Writer’s Log: 2251 Workshop #4

If I were to suggest one exercise for writers who stumble and fall into this morass of philosophic and analytic musings we call Anonymole, it is this: Read and edit other writers’ work.

I’ve collected four acolytes who need help. Although I’m just barely out of writer’s diapers myself, I can help these authorial toddlers avoid the moshpit of old dogs, table corners, sliding glass doors and unstable dressers. That is, I can point out the obvious problems in their writing.

And they are obvious—to me, now, at least. And these folks are effusively grateful. And I’m indulgently magnanimous in my pronouncements (kidding, really. I’m kidding, y’all).

As I read and edit, with an eight-eyed group watching, what strikes me as dichotomous is this: They instantly know their mistakes when I point them out.

What? How can you write THIS, yet know that THIS sucks when I hold a microscope to it?

And there in lies the WTF moment entwined with a Holy Shit moment. Our writer’s mind is Grand Mal divided from our reader’s mind. Two views of the world living in one brain.

And, (crux of the moment coming up), it is the gradual training of our writer’s mind to follow the advice and understanding of our reader’s mind that all writers strive to achieve.

Case in point.

You write 1000 words. It’s brilliant, evocative and gripping. You squirrel it away and forget about it for months. Occasion permits that you discover it anew and reread it. Gaw! What the fuck is this tripe? It’s heinous. (Well, maybe you’re more forgiving to yourself; I’m a recovering self-oppressed sewage-mucker and know my place.)

Regardless, what your writer’s mind wrote as timeless prose, your reader’s mind hip-checked, crushed and then slammed into the glass.

How can the two minds be so divergent? So disconnected? Ah-ha! I have no idea. However, I believe that is the secret. Writing well is the coercion of your reader’s mind over the top of your writer’s mind such that the words you pen reflect a single effort, produce a unified view of your story.

Of course, if your reader’s mind is undeveloped, Penthouse advice column your go-to literary hallmark, then the challenge of merging your two minds might be as easy as a twelve-pack and a hot day noodling catfish.

But, using my plebes as examples: If their two minds are acres divided, then presenting their errors, as-they-watch, will nudge their divided minds ever closer.

A master writer is one where their reader and writer minds are one.

That’s what I tell myself at least, the liar that I am.

What do you think? Are there two minds, the writer and the reader? Something else? Am I full of shit? Hold on, don’t answer that.



16 thoughts on “Writer’s Log: 2251 Workshop #4

  1. Totally. When you’re “in the moment,” writing, you focus on what is important to you (character, plot, etc.) and are often unable to see the bigger picture. At a later time, when you read your stuff, you look at it as something foreign, penned by a stranger and you either like it or you don’t. Noticing issues in my past writing makes me feel good. To me, that means that I’ve improved since then. But you are right – ultimately, we want to be a writer and reader in one. More or less.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wriitng Class Assignment – Dave-isms. First, define the actions. Second, find the throwaway words. Third, rewrite the following without crossing tenses. Do not use then, when, or other directives. Lastly, discuss the originals and how our brains fix what’s wrong with them. Example, why did whoever hold his denim jacket high over his head? Why did we fix it for the author and move on? Discuss why this kind of mismanaged logic, often occurring more than once in a paragraph, is called a “speed bump”. Discuss why passive voice in the preceding sentence is tolerable.

    Slipping the straight end of the crowbar under a heavy padlock, he leaned into the bar, but had virtually no leverage.

    Reaching for his pistol with his other hand, the hard guy rolled back just as Buck fired again.

    Stepping to the inner doorway, he pulled out his big .44 Desert Eagle and snicked off the safety.

    Flicking the cigarette away, he watched it arc through the darkness, outlined against the sky like a meteor.

    Dropping casually onto one of the hard wooden benches, Antonio watched Angel in the doorway.

    Spreading the paper out and raising it to cover his face, he whispered. “Cops.”

    Reaching into his pockets for the keys to Buck’s office, he froze when the street door creaked softly, as if whoever opened it didn’t want to be heard.

    Flattening himself against the wall, the bodyguard pulled the Beretta from under his denim jacket, holding it high over his head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ‘ing’ of things.
      Where I get that proclivity to use ‘ing’ verbs is from hearing the repetition of Noun-Verb and wanting to mix it up.

      I’m not saying it’s not awkward, but my aversion induces the switch up.

      Rick tapped his finger on the bar. He reached into his back pocket to retrieve the playing card. He slapped it down on the scarred mahogany, and looked up to find a double barrel sniffing his breath.

      I can do that, but I have a tendency to mix up that middle ‘He reached’, to adjust the rhythm. ‘Reaching into his…’ feels like a better way to present that, not so N-V, N-V, N-V.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Use the implied “then” and cut the periods which directly reduces the drag of repeating who. And in that one you’re missing a connection that forces a jump.
        Rick tapped his finger on the bar, gave up on the bartender, turned to check out two drunk women screeching at the end of the bar. He reached for his back pocket, pulled the Queen of Diamonds Rusty gave him to identify himself, slapped it on the scarred mahogany and looked up. A rusty, and by the smell recently fired double barreled shotgun was sniffing his breath.
        I left was sniffing passive in there as conversational story telling. Rhythm is phrasing, not nouns and verbs. Dialog will get you out of a lot of corners.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. These sentences sound very action-packed. I’ve been told that not everyone likes so many things going on at once and I understand it. Such examples cause my attention to dart from one corner of the room to the other without really focusing on any.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. It may be that the brain is so good at correcting what is incomplete or inverted, that we take for granted what is bad for what is passable. Pareidolia personified.
              Hey, is that a whale?
              No, it’s the Starship Enterprise.
              Fuck that, it’s two midgets each giving birth to a rhubarb pie, one with strawberry, one with peaches.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to tell my students that in order to be a good writer, you had to read a lot. Read terrible stuff so you know what to avoid, read excellent stuff so you know what good prose sounds like. And if you can’t differentiate, no matter. Read what you love, and write what makes you happy. It’s the act of doing that counts:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I finally think I know why we need to read quality writing: so that we help instruct our writer’s minds as to what good writing looks like.
      Constant coercion toward elevated prose.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Write what you’d like to read. I hope you aren’t homogenizing these people with semi colons and teachery bullshit.
    Write a decent sentence. Follow it with another. Teach them that. Structure and logic, in their own voice. Beyond that there are no rules. Hemingway said start with one true sentence, the rest will follow. One. Good. Sentence.

    Liked by 2 people

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