Tag Archives: sigrid macdonald

Today’s Writing Tip: Efficiency

sig2010by Sigrid Macdonald

One way I have found to be efficient in business and my personal life is to take the thing that I want to do least and do it first. Every morning when I get up, I assess what I have to do for work and what I have to do to keep my fabulous recreational life going. And I decide which tasks are fun and easy and which ones are a total bore or difficult.

I take the latter and knock them off right away. That means that by 10 a.m. or 11 o’clock, my day is filled with things I want to do because I’ve already completed the ones I didn’t want to do.

This works for writing as well. There are always some things we enjoy more about writing than others. This varies from person to person. Let’s say you’re writing a novel and you adore writing the action scenes, but you hate fact checking.

As soon as you tackle your work, devote a specific period of time to fact checking. It might be twenty minutes or however long you think you can tolerate. Then get back to writing your action scenes. You’ll feel so much better knowing that the task you dreaded is already out of the way.

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books. Her last book, Be Your Own Editor, is available on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/c3az54r


Today’s Writing Tip: Critiquing Someone Else’s Work

sig2010At some point in our writing careers, we may join a writers’ group or be asked to provide constructive criticism to a fellow writer. This is not always as easy as it seems. Some people have thick skin and when they say that they want us to be bold and to deconstruct their work, they mean it.

Other people may be very sensitive. Some may want a thorough evaluation and others may only want a brief report akin to a book review. What to do?

First, be tactful. Telling someone that the characters in their novel sound like robots is potentially hurtful. Make an honest list of what you think about the material and then go back and revise it as carefully as possible, taking your friend’s feelings into account.

Second, be honest. It won’t help anyone to tell them that their book is on its way to being an Amazon bestseller if it’s an inferior and poorly-written piece of work. Third, be helpful and individualize your response. For example, if you think the whole book should be rewritten from start to finish but you know perfectly well that the writer has neither the ability nor the intention to do so, don’t provide that kind of feedback. It won’t be useful.

Make sure that whatever you say is kind and specific so that the writer knows how to implement changes. Instead of saying, “That scene in part two didn’t work for me at all,” tell the author why and if at all possible, suggest a way to improve it.

Last, talk about the writing instead of the writer so that the person doesn’t feel attacked. In the end, your writer friends will love you for your diplomacy and will benefit by your carefully chosen advice.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books and a manuscript editor. You can find her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/.

Today’s Writing Tip: Going to My Parents’ House

sig2010Apostrophes can be tricky and, as a manuscript editor, one of the most common errors I see is the misspelling of the term “my parents’ house.” Most of the writers that I work with are apt to spell the term “my parent’s house.” Why is that usually wrong? And when is it right?

It’s wrong because most of the time, but certainly not always, we have two parents. Therefore the apostrophe goes after the term “parents” because the house belongs to the parents. It’s like saying, “I’m going to the squirrels’ hideout.” If there is only one squirrel, we can say, “the squirrel’s hideout”; otherwise, we use the plural.

Likewise for parents. If our parents are divorced, separated, widowed or otherwise reduced from two to one, it’s appropriate and absolutely correct to write, “I went over to my parent’s house.”

But chances are you’re not going to say that because it’s pretty formal. When you’re referring to both your mother and father, you’re likely to say, “parents” whereas if you’re talking about one parent, you’ll probably say “my mom,” “my stepmom,” or “my dad.” For example, “I went to my mom’s house.”

One way to catch this mistake is to keyword your manuscript or article at the end and look for the word “parent’s.” Then you can tell if the context is correct.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor (http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se), and is both a line-by-line and a content editor for books, articles, magazines, and essays. Visit her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/

Today’s Writing Tip: Varying Your Style

sig2010Usually I read nonfiction or dramas that take place in the present day, but in the beginning of 2012 I forced myself to read seven Shakespearean plays.

I wanted to break my routine and expand my thinking. Whatever is true for reading habits is also true for writing habits. You can benefit by varying your style.

Maybe you like to write long, lyrical prose. In that case, you might want to try writing short declarative sentences like Hemingway did. If you tend to write very emotionally or persuasively, try drafting an article or something that requires research or precision instead of opinion.

It’s easy to follow our routine – even Bilbo would have preferred staying in his hobbit hole and eating scones to venturing out into the jungle, but he forced himself out of his comfort zone. And as a result he discovered all kinds of character traits that he never would have known he had. You’re probably skilled in more ways than you know. Take the great leap: walk among the wolves, bears, and goblins.

Sigrid Macdonald is an author and editor. You can find her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/

Today’s Writing Tip: Establishing Authority


Often writers want to sound modest, so they say things like “I’m not an authority,” or “I could be wrong.”

This may work well in general conversation or on a message board, but it doesn’t fly in a book, blog post, or an article. Why not? Well, if you’re not an authority, why should I care what you write?

Let’s say you’re discussing bullying. If you preface your remarks by saying that this is just your humble opinion and you may not be right, readers have no reason to give your words any credibility.

Take the time and the effort to establish and substantiate your position; then don’t undermine yourself by saying that you’re not an authority.

Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, a manuscript editor, and the author of three books including Be Your Own Editor. BYOE is available on Amazon in soft cover (http://tinyurl.com/3xkoths) and on Kindle (http://tinyurl.com/3y3nuzb). Or get 20% off the regular price by writing directly to the author at sigridmac@rogers.com. Read more at http://beyourowneditor.blogspot.com.

Today’s Writing Tip: Assumptions

sig2010As a writer, it’s important not to make assumptions about what your reader knows.

Yesteryear, if you were writing in North America, you could probably talk about catechism and the Eucharist and people would understand that you were referring to Catholicism. Maybe they wouldn’t know all the specifics, but they had probably heard the terms. Not today in our multicultural society. Today if you talk about the Trinity, you may want to spell that out.

Likewise for many other terms that we use every day. We know what they mean and so do our friends, but be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else knows what you’re talking about. This is especially true of technical writers or people who use acronyms. Often one additional sentence serves as an adequate explanation.

Reread your material to make sure that it’s clear and people know what you are referencing. If you’re making a joke and saying, “Call me, maybe?” a certain audience will know that you are referring to a pop song by Carly Rae Jepsen and others won’t. There is a time to spell this out and a time to let people read between the lines. Just don’t leave your readers confused.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr