Do You Read Writing Blogs?

“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.” – Daphne Du Maurier

In 2006, about the time I began writing this blog, I started reading the blogs of other writers. There weren’t many. Today, due in part to the increased responsbility for authors to promote their work, thousands of writing blogs exist. You could spend every moment just reading about writing and doing that reading only on the internet.

My current favorites include Nathan Bransford, Rachel Gardner, Query Tracker, and Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog. These blogs focus on literary agents and the publishing industry. For a wider variety, see this list published by the directory of universities and colleges of the 2010 Top 100 Writing Blogs.

The bottom line is that we should all spend much more time working on our projects than reading these blogs. The bloggers, if they’re worth their salt, would agree. Still, our desire to read about writing persists.

Do you read writing blogs? If so, which ones do you find helpful?

Lose That Dead Weight

No. Not the love handles. Lose the extra flab in your manuscript!

Rachel Gardner has an excellent post on the topic: “Tighten Up Your Manuscript.”

Here’s a checklist of things to consider cutting:

→ Adverbs, especially those with “ly” endings. Ask yourself if they’re necessary.
→ Adjectives. Often people use two or three when one or none is better.
→ Gerunds. Words that end in “ing.”
→ Passive voice: Over-use of words like “was,” “were” and “that” indicate your writing may be too passive. Reconstruct in active voice.
→ Passages that are overly descriptive.
→ Passages that describe characters’ thoughts and feelings in too much detail (i.e. long sections of narrative or interior monologue).
→ Passages that tell the reader what they already know.
→ Unnecessary backstory.

And there’s more.

Here’s a list of words to watch for. Carefully consider their necessity and effectiveness:

about, actually, almost, almost, like, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, finally, just, just then, kind of, nearly, practically, really, seems, simply, somehow, somewhat, sort of, suddenly, truly, utterly, were.

What she said.

One True Sentence

I’ve been revising the memoir about my father. Some days go better than others. On a not so good day last week, a friend reminded me of this Hemingway bit from A Moveable Feast:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then, because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone else say.

I might not be in Paris, but I can still look across the suburban lawns of Upper Arlington and think, “Do not worry. Just write one true sentence.”

You too can look out from wherever you write and think the same. If you like, leave a comment below and let me know where you’re working and how you’re doing.

To See Again

To See Again

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener

Re-vision. To see again. I’m revising the 72,000 word first draft of my novel. The biggest obstacle is self-honesty. To revise, I have to find that place where I can be brutally honest with myself about what’s on the page and whether it works. It’s not as if I consciously lie to myself, but I cannot always see my own work clearly.

One way to gain distance is to physically put my manuscript in the hands of another writer, someone I trust. Preferably someone who’s also writing since I like to read something of hers while she’s reading mine. I hand this friend a list of questions along with the manuscript. At this stage I’m especially interested in the main character. Are her actions and words consistent? Are they plausible? Does she change by the end of the book? Is this change believable?

I also ask the friend to mark those places where she wanted to skim or stop reading altogether. I don’t expect her to fix the errors. I just want to know where she popped out of the story. And, I’m not interested in grammar and punctuation, but rather getting the story straight and creating characters. It’s a trap to begin tweaking individual sentences when the big picture isn’t right.

If such a friend isn’t handy, I must find the distance within myself. I may have to step away from the manuscript for a bit or imagine that it’s my friend’s work. Sol Stein, in Stein On Writing, suggests rewriting the title page and inserting someone else’s name as the author. We’re less likely to be misguided about someone else’s work. I have to do whatever it takes to find the self-honesty necessary to see the words clearly on the page.

I’d love to hear what you do to gain the necessary distance to revise.

Reality Check

I’ll admit it. I’m a daydreamer. Some days, when I don’t feel like writing, I imagine what it would be like to have a book hit the New York Times best-seller list. This is rarely productive. A blog post I read today effectively snapped me out of the dream.

In a full disclosure attempt to dispel the illusions surrounding mass market bestsellers, New York Times best-selling author Lynn Viehl has posted the first royalty statement for her book Twilight Fall on the blog GenReality with an explanation of the numbers and comments about what made her book a best-seller.

Take away point? While hitting the best-seller list is an awesome feat (Congrats Lynn), it’s not like winning the lottery.

Of having a best-selling book, Viehl writes, “I’ll tell you exactly why [the book] got there: my readers put it there.”

Now that’s reality!