Monday, June 9, 2008

Speculating on the Spring CT Review Holdup

The Spring 2008 CT Review was contracted to have been printed by April 3, 2008. Where is it!?

I have been getting antsy waiting for the Spring 2008 Connecticut Review, and I like digging stuff up, so I decided to find out why the biannual magazine hasn't come out yet.

It turns out the printing of the CT Review, since it is by a state university system, was put out for public bidding through the CT State Department of Administrative Services.

Here is the initial request for bids (PDF) posted in July of 2007 for printing of the Fall 2007 (PDF) and Spring 2008 issues. For each issue a timeline is given for the projects. The Spring 2008's timeline is as follows:

Disk ready for printer February 15, 2008
Form proof copy due March 1, 2008
Final Bound copy due April 3, 2008

Here is the notification of award of the contract (PDF) to Sir Speedy Printing in Bloomfield, CT. (Here is the contract description of that file).

This all means nothing. I don't know if the magazine has or has not been printed, but I do know it has not been made available to the public more than two months after it was scheduled to be printed. It is entirely possible that the CT Review did not get the magazine to the printer on time and it was printed or is being printed later than scheduled. The contract with Sir Speedy ends on June 30, 2008.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Essay: How I Strive to Write Pt. 1: Thoughts on Word Choice (incomplete)

Word Count: 653
Form: Essay
State: Disorganized Thoughts

NOTE: "How I Strive to Write," is intended to be a collection of my own personal artistic preferences as I realize them in the process of reading and writing. By no means do I claim that they are rules for "writing well." I don't even claim to understand what writing well means. That probably depends on your own motivation and philosophy. At this stage, they are just some random, disorganized thoughts.

Vibrancy of Word Choice
Vibrancy of word choice should be the aspiration of all writers. Don't use an adjective when you can use a more vibrant noun that gets the job done. There is no need to use an adjective when it is implied (e.g. "green grass," "brown dirt," or "cute kitten").

Great exercises in paring down your linguistic bulk include writing Haiku (properly), and newspaper writing.

Linguistic Cliche
Similarly, one should also avoid linguistic cliche* because it causes the reader not to think about the meaning of the words. Linguistic cliches are phrases that are overused to the point of meaninglessness. Phrases that no longer challenge us. (Good writing challenges us to create meaning from words, think about and associate them with our own knowledge and experience. When words have no meaning they are just sounds.) A linguistic liche can be a phrase like "I love you to death."

One should never fall into these traps. They are fine for first drafts, because they are easily accessible, but should be pruned out in the editing process. Removal of cliche challenges a writer to think about what it is he is trying to say, and often breeds the most profound or memorable lines in a piece, inventing new phrases (perhaps to become future cliches).
EXAMPLE: In one story I wrote, I said that someone's voice "'droned' over the intercom." In the revisions I came up with the word "flatlined," as in that thing a heart monitor does when a person dies. At first I wasn't sure if I was even allowed to do that. Did it even make sense? I asked a friend to read the story and he didn't stumble over that line; he knew what it meant. Rather than a word like "droned," which doesn't challenge you to think about its meaning, "flatlined," makes the reader visualize the monotone voice's lifelessness in a new way.
This is by no means advocacy of "cleverness," which should be avoided like an ex. Word choice that showcase an author's linguistic mastery or terrific wit remove a reader from the story, and exposes the author as the narcissistic asshole all writers are. Every sentence should be artfully crafted to immerse the reader in the presence of the story at hand.

A Critique of Nearly Every (Modern) Narrative Ever Written
One cliche I noticed recently is the common convention "said Scarborough," after a quote. We never think about that because we are so used to reading it, but no one talks like that. Not that writing should be entirely conversational, but arranging the words in that order seems to me like a remnant of a much older form of the English language. Analogously, since I am at a loss to articulate exactly why this convention seems cliche to me, observe how it sounds with the pronoun "he":
"'No more monkeys jumping on the bed,' said he."
For the time being I prefer to use other alternatives that seem more authentic, like "No more monkeys jumping on the bed', he said." Besides its greater consistency with modern language, it is arguable more effective writing, because "he said" is more immediate and active than "said he."

*Another type of cliche, not intended to be the topic of this post, that can slip into one's writing is intellectual cliche, which refers to the ideas of a story -- such as themes, character archetypes, plots, and action -- rather than it's word choice.