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thoughts about writing, writing about thoughts

Important message for today, my writing friends: W*yson was just over for supper, and we were discussing his on-going struggle with the new manuscript. He has been slaving, going backward and forward and ripping it apart and starting again, for well over a year. “God, it doesn’t sound like much fun,” I said.

“Oh, it’s never fun,” he said. “Writing isn’t fun.”
“But there’s some joy, isn’t there?” I said, the idealistic girl child.
“There’s joy when it’s published and people like it,” he said, “but writing isn’t joy. It’s work.”
I knew that.
Still, it’s nice to pretend otherwise. But he’s right. My own current project is neither fun nor joy, but, indeed, work. Exciting and necessary, but for fun, I’ll eat a lot of cheese.
Speaking of work – an article in the “Globe” the other day about Jane Austen’s prose. Apparently this great genius of English literature was poor at punctuation and owes a great deal to her editor, who “polished the manuscripts, regulating her haphazard regulations, introducing the trademark semicolons and eliminating surplus dashes.”
The message there is: if you’re a lousy punctuator, make sure you have a good editor. Or else get a good book about punctuation, of which there are many now. On Friday, I spent some time browsing at one of my favourite places, the local library, where in one small section of new non-fiction, I saw these titles: “Fix your feet;” “Classic cocktails;” “I want a baby, he doesn’t;” “Kung fu for girls;” “Stop being your symptoms and start being yourself;” “So it’s hard to love you;” “The happiness advantage;” “Playing with paper;” “Understanding the universe;” and, my favourite, “Gay and lesbian weddings: planning the perfect same-sex wedding.” What an amazing world.
And there was a new book called “Good Punctuation,” by Graham King, just published by HarperCollins. A gift for Jane Austen.
Finally, an article in the “Star” about the young man who grew up in Riverdale, mere steps from my front door, who started the blog, which “has piled up nearly 75 million hits, in the process spinning off a best-selling book of the same name” and now a new book, “Whiter Shades of Pale.”
75 million hits and a best-seller. What am I doing wrong?
He is asked, “What’s the secret to your blog’s successful migration to traditional publishing?”
Of interest to me, obviously, author of “True to Life: the book of the blog,” which so far has sold an astounding 17 copies.
For a blog to become a good book,” he replies, “the blog really needs to reflect the writer, not an aggregation of content. The ones that work well for books are the ones where there’s a single voice and where the posts are long form, like 400 words, which is ‘War and Peace’ for the Internet.”
All right, Mr. Goldwyn, I’m ready for my close-up. I know that writing is not fun but work, I’m really good at punctuation, and in my blog posts I easily write, like, 400 words reflecting the single voice of the writer. Tolstoy, 75 million hits, joy – here I come.



15 Responses to “thoughts about writing, writing about thoughts”

  1. How funny you should mention Jane. I just started re-reading Pride and Prejudice and wondered – not for the first time – about the opening sentence: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Are both those commas necessary?

  2. beth says:

    I guess they were in 1813. Now you could delete the one between 'fortune' and 'must'. But if there were no commas, it would be a pretty full sentence, especially for the first sentence of a book. Jane, or her editor, is making sure we stop and breathe before we plunge in.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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