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The Skillful Writer: What Separates the Pros from the Amateurs

The Skillful Writer: What Separates the Pros from the Amateurs

Автором Bobbi Linkemer

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The Skillful Writer: What Separates the Pros from the Amateurs

Автором Bobbi Linkemer

120 pages
1 hour
Feb 12, 2016


A skillful writer is one who respects and continually hones his/her craft. There are as many opinions on what it takes to become a skillful writer as there are writers. Many of them are worth considering, especially when they are the opinions of seasoned, successful writers. In The Skillful Writer: What separates the pros from the amateurs, every chapter begins with a quote from a best-selling author or a well-known expert in his/her field.
For example, an observation from Maya Angelou”— “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have”—sets the stage for a chapter on creative writing. The art of discipline is addressed by Dr. Seuss, and permission to write a very messy first draft by Lawrence Block. Harper Lee shares her feelings about handling criticism, and Michael Jordan, who isn’t an author, explains a subject he knows well: how to overcome obstacles.
These quotes are all inspirational, and that’s just how they are used—as inspiration for each chapter on some aspect of skillful writing. Veteran author Bobbi Linkemer brought her own interpretation of other authors’ words. When Annie Dillard, author of Bird by Bird, encouraged writers to “Give it, give it all, give it now,” Bobbi wrote, “Annie Dillard is a professional. Professionals make a mess and go back and clean it up later. I think she means, when you sit down to write, give it everything you’ve got. Don’t tidy your sentences as you go. Get in a state of flow or the zone or whatever you call it.”
In thirty-seven brief chapters, best-selling authors and other celebrities provide the foundation for advice on how to develop the necessary skills to become a pro. Writing this book was a learning experience for the author. It was also fun, and it is an exercise every writer should try. First, find a meaningful quote that applies to writing in some way. Type it at the top of the page, take a moment to think about what it means to you, and start writing. Let your mind run free. Allow yourself to g
Feb 12, 2016

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The Skillful Writer - Bobbi Linkemer


Alchemy: Writing Through Tough Times

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. – Michael Jordan

When you are a writer, life has a funny way of throwing you a curve when you least expect it. You’re going along—writing a story or an article or a poem or a book—when, without warning, something happens that stops you cold. It could be something small, like a cold, or huge, like a divorce. But whatever it is, it activates your stress response, and you can’t write another word.

It happens to everyone. In fact, it is inevitable. The question is, what do you do about it? When stress takes over your life, do you fold or fight? I propose an entirely different approach—one that has worked for me for many years. I think of it as alchemy, and I confess that it does have a certain magical quality.

Something bad happens (bad being a relative term), but as a professional writer, you can’t just stop and feel sorry for yourself. You have to go on. On the other hand, whatever has happened is real. If you’re sick, you’re sick. If your life just fell apart, you can’t pretend everything is rosy.

So, here is where alchemy comes in. What you have to do is convert lead into gold—in other words, negative, stressful energy into creativity. And the way to do that is to write right through the mess. I don’t mean pour your heart out to your journal; I mean write whatever it is you’re supposed to be writing. For example, you just broke up with your significant other, and your heart is broken (well, it feels broken). You could write poetry about broken hearts, or you could get down to business and finish your feature article, marketing materials, or a chapter of your book.

No, you’re not in the mood. You’d rather eat ice cream or watch a sad movie or meet a buddy for a beer. But waiting to get in the mood is like waiting for inspiration to show up. You may have a long wait. So you do what you do best: you write. Your subject matter may bore you to tears, at least initially, but once you get into it, the topic will suddenly become much more interesting. The trick is to put your fingers on the keys and just keep on keeping on. No stopping. You have a job to do, so do it.

And the most amazing thing happens. You get into a state of flow and become lost in the work. Your problems didn’t evaporate. That’s not real life. But somehow, magically, you turn those problems into positive creative energy. It’s difficult to explain how or why this works, but I have experienced it enough times in my career to have absolute faith in this process.

Try it the next time you’re feeling sad or hurt or even sick. You will become a believer.

Back to Basics: The Art of Writing

For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word. —Catherine Drinker Bowen

Ihave been blogging about how to write, publish, and promote a nonfiction book for several years from every perspective I could think of, except one—writing—the cornerstone of every book. I’m not sure why I have not written about the art of writing until now. Perhaps I thought, well, if you’re writing a book, it’s a given that you can write. Right? No, not necessarily.

One of the hats I wear is that of editor, and, if there is one thing I know, it is that writing well is not a skill most people (including authors) have perfected. Of course, all writers need an editor, and I am most grateful for that. If they didn’t, I would be out of a job. But sometimes, they need more than an editor; they need a ghostwriter—someone to take what is on the page, figure out what it means, and rewrite the whole thing.

There have been many times when I have read a paragraph or even a single sentence that made absolutely no sense to me. No matter how many times I read it, I couldn’t figure out what the author was trying to say. It was like translating Greek, which is not one of my strong suits. Somewhere in that short piece of writing, there must have been some meaning, but it had been obscured by flawed writing. You’d be amazed at how many ways there are to destroy a simple sentence, from impossibly passive writing to overkill with adjectives or adverbs.

Where do people learn to write that way? More to the point, why didn’t they ever learn to construct a simple, declarative sentence with a subject (who or what) and a predicate (takes some action)? Yes, that can make for dull reading, which is why we have all those other more colorful words and parts of speech. At the heart of any sentence are two elements: someone or something that does something (e.g., the dog ran). All the rest is commentary.

Let me say at the outset that I am not an English teacher or a grammarian, so I do not intend to quote Strunk and White or the Chicago Manual of Style in these chapters. My purpose is simply to help you build the foundation of your book with the only tools at your disposal: the right words organized and expressed in the right way.

Consider Your Options

I considered my options. There were only two, and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. ? Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

The person who knows exactly what she wants to do for a living, pursues her chosen career, and sticks with it for life is both fortunate and rare. Most people have no idea at eighteen or twenty-two what they will do or even

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