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Make Yourself a Cheat Sheet and Avoid Common Errors in Writing

In my last entry, “Overcome Fear of Writing Even Though You Can’t Spell,” I told you to not let your weakness in mechanics, grammar, and spelling (MGS) stop you from writing your next bestseller. In this entry, I give you a brief cheat sheet to help you avoid common writing errors. How many of them do you make? Brief Cheat Sheet Comma splices Separating two sentences with a comma instead of proper end punctuation: “It rained all day, I stayed inside.” Run-on sentences The same as comma splices except that when the first sentence ends you go straight to the second with no end punctuation at all: “It rained all day I stayed inside.” Subject-predicate and antecedent-pronoun disagreement Historically a problem because the English language had no recognized third-person singular […]

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Overcome Fear of Writing Even Though You Can’t Spell

Are you a reluctant writer with a fear of writing because you’re no good at mechanics, grammar, and spelling (MGS)? Don’t be. John Steinbeck Couldn’t Spell John Steinbeck is my all-time favorite author. He could be serious and heavily political, as in The Grapes of Wrath, his classic story of migrant workers trying to find dignity and the American dream during the Depression era of the thirties. And he could be hilarious, as in The Short Reign of Pippin IV, his short satire on the French political system. When I was writing my first novel, Beercans on the Side of the Road: The Story of Henry the Hitchhiker, whenever I got a mental block and didn’t know where to go next, I could pick out any book from my vast […]

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The Perfect Question Brings Bernard Peace

Bernard Mednicki committed an act so horrific he repressed it for forty-five years. Then I interviewed him and asked him one perfect question. Bernard Flees Nazis, Buries a Secret Bernard Mednicki was a Belgian Jew who fled to France with his wife and two children when the Nazis invaded in 1940. In France, they assumed a Christian identity and settled in Volvic, a small town in the mountainous southern region. There, a chance encounter with a prominent Nazi collaborator forced Bernard to confess his Jewish roots. What happened next led directly to his becoming part of the Maquis, the French resistance. While there, he committed a crime so unspeakable, he buried it in his memory and never spoke of it again. It silently taunted him. Bernard Refutes a Myth I […]

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Digital Interviews: Absolutely – but Keep Notetaking

You lined up a personal interview for your book? Congratulations. Have you tried digital interviews? A digital interview gives you a permanent record whose content you can refer to later or reuse in another format. How many video snippets can you extract from an hour interview, for instance? It fills in those segments of information that you miss in your notetaking. It is insurance that you don’t, for instance, write 179 when you mean to write 197. Listening to your interview later is an opportunity for you to critique your performance. End of Notetaking as We Know It? Digital recorders make it so easy to record an interview, including using your phone if you want, that you might be tempted to just put away your pen and paper or laptop. […]

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Email and Video Interviews: Easy and Fast

For the intimate thrill of the experience, in-person personal interviews can’t be beat. But how do you interview experts who are out of your travel area? You have at least two options: email and video interviews. Email Interviews For simplicity and convenience on both ends, go for the email interview when you can. They’re easier to set up; easier to conduct; and easier for interviewees to answer questions clearly and at their own convenience (though give a deadline by when you need the answers). And you don’t need to transcribe them. Likely you’ll receive answers that are longer and more detailed than you need. They’ll include typos, repetition, and extraneous anecdotes. You can edit them. Get rid of puff. Delete redundancy. Shape the answer to fit your space. But never […]

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