Style versus substance…

I’ll probably live to regret this, but WordPress asked me today if I wanted to switch over to a “new and improved” editor. I’m firmly in the camp of if something is advertised as new or improved it’s practically guaranteed to be worse than whatever it’s replacing. 

I’m going to try keeping an open mind about this thing – although it’s currently very tempting to dismiss it since I can’t figure out how the hell do do things that took two clicks using the old editor. It’s probably just a learning curve kind of thing, but writing is hard enough without needing to spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to make things look right too. 

That’s probably a lot much to ask from the internet, of course… especially considering the layout this blog hasn’t changed in any meaningful way since the day I first set it up. I’m a guy who’s usually more concerned with content over looks in all things and if my own layout happens to be a little long in the tooth, I suppose that’s a little telling. 

It’s probably a good thing that I’m trying to get this sorted during Thanksgiving week. It’ll give me at least four or five days to figure out what the hell is going on before anyone starts paying attention again.

A more gullible mark…

I’m not an ad man. Marketing is the very last thing in the world I would turn my considerable brain power towards. I’m just not that interested in begging and pestering people into doing things. Being a cynic by nature and long habit, I’m always a little skeptical of what people who do marketing for a living tell me. Actually that’s not true. I have a tendency not to believe any words that slither past their forked tongues. I just assume they know that’s an occupational hazard of being professional liars.

How I know you’re not a very reputable (or at least a very good) marketing firm is when you call my mother trying to reach me to discuss “exiting opportunities for marketing your book.” I lived at the old homestead long enough that I’m sure my name will forever show up in the public records next to a phone number where you haven’t been able to regularly reach me since 1998. However, there are surely plenty of other bits of information in that same public record that indicate that hasn’t been my phone number in quite some time. I’d expect even a half-assed marketing firm to be able to noggin that out for themselves before picking up the receiver.

I’m not going to call out this company by name, because I won’t give them the benefit of even the barest level of free publicity for themselves and whatever scam they happen to be running this week. Suffice to say I’m not interested. I might have at least been willing to look at options if they had availed themselves of any of the 647 other ways to get in touch with me, but since they opted for the easy and obviously wrong approach, I’m afraid they don’t even rate sufficiently to justify a personal rejection.

Although I appreciate your contacting the Jeffrey Tharp Childhood Home, Library, and Gift Shop, it’s not owned and operated by complete effing morons so I’m afraid you’ll have to go out and find yourselves a more gullible mark.


Most people who write never actually talk about how much their first drafts suck. Since I clearly have no shame, I’ll say it out loud and in a public forum: I know for a stone cold fact my first draft sucks. It’s legitimately awful. It’s full of spelling and grammar issues. It’s likely to have favored words and phrases repeated every few pages. There are whole sections that I’ll want to rip out, stomp on, and never think of again. That’s the nature of a first draft. As much as we’re tempted to think of it as the beginning of the end, it’s really just the end of the beginning.

My tendency, and I can only assume it’s shared by others, is to want to launch a new project out into the world as quickly as possible. Of course this is a terrible, terrible mistake because it doesn’t give you the time and space necessary to really work out the kinks and rough spots. Since I know that going into it, what I’m planning on doing now with this short story is absolutely nothing. I don’t want to re-read it. I don’t even want to think about it for at least two weeks. A month would be better if I can convince myself to stay away that long.

Time and distance is the only thing that helps give a layer of objectivity when I get back to a work in progress. For me at least, if I try to edit my own work just after it’s finished, I know I’ll do a lousy job of it. Being too close to the story, I’m reading what I think is there (or maybe what I wish was there), rather than the words that are actually on the page. Really editing your own work is mostly a fool’s errand. That’s why the best editors can make a boatload of money plying their trade. Those of us who can’t afford the best editorial support, simply make do by asking trusted associates to take on the job for peanuts. Frankly, if you’re interested in more than a free copy of the finished product, I probably can’t afford your editorial services at this point anyway.

So where I am now is in a bit of an operational pause, somewhere between active writing, re-writing, and editing. Since I’ve built up a good head of steam and have forced myself into the habit of writing every night, though, this isn’t the time to lay in the cut. My job now is to keep writing, even if that means taking on another project or maybe doing a little freelance work to keep my chops up. I’m tinkering with a few ideas and even managed to free write for a while last night which is something I rarely ever get the chance to do.

Whatever small project I take on during this damned interregnum, you can rest assured that it will be in some way geared towards continuing to build my little hobby into something a bit more substantial. This may never been what I do to pay the bills, but I’m still fairly certain it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.