Tag Archives: editing

Oh What a World in Which I Can Write Poems about Swimming with Sharks

Last April, I signed on to do the Writer’s Digest Poem A Day Challenge, and I blogged about it on here. For each day in April, I wrote a poem. The challenge coincides with National Poetry Month.

The writer directing the challenge, Robert Lee Brewer, posted daily prompts for us to use, or not use. Writers were then encouraged to share their poems on an open thread on the website. People could comment on the poems and make suggestions.

It sounded like a bit of a nightmare to me, or at least the part about posting your poem online that YOU WROTE THAT DAY.

I have never written a poem (or a story or a blog post or even an email), and then thought, Gee, that is amazing. It’s the work of true genius. I should publish this immediately.

I am not that confident or foolish or both. I edit. Sometimes, I enjoy editing. Sometimes, editing feels like a slow, painful death through sentence restructuring.

(I do recognize the possibility that the people who posted their poems spent all day writing and editing those poems. And in that case, I am jealous of their luxurious amount of time for poem writing.)

And yes, I edit my emails. Sometimes you get that stream of thought going, and it just flows. But oops, you forgot the You part of Thank You, so it just says Thank.

That’s weird, guys.

Or maybe if you reread that email, you’d have realized abbreviating follow-up to f/u is not a good idea. At least not if you don’t want your boss to wonder what she did to deserve a fuck you reply.

I digress.

My point is editing is important. You should edit your writing before the world sees it. The thought of putting it out on the internet largely unedited terrified me. So I didn’t.

And what have I done with those thirty gems of glittery poetry since?

The poems are sitting out there in the cloud, mostly untouched. I have been writing and editing things since then, it has just been mostly stories and papers.

So I let my thirty, shiny poems gather dust.

A month ago maybe, I realized I missed poetry. I opened my Poetry in Progress folder, and the title “Shark-Infested Water” caught my eye.

It was poem about a dream where Agnes (the character I write about often) and I were swimming with sharks. I didn’t remember the dream or the poem, to be honest. I had written just a few lines. But I liked the idea.

Swimming through shark-infested water with your main character. The brain is full of weird, amazing ideas.

I started to flesh it out a little more, changed the title, and workshopped it with my writing partner/friend Rachel. She liked it, but wasn’t crazy about the ending. As usual, she was right.

I’ve been working on it the past couple of days. It’s getting close. And after I’m done, I will submit it. Then it’s back to the Poetry in Progress folder.

I have at least twenty-nine other poems to edit. And it feels like it’s time to get back at it.

This week’s video is a live recording of “Oh What a World” by Rufus Wainwright. It is a fantastically beautiful song, and this is a great recording of it. The performance does seem to have taken place on Halloween though. Wainwright doesn’t usually wear a witch hat when he performs. Enjoy friends!

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How to Edit like a Serial Killer

I like words. I like phrases that catch on my tongue. I like sentences that stop me, spin me sideways, and knock me on my ass.

I write. It makes sense.

However, I don’t think writing needs to be complicated. I mean, writing is inevitably complicated, but reading doesn’t have to be.

I’m not trying to say we should all read every Twilight book (though I have), or burn every copy of War and Peace (also a good read).

I like a doorstop of a novel just as much as the next girl. I just don’t think everyday writing should fall into the doorstop category.

People incapable of communicating clearly frustrate me. Why is it so hard to say what you mean?

Unless you’re writing the next David Foster Wallace novel or an article for a medical journal, your writing should be simple and easy to understand. Jargon should be avoided. Points should be made quickly.

There is a whole genre of books dedicated to the art of writing clearly. Hello Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. If you’ve taken a writing class in college, there is a good chance you read this book. And if you’re a writer, you probably own this book.

Perhaps one of the most well-known rules is, “Omit needless words.” Solid advice. By omitting extra words, the writing is simpler and clearer. In the back of my head, I always hear one of my journalism professors, Judy Polumbaum, saying this.

The semester I was in her class, I sharpened my editing skills considerably. I also learned to cut the word “that” mercilessly. Here’s the rule: If you remove “that” from your sentence and it still makes sense, you don’t need “that.”

When I proofread writing, I am like a serial killer with “that,” and Judy is still behind my shoulder, raising the hatchet.

Thanks Judy.

I understand not everyone went to journalism school and learned from a Judy. It still doesn’t excuse some of the bad communication I see on a daily basis. I’m talking about people that send you long-winded emails without stating what they need from you. Or people that call you on the phone to clarify things, and then inevitably, just dance around what they want to say.

Or a bank employee who delays processing a loan, and when you ask if she needs more documents, she just ignores the question. Then five days later when you call, why yes, she does need those documents.

Sounds frustrating right?

My point is, we could all try a little harder. About to send an email? Read it through once. When I do, I inevitably find a word forgotten, or a sentence that needs clarification. Or maybe just maybe, making a phone call might be a better way to communicate. (I can hear my Millennial friends cringing as I say this. But let’s be real, sometimes it helps.)

Working on a paper or a presentation? Try printing it off, and proofreading the paper copy. It is astonishing how many more things you catch when you aren’t reading something on a screen. Or try reading it aloud. When you read something to yourself, it is easier to find words you left out or phrases that sound awkward.

I have written my share of unclear prose. But each day, I set out to do better. I think about Judy, and then we drop the hatchet, sentence after sentence.

This week’s video is “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads. It’s a great song. I hope it inspires you to take a hatchet to your prose.

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“Don’t Call Yourself a Writer” and Other Advice from Copyblogger CEO Brian Clark

Last week, we had Brian Clark as a guest speaker in my copywriting class. He is kinda a big deal.

Brian Clark is the founder and CEO of Copyblogger.com. He is incredibly influential in the copywriting world.

I was excited and nervous.

Excited because I’ve decided I want to be a copywriter. Hearing Clark speak would surely be an inspiring experience.

Nervous because I am a shy girl. I’m much braver than I used to be, and I think part of that comes with age. But famous people particularly make me nervous.

Diane Sawyer came into Saks Fifth Avenue when I was working there, and I was so awestruck I didn’t offer to find her a salesperson. I just told her I wasn’t one and ran away. She is quite beautiful in person.

My professor asked Clark a series of questions and then opened up the floor to the class. I typed a question into the chat window, hoping he or my professor would see it. (My class is online, so we meet up via a website using Adobe Presenter.)

But they didn’t.

So I raised my virtual hand. (We have icons we can click to raise our hands.) My professor called on me.

Through my microphone, I asked, “What is your advice for someone who is just getting their start as a copywriter?” Or how can you, Brian Clark, help a newbie like me be as kickass as you?

He said he had a few pieces of advice he always gave, not that anyone ever listened. I’m listening, I thought.


Pick an industry you like working in, and then focus on getting copywriting jobs in that industry. The more you write about something, the more practiced you become at creating the right tone for the audience. You will become an expert at writing about country music or computers or home furnishings.

I was in. I mean, how fun would it be to just write copy about bands all day?

“Don’t call yourself a writer.”

This one caught me off guard. I wrote it down in my notes as, “Don’t call yourself a writer?!” As someone who has wanted to be a writer her whole life, this was hard to hear.

His reasoning was many businesses don’t respect writers. These employers think anyone can write. (I mean think about it. With the internet, suddenly everyone is a writer these days.)

Clark said these people want someone who can provide a solution to their marketing problem, or “a solution-provider.” So be an amazing writer that can fix any and all content problems, but don’t call yourself a writer.

He made a good point, but I wasn’t sure I totally agreed.

For a long time, I was afraid to call myself a writer because it isn’t my full time job. Now that I’ve moved beyond that, I like calling myself a writer. I wasn’t sure I was I ready to let it go.

I’d been toying with the idea of changing my tagline on my website. “Princess imperfect writer ninja” isn’t working anymore. But after listening to Clark’s advice, I was worried I might have to eliminate the writer part.

I came up with a list of new tagline ideas. But all the taglines used the word writer.

So I went back to the source. Clark has an article on Copyblogger.com that suggests maybe there is some wiggle room. In, “What to Do when You Absolutely, Positively Must Know if Your Content Will Rock,” Clark suggests the only way to know if you have a great idea is to publish it, and let the audience decide.

He writes, “Nobody knows anything … except the audience.”

And then he states, “Consider feedback and apply fundamentals, but ultimately realize that your boss, your spouse, your colleagues, and your high school friends don’t know anything. That also applies to me and everyone else who gives you advice.”

So Clark realizes there is a limit to what advice can teach you, even his advice on the subject of copywriting.


So I sent three of the best taglines to a writer friend, and he picked his favorite. See below.

Copywriter/blogger/editor/flash fiction enthusiast. I wear a lot of hats, but prefer shoes. If you want short, snappy copy, I’m your gal.

But get rid of the slashes, he said. Ok.

So I came up with this.

Copywriter, editor, and flash fiction enthusiast. I wear a lot of hats, but prefer shoes. If you want short, snappy copy, I’m your gal.

Much better, he said.

Then I kept playing around with it. Maybe the below version is better? It’s more concise. But I do love referencing my shoe passion too…

Copywriter, editor, and flash fiction enthusiast. If you want short, snappy copy, I’m your gal.

So audience, let me know what you think. Because you’re the only ones that really know anything.

This week’s song is “Mineshaft” by Dessa. She raps, “The list of things I used to be is longer than the list of things I am…I’m not a writer. I just drink a lot about it.” It’s not quite what Clark said, but it is a pretty good line…


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