Murder your darlings: Writing rule of style du jour

 

johnson portrait
Murder your darlings

Read your own compositions, and when you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

Samuel Johnson, from James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

 

Excellent advice. (I once presented this maxim to a writing class, trying to remember which great man had originally proposed it. In fact, half the great writers in history have said the same thing in one way or another.)

Lose a few chapters, gain Read more

No rewind, no undo

 

 In my last post, ‘Interpermeable realities, material & digital,’ I suggested that manipulative impulses, as well as sources of addiction, are leaking over from our digital worlds into our material realities. The impulse to conduct a word search in a paper book for just one example.

UNDO buttonEven before the digital age, of course, we’d experience impulses to alter our material world merely by wishing hard. A faux pas, for instance, could make you wish you had access … Read more

Cooking up a character

 

chang deliciousnessBill the Mathematician has just sent me a link to David Chang’s Unified Theory of Deliciousness.’ As it happens, nine years later than the rest of the world, I’m currently hooked on the Breaking Bad TV series, and I have to wonder whether there’s a connection between Chang’s theory of deliciousness and a formula for creating great characters in fiction.walter white good

As Chang says:

A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to

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Tattoo me noir too

 

 

tattoo year of glad

In an earlier post, we had a look at Jack Flowers’ tattoos in Theroux’s Saint Jack, set in 1950s Singapore. Now we get a range of early-1990s attitudes to tattoos as described by David Foster Wallace in his novel Infinite Jest, which in parts can safely be described as noir. Very noir, in fact. In this excerpt, we find a broader sample population of tattoo aficionados, a variety of urban flotsam and jetsam conveniently washed up together … Read more

Opportunities for graybeards

writers love 'emkenny rogers1Upon recent acquaintance and saddened at the news I’m only a writer, more than one Filipina lady has suggested I could make a living in Manila as a Kenny Rogers impersonator. Now an American woman from Tennessee who looks like a diminutive Cormac McCarthy with longer hair and dyspepsia tells me there’s hope for me in America as an Orsen Welles clone.

orson welles

I grow giddy at this ever-expanding horizon of opportunity, where age and gray-beardedness are instead generally supposed to … Read more

Writerly occupational hazard: Superpositioned free unfree

Jack Shackaway here.

schrodingers cat
Friends have just suggested I join them on a sailing trip at the end of November. Joyous news, right? Not so. Now I have to weather the usual squall of anxieties and conflicting inclinations, maybe even a massive storm of dither.sailboat drawing

“How soon do I have to tell you one way or the other?” I ask them.

 

“You’ve got a problem with free sailing trips?” they say.

The problem. Following an extended period of freelance-writerly doldrums … Read more

What I should write (learning to listen to my public)

kicking-dogslarge

Jack Shackaway here. Of Kicking Dogs fame.

It’s true, as Collin says (here and here). Nearly everybody’s a writer these days.  And — given all the media interest in current publishing-industry convulsions — the few who aren’t writers are experts on publishing and books.

I used to tell people I was a novelist. I don’t anymore. That’s as interesting to your average citizen as saying “Every night I go to sleep.” Who isn’t writing a novel?

But if … Read more

Realities and stories: Realities *are* stories

The big news du jour — after the colorful and convoluted transgressions of celebrity athletes — is the imminent Academy Awards. The three top  contenders for Best Picture are Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty. These three have at least one thing in common: They all stand accused of playing fast and loose with the historical truth of matters.

But what is “objective” about history or, for that matter, about reporting? History is always written by the … Read more

What is writing?

 

J.P. Donleavy, an early literary hero of mine, was quoted in Playboy (May, 1979) as saying, “Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.”

Would that this were so. Meanwhile, another spin on the essence of writing is going the rounds on Facebook:

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In other quarters, writers instead turn whiskey into piss and engage in binge writing in the intervals between their alchemical endeavors. (I encountered the expression “binge writing” listening to a Letterman interview Read more

The Muse wears black leather

Back before New Year’s, I posted a couple of blogs that meant to ease writers into the process of writing, rather than only talking about writing. I was subsequently sidetracked by the need to outline some flaws in the Scheme of Things, but now I’m back into this solipsistic writing workshop. But all we’ve discussed so far is only part of the story. Now I’m going to talk about The Muse Effect.

“Wherever do you find the discipline?” they ask. … Read more