Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On Editing & Revising: Read Your Work Backwards

Yes, you read the title correctly: Read your work backwards. Start with the last sentence and then your next to last sentence. This editing and revising trick will allow you to focus on the punctuation and grammar, rather than the content.

Anything you can do to slow down your re-reading of a draft will help you to better edit and revise your work. Read your work aloud, too, as you read your manuscript backwards. We all tend to skim a bit when we read and reading aloud doesn't allow you to do that. If you stumble as you read, look closely at your syntax, word choice, grammar and punctuation. Maybe you simply stumbled or maybe something in your sentence is unclear.

You might also be interested in reading posts about strong verbs and editing vs. revising

Looking for more individual help as you draft, edit and revise your writing? I'm available to work with you one-on-one as your private writing coach. Click through to read more about my services and email me today: ChloeMiller(at)gmail.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Keep Your Drafts

Stop! Don't throw your draft(s) into the electronic or metal trashcan. Instead, save each draft. Devise a method (with dates, numbers or letters) to organize your drafts. You might make changes and then decide to return to an original approach.

I particularly love how you can make major changes to your writing and then undo them by returning to an earlier draft. The act of making large changes, like shifting a first person narrative into a third person narrative, might teach you something about your characters. You might find that a piece works better in the new voice or you might bring some lessons about the characters back into the original approach. Not only have you not harmed the piece, but you've learned something.

So, stop deleting and start saving.

For more, see my post How to Save Poetry Drafts Electronically.

Do you save your drafts? What kind of organizational system to do you use to save your drafts? I look forward to reading your Comments below. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Read Like a Writer

As you read through those delicious books you saved for summer, slow down and read like a writer. Here are a three tips: 

1. Be a critic. Notice what you like and don't like. 

If you like something, return to the text and notice how the moment was created. Was it the verbs? Description? Suspense? You might outline the section or the entire piece in order to uncover the skeleton behind the writing. How did the writer create that moment? Learn craft from the text. 

And if you didn't like something? Do the same. Then avoid recreating the same structure in your own writing. 

2. Read the work, all or part, aloud. Listen for the music in the sentences. Reading aloud will slow you down so that you can savor the beauty, rather than just the plot, of the writing. 

3. Study the grammar. Notice where the author used long sentences and short ones in order to alter the pace. What kind of language did the author use? Did she break rules in order to grab the reader's attention? Is she writing more formally or using colloquial slang? Grammar offers guidelines, but it changes with usage. The author is potentially a part of that larger change. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Writing Prompt: Deep Breaths

Even Union Station, D.C., can be peaceful 
if you look up and take three deep breaths

We encourage our son to take three deep breaths when he's frustrated. The purposeful act of pausing, breathing in and breathing out changes your emotions and sense of being, as mediators know well.

For today's prompt, sit in a quiet, cool and dim space. Move away from the hectic work/work/sunshine/rainstorm excitement of summer and take three deep breaths. Notice where the breaths take you physically, emotionally and creatively.

Set a timer and write for ten minutes. Don’t worry about spelling or writing in complete sentences. Just jot down ideas as them come to you. If you can’t think of anything, write, “I don’t know what to write” until you get bored with that and start to think about something else. 

The prompt might lead you in a different direction and your result might not have anything to do with the five senses or even summer. But that’s the idea – it is a prompt to get you started. 

I'd love to know where you end up, if you'd like to share your thoughts in the Comments section below. 

Click through for more writing prompts

Monday, June 29, 2015

You Are A Writer

Looking for inspiration? Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg 
is a great starting point with prompts and more. 

My emails to creative writing students begin with the greeting, "Dear Writers."

It may sound a little woo woo, but the first step to being a writer is thinking of yourself as a writer. That's right, I'm talking to you. The writer reading this writer's blog. You.

The next step is to introduce yourself as a writer. It may not be your day job, but it is something that's important to you. It is the lens through which you comprehend the world. Visual artists might focus on colors and shapes, dancers on movement and you, words. Because you are a writer.

You. Are. A. Writer.

You read, write, edit, and submit your work. You take the practice and business of writing seriously. You talk to other writers, attend readings, and think about your work throughout the day. Your writing and ideas build upon what you've read and experienced.

You write.

You write because you are a writer.

Honor your writing by making sure you fulfill the obligations of writing. Carve out space and time for your practice. Dedicate time and space to writing. That is all to say: Write, writer. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Continuing to Workshop After a Class @ Politics & Prose Bookstore

I encourage my Politics and Prose memoir writing students to continue to workshop their new pieces in small groups after the class ends. I was very happy to hear about a small group that formed after a recent class! Read more about their experience below.

Interested in taking a Memoir Writing Workshop with me at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.? The next class starts Tuesday, July 21. Click through for more details and register through the bookstore.

Continuing to Workshop After Class

Terry, Donna, Gil, and Iemi met during the February 2015 session of Chloe’s memoir class at Politics and Prose. The class was around 15 students and Chloe created small groups for critiquing and discussing pieces.

The afterglow of the last day of class kept going for this group. The group started off with the commitment of meeting every other week. Then, life started to happen. Now the group meets when the various schedules align.

Over tea and coffee at Bread and Chocolate, the group critiques the memoir pieces that started in Chloe’s class. Every once in a while, an individual member will lead a group discussion.

Chloe is a very inspirational instructor who provides her students with a sense of structure. The group is very happy to have carried on the excitement and commitment from Chloe’s class.


Terry Michael was a magazine editor and writer in New York City for ten years.  Prior to this Terry worked in Hollywood reading scripts and assisting wildly creative, difficult producers and directors.  Both environments were exciting but tough, competitive, and easy places to burn out or excel. Terry burned out.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.  It forces you to find what you loved doing in the first place.  Terry was nine when Terry started writing on a junior portable typewriter.  Using her Nancy Drew book, Terry typed each chapter word for word – adding a sentence of my own here and there. Terry loved doing it. That’s when she became a writer.  So recently, she brought out Nancy Drew’s The Clue of the Broken Locket and started typing it up, took a class in memoir writing, and became a writer again.

Donna Marshall Constantinople was born in Boston, Massachusetts and resides in Washington, DC and Blue Hill, Maine.  She studied at Northwestern University where she received her Bachelor of Arts majoring in economics and political science. She was a founding partner and president of KMA Communications, a Washington, DC based management consulting firm providing counsel to non-profits and corporations both national and international. In addition to serving on Boards, she is currently both an artist and a writer working on a memoir of her experiences living in the DC area.

Gil Kline has almost 40 years experience in the following roles:
       Created four film/broadcast documentaries (topics range from Machu Picchu to Alcoholism, to rural health care to water use);
       As media consultant, created and implemented many national public education campaigns, largely for public interest organizations in areas of criminal justice reform, health reform, education reform, population issues, etc
       Wrote/edited op-eds, book reviews, educational publications, various other formats. 
Gil Kline lives in Washington, D.C.  with his goldfish, “Harry.”

Iemi Hernandez-Kim’s first name is pronounced as yeh-me. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY. She went to NYU. She spends a lot of time and money on comic books. Her first love is animation. She lives in Washington, DC.

Starting your own writing workshop? Click through for some tried and true tips. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Get in Shape for Summer: Muscular Verbs

Your verbs push and pull the action through your writing. I think of them as the muscle. As you edit and revise your work, underline each verb. Then review them to test their strength as individual and a collection of verbs woven through your piece.

Each verb should give as much information as possible. For example, if I write, "She enters the room," the reader only knows that a female was outside of the room and is now inside the room. If I write, "She skitters into the room," or "She skips into the room," an image and emotional understanding of this character grows. The reader gains insight into the character herself, as well as her movement in space.

For more on verbs, visit my post Strong Verbs: Hefty, Hefty, Hefty.