Writer Jon Armstrong and Editor Juliet Ulman analyze, hash, debate, and overthink writing, rewriting, and editing. From First Lines, to Plot. From Character Development to overuse of the word Said.
Juliet and Jon are going on a summer vacation. They'll be back in September.
Messages and Metamessages
Sometimes you mean what you say.
Sometimes you don't.
Jon and Juliet discuss messages and metamessages and some of the ideas from Deborah Tannen's That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships. (Amazon link)
They recite a few lines from Jules Feiffer’s play Grown Ups.
Jake: Look, I don’t care if it’s important or not, when a kid calls its mother the mother should answer.
Louise: Now I’m a bad mother.
Jake: I didn’t say that.
Louise: It’s in your stare.
Jake: Is that another thing you know? My stare?
Like What To Do With Too Many Likes
From our twitter account:
This show is our answer. If you have a question, tweet us. Email us. Send us a voice-memo.
The simile examples came from this site.
Juliet and Jon talk about some recent research into Gender Verbs.
What they are. What they aren't. How to have some fun with them.
From the Variance Explained blog, David Robinson examined Gender and verbs across 100,000 stories.
We riffed on the following graph from David's blog:
Delicious Books from Childhood
Juliet and Jon fire up the time machine, (or is it the nostalgia machine?) and each read from one of their favorite books from their childhood.
Our selections couldn't have been more different.
For Juliet, it's from 'Old Man Kangaroo' from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.
He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Big God Nqong.
He went to Nqong at ten before dinnertime, saying. 'Make me different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon.
Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, "Yes, I will!"
Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, "Dingo! Wake up, Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him so!"
Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said, "What, that cat-rabbit?"
Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a coal scuttle,—ran after Kangaroo.
Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.
This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!
He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.
He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther,—ran after Kangaroo.
He had to!
From Jon, we have the beginning of Buckminster Fuller's Nine Chains to the Moon.
Some of the books mentioned in this show (Amazon Links):
Nine Chains to the Moon by Buckminster Fuller.
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Longline of My Dreams
Loglines are usually associated with TV and movies but as an ever-resourceful writer, but they can be quite useful for novelists.
Juliet and Jon define, dissect, and discuss loglines. Jon shares one that he's working on and with for a current writing project.
David Macinnis Gill is an associate professor of English education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, specializing in young adult literature. We talk about his very useful blog post about loglines:
Log lines are very useful to you. They allow to you answer the question, “so what’s your book about?” with a succinct phrase, rather than beginning with the stock, “well, see there’s this guy….”
A second good use for the log line is the pitch. This handy, dandy quick summary of your story is very useful in persuading agents, editors, and even your dentist that you’ve hit on a “wow” premise that simply MUST be written. Better yet, if it’s already written, then it MUST be read. Think of a pitch in terms of advertising: You’re trying to hook a reader the way a commercial tries to hook a detergent user. Seriously. Alan Gratz, author of Samurai Shortstop and several other excellent novels for teens, calls this the elevator pitch, under the assumption that if you’re riding four stories with an editor, you can finish your delivery before the doors open.
The third use for a log line is you. A novel is a big thing. It’s difficult to hold the whole story in your mind, especially when you’ve finished a first draft and are still giddy from the flow of creative juices. Writing a log line helps you define—for yourself—the essential elements of the plot. It was also let you know immediately is major components of the plot are missing. This prevents episodic plots that are a string of (interesting and exciting) events that lack a complete story spine.
Check out one of David Macinnis Gill's books at Amazon. Soul Enchilada.
Juliet mentioned one of her favorite books, Earnest Hemmingway's at Amazon A Moveable Feast.
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A Great behind-the-scenes look at the writing process
With Jon Armstrong’s brutally honest stories of his own writing and Juliet Ulman’s insightful comments, this podcast is fantastic. I’m not even a writer and I love it.
Once they leave the nitty gritty minutia of the writing process, they find themselves on shaky ground. Listen to John Armstrong denigrate his listeners, Pulitzer prize winning novelists, beginning writers and himself, in a sado-masochist ramble. Dig a little deeper and you find two people who are holding onto their place in the publishing world by their fingertips, while dangling from the first floor window. That is as high as they climbed. They need to return to writing 101 where they have some competency.
a novelist opens his books for critical scrutiny
Jon Armstrong has been working for the past few years on the third book in a near-future trilogy which blends cultural satire with a passionate interest in the nitty gritty of textiles, tailoring, and fashion. Sounds like an odd blend, perhaps, but it works; sci-fi offers a window to the technological potential of the future, and fashion is the pursuit of clothes designers to exploit and transcend the limitations of textile processing technology to pleasurably manipulate our experience of life in a fragile human body swept up in a churning stew of cloth-swaddled flesh.
With this podcast, Jon, joined by his wryly skeptical, Howard Hawksian editor Juliet Ulman, exploits the behind-the-microphone experience he accumulated with his excellent and under-appreciated "If You're Just Joining Us" interview podcast to bring us a deeper view inside his process of writing novels and Juliet's process of editing them. The duo ably buttress their observations on authorial and editorial craft with examples drawn from canonical and contemporary works.
In the first episode, Mr. Armstrong gives us an invaluable chronological overview of the evolution of the opening sentence of his latest novel, while eagle-eared Ulman mercilessly demolishes the miscalculations and pretentions of each opening sentence leading up to the current draft, which earns her grudging approval. It takes a strong ego for an author to not only publicly acknowledge but laugh along with us at his mistakes. Such confidence is rare, and we as curious listeners will surely reap riches of insight from his generous spirit.