Category Archives: Writing

Everyone needs an editor

The Writer’s Guild of America recently released a list of the 101 best written television shows of all time. At #76:

I, Claudius – Written by Rupert Graves and Jack Pulman

Rupert? Rupert?

Rupert Graves (1963-) is a well-known British actor. Robert Graves (1895-1985) was the well-known poet and novelist who penned the original novel, I, Claudius, and its sequel, Claudius the God, upon which Jack Pulman based his writing of the BBC miniseries.

A somewhat embarrassing mistake, I would think, for a guild of writers to make. Did they forget to run the list past an editor? Everyone needs an editor, even editors, as Charles Apple, of the American Copy Editors Society, is fond of pointing out on his blog.

Of course, like most bloggers, I don’t run my posts past an editor before posting. So if I make a mistake in this post, or any other, I’d appreciate it if someone tells me, so I can correct it.

The shortest fine line between Scylla and Charybdis is a tightrope

In my Work-in-Progress I am having a slight issue making certain one of my characters doesn’t appear dumb. I have a distaste for dumb characters wherever I run across them – books, television, or theater. I don’t require all characters to be geniuses, but they need a bare minimum of intelligence. The characters of Phoebe and Joey on Friends always bothered me. As did the character of Rose on Golden Girls. I understand the comedic potential of this type of character. Gracie Allen perfected it. But it’s time to move on.

My character isn’t stupid, but he is naïve, inexperienced, and other synonyms. Several in my critique group thought he sounded stupid in the latest pages I brought. If I could make him a geek, that might be a solution. Everyone knows Sheldon Cooper isn’t stupid. (Or, at least, isn’t supposed to be stupid when the writers are portraying him correctly.)  However, my setting is pre-20th century. There are other things he could be geeky about, but I don’t want to fall back on that as a solution unless no other choices present themselves.

Is it possible?

Is it possible I haven’t seen a production of Les Miserables in over 6 years? Perhaps. That will be corrected soon.

It’s possible I have seen it, but the traveling show didn’t change Gavroche’s death scene like the Broadway revival apparently did. In which case I won’t hear Ten Little Bullets later this month.

I’m surprised it’s taken me six years to find this out, however, I was always more obsessed with the novel and author than the musical. However, I’ve long appreciated Fenton’s original lyrics, and agree with the linked commentary that I’d love to see what else he wrote for Act I before he got fired by Cameron Mackintosh for not meeting deadline.

I’ve wanted to applaud Fenton’s lyrics for “You” (also included in the link) for the social content, ever since I first read them in Behr’s “Complete Book of Les Miserables” years ago. However, I fear the lyrics would be above Gavroche’s comprehension. Putting the words of an adult into a kid’s mouth – it’s a problem I have at times had in my own writing, but I don’t think to this degree.

Addendum: Apparently Fenton’s agent worked out a clause in his contract so that if his lyrics weren’t used, he would still receive 0.5% of the box office receipts. So, even though none of his lyrics were used until the 2006 revival, he became wealthy. (In the first decade, Les Miz grossed 600 million pounds. 0.5% would have been 3 million.)

Responsibility: The Buck Stops Here

There is a meme that has circulated around the internet for awhile. Perhaps you’ve heard it.

I am responsible for what I say.
I am not responsible for what you understand.

That’s not a statement most professional writers would make.  We are responsible for your understanding. If we are unable to convey our intent to you, we have failed in our job. Readers don’t want to pick up a book they can’t understand. (And if you are employed as a writer of corporate press releases, software documentation, or grant proposals – being understood is extremely important.)

Let’s look at an example with which many will be familiar, The Beatles’ song, “Let it Be.”

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

I suspect if you ask most listeners for the identity of “Mother Mary,” they would say, “Mary, the mother of Jesus.”

However, Paul McCartney claims the lyrics refer to his mother, Mary (Mohin) McCartney, who died when he was 14. Allegedly he dreamt of her while working on The White Album, which inspired the lyrics to this song.

Was he successful in conveying his intent? I’d suggest not.

(However, I’d also suggest his true intent with the song, as with most of his songs, was to record something his fans would enjoy. So while he might have been inspired to write the lyrics by a dream he had of his mother, he knew full well that his fans would interpret the song differently.)

Which of course is completely fine. The interpretation of a reader or listener doesn’t have to match that of the author.

This doesn’t contradict what I said above. 

For authors of fiction or poetry, it isn’t mandatory that our readers “get” the exact same meaning of our intent. But it is still our responsibility that they are emotionally moved in some manner. It is our responsibility that our words have an impact. For fiction and poetry, there are no wrong interpretations.

For authors of press releases, software documentation, grant proposals, newspaper articles, or other works of non-fiction, it is our responsibility that readers interpret what we say the way we intended. For non-fiction, there are wrong interpretations.

Rejection – Revision – Resubmission

The short story I mentioned back in May, which I submitted to The First Line, was rejected by them.

This might actually be a blessing. Several members of my critique group suggested back in May a few changes that the first line restricted considerably. So upon receiving the rejection, I took to revision. The biggest change was from third person to first, which facilitated a few other changes.

I hope to bring the revised version to the group meeting tonight, and then figure out where to submit it to next.


I am a big proponent of writing to ‘constraints.’ I believe the constraint helps to jumpstart the creative juices. However, one must be able to leave the original constraint behind when appropriate.

New story

I have finished a first draft of a new flash fiction – to be submitted for the next edition of The First Line.  I like this market – it pays well.

You can read the first line of this story at the magazine’s website. And work on your own submission as well. It is bound to be very different from mine, unless your mind works in ways similar to mine.

It’s not the ‘type’ of story I usually write, but I like how it turned out. The draft has survived its ‘first reading.’ I will see how well it survives the writer’s group on Monday.

I’m not doing well on the Goals I set for myself in January.  I did submit JB and the MBS to a publisher – though it was the end of April when I did so. I’m hopeful.

Fulfilling #5 looks iffy.  I may be able to accomplish #4. I’m way behind on #1.

Resolutions for 2012

Below are the resolutions (those related to writing) I have set for myself for the upcoming year


I will submit at least one poem each week to a publisher.  (This is easier than it sounds since I have a backlog of poetry that I feel is of publishable quality.  It will , however, require some market research, and the writing of query letters.)


I would like to win another poetry slam.  I won one last year, so it won’t be my first win. This is not completely within my control, but there are several actions that can improve my chances, including writing some new ‘slam’ poems.


I will have JB and the MBS ready for submission by the end of January, and during 2012 I will finish writing its two sequels.  I’ve been revising JB and the MBS for awhile, so finishing it up by the end of the month is doable.  And I am only resolving to complete a draft of the sequels, so this isn’t a hefty resolution either.


By the end of 2012 I will have either TS of TTC, or IKWYT ready for submission.  I haven’t decided yet which one I will tackle. This is my biggest writing challenge.  These are both novel-length.


I will submit something to the 2012 Archon Short Story Contest.  This submission might be one of the sequels to JB and the MBS. (I submitted a version of JB and the MBS to the 2010 Archon Short Story Contest.)