Advice on writing

Dream up a good, fun, interesting story that your readers will like, and that you will enjoy telling.

Readers can tell when the writer is having a good time.

Have at least one likeable character, and preferably several.

Villains can be likeable.

Show, don’t tell.

Avoid lazy words.

Make a general plan and fix it up as you go.

Spend time on research, and accumulate a research library built with real books. Put the library in your office near your desk.

Get an authoritative, descriptive dictionary. You will need to do some hunting to find a good one. Mine is a Webster’s New International Second Edition from 1938. You can find them on eBay or Abebooks or the like. Don’t get the Third Edition; they start to pander and capitulate in the Third, and it gets worse after that. Dictionaries have personalities. Find one that feels right to you.

Read, a lot. Read books and stories that bring you real pleasure.

Read books and stories published before the internet came along, and stories published after, and think about the differences between them. Which do you like more? Which will your readers like more? Stories in the age of the internet seem anxious, self-conscious, and less fun to me. You’re gonna have your own opinion about that, of course.

Write every day, when your mind is fresh.

Take care of yourself; get your sleep, eat right, get some exercise, and a good fuck now and then, for perspective. Be kind to yourself, so that you are empowered to be kind to others.

Don’t get worked up about being a writer or a poet or an artist. Don’t worry about being smart. Just write, and read, and do your research, and make a good plan, and let your characters tell your story for you. The rest is up to the reader, and the reader is the only one who matters.

The reader is smarter than you think.

Jerusalem, by Alan Moore

I love a rollicking whorehouse of a book. I wish Moore had written one.

A review of Jerusalem, by Alan Moore

I have read Alan Moore with delight and admiration since his early work in comic books, but I am having trouble with his new and mighty story, Jerusalem. Here in the middle of this, the gentleman’s latest great work, on page hundreds-something, I can barely find the Moore who wrote Miracleman, The Lost Girls, From Hell, Swamp Thing, Top Ten, LOEG, The Watchmen, Promethea, and many more fine stories. I know this man can tell a good story, inhabited by fascinating characters caught up in fantastic adventures. As I trudge along, I find I am hoping that masterful writer will appear, and send this other guy packing.

Moore has placed his story in the ethereal precincts of his beloved Northampton, and has elevated his town to a holy and eternal city; but this exaltation is blurred by thick prose, which reads like the prose of a beginning writer, who believes that adding a vast abundance of detail will make his story more convincing:

“Mick nodded, fumbling in his jacket for the brand new pack of fags he’d picked up half an hour back on the way down Barrack Road. He peeled the cuticle of cellophane that held the packet’s plastic wrap in place down to its quick, shucked off the wrapper’s top and tugged the foil away that hid the tight-pressed and cork-Busbied ranks beneath, the crinkled see-through wrapping and unwanted silver paper crushed to an amalgam and shoved carelessly into Mick’s trouser pocket.” (p. 33)

Moore does not trust his reader, a mistake I was surprised to read in a writer as anciently wise as he. “Mick pulled a pack of fags from his jacket.” Unless the unwrapping of said fags and careful stowage of the wrapper matter deeply in the later story, that’s plenty.

I can cope with crushing prose if I care about a story’s characters, but I found I did not care very much about this group of folks who stumble around in Jerusalem. Moore seems anxious about them, or concerned that people might not like them; he pokes them until they can barely stand up. I can see the characters resenting the author. “Look, mate, we’re trying to tell a story here. Mind? Let us work.”

Moore’s stories, it often seems to me, tell us about the unexpected beauty of the world, even when horrible things happen. I believe he has missed an opportunity to bring us yet another story about undiscovered beauty, just when we as a planet, as a species, rather need one. I wish he would write less, so that his story could say more.

The magniloquent blurbs on the jacket, which in their intensity approach apoplexy, should have scared me away. Blurb writers are not storytellers but marketers; and marketers seem to me the sorriest of people, engrossed forever in their spasmodic task of selling, selling, selling. You cannot put down this book, not because its story fascinates, but because its jacket is gobbed with effusions. The floor of a whorehouse is less sticky.

Readers who own vast patience and a few long evenings should give this book a good long chance. Moore does risky things. Still, I would like to know whether he is truly devoted to his story of magical Northampton — and to his readers. Because I still trust him, and because I am stubborn, I will push my way around a few more dark corners in Jerusalem.

I love a big, rollicking whorehouse of a book. I wish Moore had written one. I think this time he has written not for the reader’s delight, but his own.

Jerusalem
by Alan Moore
Liveright, 2016

buy it at Powell’s. or anywhere else.

lazy words

amazing, astonishing, astounding, awesome, and so on

let me decide for myself if something is astonishing or astounding

amazing means you stand and stare at something, not necessarily because it’s cool

breathtaking

brilliant

chilling

any superlative, unless you’ve earned it

effervescent

epic

extraordinary

fierce

honestly

incendiary

incredible

insane (when used as a superlative)

literally

magnificent

mammoth

premium

really

severely

shocking

spectacular

staggeringly

stupendous, stupefying, and so on

super

terrifying

tragic

ultimate

whopping

wildly

Contraction it’s given over to possessive case

“The hell with it,” say nation’s top grammarians

by Hwaet.com

CHICAGO IL — A consortium of the nation’s top grammarians has revised the rules of grammar to permit the use of the word it’s as a possessive nominative pronoun. The revision was announced at a press conference today at the University of Chicago.

“Most people write it’s as a possessive anyway, so we figured, the hell with it,” said John Grossman, Managing Editor of the venerable Chicago Manual of Style.

Grossman was clutching a bottle.

“They write A South American poison dart frog sits atop it’s keeper’s thumb during feeding time,” said Grossman, or “The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln pulls into Everett, Wash., as a fireboat shoots it’s water cannons.

A smirking Grossman held up placards that illustrated the formerly erroneous sentences. He then threw the placards on the ground and swigged from his bottle while cameras flashed around him.

“Since the it’s error is ubiquitous, we suppose it’s no longer an error,” said Karen Judd, author of the respected Copyediting: A Practical Guide. “That’s the [redacted] evolution of the language, right?”

She tapped Grossman on the shoulder, took his bottle, and drank.

Members of the consortium stated that they changed the grammatical rule to give a much-needed break to editors everywhere.

“If you’re an editor, you can spend hours explaining to your colleagues and writers the difference between it’s and its, and most of the time no one believes you anyway,” said Karen Elizabeth Gordon, author of the well-known grammar handbook The Transitive Vampire. “So now both it’s and its correctly indicate the possessive. We have saved editors a lot of stress.

“Like anyone gives a [redacted] anyway,” she said.

New iterations of dictionaries, textbooks, and grammar and style guides will reflect the grammatical change.

“Next, I bet we’ll be revising the relative pronouns which and that,” said Grossman, staggering slightly. “No one gives a [redacted] anymore about separating restrictive clauses from non-restrictive.”

“Yeah, they think if they write which instead of that, their words sound more important,” said Gordon, momentarily tussling with Grossman for the bottle.

“We might as well go ahead and endorse the use of a lot of for many, too,” said Judd.

“Or comprise for compose,” said Gordon.

“Or literally as an intensifier,” said Judd.

“Or nauseous for nauseating,” said Gordon.

“Or empathetic for empathic,” said Judd.

“Yeah, just [redacted] it all to [redacted],” said Grossman, glaring into the cameras. “Who took my [redacted] bottle?”