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Twenty-Ninth Sort

Writing Tips for Dummies.

by Dear Jon
March 5, 2001

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Twenty-Ninth Sort_Dear Jon-Writing Tips for Dummies. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON

Dear Jon,
I would like to write an article for the PO, but I just don't feel that I'm good enough. Do you have any writing tips that would help me join the ranks of fine Partial Observer writers?

Mr. Ed Itor

Dear Mr. Itor,

What confuses me about your letter, is how ANYONE could read the Partial Observer and NOT think they are good enough to write for it. But when it comes to writing tips, you have come to the right person.

First of all, you need to ignore everyone's advice except mine. Normally people who give advice to writers are not writers. For example, people who
tell you to "be yourself on paper" are idiots. I know that when I am myself, I am not very interesting. Also, people who tell you to "write what you know," must never have been writers. If I had to write what I knew, I would get stuck pretty fast. Then there are those clowns who tell you, "You should write a story about this...." and they explain a concept. I always ask them, "Why don't you write it?" They say, "I'm not a writer." I say, "You would be a writer if you wrote down what you just told me."

Second, you should adopt a personality. The internet is not a good place to search for personalities to adopt. Always go through a reputable agency.

When personalities are adopted, they become your own. When one thinks of "David Letterman" one thinks of a personality. One might be able to trace the influences in his life; for example, perhaps he admired Milton Berle, perhaps he admired Bud Abbott. I have no idea, because I have no read any biographies of David Letterman and I really don't care to look them up right now. In any case, one watches David Letterman, and one does not think either of Bud Abbott or Milton Berle.

By now "Dear Jon" has become a recognized personality. When one reads Dear Jon, one thinks of Dear Jon. One does not think, "This guy is a cross between Dave Barry, Homer Simpson and Richard Simmons." One just thinks, "Dear Jon is his usual, ingenius wit today."

As you will see below, we are rather male at the PO. It would be helpful if, as you adopt your personality, you would please pretend that you are a woman.

We have our personalities on the PO. James Leroy Wilson is something like the fuddy-duddy Law Professor on "The Paper Chase," and something like John Madden. S.E. Shepherd is something like Robert Frost, something like Emily Dickinson, something like Axel Rose. "Real Things" by Everett Wilson is somewhere between "Nancy Drew," the Book of Judges and "The World According to Garp." "Webmaster" is a personality: Something like William Randolph Hearst, something like a spider lurking in its "web," and something like a spawn of pure evil.

[The Webmaster interjects: Personally, I think Dear Jon is a cross between Andy Rooney, O.J. Simpson, and Bill Clinton]

Third, you always want to maintain a good relationship with other writers. Never say anything or put them in categories that might offend them. Writers have thin skins.

Fourth, Sit down and write. The reason you are not writing is that you are doing other things and then you wonder where the time went. Power down "Play-station Two." Log off the 'net. Turn off the t.v. For a writer, there is no substitute for writing.

Fifth, Be sure you have your tools. Good tools are a computer with a word-processing program and a spell-checker. Also, if you have time to look things up, a dictionary is handy to have around because often the spell-checker won't have your words in its database. Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" is a good book to read about writing, but don't worry about memorizing the Periodic Table, since you can always look it up. I also find a flat-head screwdriver comes in handy for removing the floppy from the drive when the button sticks. If the computer fusses with you, you can always spite it by pulling out a pen and a sheet of paper.

Sixth, Other good tools to use, are friends. It is important to have friends who are computer technicians, to help you when your computer has problems. I find it more helpful to ignore their advice about flathead screwdrivers, however.

Seventh, When you have finished writing, submit your work to editor@partialobserver.com. Publication is not automatic. Get used to rejection and get over it. The best way to improve is read Strunk and White again, reflect on your writing persona, and then write some more.

Eighth, Become a publishing "phenomenon," not just a "fad." When you become a "phenomenon," like Steven King or Dear Jon, anything you submit will be published, including grocery lists. I have a stack of them handy in case I miss a deadline. It's a great feeling!

I hope this has encouraged you.

PS: Some personalities still available for the PO, are:
  1. A cross between PeeWee Herman, Woody Allen, and Joan Rivers.
  2. A cross between Erma Bombeck, Ann Landers, and Rosie O'Donnell.
  3. A cross between Dick Clark, Regis Philbin, and Don King.
  4. A cross between Batman, Hannibal Lecter, and Scott Hamilton.
  5. A cross between Kate Mulgrew (Capt. Janeway), Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully), and Brittany Spears.

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