where the writers are
What Are You Trying to Say?

(Originally posted at The Outfit, a Collective of Chicago Crime Writers, November 4th, 2009.)  

I do maybe 30% of my writing on a laptop from various locations: in front of the window, standing at the counter, on the porch with a cigar. The remainder I do in the second bedroom we've rigged as a den. The split system works for me; mobility shakes me up when necessary, but generally, what I need is a room with a door that closes and a window that looks out onto a brick wall.

As a fringe benefit, this means that most of my writing is done facing a proper desktop monitor. And like any proper monitor, I’ve covered it with scraps of paper.

I started this back when I was freelancing as a copywriter. Sometimes the work is about headlines and campaigns, but more often, especially when freelancing, the work is body copy, which is essentially the text inside the brochure. It’s considered less glamorous, but—no surprise—I always liked it, because done well, that’s the part that is really going to sell someone.

I don’t remember the specific project I was working on, but it was something lengthy and detailed, with lots of information that needed to be conveyed without boring the reader. And so I found I kept repeating one of my writing mantras to myself. It’s a line I go to all the time when trying to trying to craft an argument, formulate a tricky sentence, or organize my thoughts:

What are you trying to say?

Simplistic, I know, but it’s one of the all-time great clarifiers.

Read the rest at The Outsider.