Thursday, September 30, 2010

Around the Word

Today the BloGG brings you hints and inspiration from two novelists, and goes gallivanting through the colorful history of acronyms:
  • Here's writerly wisdom for wordsmiths in all genres. Even if you haven't read Freedom, you've probably heard of its Pulitzer-winning, Oprah-sparring author Jonathan Franzen. Ragan's PR Junkie marvels at the Franzenfreude that has seized America, and looks at the Great American Novelist's bold tips for novelists who want to stand in his shoes—and for writers of any stripe who care for their craft.
1.  The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
2.  Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money.
3.  Never use the word "then" as a ­conjunction—we have "and" for this purpose. Substituting "then" is the lazy or tone-deaf writer's non-solution to the problem of too many "ands" on the page.
4.  Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.
5.  When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
6.  The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than "The Meta­morphosis."
7.  You see more sitting still than chasing after.
8.  It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.
9.  Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
10.  You have to love before you can be relentless.
  • Many writers—columnists, scholars, closeted storytellers—dream of writing That Book or Their Novel. Alas, for most of us, the pressures and desires of ordinary existence interfere with this ambition. In an interview with the L.A. Times, novelist-and-working-mother Mary Gordon preaches discipline and passion as the pillars on which her after-hours authorhood rests. Check out her tough-love tips to parents whose unfinished masterpiece is the ball that keeps getting dropped. Writers, what are your suggestions for juggling so many projects?
  • OMG, IDK what any of these acronyms mean LOL. Acronyms swarm through our daily lives, often in such hordes that we cease to notice them. Where do they come from? Writing in More Intelligent Life, Economist correspondent Robert Lane Greene tracks the history of acronyms in technology, medicine, the military, the boardroom, government—down to our daily conversation. Acronyms can make powerful phrases banal or add a luster of legitimacy or sanitize medical diagnoses (often for the sake of marketing). At best, they fill a niche for which no synonym applies: a SNAFU (situation normal: all fucked up) is "a screw-up caused by some title-inflated CTO or SVP trying to impose TQM (total quality management)." Ultimately acronyms are tools, molded to the purposes and attitudes of their users. Where have you noticed acronyms cropping up recently? Do they delight or distress you?

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