Prime Cuts: Carving Up Your First Draft

I didn’t need those paragraphs anyway. Or that chapter.

My zero drafts are a mess. Too many words, too much explaining, some really obvious character slips, the occasional monologue*…it’s not pretty.

But it doesn’t have to be. That’s why it’s a zero draft: so I can edit it and make it pretty.

Most of the energy in making the second draft–or, as I call it–the Working Draft–goes into cutting. Getting rid of the crap so I can see what I’ve actually made. Making the writing flow better so that the story comes out without the writing getting in the damn way.

If you want to picture how I edit, imagine a sentient woodchipper and Edward Scissorhands had a mechanized baby that loves red pens and slash-and-burn deforestation.

But how do I know what to get rid of? What gets tossed into my whirring mechanical maw, and what passes by, unnoticed for today?

Simple. There’s a list.

Here are my top picks for how to make your writing go down smoother than the Skittle vodka your cousin made that time.**

1) Kill the passive voice. For a refresher:

“The sundae bar was burned by the fire-breathing velociraptor.” (Passive) [edited: thanks for the catch, sucoletta!}

“The firebreathing velocipraptor burned everything in sight, including the sundae bar.” (Active)

A good hint to discern whether you’re writing passive voice is the use of ‘was’ and its confederates. Changing to active not only makes the writing smoother–less crap to get in the way–it also wastes less words. Which is important if you’re writing to spec.

2) Murder the qualifiers. Here’s a partial list:

very, kinda, sort of, massively, intensely, insanely, a small amount, a vast amount, partially, a little, a bit, a lot…

God, I could just keep going.

In 99% of cases, these add nothing to the sentence they infest like ticks on a monkey’s ass. Degrees can much more elegantly be conveyed if they’re necessary. Leaving you with nothing but clean, useful monkey ass.

However, I’m not from the school of thought that says you should never have adjectives. But only use the ones you need. “Glanced quickly” is not only redundant, it’s wasteful. CUT.

3) Suffocate your desire to explain everything. Go back and read Wednesday’s post (bonus: contains strippers) and remember: showing is generally better than telling. And explaining, whether it’s done by the narrative or by a character, is boring. Not to say that you shouldn’t explain anything, but do so with a light hand.

Note: this doesn’t just apply to the alternative world stuff you’ve made that your are very proud of. Think twice before having characters explain their motivations. One, it should be evident already. Two, no one likes to listen to a bunch of self-justifying crap.

This is the biggest one for me. In the zero draft, I’m generally working out the reasons for things as I go, and they end up coming out of some character’s mouth. On the next pass, I edit that crap out. After all, I already know it, and, for the most part, the reader doesn’t need to. And what they do need to know can be presented in a far more subtle way.

I’m always looking for that new edge, so: what are your tricks? What do you cut out of your zero draft?

*I’ve started leaving a line from The Incredibles as my editing comment: “You caught me monologuing!”

**Taste the rainbow. The burning, chemical rainbow.

 

Breaking Out The Hard Stuff: Writing The Parts You Really Don’t Want To

No one ever promised you ‘easy’.

It’s a myth that writing always feels good. Sometimes it’s hard, for a variety of reasons. The most obvious of these is of course not knowing what to write next, or not knowing how. But I’m here today to address the lesser-known but still powerful type of hard: emotionally difficult.

Case in point: the other day I was working on a scene that honestly made me uncomfortable. It was about a rapist justifying his own actions to himself. The whole thing left me feeling like I’d just taken a running leap into an open sewage pit.

I didn’t want to write it. I don’t even know if that particular scene will make it into the final cut. But I needed to know how he would see it, because of course very few people ever see themselves as the Bad Guy*, so that I knew how he would act later. Because how he acts later is instrumental to how the main character sees him, and makes a decision regarding him. There are serious consequences to his action, and I needed to know how he would accept—or, in this case, not accept—these consequences.

Still, that was a hard 1,000 words. It took me damn near all afternoon, when normally I’d crank out that many words in an hour and then get a cookie. I wanted to stop, not because the words weren’t coming, but because when they were I didn’t want them to. I spent half the afternoon writing a couple of sentences, getting weirded out, and walking away for ten minutes or so before coming back. Because, distasteful as I found it, it needed to be written.

So I wrote it, and felt dirty all over when I was done.

But yesterday I opened it up again and read it over, and it turns out that scene is exactly what it needs to be. Anyone else reading it will come away feeling the same way I did. Which, considering what we’re discussing, is the idea.

This comes back to that old Stephen King quotation that I bandy about every now and then:

“[S]topping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

You can’t leave the hard stuff out and write only the pieces you want. Because there’s gold in them there hills, if you’ve got the guts to make the climb and dig it out. It won’t be nice, and it won’t be easy. But whoever said art has to be either was a fucking liar.

*Though he is. No worries about that.

Bathroom Break: Life Details In Fiction

Thank you, Poop Writer, for inspiring this post. At least you did something right.

I once read a story in which every characters’ bowel movements were graphically described.*

It wasn’t a very long story—maybe ten pages, max. But, of those ten, about three were devoted to detailing the process and product of taking a dump. And those pages were so detailed that I can barely remember the plot of the story. Everything else has been eclipsed by the endless descriptions of shit. I’m not squeamish by any stretch of the imagination, but at a certain point even I was all, Enough, dude. What’s the point of this?

When I read the afterword—yes, it was one of those publications that has afterwords for short stories, presumably to give the authors a chance to explain what the hell they just did to you—the author discussed how s/he** was striving for more realistic stories. S/he felt that most stories didn’t accurately represent the actual human experience, as far as conversation, thought processes, and, of course, sitting on the porcelain throne.

To which I say: well, duh.

Had Poop Writer been in my home at that time, I likely would have pointed out that fiction doesn’t need to be a perfect representation of daily life, with all its dead ends and wanderings and everyday boring errands, physical or otherwise. We already have something that does that. We call it life.

Fiction*** is an idealized representation of reality. It’s streamlined. It has to be, because fiction has something life doesn’t: plot. There’s a story being told in there somewhere, and all things are in service to it. Even ‘reality’ television knows this rule, which is why story lines and villains and drama emerge in every season. Someone out there is carefully cutting those scenes together and making a story out of them instead of the random, chaotic mess that is real life.

Which means I damn well don’t want to read about your characters musing on their digestive tract health unless it is key to the story.

It’s not just bathroom breaks; I’ve read things that had the occasional detour into What The Hell Land many times. Unreasonably long sections about running errands. The minutia of hair styling. And, on one memorable occasion, an entire chapter devoted to deer hunting and the preparation of the skins for wearing. It’s not that these things can’t be interesting, or even useful to the story. But in these cases, they weren’t. They were just…filler. Or the author showing off how much they knew.

When writing fiction, children, remember this: if it doesn’t serve the plot or illustrate character—preferably both—leave it on the killing floor. If it does one or both of those things, it’s probably a keeper.

Even if it’s about poop.

*I typed that sentence one-handed because I was drinking coffee at the same time. My right hand skipped most of the letters on the left side of the keyboard. Presumably because it thought the left hand was on that. Muscle memory is weird. Anyway. Back to the post.
**Can no longer remember the author’s gender. Or name. They will forever and always be known to my brain as The Poop Writer.
***Usual caveats apply. Surrealist fiction is, of course, a horse of a completely different colour with seven legs.

The One-Day Stand: Cheating On My Manuscript

I knew that story was trouble the second it walked through my door.

Confession time: I’m taking a day off from my manuscript.*

Not because it’s not going well. Actually, aside from a few surprises—where did that guy come from? Why does she keep flirting with her? What the hell happened to that guy’s head?—it’s chugging along like a well-run train filled with liars, killers, and the occasional standup guy who’s wondering how he got there.*** Things are coming together.

But the day off is neither congratulatory nor a desperate attempt to break free of the project before it destroys me. It’s necessary.

This is a trick I learned from some writing book a long time ago. I can’t remember which one, though I’m tempted to say it was something by James Scott Bell. I can’t check, though, because a couple of those books got lost in one of the many, many moves in which I’ve participated. I tried Googling, but either my Google-fu is weak today or it’s just not out there.

The advice is this: when you reach a certain point in a manuscript, take a break. One day away. Step back from that relentless forward momentum. Then, after that day, look at what you’ve done. Is it living up to your expectations? Is it following the path you laid out in the outline, or the re-outline? Is it shaping up, or is it just plodding along?

And of course the big question: what’s wrong with it?

I find that a good place to take that break—at least the first time—is right around the time when the first act ends. That’s usually at somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 words. If you’re familiar with Joseph Campbell and the monomyth, it happens when the characters leave the old world behind and enter the new. It is the tipping point. And as such it suits the needs of this break very well.

I reached that point the other day—27,000 words, for anyone who’s interested—so I’m taking the break to review what’s happened so far. Do I need to make a new outline? Do I want to keep this character that just kind of popped up last week? Should I make those world-building changes I was thinking about yesterday? And so on.

This is why I distinguish between the zero draft and the real first draft. The zero is all about forward motion; never look back because you don’t know what might be gaining. The first draft, when you go over the path you made before and make it something worth following, benefits from a little backwards gazing. You can check to see if others can follow. You can make sure the right elements are introduced. If anything strange comes up in the first draft, you can decide if you want to carry it through to the end or kill now before it has a chance to breed.

And once that planning is done, you can move on with confidence.

*”Day off” in this context meaning “day where I work on a different project like the no-good, roundheels** bitch that I am”.
**I was made aware the other day that no one else has used this word on a regular basis since 1956. That’s what I get for reading all that pulp noir fiction.
***HAHA I PUT YOU THERE. SUCK IT.

Yet Another Reason Writer’s Block Is Fucking Bullshit.

It was close to this. Good thing digital files don’t burn well.

Last week, I had something I haven’t had for a long time: I had writer’s block.

I didn’t know what it was. I was just staring at the screen like I was staring into Nietzsche’s abyss, except that while it might have been staring back at me, it sure as hell wasn’t saying anything. Everything I tried seemed like shit. Even the stuff I’d written the day or the week before seemed like shit. There was, in fact, a lot of shit around, and it seemed like I was responsible for creating most of it.

I was close to deleting a lot of it. The last chapter, for sure. And I did in fact throw about 10,000 words—about 40 pages, if you prefer to calculate that way—into the wood chipper I call The Purgatory File. It’s where stuff goes right before it gets deleted forever, so I can harvest its organs and tasty bits before digitally mulching the rest. Fuck this, I was thinking. It’s not worth saving.

It was not a good day.*

After I dumped all those words into the wood chipper, I fucked off. Again, unusual; I rarely quit before the word count’s done. But that day I didn’t want to look at it anymore. So I sat down on the couch to read.

But I never got past the first couple of pages, because as soon as I sat down, I fell asleep. For three fucking hours.

When I woke up—disoriented, with a book on my face and two cats pinning down my legs—I felt…better.** And when I read over what I’d written, imagine my shock when I realized that it didn’t suck.***

I didn’t have goddamn writer’s block. I was fucking sleep deprived.

The lessons to be learned here are three-fold:

1) Writers can’t be trusted. We can’t. It’s a fact. We’ve all got a platoon of jabbering, sharp-edged little goblin monkeys caged up inside our heads, and when those little bastards get loose, it’s hell up there. We lose all perspective and turn into whiny little sods. It’s annoying.

2) Your body is more than just a carry case for your brain. What it feels, all of you feels. So crappy sleep habits, bad eating, no exercise…all of that will reap dividends you don’t want. Take care of yourself and the work gets easier.

3) Writer’s block is still bullshit. It’s just a lack of something: confidence, technical skill, passion, or, in my case, sleep. Something. Solve the deficit, and writer’s block goes away.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some words to make up.

 

*I should point out that I have very few writing days like this. Most of mine are more the “rock and roll on the stereo, coffee in the belly, let’s get some words, motherfucker!” type. Which I prefer, but the neighbours probably don’t.
**I’m condensing for the sake of story here; it actually took another eleven hours sleep that night before I felt fully normal again.
***Most of it, anyway. A couple pieces were still garbage.

How To Write Less Every Day

Nom nom writers.

I can feel the weird look you’re giving the title of this post.*

It’s okay. In your place, I’d look at it like a three-headed chicken crawling out of my Eggs Benedict and demanding that I take it to my leader, too. It’s not what I’m supposed to write about, here on a goddamn writing blog. It’s supposed to be me breathing fire and roaring “MOAR WORDS” like a literary version of Smaug.**

But here’s the thing: just as you can write too little—too little to finish, too little to keep the spark of the story going, too little to force yourself to invest in these godforsaken characters like they’re your own children—you can also write too much. You can exhaust yourself. You can write yourself into a corner that you see no way out of, and give up in frustration.

Both writing too little and writing too much are different symptoms of the same disease, which is lack of confidence. You write too little because you’re unsure; you write too much because you no longer care about being sure (good) but also stop caring about putting in the proper work (bad). Consider it the writer’s version of doing a shit job so that you can prove you’re no good. Setting yourself up for failure.

This is the problem with zero drafts, for some writers: you spill all those words out, never giving a good goddamn about how they fit together, and tell yourself you’ll fix it later. But sometimes you find that you can’t fix it later. Or you think you can’t, anyway, and you give up.

As you lot well know, I’m a big fan of the zero draft. But I always go into it knowing that whatever I produce will need so much work to be readable it’s going to be a completely different book. The zero draft is a way for me to think on the fly. Half of what I think up will be bullshit, and half of the rest will be mediocre. But I’m perfectly well prepared to dig through a ton of shit to find a single diamond. If you’re not, then the WRITE ALL THE WORDS NOW approach may not turn your crank.

So, though I completed the zero draft of the Big-Ass Novel in a mad sprint, I’m rewriting at a much slower pace. 1,000 words a day. That’s it. I’m trying really, really fucking hard not to go over***, because I’m trying to think ahead now, trying to fit everything together, and it’s a bit like solving a Rubick’s Cube in five-dimensional space. I move this, but it changes that, and now I have to fix this, but that makes this other thing slide out of alignment, so I tweak that bit over there…

You get the idea.

A caveat here: the ideas of ‘too little’ and ‘too much’ are so subjective I shouldn’t even be allowed to write them out using only two words, as if those two words could possibly convey the inherent complexity. It’s like the world’s worst short hand. Only you know what is too little or too much for your daily word count; it’s going to be different for everyone. And—here’s another qualifier—you’re probably only going to figure out your limits with time. By fucking up a few dozen times. By not finishing stuff, and by writing other stuff until it looks like a tangled mess of intestines spilled out on your desk.

Isn’t writing fun?

*I’m pretty used to weird looks, so believe me when I say I know how they feel.
**”I am fire! I am death! I am the end of the dangling preposition!”
***Unless I’m on fire that day. Obviously.

The Parts Readers Skip: Cutting The Boring Shit

Fuck this, I’m out of here.

I was trundling along though my daily word count* yesterday when I reached it: the boring part.

Fuck, I don’t want to write this, I thought as I reached for my monkey skull full of bourbon and souls.** The main character’s just staring and thinking, I know it goes here, and after the Great Plotline Disaster of ’08, I’ve committed to writing mostly in order, but this part is boring.

And then it occurred to me: if it’s that fucking boring, why write it at all?

Because it has backstory, and you need to set up That Big Thing, nagged the Internal Keeper of the Outline/Spreadsheet. And because it’s right there on the plan. Look.

So, I looked, and I thought, and then I cut that scene. The Spreadsheet Keeper whined about it, but I stuffed her into a steamer trunk somewhere and broke the lock. I can still hear her thumping at the lid and screaming obscenities at me***, but you get used to it. Also, I’m having a heavy metal morning, so it blends into the music.

I wrote about Elmore Leonard back when he got shelved****, and it’s another piece of his writing advice that comes back to me now: “Try to leave out the parts that readers skip”. If readers are going to skip it—or worse, get bored by it and drop the book entirely—why bother to write it? Everything that I was going to do in that scene—setting up That Big Thing, exploring the family, maybe hinting at a murder—can be folded into other scenes with more finesse. And far less of the protagonist staring off into space and remembering the Not So Good Ol’ Days.

I’m still not entirely sure about this decision. I might reconsider later, when I’m trying to dribble backstory in between stabbings. But for now it seems right. Cut the boring parts, because if I want to skip it, you can be goddamn sure the reader will.
*Yes, I have a daily word count. It keeps me on track and makes sure I don’t have too many ‘ah, fuck it’ days. I even have a list where I track how well I’m keeping up.
**Relax, it’s a ceramic monkey skull. The bourbon’s real, though. And the souls.
***Yes, even my spreadsheet Keeper is a potty mouth.
****I’ve got some of his books next on my re-reading list and I can’t wait. *Pours out some bourbon and souls for Leonard*

Hesitation Marks: How I Finally Started That Goddamn Rewrite

I have all the pieces…(Photo credit: wikipedia)

Last week, I was working on the new outline for the Novel Rewrite. I had index cards and a sharpie and a bunch of notes, and was happily laying them out in different patterns on the living room floor. Since more than one of the cards reads Some Dude Dies Horribly, it was a little serial killer meets Kindergarten art class.*

I finally found a pattern I semi-liked, one which made sense and that I could work with. I took a photo of it, made some more notes…and then just stopped. The cat came to sit on the index cards I had so thoughtfully laid out for her. I did a couple of blog posts.  Checked out some new short story listings. Whenever someone stepped near the cards, I’d have my Archimedes moment and tell them to not disturb my circles. And if they asked, I’d say it was going…well.

One thing I didn’t do was actually start the damn rewrite. It’s not ready yet, I told myself. I don’t want to rush this part. I have to make sure everything’s ready.

Eventually, I realized the problem: I was stalling.

Those of you who have met me in meatspace probably know that stalling isn’t my deal. I’m that person who loses patience with the never-ending discussion of where to go for dinner after ninety seconds of “I don’t know, whatever you guys want to do.”** The most polite term is probably ‘decisive’, the least polite ‘bossy and arrogant as hell’.

And here I was, vacillating like a thirteen year old girl trying to choose between two colours of mascara, Carbon Black or True Black.***

Thankfully, I figured out what was going on before I lost too much time. I was only stalling because I didn’t want to fuck it up. So I argued with myself that it was already fucked up; the zero draft is proof of that. After that, it was easier to put on my Big Girl Bra and get started.

Lesson of the day: the quest for perfection is a pointless waste of fucking time.**** All it will do is run out the time clock on your life and leave you with nothing.

Better to just strap down your important bits, grab the chainsaw, and dig in.

So? What are you waiting for?

*Kindergarten Killer, coming soon to a cinema near you.
**I’m starting to think that my friends do this just so they can watch me have one of my Hulk moments.
***The fuck does this even mean, cosmetics companies? And don’t get me started on Blackest Black, Deep Black, Jet Black, or Black Out. It’s fucking black.
****This might have also been one of the themes of the Lego movie I saw over the weekend.

Squid-Priests and Second Acts: What Novel Writers Can Learn From Screenwriting

‘Sup?

So, this novel rewrite: it’s turning out to be a giant pain in the ass.

It’s no secret that I’ve been stuck for a while. That’s why I decided to devote this entire year to making the manuscript a good one. None of my usual method were working, so, at the suggestion my my friend Kat, I tried screenwriting exercises. And you know what? It’s finally coming together.

Here’s what I’ve learned about screenwriting methods in the last month or so: 1) they’re compact; 2) they’re broad strokes; and 3) I always imagine a bunch of white guys in suits whenever they talk about pitching an idea.*

The thing about using the screenwriting format to outline is that it’s all Big Picture. Some systems out there use a finite (and small) number of index cards to plan it out. Others rely on beats, again of a limited amount. You have to focus on the big stuff in order to hit that number. So all the fiddly bits and the little scenes and the nuance falls away. You’re left with the essentials.

This turned out to be just what I needed. I was getting too caught up on the minutia. Which, you know, is a part of it too, but I was getting too deep. Couldn’t see the giant robot for the bolts. I’m a scene-by-scene outliner, but I needed to pull back and hammer out the big moments so I could see where the problems were. Now I know, so I can start fixing them.

Moral of this story, kiddies: it never hurts to mix things up.

If you’re getting stuck in the minutia and the details and the neat character relationships but you can’t seem to get the whole thing together, try taking a few steps back. Hell, take a mile. And look at the biggest moments. You want the pieces of your story that you can see from space. Then you might see why it’s not working. Maybe there’s not enough happening in the middle. Maybe there’s too much. Maybe you’ve had the Horrible Thing happen to the wrong character.

Conversely, if you have the bare bones but the story just isn’t filling you with the righteous holy fire of creation**, get closer. Dissect it. Take a good hard look at the innards: the characters, the world, the little nagging details. The way people talk. The changes having domesticated dinosaurs has changed the nature of public transit. The headdress of the Water Priests, which is supposed to be a stylized squid but looks disturbingly like a penis, leading to their irreligious nickname of the Holy Peckerheads.*** That’s how you find the stuff we’ll care about.

Yes, I just used the word ‘peckerheads’ to illustrate things you should care about. And now you’re stuck with that image in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

*Drops the mic, leaves the stage*

*Might just be me.
**Or that could be heartburn. Hang on, let me check the coffee pot level….yeah, heartburn. My bad.
***Which now also sounds like a sports team in my head.

We Can Rebuild It: Making Your Writing Better, Stronger, Faster

Faces? Where we’re going, we don’t need faces.

I recently had the opportunity to help a couple of friends edit their writing. Not fiction, not this time, but essays. Essays they’re using to get money, no less. And because I’m never the type to leave material like that lying around unused, they now get to be the focus of a blog post. Congratulations, guys: you’re now teachable moments.

Though what I was carving into pieces with my pretty red pen was non-fiction, these lessons apply to fiction as well. This is all about making your prose lean and sharp so that it slides in as effortlessly as the blade of a just-honed knife. Nothing to catch on and make a mess that might lead a keen crime scene investigator to you.

When confronted with a blank page, it’s easy to ramble. It makes it less intimidating, and, hell, you’re getting something down, right?

Actually, yes, that is right. But sooner or later you’ll have to trim it back. Here’s how:

1. Think Hard About What You’re Trying To Say. Writing an essay? Think about your point, and then see if what you’ve written actually makes that clear. Letter? Think about the person you’re trying to portray to the reader; cut everything that doesn’t serve this. Fiction? Every chapter, every scene, every god damn sentence is trying to say something. Make sure it does. If it does not, then either change it or cut it.

2. Thou Shalt Not Suffer Intensifying Modifiers and Adverbs* To Live. If I could put an embargo on the use of the word ‘really’ in writing, I would. Not that you wouldn’t be able to use it, but to do so you’d have to fill out forms and provide character references and prove that you need it. As is, it feels like someone loaded up a Really Cannon and let fly. And then followed it with the Very Shotgun.
Likewise—and this one goes out to the fiction writers—think before using adverbs. People are always doing things quickly, tremulously, defiantly, and languorously. Cut that shit out. The manner should be clear from the writing; you shouldn’t need to bludgeon the reader over the head with it.
These words are filler that rarely do anything helpful. Quite the opposite: they slow things down and make it harder for a reader to get your point. Knock it off. Then, when your application goes through and you’re approved to use “really”, it serves its original purpose: to intensify that point and give it more weight.
A words of caution to the fiction writers: this doesn’t apply to dialogue. People use unnecessary words all the time when they’re talking. But it should still serve a purpose: defining that character. Possibly as a wordy bastard.

3. Stop Repeating Yourself. Or, To Put It Another Way,  Stop Repeating Yourself. You already said that. Why are you saying it again? Do you think I didn’t get it the first time? Do you think I’m stupid? Well, do you?
Is this the reaction you want to provoke? Or worse, do you want to bore the reader?
Our inclination as writers is to repeat the things we feel are important. How else are we supposed to make sure that they get it? But in fiction and non-fiction alike, this just means you bludgeon your reader with the Big Important Stick. They don’t like it.
This comes in two main forms:
A) The Summary. If you feel like you need to restate your thesis or your theme to tie things up, don’t. It reads like a sixth grade report**: “My Totally Original Idea can be seen using A, B, and C. [Writes A, B, and C.] In conclusion, A, B, and C prove My Totally Original Idea.” We know. We just read it.
B) The You Don’t Get It. “Becky stared at the huge mecha-dinosaur. She’d never seen anything so big in the parking garage. It dwarfed the vehicles it was eating, making them seem diminutive in comparison. It was HUUUUUUUUGE.” Yeah, Becky, we get it. Big fucking mecha-dinosaur. Moving on.

We all do this shit. That’s why we edit. Now go forth and cut, word goblins. And sharpen those knives before you do.

*Bonus Fun Fact: I just googled to make sure I was using the right word. Because nothing burns like being wrong on the internet.
**This is fine if you actually are in the sixth grade. We all have to start somewhere.