An Alternative to Reading Your Own Writing Out Loud When It’s Time to Revise (Plus, Some of My Favorite Audiobook Narrators)

One piece of common writing advice is to read your writing out loud to see how it sounds. For me, a more helpful way to get a sense of the “sound” of a piece of writing is to spend a few minutes listening to an audiobook that’s both well written AND has an amazing narrator. If you listen long enough, the narrator’s voice becomes the voice in your head when you sit down to reread your own writing. Suddenly, unnecessary words or unclear phrasing become obvious, and you hear the poetic potential in lines that felt straightforward when you wrote them. Plus, the well-honed style of a professional voice-actor offers a less jarring version of your work than your own voice in an empty room. While writing and revising Adequate Yearly Progress, this habit became so invaluable that I repeatedly listened to specific sections of certain books depending on which part of my own book I was working on – kind of an audio-chapter playlist.


Teaching High School English Taught Me to Read Like A Writer. Here’s the Biggest Trick I Learned.

It’s a well-known, well-worn word of writing-world advice – almost a cliche at this point: The best writers are readers. This is true, of course. Without more context, though, it’s not specific enough to be useful. A decade of teaching high school English taught me a more workable version of this. The best writers don’t just read. They read like writers. And the best writers know that if you pay close attention, you can reverse-engineer much of what you love about other authors’ writing.


Five Luxuriously Literary Lists from Popular Books (And How to Write Your Own)

You don’t always know when you’re reading a list. Sometimes, you just notice you’re reading something wonderful, which means – if you’re me – you highlight the passage, not quite sure what you’re going to do with it, just sure you want to be able to find it again. Then one day, while planning a writing workshop, you sort through these favorite passages and realize that many of them are really just lists. Short lists that barely seem like lists. Long lists that seem almost too long until they end with a bang. Lists that wander in and out of the list format. Lists of questions. Lists that pause the action and force the reader to pay attention to every tiny detail of a moment. Lists that feel like poetry. You get the idea. Here are 5 of my favorite examples of literary lists, plus a prompt to help you write your own. (more…)

Six Quotes that Will Change the Way You Look at Familiar Words (Plus, a Writing Prompt)

Sometimes all it takes is a few lines of writing to change the way you think of a familiar word. The quotes below use well-word vocabulary words with such original definitions, contexts, or explanations that you may never see the words in quite the same way again. Will you jealously wish you had written the lines below? Probably. With that in mind, there’s a prompt at the bottom of this post to help inspire your own word-redefining writing. (more…)

Thoughts on Writing: Who is the Eye Behind the Microscope? (Or: Who is the “I” Behind the Microscope?)

The title of a writing workshop I recently taught was Microscope Vs. Telescope. As a writer or reader, you can think of description as a lens focused on a topic. And the topic – who or what the story is about – is usually obvious. A masterful writer, though, makes us think not only about what the lens is focusing on, but the character on the other side of that lens. What can we tell about the character whose perspective we’re following? In what direction does this character choose to point the microscope? What details does this person notice? And what can we learn about the character from the way the way he or she focuses on those details? Here are four excerpts from writers who do an especially good job showing the “I” behind the microscope. (more…)