Friday, 20 February 2009

This you will love...

If you want to roar with laughter, read my friend Alan's post here.

It's a selection of blurbs, with his comments.



  1. good stuff. any time i have to shorten my storie, ie query, synopsis, blurb, i always have a problem!

    downside of being long winded.


  2. Thanks Lexi.

    You may be interested to know that as of a few minutes ago it was pretty much a dead heat between your nice reference here and folks looking for Oprah Winfrey endorsed coupons in sending people to "Sketches". My employer is repeating a special offer for folks who watch Oprah's show and since I mentioned it on my blog the hits have taken a nice jump. I Googled "Oprah coupons" and my little whisper in the Internet woods shows up on the first page. Geez.

    Although over time nothing has had quite the appeal of my "Bid Time Return" column. Seems to be lots of folks who want to mess with Father Time. They don't get much substantial assistance from me I'm afraid.


  3. Sorry to be a stick in the mud, but instead of putting them up for ridicule why doesn't he spend his time helping them? We were all beginners once, and we all made mistakes.


  4. You bet we all make mistakes. And if we can't laugh about them what do we have left?

    I am not a tutor or the coach of the pee-wee soccer league. I'm a writer who looks for the funny in life. And often as not what inspires me are human's who have no clue. Could be writers, could be presidents, could be me.

  5. Nik, I doubt these writers would welcome Alan leaving a message offering to help with their risible blurbs.

    They'd most likely huff and argue.

    Didn't Alan's comments make you laugh? I was falling about.

  6. Lexi, Alan's comments were witty - I can't argue that (and I apologise for posting here when I should really be replying in his comments on his blog) but that isn't the point, in my eyes.

    If someone wishes to be Snarky, then fine, but I think that in order to have the privelige you need to a) have some considerable literary standing (ie like Miss Snark and I'm not giving Alan any disrespect here - he might be That Good, it's just I haven't heard of him) and b) - probably most importantly - have the writers' consent. Did you have permission, Alan, to post their work? (If you don't there is a copyright issue, though I'm sure you're aware of that.)

    I'm talking as a writer. As someone who teaches writing. And as someone who looked after beginners on a pretty big writing site for a good number of years. And in each of those positions what you've done is unacceptable imo. I'm not suggesting you've (Alan) meant to be horrid, but, well, you have been. There is nothing wrong with seeing the 'funny' in people having no clue; what I'd suggest would be turning that into interesting fiction rather than cutting and pasting and humiliating folk. That's too easy and, dare I say it, lazy.

    And maybe these people wouldn't listen to advice - is it all really for you to judge? I don't think so. Sure people make silly mistakes (I know I did) but who are you to put them up for ridicule (and without consent)?

    I'd seriously urge you to consider that you could be crushing people for a Very Cheap laugh - if someone had have done that with one of my earlier efforts (and they would have qualified - a lot of what I wrote at the beginning was rubbish) then I might not have continued.

    Sorry to go on, but I really don't like bullying, and if I've got the wrong end of the stick then I apologise.

    Writing or being a writer isn't easy - there's a hell of a lot to learn; I'd rather help people - show them the nuances et al - rather than hold them up to ridicule for not knowing them, and risk putting them off for life. And if I did put someone off writing for life then I'd be particularly upset - I hope you would be too. Surely encouraging and helping's a better thing to do.

    And thus ends my burble.


  7. Nik,

    If I might take your objections one by one.

    "in order to have the privelige you need to a) have some considerable literary standing (ie like Miss Snark and I'm not giving Alan any disrespect here - he might be That Good, it's just I haven't heard of him)"

    What you are saying in effect is that in order to practice certain forms of humor, one must have reached a level of notoriety that satisfies some sort of standard? The quality of the work has no bearing, simply the credentials of the offender?

    "Did you have permission, Alan, to post their work? (If you don't there is a copyright issue, though I'm sure you're aware of that.)"

    Everyone who posts on these sites does so with the understanding they are inviting public comment. Does this copyright issue you believe applies here also apply to situations where sections of a work are used to illustrate a point in a critique? If so, we have rampant copyright issues on Authonomy, including in some of the H/C reviews.

    "There is nothing wrong with seeing the 'funny' in people having no clue; what I'd suggest would be turning that into interesting fiction rather than cutting and pasting and humiliating folk. That's too easy and, dare I say it, lazy."

    The best, most human comedy comes from the truth. Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Dave Barry the writers of The Daily Show (all of these are American references, but I'm sure you have their equivalents in the UK) all took human foibles and brought them to light. As to the charge of sloth, well, if I had simply cut and pasted and left these out in the breeze by themselves you might have a point, although their is such a thing as editorial effort involved even then. The comments were my contribution and like them or not, represent a bit of what I have learned about the art and craft of humor over the past few decades, both as a writer and a performer. It should look easy, because that's part of the work.

    "And maybe these people wouldn't listen to advice -"

    The purpose of my little entry was not to advice. It was to entertain. Your experiences in teaching beginning writers in a classroom setting is not at all the same as what happens in an environment like Authonomy. In the time I have participated in such sites (about three years) I have found that the least talented, most conceited,, most thoroughly self-deluded "writers" on these sites have no interest in anything except effusive praise.

    "if someone had have done that with one of my earlier efforts (and they would have qualified - a lot of what I wrote at the beginning was rubbish) then I might not have continued."

    I would be willing to bet that is not at all true. And if it is, then you have no business calling yourself a writer. Anyone who spends any amount of time in this struggle is going to run into at least some discouragement and often as not it will be a whole lot more damaging and frequently originating from those near and dear, than anything I could offer up. If I had wanted to be cruel, and start one of those seemingly coveted "hot threads" I would have posted this piece on the Authonomy forum. That, in my opinion, would have been badly played.

    And lastly.........

    "Surely encouraging and helping's a better thing to do."

    Sometimes. But sometimes it does a whole lot more good to get that Slap Upside The Head or else you're just going to drift along thinking everything's okay. But once again, the purpose of my piece was for entertainment. There is no way I have the time, energy or, as you might point out, credentials, to take each of these folks by the hand and lead them into the light.

    I have no problem with you or anybody else having a problem with what I write. Any writer who has the Self Edit button constantly pressed is never going to write anything worthwhile.

    And really lastly. Thanks for prompting this exchange. Sometimes it is just the thing to have somebody you respect disagree with something you have done so you can stand back, take a good look, and decide if it's worth defending. As somebody famous once said "I disagree with you, you son of a gun, but I'll defend your right to be disagreeable."

    Or something like that.

    With extreme apologies Lexi.


  8. In going back over my last intrusion into Lexi's blog I have spotted a typo or three. I would like to let all parties know that they have permission to make whatever sport out of these errors their skill and wit will allow.

    And as we say at the end of every Sketches by Plumboz..............

    Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise!

  9. (Sorry again Lexi...!)

    Alan, (I'm glad we're still friends) I'm not denying you the right to offend, it's the way and the place that I question. Had these been published works then I think it's fair game, if not a little bitchy and/or cheap. As I understand things, they're not published pieces (well, actually, I suppose they are now cos you've published them, but let's not get into complicated legal copyright waters). They're pieces uploaded to a peer review site for feedback. My problem is with someone (anyone) taking work uploaded in good faith and to a private forum (ie for all to see on the www) and posting them elsewhere without the owners' consent. That's problem number one - commenting on such pieces on the site where they'd been posted is a different matter. Problem number 2 is really with *why* you've done it. If these people are as awful as you say they are, why not leave them to it? Why waste your time? But again, just because they might not want to listen to advice doesn't give anyone the right the take their work and put it up for public ridicule.

    I've been a member of online writing forums for five or six years (I was a site host on one for two years and hosted groups for years before that) and in my experience one of the main reasons why people join (a members' site - one with usernames and passwords) is so that they can get criticism and feedback on their work in a private setting. They can make their mistakes there, and learn, before they let their stuff out into the big wide world and without having to worry about other non site members seeing it, and if you take away the trust that should come with that sort of environment, then the environment's seriously f****d. If someone did that on a site I subscribed to, I wouldn't want to post my work there. If I didn't think I could trust people to leave it in private then what's its use?

    I know we've both mentioned the terrific Miss Snark, but again it's worth considering that she did what she did (in a very entertaining way) to help (it wasn't about her or her ego) and she did it with work people had sent her, people who knew what they could expect. I'd wager the folk over at the sites whose work you've made fun of were not aware that posting their work there would put them at this sort of risk.

    By all means offend. By all means be liberal with your subjects. But I do think you need to respect people as well.

    You're clearly a funny fella - I'd have thought that you could be much funnier without being so cheap.

    And I know that once one reaches a certain level of proficiency the mistakes of others can seem ridiculous and obvious, but as tempting as it might be to show the world how much more we know, it's not always the best path to go down (and can show a person up). And if someone is that much better than their peers I'd much rather see that person passing on his/her knowledge and helping rather than making fun of those who aren't as far along this journey.

    I HAVE seen some very talented 'beginner' writers put off writing for just this kind of thing. You can argue about their need to learn how to take criticism and their under developed thick skin till the cows come home - an online writers' site is where they should learn in a safe environment - a place where the can feel supported - and ARE supported.

    At the risk of repeating myself if I go on I'll stop there - I'm sure you've got my point!



  10. Nik, Authonomy is not a private site. Anyone can wander in and read anything that is posted there. The whole idea is that agents and publishers can do this.

    Many years ago, a snippet of an interview I did with, I think, The Guardian, ended up in Private Eye's Pseud's Corner. I thought it was hilarious. People are not, on the whole, as delicate as you suppose.

  11. I know Authonomy isn't private, but Alan mentioned he'd taken the blurbs from two sites.

    And of course some aren't as delicate as others. Some are though and I think that assuming everyone shares the same attitude as you (or one) is an easy way to justify things.

    If someone wanted to lampoon (or review) my published work then it's fair game - it's out there in the public domain and whether I like what people say about it or not I've can't have any complaints. But, and I'll say it again, if someone had taken something from a peer review site, before it had been edited into a publishable state, then I'd be pretty hacked off. (I'd also wonder why they were doing it and would most likely come to the conclusion that it had been done for a cheap laugh by someone keen to show that he/she knows things.)

    What I don't get is why anyone involved in this business, who'd know how difficult a business it is, would want to ridicule his/her peers. I'd thought that, as writers, we were all on the same side - including those who might not know as much as the more seasoned/experienced ones; and those at the beginning of the journey are the ones, in my experience, who are most in need of support from those who've been around for a while.


  12. Well, it's worked! I'm going to hurry off and read my blurb fifty times before I post it anywhere.

  13. Well, if the success of any piece is measured by the response it receives, this has to rate as one of my best efforts yet.

    Which isn't saying much, but I'll take what I can get.

    One final note to Nik: I also have recipes on my blog. I just received a lovely note from a young lady in California who reads my blog on MySpace. She used one of my recipes for the one-year anniversary (since they met) dinner she prepared for her fiance. It was declared a success. Perhaps I should abandon novels and vicious attacks on defenseless writers* and concentrate on prose of a gustatory nature.

    Thanks for pointing folks my way, Lexi. It's great to have influential friends!


    *Although I did solicit the opinion of an intelligent, sensitive, perceptive woman (we know all this about her because she would not go out with me in high school) regarding my "Think It's Tough to Write a Novel" column and her response was "Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise!"

  14. Pleased to be of service, Anna and Alan :o)

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Lexi,

    Sorry you got caught up in this brouhaha.

    Alan (Channeling the spirit of H.L. Mencken)

  17. Lexi - I removed my post as Alan's right, this isn't the place for it. Apologies.

    But I still agree with Nik!

  18. Hang about. I wasn't going to reply to this but it's been bugging me all day and after working late into the night and, probably as a result getting cranky, I feel I ought to.

    Lexi has got caught up 'in this brouhaha' because she posted on her blog a link to the shitty post (and also said how funny it was)and has a responsibility, as it's her blog and she's endorsed it, to be answerable to it and to accept any comments on it that, be them critsisim or not, people deem fit to post.

    So Wekshcake, no, you weren't wrong in saying what you felt here in response to Lexi's post, though I respect your decision to pull it (even though it's pretty clear that only one post should have been pulled and, I think, it's pretty indicative of things that one wasn't - yes, I've had experience of bullies).

    You know, Lexi, I really felt like blogging about this (I KNOW what people think of this sort of thing) but I don't see the merit in showing people up and (again I think: why do I do this??!) well, here's some advice: with an attitude like this, you'll be extremely lucky to be published.

    You can't be arrogant; there's always more to learn. You can't be a big fish in a little pond becaue the public pond of readers is one hell of a lot bigger.

    And, I notice, you've sill not answered my post where I asked which the other site was that Alan took the blurbs from. (I'd guessed you were ignoring it, you clearly were.)

    You have to be tough in this industry (and good) and tough doesn't mean picking on other people who don't know as much as you, or laughing at them.

    Humility and empathy are good things to have.

    Thoroughly diappointed


  19. And you can still make an apology - nobody would think any less of you...

  20. Nik,

    How about manning up and leaving Lexi alone. You have a problem with my blog, so maybe that's where you should be depositing your rants. Or possibly a strong letter to the Times would be in order.

    If you would take a second, calm down and look at the entire blog post, you would see that I open it up by stating that It Is Difficult To Write a Good Blurb. Also that It Is Important To Do So. Also, you might notice that not all of the blurbs I feature are poor examples of the art. As a matter of fact I say "You had me at exploding garden" in one place.

    So, I'm sorry if you see this as bullying. Wasn't my intention. I'm sorry you don't see the humor in this. People see things differently when it comes to What Is Funny, and that' not my fault, or Lexi's, either.

    Oh, and if you really had read the blog carefully, you would have noticed that I say I belong to more than one writers' site but the excerpts are from one site. So you can rest assured I am not hiding the source of my inspiration.

    And finally, I have posted the entire contents of this piece that has been weighing so heavily on you right there on the Authonomy forum for all there to see. I figured I would find out if the folks who really have some sort of interest in this are possessed of a mature, open and self confident spirit or not.

    You don't have to like what I write, but I don't have to kowtow to the demands of one or two readers. That ain't what either of our countries is all about

    Best to all,

  21. Right.

    I have now had enough.

    If anyone posts anything more that I disagree with, IT WILL BE REMOVED.

    And that means you, Nik. There is free speech, and there is nagging, and I think you have crossed the borderline between one and the other. You are entitled to your opinion, as are we all, and you have now expressed it, exhaustively.

  22. One last note.

    A couple of days ago I posted the entire blog entry on the Authonomy forum. At least a couple of hundreds "views" later there has not been one whiff of complaint, certainly no firestorm of objections.

    And now for something completely different........................