Archive for the ‘Process’ category

editing jockstraps

September 12, 2018



*no image today*



I’ve long been a trifle smug about the fact that no editor has ever corrected the grammar in the stories I’ve had published. Once an editor suggested I add a hyphen (which I did), and twice editors requested fundamental changes to the endings of two stories (which I also did), but never has an editor told me to fix the sentence fragments or lengthy sentences or my enthusiastic use of semi-colons and em dashes. All of these things have become parts of my narrative style over the years, and all of these things have survived into the published stories.

I take that as evidence against the prescriptivists who insist on “proper” grammar and punctuation and how “you have to know the rules before you can break them.” (For the record, I know the rules, but I try to forget them. Also, I’m speaking of creative writing, not term papers or legal documents or such.) I’m not really out there, but I’m not interested in being timid and writing within constraints. Nor, I have seen, are most of the writers I admire playing by those rules much either. (My big bugbear is the insistence on only using some form of “say” as a dialog tag, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned a few dozen times before. Who decided that? And why are so many writers so automatic and vehement in their adherence to it?)

But lately I’ve begun to wonder what editing these editors actually do with the stories they receive. I spoke the other day of my using the incorrect spelling “jock strap” in One-Match Fire. Where that occurs (three times) is in the chapter titled “Runaway” and that story was published last year in a journal devoted to the intersection of sports and literature. Yet this incorrect two-word spelling appears in the printed journal. If it is truly wrong (and I yield that it is), then shouldn’t the male editor of a sporting lit mag have caught and corrected it? Had the editor been a woman and I had used the word “brastrap” I suspect it would have been corrected. Granted jockstrap is a rarified word and usage, but in that context it wouldn’t have been.

And so this makes me question my own (aforementioned) smugness. Are editors truly respecting the brilliance of my writing, or are they just not taking much time for fine tuning the works they accept. Or is there a third path I’m not seeing?

(And this leaves out discussion of the many rejections I’ve received for submitted stories. Maybe some of those were rejected because of my cavalier approach to “the rules.”)


“Old School” is now online

March 21, 2018

My story “Old School” is now up at Bull & Cross. You can read it here.

I based this story on several things: a conversation with someone who made the basic assertion in the story (I was never certain whether or not he was serious about it); some bosses I have had through the years; and an accounting professor at the second college I attended whose appearance (and perhaps name) I used for the main character in the story.

This story is similar in spirit to my story “Velvet Elvis.” They build to an unexpected yet should-have-been-obvious conclusion.

Enjoy! (but only if you wish; I’m not trying to impose any response, really)

who uses Scrivener (or anything like it)?

March 8, 2018

The One-Match Fire¬†short stories that have occupied my crusty creative self for the last few years eventually coalesced into what could be called a loose novel form. I consider (most of) them stand-alone short stories (and some have gotten published as such), but collected in the novel format they feel more like episodes than an attempt at a continuous narrative. That’s fine, of course, and I think it works well enuf.

But now I’m working on that cozy mystery novel (Finnegans Fogbound) and I’m finding that I must give a great deal more attention to plotting than I needed for One-Match Fire. Events must happen in a certain order at certain times in certain ways. And I am out of practice in conventional novel construction.

A commenter here recently asked if I used Scrivener to do whatever it is that Scrivener does. I don’t. I’ve never considered it. Looking at the site, I see how it could help a writer organize the grand effort, but I wonder if I need such an involved tool. (One I would have to pay for.) Would it do anything for me that drafting an outline and keeping a list of characters can’t?

Do you use Scrivener or anything like it? I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts or recommendations.


January 29, 2018

I am currently working on journal #28 in my 35+ years of keeping a handwritten journal. Thousands of pages. Hundreds of thousands of words. Countless ideas. Complaints, moans, thoughts, musings, copying, trying, dreaming, scheming. These journals have been my respository for inklings for article ideas (earlier in my writing life) as well as for story ideas now. I’ve worked out themes and characters and plots and whole novels on the pages of these journals. In the dim days before I had my earlier blog, Roundrock Journal, I would write pages-long, detailed accounts of my trips to my woods (because I had this idea that I would need the notes for the great account of my life in the woods I would eventually write). I make entries to voice my complaints with the universe as well as complaints with the quotidian. I’m all over the place in my journals.

I certainly don’t even remember all of the things I have written in my journals and certainly couldn’t find most of the ones I do remember. And why would I as I reflect on it. In those decades, I have changed a great deal, not only in my writing but in my general view of life, the universe, and everything. Whatever I had to say about anything thirty years ago would probably make me cringe with embarrassment today.

I sometimes wonder what will become of my journals. I can’t imagine there is anything particularly insightful within them. The world won’t be a better place because of my musings. About the only thing I ever imagine happening from someone reading my scribblings is these words being uttered: “This explains everything, Your Honor.”

My middle son has said he can hardly wait to read my journals after I have died. There is so much he will want to learn about me then. (Why doesn’t he want to learn about me now?)

I’ve thought about having a cleansing fire sometimes. Burning all of my journals to be rid of the weight of them. I’ve begun burning the notebooks I kept in graduate school. The next step wouldn’t be so hard.

So why do I keep them? Some sort of mental health break, I guess. I do like the feel of pushing a mechanical pencil across a page. I even spent a day scouring Kansas City for exactly the right mechanical pencil for the job. There is some catharsis from holding the pencil in my hand and making marks on the page, marks that form themselves into words that collect into sentences that flow into paragraphs that begin to have meaning.

But maybe the meaning is in the act itself, not the results.


January 24, 2018

So Monday evening was supposed to be devoted to the housekeeping aspects of my writing, right? Except I completely forgot about it this week and watched television instead. (And I never watch television!)

So I gave over Tuesday evening to the noble work.


And here are some interesting photos of round rocks.

The first two photos were taken in September of 2014 (such an innocent time!):

Look closely and you can see two round rocks. One is wedged between the trunks of the trees, and the second is directly below it, almost completely swallowed by the tree. Here’s a closer look at the lower round rock:

And this is how the tree looked last weekend when I was out to my woods:

The rock you can see is the upper of the two. The lower one is almost completely “eaten” by the tree. This is called inosculation, by the way.

a necessary corollary

January 13, 2018

A necessary corollary to the ambitious sentiments in my earlier post is that now on my weekend mornings, I must actually do the heavy lifting of creative writing. I can no longer “research” during this time but must leave that for the weekdays and reserve this time for entering the semi-mystical mental space of my creative genius.


January 8, 2018

I have this conceit that I must enter some (semi-mystical) mental space in order to write my stories. I must have the means, motive, and opportunity just right or I can’t spend any productive time with whatever piece(s) of fiction I’m working on. Generally this means rising at an absurd hour when the house and the world are quiet (and having a pitcher of iced tea — unsweetened, of course — beside me) and cracking open the latest effort, easing into the universe, the tone, the theme, that narrator’s mind, and all that stuff so that the words will flow (or stagger) properly. In other words, I can’t just sit at my computer after dinner (though who eats dinner anymore?) and start hammering out some words. That’s what I tell myself.

I’m pretty sure it’s bogus. I’m pretty sure that if I have uninterrupted, quiet time I can continue work on a story simply by a) reading what I’ve written so far, and b) putting in actual effort.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking lately that I should put my after-dinner time to more productive writing uses. If I can’t actually write (right!), I could do other things. I could edit (which might lead to writing) or I could do more mundane things like submitting stories to likely publications, or making much-needed back ups of my files, or house cleaning my folders and version drafts, or even researching possible venues. (I also tell myself that whatever novel I’m reading — and even nonfiction — is “work” since it can inform my own fiction. See how he rationalizes!)

Even if I can’t “create” something new, I could/should work with what I have already created. I looked in my files the other day and determined that I currently have five finished stories that I think are ready for submission. (Also, two novels, but that’s a different kind of flagellation of the soul.) And since the publishing world generally looks tolerantly on simultaneous submissions, these five pieces could easily become a dozen or more submissions pending out in the wild. (Looking in Duotrope’s Digest, where I track my submissions, I saw that I have a half dozen of them out there, including one I made yesterday.)

I decided that I should devote Monday evenings to this. Mondays are an onslaught on the mind anyway since they generally mean a resumption of selling my labor to those who own the means of production, so this kind of tangential entry into the higher calling of creative work can be a kind of consolation (or escape). Maybe two hours of devoted effort to whatever housekeeping I find needed or beneficial would be satisfactory.

So today is Monday. I should haul myself to the warm room upstairs where all of my creative ferment swirls and put in my two hours. Maybe I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do you do anything like this?