The Writer’s Desk: How many drafts do I need?

Recently I attended a workshop by Allison K. Williams on writing powerful sentences. You may recall my previous column on sentences and correctly assume I’m a bit of a sentence freak. What makes a great sentence? Her answer is, “Words in combination with each other and their layout on the page.” Before I reveal more…

The Writer’s Desk: The right words in the right order

Poets and musicians know the importance of cadence, yet music of the line is equally important in prose. In drafts, where you’re pounding the story out quickly, sentences will be comprised of weak verbs, wordy construction, and poor cadence. One of my critique partners pointed out how this passage in my current manuscript, “lacks oomph….

The Writer’s Desk: Pay attention to your sentences

Recently I participated in a workshop on Writing Great Sentences conducted by Geraldine Woods, author of 25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way. I’d been trying to sign up for the workshop for two years and always ended up on a waiting list, but this time I made it in. Why would I,…

The Writer’s Desk: A great cover can’t disguise poor storytelling

A review copy of a writer’s debut novel arrived in my mailbox. The cover has a pleasing aesthetic with a balance of primary colors and a promising title. Its premise sounds intriguing: A young man feels guilt over having bypassed two tragic events, 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, by convenient circumstances. A blurb from a…

The Writer’s Desk: Why you should enter writing contests

Over the years I’ve entered and won or placed in several writing contests, but mostly I’ve lost. But “winning” in a contest isn’t about scoring the grand prize. Much can be gained by taking a risk. I talked to local author and writing instructor Mindy Halleck about winning a Writer’s Digest Your Story contest. The prompt…

The Writer’s Desk: Four self-care tips for writers during a pandemic

Writers tend to be isolated, more so now that there’s a pandemic. How do we keep our minds and bodies fit in order to facilitate our writer’s brains? Take a walk Exercise is proven to help writers work out ideas, but the cold, rainy season in the Pacific Northwest isn’t always conducive to taking a…

The Writer’s Desk: It takes a village to write a novel

There’s a universal image of an author sitting alone, fingers tapping on a keyboard or handwriting on a paper tablet as she writes her book. For the most part, writing is a solitary experience. At least in drafting the story one needs a room of her own, yet if we expect to get our work…

The Writer’s Desk: Off-beat advice to improve your writing

Happy New Year. Hopefully you’ve adjusted to the new normal, found your rhythm, and are able to write again. Below are some uncommon tips I use when the words won’t flow. Look for ideas on Post Secrets In order for a story to captivate your audience the stakes must be high. Everyone has secrets, and…

The Writer’s Desk: How to make revisions, part 2 — micro

The Writer’s Desk is a new monthly column providing tips for fiction and memoir writers. You can read the previous column, How to make revisions, part 1 — macro, at this link. “Successes are revised mistakes.” — James Clear The title of this article says part 2, yet revision is an ongoing process. Every time I…

The Writer’s Desk: How to make revisions, part 1 — macro

Welcome to The Writer’s Desk: a new monthly column providing tips for fiction and memoir writers. This month I’ll feature part 1 on revision because many of our readers participated in National Novel Writing Month and are anxious to revise their 50,000-plus-word masterpieces. Revision is a lengthy endeavor and every writer has their own process….