Creative Writing for Professionals

How to Write a Nut Graf—and Capture Your Readers

May 25, 2011
by Leigh Ann Hubbard

You must read this post.

OK, whatever, you can read it if you want. I had to get the lede over with so I could get to …

the nut graf! In my opinion, you see, this little paragraph (this one right here) is one of the most important parts of an article. It’s what keeps your readers reading. It’s what most blog posts are missing. And it’s one simple addition that will improve your composition—be it a newspaper piece; magazine feature; editorial or, yes, blog post—by leaps and bounds.

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When the U.K. newspaper the Guardian asked authors for tips, the results ranged from practical to insightful to just plain silly.

A few tips were repeated throughout: Cut everything you can, read your work out loud, you will never be satisfied with what you’ve written. (Seriously. Lots said that.) Many gave the age-old advice, read, read, read. But novelist Will Self said, “Stop reading fiction—it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t know already.” Another theme: Sometimes, you can break the rules.

Here are my top-five favorite tips from the article.

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The Arts Collide: 10 Quotes From Doctor-Writers

May 25, 2011
by Leigh Ann Hubbard

“The advice of the elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books,” said American author and doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes. Nonetheless, sometimes it’s helpful to hear from those who have gone before—if only to know you’re not alone.

And doctor writers are indeed not alone. From Anton Chekhov to Michael Crichton, they have a long history of success. Writer Andrea Crawford explored the doctor-writer connection in the magazine Poets & Writers last year. “Medical training, like writing,” she found, “requires a long view of life; and learning to always be aware of—and separate from—one’s emotions helps to sharpen observational skills.”

Here are some quotes from doctor-writers. Do any ring true for you?

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Wonder what it’s like to be a screenwriter? Check out Dreams on Spec. And get convinced to write a book.

This documentary, which came out in 2007, follows three screenwriters as they bloody their fists on wall after wall trying to get their scripts made into movies.

I have a background in acting, so I came to the film with a knowledge of the movie biz. I gotta say, I believe this portrayal. Hollywood likes to pitch itself as the land where dreams come true. Well, chasing dreams has its price.

Check out the preview:

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The Top-10 Words Doctor Writers Should Ban

May 24, 2011
by Leigh Ann Hubbard

Do you write in jargon? Most doctors I’ve worked with do—and don’t even know it. It’s just second nature; it’s what you’re used to reading, so why wouldn’t you write it?

To help you double-check yourself, here’s my top-10 list of words to ban when writing for lay people. I’ve provided some alternative wording, but I’m sure you can come up with more.

Have you used any of these?

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Sure, there are rules in writing. Like, put a period at the end of a sentence. Put quotation marks around quotes. Spell stuff right.

But then there are rules that change according to the source. For example, say you want to write a bullet-point list. You’d think there’d be rules about how to punctuate it, right? Well, there are … and they’re not all the same.

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