I don’t usually put opinions on here, but I’m sick of arguing. So from time to time, I’ll let PatioCat say a thing or two about writing, life, etc. Besides, she needs to get a job. Fancy Feast isn’t free, ya know.
Hey, it’s not that I don’t like you. Really.
“But you’re a writer! You can help meeeee!”
Maybe. But there are issues.
Legal stuff sucks
Remember that story by Stephen King, “Secret Window, Secret Garden?” They made a film out of it with Johnny Depp, called merely Secret Window. In the film/story, a writer is approached by a hayseed who hurtles the accusation at him, “You stole my story!”
I don’t want to read unpublished work, possibly be influenced by it, and then end up in court because you levied this accusation at me, even though my story has nothing to do with yours. Or because I used the same theme, like first love, but not the same plot, that of your fictional first time with a young Bruce Wayne, in Alfred’s room while he was at the grocery store.
First readers are great. They look at your stuff, and point out mistakes, inconsistencies, awkward turns of phrase, and other beasts that infest your writing. You will be blind to these while you birth your masterpiece.
Truth is, no one, NO ONE, writes a perfect first draft. Depending on the writer or the work, it may take several edits before it’s ready for someone else’s discerning gaze. If you think your first draft is perfect, I challenge you to sit on it for a month and then go back and read it again.
If I read your work, I will feel compelled to point out the places where it could use some improvement. I’m no expert, far from it. But I know enough to help you with the big clunkers.
And that’s what it is: help. I don’t do it because I don’t want to listen to you whine, or yell at me, if I make suggestions. Learn how to take constructive criticism (I really prefer the term feedback). You’ll have to do this if you want to be a writer.
Not having enough time sucks
I have two blogs, and (usually) a full-time job, plus I’m supposed to be writing my own stuff. I don’t always have time to slog through your long-ass manuscript. Especially if you’re going to yell at me.
If we’re both broke and you’re at least at my level of skill and you want to barter—you read mine, I’ll read yours—I may be amenable to that.
Critiquing is work, and working for free sucks
Sorry, man, but I can’t pay my bills in thanks. If I don’t know you and you want me to give a basic critique, you’re going to have to pay me for my time. If I do know you, well you’ll still have to, although I might be able to work something out with you.
“But you don’t have a book out. You’re just an amateur writer. Why can’t you do this for the kudos?”
- Unless YOUR book is coming out and you thank me profusely in the acknowledgments for helping you cross your Is and dot your Ts, the kudos aren’t going to do me a bit of good. No one will see them.
- I’m not a complete amateur. Yes, my output isn’t as prolific as some other people’s, but I have actually been paid to write. If you get paid for something, you’re no longer an amateur, the definition of which is “someone who does something for the love of it.”
- If I have to work for free all the time on YOUR stuff, I’m not free to do my own work, which at some point I may actually get paid for.
I’m not trying to demean your efforts, really. I’m just pointing out to you that there are good reasons why many writers don’t read unpublished work. Famous ones are even less likely to do it, unless you’ve paid buttloads of money for a personalized glance-through at a conference or convention.
Writing groups are a good place to bounce your stuff off other people of a similar literary bent. They are set up with this in mind. A good group will have rules, and you’ll have to return the favor from time to time, but that will only help you learn.
N is for noted, nautical and nerd.
Nacelle – the structure on an airplane wing that contains the engine. Or, on a starship.
“Captain!” Scotty shouted. “The starboard nacelles have sustained a direct hit! I’ll have to route the antimatter thingamajig to the whatzit to bypass the doohickey or we’ll be blown to bits!”
Nave – the big room in a church where the congregation sits.
Necropsy – post-mortem, or autopsy. Usually when it’s done on people, it’s referred to as an autopsy, and when animals or other non-human creatures are examined, it’s called a necropsy. I have no idea why, except that auto- means self. Technically they’re the same thing, but I don’t suppose we think of animals as being ourselves.
Nebbish – a pitiful person, not effective in his work. A weak, wishy-washy person. From the Yiddish nebekh, unfortunate.
Ngorongoro Crater – the vast, ancient caldera of an extinct volcano in Tanzania, Africa. The crater’s floor is now a vast plain that is populated by wildebeests, zebras, lions, and flamingos that hang out in the lake in the center. Ngorongoro is a national conservation area that attracts many tourists with its scenery and varied wildlife.
Nictitating – to nictate is to wink or blink. In birds, sharks and some animals, there is a nictitating membrane, or a third eyelid, that blinks across the eye to protect it. Typically it’s transparent, so the animal can retain visibility while moistening the eye. I first came upon this term when reading about sharks in National Geographic as a kid.
Nihilism – a philosophy that denies any meaning in reality and considers all values baseless.
AllAboutPhilosophy.com defines nihilism with Shakespeare’s famous passage from Macbeth:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
A character who considers him/herself a nihilist would be interesting to read or write.
Nostrum – a quack medicine or treatment.
“What’s a nostrum?” Buffy asked.
“Many people believe chiropractic is a nostrum,” Giles told her.
“Oh,” she said. “I thought it was a demon’s nose hole. Thanks for clearing that up.”
Nosebag – a food bag that hangs over a horse’s head, so he can eat on the go.
Numismatics – the study of coins.
Nutria – a 10-pound, ratlike rodent from South America. Also found in US Gulf Coast wetlands, it is destructive due to its feeding habits. Some people trap and eat the animals as a means of control.
Nymphomania – popular term for a psychosexual disorder in women, characterized by an abnormal and excessive desire for sexual activity, often with multiple partners. Think this would be fun? Read this. And this.
Nyctophobia – fear of the dark.
Happy Independence Day!
Well, it’s not happy for everyone. Many people are powerless from recent storms, which can be deadly during a massive heat wave like the one we’re experiencing now.
When the weather this hot and dry, wildfires are a real danger too. Check with your community to see if any burn bans have been issued. If so, shooting off fireworks will probably be forbidden. In any case it’s not the smartest thing to do in drought conditions.