If You Have To Ask: “Should I Rewrite This?”, Then, “Yes.”

Everyone’s heard sportswriter Red Smith’s description of’ the writing process: “All you do,” he explained, “is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Smith was referring to the challenges every writer endures–obtaining original material with creative reporting, pinpointing an illustrative anecdote, polishing every sentence and baiting our readers with a compelling lead.

What Smith didn’t say is this: Rewriting stops the bleeding.

For most of my features, I spend 70%, of my time reporting, 10% writing and 20% rewriting. Many writers save little time for the last stage, the most pivotal part of the process. But first-rate reporting and thoughtful storytelling can fail if it’s full of inappropriate words, clunky phrases and loose sentences.

rw“I think revision is

Can You Sell Your Novel?

About advertising a book Maxwell Perkins once remarked, “If a book is absolutely dead, all the advertising in the world isn’t going to help. But if it’s got a glimmer of life, if it’s selling a little bit maybe in only one or two spots, it’s moving enough to be given a push.”

Today, books have become more difficult than ever to market. You may feel the battle won when your manuscript is accepted, but from a publisher’s standpoint, such factors as the inflation of book advances, the tightening of corporate budgets and an intensely competitive marketplace have made marketing as vital a function of the publishing process as the editorial acquisition itself. Marketing plans are now often outlined even

Killer Creativity Exercises

I had just finished reading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s The Yearling and had decided once and for all that I wanted to be a writer. I was in the sixth grade. The fastest route to my goal, it seemed to me at the time, was The Famous Writers School. I had seen an ad for it in the back of one of my parents’ magazines. You could send away for a test, then mail it in and a real writer would look at it to see if you had any talent. If you did, you would be “permitted” to enroll in a correspondence course and become a Famous Writer yourself.

I sent away for it. When the test came, I

Writing For The Web Can Be Lucrative

In the past two years, freelance assignments have taken me to some interesting places: I’ve hiked the steaming caldera of a Hawaiian volcano, snorkeled the world’s deepest spring, rappelled into an Alabama cave, and held a piece of ALH 84001, the famous rock from Mars. I’ve written about these adventures at the average rate of a dollar per word.

So what, you ask? Isn’t this the sort of fun freelance writers have always bragged about?

Well, yes and no.

What’s unusual in my case (but quickly getting to be the norm) is that none of the stories I wrote about these adventures ever appeared on a printed page. They were published on the World Wide Web, Le Matin, in

Why First Person Non-Fiction Is Dubious

Okay, let me deal with the hypocrisy thing first, before you even think of it. What you’re reading here is a column, necessarily opinionated in places and inevitably calling for use of the first person. So don’t wince, don’t write, nasty letters, don’t send me “practice what you preach” e-mails when you see “I…I…I” herein.

Because I am about to raise the alarm about what seems to be a creeping epidemic of first-personism in contemporary American nonfiction writing. I’m not talking about columns, personal essays or other forms where the first-person perspective is welcome, even expected. No, I’m raising the proverbial red flag about the intrusion of I into otherwise straightforward journalism.

nwThe examples I’ll cite are culled from some

How Writers Tackle Adult And Young Adult Audiences

But, although the area of common enjoyment is, I think, growing larger, there are still no-go areas on both sides. Few adults, for instance, would read Louisa Alcott these days; she is too sanctimonious, too quick to point a moral, though her plots and characters are still full of life, and young readers, girls especially, are still held by them. Few readers under twenty undertake Marcel Proust or Henry James with much enjoyment, because the action is too slow, the emphasis lies in character analysis.

wsloiThere is one rule that still holds firm: In a story for young readers, the action must be swift, continuous, and immediately gripping. I was proud to find myself recently included in the new Oxford …

Description Remains A Key Art For Good Writers

When college students discuss their interpretations of a work of literature, their way of looking at it tells us more about them than the work; the work is a mirror, a blank slate onto which readers project their own ideas. This is what keeps the best literature endlessly fascinating. Twenty students can walk away from a seemingly straightforward event with twenty different conclusions. Even more interesting, these same readers may have a different take on the same piece of literature one year later. In that year, they will have read many other things, have been exposed to many new life experiences and have changed as people. Even more so after five years. It can be an entirely different book for …