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Friday, June 25, 2010

Thirty days, thirty pearls of writing wisdom...

I'm launching a new blogging enterprise today, in honor of the upcoming Anhinga Writers' Studio 2010 Summer Workshops.  My pledge to you here at "It's Like Making Sausage..." is to give you an insider view of the publishing biz.  Recently, this has included such esoteric things as an eyewitness look at the oil spill and some existential musings about why I woke up Wednesday and found a ladder in my kitchen.  For the next month, I am resolved to give you straightforward advice on how to take your book idea and wrestle it to the ground.  As someone who is an inveterate reader, as well as a writer, I think that this will be interesting even to those of you who have no intention of writing a book, or even a grocery list.
Fear not.  I'll probably still sneak in off-topic musings on the oil spill and other engineering ridiculosities, but I also promise you a full month of useful writing tips.

How do you like that word?  "Ridiculosity."  I thought I had made it up, but I checked the miraculous internet.  I found that it was listed as a word in various new-fangled sources like and and  It wasn't listed in the online edition of the Merriam-Webster, but their website told me that if I wanted to pay a membership fee, I'd find it in their unabridged dictionary.  How do you like that?  Do you think it's possible that any word you want to use could be legit, if you were willing to pay enough?  Hmmm.

This brings me to Writing Tip #1:  Never bet your reputation on Wikipedia...or on any website or source that gives you any reason to doubt its accuracy or impartiality. 

When writing Effigies, I talked to several Choctaws about elements of their culture that I was incorporating into the book, but it took me a while to track down individuals willing to be interviewed.  In the meantime, I needed to write a book and I had a deadline.  So I used the internet to give me some cool background info, knowing I could check it out later.  And I'm so glad I did.

I had used a website of Choctaw names to name an important character.  He was called Okshakla, meaning Deep Water.  It suited him.  I liked it.  But when I asked a Mississippi Choctaw whether it really meant Deep Water, she said, "Um.  Maybe in Oklahoma."

Oops.  She told me how to say Deep Water in Choctaw, and a global search-and-replace fixed the problem, but in a part of my mind, Oka Hofobi will always be Okshakla.  Too bad I don't know what Okshakla means...

Check your sources!!!!


  1. Oh, the horror stories concerning students, papers, teachers and Wikipedia!
    I am looking forward to following this series.

    Giggles and Guns

  2. Tomorrow, my writing pearl of wisdom will make teachers everywhere shout "Yes!"...