doing you will somehow make that person a better writer. I couldn't disagree more and I second what LongHook said - every word. If I crumple and lose all hope because someone says my writing sucks does that really make it true? I think not. I'm much more likely to respond to constructive criticism and encouragement and come out the other side a better writer.

RBS - I appreciate you sticking up for me, you are always a good friend that way. I'd like to point out something really interesting that you may not have considered. In explaining your perception of MichaelRead being patronizing you said
What you were saying to P certainly sounded close to how I would conference with a student who tells me that she has nothing to write about. We would go through a similar process together.
When you have that sort of discussion with a new student are you being patronizing or are you being a good teacher? I'm guessing the latter. I'm happy to have someone assume the mantle of teacher to me - it is not, a priori a patronizing thing to do. I would have to say that the playing field is level but that some of the players are more accomplished and self-confident. I'm happy to draw from that.

So thanks to all -
P

off to sing a few bars of "Will the Circle Stay Unbroken"
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Hey P,

If it makes you feel any better, I consider myself a writer, yet I wouldn't say I have a regular schedule to write X amount of words a day or anything like that. The few published articles and book proposals I've written have been more like, "Oh, I gotta grab 15 minutes here, an hour here" scheduling. I write in my journal every chance I get because I'm unhappy when I don't write.

And that, to me is the litmus test. If you're happier stringing words together then not, then you write. I love the fact that e-mail and discussion boards are so popular because it makes people dash off notes to each other again rather than watching TV or telephoning. It doesn't have to be Writing with a capital W to be writing.

CK
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RE: MPF: "Which brings us full circle"

Not quite. I've been meaning to mention that I love the name "MakePigsFly"! I use a flying pig as the logo for my business, and have several examples of paraphenalia around, including a winged porker hanging from the ceiling of my office that, (as promised on the box cover), "really flaps its wings" and "flies around and around" in "suspended continuous flying action"!

SB (2 AA batteries were not included)

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Not quite. I've been meaning to mention that I love the name "MakePigsFly"! I use a flying pig as the logo for my business, and have several examples of paraphenalia around, including a winged porker hanging from the ceiling of my office that, (as promised on the box cover), "really flaps its wings" and "flies around and around" in "suspended continuous flying action"!

That is fabulous! I have a bat like that I got at Halloween but I must get a pig!

I came up with the name when I was taking a financial seminar. For me, trying to make money in the market is like trying to make pigs fly. Thanks to TMF they are starting to get a little lift off but are still rather low to the ground.

P.
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RE: MPF: "I must get a (flying) pig!"

http://www.promo-novelty.com/flightsnature.html

I've always felt somewhat bad that some poor Chinese Aeronautical Engineer has been reduced to designing flying pigs, but I suppose we need them more than military jets?

SB (I also like the Flying Cow and Flying Fly!)
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>>>>You can save money on cold cuts! Tell me the story how! Seriously, knowing and telling is writing. It's all in the telling, P. Okay, you could write, “You can save 65 cents on Hormel with their coupon,” or you could write about Hormel and their couponing, or you could write about the 65 cents you saved and what you did with it, or you could write about the need to save 65 cents because it represents how you can hold out unemployment until you're hired again.

Michael: In other words, there is a big difference between describing something factually and telling a story. Take the following example from my novel [Grand Central Station is their nickname for an alien transportation hub and Shamu is the name of their ship]:

Several tired nods signaled our agreement, and we headed back through the still open portal. Once we reached Grand Central Station, we donned our suits and took the pod back up to Shamu. The old lady had never looked so good to me. Neither had my bunk. I crawled in without thought of food or shower, and was asleep in seconds. Mercifully, my dreams were untroubled by thoughts of vicious aliens, galaxy-spanning portals, or what we were going to do about the Seat of Power. Instead, I dreamt of the one-eyed teddy bear I had when I was four. His name was King Arfur, because I couldn't yet pronounce Arthur. Arfur had the softest fur of any teddy, ever....

I could simply have said:

We were dog tired. When we got back to the ship, I crawled in my bunk and fell sleep almost instantly. Rather than dream about all the unpleasant things that had happned to us recently, I dreamed about the teddy bear I had when I was four.

But it wouldn't have been half as interesting that way, would it?

Mark.
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>>>> copywriter and advertising production (TV); advertising production manager for Morgan Stores; catalog copywriter (Eaton's,
>>>>owner/operator of an advertising agency
>>>>All that was almost 30 years ago.

Michael: What a small world! In the early '60s my mother was a copywriter for Eatons (That's a department store chain, isn't it? I was just a kid when we lived in Toronto.) Then she went on do copywriting for Angus Steakhouse, Burdines Stores (both chains defunct now, curiously), Estee Lauder and other companies, as well as being the advertising director for the Miami Herald and other companies in the '70s before starting her own ad agency in the '80s. Later she wrote several novels (unpublished).

Little did I know I would follow in her footsteps (not advertising, but writing in general)--especially considering that I started out in law school and migrated to computer tech support. Not the typical career path for someone making a living as a writer (although it's primarily as a computer technology writer...).

Mark.
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But it wouldn't have been half as interesting that way, would it?

Actually, I preferred the second instance. Conversational tone is far more appealing to me as a reader (e.g. Elmore Leonard or Chuck Pahlaniuk).

-Hook
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>>>>I don't agree that a beginning writer (I'm speaking here of someone with aspirations of writing as a profession, not a student simply seeking to improve his communication skills) needs encouragement. Rather the opposite. If a novice writer can be discouraged, then by all means he should be. And early in the process, rather than later.
>>>>Because a so-called "writer" who can be discouraged to the point of giving up by the comments/gibes of others, or by a few rejection slips, was never really interested in writing as a process/craft. He was simply enamoured of the idea of "being a writer"
>>>>Would you encourage a woodworker who is obviously all thumbs in the expectation that he will improve with experience.

Wil: You seem to be saying two different things here, and I only agree with the second. At first you say, "anyone who can be discouraged should be". I disagree. Many people with talent may be so insecure that if you tell them they stink they will believe you and give up. On the other hand, many people who stink may be so cocky that they'll proceed anyway regardless of encouragement.

Your second point is that you shouldn't encourage someone who stinks. That I agree with, to an extent. Someone who seems to have no talent early on may simply be inexperienced. With proper tutelage and encouragement they may later blossom into an artisan, if not actually an artist.

My feeling is that if someone shows some talent, but lacks confidence, you should encourage the hell out of them. If they show no talent early on, see what you can do to improve their skills before condemning them--maybe their early education was lacking and they don't yet have the skills. (Of course, if they have been taking classes for years and still stink, that's another story.)

Mark.
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>>>>I use a flying pig as the logo for my business

SB: Cool idea. I have thought in passing that if I start a company I would call it Empty Sea Enterprises (my initials are MTC), or possibly the latin phrase for "Sea of Emptiness" (much as "Sea of Tranquility" is Mare Tranquillitatis). Anyone know the latin word for emptiness?

Mark. (The logo for Empty Sea Enterprises, or ESE, could be a compass pointing East-Southeast. <g>)
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RE: "Anyone know the latin word for emptiness?"

Either:

"infrequentia", scanty or lonely

or

"ieiunitas", hunger

SB (whose own Latin tends toward the infrequentia, but whose Sister has a degree in it)

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I am currently a classroom teacher. It is my favorite job, to date. What you were saying to P certainly sounded close to how I would conference with a student who tells me that she has nothing to write about. We would go through a similar process together. There is no question that you are qualified to work with writers. My only point was that we need a level playing field here at TMF.

I remember two kinds of professors I had; you were one of them and because of my severe lack of confidence, I would walk through hell rather than talk to you about my piece only because of my self-consciousness. I need a lighter touch. It is just style.

RBS


So say I am impressed by your background is understatement. It has a certain richness I envy.

Yet I think you misjudge me by placing me as someone not realizing the confidence level of a writer. Or that I would run roughshod over a piece of writing. I really am not that way: remember, I started literally at the bottom and had those correcting my work and I have experienced those people ranging from the taskmaster-type to supportive. I quickly realized that I could not be in the first camp. Not because it bruised egos but that it placed a damper on further work. It most certainly did with mine when some bozo ripped an article to shreds and did it gleefully.

I like to think I model myself on one of the best writers I have ever met, the late Laurie Duncalf. He was creative director of an ad agency that hired me and he was a delight to work with. Note the 'with' and not 'for'. In two years I was with the agency Laurie brought out a side of my writing I didn't realize I had. I owe that man big time.

I think we're skirting the issue of how writers develop and the means of doing so. To me editing another's work is collaboration not an imposition of experience. Yes, of course experience is the deciding factor in having a piece edited yet the manner in how this experience is laid on is, to me, vital.

RBC, I don't have horns. Honest.

MichaelR


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Would you encourage a woodworker who is obviously all thumbs in the expectation that he will improve with experience. Or encourage an incompetent gardener in the hope that he'll learn what's necessary before he kills all your plants? Or might you suggest that they try some other profession for which they are more suited instead?

There are plenty of bad writers who would be better off spending their time in woodworking or gardening instead of inflicting their fractured prose on overworked book/magazine editors. And discouragement earlier rather than later in the process can save a lot of wasted time and heartache.

SamuriWil


I get your point of dealing with rejection and learning that success is getting on the bicycle one more time than you fall off yet isn't everyone all thumbs when just starting off?

And what of those who start off all thumbs and then become better? Certainly that was my experience. Sure, I had the desire but the competence just wasn't there. I persisted and gradually my writing improved yet I wonder the result if I had been thoroughly discouraged by someone in those all-thumb-days.

But I have to say that my earlier days weren't without discouragement. Yet, when I did get encouragement that encouragement made me a better writer. Good critique never never never discourages. RBC knows that out the yingyang and that's why she has students realizing they can write. Will they grow into professionals? Could be or could be not yet in their starting they have that necessary encouragement.

The point about 'should some be encouraged when they may develop into bad writers; is, my view, somewhat arbitrary. Are we talking about really bad writers or are we talking about different styles? Personally there are some writers I cannot stand and I don't buy their books. Others I spend and spend like a maniac and can't wait until the writer's next book. Is one bad writing and the other not, or is a preference of styles?

MichaelR


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RE: " Good critique never never never discourages "

I will never discourage anybody from trying whatever it is they want to do, be it writing or rodeo bullriding. So they stink? Who cares as long as they feel better?

SB ("second best thing to paying and winning is playing and loosing" - A. Kraus)
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>>>>RE: "Anyone know the latin word for emptiness?"

Either:

"infrequentia", scanty or lonely

or

"ieiunitas", hunger

SB: Yuck. OK, so much for that idea. (Imagine calling my company Mare Ieiunitas and expecting people to be able to pronounce, or spell, it!)

Thanks!

Mark.
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>>>>Actually, I preferred the second instance. Conversational tone is far more appealing to me as a reader (e.g. Elmore Leonard or Chuck Pahlaniuk).

Hook: Then you'd probably prefer the rest of the book. That passage was part of the narrator's personal journal. Here's a more conversational passage from later in the book:

Just as I was beginning to think that the strategy of the Stromvik was to starve us to death, one of the guards arrived with food -- although calling it food was being generous. It was some sort of grayish slop, vaguely like porridge, with no discernable taste. I suppose it could have been worse; it could have tasted like ground up worms and beetles in a blood sauce.

Any hopes I might have entertained about using the food as a weapon were dashed immediately. The porridge was tepid, as was the water. That ruled out the old “throw the scalding coffee in the guard's face and escape” ploy. I could also forget the “slip the knife up your sleeve and threaten the guard later” trick, because there were no utensils provided. I was supposed to eat with my fingers, presumably. It also eliminated the “dig your way out of prison with a spoon” option -- although the metal walls, floor and ceiling made that plan kind of problematical anyway.

There was no hope either of using the dishware or the tray as weapons -- there was no tray, and the food and water were served in a paper bowl and cup. What was this, some kind of sick joke? What was I supposed to do, give my two-meter-tall, two-hundred-kilo jailer a paper cut? Couldn't they at least have given me a drinking straw? Then I could have made a mad dash for the door, spraying the guards with a deadly hail of spitballs. Perhaps if I played my cards right, I could make a paper airplane and fly it out of here. Yeah, and if pigs had wings...
(Copyright 2003 Mark T. Chapman; all rights reserved.)

Mark (just so TMF can't claim ownership because it was posted here).
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you strike me as one of the nightmares people dread when they go to writer's conferences

Don't worry. I've never attended a writers conference.

The kind of person who just rips someone's writing to shreds

Which reinforces the oft-made observation that people come across differently online than they do in person. Actually, I usually try to beg off if friends ask me to "read this and tell me what you think," because I'm afraid of hurting their feelings. Plus, I know that, in the final analysis, my "opinion" of their writing doesn't amount to a hill of beans. It only reflects my personal preferences. And when I can't beg off, I try to focus on suggestions ("Did you ever think about try it this way?") instead of criticisms.

True constructive criticism/review, frankly, is a difficult and time-consuming endeavor, and to be effective it must be a dialogue, not a monologue.
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To me editing another's work is collaboration not an imposition of experience.

Precisely. That's what I was trying to say (though not nearly as well) in my previous message.

While I have done a fair amount of (non-fiction) writing, I do not consider myself a writer. In fact, I am a writer's worst enemy/best friend (I know I've been considered both, but I like to think more frequently the latter): I'm an editor.

And as an editor, the best compliment I ever received was from a monthly columnist who, while he was an excellent "craftsman" (in terms presenting interesting topics in a readable form) was a mediocre "mechanic" (in terms of grammar and syntax). I typically had to do a lot of copyediting to get his column ready for publication. Yet he commented to me once, "I like working with you because you don't try to rewrite my work the way most of the other editors do." In fact, I was rewriting him as much or more than the other editors, but I was trying to "walk in his shoes" when I did so, adapting my changes to conform with his style, his word choice, his idiosyncracies, instead of imposing my own preferences. And since the result still sounded like his "voice," he didn't bother to compare the edited version with the original to see all of the changes I'd made.

As you say, editing (and critiquing) is properly a collaboration -- be it a physical collaboration (a dialog) or a virtual collaboration in the sense of the editor/critic trying to "get inside" of the writer's mind. One thing I've learned in my over 20 years as an editor is that editors who insist on "my way or the highway" don't make many friends, and don't last long in the industry.

Editing (and reviewing/advising) is a collaboration, one in which both parties must be willing to learn.
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Yet I think you misjudge me by placing me as someone not realizing the confidence level of a writer. </I
i>

Michael,

See, I could never copy edit. What I WANTED to say was that you would be the kind of teacher who would want to shake it up and get me going! You are outgoing and very supportive and I would want to be a wall flower...not being seen until I decided to put my stuff out there.

Does that make any sense?

I have to take different kind of tact with students so they can find their voice. As with everything else, it is a mix of science and art.

I'm not saying you have horns, the opposite. I guess I was projecting for P...wasn't I? Okay, I'm going back to lurking and reading all the good stuff on this board...:) This wallflower will choose words more carefully next time.

Thanks for the dialogue M.R.

RBS
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You can save money on cold cuts! Tell me the story how! Seriously, knowing and telling is writing. It's all in the telling,

And on that note, one of my all time favorite bookgrrl posts:

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14864136


- Kate
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I don't agree that a beginning writer (I'm speaking here of someone with aspirations of writing as a profession, not a student simply seeking to improve his communication skills) needs encouragement. Rather the opposite. If a novice writer can be discouraged, then by all means he should be. And early in the process, rather than later.

Well, I've read all the posts (believe me, I never thought I'd get 50 posts behind on the writer's board... it's usually so quiet!) and I know you all went off and resolved some things about this post. But I had to go back to this paragraph.

I don't think writing needs to be an 'ivory tower'. We don't need to keep it to ourselves. In fact, we need more people who can express themselves in the written word, not less. Wil makes a distinction between professional writers and communication skills, but with a beginning writer, how do you know? And if you drive the writing out of them at that point, you get skilled, intellegent people who won't write (practice) because they believe they can't.

If there is anything to be discouraged, it is the notion that there is a 'perfect story' out there and you're only a writer if you can capture it.

When I was young, I dreamed of being a professional writer. I wrote a ream of poems. (Still have them!) I mailed stuff to poetry contests and did unsolicited submissions to oodles of listings in the Writer's Market. Not hearing back was all the discouragement I needed. But engaging in the process of that dream, using its energy to fuel writing, resulted in my being very comfortable with words.

I am now a professional writer... one who makes my living because of my ability to put words on paper. I do technical writing. Did I know at 12 that there was such a thing? No. If someone had been able to convince me that I would never make a living writing what I was writing at 12, if they'd gotten me to quit, would I have the skill to do what I'm doing now? No.

- Kate
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You can save money on cold cuts! Tell me the story how! Seriously, knowing and telling is writing. It's all in the telling,

And on that note, one of my all time favorite bookgrrl posts:

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=14864136


If that doesn't offer inspiration then I am just totally hopeless!

And it's a great tip - I used to have a banana problem, too. Now it is resolved.

P.
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>>>>See, I could never copy edit.
>>>>I have to take different kind of tact with students so they can find their voice.

RBS: If I may take a stab at copy editing for a moment, I believe you meant "take a different tack" (an old sailing term), not tact. In this sense you mean come at the problem from a different direction. Of course, ideally you would want to take a different tack, tactfully.... <g>

Mark (just in case you weren't familiar with the distinction, rather than it simply being a typo. Now, where is that "duck" tape? My duck is coming unstuck...).
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See, I could never copy edit. What I WANTED to say was that you would be the kind of teacher who would want to shake it up and get me going! You are outgoing and very supportive and I would want to be a wall flower...not being seen until I decided to put my stuff out there.

Does that make any sense?

RBS


Tons, RBS.

I wish I had you as my teacher in high school. You wrote something about how your students become amazed at how well they can write and, for while, that sent me back to a time when for me it was the opposite. Not to go into showing scars but one teacher turned me off from writing and, almost, from reading.

In those days I spent my allowance, babysitting, and lawn cutting money on cheap, non-socially redeeming, hack-written science fiction pulp magazines. I loved them. Expensive at 35 cents each but glorious reading.

I have always been a fast reader and in high school English we were required to read, I remember the book, Barometer Rising. I finished it in less than a week in class and then faced the rest of the school year sitting while others in the class completed reading it. After several very bored periods I brought in Amazing Stories and Analog and propped them behind Barometer Rising. I was caught.

The English teacher – lord, he must be now long dead and sniffily decrying the grammar on his tombstone – raised my pulp magazine and said, “I had thought better of you! This is trash! You will learn nothing reading this trite nonsense!” Well, I thought that Heinlein made me think but maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was crap I was spending my money on. Maybe books with plain covers were more 'important' than having a BEM clutching a scantily clad woman.

The school year finished with me bored out of my skull and came summer and a decision: he was wrong. Maybe the subject matter wasn't 'cultural' yet I loved to read it. Still do even though the price is much higher.

If you have the time, RBC, please write on how you get your students to improve. I'd really like to know your attitude and how that affects. As said, I wish you were my teacher. I'll bet a dollar to a donut that you don't decry any reading.

MichaelR


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I'll bet a dollar to a donut that you don't decry any reading.


That is correct. I am frowned on by some colleagues for that. When we have reading workshop, I do insist on a book. I subscribe to The New Yorker and Time for my reading basket in front of the room. It pulls kids into current events. But that is just for the odd few minutes when they have time. I insist that students record their books (date) when they begin and then when they are finished or "abandon" them. I encourage them to stop reading books that are boring to them. I do.

I also try to allow kids only to re-read their 6th grade class novel once before talking about what kind of book they might like to read instead. I have a classroom library with books that are accessible for all readers.

Kids are always waiting for Artemis Fowl to come back in and The Black Book, a little paperback series about the lives of adolescent males. The girls love it too. I had to order several copies it was so popular.

For fast readers, I ask that they come with another book in hand. We must do two books that go with the Social Studies Curriculum but fortunately one of them is The Little Prince. The first one is about South Africa and if fits so perfectly with the actual events that I am grateful as it compliments the curriculum.

I'm rambling!

M.R., you wouldn't want me as an English teacher, I get cranky sometimes and I expect a lot, so they say...I'm old too! :)

RBS
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have to take different kind of tact with students so they can find their voice.


WOW...how many times have I made that mistake?! I think that word went the way duct tape did...usage...it's a bummer!

Thanks. Can I send you all my stuff for editing? :)

RBS
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>>>>WOW...how many times have I made that mistake?! I think that word went the way duct tape did...usage...it's a bummer!

RBS: You and a few million others. It sounds near enough to tack that many people think that's what they're hearing, and it just gets corrupted that way (just as many people think it's called "duck" tape. One company even tried to capitalize on that mispronunciation by branding their product as "Duck Tape").

Back before HP and Compaq merged, I knew a lot of people (in the industry, who should have known better) who always mispronounced the name as Compact (even though they knew how it was spelled). I can't imagine why....

Mark (who for years mispronounced ennui as "en-you-eye" because no one thought to correct me...).
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>>>>Thanks. Can I send you all my stuff for editing? :)

RBS: Oops, almost forgot: Are you paying by the hour or by the word? <g>

Mark.
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just as many people think it's called "duck" tape

This is probably more appropriate for the "Words, Words, Words" board, but "duck tape" actually was the original name.

From http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/ducttape.htm

The original use was to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases. Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as "duck tape." Also, the tape was made using cotton duck ... After the war, the tape was used in the booming housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning duct work together. Soon, the color was changed from Army green to silver to match the ductwork, and people started to refer to duck tape as "duct tape."

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RE: "just as many people think it's called "duck" tape"

I sell that tape here in my store, but its called "200 mile per hour tape".

SB (available in a veritable rainbow of colors)(to match your duck)
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>>>>This is probably more appropriate for the "Words, Words, Words" board, but "duck tape" actually was the original name.

Wil: Interesting. I didn't know that. Thanks.

On the other hand, it doesn't change the fact that today the generic product is called duct tape, yet people mispronounce it "duck". (I doubt *they* know it used to be called duck tape....) <g>

Mark. (Just the facks, Jact!)
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>>>>I sell that tape here in my store, but its called "200 mile per hour tape".

SB: Okay, I'll bite. Why?

Mark. (Because it just flies off the shelves?)
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RE: "200 mile per hour tape"

aka, "Racer's Tape", and I quote the catalog, "Piece together race car bodies after crashes". It's supposed to hold things together at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.

SB (okay, any writer who can show me how that first sentence should have been punctuated, I'd appreciate it.)
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>>>>RE: "200 mile per hour tape"
>>>>aka, "Racer's Tape", and I quote the catalog, "Piece together race car bodies after crashes". It's supposed to hold things together at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.
>>>>SB (okay, any writer who can show me how that first sentence should have been punctuated, I'd appreciate it.)

SB: I don't claim any great distinction as an editor, but I wouldn't have made it one sentence. I'd have written something more like:

"200 mile per hour tape" is also called "Racer's Tape." According to the [whatever it's called] catalog, it allows the user to "Piece together race car bodies after crashes." It's supposed to hold things together at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.

Mark.
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RE: Mark: "200 mile per hour tape" is also called "Racer's Tape." According to the [whatever it's called] catalog, it allows the user to "Piece together race car bodies after crashes." It's supposed to hold things together at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.

I don't know? It's correct and understandable, but it just wouldn't be "me".

SB (writes like he talks, complete with gesticulatory "quotes" and "parentheses")
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>>>>I don't know? It's correct and understandable, but it just wouldn't be "me".

SB: Perhaps so, but you didn't ask that it be "you," just how to punctuate it correctly. (I'm not sure that fragmented, unpunctuated phrases qualify as a "style," though.... <g> That's why I rewrote it as complete sentences.)

Mark.
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RE: "I'm not sure that fragmented, unpunctuated phrases qualify as a "style," though"

It does if I call it "poetry"!

SB (thinking ee cummings)
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<<<<RE: "I'm not sure that fragmented, unpunctuated phrases qualify as a "style," though"
>>>>SB (thinking ee cummings)

SB: Yeah, but wasn't he capitalization-impaired??? Maybe not the best role model.... <g>

Mark.
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RE: Mark: "Yeah, but wasn't he capitalization-impaired?"

ee was also a bit "creative" with grammer and lacking in punctuation skills.

from, "Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town" by ee cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

SB (one of very few poems committed to memory)
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"Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town"

Perfect example of why I don't read poetry.
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RE: JB: "Perfect example of why I don't read poetry."

I guess I should have copied the whole thing:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


SB (yep, "wish by spirit and if by yes". Just what I figured)

PS: I'm not really that great a poetry fan either. But I was impressed when I heard this poem read aloud by somebody, (a college prof), who could really read.
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