Your outlines are useless. You need a fat outline.

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When you’re planning to write, but before you’re actually writing, you create an outline. Unfortunately, most outlines are worthless. You need a better outline: a fat outline. Outlines are helpful for mapping out the structure of a long piece of writing — anything more than 1,000 words (a couple of pages). An outline ought to help the … Continued

The enduring wisdom of William Zinsser

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When William Zinsser died in May, his obituaries praised his his book On Writing Well, originally published in 1976. It sold 1.5 million copies and, according to the back cover, was “[c]ited by critics as the natural companion of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style” (of course). So I read the copy I found for a … Continued

Intriguing meta-title: Ceci n’est pas un blog post

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All good blog posts are the same. They begin with a startling idea that grabs you right off. Like sitcoms or romance novels, they have a formula. You get sucked in, even though you subconsciously know this. Have you noticed the rhythm that blog posts share — and the fact that many start with a rhetorical question? Then they add some detail … Continued

Erika Heilman on Bibliomotion, a worthwhile partner for authors

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Bibliomotion is more than a publisher, it’s a partner for authors. They focus on building your business around your book. If you’re looking for a publishing partner that focuses on the challenges of authors rather than the size of the advance, Boston-based Bibliomotion is worth a look. Here’s my interview with Erika Heilman, Bibliomotion’s cofounder and publisher. … Continued

Lessons of the steely-eyed squeaker swiper: Christopher L. Gasper’s metaphor overload

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Christopher L. Gasper is a Boston Globe sportswriter. His metaphors startle the reader, jarring you from the trance of reading and making you say “wha?” Learn from his excesses. I’ve recommended that you avoid cliches in your writing. Don’t say “dumb as a post” if you can say “dopey as Sarah Palin.” But there’s a limit. When … Continued

Lacking confidence at work? Writing is your path forward.

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You might be new at work. You might be shy. Maybe you’re just not at your best in person. Learning to write without bullshit could be the best way to boost your career. We all have an image of the “leaders” at work. They can stand in front of a group and inspire us. They’re … Continued

What we say, and what we actually mean, about the Paris attacks

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I am strongly, deeply, and clearly opposed to the terrorist attacks in Paris. Sounds strangely flat, doesn’t it? Why state what everyone knows? Shouldn’t I be writing about thoughts and prayers, or the causes of terrorism, or vengeance, or something? As I watched the flood of messages on social media this weekend, I became fascinated by … Continued

How to rewrite a book in one day (with sticky notes)

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In 2009, Ted Schadler and I had a problem. The back half of our book Empowered wasn’t working. This is how we fixed it. We were nearing the manuscript deadline for Empowered, Ted’s and my book about strategies to deal with empowered consumers and workers. The front half of the book, about consumers (and marketing), was holding together pretty … Continued