Tag Archives: Art

Some of my favorite editors OF ALL TIME

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. So come closer and listen to what I’ve learned from experience: Editors are a writer’s best friend.

Not when they’re patting you on the back, because anybody can butter you up.

They’re your best friend when they take a red pen and blast through your complicated writing pets, when they check your wildest instincts and find order out of the natural chaos that comes from banging on the keyboard to create anything of length and importance.

writing

The secret to writing is editing, and you can’t edit your own stuff. Not at first.

So it’s wrong to say that every writer needs an editor.

You need more than one, if you want to get serious about any sort of real writing.

It’s like building a house. As a writer, you’re trying to do it all: draft the blueprints like an architect, pour the foundation, frame it, plumb it, siding, drywall, flooring, cabinets, painting–the whole thing.

Every step is important. And getting the right editors is like hiring great subcontractors.

My bias is to think of structure first, because if the blueprints are bad, it doesn’t matter how pretty the carpentry is, and how great the writing is line by line.

This is why every professional architect hires an engineer to do the math and make sure the foundation is strong enough to hold up the house, that the roof won’t blow off and your beams are big enough to handle the load.

So you need different editors for different things. The best possible professional editor for the structure, the blueprints. Then beta readers to look over the whole thing another time, looking for medium-size problems. A line editor to smooth things out and make it all pretty, and finally a proof-reader to take a microscope to the entire thing and make it as flawless as possible.

That sounds like a lot, and most pro editors can wear different hats. But I’m going to argue for dividing it up, because when you’ve been staring at the same thing for weeks, or months, you stop seeing things. A fresh pair of eyes is always smart.

Even though I’ve always had editors, starting way back in college when I was putting out newspapers, there’s a natural inclination for writers to screw this up, to see using editors as some kind of sign of weakness. The thinking goes like this: “Hey, I have (1) a master’s degree in creative writing or (2) have been cashing checks as a journalist for years or (3) am far too talented to need the crutch of a professional editor, which is for wannabes who can’t write their way out of a paper sack if you handed them a sharpened pencil.”

I’d did editing wrong by having friends and family beta read, or asking fellow writers who yes, wrote for money, but cashed checks for doing something completely different.

And it was a waste of time.

Here’s how I learned my lesson, and no, I am not making this up: On a whim, I posted a silly ad to sell my beater Hyundai and romance authors somehow found my little blog that started from that. Pro editor Theresa Stevens got there somehow and I started talking to her, and on a whim I did her standard thing to edit the first 75 pages of a novel, the synopsis and query letter. I didn’t think anything of it and expected line edits. Dangling modifiers and such.

But she rocked.

I learned more, in the months of editing that entire novel, than I could’ve learned in ten years on my own. It’s like the difference between a pro baseball player trying to become a better hitter by spending six hours a day in batting practice, alone, versus one hour a day in hard practice with a world-class batting coach. I’d pick the batting coach, every time.

As somebody who used to lone-wolf it, let me say this: I was wrong.

And so on this Friendly Friday, I want to plant a big smooch on editors of the world, and encourage writers of all backgrounds and specialties to see editors in a different light. That having an editor isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength. That it says you’re crazy serious about what you do and not afraid of working with the best of the best rather than a cheerleading squad of yes-men who think your 947-word epic about elves with lightsabers riding dragons is the best thing ever.

That it’s not about you, and doing whatever you want, but about making the finest product you can give to readers.

So I want to give a shout out to Theresa the Stevens, who has taught me much, and Rebecca Dickson, my uncensored female doppleganger, and to great beta readers and editors like Alexandria SzemanJulia Rachel BarrettAnna Davis, Mayumi, Donna — because just like a single person can’t be expected to build a beautiful house alone, a smart writer gets help and advice from the smartest people possible.

Find one of those smart people with a red pen.

Hire them, hug them, listen to them, buy them flowers when you succeed. But use them, if you’re serious. And if you’re not serious, hey, take up bowling or whatever.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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Filed under 6 Friendly Friday

Short film ROSA blows Hollywood away

So this studio works for years to produce ROSA, a beautiful little short about an apocalyptic android goddess with kung fu powers on loan from Neo, who’s busy not using them in the Matrix — oh, wait?

One lone man did this?

NO WAY.

But it’s true. Take a look.

Hollywood took notice, and now ROSA is becoming a full-on movie, with popcorn and everything. This makes me happy.

Peoples of the Series of Tubes, and the Twitter, what’s your favorite short film that deserves to be made into two hours of movie goodness?

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

Real animal that should NOT exist: the blue dragon mollusk

So I see this on the interwebs, and my brain says, “Ah, here we have James Cameron, busy at work on AVATAR 2: BLUE MONKEYS VERSUS HUMANS AGAIN, BECAUSE I WANT ANOTHER BILLION DOLLARS.”

But no, this is a real animal here on Earth instead of whatever that Avatar planet is named, though I believe this blue dragon would be something the blue monkeys ride if they’re traveling by sea. Also, it probably eats unobtanium for breakfast, because blue dragon mollusks munch up deadly poisons from prey and recycle that stuff with a shrug. Can you do that, Mr. Top of the Food Chain? I DON’T THINK SO.

And before we get to proof that this isn’t some PhotoShop or CGI thing, or some kind of sasquatch prank by college kids who got all Dr. Frankenstein with two oysters and a bunch of model paint, here’s the Wikipedia page on blue dragons, which boffins (scientists) call “glaucus atlanticus” for some boring reason involving science and such.

HOWEVER: Some people call these “blue dragon sea slugs.” Even if they are related to sea slugs — say, sea slugs are their ugly uncle — it’s wrong to call these beautiful little guys “slugs.” No. They’re 5.92 bazillion times cooler than boring gray slugs, which don’t ingest deadly toxins for breakfast and can instead be killed by plain old table salt. No self-respecting thing can stroll into a super-hero bar and say, “Hey, my super power is, like, crawling all over plants to get my slime on them, but my super-weakness, uh, is, you know, table salt.”

The blue dragon mollusk, now, can float into that same bar looking awesome and not have to say a word, because if you disrespect it, say hello to a little free dose of deadly toxic whatever.

You have questions, random peoples of the Series of Tubes, and do I have random answers? Maaaybe.

Question: Where can I buy a blue dragon mollusk?

Answer: At the blue dragon mollusk store. No, I am kidding. These are not pets. These are aliens from the planet Xenu, and if you try to keep them as pets, their buddies show up in a wicked spaceship and zoom off to find more venomous things to eat for breakfast.

Question: Does the blue dragon mollusk really eat deadly venomous animals?

Answer: Yes. They eat stuff like the man-of-war, which is only found in the ocean, and not pet stores, making it even harder for people to feed their kidnapped blue dragon mollusk they’re trying to keep as a pet. Though I think the plural should be “men-of-war” or “men without hats,” who are only found in Australia. I also believe they eat peppers, like the ghost pepper, in their salsa. Sour cream and guacamole is too nancypants for them.

Question: What other insane animals don’t I know about?

Answer: These things.

On to the footage: blue dragons in the wild.

More blue dragon footage, because I’m still not convinced.

OK, I’m convinced, and want some for pets, as long as they don’t evolve into those giant VW-sized facehugger things from PROMETHEUS.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

Greatest hits, Vol. 1: Seven more epic posts

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Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Animals, monsters and monstrous animals, Muffin chokers

The worst movie poster OF ALL TIME

So I’m minding my own business, wandering around the Series of Tubes after finishing all kinds of physical labors, and what strikes my eyeballs?

Only the worst movie poster known to man.

Here it is:

the hobbit, the worst movie poster OF ALL TIME

THE HOBBIT movie poster is seven separate kinds of awful.

This isn’t bad in the usual way. The production values are high. The photograph looks nice. There’s nothing low-budget about this.

HOWEVER: From looking at this poster, and reading the tagline “An unexpected journey,” what do you think this movie is about?

Here are my theories:

Theory Number 1: Gandalf makes an unexpected journey back to the store after he forgets to buy sour cream AGAIN.

Theory Number 2: “Oh, it’s only partly cloudy today, when my weather prediction potion said it would definitely rain. How unexpected! I’ll go for a stroll.”

Theory Number 3: Gandalf, being older than the oldest hobbit’s great-grandfather’s grandfather, is getting rather senile. Every journey he takes is unexpected.

See, here’s the thing: a movie poster needs to express one thing, and one thing alone: conflict.

No conflict, no story.

No story, no movie.

No movie, no audience.

This is why the JAWS movie poster is so powerful and iconic.

jaws movie poster

The JAWS movie poster is classic, and will always be classic, because it’s simple and visceral and seven separate types of awesome.

Do you have any doubts, whatsoever, about what this movie is about? (Hint: It’s about a killer shark.)

THE HOBBIT poster gives us nothing to work with, no reason to plop down $12 for tickets with funky 3D glasses and $9 for popcorn that costs 26 cents to make and $6 for Diet Coke.

Memo to Hollywood executives: Put the conflict — the villain — on the poster. If you make the poster calm, beautiful and boring, there’s no reason to see a film that cost $230 million to make.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

22 Comments

Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

Music Video Monday: Violins and cellos gone wild

Classical music can be a wonderful sleep aid. HOWEVER: These people show that you don’t need a guitar loud enough to shatter boulders.

No. All you need is a violin (or a cello, whatever that is) and a whole bunch of talent.

First up is an Alaskan wunderkind, Bryson Andres, who has some kind of magical electric violin and such.

Second: Lindsey Stirling in a flipping ice castle. She may remind you of Peter Pan or an extra from LORD OF THE RINGS, but it isn’t bad enough to put you in therapy.

And finally, our clean-up hitter: Four British women with three electric violins and one super-powered cello, covering Led Zepellin.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 2 Music Video Monday

Is this high-brow poetry — or pretentious garbage?

Poets are crazy. This much I have learned.

Take a look at this man, who was apparently a famous poet.

You don't recognize Charles Baudelaire, the poet? You fool!

Charles Baudelaire, the most famous poet you don't know. Hell, I could be making him up, and you'd nod your head and say, "Sure, I read some of his stuff in grad school."

In my endless quest for the truth, I have discovered more Gertrude Stein-esque free verse.

I did so after writing the post, Gertrude Stein is a literary TRAIN WRECK.

I leave it up to you:

Is the poem below high-brow literary genius that only members of Mensa can understand?

Or is it pretentious trash ?

THE CIRCLE

start

criminal beginning

shut, destroy us

the shoe display outside

arise, contract

undertake exactly

marry powerful?

no

no

no

NO

your trial, his expression

production detail

alternative

no

yes

sort, generate, combine

bottom quality

end

and start

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday

Gertrude Stein is a literary TRAIN WRECK

I know the name Gertrude Stein, and understand that she is some kind of Giant of Literature.

(It’s pronounced “lit-rah-SURE, by the way, if you want to be all snobby and lame.)

HOWEVER: For the first time, I’ve read actual words she wrote and published.

Not even gigantic hits of marijuana chased with tequila shots would make her stuff (a) understandable or (b) enjoyable.

She isn’t somebody I’d tell a new writer to read and emulate. If I actually cared about the new writer’s sanity and career, I would tell them this: read her words, then DO THE OPPOSITE.

Gertrude Stein is a literary train wreck

Gertrude Stein is a literary train wreck.

Check out one of her famous poems, Sacred Emily, which starts like this:

Compose compose beds.
Wives of great men rest tranquil.
Come go stay philip philip.
Egg be takers.
Parts of place nuts.
Suppose twenty for cent.
It is rose in hen.
Come one day.
A firm terrible a firm terrible hindering, a firm hindering have a ray nor pin nor.
Egg in places.
Egg in few insists.

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Writing secret: Light as air, strong as whiskey, cheap as dirt

Those nine words are magic.

And those words help sell 5.842 gazillion miles of barbed wire back in the late 1800s, when the West was still wild and there weren’t handy trees or stones to make fences.

Light as air, strong as whiskey, cheap as dirt – I’ll remember that for days. Forever, maybe.

It’s honed down to perfection. Nine words, and not a one is wasted.

barbed wire

A little strand of steel with a twist and BOOM, you are golden.

In the five seconds it takes to hear those words, or read them, you’re sold.

Writers struggle with those first five seconds.

  • What’s the best way for a reporter to convince the city editor put a story on A1 instead of buried next to the obituaries on B15?
  • How can you sum up a 100,000 novel in a single page – or a single sentence?
  • When a magazine editor is buried with pitches, how does yours stand out from the slush pile?
  • What should a screenwriter say about his script while riding in an elevator for 30 seconds with Steven Spielberg?

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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday