The Joy of Rewriting: 5 Quick Style Boosters


Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

—Mark Twain

So, I can pretty much assume that if you’re like pretty much every other writer, you’re really likely to have very many stylistic tics that very often sneak into nearly everything you write.


Qualifiers, get lost. Let’s try that again, without the qualifiers.

You’re likely to have stylistic tics that sneak into your writing.

Elements_of_Style_cover  Eleven words instead of 33, just by eliminating qualifiers. I learned this rule when I was 16 and my father thrust Strunk & White: The Elements of Style into my hands. Read it ASAP. Buy a copy or read it online ( If you could only read one book about writing and rewriting, this is it.

Basically, the rules of style are: Cut the fat. Use the active voice. Get to the point.

The Joy of Rewriting: 12 Questions to Ask on the First Pass

Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away.”—Helen Dunmore

“The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. …If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” —Neil Gaiman

Recently my son and I purchased an avocado grove. The trees were planted in 1971 and grew until they filled the acreage with leaf-to-leaf canopy. When you first look at the property, it looks like the planting part of our work is done. All we have to do is pick the fruit.

avogrove  But some of the trees have died due to disease. Others have died from drought. Open spaces punctuate the landscape. And current research has revealed an entirely new approach to planting and growing avocados that will conserve water, reduce labor, and increase the yield.

Our farm needs editing. 

Delivery: 6 Quick Tips for Better Voice Control

You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” –John Ford


Dianalecture1  Nerves can kill any performance, live or recorded. While being nervous can make you forget lines, stutter, stumble, and sweat like you’re under a giant heat lamp, one of the main things it affects is your voice.

People squeak when they’re nervous. They stutter. They stumble. They develop verbal tics—uh, um, like…. Their voices get high. They talk too fast. They talk too slowly.

My father used to say, “Nervousness is misplaced energy.” When I imagine placing my energy effectively, I picture wind rushing through a tunnel rather than scattering across a broad landscape. The idea is to put that energy to work for you instead of against you.

Here are 6 quick tips.

Prewriting: Two Ways to Refine Your Core Idea before You Start Typing

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” –Abraham Lincoln

bike  I went out early this morning for an 8-mile bike ride along the Rio Grande. I wanted to exercise before it got too hot, but I also wasn’t ready to write this blog.

I’d done some of my prewriting work last night by researching what other writers have to say about the process. Prewriting is the stage when you generate ideas and then sift through those ideas to decide what your topic will be, as well as the slant on the topic. (Slant = Your take on the topic)

My research revealed what I already knew: the most common ways to prep are to brainstorm, free-write, do research, mind map, follow writing prompts, and outline—or some combination of these.

As I read, my mind was saying, “Blah, blah, blah. Same old thing. I don’t want to write about any of this. It’s too well known.”

I considered dropping the topic, but instead decided to let it percolate until I could get to something fresher. I went to bed and headed out for my bike ride soon after rising. While I rode, I let ideas float up. I asked myself what I really do when I prepare for writing—in addition to the standard approaches (all valid but only a piece of this puzzle).