Category Archives: misc. tips

national novel writing month, or nanowrimo

I now have a Pavlovian response to seeing Halloween candy in stores: I start thinking about ideas for a novel. National Novel Writing Month starts at midnight on Oct. 31, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who’s ever said, ‘I want to write a novel someday.’ Someday is here. You’ve got two weeks to dream up an idea (but no writing allowed). Or start writing Halloween night by the seat of your pants. What’s more scary?

Read my longer love letter to NaNoWriMo from last year, and then go sign up!


true colors

I’m slightly obsessed with the version of “True Colors” from the Glee Vol. 2 soundtrack, a cover of the lovely Cyndi Lauper tune. But while I think this song manages it skillfully, I would use the expression “true colors” with caution. It’s really evolved to have a negative connotation, meaning hidden faults or questionable motives, e.g. “His aide’s candid memoir reveals John Edwards’ true colors — the senator was willing to lie in order to preserve his presidential bid.” I’m not saying it can’t ever be used as a compliment, but if you must, make sure the context is very clear.

enormity, revisited

The Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn is just as cranky as I am about the continued use of “enormity” as a synonym for “immensity.” (I expect better from my girl crush, Rachel Maddow!)

go behind the scenes of a local newscast

I first stumbled onto Emily Eddington’s videos on YouTube because she gives great makeup application tips. Turns out, she’s an anchor on a local newscast in Southern Illinois. This week, she took her camera behind the scenes at work, and it’s a fun watch for anyone considering going into TV news. (Take note of the fact that her workday goes from about 3 a.m. to noon!)

revising fiction with lani diane rich

Three years ago I wrote a 50,000-word novel during National Novel Writing Month. Since then, I’d picked at it, knowing it needed a lot of revising before it would be ready to pitch to publishers. But I could never get the motivation to do the hard work — maybe because while I knew generally what I needed to fix, I didn’t know why or how.

Then, I stumbled on a blog post about some fiction writing classes taught by Lani Diane Rich. I knew the name because she’s the first amateur writer to have her NaNo novel published. (She’s since published quite a few others.) I was inspired, and intrigued by her method of teaching — via webcast and a private forum where she’d answer her students’ questions in some detail.

Continue reading

bauer’s gaffe: analogy or metaphor?

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer got a lot of flak this week for a folksy anecdote about his grandmother telling him not to feed stray animals — which he relayed while discussing government handouts for poor Americans. My favorite argument he’s made in his own defense was that his statement is “being used as an analogy, not a metaphor.”

Continue reading

what I learned from a magazine launch

I was excited to be asked to be copy editor for the premiere issue of a brand-new print magazine (title to be named later). Besides the fact it’s thrilling that people still believe in print enough to invest in it, it’s also a blast to be part of creating something from scratch. As a copy editor, your job on a magazine launch is to work with the designers and editors to institute a style guide: Where will we deviate from AP? How will we write bylines? Will subheads have periods? Will sidebars be indented? etc. Sounds boring, probably, but after years of adhering to style that others have established, it’s really fun to have a say in making the rules.

In any case, weeks of work culminated in a very long weekend before we sent the magazine to press yesterday. I thought I’d post some of the lessons learned (or reaffirmed) in the process. Continue reading