Archives for posts with tag: writer

I’m in the middle of an editing project, and editing is popcorning all over my brain cells. So if you’re serious about editing your written work well, then this one’s for you.

Here we go.

editor graphic
And editing takes form in three ways:
And rhythm & sound.

If you want to be a fabulous self editor, then you’ll need to know all three.

1. Details…
Just about anyone who knows punctuation and grammar well can edit for details.
A period here, a comma there. No, a semicolon does not work there. Yes, in this case, the question mark goes outside the quotation marks. No, you can’t put the words not only in your sentence without but also. The style guide says so, and we follow the rules.

So many people believe that they know the rules. They even charge money for “professional editing” but, in reality, don’t know what they’re doing.

Yeah, this is a pet peeve of mine.

I’m currently editing work that another “editor” did already, and I’m horrified — because the details that this person missed are details that I teach middle schoolers. I’m setting my own record for how many times I cringe in one sitting. GAH.

Please. Do yourself a favor that lasts for years to come. Learn the rules. They’re finite.

And please. If you don’t know the rules really well, then don’t call yourself an editor. Polish your ability, first. Then take on the job.

2. Content…

Editing for content is much harder than editing for details. It’s harder to take a run-on sentence and make it concise. It’s even harder to realize when something’s missing and ask the author to add details.

In order to write well, you have to know what I call reader questions.

Reader questions are those questions that pop into the reader’s mind — the next-step info that the reader naturally wants to know, from sentence to sentence.

If I said, “I had a fabulous day,” your reader question is, “Yeah? What made it so fabulous?” So the next sentence that I write needs to answer the question and tell you what made it fabulous.


If I said, “We went to the beach,” you might want to know, “What beach? How long were you there? What kind of things did you do?” Each of these questions is valid — and each one comes in rapid-fire response.

The good writer answers these questions linearly, in the order that they pop into the reader’s mind. (Yes, writers have to be mind-readers.)

Most authors and writers (of all kinds) miss info. They skip important stuff. Since the idea is clear in your own mind, you think that the readers get it, too.

But they don’t.

Editing for content is knowing reader questions, identifying what’s missing, seeing what’s out of order, and identifying what’s too much info (the infamous rabbit trails).

The best editors can take text, assess content needs right away, and understand what parts of the puzzle need to be arranged, removed, and added.

3. Rhythm & Sound…
Editing for rhythm and sound is, I believe, the hardest editing of all. Poets, I think you know more about editing for rhythm and sound than anyone.

It’s all about what you feel and hear.

* The word choice matters. (A new “flavor” of a word might be stronger.)
* The sounds of words matter. (One word’s assonance, consonance, or percussiveness might sound better, next to another.)
* The lengths of words matter. (One word might feel better, next to another, because it stops the sound with a /p/ or moves the reader forward with an /m/.)

* Sentence lengths matter. (Short, medium-length, or long — each sentence has a feel to it.)
* Sentence sound matters. (Sentences are like music. Really.)

* The way that sentences are arranged in the paragraph matter. (The combination of sentence lengths can increase, decrease, or keep steady the reader’s momentum.)

The best editors focus on rhythm and sound. And if you want to be a great self-editor, then focusing on rhythm and sound will make it happen for you.

Read John Gardner‘s works. He’s brilliant with these kinds of things.

Become an editor in all three ways, for your own work —
in details, content, and rhythm & sound.

It matters.
(And I want you to be successful.)

* Thup


When you don’t feel like it,
do it anyway.

When you don’t want to do the right thing,
do it anyway.

When you don’t want to put out the effort,
do it anyway.

(Most likely, I truly do believe,
you’ll be glad that you did.)

(“Just start, already!”)

(Yes, there’s more.)
Don’t settle. Go deeper.

<<Be passionate.>>
(yolo, my friendos)

Make time.
[[m.a.k.e. time.]]
Write. Draw. Take that photo. Sculpt. Sing. Jump. Dance. Play. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. (did I say etc?) Ad infinitum.

Pep talk for today.
(“talk to the mirror”)

* Thup

I’ve been asked.
“Where do characters come from?”
(You really want to know?)

They might be from you.

Because all writers
takes bits and pieces
of the people around them

and use those bits and pieces
to create, form, and craft
an individual on the page.

Circumstances that swirl around us
become the breath of circumstances
in the characters’ lives.
(if even just a little)

A moment of tenderness
seen, felt, tasted, touched
(or wishing to
see, feel, taste, touch)
becomes a sliver of the beautiful
on the page.

Shifted liquid from icicles of pain here
become icicles of pain in the story.

An argument here becomes
the seed of an argument on the page.
(even if just in flavor, feeling, or tone)

People we admire become the story’s Mentors
imparting knowledge and beauty
in which to revel,
on our backs and face up at the stars.

The friend we have
(or wish we had)
becomes the Ally
of secrets shared and got-your-backs.

The bringer of bad news
(and the change we never imagined)
becomes the Herald
screaming into our lives
words and worlds we never wanted.

Real Life.
Pulled, twisted, and braided
into the pages.

Don’t let anyone fool you.
— we’re all on the pages —

Writers draw from the breath of life.
Good. And Bad.

So the old saying,
be careful around an author,
or you may end up on the page,
is true,
if even in just a tickle of the word.

The pieces of humanity
touching us deeply
become pieces of pressed paper,
the page.

For instance.
My mother is failing.
ever so slowly.
different today than yesterday.
And as whispers life change and float away,
a character forms in my mind.
A character to grace the pages of my book
and somehow make immortal
what I hold dear.

Writing takes the threads of life, so many,
and with colors and weights of variance
fills in
opposites, poles, north and south.
The outstretched arms vs. The brushes with shadow.
all. part. of. story.

For what we really want — is it not true? —
is that, when we read a story,
we immerse, feel, experience the characters
in a way that we know them.
Truly know them.

And somehow.
Through knowing.
We are able
to deal more gracefully
with the life around us.

* Thup

many are alone
in the holidays.

a death.
a divorce.
a move.


many are alone
in the holidays.

torn relationships.

Pain comes in vanilla and chocolate.
external. internal.
both hard to taste,
even harder
when that’s all that’s on the table
to eat.

remember this,
in writing your story.
(It will change the way you write.)

remember this,
in living life.
(It will change the way you live.)

* Thup

I feel like I’m in a karate match.
I keep approaching the challenger
(the story)
from different angles,

Trying To Win.
(write the story well)

New approach…Haaaaayyyyah!
Still another approach…Hhaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyah!!!!

I keep returning to
Three Words
that make my character make sense
to the reader:


External Goal.
What does my character NEED to do,
on the outside?

(What world is he saving?
Who is he helping?
What does he have to get, at all costs?)

Internal Goal. 
What does my character NEED to do,
on the inside?

(What HAS to change,
to make his troubled heart feel settled
and make his heart leave the angst behind?)
(And can it be left behind?)

WHY is he doing this?
What happened to my character
to make the angst — to DRIVE him to pull out the stops, at all cost?

(Why is my character so angsty, anyway?
Who wronged him?
What fell apart?
What pierced his heart and made him not believe in people?
What screwed him up and put him in a place where he’s so driven?)

What’s keeping him from
getting to the goal?
What stands in his way — physically?
What stands in his way — emotionally?

(What does he want that he can’t have
because it goes directly against his values?)

With our characters,
we all have to be psychologists.
(Put them on the couch.)

And ask questions.
And ask.
And ask.
And ask.
(get answers.)

Dig deeper.
Discover the psyche.
Make them full.
Pulled and pushed.

Back to the mats.


Okay, I admit it.
I love coffee mugs.

I have a mug collection that’s
and nerdy
and funny
and inspiring
and beautiful
and silly
and thought-provoking.

(different mugs for different moods, right?)
(and, yes, I use them for tea, too. *lifts pinkie)

So, hey,
I thought that we could
love the same mugs together.

Because, you know,
since we write together
across the miles,

>>> thupping our to-go mugs in “Salute!”
(while we work at coffee shops)
>>> clinking our ceramic mugs in “Cheers!”
(while we work at home)
>>> living the mantra “write. drink coffee. repeat.”
(emphasis on the WRITE part)

….click click click click click
backspace backspace…
click click …
*long pause…rubs brow…takes a sip
HMMM…delete delete…delete…highlights-block-DELETE!
*heavy sigh

*takes a sip
click click click click click…
(ad infinitum)

Our like-mug thupping & clinking
would be a supercool thing to do.
(I think.)

So if you feel so inclined to lift a mug with me,
check these out:

MUG 1, two sided…

MUG 2, two-sided…

* Siiiiiggggghhhhh
(I’m in love.)

And when my web guy gets back this week
(yes, I have a web guy…who’s amazing, btw),
you can get these. Here.

Time to dive into story.

* Thup

I’m a writer,
Hear Me Roar.

We roar about grammar.
(Oxford comma, anyone?)

We roar about personal pronouns.
(He and she went there with them.)

We roar about people
(you’re in your house)
and places
(they’re over there with their friends)
and specifics
(someone put things and stuff in it).

We roar about action.
(did he walk fast or sprint? did she smile or did a grin spread across her lips?)

We roar about descriptors fat with ly and er and est explosions.
(happily skipping blithely beyond the fattest pages of the bigger manuscript)

We roar about sentences too long and too short
that start with improper words.
(Because long sentences ramble and rant and spew their wrath around the matted pages of self-importance and self-congratulation that writers all-too-often wrestle with creating for craft’s sake and craft alone. We do.)


Why do we roar?

We Roar because we want to MAKE IT WORK for you,
the reader.

We Roar because we know and want to follow the guidelines.
(because guidelines help craft to flourish. really.)

We Roar because of the War.
(the inner war)
(The Taskmaster-Gypsy War)

Because a Taskmaster inside of our heads takes out its whip and cracks a few crackeroos
(and screams a few choice expletives)
and puts is finger to our page,
pointing out how WE need to STAY WITH THE PROGRAM and follow writing guidelines
to keep the words and phrases crisp and clear.
(“Follow the rules!”)

And then the Gypsy dances right up to the Taskmaster, spinning and whirling with rippling silks
(and sings a few lines of our favorite song)
and throwing her open palms to the air,
tosses her head back to cry, CREATE! INSPIRE! THIS IS ART!
and we pour out the heart
and let it flow free.
(“Make it rich and powerful!”)

Among it all.
A piece of writing is completed.

Writers write.
Writers learn.
Writers keep going.
(in the midst of War)

Hear us Roar.

We emerge, writing strong.

* Thup

I’m *Clinking at home
across the miles
to you.
(No coffee shops for me, today.)

I have my own REALLY BIG mug
(filled to the brim with “midnight oil”
from Water Street).

I have some REALLY BIG stuff to do
with some REALLY BIG resolve to get it done.
(A looooooooonnnnngg list of to-dos.)

in between grading a boatload of student work
and reading a script for a course
and writing a beat sheet,
I will write my current WIP/novel.

I W.I.L.L.

Will. And must.

With the help of Mirriam-Webster, the definition of will
can be turned into some pretty nifty affirmations
that you and I can use.

(Because sometimes we just need to be affirmed.)

* Will = desire, choice, willingness, consent
It is my desire to write, and
I make a choice to write

* Will = frequent, customary, or habitual action
I will write often. I will make it a custom, a habit.

* Will = natural tendency or disposition
It is natural  for me to write, and
writing fulfills my deepest calling.

* Will = futurity
Writing will happen today, tomorrow, and the following day.
It is a part of who I am,
every day.

* Will = capability
I am a capable writer.

* Will = probability
The probability of writing is a foregone conclusion.
I WILL write.

* Will = determination, insistence, persistence, or willfulness
I am determined to write.
I insist and persist.
(I even get bull-headed about it.)

* Will = inevitability
With frequency, it is inevitable that my writing
will increase in skill and desirability.

*Will = a command, exhortation, or injunction
I exhort myself
(and you can come along for the ride,
if you’d like):


(Writers write.)

* Clink.


Have you written yet today? If not, snatch a few moments. I will. Cheers across the miles. * Thup

%d bloggers like this: