wildcats were lurking in the undergrowth, ready to dart out like piranhas, unless they were muzzled

Well clearly, I just couldn’t resist: A manifesto for the simple scribe – my 25 commandments for journalists

Metaphors are great. Just don’t choose loopy metaphors, and never, never mix them. Subs on the Guardian used to have a special Muzzled Piranha Award, a kind of Oscar of incompetence, handed to an industrial relations reporter who warned the world that the Trades Union Congress wildcats were lurking in the undergrowth, ready to dart out like piranhas, unless they were muzzled. George Orwell reports on the case of an MP who claimed that the jackbooted fascist octopus had sung its swansong.

You know, I’ve never quite figured out how the British manage their particular brand of humor. This is both a good read and wildly funny. Actually, on a more serious note, this is what I try for, most times:

So if an issue is tangled like a plate of spaghetti, then regard your story as just one strand of spaghetti, carefully drawn from the whole. Ideally with the oil, garlic and tomato sauce adhering to it. The reader will be grateful for being given the simple part, not the complicated whole. That is because (a) the reader knows life is complicated, but is grateful to have at least one strand explained clearly, and (b) because nobody ever reads stories that say “What follows is inexplicably complicated …”

Of course, I have a feeling I slip up now and then and say, “God, this is complicated…”

For sheer silliness of word play, I thought this was pretty funny. He’s kidding about what SEO stands for. I hope. Verbiate Your Nouns for Legal Shock & Awe

I warn you, I tend to play around with my words. Maybe not the sound of them, but the sequence, the cadence, the layers of meaning. Then again, this lands me into trouble on twitter, where it seems there’s ‘bots that spew out tweets based on key words. I’ve had “home early” and “weight loss” and others targeted. Makes me kinda wish I could do something slightly more destructive than “Block” or “Report for Spam” but there you have it — I’m a mild mannered member of the activist queer left posse…

But more seriously, John Scalzi lays it out: Writing: Find the Time or Don’t

So: Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.

If your answer is “yes,” then the question is simply when and how you find the time to do it. If you spend your free time after work watching TV, turn off the TV and write. If you prefer to spend time with your family when you get home, write a bit after the kids are in bed and before you turn in yourself. If your work makes you too tired to think straight when you get home, wake up early and write a little in the morning before you head off. If you can’t do that (I’m not a morning person myself) then you have your weekend — weekends being what I used when I wrote Agent to the Stars.

And if you can’t manage that, then what you’re saying is that you were lying when you said your answer is “yes.” Because if you really wanted to write, you would find a way to make the time, and you would find a way to actually write. Cory Doctorow says that no matter what, he tries for 250 words a day (that’s a third of what I’ve written in this entry to this point), and if you write just 250 words a day — the equivalent to a single, double-spaced page of text — then in a year you have 90,000 words. That’s the length of a novel. Off of 250 words a day. Which you could do. On the goddamned bus. If you really wanted.

I admit, I go back and forth. I love to write, but I write on different things at different times. I can go silent for a while, and then frantically scribble for days, or months or even years. I do keep coming back to it, but I certainly don’t depend on it for my livelihood. Still, Scalzi gets a last parting shot in

But if you want to be a writer, than be a writer, for god’s sake. It’s not that hard, and it doesn’t require that much effort on a day to day basis. Find the time or make the time. Sit down, shut up and put your words together. Work at it and keep working at it. And if you need inspiration, think of yourself on your deathbed saying “well, at least I watched a lot of TV.” If saying such a thing as your life ebbs away fills you with existential horror, well, then. I think you know what to do.

Yep. Keeping the existential horror at bay.

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