I am, if you are new here, doing 100 posts in 100 days. And trying to get 60 000 views. That’s not going to happen. I should have said 30 000. That is going to happen. I’m just about two thirds of the way there.
It’s been a busy week. The kids are home for the holidays, and I have grown temporarily obsessed with filling my driveway with sawdust and broken bits of wood. This hasn’t left much time for posting. I’ve still been getting them out, albeit later than usual, but it has given me pause for thought.
The main reason I set out to do this was to practice writing. I wanted to see if I could write every day rather than just when I felt like it. I also just wanted my writing to become more fluid.
But here’s the thing; I’ve never been much of a self-editor. I would even hand in exam papers unchecked, even if I had the time. I do, however, think that one should at least read over what one has written before sending it out. If someone is kind enough to read what you have written, it’s disrespectful to send out something half-baked.
The less time I have, the less carefully I edit myself. I don’t think I’m sending out any glaring errors, but I’m starting to question my style. First of all, there’s “and” and “but”, my two new bugbears. I know you’re not supposed to start sentences with them. But I do. And it’s starting to annoy me.
Then there’s that whole thing with sentences. There are rules about how sentences are supposed to be put together. I break those. All the time. My spellcheck doesn’t like it.
I have always felt that if you are aware of the rules, breaking them occasionally is not a problem, so long as you know why you’re doing it. Unless you are writing formally, your words should flow like those of a well-spoken person telling a story out loud. People telling stories out loud don’t follow the rules of grammar, but good story tellers do instinctively follow a less defined set of rules.
Rules about rhythm and pace. Rules no-one teaches you, but that everyone can feel. Good storytellers know where the pauses are. They know when to speed up and when to slow down. They know when their sentences should be short and clipped and when they should meander about like lazy rivers. They know when to start sentences with “and”, or “but”, and when to speak in fragments.
I would like to be able to do that with my writing. But there’s a huge caveat to that. I need to work harder on moderating myself. I used to love watching a TV show called “Top Gear”. It’s about cars. I don’t like cars, but I loved the show. It was the style that made it appealing. It was funny and rich and irreverent.
I don’t watch it any more. I can’t. It’s the style that puts me off. It’s just too instantly recognisable and repetitive. It’s become, for me, a bit of a parody of itself. I can see the same thing happening to me. I need to rein myself in before the things that were originally appealing about my writing become teeth-clenchingly annoying, and my blog starts to look like it was written by Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. I don’t want strangers to club together to have me banned from the internet.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to buy Mrs 23thorns an electric cattle-prod. I’m going to ask her to proof-read my posts. If I start a sentence with “and” or “but” more than twice a post, I’m going to ask her to jab me with it. If I use the same phrases over and over again, she’s going to shock me while I’m sleeping. If spellcheck decides that over half my sentences are not actually real sentences, she gets to turn it on and throw it at me while I’m in the bath.
And once a day, when I least suspect it, she will get to sneak up and zap me for no reason at all. This has nothing to do with my writing. I just think it will make her happy.
Anyhow, enough waffling. Mrs 23thorns’ trigger finger is starting to look a little itchy. This week, I wrote about our chief of police, and his supernatural investigator. I wrote about owls. Twice. I promise never to do so again. I wrote about the Japanese and their space robot, and snorkelling in glasses. And I wrote about my children.
I hope everything was up to scratch last week. I felt like I was dashing things off at the last minute. This will, I fear, continue. The kids are still at home, and next week we’re going away. We’ll see how that goes.
If you do feel like things are slipping, you can get hold of Mrs 23thorns on her blog. I’m sure she’ll be happy to zap me on your behalf. Apart from that, thank you all for reading and I hope you stick with me for the final third. Here’s today’s vote;