7 Agenda Items for Your Writing Group’s First Meeting

This is the third post on our series about writing groups. You can read the first one here and the second one here. Now, you’ve done it. You’ve launched a writing group, or you’re about to. What now? It’s time to organize. Here’s what to do at the first meeting: 1. Break the Ice Give … Read more

10 Steps for Editing Your Own Writing

You’ve done it. You’ve finally, triumphantly, typed out “The End.” Congratulations! Now comes the hard part: revision. Revising is often more laborious than the writing process itself, but it’s essential — assuming, that is, that you want your writing to get published. Whether you write nonfiction, fiction, or poetry, you must evaluate your own writing … Read more

50 Problem Words and Phrases

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to conceive written communication. So many pairs or trios of words and phrases stymie us with their resemblance to each other. Here’s a quick guide to alleviate (or is it ameliorate?) your suffering: 1. a while / awhile: “A while” is a noun phrase; … Read more

The Perils of Slinging Slang

To slang, or not to slang? First, it’s important to make a distinction between slang and genre dialect. If you’re writing crime noir set during the Depression, your readers are going to expect some gaudy patter about gats and dames and gin joints. And if your novel is set in the Old West, there’s going … Read more

How to Become a Copy Editor

If my recent post about copyediting, or anything else you’ve read or heard about the profession, intrigues you, and you’d like to give it a try, read this advice before you commit: Research Find a managing editor — often, MEs are former copy editors — or a current copy editor at a nearby company (or … Read more

How to Start a Writing Group

This is the second post on our series about writing groups. The first one is 5 Reasons to Start a Writing Group. You’ve determined to seriously pursue a writing career, but you feel like you need support and feedback. Although you joined a couple of writing groups, you dropped out of each one because the … Read more

I Just Got Wise to “Comprise”

I have a confession to make. I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. Throughout my long editing career, I have corrected writers who erroneously use the word comprise, as in “The federal government is comprised of the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches.” Comprise means “to include, to be made up of, to … Read more

7 Great Online Research Resources for Writers

Doing research to strengthen a current story or article, or to get ideas for a new one? You can google all you want and hope for a productive return, but to engage in a focused search, try one of these mediated experiences instead: 1. Infoplease From current events to reference-desk resources to features about history, … Read more

5 Calls for a Comma Before “Because”

Use of the word because as a subordinating conjunction — to link a main clause to a subordinating clause — should be simple, but a sentence’s meaning often hinges on whether it’s preceded by a comma. A straightforward sentence such as “We’re off to see the wizard because of the wonderful things he does” requires … Read more

How to Find a Literary Agent

You do know, don’t you, that if you hope to have just about any trade publisher consider your book manuscript, you’ll need a literary agent? Good. But how do you go about finding one? Here’s my advice: If you know a published writer or are a member of a writing group that has one or … Read more

5 Rules for Using Logic to Order Lists

At least five factors dictate how items in an in-line list — a series of items within a paragraph, as opposed to a vertical list — are organized. (See an earlier post about in-line lists.) It’s all about the context: alphabetization, chronology, complexity, interrelationship, or sequence. (Guess which context I chose for the preceding sentence.) … Read more

5 Reasons to Start a Writing Group

You know about writing groups — folks who meet at regular intervals to share excerpts from works in progress, exchange tips and information, and discuss conventions such as character, plot, narrative, and tone. But you’ve always shrugged the idea off — yet it keeps coming back. Maybe you should reconsider. Here’s why: 1. Discipline Starting … Read more