Top 3 tips for editing your own writing

Many writers hate editing. Not me. The heavy lifting is done. You’ve unearthed that thing that lay buried inside your dreams, ideas and visions, and now it’s in a workable form. Editing is little more than brushing away the excess, cleaning, patching, and polishing. So why do so many of us get stuck?

Here are my top three tips for editing your writing — practices that have helped me in my career as a writer. Continue reading

My ‘why I can’t write’ excuses — and what I did about them

I’ve made a good living as a freelance non-fiction writer, but my heart has always thumped hardest when I contemplate a fiction writer’s life. However, I didn’t write fiction for years because of the following:

Five reasons I used as excuses

  1. My day job was writing. I didn’t want to “relax” in the evening by writing some more.
  2. I needed to brush up on skills. I hadn’t taken writing classes since college.
  3. None of my friends were fiction writers, so I couldn’t get honest, reliable feedback on my work.
  4. I didn’t have the time.
  5. I wasn’t very good.

So…which one of these is your excuse?

Pick it now, and have a good rationale handy as to why it’s stopping you, because I’m going to eviscerate each and every one of them…or at least tell you how I changed my life so I couldn’t make those excuses anymore. Continue reading

Running as a metaphor for writing

We’re sitting at a small table for two at a bakery cafe inside the mall when she shares her news. She’s written a book. After beating back months of reluctance, she’s finished it and is thinking of finding an editor.  I lean back to listen instead of leaning forward to instruct.

Today is a purely social engagement.There is no manuscript sitting between us as there has been every other time we’ve met. No sheets of paper slide back and forth as I explain my edits of her work and compare them to her original printouts. Today she just wants to talk.

We met when she was a student in my class. Now she’s graduated from the writing program and has finished her first book. I stare at her, expecting her to look different. She’s crossed the finish line while I haven’t even put my name in the race.

If we were runners, she’d be a marathoner. I’d be a sprinter. Continue reading

Lessons from behind the mic

In my other life, I ask questions. And I find people to answer those questions.

Part of my job involves interviewing people. After doing this for over 15 years, I realize:

  • Enthusiasm can trump education when it comes to describing what you know.
  • You can tell how well (or poorly) the interview will go in the first 15 seconds.
  • If the interviewee is reluctant to talk, don’t push to make it happen. It won’t be good.

What I learned about talking to people can be applied to a writing practice. Let’s take it step by step. Continue reading

A promise made…

Inside jokes are typically shared between friends.

But inside quotes (as I like to think of them) are words of wisdom, usually imparted by parents or older relatives, that take root in childhood and stay with you throughout life.

Usually they’re sayings uttered by lesser-known writers, poets, essayists, which possess the kind of homespun philosophy that you don’t hear much nowadays.

I have several which have guided me through life. Stick around long enough and I’ll probably tell you most of them. But the one pertinent to today’s post is this: Continue reading

Writing: both soul food and a beach


Spring break in an oceanfront cottage. Sounds idyllic, right? Once there, though, I stopped writing. That’s not an excuse. Just an explanation for the weeklong gap in posts.

The road to the beach was paved with good intentions. Here’s mine:

  • Read seven novels
  • Type on my laptop
  • Compose a story the old-fashioned way — by hand in a composition notebook.

I fell short. Very short. Here’s why: Continue reading

Birdsong

We’re surrounded by technology. Since you’re reading this online, you at least have a computer or tablet. If you’re like me, the cell phone is also nearby, sending out sounds to let you know who called, texted, or emailed.

Distraction is a problem when we feed on multiple streams of information. It’s like going through a cafeteria line. You’ve already got your entree, but those sides look good. And what about dessert? You pick up a coffee cup, but you’re thirsty so you grab a glass as well. By the time you reach the cashier, you’re stunned by how much is on your tray. 

Really, you’re not going to consume all that, are you? Continue reading