Flash Fiction Friday!

Six people in a bus depot waiting room.

Five of them are waiting for a bus. Five of them are patiently anxious, because it is midnight, and they are tired, and all they want to do is accomplish this last part of their night – to get home, to get to sleep the last leg of their journey, or to greet a relative finally coming back from parts unknown.

The sixth man, though.

He’s waiting, too, but not for a bus.

He’s waiting for his dinner. The menu is varied, and he hasn’t made his choice yet.

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Writers teaching Writing

16081595-skull-danger-sign-deadly-danger-sign--Stock-Vector-danger-poison-symbol

I get it.

I do.

You struggle through three novels: learning as you go, learning about plot, about character, about pacing.

You publish. You market.

You start to sell a bit.

And you read other writers’ work and notice some of the same newbie mistakes that you used to make and you think “Oh. Someone should tell them all the stuff I wish that I’d known at the start.”

And you go out and make seven videos showing how these writers should write.

Month after month, yet another writer on the many writing groups I belong to jumps on line announcing that they have a new suite of videos designed to teach any ignoramus on the planet how to write flawless prose/guaranteed bestseller.

There are already literally millions of videos out there for this.

Type “writing advice fiction videos by indie authors” into Google’s search bar and you will get over 5 million pages listing for your result.

Five. Million. (and counting).

 

Some of these might be good. Some might not.

There’s no way to tell, even by watching, because the very definition of inexperience pretty much assures that the would-be writer does not yet know what their own specific Achilles Heels are.

The video you make is (by the law of averages) very likely to be either already covered about five million times already, or focused on the wrong things.

(You need to understand that just because your books suck a lot less than they used to, it does not follow that you know anything about how other people should write, much less that you are capable of teaching anyone anything.)

You know how to make YOUR writing better than it was three years ago. It does not follow that any other writer suffers from the same problem(s), and moreover, that the way you fixed your problems is not really likely to be the only or even the most efficacious solution for anyone else.

Most of the videos are presented by people with absolutely no verifiable claims to expertise of any kind at all. Where they get the chutzpah to be writing gurus, I do not know. Cereal box-tops, perhaps.

 

Frankly, this is another example of the old adage “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

 

And you know what the worst part of this is?

Most of them, even if they perhaps have a nugget or two of wisdom to impart, proceed to deliver the most self-indulgent, overwritten, under-rehearsed, talking head generalities in the most boring manner possible.

If you really believe you are ready and able to tell other people how to do this stuff, you might want to consider learning about the medium you are using to deliver this information with.

And if you are a beginner looking for advice, try your public library, where tons of editors and writers have how-to books that you can borrow. Books written by people with some background and some history, and some slightly more believable credentials.

Flash Fiction Friday!

A gaggle of children gathered at the foot of the street, shivering in the chilly dawn.

Pinched faces, blue lips, obviously uncared for and unloved.

But triumphant, withal. They had slain their demons. They had ended their enslavement. They were free.

The dreaded masters, the sycophantic hypocrites, were dead, every one of them, or nearly so, bleeding out in their beds from the sacred wounds inflicted with whatever blades had come to hand: paring knives, sewing scissors, razor blades – the common household weapons of war.

And the god would surely be pleased, since He had warned their parents of the wages of sin.

Along the way…

People all have goals.

racetrack

Even if they aren’t actively pursuing them, the goals are there, although if you aren’t lifting a finger to get closer to those goals, they remain what people popularly call “dreams”.

But if you’re in a couples situation, or a group endeavor, it’s seriously important that you do not confuse “goals” with “priorities”.

This is because while one might share goals, and assume to be collectively working towards those goals – those agreed-upon ends – each person views the road they need to travel to get there differently. Each person has individual needs that have to be met. Each person sees their own way to any mutual end in their own lights.

This is not some profound insight. This is something that all of us know, really, whether or not we are capable of facing it or articulating it. We do know it, but many of us refuse to look it in the face,

We represent (often forcibly) to ourselves and to others, that we know exactly the sole and only way to get from A to B, and a lot of us will choose those hills to die on.

Those who insist that the steps to be taken, or the order in which those steps need to occur are confusing the goal with the priority.

And this can cause disagreement and stress, for everyone involved.

You have to allow for these differences in perception and execution. You absolutely must. You have to trust that the goals are the same, even when it looks as if the steps are nonsensical or out of the order you want them to occur in.

It’s not because by becoming the parade marshal of other people’s lives, you will upset the people you care about. “My way or the highway” will upset them – that’s a given, but that’s not the real problem. They are free, in the end, to take on the pain, or to walk away – it’s up to them.

The real problem is what we do to ourselves in the process.

Because we doom ourselves to long term  and unending discontent with life, and chronic disappointment in those we care for. We doom ourselves to missing not just some, but all the joy.

And that’s a really good way to fail at life and love.

 

Flash Fiction Friday!

Angus was the kind of guy that everyone liked.

He was funny and intelligent, and he had the ability to mirror back to you your own best qualities, so that in every social situation, those around him felt better-looking, wittier, and infinitely more confident than they normally did.

Men especially found Angus endearing. While he seemed to embody all the masculine virtues – he was strong, forthright, brave, and good-humoured, and he knew a lot about Formula One racing – he was also empathetic and able to sum up one’s problems in life succinctly, in ways that often suggested a solution as if it were your own idea.

Not a pub night or an evening of poker was complete without his presence, and at the annual company Christmas party, he proved every year to be the best wingman ever.

But Angus had a terrifying secret.

Angus had not always been a human.

ALL PUBLICITY IS GOOD PUBLICITY?

(In view of the Gillette commercial “controversy”, this maybe needs to be reposted…)

angry_mob

https://qz.com/1054260/procter-and-gambles-new-anti-racism-ad-is-roiling-white-america/

When commercials like these come out, no matter how hard the company gets slammed, they mostly keep the commercial on for the length of the planned campaign. They rarely knuckle under to angry responses immediately.

They obviously know from the start that they’re going to get some push-back, and they seem okay with that.

How interesting it is, don’t you think, that when a company runs an egregiously outright racist/sexist commercial, or is caught perpetrating outmoded and offensive stereotypes, they act all surprised and “innocent”, and claim it was a “mistake” in judgement?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/08/dove-apologises-for-ad-showing-black-woman-turning-into-white-one

And yet, those ads, too, generally run for at least part of the planned campaign. They don’t disappear immediately.

I think that in both cases, the companies know exactly what they are doing, and have no illusions about the reactions they will get. It seems very unlikely that they wouldn’t: they all hire professional advertising agencies with decades of experience, and they do masses of market research before they ever book the airtime.

I think in the first instance, the company believes strongly enough in at least this much: that the bulk of their market will respond positively over the long haul to anti-racist/pro-equality messages and will associate the brand with their own core values.

It’s entirely possible that some of these ads are even less cynical than that, and that the people running these companies do, in fact, care about these issues, and are willing to publicly support them for purely ideological reasons.

It’s okay if it’s both.

The point is: they are doing it on purpose.

Which means, logically, that the companies who spend their advertising dollars on racist, anti-equality messaging also do it on purpose.

 

 

Additional Note: This, too, is part of the issue (pay attention to the presentation of both the fact and the wording of the “apology”… “some” call it offensive? That, in itself, tells you a lot right there.):
http://www.ajc.com/news/world/publishing-company-apologizes-for-textbook-that-includes-theories-some-call-racist/0zu5WzSkt6RIkfU5JN7GXO/

Writer Fails

writing 6

 

I’ve written before about how, as a writer, everything you put out there is your calling card as a writer. Everything that goes public: every email, every tweet, every Instagram caption, every Facebook status – the moment you name yourself a writer (or author, or novelist – let’s not get nitpicky or pedantic here) each typed-out word that is viewed by the world is a part of your image.

 

And yet, time after time, I read posts and tweets from people whose public profiles proudly and visibly claim their title of “Writer” and then show the world that they either don’t know or don’t care enough to use the language correctly.

Take a tweet I just saw a few minutes ago, where “Name Redacted (Writer)” said “Can you imagine <doing this really big thing> in this <really slow method>, let alone <doing this much smaller/easier thing> this way?”

Now, I do exempt writers whose first language isn’t English (it isn’t mine, either, btw) but by and large, those aren’t the worst offenders.

I’m also not bothered much when people who aren’t writers or editors do this. I can figure out what they meant.

But when someone who announces they are a WRITER, and is constantly trying to promote their work on social media cannot be arsed to get this very simple sentence right…

I’m so-o-o not-good with this.

First (in case you cannot figure out why the statement was wrong) – the sense of this is destroyed by the comparison order. The words “let alone” have a very specific meaning in this context, and it requires, for the meaning to be clear, for the SMALLER task to precede the larger one.

Reversing the order makes the sentence nonsensical.

And the problem with that is that someone who calls themselves a writer (in all-caps, too) in a public venue, needs to show that they know what the ever-loving-fuck language is about. That they understand the simple rules and how to get their basic points across.

Every word you write defines you as a writer. Every sentence you throw out there into the ether goes to your mastery of your craft.

And every error, big or small, chips away at your reputation. Every linguistic miss tells prospective readers that you probably aren’t worth reading.

Proofread you posts, your tweets, your emails. You can’t be 100% perfect every time, but by gum, you should be willing and able to give it a real and enthusiastic effort.