From Squick To Library-Friendly in Six Easy Spices
Blame it on the word, “Eviscerated.”
More specifically, blame it on this bit of dialog:
“Did you kill him?”
“Heck no! I just eviscerated him. He died all on his own.”
That quote comes from my very first Invisible Flying Pony story. Until that moment in the story, it was ya/mystery/comedy. But the word “eviscerated” pushed the story over the line. My beta readers had two distinct styles of fit:
“Eviscerated really came out of nowhere. I wasn’t prepared for that.”
So I had some options to ponder.
Was it my intention to Shock and Eww my audience? If so, then it was safe to leave as-is.
Was I going to cater to the Rated-G crowd? If so, then I needed to change it, and several word choices later in the story.
Or was I going to own that R rating? If so, then I should probably seed that first third of the story with words/situations that let people know what kind of story this is. That way, the word eviscerated wouldn’t be such a surprise.
Eviscerated isn’t a swear word, but certainly is an adult idea, and I did have some swear words that came up later in the story. They all had the same effect, in a story with a 13-year-old protagonist. But I was surprised that none of those spice words had the impact or reaction of the word eviscerated. The options haunted me for a long time, as I tried to decide what type of story I was writing, and what kind of audience I wanted to enjoy it.
In Oct 2014, I wrote this analysis of using and avoiding swear words in fiction, and it was around that time that I decided to take my own advice. I’d used alternative swear words before. (I used “Static!” as a curse word in my 6th published story “Homeward Through Darkness”) I saw no reason why I couldn’t use some other kinds of spice words that would imply the ideas I wanted to convey, but wouldn’t keep my books out of the library.
Yes, I admit, I wanted my books in the library. Someday. Maybe. And if it’s just a few key words to change, then I figured it was worth the effort.
Looking to pop culture for guidance, I toyed with using “Barnacles” and “Tartar Sauce” from Spongebob Squarepants. Then, “Schtako” from Defiance and “Baktag” from Klingon, both of which translate to “excrement.” Weeks of manga research kicked up a handful of words, but nothing really catchy that would be understood outside that community. I even tried using “Fish!” from BoJack Horseman. But in the end, none of them really fit the prose.
So I parked the upteenth revision of Spider-Leeches on the shelf. It sat there for a long time, as I moved on to other projects which lent themselves better to the natural language of flat-out swearing.
Kitchen Spice Rack to the Rescue!
I think it was the word “Shiny” (from the Firefly TV series) that actually sent my brain seeking out some other word implying Desirable:
The word just popped into my head. And it was perfect. Right on the heels of that came the opposite:
And the four-letter f-word, FLAX!
I dashed to the kitchen and rummaged through the spices. Every single one was a hit. BASIL! FENNEL! NUTMEG! CINNAMON! DILLWEED!
I opened up the Spider-Leeches manuscript and loaded it with spice words. Done and done, I thought, and sent it off to the editor.
Turned out to be too spicy.
The editor came back and said all the slang was too much. So I dialed it back. Sugar and Salt are the primary swear words, Sugar replacing “Cool” and Salt replacing “Shit” of course.
The rest of the words I’d use very sparingly, if at all. I decided to introduce a new one in each episode of the series. Flax would mean Fuck. Dillweed was… well, probably Dickweed for people who remember a time when “Homeslice” was a thing. (And to this day, I still don’t know what homeslice means.) Cinnamon is reserved for ultimate bestness.
New Swear Words? Cinnamon!
I expect to get decent use out of these new words in the Invisible Flying Pony series. I’m hoping other authors can make use of them as well.
In fact, I’ve started using sugar and salt in conversation. It’s amazing how natural and effective they are.
I really hope these words catch on. It would be sugar if we could embrace a whole new category of spice words to spice up our conversation.
And if you don’t agree, then you’re a dillweed and you can go flax off.
Don’t know exactly how it started. I have a shelf overflowing with books about writing, publishing, marketing, philosophy and many other subjects, both savory and unsavory. But I noticed that recently my non-fiction book purchases have been fewer and further between. Was I slacking? Was I falling out of love with writing? Had I learned all there is to know?
I logged into my Udemy account and there was the answer: over twenty courses. Twelve on Lynda.com And Skillshare? Twenty five. Writing. Marketing. Publishing. Productivity. I haven’t even started half of the courses, but like really good books, I can’t put them down, and the more courses I watch, the more I want.
It’s official. I’m a “course collector.”
It seems that online courses are the new textbooks, and if you’re an author, you’re in luck. Online courses for authors are BIIIG right now. If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to improve your writing, self-publishing or marketing skillsets, or if you’re a more visual learner, you need to check out the big three. Udemy, Skillshare and Lynda.com.
I’ll give a more complete review of each one later. But for now, here’s some things to think about to help decide if online learning is for you. Or if you just want to jump in, click my affiliate link to get 25% off at udemy.com.
What Can Authors Learn In Online Courses?
Holy Hannah, you can learn a lot from online courses. Authors especially are going to love all the great classes available. I’ve highlighted a few udemy courses below. I have personally purchased all of these courses and either taken them or look forward to using them to advance my writing career. [Yes, these are affiliate links, which help to pay for this lovely website. Thanks for your support!]
Online courses are generally made with a goal in mind, and often the websites will help arrange and track your progress toward your goals.
For example, Lynda.com has a series of pre-determined “Learning Paths” that will help you to achieve real-world goals of mastering specific skill sets like network security management, or recording engineering or a Java programming. Pick your learning path and the courses are laid out for you in the order you should take them.
Skillshare.com has “workshops” where you work in the same class on the same schedule as other students. When you finish, you have a tangible, completed project, whether it’s an awesome Instagram account with hundreds of active followers, or a screenplay you wrote in a month.
All online courses will tell you the duration of the content up front, so you’ll know the minimum time you’re committing before you enroll. Udemy and Skillshare have buttons that let you skip backward 15 seconds for those ‘huh, whassat?’ moments. Udemy has a skip forward 15 seconds for those “yeah, get on with it!” moments. Best of all, Udemy and Skillshare both let you speed up or slow down the video playback, essential controls for those challenging/boring parts.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a thousand pictures. Especially for complex applications like photoshop or google analytics. To see it done live (or recorded live on video) can get the point across much better than flipping through step-by-step pix of a process.
Connection with the Instructor
Skillshare and Udemy allow you to ask questions in the course forum, which the instructor or helpful classmates can answer. The discussion can be a really nice addition to the content.
Online Courses – Beware!
Too many non-fiction books are actually a pamphlet of information that’s been puffed up and fluffed into a 180 page book. That can happen in online courses, too. There is no developmental editor (or line editor, or any kind of editor for that matter) for the instructors. Be wary of courses with an ungodly number of hours of content. “Over 45 Hours Of Lessons!” one touted. As you can imagine, it was a major snoozefest, even cranked up to 2x speed. Even when the teacher was on-topic (which was rare) he dragged and droned and repeated himself. The “bonus” content for the course was a series of out of date tutorials, which really should have been deleted.
I look for more realistic times measured in hours not days. If it’s more than 6 hours, the scope is probably too large. If it’s less than a half hour, it’s probably not large enough. When considering a course, consider how long it would take you to read a book on the subject and how much that book would cost.
Online Courses as a Gateway Drug
Be wary of instructors offering one on one consultation of the topics they teach. No doubt there’s a difference between teaching you how to make facebook ads, and actually managing a facebook campaign for you. But if you’re taking an online course to learn how to do it yourself, and the instructor wants to both teach you how to do it yourself, AND sell their services doing it… then it becomes a conflict of interest for them. If they teach you how to do it all yourself, then you will, and they lose a client.
I’m not saying all instructors are like this. And there’s nothing wrong with offering both training and consulting. I’m saying there definitely are people who consider online courses (especially FREE online courses) to be a way to load people into their sales funnel. They may choose to hold out the good tips for the upsell, or teach less intuitive methods to make you think the process is more difficult than it really needs to be, then pitch a personal consultation for your pain point.
If you do consider buying a consult with a online course teacher, make sure it’s because your time is better spent somewhere else. And do your research.
Online Courses With Dated Info
I saw a course that explained Facebook Ads in detail, but then Mark Suckerfish changed the interface, and now half the lessons are useless. Some teachers will go back and update their lessons with revised info, some will not.
Check the most recent reviews to see if they say anything about the info being out of date. And look thru the date(s) of the lessons, to make sure they are current.
Online Courses – Twitter Reviews
Visual Learner? Check out online courses! #AmLearning https://conradzero.com/online-courses-new-non-fiction-books/
Bored with Books? Check out Udemy, Skillshare and Lynda.com #AmLearning https://conradzero.com/online-courses-new-non-fiction-books/
Learn to increase your creativity and your word count with online courses! #WritingTools https://conradzero.com/online-courses-new-non-fiction-books/
Bonus Udemy Discount for Fans of conradzero.com
If you didn’t see any courses you liked from the above links, browse the catalog anyway! You’re sure to find something. And take advantage of my affiliate link here to get 25 percent off some great Udemy courses.
In the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group, we often discuss our current projects. Can’t tell you how often I hear of people getting hung up in author traps. They’ve been working on their first manuscript for years, (sometimes decades) determined to “get it right the first time.”
Translating from Author to English, this means, “writing which goes through an endless series of revisions, but never gets finished.”
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve been there yourself. Ever get stuck in author traps like these?
Reading books about writing process, then applying your new-found knowledge to your old-and-never-released manuscript…
Sending your story in for critique, then taking all the feedback and revising your manuscript again. And again. And again…
Buying a new software tool, and porting your work into the new system, hoping it will help you finish…
Revising your story to make it more like that hot, new bestseller, so you can cash in on the rising trend…
Revising your story to make it less like that hot, new bestseller, so you don’t get accused of plagiarizing ideas…
I’ve been to every one of these places, and every one of them will slow your author journey to a crawl.
The good news is that just knowing about the traps might prevent you from getting stuck in the first place. Here’s the author traps I’m aware of and how to avoid/escape them. [Read more…]
My friend Saveau has a great saying. “You Deserve The Gods You Worship.”
Likewise, I’ve long said that you deserve your social media streams, email inbox and many other areas of your life that you forget that you control. But let’s focus on one of these input streams in particular – your artistic diet.
The art on your walls
The music on your playlists
The books on your shelf
The background on your desktop
That thing dangling from your rear-view mirror
The colors and embellishments in any personal spaces you alone control
Essentially, all the art in your life that you consume on a regular basis.
“What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
These things say something about you, in the same way the lines in your skin speak to a palm reader. It reminds me of what the main character of Fight Club says,”What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
But is this Nature or Nurture? Prescriptive or Descriptive? Do you define your artistic choices, or do they define you? And how can you use this to make your writing better? [Read more…]
I’ve attended the 4th Street Fantasy Convention several times over the last five years, and I have to say, this year was the best year yet.
Topping the list of what makes 4th Street awesome is Janet Grouchy, (who actually only gets grouchy if you don’t pick up after yourself.) With several hundred people attending 4th Street, I don’t know how she manages to make me feel special every time I go, but she does. 4th Street is lucky to have such an awesome dose of Southern Hospitality in human form.
But there are many other things which make the 4th Street Fantasy Convention a must-go for writers of all types. [Read more…]
The ‘Largest Literary Conference in North America’ comes to Minneapolis
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (or AWP) holds a conference each year in a different city. Minneapolis, MN was lucky enough to be chosen this year to host the ‘largest literary conference in North America.’ Approximately 13,000 people attended.
What’s the AWP you ask? Good question. From their website: [Read more…]
“There are no bad words. There are bad thoughts, bad intentions… and words.”
If you don’t believe that, then you should stop reading this post. Right fucking now. Because having been both an angry young man and served time in the military, I’ve grown and sharpened a fairly salacious tongue. But even I know that there’s a time and a place for swearing, and it’s useful for authors to know when and where it’s OK to do so. [Read more…]