When I’ve completed a watercolor painting I put it away for a few days and don’t look at it. This stops me from continually making a little change here and a little change there until the painting loses its translucency and becomes over-painted. I use a similar approach to writing.


Historical non fiction, my favorite genre, requires a lot of research, I enjoy hunting down little known facts and throw web URL’s into ‘favorites’ in my computer along with a list of books to track down and read. I take all the unique and interesting information found and weave it into a draft opening paragraph according to the slant and style of the publication I am querying. Then I put it aside for a few days. When I re-read my writing it is with fresh eyes and I’m better able to see what should stay and what should be left out.

I treat query and cover letters as writing samples even though an editor asks for a draft opening paragraph. Enthusiasm for a subject is as important as knowledge, catch the editor’s attention with a hook, pique their curiosity and get to the point, don’t ramble. How a query or cover letter is worded tells a lot about the writer, I use lines taken from a draft opening paragraph. Nonfiction research can be time consuming, it takes less time to write an interesting query letter than to spend weeks researching and writing about a subject that may not sell. E queries are quicker to prepare, but that does not mean the query content should be shortened or an over familiar approach used.

Editor’s guidelines, word count and style need to be followed precisely I am often asked if I can suggest a market after a manuscript has been written. Analyze markets before writing to avoid frustrating, time consuming searches later. Create a markets file and include Dan Case’s Writing for Dollars, an excellent markets resource.

Re-writing is the heart of writing well. It is not always the most gifted writers that get published. It is the person who self edits, follows the editor’s guidelines and looks for weedy words that serve no useful purpose such as passive or dull verbs, unnecessary adverbs and prepositions.

To summarize, put your story aside for a few days be ruthless in revising, look for weedy words, rewrite and repeat the words of Dr. Seuss, “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”


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