Haven’t blogged for a couple of years now [“now” being February, 2017], and I’ve got lots of good excuses: been finishing up my second novel in the Eddy Trout Series, Trout Run; have moved from Portland to the McKenzie River, where I’ve been converting an above-garage space into a guest room; have welcomed more grandchildren into the world; have been attending music festivals; have been sampling craft beers; yada-yada. So, what does all this this have to do with the photo taken from the stern of a cruise ship? Maybe nothing at all.

Trust Your Prose

One of my favorite pastimes is to read the “New York Times Book Review” to glean tips from reviewers about “good writing.” In the June 10, 2012, “Review” is an excellent piece by Andre Dubus III, in high praise of Richard Ford’s novel “Canada”–which I’ve now GOT TO READ. (And maybe I’ll include it in my Book Recommendations.) And now to the point of this post: Dubus says, “… as is so often the case with the fiction of Richard Ford, what actually happens in the story feels secondary, or at best equal, to the language itself. In the hands of a lesser writer, this can create problems: the prose begins to feel self-indulgent, written not to illuminate any truths but to please the writer, and in the process, story itself is lost and the reader is left behind.” In the case of my writing, I translate Dubus’ point as follows: Paul, keep yourself out of the prose (no showing off those way-cool metaphors); trust your prose (KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid) to plainly reveal the characters and the story. For me, trusting in my prose is the hard part, and I need to constantly remind myself to have faith in my style, but the very positive and supportive feedback I’m getting from readers is helping me do just that.

Here they are again, the rules for entering the “Tweet” Contest for Trout Kill. So far, several folks have said they’re going to enter. Good luck, everyone!

1. The Challenge: In 140 characters or less, critique Paul’s novel Trout Kill. The “Best” critique, as chosen by the author, yours truly, wins.

2. The contest is open to all who have read, or who will read by the end of February, Trout Kill.

3. All entries are due by February 28, 2013. Entries must be submitted by commenting on this blog post. The winning contestant will get a reply from me by March 2, and receive a copy of Trout Kill, signed and personalized, OR a fifteen-dollar gift card to Starbucks. I may post submissions on Facebook (to prime the pump), and the winner forfeits all rights to his/her entry. (I may use it for marketing purposes.)

4. The winning entry will be posted in my blog, on my website and/or Facebook.

Quote of the Day: “If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves.” ~Don Marquis

The Road to Writing (Part IX)

Okay, here’s a bit of a speed bump on the Road to Writing:

You may have noticed the quote on my Home Page from Oscar Wilde: “This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.” Should there be a comma placed after the word comma? Oscar, you devil! Once you decide to go public with your writing, that’s the kind of thing you become obsessed with, especially if you’re an English teacher who doesn’t dare get caught with his commas down. Some of you former students may remember the rules of writing that George Orwell professed to believe … and then violated in his essay “Shooting an Elephant.” George, a most esteemed figure in western literature, thus gives me license, I figure, to ignore the occasional rule, too. What I told my students was you’ve got to know the rules first, and then you can decide whether or not to violate them. [This philosophy may hold true for other areas of life, like religion, for example, with its many “rules.”] This advice about breaking rules holds especially true for fiction, where voice and idiosyncrasy hold greater sway. Having said all of this, I’m guessing there may be “editing errors” in Trout Kill. If you find any, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know, but I’ll just say I planned to break that particular rule. You are now safely past the speed bump. Thank you for your patience.

(Part X later … the last part of the series, unless not!)