My best writing secret


As I’ve relaunched this website, I realize it has two distinct goals: to share information about my fiction and to present my skills and experience as a consultant writing web and marketing copy for institutions and companies. Should this really be two websites, I wondered? Maybe three, since I also feature some of my journalism?

No, I decided. It’s all writing. I’ve devoted my career to writing, and the site is about all my writing. Though the intended audience, organizational logic, and voice differ wildly as I write in these different arenas, the fundamentals stay the same.

So here’s my main secret: Great writing stands on apt nouns and verbs. Subject –> verb –> object. That’s it. Choosing which noun or verb is the writer’s primary art.

Adverbs modify verbs, and using one usually means you could choose a better verb. Adjectives modify nouns and usually mean you could’ve chosen a better noun. You do use adjectives and adverbs — but only after you’ve first tried to pick a noun or verb that can stand alone.

When you discipline yourself to seek nouns and verbs, you begin to write elegant, concise, direct sentences. And pulling a noun or verb from one aspect of life into a sentence about another enriches your writing with connotations from the source of the word. You introduce literary devices into your sentences.

From a crime short story I just entered in a contest. You may or may not agree they’re good, but you can see how I worked to find the noun or verb for the job:

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Felonious Jazz is an audiobook

You’re busy. The only time you have to yourself is when you’re in the car or on the treadmill. You wish you had more time to read. You have an iPhone, an iPod or some other mp3 player. I want you to be a buyer of my fiction, so I’ve recorded an audiobook version of Felonious Jazz. Yep, I called on my old college radio experience and narrated the book myself, even doing different accents for each of the characters.

It’s now available on, where I highly recommend their one-audiobook-a-month subscription plan.


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