Something’s Gotta Give

Today I started writing a new book. A big book: hard cover, 250 pages, 85,000 words, due out in February, 2015. You read that right: 2015.

Since I finished writing my dissertation in early 2011, I haven’t undertake a project of this scope. Instead, I’ve focused on blogging and short-form ebooks. I approach this new project with excitement and trepidation. I have downloaded Scrivener, which I’ve played around with in the past but never fully committed to. This is going to be a major undertaking with much research and widely cast nets, so I’m hoping that Scrivener will help me organize all of the sundry details.

I’ve also got to make some choices. Life is already full, and writing 85,000 words between now and the end of the year is daunting. I cannot do it if I don’t simplify my life. So something’s gotta give.

Of course, the family will suffer, if only because I will be mentally preoccupied with ideas and deadlines, but I hope they won’t suffer too much. I’m coaching Little League again this summer, and there will be soccer games to attend and weekends at the family cabin.

I will continue to blog, both because I absolutely love the literary form of the blog post and the immediate responses I receive, and because the publisher, of course, wants this blog to be vibrant and robust right up to the time the book releases.

I can’t quit my day job because, contrary to popular opinion, writing Christian non-fiction doesn’t pay all the bills.

Here’s what I have changed:

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I Am “Literally” Sick of These Words

At the Guardian, a host of writers and thinkers have submitted words and phrases that they think, due to overuse and misuse, need to be retired.  Among them, “thinking outside the box,” “awesome,” and, my favorite:

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I'm A Lot Like Dave Eggers. Seriously.

What with the dissertation hanging over my head, I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure. However, I did buy a few books last January, spurred on by several “Best Books of the Decade” lists. It took me over half the year to finish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (which I loved).

It’s taken me slightly less long to complete Dave Eggers’s masterful, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  The book chronicles Eggers’s early twenties, during which both his parents died and he was left to raise his adolescent brother (along with his older sister, who eventually committed suicide, and brother, who only helped out on occasion).

Eggers’s book was a smashing success, and I imagine that many of my readers are aware of it and have even read it.  So I won’t waste your time recounting the plotline.  Instead, I’ll muse in an existential way (which, I think, is in keeping with Eggers’s own posture in the book).

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Some Grammatical Pet Peeves

So, I’m grading papers now, which is not my favorite part of adjunct teaching but is a hazard of the job.  Along the way, there are, of course, grammatical and stylistic mistakes that drive me a little mad.  Here are some:

Too Many Commas: some writers seem to think that an overabundance of commas is a good thing.  While I tend to be a fan of the comma, and use it a lot in my own writing, it’s important to place them in the right spot.

Too Few Commas: complex sentences demand commas.  If you’re writing one, you must set off the introductory dependent clause with a comma in order to cue your reader that the clause is over and the sentence proper is beginning.

Rhetorical Questions: it is, in my humble opinion, lazy writing to begin or end an essay with a list of rhetorical questions.  I’m reading your essay for answers, not questions.

Rhetorical Quote Marks (a.k.a., “scare quotes”): while appropriate for Bennett Brauer, rhetorical quote marks are rarely appropriate in an academic essay.

The Academic “We”: sorry, Scot, I’m not a fan.  We’re not going to explore something in this essay.  You are, and I’m going to read about it.