Tag Archives: bad writing

Book Review Five: Cheaper by the Dozen by Gilbreth and Carey

This book remains one of my mom’s favorites to this day years after she first read it.  I remember reading it years ago, but I couldn’t remember anything about it.  So once my mother was finished with it, I took it and read it in a few nights.

Now, as this is technically Non-fiction, I wasn’t expecting Cheaper by the Dozen to be a fun read at all.  Not the case.  The two Gilbreth children who co-wrote this book knew how to take their childhood and put it into a form that was fun and enjoyable to read.

Anything that was sad was immediately followed by something that was at least a bit uplifting, even if it was a comment such as “well, now it’s up to me.  Think you can manage here alone?” that was seen at the end of the book.

Each chapter could be it’s own stand alone short story, but when read one after another, it paints a humorous, yet somewhat strange life of 12 children–six boys and six girls–living together in a house in then early 1900s.

Some of my favorite stories and life-instances are Dad teaching everyone morse code by painting it on the walls of their lake cottage, taking rides around the town in one of the earliest cars and having to fight with the car once it had stopped to get it running again, and how the eldest child, a girl, decided that she was just going to have to go get her hair cut in a bob, or else everyone younger than her would never manage to be fashionable because Dad just wouldn’t allow it!

Cheaper by the Dozen is a very short book, which makes it good for a bit of light reading just before bed.  Just, don’t expect to get to bed on time when you planned on it.  The Gilbreths are very good at sucking you into their life and charming you with their tales.

This book is nothing at all like the movie (indeed, the only thing they have in common is the title), and truly deserves five out of five stars.

Have a look at it

Cover art from: https://inkblabber.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/cheaperbythedozen-book.jpg


What Makes It Work (and What Doesn’t)

So, here we go then.  A line by line run through of what I did wrong here, six or seven years after I wrote this.

°°°°°°°°°°
Xzior awoke a few hours before dawn from a knock at the front door.  “Come in,” she said, her head still groggy.  For one thing, my grammar was atrocious here.  So I added in some commas and put the two lines together.

Drake walk in a moment later and  closed the door quietly behind him.  Xzior looked over and saw him in the coat with a shirt draped over his arm. I really need to learn to use personal pronouns here.  Xzior, this, Xzior that…man…that sucks

“Nice coat.  Who’d you rob?”
            “Surprisingly enough, no one.”  Drake responded.”  Person named Evan gave it to me after he and I faced down a mage that tried to kill me.”
“Any clue why he tried to?”  My gods, this entire dialogue section is so…stilted.  Let’s see what I can do to make it better.  “Nice coat.  Who’d you kill for it?”  “No one, actually.  Guy named Evan shoved it at me.  We killed a mage together.  Makes for fast friends,” Drake told her.  “A mage?  Why would a mage attack you?”

“Not one, except he said his ‘master’ had told him to.”

“Did you try to get more information about this master of his?”
            “It’s kind of hard to talk to a dead person you know.  He killed himself after he said that.”

 “I would’ve liked to learn more.”
           
“Funny, that’s the exact same thing I said.”  he looked around the room, and seeing no one around he asked hesitantly, “Mind if I crash here again tonight?  Or rather, today?”
           
“No, your room is still open.  It can be yours to keep if you want it.”
            “
Thanks.”  he said, going down the hallway.  A moment later, Xzior heard the door close.  Another awful exchange here, I think.  Let’s see…  “No idea why a mage would attack.  Just said that his ‘master’ had ordered him to.”  “Ordered him to?  What kind of person is a mage’s master?!”  “No idea.  Tried to ask, but rather hard to get info from a dead guy unless you happen to be one of those necromatic types”  “Still, I would’ve liked to have know more.”  “You and me both.”  He looked around, and then, embarrassment in his tone, asked, “So, mind if I crash here again tonight?  Or today.  Time’s confusing”  She sighed.  “No, go ahead.  At this point, the room’s yours.  Never get the vamp smell out of it.”  Drake rolled his eyes and went off down the hall.  A moment later, the noise of a door slamming shut could be heard throughout the house.
            
 “No problem.”  she muttered to herself.
            Xzior laid back down on the couch and tried to get back too sleep.  She couldn’t do it though.  Finally, she got up and started pacing about the living room, trying to make sense of here feelings and problems.  When that didn’t work, she went into the kitchen to make herself some hot tea.
           
She put water in an old, battered, copper kettle and turned on the stove.  Then she went over to the table and sat down, placing her head in her hands.
             
She awoke later to the sound of the kettle whistling.  She sighed and got up to turn off the stove.  Then she got out a coffee cup and waited for the tea to steep.  Then, with out bothering to add sugar, she drank it all down in three large gulps.  Great gods, but I use the word ‘then’ a lot…  Take the then’s out, this is actually…readable.  Huh, impressive for 14 year old me.
           
It seemed to calm here stomach enough so that she could get some sleep.  She went back to her couch to lay down again.  Little by little, she finally drifted into a dreamless sleep.
             
When she awoke the next morning, the sun was shinning directly into her eyes through the large, bay window behind her.  She got up and rubbed here eyes to try and wake up.
           
Eventually, she was able to get together a semblance of awareness and stumbled down the hall into here room.  There, she went to her closet to pick out here clothes for the day.  She finally decided on a black shirt with blue jeans and proceeded to change here clothes.  I’m the writer, and even I don’t care about her clothes…  Be a lot better if I just went….  ” She rubber her eyes and tried to wake up.  When she thought she could stand without falling back to the couch, she stumbled down the hall to her room for clothes.  ” and left it at that.
           
When she came out of her room, she went over to the bathroom to get here hairbrush, but the door was closed. Xzior knocked on the door loudly.
            “
What?”, sounded a voice form inside. Xzior recognized it as Millennium’s.
            
 “Millennium, it’s Xzior. Can I have my hairbrush and a ponytail?”   Of course it’s Xzior, you nit…It’s her house.  And why is she in the shower again?  Did I have her spend the night?  Bad author technique here.  Always remember where you put your characters.  And ‘knocked on the door loudly’ sounds…crappy.  Knocked loudly on the door is far better.
             
“Sure.”  Millennium responded. There was an opening of draws and a shuffling noise before the door opened a crack and Millennium hand appeared holding a hairbrush with a pony tail wrapped around it.
           
Xzior took it, and Millennium closed the door as soon as both of their hands were out of the way.
           
“Thanks girl.”   Once again…no idea on the dialogue here.  It’s just…not needed. at all. She said through the door.  Wandering down he hall, Xzior brushed here hair until all of the knots were out of it.  Then ah, my old friend ‘then’.  I see we meet again., as she entered the kitchen, she put up here hair to prepare to face the day.  “Millennium,” she yelled over here shoulder,”  what do you want to eat for breakfast?”
           
“How about a bagel?”  Millennium responded, walking into the kitchen, drying her hair.  Wait, I had her in the shower? ….how did she hand out the hairbrush if she was in the shower?!
           
“Want cream cheese on it?”
            
 “No thanks.  I’ll just have it plain and toasted.”
           
“How about just plain and not toasted.  The toaster’s busted.”
           
“Fine.  Your toaster burnt everything anyway.”
             
Xzior rolled here eyes and got out the bag of bagels from the fridge.  “catch.”  she said, throwing a bagel to Millennium.
           
She made a dive, but missed.  She quickly picked it up and dusted it off. “five second rule.”  she explained, biting into it. I have yet to see why this is even important.  I could take out this whole scene if I just said “they had breakfast”.  I guess it shows their interaction and how good of friends they are, but that is also seen earlier when Millennium was in Xzior’s bathroom and no one blinked an eye at it.
           
“Ah.”  Xzior said, nodding. Then she got one out of the bag and bit into it. “Not bad.  I like them better toasted though.”
             
“Different strokes for different folks, I guess.”
           
Xzior nodded. “True.”  I’m taking the above three lines out.  Just…useless.  And it really slows the flow of the story.
            
 A little later, when they were done with their breakfast, there was a knock on the door.
“I’ll get it.”  said Millennium, getting up.  She opened up the front door and Evan was standing there.  Bad author!  bad author!  Only Drake has met Evan at this point.  They have no idea who the strange man is at their door!
           
“Excuse my bluntness, but who the hell are you?”  …as evidenced by this.
          
  “I’m Evan McCloud!  I wandered into that alley back there and next thing I knew I was here.”
           
“Like hell you did.  How long did you practice that speech?”
           
“Not once.”
           
“It shows.” Millennium turned towards Xzior. “Can I kill him?  Please?!”  Um…..no idea what I was thinking for this exchange. If a strange man showed up on my doorstep, I wouldn’t answer the door, and I wouldn’t leave it open as I talked to the house owner
           
“What did you say his name was again?” said Xzior, getting up off the couch.
             
“I’m Evan McCloud.  I said that before.”
            
 “Would you by chance know a Drake?”
             
“Yeah, met him last night, why?”  Were I writing this now, I would have Evan say that he had met Drake immediately. Would make more sense as to why Xzior isn’t just tossing him off her doorstep
           
Xzior turned to Millennium,  “Sorry, no killing him today.  Can’t win or rather…kill them all.”  Bad joke is bad.  This….this just needs to go.
           
Xzior laughed then turned back to Evan.  “What are doing here?”  I mention names too often here.  Embrace the pronouns! And I really need to vary up how the sentences are structured. 
           
“Would you believe I just stumbled in?”
           
“No.”
           
“Didn’t think so.”
          
  “Then why’d you try?”
          
  “It was worth a shot.”
           
“I’ll give you brownie points for that.  Now tell me, why are you really here?”
             
“Alright. Last night, Drake told me that he was hopefully going to be staying with you.  I ended up following him and saw him disappear into the alleyway.  I hung out there until this morning when I went through and came here. I had a hell of a time trying to find your house.  You should put up maps that have a little star on them saying ‘You are here’ or something” This would be a far better start to that conversation than what was just above.  Take all of above out after Millennium opens the door and begin it here.  As long as I take out the bit about “little stars”.
            
 “That makes things to easy for unwanted visitors.  At least I know they have to work in order to find their way to my house.”  Xzior said,  wandering back into the living room.  Millennium followed her a moment later with Evan directly behind her.
          
  “So, can I stay here?”  He asked hopefully.  Wait…wait…why does he need a place to stay and why is the H in he capitalized?!  Oh, the questions I give myself
           
“What do you think Millennium?  Do we keep ‘em or turn him away?”
           
“I think we give him a trial run.  You know, see if he knows how to clean up after him self and not burn the macaroni and cheese.”
           
“You did that?” asked Xzior.
            
 “Off topic, but yes I did a long time ago.  I’ve become a much better cook since then.” 
           
“I’m not anxious to test that theory if you don’t mind me saying so.”  See, now this exchange about mac and cheese I like.  It shows that the two women are comfortable around one another
           
“I don’t care.”  As long as I end it before this line.
           
“Alright then Evan,”  started Xzior, “you can stay.  There’s a room up the stairs behind you there that you can stay in.”
           
Evan turned around and didn’t see any stairs.  “What stairs?”
           
Millennium waved here right hand about and abruptly, a set of stairs with rooms at the end of it appeared.  “Those stairs.  Now Get!”  she said, pushing Evan towards the stairs.  Magic house yay!…….So totally should have planned that better rather than have magic fix everything
             
“I’m going.  Relax.” he said, shaking her off.  Come to think of it, did I even have a reason for Evan to move in with Xzior aside from ‘need to get everyone into the same house asap’?  And why the same house…
           
Xzior and Millennium plopped down on the couch together and sighed.  Xzior turned to Millennium and said.  “I need a bigger house.”  Pronouns!  I miss you!  Come back!
           
“Yeah, “ she replied, “ that you do.”

For your enjoyment

Talking with Liz of Green Eye Editing tonight, we discussed some of our earliest writings and how we have improved since then.  My first story was that of a vampire named Drake Coldheart.  And while writing it, I fell into every single writing pitfall and cliche that there is. The vampire was GOOD because…because…he was.  And EPICLY POWERED EVIL bad guys that want to RULE THE WORLD MWAHAHAHAHAH even though they have no reason to aside from the fact they can.  And character names that make NO SENSE, but sound epic, like Millennium, Rane, Xzior and Shayde.  Drake and Evan seemed normal compared to those. And Rane had a pet panther.

Yeah, I don’t know about that one either….

My writing was…atrocious and the dialogue wasn’t much better.

I still have it all.

So here, have an excerpt of the first (because all good fantasy books come in threes, thought 14/15 year old me, and mine is going to be AMAZING!) of Drake’s novels.  By the time I got around to writing the third, it was painful for me to go back and read this. So I like to think I got a lot better.  Tomorrow, I plan to go through this excerpt line by line and discuss what makes it work–and, more likely, what doesn’t.

Please, enjoy my humiliation. :)

Xzior awoke a few hours before dawn from a knock at the front door.
“Come in.” She said, her head still groggy.
Drake walk in a moment later and  closed the door quietly behind him.  Xzior looked over and saw him in the coat with a shirt draped over his arm.
“Nice coat.  Who’d you rob?”
            “Surprisingly enough, no one.”  Drake responded.”  Person named Evan gave it to me after he and I faced down a mage that tried to kill me.”
Any clue why he tried to?”
“Not one, except he said his ‘master’ had told him to.”
“Did you try to get more information about this master of his?”
            “It’s kind of hard to talk to a dead person you know.  He killed himself after he said that.”
 “I would’ve liked to learn more.”
           
“Funny, that’s the exact same thing I said.”  he looked around the room, and seeing no one around he asked hesitantly, “Mind if I crash here again tonight?  Or rather, today?”
           
“No, your room is still open.  It can be yours to keep if you want it.”
           
Thanks.”  he said, going down the hallway.  A moment later, Xzior heard the door close.
            
 “No problem.”  she muttered to herself.
            Xzior laid back down on the couch and tried to get back too sleep.  She couldn’t do it though.  Finally, she got up and started pacing about the living room, trying to make sense of here feelings and problems.  When that didn’t work, she went into the kitchen to make herself some hot tea.
           
She put water in an old, battered, copper kettle and turned on the stove.  Then she went over to the table and sat down, placing her head in her hands.
             
She awoke later to the sound of the kettle whistling.  She sighed and got up to turn off the stove.  Then se got out a coffee cup and waited for the tea to steep.  Then, with out bothering to add sugar, she drank it all down in three large gulps.
           
It seemed to calm here stomach enough so that she could get some sleep.  She went back to her couch to lay down again.  Little by little, she finally drifted into a dreamless sleep.
             
When she awoke the next morning, the sun was shinning directly into here eyes through the large, boy window behind her.  She got up and rubbed here eyes to try and wake up.
           
Eventually, she was able to get together a semblance of awareness and stumbled down the hall into here room.  There, she went to her closet to pick out here clothes for the day.  She finally decided on a black shirt with blue jeans and proceeded to change here clothes.
           
When she came out of her room, she went over to the bathroom to get here hairbrush, but the door was closed Xzior knocked on the door loudly.
           
What?”, sounded a voice form inside. Xzior recognized it as Millennium’s.
            
 “Millennium, it’s Xzior. Can I have my hairbrush and a ponytail?”
             
“Sure.”  Millennium responded. There was an opening of draws and a shuffling noise before the door opened a crack and Millennium hand appeared holding a hairbrush with a pony tail wrapped around it.
           
Xzior took it, and Millennium closed the door as soon as both of their hands were out of the way.
           
“Thanks girl.”  She said through the door.  Wandering down he hall, Xzior brushed here hair until all of the knots were out of it.  Then, as she entered the kitchen, she put up here hair to prepare to face the day.  “Millennium, she yelled over here shoulder,”  what do you want to eat for breakfast?”
           
How about a bagel?”  Millennium responded, walking into the kitchen, drying her hair.
           
“Want cream cheese on it?”
            
 “No thanks.  I’ll just have it plain and toasted.”
           
“How about just plain and not toasted.  The toaster’s busted.”
           
“Fine.  Your toaster burnt everything anyway.”
             
Xzior rolled here eyes and got out the bag of bagels from the fridge.  “catch.”  she said, throwing a bagel to Millennium.
           
She made a dive, but missed.  She quickly picked it up and dusted it off. “five second rule.”  she explained, biting into it.
           
“Ah.”  Xzior said, nodding. Then she got one out of the bag and bit into it. “Not bad.  I like them better toasted though.”
             
“Different strokes for different folks, I guess.”
           
Xzior nodded. “True.”
            
 A little later, when they were done with their breakfast, there was a knock on the door.
“I’ll get it.”  said Millennium, getting up.  She opened up the front door and Evan was standing there.
           
“Excuse my bluntness, but who the hell are you?”
          
  “I’m Evan McCloud!  I wandered into that alley back there and next thing I knew I was here.”
           
“Like hell you did.  How long did you practice that speech?”
           
“Not once.”
           
“It shows.” Millennium turned towards Xzior. “Can I kill him?  Please?!”
           
“What did you say his name was again?” said Xzior, getting up off the couch.
             
“I’m Evan McCloud.  I said that before.”
            
 “Would you by chance know a Drake?”
             
“Yeah, met him last night, why?”
           
Xzior turned to Millennium,  “Sorry, no killing him today.  Can’t win or rather…kill them all.”
           
Xzior laughed then turned back to Evan.  “What are doing here?”
           
“Would you believe I just stumbled in?”
           
“No.”
           
“Didn’t think so.”
          
  “Then why’d you try?”
          
  “It was worth a shot.”
           
“I’ll give you brownie points for that.  Now tell me, why are you really here?”
             
“Alright. Last night, Drake told me that he was hopefully going to be staying with you.  I ended up following him and saw him disappear into the alleyway.  I hung out there until this morning when I went through and came here. I had a hell of a time trying to find your house.  You should put up maps that have a little star on them saying ‘You are here’ or something”
            
 “That makes things to easy for unwanted visitors.  At least I know they have to work in order to find their way to my house.”  Xzior said,  wandering back into the living room.  Millennium followed her a moment later with Evan directly behind her.
          
  “So, can I stay here?”  He asked hopefully.
           
“What do you think Millennium?  Do we keep ‘em or turn him away?”
           
“I think we give him a trial run.  You know, see if he knows how to clean up after him self and not burn the macaroni and cheese.”
           
“You did that?” asked Xzior.
            
 “Off topic, but yes I did a long time ago.  I’ve become a much better cook since then.”
           
“I’m not anxious to test that theory if you don’t mind me saying so.”
           
“I don’t care.”
           
“Alright then Evan,”  started Xzior, “you can stay.  There’s a room up the stairs behind you there that you can stay in.”
           
Evan turned around and didn’t see any stairs.  “What stairs?”
           
Millennium waved here right hand about and abruptly, a set of stairs with rooms at the end of it appeared.  “Those stairs.  Now Get!”  she said, pushing Evan towards the stairs.
             
“I’m going.  Relax.” he said, shaking here off.
           
Xzior and Millennium plopped down on the couch together and sighed.  Xzior turned to Millennium and said.  “I need a bigger house.”
           
“Yea, “ she replied, “ that you do.”