Maggie Frank-Hsu

Writing & Editing Tips

is my book idea good?

Is my book idea any good?

A book is the telling of a sequence of events that together describe a meaningful transformation. An idea doesn’t have to do any of that. So that’s the gap you need to bridge.

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‘I want to write a book.’: It can be a wish or a plan.

A lot of people have said, “I want to write a book someday.” They’ve repeated it in their own heads. Out loud. To me. To their dog. “I want to write a book someday.” It can be a wish or it can be a plan. Fellow writer and business buddy Zita Christian said to me, “Writing your first book is like cooking a whole Thanksgiving turkey. It’s easier if you get some practice first.” “What, like first you should roast a chicken?” I asked. I chewed on that, as it were. Yeah! First you should roast a chicken. As in: a lot of people who would like to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, soup to nuts, but are overwhelmed by the idea of it, would benefit from tackling a smaller project as practice. Especially if they’ve never cooked in their lives, or haven’t

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What Is a Ghostwriter and Why Do You Need One?

    What do you think it takes to write a book?  I used to think it took genius ideas and a healthy dose of commitment. Then I became a ghostwriter. And now I can tell you, while you need them, genius ideas and commitment are not enough to get your book done. Especially if you run a business and/or have a thriving career and a life outside of work.  So what else do you need?  Here’s where a ghostwriter comes in. A ghostwriter can mean the difference between an abandoned book project and a finished book. Traditionally, clients hire ghostwriters to take their great ideas and turn them into a book. Ghostwriters often don’t get author credit or any credit. Sometimes they’re listed in the “Acknowledgments” section of the book.  But that traditional “ghostwriter” definition is rapidly expanding to become accessible to

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It’s a very very

… mad world. 30 minutes after I sent my weekly letter on Januar 13, I watched an attempted coup live at the Capitol. Today I’m working on my weekly letter and I’ve got an impeachment vote livestream open in another browser. … And still we get up in the morning, do our thing. Some of us do our thing because we believe in it more than ever and we know how it fits into a grander scheme of working toward a vision for a better world. And most of us probably do our thing because what else would we do? We’ve been doing it all year. Some days it feels good to work. *** I went to a Zoom meeting with a business buddy yesterday. We meet every quarter to share goals and talk about why we set them, how

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That time of year

I get a lot of ads for Masterclass around the winter holidays. It’s become an annual tradition. 🎄 A lot of the ads are for the classes taught by pro writers. They all introduce their Masterclass on video while interstitial string music plays, saying mostly useless things about writing that sound profound. Like when Joyce Carol Oates says, “The enemy of good writing is interruption,” in her Masterclass ad. I heard her say it three or four times before I found my fingers Googling ”Does Joyce Carol Oates have children?” And also… “Does Joyce Carol Oates have a smartphone?” Recently Masterclass added Walter Moseley. He also doesn’t have children. (I’m not sure about the smartphone.) But in his ad, he said something that I found more useful. “I wake up, write three hours, 1,000 words. Next day, the first thing I do is

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The sting is a sting.

Heya, My business coach wrote this nice thing about me on LinkedIn. She is not a client (full disclosure), but she wanted to give me a little love and of course I appreciated it! I am sharing it with you because of the sentence near the bottom. “It is very emotional to put your words out there in a permanent way…” It IS EMOTIONAL! Damn right. I see clients go through the wringer on their way between writing and publishing. I know how they feel. I feel so vulnerable whenever I publish. The only difference is practice. I’m used to the emotional roller coaster because I practice by publishing online. I’m like someone who takes a weekly injection. Does the needle still sting? Yep. But after a while, I’ve learned what to expect and so the sting is a sting, but not a shock. When

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M.J.

Hi, I’ve been watching The Last Dance on Netflix. It has been A TRIP down 1990s memory lane for this almost 40-year-old. (I turn 40 in January.) It has the music. It has Carmen Electra (and Madonna!) … because it has Dennis Rodman in those baggy plaid pajama pants and multi-colored hair. It has the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. But most importantly, it has M.J. Michael Jordan. The Greatest of All Time. In the first years of the ’90s, Michael Jordan could have made a reasonable case for himself being the most famous person on Earth. I know he could have, because I’ve never even followed pro basketball! Yet I still remember him being everywhere. Nike. McDonald’s. Gatorade. “Like Mike! If I could be like Mike!” Remember that TV ad? The Last Dance is about nothing so much as it is about dissecting and examining every element

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You can still say it.

Let me tell ya, I used to walk through Central Park several mornings a week to get to work. I’d walk from 90th all the way down to 59th street many days. That meant that in the summer of 2010, my walk took me past the Delacorte Theatre. People would line up at the box office in the morning to snag free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. (Tickets were always free, but first come first served). Anyway, that summer I realized that this process of waiting in line for Shakespeare tickets would soon migrate 100% online and this whole ritual would be lost to time. So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to chat with the first person in line each day, and ask them the same set of three or four questions, and post those answers online with

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Permission, Entitlement, and Responsibility

Hey, I focus my work on helping myself and helping other women claim their right to raise their voices and be heard. When men have ideas – good ones, bad ones, whatever! – they share them publicly. I’ve seen it in the workplace and I’ve seen it online and I’ve seen it as an entrepreneur. They’re here to lead with their ideas. I want to see women lay claim to give themselves permission to do the same. But. Last week, I came across Bill Burr’s SNL monologue. (That’s 2 weeks in a row referencing the same SNL episode in my letter. I guess it was a good one.) Anyway! In the monologue, he calls out white women. I had a visceral, internal groan of a reaction when I saw the web search result. I so very deeply did not want

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I Prefer Baby Yoda

People love Star Wars and people love Yoda and I’m not exactly here to rain on anyone’s parade but you know what? “Do or do not. There is no try” is wrong. Yeah, I said it. I’ve seen the movie a couple of times, but if you haven’t: in this scene, Luke is trying to use the Force to get his spaceship out of the swampy area/thing.  Luke doubts himself and he doubts Yoda because obviously lifting a spaceship out of a swamp by wiggling your fingers in an air-high 5 seems pretty impossible.  And I think what Yoda’s saying is “If you don’t believe you can do it, you definitely won’t be able to do it.” I get that part. But… there IS most definitely TRY—and try and fail. Even when you believe you can do something. (Which is exactly what

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Lies, lies, lies

We’re all looking around going, “The world’s a fucking mess.” Right? I know I am. Geez Louise. Thoughts: A. You can look around and go, “The world’s a fucking mess… so what’s the point of me writing and publishing anything, let alone that thing that really matters deeply to me?” B. Or you can look around and go, “The world’s a fucking mess… and so what am I waiting for?” If you choose A, you’re done. You can quit reading, I guess? But! I know you want to choose Team B. That’s usually how people find me. And if you choose *B*… you’re just getting started, cupcake. You’ve got the ideas. I know—I talk to you. (They’re really good ideas, by the way.) If you’re anything like me and the women I know, you spend a lot of time torturing yourself over whether those ideas

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How to Avoid Feedback That Will Derail Your Writing (Part 1 of 3)

In Be About Something, I talk about how going public with your writing allows you to collect vital feedback that helps you refine your Big Idea quickly. Way more quickly than batting the idea around the racquetball court known as your brain. But… When some people read your writing, they’ll give you feedback you should absolutely ignore if you want to move forward. But when other people read your stuff, they’ll provide critiques that are hard to hear but vital to your journey forward. So, how do you tell the difference? I’ve got some guidelines to consider, tailored to where you are in the writing process. Here’s guideline numero uno. — 1. On first-draft feedback: A couple of weeks ago I was in Holly’s poetry pop-up workshop, when she talked about whom to show your work to, before you publish but after you’re feeling

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Are we ready to kill nice?

It took me a long time to arrive at this place where I root for the Death of Nice. When I was a little girl, my mom was a lot of wonderful, admirable things. But she was not nice. Which embarrassed me. Why couldn’t she just be nice to my friends’ moms? For one thing, she was busy. She was a single mom. She worked a lot. For another, she was socially awkward and she didn’t like to make small talk or really to talk at all to people she didn’t know well. She didn’t have the impulse to fake interest. She didn’t teach me how to pretend to care. I didn’t learn from her how to tell white lies to preserve other people’s feelings. I learned how to do these things later, which kept them from becoming ingrained habits. And that’s

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The Tab Can

I struggle with the Tape, which is my name for the voice in my head that basically screams WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE every time I write something that I intend to publish. I still deal with that voice every week when I’m writing this letter. It’s part of the process. I have a few coping mechanisms to get past the Tape. The Tab Can Method, which is a simple method for generating a lot of ideas, is one of my favorites. Once upon a time… Fifteen years ago, when I was 24 (!) and attending the Columbia School of Journalism pursuing my master’s degree, I took a core curriculum class called Reporting & Writing… One. “RW1,” as it was known. My hazy recollection is that RW1 was a dull, hours-long weekly seminar. Our professor was Steve Isaacs. He was nuttier than Cracker

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What if No One Listens?

I was listening to the radio in my car a year and a half ago. (I could have sworn it was December 2019, but the internet says 2018 which is… huh.) Anyway, I was listening to the radio in my car a year and a half ago when I came across an interview with N.K. Jemisin. I had just finished reading The Fifth Season so I listened. She said about the book, “What I wanted to play with was the concept of, ‘When do we consider an apocalypse to have begun and ended?’ Because in a lot of cases, what’s considered an apocalypse for some people is what other people have been living every day. It’s not the apocalypse, it’s just, it’s an apocalypse for you.” [Italics mine.] … Now, let’s move from the soothing sounds of NPR to the dumpster fires of Facebook. I have

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