All Things Writing

The Craft of Writing

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10 Musts for Strong Business Memos

There are two types of people in this world: those who leap at the chance to write a memo and the rest of us. For those of us who don’t find memo writing to be an inspirational task, it’s a slow slog from start to finish. Still, there is a process with a few musts that not only makes it less arduous but also result in a solid memo each and every time.

  1. Know who you’re writing for: Is this memo to a peer, a subordinate, your supervisor, the entire company? Until you know who is the intended primary reader, it will be nearly impossible to get up and running.
  2. Identify the points you need to include: They don’t have to be in order, but deciding what you need to cover in the memo before you begin will really help.
  3. Write a 1-sentence recap: Sort of like the famed elevator pitch, this recap is what would you say if you had 30 seconds to say something about this topic to the head of your company.
  4. Put your points in order: How do you want the logic to flow in this piece of writing?
  5. Clarify each point: Add a few sentences to make it clear what each point is about.
  6. Write the first paragraph: Include the purpose of the memo.
  7. Write the body of the memo: Use your clarified points.
  8. Write the closing: Be sure to include any call to action or expectations.
  9. Put it aside for an hour: Really. Do something else for a while.
  10. Read it aloud & revise before sending: As you read, you’ll discover any cringe-worthy parts while you still have time to make a change!

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5 Essentials for Effective Science Writing

Science Writing is one of the most exciting forms of writing because it provides an opportunity to bring readers into a space they may not normally consider. The challenge of sharing new ideas and scientific concepts without jargon and in approachable yet accurate language adds an interesting element to the writing process. So, what are the five most important tasks for science writers?

  1. Go back to the beginning: If your education is in the sciences, go back to the moment when science first took on its appeal. If your education is in the liberal arts, go back to the start of your exploration into this particular aspect of science. Either way, putting yourself back at the starting point puts you at the same point as your least informed reader.
  2. Leave out the jargon: It’s not going to help if you start telling your reader about monoclonal antibodies if they have no clue what any of that means. Neither does it help to explain with a lot of jargon and tech-talk.
  3. Simplify without dumbing down: Your reader is curious and willing to commit the time to reading what you have to say. Put it in terms that build the concept in steps so that, by the end of the piece, the reader is conversant with the concepts you’ve covered.
  4. Use examples from the everyday: Describe your concepts by using everything from Legos to breadmaking. The important thing is to create an experience the reader relates to.
  5. Bring it Home: Be sure to make it relevant by including real-world applications of the science so that your readers can see where it fits, and why it matters, in their lives.

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Did Someone Say Writing Prompts?

Writers write. They also get stuck and can’t think of a thing to say.

Here are 10 prompts to get you started when your brain stalls:

  1. It surprises me when
  2. I also wanted
  3. I wish I hadn’t
  4. The one thing I would do differently
  5. The thing I ever ate
  6. I always wanted to
  7. The best decision I ever made
  8. You’ll know Bob when you see him because
  9. Are you a beach person, a cabin person, or a mountain person?
  10. I love it when 

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2020 Writing Workshops

I’m launching a series of Coaching videos in February. This series will take you from picking out your pencil to completing your first draft. I’m excited to get these up and running. I hope you’ll check them out. Meanwhile, if there’s something you really want to know, please put it in the comments and I’ll include it in the video!


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Getting Started

You know what you want to write about. You just don’t know where to start — you can’t find “your way in.”

This is one of the most common problems for any writer — newbie or not. There are so many ways to tell a story, and so many stories that can be told from a set of facts. Which is the one that is most compelling? Which will hook the audience you’re interested in?

One of the first ways to decide on the way in is to listen to yourself when you tell others about your research. You’ll find that the aspect that “sings” to you is the one you bring up every. single. time. The others? Not so much.

Another way to decide on the way in is to picture yourself speaking to your intended audience. Which parts of what you have to say are the parts that will get them to come and listen to you speak on a rainy fall evening? Some of the info you have is necessary to set the background and to help things make sense, but that can vary with the telling.

None of this is doing it? Sit down and complete this sentence: I’m writing a story about ……………………. When you can finish the sentence in just a few words, you have your narrative thread.

Time to get to work!

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Ready for the Freelance Life

It’s pretty appealing. You write all day. You’re your own boss. You can work from anywhere…

The Freelance Life.

When it works well, it’s phenomenal, but it doesn’t work at all without putting some skin in the game up front. Skin in the game as in planning and preparing for the leap to freelance living.

As a writing coach and small business consultant, I’ve worked with scores of wannabe freelancers. The time they’ve taken to plan their entry into the freelance world has paid off handsomely. These writers have a realistic idea of what to expect, a workable plan to get them to where they want to be, and the confidence to hit the ground running.

The next Writing Plan Class starts May 21st. 


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How Long is a Short Story

Here’s a terrific post on the length of five short stories each, by seven celebrated short story writers.

You’ll find counts for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ray Bradbury, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, and Edgar Allan Poe.

You’ll find counts for A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, Eyes of a Blue Dog, One of These Days, Death Constant Beyond Love; A Sound of Thunder, The Pedestrian, The Small Assassin, The Veldt, There Will Come Soft Rains; Cathedral, Why Don’t You Dance, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, So Much Water So Close To Home, Where I’m Calling From, Hills Like White Elephants, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, A Clean [,] Well-Lighted place, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Indian Camp; Runaway, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Family Furnishings, The Moons of Jupiter, Cortes Island; A Good Man is Hard to Find, The life You Save May Be Your Own, Good Country People, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Parker’s Back; The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat, The Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart.

The long story short {yes. I crack myself up} The average length is 5,100 words.

What do you think?

Success in 2018 – Leslie Siddeley

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Leslie Siddeley's narrative nonfiction piece, Storms and Memory on Ocracoke Island1

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Writing Needs

It would help me to know what sort of writing info interest you. Can you answer these three questions?

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In my roles as a writing coach, editor, and tutor, I get a LOT of questions about grammar. Many of the questioners can recite a rule from childhood – the problem is, the rule didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.

I also get a LOT of questions about how to plan a piece of writing, research it, organize it, and start to write it. For me, those mysteries are no longer mysteries. I actually have actionable advice that leads to results.

The WriteStrong! program is on the SavvyFreelanceWriter Facebook page. It is a place to find answers to those questions. You’ll also find videos, classes, and materials to use to answer your questions and get you writing over the coming months.

Links to my Fiverr gigs – for coaching and writing a book proposal – will be there, too. (When I figure out how to get that to work!)

Meanwhile. Got questions? Ask away!