To Tell or Not to Tell

Telling

Welcome to another fun episode of “Editing with Tom”, and thank you for tuning in. Today we discuss a writer’s “tell”. No, not “I’m telling on you”, or “Show, don’t tell”. This “tell” is an unconscious part of a writer’s style. And, how can you tell what a writer’s tell is? Well, my tell appeared in the last sentence. I tend to begin sentences with the word “And”. And, (see, did it again without thinking) I slap on a comma after the “And”, because I hear a pause immediately after the “And”. So it sounds like this – And…that’s the way it is.

Anything wrong with a tell? That depends. “On what?” you may ask. Well, on whether you’re old school or not. We were taught, way back when, back when I hated writing, that you never ever ever start a sentence with the word “And”. Or “But”. But, that’s a lesson for another time. After a while, though, you bang around in the writing world, and you notice that other writers, other famous writers do all kinds of mangling stuff to words, including, but not necessarily limited to, beginning sentences with “And”.

So, where does that leave you? Just take a look through your writing and see if you have any little habits that pop up in your writing. And, if you do, that’s okay. Just be aware of it. You don’t have to get rid of it. Au contraire, mon frere. That might be your trademark, your signature. In my case I have to watch that I don’t get out of control with it, but I’ll most likely always use it. So, use your tell, but in moderation. Sort of like Johnny Carson’s necktie adjustment habit during his monologue, it’s your trademark.

And, that’s all I have to say about that.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Open the pod bay doors, HAL

colossus

Isn’t it amazing the intrusion of computers into our lives? All our old favorite sci-fi shows, books, and movies predicted a day when there would be this super-duper super-computer that would enslave us (think HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Colossus from Colossus: The Forbin Project), strip us of our individual freedoms, our ability to think, and turn us into mindless zombies.

Well, take a look around, friends and neighbors. The future is now, Pandora’s opened the box, the devil’s in the details (that last one, I don’t know if it fit or not, but it sounded good). There’s not one big uber-‘puter telling us what to do, but there sure are a bazillion little dinky ones waving their bright, shiny electrons in our faces. Are you reading this? Computer. Also checking one of your various flavors of i- or e-thingies? Computer. Surfing the ‘net? Computer. Booking a room, flight, or rental car? Computer. Watching TV? There’s a computer in there, too.

One question: What drives you more nuts? Car problems or your Internet is down? Let me just leave you with that to chew on.

I’m using a computer to write this. I’m also checking stuff on my smart-a** phone. There are people walking around, thumbs poised to stab at tiny little letters, totally zombified.

We place orders on a computer, communicate by computer, find out about medical info by computer. Yep, the future is here, folks.

What’s the answer? Well, computers are here to stay. As in all else, be it exercise, breaking a habit, structuring time, or making sure we get in play time, it’s moderation. We have to turn the little blinky screens off occasionally. Don’t hyperventilate, you can do it. Turn it off, sit back and read a book or magazine, take a walk, talk to whoever’s around you, play with your pets (unless it’s a goldfish. They don’t really like leashes).

‘til next time… Adios.

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Of Black Flat Panels and Thought Balloons

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I look at the 46-inch black box (more like a panel these days) hanging on the wall, approximately 20 feet from me, on a Friday night. Right now, I’m resisting the urge to turn it on, to have those hypnotic yet annoying images entrance me and pull me away from what I’m doing, which is writing this post. I’m working at focusing. And don’t worry, I’m not into major self-denial. I will turn it on at some point tonight, most likely, even if it is to just check the weather. Ah, yes, The Weather Channel, my drug of choice.

So, here I am. At first I didn’t want to write tonight, or at least not write anything new. I’m nearing the end of my edits on my novel, either Round 1 or 2, I’m not sure which. Then, I’ll pass it to my wife for the next round, where she’ll read it and make it bleed, little red marks everywhere. So, that’s exciting, because that means I’m getting closer to unleashing it. And editing is simple…kind of. Most of it is going through and looking for obvious goofs and/or inconsistencies.

Anyway, when I first thought of writing, I said to myself, Nope, ain’t gonna do it tonight. Don’t have the umph. In case you’re wondering, umph is a technical writing term that roughly translates to ‘the jazz’ or ‘the flow’. In other words, the Muse has packed her bags for the evening and is taking tonight off, catching the train, and maybe she’ll be back tomorrow. But I realized (and it’s easier to realize these things with the black flat panel on the wall turned off) that a day without writing is like a day without…writing, and I can get a little weird, even weirder than usual, when I don’t write. So this is the result. And I do feel better as my fingers move and stuff comes out of my head.

Back to the editing process. One of the things in editing that I (hopefully) just completed was the tedious task of making sure that when one of my characters thinks something, I italicize their little thought balloon. As I did in the above paragraph in the sentence beginning with “Nope, ain’t…” There are at least two schools of thought on this. Some think it’s better to just do the old double quote thing, and that’s fine, but I like the visual impact of italics. When I see that, I know that I’m inside the character’s head.

Well, okay, I’ve yammered enough for one post, and everyone’s probably checking out The Weather Channel now, so I’m on to some more edits. Hmm, I wonder if this post is any good at all? the writer thought.

’til next time… Adios.

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Writing Flotsam and Jetsam, and the Grinch

wordplay01

This, then, is the legend of the WordSlinger, as I heard it.

Driving into work that morning, a surprisingly easy morning, as I awoke rested, fed and watered the cats, then sped off down the road. And though it was a watercolory gray morning, with the Christmas decorations off in the near-distance mixing with the colorful lights of emergency vehicles (for, it had been raining, and some people committed random acts of lunacy while driving), the drive in to work was alarmingly without incident or accident (for me, at least). Somewhere near my destination I desired coffee. Diner coffee. And bacon. Really crisp bacon that shatters when you drop it…

It happened many years prior, on a morning. Or was it on a dreary evening? An evening drippy gray that washed the colour from everything and made the land look like a watercolor painting with too much water (okay, note to self – a little heavy on the watercolor metaphor.) There he was, a-sitting at the bar, sipping slowly from his espresso, writing/jotting ideas and words down, watching the words form and flow on the page….

Gotta work more on this later. Feels part of something bigger.

And, it’s time for the little packages of Christmas ordnance around the office, as people distribute Christmas cards. As I type this I hear nearby the sounds of jingly bells.

We started things off for our Christmas season watching on Friday night with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The original animated show, not the movie. Both Wendy and I love that show – everything from the way the Grinch, and the Whos of Whoville, and even dear Max, the Grinch’s faithful dog, are drawn, to the music, and Boris Karloff’s voice. And that’s why as you learn about the Grinch, you realize he’s not your typical villain, because he has a good dog. If you have a good dog, you just can’t be really bad. Exceedingly grumpy, perhaps, but not truly bad. Yes, the Grinch stole Christmas, including the decorations, the tree (love how it folds up like an umbrella), and the roast beast; but, he gives Cindy Lou Who a glass of water and sends her back to bed. He couldn’t help it if he was born with a physical deformity – his heart being two sizes too small. Our reluctant hero, who is in conflict with himself, discovers the True Meaning of Christmas, he gains super-strength, then saves Christmas. Everyone’s happy, all save for the roast beast, who is eaten.

Finished Round 1 of edits on my novel last night, now it’s on to a fast sweep through, beginning to end, changing it to double-space, removing headings, cleaning up the obvious inconsistencies as I run into them. Then, it’s time for readers, actual human readers, to read it, red pens at the ready, and slash-and-burn.

Have numerous other writing projects in the works, trying to jot the ideas down and keep them from flying away. Got a nice sort-of rejection letter from Cineaste, saying that my article idea/review of Maciste in Hell might be more suitable for a film history magazine. I have to say, it’s one of the nicest rejection letters I’ve ever received. And, they were quick, too. A lot faster than I am at responding to emails.

I do have an article partially complete for Good Old Days magazine. That’ll be my next one after I kick my novel out into the world.

Well, back to work.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Get the Children Inside, that Man’s Committing Verbicide

Verbicide

This will be one of those random-access blog posts. Too many thoughts rampaging through to keep up with. So, I’ll just let it all happen. Get all the little thought snippets on the page.

First, I wonder how a person can accumulate so many odd scraps of paper. I look around my desk, and on the shelves surrounding my desk, plus scattered all over the floor, and (I’m not even going to get into the variety of three-dimensional, non-paper objects) I see writing projects in several stages of completion and non-completion, receipts, photos, magazines, notebook fragments of things to do (one of the things to do being to straighten this stuff up), lists of movies to watch, torn-out magazine pieces with links to web sites, and papers that were meant for the trash can but on their way there were subjected to reconsideration by me so now are in a sort-of limbo, that place both physical and mental where I haven’t as yet decided whether they need to be kept or tossed.

When us writers come up with characters for our stories, be they human, animal, or something else entirely, these creations of ours don’t create themselves. They arise from other sources we’ve accumulated over the years — pieces/parts of people we know or knew or would like to know, pets, characters we’ve read either dead or living, real or not-so-real. Even the dark, evil characters. These are from the villains, bad guys, evildoers, or even those darkly-black aspects of ourselves we keep out of direct sunlight. And it’s never a pure thing. Our created characters, just like us, are a mix of positive and negative.

I wonder if it’s true for all creatives, not just writers, that we have to do whatever it is we do, be it paint, act, dance, writer, or whatever form it takes for us? I find that if I don’t write every day, even if it’s only five words, that my writing gets all clunky and my words don’t cooperate with me. It seems there’s a pressure, sort of a word clog that builds up in the gray matter, and as long as we let it flow along all stream-like, then it’s manageable. But, let it get backed up for a couple of days, when you open the flood-gates once again, it’s a raging rapid (cliche) that tosses the words around and they come out all strange and water-logged.

Picked up four really cool books at a couple of Louisville bookstores yesterday, riding over there with my wife and two good friends of ours. It was All Booked Up, I believe, where I found this fun little book titled Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words, written by Josefa Heifetz Byrne, which is where the Mrs. Byrne comes from. Just one of the words I latched upon (and, yes, I entertained my poor fellow automobile companions the rest of the evening with a plethora of strange words — be glad you weren’t there) was “verbicide”, which is what I do in my posts quite often, meaning “word-murder; mangling or perverting a word.” I can’t help it. I’m a logophile.

Man, I’ll bet Mrs. Byrne was a hoot at parties.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel better now that I’ve gotten all that out of my system.

‘til next time… Adios.

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There are Words in My Head…

MacisteAllinferno1926-01

My words come out at times easy, other times hard today. I’m completing the first batch of edits to my novel. Sometimes they leap from my fingers, and there’s an exhilaration to seeing the right combination of words, or even the nearly right combination. Then there are times when my Internal (Infernal?) Critic and I throttle each other. I reach somewhere inside my head, fishing blindly for the right words, spill it on the page. “That it?” I ask the Critic. “Nope,” says the Critic. I fish some more.

Feels good to get closer. I love that feeling when the words work just right, like getting that missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. And I will finish it. Too close now. I just want to release it, let it fly.

Then what after that? Talking with my wife, we realize now there’s an absence after completing a project, especially a big project. A feeling of elation, but also loss. So, I’ll have to have another project. A big project. And I’ll also hit up some magazines, too. I have several ideas for articles. I’d like to work up a review for Cineaste. Thinking about reviewing a movie we watched on Tuesday night at our Classic Horror Film Club, Maciste in Hell. If you haven’t seen this, you need to. It’s an obscure silent Italian film from 1925, about a Herculean character named Maciste. Wow, what a ride it was! If I had to classify it at all, and I’m hesitant because it covers so many areas, I’d call it a horror-fantasy. It’s loosely based on Dante’s Inferno, involving a recurring character (Maciste, played by Bartolomeo Pagano, a former longshoreman) who is tricked by a resident of Hell (Barbariccia — no, not the female character from Final Fantasy – this is a really bearded-up he-demon). Ol’ Babs abducts our hero to Hell where Maciste must fight his way out.
Well, I’ve rambled enough for now. Got other writing stuff to do now. You folks go and carry on with your own writing/art/music or whatever creative endeavor you do. It’s good for you.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Brought to You by Campbell’s Soup…

campbells_bighead

Hi, folks. Today’s broadcast is brought to you Campbell’s Soup. This’ll be one of my rambly posts today, as there are way too many ideas running around in my noggin. Too many for just one person, so that’s where you, my readers, come in.

Anyway, the Campbell’s Soup (now I’m wondering if they have an apostrophe in their name or not — don’t know) thing came about because Wendy and I watched the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan the other night. I taped it from back in the last century, 1988, and there were Campbell’s Soup ads with Jimmy Stewart doing the voice.

That leads to my next random thought. Think I’ll do an article on watching Peter Pan. My wife, Wendy, was named for the Wendy in Peter Pan. And as far as I remember, this was the first time I saw it in color. When it first aired, and however many times it played afterwards, my family owned only black-and-white TV’s. It floored me the other night to see how colorful the sets were. And how was it I never knew that Peter was a 40-something-year-old woman? Well, I was five.

Okay, on to the other work. We just now made it through the first reading of my novel, so I have corrections to make. Then it’s round two. Hopefully, early in ‘15 I’ll have the beastie ready to take flight. Think I’ll try contacting agents first, then publishers.

Don’t forget to eat your Campbell’s Soup.

‘til next time… Adios.

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