Maggie Frank-Hsu

Writing & Editing Tips

No head, all hands

Sometimes I read somewhere about the importance of play in our lives, and I think a bit sheepishly that even when I was a kid, I didn’t really… play that much. I was asthmatic and unathletic, and I was indifferent to the outdoors. (Don’t worry, I learned to love being outside later.) ​Still, when I hear creative advice about how we as grown-ups should play, an image appears in my mind of my neighbor’s front lawn, where we kids were playing after school. A bunch of the girls spontaneously lined up to do cartwheels, and when it was my turn, well… But over time I’ve realized there are other ways to play, ways that even a serious little first-grader like me could get down with. Collage is one of those ways. Collage is a “no head, all hands” activity. (Gardening

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Hello, Time to Write Members!

Thanks for signing up for Time to Write, a one-hour writing session on Zoom that happens every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. PT, beginning January 11! Time to Write is and will always remain free as long as you are a member of my email list. If you’re not a member, join here. Here’s a little about who I am, so that you know more about how (and why) I am facilitating Time to Write. I want you to get the most out of the experience! I’m a writer and editor, whose worked with hundreds of writers over the years. I’m also in the middle of writing my second book. I self-published my first book, Be About Something in 2020, which I wrote to help people who wanted to write but needed help figuring out what they wanted to say and how they

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On writing: Allowing the magic to unfold naturally

Once I told a French person that we keep our Camembert in the fridge. That, ahem, actually, you can’t buy unrefrigerated cheese in any grocery store in the U.S. (None I know of, anyway.) She said: “A cheese is alive. The refrigerator is a murder of the taste of a cheese.”* … A few years later, I was in a writing class. A fellow student (not the French person) was telling the class about the story she’d written, that she was about to read aloud. Her eyes flashed and she grinned and chatted and held our attention. That’s why it was so striking when, as soon as she began to read her piece, she turned into a refrigerated cheese. She read beautifully loud and clear. But the writing itself did not reflect the aliveness of her speaking pattern nor her idiom. The charming way

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Writer, are you taking time to listen to yourself?

I was dawdling in my inbox when I came across this line in Esther Perel’s newsletter: “We have to remember,” my peer told me, “that when people aren’t listening, it’s because they don’t feel heard.” … Great thought, right? It applies to our writing efforts in lots of ways, but here’s one way you might not think of: Do you listen to you? Specifically, some of you, like me, have many different tiny people running around on the inside of your brain. Some are brave and kind, many more are anxious and scowling. In an attempt to calm them, you might be telling these freaked-out minis things like, “Don’t worry! I really want to write my book draft. I have the motivation! This is the year we get it done!” You may even attempt to order them around: “When you pipe up it

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The right place to start your book

“Alex wheeled the Range Rover into the parking lot of MNY Bank. He grabbed his portfolio from the backseat and sprinted to the doors. A quick check of his watch made it official: 9:06 a.m. He was late—again. ***That’s the first paragraph of Built to Sell, a business book that could have been dry as dust. It’s also an example of beginning in medias res. In medias res just means starting in the middle of the story. “Plunging into a crucial situation that is part of a related chain of events,” as Britannica says. Maybe the book begins in the heat of an argument during a war that has already started (like the Iliad). Or it begins with the protagonist already in financial trouble, like the paragraph above. *** The opposite of in medias res is ab ovo—”from the egg”—starting the story at the earliest chronological point.

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So you’re thinking about writing about your life

Here’s a questions I get a lot from clients who want to write books about their lives: “What should I do if I have stories that will make some people in my life look bad? Can I write about my memories without hurting other people’s feelings?” *** Many writers don’t want the blowback from real, live people. So, they attempt to write about their lives, but leave out the stories that might make people—real, nonfiction humans—feel bad. This attempt puts them in conflict with themselves, so they often end up writing along the edges of what they want to say, like a wallflower at a dance club. (hand raised) Which is fine for getting started on a book, but usually there’s a threshold they just can’t cross if they keep their back to the wall. And a lot of memoir writers

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