Sunday, February 25, 2007

Beyond The Elements of Style has Moved!

Thank you for coming here to read Beyond The Elements of Style!

The blog is still alive and well ... it's just moved to another location.

Beyond The Elements of Style can now be found at Jeannette Cézanne's website. Be sure to head on over and visit it there. New posts every Sunday!

Thank you so much for visiting, and for your continued interest. For articles and essays on writing and the writing life, be sure to come to Beyond The Elements of Style's new home.

And then you'll surely be ... beyond the elements of style!

Monday, February 12, 2007


I just finished editing one of the books for DreamTime Publishing's Open Your Heart series, specifically Open Your Heart with Writing, which will be coming out in August. (Hint: Watch for it! Buy it!)

The author, Neil Rosen, talks at some length about what could best be called "pre-writing" -- he says that by the time he sits down at his computer (what we used to call "putting pen to paper"), he already has a sense of where his story or essay is going. It's been happening in his mind for a long time before he feels that it's time to capture it.

It's an interesting concept.

I remember that in college we were encouraged to prewrite as well. "Know what you have to say before you say it," was the adage, which actually isn't bad advice for all of life -- have an idea of what you're going to say before you open your mouth. It might save us all some embarrassing moments.

It also helps you, as a writer, have a sense of what your props need to be. If you're thinking about writing a novel set during the Second World War, for example, it behooves you to do a little research on daily life during that time period, hopefully before you make a gaffe in your writing and bring something anachronistic into the picture.

Knowing ahead of time what you're going to say can make your own first edit of your work a great deal less painful, as you'll have already organized your thoughts, background, characters and so on around the theme or plot that you've devised.

This doesn't mean that you won't still write yourself into a corner sometimes -- we all do. And it doesn't mean that you can't listen to your characters as they guide you in a direction that may be different from what you'd planned. But for a good overall sense of what you're doing, pre-writing can be a great tool. And then you'll be ... beyond the elements of style!

Jeannette Cézanne
Customline Wordware, Inc.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Looking Failure in the Face

"My greatest good fortune was that I didn't know that I was doing everything wrong. If I'd have done a single right thing I probably would have failed. If I'd known how hard - statistically speaking - it is to get a first novel published, I might have given up. What success means is really looking failure in the face and tossing the dice anyway. You may be the only person who knows the dice came up, but in that knowledge you have something that millions of people will never have - because they were afraid to try." (Tom Clancy)

I've never been an avid reader of Tom Clancy books, generally preferring character development to plot, but my friend Carem loves his stories and has urged me to just try "one more time."

Well, the verdict is in: I'm still not nuts about Tom Clancy books, but it's another indication that you can not like one part of a person (or of their oeuvre) and still find wisdom in other things they have to say. Thomas Aquinas once said something to the effect of, "Remember the good you hear, and forget who it is that said it." And I'm all for that.

I actually wrote a long paragraph expanding upon the Clancy quote, above, and then erased it. He said it well. Persevere, persevere, persevere.

Jeannette Cézanne
Customline Wordware Inc.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr. holiday?

So what are you doing this Monday?

Chances are, you're at work. Even though Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an officially recognized federal holiday, many – if not most – businesses do not treat it as such. You’re not receiving mail and your children aren’t going to school, but in two out of three cases, you’re at work.

An odd holiday, that.

Even odder, points out Sarah Mahoney in MediaPost’s Marketing Daily, is the lack of commercial activity that surrounds many such holidays in the United States. There are Presidents’ Day sales, Memorial Day sales, Labor Day sales. Americans celebrate most major holidays with trips to the mall or to the car dealership. But not this one. “Stores,” writes Mahoney, “are loath to appear disrespectful or insensitive about the only holiday commemorating an African-American, and one with such a solemn legacy.”

Which leaves it even more of a non-holiday than ever.

What would happen if we embraced the third Monday in January with the same commercial zeal we exhibit the rest of the year? What if it were another sales opportunity, but with a twist: merchants could, for example, donate a percentage of their proceeds from the weekend to a worthy cause? What if for every 10 widgets sold, another inner-city child could go to summer camp?

Everyone would be happy. The post-Christmas sales slump would arc back up. The first cars of the year could be on the road. The American people would feel relieved that we could treat this holiday like any other.

And your boss might even give you the day off.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Is Illiteracy Next?

Well, apparently (as if we needed to hear this from yet another quarter) America doesn’t read anymore. Two of the three big book chains reported bad sales for the nine-week stretch through December 30: Barnes & Noble termed it "somewhat disappointing sales for the season in a highly promotional and competitive environment," with comparable store sales slipping 0.1 percent at the superstores at $1.1 billion overall (putting them down 0.3 percent on a comp basis for the 48-week period, at $4.1 billion). sales rose 2.7 percent to $108.5 million for the holidays, but are still down 2.4 percent from a year ago for 48 weeks, at $376 million.

Sales suffered even more at Books-a-Million, down 2.1 percent, at $124.5 million for the holidays. CEO Sandra Cochran says in a press release that "(s)ales for the holiday season were below expectations as we confronted a quiet media environment and strong comparable sales in the prior year. The absence of a major movie tie-in affected both traffic and sales."

As a wordsmith, I’m obviously both disappointed and concerned. Books didn’t do well because there was no movie tie-in? Some publishers are confronting the competition from television directly: Court TV now offers a program hosted by a rotating group of mystery writers that include Michael Connelly, Lisa Scottoline, and Patricia Cornwell, in which the writers talk about the crime in question and how they would handle it in fiction. Sounds a little too close to the Judith Regan/O.J. fiasco of last December that everyone would just as soon forget.

More and more, authors need to find innovative ways to market their books, and that innovation must be part of any marketing plan that you offer a potential literary agent or publisher. As I said in n earlier blog, the mills are closing. We need to find ways to keep our craft alive.

And perhaps eventually the pendulum will swing the other way and people will begin picking up books again. That will be… way beyond the elements of style!

Jeannette Cézanne
Customline Wordware, Inc.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Literary Year!

Happy New Year!

Let's see ... is this the year you'll finish your novel? It could well be!

Short of entering into NaNoWriMo in November (see a previous blog entry by Rick Bylina for a description of this event/experience), what you can do is carve out time and set yourself some rasonable deadlines to get them accomplished.

For many people, procrastination is New Year's resolutions' worst enemy. It’s such a popular one that it’s made the news: an MIT professor found that when he allowed his students to give themselves their own homework deadlines, they would artificially restrict themselves to counter procrastination – though they did not set deadlines for optimal effectiveness. The professor’s comments and the study itself can be found here.

So set yourself deadlines that you actually can meet, and you'll find, perhaps, that 2007 is your year! And then you'll be ... beyond the elements of style!

Jeannette Cézanne
Customline Wordware, Inc.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thank you, Apple!

So… not to ignite or continue any Mac versus PC wars, but as the year nears its end I think about how grateful I am for Macintosh applications making my life a lot easier.

I’ve been a Mac girl for almost as long as I’ve been using a computer.

I started with a PC (actually, no, I lie: I started with a cp/m machine a very long time ago), but eventually saw that, whereas I was spending hours and hours in Computer Hell every time I wanted to do anything, my friends with Macs never spent more than minutes there. Sometimes seconds. Then I got a job teaching, and that was the final bit of persuasion that I needed. I switched, and I’ve never looked back.

These days, I write and edit for a living. And the best thing that ever happened to my writing – at least in terms of tools – is OSX’s introduction of the Dock. It was great in Jaguar and it’s getting even better with each successive jungle cat.

Not only do I have immediate access to all of the applications I need, easily reached through really colorful and easily identifiable icons, but I also have immediate access to all of my current works in progress, just a click away, without taking up valuable screen space. I use a MacBook, so believe me, screen space is at a premium here!

I’m a very visual person, so whenever I start writing or editing a new project – novel, short story, article, etc. – I do a Google images search to help me find a suitable image that I transform (literally within a minute) into an icon that represents the new project’s folder. That’s what then goes into the Dock for me to click and open. So I have a colorful, creative lineup of projects and applications that’s uniquely mine. Moreover, it’s tailored to my specific needs. Never before has using a computer felt less like computing.

My husband is a Macintosh developer, and I can hear him swearing, sometimes, from his office down the hallway from mine. The reality is that it’s harder to code for a Mac than it is for a pc –- for the exact reason that I’m so happy with my Dock. Mac programmers make sure that the end-user doesn’t have to deal with playing computer.

I’m grateful to them all. They help me get… beyond the elements of style!

Jeannette Cézanne
Customline Wordware, Inc.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?