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Blog

Check out 'Ask Joan', a video blog where writer and teacher Joan Dempsey answers writer's questions about the art and craft of writing and revision.

Cut Clutter from Your Writing

Joan Dempsey

We all write.

Reports. E-mails. White papers. Grants. Letters. Blog posts. Articles. Briefs. Stories. Novels. Biographies. Histories. Memoirs …

When we write, we sometimes feel uncertain. One way we cope is to add qualifiers to our sentences.

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How to Gain Confidence So You Can Stop Continually Revising Chapter One

Joan Dempsey

The answers I share here are necessarily short and sweet, and far from comprehensive.

What other suggestions do you have that might help Mary and others stop obsessing about the first chapter? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

Do you worry that your writing isn't any good?

Check out the free Revise With Confidence Video Series. Click on the video below to learn more.

If you found this episode helpful, please share it!

 

Dialogue, Scenes & Character in Memoir

Joan Dempsey

The answers I share here are necessarily short and sweet, and far from comprehensive. Feel free to share additional thoughts about this topic in the comments section below. Let's yak about writing!

Do you worry that your writing isn't any good?

Check out the free Revise With Confidence Video Series. Click on the video below to learn more.

If you found this episode helpful, please share!

 

Working with Readers

Joan Dempsey

There's nothing as valuable as long-term readers who have seen your work mature over time!

I know that many of you already have individual readers you turn to for your work, so chances are you already know the myriad benefits of those connections.

For those of you who don't yet have good readers, here's what their fresh perspective can offer - they easily see errors you have overlooked:

  • Continuity - they know that the red scarf on page 251 was green paisly on page 36
  • Incorrect words - they see that you really meant "flue" when you wrote "chimney flu"
  • Factual errors or tips- they tell you that a fully tatooed arm is called a "sleeve", and that text messaging wasn't yet a craze in the year 2000
  • Character issues - they alert you when you're not well-representing your younger self in a memoir, when you've made her passive and unsympathetic, or when your main fictional character does something ... well, out of character
  • Bad writing  - they tell you when your writing is just plain lousy
  • Implausible plot they "roll their eyes" in the margin when you've strained credulity with your plot, or gone on too long about something, or left out important chunks of necessary prose.

And so forth.

If you don't yet have readers, here are some ideas for where to find them:

  • Join a local Meet Up group.
  • Check your local library to see if they know of writers' groups.
  • Take courses - in person or online - and connect with your new colleagues.
  • Attend a writers' conference or retreat.
  • Find online forums where you can connect with other writers.

Find writers to be your readers. Writers will see things ordinary readers will not. And you can read for them in turn, which serves to elevate your own editing skills. Nothing improves your writing like having to critique someone else's work. If possible, find writers who are better than you are - you'll learn far more.

Get a diverse group, too. My readers include a non-fiction writer and teacher, two literary fiction writers (and teachers), a poet and yoga teacher, a memoirist who reads voraciously, and an essayist who's also a psychologist. Each bring slightly different perspectives (and yes, sometimes their opinions cancel each other out).

Actually, on that point, if I get competing opinions about the same issue or passage, what I take from this feedback is that something needs to be addressed in that section, whatever it may be. I always review, then, with a highly critical eye.

What do you need to know for working well with your readers? Check out this article.


Do you worry that your writing isn't any good?

Check out the free Revise With Confidence Video Series. Click on the video below to learn more.

If you found this post helpful, please share!