Category Archives: Writing

Writer’s Log: 2017 Jack

Writing is like:

Riding a unicycle,

on a guywire,

juggling apples and alligators,

while simultaneously,

planning your next act,

with seven other players,

in a circus you’re designing for the next town,

as you remain cycling to and froe,

twisting a cherry stem into a knot with your tongue,

which you spit into a glass thirty feet below you,

never taking your flirting eyes off the trapeze artist,

teetering just out of reach of your toothsome gator,

at the same time dictating your nefarious plans for world domination and the demise of the human race,

to the parrot you have riding in your birdcage hat.

A writer is a jack-of-every-trade, never satisfied, always learning, constantly exploring what’s around the bend.

 


Writer’s Log: 2014 Criticism

Take this you worm!

Your writing lacks… Everything. You use too many adverbs. You use handicapped dialog tags. You coat your characters with pointless attributes. You head-hop. You write in passive mode. You inject author-speak. You divert the action with inane description. Jeezus-bloody-christ, but you wear me OUT with your failure to focus on your own gottdamned story.

Truer words were nev… I hear it everyday. Or rather, I used to. You see, I had crippling criticism dog me after I wrote my first novel. And so far, it’s made all the difference.

Sure, we all like a dollop of praise now and then. But since when did att-a-boys ever teach you a damn thing? Learn from your mistakes? How about get brain-branded by your catastrophes… Fuckin-A, I’ll never do that again.

The problem is — well, there are two problems. 1) Getting quality criticism; and 2) Taking said criticism as constructive attenuation of behavior rather than as debilitating castigation. (I think my gonads just shrunk to the size of hazelnuts. Nutella anyone?)

It’s the second that is all down to you. Don your shark-skin suit and deal.

It’s the first that is the reason for this post.

Finding someone who is willing to provide poignant advice yet cut you to the bone, muzzle thrown to the curb, teeth bared and menacing — is a rarity. If you’re lucky, you may happen across one or two in your writer’s lifetime. Once located they are agony and ecstasy entwined. Do you shoot them in the face with a sawed-off or buy ’em a bottle of Glenfiddich? Both perhaps.

The point is, I’ve had a few acerbic son’s-o-bitches who’ve bothered to do me the honor of their opinion — one a very polite woman from Utah whose comments bitch slapped me until I vowed off of the passive voice forever. There was Duncan from Bend and now Phil from the burning fires of Hades itself.

Learning to write — it hurts so good.

Without them my 2014 hours spent thus far would have been, on the whole, wasted.


Writer’s Log: 2013 Edge

You, the writer, are a razor slicing down through words to the tender page, leaving a gaping wound that is your story.

Your blade can be dull and the cut you produce nothing but a bruise: bloated writing, wandering plot, pointless details, backstory, telling.

Or your blade can be keen yielding a deep slice exposing muscle and bone: a gasp of breath from your readers eager to turn the page, endure the scars.

To get from blunt to sharp takes years. Eventually, one’s mind molds anew. Altered neural pathways of writer’s thought form and one’s blade begins to shine. Upon these mental trails there grows the ability to write purified story — the raw essence of what must be said to covey the theme of a tale. Scales of rust flake away leaving only what must be written, not what can be.

This is the challenge. Whet your stone and stroke your skills. If persistent any writer’s blade can be honed.

~~~

I sense a recent change in my understanding of how to write well. I’m embolden to strike out clever words and turns of phrase, details that I found entertaining when written but realized added nothing. Trust the reader to tease the story from fewer select words. A novel is tens of thousands strung together, unburden readers by giving them only what’s necessary.


Silver Gypsy Maiden

The cafeteria hushed as Jacob strolled through the double doors. He glared at the cheer-table occupants, rolled his tongue across his teeth and made for the corner of the room. His back smoldered from stares of contempt. With a tilted chin he let his backpack fall and hit the table, trays rattled.

Bethany cursed, “Watch it. You ruin my clothes again and I’ll text the whole school about what you really did last night.”

Jacob ignored her and pulled a black case from his pack, laid it on the table and flipped the clasp. From within he lifted a silver figurine. It clicked as he set it down. “What I really did? And how would you know?” The senior boy spun the statuette with a flip of his fingers. As it twirled the glare from the overhead lights reflected like glitter off the polished surface. It wobbled and stopped. The slender hand of a shimmering gypsy maiden pointed at Bethany. Jacob stowed the figurine and said, “Looks like you’re next.”

Bethany leveled a look. “Ha. Instead of playing with toys maybe you should figure out what to tell her.” She lifted a painted nail toward the doors.

Principal Dewar, twill-skirted, bobbed, dark hair, clip-walked up to Jacob, murmurs from the pubescent jury followed as a wave. “Bring your sack,” she said. “You’ll need it to empty your locker.”

Resolute, the boy trailed the woman. He couldn’t help but watch her ass jiggle beneath the Ma’cion couture. That night visions of the principal’s sharp cheekbones and penetrating eyes had him wondering if the woman’s thighs rubbed together as she walked.

 


How was your day?

In as few words possible describe your day. Don’t mistreat it. Don’t embellish. Extract its essence and stream it into our minds.

~~~

Go.

~~~

Our world spun its circular return. I blinked and woke up here, barely moved. Is this today or tomorrow? The rain would know. Soon drops will drown the dry tracks of my children’s tears. Or are they my own?

Food and drink slurped as sustenance, its colorful countenance belying its eventual fate, ooze of an odiferous sort — like the stink of diesel, or the burning of tires along the highway.

I went, I wavered beneath florescent lights. I found the keys and tapped them murderously. To no avail — they remarked en masse that my words together failed to shift the opinions on all office topics lovingly pinned to the break-room wall.

The sun arced without my permission. When I dared look at its progress, glares from cubemates bent my neck back to my flickering screen. A screen that aches for silken sheets and glistening bodies but must suffice with sheets of tables and dull characters spelling out quarterlies and bottom lines.

My day is done. The dollar slotted, the handle pulled, the rollers flashed cherries and jokers and spades, it twirled and slowed, the last wheel clicked empty. I jangle my change, a few dollars more it seems.


Writer’s Log: 2007 The Spiral

[REF: my comment on Zarah’s blog]

I’m of a mind that, like many endeavors, the process of learning to write is a spiral.
LearnApplyReview
Learn -> apply -> review …

Hopefully, at each loop, one expands the spiral outward with the assembled knowledge and skill from the inner circles.

For writing, the complexity of the inner circles is limited: use proper grammar and spelling, use active voice, reduce the use of adverbs and dialog tags.

The further one gets from the center, the more nuanced the rules become — more like guidelines. Although the lessons become less specific, they become more challenging. One of those is finding one’s own voice.

What I find compelling about this visualization is that a spiral never ends: around and around we go, ever outward.

Lately, I’ve hardly written a thing: I’m in a wide curve, rounding from Review through Learn, approximately two-thousand hours from the center. (2000 on my way to 10k.)

This lull, I tell myself, is me digesting some of the more nuanced guidelines — like that of finding my own voice. That, as well as focus on the refinement of the writing itself. Story, not so much. Plot? Nope. Just the writing. The sound, the flow, the cadence.

Here’s some random exercises I’ve used to inch my way around the pivot-point:


Creation vs Discovery

Over there on The Memoir of a Writer, Zarah and I got into a discussion on the concept of creating anything “new.”

She had her points and I had mine and in the end I believe the conversation boiled down to: are we just discovering “new” or are we creating “new?”

During our exchange I gave her a a few examples of new, one being Calculus. I originally held that Newton and Leibniz “created” Calculus but now realize that they really only discovered it. So the concept of discovering any scientific fact, math, physics, chemistry, etc, is just that… discovery. There’s been a boatload of discovery that historically might have been called creation, but it is really just the revealing of what exists in the world.

So what is creation? I would posit that only an elevated intellect can create. From nothing, something.

Ideas often come from example. A log floats down a river. With sharp tools, that log hollowed out becomes a boat. Was that boat discovered or created? What of the tools? What of the mast and sail and paddle and rudder? No doubt there is creation in there somewhere. And the “new” part is that at some point in the past the very first woven sail had to have been attached to a stick that became the mast of a sailboat. Someone made something new. Even if the entire Universe is taken into account, some being somewhere was the first to create that new something.

Nothing new under the sun was the theme of Zarah’s original post. Can we really create some new story line, plot, or theme? Don’t all stories, today, leverage what already exists? Can we really create or write something new?

My position is that: all that we take for granted, at some time in the past, each thing or idea was created anew. And that today, even though we have billions of minds constantly trying to dream up some novel invention or concept, someone, somewhere will no doubt create some as-yet-unknown newness.