3 MORE Books on Writing no Writer Can Live Without

3Books

You Can never Get enough Books on Writing

My mother collected cookbooks. From the Better Homes and Gardens classic to The Joy of Cooking to Southern Living, she loved browsing recipes. Me, I love poring over books about writing. Every title offers new tidbits that improve my craft (“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”–King), motivate me (“Bird by bird, Buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”–Lamott), or just let me revel in the deliciousness of words (“The reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation.”–White).

In a previous post, I recommended three must-have books on writing: The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White; On Writing, by Stephen King; and Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Today I’m adding three more treasures to your chest that will make your writing kick ass!

Continue reading 3 MORE Books on Writing no Writer Can Live Without

Capitalization: The Only Rule You Need

16 Rules? Ack!

GrammarBook.com lists 16 specific rules for capitalization. Who memorizes 16 rules? For formal papers or important communications, refer to the website. For everything else, there’s only one rule:

capitalize names.

Continue reading Capitalization: The Only Rule You Need

Step 3: Proofreading–Easy as… (Post 4 of 4 on Writing Revision)

Easy as...
Easy as…

Easy as…!

All right! [Did you notice that was two words? Just couldn’t resist the opportunity to get that little point in…] You’ve earned your badges [Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!] for Revision and Editing, Steps 1 and 2 in the Writing Revision Process. Now comes the easy part—Step 3: Proofreading!

That is, it’s easy if you’re anal about detail, like me. [I just checked, and “like me” is correct, although if I were being formal I might have written, “If you are as anal about detail as I am.” Then again, I’d probably have to ditch “anal”…] If you have ADHD or dyslexia like some members of my family, you might prefer sticking pins in your eyes to proofreading. [I am in a mood today! Maybe I should write all my posts in the afternoon early in the week, rather than cramming them at the last minute late at night!]

You can still learn to proofread, and do it well. (And you might even learn not to hate it so much.) I actually like it. But you already know I think a hot date is reading to each other from the dictionary. Continue reading Step 3: Proofreading–Easy as… (Post 4 of 4 on Writing Revision)

Step 2: Editing–Refining Your Masterpiece (Post 3 of 4 on Writing Revision)

My Masterpiece
My Masterpiece

So now you’re a pro at revision (step 1 in the revision process, that is). From my June 22 post, Revising Writing is Like Home Renovation, you know there are three steps in the writing revision process: Revise, Edit, Proofread. On July 20, we examined Step 1: Revise. This week, we tackle Step 2: Editing.

Home Renovation
Writing Revision is Like Home Renovation

I’ve been using the house renovation analogy to illustrate the revision process. Step 1 in the house reno process meant making major structural changes. Step 2 involves doing the interior finishing work. In writing, Step 1: Revise meant assessing content and meaning—making sure you said what you meant to say. Step 2: Edit involves language issues in sentences and paragraphs—making sure you said what you meant to say the way you intended to (and should) say it.

When I edit, I begin by examining individual sentences and then look at how those sentences work together in their paragraphs. Continue reading Step 2: Editing–Refining Your Masterpiece (Post 3 of 4 on Writing Revision)

Step 1: Revision–An Expose (post 2 of 4 on Writing Revision)

I'm Back!
I’m Back…Baby!

Apologies Because BABY!!

I apologize for being AWOL for a few weeks. Work has been extra busy and my daughter had a baby. I had to decide: blog? baby? Hmmm. Guess who won? Sweet little Payton Annabelle! But as Arnold Schwarzenegger said in The Terminator, “I’m back!” Of course, if Payton starts smiling…

We’re Still Revising

I want to explain the parts of revision in more depth. Perhaps you’ll recall its three steps: Revise, Edit, Proofread. Today we’ll tear down the walls and expose step 1.

It is confusing that both the process itself and its first step have the same name, but English has many worse conundrums, like why enough, through, plough, dough, and cough all pronounce ough differently, and why we don’t have a pronoun for hisorher. You know what I mean—for those instances in which people say, “An individual should always do their best work.” Drives me crazy. We just have to get over it.

As I explained in June, the entire revision process is like renovating a house. Step 1 in the house reno process means making major structural changes—moving the walls around. In writing then, revision involves assessing content and meaning—checking whether you have said what you meant to say. Continue reading Step 1: Revision–An Expose (post 2 of 4 on Writing Revision)

Revising Writing is Like Home Renovation: Structure, Finish Work, Cleaning

Home Renovation
Writing Revision is Like Home Renovation

Caveat: Writers Must Revise

Let’s assume you accept my position from last week’s post that writers must revise their work. Exactly how do you make your shitty first draft better?

Many writers wish for a magic wand Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 1.10.56 AMto wave over the pages or the keyboard. Sorry, but Harry Potter has moved on to bigger and better projects. I can’t even give you a single, quick-’n’-dirty operation that will do the trick. Because revision isn’t something you do when you finish writing. Revision is really another stage of writing, itself, and can’t be rushed or superseded—or as we saw last week, skipped.

Writing is Revision

Writing isn’t simply the act of spewing ideas from your brain and printing them onto paper. It is the art of choosing just the right words and arranging them into the most appropriate syntaxes and rhythms, and then organizing those ideas into just the right structure to accomplish your purpose and connect with and move your reader. Writing is revision.

So I can’t offer you a quick fix. What I can tender is the time-tested revision process loved by writing instructors everywhere: Revise, Edit, Proofread. Continue reading Revising Writing is Like Home Renovation: Structure, Finish Work, Cleaning

If First Drafts Are Shit, Why Do Writers Hate to Revise?

Shitty First Draft

                                                                  Shitty First Draft?

So Much Poopy

“The first draft of anything is shit.” Attributed to Ernest Hemingway, these words have inspired admiring riffs by other writers. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, wrote, “The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” Caleb Ross, author of Stranger Will, advised writers to “write your novel when you feel like shit; edit when you feel great.”

It Wasn’t Always So

So if your first draft is shitty, you must write a second. This idea is largely a construct of the modern era, something I didn’t know until reading “Revising Your Writing Again? Blame the Modernists,” by Craig Fehrman. My university students must have been throwbacks then, as they did everything but pay me to avoid revising. Continue reading If First Drafts Are Shit, Why Do Writers Hate to Revise?