K.M. Weiland reports:
"Sometimes the best thing a writer can do is not write. There are going to be times when our brains are fried, our imaginations are dried up, and our lives are demanding we put non-writing priorities first. In these situations, is it ever acceptable to just surrender and throw down the pen for a while? My answer is absolutely. In fact, sometimes it’s wise to deliberately plan to stop writing...By the time we finish writing a novel, our objectivity will have packed its bags and headed to Rio. We can edit the darn thing until we’re blue in the face, but we’re not likely to really see what’s wrong with it until we’re able to put a little distance between ourselves [and] this story we’ve grown to love (or, perhaps, hate)...We may have any number of good reasons to stop writing a particular book and focus on something else. This something else might be another story, a [nonfiction] book, or something totally unrelated to writing...If you’re lucky enough to be interested and talented in other art forms, you can alternate between projects to keep yourself fresh and interested in both...You take a day off from work every week, so why not writing?...When my writing isn’t going so great, this day is a reward. But even when my writing is sailing along splendidly, this regular day off allows me to recharge my batteries, stave off burnout, and apply time to non-writing activities and chores...When you feel burnout approaching, do yourself and your writing a favor and take a break. After finishing a manuscript, I always have to give myself at least a few months to recuperate before diving into the next project...[T]here are other times when a total vacation is required. Unplug your Internet for a week or two, step away from the computer, and pamper yourself with ice cream, movie marathons, lots of walks, and lots of reading...So far, the break periods we’ve discussed have been relatively brief. But what about taking a serious break from writing? What about stopping for months or even years? This, of course, is a whole ’nother ballgame. If you’re even considering this, then you are either losing interest in your writing or...facing major changes in your life. Both are legitimate reasons to make the decision to step away from your writing for a time. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we just won’t be able to make our writing work at certain periods in our life...If writing isn’t what you want to (or can) do right now, don’t be afraid to set it aside for a while. This doesn’t mean you’re not a writer, and it doesn’t mean you’ll never come back to your writing. A decision like this should never be made lightly, but, in some situations, it may be the best thing you can do for both yourself and all the stories you will write in the future. Writers write. But sometimes, when they have good reasons for doing so, writers don’t write. If you need to take a break—long or short—to let a story breathe or to let yourself breathe, then don’t hesitate to do so. Writing is an inherently instinctive and organic process. If your gut is telling you a break is just what the book doctor ordered, then go for it. Otherwise, get back to your desk and start hammering those keys!"
Barbara Doyen reports:
"Every writer should seriously consider nonfiction...You don’t have to wait years to get published...The time to a publisher’s contract for nonfiction is shorter...Unlike novels, nonfiction books are marketed and sold before they are written...From small[-]town newspapers to global commercial publications, the market for nonfiction articles is almost unlimited. In contrast, have you noticed how few print publications run short stories these days?...In general, entry-level nonfiction book authors are paid better than their fiction counterparts. The income from nonfiction articles is much greater than the payment from short fiction...At least half of the people we meet say they want to publish a book, usually a novel; some industry studies place that statistic even higher. Since there are far, far more writers trying to publish fiction, the nonfiction markets (comprising approximately half of all trade books published), hold better odds for a sale...Your writing experience is a major part of the package you present to a publisher when you are seeking a writing contract. Previous sales make you look like a professional. Editors and agents are more likely to trust you to write well and meet deadlines...After you get a few sales under your belt, you will come to believe that you CAN do this. Each success will lead to bigger and better successes as you develop your career, getting you past that inner voice doubting your abilities...Any writing that you do will increase your ability to write well. Writing skills develop through experience, by actually writing, regardless of what type of writing it is...Writing nonfiction, whether it’s short pieces or full books, requires research and, probably, interviews with experts. What you uncover as you develop your material will lead you to discover other salable nonfiction ideas. The information you collect will be useful to you if you write fiction, as well...The paid markets for print nonfiction articles are no longer open but the [I]nternet now provides opportunities for writers to access a vast audience, potentially generating good income."
Katie Van Heest reports:
"It is incumbent upon early-career academics to distinguish their research as mature scholarship, not student work...Perhaps most academics can name some of the tics that unfortunately characterize graduate-student writing: [O]verqualification, hedging, extensive literature review, and a high ratio of quotation to original material are just a few...[L]ess effective manuscripts—whether they’re written by early-career scholars or not—tend to organize information into lists. That may not sound so damning, but lists become vulnerabilities when they are presented as arguments. No matter how extensive, delivering a list is not the same as making a persuasive case. A list arranges elements without nuanced interrelationships and often without priority, effectively stripping an argument of crescendo. Good arguments, like good plots, have conflict, rising and falling action, climax, and denouement. If the bulk of a writer’s exposition is essentially a list, she will find it difficult to animate her argument. A list-based argument is any that operates by an additive logic...Lists can therefore be lurking at any level of writing. A table of contents that shows no progression from one chapter to the next might reflect a static series of topics that don’t build on each other (probably not the most engaging book architecture). Or an introduction to a journal article might rattle off a modern play’s cast of characters without much syntactical variation or thought to putting the personalities in dynamic relation. So what does a list-dependent piece of writing look like? It won’t always have a series of numbered components, but I’ve certainly seen my fair share of 'firstly . . . secondly . . . lastly' constructions...Even without those enumerative tags, a preponderance of very short paragraphs is symptomatic of a checklist approach to argument. Blog posts like this one can have multiple one- or two-sentence paragraphs, but that staccato structure would undercut an academic article or monograph, which should be cultivating at least the appearance of thoroughness. This compulsion to start a new paragraph with every successive ingredient can be overcome. If a writer has a constellation of relatively equally weighted points to make, he could even put the first in its own paragraph and the next two in another paragraph...Another dead giveaway of additive discourse is...starting a sentence with the word 'another.'...It’s a very flimsy transition. Picture this lead-in to a paragraph: 'Another interesting aspect of x is . . .' Kind of boring, right? At the very least, I suggest that writers consider sentences beginning with 'another' to be worthy of scrutiny during the revision process...Completionism for its own sake is fine if the goal is encyclopedic treatment of a chosen subject. But engaging narrators are those who actively decide which bases need covering in the first place, and they devote proper attention to explaining the importance of what’s included and excluded. They reveal their objects of study as complex systems—as machinery whose gears, springs, and ratchets interact with dynamism, torque, and teeth. A linear display of all the parts that go into a clock will never be as instructive as a working model. By the same token, an argument that presents a long list of proportionate elements sacrifices the opportunity to relate research components in complex and instructive ways. That’s why I’ve devoted this post to what might at first seem like a superficial or inconsequential rhetorical choice...Scholars are clearly passionate about the phenomena they spend so much time dissecting...The ability to identify logical progressions that are fundamentally just lists enables a writer to recalibrate and make stronger contributions to scholarship. When we are attuned to the many elaborate disguises that lists can assume, we are at least in a better position to deploy them intentionally, and not just for lack of a functional analytical model."
Lily Jones reports:
"Backwards planning is often used during long-term planning, but it can be a great tool for single lessons too. Think about what you want students to achieve by the end of the lesson, then work backwards to plan the teaching and learning that needs to happen in order for students to meet that goal...It can be helpful to write down exactly what you plan to say when teaching a lesson. You won’t end up actually reading your script, but the act of writing allows teachers to figure out the best way of explaining information...With experience, teachers start to internalize potential challenges and plan for them in advance. No matter what your experience level, it’s helpful to think about both potential challenges to student understanding and to behavior...In addition to thinking about potential behavioral challenges, management plans can include thinking about the flow of materials and how students will move around the room. Thinking about potential misunderstandings before teaching is an important strategy for meeting the needs of all students...When planning a lesson, think about how much time each part of the lesson will take. Part of fine-tuning this process is estimating how much time tasks will take and then checking your estimations...Each class and student is different, so lessons you have taught before may not have the same effect as they had in the past. Sometimes it’s helpful to plan lessons with particular students in mind...Planning lessons targeted at specific students lets you think deeply about your students’ strengths and challenges while finding ways to effectively meet your students’ needs."
Heather Barnett reports:
"There's a practical reason not to waste your time clipping coupons. These days, most store brands are far cheaper than even the coupon price of the brand names (unless, perhaps, your grocery store has a double or triple coupon day). It's just a giant waste of time unless you're a serious couponer. Besides, if you just spend a little extra time and thought putting your shopping list together, you'll lower your bill without lowering your quality of living...Before you go shopping or even start to write your list, check the sales at your grocery store of choice...Make a mental note of the sale prices on foods you may use. For nonfood items, keep an eye out for products you use frequently. Even if you're not out of toilet paper, you could save a few bucks by picking it up early...You'll throw away less food if you carefully plan your [weekly] menu. On a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet program, write out your menu items for the week in a horizontal row (you can list the ingredients you need for each dish under that, making it easy to compare the ingredients later). Consider what you'll have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day. As you're writing your menu, think carefully about the ingredients in each meal. Remember the sale items in that circular? Is there a way to use sale items more efficiently in your menu? For example, if you plan to have a brisket, but notice chuck roast is on sale, perhaps you could substitute that instead. Try to have meals with several ingredients in common. This will help you reduce food waste by using all of the foods you buy and lets you take real advantage of sales...If the average cost per meal is $4 (some will be more, some will be less), and you're able to cut out buying the ingredients for just one extra meal each week by using foods you're already buying, you could save about $100 a year...Now that you've written a menu using as many lower-cost sale items as possible, ingredients you'll already have on hand from making another dish and decided to buy nonfood items that are on sale which you may need later, it's time to clean up the list even more. Look through the list and decide what you could substitute for something cheaper (or something you already have or will already have)...Also, carefully reconsider any high-ticket items like steaks and other high-end red meats...If you're a brand-name queen, it's probably because you remember how gross those generic versions were when you were a kid. But they've stepped up their game, so it's time to give them another shot. If you're nervous, start slowly by buying the midrange generic or store brand. If you're comfortable with those, try going lower...These days, online stores like Amazon offer great deals on the products we use most. Sometimes it may mean buying in bulk, but if it's something you're going to use anyway, consider the yearly savings versus the inconvenience of storage. Go through your list and look up the price of the staples online and write them down (with the quantity that amount purchases) next to the item on your list so you can double[-]check it in the store. But don't go overboard. Having three years of toilet paper in your closet doesn't help you pay the water bill."
Michele McGovern reports:
"Get ready to write! Customers will increasingly type, not call, in the coming years. While the majority of customers still plan on using the phone for critical issues, many more said they’ll use some sort of written communication to get help[,] found recent research published by Zendesk...To get ready for the increase in written communication, [frontline] service and sales reps will need to be more proficient at reading and writing...Most written messages don’t come with as much explanation as we might like. But enough information is often there if we know how to read it with a critical eye. Reps need to practice reading what customers say and discerning what those customers are actually asking. It can be a challenge because chat and email messages are often written quickly and without editing. So take time to regularly review common messages...Reps and customers often have to step away from the conversation (just like they would in a verbal exchange) to get information. Good chat writers make it clear to customers when they need to wait momentarily. Customers should never have to type, 'Are you still there?' Instead, when reps need time away from the conversation, they can say, 'Please give me a moment to check that,' or 'Please hold on for a minute while I look that up.'...[G]ood questioning during [a] chat or email session can generate the same results as a good conversation. Service pros want to mix matter-of-fact questions with open-ended questions to engage customers and uncover enough information to resolve the issue...It’s challenging to express emotions in written communication, especially fast forms such as chat. And emoticons can’t do what the spoken word can — nor should they be used in professional communications. But some key phrases can help show empathy in writing...Sometimes the best way professionals can build credibility with customers is by admitting they don’t know everything...If reps can’t solve it immediately with a solution they know is 100% right, they want to tell customers, 'Let me check on this. It might take...more than a few minutes, but I want to make sure I have the most updated information. Can I contact you again in 15 minutes?'...Reps should use template responses that were designed to most effectively resolve common issues. But they should also have the adaptability to move right into writing free text — because almost every customer question or issue is unique in some way...Chat and sometimes email are less formal than other forms of writing. But they’re still a professional exchange and should be treated as such. Standard, formal sentences aren’t necessary in a fast-paced chat, but proper spelling and punctuation is a must for clarity. Include spelling a[nd] grammar skill quizzes in training. Enable spelling and grammar checks, and encourage reps to use them."
Deeptaman Mukherjee reports:
"Writing is supposed to be an enjoyable experience...While you have to maintain the quality of your written piece, the creativity is also that...important. For the creative flow of the mind to remain unhindered you have to stay loose and enjoy the topic as you write about it...It is absolutely necessary that you have an idea about the real interest factor about your topic. This will be your focal point in the write[-]up and also the reason for your curiosity. Being curious about your topic is good; it is also a boost to your creativity as you write what you understand perfectly...It is actually proven that creativity does have some instigating factors that make the process more viable for some specific times...[Analyze] yourself and your work to better understand your creativity schedule and then base your work schedule on it...[I]t might be a great idea to take some time off and use the time to do something that helps you realign your focus. You could maybe take a walk or some light exercises can also do the trick. However, it completely depends upon you as to what works for you in this regard...When you have set your goals for your day or even a week, creativity wise, you will try to stick to it much like anything else. However, also be patient with [yourself]...[B]alance your work and relaxation. Remember that relaxing is actually giving you time to refuel your creative energy. All in all just keep it in mind that you have to love what you do to really enjoy it and when you enjoy your work it shows in your performance."
Three Tips for Being a Careful Writer
Mark Nichol reports:
"Careful writers continuously educate and reeducate themselves about grammar, syntax, usage, and style...Confront your prejudices, and check your recall and understanding of the basics. Most important[ly], don’t believe everything you think...Language changes, and writers must change with it. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your high standards and accept colloquial language; some contexts simply do not allow for a relaxation of the rules. But most forms of writing are flexible, and you should be, too. Adapt the language to the content, but consider also adapting the content to the language...When in doubt, look it up. When not in doubt, look it up. Don’t be content with spell-checking programs; check not only definitions of words, phrases[,] and expressions but also their connotations. When discussing a person, place, or thing, don’t simply double-check the spelling and treatment of the term; reacquaint yourself with the person, place, or thing to confirm or correct your impression that the reference is appropriate for the content. (And check your facts.)"
Ruth Mayhew reports:
"Cold call letters are semi-tailored letters a job seeker sends to companies, hoping they land on the desk of a [decision maker] who will contact them for an interview, regardless of whether the company has available jobs. The benefit of sending a cold call letter...is that the hiring manager may have future openings for which the job seeker has a head start from having already submitted her qualifications...Although you write a cold call letter to a company that doesn't have current job vacancies, you should still personalize the letter so it doesn't appear to be a form letter sent out en masse. Organizing your cold call letter-writing simplifies the process and can improve the chance of your letter receiving attention from an HR staff member or a hiring manager. Identify the companies you intend to approach inquiring about employment opportunities. Categorize the companies according to industry, or if you're looking to relocate, consider grouping companies by region...Use due diligence when you send a cold call letter. Research the company's website to learn hiring managers' names, call the HR department to get names and titles, or research professional networking sites using the name of the company and titles to find people associated with the company. Always use a personal salutation when writing a cold call letter; it will look like you took the time to find out who is in charge of hiring. Never use an impersonal 'To Whom It May Concern' greeting...[Y]our introduction needs to begin with a statement that engages the reader's interest and curiosity. If you're a recent graduate, lead with your academic credentials and achievements, and follow up with a sentence or two that indicates you're ready to start your career. For a seasoned professional, create a strong introduction based on your level of expertise...[A]ppeal to the organization. Demonstrate your interest in the company by mentioning one of its recent developments. For example, assume you're the registered nurse applying to a hospital that's building a wing for oncology patients. Craft the body of your cold call letter so it reflects your initiative and resourcefulness...The closing paragraph for your cold call letter is just as important as the introduction. End with a statement that you'll contact the company to confirm receipt of your resume or an invitation for the HR department or hiring manager to contact you with any questions about your qualifications or requests for additional information. Include your contact information, including an email address and phone number."
Writing and editing can be pretty rigorous processes if you want to do them well, but that's what this page is here for. Check out the latest tips here.