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Five Easy (Albeit Practically Useless) Tips May 20, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Life Balance, Writing & Writers.

In writing, as in life, advice abounds. 

Hmm . . . which advice to follow?  

My advice:  As you consider tips tossed your way by well-meaning friends, relatives, and strangers . . .  tune in to your inner wisdom (the still silent voice within) before making the “final” decision. 

If you’re not ready to do that just yet, here are Five Easy (Albeit Practically Useless) Tips to stow away in your Life Toolbox:

1.  Avoid Unnecessary Detail about “Location, Location, Location”

When I read, one thing that bores me to tears is stumbling across long, detailed, poetic descriptions of a given character’s location when thinking or doing something . . . unless that level of detail is essential to the story. 

For example, if the main character stops into a coffee shop for a cup of coffee and the author spends sixteen paragraphs poetically describing the place and its occupants to me (when I’m never going to “see” them again), I’m going to get bored. 

If the author does it repeatedly, I am going to put the book aside.

Same goes for cocktail party chit-chat (unless you’re my real estate or travel agent . . . when “location, location, location” does matter).

Caveat:  Poets may find excessive (i.e., un-ending) spatial and character descriptions both elevating and uplifting.  So exercise caution when applying this tip.

2.  Share Tasty Tidbits about Food, Glorious Food 

I love reading and hearing about food ~ I don’t want characters sitting in restaurants ordering and eating unless I am told what they are eating, how it tastes, how it was prepared, and how it appears on the plate. 

(Unless it’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern when I would just as soon be left in the dark.) 

Likewise, if we’re on the phone, and you’re telling me about a restaurant you visited, I want to know what’s on the menu ~ not what’s on the waiter’s uniform (be it “bling” or spilled food). 

Caveat:  Someone who isn’t as in love with food as me might (possibly) be bored with the this degree of culinary detail.  So exercise caution when applying this tip.

3.  Avoid Discussing the Nuances of Wine

Wine is either Red, White, or Blush.  I don’t care one whit about the subtle nuances in tone and texture and bouquet.  If an author spends paragraph after paragraph telling me about the Merlot that’s just been decanted . . . I’m going to put the book down, and head for the bar. 

If I’m at a cocktail party, the same rule applies ~ if  you start yakking about your favorite Australian Cabernet, I’m going to leave you High and Dry . . . for a High Ball or a Dry Martini. 

Caveat:  A wine aficionado would probably love to hear every drop of juicy gossip about a specific vintage.  So exercise caution when applying this tip.

4.  Gloss over Generalities and Give Fact-Specific Examples

When discussing Law, Philosophy, History, Politics, or Psychology, gloss over general theories and start pontificating in detail about specific (factually based) arguments as quickly as possible.

Caveat:  Some people may have difficulty following your line of reasoning without additional background explanation.  So exercise caution when applying this tip.  

5.  Explain Generalities Ad Nauseum and Avoid Specific Issues

When discussing Law, Philosophy, History, Politics or Psychology, explain the general theories in excruciating detail, and avoid getting into specific, factually dependent arguments.

Caveat: Some audience members may be bored with such a broad-brushed approach to these even broader topics.  So exercise caution when applying this tip.

* * * * *  

No matter what we say or do in life, someone in the “audience” is going to be on a different wave length.   Count on it.  Plan for it.

When we use our inner wisdom (instead of rules laid down by others) to govern our conduct, we avoid getting tripped up by the lesser known, but corresponding, “exceptions to those rules.”

Once we decide to be ourselves, we no longer worry about the occasional faux pas

As our confidence grows, we become more willing:

* to share our truth with the world.
* to say what we mean and mean what we say.
* to be who we’ve always wanted to be.

And, one day, when our intended audience appears . . . {{wild applause}}.

Quote:  Make each day your masterpiece.  ~ John Wooden

Related posts: Our Field Of Dreams * Our Internal Compass * Give Your Reader The Gift of Vision (Uphill Writing)


1. Tammy McLeod - May 20, 2010

I don’t think your tips are worthless. I remember when I read Eat, Pray, Love. I wasn’t among the masses that flocked to the self absorbed tale of running to Italy after the bad divorce and I was not happy that really the Italy section wasn’t about food but about language. She ate but only a couple of gelatos and a pizza. Then I learned about the power of food to attract readers. There are amazing statistics which caused me to realize why she called it Eat, Pray, Love instead of Speak, Pray, Love. Food sells and I like to read about it.

cindy - May 20, 2010

I was very disappointed with the book too.

nrhatch - May 21, 2010

That’s interesting, Tammy.

And also comforting to know that other are as in love with food as I am! ; )

2. cindy - May 20, 2010

Good post, I’m with you on the wine thingy: I drank Merlot, now, let me tell you what I ate with it!

nrhatch - May 21, 2010

Cindy, I love your memoir pieces that talk about your too full tummies . . . and exactly how they got that way!

The one on the hotel with your grandparents . . . and the dessert trolley really got me going. : )

theonlycin - May 27, 2010

Just found this and had to come and share it with you:

When I find someone I respect writing about an edgy, nervous wine that dithered in the glass, I cringe. When I hear someone I don’t respect talking about an austere, unforgiving wine, I turn a bit austere and unforgiving myself. When I come across stuff like that and remember about the figs and bananas, I want to snigger uneasily. You can call a wine red, and dry, and strong, and pleasant. After that, watch out….
Kingsley Amis
Everyday Drinking

nrhatch - May 27, 2010

Glad that I’m not alone in wanting to avoid such discussions.

Thanks for sharing!

3. nancycurteman - May 21, 2010

I really appreciate your comments about food. I believe that the kind of food served in a specific location can really set the scene, for example bush food in the Outback Australia.

nrhatch - May 21, 2010

I agree!

I like to hear about the baguettes in France, the curries in India, the mediterranean cuisine in Greece . . . and the sourdough bread in San Francisco.

4. tsuchigari - May 22, 2010

You all are making me hungry! I would give a toe for a good slice sourdough right now topped with crispy bacon and garden fresh tomatoes and just enough mayo to make it all stick together.

Great advice – I’ll let it percolate with all the other advice that’s swimming around in my head. Maybe they’ll be friends.

nrhatch - May 22, 2010

We love good bread ~ from Panera or made at home. Fresh chewy baguettes or sourdough bread or asiago cheese loaf or . . . sorry, I need to go get a snack. : )

That’s exactly what I do with advice ~ let it percolate and see if it works for me at some point.

5. Agatha82 - July 25, 2010

It’s true that we all have different likes and dislikes, I’m a very impatient reader…like to get to the good bits quickly. It’s my very short attention span.

nrhatch - July 25, 2010

I agree with you. I don’t want to read a bunch of poetic imagery in a novel . . . I want the story. Not the setting.

Sounds like I would have enjoyed the first draft of your first chapter better than its current permutation (with all the superfluous bits you’ve described).

Agatha82 - July 25, 2010

Yeah, it’s why I am trying to get it back down to what it was 🙂

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