Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bad Writing and Some Fun Too

Snow and cold outside today – good day to clean out the file cabinet, found this list, thought it was funny. Not sure where it came from, there are quite a few of these around.
Hints to be a more betterer righter
1. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
2. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
3.  Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
4.  Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
5.  Be more or less specific.
6.  One-word sentences? Eliminate.
7.  Who needs rhetorical questions?
8.  Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
9.  Don't never use a double negation.
10.  Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
11.  If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
12. A writer must not shift your point of view.
13.  And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
14.  Don't overuse exclamation marks!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Read Any BadBooks Lately?

I have noticed recently that every book I read has a bad ending. Bad because I was not ready for it to end, bad because I didn’t like what happened on the last page, or bad because, well it was bad.

I love books that leave me wanting more, not sure if I will ever read one that is so satisfying when I finish I will say, “perfect.” This would be a book that ended when it should, and everything that should happen did – bad guys meet bad endings and good people have good endings. And a book that does not leave me, the reader, with false hopes for a sequel.

The books that really drive me crazy – books that just end. You turn the page and it is the last page, you read it and say something like HUA.  You’re wondering, what happened to those other guys, or where was that place, or other questions leaving the reader in the dark. This may be what happens when as my wife says, “the writer ran out of words.”

Happing Reading

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Western First Lines

Today we will look at the second of two parts on famous, western novel, first lines. Some opening lines are great, some are all right and some are downright dreadful. See if you can guess who penned these first lines. Answers on the bottom of the page—no peaking.

“When the earth was already ancient, of an age incomprehensible to man, an event of basic importance occurred in the area which would later be known as Colorado.” 

“In later years people often asked Hugh Hitchcock about the Canadian River cowboy strike of 1883.”

“He was on the east side of the Absaraka Range, in the timber, heading down toward the Popo Agie. He was in no hurry, and there was no reason for him to go there.

“A boy and a horse. A thin knobby boy, coming sixteen, all long bone and stringy muscle, not yet grown up to knuckly hands and seeming oversized feet.”

“He rolled the cigarette in his lips, liking the taste of the tobacco, squinting his eyes against the sun glare.”

 -See answers below-

Centennial – James Michner

The Day the Cowboys Quit – Elmer Kelton

The First Mountain Man – William W. Johnstone

Monte Walsh – Jack Schaefer

Hondo – Louis L’Amour

 Not really much of a western but you still cannot beat – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”  Charles Dickens


Friday, February 8, 2013

Great Western Novel Opening Lines

Today we will look at the first of two parts on famous, western novel, first lines. Some opening lines are great, some are all right and some are downright dreadful. See if you can guess who penned these first lines. Answers on the bottom of the page—no peaking.

1.     “It was my privilege to know the late Jack Crabb – frontiersman, Indian scout, gunfighter, buffalo hunter, adopted Cheyenne – In the final days upon this earth.

2.     “Some notable sight was drawing the passengers, both men and women, to the window; and therefore I rose and crossed the car to see what it was.”

3.     “A sharp clip-crop of Iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.”

4.     “He rode into the valley in the summer of 89. I was a kid then, barley topping the backboard of father’s old chuckwagon.”

5.     “Lil ol’ town, you don’t amount to much,” said Harry Destry. “You never done nothing an’ you ain’t gonna come to no good.”

-See Answers Below-




1.       Thomas Burger, Little Big Man

2.       Owen Wister, The Virginian

3.       Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage

4.       Jack Schaefer, Shane

5.       Max Brand, Destry Rides Again


-Another five opening lines coming up in 48 hours-

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Today - A Little Levity

After years of scribbling on yellow legal pads, years of typing on a Royal typewriter and the last few years writing on his cheap computer the old western story teller wrote his last words, “he reached for his tied down Colt,” but he died before he finished the sentence.

He had been a good person and a hard working, but seldom published writer, but when the archangel visited he was not sure if he would rather go to Heaven or Hell.

He asked to take a look at each place first. In Hell, he sees rows and rows of writers chained to their desks churning out manuscript after manuscript while being prodded by demonic agents with pitchforks.

"Wow, this is terrible," he says. "Let me see Heaven now."

In Heaven, he sees rows and rows of writers chained to their desks churning out manuscript after manuscript while being prodded by angel agents with pitchforks.

"Holy crap," says the writer. "Heaven is just as bad as Hell!"

"No way, cowboy," replies an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published

Sorry for that astonishingly bad and very old joke, but is does beat the last one I shared – You know the one about the cowboy who walked into the bar dressed in paper sacks and was arrested for rustling.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Greatest English Language Novel

In a quest to find the greatest works of English language novelists, Random House, in 1998, used its editorial board to come up with the 100 best novels of the 20th century. And the winner was – Irish writer James Joyce for his novel Ulysses, interestingly he also came in third for, A Portrait of the Artist.

So what was Ulysses? A wandering story of more than a quarter of a million words that takes place in a single day, June - sixteenth - 1904. The novel establishes parallel lives between Homers, Odyssey and Ulysses of Joyce’s work.

It is tough reading in places as Joyce, a stream of consciousness writer, uses a large number of puns, twists and turns to tell his story. The novel was attached for obscenity and criticized by some scholars for too many mistakes, but it continues to show up at the top of nearly all lists of great novels.

The book was originally serialized into eighteen parts, of which as a college student I was forced or honored to read two of them, we could have read another for extra credit, but I passed.

Think I will kick back and relax with a good western.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

When History Becomes Important

How many times do we hear someone say, “I wish I would have listened more and learned more in history class when I was in high school,” or something similar?

Seems like what happened long ago is more important as we get along in years. I look back now wondering, as a career history teacher, why I did not ask my dad more about his World War 2 time in the South Pacific.

This gets to today’s point. Know your subject before putting pen to paper, or in today’s world, fingers to keyboard.

My list of what a western writer needs to write a good western story.

This list can also be used by readers, do the stories you read follow my list? Can you add more?

1.   Knowledge of basic American history and deeper knowledge of the region of America where your story will take place.

2.  Know your weapons – if you haven’t already, go out and shoot. Understand how a gun feels, what recoil (kick) feels like, smell the powder, reload the weapon.

3.  Know the lay of the land (hills, mountains, rivers, streams, roads, and trails, anything that is there or was there). I know Wyoming and the states around, I will not try to write about places I do not know. I have traveled to Australia and would love to have a character do that someday.

4. Google Maps – If you write in the present use Google maps, you can go up and down streets in the city of your choice, visit places you have never been. It really is pretty amazing

5. Most westerns are simple adventure or mystery tails and a good adventure/mystery is much better in a great setting.

6. Characters need to be real breathing people not cardboard cutouts to the reader.

7.  Tell a great story – write it as good as you can

8. Edit – Edit - Edit