style

Everything’s a Metaphor—7 Ways to Build Meaning into Your Story

I should begin by clarifying what I mean by “metaphor.” I do not mean abstract symbolism that you force the reader to dig through, so that he can make-believe he understands what the story’s about, while looking down his nose at the Philistines in the audience. What I’m talking about is “show; don’t tell” metaphors. […]

7 Ways to Eradicate the Copulative (How to Get Rid of the Verb “To Be”)

“To be, or not to be?” Not is usually the answer. Eliminate the verb “to be.” This basic writing and revision tip you’ll hear all over the place, although much of the advice I’ve read is missing important points—or at least points that I consider important. What do we mean by “to be” verbs? We […]

10 Steps to Punch Up Your Prose

If you read a lot, you’ve probably read at least one author you admire. Her words seem to flow through your heart like a river. And ever since you’ve been putting together your own sentences on paper, you’ve perhaps wished that you could work literary magic as she. You may not realize, much of the […]

When Great Authors Break the Rules

Can you guess which novel the following beginning comes from? Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense. […]

Should You Always Avoid the Verb “To Be”?

A fundamental rule of style is that you should avoid the verb “to be,” preferring instead strong, descriptive verbs that show, rather than tell. As an example, instead of writing, “The light was bright,” you should prefer, “The light blinded her as a hot-white flame,” or some such. So every time you use am, is, […]

Finding the Right Word: 7 Unusually Useful Online Word Tools

Because I’m a writer, when one of my friends can’t think of the right word for what they’re trying to say, they turn to me. “You’re a writer. What’s the word I’m looking for?” Hell if I know. What do I look like? A dictionary? God’s honest truth: as a writer, I can never find […]

Pet Peeves: Loose Instead of Lose

I have a long list of pet peeves, some that bug me more than others. One that I see popping up more and more is that people spell lose with two o‘s. Lately, I’ve taken to passing over even potentially interesting articles that have this misspelling, such as this recent one: “How inventors and entrepreneurs […]

Sick and Writing

I was thinking about the first letter to the editor I got published. And this is all I’m going to post about this weekend, for two reasons: Firstly, I’m sick. I’m getting over a cold, and I have a fever. I’m also working on a special writing project, which I can’t tell you about just […]