In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to write anything, in 12 easy steps.

I'm a magazine editor, reporter, and therefore, a writer. Writing is the last thing I worry about -- for me it's all about gathering information, making sure it is interesting and correct.

I work with a lot of writers, many of them new to the craft, and this is what I tell them when they are "blocked" and when they are struggling, and when they are writing crappily. I like that word, crappily.

This is a method I actually derived in college because of my towering laziness. It's easy and it works. 

1. Read over your notes a couple of times. Make a simple outline or flow chart  of what your piece will say. Don't fill in details -- just write how the thoughts will flow, a vague order that makes sense.

Here's an example from my own notebook:

Intro --> 7800 farmers markets, 2500 take snap
Farmers markets affordable?
New study says yes
Compared 24 common items
Found comparable prioces in season
Except meat, eggs
How to stretch that budget (whoel chicken instead of parts)
How snap works

2. Go to sleep. This lets the notes and details arrange themselves in your brain. The important stuff, the stuff that is actually interesting, will stick and be the most prominent parts of your work. That is as it should be.
3. Wake up, take a shower. That signals to your brain it's time to be serious. Turn on your computer. Don't go on the internet, don't check your email. Do not open Facebook under any circumstances.
4. Do not look at your notes before you start. That's just procrastinating.
5. Get a mental picture in your head of who you are telling this story to: your grandma? your best friend? Your favorite professor? Now tell the story. Write one true sentence after another. That's Hemingway's advice. Worked for Poppa, works for me, works for everyone.
6. Write your piece all the way through. Finish your draft. Don't get up till you do.
7. Now get up, stretch, eat a donut. Don't look at Facebook yet.
8. Sit back down. Get out your notes. Don't look at your screen. Read your notes. If there's anything important you forgot, it will jump out at you.
9. Add true, simple sentences including whatever information you neglected to include the first go round in a place that it makes sense.
10. Fix whatever facts, names, dates, numbers you may have screwed up in your memory by comparing them to your notes.
11. Put it all away.
12. The next day, read it over. Smooth out transitions. Rewrite whatever you think needs it. Don't try to get fancy - short, direct words, true statements -- that's what your readers want. You are not David Foster Wallace. Don't try to be. Be you. Impart what you know.  You're done.

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