I kinda suck at painting. I'm better than little-kid art on the fridge because you can usually tell what it is you're looking at from me, but not so good that you'd think anyone with any formal training had a hand in it.
So I understand, dear writer, that there are things about your stories that seem off, but you don't know why. I'm going to say: Start by removing gerunds, the word "as" and all adverbs. Then move onto your dialogue.
The number one thing to know is, NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER spell out a character's dialect phonetically. Why? Because it's insulting. It comes across as pandering or mocking. And you'll probably get it wrng. People from New Jersey don't come from Joisey. People from Canada don't go ootside.
Phonetically spelling accents also wastes time (because you have to do it for EVERY SYALLABLE), irritates the hell out of readers, and is usually based on stereotypes.
If you have to read the dialogue out loud to sound out the accent, you did it wrong. What's telling is not the sound of the words, it's the words people use to say something. Only in the deep south would someone say something like "this here heat." Or "this flower is wilting." (And I've heard that used, BTW)
That same setup, that it's very hot out, can be said numerous ways.
Where I come from (New Jersey): "Damn. Hot as balls out there."
California: "Oh my God, it so hot."
Canada: " It's really hot out today."
Did I spell anything phonetically? Did I write "Damn, hot as bawls out dere?"
Or. "Omagawd, it's so haaaaaaawt?"
Or "Wow, it's realy hawt oat today?"
No. Because I don't suck. Stay away from writing accents. Familiarize yourself with colloquialisms and patterns of speech and regional sayings. They're more accurate, more telling, and more true than any tortured syllable gymnastics you're ever going to try.
Write for the Jugular, folks.
Quite some time ago, when I was a newspaper reporter, I was in the final throes of a particularly good story about a local icon who'd just died at age 103. I went in early that day. Just to write in the calm, reflective quiet of an unpeopleified newsroom.
Then the power went out. Some workmen on the roof kicked an outlet and the story I'd just spent two-plus hours getting juuusssst right blinked into the ether with a wry twist of its snidely mustache and an evil cackle.
At that moment, only one other person was in the office, a rather fetching, impossibly quiet young receptionist to whom I said "I'll be right back." I walked outside, took several giant steps from the office, turned away, and screeched the loudest "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCKKKK!!!!!" ever uttered. Half a strip mall away, the receptionist heard me. When I walked back in, she asked me if I was all right. I think it was the only time she ever spoke to me first.
I'd lost the whole story. It never saved. It never went into recovery. It was gone. And I was on deadline. And much like when you drop your sandwich in the toilet (don't make fun), there's nothing you can do but start over. So I sat down and started typing.
And a curious thing happened. I wrote a better story the second time. As pissed off, despondent, and under-pressure as I was, I wrote a much better story than I had the first time. It was tighter, leaner, punchier. I remember muttering something about the Bionic Man ‒‒ we can rebuild him; we can make him faster; we can make him stronger…
Fast-forward to September, 2013, when I am set to restart my character development class for the first time in a year. I'd taught this class a few times in New Jersey and had some good notes about what to teach in each session.
And I lost them. I have the outline, but not the notes. Anywhere. At all. And class starts in a few days.
My profanity this year was a lot quieter, but essentially the same. So I've had to start from scratch. And a curious reminder occurred. It's better than it was. Tighter. More focused. I can make it better; it can make it stronger….
In here somewhere is a lesson about rewriting and about how we improve as writers. When I lost my story on my favorite centenarian, my editor said to me "Of course it's better now, you only remembered the good parts when you rewrote it."
Rewriting is a wonderful thing. Each time you rework and rewrite, you trim away more useless flab and get down to lean muscle mass. And if you lose your notes or even a whole story, odds are you'll remember only the good parts when you sit down to rewrite.
Rewriting, particularly under pressure, is a blessing. Accept it. Embrace it. And keep writing.
Write for the jugular, folks.
Here's a treat for those of you who genuinely like my short fiction. A new flash piece that I'm just giving away because, well, it's fun and I want you to enjoy it.
Leave a comment, tell you friends, ignore it completely, just don't copy and paste it anywhere. Enjoy.
The author assumes sole responsibility for the content of this work. All rights and privileges related to this work belong solely to the author.
This work is Copyright 2013 by Scott Morgan and WriteHook.
No part of this text may be rewritten or reproduced without the author's written permission, with the exception of very short excerpts for critical purposes.
Single white male seeks fun, passionate woman for relationship based on friendship. You: Romantic, sexy, intelligent, and active. Somewhat wild and adventurous. Bold and fearless, compassionate and kind. Me: All that stuff. :D Please leave a message and let's start something wonderful together.
Single female dog lover seeking confident, intelligent, creative guy, 25-40, for friendship and possible relationship. Hoping to start a life together, as friends or more. No games, no drama. Call me! :)
Hey, ladies! Attractive, fit, romantic guy, 35, just divorced, seeks fit, sexy girl, 18-24, for fun and friendship. Pics available if you ask nice. ;) Please send photo in return. Let's have some fun!
Single white male seeks woman for relationship based on friendship. I am romantic, intelligent, active, and fearless. I like taking chances and trying new things. Be adventurous and take a chance. Women only. Let's start something!
Single professional female seeks professional working man, 25-40, for friendship and possible relationship. Must love dogs. Very big dogs. Serious inquiries only, please.
Hey, ladies. Attractive, fit, romantic guy, 35, just divorced, seeking fit, sexy lady, 18-24, for fun relationship. Must have own job. Send recent photo of yourself.
100% straight single male seeks woman for fun, adventurous relationship. I like trying new things. With women. Looking for a great friend and possible soul mate. My ideal is female, adventurous, enjoys good conversation and fun. Call me, ladies.
Single professional female, Rottweiler owner, seeks professional, independent, clean male with a job and a brain for friendship and possible relationship. Age, race, looks, not important. Must love dogs, dogs must love you. Serious inquiries only.
Ladies: Divorced, attractive male, 35, seeks sexy female for fun and possible relationship. No escorts or "professionals" need respond. Not looking to support you, just want some fun. Please send recent photo of you.
Ladies: if you have or ever had a penis of your own, read no further. Completely straight, not even bi-curious guy seeks natural-born female for friendship, relationship, conversation, whatever. No calls from dudes will be returned. Seriously. No dudes.
Poor, but working divorced male, 35, not a sugar daddy, seeks real woman for friendship and fun. Age and appearance not important, just please be real.
Single female dog owner, not into BDSM or bestiality, seeks actual, real man with a job of his own who is not looking for a mommy. Occupation unimportant, as long as you live on your own and can clean up after yourself. Must get along with my Rottweilers. Must be intelligent enough to hold a conversation. Alternatively, seeking opposite of above who is a fan of "The Most Dangerous Game."
Thank you for reading.
If you liked Personal, check out
My good friend and occasional writing collaborator, Amber Jerome~Norrgard, is putting together a wonderfully worthy project to help raise money to fight the worst C-word on earth. And she needs submissions from talented authors.
Please read this guest post and submit to Amber according to her instructions at the end.
I’m going to cut to the chase with this one: If I had one wish, it would be for the eradication of Cancer.
Cancer is a nasty fucker. Cancer has taken from me more people than I can count on my hands. It is a disease that takes: lives, time, joy.
I myself had my own little battle with it back in late 2001: Following his instincts, my OBGYN ordered a pap-smear, a test I wasn’t due to take again for another eight months. The result? A very aggressive form of cervical cancer that if I’d waited the next eight months (like I’d been scheduled to) to have to test ran, it would have been too late for me. I not only would have lost my cervix, but most likely my life as well.
I’ve watched loved ones battle the illness. I’ve seen the devastation of friends losing their six-year-old son to the illness, when his biggest worry should have been what book his Kindergarten teacher was going to read the next day. Some have won their fight, more often than not, I’ve been the recipient of a phone call from a family member or friend telling me that we had lost yet another part of our hearts and souls to the illness.
So you can imagine I didn’t react too well when I found out my dear friend Melissa Graham was diagnosed with breast cancer (in fact, I threw my mouse across the room in anger, which was only made worse by the fact the damn thing was attached to my computer by a cord and snapped back and smacked me on my own breast).
I was blessed to meet Melissa through Babycenter.com’s message boards when I was pregnant with my oldest child in 2004. Melissa was a source of information on all things newborn and baby related, and we quickly developed a friendship via the internet. Every woman has a go-to friend when they’re pregnant and going through the newborn period, Melissa became mine. She was always available for a chat, always responded to my questions as quickly as she could, and always gave me a laugh one way or another.
So I’m pissed off. And I wish I could do something. But Melissa lives several states away, and as much as I’d love to hop on over and help her out by being there for her by helping with dinner or housework or taking her daughter to and from school, distance makes that impossible for me to do.
I can’t take this illness from Melissa, as much as I want to. I can’t be there to hold her hand, or to support her and her family as they go through this. I won’t be able to sit in the waiting room when she has a mastectomy or while she’s undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. But I can use my voice as an author and a podcast personality. And I can ask for help. Which I need. I need your stories of your own experiences with cancer. It can be your own battle with the illness, or what you went through when someone you loved battled the illness. You don’t have to be an author, you don’t even have to be a blogger. What you have to be is honest. I can put together a collection of essays and poetry about this fucking disease, and set it up where the proceeds go directly to Melissa and her family, which will hopefully at least lessen the financial blow from all the medical treatments she will be undergoing in the near future.
I’ll be taking submissions until September 30, 2013. Please email me yours at AmberMNorrgard@gmail.com, with the subject line “Cancer Can Suck It”
I admit it. It's hard to do a blog about a new piece of writing and to talk about money without sounding like a flagrant, self-promoting capitalist. The bad kind.
But blog about it I shall, because I've never weighed in on anything concerning the value (i.e., price) we tag onto that which we write.
My latest release, Precious, is what most people will consider flash ‒ a 550-word(ish) short about a killer who sees what he's missing through a little girl's eyes. I assume it's not selling well because it's priced at $2. Not $1.99, two whole dollars.
I can hear it now ‒ how could I, greedy fat-cat that I am, dare to charge $2 for something that will take you barely three minutes to read?
Well, my answer is simple ‒ that's what it's worth to me. I've done the 99-cent thing, and you know what? It's bullshit. Yes, promotions are important and I'd happily give the story away to readers who would really love it and favor me with a review. But when it comes down to people buying it for real? That's what it's worth to me.
Actually, it's worth considerably more, if we're going on a per-hour rate. Even minimum wage would have the price of my labor well into double digits. But that's not really what I mean.
What I mean is, it's worth the two bucks for you to read it. And if you hate it, you don't have to read anything else I ever write. You see, if you compete on price, someone will always undercut you. It happens to everything, which is why you get companies outsourcing labor to Bangladesh and East Timor and wherever else, so they can make a $100 product for three bucks and undercut the big boys. Call it the Walmart Effect (some people actually do) or the "Psst-Buddy" Effect (which I wish more people would), in the end it's all the same ‒ someone will undercut you and you'll be in a price war that sends the value of your product or service ever-downward.
Shit on that, I work hard at my craft. So $2 it is. If it's too much, no hard feelings. I don't expect a lot of sales on it. All I'm saying is, that's what it's worth to me. If you read it, I hope you agree.
You can check out Precious and everything else I've published in book form at my Amazon Author Page. Don't be shy, no one's gonna judge you here.
Write for the Jugular, folks.