Charles Daly

Writer

Category: Articles (page 3 of 7)

Write Like Hemingway, the App

Hemingway App is a text editor designed to keep your writing tight like Papa’s. Hemingway checks your text for areas that could be simplified or cut entirely.

The app highlights hard to read sentences, and suggests simpler alternatives to words like ‘utilize’ (use) and ‘individual’ (person.) It counts your adverbs, and highlights passive voice. All this is color coded so you can see problem areas at a glance. Your work is given a reading level as well. Lower is better.

So, what does Hemingway think of Hemingway? you might ask. The New Yorker tested the app with passages of his. According to Hemingway App, the first sentence of ‘A Clean Well Lighted Place’ should have been cut. The opening paragraph of that story reads at a grade 15 level, which I guess means college. The app defines clear writing as grade 10 or lower.

His dialogue does better. This passage from ‘The End of Something’ is written at a 4th grade level

“I don’t feel like eating,” said Nick.
“Come on and eat, Nick.”
“All right.”
They ate without talking, and watched the two rods and the fire-light in the water.

The New Yorker goes on to give a gorgeously adverb laden passage from The Sun Also Rises as an example of why it pays to break the rules sometimes.

If there’s one thing that polarizes the writing world more than the creep of tech into our craft, it is the bearded, rhino-chasing, alpha male of American letters. Many of us don’t want to write like Hemingway and don’t want a piece of code to take our adverbs away. There are some scathing reviews of the app out there. One blogger  shows us how it would have butchered the closing paragraph of Joyce’s ‘the Dead.’ Fair enough, but this app isn’t for James Joyce. It’s not really even for writers, (though I can think of a few who need it.) Hemingway is ideal for amateurs who don’t know the rules of good writing or how to break them. It’s a face-saver on important emails and practically a public service to anyone CCd on them.

For editors and content managers, Hemingway helps idiot-proof the writing that comes out of your organization. It saves time and red ink.

Here’s what Hemingway thinks of my review of Hemingway (click to enlarge.)
Hemingway-app

I had one personal issue with the app–it thinks ‘Daly’ is adverb.

hemingway-app

A Guide to Kayak Camping — DD Hammocks

My first kayak camping trip was a disaster – a brilliant disaster that got me hooked on the sport for life. Three of us (kids at the time) set out on a bay in the southwest of Ireland, to see how far we could go. Our gear was loaded in bin bags; our pillows took up half the storage space. For food we packed crisps and biscuits. This was ‘backyard camping goes to sea’.

We soon found out that bin bags are not waterproof and our overnight was, in a word, soggy. But the sunrise was incredible, and so was the feeling of having the entire bay to ourselves at dawn.

In the years since, I’ve done most of my exploring in a kayak; I’ve invested in a few dry bags, and gained some knowledge that keeps me dry, safe, and happy. Here are a few tips for planning your own kayaking expedition.

Continued at DD Hammocks Adventure Blog.

 

DD-Hammocks-logo

Gear Review: UDT Fins

UDT stands for Underwater Demolition Team. These are the fins used by the frogmen of the 50s and 60s who preceded the Navy SEALS. UDT fins were state of the art in their day, and although the Navy has since upgraded their technology, the original UTDs remain a coveted piece of kit for bodysurfers and divers in the civilian world. I recently picked up a pair of my own.

udt-fins    

HISTORY

frogmen-world-war-2

In World War II, the Allies achieved victory through a series of beach landings in France, Italy, and the Pacific Islands. These landings were made possible, in part, by a small unit of frogmen who swam ashore ahead of the invasion to scout the beachheads and clear obstacles with explosives. They were armed with K-Bar knives and dynamite. Their losses on D-Day are estimated at 50%

.naked-warrior-statue-navy-seal-museum

The frogmen of WWII wore short rubber fins, similar to those worn by bodyboarders today. A  statue of a frogman at the Navy SEAL Museum, dubbed ‘the Naked Warrior,’ holds a pair of these fins.

udt-fins-frogman

After the war, the Navy developed the UDT fin for their elite divers. These were more powerful and better suited for use with SCUBA, which had just been invented. Around this time, surplus fins and civilian replicas became popular with bodysurfers in southern California. Legend has it that when the Navy discontinued UDT fins in favor of the Aqualung Rocket, an Orange County bodysurfer by the name of Dr. Greg Deets got his hands on the original molds and started making them himself.

udt-fins-frogman  

PERFORMANCE

UDTs are either loved or hated by bodysurfers. You could say that the entire evolution of swim fin technology over the past 50 years has been an effort to develop something lighter, more practical, and easier on the legs. But for those who swear by them, UDTs offer Poseidon-like power that more ergonomic designs simply can’t match. These are a must for big-wave riders.

BODYSURFING

surf-check-windansea-udt-fins

I unboxed mine at Windansea (above) and jumped right in. El Niño was pushing a swell of decent size, not the conditions I would have chosen to try out new gear. Immediately, I had to adjust my kick for the added length of blade. The weight on my feet gave me plenty of downward momentum when I put my toes to the sky to duck-dive.

When it comes to catching waves, there’s a lag between the time you start kicking and when the fins engage, but once you get moving you can catch anything.

UDTs are now my go-to in the big stuff. But their length makes pushing off the bottom into fun-sized shore-break a little awkward. If you’re an occasional bodysurfer or live somewhere with modest swell, I’d go with a pair of DaFins or Vipers.

FREE DIVING

Snell's-window

On a recent trip to Ireland, I wore them snorkeling. They were great for cruising along the surface, but when I dove to about ten meters, it became clear that fins have come a long way since the Truman administration. Much of the power the UDTs deliver comes from their stiffness, but that power comes at a price. Kicking with a stiff fin is exhausting and taxes your oxygen supply. Modern free diving fins have largely solved this problem and the new records in that sport speak for themselves.

An alternative to the latest gear is modifying the old stuff. Some divers customize their UDTs for free diving and spearfishing. They sand down the thick rails that give the fins their stiffness or cut the blades into a ‘V’ shape. The DIY approach is not only an act of recycling but a tribute to the legacy of the frogmen who earned their reputation by making do.

Voit UDTs retail for $60. I picked up mine at Mitch’s Surf Shop in La Jolla, California. You can also find them at Sea Craft Supply Co.

Images: Navy SEAL Museum,  SaeahLee Photography

Cormac McCarthy: a Reading List

Cormac McCarthy is a mentor I’ve never met. We all have one of those, a teacher who sends us on a quest to seek our teacher’s teacher’s teacher. Here is an ever-growing reading list of my informal study of McCarthy and his influences. I’ll be updating the list on Goodreads.

 

FICTION

The Novels of Cormac McCarthy (Obviously.) If you’re new to him, and squeamish about blood, start with All the Pretty HorsesBlood Meridian can’t be denied, but it’s gruesome.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Carson McCullers, The heart is a Lonely Hunter

MacKinlay Kantor, Andersonville

James Joyce, Ulysses

Beckett’s Trilogy

Faulkner, lots of Faulkner…

And Shakespeare

Fydor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment & the Brothers Karamazov

Gustav Flaubert, Salammbô

Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness

Flannery O’Conner, Complete Stories

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

James Fenimore Cooper, The Deerslayer

Oakley Hall, Warlock

NON-FICTION, PHILOSOPHY, & CRITICISM

Plato

Nietzsche

The King James Bible

Lt. Col. David Grossman, On Killing

Harold Bloom, Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ & Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All the Pretty Horses’ 

Edwin T. Arnold, Border Trilogy Companion & Perspective on Cormac McCarthy

Steven Frye, the Cambridge Companion to Cormac McCarthy 

Georg Guillemin, the Pastoral Vision of Cormac McCarthy

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: a Brief history of Humankind 

Leslie Harper Worthington, Cormac McCarthy and the Ghost of Huck Finn 

Wallis R. Sanborn, Animals in the Fiction of Cormac McCarthy

POETRY

Homer, The Iliad & The Odyssey

Milton, Paradise Lost 

W.B Yeats, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’

Ted Hughes, CrowThere’s no direct influence I can find here, but Hughes is a perfect complement to McCarthy in terms of  powerful language and haunting description of the natural world.

Alternatives to Outrage

Silence.

Witt.

Write an articulate response. (Not in the comment feed.)

Get on with your day.

Behave differently than the source of outrage.

Take a deep breath.

Know that life is short.

Have faith in some sort of karma.

Reach out to the source of outrage.

Ask a tough question.

Suggest to ‘take this outside.’ (Internet debates make me nostalgic for this option.)

Irony.

Get offline for a while.

Take a walk.

Vote.

Have a real conversation.

Perspective.

Eat something.

Meditation.

Exercise.

Cultivate an intolerance for outrage, so that no offense is as off-putting as outrage itself.

The Blue Sky Period

Your story can be about anything, that is until you start writing it. Once you put words on the page, you start to impose limits. With each word, you are drawing the lines of a box which will eventually contain all you have to say. Or, as Beckett put it, ‘Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.’

Assuming you don’t want to write nothing, and considering you can’t write everything, your only choice is to choose the most compelling something you can find. The creative act isn’t a matter of making something out of nothing, but rather choosing something out of everything.  In the editing and rewriting stage we make those choices more specific.
One way to do this without taking on the astronomical burden of everything and nothing is to work with a ‘blue sky period.’ This is a chunk of time, with a deadline, in which you can say anything but ‘no.’ All ideas are considered with equal seriousness. Under blue skies you can say nothing wrong.

I have found it helps to set this work aside not only in terms of time but space. I keep all my blue sky notes in a seperate notebook. A very messy one.

 

No Comment

I recently disabled the comment feed.  I have my reasons, take your pick:

Online discussions are high octane procrastination fuel. The mark of a successful comment feed is frequent engagement and that takes time.

On a good day, I’ve said everything I need to say on the page/ screen.

But I don’t want to ignore well-meaning commenters. I have to talk to everybody or nobody.

On a bad day, I might remind you that Homer didn’t have a comment section. (And if I’m going to say things like that I really shouldn’t open myself up to comments.)

Then there’s the ‘get your own blog’ argument. If something you read here moves you to add something thoughtful, don’t settle for a comment. Write something real and expand the conversation.

On the other hand, if you want to put your opinions out there but can’t be bothered to write something complete, I’d rather not encourage you or give you the space to do that.

I don’t believe in asking for a show of hands. (See: Lou Reed Knows What You Want.)

Trolls: for whatever reason, the literary variety is the most ornery.

If you must comment, you can find me here, here, or here. Or face to face.

Writing Prompt: Cliché Remixed

Take a tired phrase you’re sick of reading–something lazy we’ve all read before–and rewrite it your way.

Some examples:

‘The heat was stifling.’

‘You almost gave me a heart attack.’

‘She riffled through her purse.’

Write the sort of thing you want to read. Boredom with what’s already out there is a sign that it might be your turn.

Talker’s Block -or- Who the Hell am I to Give Writing Tips?

You ever have one of those days when you wake up and find yourself unable to talk? Of course you don’t because there’s no such thing as talker’s block. It’s a made up condition invented by Seth Godin who uses it to illustrate the absurdity of the all too real writer’s block.

According to Godin, we don’t get talker’s block because most of us are okay with talking less than brilliantly. And because we’re not afraid to talk, we get plenty of practice.

Practice is the cure for writer’s block. Here’s Seth Godin’s prescription for practice:

  • Write every day. Or as he puts it, ‘Write like you talk. Often.
  • Share what you write, that way you also practice vulnerability and accountability.

Seth’s Talker’s Block has a special place in the DNA of my own blog. It’s the writing prompt that convinced me to practice publicly, and stop waiting for inspiration. I started the Blog the Block series to give myself a place to practice starting and finishing and–to borrow a Godinism–shipping a piece of writing on a regular basis. If I focus on writing tips, it’s not out of a guru-impulse or some enlarged sense of authority like you can find at pretty much any address following three ‘W’s, but an effort to think as clearly as I can on a given day about the particulars of this craft.

Other days I just need a kind ear.

Imperfectionist Guest Post

George Lois, the legendary ad man, once said:

‘You can be cautious or you can be creative.
But there’s no such thing as a cautious creative.’

Consider the opposite of ‘cautious.’ Try bold, or even reckless…

Read on at The Imperfectionist

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