Writing Less Terribly: A Two-Day Intensive with Alexander Hardy
When reading great writing, the words should sing. Imagery should be vivid. Clarity should be a writer's guiding light. As a wordsmith — whether casual or professional — words should be carefully considered, lovingly crafted. They should be memorable and respected enough to be taken seriously. Why knowingly place your name atop something avoidably lackluster that lives on the Internet or in print forever to be seen by future generations who'll know how little you cared about your name?
Have some dignity. Even if just a little.
But writing the words is one thing. Polishing, rearranging, and pruning them for public consumption is another matter altogether. As writing and editing are two different creative functions — one is about unfurling and stretching, the other about curtailing and rethinking — it's natural to excel at one more than the other. Falling in love with our output can make it tough to reel in a rambling tangent or know when a paragraph can be aptly and more effectively replaced with one sentence.
If you aim to win the favor of deadline-weary editors and brilliance-seeking readers, it would be highly beneficial to become better than decent at both producing and primping words. Pro Tip: Make life easier for everyone by learning how to self-edit and refine your own work so that somebody else doesn't have to hack away at your thoughts on your behalf.
I can help you.
So how does this work? First, five days before our writerly intensive, you submit up to 10 pages of typed, loved-on work, which I will review and thoroughly critique. I’ll offer in-depth written emotional/technical/practical/chicken-inspired responses to your work, addressing fun things like structure and intention and I-don’t-think-this-word-means-what-you-think-it-means moments. I’ll identify repetitive writing errors and opportunities for improvement.
On Day One of the intensive, your work will be read, interrogated, praised, questioned and encouraged amongst an intimate group of ten to twelve awesome, passionate writers. Throughout the day, we will be reading examples of good and awful writing, addressing, among other things, frequent literary pitfalls, murky modifiers, trite foolywang and heavy-handed attempts at grandiosity (I called this "swirliness”) that prevent good writing from becoming great writing. We’ll work through Alexander’s Advice For Awesome Writing, curated to empower wordsmiths, guiding them from blunderful literary existences into a fruitful, magical land where semicolons are safeguarded, verbs dazzle and grandiose adverbs don’t get overworked in the name of sounding smart (or woke).
On Day Two, we will put what we've learned into action by cranking out powerful new writings; revisiting our edited and workshopped writing; and engaging in some considerate, respectful and constructive peer editing. Both days shall be peppered with readings, collaboration and aggressive snacking. The open exchange of affirmations and chicken recipes will be fostered and welcomed.
- You will write fearlessly and powerfully with the aim of creating impactful, readable writing.
- You will gain practice questioning your words, considering punctuation, fine-tuning tone and weighing things like connotations and modifier placement, construction and necessity. We will hunt down lazy verbs and eradicate weak words and phrases.
- You will be exposed to diverse and encouraging examples of strong, gripping writing that demonstrates the power (and ease) of writing fearlessly, clearly and authoritatively.
- You will acquire techniques for examining your work comprehensively and at the sentence level, sharpening their eye for cohesion, clarity, accuracy and effectiveness. Writers will learn to spot ambiguities and convolution that deflects a piece from its target or betrays the writer’s intentions.
- You will leave this workshop with improved self-editing skills and the ability to attack triteness; clunky, weak wordplay and swirliness in their work and in the work of others.
The goal is to peel back the fear, ambiguity, mediocrity and predictability that prevent uniqueness and literary greatness.
On our journey to clarity and cohesion, we shall work out the kinks and tear your writing apart, lovingly, of course. And after the uncomfortable growth, triumphant times and I-don't-think-this-word-means-what-you-think-it-means times, we'll all be better writers and editors.
Join me. This is going to be awesome.Want to discuss bringing this or another workshop to your writing group, classroom or office? Let's talk about it!
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