Personal editing. Professional results.
February 16, 2024
Ways to Get Writing Done

When we talk about writing at a Finishing School class, we have questions about how to work. Does your practicing make you succeed, or do you rely on talent? We study the way our breaks turn into procrastination. Every author is curious about what works better: to write daily in small chunks, or produce in […]

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February 9, 2024
How to do beta reading

Beta reading is the turbo-charger for revising a book. Finding beta readers and delivering a good beta is not simple, but there are practices and rules that make this important task easier to accomplish. During my Workshop's in-person era, writers took on beta duties for each other, twenty pages at a time each month. We […]

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February 2, 2024
How Memoirs Make Meaning

Memoir is writing based on a portion of our life, a part filled with meaning that a reader can grab for their own. Understanding, compassion, inspiration, education, empathy; we can get any of those from a memoir, Perhaps you're starting from the idea of a loose memoir: limited structure, at first. Or maybe a story […]

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January 26, 2024
Ten Rules for Writing from Elmore

A new book on my editing desk promises to be a lot of fun. Small-time crooks without much common sense play big parts in this novel. It's the kind of world made popular by Elmore Leonard. He wrote well into his 80s, including novels that he adapted from the TV series Justified that a producer […]

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January 19, 2024
Make dialogue cleaner, clearer

Your copyeditor or line editor uses the Chicago Manual of Style. But knowing these style and grammar conventions yourself helps your book, too. A manuscript that arrives on my desk with clear writing gets lifted even higher. For example, there's the use of a single-word utterance. How do you handle something like, "Where?" CMOS says […]

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January 12, 2024
Let your speakers go nameless

  Dialogue brings bright light to stories. The sound of voices in a tuned-up conversation makes us lean in to listen. It's even easier to follow when we hear just two voices trading lines. Tell yourself to think hard about whether you must bring a third or fourth voice into your dialogue scenes. One reason […]

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January 3, 2024
Buy beta reads, or an edit?

For the author who's looking at a full draft, ready to do more work on it, beta reading can help a book evolve. It can be vexing to find beta readers whose insights are useful. I told the authors in my monthly manuscript groups that for every four commenters at our table, probably one or […]

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December 29, 2023
Wants vs. needs for characters

  A character knows about what they want. They are unaware of what they need. That want is external. Anna wants to gain control over her life's choices: relationships, work, pleasure. Even choosing which others she will serve. At the start of the twentieth century, that control was beyond a woman's reach — an unprivileged […]

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December 29, 2023
Marketing with your telephone poles

  I'm from the generation that used landlines as our first phones. In my Toledo hometown, telephone poles were a big part of our community. They were everywhere because we needed them to carry information. The poles got used for a lot more than that. Enterprising people reeled in customers via the phone poles, and […]

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December 29, 2023
What AI ain't

  Classes will teach writers how to prompt a software program. $89 later, there will be hundreds more writers using AI. Prompt writing, and then revisions to prompts. Then AI output revisions, once you get to a certain point, a moment that you choose. It's all writing, revision, and more revision. Why shouldn't you use […]

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