Writing Advice

The Library Bar and Grill of Albuquerque, New Mexico

So you want somebody to use your book in a display like the one pictured above. You want to be known as the new (insert favorite wonderful author’s name here.) Of course, so far, nobody is buying what you’re writing, so there’s that. I mean, heck, somebody like James Patterson has hundreds of books for sale and you can’t manage to sell even one? That’s terrible, right? So, what do you do? You go looking for writing advice, natch. And, boy howdy (I’ve been reading Craig Johnson’s Longmire books) can you find it. Everything and anything is offered up for advice. Some successful writers even take time from creating new worlds to publish their own take on how to be a successful writer. Stephen King’s book, On Writing is a very good book. I’m not sure it’s ever helped me to write better, but I recommend it anyway because, you know, he’s a good writer. Which, of course, is the key to being a successful writer: you first have to be a good writer. Or do you?

Fifty Shades of Grey is, according to all the writing advice I’ve ever seen, horribly written. When I tried to read it, I had to agree. I don’t care how titillating it is, the writing is by turns opaque, laughable, and steadily terrible. The thing is a best seller, with sequels, and a movie. Terribly written say all the critics, but there it is. That’s a successful book from a successful writer. I think it works because the writer knows what people like to read, and how to produce that. No real secret. It was self-published initially, although I believe that someone other than the author produced the movie.

Mark Twain, in his autobiography, even the severely edited edition from the sixties, says that, when asked how to know if a book was good or not, he always said simply to “Publish it, and see if anyone buys it.”

It appears that, to be a successful writer, the only rule is to write something that lots of people want to read. Screw grammar, screw characterization, screw pacing, just put out something that people want to read. Except . . .

Even a turkey like Fifty Shades has things in the story happen in the right order, and at the right time. The reason Twain had Huck and Tom go through all that nonsense to break Jim out of his prison is simply that, at the beginning of that sequence, it wasn’t time to have him free, within the timing of the story. Know what was wrong with that last season of Game of Thrones? It was too fast! The battle of Winterfell alone should have taken two episodes, and think of the cliffhanger you could’ve put after the first part. Wowzers, huh? So, what, there are rules?

Well, let me use my favorite quote from a great visual artist: “You must know the rules like a professional in order to break them like an artist.” — Pablo PIcasso.

Yep, there are rules, and you have to know what they are. The author of Fifty Shades instinctively knew when to make things happen, so readers forgave the things that weren’t so well done. (I suspect that a tamer subject matter might have needed to be more grammatical, etc.) So, how do you get to be a great writer? It’s difficult.

First, you have to read. A lot. Preferably in the genre or at least general type of story you want to be known for.

Second, refer to the quote from Picasso above. No, your book doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, or use consistent subject/verb agreement, but you’d better pay attention to just when and why you are making it the way it is. And the timing of the story, I don’t think that’s negotiable. When PBS did an adaptation of Huckleberry Finn they used the academic’s favorite, “just get Jim out of there ’cause that’s what’s important here” ploy and the ending was flatter than a possum on a Kentucky centerline. Do not mess with the timing, or your story won’t work.

Outside of that, I think that it’s your story, and you should write it however you think it should be written. Have people read it before you proceed, but take their advice for what it’s worth, which could be a little, or it could be a lot. When you’re really ready with a good story, you’ll know that you are. And the writing advice? Like critique from your friends, take it for what it’s worth.

Manic Positivity From the Back Seat of a Rental Chariot — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

Circumnavigating aboard a sailboat seems it cannot be without detour. Mid-December, part of the Oddgodfrey crew ended up moving into a temporary land apartment and visiting the Seychelles Emergency Room after discovering her self-identity to be far too wrapped up in hopping. Join us in this post t

Source: Manic Positivity From the Back Seat of a Rental Chariot — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

Vrai Vert

The star of a sheepdog demonstration. In Ireland, which is unfailingly and intensely green.

Think anyone will see through my cleverly disguised title? Surely nobody who reads this will know any French? Oh, what? Well, I’m not picking on TruGreen in particular, but they’ve been bugging me lately. Actually, the rest of this post applies to any lawn care company, so far as I know.

Know what a truly healthy lawn looks like? It ain’t a greensward, I’ll tell you that. A healthy lawn includes a wide variety of types of grass and other plants, probably has fungus growing in it, and will also probably be full of worms and insects, and it will never look like a “Lawn Care” lawn. Look at the picture above of that Irish pasture (there were sheep in the demonstration also.) The grass, green and lush, is lumpy, and, if you could look closely enough, contains several species of grass, clovers, dandelions, and who knows what all else? The farmer doesn’t care for perfection in the appearance of grass; he doesn’t need a lawn. He needs a productive meadow so that he can raise healthy sheep, and that means that he needs a healthy crop of grass for the sheep to eat. And healthy grass is messy, and not at all like what so many people talk themselves into wanting.

A “Lawn Care” lawn is a monoculture. What happens when a pathogen for whatever plant species is used comes along? Well, it will all die, which is why those companies spend so much time adding ever more chemicals to “keep the grass healthy.” Not sure it does much for people or pets, but what the heck, the lawn looks great, right?

Well, maybe to someone who has no idea how grass is supposed to look. I walk our dogs around the neighborhood every day. Most properties in Vegas don’t have grass at all, but of those who do, there is a split between the perfectly manicured, unhealthy types, and the messy but healthy types. The thing is, both are equally green, if that’s what you’re after. Ireland is the greenest place you could imagine, and nobody tends the meadows at all. They’re diverse, messy, healthy, and won’t poison sheep, dog, or human. So, I come to my final point, which is, please, if you insist on raising a lawn, make it a healthy, diverse and messy one. Don’t use some service that only promotes the further use of its own dangerous chemicals. In the long run, you, your pets, your kids, and the world will be a lot happier if you do.

The Shake Up Part Three: Sun Tzu Style Vindication, By Katherine Hepburn — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

Katherine Hepburn takes her revenge on poor tiny Coco De Mere for the infraction of sharing in Turkey Gibblets, only to return to Sonrisa and find life to be shaken up in another even less happy way. Leslie is gone. Where could she be?

Source: The Shake Up Part Three: Sun Tzu Style Vindication, By Katherine Hepburn — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

The Shakeup, Part Two: An Unwelcome Visitor, By Katherine Hepburn — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

Join us in this blog post as Thanksgiving is celebrated aboard the Three Boat Raft of S/V Sonrisa, S/V Steel Sapphire, and S/V Erie Spirit and Katherine Hepburn’s paw is forced to mischief as her territory is breached by a tiny, orange and white cat named Coco De Mere.

Source: The Shakeup, Part Two: An Unwelcome Visitor, By Katherine Hepburn — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

The Shakeup, By Katherine “Kitty” Hepburn — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

The routines of life onboard S/V Sonrisa have experienced a shakeup recently, and the ship’s cat, Katherine Hepburn, is the least approving of these changes. In the next series of posts, she will fill you in on more than one area of tumult – probably in a bid for some sympathy if she is going to be

Source: The Shakeup, By Katherine “Kitty” Hepburn — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

I Think We Might Be Late — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

The Oddgodfreys enjoy beautiful Seychelles hiking and cruising while we watch other fellow sailors make their way South through the Mozambique Channel to be denied visas upon arrival in South Africa. Back problems start to arise, and we start to think our five year journey may be delayed, yet again

Source: I Think We Might Be Late — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

CIDER

Image stolen from a Motts ™ ad. Buy some so I don’t have to feel guilty!

You can buy cider in the supermarket. It isn’t really cider, so far as I can tell, but you can buy some. Just don’t think you have any idea what cider is if that’s what you’ve been drinking as cider. That stuff tends to be clear, like apple juice (which it probably is) and also it tastes, well, it doesn’t taste very much compared to the real thing. It’s okay, but meh!

So, what is cider? First, it’s a blend of more than one kind of apple. It used to be that each orchardist had their own secret blend of apples that they used to make cider. In fact, that’s probably still true today, but most people don’t visit orchards to buy their cider. Once you’ve selected your apples by variety and proportion, you chop them up fine and let the resulting pile of apple mush sit for a few hours. It turns brown, and when it’s brown enough it’s time to squeeze the juice out of it. That juice, which will be a bit cloudy and taste marvelous, is now cider. If you let it sit around it will ferment and have alcohol in it. That’s hard cider. If you distill hard cider you get an apple flavored liquor, and that’s Applejack. For supermarket cider, it won’t do to have it ferment (at all) so it is filtered and/or pasteurized, so it is clear like apple juice. I suppose that supermarket stuff was actually cider for a few minutes, but, meh!

America today is like those varieties of apples just before they get shredded. Bunch of colors and flavors, not mixing together very well just now. But, of course, it’s time to chop it all up and let it age for a while, right? Okay, I’m straining the metaphor a bit now. But I do think that the rough times we’re going through are a lot like getting society shredded, but that after it’s over, there will be some pretty fine results squeezed out of us. I’m an optimist, which you honestly wouldn’t know by talking with me, but I am. Every 80 years more or less we come to the end of the world as we know it. Here we are. And I feel fine. I just hope that people don’t try to make the juice all nice and clear and Wonder Bread with mayonnaise worthy. The blend is what makes the cider taste great, and that’s been true every time we’ve ended the world as we know it. This time, maybe the word “people” can be expanded to include, oh, I don’t know, “People?” I sure hope so. I mean it, I truly hope so.

Meantime, I have a new jar of real cider to enjoy, and that’s just what I’m going to do.

S.

La Digue Adventure Tour With Portabote Grin I. Oddgodfrey — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

After being stuck in port for several weeks, Adventure Grin the Portabote is ready for some action. He escorts Sonrisa’s crew through bommie infested reef and open ocean to arrive on one of the most famous beaches in the world: Anse Source D’Argent, La Digue, the Seychelles.

Source: La Digue Adventure Tour With Portabote Grin I. Oddgodfrey — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

An Existential “V-Berth”day Acceptance of Fate — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World

“What are we going to do for your birthday, Leslie?” “Hmmm….I don’t know…” Our friends had been asking me this for a couple weeks prior the big day, and I’d been dragging my feet in making any sort of plans. A hike maybe? A beach day maybe? Dinner at a restaurant? Sail out and a

Source: An Existential “V-Berth”day Acceptance of Fate — OddGodfrey: The Oddly Compelling Story of a Sailing Circumnavigation of the World