Once Again the Power of a Streak

From Dean Wesley Smith:

Without This Blog Streak I Never Would Have Turned on This Computer…

But with this many years of never missing a day, even with doing a lot of other fun stuff today, I turned on the computer to type something here. Did it matter what I type? Nope.

To hit the blog streak, the daily blog streak, it just had to be something. You know, I am alive, the streak is alive, and so on and so on.

Imagine if you were doing this kind of streak with your writing, that no matter how late, how much your mind was elsewhere, you wrote 250 words a day on a streak.

Imagine that. Go ahead. I dare you.

250 words doesn’t seem to be much, does it? Yet it would get you one 90-plus thousand word novel a year or two 45 thousand word novels in a year.

That’s right, just 250 words a day.

A simple streak. Now I have been doing this blogging streak now for a lot of years. Say you were writing 45 thousand words book and kept the streak alive for 6 years. That’s twelve novels. A could six-book series or four trilogies.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

Never Start With a Blank Page

From LifeHacker:

Creative block is over, if you want it. If you’re stuck without ideas in a brainstorm or a project, you just need to use this simple system: consume things, take notes, and bring those notes with you. Here’s how to do that effectively.

Writer, performer, and Christmas elf David Sedaris says his work is more learned skill than special talent: “Everybody’s got an eye for something. The only difference is that I carry around a notebook in my front pocket.” As writing teacher David Perell explains, Sedaris takes notes on everything interesting in his life, every stray thought he’d like to explore. Every so often he sits down, reads his notes, and copies the good ones to his computer.

. . . .

Sedaris doesn’t need a brainstorming session where he sits around, trying to think of things. By the time he writes anything, he’s got all these ideas, and it’s more a matter of choosing what not to write about. He can start riffing on something he already wrote down.

Link to the rest at LifeHacker

What Keeps You From Writing Success? Are you a Prisoner of Unexamined Beliefs?

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

“Think outside the box” has become a mindless cliché these days. It’s repeated so often that the meaning has pretty much disappeared.

But it’s still excellent advice—if you know how to follow it. Unfortunately, most people are unaware they’re inside boxes, so they have no idea what it means to think outside of one.

Discussing somebody’s “box” can be like talking to a fish about water. The “box” is all there is.

Most of us are boxed in by beliefs that have been programed into our brains from day one by our culture, families, politics, and that 4th Grade teacher who told you if you kept reading comic books, you’d never amount to anything.

Shamers like the anti-comic book teacher are dangerous because you usually don’t remember them. You may have forgotten your 4th Grade teacher’s name.

All you know is you feel guilty when you read things you enjoy—plus you have a secret, persistent fear that you’re never going to amount to anything.

Very often a belief you’re sure “everybody knows” has come from a random shamer who once made you feel bad because of your lack of knowledge of a particular subject. Sometimes they’re authority figures, but often they’re just bullies or “know-it-alls.”

It may very well be that the shamer was even more ignorant than you, or just plain wrong. But an authoritative tone made you accept the statement as fact. (Remember that the most ignorant people are usually the most confident. That’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.)

. . . .

The first thing you hear about a subject is filed in your brain as fact. Especially when coupled with an emotional experience. It’s how the brain works.

You put your little hand in fire and got burned, so you learned that fire is hot. That fact becomes hardwired to your brain—part of your sense of self. You’re a smart primate who knows fire is hot.

An authoritative person speaking in a demeaning tone can have the same effect as a burn. A shaming tone programs people to accept information as fact.

. . . .

False information imprisons victims in a box. Unless they’re somehow shocked into questioning why they believe the misinformation, they can’t escape.

I started reading about this after a bizarre incident working in a bookstore. The owner made me shelve the collected works of Emily Dickinson in the Romance section. She insisted Emily Dickinson wrote “girly trash.”

Nothing I said could change her mind, in spite of the fact she “adored” Emily Dickinson.

I finally figured out some uneducated, sexist moron must have shamed my boss for loving Emily Dickinson when she was young. So she had created a false belief that became hardwired to her brain.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

How America saved old-fashioned English grammar

From The Economist:

IS AMERICA RUINING English or giving it new life? Most of this old transatlantic debate concerns words. Is elevator an improvement on lift? Why say transportation when transport will do? Sometimes it involves spelling, specifically the American reforms that made British centre into American center. Pragmatic change or dumbing down? And, of course, the quickest way to tell a Yank from a Brit is by pronunciation.

But the differences between British and American English go beyond words, sounds and spelling to grammar itself. Here they can be subtle, but they are many: the index of the “Cambridge Grammar of the English Language” mentions regional differences in 95 places. America being the parvenu, most people assume that any variations between the two countries result from American innovation, to the (sometimes mock) horror of Britons. In reality, America has often been the conservative one, and Britain the innovator. When British speakers borrow American habits, they are sometimes unwittingly readopting an older version of their language.

The subjunctive had also been on its way out in America, but started to reappear in the mid-to-late 19th century, as Lynne Murphy, a linguist, recounts in “The Prodigal Tongue”. No one knows why; theories include greater Bible reading (which would have kept Americans acquainted with older grammar) and immigrants who spoke subjunctive-filled languages. Whatever the reason, the subjunctive stuck out as a Yankeeism, irking British commentators such as Kingsley Amis, a novelist: “Be careful with any American writings, which often indulge in subjunctive forms.”

. . . .

Stereotypes often have a grain of truth. Americans have indeed innovated extensively with English, as with other things. But language never sits still: the British variety itself went on changing after 1776, as all living languages must. Americans, for their part, eagerly import fashionable British slang. Instead of bemoaning new-fangled Americanisms, British observers could spare a thank you to the old colonies for keeping traditional English safe.

Link to the rest at The Economist

If you would like more about the “subjunctive mood” you can check out a Wikipedia article on the topic. PG didn’t know that verbs had moods, but, as he considers it, why should they not?

‘Fuzzy-Profound’ Words Cause Mental Rot

From The Wall Street Journal:

What are “qualia”? I stumbled on the word recently in the Times Literary Supplement, where a review of novels by Neal Stephenson and Don DeLillo observed that both authors “are much concerned with qualia.” I looked up “quale,” the singular, in the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as “the property or quality of a thing; Philosophy a quality or property as perceived or experienced by a person; (also) a thing having certain qualities.”

This definition is as clear as mud. Does quale refer to something objective or to something subjective?

The OED gives 11 examples of how quale or qualia have been used, the first dating from 1654. Here are two recent examples. Philosopher A.J. Ayer: “So far as anything can be, qualia are pre-theoretical.” I have no idea what pre-theoretical means. The second is from an essay in the Philosophical Quarterly: “It is possible to hold that certain properties of certain mental states, namely those I’ve called qualia, are such that their possession or absence makes no difference to the physical world.”

The sentences suggest that quale refers to a subjective experience, which is what the philosopher Daniel Dennett says: Qualia is “an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us.”

I get it! Just as Monsieur Jourdain in Molière’s “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme” is surprised to learn that he is speaking prose, so I am surprised to learn that my daily life is filled with qualia.

Quale and qualia are what I would call “fuzzy profound” words or phrases. They give the appearance that deep thinking is going on, but usually it isn’t.

Contemporary intellectual life, Saul Bellow implies in “Herzog” (1964), is filled with fuzzy-profound terms. Herzog writes to Martin Heidegger: “I should like to know what you mean by the expression ‘the fall into the quotidian.’ When did this fall occur? Where were we standing when it happened?”

. . . .

Perhaps the best-known fuzzy-profound word is “modernity.” The OED’s second definition is “an intellectual tendency or social perspective characterized by departure from or repudiation of traditional ideas, doctrines, and cultural values in favour of contemporary or radical values and beliefs (chiefly those of scientific rationalism and liberalism).”

. . . .

Some writers deem the present “late modernity”—and also, believe it or not, “liquid modernity.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

PG was reminded of George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language:

MOST PEOPLE WHO BOTHER with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language−−so the argument runs−−must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half−conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad−−I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen−−but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative samples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

(1) I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth−century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien (sic) to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate. PROFESSOR HAROLD LASKI (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

(2) Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes such egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate or put at a loss for bewilder. PROFESSOR LANCELOT HOGBEN (Interglossa)

(3) On the one side we have the free personality; by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self−secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity? ESSAY ON PSYCHOLOGY in Politics (New York)

(4) All the “best people” from the gentlemen’s clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror of the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty−bourgeoisie to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis. COMMUNIST PAMPHLET

(5) If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may lee sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion’s roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream−−as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes, or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as “standard English.” When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o’clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school−ma’am−ish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens. LETTER IN Tribune

Link to the rest at PublicLibrary.UK

PG doesn’t recall reading or hearing the term, “lee sound,” as included in paragraph (5) before.

He searched online and found a reference to “geddy lee sound,” on a website called TalkBase.com which evidently is a place where rock guitarists gather.

He further learned that Geddy Lee Weinrib is “vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for the Canadian rock group Rush” but doubts base guitars was the image which the author of the Letter to the Tribune meant to evoke by using the term, “lee sound.”

(Although PG must acknowledge that “ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place,” a phrase also included in the Letter in the Tribune, could be talking about a base guitar riff if Langham Place, (“a short street in Westminster, central London, England”) was hosting Geddy Lee rock concerts in 1946, when Politics and the English Language was first published.)

Unfortunately, the creator of the Geddy Lee sound was born in 1953, so that possible explanation fails. Additionally, PG was not able to find anything linking Mr. Lee’s guitar performances to “effete languors”.

How I Write About Anything — And I Get Paid For It

From Medium:

One of my best-received articles ever was about cigars, written for a highly specialized magazine. I knew nothing about cigars, I’d never smoked one, and I was utterly clueless about them right until the day I took on the assignment.

Five days later, I delivered a story so well-crafted, informative, and inspiring, that they accepted the article and hired me on the spot. I never told them that five days ago, I could not tell the one end of the cigar from the other. They congratulated me, and I got paid.

Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of articles for printed magazines and online publications about:

  • Technology and gadgets
  • Economy and commerce
  • Startups and business
  • Self-help
  • US politics and international relations
  • Health and fitness
  • Environment
  • Sex advice
  • History
  • I’ve also worked for a TV documentary series.

I’m not an expert by profession in any of these fields. I hold no college degree. All I have is my curiosity, and the ability to turn large pieces of information into easily consumed chunks of every-day wisdom.

. . . .

Step 1: Find a subject that appeals to you

It’s much easier to write about something that inspires you. Only your interests can boost your curiosity. I once wrote a how-to story about scuba diving in the Greek islands. I knew nothing about scuba, but I love snorkeling and marine life. The connection was already there.

Step 2: Research

It’s the Internet age; everything is one click away. Start reading articles, essays, and book summaries. Watch TED talks, keep notes, highlight content. Put an asterisk on terms or ideas you don’t understand.

For my cigar story, I read several magazines and online articles. I made a list of applicable terms that would make me appear as an expert. I interviewed the owner of a cigar shop with carefully crafted questions. And I googled everything to death.

Step 3: Ask an expert

Most people love to share their wisdom. Find an expert in the subject and pick her brain. But do your homework. You don’t want to appear silly or clueless. They will appreciate it if you arrive prepared.

Take notes, highlight terms, use whole sentences, and attribute them to the expert. Your information needs to be valid and verifiable. Your audience needs facts, not just your opinion.

Step 4: Connect the dots

With all the information in hand, start making connections. For me, it’s all about comprehension and interpretation. A successful columnist is the one who can find hidden relationships between seemingly unconnected items.

Your readers will be delighted to discover unexpected connections that, in hindsight, look perfectly explainable. Where everyone sees a cooking pot, you will show them the Ursa Major.

Step 5: Explain it to a child

Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” The online audience has the attention span of a six-year-old, and you need to keep their attention long enough to continue reading.

. . . .

Step 6: Wrap it like a present

Everybody loves gifts. Your readers will be delighted to find hard-collected information with profound meaning, in easily consumed paragraphs and a scannable format.

Link to the rest at Medium

PG thinks the OP explains a lot about the quality of much of the information he finds online.

Writing is Thinking

From Steph Smith:

If you told me 5 years ago that I would one day lead a 20-person Publications team or have a personal blog that’s read by hundreds of thousands, I would’ve laughed in surprise. Yet somehow, I’ve found myself in that reality. Here we are.

People often ask how I approach writing, so I decided to share this piece to sway the self-conscious writer inside each one of us. I hope it encourages others to develop a practice that enables them to write with confidence, by simply sharing how I’ve designed my own.

“Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are.” – The War of Art

. . . .

Anyone that struggles with writing (or any creative pursuit, really) knows that when it doesn’t feel right, it’s not something that you can force. And if you do, you end up with a blank slate covered in word vomit.

But what most people don’t realize is that the resistance to writing is not unlike the resistance to other skills. And the antidote? Practice. Exposure. Iteration.

Practice makes any seemingly impossible task familiar. You can learn to write.

So since the days of braces and locker accessories, I’ve learned to write in a way that isn’t so scary. And the more I write, the more I feel the flywheel effect in action. I hope this article inspires the writer inside each person reading this, through the understanding that writing is a skill that can be acquired through continuous effort, easily accessed by creating a process with less friction.

. . . .

The first step to becoming “a writer” is acknowledging that no metric defines someone as “a writer”. And that anyone unabashedly claiming to be an expert, is likely far from it. You know what makes you a writer? Writing.

Each time you write a page, you are a writer. Each time you practice the violin, you are a musician. Each time you start a workout, you are an athlete. Each time you encourage your employees, you are a leader. – Atomic Habits

Writing, just like all else, is a muscle that can be flexed and built up into a habitual process that eventually flows. Because at its core, writing is simple: it’s a method of sharing your thoughts.

Link to the rest at Steph Smith

PG was about to share some thoughts, but decided not to do so.

Perhaps it’s because he’s really an attorney, not an author.

Attorneys tend to share opinions. Should you have any doubts about that, Mrs. PG can allay them.

Chekhov’s Gun: The Importance of Follow-Through in Fiction

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Anton Chekhov, the Russian playwright, also wrote short stories, essays and instructions for young writers. Probably his most famous writerly advice is this admonition:

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”

In other words, remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If chapter one says your mild-mannered reporter heroine won a bunch of trophies for archery which she displays prominently alongside her handmade Mongolian horse longbow, she’d better darn well shoot an arrow before the story is done.

. . . .

Yeah, but what if that longbow is there to show us what her apartment looks like? It’s good to show her décor, because it gives an insight into her character, right?

It depends. Yes, we do want to use details to set tone and give depth to our characters. Ruth Harris told us all about that in her post on using details to create memorable characters.

But the key is how you stress those details when you first present them. If there’s a whole paragraph about those archery trophies, or the characters have a conversation about the Mongolian  horse longbow, you gotta shoot some arrows. But if there’s just a cursory mention, “her apartment walls were decorated with an odd assortment of personal trophies and exotic weapons” then you can leave them on the wall.

. . . .

Wait just a goldern minute, sez you. I write mysteries. Mysteries need to have irrelevant clues and red herrings. Otherwise the story will be over before chapter seven.

This is true. But mystery writers need to manage their red herrings. If the deceased met his demise via arrow, probably shot by a Mongolian horse longbow, then Missy Mild-Mannered Reporter is going to look like a very viable subject to the local constabulary.

But of course she didn’t do it because she’s our hero, so the longbow and the trophies are red herrings.

But they still need to be “fired.” Maybe not like Chekhov’s gun, but they need to come back into the story and be reckoned with. Like maybe the real killer visited her apartment earlier when delivering pizza, then broke in to “borrow” the longbow in order to make Missy look like the murderous archer.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

The difference between creative and critical voice

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

We spend a lot of time at workshops discussing the difference between creative voice and critical voice. When I teach, I really want to nurture the creative voice. But I do need to give guidance, and some of that sounds critical. Because we’ve all been through decades of schooling, we also hear the voice of the teacher as “the authority.” I do what I can to mitigate that, in that, I don’t want my students to think my voice is the correct one, particularly when it comes to their vision.

I might have misunderstood their vision. I might not know exactly what they’re trying to do. Or, in some ways, worse, I might not like the kind of fiction they’re writing, and that seeps out in some of my comments.

So I’m constantly thinking about the difference between creative and critical voice during workshop weeks. I’m also monitoring myself, because if I’m not careful, teaching can make me too critical of myself.

I thought I had escaped that part. I love teaching romance. Even though it’s the hardest genre to write well, it’s also the happiest. A happily ever after ending is an essential part of the genre. And so, instead of looking to the worst of humanity, when we write romance, we write about the best.

. . . .

The next morning, I woke up with my own voice in my head, repeating a line from the KIckstarter script I wrote: Because I couldn’t help myself, I wrote two of the longer stories, and an entire novel.

And then I stomped around the condo, because I realized that—dang it—the critical voice had been there all along.

You see, I’ve been whining that 2019 isn’t as good a writing year as I want. I wanted to get to a big project that I’ve been looking forward to, but I need to finish a few things first. And I’m nowhere near finishing those things.

I also had to drop a lot of work because we had a crisis at WMG when Allyson Longueira had emergency brain surgery. We’ve had some tough years the past few years. I was the emergency in 2018; Allyson in 2019. I’m hoping that 2020 is much, much better.

So I lost writing time. A lot of it, as I took on other projects that needed finishing.

. . . .

But that sentence from the Kickstarter script—Because I couldn’t help myself, I wrote two of the longer stories, and an entire novel—kept coming up in my brain all day Friday. I noodled over that sentence.

Because I had been telling myself, severely and somewhat angrily, that I haven’t been doing enough. I haven’t been writing enough. Not enough new words.

Even though, I did the two novellas and that novel from March to August, while doing other things. And I finished some big projects in January and February in prep for the even bigger project that I haven’t gotten to.

None of that counts the work I’ve done here, on this business blog, because that’s nonfiction, and I don’t count nonfiction. Just like I don’t count editing, because none of that is new words of fiction, which is all I do count.

And yes, I’ve had to take some time away, but Holy Carpal Tunnel, Batman, I have been doing a lot of fiction writing just the same. I had thought of it as things that either got in the way (some promised fiction for anthologies/other people’s projects), the stories for the Holiday Spectacular, and the novel that I had started thinking it was a novella.

If I total my words, I’m down a bit from pre-2016 levels, but not much. And I’m better than I was in 2018 by a long shot.

So the critical voice, for me, had moved from what’s wrong with the fiction to what’s wrong with production. And it had been lashing me, hard, in ways that I would never allow an actual person to do.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper

From Nature:

For the past two decades, Cormac McCarthy — whose ten novels include The RoadNo Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian — has provided extensive editing to numerous faculty members and postdocs at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in New Mexico. He has helped to edit works by scientists such as Harvard University’s first tenured female theoretical physicist, Lisa Randall, and physicist Geoffrey West, who authored the popular-science book Scale.

Van Savage, a theoretical biologist and ecologist, first met McCarthy in 2000, and they overlapped at the SFI for about four years while Savage was a graduate student and then a postdoc. Savage has received invaluable editing advice from McCarthy on several science papers published over the past 20 years. While on sabbatical at the SFI during the winter of 2018, Savage had lively weekly lunches with McCarthy. They worked to condense McCarthy’s advice to its most essential points so that it could be shared with everyone. These pieces of advice were combined with thoughts from evolutionary biologist Pamela Yeh and are presented here. McCarthy’s most important tip is to keep it simple while telling a coherent, compelling story. The following are more of McCarthy’s words of wisdom, as told by Savage and Yeh.

  • Use minimalism to achieve clarity. While you are writing, ask yourself: is it possible to preserve my original message without that punctuation mark, that word, that sentence, that paragraph or that section? Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.
  • Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.
  • Limit each paragraph to a single message. A single sentence can be a paragraph. Each paragraph should explore that message by first asking a question and then progressing to an idea, and sometimes to an answer. It’s also perfectly fine to raise questions in a paragraph and leave them unanswered.

. . . .

  • Don’t over-elaborate. Only use an adjective if it’s relevant. Your paper is not a dialogue with the readers’ potential questions, so don’t go overboard anticipating them. Don’t say the same thing in three different ways in any single section. Don’t say both ‘elucidate’ and ‘elaborate’. Just choose one, or you risk that your readers will give up.

    And don’t worry too much about readers who want to find a way to argue about every tangential point and list all possible qualifications for every statement. Just enjoy writing.

  • With regard to grammar, spoken language and common sense are generally better guides for a first draft than rule books. It’s more important to be understood than it is to form a grammatically perfect sentence.

Link to the rest at Nature

The Universe in a Sentence: On Aphorisms

From The Millions:

“A fragment ought to be entirely isolated from the surrounding world like a little work of art and complete in itself like a hedgehog.”
Friedrich SchlegelAthenaeum Fragments (1798)

“I dream of immense cosmologies, sagas, and epics all reduced to the dimensions of an epigram.”
Italo CalvinoSix Memos for the Next Millennium (1988)

From its first capital letter to the final period, an aphorism is not a string of words but rather a manifesto, a treatise, a monograph, a jeremiad, a sermon, a disputation, a symposium. An aphorism is not a sentence, but rather a microcosm unto itself; an entrance through which a reader may walk into a room the dimensions of which even the author may not know. Our most economic and poetic of prose forms, the aphorism does not feign argumentative completism like the philosophical tome, nor does it compel certainty as does the commandment—the form is cagey, playful, and mysterious. To either find an aphorism in the wild, or to peruse examples in a collection that mounts them like butterflies nimbly held in place with push-pin on Styrofoam, is to have a literary-naturalist’s eye for the remarkable, for the marvelous, for the wondrous. And yet there has been, at least until recently, a strange critical lacuna as concerns aphoristic significance. Scholar Gary Morson writes in The Long and Short of It: From Aphorism to Novel that though they “constitute the shortest [of] literary genres, they rarely attract serious study. Universities give courses on the novel, epic, and lyric…But I know of no course on…proverbs, wise sayings, witticisms and maxims.”

An example of literary malpractice, for to consider an aphorism is to imbibe the purest distillation of a mind contemplating itself. In an aphorism every letter and word counts; every comma and semicolon is an invitation for the reader to discover the sacred contours of her own thought. Perhaps answering Morson’s observation, critic Andrew Hui writes in his new study A Theory of the Aphorism: From Confucius to Twitter that the form is “Opposed to the babble of the foolish, the redundancy of bureaucrats, the silence of mystics, in the aphorism nothing is superfluous, every word bear weight.” An aphorism isn’t a sentence—it’s an earthquake captured in a bottle. It isn’t merely a proverb, a quotation, an epigraph, or an epitaph; it’s fire and lightning circumscribed by the rules of syntax and grammar, where rhetoric itself becomes the very stuff of thought. “An aphorism,” Friedrich Nietzsche aphoristically wrote, “is an audacity.”

. . . .

[A]phorism is rife in the pre-Socratic philosophy that remains, from Heraclitus’s celebrated observation that “You can’t step into the same river twice” to Parmenides’s exactly opposite contention that “It is indifferent to me where I am to begin, for there shall I return again.” Thus is identified one of the most difficult qualities of the form—that it’s possible to say conflicting things and that by virtue of how you say them you’ll still sound wise. A dangerous form, the aphorism, for it can confuse rhetoric for knowledge. Yet perhaps that’s too limiting a perspective, and maybe its better to think of the chain of aphorisms as a great and confusing conversation; a game in which both truth and its opposite can still be true.

Link to the rest at The Millions

PG did some quick hunting for aphorisms and discovered the following:

  • There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told.
    Edgar Allan Poe
  • Who would venture upon the journey of life, if compelled to begin it at the end?
    Francoise d`Aubigne Marquise de Maintenon
  • There are no solved problems; there are only problems that are more or less solved.
    Jules Henri Poincare
  • Life isn`t hard to manage when you`ve nothing to lose.
    Ernest Hemingway
  • It takes a woman twenty years to make a man of her son, and another woman twenty minutes to make a fool of him.
    Helen Rowland
  • In school, every period ends with a bell. Every sentence ends with a period. Every crime ends with a sentence.
    Steven Wright


Our Brains Tell Stories so We Can Live

From Nautilis:

We are all storytellers; we make sense out of the world by telling stories. And science is a great source of stories. Not so, you might argue. Science is an objective collection and interpretation of data. I completely agree. At the level of the study of purely physical phenomena, science is the only reliable method for establishing the facts of the world.

But when we use data of the physical world to explain phenomena that cannot be reduced to physical facts, or when we extend incomplete data to draw general conclusions, we are telling stories. Knowing the atomic weight of carbon and oxygen cannot tell us what life is. There are no naked facts that completely explain why animals sacrifice themselves for the good of their kin, why we fall in love, the meaning and purpose of existence, or why we kill each other.

Science is not at fault. On the contrary, science can save us from false stories. It is an irreplaceable means of understanding our world. But despite the verities of science, many of our most important questions compel us to tell stories that venture beyond the facts. For all of the sophisticated methodologies in science, we have not moved beyond the story as the primary way that we make sense of our lives.

To see where science and story meet, let’s take a look at how story is created in the brain. Let’s begin with an utterly simple example of a story, offered by E. M. Forster in his classic book on writing, Aspects of the Novel: “The king died and then the queen died.” It is nearly impossible to read this juxtaposition of events without wondering why the queen died. Even with a minimum of description, the construction of the sentence makes us guess at a pattern. Why would the author mention both events in the same sentence if he didn’t mean to imply a causal relationship?

Once a relationship has been suggested, we feel obliged to come up with an explanation. This makes us turn to what we know, to our storehouse of facts. It is general knowledge that a spouse can die of grief. Did the queen then die of heartbreak? This possibility draws on the science of human behavior, which competes with other, more traditional narratives. A high school student who has been studying Hamlet, for instance, might read the story as a microsynopsis of the play.

. . . .

The pleasurable feeling that our explanation is the right one—ranging from a modest sense of familiarity to the powerful and sublime “a-ha!”—is meted out by the same reward system in the brain integral to drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions. The reward system extends from the limbic area of the brain, vital to the expression of emotion, to the prefrontal cortex, critical to executive thought. Though still imperfectly understood, it is generally thought that the reward system plays a central role in the promotion and reinforcement of learning. Key to the system, and found primarily within its brain cells, is dopamine, a neurotransmitter that carries and modulates signals among brain cells. Studies consistently show that feeling rewarded is accompanied by a rise in dopamine levels.

. . . .

Critical to understanding how stories spark the brain’s reward system is the theory known as pattern recognition—the brain’s way of piecing together a number of separate components of an image into a coherent picture. The first time you see a lion, for instance, you have to figure out what you’re seeing. At least 30 separate areas of the brain’s visual cortex pitch in, each processing an aspect of the overall image—from the detection of motion and edges, to the register of color and facial features. Collectively they form an overall image of a lion.

Each subsequent exposure to a lion enhances your neural circuitry; the connections among processing regions become more robust and efficient. (This theory, based on the research of Canadian psychologist Donald O. Hebb, a pioneer in studying how people learn, is often stated as “cells that fire together wire together.”) Soon, less input is necessary to recognize the lion. A fleeting glimpse of a partial picture is sufficient for recognition, which occurs via positive feedback from your reward system. Yes, you are assured by your brain, that is a lion.

. . . .

Science is in the business of making up stories called hypotheses and testing them, then trying its best to make up better ones. Thought-experiments can be compared to storytelling exercises using well-known characters. What would Sherlock Holmes do if he found a body suspended in a tree with a note strapped to its ankle? What would a light ray being bounced between two mirrors look like to an observer sitting on a train? Once done with their story, scientists go to the lab to test it; writers call editors to see if they will buy it.

People and science are like bread and butter. We are hardwired to need stories; science has storytelling buried deep in its nature. But there is also a problem. We can get our dopamine reward, and walk away with a story in hand, before science has finished testing it. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the brain, hungry for its pattern-matching dopamine reward, overlooks contradictory or conflicting information whenever possible. A fundamental prerequisite for pattern recognition is the ability to quickly distinguish between similar but not identical inputs. Not being able to pigeonhole an event or idea makes it much more difficult for the brain to label and store it as a discrete memory. Neat and tidy promotes learning; loose ends lead to the “yes, but” of indecision and inability to draw a precise conclusion.

Link to the rest at Nautilus

Why You Should Have (at Least) Two Careers

From The Harvard Business Review:

It’s not uncommon to meet a lawyer who’d like to work in renewable energy, or an app developer who’d like to write a novel, or an editor who fantasizes about becoming a landscape designer. Maybe you also dream about switching to a career that’s drastically different from your current job. But in my experience, it’s rare for such people to actually make the leap. The costs of switching seem too high, and the possibility of success seems too remote.

But the answer isn’t to plug away in your current job, unfulfilled and slowly burning out. I think the answer is to do both. Two careers are better than one. And by committing to two careers, you will produce benefits for both.

In my case, I have four vocations: I’m a corporate strategist at a Fortune 500 company, US Navy Reserve officer, author of several books, and record producer. The two questions that people ask me most frequently are “How much do you sleep?” and “How do you find time to do it all?” (my answers: “plenty” and “I make the time”). Yet these “process” questions don’t get to the heart of my reasons and motivations. Instead, a more revealing query would be, “Why do you have multiple careers?” Quite simply, working many jobs makes me happier and leaves me more fulfilled. It also helps me perform better at each job. Here’s how.

. . . .

My corporate job paycheck subsidizes my record producing career. With no track record as a producer, nobody was going to pay me to produce his or her music, and it wasn’t money that motivated me to become a producer in the first place — it was my passion for jazz and classical music. Therefore, I volunteered so that I could gain experience in this new industry. My day job not only afforded me the capital to make albums, but it taught me the skills to succeed as a producer. A good producer should be someone who knows how to create a vision, recruit personnel, establish a timeline, raise money, and deliver products.

. . . .

t the same time, I typically invite my corporate clients to recording sessions. For someone who works at an office all day, it’s exciting to go “behind-the-scenes” and interact with singers, musicians, and other creative professionals.

. . . .

[O]ne of my clients wanted to understand what Chinese citizens were saying to each other. Because I am an author, I have gotten to know other writers, so I reached out to my friend who was a journalist at a periodical that monitors chatter in China. Not restricted by the compliance department of a bank, he was able to give an unbridled perspective to my client, who was most appreciative.

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

PG didn’t notice this when it first appeared in 2017, but thinks it may be interesting for many indie authors.

The Creative Compulsions of OCD

From The Paris Review:

Here is my morning routine: when I get out of bed, my feet must touch the edge of the rug, one at a time, while I softly vocalize two magic words that are best described as puffing and plosive sounds. If my feet don’t touch correctly, or if I don’t say the words right, I get back in bed and try again. Once I have properly performed this initial procedure, I again tap my left foot on the carpet while vocalizing the first magic word, and then—while holding my breath and without moving my mouth or tongue one millimeter during the duration—I silently incant a phrase that is far too nonsensical and embarrassing to share publicly, then tap my right foot while vocalizing the second magic word.

This can take anywhere from ten seconds, if I’m lucky, to two or three minutes. Once executed to my satisfaction, I am able to go downstairs, unplug my phone and perform roughly the same procedure on it, with my thumbs instead of my feet, and then I am allowed to use my phone. Likewise, the refrigerator door when I’m making coffee. Likewise, the edges of my laptop when I power it on. With these routines completed, I can start my day, open a Word document, and begin writing.

I realize this sounds bad, but it’s a compromise I’ve reached after decades of managing my obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’ve gone cold turkey before, renouncing all habits and tics but they eventually creep back in. A therapist once described OCD behaviors as a “blob,” which felt apt—whatever part of it you press down on, another part bulges back up. These little routines are, in a sense, a deal I make with myself, so I don’t have to perform random routines all day long. Not doing them is not an option. If I don’t do them, the world will end.

I can’t remember exactly when it began. As is true of so many disorders, medical literature generally links OCD with the onset of adolescence, and this tracks with my earliest OCD memories: missing the bus to middle school because I had to touch mailboxes and the curb in a certain sequence; playing songs on my cassette deck over and over in order to pause on an exact word or chord; staying up in my teenage basement lair, flicking the lights on and off in patterns that, if my parents had noticed, would have looked like some Morse code call for help, which in a way, it was.

The most vivid memory I have from this era is typing out the final draft of an English paper over and over. I’d written and revised it first by longhand in a notebook, in anticipation of the Sisyphean task to come. The rule I’d set for myself—or rather, the rule that had mercilessly evolved over the course of the school year—was that if I made one error typing, I had to erase the whole thing and start over. When I typoed in the final paragraph, I deleted all four pages and took a break to cry. I finally pecked the last period when the sun was coming up.

. . . .

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the carpeted stairs of our home, suddenly aware of my heartbeat. I was perhaps four, and I was convinced that I was having a heart attack. I listened to it thudding away in my chest and expected to die with each little rush. When I was eight or nine, I became terrified by and obsessed with a Time Magazine article about something called AIDS.

. . . .

The vague motivating threat for not touching a curb or counting to a certain number was always an imaginary illness—ironic given the very real illness I actually had: although it took me decades to realize it, by thirteen, I was suffering from a full-blown mental health crisis.

. . . .

Controlling a sentence—controlling this sentence, as I type—is for me the best, most pleasurable work there is. I build the paragraph, tagged by its thematic first word: control. In crafting this sentence, this paragraph, this essay, I get to be both architect and construction worker, and both jobs offer equally pleasing aspects of control. The former involves creative design and abstract thought; the latter brings the visceral, simultaneously logical and intuitive pleasure of finding the right word, moving it around, putting it in just the right place. Having written that sentence, I know I must reverse myself and concede that the idea of there being “just the right place” is illusory—that even this work is, in its essence, as arbitrary as anything else. This is true, but nonetheless as I write, I shut out the world, other responsibilities, Twitter, the news, everything.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

An Author Heads to the Stage

From Publishing Perspectives:

As I bundled up my 225-page memoir manuscript and mailed it to editor Jane Rosenman, I hoped she would reveal the magic formula for transforming my pages into a book. I’d received glowing rejections but still no takers for my story, The Inheritance, about how, six weeks after my mother died, I discovered that she had disinherited me, and my quest to understand why.

Although Rosenman found much to praise, some aspects of my story still weren’t working, including a whiff of bitterness on the page. Yet who wouldn’t be bitter after being blindsided from beyond the grave? But the problem with bitterness, I later discovered, is that it lacks drama.

As I was revising the manuscript, I received an invitation to perform a 10-minute story with Portland Story Theater in Oregon, where I live. When I walked onto the stage, into the pressure cooker of live performance, something happened: my bitterness transformed into humor, and I discovered a liveliness and emotional depth that had not been as evident on the page.

Was I onto something that could help me crack open my story? To find out, I enrolled in a solo performance class with Seth Barrish at New York City’s Barrow Group Theatre, who I then hired to help me craft a performance of my story. With script in hand, I secured a director—Lauren Bloom Hanover—and performed the 50-minute, one-person show, retitled Firstborn, at Performance Works Northwest in Portland, as part of the Fertile Ground Festival. My minitour culminated with my off-Broadway performance at the United Solo Theatre Festival last October, where Jane was in the audience.

. . . .

By telling my story on stage, I found not only its through line but also its beating heart. Writing for performance also gave me more to work with than just the words. Now I had my body, voice, lighting, and music, plus props and images. Also, I could take shortcuts: a transition could be made with a turn of my body or a look to the audience. As Jane said when I spoke with her afterward, the demands of performance helped me get to the “nub of the story.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives


‘Close’ Proximity, ‘End’ Result, and More Redundant Words to Delete from Your Writing

From Medium:

There’s a lot of deleting in copyediting, not just of the “very”s and “rather”s and “quite”s and excrescent “that”s with which we all encase our prose like so much Bubble Wrap and packing peanuts, but of restatements of information — “as estab’d,” one politely jots in the margin.

Much repetition, though, comes under the more elementary heading of Two Words Where One Will Do, and here’s a collection of easily disposed of redundancies. Some of these may strike you as obvious — though their obviousness doesn’t stop them from showing up constantly. Others are a little more arcane — the sorts of things you could likely get away with without anyone’s noticing — but they’re snippable nonetheless.

In either case, for those moments when you’re contemplating that either you or your prose could stand to go on a diet and your prose seems the easier target, here’s a good place to start.

(The bits in italics are the bits you can dispose of.)

  • ABM missile
    ABM = anti-ballistic missile.
  • absolutely certain, absolute certainty, absolutely essential
  • added bonus
  • advance planning, advance warning
  • all-time record
    As well, one doesn’t set a “new record.” One merely sets a record.

. . . .

  • exact same 
    To be sure, “exact same” is redundant. To be sure, I still say it and write it.
  • fall down
    What are you going to do, fall up?
  • fellow countryman
  • fetch back 
    To fetch something is not merely to go get it but to go get it and return with it to the starting place. Ask a dog.
  • few in number
  • fiction novel 
    Appalling. A novel is a work of fiction. That’s why it’s called a novel. That said, “nonfiction novel” is not the oxymoron it might at first seem. The term refers to the genre pioneered — though not, as is occasionally averred, invented — by Truman Capote with In Cold Blood, that of the work of nonfiction written novelistically. Lately one encounters people referring to any full-length book, even a work of nonfiction, as a novel. That has to stop.
  • final outcome
  • follow after
  • free gift
    A classic of the redundancy genre, much beloved of retailers and advertisers.
  • from whence
    Whence means “from where,” which makes “from whence” pretty damn redundant. Still, the phrase has a lot of history, including, from the King James Version of the Bible, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” So I suppose you can write “from whence” if you’re also talking about thine eyes and the place your help is comething from.
    For a dazzling (and purposeful) use of “from whence,” consider Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls lyric “Take back your mink / to from whence it came” — gorgeously appropriate for the tawdry nightclub number in which it’s sung.
  • frontispiece illustration
    A frontispiece is an illustration immediately preceding, and generally facing, a book’s title page.
  • full gamut
    A gamut is the full range or scope of something, so the word needs no modifier. Ditto “complete range,” “broad spectrum,” “full extent,” and their cousins.

Link to the rest at Medium

The Problem with Sarcasm

“Well, that was super helpful.”

Was it? Or are you trying to be sarcastic?

Because if it was helpful, you could simply write, “thank you, that was helpful.”

On the other hand, if you’re trying to express disappointment or displeasure, you could write, “I’m disappointed that you weren’t able to contribute more here. We were really looking forward to your input.”

The problem with sarcasm is that the level of displeasure is hidden. You might come across as snarky when you don’t mean to, or, the snarkiness you were sending might not land.

My new rule of thumb is to always assume goodwill and ignore any perceived sarcasm. Call it a Type II sarcasm-detection error.

It’s hard to imagine a situation where sarcasm is the most effective way to make your point.

Link to the rest at Seth’s Blog

The Birth of the Semicolon

From The Paris Review:

The semicolon was born in Venice in 1494. It was meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon, and this heritage was reflected in its form, which combines half of each of those marks. It was born into a time period of writerly experimentation and invention, a time when there were no punctuation rules, and readers created and discarded novel punctuation marks regularly. Texts (both handwritten and printed) record the testing-out and tinkering-with of punctuation by the fifteenth-century literati known as the Italian humanists. The humanists put a premium on eloquence and excellence in writing, and they called for the study and retranscription of Greek and Roman classical texts as a way to effect a “cultural rebirth” after the gloomy Middle Ages. In the service of these two goals, humanists published new writing and revised, repunctuated, and reprinted classical texts.

One of these humanists, Aldus Manutius, was the matchmaker who paired up comma and colon to create the semicolon. Manutius was a printer and publisher, and the first literary Latin text he issued was De Aetna, by his contemporary Pietro Bembo. De Aetna was an essay, written in dialogue form, about climbing volcanic Mount Etna in Italy. On its pages lay a new hybrid mark, specially cut for this text by the Bolognese type designer Francesco Griffo: the semicolon (and Griffo dreamed up a nice plump version) is sprinkled here and there throughout the text, conspiring with colons, commas, and parentheses to aid readers.

. . . .

The semicolon had successfully colonized the letter cases of the best presses in Europe, but other newborn punctuation marks were not so lucky. The humanists tried out a lot of new punctuation ideas, but most of those marks had short life spans. Some of the printed texts that appeared in the centuries surrounding the semicolon’s birth look as though they are written partially in secret code: they are filled with mysterious dots, dashes, swoops, and curlicues. There were marks for the minutest distinctions and the most specific occasions. For instance, there was once a punctus percontativus, or rhetorical question mark, which was a mirror-image version of the question mark. Why did the semicolon survive and thrive when other marks did not? Probably because it was useful. Readers, writers, and printers found that the semicolon was worth the trouble to insert. The rhetorical question mark, on the other hand, faltered and then fizzled out completely. This isn’t too surprising: does anyone really need a special punctuation mark to know when a question is rhetorical?

. . . .

In humanist times, just as in our own, hand-wringing sages forecast a literary apocalypse precipitated by too-casual attitudes about punctuation. “It is not concealed from you how great a shortage there is of intelligent scribes in these times,” wrote one French humanist to another,

and above all in transcribing those things which observe style to any degree; in which unless points and marks of distinctions, by which the style flows through the colacommata, and periodi, are separated with more attentive diligence, that which is written is confused and barbarous … Which carelessness, in my opinion, has occurred chiefly since we have for a long time lacked eloquence, in which these things are necessary: the ancient manner of handwriting, therefore, in which the scribes of books (antiquarii) were gradually writing a perfect and correctly formed script with precise punctuation (certa distinctione) of clausulae and with notes of accentuation, has perished together with the art of expression (dictatu).

The entire art of expression—dead, because careless writers just couldn’t hack it when it came to punctuation.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

What People Actually Say Before They Die

From The Atlantic:

Mort Felix liked to say that his name, when read as two Latin words, meant “happy death.” When he was sick with the flu, he used to jokingly remind his wife, Susan, that he wanted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played at his deathbed. But when his life’s end arrived at the age of 77, he lay in his study in his Berkeley, California, home, his body besieged by cancer and his consciousness cradled in morphine, uninterested in music and refusing food as he dwindled away over three weeks in 2012. “Enough,” he told Susan. “Thank you, and I love you, and enough.” When she came downstairs the next morning, she found Felix dead.

During those three weeks, Felix had talked. He was a clinical psychologist who had also spent a lifetime writing poetry, and though his end-of-life speech often didn’t make sense, it seemed to draw from his attention to language. “There’s so much so in sorrow,” he said at one point. “Let me down from here,” he said at another. “I’ve lost my modality.” To the surprise of his family members, the lifelong atheist also began hallucinating angels and complaining about the crowded room—even though no one was there.

Felix’s 53-year-old daughter, Lisa Smartt, kept track of his utterances, writing them down as she sat at his bedside in those final days. Smartt majored in linguistics at UC Berkeley in the 1980s and built a career teaching adults to read and write. Transcribing Felix’s ramblings was a sort of coping mechanism for her, she says. Something of a poet herself (as a child, she sold poems, three for a penny, like other children sold lemonade), she appreciated his unmoored syntax and surreal imagery. Smartt also wondered whether her notes had any scientific value, and eventually she wrote a book, Words on the Threshold, published in early 2017, about the linguistic patterns in 2,000 utterances from 181 dying people, including her father.

. . . .

To assess people’s “mental condition just before death,” MacDonald mined last-word anthologies, the only linguistic corpus then available, dividing people into 10 occupational categories (statesmen, philosophers, poets, etc.) and coding their last words as sarcastic, jocose, contented, and so forth. MacDonald found that military men had the “relatively highest number of requests, directions, or admonitions,” while philosophers (who included mathematicians and educators) had the most “questions, answers, and exclamations.” The religious and royalty used the most words to express contentment or discontentment, while the artists and scientists used the fewest.

MacDonald’s work “seems to be the only attempt to evaluate last words by quantifying them, and the results are curious,” wrote the German scholar Karl Guthke in his book Last Words, on Western culture’s long fascination with them. Mainly, MacDonald’s work shows that we need better data about verbal and nonverbal abilities at the end of life. One point that Guthke makes repeatedly is that last words, as anthologized in multiple languages since the 17th century, are artifacts of an era’s concerns and fascinations about death, not “historical facts of documentary status.” They can tell us little about a dying person’s actual ability to communicate.

. . . .

At the end of life, Keeley says, the majority of interactions will be nonverbal as the body shuts down and the person lacks the physical strength, and often even the lung capacity, for long utterances. “People will whisper, and they’ll be brief, single words—that’s all they have energy for,” Keeley said. Medications limit communication. So does dry mouth and lack of dentures. She also noted that family members often take advantage of a patient’s comatose state to speak their piece, when the dying person cannot interrupt or object.

. . . .

We have a rich picture of the beginnings of language, thanks to decades of scientific research with children, infants, and even babies in the womb. But if you wanted to know how language ends in the dying, there’s next to nothing to look up, only firsthand knowledge gained painfully.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Last words have a unique standing in the legal world.

From The Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School:


dying declaration is a statement made by a declarant, who is unavailable to testify in court (typically because of the declarant’s death), who made the statement under a belief of certain or impending death. The statement must also relate to what the declarant believed to be the cause or circumstances of the declarant’s impending death.


An out-of-court statement is referred to as hearsay. A dying declaration is a type of hearsay. However, unlike regular hearsay, a dying declaration is admissible in court. As such, a dying declaration is as an exception to the hearsay rule.

Other general rules of admissibility also apply, such as the requirement that the declaration must be based on the declarant’s actual knowledge.

Link to the rest at The Legal Information Institute

Needless to say, dying declarations are not commonly observed in most litigation. The theory behind the admissibility of such a statement is

1) Of course, the person who made the statement is not available to come to court and testify in person; and

2) A person at the end of his/her life is unlikely to tell a lie because she/he is about to face judgment in the world beyond.

PG is unaware of any studies which have explored whether dying declarations are, in fact, accurate and true, and the judge or jury trying a case in which a dying declaration may give such evidence the weight they believe it should have in coming to a final decision about the case.


Is Grammarly Worth It?

From The Write Life:

How do you write faster with fewer errors?

No matter how long you’ve bonded with your keyboard, it’s almost impossible to avoid errors, typos and grammatical mistakes.

. . . .

Grammarly is an AI-powered product that checks online grammar, spelling and plagiarism.

While our writers have tried a number of the best grammar checker tools, Grammarly is different because of its ability to check subject-verb agreement, article and modifier placement, punctuation and irregular verb conjugations. As an added bonus, it helps you improve your writing by offering synonym suggestions.

Creating a Grammarly account is free. A free account includes basic grammar and spelling checks. When you upgrade to Premium, you get access to advanced grammar checks, vocabulary suggestions, a plagiarism detector and style checks ⁠— which we’ll discuss in-depth in this review.

. . . .

Is Grammarly Premium worth it?

There are lots of free online proofreaders and spell checkers. Microsoft Word and Apple’s Pages can even detect grammatical errors, so is Grammarly worth the bang for your buck?

We tried out a premium membership, and here’s where we found the tool to be most helpful.

Polish your writing and eliminate grammar and spelling errors

There are a lot of ways to edit text based on context, tone or purpose ⁠— and Grammarly delivers on all fronts. Once a document is scanned by the AI assistant, suggestions are organized based on spelling, grammar, punctuation and clarity.

Spell check

Like most word processors, Grammarly identifies spelling mistakes in your document. If the word it spots isn’t an error, just add it to your personal dictionary.


View mistakes on your articles by clicking on text with a yellow or red underline. You’ll see errors on subject-verb agreement, suggested corrections and the rationale behind those suggestions. Incomplete sentences and rewrites are highlighted in yellow.

. . . .

I personally think their grammar suggestions are useful, especially for students and professionals who want to improve their writing. It’s often hard to pinpoint grammatical errors and why they’re a mistake in the first place, so I appreciate that once you download Grammarly, it provides detailed explanations.


We know most sentences end with a period, so when do you add commas, em dashes or colons? Not only can Grammarly suggest punctuation, it also detects inconsistencies like different styles of apostrophes or quotation marks. And it comes with an “update all” option so the entire document uses a consistent style.

. . . .


Have a tendency to use certain words again and again? Grammarly underlines those commonly used words and suggests specific synonyms to improve your work.

Grammarly makes suggestions based on variety, clarity, conciseness, consistency and so much more. Most online editing tools don’t go so far as to explain the rationale behind the mistake, so that’s a Grammarly feature I really appreciate. If you’re an aspiring grammar aficionado, this tool will help you learn!

Plagiarism checker

Ever received a guest post for your blog? How do you make sure some parts weren’t plagiarized?

Grammarly’s plagiarism checker scans the article and determines whether the text has a match with any page on the web. It also underlines the plagiarized text and determines its original source, so you can make sure you’re in the clear.

. . . .

Grammarly Chrome Extension

Marketers who often send email or create social media posts will be happy to know that Grammarly has a Chrome extension. Grammarly for Chrome is pretty brilliant — it lets you use the tool while writing emails and crafting social media posts.

. . . .

Set goals for writing

Here’s a feature that sets Grammarly apart from other grammar checkers: it suggests edits based on your content’s goals and audience.

Before you start writing an article, you can specify whether you’ll target general or expert readers. Choose the level of formality, and the editor can accommodate slang for informal pieces. You can even select multiple options to describe the post’s tone, domain and intent.

. . . .

For example, if I target a general audience and opt for an informal tone, I’ll get a high performance rating when the text is readable for younger audiences.

. . . .

I’ve tried several online editors — and I have to say that Grammarly is the best I’ve used so far.

I love the detailed explanations for grammatical mistakes because it helps me improve my writing in the long run. If I’m not a master of subject-verb agreement? Not sure where I should add commas? Grammarly’s got my back.

I frequently write lifestyle articles for news sites, and it’s a hassle to switch to an online thesaurus to find synonyms of commonly used words. With Grammarly’s suggested synonyms, there’s no need to find a thesaurus, which saves me time and effort.

The plagiarism checker is also useful, especially for online editors. It can be hard to spot bits and pieces of copied text, and this is the perfect solution, without needing to purchase a separate tool for this function.

Link to the rest at The Write Life

PG has used Grammarly for almost forever, but, like more than one computer user, has fallen into the trap of using it for the same things he always has. For him, the OP highlighted some additional features he needs to use more frequently.

What Draws Carter Wilson to the Dark Side

From Publishers Weekly:

I’m a happy person, though you wouldn’t think that based on a particular question I’m often presented with: what happened to you as a child? Hell, even my own mom has asked me that.

I write dark psychological suspense—tinged with horror—and the title of my sixth and latest release, The Dead Girl in 2A, does nothing to belie that fact. The space of fiction in which I exist is a cold, barely lit world where paranoia rules and people quite occasionally die—a place where trust is a rare commodity, hope is even more precious, and suffering is a requirement for (but not a guarantee of) absolution.

So people ask about my past: how I was raised, why I choose to write what I do.

My answer is always: I don’t know—however, I do have a theory.

To my memory (that’s the paranoia kicking in), I had a perfectly normal, suburban childhood: great parents, went to a good university, got a business degree. I was 33 when I decided to write a novel, having no prior experience with such an endeavor. And what I chose to write was dark. Really dark.

I got an agent with that first book, but it didn’t sell, nor did the three after that. But I kept writing and sold the following six books.

. . . .

So, here is my theory. I don’t think my dark thoughts are any different than those everyone has. When people ask about how I think of such things, I want to challenge them to tell me they don’t have morbid ideas of their own. I know they do, but they just don’t want to make that obvious, lest they be judged.

We all try so hard to hide what makes us stand out, and that’s a damn shame.

Not me. I relish my macabre side, and I love that I can create an environment that scares people, makes them lose sleep, yet keeps them turning the pages. And perhaps my greatest asset is the ability to turn it on and off.

I don’t think about my stories until the moment the laptop is open and my fingers are poised over the keyboard. Then I go into that world, maybe for only 30 minutes or an hour, imagining what happens when I place ordinary folks in extraordinary (and quite unpleasant) situations.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Against Style Guides — Sort Of

From Vulture:

When Lynne Truss wrote, in her best-selling 2003 grammar screed Eats, Shoots & Leaves, of “a world of plummeting punctuation standards,” she was (perhaps unwittingly) joining an ancient tradition. How long, exactly, have shortsighted curmudgeons been bemoaning the poor grammar of the generations that follow theirs? According to Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style, the answer is, like, forever: “Some of the clay tablets deciphered from ancient Sumerian include complaints about the deteriorating writing skills of the young.”

The notion of being taught language has always been oxymoronic because language is in a constant state of flux, a restless, malleable, impatient entity that, like the idea of now, can never be fixed in place. Take, for instance, the journey of the semicolon as chronicled in the delightful, enlightening new book by Cecelia Watson, Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark. The twisty history of the hybrid divider perfectly embodies the transience of language, the ways it can be shaped by cultural shifts that have nothing to do with correctness or clarity. Invented by the Italian humanist and font pioneer Aldus Manutius in the late-15th century, the semicolon was originally “meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon” (hence its design).

Other punctuation marks — such as the “punctus percontativus, or the rhetorical question mark, which was a mirror-image version of the question mark” — turned out to be passing fads, but the semicolon lasted, owing partly to its usefulness and partly to the trends of the day. For much of the early 1800s, usage of the parenthesis and the colon declined drastically. Two grammar guides of the time declared the parenthesis “nearly obsolete,” while another noted, “The COLON is now so seldom used by good writers that rules for its use are unnecessary.” As those marks waned, the semicolon waxed, flourishing to the point of overuse.

. . . .

Which brings us to the ubiquitous and notorious The Elements of Style, a 1918 primer by William Strunk, which E.B. White padded out and republished in 1959. In one breath, Strunk & White tell you how to correctly use a parenthesis; in the next they warn against “abominations” like personalize, and in yet another they decree, “Prefer the standard to the offbeat.” Are they teaching the best ways to communicate effectively, or merely passing on the preference of certain editors, writers, and linguists at a fixed point in time? And if language ceaselessly changes, can a grouping of informed suggestions remain useful? If, as I’m inclined to believe, they don’t help much at all, what can? How the hell can people improve their writing?

Let’s back up a bit: Why isn’t Strunk & White’s classic called The Elements of Grammar? For one, it dispenses with grammar in a total of nine pages.
For another, it arrived at the culmination of two centuries in which grammar and style had become synonymous — or, more accurately, had switched places. Grammar, in Lowth’s understanding, was style; since no Ur-grammar existed, even a book of so-called rules was understood to reflect the tastes of its author. But as guide after guide proliferated, and as academic consensus grew (or maybe shrank), the English language was systematized into a “logical” set of rubrics and procedures. By Fowler’s time, grammar had become Grammar, and style was what one did with it. Or should do with it: Where grammar and style were once considered to be sets of suggestions, both are now regarded as sets of commandments.

. . . .

The most famous injunction from Strunk & White — “Omit needless words” — is, of course, a style suggestion. But it is good advice nonetheless, and a vigilance against superfluity can legitimately improve your writing. Dreyer implores us to cut back on what he calls “Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers”: very, rather, really, quite, in fact, etc. This too is practical wisdom. But Strunk & White’s specific instruction to, for instance, “use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary” will only help you avoid a minor error, since using a parenthesis instead won’t make your writing less clear. And although the lucidity of Dreyer’s explanation of em and en dashes obviously comes from hard-lived experience, how exactly is it going to help me articulate the murky thoughts in my head?

Link to the rest at Vulture

How Long Should a Book Be?

From Medium:

Of all the questions I’m asked about writing how long should a book be? is right up there at the top. It comes up so often.

Often, it comes up because someone’s already written 120,000 words and they’ve got their fingers crossed that I’ll tell them that’s no big deal.

Or they’re hoping I’ll tell them that 40,000 is plenty long enough for a novel.

In theory, your book should be as long or short as it needs to be in order for you to tell your story.

And if you’re self-publishing, it really is that easy.

But if you plan on trying to be traditionally published, there are guidelines that are important to know and understand. Because agents and publishers use your book’s length as a way to decide whether or not to pursue your project.

Here’s the thing: Agents and Editors get gazillions of submissions every year. They actually take on a tiny percentage of them. Like, less than ten percent. So, they need a way to quickly weed out what they don’t want.

Manuscript word count is one of those ways. They know they won’t be able to sell a debut novel that’s 120,000 words or 40,000 words very easily, so they just pass.

. . . .

A standard adult or young adult novel should be less than 100,000 words. This is a hard stop for traditional publishing. Once you’re established, you can write longer books, but for a debut novel? Stick to the 70,000 to 90,000 word range. Like glue.

. . . .

Middle grade books are written for readers who are between the ages of about 8 to 12. The standard word count for this type of book is between 35,000 and 55,000 words.

. . . .

There are two kinds of writers out there. Some of us write short first drafts and in revision, we have to bulk things up. Some of us write long first drafts and in revision, we have to lean things down.

So, if your adult or YA book’s first draft is 40,000 words, you have some work to do — just like someone who’s first draft is 150,000 words.

I can practically hear you telling me that your book has to be 150,000 words — there’s nothing you can cut without ruining your story. Or that you’ve told your whole story in 40,000 words and adding anything is unthinkable.

Here’s the thing. If you indie publish, you can publish whatever you want. Including your 150,000 word monster of a book or your very slim volume.

Link to the rest at Medium

PG notes that the OP never discusses the length of ebooks.

When You Want to Write, but You’re Just Too Overwhelmed

From Medium:

Anyone who has followed me for any length of time knows that I’m all about teeny, tiny goals. You can write an entire novel every year if you really write for ten solid minutes a day.

But what if ten minutes is too much?

If you’re ill. If you’re overwhelmed with non-writing work. If you have a bunch of kids and a mountain of laundry and volunteer work and a job.

If you have all those things, asking you to give your art ten minutes can feel like asking you to give your art ten hours. Impossible. Just more than you can handle.

And when you feel that stuck, it can be super easy to just skip the whole thing.

Only skipping it doesn’t feel good. Because writing is your sanctuary. It’s the one thing you do for yourself, maybe. It’s your dream.

. . . .

Your teeny, tiny goal should be your actual, real, goal. You get full credit when you reach it and it’s 100 percent fine if you have days or weeks or months where you never go beyond it.

If you set a timer and write without stopping for ten minutes, you should be able to write at least a page. Maybe two.

If you can write 250 words in ten minutes (one double-spaced page), you’ll write 91,250 words in a year.

That’s a novel. A real, honest-to-God, novel.

Link to the rest at Medium

My Husband Read a Story I Wrote … Here’s What Happened

From Medium:

I felt the power of the undertow as soon as he began to talk. That suffocating sinking pull to make it better was filling my chest, my lungs. I was drowning in it.


This time, though, I wasn’t going down. It took me 22 years of this relationship to get to this place, to become this honest, and I just couldn’t go back. I knew that going down this time may mean never coming back up.

I’ve written many personal stories about my life, my relationships. A few have been about me and my husband, the hard parts. Until a few days ago, I hadn’t let anyone read any of my stories because of how difficult it’s been for me to be honest. Facing that honesty on a daily basis is much scarier than just setting it free with a publish button and then walking away until I’m ready to come back. It’s been a way to maintain control over it, over my feelings, my fears.

It was time, though. I had been talking with my therapist for weeks about the dread I felt every time I thought of friends and family, especially my husband, reading my work. He hits closest to home because he IS home. If he rejects me, it feels like game over. I had to let my therapist read it if I was going to figure this out. So I held my breath and handed her my phone.

First, I let her read the story that was worrying me most, “When I say NO, I don’t mean asking until I say YES” (below). It was so nerve-racking, but her response was so positive, our talk was so inspiring, that on a whim… I let my husband read it too.

Link to the rest at Medium

The Lure of the Writing Template: Why Filling in the Blanks Doesn’t Work

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Template is an ambiguous term in writing. It can refer to a writer’s personal style sheet used when developing a story, tools for brainstorming, or worksheets to figure out various plot and story arcs. However, it can also refer to an exacting form that promises the perfect story by following blindly along.

When templates are used for developing stories or to help keep writers focused, they’re useful. But when they dictate how writers should write their books and tell their stories—especially if they give false hope as to the marketability of those stories—they lead writers down a dangerous path.

. . . .

Cooking is a forgiving skill. If the recipe calls for half a cup of tomatoes and you like tomatoes and put in a whole cup, odds are the meal still turns out yummy. But baking is hardcore. Add too much salt and your dough fails. Whip cream too long and it turns to grainy mush.

Writing is not dissimilar. Great stories contain similar elements, but how we mix them results in completely different tales. When we treat writing like an exact science, with every beat measured to the page and every major turning point exactly the same, the story suffers.

Instead of a delicious mental meal, we get generic packaged cookies. They might not be terrible, but they don’t make you want to eat more than one, and they taste like dozens of other bland, generic cookies on the shelf.

. . . .

The danger of writing templates is that instead of finding the right details for the story we’re trying to tell, we’re looking for details that fit a particular template at a particular time. We think, “This is when something has to die,” and twist ourselves into knots forcing it in. Or we think we need an emotional character arc when no arc is needed. We add mentor characters who have no business in the story, and rely on cliched characters to fill roles a checklist tells us we need.

When we’re cooking a novel, those literary ingredients are mixed to flavor the story in the way we want to tell it. But when we’re baking with a template, we’re adding ingredients exactly as the recipe states, even if the story suffers for it. Templates far too often force us to bake a cake when we really want to make a scone.

When you understand how to tell a compelling story, you know what aspects of storytelling to use to create the desired emotional response from your readers. You pick and choose the details, beats, and turning points that serve your story, and ignore the aspects that don’t.

. . . .
The difference between story structure and a writing template is this:

  • Structure uses proven story constructions that humans have used since stories began.
  • Templates suggest the only way to write a novel is to follow an exact plan to the letter.

Using a structure that suits your personal storytelling style to help keep you focused and give you a foundation on which to build a story is a good thing. It’s a tool, nothing more.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer Review – How to Write Clearly and Stylishly

From The Guardian:

When a book manuscript has been revised and approved by the editor, it goes to a copy editor, someone who, in the words of Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer, “is to prose what a cobbler is to shoes: a mender”. The relationship between author and copy editor can be a testy one: emotions can boil over about the necessity or otherwise of certain commas, let alone word choices and sentence structure. Veterans of such skirmishes on both sides will enjoy learning of the spectacularly prima donna-ish writers Dreyer mentions (anonymously) here.

. . . .

Dreyer promises to reveal “some of the fancy little tricks I’ve come across or devised that can make even skilled writing better”, and does so with accuracy, style, and a humour that is slightly relentless.

The advice begins by challenging the reader to stop using words such as “very”, “really” and “actually” for a week, which will make you “a considerably better writer than you were at the beginning”. This seems a rash promise, and the rhetorical and rhythmic usefulness of such words is not here admitted. Dreyer does say he’s not asking you to stop using them altogether, but then adds in a footnote: “Except for ‘actually’, because, seriously, it serves no purpose I can think of except to irritate.” Actually it does, as an intensifier intended to signal surprise or disagreement. What’s more, Dreyer’s use of “seriously” here works in exactly the same way, but perhaps that is his little joke.

. . . .

Luckily, Dreyer himself is quite liberal on what really count as rules anyway. He disposes adroitly of superstitions against splitting infinitives or starting sentences with conjunctions, or in favour of avoiding the passive voice – and, unlike most who rail against it, he actually knows what the passive voice is. (“If you can append ‘by zombies’ to the end of a sentence,” he says usefully, “you’ve indeed written a sentence in the passive voice.”) On the other hand, there are some things he insists on, and righteously so. “Only godless savages”, he observes, do not use the Oxford or serial comma.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Ian Fleming Explains How to Write a Thriller

From The Literary Hub:

There is no literary spy—and perhaps no literary character, full stop—more famous than James Bond, which should already be enough of an argument for any aspiring writer, but particularly any aspiring writer of thrilling tales, to seek advice from his creator, Ian Fleming.

Luckily, I recently stumbled across an essay by Fleming, aptly entitled “How to Write a Thriller,” which appeared in the May 1963 issue of Books and Bookmen, only a little over a year before the author’s death.

. . . .

The craft of writing sophisticated thrillers is almost dead. Writers seem to be ashamed of inventing heroes who are white, villains who are black, and heroines who are a delicate shade of pink.

I am not an angry young, or even middle-aged, man. I am not “involved.” My books are not “engaged.” I have no message for suffering humanity and, though I was bullied at school and lost my virginity like so many of us used to do in the old days, I have never been tempted to foist these and other harrowing personal experiences on the public. My opuscula do not aim at changing people or making them go out and do something. They are written for warm-blooded heterosexuals in railway trains, airplanes and beds.

I have a charming relative who is an angry young littérateur of renown. He is maddened by the fact that more people read my books than his. Not long ago we had semi-friendly words on the subject and I tried to cool his boiling ego by saying that his artistic purpose was far, far higher than mine. He was engaged in “The Shakespeare Stakes.” The target of his books was the head and, to some extent at least, the heart. The target of my books, I said, lay somewhere between the solar plexus and, well, the upper thigh. These self-deprecatory remarks did nothing to mollify him and finally, with some impatience and perhaps with something of an ironical glint in my eye, I asked him how he described himself on his passport. “I bet you call yourself an Author,” I said. He agreed, with a shade of reluctance, perhaps because he scented sarcasm on the way. “Just so,” I said. “Well, I describe myself as a Writer. There are authors and artists, and then again there are writers and painters.”

This rather spiteful jibe, which forced him, most unwillingly, into the ranks of the Establishment, whilst stealing for myself the halo of a simple craftsman of the people, made the angry young man angrier than ever and I don’t now see him as often as I used to. But the point I wish to make is that if you decide to become a professional writer, you must, broadly speaking, decide whether you wish to write for fame, for pleasure or for money. I write, unashamedly, for pleasure and money.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

PG suggests that one of the less-observed benefits of the easy and inexpensive path to self-publishing that ebooks present is the ability for an author to write what he/she wants and how they want, then send their creation out into the digital world to see what readers like it.

Of course, gaining attention for a book is not an easy task, but such has always been the case. In traditional publishing, the large majority of manuscripts submitted have been and are rejected. Under the traditional regime, that meant that a book would never have a chance of reaching an audience, regardless of how receptive that audience might be towards the book. Most traditionally-published books are financial failures. A relatively small portion of the books a traditional publisher releases actually provide material support for the entire enterprise.

With self-publishing, a book without a clearly-obvious and commercially-sized audience has that chance. Or to be more precise, a book without a commercially-sized audience as perceived by a traditional publisher has a chance.

Critics contend that most self-published books are trash. PG responds that, for him and a great many other people, most traditionally-published books are trash.

And over-priced trash to boot. At least, self-published trash won’t cost more than the average American worker earns in an hour.

PG also suggests that the economic realities that govern traditional publishing mean that traditionally-published books must always appeal to mass markets. (Or at least what a handful of residents of New York City who possess relatively exotic backgrounds compared to the rest of the country perceive to be mass markets. Remember, most traditionally-published books are financial failures.)

PG also notes that the personal characteristics of the most frequent readers of traditionally-published books tend to mirror those of the employees of large publishers who select which books will be published – white, female, college-educated (in the case of publishing employees, usually from quite a narrow slice of colleges, to be more precise), on the upperish side of middle-class or at least expecting to reach that class as they mature (similar to their families of origin).

The scary part

From Nathan Bransford:

I recently finished a new novel, and I’ll be honest with you: I’m pretty scared!

I don’t feel like people talk about this part of the process very much.

Whenever you hear writers talking about struggles and failures, they’re often discussed when it’s all over, after that person has already gone on to find success. Those struggles are contextualized as a dramatic interlude in an otherwise nice, neat, inspirational narrative that culminates with someone overcoming those obstacles and roadblocks.

I see very few people talk about this part, while they’re actually in it, where you’ve finished something and you have literally no idea what is going to happen with it. No idea whether it’s going to be a success or disappear into a drawer never to be heard from again. No idea whether there will be a happy ending for all those struggles and whether it will actually feel worth it in the end. The part where you’re just plain vulnerable.

. . . .

More than any other book I’ve written, and I’ve written… uh… *counts on fingers* seven now, this novel was personal. I followed my own (possibly insane) artistic vision no matter where it took me. I tried to trust my instincts. I slogged away for years even though the plot was insanely difficult to execute.

More than anything else, I wrote this one for me. I gave up blogging for a while. I kept going even when I thought I was crazy and even in the face of negative feedback. I had to get this thing out of my system.

Was that the right move? Should I have tempered my instincts? Did I write something the market doesn’t want? Did I go too far against the grain? Did I not listen to other people enough? Was the whole thing several years of misguided work?


. . . .

Does following a more meaningful writing process mean I’m on the right track?

Like I said, I have no idea. But I do know that I feel better about this one. I distantly trust that I’ll still feel good about it even if it ends up in a drawer, because at least I wrote this for the simple personal satisfaction of having pulled it off.

Still, that doesn’t blunt the creeping terror of having spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on a single project and facing having it come to very little or even nothing. It doesn’t dull the pain of the prospect of it disappearing, to not have it validated by the external world, especially when there are bills to be paid and when, in the end, I think most writers just want to be seen and to feel that profound, primordial satisfaction when someone reads your book and actually likes it.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford