You know, that strange feeling you get when the sentence you just read feels all gross and inside-out, like a burst haggis in your underwear.

A pickling, plastic, Icelandic, blue, oblong, fresh, gargantuan, georgeous barrel.

Eww. That doesn’t feel right.

Of course it doesn’t. Sheesh, were you born in a quaint, spacious, antique, square, red, New England, wooden, hay barn? Of course you were.

Who knew? Not me.

Writer’s Log: 2184 Writer’s Workshop 2

Yep, I’m organizing another workshop; getting together a bunch of folks who’ll have me drone on about this or that. I’ve already received numerous, secondary submissions which I’ve edited. Sheesh, to endure this whole thing a second time? Writers!

Albeit, I’ve created another slide deck to dazzle them:
GDocs to the rescue
(Realize, this deck is meant to spur discussion, not complete it. Feel free to share your corrections/comments, this is a community effort after all.)

We will have additional material to pick apart as I include some external content. There’s this guy, a real annoying guy, a writer, who drills me with email promotion nonsense daily. However, he’s got some damn solid things to say. So, I included them as, hell the more fodder you throw at the novice writer the more chance something sticks. Just look at me and the onslaught I endured to get even this far.

I also sprinkled in C.S.Lakin’s twelve pillars. Okay, I admit I’ve got that list plastered as a background on my home PC. Really, really. Concept with a kicker? Fuck me Alex, that is like the circus tent pole holding up the universe; the turtle crawling about the nothingness carrying about the cosmos encrusted on his shell. You think you can just sit and write a story — without grounding it in a solid foundation of myth and mystery? You can’t.

Some good will come of all of this, even if nobody “graduates” from my school for the delusional. What might that good be? I’ve learned a shit-ton just researching and attempting to presume I might have a thing or two to pass on. Teachers must all die wise, don’t you think?


Writer’s Log: 2182

I’ve been reading a few writer’s craft books. One recommended by our favorite Writer’s Grinch, The Lie that tells a Truth. The other is the Twelve Key Pillars of Novel Construction (links below).

The first so far, feels like being tormented by my personal writer’s cheerleading demon. “Write this, write that. Come on Duffy, get off your arse and write me a scene about how your characters would react to seeing a fruit-stand purveyor being gang raped by a band of capuchin monkeys.”

The other, the 12 Pillars one, provides a holistic approach, a “You gotta start with a concept with heart, a protagonist with cajones, a theme with a big-hair metal-band rhapsody.”

I’ll get through them and I suspect, learn a bit along the way.

What I’ve noticed, in the interim, is that I’ve tightened my whole mental process of words to paper. I’ve adopted the, readers are smart, just tell them the bare minimum approach. And this works well. My stories speed up. I have to write less to get my ideas across. I get to rip along with plot. In general, and in tribute to our Grinch, less is more.

Nuance rules.

What’s more important to recognize is that this metamorphosis has taken roughly five years to accomplish. Five painful years to learn that the heart of the story must not be obscured with needless decoration. Story essential comes home to roost.

Marjorie sighed.
Clayton touched her arm. “That bad?”
She scratched a fingernail across the worn arm of her chair. “Worse.”
Her husband stood and gazed out the window. “It’s done then?”
“Unless you cut it off completely.” Marjorie pulled a loose thread, let it drift to the floor.
“I can’t,” Clayton said.
”Then, neither will I.”


Writer’s Log: 2170 Workshop Review

My Writing Workshop was a success.

Two hours, the first one with me power-driving through the strategic and tactical slides. Then an hour of presenting some of the participant’s work and walking through edits I’d made.

No one wanted to go home despite the late hour. Writers, sheesh. They don’t know when to quit.

I solicited some feedback and here was a comprehensive reply:

“Honestly, was very interesting and easy for me to follow. I left the meeting feeling a little burned out because I felt like I learned quite a few really very useful and interesting things. Your expertise on the subject matter was apparent. To me one of the most important aspects was you listed a number of meaningful calls to action to improve our work.

I left the meeting feeling encouraged by the fact that if I work at it, I will continue to improve. providing the calls to action is a really important part of that. It will be important to maintain the progression I think. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was your first time leading a instruction and critique session.

Perhaps something that could add value is to find specific examples of some of the areas of improvement within the our work and talk through some of the edits that you suggest. Of course that would be easier if people didn’t submit 20 minutes before the session started haha.

Overall, very educational, and encouraging. Will look forward to participating in the future.”

Although I didn’t record it (sorry Goldie, George) I’m pretty sure it happened.


“I thought the workshop was excellent. I appreciated that you tackled the basics. I like the idea of moving on to higher level information, but i think it would be great to do more of a deep dive on some of the basics like dialogue and scenes before we move into strategy. It was nice that you gave feedback to everyone. Maybe next time we could also do a deep dive on one person’s work and have a discussion about it? This might help people to start thinking critically. “

Initially, my nervousness showed. But after I moved through the Takeaways slide, I got into explaining my ideas on each of the big pieces. I noticed that, rather that read the slides, I ignored them, and spoke around the material, providing a parallel take on the bullet points I’d provided. I personally hate when speakers just read the frickin’ slides. (The folks get to access the presentation at their leisure.)

I did use the material I’d created for the basic skills—the tactical. Reading a sentence and assessing why it either works or doesn’t (given all the factors that make up a good sentence: dialog-tags, active/passive, show-v-tell, adverbs, story essential) helps drive home what ‘writing well’ truly means. To me, internalizing these sentence tactics is both the hardest yet critical aspect to good writing. You can have the most fantastical plot, the strongest characters, and the greatest setting, but without having mastered the basics, your story will suck.

Apocalyptic Scenario 8.a

“You’re doing it again.”

I’d been staring at Leo’s hands, their wrinkled backs, as he worked the numbers. Dozens of printed negatives lay scattered across the sandalwood table, the stars reversed to black, fuzzy dots. We’d been at it for hours, photographing the night sky, focusing on one narrow quadrant of the cosmos high above the island of Kauai.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “Have you figured its diameter?”

“I need one more image printed. The one at three-oh-seven.” Leo maintained that being an astrophysicist had little to do with observing celestial bodies and more to do with grinding out the math.

I tapped the laptop’s keys, printed and slipped the fresh page next to the others. “Stuffy in here,” I said as I levered out the awnings that let the sweet smell of the Nā Pali Coast drift in. Our observation shack, high above the Waimea Canyon, remained in the sunrise shadow of the mountains, but the glow at the horizon promised another lovely day.

Continued here…

Dear Mudge, How to learn?

Hey ‘Mudge,

Busy times. I suspect we’ve both had our hands full. Me, exhausted from learning a new software platform (Microsoft D365) and you, starting a new career with a whole universe of knowledge to master.

I hope there’s time, here and there, for you to share your experiences. Does such a grand adventure deserve its own venue? (Of course, you’re always welcome here.)

Regarding these latest endeavors, I’ve taken pause to reconsider the process of learning. I say ‘reconsider’ as I’ve (and perhaps we’ve) examined the aspects of changing one’s mind here in these posts. And learning, to me, is the epitome of “changing your mind.”

How do you learn? I mean you, specifically. Have you considered it in abstract form? Learning something new, both mentally and physically, seems straightforward. Take the new material, read it. Read it again. Discuss it. Use it in practice, bit by bit until it sticks. The same for physical skills: condition your body, muscle by muscle, motion by motion, until you no longer have to think to move—you just flow.

Muscle memory.

My pastime endeavor, learning to write well, is more problematic. Not only do I have to learn new skills, I also have to unlearn old ones. Break bad habits and replace them with good ones.

And so, as I’m wont to do, I analyze the process and communicate my findings here.

  • The most permanent lessons learned are those that caused pain. This is one of the reasons why, by the end of our lives, most of our memories are of traumatic incidents. Happy memories? Wiped away by age. Painful memories? Burned into our minds by our innate need to survive.
  • Holistic lessons are useless. “Be the ball.” “Be who you want to become.” “Fake it ’till you make it.” How? How does one specifically accomplish such things? Details. I need finite details to apply, in repetition, to alter my behavior, that is, change my mind.
    Sweeping statements provide no guidance. They only serve to obfuscate the process.
  • The mind’s storage ability must be taken into account: short term vs long term memory. Painful memories becomes permanent due to the fact that we dwell on the situation of the trauma. How did this happen? Can I prevent it in the future?
    Skillful memories become permanent through repetition. We must transfer our short term instruction into long term knowledge through practice.
    But such abilities must be discrete, singularly identifiable such that one can consider them in reflection. And, by reflecting upon them, commit them to permanent memory.
  • So, how can we learn a vast, complex skill like “writing well” or “vet-tech”? We must deconstruct the whole into its learnable components, pieces small enough to be practiced and mastered individually.

It is with such analysis that I am assembling this writer’s workshop. And indeed, how I continue to apply myself to this 10,000 hour, 1 million words endeavor.

I’m anxious to hear of your progress,