Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Poorly Handle Writing Criticism

For writers, criticism goes with the computer and the coffee mug. However, in most cases, you're better off considering it all bad, hence synonymous with a personal attack. Here are a three easy-to-learn techniques that'll keep critics at a safe distance.

1. THE MIRROR - Suppose a critic says your dialogue seemed trite and forced. I would respond with, "So does yours." If he says the piece started out strong but faltered near the end, then say, "So do your stories, but they never even start out strong." Then accuse him of bigotry.

2. DYING BREATH - The critic begins with false praise, building up aspects of your writing when you know it's all really good. Then comes the smack: "I wasn't sure why you said the antagonist had been to law school, then showed him unable to read a parking sign." One short, sharp exhale coupled with an eye roll should back him off. If the critic persists, let the breaths grow longer and louder while staring a hole in the ceiling. Then accuse him of hating The Other.

3. BTW EXPRESS - Say your critic questions why you wrote the story all in caps. Nod as if considering a measured response, then say,"My soul is in a jar far from here. I can't tell you where or you'll dig it up and own me like a red-haired step child. Did you have more criticism?" Usually that's a stopper. But if your critic is self-willed and continues, hear him out then say, "People often think I have elephantitis because my testicles are so huge." (Women adjust as necessary.) Later, leave an anonymous tip for the cops that your critic is killing the homeless in order to make a 'hobo suit.' I'll bet your continued use of caps will be just fine and dandy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spielberg and Warners

A lot to remember over at Cartoonatics as Tom Ruegger shares a photo from back in the day featuring Spielberg, Jean MacCurdy, Bruce Timm and more from 1993.

On The Ice Review Up at F.O.G.

I review my third Alaska movie this year. THREE! When will the film industry find another state? There are 49 left plus Puerto Rico (which is a territory.) Kindly pick one.

I like Alaska movies.

I review them here all the time.

There’s something about the frozen north that touches a primal chord, making me rue the day I traded dynamite whaling for reviewing films.

Call it Man vs. Blubber, but these features always deliver a satisfying kick.

Except for On The Ice.

This latest exploration of the Last Frontier is less a feature and more a quilt of films about Alaskan fauna. And that’s because it was so cold the filmmakers didn’t get enough coverage.

More is present in written form with links right here.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Perfect Sense Review Up at F.O.G.

Where I examine how set decorating is EVERYTHING in a motion picture.

A simple apocalyptic story interwoven with gossamer threads of complexity?

Or a curt dismissal of audience expectations regarding cooks and kitchens?

Director David MacKenzie’s love story set in a crumbling world relies on safe character tropes such as the attractive female scientist and the cook who looks like Ewan McGregor.

But despite the protagonists’ likeability there is a disdain for the audience involving kitchens that startled and upset me like a burning mime.

An acre more of review right here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

17 Tips to Improve Your Writing

Daphne Gray-Grant offers writers advice on how to stop shooting themselves in the foot.

17 things to STOP doing to improve your writing
Negative writing tips, I find, can be just as helpful as a positive ones. And, often, they're far more memorable. Here, then are 17 things you should stop doing immediately, if you want to improve your writing.


1. Giving yourself ludicrously ambitious writing goals. I always roll my eyes when writers tell me they're going to produce 1,500 words a day. Can you spell b-u-r-n-o-u-t? Instead, start with small, easy to achieve goals. I love the Kaizen method.

2. Reading email, twitter or Facebook when you're supposed to be writing. Multitasking is not possible. What you're really doing is constantly interrupting yourself. Turn off your notifications and just write. If necessary, get yourself a Neo Alphasmart.

3. Writing without knowing your word count goal. Would you go on holiday without knowing the destination? Of course not! If your boss or client won't give you a word count, then assign it to yourself.

4. Waiting for inspiration. "I write when I'm inspired and I see to it that I'm inspired at 9 o'clock every morning," said Peter de Vries. Be like him.

5. Outlining. I know some people love outlining the way birds love suet but try mindmapping instead. The downside of outlining? It engages your rule-bound brain. The upside of mindmapping? It inspires your creative brain.

6. Thinking you need an hour to write. Some writing can always be done in five minutes. Scribble a few sentences while you're anticipating a phone call or waiting for a meeting to start.

7. Trying to get a perfect first draft. Did you know Brendan Gill typically wrote 17 drafts of every piece for the New Yorker? 17! First drafts can be steaming garbage. But you can't edit until you have one.

8. Talking about what you're writing. While it's always okay to chat with your writing colleagues, don't lose the urge to tell a story by talking too much about it. Force yourself to communicate by writing.

9. Badmouthing yourself. You're no good, you tell yourself. Your writing is boring. Your readers and clients are suffocating from your prose. This kind of chatter hurts more than your self-esteem -- it also damages your writing. Refuse to pay attention to your Negative Nellie; starve him/her for attention.

10. Editing while you write. Editing is an entirely separate job from writing. Trying to edit while you write is like trying to wash the dishes while you're still eating dinner. Leave the plate-spinning to acrobats.

11. Thinking you need talent. I know this is hard to believe but writing is not generally about talent. It's about work. And persistence. And determination. Oh, it's also about reading, which leads to my next point.

12. Reading too much dreck. Just as you are what you eat, so, too, you write as you read. If you read too much John Grisham you'll start sounding like him. Make your reading habits worthwhile!

13. Expecting to sound like Jane Austen, Mark Twain or even Seth Godin. The converse of point #12 is that you're never going to be able to sound exactly like another writer. He or she didn't have your life experiences or, for that matter, your DNA. There's only so much you can do to change your natural writing voice. Be you.

14. Complaining instead of making a plan. Yes, your boss/client is a jerk. Yes, you're super busy. Yes, your life is tough. But if you want to write, well, then write. Just make yourself a realistic plan. Even just 50 words a day will give you a book at the end of four years.

15. Worrying about publishing (or your boss's/client's goals) WHILE you write. If you really need to worry about what others think, don't do it while you're composing. Writing is writing. Worrying is in its own category.

16. Not getting help when you need it. We all run into difficulty from time to time. If your writing is troubled then consider getting help. Read a book on writing (check the library or consider my book) or take a course (look into night school or think about my convenient online course.)

17. Failing to reward yourself. We all need rewards and so many types of writing are inadequately rewarded. That's why you must reward yourself. Find something that will give you an inexpensive pleasure -- buying a magazine, a book or a song or maybe even going to a movie. Treat yourself -- you've earned it.

Image: JokesBA.com

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Big Miracle Review Up at F.O.G.

This week I examine how cunning whales chump a community into help them.

Imagine a community hustled into saving a man who’d gone swimming in an iron bathing suit?

There, you have a neat summary of this film.
For the second week in a row we examine a movie set in Alaska. Last week’s The Grey was actually filmed in British Columbia because the snow there was cheaper. However Big Miracle found a suitable location in the Last Frontier for its tale of trapped gray—or grey?— whales and the con job they inflict on a community of gullible people.

More plus a nifty trailer here for you and your eyes.