Wednesday, July 18, 2012


So quoteth Alex Thorleifson, a wonderful romance writer and fabulous Native American sculptress.  About fifteen years ago, almost every week, Alex and I would meet for lunch at the Blackeyed Pea in Missouri City (Texas).  On one of these occasions, I was crowing about a great scene I had written.  BUT!  (Isn't there always a BUT!)  It really did not belong in the place I had it, and I was loath to delete it.

Alex's response was the above quote.  My bubble burst and I was heartsick.  "I don't want to lose it," I whined.  "It's really good."

Alex was a taskmaster.  "As you gain experience, you will write another scene equally as good, or better."

And so I have.  Heed this piece of advice.  Words are not gold.  There are enough words in the English language to write many glorious scenes.  You have my permission to borrow some from other languages.  (I had my sister-in-law translate some dialogue into Japanese for my novel, THE PEARL AFFAIR.)  To set this firmly in your mind, I will share the wisdom of great film directors.  While editing any film, great lengths of it will always wind up on the cutting room floor.  In interviews with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, these words are often repeated.  For instance, Kevin Costner.  Lawrence Kasdan hired him for the role of the dead friend of a close knit group of college-radical friends who dropped back into mainstream society in The Big Chill.  Kasdan apologized to Costner because his footage didn't make the movie but promised Costner he would use him in his next film.  Kasdan kept his word and cast Costner as Jake in the very successful Silverado.

Writers' rejects don't wind up on the cutting room floor, but the comparison is apt.  It is also commonSo don't get teary-eyed when you contemplate something brilliant that you've written but doesn't add to, fit in, make sense, or all the other related no-nos.  Just read it with affection, blow a kiss goodbye and hit the delete key.  Or save it to a special file.  You may have a use for it later.  Probably not, but it will make you feel better.

This morning, I just finished the third of three reviews that I promised I would write for a friend, and a fourth one, which I wrote for my mentor.  I hope my friends won't think, "What a nerve!"  But I calls 'em as I sees 'em.  Most reviews I've read are rather stilted, too long and bore me to death.  After these many years, I've grown jaded and a little irreverent.  I use my peculiar sense of humor when I write my reviews to prevent the stilted parts from becoming stifling.  I love my friends, and I love their writing.

Words.  Words.  Words.  This is the writer's medium.  His or her tools.  Don't take them for granted, but on the other hand, don't fall in love with them.  They can be fickle.  They are a bit like the pretty girl or the good looking guy that you've been waiting for all your life.  Once you're hooked, they run after some other chump without a backward glance.  Never fear.  Wait awhile and another one will come along.  Someone even better.  That is, if you've learned your lesson and recognize the signs.  Yep, it works for writing too.  Funny the way the Universe works, ain't it?

I hate to have to say it, but public education has gone to the dogs.  Back in the 80's, after I quit teaching, I worked temporary for companies where young executives couldn't write a proper sentence.  They had never been taught English grammar.  Brrrr!  One young man, who happened to come from England, told me his sentence structure was perfectly fine and he didn't want me changing it.  "It's British grammar," he said.  Without the hint of a smile, mind you.  "British grammar," said I, "There ain't no such thing as 'British grammar'.  You might write this way to your friends, but you sound like a damned fool in a business letter."  That made him laugh.  He signed the letter as I rewrote it and I never heard another word.

The point of this story is:  The Chicago Manual of Style, The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors and Publishers

Even though I learned grammar back in the seventh grade and I taught grammar to my students, the publishing industry recommends the above book for writers.  To those who never learned or have forgotten a usage, this is the book for you.  I keep it close because I've forgotten some things and this puts me on the right path.  Try your half price bookstores, or look it up online.

I hadn't realized that I had waited so long to write another blog.  I'm told I should write one weekly.  Good Heavens!  When Alex's quote popped into my mind, I knew I had to write about it because it made such a difference to me.  I thought I'd share it to ease your minds also.  When another idea pops up, I'll write about that.  Unless you have a question for me.

Send it to my PO Box 2333, Tomball TX  77377-2333

Till next time.

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