Cut the Poppycock: Write with Power and Authority

Sometimes your reader escapes. Even if your lead is superb and you’ve hooked your readers from the start, they might still get away before reaching your last paragraph. How does that happen? There are many possible reasons. In this blog, we’ll discuss one of them. Extraneous Material When we sit down to write—excited by all […]

Ominous Intros: How H.G. Wells Changed Everything for Me

Few leads have as profound an impact on me as the first pages of War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1866–1946).  Read the first sentence, and you’ll understand: “No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than […]

Killing Your Darlings: The Most Masochistic Writing Tip Ever

I did what I had refused for weeks. This morning, I hit delete on some of the best sentences of my writing career. Ouch. That is killing your darlings—if it doesn’t hurt, it ain’t real. Do You Love one Sentence More Than All Others? Often, our most tear-jerking sentences make our prose feel out of […]

Practical or Literary Nonfiction: Why Not Both?

There are many kinds of books on the market—about as many as there are kinds of readers. Some readers want to cut to the chase whereas others love to “feel their way” through the information. For that reason, there are different ways to approach nonfiction. Practical and Literary Nonfiction: What’s the Difference? Practical nonfiction is […]

Nonfiction to Engage: Information Drives on Emotions

Let’s start with a quote from the great Sol Stein: This characterization makes me laugh even after 100 readings. Use Creative Characterization in Your Nonfiction Nonfiction isn’t only about bringing a message across. At least, it doesn’t have to be. You can use images, sounds, smells, or whatever else resonates with your reader. As you […]

Read to Write: Why Writers Should Read Many Books

I am reading every day, every chance I get. Books are everywhere in my life—beside my bed, in the bathroom, flanking my armchair, in my bags and suitcases, and stacked into all nooks and crevices of my house. The reason is simple: I don’t want to be influenced by just one writer. Read to Develop […]

Tension: How to Keep ‘Em Reading

It was Tuesday, February 6, 1996. My mother drove slowly down the slithery street. Brown, muddy snow had collected on the sides of the road, and . . . You clicked the “read more” button. 🙂 And I think I know why. You read the first line and began to wonder, What happened that day? […]

First Splash with Gouache: Then Clean Up

Let’s start with a quote from the great William Zinsser: Writers must therefore constantly ask: what am I trying to say? Surprisingly often they don’t know. Then they must look at what they’ve written and ask: have I said it? Great advice for nonfiction writers and communicators! Word-Splashing before Starting Your Draft As you develop […]

Long Sentences: Should We Always Avoid Them?

Prepare to be blown away—and burned beyond recognition—with the ashtonishingest long sentence ever. (Yes, I made that long word up.) Let me start with a WARNING:This post contains SHOCKINGLY GRAPHIC but brilliant writing! Learn from the Master: Tom Wolfe In an era of costumed heroes and villains, I believe it’s due to highlight one of […]

Eliminate Ambiguity: Avoid Squinting Modifiers

I’m ashamed of myself. 🥺 While reworking my web copy, I found a sentence with—dare I say it?—a squinting modifier.  What is a squinting modifier? One of those adverbials that modify the word before or after it—depending on how deeply you squint. Here’s an example: “Reading this post soon will make you a better writer.” What […]