The Great Faulkner Sentence Challenge

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By Claudette Young

 

In today’s world of instant communication and books that roll across a phone’s screen, the art of using words, phrases and clauses seems to have fallen by the wayside. Readers want something they can zip through in less than a few hours, with sentences rarely over fifteen words in length. We’ve lost the ability to think and write in complex, nuance-heavy sentences, like those of William Faulkner and others of his era.

In case you didn’t know or haven’t read him, a perfect description of his technique expressed it this way.  ‘ … The Faulknerian sentence is an irresistible labyrinth.” His lengthiest sentence ran for 1,288 words in Absalom, Absalom. This was later surpassed by Jonathan Coe in 2001 with a sentence that took 33 pages to print.

Faulkner wasn’t alone. The greats of yesteryear all wrote involuted, complex sentences meant to mesmerize the reader, pulling them into the story and refusing to let them go.

Now’s your chance to test your skills against the greats. For the month of March, The Great Faulkner Sentence Challenge will accept entries by any writer brave enough to tackle the challenge of writing the perfect (or not) lengthy sentence.

NOTE: While I, as organizer, will throw in my own sentences on occasion, I am not competing. I’m just playing along for fun. 

We will have a judge (as yet to be announced).

Rules:

  1. Any sentence, any subject: must be minimum of fifty (50) words
  2. All sentences must be grammatically correct and not simply run-ons
  3. No maximum word count to sentences
  4. Have fun and play with your words. The sentences can be as fanciful as the writer wishes, or as outrageous, etc. so long as they are coherent and grammatically correct.

Be prepared to up your game, but the most important aspect of this challenge is to express your thoughts, use plenty of phrases and clauses, and challenge others to do their best.

There will be small prizes for top placers. Grand Prize: Writer’s journal Book: First Prize: Book on Grammar; Second and Third Prizes: Decorative Bookmarks

The Challenge will run until April 1st, and prizes will be announced by Tax Day in April and sent out immediately thereafter.

To play, send your entries beginning March 1st to the Facebook page Great Faulkner Sentence Challenge. All writers are welcome and encouraged to participate. Win or lose, everyone will get the chance to stretch their use of words and their understanding of language.

Here’s hoping many will enter, for both the experience of playing with long sentences and to see how others approach the challenge.

Good luck to all who play.

 

Ghostly Writing—Why Do It?

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By Claudette Young

For many years I was a ghost. Yes, I was. I slipped in and out of the writing scene, leaving behind few traces of myself. And now, when others learn of this potentially lurid/sordid past, questions get fired my way.

It’s time to reveal how some ghosts begin and end writing careers by describing my own sortie into this profession.

A profession it is. Some ghost writers never write under their own name. They prefer anonymity. Hiding in the darkness, the mouse can be a lion—or a dragon. Fear of personal exposure keeps them tethered to contracts requiring them to never reveal what they’ve written or for whom.

Mine isn’t that tale, however. I wrote under my own name for many years. Academic, corporate project/press work, journalistic work, advertising, children’s literature, articles for writers, etc. I never kept to one form or interest. Then, one day, another writer came to me and asked a favor.

The writer needed help. She was overloaded with writing obligations and not enough time to fulfill them. She asked if I could write a coursework handbook for her if she gave me her notes. There was a time crunch involved, but she’d pay me for the haste.

Since she was one of my favorite people, I agreed. I didn’t have anything in contractual works right then and had the time. That handbook became my first ghost job. I still look back on it fondly. Other than the money, the best payment was when she told me she couldn’t tell my writing from her own. Still makes me smile.

It wasn’t long until the next job appeared—another writer. A mutual acquaintance of mine and the one I’d just worked for. Satisfaction comes in many guises and so do jobs. Writing in a new style, new syntax, was both a challenge and a pleasure. And there was the pitfall for me.

I’d worked as an ARC reviewer for a couple of specialized publishers for about a year when I was approached by one of them to take on another kind of project. I accepted that commission and went on to do others for them over the next  year or two before moving on to other types of writing.

I’d learned something critical about myself by that time. When I tried to go back to my own style, I couldn’t. It was no  longer there. It had been buried or obliterated by the overlays of so many other people’s styles through the years.

It’s cool to have my writing style compared to Andre Norton or Douglas Adams. Or even to have my poetry sound like Whitman. Unfortunately, the compliment falls far short after a while. I still don’t sound like me. I’ve lost a part of myself in other people’s voices.

When I recognized what had happened, I ceased all contracted ghosting. It was time to be myself and come out into the light again.

It’s taken me several years, much angst, many trials and false starts to get back a semblance of my true writing style. I still find myself slipping back into Douglas Adams occasionally. (His Universe is pervasive sometimes.)

As for perks of ghosting, there are some. But hassles arise too. Perks mean decent checks in the mail for work done. It means the possibility of never going without work, especially if you can hook up with a decent publisher.

The cons, though, can be many. Fighting deadlines, last-minute turn-around edits that should take days but are needed in hours, cranky editors, and lost sleep over insignificant details. All this and more comes with the territory. And never forget, your name does not appear as a by-line or on a cover.

Like I said, it’s taken years to come back to myself. I still do small projects, work on large ones, like novels and screenplays. I still publish, though I don’t market myself. I just don’t feel the need.

But, rebuilding the boldness and self-assuredness that were my hallmarks at the very beginning of my writing experience is more difficult than finding my true voice. That takes more work than anything else. 

I never wrote for fame or fortune. I wrote for me and any pleasure others gained from my words. I forgot how to do that along the way. Now, I must rediscover that path.

It’s my hope that any who choose to allow their words to paint pictures for others to explore can find and adhere to the writing path that best suits their needs. And, of course, enjoy each moment of their journey.

Meet Ed Cal—The Writer’s Best Friend

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By Claudette Young

Who’s Ed? Why, your Editorial Calendar, that’s who.

Okay, so you write. Remember those “w’s” followed by the “h”? You know, Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

The answers to all of those questions resides on the pages of the writer’s editorial calendar. And if you’ve never used one or established a habit of formulating one at the end of the year for the next twelve months, stay put and I’ll explain why you might want to tackle this necessary writerly habit.

Who needs an editorial calendar?

  • Any writer who wants to keep a ready market to hand for their work
  • Any writer who freelances in any category
  • Any writer who works both as creator and editor
  • Any writer who works in multiple genres
  • Any writer

Why is a calendar necessary?

  • It allows a writer to anticipate possible markets months in advance
  • It allows a writer to track their progress on a daily, weekly, monthly basis
  • It provides guidance when the writer gets stuck on one project and needs to shift gears
  • It motivates the creative mind to keep creating
  • It stimulates the submission process by allowing for multiple markets for each project

How difficult is it to develop and maintain such a calendar?

  • Difficulty depends on the format used by the writer
  • Electronic (cloud-driven) editorial calendar systems are available for free online
  • MS Excel can be used for spreadsheet format planning and tracking
  • The writer decides on what is included (how detailed) on the calendar used
  • Some believe the more detail included on the calendar allows for less overall maintenance time needed by the user

What information goes onto the calendar?

Again, this depends entirely on the whim of the writer. For me, I’ve been excessively detailed and barely detailed. But then I use two different calendars. It’s every writer’s option as to how many calendars they need.

Let me explain. I write long and short. Short projects such as poetry, flash fiction, short stories, essays, etc. go on a specifically detailed calendar. Why?

I began my first calendars in cheap hardcopy ledger tablets. They had plenty of rows and columns for tilling with potential moneymakers. Now, I use Excel most of the time for my calendars. I have lots of boxes to play with for each project. That means whether I’ve begun a project or am just thinking about one. Here’s how it goes.

  1. Line one: Project name>Max length>Deadline due>Freelance/Assigned>Publication>DOS/Date of Submission>EDOR/Estimated Date of Response>Accepted/Rejected
  2. Line Two: Second Publication Choice>LDOSD/Latest Date of Submission Deadline>Rewrite from Different Angle Y/N>DOS>EDOR>Accepted/Rejected
  3. Line Three: Repeat of Line Two

As I said, this calendar style is for my freelance, short project side of things. I do hours of market research before beginning a calendar for the next year. I include contests, competitions of all sorts, anthologies, articles and as many diverse markets as possible. If I choose not to use some of them, no harm no foul.

My calendar is categorized by type of project, genre, audience, publication as indie or mass market.

For long projects, such as screenplays or novels, etc. I use a similar calendar style but without the same type of excess detail. For instance, if I want to begin a rapid-release series of novelettes/novellas on Kindle with a month/two-month release cycle, my calendar would look totally different and stand indecently of all others.

Why all emphasis on calendars?

The answer is simple. It’s how publication/publishers set up their coming year. Every publication, from major newsletters to international magazines, glossies or recycled paper, establish editorial calendars months in advance of a new year.

Themes for issues, special event issues, etc. are decided upon and carved in stone for the next twelve months. Guidelines are rewritten if necessary, whether agented-only submissions are allowed, and everything in-between is placed on the calendar used by that publication’s editors. It’s their publishing bible for those coming months.

If you freelance or simply work long projects, it’s always to your advantage to know what an editor is looking for as far in advance as possible. It allows you to plan, lets ideas percolate and put you in the driver’s seat.

So, how does a writer learn an editor’s expectations?

Simple, ask them. Go to the publications website or contact them directly. Introduce yourself and ask them if it’s possible to get a copy of their editorial calendar. Usually, the website has one ready for downloading or copying. Remember themes are established really early. You might as well get used to thinking ahead and plan accordingly.

If you have questions, ask them. You don’t have to go to the top for the answers. Find the name of an associate editor. They have much the same information. And they don’t always get lots of credit. It makes them feel good to have writers come to them as the expert. It could easily help later down the line, too, when you submit a piece for review. You have already established a minor relationship with one of the editors.

Takeaways

If you prepare even the most basic of editorial calendars, you’ll stay on track better, complete projects more often, and submit more often than without one. Think of it as your daily planner. Whether you freelance with small personal essays or big articles, poems or photos, Ed Cal can be the friend who smiles and says “Go for It” every week.

Editormial Calendars Available Online

 

Writing Blind

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By Claudette Young

Writers come in all shapes and sizes. Each one’s background is different, experiences unique, and needs individualized. 

But the challenges each writer faces aren’t always obvious. For me, the challenge is doing what I do from behind eyes that are virtually blind to the outside world.  One eye contributes little and the other battles to remain a viable organ.

So, how do I produce anything in this sight and tech-driven world? I have lots of help, in several forms.

I use Dragon Naturally Speaking for dictation and command software. Coupled with MS Office, I can write, revise and edit. My dragon, Usul, allows me to take command of my computer. Usul can transcribe my spoken notes from a voice recorder into a Word document as easily as hearing it through my headset mike.

MS Word also has speech/reading capacity and a voice command capability available. Any good geek—on the Squad or not—can set up that function. A bit of practice gains mastery.

For screenwriting, I use Final Draft, which is easy to learn, reads back text for revision and editing, and has everything needed for the job.

If I’m forced to read actual text, I can set up my computer document for huge font sizes. My fallback setting is 22 pt font—Times New Roman, to be exact. And a good headset with microphone helps keep things under control most of the time. 

Good software helps. As with any disability/handicap/challenge, accepting the need to adapt is the most critical aspect of working with a vision impairment. Understanding what you need, verses what you want, is also key.

For those who are facing a similar challenge or who know someone who faces it, I give these pointers.

  • In order to get the resources–whether visual aids, training, or support—tackle the situation head-on.
  • Diagnosis from a qualified specialist gives you more pertinent information than you might think. You can’t adjust or adapt without that knowledge and support. Once the problem is defined, you can search for necessary resources.
  • Begin with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. The gal to connect in Kalispell is Melissa Leggett: 406-751-5940. She’s in charge of the Division for the Blind for the Kalispell area. She has more resources at her fingertips than you’d ever find on your own.
  • If you need specialized equipment, there are avenues to pursue. Melissa can steer you toward what you need and when/where to lean harder in that direction. Within a year or so, I’ll probably need a large auto reader for print materials. Such readers come in many forms and sizes from desktop to hand-held. I already use a camera reader to enlarge print, for instance. Oh, and plenty of strong handheld magnifiers or lighted headgear.
  • Books, magazines and periodicals are available in audio form through the public library (provided by Library of Congress), Amazon Prime and Audible, and individual publishers.
  • For those online magazines and other reading material, Dragon Naturally speaking can read them for you, if necessary. 
  • The trick is to know when your eyes are being strained too much and when to let go of the physical reading experience. 
  • Organizations, such as Lion’s Club International, are also great resources for exploration. Lions Club chapters dedicate themselves to assisting those in need of dog guides—Leader Dogs for the Blind, specialized equipment too costly for the average person to afford, and other necessities like eyeglasses.
  • Yet, the most helpful and necessary resource is an adequate support structure to help buoy up a person’s spirits or help for navigating the unfamiliar territory of adaptation and growth.

I hope I’ve given those who need it the information to help make informed decisions about dealing with dimming vision. Not all are writers, but everyone is touched by this malady. Globally, blindness is one of the fastest growing challenges today, both economically and medically. Few are left untouched by it.

If anyone needs or wants additional information or questions answered, please feel free to contact me at: ettedualc48@yahoo.com. I’ll be happy to answer what I can or send you to someone who can get the information to you.

Remember, no one is alone. As writers, we care about each other and are here to help whenever possible.

Claudette

http://www.claudettejyoung.com

Resources:

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking can be found on Amazon.com or Nuance.com—Nuance is the software provider of this product
  • Final Draft for screenwriters/playwrights can be had at both Amazon.com and FinalDraft.com
  • Tutorials for Word Speech are available in video form on YouTube or on Lynda.com tutorials
  • Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Kalispell–   

          121 Financial Drive Suite B,  Kalispell, MT 59901, (406) 751-5940                   http://dphhs.mt.gov/detd/vocrehab/mvrservices.aspx

  • Library of Congress Low Vision Reading Program—Imagine If Library – downtown Kalispell or any legitimate library in the county.

Pick a Holiday

By Claudette Young

Everyday is a holiday. Pick one. Now, write about it.Simple task, right? Well, maybe not. Here’s a fun way, though, to pull out of a writing slump and perhaps earn some greenbacks in the process.

Many magazines need and want short pieces written about holidays. Those celebratory days don’t have to match major/national ones. Find something unique, perhaps even about your own town or state, and march words across your page.

Hop over to the Holiday Insights website. Scroll down to whatever month seems promising to you and click on it. How much easier can it get?

Find something fun. For example: Feast of Fabulous Wild Men Day—January 12.

Know any wild men? Now’s your chance to go out and interview a few. Think about it. Get their take on such a holiday (one they probably didn’t know existed).

Invite a few of these men to a pizza joint and watch them celebrate. Ask about why they might think of themselves as wild men. Hey, it’s just a suggestion.

What about April? This month has special month status, honored weekly status, and daily holidays. You could keep writing for a year on this collection if you wanted to spend the time.

Here are a few selected possibilities for April.

  • National Humor Month
  • International Guitar Month
  • National Kite Month
  • National Poetry Month
  • National Pecan Month
  • National Welding Month
  • Stress Awareness Month
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month

These give a writer both fun and serious possible subjects.

For weekly honors, we have:

  • Week 1 Read a Road Map Week.
  • Week 2 Garden Week
  • Week 3 Organize Your Files Week
  • Week 4 National Karaoke Week

There are a few others, but not nearly as fun.

Daily celebrations run a gamut of subjects and attitudes. But, you get the drift. Every month has a plethora of options fully blossomed and ready for plucking.

So, when you find yourself feeling especially stagnant as a writer or just out of sorts and stuck, pull up this holiday calendar and start arranging a bouquet of short pieces for publication. Heck, you could base an entire blog on this fanciful possibility.

And remember, new holidays are created all the time by someone and that someone could be you.