Make it short? Make it good? Make it last?

It’s starting to grind again.  I’m at that point where, when I manage to distract myself from all my distractions and actually sit down to write, I can barely manage to push out a paragraph before I falter.

I mentioned before how I’d ground out a chapter that way, one or two paragraphs at a time, and thought it was disjointed and weak only to have my sister tell me it was the best I’d written so far.  So, I’m pretty sure if I can just kick myself in the ass hard enough, the basic quality of my work will hold up.

So I’m trying to put one foot in front of the other and keep it moving.  Journey of a thousand miles, blah blah blah.  The problem I ran into yesterday is that I had the main characters tour a stable, meet with some polo players, and watch an entire polo match – in three paragraphs.  After taking a couple hours to get that far, I looked at it and went, “Really?  All that in three paragraphs?”

So I got to thinking – a good form of distraction – and I reasoned that perhaps this was merely a transitional scene, and not one of those parts of the story that really move things forward.  Therefore I shouldn’t waste a lot of the readers time on things that don’t matter… right?

Maybe.

Truth is, I don’t know where the hell the story is going right now.  Oh, I know where it’s going to end up, I’m just not sure of the path it is going to take to get there.  So should I take a few pages to describe all of the stuff?  Should I describe each horse, the colors of the wrappings on their legs, the differences among polo saddles, English saddles, and Western saddles?  Will the readers enjoy an exciting description of the polo match?  I can probably fluff all that up pretty easily – as a kolij granulate (twice!) I’m no stranger to filling x pages for a paper – but is it important to the story?  That’s the real question.

The answer is, I have no freakin’ clue.  “The answer,” he said, pointing a finger at the knucklehead staring at him out of the mirror, “is to just write it.”

First things first.  Write it all down, and get a complete first draft.  Write fast, write slow, write with music, write in a darkened room… whatever it takes.  Get it out of your head and onto the screen.  Then, you can edit, revise, and rewrite.  That is what I tell myself, while I sit here banging out a stupid blog post instead of writing.

::sigh::  Okay… back to work then.

Happy Birthday, Chesty

When my time comes to take my post guarding the streets of Heaven, I hope one of the first things I get to do is go on a moto run with Chesty.

Secret Blog #2

Happy Birthday, Chesty

My wife is an artist, as some of you know, although she doesn’t really jump into the Artist category with both feet. She’ll demur and pretend her gift isn’t art, but we all know better.

Just last week she was moved to create something (not at all an artistic impulse!;-)) and this amidst a pretty big workload for both home and various artistic endeavors.

She made a rendering of the classic photograph of LtGen Lewis B Puller sr, known to us Marines as Chesty. The picture will take you to it.

Today is Chesty’s birthday, and a nice day to reflect on just what the man accomplished in his life, and why we Marines seem pathologically devoted to him. I encourage you to read his autobiography and any of the many books that have been written about him or the many operations in which he played a…

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Oh no! It’s happening to me!

Last night I sat down and the words began to flow.  A torrent of prose erupted from my fingertips and splashed onto the screen with fantastic nuance, deep soulful longing, achingly beautiful imagery.  What’s more, it was The Big Scene, which I’d had in my head for months, but hadn’t gotten to yet.  Last night, it was time.  And I wrote until my fingers bled – okay four or five good pages – but it was good.  It was fan-freakin’-tastic good.

Mrs. Novelist was sitting on the couch when I finished the scene.  I decided to show her just how incredibly fantastic her husband truly is, so I read her a few pages and finished with The Big Scene.

Except that somebody had taken my deep, touching, wonderfully poignant, thrilling, tear-jerking words and replaced them with utter crap.  I tried to stop reading, but it was too late.  The words kept coming out of my mouth right up until the end.

I looked up, prepared for her to tell me that our dog could probably poop more artistically than I could write, yet hoping she’d be gasping for breath as the tears rolled down her cheeks in rapturous joy at hearing something so beautiful.

“That was nice,” she said and continued playing her game on her phone.

Achieved!

I have done it!  I have finished editing my friend’s novel.  It’s a good story; a really good story.  He just needs tons of help on smoothing out all the rough spots.  He gots a whole lotta rough spots.

The important part is that I have finished!  It was a much more involved task than I had thought it would be, but I can say it was well worth the effort.  By going through his book so methodically, I have taught myself a great deal about writing that will now be re-applied towards my own First Novel.

And now I’ve also exhausted one of the my main excuses for not writing the rest of my first draft, so… onwards ever onwards.

Hizzen and Hern

I am sick to death of butchering the English language in the name of gender-neutrality.

No, I’m not a misogynist (as long as you keep makin’ them sammiches! – sorry, I couldn’t resist).  No really, not a misogynist at all.  I absolutely understand and completely agree that English could and should evolve to reflect the fact that approximately half of humanity is female.  I have no problem with that.

Here’s what I do have a problem with.  I was reading one of the blogs I follow and the author concluded with this sentence:  “A writer that can create this kind of epic and heartfelt rivalry between their characters has all the conflict they need to drive their story.”

The subject of the sentence is “a writer.”  He could have chosen “the writer,” but he opted for an indefinite article.  A singular indefinite article.  Not all writers, or some writers, or even two writers.  Just one single indefinite writer.  Later in the sentence he mentions two things that belong to this indefinite singular writer: characters and story.  To indicate that these items belong to the singular indefinite writer, he uses a third person possessive pronoun.

Now this singular indefinite writer, being human, must be either male or female.  Doesn’t matter.  We have a singular third person possessive pronoun in English for males and a different one for females.  However, because we’re afraid we might offend half of the population, we refuse to use either singular pronoun, and instead choose the plural third person possessive pronoun, because there is only one of those and it isn’t gender specific (because, being plural, it must include both genders).  So, “a writer has their characters and their story.”

Which is just fucking WRONG.  Singular subject and plural pronoun.  Wrong.  Always wrong.  Forever wrong.

Now if we look at this not as avoiding insult, but rather as an attempt to respect and credit all humans, then it does make a bit of sense.  Still wrong, though.  Nice gesture maybe, but bad English.  And it just irritates the living hell out of me.

The “fix,” if you will, is to change English.  Since we actually have three third person possessive pronouns in English, and the third one is gender neutral, we could say “A writer has its characters.”  But this is more wronger, because “it” is never used to refer to people.  So that option is out.

We can agree that “their” is okay because it is gender neutral if not numerically correct, and this is generally the hand wave of acceptance that the PC/GN crowd uses to justify this grammatical departure.  And I can’t stand it.  Makes me want to kick holes in things.

Or, we can use both the masculine and feminine pronouns together, “A writer has his or her characters and his or her story.”  But that gets pretty annoying pretty fast.

Or, we can create an additional pronoun which, while singular, is gender neutral.  Such as… I don’t know… hox.  A writers has hox story.  We can make up words if we want.  We’re not stuck with the old ones.

Or, and this is the option I will choose, if the author is male, and the subject of the pronoun could be male or female, use male.  If the author is female, use a female pronoun.  So I could write,  “A writer has his characters,” and you (if you’re female) could write, “A writer has her story.”

Now, y’all (there’s another fun pronoun) can do what y’all want, but I happen to be a male.  I’m not going to apologize for that, nor am I going to attempt to minimize or diminish the other gender.  But from now on, when I need a singular third person pronoun to refer to a single person of unknown gender, I’m going to choose the male version.  After all, a writer should be able to choose their pronouns, right?

Those who can’t . . .

. . . teach, goes the old saw.  It isn’t that I can’t write, because obviously I am the Next Great Novelist.  So my ability to write is clearly a given.  I have but to complete the First Novel and the rest of the world will see what I already know.  They will demonstrate this by purchasing hundreds of thousands of copies and making me wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.  So yeah, I can write.

But, setting aside my modesty, can I write well?  And, perhaps more importantly, am I in a position where I can criticize the work of others?  Thus, the title.  As in:  “Those who can, write.  Those who cannot, become editors.”

I have volunteered to edit Chainsaw’s novel.  I’ve known Chainsaw for about twenty years, although there was a big blank space in between when I first met him and when we became reacquainted.  Chainsaw is a brillant man.  He’s insightful and he’s tactful, so – paraphrasing the saying – he can tell me the First Novel is crap in such a way that I look forward to revising it.  He’s also a fellow writer.  And here is where I hit a snag.

Chainsaw has published a novel (two, I think).  By “published” I mean he has uploaded it to Amazon, filled out some forms, and agreed to some agreements.  By “published” I do not mean that he has had the novel professionally edited, nor critiqued by beta readers, nor done a great deal of marketing.  So, I do feel a distinct twinge of jealousy that he has finished a book and “published” it, but I’m sad because I think he could do better.

It’s hard for me to describe Chainsaw’s novel.  I love the man dearly and, like I said, he is brilliant.  That’s why it’s just so painful to read his novel because . . . let’s just say it needs a *LOT* of work.

When I write, I tend to edit as I go.  I’m a pretty good writer and my first drafts usually come out pretty nicely polished.  That’s just me.  I use the backspace key a lot; I read over my paragraphs and change words here and there.  That’s how I do it.

What I envision Chainsaw doing is sitting at his keyboard, turning off all the lights, putting on some blaring heavy metal (I have no idea what sort of music he prefers, but heavy metal seems to fit his writing), and just pounding madly at the keys without regard to punctuation, spelling, or grammar.  He just spews forth onto the page, flinging his words down as fast as they come squirting out of his brain.  I know this is how he writes because he told me so.  I can certainly acknowledge this as a viable form of creativity.  After he gets the ideas out of his head and onto his screen, then he goes back and edits himself.

He admits to seven or eight editing trips through his latest book, but . . . if this is how it looks after seven or eight times through . . . it must have been one hell of a mess to begin with.

If you think at this point that Chainsaw’s writing is bad, you’d be correct, but only in so far as the mechanics of his writing.  His writing style, to be fair and honest, is very good.  I pick up his story and I can’t stop reading until I get to the end.  It’s not a literary classic, by any means, but his storytelling style is compelling and captivating.  It’s just that all 200 pages of his novel are chock full of capitalization errors, disagreements in tense, faulty pronoun references, dialog without enough tags so you can’t figure out who’s talking, and on and on.

So, because Chainsaw is my Bro, I said “I will edit your book for you.”  Yeesh.  I thought I could go through it in a couple days and clean up the frayed ends.  It’s been a couple of weeks now and I’ve been working hard at it and I’m about two-thirds of the way.  I’ve never done this sort of thing before, but you know what?  I freakin’ LOVE it.

I love it because Chainsaw needs the help and he knows it.  So I’m helping my fellow writer be a better writer and he appreciates that.  It makes me feel good to help him out.

What I did not anticipate was that, while going through Chainsaw’s novel and pointing out sections that need work, I am becoming a better writer.  I will go back to my own First Novel soon and it will be so much the better because of the effort I have undertaken on Chainsaw’s behalf.  I didn’t realize how much it would help me too.

Thanks, Chainsaw.

I’m doing it wrong!

So, in order to fulfill my destiny as the Next Great Novelist, I’m reading all sort of posts here on WordPress (and elsewhere) about writing and publishing.  That’s because I’m the Next Great Novelist, but certainly not the first one.  And apparently, I’m doing it all wrong.

I rather naively think that the First Novel will just flow smoothly from a vague concept to a great novel.  One edit will be enough to fix the very few spelling errors.  The first agent I contact will fall all over himself, eager to get me into print.  Publishing houses will beat a path to my door and throw money at me.  A major Hollywood studio will send a private jet and put me up for six months, all expenses paid, while we film the blockbuster movie with top name stars.

And then I read all these stories about *real* writers who write novel after novel.  Their stuff is elegant, polished, and professional.  They do character studies, write outlines, make summaries, plot story arcs, put stickies on whiteboards… and they’ve got years of rejection letters stuffed in their file cabinets.  Who the fuck am *I* to think I will write one stupid neophyte novel and suddenly be rich and famous?

Well, I don’t care.  I’m going to write the First Novel they way I want to write it.  I don’t care if it sucks.  I don’t care if I’m not doing it right.  I just feel like writing and I want to write my story.  Once I get it finished, I *will* make a good effort at getting it published, and maybe do the right steps so that I too can fill a drawer full of rejection letters.  But for now, I’m just writing my story and I will not let myself worry about the rest of the process.