Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Snarky Thoughts & Touching Hearts

I’m an avid reader. When I was a kid, I’d read anything I could get my hands on. But the older I get, the more persnickety I am about what I choose to read. I realize there are way more books published in a month than I’ll ever hear about, that book prices are going up, and—now that I’m “retired” from the part-time job I took after I’d retired early from public school teaching—I need to curtail my spending on books. Consequently, I don’t read just anything anymore.

For instance, I no longer read books written to appeal to major organs. I don’t want my guts wrenched by an author who has spilled his. I don’t want my spine tingled. Consequently I avoid books described as “gut-wrenching,” “spilling guts,” or “spine-tingling.”

I have no desire to read anything that will “touch my heart.” I don’t want my heart touched by anyone but a board-certified cardiologist. Ditto for books that “warm my heart” (sounds like an infection) or that are “heart-wrenching” or “heart-stopping.” I want a good, entertaining read—not cardiac arrest.

I don’t want to read books written by authors who write “from the heart” or worse, “from the bottom of my heart,” or who “put my whole heart into my writing.” (Eww!) When folks tell me they write “from the heart,” I imagine a person connected to a computer by various wires and cables that allow the heart to pump prose or poetry straight to the computer screen.

R. L. Stine (the Goosebumps author), in an interview in the June 2006 issue of The Writer, had this to say about the matter:

I hear other authors saying, “Write from your heart. Write what you feel.” That’s horrible. What a way to turn people away from writing. I’ve never written a single thing from my heart. I write to entertain people. I pick out an audience, and I learn about them and what they like, and I write the best book I can for them. You can make a really good living and have a lot of fun writing things for other people.

Good advice. I’m having fun with my writing, but I haven’t yet arrived at the “good living” part.

Actually, I have read books—OK, parts of books—by some of the heart-writing folks, so I know odds are good that their heart-touching books will be laden with superfluous adverbs (and most adverbs are superfluous!), unnecessary adjectives, misplaced modifiers, passive verbs, and excessive exclamation points. (Note: The exclamation point used in this paragraph is excessive.)

The more serious I become about my writing, the more detached I become from it—which is a good thing. I haven’t suffered from “Golden Word Syndrome” for years. If a publisher mails me a check, then the publisher can have his/her way with my particular arrangement of words. Plenty of other words await me.

Consequently, I was delighted to see this gem of wisdom posted by Miss Snark on her blog yesterday:

Passion, feeling and emotion are a glut on the market. Everyone has them. Everyone including Killer Yapp. [KY is her poodle.] I can't get you one thin dime for passion. What I can get you SERIOUS money for is well constructed brutally honed solid writing. If you think that compromises your emotions, creativity and originality you're right. Good writing is about making yourself and your ideas understood by someone else. It's entirely original to write nonsense verse. It's also meaningless.

Miss Snark, you go girl!



Blogger Jenny Ruth Yasi said...

Funny. I love to have my guts wrenched.

6:07 PM  

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