When Real Life Gets in the Way of Good Writing ?>

When Real Life Gets in the Way of Good Writing

You’ve heard it said, “write what you know.” In the past, I’ve suggested a variation of that, “write who you are.” However you say it, I think we can all agree that fiction resonates best when it comes from a place of truth – a place we understand because we’ve lived it in some measure. But our real life experiences aren’t always a boon to our writing. Sometimes they get in the way. Here’s how: “But That’s How It Really…

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Acknowledgments ?>


According to Degree of Difficulty, it’s right up there with the first sentence of your novel, the query/love letter to your agent-crush, and the recommendation letter for that former employee who slept with your husband but really is a damn good accountant and shouldn’t be denied a job just because she’s a horrible waste of skin. I’m talking about the dreaded Acknowledgments page. I’m here to save you some pain. Because that’s what the courts tell me I have to…

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The Buoyancy of Words ?>

The Buoyancy of Words

Fair warning: I’m going to stretch a swimming metaphor well beyond my non-metaphorical comfort level. Feel free to believe that this discomfort serves some greater meta-metaphorical purpose. Then let me know what it is so I can say “yeah, I meant to do that.” Writers spend a lot of time going nowhere. We start out strong enough, with a perfect swan dive into the ocean of ideas. [Already the metaphor is causing me gastric distress.] But after a few weeks…

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Better Than You Think ?>

Better Than You Think

The first time you ran into a wall it came as a surprise.┬áNot because you didn’t believe in walls, but because you didn’t know they could appear in the middle of a sentence. But you broke through it like the Kool-Aid Man, with the same broad smile, the same blatant disregard for plaster and paint. Because you were a writer and that’s what writers do. They persist. And persist you did. Through the next wall and the next, until one…

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True Stories ?>

True Stories

They tell you to tell the truth and this sounds reasonable but you’re not quite sure how to do it. They also tell you to do other things.┬áKill your adverbs. Kill your semi-colons. Kill your darlings. Kill your prologues. Oh, you say, those I can do. So you set the truth aside and head to the killing fields. You reach for your metaphoric fountain pen, dip it in metaphoric red ink, and prepare to earn another metaphoric belt in the…

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When to Ignore Your Editor ?>

When to Ignore Your Editor

I’m not a member of any elite editorial clubs. I don’t dine with editors who have touched the Manuscripts of the Gods. I don’t have an MFA or a PhD or a WtF in Writing/Editing/Pontificating. I don’t play tambourine in an all-editorial band and I haven’t been contacted by the The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or NPR to do an interview on what it’s like to walk with literary giants or play the tambourine in an…

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Good Advice/Bad Advice ?>

Good Advice/Bad Advice

Most people will tell you there are two kinds of writing advice: Good Advice and Bad Advice. I’m here to tell you they’re the same thing. Allow me to explain. Let’s start with that ol’ “Kill Your Adverbs” chestnut. This is Good Advice. Adverbs, more often than not, are redundant. You don’t need to tell me the monkey screamed loudly. Screaming is, by its very nature, loud. Just let the monkey scream. We’ll cover our ears. Adverbs also tend to…

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