Tips from Other People, Part One

I’m rapidly approaching the editing stage for my own novel, and honestly, I’m dreading it. I love editing other people’s work, but self-editing is a different beast entirely. Usually by the time a novel is finished, I’ve become so familiar with every word they start to blur together, and it’s hard for me to see […]

via 4 Tips for Self Editing — Million Words


This here is a lovely set of tips for when it comes time to edit your own work, including the idea of getting a website to read aloud for you. I don’t know about any of you people, but I have a really hard time reading my work out loud during the editing process, because what if somebody HEARS me??? So much nicer to shove on a big pair of headphones and keep it private until I’m sure it’s ready for public consumption.

In the blog post, Sarah Kay Moll suggests for the purpose. I tried it out, and it’s probably one of the better text-to-speech generators I’ve come across. There are plenty of voice options, so you can select one that works well with your writing. Of course, it’s all automated, so there is still a sense that your work is being recited by Stephen Hawking. But what an honor that would be, am I right? It’s good for visions of glory, or just for a giggle, which can be healthy during the editing process, I find.

Malignant Rigidities.

You know that feeling you get when you’re sitting with a blank notebook, a sudden urge to write? I don’t have it.

With apologies to Captain Jack Sparrow, this misquote exactly summed up my state of being over the past few days. It wasn’t writer’s block exactly. I knew what I should have been doing, and I knew how it needed to be done, essentially. But there I was, teetering on the edge, staring down into the abyss, and I was overcome by a dangerous mix of not wanting to mess up, believing I needed to know where I was heading before I could begin, and all sorts of silly rules and regulations I made up in my mind about how to go about putting words on paper.

I told myself these attitudes were silly, and that I should have been over all this nonsense by now. That, of course, didn’t help any, and I found myself reading prose poetry this morning instead of writing; completely bound up and unable to take the plunge.

And then in came an excerpt of Kora in Hell, by William Carlos Williams, to save the day. A single quote stopped me in my tracks.

“Having once taken the plunge the situation that preceded it becomes obsolete which a moment before was alive with malignant rigidities.”

Malignant rigidities. What a phrase. It goes beyond fears to get at all the other things that can keep us rooted to the spot, not experiencing the joy of free creation.

It reminded me of the experience of zip-lining; the seeming impossibility of ever leaving the platform, and then the exhilarating freedom of “why not?” as soon as you do.


And it’s true, isn’t it? As soon as we take the plunge, all of those silly things cease to have any power.

I wish there were more that I could share about this, like how to identify our own personal malignant rigidities, or how to go about digging them out of our lives permanently, but I don’t have any of that figured out yet. If I ever do, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, isn’t it good to know how easy they are to vanquish?

Quintessence Pure.

It’s World Poetry Day, you guys. This is a fantastic piece of serendipity, because I have some poetry to share with you guys. Not my own poetry. I won’t disrespect the day like that. Milton’s poetry.

I’ve been slowly working my way through Paradise Lost, which is absolutely amazing, and at its best when read aloud. This morning I began Book VII, which is a picture of how the universe was created, and got so enthralled that I brought it along with me and read it out to the weird little creature I get to hang out with twice a week while his family is away.


I don’t think he has much appreciation for poetry, to be quite honest. So I’m going to try a bit of it on you and see what happens. This bit happens to be when God separates light from darkness.

Let there be light; said God, and forthwith light
Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure,
Sprung from the deep, and from her native east
To journey through the airy gloom began,
Spher’d in a radiant cloud, for yet the sun
Was not; she in a cloudy tabernacle
Sojourn’d the while. God saw the light was good;
And light from darkness by the hemisphere
Divided: light the day, and darkness night
He nam’d. Thus was the first day even and morn.
Nor pass’d uncelebrated, nor unsung
By the celestial choirs, when orient light
Exhaling first from darkness they beheld;
Birth-day of heaven and earth, with joy and shout
The hollow universal orb they fill’d,
And touch’d their golden harps, and hymning prais’d
God and his works, Creator him they sung,
Both when first evening was, and when first morn.

There. Isn’t that gorgeous? There’s plenty more where that came from, too, but I’ll spare you such a lengthy post as this could easily become.

Good gosh, that was some funky syntax. I’m going to leave it though.

Don’t Ignore Your Facets.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m deep in a writing project, I can tend to forget about everything else. And not only when I’m actually doing the work of writing, but all the time. There are times when this should probably be a problem, like when I forget to keep up with basic laundry and bathroom cleaning and such, but I forget to even consider it a problem. And then there are other times when it’s really a problem, and I can feel little bits of myself shriveling up and falling off.

And that’s not good.

Most recently, the shriveling-bit has been my visual artist self. I’ve been ignoring my need to create beautiful things for quite a while, and it wasn’t until last week that I began to notice that my soul was whimpering. In fact, when I went to fix the problem, I discovered that by all rights it should have been shrieking, because I was so enmeshed in the writing side of me that I. Couldn’t. Remember. How. To. Draw.

I’m not even joking. I just sat staring at my pencil like…


Fortunately, by that time I had awakened to the magnitude of the problem, so I persevered. If drawing wasn’t going to happen, maybe cutting up bits of paper and gluing them down would.

collage 001.jpg

I think it turned out okay, don’t you?

Since then, I’ve decided to embark on a series of collages, in order to give myself a solid goal that I can’t ignore. Now all I have to do is make sure the visual artist side doesn’t squeeze out the writer side. But this blog and my writer’s group should take care of that.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s important to stay balanced. Even if you’re in the middle of something major, don’t let yourself become so obsessive that you neglect other parts of yourself.

Because we’re all magnificently multi-faceted beings that should be allowed to flourish. No shriveling.

No Matter.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read.”

-Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

A little follow-up on my last post.

By the way, if you haven’t read Horseradish yet, you totally need to.

Where the Inner and Outer Intersect.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post encouraging writers to explore their favorite books in order to learn more about themselves as writers. As I stated at the time, I couldn’t remember where I discovered the exercise.

Well, I have found it. In a whole huge stack of papers that somehow got shuffled into an old shoebox and forgotten about. Story of my life, y’all. Fortunately, I had noted the title and author of the original article, so I am now pleased to present to you:

The Original Article!

The process is based on discovering the point at which our inner (personal experience) and outer (favorite book) stories overlap, with the idea that that is where our deepest and most resonant stories (as in, the ones we should probably be writing) come from.

Worth taking a look at, people. What we read can tell us a lot about ourselves as writers, if we give it a chance. It’s only a four-step process, but it can really help us to define what themes we are drawn to.


Please [Please] Do Your Research.

A while back I went on a mini-rant about people who don’t do their research before saying silly things online.


At least that was just a silly YouTube comment from somebody random, and not a full on article from Refinery29, who should really know better.

That’s right, ladies and gents.

Let me break it down for you. In this article, R29 moans about The Chainsmokers’ decision not to feature Halsey in their performance, and then, like, WHOA MAN. Chris Martin. Who’da thunkit? I mean, totally out of left field there!

In spite of the fact that everybody should know by now that the song Chris “cameoed” in was in fact “Something Just Like This.” You know, the song that Coldplay collaborated with them on? The one that I featured just last week?


Plus, the way the article is worded makes me wonder if they are even aware that neither song they performed (the other one was Paris, featuring Emily  Warren) was “Closer” or even features Halsey at all. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt there and assume it’s just bad writing.

So yeah. Rant over.

Back to the Basics.

Well, I’ve finished my writing class, and I’m feeling both accomplished and bereft. I learned way (way way) more than I anticipated, which should just teach me not to underestimate the importance of beginner-level classes.

Hey. That just gave me the theme I needed for today’s post. I kid you not, I was just rambling and hoping an idea would come to me, because I didn’t have a plan in place.


But now I have one: Don’t be afraid to go back to the basics. Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the greatest dancers in history, never stopped taking beginner classes, because he knew that there was always something to be learned from them.

I think we often get carried away by progress, ever reaching for new heights. There is nothing wrong with that. We should always be striving to grow in any field of endeavor. However, in that quest, we often leave the basics behind.

Bad idea.

There is a reason we always start a new study with the basics, and it isn’t because they are easy. It’s because they are the foundation, the cornerstone on which everything else is built. And it doesn’t do to neglect the foundation, does it? Dizzying heights aren’t so much fun if the cornerstone is crumbly.

Do you get my drift? Good. Don’t forget to keep your basics game strong. No matter what you are practicing.