More Crappy “Rules For Writing” that you can Ignore

Not Tablet Law Ten Commandment Thou Shalt RuleUgh. They’re everywhere, and often repeated as sage advice: “only write about what you know”. “Don’t use verbs other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue”. Some of these are useful in many cases, but should never be set in stone. If you feel it’s right to break a rule then break it. Better yet, act like their are no rules. I usually write “said” because it feels better. It’s not a rule, it just works. I try not to overthink it, as that would box me in creatively.

One of the frequently rolled-out lines is that “every character must WANT something”. Okay, sure, every human “wants” stuff and has motivation, but fretting over minor points with ancillary characters will bog down your story and may well induce writers block in many.

The better advice is this: you’re writing something that – I presume – you’d like people to read. That’s not too much of an assumption, right?

Well if this is true for you (and it almost certainly will be), then your readers are the masters, not your characters. Let your characters be who you want them to be. Go further: let them surprise you sometimes. It’s fun. But remember one thing: your READERS will WANT something. Maybe it’s a satisfying conclusion. Maybe it’s to be surprised and shocked. Maybe it’s to laugh out loud. Decide what it is you want your readers to feel and then… well, ignore it.

Seriously. As I said before, don’t overthink it. Let it sink to the back of your mind. It’ll come through subconsciously anyway when you write enticing scenes, or breathtaking dramatic moments.

Just don’t get hung up on writing rules. You’ll enjoy the writing process much more, and will probably write better things as a result.

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The American Presidents Without The Boring Bits 1789-2017

Blank white book w/pathIt’s out now. The updated edition of my (strangely) best-selling book The American Presidents Without the Boring Bits.

If you purchased it as an ebook from amazon.com, or amazon.co.uk or any other amazon site, I believe this is available as a free update (just go into your purchases and click the button by the title to update it).

You can also pick it up via my online store, here.

It’s a brief history of all the American Presidents – updated with a new intro and finally a chapter of number 44: Barack Obama – all told through the lens of a classical-liberal perspective.

More than that, this book was, way back in 2008/2009, my discovery of how the presidents that governed least often governed best. There have been a slew of so-called “mediocre presidents” according to the canon of history literature. But you know what? Generally, those “mediocre” presidents typically presided over proportionally some of the fastest levels of progress of American life; in terms of social mobility, economic prosperity and, heck, good old-fashioned happiness.

obama-apwtbb

I wear my heart on my sleeve during the book, but I hope you’ll take it in the lightness of spirit for which it’s intended. There’s more than a few moments where I take a sledgehammer to conventional wisdom and, indeed, the conventional “cataloguing” of the American presidents that most historians subscribe to. Warren G. Harding is often listed as the worst American president ever (seriously? Worse than Teddy Roosevelt?), but that’s not even remotely fair. There’s plenty of that in there.

trump-apwtbbBut it’s also fun, brief and hopefully, a little thought-provoking. I’m personally really proud of the new chapter of Obama. I think I’ve been fair, and summarised his accomplishments (and failures) in the best way I could.

Anyway, if you’re interested, the ebook edition is dirt cheap, so please do grab your copy for Kindle now.

Enjoy

Your friend,

Andy.

Gary Johnson Wants to Make America “Sane” Again

Gary JohnsonWhile the two main parties in the US go through their procedural requirements before officially giving their candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the nod, in a quiet corner of Orlando, the Libertarian Party have secured their presidential and VP nominations. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld will represent the party in this presidential election cycle.

It’s an interesting pick. The libertarians, maybe somewhat focused on the relative unpopularity of the Republican and Democrat choices on offer, have chosen pragmatism over purity. Gary Johnson almost certainly fails most libertarians’ “purity test”, but so what? Politics is the art of the possible, and if you vote for Ayn Rand to represent you, you’re going to end up spending most of the election cycle justifying why roads must be privatised, or some other ‘kooky’ side-issue. But picking Johnson and Weld, the LP have a real shot – even though the odds are still against it – of picking up more serious numbers this time around. Johnson could even end up being part of the presidential debates if he gets 15% recognition in a series of polls. He’s around the 10% mark with his name in at the moment. Again, it’s unlikely, but it could happen.

Let’s make this clear. There will be three serious names on the ballot in all 50 states this time around: Clinton, Trump and Johnson. Clinton and Trump are statistically the least popular picks in recent history. I couldn’t find a time in the last 50 years where the Democrat and Republican candidates both polled with less than 50% approval ratings.

Which leaves one question: how much approval would Gary Johnson get? He has a problem: people have to have heard of him first. But if there’s enough attention (and with both disenfranchised Reps and soon-to-be pissed-off Bernie voters looking for alternatives, that attention could well be on its way), then here’s a guy who arguably represents the mainstream view of most Americans.

I’ve felt for quite a while now that while there’s some die-hard ideologues on both the left and the right, broadly speaking the majority centre-ground in the US are people who are fiscally conservative (read ‘competent’), and socially liberal (read ‘tolerant’). That’s a fairly nice big-tent definition of a libertarian, but Americans haven’t been specifically looking for one before. Today, that could well change.

In the 2012 elections, Gary Johnson polled over a million votes. It was the largest raw numbers the Libertarian Party had ever seen, but was still only 1.2% of the vote, not even quite their highest level. The odds of Gary Johnson becoming the next president are very slim, but if he can push the needle far enough, then there’s every chance that libertarianism in mainstream American politics could flourish as a result of his run.

Gary Johnson is a libertarian. Weld is, arguably, a libertarian-leaning Republican. They may offer an optimistic insight into the future of the GOP. Let’s take Gary Johnson as an example. He’s a two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, in a state that’s 2:1 Democrat. How did he do it?

There’s no doubt that America is moving further and further away from the old socially conservative model that Republicans have hung their hats on for years. The times, they are a-changin’. And for a while now, the GOP has refused to move with it.

Lots of things can happen in the next few years to change that. However, it’s not totally unrealistic at this stage, to say that I can see a time in the next 20 years or so, where Republican presidential nominations are like, well, Republican gubernatorial nominations in a heavily-Democratic state like New Mexico. Gary Johnson came along, with lots of money (a successful self-made millionaire), and gave the GOP some money. They were grateful, but tried to steer him away from wanting to become the Republican nominee for governor. Despite that, they eventually picked him. After all, he had lots of energy and enthusiasm, and the rest of the field were going through the motions comparatively . After all, what’s the point? Republicans seldom win in a state that’s 2:1 Democrat.

Once he had that platform, he went full-blown libertarian, challenging the inconsistent positions of the incumbent Democratic governor. And people flocked to the idea. It was new, it was fresh, it was exciting. But more than that, it felt, it felt… right.

So he won. Became governor. Did everything he promised he would. He upset the Republican old-guard as much as the Democrats in that state. And once it came to the next election, he happily conducted dozens of debates with his challenger, and won with a bigger majority.

Imagine a time, not too far from now, where the whole US is like New Mexico. Majority Democrat. Picking a Republican candidate is not important any more, because those guys just don’t win any more.

So, just like in New Mexico, a younger, fresh-faced person wins the national GOP nomination on an energetic libertarian platform. He or she doesn’t get too much opposition from the GOP establishment because that establishment has shrivelled up. Then that libertarian pick gets to be on the main stage with the Democratic clone.

Then the future of American politics starts to get interesting. And, for this libertarian, a lot healthier too.

Donald Trump says he wants to “Make America Great Again”.

Gary Johnson says he wants to “Make American Sane Again”.

I think the two-term governor of New Mexico is on to something.

Mandela’s Greatest Legacy Was What He Didn’t Do

As I argue in my book The American Presidents Without The Boring Bits, George Washington’s greatest achievement was that after two terms, he stood down.

The decision to do so baffled (second president) John Adams. Washington had the power of a king. He could have carried on until his death, so why didn’t he?

Any libertarian knows the moral answer to that question. Mandela wasn’t a libertarian in so many ways. But in some of the ways that truly mattered, he stood on our side.

Under the cloud of nearly three decades of incarceration, it would be understandable (but unacceptable) if Nelson Mandela used his newly-given power for revenge. To act more like Robert Mugabe, and less like George Washington.

But leaving prison a changed, and more mature man, he made many of the right choices.

Madiba chose humility over power. He chose truth and reconciliation over force and witch-hunts. He chose freedom for all.

And, like the first American president, he stepped down. That might still baffle some of his supporters. “He could have been like a king. He could have been in power for the rest of his life. Why didn’t he carry on? Why didn’t he grab more power? I don’t get it.” But those of us who call ourselves libertarian get it.

And we know the world is a tiny bit brighter because of him.

Andy Jones TV Season 5 Episode 10

Rand Paul 2016?

 

Andy Jones TV: Season 4, Episode 2

In this episode, I’m banging on about the US elections like some unqualified pub-bore:

See the whole series on YouTube here.

 

‘The American Presidents Without the Boring Bits’ and ‘Artaud & Strasberg A Quest For Reality’ Now on Kindle!

Yes, yes, I know it’s taken far too long, but I’m so happy to say that both my current books are available on Kindle – and at fantastically low prices!

Check out Artaud & Starsberg A Quest For Reality here
http://tinyurl.com/artaudandstrasberg

And you can find the Kindle edition of The American Presidents Without The Boring Bits here
http://tinyurl.com/americanprez

Enjoy!