Write From Personal Experience And Win

wfpexTwenty years ago, I sat in a crowd of undergraduates inside University of California-Berkeley’s Wheeler Auditorium, listening to Joan Didion deliver the annual Regents’ Lecture. Her topic: “Why I Write.” “Of course, I stole the title of this talk from George Orwell,” Didion began. “One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short, unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this: “I, I, I. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,” Didion explained, “what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want, and what I fear.” In a sense, it’s the oldest advice in the world: Write about what you know. Or rather: Write about what you’re attempting to grasp–and don’t neglect to record the…

A Story About Advertising

asabadgTwo years ago, a local printer told me his problem: No one was reading hi Hey-here-we-are, company-name-and address ads in the local daily newspaper. Sure, people saw them, but the didn’t stand out from all the other ads. As a writer, he asked, did I have an ideas? Absolutely. I offered to write ultra short stories of about 450 words apiece, set in the university town where his business is located. My premise was that no one likes an ad, but everyone enjoys a funny story. Humor and advertising go together like bran muffins and coffee. I wrote the first tale, setting the format for those to come, and Cascade Chronicles began as a monthly fiction column. (I now write it twice a month. Each column takes between five and eight hours to write and edit, but they’re fun to…

Ways Of Choosing The Best Skin Tag Removal Product

strpIt is never easy to choose the best skin tag removal product because almost all manufacturers promise to deliver results. More often than not, the process becomes even more confusing when you are given plenty of choices. If you really want to choose the best skin tag removal product, make sure you know which option works for you. Even when you have a lot of great choices, not all them will really work. You need to make sure that the option you choose can remove skin tags without having to worry about its negative side effects. The reviews are very helpful because they provide you all the information you need. There are lots of products claiming to be the best skin tag removal option but the results they offer really matter. You need to be aware of the pros and…

Paragraphs: Keep ‘Em Tight

pkemtThe other day I was editing an article that had originally appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, adapting it for use in the newspaper. Cullen Murphy, the author of the piece to which we’d bought reprint rights, is a gifted, graceful writer, so in this case “editing” mostly meant deciding what portions of the 7,000-word original to use and what, painfully, to cut. Besides the delete key, the other spot on the keyboard I found myself using over and over again was the return – to create new paragraphs. In the pages of The Atlantic, the long, uninterrupted blocks of words had looked just fine. On my computer screen at work, however, where I’m used to viewing the choppy, often one-sentence-per-paragraph stories that move on newspaper wire services, the unbroken stream of sentences looked impenetrable. Return, return, return – relentlessly I…

Some Fact Checking Bombs To Avoid

sfcbtaHere’s how to sidestep the most common factual land mines: * Name spellings. Have the source give you the spelling, not vice versa. Watch for hyphenated names, reversed letters and accent marks. * Numbers. Figures can add up to devastating errors if reversed or printed with an extra zero. * Job titles. If you replace a long-winded job title with a simpler description (“cosmetic researcher” instead of “Associate Professor of Clinical Microbiology in the School of Cosmetic Pharmacology at the University of Northern Indiana“), make sure it accurately describes what your source does – is he or she a researcher, a chemist or a pharmacist? * Ages. Confirm a source’s age directly with him or her, rather than going with hearsay or previously published articles. * Dates and time. Is your source talking about this summer or last summer? The…

Factchecking Should Be First Priority With Any Blogger

csbfpwabGreat writing and factual errors just don’t mix. Here’s how to make sure your articles are error-free, whether you’re working with a magazine’s fact checkers or not. Most writers wouldn’t dream of turning in a manuscript riddled with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Yet many of us don’t apply the same eagle eye to the facts of the story. Solid facts establish a writer’s credibility. If a source’s name is misspelled, for instance, it casts doubt on the rest of the article. Publications vary widely in their fact-checking techniques. Some do no checking at all, while many employ several full-time checkers. Fact checkers at The New Yorker have traveled to Nova Scotia and Hawaii to verify a writer’s description. Such extremes aside, many consumer magazines expect writers to turn in reference materials and a list of sources when the finished…

Personification And Poetry

pfct&poetyModern poetry owes a debt to William Wordsworth, who’s responsible for much of what we take for granted as writers. Today, we depict ourselves in our writing, using the first person (before Wordsworth, most scholars denounced poetry based upon one’s personal life); we can write about “common” people in verse (most pre-Wordsworth critics thought poems should be based on nobility or important events); and we avoid personified abstractions (no more “O, Truth! how thou hath blessed the soul!”). Wordsworth mentions the last in his “Preface to Lyrical Ballads,” an important poetic document. But even the master Wordsworth couldn’t always master personification and was taken to task by critics who accused him of not practicing what he preached. Fact is, bad personification is as easy to spot as wrenched rhyme or clumsy meter. It brands a poet a “beginner” and almost…

Writing For Yourself Is The Best

pwritingI started writing stories about people in trailer parks without realizing I was participating in a genre. “Did you grow up in a trailer park yourself?” people have asked me, and the truth is no, I grew up in a small suburban town in northwest Indiana. My father was a doctor, and though we didn’t have a huge or fancy house, our basement alone, if you included the laundry room, could have accommodated a couple of double-wides. I worked up to trailer parks; what interested me first were rows of identical small frame houses in Hammond and East Chicago. We saw these houses from the South Shore train we took into Chicago, or from the expressway, driving past them. I especially liked passing them at night, when you could see the drawn curtains with the lights shining behind them, or,…

Informational Writing Is Key For Any Blogger

infwkkInformational articles are like potatoes. Just as spuds are a staple on every American menu from McDonald’s to the Plaza Hotel, so these articles fill a basic editorial need – and much of the editorial space – in magazines as far apart as Outdoor Life and Modern Maturity. Some magazines, such as Sunset, “The Magazine of Western Living,” are composed completely of informational articles. The articles come in as many forms as the tubers. Instead of french fries, Tater Tots or Potatoes Anna, magazines serve informational articles in such areas as home and family, leisure activity, health and fitness, money matters, legislation and law, the sciences, research, history and culture. The biggest subcategory of all is “service” – articles that focus on products and services. Just as you can find your favorite potatoes on somebody’s menu, freelance writers can find…

Good Characters: If You Don’t Have Them, Your Script Is Dead

gciydThough I’m usually not fond of blanket statements – especially those coming from teachers of writing – I make this one with little trepidation: Character is the single most important element in a script. One can have ever-so-many great ideas, story twists and eye-popping effects, but if the characters don’t work …what you have is a big ball of nothing. Character is the engine that powers the script. All else is chrome. Stories are about people. What an audience needs when it enters a movie palace or sits blithely before the tiny tube with remote in hand is a tale of human spirits in conflict. Anything less is tantamount to criminal activity. Characters Beyond Definition How do writers create strong, solid characters? Random House Dictionary lists no less than 27 different definitions for character, but it’s the very first that…