All posts by Steve

A Dire Need For Interval Training, A Cautionary Tale by Calamity Jane

Her lungs creak like an old rocking chair, in, out, in, out.  She promised me she’d do more interval training and work on leg strength between now and the last time we’d met, but I’m getting a little suspicious she did not do so.  I’m not going to ask, though, because I don’t want

Source: A Dire Need For Interval Training, A Cautionary Tale by Calamity Jane

One Sentence?

The yellow shrubs are gorse. This is in the Southeast Highlands of Ireland.

The picture is from Ireland because so is the fellow I just read about (and I can’t find the article to use his name here) who has won a prize after publishing a one-sentence novel. It isn’t a short novel, as you might think. It’s just that there is only one sentence in it. For sure he’s Irish, and not German? Anyway, this is an illustration of my point for this week, which follows directly.

One of my favorite quotes, and my favorite from Picasso, is “You must learn the rules like a professional in order to break them like an artist.” He said that in Spanish, but the meaning carries over nicely. And he’s right: there is a good reason that The Elements of Style by Skrunk and White is the #1 recommended book on any “Books About How to Write” list. You gotta know them rules, bub! But, once you know them well, you don’t have to follow them! A one-sentence novel sure as heck doesn’t. Remember that format from school, the one where you write an introduction, a body, and a conclusion? Yeah, well, that ain’t gonna happen in one sentence, is it? But, he sold the thing, and he won an award for it. Those Irish, huh?

Another famous Irish author who ignored every rule he could think of (seemingly) is James Joyce. Oddly, I don’t find his Ulysses difficult to understand. There are long passages that are basically the thoughts of the principle, but that’s easy enough to follow. Heck, his thoughts are tame, compared to some of mine. But, I digress. Joyce actually, of course, broke those rules like an artist, which is to say, deliberately, and to excellent effect. Without a complete grounding in the Strunk and White stuff, a long run-on sentence is just a mess. Ask anyone who has tried to read one. Or, tried to write one before they knew the rules as well as did James Joyce. Joyce is deservedly praised for being a great writer. I’ll bet he didn’t thumb his nose at the rules when he was in whatever passed for middle school in those days. He knew them well, and he ignored them properly.

And that, readers, is my pedantic rantlet for this week. Stay in touch — you never know what somebody with Irish ancestry will come up with next!

Old Friends

SWOOP! At the Lisbon Oceanarium
SWOOP! At the Lisbon Oceanarium

If you’re ever in Lisbon, be sure to check out the Oceanarium. Very cool. Quick aside: we’ve decided not to move there, because we like the people too much. All the retirees are making things more expensive and difficult, and we don’t want to contribute to that effect. So.

Before we left on our European vacation in April I wrote a chapter of a chapter book. It’s about some kids who solve a crime involving a president who fakes his own death, kidnapped FBI agents, lies, deceit, and general good fun. Two days ago (as of this posting) I wrote the next chapter. Whew! That was a long time away from my young friends. I was afraid that I wouldn’t like them (or they like me, whichever) any more, but, by cracky, all was well. Because.

Because, silly, I left notes to myself about what was happening, so I wouldn’t be lost when I got back to the story. Granted, it took five weeks longer than I thought it would to get back to it, but that only made my notes all the more important. I guess I’m not a “pantser,” because I always like to know where my friends on the pages are headed. Way before they figure it out, for sure. Which is why I write notes to myself in the first place.

I almost said “take notes,” but changed my mind. Still, “taking notes” on what’s in my head at a given time does describe the process. So, maybe if you need help documenting your creations, you can think of it as taking classroom notes in the school of Your Story! Heck, if it works for me, with my mind like a steel sieve, for you it should be a cinch!

The Pastafarian, A Taxi Cab Guru, and The Furry Coffee Specialist

I turn the bottle over in my hand, read the price tag and gag on my chi.  $30.00 US for an “Ionized Crystal” spray.  “Mist this spray over your crown chakra to increase feelings of universal warmth and love.”  You have to be kidding, I think as I set the bottle d

Source: The Pastafarian, A Taxi Cab Guru, and The Furry Coffee Specialist

Goals

Tami Pets a Horse in Dublin
Tami Pets a Horse in Dublin

Not a single organism on this planet ever does anything without a goal in mind. If you aren’t reaching your goals, maybe you set them unrealistically high. Or maybe you aren’t a strong/fast/smart/handsome as you thought you were. Or, maybe they’re not really your goals.

In writing, plenty of people will say that they want to write a best seller. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict that result, nor anything you can do to guarantee it. Which makes “write a best seller” a false goal, because you can’t control enough of the process to ensure success. Some people state goals such as “I’m going to write 20,000 words per week each and every week this year.” And then they fall way short of doing that. This is probably an example of an overly ambitious goal, but also, I suspect, it is simply not what most writers really want to do. 20,000 words per week? Almost 3,000 per day? Really? You want to sit on your butt and scribble, key, or dictate for all of the hours it will take to pull that off?

You know what? Creative people don’t respond to that sort of situation very well. If you’re creative, you probably have a desk that would drive Miss Jones (or whatever your English teacher’s name was) crazy! You can probably find whatever it is you need in a few seconds, but anyone else would be well advised to simply leave the room. Am I right? And your time is the same. It’s messy. Heck, you may write 30,000 words a day. Once. And never again. And you may go thirty days without so much as a thousand words. Not too often, but it will happen. Because your real goal is probably what you perceive as the “lifestyle” of an author, meaning that you get up when you want to, write what you want when you want to, eat lunch when your stomach growls, and submit your completed manuscripts to grateful (you pick) agents/publishers/readers. I’m right again, aren’t I?

If that last paragraph describes your “real” goals, take heart! The problems with that set of goals are simply that, in order to get to that point, you have to write a lot, take a lot of criticism, and become your own best marketing department. You can do that first thing, right? And you can learn to accept and give useful criticism, heck, anybody can. That third one? Well, might be more problematic, but bigger word nerds than you have done it, because marketing is a teachable/learnable skill. There are entire departments dedicated to marketing in business schools all across the country.

In other words, that goal, even though it sounds like the fuzziest and wimpiest of the three I’ve offered above, is the most realistic. Because that’s the sort of goal a creative person can get behind, and stick to. Don’t delay! Start working toward your goals today! Can’t wait to see  you on Ellen!

*** If you’d like to learn more about marketing, check out the Las Vegas Writers’ Group meeting on June 21st! Click this link for more details.