Writing Tips

1. Use active, not passive verbs.
This keeps the action and the reader’s attention moving forward.
“Rick threw the ball into left field.”
Not, “the ball was thrown into left field by Rick”

2. Use all the senses
“The thunder boomed through the night, and static electricity in the air made the hair on our forearms stand up straight.”

“In Grandma’s kitchen the sweet smell of fresh strawberries combined with the lingering aroma of bacon grease and coffee from breakfast.”

3. Show, don’t tell.
Paint a picture with words.
“Uncle Abraham was so honest he would walk five miles to return the correct change to a customer.”
Not, “Uncle Abraham was honest.”

4. Use concrete detail and avoid abstractions.
“Uncle Ed, Ma, Sissy and my brother Joe were all in the model A, already pointed west. Dad and I brought out the last box, Grandma’s china wrapped in rags and towels so [it} wouldn’t break on the way to California. Ma wanted to hold the dishes on her own lap. So Dad handed them to her, turned and spit in the dust and climbed into the driver’s seat.”

Not,, “Like hundreds of other families, we moved to California during the Great Depression.”

5. Write Straight to the emotional core of things.

You are writing about your childhood, the time when you found everything so intensely interesting and felt things so deeply. You are writing about your adolescence with all it’s roller coaster emotions, idealism, and realizations, and about your continuing development as an adult. Don’t be too distant. Write with care and truth and with empathy and understanding for that child, that young person, and the person you are now. Try to understand what he or she was feeling. Help others to learn from that child’s experience, from the experience of a human being trying to make sense of life.

Exploring your life and understanding for the child that you were, will give you insight and compassion. You will see the details in a different light. You may notice things you hadn’t noticed before. And when you share, you will turn on a light for others so they can see the significance of their own lives more clearly.


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