A friend and colleague recently shared an experience on social media that I, and many other professional writers, could relate to. When an aspiring writer approaches you for feedback or advice beyond what you have the capacity to give freely, how do you graciously decline?
Ernest Hemingway, I’ll bet, was not a fan of books on writing—or things like MFA programs. His advice to novelists was famously pithy: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” But many of us find solace in the advice of others, and need inspiration when we get stuck.
Recently, one of my young cousins emailed me to ask about copy-editing resources. As the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, she had decided to institute a new step in the paper’s editing process. My many emails exchanges with her made me realize that while I’ve blogged about literary style and good editing in the past, this little-understood and vastly under-appreciated part of the publishing process deserves some attention.
OK, you may think a grotto is “a small picturesque cave,” possibly near the sea or a lake, and probably sprouting ferns or fountains. Maybe you’ve seen a grotto in a fancy garden, like the Grotta Azzurra at Capri or Le Nôtre’s at Versailles, and associate it with Old World intrigue or even religious shrines.
I’m going to use a week in January as a “fallow period”—what I call the down time in between major projects. I wait till I have nothing on my plate, and no deadlines, and then I orchestrate a mini-retreat for myself. I get into nature for a few days, exercise a lot, sit silently, read, and let myself wander back to my creative center.
It’s been two years since I last shared my thoughts on publishing as a hybrid author. And this month I took the plunge: I have two new books out, both published outside the traditional model. One is a children’s book, ‘Iwalani’s Tree, the other a book about hula, The Natives Are Restless. Digital Book World […]
I recently taught a class called “Crafting Truth,” in which I reviewed reporting techniques such as sharpening observation skills, conducting thorough research, interviewing for information and for profiles, organizing notes, and steering clear of ethical minefields. There are endless books out there on journalism and writing literary journalism, so I looked through my own shelves […]
My favorite part of the writing process comes at the beginning: I go the Library of Congress and search for everything ever written on my subject. Then I find a carrel and wait for books to be delivered to me. One of those was a delightful book called The Garden of Eloquence, published in 1577. Another was a little book self-published by Mark Twain called English As She Is Taught, which collected the hilarious impressions schoolchildren hold of grammar.
Here are other books that have become my favorites, whether because I discovered them at the Library of Congress, or because I’ve turned to them again and again when I’ve been in trouble. The list also includes books recommended by writers I trust. They are listed alphabetically, so make sure to read to the end!
Getting the facts right always matters, whether you’re a Tom Wolfe wannabe, an ambitious novelist or a tourist with an itch to publish. Every writer needs to know how to separate fact from fiction and how to gather the real-life details that make a narrative rich.
Whether I’m writing an article about Hawaiian cowboys or a book on the intricacies of a sentence, I keep my journalist hat tugged on tight. Part of why I’m a professional writer is that I love research (and learning new things). But another part is that I find the process of getting things right to be challenging—and satisfying.