Maggie Frank-Hsu

Writing & Editing Tips

Writing motivation from Ira Glass

​“Do it now,” says Ira. ​ Don’t wait until you have the right support or even the right idea. “Just start making it now.” Shoot the arrows now, Olav Hauge might say.* But one of the reasons I find a lot of would-be authors don’t just do it now is that it’s really, really hard. What exactly is it that’s so hard? Is it the writing itself? Finding the time? Maybe. Here’s what’s hard for me: if I start, I have to make choices. Choice after choice after choice. As long as I don’t write my book, my potential is limitless. The thing I’m creating is nothing, so that means it could be anything! From the moment I make my first choice, I whittle down that endless potential. And it’s not just that the potential narrows from limitless to limited. (That should actually feel good, right? It’s taking shape.)

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The imprecise art of writing and parenting

Years of Experience with Bows and Arrows by Olav H. Hauge, translated by Robert Hedin and Robert Bly What you are supposed to hit is the bull’s eye, that black spot, that precise spot, and the arrow is supposed to stand there quivering! But that’s not where the arrow goes. You get closer to it, close and closer; no, not close enough. Then you have to go out and pick up all the arrows, walk back, try it again. That black spot is highly annoying until you finally grasp that where your arrow stands quivering is also the center of something. ​ from The Dream We Carry, Copper Canyon Press, 2018. Shared with me by Holly Wren Spaulding. ​​ **** One day, I was home with my son Morgan and who has spent the day either – refusing to play

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Your book can’t be for everyone: the importance of defining a niche

It’s easy for me to tell you, “If you get unsolicited feedback on your writing don’t listen to it.” But do you want to know what I do when I get feedback? If you selected “Ignore myself!” … yeah. I got a lot of feedback on Be About Something, the book I wrote last year. All of the feedback that was not full of rave reviews made me question everything. Every. Single. Time. I was a thin-skinned MFer. Until I realized something. Some of the feedback that was making me feel insecure was from people who told me they wished I had included this or that element in the book. Those people were not beingnegative. They were asking for something that Be About Something doesn’t provide. That’s not the same thing. ​ *** ​Suddenly, an analogy popped into my head: If I walk into a Volvo dealership

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How will I know when I’m ready to write my book?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about mindset. When it comes to struggling with writing, it’s true: mindset is a big factor. Working on my own mindset helped me complete two books over the past 18 months. But also. After working over the past few years with many clients who are first-time authors, I’ve realized that mindset is not the problem. It’s that they don’t know the next right step to take after they come up with their book. So, they dive into writing. And there they encounter gremlins. Not the cute Ewok-type ones. The slimy, green, haunt-your-nightmares ones. Like… My idea isn’t original enough, or that it’s not something enough to deserve to become a book. I’m not experienced/expert/successful/wealthy/wise enough to write this story. My first, unedited attempts are not as good as Becoming/Untamed/Educated/Small Doses, (even when they know darn well that each of

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What makes a page-turner?

When I first started helping people write their books, I focused on their ideas. “Your ideas are brilliant! Let’s just get them down,” I’d say. It’s fun to help people articulate their ideas clearly. Not only fun, of course, but absolutely necessary to writing a book. Non-negotiable. And… Books filled with ideas but no story are unreadable. *** If you’re writing a book, you need a story. The first step in outlining your narrative structure (story) is to accept this fact: A story is not a collection of things that happened, told one after the other. It’s not!? It’s not. A story requires causality. Meaning: the thing that happens causes the next thing to happen in the story. Of course it’s not just books that tell stories: movies do it, too. Something like: Woman goes to bed. A freak lightning storm rages outside. The

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The Retinol method: too much, too soon

I just started using Retinol last week. It’s an anti-wrinkle skin cream. Yes, I know, they are all “anti-wrinkle” skin creams. But Retinol actually works moderately well. Magic in a tube. And on that tube itself is written the following recommendation: “If you have never used Retinol products, begin use two evenings a week, then gradually increase frequency to every other night, and finally once an evening as tolerated.” I’ve written before about people who go too hard too soon, exhaust themselves, and quit. Retinol is apparently aware of this phenomenon, too. Retinol knows I want results. AND Retinol knows that if I start by applying Retinol to my skin every night, my skin will sting and peel and I’ll quit using it. (It’d be more precise to say that whoever makes Retinol knows these things, but for the sake of argument let’s just attribute this intelligence

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