Editor’s Pet Peeve: Affect vs. Impact

August 30, 2011

When I was a newbie reporter at the Houston Chronicle, I once made the mistake of writing about how some city legislation would impact residents. “Impact means collision,” my editor said as he changed the word in my copy. “Like in a car crash. Laws don’t impact people. Laws affect people.” That day, his pet […]

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An easy way to make your editor’s day

May 25, 2011

Want to make your editor happy? Here’s one simple thing you can do that will accomplish just that: Use hyphens correctly. Few people, it seems, realize that when two words become a modifer, they need a hyphen. Even if those words aren’t hyphenated normally. When they modify a noun, the game changes! That means job […]

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On momentum

February 3, 2011

A reader wrote me an e-mail earlier this week asking what, exactly, I meant when I wrote that a manuscript should have momentum. That wasn’t a literary term she’d heard before, she said. Was I referring to pacing? Or building tension? Or something entirely different? Which made me think: What exactly did I mean by […]

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96 feels like a lucky number*

February 1, 2011

Know what makes it difficult to meet a deadline? Getting in a fight with your book. But I’d vowed to finish this revision by the end of January, and I did it. I e-mailed draft #4,067 of Please Send Pants to my agent in the wee hours of Jan. 31st. I’m pretty excited about the […]

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I’ve come to that point (again): I hate my book

January 27, 2011

I’m so close to finishing this revision. So close. But I can’t even enjoy what should be a sense of accomplishment because I HATE MY BOOK. I know I should flesh out this post, tell you why I hate it and how I got here, but I hate my book so much that I don’t […]

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When the finish line is in sight, sometimes we panic

January 19, 2011

During a recent phone conversation with my agent, she said we were almost ready to approach publishers. I suppose I knew that, but hearing her say it out loud made it real. It made me incredibly excited — and slightly panicked. Because I realized that this might be the last time I revise my manuscript […]

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Every cut makes your manuscript stronger

January 3, 2011

Did I say I’ve been going through revisions for the last year? Because I’ve actually been going through additions. While incorporating feedback to add “more of this” or “more of that,” I’ve fleshed out so many scenes, characters and feelings that my manuscript has ballooned to 98,000 words. That’s about 15K more than it was […]

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A writerly New Year’s weekend

December 29, 2010

I’m planning something different this New Year’s Eve. Rather than partying late on December 31st and recovering on the first day of 2011, I’m doing something special for myself: spending the three-day weekend writing. I’m creating my own retreat of sorts in part because the deadline for my next revision is approaching (end of January!), […]

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How do you add depth to flat characters?

December 22, 2010

During this revision, I’m working on giving a few of my characters more depth. I need to make them come alive, and let the reader get to know them. Like story arc and dialogue, character development is difficult for me because I don’t have much experience with it. I don’t develop characters in journalism. I […]

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Self-editing: 10 ways to tighten your copy

December 13, 2010

Want more tips like these? Check out my free newsletter. The difference between a mediocre writer and an excellent writer often comes down to whether you can tighten your own copy. Eliminating unnecessary words makes every story cleaner, easier to follow and all-around professional. I’ve long enjoyed editing, which is why I’ve edited friends’ chapters, […]

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