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Cultivating Your Craft in the Digital Age

Published on Thursday, July 15, 2010 by

I am in the process of clearing out, cleaning up and de-cluttering in the anticipation of a move …I hope the move doesn’t happen, so nevertheless this clean up must happen. In my clean up I found a copy of a 1980 Writer’s Handbook.  I though it might be interesting to provide some tips and tricks from this book, for reflection up on what has changed and what has not.

The Writers Handbook is an anthology of a series of articles written by different authors. The first article I read was Manuscript Preparation by Joyce Smith.  The following are highlights from that article:

*    The manuscript must be typed, double spaced on standard 8.5 x 11 white paper, on one
side of the page only.

*    If a page had only one or two errors the corrections may be made neatly in ink by crossing out the whole word and writing it correctly in the space immediately above.  An omitted word in a short phrase may be inserted in the space above it, with a slant line or caret to indicate the correct place for insertion.

*    If you are submitting a manuscript following a positive response to your query letter you         may indicate this fact in a brief note accompanying your manuscript.

Checklist for a Salable Article by Louise Boggess

*    Ask yourself who will want to read your article. If very few, find another idea.

*    In any published article you can find one short sentence that will summarize the entire piece.    Called a “capsule statement” it will summarize your specific  approach to a general subject.

*    Most writers begin their research by reading a general account of the subject in an encyclopedia.  After doing that you can do further research in the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature for the last five years to see what articles have beenpublished on the subject.

When You Need a Nonfiction Idea, Max Gunther

“Instead of waiting for ideas to come from nowhere, a nonfiction writer should:”

*    Talk to people:  go to parties even though you hate parties, go to school board meetings, join bridge clubs, sell greeting cards door to door.

*    Read newspapers hungrily.  “Only a newspaper can give you the depth, the background, the odd insights that can trigger a salable idea.

*    Read magazines:  Read the unfamiliar, the obscure ones, the ones that operate beyond your normal range of interests.  Doing this can trigger fresh thought in  your head.

Mind your own experiences:  you have done and are doing many things in your life that may seem dull and routinely familiar to you but these same things may be interesting even fascinating to other people who aren’t living them everyday.

The Personal Article:  Else Russell

What is it?

Look around you..what amuses you?  What sets you apart?  What do you feel strongly about?

1) Narrative, personal experience
2) Memory, recall, nostalgia
3) Human, gripes, everyday frustrations
4) Opinion, belief, take a stand
5) Profile, tribute to someone

I felt I could see, in the above passages, the changes that technology has made in our writing, how blogging has changed what and how we share our personal experiences.  Technology and changes in what we read has also changed how we find inspiration.  Many of these changes have actually provided expanded opportunities for writers to share what they write.

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