Quick-Tip Tuesday: Lessons From a Concert

A little over a week ago, I saw Edgar Meyer in concert. Edgar Meyer, for those of you who don’t know, plays double bass, the HUGE acoustic bass that you see in jazz bands and classical symphonies. And saying that Meyer “plays bass” is bit like saying that Willie Mays “played baseball.” Meyer is a virtuoso, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and someone who has excelled in classical, folk, bluegrass, and jazz circles. You might know him from the Appalachian Waltz and Appalachian Journey recordings he did with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor.

This was a solo concert. He opened with the Bach Suite for Solo Cello no. 1, which he adapted for double bass. Brilliant. Then he played a work in progress — a concerto he’s composing. He had the first and third movements just about complete, but he was still working on the middle of the […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: More Fixes For a Broken Manuscript

In my last Quick-Tip Tuesday post, I wrote about fixing a broken manuscript by setting it aside for a good long time — months — and then reading it through fresh, with an eye toward finding that place where it went off the rails. That was what I did with my work in progress, and it worked amazingly well.

Today I have a couple of additional suggestions for dealing with a broken or recalcitrant manuscript. These grew out of a conversation I had recently with a student I’m mentoring. She is struggling with her manuscript right now, and she’s at that point in the writing process — 60-70% done — that has always given me fits. Seriously, stalling at the 2/3 mark in a book is so much part of my routine that it became a joke of sorts in my household. It has plagued me since my first book […]

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Some of Magical Words Folks

A bunch of us will be the Cabarrus County Library, in NC, today–Saturday, 9-25.


Come see us!


Quick-Tip Tuesday: Fixing a Broken Manuscript

Confession time: There are times when I will find myself ignoring advice that I have given here on Magical Words, or in other teaching situations. For whatever reason — convenience, time, laziness, the sense, right or wrong, that I’ve “outgrown” some of the things I believe writers with less experience ought to do — I will cut a corner here or there. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. For instance, despite what I’ve said here recently about self-editing being most effective when I separate myself from the writing experience in all ways, including reading from a paper copy of my manuscript, I don’t always do this. Paper and ink are expensive. Printing out a book-length manuscript is time consuming. Sometimes — most time, if I’m being honest — I will simply edit on the screen.

But this past week I took my own advice in a couple of […]

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Making Money Mondays — Cost Vs Benefit

Morning Y’all. Or afternoon. Or night. Whenever you read this. Yes, MagicalWords.net has a new format of writers posting at most any time, but I wanted to keep to Mondays most of the time simply because I’m used to it.

Today’s post is about fan complaints about the cost of eBooks. A fan (let’s call her Sue Doe, to keep the Jane Doe Yellowrock confusion at bay) sent me a PM (private message) that she would no longer be buying my books because the eBooks cost so much more than other writer’s eBooks. She said I should, “Tell your publisher that they have to lower the costs of the books.” Her claim was that when the eBooks cost more than the paper books (mass-market) the companies are gouging.

We had a polite, long, back-and-forth PM exchange and I ended up telling her I was sorry to lose a fan, but […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Challenge Revisited, and Setting Our Work Goals

Back in February, in a post called “A Challenge to All — Time to Take the Plunge,” I issued a challenge to readers of Magical Words. Take that novel that you’ve been working on, the one that you know is almost done, but feel needs one final tweak, and get it ready for submission to some publisher by October 1. Remember?

Well, we’re in the dog days of summer and fall begins in less than a month. So how’s it going?

Setting goals of any sort can be a tricky business. I had goals for this year, and while I’ve met many of them, I still have several more that I’ve yet to address and, frankly, I don’t know if I’ll complete all of them before year’s end. Sometimes life gets in the way, as it has this year for me. Issues come up that we can’t possibly anticipate, family […]

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The Top Ten


Every August for over a decade, I’ve walked into a classroom full of (mostly) eager freshmen and spent the next few months teaching them to write. During that time, I’ve developed a few “tips” that I tell students to help avoid a “look-I’m-new-to-college” faux pas. I was thinking (as I was editing, of course) that many of these apply not only to the relationship between professor and student but also to the relationship between editor and writer.

When you work with someone, no matter what the capacity, you are creating an unspoken contract. It’s not legally binding, I’d imagine, but it’s one of those things sort of like the “bro code” that you really don’t want to mess up. But, often we do because we don’t know any better.

So, here are my top ten things that you might learn as a freshman in college that also apply […]

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