Technique Smile, and the whole world wonders what you’re up to

Smile, and the whole world wonders what you’re up to

It is said (apparently inaccurately) that the Inuit have many words for ‘snow.’  Why would that be?  Why, because they see a lot of snow, of course. English has very few words for ‘smile,’ even though we see a lot of them (I hope).  Grin.  Grimace. Beam. Smirk. Maybe even Simper. And you can drag …

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Mechanics Long words

Long words

My critique groups often lean on me for using bigger words than necessary. Particularly people who read and adore Hemingway. My weak defense is accuracy: I want the reader to get an exact picture. The response is, “in well-written work, sixty percent of the reader’s vision is what the author wrote; forty percent is drawn …

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Mechanics The Agony of Grammar

The Agony of Grammar

I’ve been running into an issue in writing lately that has me stumped: grammar. Specifically, how precisely to follow grammatical rules in writing, particularly in dialog. On the one hand, John McWhorter (Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and others) points out that the language is always in motion and often intimates that the “rules” we follow …

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Literature The Value of Literature in 30 words or Less

The Value of Literature in 30 words or Less

It was a simple statement on a subject too often drowned in words: Study of the Liberal Arts “is for developing the muscle of thoughtfulness, the use of which will be the greatest pleasure in life and will also show what it means to be fully human.” It came from Anne Hall, a lecturer at …

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Fiction Big Words

Big Words

Last week, I had one of those epiphanies that come when seemingly unrelated events collide and produce insight.  In my case, three events gave me perspective my habit of (proudly) using big words. The first was wife Beverly chuckling over a John Grisham short story, Fetching Raymond. It’s a wonderfully written story in its own …

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Mechanics Stories vs. Genres

Stories vs. Genres

Over the last couple of years, I have been forced to learn about the difference between the drive to create and the (apparent) expectations of potential readers.  Writing is writing, and the doing of it is reward in itself.  It’s just that you need a  saw and hammer sometimes to fit it into the genre. …

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Mechanics Pelvic Affiliate

Pelvic Affiliate

The English vocabulary is arguably the largest and richest of all languages.  So, why are there so many concepts with no word at all? In particular, why is there no word for grown up people who are in a relationship that includes both friendship and sex, but neither children nor marriage?  ‘Friend’ is too broad.  …

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Mechanics A Query Letter

A Query Letter

Another reason for my dilatory behavior with respect to this blog is that been polishing my query letter for Hack the Yak and have come to realize that style is all.  For instance, ‘dilatory behavior’ probably doesn’t belong in my query, given its soporific effect on a 21st century reader.  While good writing is thought …

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Fiction Writing, storytelling and the music of language

Writing, storytelling and the music of language

I’m finding that the process of writing sometimes gets in the way of the goal of writing, which is storytelling. Language may be the most important gift from the genetic dance that formed us.  It allows us to remember things and share ideas beyond tribe and lifetime.  But writing is a johnny-come-lately at maybe 6,000 …

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