Archives for posts with tag: Writers Resources

This post part of a series called “Don’t Do This” — posts so you can avoid bad writing habits, identify and steer clear of the pitfalls of poor writing, and become the writer-communicator people want to follow.

(Because no one has arrived.)

Get every word,
catch the take-away,

aloof and amok.

“I don’t need it.”
“I already know this.”
“I’m beyond what you’re talking about.”
“I learned that years ago.”

These are the phrases of people who believe they’ve arrived.
Or, at the very least, they’re nearing the station, so learning/growing/becoming doesn’t apply “in their area of expertise” as much.

None of us have arrived.
All of us are still learning.
All of us can grow.
All of us need to become better versions of who we are and what we do.

None. Of. Us. Have. Arrived.
train tracks
(sorry for the drama)
(This. Is. Important.)

Most of us will say, I know this. I’m not prideful or anything awful like that. I just know my stuff, and I’m confident.

But. oh. think.
What does your (and my) life say?
Are we listening more than we talk?
Are we present, fully present, giving each person equal attention?
Are we paying attention to what that person can give to our life?

What does your (and my) body language say?
wooden bodies
Does the face reflect honest attention?
Are your feet pointing toward the person, not toward the door?
Are your eyes looking, really looking, in order to see and understand?

What does your (and my) time say?
Are we taking the exact moment at hand, to honor the person we’re with?

Warning —
Expert-ism brings along with it a dangerous characteristic: 

All of us have knowledge.
We’re all skilled in our different areas.


It’s not about being an expert.
Because experts are not perfect.
Experts are not infallible.
Experts do not understand every angle, every possible positive that can make better.

Experts have gaps in their thinking, too.
Experts have gaps in their understanding, too.
I know, this is duh. But how are we acting? really?

(Come on. Time to put it out on the table.)
We all can be better.


Dont’ Do This:
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that as a leader in your field, you’re close to the station. If you’re human, the train has a long way to go.

Do This:
Be open.
Step back.
Think truthfully.
Be present with every single person you’re with.

Take off the expert hat. Put on the learner hat.
Put yourself in learning situations. Grow.

Get immersed in honesty, openness, and listening for what’s in that moment for you, for me, for our lives.

Don’t let your train run amok. Toss the aloofness.
It’s much more becoming
and will take your train to stations way beyond the one just up ahead.

You can’t become the better writer-communicator that people want to know
without constant growth in understanding, self-awareness, and perpetual action toward growth.

Successful people are constant learners.

* Thup
coffee 1-15-15

This is the first in a series, “Don’t Do This” — posts aimed at helping you avoid bad writing habits, identify and steer clear of the pitfalls of poor writing, and become the writer-communicator that people want to follow.

It’s like a book online. Free. Bite sized, motivating, practical bits. I believe you’ll like it — because it’s all about what works, the how-to for an immediate increase in your writing effectiveness. 

This first post is an easy read, every bit worth its tad-bit-longer length. Subsequent series posts will be pointed, brief, direct — with a strong take-away to apply right then and there. So you become a sharper writer, right now.

Get every word in this first post, so that you’re in the know for what’s to come.
(It’s worth it.)


When we hear the words, don’t do this, we sit up and listen — because we know that something important is coming: knowledge with the palpating power to save us from heartache and pain.

Entrepreneur. CEO. Leader. Forward thinker…
Creative. Writer. Artist. Musician. Passionate expresser of life…
Above-average thinker who cares…

Because you matter — your passion, your ideas — and because you want to make a difference…this is for you.

To communicate effectively with words, the how-to skill must be in place. For no matter how much heart or passion we feel and exude — get this — without the vital how-to help that your writing needs, the heart of your communication will collapse.

Seriously. Your ideas, passions, and hopes go into cardiac arrest and threaten to die.

But they don’t have to. When it comes to effectively getting your ideas to others, there are external defibrillators (AEDs) that can save you from some heartache and pain. AEDs analyze the heart’s electrical activity and give life-saving electric shocks to the chest of a person who has collapsed from cardiac arrest. Even if your writing is in cardiac arrest (if you know it…or can admit it…or are willing to do something with it because you get it), the info here gives the life-saving shocks needed, to breathe and fully live.

Because deep down, you know that your words matter,
and because you have a message that people need
and a skill to share…

Read on.

Fact 1: Every word you write has a purpose. You know this.

Making a list, writing an article or post, writing a book — each has a reason for its existence.

You know the adage:
* Know the target, know the direction to shoot the arrow.
(It applies here.)
* Know the purpose of your writing, and you’ll understand what kinds of words, phrases, tone, style, length of sentence (and other tools) to use.

Because purpose directs and informs everything we write. Everything.

Here’s the super-simple action I want you to do…
(Trust me on this one.)

Ask the questions:
Who’s going to read this, and why?
What does he or she expect?

In the entire piece.
On this particular page.
In this paragraph.
In this sentence.

And, yes, keep asking yourself the questions — while you’re smack-dab in the center of your click-press-pop-clack fingers on the keys or press-flow-move pen on the page.

(Any and every time you write.)

These questions should be soaring, swooping, circling in your brain above the target, like a mighty falcon with gleaming-sun-feather brilliance. The questions are ever present — ever casting shadows on the red-and-white circled target of your writing.

We want powerful writing — zinging and smacking into the target. So we’d better understand our writing’s purpose.

Fact 2: Your writing has a goal: to express, to inform, or to persuade. 

Expression is just for you and me so, hey, we can put anything we want on the page. But information and persuasion, ah, now we’re in different territory. Information and persuasion are for others.

So. We’re stuck.

Because when we write for others, we have to do it their way. We have to follow the guidelines that meet the reader’s needs. If we don’t, then we end up with no one reading what we wrote. Ugh.

Hm. In order to satisfy the reader, we’d better understand the goal of each little scrap that we write.

Ask the questions:
What benefit is my reader looking for?
What does he/she want to feel and experience?
What do they want to know, to walk away with?
Am I giving the reader exactly what’s wanted?

In the entire piece.
On this particular page.
In this paragraph.
In this sentence.

We want satisfied readers — full of good feelings toward what we wrote, full of good memories and understandings that bring them back for more. So we’d better understand the goal of each little bit that we write.

Fact 3: Engagement rules. Gone are the days of readers hanging around to read writing that doesn’t engage.

Most of us cringe at the volume of words bombarding our inbox, crowding into our web searches, bumping across our Facebook pages, and even ambling across the bottom of our television programs with the ad for the next-up program.

We’re way beyond information overload. We’re in information repel mode.

Engagement is critical.

Failure to follow the rules of engagement makes readers push away in disappointment, apathy, or even upset mode. Disappointed, apathetic, upset readers leave, let alone even begin to engage (as in, let’s click away in three seconds flat).

That simply won’t do.

Ask the questions:
Where are the repetitive words to axe and toss down the hill?
How can I change up words, to make the writing concise, pointed, powerful?
What am I doing in my writing that repels the reader?

In the entire piece.
On this particular page.
In this paragraph.
In this sentence.

We want readers to stay. So we’d better understand the rules of engagement for writing. (This series is all about helping you identify exactly what you’re doing…so stay with me.)

Fact 4: Rules of engagement are blood red critical. Writing lives or dies on the rules of engagement.

But we have a serious problem. We don’t know what we don’t know. (Ignorance is not bliss. It’s deadly.)

No lie: I believe that most bad writing is for lack of knowledge. Cluelessness. Not intentional, mind you — it’s simply the I-just-never-learned-this-stuff ignorance.

And without knowing it’s even happening, you’re sending the reader away apathetic or screaming.


At the turn of the New Year, ask questions:
Am I keeping myself back by simply living in a closed-door mentality, a self-focus?
Am I willing to open myself up to learning?
Am I humble enough to listen?
Am I willing to be thirsty for understanding, so that I can move forward?

It’s time:
Get better at the craft of written communication.
Don’t mess up due to ignorance.

<<Make what you write matter.>>

Have nothing stand in the way of your clear, vibrating, resonating, connecting communication.

Be willing. Willing to cultivate an open, listening, seeking heart. Willing to listen. Willing to absorb.

Willing to work.

Next time, we’ll get practical. We’ll talk about how not to end your piece. (How to give your reader something to hold onto, a smooth stone in the hand — a promise. It’s good.)

See you then.
(I can’t wait.)

* Thup

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


I’m on a positive input binge.

Sometimes it’s with Tony Robbins. Or John Maxwell. Or Wayne Dyer. Or Norman Vincent Peale. Or Zig Ziglar Or. Or. Or.

There are so many resources, to create success. To become better. To be happy. To grow and enjoy life. Why not take advantage of the wealth of power behind growth? (There’s nothing to lose.)

Because what we put in creates who we are, who we become, and what we experience. Right now.

Being real.
Being on top of things.
Being positive about solutions.
Recognizing challenges without being negative.
(Or taking negative and, with level understanding, thinking critically, in a way that moves forward.)

Intentionally appreciating.
Creating curiosity instead of being judgmental.
Being intentional.
Not quitting.
With the power and courage of faith.

(So that you can get your art finished. And do it well.)

The goal is to be better, not to be perfect. Contribute more. Be more.
It just might make you uuber productive…
and feel good, too.


PS. Here’s a little something, if you have 14.24 minutes.

“How do you do that?” he asked.

“Do what?” she said.

He tipped his head and blinked. It reminded her of her of that scene in Return of the Jedi, when Leia met Wicket. She liked Ewoks. But she really needed to study, not talk to a guy from fiction writing class that just happened to be in the library at the same time.

“That.” He pointed to her laptop’s screen. “How do you punctuate a conversation? In dialogue. I always get confused.”

She sighed. By the second semester of college, one should know how to punctuate dialogue, should they not? “Well,” she said, shifting in her seat. “First rule. Punctuation goes inside.”


“Yup. At the end of whatever you write, punctuation goes inside the quotes.”

He nodded. “Okay.” He scribbled in his notebook. “Got it. Is that just for commas? How about the periods…or question marks…or exclamation points? Our assignment says to use lots of emotion, so, hey, I plan on using everything in the arsenal, you know?” She grinned. She never thought of punctuation as a weapon. But on a lot of levels, he was right.

“It’s all the same,” she said, pointing to different places on her screen. “See?”

He scooched his chair forward and leaned in, nodding. “All punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. Got it.” He wrote in his book again, then leaned over. He felt awfully close.

“So,” he said, “I’m noticing something. You only use said and asked. Isn’t there stuff like yelled and replied …or squealed?”

She tried not to laugh. “Stick with said. Said is invisible. Our brain is used to said, so the word does the job in a way that’s…incognito.” She might as well talk his language. “And if you write squealed, I can guarantee your professor will squeal — at you — and it won’t be pretty!”

They both laughed. It felt good to laugh again.

“One more thing,” he said. As he studied her screen, she noticed how his collar stuck out from under his sweatshirt. Who wore collared shirts under sweatshirts? And was that a Michael Kors watch?

“You’re missing dialogue tags.”

“MIssing tags?”


“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

She shook her head. “If you know who’s talking, you don’t need them.”

Okay, that was a Michael Kors watch. Daddy said to avoid anyone wearing anything but a Timex. Momma said Michael Kors was the sign of a good family. And her brother said that anyone who wore a watch in this day and age, when they can look at their phone for the time, isn’t very smart. But her brother also knew — and spewed — every line of every Star Wars movie and wanted to be Han Solo. Hence the bazillion references to Star Wars that infiltrated her mind on a daily basis.

“Look,” she said, “There’s really much more to it, with commas and capitalization and all. But I have to study for a midterm….” She hated to offend him, but it was the truth. Well, mostly. She could take the time. But after overdoing last semester’s social calendar, she needed to stay with her vow to focus on grades. He was really interesting. Obviously new to fiction writing. But nice. The kind of guy you’d go to coffee with.

“Right. I’m sorry. I’m taking your time.” He closed the notebook and moved his chair back. He paused. “But since you took the time to answer my questions, if you’re free tomorrow, can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

She smiled. Who could say no to coffee?

* Thup
(time for a second cup)

I have a question for you.
(it’s important)
Here it is:

What makes your work memorable?
(What about it
sticks in people’s minds?)

In other words,
how is your work
different from anyone else’s?

(because you have to be different
to be remembered)

Writing Rule >>
Be Different.
(Be Uniquely Familiar.)

It doesn’t take much to be “uniquely familiar.”

You. Must. Have.
Something strong.
Something different.
Something emotional.

Create memorable scenes.
It’s not just a field. It’s a field with a huge oak in the center, with a twisted limb sticking out sideways and a black squirrel who thinks that it’s 100% his tree, and no one else’s…so stay away, dude, or you’ll get a chittering earful.

It’s not just a pillar. It’s a pillar made of shards of broken colored glass, rippling with thousands of bits of reflected light.

It’s not just a table. It’s a table that rises up in the center with a live tree, bringing shade to the young couple giggling together and touching the tips of their shoes underneath.

Create memorable characters.
It’s not just an old man. It’s an old man with braided hair to the side, wearing a single orange-colored glove, who speaks in broken sentences.

It’s not just a young girl. It’s a precocious know-it-all with a teeny little voice that never stops gabbing about her gum wrapper collection.

It’s not just a woman. It’s a tall, thin woman wearing a leopard-design bowler hat, with straw-like brown hair sticking straight out from underneath, stiff with thin-lipped concentration while poking her iPhone as if testing the chicken to see if it’s cooked.
(Okay, I didn’t make that one up. She’s sitting right there, across from me at this Starbucks. Really.)

(of any kind)
Create memorable illustrations
with difference.
Create memorable photographs
with difference.
Create memorable musical notes
with difference.
Create memorable sculptures
with difference.
Create memorable characters & plot
with difference.

Difference doesn’t have to be big
(although the grandeur of BIG can be grand, indeed).
Just different.

(memorable = odd enough
to make your target audience
blink and think)

(and remember you)

Difference leaves a permanent cup ring
where your cup sat.

Be remembered.

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

When teaching undergrad students
in a leadership and management class (years ago),
we discussed the Johari Window. 

(keep your eye on the ball, this is cool…
for life and for writing)

the Johari Window is a
self-awareness tool.

Take a peek.

(I know. It doesn’t make much sense right now.
It will. Keep reading.)

In the model,
there are four quadrants.
(pretty easy to see, aren’t they?)

The quadrants represent what is known and unknown,
to ourselves and others.

(The big reveal’s coming.

Now look closer at this baby.
I mean,
read a little spittance below.
(new word…spit + pittance.
roll with me)

And after reading each spittance,
look at the corresponding
window pane.

(read the spittance,
then put your finger here.
peek at the window, super quick.
then come right back.)

(it pays off. really. do it.)

Open Quadrant.
The open area is
what we know about ourselves us.
what others know about us.

(this is the “open book” part of us
that we all see and get)

Blind Quadrant.
The blind area is
what we don’t know about ourselves,
others know it about us.

(This is the dreaded Blindspot…
the part of our lives that
really hurts us sometimes.)

Hidden Quadrant.
The hidden area is
what we know about ourselves,
we don’t let others know about it.

(kept hidden. as in secret area.)

Unknown Quadrant.
The unknown area is
what we don’t know about ourselves
no one else knows it either.

(the subconscious, unconscious, deep self)

I know.
This isn’t grad school.
Seriously. Trust me. It’s relevant.
(just one more second…)This Johari Window Thingamabob
is about
personal growth.(AHHhhhhhhhh)
personal growth.
Personal. Growth.

Think Character Arc.
Character Arc = Personal Growth
Johari Window = a tool for writing character
The Johari Window is amazingly excellent for developing character
because it’s so simple and easy to see.
“One of the greatest gifts
you could give yourself
is to seek, find, and apply
truth in your life.

This is the path to becoming
a healthy person.
Aligning yourself with the truth
permits a better person to
eventually emerge from within.”

For you.
For me.
For our characters.
Tools are cool.
Tools facilitate.
(Tools get you writing.)

Try looking through the Johari Window.

Especially that hidden part,
which can bring
super fabulous facets
to your characters’s lives and arcs and plot points.
(more on that tomorrow)

Off to writing.
(Time to step into that scene…)

* Thup

So I went to a meeting earlier this week
(one of those healthy-personal-discovery-growth kinds of things)
where we looked at the defining moments of our lives.

Defining Moments. DMs.

You know.
Those moments, good or bad,
where something comes in,
and nothing is the same, afterward.

It’s the
Big change.
Or it’s the little * POOF *
puffing newness into our lives.
Or it’s the whoooosh
of something flying in and catching us off guard.

And, once it happens,
there’s no going back.

Life as we know it is forever altered.

As a writer, I was thinking,
oh yeah.
the inciting incident.
the doors of no return.
(Everything is turned into writer-speak, is it not?)

So we did this page
(a graphic timeline, to be exact…
and I’m holding it in my hand, so I can say this…
okay, my academic instructor is showing…
back to DMs…)
I’m sitting there looking at the graphic timeline,
I went, hey,
this is more than like a story.

The rising character arc.
change. change. change.

By golly,
the DMs were running all over the place.
WAY running all over the place.
As in, sheeesh, do I really have that many Defining Moments in my life?
(And the answer was, uh, yeah.)

As a writer, I’ve always worried, you know?
Worried that I have too many
“doors of no return” in my story —
too many Defining Moments,
too many BAMs and * POOFs * and whooshes.

And that the reader would say,

Really? Aren’t you exaggerating a bit?
I mean, that many WHOA DUDE moments
don’t happen in real life.
(at least, to most of us)
This is far fetched. Really. Come on.

Well, maybe I’m a bit unusual
(no comment from the peanut gallery here)
but I was OMGing all over the place
at how many DMs —
Defining Moments —
I really had.

And how they changed me.

the obsessed writer that I am,
I turned this into hours of considering my story
(and now will turn it into hours of writing DMs
into my characters’ lives).

Every time a Defining Moment comes along
we are changed.

Writerly moral of the story
(because that’s how we function)….
Go ahead.
Write it in.
Make the DM bring change.

Your character arc-ish-ness story line
will thank you.

* 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.

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