This is a rewrite of my first post.

New Puppy 8-30-05 009

Writing fiction brings me hope, even working in a vacuum the way I do. If I had an intelligent source of positive feedback I’d feel even more hopeful. Since I don’t, I’m going  to become one.

You probably think that negative feedback is what you need. Well, maybe.

But I think writing for critics makes us self-conscious and doubtful – focused on the endless rules of avoidance, like Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins.  (The title of Bernstein’s wonderful book, which I read in the 80’s and still love.)

I suppose a good writing coach might give you a mix of positive and negative, but if you’re like me you’ll focus on the negative and discount the positive until your mind is divided between creativity and fear of criticism.

The variety of writing mistakes is infinite. Maybe you shouldn’t stare over the edge.

Of course, you’re more tough minded than I am. You might even welcome a pro’s red pen. Any sane writer would, I guess.

A great copy editor is rumored to be priceless. Anything approaching such a rare person should be helpful – and negative only in the sense that they’re fixing your work which takes a red pen.

But if you had positive feedback from a semi-intelligent reader, you would be inspired to write more of the good stuff that brings the house down. You’d write more often and probably a little faster.

They say dolphins and unicorns respond best to a positive-only approach. It’s been documented thoroughly with dolphins.

Years ago I asked a gifted writer to read one of my short stories. I knew his mom. He sent several pages of eloquent criticism, all of it thoughtful and intelligent.

All of it brutal and crushing.

I stopped writing for several years.

You’re too strong to ever stop writing, I know, but my point is, after that flogging I could never be a dream killer. If a writer wants “constructive criticism” from me, it ain’t likely to happen. I’m not published, I’m a hack. If I didn’t have the curse of infallibility, I wouldn’t even dare to write this blog.

Incidentally, being right about everything is tough. You can relate, right?

Maybe check out my “meaningful page-turner” bias on this site and judge whether or not a positive comment from a guy like me would bring you any hope or inspiration.

If so, send me something before you forget…

To: cytopathology@gmail.com, I guess. Or whatever works. A comment, maybe.

M. Talmage Moorehead

By the way, that’s Cortana’s picture above. She passed away on Dec 3, 2013. She was the chocolate Lab who taught me everything I know about the soul of a dog. Everything.

11 thoughts on “This is a rewrite of my first post.

    • It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.

      Are you writing a story? If so, I’d be happy to read the first twenty pages or so and tell you what I like about your opening. It’s probably the most important part.

      I’m not one for criticizing another writer’s work because I’ve had a bad experience with that myself.

      When you say you’d like instruction on “HOW” to write, is there something specific that you have in mind? I could try to give you a detailed account of my process, if that would be useful. Of course, I don’t consider myself a good roll model, just a decent analyzer of nebulous things.

      Let me know if I can be helpful.

      Best of luck to you! 🙂

      • My site is non-fiction. It started with my father’s WWII scrapbook and grew into rather large proportions spanning my father’s service and his unit’s straight into the Korean War. Since the readers do not want it to end & I have a few VA hospitals and military officers involved, etc. I am starting over again from the very beginning of the war with even more data acquired. My problem is, since I report facts I’ve research extensively, do not instill my own views unless asked in the comments – How do I keep the readers’ interest and not become so bland and repetitive that I put them all to sleep? How do I get that ‘hook’ and keep them on?

        • Wow, your site is amazing! Everything is real!!! I especially liked what you wrote here:

          “My father had other ideas. The following letter was one I never tired of reading; it always gives me a chuckle or two. My father’s ingenuity was unfailing. He used to tell me, “If you think hard enough, there’s a solution to every problem.” After years of having tended bar, this was going to be right up Smitty’s alley.”

          The reason I like this so much is that it shows emotion: your pride, admiration, respect and love for your father.

          The pictures took my breath away when I clicked on them and they enlarged. I would find a way to make them full sized without clicking. They are priceless, gripping and spectacular. I would consider talking about them in more detail.

          I realize you haven’t been putting your own twist on things very much, but let’s think outside of that box for a minute just for fun.

          If you wanted to do some creative writing, you could take some of those pictures and put your own emotions to them, something like this, maybe: “When I look at this picture I can’t help wondering what this man was thinking. If it were me, I’d be scared to death. At this point in my life I would have been a junior in high school and my greatest fear would have been getting turned down for the prom by Lisa Gomez. Hi Lisa. I can’t see how I would have been ready to jump out the door of a plane at 20,000 feet over enemy gunfire. But my dad and his generation took it all in stride and stayed positive. Dad stared death in the face and didn’t blink. And like the people beside him, he was essentially just a kid. It still give me goosebumps to picture my dad doing some of the things he did.”

          If creating stories about pictures isn’t your thing, I would still consider making everything as full of your own (or your dad’s) personality, opinions, and feelings as possible. Don’t hold back. Raw emotion is what people want to read, I think. Especially in blogs… As if I would know. Ha!

          It might be useful to see if you have a personal ax to grind. If your deepest desire is to honor your dad, then bring it out front and center. If there is another reason why this topic is so important to you, lay it out in emotional, totally honest language.

          If your purpose is to document historic data objectively, I would try to change that a little. Perhaps there are errors in history that you want to correct. If so, show the controversy and why it matters to you and should matter to the rest of us.

          Starting a post with a question is rumored to be a useful hook. Eg. “What’s the difference between a movie scenes of a burning village and the real thing? Take a look at this photo of a village (give detailed data here, maybe) on fire. (Show the picture as big as possible here.) To me the difference is simple: a picture of a real burning village makes me look for survivors. My dad was a survivor…”

          Contrast is important, too. By this I mean things like, “The popular conception is that XYZ happened, but in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. My dad was there and…”

          Your blog is something special and rare. I love it!

          Here it is for anybody reading this: http://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2012/10/

          Hey, gpcox, does any of this seem helpful at all? There are other things I could think of, probably, but I don’t want to be too long winded right off the bat. And I realize all this stuff I’m suggesting is outside of the working parameters you’ve set for yourself, so if none of it can work, come on back over, say so, and we’ll talk some more. We’ll stay within the tradition of your blog, not outside of it.

          All the best to you, my friend,
          Talmage

          • Whoa! I greatly appreciate you taking the time for such ideas and instructions. I used to like writing by a picture – staring at one and putting myself into the picture for the story. Thought I was quite ingenious until I re-read the piece 2 months later – somehow it turned into a story only a 6 year-old could write.
            Starting off with a question sounds interesting – I will try that. I have found I am more comfortable with non-fiction, my education was mainly science-orientated and research has always been “my thing.” My father’s scrapbook has been a point of interest for me since childhood (did a major report on MacArthur in school from the old newspaper articles inside), but it is now literally crumbling in your hands. I am older now, retired and on a budget, and I am the last in the family line. Everyone is gone, including my son, USMC killed in 1992. So maybe that’s my motive – I don’t want my family completely wiped off the planet and forgotten?

            • Another idea that hits me: You could say something like, “This is the letter that I would have written to my dad when he was stationed in _____: “Dear Daddy, Mom says you’re in the jungle and it’s hot. They got bodies and stuff that are dead. I heard Mom say that to Auntie. I miss you and so does Brownie.” Then you’re free to write with any voice, any grammar, any perspective, any age you want with zero self-consciousness about the words and how they sound.

              The reason I keep coming back to techniques like this is to bring it into people’s hearts emotionally. That gives your writing longevity. People value writing that moves them emotionally and very often they hang on to it all their lives.

              Just a thought because I don’t want your family to ever be forgotten. Not ever.

              My heart goes out to you for the loss of your precious son. I have a son. Once I had a dream that he had been killed in a car accident. It was so real that I broke down and cried and prayed my butt off in the dream, basically just saying “No!” Never have I felt so bad about anything, before or since. When I woke up I was truly shocked that it was a dream. It was only a tiny brief glimpse of the agony, pain and sacrifice that the father of a fallen soldier lives with. I have nothing but love and respect for you and your family, sir.

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