Thursday, November 5, 2009

Robert's Rules II

Several comments have come in concerning the entry directly below (if you haven't read the entry, shame!) concerning Robert Masello's clever little book, Robert's Rules of Writing. TG has found that most folks don't bother to click on the comments button at the end of each piece, so we'll address these issues here.

First of all, Mr. Masello has learned that TG has been talking about him, and sent the following:

"I'd like to express my gratitude to the Thriller Guy for the fantastic, and unexpected, plug of Robert's Rules of Writing. But TG -- you are too kind. While I do meet my deadlines and write everyday, I have refused to take on some work, and I do bitch from time to time. (Ask my wife.) Once or twice, I turned down jobs ghost-writing books for obvious charlatans (one of whom claimed to be the head of an institute, which was, in fact, her empty storage shed) and on another occasion, I passed on writing a roll of toilet paper -- each sheet was to offer its own very brief anecdote. Even then (I think I was twenty-two) I considered myself above such stuff and hoped to preserve my name for later fame.

As for the bitching . . . if there's a writer who doesn't, I haven't met him or her. (Nor, in all probability, would I want to.) If a writer's career has gone that smoothly, and if he or she is above sniping, moaning, quibbling and cursing, then that writer is far too good to know the likes of me."

You misunderstood, Robert, TG meant that you seemed to be a guy who didn't bitch to those who have hired you to do a piece of writing. Those of us who are continually scrabbling around for writing gigs know that the client may not be right, but if he/she is giving notes on a piece that he/she is paying for, a real working writer should smile politely and then do anything he/she can do to either address the client's concerns or trick the client into thinking their concerns have been addressed. In other words, shut up and rewrite the piece. As for regular writer bitching, well, have at it. TG is known for bitching about the writing life and encourages anyone else who has a peeve or gripe to send 'em in and we'll all join in the fray. (Say, Robert, just between you and TG, do you still have the address for that toilet paper gig?)

Another commenter, eagle-eyed Marlene writes:

TG wrote: “Robert is encouraged to write in if he feels wronged or abused in any way. Other writers are encouraged...”

First writing rule for TG and everyone else: Never write in the passive voice!”

Ouch, Marlene! But you are quite right, and TG hangs his head in shame. It should have been: “Robert, write in if you feel wronged..., Others, send us your tips..." At least I think that's correct. Marlene?

A good discussion of passive voice can be found here.

In short, don't use any form of the pesky “to be” (is, was, are, am, were, etc.) followed by a past participle, unless you want Marlene on your ass, pronto.

And this in from Anonymous: “I hate to say this, but regarding rule #2: Pen pals? That's so old school. Isn't that just an old-fashioned reference to what's now referred to as "blogs"? Aren't you just writing to all your "friendly pen pals" out in the ethernet?”

Hmmmm. I think there's something of a disconnect here, and yet Anonymous makes an interesting point. If I can speak for Robert, (Robert, if you're out there, feel free to speak for yourself.) Robert's Rules ( at least it seems to me) are structured so that the tips sort of start from a new writer's beginning efforts and work toward a new writer's finished product. Many times when fledgling writers (they're so cute) gather at TG's knee, they always ask some variation of that eternal question: “Where do you get your ideas, sir?” By which they mean where do you get your ideas so they can go there and get some ideas of their own. Robert is suggesting when he says write a pen pal, that one should write someone they like about something that has happened to them, or something that they are interested in, and by doing so they can find themselves a subject that might be interesting for them to write about in other venues.

So lighten up, Anonymous!

But there is the interesting point Anonymous brings up about bloggers. When blogging, one writes, in a public way, about things that one is interested in. And by extension, doing so would point up themes that the blogger might exploit for more economic outlets. (Anyone out there have any tips how TG could make some money off this blog? Advertisers are welcomed.) We've all read stories about how various bloggers have been able to expand their blogs into published books. Robert Masello, when you write the next edition of your Rules will you include blogging in some way?

And to answer Anonymous's snarky question, “Aren't you just writing to all your “friendly pen pals” out in the ethernet?”

I certainly hope so.

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