Is Your Writing Good Enough?

Being an actor is really challenging. Not only do you have to figure out how to make everyone like you while pretending to be another person, you also have to master the delicate art of becoming popular, which, if you’re a normal human from an average background, is fraught with complication.

Popularity Is A Deliberate Skill

If you’re from a terrible background, and you have to cope with all the neurosis and maladjustments accordant to that circumstance, things can feel a little sticky and impossible.

I went to acting school, or I have formal training as an actor, in any case. There was a kind of journey that I went on, as an actor, from the beginning to the end of my acting program.

From The Beginning To The End

At the start, I was naive, full of myself, very talented (and I didn’t know it), and supremely confident in my ability to figure things out and become the very best.

Then life happened, and very poor directors happened, and really damaging classwork happened on top of that, and I started to look about myself and think.

I Didn’t Blame My Teachers, At First

Why, I asked myself, was I such a worse actor than I had been when I started out? After all, studying, and being surrounded by like-minded aspirants and supposed professionals in the art should have, I thought, prepared me to be super awesome as an actor.

I’ve read visual artists saying (writing) that their time in art school, receiving training and instruction, was only valuable insofar as the experience hammered into their brains how completely helpless and useless formal instruction is. Their point, as they were writing, was that art school allowed (or forced) them to the realization that they were their only secure and reliable source for inspiration, teaching, and improvement. That the idiotic waste of art school forced them back into their private, personal spring of talent and inspiration.

That They Had To Become Artists On Their Own

I feel a similar way about acting school. I really don’t enjoy speaking negatively about things, and I resisted taking a realistic view of my training until it was almost over, but at last the damage, both to myself and my classmates, was so pervasive, so inhumane, and so unanimously perverse that I faced the music, as it were, and woke up.

I cut off my heart and my mind from my (genuinely terrible) instructors–and I want to say that when I call them terrible, I don’t only mean that they didn’t teach very well, though most of them didn’t teach well at all. I mean that they lied and cheated and set up long-term contextual scenarios that destroyed young actors, and they did it on purpose because they were bitter people with no inner substance.

I Sound So Cynical, I Think, But They Did

I cut off my heart and my mind from my instructors, and I determined to figure things out for myself. I took all the information and impressions and experiences I had personally gathered over the years I had studied theatre, both before school and during it, and I began to experiment.

The first thing I learned was that my teachers sucked a lot more than I’d ever given them credit for. You see, as I began to dabble in learning for myself, I, of course, required bodies with which to experiment, and I found out, in the first two months of doing so, that I had a genius for teaching and changing the bodies around me.

I Can Release A Person’s Natural Self

I could¬† make people do things on stage that were objectively glorious. I could create visceral emotional interactions on stage, in scene work, that gave anyone–anyone–watching, chills. When my work was going on, the room got very quiet. People turned still inside. They started to think deep things about morality, and God, and shit like that.

I was really, really good.

The second thing I discovered is that all of my instructors but two were actually evil.

No, Really

You see, when I changed actors’ bodies, and taught real, effective acting (and how I know how to do that is a really long story, not having anything to do with today’s subject), all but two of the mature, supposedly professional acting instructors got strangely irritated.

The two okay ones, the two non-evil teachers, were enormously pleased by my work, and wanted more of it. They wanted me, and my genius, and they wanted everything to change so that this kind of authentic work was happening in all the classrooms, for all the students, and in all the theatre productions involved with the school.

They were on the side of learning, and growth, and right.

Tension Between Established Old People Ensued

The rest of the professors didn’t come out and say anything, exactly, but contextually, they all shifted, and started to cooperate in concert. It was a little like a hunting party, or a creepy conspiracy film.

They didn’t want change, and they didn’t want their established power to go away. That’s when I really knew, deep in my heart, how rotten they were, and how bad each of those people were at creating art.

Angry, Empty People Who No Longer Sought To Create With Authenticity

They were exploiters, and predators. Icky people.

Anyway, back on point. What I found out, as I started to mold and open people’s bodies in acting, and through scene work, I discovered that all the dozens of really horrible actors and immature hobbyists around me (the students) were insanely talented, in terms of potential power and native ability.

I Was Startled By The Depth Of Their Talent

They were blocked, and they were ignorant, and had no idea how to access their own powers of creation, but they were legitimately precious resources, and had nearly endless potential for professional-grade, stunning acting work.

This situation startled me. I’d thought the bad actors were without ability, because their classwork, before I opened them up and made them behave like themselves, was so genuinely awful and insensible. These actors slowly transformed into the kind of exciting talent prospects that would make a film agent salivate, and I started to apply the ramifications of this situation to myself.

I Wanted A Blueprint For Acting Cultivation

I’d started with the idea of learning how to act, and in the process, I learned about creativity in general.

You see, when you set out to create, you are forming a visceral part of your own, true self, your actual energy and spiritual, unseen self, and transforming it into some kind of medium to be seen and consumed by other humans.

You’re harvesting droplets, or buckets, as the case may be, of essence from your deepest unique self, and proffering it to other people, who may or may not choose to take it, taste it, and consume it, if they like it.

Creative Disciplines, And The Emotional Exchange Of Art

This goes across acting, writing, drawing, and singing. And dance, and programming, and math, and every other creative medium. Anything requiring creative energy.

People who last, and who thrive over time in any creative discipline, do so by treating their own lives as a plant, a precious tree. They harvest from themselves, and they feed and tend themselves with an understanding, whether instinctual or deliberate, that they cannot get product without first caring for the productive plant of self.

So, now we come to today’s topic.

Is Your Writing Good Enough?

The real question that you need to be asking yourself is this:

Is my writing clean? Is it mature, fully-developed, and edible?

I’m serious about the edible part, actually. When you consume a piece of artwork, whether through seeing performance, taking in writing, or any other transaction of the senses, your energy structure opens up and you absorb, depending on the quality of the spiritual food, actual aural energy into your innermost being.

You are a living human being. In essence, you are a tree.

And Are Therefore Capable of Producing Leaves, Blossoms, Fruit, Or Seeds

Asking yourself if you can make fruit is not productive, and asking yourself if anyone likes to eat fruit is a similar waste of time.

The real question, and the only productive question, is how well and how deliberately you are caring for your own emotional, physical, and total creative being.

Your writing is good enough, always, impinging on the condition that you are feeding and caring for yourself as an inherently productive tree.

And Now, A Metaphor Or Two

A zebra who has an existential crisis about whether or not he is an elephant is wasting his time.

A heron who sits all day and agonizes over whether or not she was really meant to fly, and if she’s good enough to fly, is similarly going nowhere, as far as getting a satisfactory flight going on.

Action is the answer. You are human, and your soul is designed to create, in whatever medium suits your tastes.

Confused Creatures Who Are Afraid Of Being Something Else

Your writing, by default, is good enough, because you are human, conditional upon you treating yourself as a creative entity and caring for yourself as such.

A heron who agonizes about the value of her flight will never fly, though she can, and should.

A zebra who ponders the moral dilemma of possibly not really being an effective zebra, avoids the natural life and satisfaction zebras presumably get out of being zebras.

My Student Actors

Stop asking yourself if your writing is good enough, and start asking yourself if your writing (which, by default, is good enough by dint of being produced by you, as long as you accept that you are a creative being) is clean enough to be desirable to other humans.

My student actors were all good enough. They all, every single one, it turned out, had enough talent, and enough prospective skill to become legitimately successful, given many years of discipline and targeted self-care and cultivation.

You Are A Fertile Plant, Spiritually

Their acting was good enough. The question for them, and for you, is this: Are you currently engaging in a lifestyle and a method of self-care that will allow you to produce writing (or acting) that is clean enough, mature enough (as in, not plucked off the branch prematurely), and authentic enough (as in, coming from your genuine self, and not a plastic apple) to be edible to and desirable to a hungry person?

That’s the pertinent question, the productive question that leads to better work, stronger writing, and eventual externalized evidence of your creative worth.

As an aside, here is a link to my eerie, romantic book about a mature accountant trapped between death and the afterlife: My Name is Caleb; I am Dead

Caleb new

In Conclusion

Asking yourself if your writing is good enough is the wrong question. The right question is whether or not you’re treating yourself in a way that will reliably lead to an edible creative harvest.

As a side note, fertilizing and clearing up weeds around your roots is a deeply satisfying process, and makes for great story fodder, later on.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my revised book, Claire is contemplating a sudden journey to the dragon-infested continent of Asoan. Mm. This is me making a shiver of anticipation. There are dragons in My Name is Caleb; I am Dead, but they are colorful manifestations of stars, and not traditional lizard-type creatures at all. They have gorgeous wings, though, and they can talk.

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The Suitably Anti-Social Writer

I used to think it was a huge liability that I don’t get along with a lot of people in casual, everyday conversation.

Turns Out, I Just Like Getting Work Done

It’s not that I can’t so much as I find it kind of sort of a complete waste of time. Unless, of course, I’m practicing my group management skills or researching character types.

I just hate casual chitchat. Such a waste of time. When I was a kid, I saw how people did this weird thing where they “hung out”, or just, you know, sat and talked about nothing at all and seemed happy about it.

Shooting the Breeze

Like a naturalist among an alien species, I hunkered down to figure out what the shit was going on.

Because why didn’t each of those individuals peel off from the nonfunctioning social group and go into a corner to write? It was so strange to me.

That’s What I Liked Doing

I went through a long period as a young person where I decided there was something wrong with me for not taking satisfaction out of wasting time, so I tried really hard to fit in and do like the other people did. I tried to waste time, you know, and talk about popular whatnot.

It was so boring. Also, I got very little work done. Ugh.

Super Non-Productive

Then I got more into directing and found out (hurray!) that it’s a lot more interesting to play God in a group, and that most people are also bored and want to play that sort of conversationally-directed game.

When I say play God, I really just mean that I took control of the conversation whenever appropriate and made it functionally useful. You know, like actually about reality, and/or about actual emotional phenomena inside me or the other people present.

Like Public Improv

That turned out to be great for character research, for making lasting friends, and for being not-bored. Plus, after a long conversation like that, writing is exciting and fun (because you’re all revved up from actually meeting new people and knowing what they’re like on the inside.)

Anyway, the point of today is that if you, like me, find social groupings sort of useless, perhaps you will also find, like me, that going with the general flow of boring, staid behavior leads to an enormous drop in your writing production.

Like, A Big Drop

In short, if I try to be conventionally social, my word count plummets. And I don’t mean, “oh, I got a few less words written today!” I mean, like, “Oh, my usually quota just eked out to a measly ten percent, and I don’t even care because life feels meaningless.”

Which, over the course of several days, adds up and means a lot less completed work. Ugh.

And Less Usable Work

If you’re wondering why I talk about writing so much, and I only have two books out, that’s because I want to make a good impression, and I have twenty-some-odd complete manuscripts that I’m sitting on that are, for various reasons, not yet satisfactory for public consumption, and I’m tinkering on my official publication style. Luckily, I have an excellent editor.

Anyway.

So, In Conclusion

Avoid other people at all costs, unless you’re prepared to take charge of your interactions and use them to further your craft. Investigating human nature, discussing reality, or actually getting any kind of relaxing social good out of interaction is great, but if you’re just hanging around because you’re supposed to, out of some perceived need to fulfill social obligation, run away!

You’re reading Victor Poole, and no, I’m not really a hermit, but maybe I will be when I’m old and rich. Tee hee. In my current book, I think Gilbert’s gang trial is not going to go super well today.

The Tiny Guide To Integrating Your Creative Soul

Is your energy scattered and frenetic? Here’s how to get a surge of creative potential throbbing through your body.

Your Natural Energy

I invented an energy form because all my actors were broken. Incidentally, this form works well for writing good fiction. I will now share the method with you.

Using your natural energy means hooking up the disparate parts of your energy mechanism, the parts of you that are set up to work as a natural, living animal, and channeling them into service of creating a fictional world.

Think of this as exercise for your soul, to make you bright, shining, and sexually attractive. My main shtick, as a theatre specialist, is making actors unbearably hot, as in, attractive and “zing”-y. I’m very good at that.

Good writing has a zing, and a body and soul that is aligned effectively creates more adaptive, fertile fiction, which opens the reader’s soul. That kind of shared openness leads, if the conditions are correct, to mental sex, which is where commercialism and profit come into play.

How To Do It

Your body, naturally, is an animal, and has chains of impulses that, if they’re connected, fill you with energy, bursting life, and vitality. If you’ve ever watched a cat walk around, or a really healthy animal of any kind, you’ve seen the power and flexibility in their shoulders and hips, the kind of easy, confident fluidity that runs in their muscles and shoots out through their eyes.

This is why show biz people say, “Don’t work with children or animals,” because little kids haven’t gotten deeply screwed over yet, physically, and so their eyes and muscles shine with power, just like animals’ do.

The good news is that your body already knows how to do this instinctively. You just have to plug in the main breakers for your impulse chains, and your body, as it releases civilized crap and old emotions, will embrace the method automatically.

Pelvis

The root of motion starts down in the pelvic cradle. Imagine, if you will, a champion jumping horse, like one of those slick creatures at the Equestrian Olympics, or a hunter type of horse. When the horse gathers itself at a fence to jump over, the body coils in and the wide, enormous pelvic cradle of the animal acts as a kind of powerful spring that launches the body up into the air.

Your pelvic cradle is the root of your motion. It’s probably closed up and tangled together right now, like a slinky, a toy metal slinky that got twisted up and caught against itself.

Imagine your pelvis is a box that is a little squished and crushed in. Open the sides to straighten and make the box a proper cube shape, and make the top and bottom level and parallel to the floor. The key is to be at square angles to the floor, and to avoid any tilt or internal collapse in the sides and floor of the pelvis. If you go and look at a well-muscled ballet dancer, you will see a very open, stable pair of hips and a strong, balanced pelvic floor.

Ribs

We want to have a stable, open pelvic cradle, and to let the surge of energy, the spring that naturally rests in your body to bounce up into your ribs and freely up through the rest of you.

Now we move on to your ribs. If your ribs are stiff and holding tension, you probably aren’t breathing very much, and if the muscles between your rib bones, your interstitial muscles, are hardened, which they probably are, your impulses are getting caught into a traffic jam at your floating ribs and not making it up through your body.

What we want is to soften and open the rib cage, from the very bottom of your floating ribs all the way up to your clavicle. We’ll do this the same way we worked on your pelvis, by imagining the rib cage as a box. This time the box is rectangular.

Again, we want to have stable, perpendicular sides and a level top and bottom that are parallel to the floor and matching up exactly to the box of our pelvic cradle.

Now that we’ve softened and aligned our ribs, our impulses are flooding straight from our pelvic cradle up to our ribs; now it’s time to open the channel into our face, to get that intriguing light and power pouring into our eyes.

Face

The face is the part of the impulse chain that makes you distinctive, and that adds a personal flair to your work. Actors learn to focus the majority of their energy into their facial muscles and their eyes, which is why movie stars look so incredibly distinct and individual. They carry a stamp, a proprietary branding of energy shaping and impulse style.

Your writing spark, your stamp of self in your personality and your eyes, is what will eventually make you unforgettable, but you have to free and loosen the impulse chain to trammel in an open river from your newly-stable pelvis, through your emotionally-softened ribs, and into your distinctive, one-of-a-kind face.

We’ll do this by opening the tunnel of our necks and imagining hot, molten power pouring up from the pelvis straight up through the actual bones and muscles of the ribs, and into the bone and muscle of your face.

And Getting To Work

Now that your body is full of energy and light, get to work as a writer, and your words will start to jump and spring a little, just like our champion jumping horse leaps over barriers. You’ll have hiccups, and your body will jolt and adjust over time, but if you embrace your natural impulse chain and let yourself settle into the form your body wants to take, your writing will get stronger, better, more distinctive, and much more flavorful to the reader.

In Conclusion

Utilizing the natural energy in your physical body will strengthen your writing and empower your style.

  • The pelvic cradle is a box of steel or hardwood: make it level, open, and square
  • The ribs are a rectangular box, more like strong cardboard that can give and bend: open the ribs, level and straighten your parallel lines at every side
  • Your face is the key to your zing, your personality and intriguing star power: open the channel of your energy and flood your facial muscles and bones with hot light from the root of energy down in your pelvic cradle

You’re reading Victor Poole, and one of my favorite villains is struggling with the temptation to pound people today, and is resisting the urge.

The Simple Shortcut To Achieve A Strong Working Session

If you struggle to rock into a consistent rhythm while writing amidst inevitable distractions, here are two steps to cut through to solid work, no matter what the world is doing around you.

How many times do you picture yourself getting your shit together, sitting down in a peaceful spot, playing your favorite working music, and pounding out a solid session of really great prose?

And how many times does that imagined experience translate into reality? If your life is anything like mine, mundanity and irritating obligation do a lot to intrude and destroy your peaceful work habits, and that’s not even including whatever psychological barriers you may be wrestling with at any time.

For example, I’m working on a gangster stairwell scene right now, and owing to the fact that it was really late when I did the first draft and had a slight case of brain sludge, I accidentally flopped the power between the two gang leaders’ personalities and have to start over on the scene today.

Overwhelm, Noise, Demanding Humans, and Money Problems Can Destroy Your Work Session

I used to have pretty rigid conditions for how I wanted to write, and when. Spoiler alert: I got very little writing done at that time in my life. After that, I got a strong dose of reality and hello-I’m-failing, eventually got my shit together, and started to experiment, by which I mean I started to write through everything.

I started to write through money problems, and handle distracting humans while I was tapping little bits at a time. I started to stay up absurdly late or to get up very early, to catch quiet.

I started to train myself to write with a constant, concentration-shattering veneer of noise going on.

I’ve said before on this blog (I don’t remember if that post made the last ye-olde-purge-scythe roll-through, so you might not be able to read it now), that I often write novels while playing Spongebob Squarepants episodes on half of my screen.

Embrace The Right Kind of Chaos

The first time I was ever in a large dance performance, I remember being backstage when the leading ballerina darted into the wings and started to desperately strip off all her clothes. Two or three useful persons descended like rabid hyenas and helped her shuffle manically into her next gossamer tutu.

Not having observed a true down-to-skin costume change involving pointe shoes ever before in my life, I was somewhat startled by her total lack of concern with modesty (which is saying something, because I’ve been doing costume-heavy drama with period garters and stockings for a while, and have assisted a fellow actor with a quick-lingerie change for weeks at a time before).

Having Children Made Me A Much Better Writer

Have you ever gotten yourself set up to write, to have a really great work session, and found that it just–is too quiet? That there’s too much space and attention available for your work and you’re a little set adrift by the way in which you can concentrate?

This is why I started using Spongebob. Well, I didn’t set out to use Spongebob; what happened was that I had to entertain my toddlers while I was working, so I learned how to split my screen and play Bob the Builder or Sesame Street while I typed as quickly as I could.

And It Turns Out . . .

It turns out that a moderate level of controllable distraction does a lot to settle my mind. I started to experiment with pacing and music types, and Spongebob Squarepants has exactly the right pace and auditory combination to keep my prose flowing.

The First Part of the Shortcut:

Find a distraction that works for you. This might be ugly music (I’m serious; the agitation of something that drives you crazy usually helps you type a little faster), or it might be Youtube videos of people wrapping gifts (because apparently, that’s a thing).

The point of this first part is to establish a base-level, white noise distraction that you begin to establish and associate with working. You control the distraction, and you condition your mind to think you’d better be writing while it’s going on.

The distraction works better if you kind of enjoy it, or find it soothing on some level, but don’t do anything that’s going to make you fall asleep. The distraction needs to be an agitating thing.

Part Two of the Shortcut:

Over time, you can teach yourself to associate chaos with deep productivity.

Life, unless you are super special and lucky, is never going to slow down in terms of emotional and psychological intensity. Something is going to be a problem, always, and obstacles are always going to present themselves, whether they are crushing bills, very loud neighbors, or persistent feelings of inferiority or failure.

Part two of the shortcut is to gradually train yourself to control your poison, to get in charge of something that seems to stop you from working.

And then you use that thing (in my example, Spongebob Squarepants), to get a lot more work done.

Most Problems Come Down To Control

If you are having a hard time, and I don’t care if it’s a tiny hard time or a soul-shattering “I cannot do this right now” hard time, much of your resistance to knocking out a solid session of writing comes down to your feeling, deep in your heart, that you are not really in control.

So, in the two-part shortcut, you take back control.

If you’re anything like I was, or like most of the writers I’ve known throughout my life, you’ve been stalling and/or throwing strike-type resistance to combat the out-of-control feelings in your heart.

Having a strike or putting work off gets zero words written.

Our goal here is to write words, and more words, and even more words so that we can learn and grow and become the best writer ever in the history of language. Or to finish a spanking good novel.

In Conclusion

If you’re having a hard time getting regular, strong work sessions out of your available writing time, try this two-part shortcut to settle down and get right to work.

  1. Find a distraction that works for you.
  2. Teach yourself to associate your chosen, deliberate chaos with deep productivity.

Take back control over your process, your exposure to irritating distractions, and your writing time by first

  • acknowledging that there will always be distractions or obstacles
  • accepting that you can’t make all the physical or emotional or psychological barriers go away
  • actively choosing an acceptable, hopefully-pleasant distraction to subject yourself to
  • getting right down to work with a more peaceful and much more productive heart.

You’re reading Victor Poole. It’s not nearly as cold outside as it was forecasted to be, which I’m sort of glad about. My Christmas tree is getting a tiny bit wilty, which I think is adorable.

Does Your Writing Seem To Come From Inside A Cynic’s Heart?

 

If you have a hard time writing sincerely, here is a quick kick to the pants to get you out of the habit of cynicism.

When I produced theatre, a constant problem was that actors were used to being callous about love. Try producing a romance when the main characters keep sneering over the love speeches. Hint: It doesn’t work. The audience gets tired after about thirty seconds, and the play turns into a mean snark-fest about how idiotic love is.

Cynicism kills adventure.

The first problem, then, was to break down the actors and convince them to be sincere. This means exposing their hearts, which means you have to expose your heart, first. As a writer, you need to be able to consciously write with sincerity.

Story Time:

Once upon a time, in a far-off kingdom, I had a director who really thought he was a deep romantic. (Spoiler: he wasn’t.) His key to making the in-love characters work was to sit down with dolls (I’m serious) and block out the entire show before rehearsals. Now, this method does work if you have sense and discretion, but this director was an inveterate¬†cynic, and so the technique only made rehearsals stiff and endless. He gave the actors detailed notes on how to move, and where, and gave impassioned speeches about prompt line delivery.

This behavior was supposed to make the love elements work. It didn’t, and they didn’t function, and the director’s rooted cynicism bled through the blocking, the rehearsals, and the final performances of the show. The audience could tell, and the show failed.

Don’t Let Cynicism Ruin Your Novel

If you’ve ever done any improvisational exercises at all, you’ve likely heard the Yes Rule, which, boiled down to the essentials, is this:

The Yes Rule: When any person on stage introduces an idea, every other person must say yes, either metaphorically or literally.

Example: Bad Improv! Wrong! No!

BETH. Here I am in the supermarket. The apples are on sale!

JOE. Oh, no! A tyrannosaurus rex is stomping through the ice cream aisle! Aiee!

BETH. I don’t see any dinosaurs here. We’re in a grocery store, for *&^#’s sake.

The scene is destroyed.

Fail! Bad, naughty Beth for breaking the Yes Rule and saying no.

Example: Yes! Right! Good!

BETH. Here I am, buying apples at the store. Oh, look! Overripe bananas!

JOE. Oh, gosh! A stegosaurus stampeding through the dairy aisle! Help! Run! Aaaugh!

BETH. No! Not dinosaurs again! Curse Professor Gumbly-Fish and his time travel vortex!

JOE. Hurry, Beth! Let’s fashion a rudimentary trebuchet from these carts and pineapples!

BETH. Okay! Take that, you naughty stegosaurus! Pew! Pew!

Etc., etc., and the rogue stegosaurus is defeated, carved into dino-steaks, and roasted over the rotisserie chicken island. Chaotic fun is had by all, and the improv scene succeeds.

But Victor Poole, That Scene Was Silly!

 

All you need to do in order to make your writing pure, strong, and free of cynicism, is to say yes continuously.

That doesn’t mean you can’t edit, but it does mean you need to maintain and preserve a chain of yes, yes, yes, throughout the body of the whole piece.

Now, let’s see how this applies to actual fiction.

Writing Sample

 

Bad Writing (Saying No):

Celia tore across the page in the book and put the edge of the thick vellum into the flame of a candle. The page took a long time to catch fire, but at last it burned with a reassuring permanence, and at last was reduced to a pile of destroyed ash on the thick wooden table.

Celia wished she had done something different with the book, now that the destruction was accomplished. She had wanted to keep the ugly spell, but couldn’t risk Lord Venerous ever getting hold of it.

Luckily, Celia had copied the dangerous magic onto a private notebook using invisible ink, and so she would be able to read over it again whenever she liked. She was sure that Lord Venerous, despite his personal history as a famous spy, would never think to check for the use of invisible inks.

I may as well destroy the whole book, then, Celia thought, and she went and tossed the whole thing into the fireplace, which was blazing hot and only a few feet away. She watched the unique and ancient book burn up and prodded at it a few times with a fire iron until the spine curled up and crumbled away.

Good Writing (Saying Yes, and incorporating the Yes Rule):

Celia studied the page, reading over the words again and again. She closed her eyes, her fingers on the thick vellum and her nose full of the distinctive smell of ancient binding, and reviewed the spell. She opened her eyes and checked each ingredient, and then went over it again.

She studied the spell for two hours, and when she could see every splotch of ink and aged mark in her mind, and had repeated the instructions word-for-word in her own mind three times without a mistake, she drew her spell-working knife and began to cut the page from the book.

She was extraordinarily careful, for Margen had warned her that Lord Venerous was after the book, solely for this spell, and Lord Venerous had been a famous spy and would likely check for missing pages.

Celia examined the sliced-away page and turned the book several times before cutting again with the sharp knife to get the last sliver of visible vellum cut out. She opened the book to the matching page and loosed the opposite half of vellum out from the sturdy stitches.

When she’d made no sure no mark at all remained in the ancient book, she carried both pages and every scrap of vellum that she’d cut to the blazing fireplace, and fed the pieces in until they were obliterated. Soon there was no trace that any reanimating spell had ever filled one page in the magical book, and Celia sighed and began to apply a careful layer of dust to the book, to make it match the others on the wooden desk.

In Conclusion

To root out cynicism from your work, make sure to:

  • always say yes, either metaphorically or literally
  • retreating from new topics is saying no
  • contradicting previous-introduced details destroys the feel of adventure
  • unconscious and rooted cynicism makes for lousy writing

Remember, cynicism rejects introduced topics or suggestive details, and embrasure builds on them.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and my children have been learning about dinos from that Dinosaur Train show. They say complex dinosaur names in the evenings that I do not recognize. I need to take down my Christmas tree pretty soon.

 

The Smoothest Method To Evaluate The Quality Of Your Prose

When is your prose good, and when does it suck?

If you have enough taste and self-reflective ability to ask the question, your prose almost certainly doesn’t suck.

Because Being Able To Ask Indicates Sensibility

The problem isn’t whether your prose is good, but whether it’s effective.

What Do You Mean, Victor Poole?

As I mention fairly endlessly, my background is in theatre. Everyone sucks at theatre (sorry, guys). Anyone who has real skill either moves to a metro-center to do non-profit work (or cleverly disguised beggar’s theatre), goes into film (where all the decent folk congregate), or gets out of the game and becomes a lawyer (or barista, or housewife, etc.).

Anyone who successfully creates theatre becomes subsumed into another form of performance (youtube, video production, etc.) that has a more stable income model. The only exception to this rule are little family places, or murder mystery type companies, where the experience of going to the theatre is packaged together with a whole lot of sentiment or novelty.

What Does This Have To Do With My Prose, Victor?

Nothing. I just like to follow my train of thought when I’m writing for the blog. In my years of theatre-ness (I’m waiting for the kids to get out of nappies and early bedtimes, if you were wondering, because two in the morning set breakdowns and young humans don’t blend well), I was appalled at the consistent good-but-never-enough quality of actors, producers, and every style of director.

Most of them didn’t exactly, precisely suck, but none of them were enough.

Your prose, if you are a human being, may suffer occasionally from a similar flavor of not-enough-ness.

What Do You Mean By Enough, Mr. Poole?

People who know you personally, and want you (as in, want to get into your brain, whether for good or ill), will always be motivated to read your prose.

Readers, unless they are desperate for your subject matter, need more incentive, as does the average potential audience member in the theatre world.

Enough means that there is an element of WOW! to whatever you’re doing, either of shock, of brilliance, or of some other compelling emotional draw.

When the lure is missing, the work is not enough.

Now, To Business, Tender Reader

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a cool, dark place. Empty your mind, or, if that is too much effort, think several times of how silly you look to be closing your eyes just because that silly old Victor Poole told you to.

Once you feel your heart make a pleasant shudder of excitement (the opening salvo of adventure-could-be-coming), open your eyes and read carefully, with steady attention, through your prose.

It takes shockingly little time to determine the WOW! or blerg– nature of your prose. Maybe less than one sentence, at most, maybe two.

Here’s How You Determine The Quality Of Your Prose

If your heart drops into a faint feeling of sick disappointment and boredom, your prose sucks, insomuch as it is not enough.

If, on the other hand, your heart speeds up and the harkening of adventure remains, or even heightens, you’re on to something good.

The test takes about fifteen seconds, but you must steady yourself in internal quiet and connect to a feeling of anticipation first. If you just go and stare at your work, you’ll hear nothing but your own insecurities or preconceived notions.

Your body can respond to external stimuli, in the form of words. Your emotional vehicle will change when you read, even words that you wrote.

Get into a blank space, do the test, and then work out how to write continuous WOW!

Today’s Writing Example:

Desmond, an Irish man in form and feature, but wearing the deep silver inserts of a Col-made cyborg, carried the pile of weapons into the warehouse and arranged them by type. The exuntor rods were laid in an exquisitely-tidy heap behind the door, and the blasters and evaporating shofts hung on deep shelves against one wall.

When he had nearly placed every weapon, a shadow emerged from the back of the building.

“No,” Desmond said.

“But sir,” a woman’s voice replied in a pleading sort of manner.

“I said no. Don’t call me sir. That’s idiotic. Where’s Chasya?”

The shadow, who was in shape like a female personage wearing no clothes, took on a mutinous flavor.

“It isn’t fair.”

“Where is she?” Desmond asked, his slight brogue tilting over the words. He could just hear the woman’s teeth grinding with frustration.

“She’s gone to the southern estate this afternoon for a wedding,” the woman said finally.

“Bitch, go away and pout with clothes on,” Desmond said, not unkindly, and he left the warehouse. It must be Manxu’s nephew getting married, Desmond thought, and he whistled a jaunty tune as he returned to unpack more of the ship.

You’re reading Victor Poole. We set up our Christmas tree last night. The cat is tremendously excited about this introduction of plant life to the household, and has successfully liberated one golden shatter-proof ornament so far. Said ornament has been restored to said tree.

Why You Leave Out Anchored Details When You Write (And How To Fix It)

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When you write, you often leave out the best parts. You don’t write about the most exquisite feelings, or the tenderest moments. Everything ought to be pat action and tight dialogue; all things should push the story forward. That’s the way you might feel, anyway, but what your reader wants the most is the deepest and strongest experience of the heart of the story, and that often includes happy feelings, exciting or startling sensations, and even scenes of tender friendship or love.

Victor Poole, You’re So Judgmental!

How do I know you are probably skipping the good parts in your writing? Well, I’ll tell you: I’m extrapolating from a combination of my own experience as a writer, my days of studying story-making in amateur theatre, and my personal findings as a reader of fiction.

So I’m pretty sure, like ninety-nine percent sure, that you’re skipping most of the good parts in your story.

Why Are These Soft, Squishy Bits Getting Skipped Over?

The super short answer is embarrassment and shame, but the longer, more complete answer is that everyone has, at some point in their life, been rejected or left out, or excluded in some painful manner, and this has taught each of us that sharing our truest and deepest selves with others is scary, bad, and sometimes dangerous.

Well, I Don’t Feel That Way, Victor!

Good for you! You rock on with your bad self! However, I shall continue, since not all of us are as lucky and/or resilient as you.

When you start to hide the squishy, human part of yourself in your writing (which is what skipping these deep parts is), the story suffers immeasurably. The characters become dry and unemotional, almost like rote-reading robots, and your prose becomes, shall we say, a tiny little itsy bit tedious at times.

You Can’t Call MY Prose Tedious, Victor! You Cad!

On the other hand, when you share your very favorite parts of the story with genuine excitement and generosity, the prose gets all filled up with good, edible chewiness, and your characters become real people, fully dimensional and memorable.

I Want Memorable Characters! Teach Me, Victor Poole!

The way you can tell if you’re skipping good parts in your writing is if you are bored. Honestly, there you go. If you aren’t excited by what you’re writing about, and eager to put it down, you are more than likely hiding the good parts of the story, possibly even from yourself.

Look! I just explained writer’s block!

No, Really

I’m actually serious; when you can’t write, or you don’t really wanna feel-like-it-right-now, you are probably hiding a really great part of the story from the reader, and writing around it, or over it, or through it.

Let’s take a break from the jibber-jabber and look at some examples:

Skipped good parts:

They sat next to the fire with their hands turned towards the warmth, and the touching that had almost happened two hours ago made them reluctant to speak.

He hadn’t meant to brush against her, and for her part, she found him far less attractive now that she knew he hadn’t lived away from his mother yet.

She started to make the food, and he roused himself and unpacked their bags. They were silent, quiet, and utterly without words for each other, and they slept on opposite sides of the fire that night.

With the good parts:

Thadeus and Jewly sat next to the fire with their palms towards the warmth.

“I thought you were going to kiss me earlier today,” she said. He looked at her sharply, and flushed.

“I wasn’t,” he said.

“I know, because you didn’t,” she said pointedly. His cheeks reddened further, and he scooted a little away from her. She moved closer to him, a frown of deep irritation creasing her mouth.

“Well, what are you getting closer to me for, if you hate me so much?” he demanded.

“I never said that,” she snapped, and eased closer. He glared at her suspiciously.

“I heard you say that you thought I was a lame excuse for a knight. I heard you say that,” Thadeus exclaimed.

“Living with your mother after you’ve been knighted is decidedly out of the spirit of adventure. Where are you supposed to take your true love, after you’ve gotten hold of her?” Jewly demanded. His face darkened; he frowned at her, and scooted closer; their legs pressed together.

“Well?” he asked.

“Well, what?” she replied.

“Aren’t you going to squeal, and go sit over there?” he asked harshly.

“Why would I squeal when you keep not trying to kiss me?” she asked, color mounting in her cheeks. Thadeus stared at her, his face undergoing a gradual revolution. He opened his mouth as if to speak again, and then closed it. She sniffed, and her breath shivered, as if she was concealing a heartfelt sigh.

His hand crept towards her knee; she eyed him, and he hesitated.

“Aren’t you going to run away and tell me how much you don’t want to kiss me?” he asked. His voice had turned husky.

“No,” she said.

“Do you want me to kiss you?” he asked.

And So,

In conclusion, when you are writing, watch out for lackadaisical lack of interest from you towards your story, and beware of writing around or away from the really good parts. Remember, if the reader would want to hear about it because it’s really intense, go ahead and write about it, even if it’s scary and/or too embarrassing.

You’re reading Victor Poole; my books are here, and I recommend starting with this one.

The headless horse is a study of this.