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  1. #21
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    Experimental phrasing isn't a thing.

    Maybe they thought the text was uninteresting and wanted you to jazz it up a bit?
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  2. #22
    I agree that the writing is okay. I still maintain it lacks something. Whether we call that 'experimental phrasing' or not is debatable but...

    My goal is to convince you to break the cycle of working for others, being unhappy, and earning low pay. But how? "How" takes time, but it's not something I'd call difficult. I can help you with a lot of this, but technically, "how" is something you have to figure out. The reason for that is because I can't know what you love to do. But somewhere, deep down in your unconscious mind, you know what you'd rather be doing with your life. Or maybe it's not that deep, and you're someone who already knows what you'd rather be working at. Maybe you've just been procrastinating for a long time. If you don't pursue this thing you love, it will eat away at your soul. I believe that this is a contributor to many of the depression cases we have these days. It certainly was for me.

    I'll use myself as an example here. For me, the thing I should have been doing for all those years turned out to be writing. But I couldn't admit to myself that it was the right thing to do. It wasn't until my mid 30's that I realized I wanted to be a writer. We all got exposed to writing in school, and I remember that it seemed to be shunned by the other students. They didn't appear to like doing it. Even back then, I enjoyed it, but it seemed tedious because I was only a kid with a lot to learn. It also seemed like something that wouldn't earn me a living. Neither of those things is true. What one person finds to be dull, another person delights in. And the money you make depends on how much time and effort you're prepared to put into it. How much you're willing to hone your skill.


    So what do you do if you have trouble admitting your goal to yourself? Or to others? What I'm about to say next might seem ridiculous to some people, but we all have our own inner struggles. Here's the one I had to overcome once I decided to write: I didn't want anyone I knew to read my writing. It felt like some kind of violation of my privacy. When someone reads your work, it's almost as though they get a window into your soul. In some sense, they do. When someone is reading a book you wrote, you're not having a conversation. You can't defend yourself line by line, point by point as though you were talking to them. You just have to let them see what you really think, and know how you really feel. After they've read your book, they know you a little better. You might even say that they know you better than you know them.


    But I just needed to get over myself. I was never going to get anywhere worrying about what people would think of me. It was the fear of judgment that I had to overcome. I decided that I was taking this whole 'personal privacy' thing a little too far. A writer has to open themselves up to the world and let the chips fall where they may. The point is that when you're figuring out what you want to do with your life (if you don't already know), you may realize it's something you're a little uncomfortable with. This could be the reason you never started doing it full time. We've all got our personal preferences, but you can't let them hold you back.


    Disclaimer: I don't read a lot of self-help. But regardless, there are better ways to write this IMO. It's very wooden and, well, stereotypical self-helpy. It's not bad, I appreciate that the OP is writing this in first person (rather than telling you what you should do, which I dislike) but there is a lot of cliche in here. A lot that isn't particularly hard-hitting because we hear it all the time.

    A lot of truisms like 'I just needed to get over myself', "don't let your preferences hold you back', etc. It's the old "THANKS I'M CURED!" but what does it all mean? What does it mean to 'get over yourself'? How does one not let preferences hold them back, in practice?

    I read this a few times and while I understand completely what the OP is saying and he/she is correct on most counts, none of it is telling me anything I don't already know and isn't saying it in a 'fresh' way. It almost feels like a journal entry or a rant. I see a lot of 'self' but not so much 'help'?

    Overall, I do think the critic was being lazy and probably at least partially filling in for a lack of better response with their comment, so the reaction in this thread so far against 'experimental phrasing' is still mostly valid. If we really stretch the possibly iterations of the term, though, then yeah I can agree this piece could use some 'experimentation'.

    So, I would take their feedback as being something like "this piece needs more personality".

  3. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Quite honestly, the text looks okay to me. It's a non-fiction book, so what does this critiquer want? To dazzle the self-help reader with incredible turns of evocative cliche-avoidant prose? I mean, if you can tart it up then do so, but if not, is it so bad? The subject warrants clarity and accessibility (which you give it) rather than high art and drama.

    I would say carry on as you are. It's readable and also I think quite relevant. I can certainly relate to its key points.
    The thing is, self-help is such a saturated market and so incredibly competitive, that unless you have credentials up the wazoo you really need to be doing it differently.

    So yes, I would make the unscientific projection that the OP's piece (based on this excerpt) is probably headed for the rejection pile. Not because it's bad, but because it isn't extraordinary.

    If self-help is not extraordinary, nine times out of ten it's just perceived as masturbatory rambling.

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The thing is, self-help is such a saturated market and so incredibly competitive, that unless you have credentials up the wazoo you really need to be doing it differently.

    So yes, I would make the unscientific projection that the OP's piece (based on this excerpt) is probably headed for the rejection pile. Not because it's bad, but because it isn't extraordinary.

    If self-help is not extraordinary, nine times out of ten it's just perceived as masturbatory rambling.
    I don't suppose I know what extraordinary self-help really looks like. My worry was that this would be impenetrable psychobabble, masturbatory rambling designed to keep readers confused; in other words, in a perpetual and convenient state of needing self-help books. The fact that it was clear and simple and actionable came as a pleasant surprise. But sure, ordinary stylewise.

    In terms of credentials I wonder if self-help is one of those fields where you can get away with a lot without being extraordinary. Who is extraordinary anyway? How many people, truly? That's quite rare. I'd argue that there's a lot of perfectly mid-range stuff out there, chuffing merrily away while being published. It depends on what the OP's aims and standards are, and what they're happy with, and what they can make work.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    The first cut don't hurt at all
    The second only makes you wonder
    The third will have you on your knee
    s
    - Propaganda, "Duel"

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  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    I don't suppose I know what extraordinary self-help really looks like. My worry was that this would be impenetrable psychobabble, masturbatory rambling designed to keep readers confused; in other words, in a perpetual and convenient state of needing self-help books. The fact that it was clear and simple and actionable came as a pleasant surprise. But sure, ordinary stylewise.

    In terms of credentials I wonder if self-help is one of those fields where you can get away with a lot without being extraordinary. Who is extraordinary anyway? How many people, truly? That's quite rare. I'd argue that there's a lot of perfectly mid-range stuff out there, chuffing merrily away while being published. It depends on what the OP's aims and standards are, and what they're happy with, and what they can make work.
    I think I have read maybe a dozen self-helpish type of books of which maybe only a couple with a vaguely straight face....but, let's consider the psychology of somebody who buys these things. They aren't going to be looking for advice that they could get from their mother or some guy at the bar. Often it isn't actually advice they are looking for at all but affirmation. It's about adjusting one's mentality.

    They are usually looking for either credentials (Professor Einstein at the Genius College or guy-who-survived-fifty-days-at-sea) OR they are looking for a witty or fresh or just very emotive perspective. It's almost always one or the other. I'm not sure there's any other reason to read self-help -- to receive wisdom from an authority (psychologist, person who lived through a very tough set of circumstances, etc) or to receive it from a non-authority 'peer' who just happens to have 'seen a thing or two' and knows how to write.

    There isn't much one can really get from a self-help book that isn't essentially boiling down to common sense. The essential wisdom of all interpersonal guides boils down to "value the people you interact with". The essential wisdom of all financial guides is "come up with a budget and stick to it". Everything on top of that is superfluous detail, as far as 'lessons go'. Because it is detail it must be well written. Just like in novels.

    Enter 'experimental phrasing', I guess!

    Ever notice how many of these self-help books revolve around some form of checklist? "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People", "The Four Agreements", etc. When it's not checklists, it's often some kind of gimmicky analogy: "The Science of Wealth: Unlocking the FORMULA for success", "The Contract Between Your Soul & You", etc. Sometimes, it incorporates some form of narrative or extended metaphor to create a fictional or psuedo-fictional frame for the advice: "The Alchemist", "Zen & The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance", etc.

    Regardless, I think this is the kind of thing people are driving at with 'experimental phrasing'. There's nothing in the allegedly 'simple scientific formula' found in 'The Science Of Wealth' that isn't possible to state in plain English, without the 'formula'. The motorcycle is not needed to explain the ideas in 'Zen. But these are the kinds of things that make old ideas seem new; can make regurgitation of obvious common sense fairly attractive and, therefore, marketable.
    Last edited by luckyscars; November 25th, 2020 at 05:33 AM.

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    It's full of information but feels rather stodgy, rather preachy, rather dry. Maybe even a little...patronizing?
    Hmm... interesting take. I've worked to avoid those attributes to the best of my ability. But I think I'm narrowing down my readership, so this thread has been immensely helpful to me, for that reason. I would like to hear which parts you consider to be patronizing. I had someone else tell me that this next part was "incredibly offensive" -

    "I'm just not cut out to work at the industrial park, or the burger joint until I'm old. The rat race, that regular grind, just isn't for me."

    - I have tried every way in the world to understand how that sentence could possibly be construed as offensive by anyone who isn't just a super sensitive baby who really needs to... well you get the idea. I'm talking about myself in that sentence, I didn't say a single thing about anyone else. I said that it's just not for me. Neither are yellow T-shirts. That shouldn't offend anyone who loves wearing yellow T-shirts, because I didn't mention them, and upon seeing me wearing a yellow T-shirt, they may even be inclined to agree with me. So all of this is teaching me a lot.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    There isn't much one can really get from a self-help book that isn't essentially boiling down to common sense.
    I even say that in the book. My book is aimed at a general audience. Consider if you will, the word "general" in this context. You know how they say "common sense isn't common"? Many people really do need help with this. Which is fine, I want to help them. The person this book aims to help is someone who for whatever reason, really does need to hear (read) this stuff. You know these people, you could name some right now. They'll nod their heads all day in agreement with you, and but in their own lives you can see that they do the opposite. But when the go looking for help, and they pay a little money for it, well then things change, see? Now they're becoming more open to implementing these lessons.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Here's a description of Durham, UK by Bill Bryson from his travel book 'Notes From A Small Island'
    I'll just go ahead and say that I hate the first version. I don't view it as fine at all. Add one more comma and you've got enough for a chameleon. Sorry, bad 80's song reference. I like to read (and write) as though I'm having a conversation with someone. To me, it seems like the brain would want to work that way. Thus making it easier to get my point across in my writing. I never want to confuse the reader, I want them to understand everything I meant to say, perfectly. I'm coming at this from... let's call it a very high level of practicality. Very high utility. Have you ever read a book called "Where are all the customer's Yachts?" My book is written in the same writing style. I loved that book, and even my title is vaguely reminiscent of that title.

    You might say I tried to write the way I'm writing right now, talking to you. I wanted it to be that easy to understand. That first bit you used as an example: That's the opposite of what I like to read. It comes off as some kind of... unnecessary fluff to me. And I know some people like that; to each his own.

    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Quite honestly, the text looks okay to me. It's a non-fiction book, so what does this critiquer want? To dazzle the self-help reader with incredible turns of evocative cliche-avoidant prose? I mean, if you can tart it up then do so, but if not, is it so bad? The subject warrants clarity and accessibility (which you give it) rather than high art and drama.

    I would say carry on as you are. It's readable and also I think quite relevant. I can certainly relate to its key points.
    You have no idea how good it feels to hear you say that. Er, to read that. Or maybe you do, maybe it's something all writers experience at one point or another. But I'm still a newbie.

    And here's another thing: You're american, aren't you? So am I. Thus far, americans all seem to like it well enough. The people from the UK seem to have a lot of problems with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I agree that the writing is okay. I still maintain it lacks something. Whether we call that 'experimental phrasing' or not is debatable but...

    A lot of truisms like 'I just needed to get over myself', "don't let your preferences hold you back', etc. It's the old "THANKS I'M CURED!" but what does it all mean? What does it mean to 'get over yourself'? How does one not let preferences hold them back, in practice?

    I read this a few times and while I understand completely what the OP is saying and he/she is correct on most counts, none of it is telling me anything I don't already know and isn't saying it in a 'fresh' way. It almost feels like a journal entry or a rant. I see a lot of 'self' but not so much 'help'?
    I don't know if this is going to pan out in reality, but I do have an explanation for it. It's this: I subscribe to Stephen King's way of thinking when it comes to letting the reader's imagination do a lot of the work for you. So for example when I say "I just needed to get over myself" what I want is for the reader to assume something like "Yeah he didn't want people to read his writing cause he was scared they'd judge him". Well, why does anyone fear that kind of judgment? Cause they need to get over themselves.

    I needed to quit worry about my little feelings. That someone out there might think I was weird or stupid or somehow unqualified - or whatever. I didn't have any business worrying about that shit. What I needed to be doing instead, was focusing on my writing and improving. And cranking out a book worth reading. So in my view, it's really not much of a leap for the reader to imagine why I needed to get over my self centered little concerns.

    Some form or fashion of abstract reasoning is called for here. I'd argue that it's an imperative when you choose to read a self help book. Otherwise you're probably not going to get much out of it. It is "self" help, after all. You have to take whatever the book can give you, and form it into something that applies to your own life. If I can get my readers to do that, the book has achieved it's goal.

    Last thing I say here is that some of your concerns are covered in other chapters. This is only part of chapter 1, and I was advised that it should focus on me to a large degree because the readers will want to know about me, and why I'm qualified to write the book. The other chapters have me and other people in them to some extent, but it's always for a purpose and certainly isn't somehow "masturbatory". If I talk about me it all, it's always to illustrate a point to the reader, or to qualify me for something I need qualifying for. I made very sure of that. What I've posted here is only about 1/3 of chapter 1.



    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    I don't suppose I know what extraordinary self-help really looks like. My worry was that this would be impenetrable psychobabble, masturbatory rambling designed to keep readers confused; in other words, in a perpetual and convenient state of needing self-help books. The fact that it was clear and simple and actionable came as a pleasant surprise. But sure, ordinary stylewise.

    In terms of credentials I wonder if self-help is one of those fields where you can get away with a lot without being extraordinary. Who is extraordinary anyway? How many people, truly? That's quite rare. I'd argue that there's a lot of perfectly mid-range stuff out there, chuffing merrily away while being published. It depends on what the OP's aims and standards are, and what they're happy with, and what they can make work.
    Yes! Exactly that. I had that in mind almost the entire time I was writing. It was one of my biggest fears. I desperately wanted to avoid writing anything that came off as impenetrable psychobabble. I find it to be loathsome for several reasons, and I certainly won't read it if I can avoid it.

    As for what my standards are, well I guess I'm not entirely sure what you meant by that, but I do have a goal! It's to sell 30 books per day. Once I have completed the task of self publishing the book, I must do the proper marketing which will result in selling 30 copies per day in perpetuity. More is fine of course, but I must sell that much at least. It is my mission and I will become single minded in order to accomplish it.
    Last edited by bennylava; November 25th, 2020 at 07:57 AM.

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by bennylava View Post
    I don't know if this is going to pan out in reality, but I do have an explanation for it. It's this: I subscribe to Stephen King's way of thinking when it comes to letting the reader's imagination do a lot of the work for you.
    If you're writing a non-fiction book,, there is no "reader imagination". There is you telling people what worked for you, just in case it might work for them. It must be spelled out in clear detail, and I'd agree that "getting over myself" is all cliche and no detail. If that's what the critic you initially quoted was getting at, he had an idea but failed to express it in any useful way. You don't need "experimental phrasing", you need a detailed explanation of your process and the reasons it worked... in both thought and deed.

    I'm old enough that I've looked at self-help books, and frankly 99% of them came across to me as nothing but rubbish composed of meaningless filler. Here is the reason: Most topics aren't all that complicated. A couple of paragraphs or at most a few pages actually covers the pertinent material, but authors feel the need to stretch that into a book. So what you get is endless repetition on the theme, lots of build-up filled with promises, and other chaff.

    Several years ago I agreed to review a new book about weight loss. The ENTIRE BOOK boiled down to "Be on your calorie count like a hawk, and use an easily available and used tool (like a web site) to do that." A few paragraphs about how the author came to that conclusion, how he implemented the strategy, and how it worked out, was really ALL that was needed. But of course, to capitalize on this theme, he wrote an ENTIRE BOOK. It reality, it was no more than blog level material.

    By the way, I got the central message, which was well hidden amongst all the chaff, and in five months lost 25 pounds. His strategy worked, but I got the message rather quickly and didn't require the rest of the book. And sadly, he was a brand new author with no proofreader. Every page had at least a few typos. The copy was embarrassing. But, low and behold, I gave the book a good review because I did lose 25 pounds.

    So, it's up to you to provide enough material to justify a book. But in my mind, you need to avoid cliche and repetition. Be clear and be detailed. Cliches do not express the root of your thought, only the surface. Get to the root, and make each chapter add to the process, not simply repeat it with different wording.

    In honesty, the most valuable influences on my behavior and my life have not been books, nor articles, but single penetrating sentences. They were sentences which undeniably expressed truth, and those sentences are never expressed in cliche. I'd say you need a sentence like that to lead every chapter.

  8. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by bennylava View Post

    And here's another thing: You're american, aren't you? So am I. Thus far, americans all seem to like it well enough. The people from the UK seem to have a lot of problems with it.
    I've been called many things in my time, but I have never, never been called that before.

    I'm from the UK, in other words, and in the UK there's a part of us which clings to the notion that there's no problem, be it personal, psychological or physical, that can't be solved by going for a walk in a stiff breeze or doing an honest day's manual labour, and that anyone who says otherwise is a bit suspect...

    In terms of readability and content, this actually seemed to be a step away from that, as I say, and it was accessible, which to me is critical in a non-fiction book, unless there's avery god reason for it being jargon-rich (which there might be; I can appreciate the need for jargon in academia but a lot of people deploy it to lend weight to their argument that it doesn't deserve)




    Quote Originally Posted by bennylava View Post
    As for what my standards are, well I guess I'm not entirely sure what you meant by that, but I do have a goal! It's to sell 30 books per day. Once I have completed the task of self publishing the book, I must do the proper marketing which will result in selling 30 copies per day in perpetuity. More is fine of course, but I must sell that much at least. It is my mission and I will become single minded in order to accomplish it.
    By standards I mean what you want the prose to be; eg: if you want it to be workable, perfectly decent, or if you want to bust the market wide open with game-changing text.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    The first cut don't hurt at all
    The second only makes you wonder
    The third will have you on your knee
    s
    - Propaganda, "Duel"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous








  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I think I have read maybe a dozen self-helpish type of books of which maybe only a couple with a vaguely straight face....but, let's consider the psychology of somebody who buys these things. They aren't going to be looking for advice that they could get from their mother or some guy at the bar. Often it isn't actually advice they are looking for at all but affirmation. It's about adjusting one's mentality.

    They are usually looking for either credentials (Professor Einstein at the Genius College or guy-who-survived-fifty-days-at-sea) OR they are looking for a witty or fresh or just very emotive perspective. It's almost always one or the other. I'm not sure there's any other reason to read self-help -- to receive wisdom from an authority (psychologist, person who lived through a very tough set of circumstances, etc) or to receive it from a non-authority 'peer' who just happens to have 'seen a thing or two' and knows how to write.

    There isn't much one can really get from a self-help book that isn't essentially boiling down to common sense. The essential wisdom of all interpersonal guides boils down to "value the people you interact with". The essential wisdom of all financial guides is "come up with a budget and stick to it". Everything on top of that is superfluous detail, as far as 'lessons go'. Because it is detail it must be well written. Just like in novels.

    Enter 'experimental phrasing', I guess!

    Ever notice how many of these self-help books revolve around some form of checklist? "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People", "The Four Agreements", etc. When it's not checklists, it's often some kind of gimmicky analogy: "The Science of Wealth: Unlocking the FORMULA for success", "The Contract Between Your Soul & You", etc. Sometimes, it incorporates some form of narrative or extended metaphor to create a fictional or psuedo-fictional frame for the advice: "The Alchemist", "Zen & The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance", etc.

    Regardless, I think this is the kind of thing people are driving at with 'experimental phrasing'. There's nothing in the allegedly 'simple scientific formula' found in 'The Science Of Wealth' that isn't possible to state in plain English, without the 'formula'. The motorcycle is not needed to explain the ideas in 'Zen. But these are the kinds of things that make old ideas seem new; can make regurgitation of obvious common sense fairly attractive and, therefore, marketable.
    While I don't know much about self-help and don't feel comfortable offering any advice on how it should be composed, I just wanted to ring in and state that I really enjoyed reading this. Scars, if you ever publish 'The Art of Tossing Self-Help Over Your Shoulder,' I'll be first in line to pick it up.

  10. #30
    Reading self-help can be more of a discipline than a pleasure. While it's not content meant mainly to entertain, it does help if the author presents the material in a way that's engaging to read.

    In 'Boundaries' Henry Cloud has a conversational style that is very much in line with the gentleness, wisdom, and humor in his podcasts.

    In 'The War of Art' Steven Pressfield comes across as passionate, almost angry, and like the person who probably picked up the book in the first place, he's had it right up to here with battling for his own creative work and is determined to discuss how to get it done through sheer stubbornness if nothing else.

    In 'Think Like a Freak' Levitt and Dubner are somewhat tongue-in-cheek and insouciant in tone. No wonder, it's all about breaking out of standard thought patterns.

    In 'Seven Habits of Highly Successful People' Stephen Covey doesn't set the world on fire with dazzling phrasing but he gets right into the seven things and explores them thoroughly.

    So if these examples can work as a reasonable sample, 'experimental phrasing' in this case sounds like "This isn't engaging yet".

    How do you feel about your subject?
    How does your audience feel about the subject?
    What is the reader expecting when they pick up the book? What do they want out of it?

    You're saying that the goal is ultimately to change their work life from 'suck' to 'enjoyment' but that promise isn't really present in this excerpt yet.

    My goal is to convince you to break the cycle of working for others, being unhappy, and earning low pay. But how? "How" takes time, but it's not something I'd call difficult. I can help you with a lot of this, but technically, "how" is something you have to figure out. The reason for that is because I can't know what you love to do. But somewhere, deep down in your unconscious mind, you know what you'd rather be doing with your life. Or maybe it's not that deep, and you're someone who already knows what you'd rather be working at. Maybe you've just been procrastinating for a long time. If you don't pursue this thing you love, it will eat away at your soul. I believe that this is a contributor to many of the depression cases we have these days. It certainly was for me.

    A couple thoughts on this paragraph:

    1. I am the reader, I paid for this book in order to fix a work life that has me wanting to jump off a bridge, and you want to tell me about your goal? YOUR goal? Author, I don't care about what you want to do, FIX MY LIFE!

    2. How do I fix my work life? "But how?" Good question. Wait a minute..."how" is "something I have to figure out?" Why should I buy this book, then, if it's up to me to figure it out?

    Adding more words after these thoughts probably won't help very much. Especially when people scan a book and decide whether to buy it, they'll read just a few words and decide whether this supports or doesn't support what they want to do. (or at least imagine doing)

    Talking about goals (your goal as the author, the reader's goal in reading the book) might be factual but it reminds me of my aunt (a retired English teacher) who, when asked to write up a fun survey for people to take, wondered why nobody wanted to pick it up and fill it out... The heading at the top of a forbidding list of questions read, "TEST". 'Nuff said.

    While using yourself and your own experience as an example is perfectly legitimate, remember that the readers are essentially selfish and want to know about themselves. Case studies, examples, a promised list of headings work because the reader can say, "Hey, that's like me!" and their interest sharpens on what you're saying in that section.

    In the rest of the section following your first paragraph it is all very factual. It is what happened to you. However, if your promise is that you can show someone else how to go from 'suck' to 'enjoyment' in their work life, I'm not really seeing the 'enjoyment' part in your own writing. Are you enjoying it? If you can rewrite this so that it exhibits the promise, a promise fulfilled in your own life, then maybe the reader will be ready to believe that you have this to give.

    That might be what wossname means by the 'experimental phrasing' malarky. Or it could just be a bunch of things I thought of, we may never know!
    Last edited by Foxee; November 25th, 2020 at 07:08 PM.

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