I first began writing badly. It’s how we all begin writing, I suppose, if we are to be completely honest.  Much the same way that the Mona Lisa was not Da Vinci’s first, your best work will almost never be your first, although if you are very lucky, there may be some gems sprinkled throughout.  Last weekend, on Saturday to be precise, I had the privilege of taking a writing workshop with Margie Lawson.  I don’t have a lot of time these days, wedging precious family time in between too little sleep and too many sweets, and it seemed a bit early, driving up to Cleveland on a weekend, blinking in the early morning sun, as I used to when I migrated there on an almost daily basis. But I was excited.  Because I had a whole day to dedicate to writing. To learning. To getting better.  I hoped.

A last minute email had answered a last minute question about what I needed to take, and I took two “in process” manuscripts with me, both rather bad, but with a glimmer of promise. We learned about power words. Using power words in your opening paragraphs packs psychological power, and I circled and found I had about twenty in my first paragraph.  Boom!

Power words seemed to encompass phrases that evoke feelings- names, family ties (mother, father), loss (sick many times before), love (a thousand desires), movement; back and forward.  Things to change: make sure the first line is your main character’s POV.  Yeah, need to work on that.

Next she covered rhetorical devices, emotional levels, and my favorite part lunch.  After that we went over character descriptions, cliches, and deep editing. So. Many. Things. To. Remember.

But the main thing was learning, moving forward, using these new ideas, new ways of pulling apart your MS and putting it back together.  Making it stronger. I found that the way I naturally write seemed to meld with Margie’s, so there was a sweet alignment between what I was learning and how I was writing, stylistically. As well as some validation.  Many of the things my editor had made me cut from my first book Margie taught as writing tools, ways to increase cadence, power and emotion.  So some 20/20 hindsight there.

So, on to editing with a fresh eye and a brighter red pen!

About the author: L. A. McGinnis

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