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About Writing Right: The Blog


I was thumbing through some beginning writers' questions about who is responsible for typos that appear in a published book. I was astonished at the ridiculous and outright incorrect responses some advisers gave. Here's what I had to say on the matter.

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On what planet do these respondents live, and how many of them have actually worked as full-time freelance authors and editors? It's disheartening, to say the least, to see a "V.P. of Programs" at some apparent writers' group put the blame on everyone but the person who deserves it. Wow. Not the first time this Oklahoma author has been grossly disappointed by this Oklahoma group that seems to fire from the hip far more often than from the brain. You know, just like the Queen of Wrong does? Maybe it's something in the water down here. Regardless, this is the unvarnished truth.


First, you're apparently living in a one-world universe while all experienced writers exist in a dual modality. What the freak am I talking about? I'm glad you asked. Read More 

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Someone asked online the other day if I knew of a good exercise for beginning writers. He had already received plenty of helpful answers, some of them a little more narrow in scope than he desired ("Here's how to coax your 'writing muscle' into working!"). This is what I added to the fray.

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"A" good writing exercise? There are tons of them. No one exercise works to fill the needs of all beginning writers. Some newbies need motivation. Some require work on ideas. Some need help with plotting, story development, characterization, or dialogue. Some bog down with descriptive narrative. See what I mean?


Still, of all the exercises I've come across, one of the best, most fruitful, all-inclusive drills for accomplishing a lot of the above sounds ridiculously simple but is, in fact, deviously delicious. Take a news story headline. Only the headline and nothing more. Don't read the story behind it but, rather, write the story behind it. In short, you become the reporter, and the headline is your assignment.


Begin your story with the five "W"s of journalism—Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Work all of them into the first paragraph or two of your story. This means, of course, that you're going to have to invent some characters and happenings as well as all the other salient details that go into the making of what has suddenly become your "baby." See the deviousness at work here? Read More 

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So, you're contemplating writing under a pen name but worry that doing so may obscure your legal rights to your work, is that the issue? If so, you can relax. Using a pen name when publishing a book doesn't change your legal name, rights, or responsibilities. You can be born Robert Smith on your birth certificate and go through life calling yourself Bob Adams, but that doesn't change your legal name, and it doesn't shelter you from your responsibilities under the law. Even if you were to sign a contract under a pseudonym, the law recognizes that the legal YOU signed it, no matter what name you used on the agreement, and YOU are legally responsible for all eventualities.


There's a good reason for this, of course. Except for the permanent responsibility (and rights) assigned to you as your legally registered self (most often determined by the name on your birth certificate unless legally changed by court order), you could change identities every ten minutes simply by using a pen name or pseudonym. You could claim that, since you used a pen name on a contract, that YOU aren't legally responsible for whatever "Robert Smith" didn't sign but "Bob Adams" did. Read More 

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