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Writing with precision is not just a pet peeve

startribune.com – Saturday September 7, 2019

A hawk-eyed reader has delivered me a dose of comeuppance.

He challenged my assertion that there is no such word as “upcoming.” I recently described “upcoming” as an expedient combination of “coming” and “up” — designed to save money on telegraph service, which charged by the word.

“Hawkeye” pointed out that “upcoming” has become a dictionary-approved word. You can look it up.

I did.

Guilty as charged. 

It’s just that “upcoming” has been as much of a pet peeve to me as “hopefully” was to the late New York Times columnist William Safire.

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Habits of Highly Effective Writers

nytimes.com – Saturday September 7, 2019

Some always outline; others never do. Some write in cafes or Airbnbs; others don’t leave the house. Here’s a peek at the writing habits of authors on this week’s best-seller lists.

Jia Tolentino, the New Yorker journalist whose essay collection, “Trick Mirror,” has been on the list for four weeks, told The Creative Independent that when she got her book contract, “I found that I couldn’t switch into book-writing very easily … in part because I work at home. I needed to physically be totally alone and be in a different place to get going.” So she “started renting upstate Airbnbs for four days at the beginning of every month, as a way to bang out” her rough draft.

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Low-pay writing

By James A. Haught
Editor Emeritus, The Charleston Gazette

firstwriter.com – Tuesday September 3, 2019

Moliere said: “Writing is like pr__t_t_tion. First you do it for the love of it. Then you do it for a few friends. And finally you do it for money.”

Unfortunately, many of today’s writers can’t attain the level of a self-supporting h__ker, because markets and communications have evolved into strange new territory.

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Ten tips for writing for audio

thebookseller.com – Monday September 2, 2019

As a university writing tutor it can be embarrassingly tiresome to always practise what you preach. But 5,000 words is not a daunting challenge, not an Annapurna, nor even a Munro, except . . .

Except that these 5,000 words must lift themselves from the page and fly from the mouth of a narrator into the ear of a listener. They must convince by their authenticity. They must instantly engage, hold and persuade the listener to join in a secret communion. As a BBC radio producer, the watchword (we didn’t have mission statements or mantras back then) was always "take me there and make me care".

Our duty was to bring the listener on a journey, and make sure they stayed on the voyage until the final second. No small task these days with a magnitude of offerings to tempt us to detour this way and that.

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Writing Fiction about Real People

historynewsnetwork.org – Sunday September 1, 2019

Biographers can report what happened to their subject and when; they can also suggest reasons why it happened. But only a novelist can climb inside the subject’s head and describe their innermost thoughts and insecurities. It’s in that secret place, hidden behind the bare facts of a life, that I like to write.

The recent trend for biographical novels about strong historical women has produced some cracking reads: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie’s My Dear Hamilton, Stephanie Marie Thornton’s American Princess, and the works of Paula McLain, of which my favourite is The Paris Wife.  In the UK Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory are perennially popular with their insider stories of the Tudor and Stuart monarchies, and many other novelists have dipped their pens in the biographical inkwell. None of them is attempting to rewrite history – it is always clear they are writing fiction – but they want to go deeper than the history books allow.

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Can You Write a Novel as a Group?

newyorker.com – Friday August 30, 2019

It all started on a weekend away for the Booksluts, a Sydney book club with the motto “We’ll read anything.” Six of the group’s eight regular members were discussing “Crime and Punishment,” and talking about the club’s upcoming tenth anniversary, which they dreamed of celebrating with a Trans-Siberian Railway trip. They jokingly decided that they would fund the trip by writing a novel together. Much vodka had been consumed by this point, and plot discussions degenerated into mass hysterics.

But the next morning the friends went out and bought butcher paper and Sharpies and spent all day brainstorming. They decided that their novel would be a rural romance, set in the Australian outback, and agreed on the backstory of their heroine, a city girl who inherits the farm where her father—now mysteriously disappeared—grew up. Sparks would fly when she meets the handsome (and engaged) cattle farmer next door.

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How I’m using AI to write my next novel

vox.com – Friday August 30, 2019

I expect to suffer some degree of writer’s block pretty much every day for the rest of my life. I’m a journalist and a novelist; it comes with the territory. But I have a feeling I’m going to suffer less from now on, thanks to my new best friend, GPT-2.

Let me back up a bit: Six months ago, the research lab OpenAI created an AI system that generates text — from fake news to poetry — that in some cases actually sounds like it’s written by a human being. The OpenAI team has been rolling it out in stages, each time giving us a more powerful version of the language model they dubbed GPT-2, and carefully watching to see how we use it.

They’ve just put out the most powerful version yet. It boasts 50 percent of the power of the full version, which has yet to be released. As you can tell by trying it out for yourself, this model is already plenty powerful.

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Changing Agents Gracefully

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach

firstwriter.com – Thursday August 29, 2019

I’m leaving Dork Associates, Mr. Dork. But it’s nothing personal.

Most agents are, in reality, pretty nice people. Your own current agent might be witty and charming—but you don’t have an agent for entertainment sake. You want someone to represent you who is both connected and knowledgeable. 

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Want to Learn How to ‘Nail the Jelly of Reality to the Wall’?

nytimes.com – Tuesday August 27, 2019

A well-formed sentence, Joe Moran writes in his humane and witty guide to meaning-making, “is a cure, however fleeting, for human loneliness.” We all write more sentences now than ever, but how hard do we think about the shape of these etheric objects? A good sentence is a considerate gift; or maybe it’s an easeful, mapless walk with your reader, through a new city — but it might also be a high-wire act (audience agog for disaster). Moran’s book contains many such metaphors for the sentence, and at least one for figurative language itself: “Metaphor is how we nail the jelly of reality to the wall.” Is the sentence a transaction, or is it an artifact? Polished performance or open invitation? “First You Write a Sentence” is a “muted love letter” to the form, arguing in its genially opinionated way for sentences that make our lives more democratic and more pleasurable.

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A grab bag of common writing mistakes to ponder

startribune.com – Saturday August 24, 2019

Lest you come home from the Minnesota State Fair empty-handed, here’s a grab bag of parting gifts — a collection of common writing mistakes and ways to correct them.

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