Friday, July 20, 2012

Best Intentions

I'm pretending to be European and taking a month this summer to reconnect with friends and family and while I had the best intentions, my next blog will be at the end of the month.
Enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Maillot What?

I am a bona fide Tour de France junkie.  I can discuss pelotons, break-away strategy, category hills, and jersey significance. I can almost keep up with the changing team names.  Commentator Bob Roll lives in the same town that I do, I secretly crush on Phil Liggett (I think it's the accent) and I'm really tired of hearing new accusations against Lance Armstrong. In short, I'm part of the spandex crowd--albeit a very slow part.

But like anything specialized (for those wondering, no pun intended*) cycling comes with its own vocabulary, lingo, and secret handshake. The first time I heard the French term maillot jaune, I was bewildered.  In the world of cycling, the yellow jersey is the premier accolade bestowed upon the Tour leader.  I was similarly mystified by a beyond category climb.  I mean, really?  If it is a quantifiable grade, a known distance and has a GPS location, how can it be beyond category? Don't even get me started on the French obsession for cycling.  I'd be blogging for days.

When writing, it is more important to get a few of the smaller details right than to expound upon the big picture ad nauseum. It is the same whether the topic is cycling, police work, or quantum mechanics. Research has the sultry voice of a Siren, and before you can lash yourself to a mast, you've written pages upon pages of incredibly boring prose that demonstrates how well you know your topic but does nothing to forward your story.

Well, maybe you don't, but I do. My solution? I'm quite chummy with my delete key.

The flip side of writing too much is to insert such an obscure reference that no one outside the elite circle of the profession will understand. Did you find it in a footnote?  Leave it there.

Detail adds realism.  The beginning writer learns that it is easier for a reader to see the white bark of a birch than the trunk of a generic tree. Research is critical, lingo is great, if you tell an inside joke, you owe it to your readers to plant enough clues that they understand the punchline.

I have a couple of wonderful readers. They are quick to point out when I get too technical or fall back on the shorthand cops use to describe events. And let me tell you, cops love lingo. Just like cyclists. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go see who's wearing the polka dots, leading the breakaway, and giving chase.

Happy Independence Day!

*for those wondering what the heck was so punny, Specialized (capital S) is a bike manufacturer.