Okay, so you heeded my advice in the post ‘Grab a Word!’ Success? Need to move on to bigger things? Then, I offer you the sentence. And, for those of you who protest that:
Be quiet! And don’t speak until spoken to!
Because, whereas it can be the case that less is more (and, admittedly, a single ‘word’ does have everything to offer in terms of diversity), then it is also true that the ‘sentence’ is in possession of its own-special stimulatory powers.
And, even with a whole ‘sentence’, the cautious writer can still start small.
- Select a small poem. What poem? Any poem. Any poem from any old book! Why waste time being picky?
- Google the word ‘poem’ and latch yourself onto the first link on the search list (or the last, if you are the sort of loner who, like me, still has a chip on their shoulder (thirty or forty-something years later) about always being the last to be picked for any sports team on any school’s agenda).
Example for Task 1
- Google -> poem -> American -> Poem-A-Day.
- Read the poem of today, e.g. ‘A Cell’ by Johnny.
- Cut out any line that takes your fancy, e.g. I’m sweating, yet it’s cold (line 7).
- Paste the line into a new post on your WordPress website and start writing, i.e. scribble down (or key in!) any random thoughts that enter your consiousness, relating to the themes of ‘sweat’ and ‘cold’.
- To see an example of what one random person, following The Silly-Savvy Salopian’s advice, could produce, dive on into the poem: ‘Exposure’.
Now, get on with it, and write your own piece of randomness! Yes, you are free to steal a line from the poem ‘Exposure’, if you really want to! But do post me a link to the resulting masterpiece!
- Start working your way up through the big stuff! Dig your way through your recycling bin and take back your source material. Any old newspaper, or magazine, will do.
- If really desperate, make do with the junk mail from your local Farmfoods‘ store (Should Farmfoods’ store really have an apostrophe? I hear you say. Having just Googled it, I can honestly say that the jury’s out on this one! Seems to depend on whether one is American, British, Lynne Truss or just out and out Cool!).
Example for Task 2
- Skip the recycling bin bit and take yourself off in a rattlebag of a Dacia Sandero to your local supermarket (Tescos – without an apostrophe – in this case!).
- Peruse the magazine section, skip the stuff about posh interiors, and purchase a copy of ‘The Lady’ (a reluctant mid-life replacement for the fabulous ‘Girl’ magazine of my mid-childhood).
- When home (not whilst driving), open up the ‘The Lady’ (if the Dacia keeps you intact on the journey back), and steal a sentence from the first article that leers out at you, i.e. ‘There’s good sad and bad sad’, by the journalist Melonie Clarke (who can’t even use commas in lists, let alone apostrophes!), which, incidentally, is all about a writer with a cheesy grin called Martin Roberts (those of us who are not yet TV celebrities, will just have to make do with the self-publishing world of the WordPress blog).
- Steal the first sentence that springs from the page and into your line of vision, e.g. ‘In Sadsville, the silly, whimsical reason that everyone is sad is because the man who’s making crisps in the local factory is putting real onions in his cheese and onion crisps and therefore everyone’s crying.’ (p. 70)
- Put this sentence back; it’s far too long and took me ages to copy out!
- Go for something shorter, such as: ‘Absolutely, 100 per cent.’ (p.71)
- Copy it out. This won’t take you as long as it took me to write this sentence. And, grow it!
Example Response to Task 2
‘You know why I have called you out of your classroom, and into my office for this meeting, Miss Salutory?’
‘Oh yes, Headmistress! You want to discuss my students’ results!’
‘Spot on! Now, there’s no need to beat about the bus; we can get this over and done with quickly and then you can move on. We are hot on staff well-being, here at Second Chance Academy of the Middle Age, as you well know!’
‘Oh yes, Headmistress. Yes, I know. You’ll be wanting to give me a pay-rise at the very least, if not a promotion. Yes?’
‘Err, well … No, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. Are you sitting comfortably? Can my secretary get you a glass of water? No? Well, in that case, about your students’ results. Are you aware of just how many failed to reach their target?’
‘You mean your targets, Headmistress. Each and everyone of my students succeeded in reaching their target. Let me explain. Are you sitting comfortably? Would you like a glass of gin? No? Okay, here goes ..
At the start of the term, I asked each member of my class what they hoped to achieve by Christmas. And they all agreed on one common goal. Each wanted, above all other things, to be able to get over the all too-frequent ailment of writer’s block. I said I could help, as I had knowledge of two (or three) magical techniques that would work, without fail, every time.
Step 1: Read the famous Jay Cool’s blog post: ‘Grab a Word!’
Step 2: Read aforesaid blogger’s other post: ‘Steal a Sentence!’
Step 3: Utilise one of Jay’s techniques and get writing!
And, as you must be aware, Headmistress. Jay’s tricks worked. Each and every student had a massive portfolio of creative writing pieces under their belt, within the first week of the course, and they had all written books exceeding the length of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings by Christmas.’
‘Yes, but … it is academy policy to …’
‘… get a 100% pass rate on all courses?’
‘Exactly, Headmistress. Exactly! I did just that. I00 per cent of my maturist of students achieved their personal goals, and all in less than half the term of the full-length course.’
‘But, Miss Salutory, need I point out that you are responsible for our GCSE Mathematics course?’
‘Exactly, my point too, Headmistress! Not one past-the-post student sat in that GCSE Maths’ exam last summer, and failed to put pen to paper (not even the ones with arthritic fingers!). Each and everyone of them had a go, and made the most of all the time available to them to produce some high-quality responses.’
‘You are missing the point, Miss Salutory! I recalled the exam papers of all the students who failed – the whole class, I might add – the middlers and the oldies! Take a look at this exam paper!’
‘Please, Headmistress. Please, read it out to me. I’ve mislaid my reading glasses, and you are such a good storyteller. Go for it! Please, be my guest!’
‘Okay, this one’s written by Mr Scribblero, the silly-old fool! Listen up!
I’ll read you the question first:
9 (a) A square is chosen at random. What is the probability that there is a star behind it? [1 mark] (link to source)’
‘That’s a great question, Headmistress – they were lucky with that one! What was old Scribblero’s response?’
‘Why was it random?’
‘No, no, no, Miss Salutory! That’s not my opinion, that’s Mr Scribblero’s response! Keep listening and, this time, don’t interrupt me when I’m in full flow …
Candidate’s Response to Q.9
There I was sitting on a clapped-out bench in Trafalgar Square, minding my own business (eating a Marmite and cress baguette, recently retrieved from a litter bin), and staring up at the night sky, doing my own little spot of stargazing (I wasn’t always homeless you know; once, I was a BBC camera man working on set for the eminent Dr Brian Cox), when something totally random happened.
A pigeon, kitted out with its own miniature telescope, perched its nasty feet on my shoulder, and dug its pesky claws into my snug-fit of a jacket (a Salvation Army special).
Taking leave of my senses, I thought it would do no harm to exchange expertise.
“And to what do I owe this stately visit?” I asked.
Please turn over the page, if you need more space.
END OF PAGE
Need I go on, Miss Salutory?’
‘Oh, yes, Headmistress – please do! There’s clearly more to that old wrinkly, Mr Scribblero, than meets the eye. This is a fantastically imaginative piece. Does he turn over the page? Is there more? Do go on! I want to know what happens next. Does the pigeon talk back to the homeless man?’
‘Go on ..!’
‘MISS SALUTORY, HAVE YOU TAKEN LEAVE OF YOUR SENSES?’
‘Err, no … Sorry, I don’t understand .. Why are you so …?’
‘GET UP! TAKE THAT DREAMY LOOK OFF YOUR FACE, GATHER YOUR BELONGINGS AND LEAVE! NOW!’
‘Oh, I really didn’t expect ..’
Err, okay .. but can you just pass me Scribblero’s GCSE paper first? I really want to know what happens next, before I …’
‘GO, MISS SALUTORY. GO NOW!’
Miss Salutory gathered up her things, her life, and, due to a backlog of unpaid rent, spent that night in Trafalgar Square, sitting on a bench, as cold as an ice-lolly, in a 1 season sleeping bag from the Tesco Value range. Remembering the words of her old and ageing student, Scribblero, she gazed longingly at the nearby rubbish bin.
Might it just …?
Might it just be able to offer her a sandwich?
If not Marmite and cress, then perhaps … at least a half-eaten Big Mac?
A McDonald’s food wrapper was peaking out of the bin, and beckoning her over. But, just as Miss Salutory stood up to attention, and started to shuffle sleeping bag and self over to answer the beckoning, a pigeon with claws as large as a vulture’s talons, swooped down and …
‘Random!’ she exclaimed out loud to the night sky.
‘THAT WAS TOTALLY RANDOM!’
Okay, fair enough. It didn’t take you long to copy out that sentence, but it took me ages to grow it into Example 2! Still, it was all worth it. I’d do anything to help my WordPress readers attain their goals. And, I don’t even have a widget button to hassle you into paying me for my kind service and tutelage.
But … on the issue of homelessness, then please spare a thought for me!
Tonight’s the night I go native.
Tonight, to get into the mood for a forthcoming post about my Neanderthal ancestors, I’ll be sleeping out.
And, what better location could there be, than to kip down with the ghost of Beezlebub, in my Great-Something Grandfather, Sir Humphrey Kynaston’s old haunt, in a sandstone cave at Nesscliffe.
Can anyone out there lend me a 6 season sleeping bag? Only, I’ve never quite worked out why the cave-dwelling Neanderthals were equipped with the MCR1 redhead gene. Us ginger descendants don’t half feel the cold!
Shame, my many-times Great Grandfather wasn’t great enough to think of installing an internet connection. Not sure how I’m going to blog on the job in such primitive conditions. Still, at least I’ll be able to sing my heart out without any objections from my sprogs.
But, before then, I need to set you up with Task 3:
Ever been criticised for buying many more books than you have time to read? Worry no more. Your investments were not in vain! Go on – go and get one of those books now! You need only read one sentence of such a book for it to be worth its weight in gold. Follow my instructions and you’ll soon be hitting the bestseller list in WHSmith (and you might even get a handwritten book review from a devoted bookseller in upmarket Waterstones)!
- Pick up an unread novel.
- Close your eyes, say a prayer to the good Lord (or indeed any other deity), and open your book on whatever page gives you a calling.
- Drop a pin on the page and wherever it lands, and whatever sentence it lands upon, lift it that sentence up and plagiarise it.
Unfortunately, in carrying out my own instructions to give you an example, I have had the misfortune to pick up a pink paperback called ‘dork diaries: Tales from a not-so-fabulous life’, by Rachel Renee Russell. Do I really have to plagiarise anything that might lie within? If my daughter has read this book five times, does it count as an unread book? A voice in my head (probably my daughter’s) insists that I get on with it. You haven’t read it, it taunts. You can’t opt out now!
I give in.
Example Response to Task 3
She said she owns 983 books and has read most of them twice. (p.65, Russell)
Obviously, I didn’t believe her, and that’s why I decided – right there and then – to devise the ultimate of tests for pink-tutu-wearing book lovers. I would get myself invited over to Flo’s place, for a sleepover, and take a sneaky browse through each and every one of her 983 books (probably, about 3 books!) and design a 10/10 quiz to test Flo’s expertise. It would be like one of Miss Catbottom’s boring comprehension tests. Cool!
I was wrong. I found a grand total of 2 books in her house, and each one had the most disgusting of titles. One was called ‘Ballet Shoes’, and the other ‘Beautiful Ballerina’! Yuck! I decided there and then that there was no way I was going to browse through either. Just the thought of it made me want to vomit.
Instead, I swapped the books with two of my own: ‘The Demon Football Manager’ and ‘Can’t I Just Kick it?’. I knew could live with the loss, ‘cos I’d read each book at least 5 times before. And, in any case, there was no way Flo’d notice the changeover. She didn’t have the brains to remember the colour of the front covers, let alone the titles!
Does my discerning reader want to read the rest, to find out what happens. Does Flo notice the deception?
No, you don’t want to read the rest? You are about to puke up?
Well, that’s as well. Because, strangely enough, I don’t especially want to write the rest of the story either. Besides which, if you insist on hanging onto every word of my advice, then you’ll have to follow me to the loo, because my stomach’s telling me that I’ve got an outpouring of the trots coming on. And, even more to the point, I’m halfway through reading my son’s copy of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ (the blue one!), and it’s awaiting me in the bathroom (only place in which I can get any quiet time around here – what with all my followers’ messages of approval popping up on my laptop screen at a rate of 20 per second!).
Forget about words and sentences. Time to move on …
“GRAB US A BOG ROLL, SOMEBODY!”
Copyright owned by Jay Cool, February 2019
P.S. And, yes – I know I’ve used the bog roll ending before! Forgive me; I was in a rush!
P.P.S. I need to prepare myself a little more, before I check out Great-Something Grandad’s cave later. Where did the Neanderthals dispose of their business. And, even more importantly: How did they wipe their bums?