Writing

Storytelling may have been the first human art (and entertainment). The power of story remains, in my view, unrivaled. No matter what type or genre you’re writing in, try to tell a story.

Creative Writing: Creative writing is a passion of mine. If it’s one for you too, and if you’d like some help along the way, I’m happy to offer my services. I don’t believe there’s one best way to write, but there’s probably a manner or style in which you best express yourself. It may take a lot of experimenting to come to it. But I’m a firm believer that nothing is wasted. Wherever you’re at in the process, you can achieve excellence. I’d define excellent writing as saying what you want to say well, bringing to life the worlds and the characters in your mind, and immersing your readers in those characters’ emotions, as each struggles to unfold her or his own τέλος.

Academic Writing: While academic writing isn’t my greatest passion, it’s a useful craft that I’ve mastered. I can guide you through each step of the process, from identifying research, discerning what’s key and what’s superfluous, taking and organizing notes, organizing topics into a cogent outline, and annotating sources, to progressively refining your product through several drafts, each devoted to a particular stage of the editing process.

Editing: Perhaps you don’t so much want guidance as a writer as you just feel the need of a good editor. My promise to you is that the preservation of your thoughts and your voice are my predominant concern. That is, the excellence I can help you achieve will be your own.

My Approach to Writing: My overall focus, working with a writer at any stage of development, is to cultivate the capacity of effective self-editing. However, this is a highly individualized process, as each writer will easily see (and be able to correct) certain types of errors, but will require considerable assistance and practice with others. In either case, self-editing must be rigorously practiced to be effective. When this is consistently the case, rapid improvement follows.

My overarching desire is for those I work with to experience the joy of writing—as both an art and a craft. Generally speaking, I start with the art. Though mastering the craft of (for example) punctuation is satisfying, it’s not where the deep joy springs from. Once people are hooked on the love of writing, plenty of opportunities for bettering their craftsmanship arise. But the joy comes first.

You may have noticed that some of my writing breaks the rules you were taught in school. For example, I ended with a preposition (“from”) and started a sentence with a conjunction (“but”). But I did these intentionally! With beginning writers, I make sure they know the rules. With more advanced writers, I help them to know when to break them. Below are some of the topics I’m likely to work on with any writer (though not necessarily in this order):

  • Choosing the right word: An expansive vocabulary allows you to find those words that are full of life and juice, and that best fit what you’re trying to say (and how you’re trying to say it).
  • Phrasing: Phrases and sentences should flow, not stumble (unless the action, mood, or character call for some stumbling). Writers need to hear phrases in their minds—if not speak them aloud—just as a composer hears the music in his or her mind before committing it to black marks on a page. Every writer should also be a poet (the art), not just a practitioner (the craft).
  • Making the whole coherent: Organization can be loose and emergent; it can be tight and pre-planned. It can even be random, if that’s what the work calls for. But it has to be there (even if only in its intentional absence). Tools such as paragraphs, headings, and chapters—as well as the unity of the entire work—support both the art and craft of effective organization.
  • Concrete, not abstract (find the telling detail): Writing that evokes sensory experience has more punch than detached, intellectual description and definition. In academic writing, a priority is placed upon the latter, but even here a little color can make academic papers more palatable to the reader.
  • Specific, not generic (avoid tired words): If I say they laughed, that may be true. But did they snort, chortle, titter, or guffaw? If any one of the above, saying so makes your writing more lively. (Note: you can also make the abstract “laughed” more concrete by telling the reader if, e.g., tears sprang to their eyes or they were gasping for breath).
  • Use clichés only knowingly and purposefully: Clichés aren’t always lame and tired phrases. Sometimes they have unexpected vigor and power. And, being pithy and familiar, they can save you from being longwinded.
  • Variation and repetition: In general, don’t repeat the same words and phrases. Don’t stay too long in the same tone or mood. Let the action speed up and slow down. People (i.e. readers) are stimulated by variation—that is to say, they like being surprised. It’s also best when your readers stay awake. That said, repetition is a time-honored rhetorical device and can be a wonderfully powerful tool when used in the right way, in the right place.
  • Tone, mood, action, plot, and character: When writing fiction, you need to tend to all of these, though some writers do quite well by leaning more on one or the other.
  • Omit needless words, omit needless words, omit needless words: The Strunkian adage is especially apt for the beginning writer, but often one wishes that more accomplished writers had not abandoned it.
  • Use proper grammar . . . when it suits your purpose: Intentional rule violation can be highly effective and is at least defensible. But unintentional grammatical lapses make the (educated) reader lose faith in you.
  • Mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, etc.): Accuracy and consistency are the hallmarks. Again, inadvertent violations weaken your authorial authority (though purposeful violations can be helpful, so long as they fit the given context).

Once I know a writer’s strengths and weaknesses, I can begin to address them. More importantly, I can help writers develop self-editing protocols that best suit their particular aptitudes and goals. Generally speaking, I’ll at least touch on all of the above, but I’ll also tailor our sessions (which can be in-person or long distance) individually, to strengthen and improve where most needed—while always keeping the joy of writing at the forefront.

The end goal is for you to become a capable and consistent self-editor. This doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from other editors, but it does mean that your writing will make a much more favorable first impression on anyone who reads it.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

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