Bashing Through the Prose, In 100 Days…

I recently tried an accelerated writing program offered by thewritepractice.com. The program is designed to help the aspiring writer complete the first draft of a novel in 100 days. It is aptly named “The 100 Day Book” program, the brainchild of Joe Bunting (not to be confused with the “100 Novels in a Day” program from Bo Junting).

Full disclosure – I didn’t finish a first draft, but I’m still pleased with the overall experience. To finish a draft would’ve been great, but I did come away with several valuable lessons.

First and foremost, I learned that I am what Kurt Vonnegut refers to as a “basher”, as opposed to a “swooper”. Hard as I try, I can’t churn out 800 to 1,000 words a day. The basher

“goes one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before going on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

The swooper

“write[s] a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work.”

Teh Basher
“Hey Joe, where you going with that hammer in your hand?”

I did have a few breakout sessions where I produced 1,000 words, so I can swoop, but for the most part, I bash. All the same, no matter what your approach, this program provides sage advice, deadlines and a support forum for other aspiring writers to hold you accountable and provide feedback on your writing.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the program is the daily email tips to spark the flame of goodly writing inside the budding writer. Notable examples –

“Today, have a character do something. It can be as small as eating a cookie or as dramatic as drawing a gun on someone. Whatever they do, use it to show us who that character is and make them stick in our minds.”

And

“Open up your book to something you wrote a few days or weeks ago. Glance over it and take a few minutes to laugh. Then, once you’re feeling good about writing again, jump back to today’s scenes and keep writing!”

Uno mas,

“Challenge yourself to write something deliberately bad today. What’s the worst sentence you can imagine? Write it down, and then keep writing.”

 

This last tip is especially meaningful for me. As were all the messages concerning what a pissant perfectionism can be. That was what held me back – the unquenchable desire to be perfect.

Many of the daily emails harped on the myth of perfection. Applying the practice tips from these messages were tools that allowed me to write 1,000 words in one day a few times.

I saved all the emails and plan to revisit them as I do my own thing.

BONUS! A cute lady with a squirrelly last name sends you weekly emails with your progress and other words of encouragement. Perhaps most impressive of all is that both cute, squirrelly last name girl and the Joe himself always responded to my questions and concerns with a genuine, not canned response, and in a timely manner.

And Joe is a good sport, I’d message him on Facebook, starting with “Hey Joe, I heard you shot your lady down” or “Hey Joe, where you gonna run to now?” and he played right along.

I was way short on the word count, but that’s because I need to get over this idea that my writing must be perfect as soon it’s written. I’m happy with every single word that I wrote – wish there were more…

I suppose that’d be a complaint – the program didn’t write a book for me. Writing a book is frickin hard, but this program breaks it into manageable tasks, making the process a more… manageable task.

Another perk was weekly author interviews. I attended a few, and it always got me thinking about my own writing process, but while sitting there listening I was jonesin to write, so I skipped some. Looking back on it, I wish I would’ve sat attentively through all of them, that’s part of the experience that I paid for.

In closing, I’d say this program would benefit any budding writer. You may not finish a book, but you’ll be writing and you’ll gain an understanding of the logistics involved in writing a book. In the end, if my ho-hum attitude toward interviews is any indicator, you get out what you put in.

This Blog is LITERALLY EPIC!

There is a blight upon the lexicon of our time! Read on and I’ll literally tell you what I mean.

Listen, my daughter watches a TON of YouTube. Bad parenting? Probably. Germane to this blopic (blog+ topic)? Only concerning my exposure to what I shall term “secondhand lexico-hyperbolitis”.

This is a debilitating disorder of the speech center of the brain, literally. You may have this disorder if you’re compelled to preface lackluster occurrences with the word “literally”. For example, “the cup I use to scoop out dog food disappeared, I literally had to get another one.”

Another symptom is a lack of proper respect for the hierarchy of “super” adjectives. Submitted for your approval, internet – here’s how I would order superlative adjectives; I’ll use donuts as a reference

DONUT FLAVOR CLASSIFICATION
Glazed “pretty good”
Chocolate “good”
Maple “Really good”/“Great”
Blueberry cake “awesome”
Cinnamon roll “totally awesome”/ “awesome to the max”
Chocolate cake “Murica!”
Maple cake “transcendent”
Old fashioned “restaurant quality”
Chocolate old fashioned “epic”

 

 

Of course, the ranking of donuts is open for debate, but I think we can all get behind the classification system. I’d like to note that “epic” is not my choice to describe the very best. I have always liked “restaurant quality”.

No matter what your word for the apex of quality, the notion that something could be so sweet necessarily requires that one be selective when classifying stuff. In other words, if everything is “epic”, is anything truly “epic”?

Let me slow down, my mind is literally flooded with righteous indigtation (indignation + dictation). To be clear, this is a treatise against the hyperbolic terminology literally soiling the garden of agreeable discourse in America today. Even Dictionary.com, the book that literally contains all the words (epic feat, no?) has recognized this egregious trend (LINK).

Is “literally” being used incorrectly? Well, yes and no – dictionary.com lists the following definitions/examples for “literally” –

  1. in the literal or strict sense: She failed to grasp the metaphor and interpreted the poem literally.

e.g. What does the word mean literally?

  1. in a literal manner; word for word:

e.g. to translate literally.

  1. actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy:

e.g. The city was literally destroyed.

  1. in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually:

e.g. I literally died when she walked out on stage in that costume.

It is my understanding that literally is most effectively used when referring to a strange/very rare occurrence. Such as, “Trump literally made a good point”. Another is to show exaggeration. Example, “I literally shat myself when he did the bit about the unicorns with toilet wands for a horn.”

I’m seeing and hearing a lot definition #3 mixed with #4; i.e. prosaic occurrences described as if it started raining money.

Here is a test, dear reader, that you might find out if you suffer from this heinous malady. Which of the following statements can “literally” be most appropriately applied to (assume that the occurrence described happened exactly as it is…uhh, described) –

  1. The bacon was on the skillet so long it got burned
  2. That lion tore that gazelle’s throat out and ate it.
  3. Jimi Hendrix makes the guitar sing
  4. I barfed when I saw the new iPhone

Answer key:

  1. Not necessary
  2. Not necessary
  3. Appropriate to exaggerate Hendrix’s skill (Jimi Hendrix literally makes the guitar sing)
  4. Appropriate when thinking about an iPhone – new or old. (I literally barfed when I saw the new iPhone).

Scoring –

If you thought it ok to put “literally” on either of the first two, you have a mild case of lexico-hyperbolitis and must memorize and practice using very bland adjectives like – “kinda cool”, “it’s OK”, “Meh” and “not bad” to temper your sensationalist tendencies.

If you think they all could benefit from this most malevolent term, you are (literally) about to drown in a mire of embellishment, a hypoolbole if you will. Your only hope is total sensory deprivation and the prohibition of the use of all adjectives. For instance, let’s say Steven Seagal shows up at your door one morning with some hot flapjacks and says he wants to give you free ass-kicking lessons. Your first reaction might be “THAT’S AWESOME!” If you would purge yourself of lexico-hyperbolitis, your reaction would be pared down to “THAT’S!” or “THAT IS!” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

Seagal Pancakes

Ok, that’s what I think about the word “literally”, if I hear it again I will have a cowdog (literally).

 

FIN

 

 

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