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.

The Hierarchy of Suck and a Two Headed Duck (that rhymes and you know it does)…

“You’re one of the good ones…[insert name]”

       Ren, the comically cantankerous cartoon Chihuahua

Very broadly, there are three types of people – 1. People who suck, 2. People who don’t suck, and 3. The good ones.

The first two are pretty self explanatory – people who don’t rack the 270lbs they just squatted from the Smith machine (seriously you guys, that’s three 45lb plates on each side) are the suckiest of what I will call the “undistinguished suckfaces” – those who suck, but not at a professional, Kathy Griffin level. So that I don’t digress on the sub-hierarchy of suck, I’ll just say that the “undistinguished suckfaces” are but a drop in the bucket of suck (or “sucket” if you will). The middle genus in my criminally simplistic taxonomy of human temperament are those who don’t suck.

The beauty of this type of class of person is that you don’t have to do much to get in, just NOT suck. I’ll put it to you like this, dear readers-

Roughly 3.14 kajillion times a day, we are faced with some choice. It could be as simple as choosing breakfast – Cheerios or leftover Chinese? Or as complex as pressing a button to test a missile, thereby risking the lives of millions of people (if you’re Kim Jong-Un).

In simplest terms, each example contains two or more broad paths. Each path is quite broad with a dizzying circuitry of tributaries and “roads less traveled”. Each path, no matter how broad or narrow, trodden or smooth will do one of two things – 1. Suck , or 2.Not suck. When you reach the threshold of these paths, ask yourself one simple question, will the result of my decision to take this path cause suck for me or anyone else? If the answer is no, go forth onto that path that you won’t suck.

If the answer is yes, ask yourself a follow-up question– will the suck of my decision outweigh the potential positives? If the answer is no, go forth onto that path that you won’t suck.

If the answer is yes, ask yourself a follow-up question– will this decision place the brunt of the suck on someone else? If the answer is no, go forth onto that path that you won’t suck. If the answer is yes, ask yourself a follow-up question– must I take this path to achieve my ends? If the answer is no, go forth onto that path that you won’t suck. If the answer is yes, ask yourself a follow-up ques….

Actually, at that point, it’s best just to forget about your ends and NOT make that decision.

This leads me to the upper echelon of the quality ‘o people structure.

I’ve adopted the term “one of the good ones” to describe these people.  Such people go beyond the requirements of NOT sucking and make things less sucky for others. In short, they suck the sucking out of things that suck. They redeem the ever growing population of the “sucket”.

I’d like to tell you, Internet, about one of the good ones as I rank her. Her name is Kay, this is her likeness as of Christmas 2016 (I think).

20160104_181217

I met Kay when she commissioned me to convert some home video tapes (Hi8, I believe) to DVD.

Turns out, Kay and her husband, Dan, are pretty neat, what with their family of ducks, old jukeboxes and antique Japanese gambling machines. To honor her uniqueness, I’m officially declaring her “one of the good ones”, and, like I did with Dr. Shearer HERE, I’m going to conjure an origin story. That is, the story you are about to read is entirely fictitious and any similarity to actual people, places or mystical ducks is purely coincidental (and frickin awesome!). Here we go –

Like horns upon a goat they lay.

High atop Mount Fløyfjellet

Storhorn and Lillehorn sit,

Keeping watch over the islands of Norway.

 

The village elders often say

That between the spires is a connection

To another dimension,

Where mystical creatures live and play.

 

It happened upon a day

There arose a great upset

When village was met

By a bundle so fey.

 

In the mild month of May,

The people of Austvågøya did find

A basket seemingly left behind

Floating in the bay.

 

To their dismay,

A baby they found within;

How could it have been

That a baby should come this way?

 

The village elders did carefully assay

The coming of this child

As if from the wild;

But none could say…

 

… whence her home might lay,

Until Sigurd stood forth,

Pointed to the north

And opened his mouth to say…

 

… “I know from whither this child did stray,

By some folly she was let…

…Out the doorway atop Fløyfjellet

From thither did she come this way.”

 

This he did convey

To the villagers there assembled.

Oh how they stirred and trembled

At the thought of a mystical doorway.

 

With intent to allay,

Sigurd boldly spake,

“On the morrow I shall take…

…this child back that way.”

 

The people thought him fey,

But in his words they found relief

In the face of the belief

A ransom for the child they’d have to pay.

 

And so the next day,

Sigurd set forth

On a journey to the north

That he might defray…

 

… any cost for this child gone astray

And so he climbed high, then higher

To reach the twin spire;

The frame of the dimensional doorway

 

Facing the columns he did say,

An enchantment to lay bare,

Any charm hidden there

And thus show him the way.

 

At that moment darkness overtook day

A glowing portal did appear.

So Sigurd buried his fear

Set on returning the little girl, come what may.

 

So, valiantly he passed through the array;

Like in vacuum his ears did pop,

He spun and wrenched and twisted non-stop.

It felt like the kneading of clay.

 

He peered hither and thither to assay

A scene before him so queer,

Sound but a hollow din, sight but a chromatic smear.

He held aloft the child gone astray…

 

… then opened his mouth to say,

“Behold, I bare a child of your domain,

And I would parley to ease any disdain,

And enmity towards my village by the bay”

 

At that, Sigurd’s eyes met with a curious display;

The sounds of his voice were as ripples on a pond,

Wrinkling and warping the air beyond.

In reply, a surly voice squawked “who are they?”

wp-1499003794572.

 

The words seemed an aural melee

Attacking sight and sound with such force,

Sigurd gleaned the sound’s source

He spied an abomination heading his way.

 

Of all the oddities Sigurd saw that day,

None were so queer as this.

A creature common enough, but grotesquely amiss.

Hark the full tale, ere you gainsay –

 

The creature on its way

Was a duck I tell you,

Not with one head, but with two!

The two heads conversed in a manner so fey…

 

… gouging and pecking away

At the neighboring head

While squawking so loudly as to raise the dead;

Sigurd knew not which head held sway

 

Ere the squawking and pecking would belay

Sigurd spoke this query,

“I’ve wandered far, and am weary.

What of this child, a ward gone astray?”

 

The left head squawked, “SWORD GONE AWAY!?!”

The right head pecked and squawked with derision,

“ NO, YOU DOLT. THAT IS NOT THE QUESTION!”

It squawked what was surely a mainstay…

 

… of the conversation most every day

For it was, the loud squawking and jeering

Resulted in loss of hearing;

Making any message difficult to convey.

 

Sigurd feared there would be no end to the fray,

That his quest had been for nought;

That this child, the realm had already forgot.

He resolved to leave without delay.

 

Sigurd sighed, overcome by dismay.

As before, sounds he made

Were given shape, and in physical form, did pervade

And ripple the air like water in a bay.

 

Upon reaching the creature, the head of gray

Began a raucous declaration,

Squawking “We feel a queer sensation!”

In a manner so fey.

 

The creature’s voice like a woman so gay,

With the occasional raucous “quack”;

Considering the creature, Sigurd turned back…

as he thought Why’d I come this way?

 

Then something happened, he decided to stay,

Just as if he had voiced that question

“I have a suggestion”

Quacked the head of grey.

 

Sigurd’s mind fell into disarray.

It came to Sigurd

That this beastly bird

He should here and now slay.

 

Through some diabolical relay,

They heard the thoughts in Sigurd’s head;

That he would see them dead

Ere they’d had their say.

 

For then they did display,

A visage of death

With fiery breath

And razor sharp talons to flay.

 

Deliver me from this beast I pray

Thought he in desperation

“Leave the child for obliteration?”

Said the beast to Sigurd’s inner mislay

 

“Creature, how is it that you can say

Answers to questions in my head

And to thoughts I haven’t said?

Tell me true, and do not play.”

 

Grey head spoke without delay,

“You know nought of your location,

We know much of your vocation”

Spoke the duck with the head so grey.

 

At this, Sigurd did display…

…a countenance of dither

That he should come hither

And be subject to such play.

 

After some delay,

Sigurd, with his mind clear,

Queried, “what know you of my vocation here?

I ask of you, if I may.”

 

This answer, to Sigurd, they did purvey –

“You seek the repatriation,

Of the youth in your possession.”

They know of the child found by the bay…

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