All Good Things…
This is my last missive as YeahWrite’s nonfiction editor. Well, for now. We joke on the staff that YeahWrite is the “Hotel California” of online writing communities – you know, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. I’ve been a part of YeahWrite in various capacities, with sabbaticals, since 2012 – as participant, as contributing editor, and as nonfiction editor. For all the reasons you keep coming back, I’ll keep hanging around here too – it’s a supportive, fun, challenging way to keep yourself in the practice of writing. So I won’t say goodbye forever, just so long for now.
And I’ll leave you with my top 10 list of things that will make you a better writer of creative nonfiction:
- Remember the reader. Don’t write for yourself. Write for universal impact.
- Show, don’t tell. Use all the literary devices at your fingertips to breathe life into your stories without resorting to thought verbs or bald statements of emotion. In other words, never write: “I felt sad.”
- Use dialogue wisely. Weave in dialogue when the actual words spoken are integral to your plot or literary conflict, or where the vernacular helps you develop your character and her motives.
- Speaking of literary conflict, have one. That’s your “so what.” Your reason for writing. The thing that makes your essay matter.
- Hook your reader. Start off with a bang, employing a killer narrative hook that drops us instantly into a story we want to know more about.
- Get into the flow. The middle of your story is the hardest to organize. Pare away what you don’t need so that every sentence advances your plot, develops your characters, sketches out your setting, and heightens or resolves your literary conflict. Get rid of the rest.
- End without summary, navel-gazing, or neat bows. Trust your reader to fill in the blanks, and resist the urge to add in just one more paragraph telling them how you feel, or how you want them to feel.
- Edit. Then edit again. Edit once for meaning – to ensure that what you’ve written is what you envisioned. Edit another time to cut length – almost every essay I read could benefit from losing 50-500 words. Edit again for nuts and bolts – sentence structure, grammar, and the like. Then edit one more time. Just to be sure.
- Proofread your work. Editing helps you clarify meaning and structure. Proofing is what polishes your work for publication. Don’t skip it.
- Read. Feast on a wide-ranging variety of fiction and nonfiction and poetry, longform journalism and microprose, famous authors and unknown bloggers. Reading makes you a better writer.
Keep in touch! I’m easy to find, and I’ll always be part of the YeahWrite family.
Saving Your Darlings
Reading someone else’s journal (unless the entry is about you) is about as exciting as looking at photos of a vacation to a place you’ve never been and didn’t want to go. But our journals are an important record of our lives, and as nonfiction writers we need that record to tell our stories. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with your old journal entries, or wanted to turn them into the kind of stories a reader wants to know more about, Rowan’s got some tips for you right here.
How to submit and fully participate in the challenge:
Basic YeahWrite guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events.
1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the nonfiction badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry;
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid;
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message;
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge; and
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog.
Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.
Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…
About the author:
Cindy is an Asheville-based freelance writer, editor, and writing coach. A former attorney, she writes frequently on the topic of criminal justice reform in addition to blogging on her personal site The Reedster Speaks. Her work has appeared on Brain Child, The Huffington Post, the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, and WhatToExpect.com. She is a four-time recipient of BlogHer’s Voices of the Year award and, here at YeahWrite, acts as its Nonfiction Editor. Cindy frequently speaks on the craft of writing and teaches the creative nonfiction boot camp “What’s Your Story?” through her professional site cindyreed.me.