Wednesday, July 28, 2010
If you can't make your selected fix right away, note what has to be changed and where. Novelists sometimes keep a bulleted "To Resolve" list at the end of each chapter. For shorter pieces, you can put notes in brackets within the piece or at the end.
For more information, visit my online editing workshop, On a Clear Day: Editing for Clarity and Publication.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
First, let's tackle writer's block. Ask yourself what about your writing project has you stymied, why you can't write. What's holding you back? Answer these questions in detail, with honesty and in writing. These three keys—honesty, detail and writing—unlock the power of "why." If you follow this approach, you'll notice that you've begun writing.
Now apply the rest of those journalism questions—the who, what, where, when and how of what's going on, nor not, with your work—until you're out of questions and out of answers. At this stage, you can see a lot more clearly the underlying reasons why you were stuck.
Now go back to the manuscript, but before revising, review your responses to the questions above. How do the answers relate to your work? What aspects of the writing do the responses address, and how? With honesty, drill down to the ore in your line of reasoning, then go to the section that had you stymied and use what you've learned to continue writing.
For my online editing workshop, see On a Clear Day: Editing for Clarity and Publication.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
|Angeloni's studio in Castelvecchio|
AA: Whose work do you find most inspiring?
MA: As to the architecture I most admire, I'd have to say that home on a waterfall, Falling Water seems to me an optimal testimony left by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Monday, July 19, 2010
AA: Where do you get ideas for your work, and how do you incorporate originality?
MA: In occupying myself with architecture and the work I do, I get inspiration from the very area for which I'm creating the plans and drawings, from the actual form of the land, the morphology, paying close attention to what has been build around it, even in times past in that location. In other words, from the characteristics of the architectural traditions of the region.
AA: Italy is a place with a lot of old and new construction, to say the least. How do you deal with the contrast?
MA: What really spurs me on are the other, less obvious constructions in the area, even those that are old and unused. Regardless of why they were created, I see in their form the possibility of reuse and adaptability for the current needs.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Problem: Readers can overlook this problem in short descriptions, for example, a character experiencing spring after the seclusion of winter. Jody can go outside, feel the breeze, see the sun and smell the lilacs. The order of experience here isn't essential.
Diagnosis: Even in this small example, order can improve the scene. For example: Jody opened the door and stood on the porch. The breeze carried the scent of lilacs, and the sun dappled the front lawn. Aside from more-detailed description, this phrasing works better because time and events unfold in a way that allows Jody's experience to satisfy her and the reader's innate sense of order.
Cure: One great cure for disorder is doing a timeline. This works well for scenes, chapters and plots.
There's nothing like clarity for good prose, and in this competitive writing environment, it can help keep writers out of the rejection pile, too.
Here's a great Writer's Digest article on how this works for a novel, "Your Novel Blueprint."
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
This is the second in a four-part series on editing for clarity and publication. For clear communication, it's best know what you want to say and how to say it. Today we describe, diagnose and provide fixes for the second of four common problems that keep writers from publication: wordiness.
Problem: Verbosity comes in variations. Words can be unnecessary, overabundant or repetitious. Repetition can also present as recurring text or scenes that don't add meaning or depth.
Diagnosis: Several ways to spot this problem are confusion, annoyance and, ultimately, avoidance. Readers will lose interest in descriptions or scenes that feel familiar and skip them altogether. If they really get annoyed, they'll walk away. If your trusted critique group or writing buddy has these responses, there's a problem.
Cure: Cut unnecessary words, use contractions, and expand your vocabulary by reading widely and using a thesaurus to make one word count for more. For sections or scenes that recur without added meaning or depth, ask yourself: What is this scene or story really about—why did you create it? How can it be revised to reveal character and advance plot, preferably both at once?
Betsy Lerner, literary agent and editor par excellence shares her knowledge of the subject at Betsy Lerner, Forest for the Trees.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Today we start with clichés.
Problem: Two common clichés types are word choice and plot choice. Clichéd word choices are common because they're easy to write and understand. But to write with style and keep the reader's interest, clichés aren't recommended, except sometimes in dialogue to convey character. Plot clichés, where nothing original happens, are deadly.
Diagnosis: You know a clichéd phrase because you know a cliché. They're easy to spot, especially if you've stepped away from the work before editing (always recommended). You know a clichéd plot choice when a scene or story is predictable. No one wants readers to come away from a piece thinking, "I knew that would happen." Or, worse, "I could have written better."
Cure: To fix a clichéd word choice, ask yourself what you want to convey. For a clichéd plot choice, for example starting a story with someone waking up, conduct a what-if scenario for characters and plot. For characters, consider a possible flaw or secret. For plot, raise the stakes and increase the conflict. This will enhance the characters, too.
To see whether you've written a cliché, visit Cliché Site. To write with originality, visit Writing Forward, considered one of Writers Digest's 101 best websites for writers.
Friday, July 2, 2010
AA: So, what does a working writer and news editor do in the off-hours, especially before a holiday weekend?
JS: Last night, I decided to drag out the old charcoal grill and make myself and the cat some hamburgers. They were delicious, but I had forgotten how long it takes for charcoal briquettes to heat evenly. I was still cleaning up at 8 p.m.
AA: What about the writing side of life?
JS: Oh, I did have a to-do list that included something like “Do some writing,” but it was kind of a vague self-assignment. By the third or fourth day, it had not been crossed out, and so I searched for some old poems I had started. There was one that tried to express something about my father, something that may have something to do with his special brand of selective competitiveness. As I looked at it, I realized I may have a similar failing: a fear of accomplishing something, compensated for by a zeal for accomplishing other things. The poem is still unfinished, but here is how it stands today:
The Man Who Never Ran
By Jack Sheedy
Dad never ran.
It’s not that he moved slowly —
it wasn’t that —
I just can’t see him
in a sprint for the prize,
gray fedora lost in the wind.
Not my Dad.
Still, there was nothing slow about him.
He walked briskly. Drove fast.
Solved problems quickly. Spurned calculators.
Bought books on rapid math, rapid reading.
But he never said, “Let’s race
to the willow tree” — never tried
to best me, though he could have.
I don’t even know why
this is important —
but doesn’t everyone run, sometimes at least?
Oh, once at the river I was swept downstream,
eight-year-old limbs no match for the current,
and he quickstepped to the bank,
dove in, hustled me to shore, laughed
at our “great adventure” —
then squeezed his eyes shut, lost his voice,
gripped my hand all the way home.
But that wasn’t a sprint — it was an Australian crawl.
Weeks later, at Burr Pond, I studied his strokes,
long and slow and easy,
then jumped in, flailed to stay afloat, moved
arms and legs twice as fast as he did.
It was no use.
There was no way I could keep up with him.
To see Jack in his natural habitat, visit Jack Sheedy.