All writers know the warning against goofing off, but few appreciate that every story has two sides.

by Hyphenman on Oct 10, 2013

Say you’re a writer who’d rather waste time than write. Go ahead. Enjoy yourself in a guilt-free atmosphere. It might just be the antidote to what ails you.
goofing off05web

That’s the admittedly unconventional recommendation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford.

When a fellow author and close friend lamented about being depressed over not writing and feeling aimless, Ford advised: “Try turning on the TV. That always works for me. I forget about writing the second SportsCenter comes on.”

Ford, who won the Pulitzer for Independence Day, the second in a trilogy about a former sportswriter, practically brags about not writing. He takes breaks from it and makes no apologies.

goofing Ford_Richard-web-a“Most writers write too much,” he says. “Some writers write way too much, gauged by the quality of their accumulated oeuvre.”

Writing every day – or even six days a week – is not a good idea for many if not most of us. Why? Lots of reasons. For one thing, you get too close to the material; you lose perspective.

First and foremost, however, is that writing is about quality, not quantity.
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Just like cops, writers have to be on the lookout for crime. It’s lurking in nearly everything we read. You can’t arrest the scofflaws, but you can put a stop to the violations in your own writing.

by Hyphenman on May 15, 2013

BOLO is an acronym for “be on the lookout for,” an advisory to law enforcement officers to keep an eye out for a particular suspect. It’s a useful advisory to writers as well.

The criminals in the latter case are the rule-breakers who flout the standards of the English language. They do it by misspelling words, committing grammatical errors, using bad punctuation, choosing wrong or inappropriate words, engaging in leaps of faith, and a hundred other infractions that do a basic disservice to the art of communicating.

To detect such lapses requires the eagle eye of a Sherlock Holmes.

You can’t stop the mistakes, of course, but you’ve got to catch them. It’s crucial to your success as a writer.

I say this not only from the perspective of a longtime copyeditor who got paid to catch such errors but as an equally longtime reporter who had to guard against making the same errors myself.

And that’s the value of being ever on the alert in every single [read more]



    • "The Guerrilla Guide to Dynamite Fiction" is temporarily on hold while I finish a humorous picture book. Please be patient.
    • COMING SOON: The Discipline of Writing: When to Pull Out the Whip
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