I dare you
Allow me the chance to learn the language of your soul.
I am tasked with decisions I don’t think I can make. So, I break them down into smaller pieces. When judging other’s work, it is so hard to pick a winner. There is the court of popular opinion, but since when is this an accurate barometer?
So, we make our spreadsheets, with all the categories.
Was the Title a good one, appropriate for the work it stands for?
Hmmm that’s not always possible to judge in the first few chapters of a book. Sometimes it takes till the last chapter before it becomes clear.
The Blurb or Summary?
Now that one is easier. If it made me curious enough to click on the first chapter, then it’s done its job. Too long, and it becomes a synopsis, not good.
Easier to deal with than the written word. Sometimes it’s merely a symbol, other times the artwork is spectacular, but does it give a sense of what you are about to read? Yes? Then good enough.
And we get down to the the things that will spoil the read.
Grammar, spelling, punctuation. Minor problems are forgivable. Continual gross infractions are not. It can take a wonderful plot line and destroy it inside of a couple of pages. Edit, edit, edit. There are so many programs that can help, even as simple as what is there in Google docs, or Word. Use them.
Gaping holes in the plot... again how am I supposed to figure that one out in a few chapters. Especially when the plot develops slowly, as characters are drawn and world history is brought to play.
Character development. Are they flat? It’s hard to get behind a character who has no feelings and is all action. Action is fine, but at least let me know what the protagonist likes for breakfast and if they dream or not.
Flow, pacing and vocabulary. Are you using words no one knows the meaning for? Do they have to run to a dictionary to understand and interrupt the progression of the plot to figure out what you meant? Reading is meant to be entertainment in most cases. Keep it simple, but don’t use the same ten words over and over again. The thesaurus exists for a reason. Anything that might make the reader go WTF! is to be avoided if you want them to continue till the end of the story.
And so, it goes down a line of boxes, each with a heading and a highest possible score.
I have sixteen works to judge, in two awards and three genres. I know what good is but differentiating between excellent work to pick the best is hard. These little boxes are what help me to choose the winner.
Please don’t judge the judge too harshly. Don’t question them too closely. Each day is unique, and their decisions are to be taken with grace. I’ve come back to a book I judged harshly years ago and found myself wondering why on the second reading. The opposite is true as well.
And this is what came out when I was challenged to just write. Can you guess what’s worrying me? Of course, you’re all smart cookies.
Pen to the Paper 7
"OH SHOOT!" I yelled at five in the morning, jumping off of the hotel couch bed and running into the bathroom.
"What's going on!?" Mom asked, jolting upright in bed.
"The heck, dude…" Dad said.
"I'm gon' be late!"
I slammed the bathroom door, waking up my sisters, and hopped into the shower. I was done in two minutes: something I had not done in ages. When I got out of the shower I realized that I did not grab any clothes on my way in. "You gotta be kidding me!" I said, wrapping the tiny towel around my waist. It didn't even go halfway down my thighs.
"Nothing else I can do," I said with a sigh, then I rushed into the part of the hotel room where the couch was at. I threw open my bag, grabbed my outfit for the day, ran back to the bathroom, and the door got slammed in my face. My sister had gone inside. "Hey--um--I kinda need in there."
"Well, I kinda need in here too. You can wait. You had your turn."
"No, you see, it was still my turn. I'm standing put here in just a--"
"DUDE! WE'RE TRYNA SLEEP OVER HERE!"
My mother's outburst confused me considering they wake up between three and four every morning. But I guess we are on vacation… kinda. Weekend away for a race.
My sister finally got out of the bathroom and I got dressed. "Be back soon!" I called, grabbing the keys.
"Where do ya think you're goin'?" Ma asked. "You don't even have your license yet!"
"Wanna come with then?"
"You're not goin' anywhere."
"I gotta announce Pen to the Paper 7 though!"
"Love ya," I said closing the door and running down the hall towards the elevator.
After leaving the hotel, I jumped into the car and sped away, driving haphazardly. "Turn left," the GPS said. "You idiot. I said turn left. Why did you turn left? You were supposed drive straight."
"It ain't my fault you make things unnecessarily complicated. Had you not said anything, I would have gone that way!"
After twenty more of these situations, I finally made it to my location: the beach. I grabbed a camera from the back, set up the tripod, and put the camera on top. The sun was rising beautifully behind me. I turned the camera on, and Maya called.
"Are you almost ready?" she asked.
"I'm about to broadcast. Let me know if my signal is coming through."
"Yep, it's working. Move to the left. The other left. Alright. Take two steps back. Now put the earpiece in and put your phone down: you're going live in 10… 9… 8… 7… Why haven't you put the earpiece in yet? 6…"
"I'll be back, I think it's in the car."
I searched the car: nothing.
"You were supposed to be live two minutes ago," she said when I finally got back.
"I left it at the hotel."
"Perfect. I guess you'll be using your phone. Going live now."
"Wait I'm not read--Hello everyone! Can't believe another month has passed… and you know what that means! Welcome to Pen to the Paper 7!!!"
A hidden river,
Flows through the grove of willows,
Old branches draping down,
Under the crumbling stone bridge,
That long ago,
Saw many carriages safely over the rushing waters,
Too unsturdy for cars,
To low for boats,
A path that is no longer used,
A river that gives no more,
Used to be a grand old time,
Used to be the life of the day,
But blondes in pink dresses,
No longer come,
Boys with fishing poles and caps ,
No longer come,
Mothers with picnic baskets and crying babies
No longer come,
Fathers with crates of beer and friends,
No longer come,
The green beside the river,
Strut and fret, fritter and waste.
The English are of blood and tears,
juxtaposed by tea and cakes.
Fear and loss and strength of will,
backbone, balls and guts.
Their history is rich and rife with war and gore and grizzle;
Barbarians and druids, peasants, nobles, warrior-kings.
But the best of all of these are bards,
Without whom we’d scarcely care to understand the others.
Many souls have loved or hated, scoffed or quaffed or quarreled
With the world of English language, in these long-forgotten hours,
Tales told by idiots merge seamlessly to sinking suns...
So I’ll pluck these two things out and show them side by side,
That we may wallow in their beauteous humility,
For they both claim to have no meaning,
... in such a profoundly meaningful way :
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
~Macbeth (William Shakespeare)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over
Thought I’d something more to say [...]”
~Time (Pink Floyd)
Like A Dog Chasing Cars
I know its going to sound like I'm bragging--okay, maybe I am a little--but this challenge, for me, isn't really a challenge.
I've never been one for outlines or planning. I just...go. That's not to say that I make everything up as I go along, of course: I almost always have either a beginning, a middle, or an end, but the greatest joy I derive from writing, the best thing about sitting down to pen a story or a novel, is the journey. Sometimes I have a place to start, and so I work to an ending. Other times I have a destination in mind, and so I must work backwards to reach the starting point. Seldom do I start in the middle.
That's my writing process in a nut shell. So this challenge? Easy peasy.
Its where I feel the most liberated, the blank page.
There are rules, sure, but within those rules? The possibilities are endless.
I have so much fun doing all these challenges on Prose. I feel like I'm really uncumbered when I write pieces on here. I really just...go. I don't have to worry if anyone is going to read it. I don't have to worry about summarizing my stories into neat, marketable packets for some intern in a publishing house to read and delete. I can just...write.
I can't tell you how freeing that is.
And yes, ideally, that's how all your writing should be: free and unfettered, full of your deepest feelings and beliefs, without worrying whether or not it will be enough to get your foot in the professional publishing door.
Rejection after rejection makes it harder to write like that, though.
Increasingly, I find myself asking: "What's the point?"
See, I think we have a set number of times we can get knocked down before we stop getting up. As life goes on, we get hit and hit and hit and hit...Some of those blows make us stumble, some make us go down hard. I hit the mat every time I get a rejection. Every time. But, to continue with the boxing metaphor, I'm up on my feet after a few counts.
Lately though, it's taking longer and longer to get up.
And I don't know how long I have until I stop getting up altogether. I don't want to think that way, but I can't help it. I get in the ring, and I confidently tell myself: "You got this, kid," Its not arrogance or bravado, its just a belief forged from hours and years of work. I know I can write. I know it. I know that I'm a writer. But why is it proving so hard to let others know it?
Because every rejection isn't just a powerful blow that makes my knees buckle, it makes me question everything: my form, my training, my will. Everything. I'm at a point now where the very act of sitting down to write, putting on the gloves as it were, makes me tremble.
But when theres no crowds watching, no referee, and no bell? I just swing and swing, dancing around the ring without a care in the world. And its great. My shoulders aren't heavy with the weight of expectations, my feet arent bound by the shackles of hopes and dreams; I'm just free to be me.
I wish that was always the case.
I always thought
I was made of
until the devil
called me home
his Satan face
of all the
red flags I
and a reminder
that came too late
That Thin Line
Opening the window blinds to my living room,
I see a flock of sparrows scatter in fright.
Only a single sparrow remains on the ground,
Unphased by all his friend’s plight.
Giving me one look. Then continues to eat in solitude.
Thinking to himself, “More for me.”
I cannot tell whether that sparrow is a genius or a moron.
Often that thin line is impossible to see.
I just got an ad for rollerblades on Youtube, and I’m horrified. It must be because something heard me talk about them in my online classes half an hour ago. Or maybe it’s because I was surfing the web for a new pair last week, and the Internet hasn’t forgotten. I feel uneasy. Someone's just trying to sell me rollerblades. But why is it so offputting? It's not meant to be. The pretty colours and low prices are supposed to lure me in. This is just a few lines of code that sniff out keywords and generates a little ad. I don't like. I defy it in the only way I can, by scrolling away.
PS: I'm not a native English speaker - feel free to point out my mistakes! Thanks :)
Ok let me start. this is the aboslute worst. Blehhhh. Ugh. I try so hard to do what you say. You say no plane. i plan. I plan. I plan. That's what I do. I can't write without a plan. I think before I write. I have the whole thing written out in my head before I start. so I try not to. My story is yeah. Yep that is my story. I wanted to do something creative but guess what, I can't think about it before I do it. right? that is what you meant, right? Maybe not but I hope this is what you wanted. I have not stopped to think. Maybe for a second but yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yep it sucks. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. YEAH.