Month: March 2013

Notes on Todd-Kidder Article in “The Writer” Magazine

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 8.49.17 PMThe following is my take-away from the March 2013 issue interview with Richard Todd and Tracy Kidder, plugging their new book “Good Prose,” which is ostensibly a book about writing non-fiction.  The interviewer claims what the authors say can also be helpful in writing fiction, and certain discussion aspects lean in that direction. In the magazine article, it is fuzzy as to how much the guys were talking about non-fiction as opposed to novels.  The reader has to filter and decide.

Here are some points Todd and Kidder made (or how I perceive them):

1.  Old, established material is not always an asset. It can be a liability. Sometimes it’s cathartic to blow it up and start anew.

2.  POV is critical for the narrative tone and it’s advisable to experiment with different approaches.

3.  Most writers mistakenly use 1st person POV and haven’t given it adequate consideration. Most should try 3rd.

4.  A 1st person narrator can sometimes function better as a guide. Too often he/she is absorbed with writing about self.

5.  An outside editor’s opinion can help spot what is wrong in a draft, but the implication is, it only helps if the suggestion is cleverly pointed and resonant.

6.  It’s important to keep proportions of content balanced, not too much on one person or topic (a basic lesson in argument).

7.  Research works, but its organizational methods and usage varies among writers and is a matter of what works.

8.  Writers can have varying quotients of talent but talent alone is not enough to sustain them. Like musicians, they must practice and work, and even harder if lacking natural ability.

9.  Writing in stock prose and stale language is a dead end. Writers who write in “institutionalese” are cloaking their material in safe means of expression and are not truly getting across what they want to say. Those who avoid institutionalese are really writing.

10.  Importance of authenticity coming across in one’s writing. If parroting or talking second-hand, the writing loses the honest/authentic factor.

Houston Chemical, a novel


A story of excess and alienation set in Houston in the fast pace of the 1980s. This is the re-released 2013 version with the original manuscript.

Available in paperback or as Kindle on Amazon. Also available direct from the printer/distributor Lulu Press.

“My name is Foy Dodge. Some people have mistaken my name for a car dealership and others for a town in Iowa…”


An article I read recently about the state of blogs, i.e., the current condition thereof – dead or alive – uses the term “convergence” to explain the diminishment of blog popularity.  Convergence as in the mass uniform movement of users into a web world  dominated by the conformist communities of Facebook and Twitter.

I wonder. If people have time for hourly chitchat in Immediacy Land, they also have the time to read blogs. But I don’t think they have the interest in spending it on blogs anymore. Everyone’s capacity for attention is stretched. Better to exchange a fast word or two (often vanities-based) than read or write an article where argument or story is developed.

There is a quality dilution factor to blogs. It’s difficult to blog every day. Especially when your audience dwindles to accidental passers-by. Blogs are also susceptible to the sameness that comes with convergence. Few stand out, and few are remembered.  Their purpose is blurry. Some do stand out because the bloggers themselves are willing to work at ensuring their visibility and pageview counts. Or they specialize and cater their posts to a niche audience. Otherwise blogs are hobbyist or small business or family affairs or exchanges within a circle of friends and fellow bloggers, and any or all of those scenarios can fail too.

The diehards (I am likely one) blog for blogging sake. It is a writing compulsion (or more gently, a call to write) that brings me back to blogs.  Do bloggers run on conceit?  Or need or both?

Some blogs eventually wind down or gray out into archive status. For example, I’ll blow up my oldest one like a bomb. It will feel satisfying, like waving bye to an old car you drove too long.

That doesn’t preclude doing another one if ever the urge arises. But it won’t ever again be like writing a blog of yore. We’ve all thought about it too much and ascribe creepy reasons for doing it. We are our own enemies. It’s not as fun and immune from asking Why? as it once was.