Category Archives: editing

Be an editorial Machiavelli

This was originally published on the website of ACES: The society for editing

Editors need to think more like Machiavelli.

You know who Niccolò Machiavelli was, right? He’s famous for having said “The ends justify the means.”

Except he never said that. Or wrote it. Continue reading

And can it be?

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?

Those are the first words – the very first – of the well-known hymn named “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” written in 1738 by Charles Wesley, who is among the most revered hymn-writers in Protestant Christendom (the fact that he wrote some 6000 hymns might have something to do with that, I suppose).

It puts me in mind of the second chapter of the Gospel According to Luke in the King James Version. It starts “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” It goes on to tell the story of the birth of Jesus: “And she brought forth her firstborn son… And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field… And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them…” It continues for 41 sentences in 52 verses. Of those 41 sentences, 37 start with “And,” two start with “But,” one starts with “For,” and one starts with “Now” (that’s the discourse particle Now, not the temporal adverb Now: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover”). Continue reading

12 Gifts for Writers ebook

As promised, I have made an ebook (in PDF) of 12 Gifts for Writers. You can download it for free, pass it around to your friends, and – I hope – gain something from it. Just click on the link:

12 Gifts for Writers (PDF, 4.2 MB)

12_gifts

12. You already have a voice.

Here, read this:

…Parking the car (smooth sleek shiny grey) in the heated, lit underground lot, though at least a good five-ten blocks away from my destination (I’d have to be lacking in intelligence to be parking it any closer: there are certain rules must abide by in these things), and out once again – though unprotected this time – into the night air (cold & misty) for a little bit of a walk: certainly conspicuous in this, as yer not likes to be finding much of too many anybody out on the streets this time of night (especially in this part of town) without a damn good reason: and if the Men in Pink happen to glance you, you will most certainly be inquired as to why wherefore where when what who you are doing out this time of night, which being the accurate nature of your business, and so on and so forth ad infinitum nauseum et cetera. Goes without saying this being my aim to avoid (perhaps one reason for choosing the darker shades in a suit for wear this eve?).

That bale of braided turds, my friends, is the start of a short story by a writer who’s trying to find his voice. I wrote it when I was 18. Continue reading

11. Everyone’s a writer.

Everybody writes. Did you just tweet something? Post on Facebook? Send a quick email? That’s all writing. It’s all using words. It’s all flexing your lexical muscle. Does it seem too small to count? It still builds up habits and uses your skills. It still displays them, too. Continue reading

10. Do your own damn research, and do your own damn writing.

Writing involves facts and creation. You are expected to acquire the former and perform the latter; both are part of the job. The act of creation in writing is largely an act of selection, rearrangement, and re-presentation: showing a new way of seeing with not-new things. And don’t forget that it’s all a conversation – you’re making references to other people’s work as well as to well-known cultural elements (such as the twelve days of Christmas). Continue reading

9. You’re probably wrong about how good your writing is.

Sit down. I’m going to tell you something I probably wouldn’t tell you directly in person.

You’re wrong about how good your writing is.

OK, you’re probably wrong. A few of you are right, but damn few. I’ve been working with writers for a long time now, and I have observed two general truisms: Continue reading