Category Archives: Podcast

Write While True Episode 36: Stack of Paragraphs

The advice applies to any kind of writing. It resonated with me because I feel like I might be having that problem in my written work. That sometimes my writing feels like a stack of paragraphs. I am feeling the lack of propulsion that John and Aline described.


Generating Podcast Episode Ideas

Tomorrow, I will record and publish episode 36 of Write While True. I have not given a lot of thought about the content yet except that I have the topic.

For each episode, all I want to do is end with a takeaway that I have learned about writing better, It feels like there should be a limitless number of topics, so I’m not worried about running out, but I still need to think of them.

To make it more focused, I have been using “seasons” to set a theme. At some point in the week, something that fits in the theme comes to me. Sometimes it’s from something I’m reading, or maybe another podcast, or it just pops into my head from some past bit of writing advice I saw somewhere.

Sometimes I get an idea that is not on theme. For that, I just make a card on my podcast Trello board. Eventually, there will be enough cards in some other theme that I can use to start a new season.

In a way it’s a lot like James Webb Young’s Technique for Producing Ideas. He recommends exposing yourself to both random things and the problem you are trying to solve. At some point, a new idea will pop into your head, since new ideas are just novel combinations of old ideas.

Then, you refine it, because the idea alone is only a seed, and not good enough on its own.

Write While True Episode 35: Zombie Nouns

I recently came across the phrase zombie nouns, which was coined by Helen Sword. She’s an author and currently runs a private consultancy to help writers. Back in 2012, she was teaching at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and she wrote an article for the New York Times called Zombie Nouns.


Write While True Episode 34: Word of the Day

What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to learn how to recall fit words when we need them in our writing. To get better at that, we need to be exposed to more interesting words and to practice using them. Imagine situations where they would be perfect. Making it memorable and ridiculous might help you remember the word when you need it.


Write While True Episode 33: Collect Sentences

The idea of collecting quotes is not something new. I think that’s the way most people think of note taking in general. There’s even a style of journal some people keep called a Commonplace book, which builds on this idea. In a Commonplace book, you are mostly collecting the thoughts of others. You might also put in your own reaction to those—your thoughts on those thoughts—but the focus is on the collecting.

I want to recommend a spin on this idea.


Write While True Episode 32: Paragraph Checklist

I think one sentence from David Lambuth really sums up what I want to say about paragraphs. Here it is.

There is no absolute rule for paragraphing. Your own feeling must be your guide.


Write While True Episode 31: The Order of Words

I’m going to use these three books again for today’s topic, which is the order of words in a sentence.

I love that these books tackle mundane topics, things that seem innate, but aren’t. I mean, we can order words into something grammatical without much thought. Even though a ten-sentence word has ten factorial possible orderings, we can easily find the handful that are legal English.


Write While True Episode 30: Finding Nouns and Verbs

Every book on writing tells you to avoid adverbs (and even adjectives). I find that hard to do in first drafts, but I do try to remove them in edits. You can tell that I haven’t done enough editing if you see that I “really like” something or that a new programming language is “pretty good”.

Season 3


Sweep Editing


Write While True Episode 29: Loose Sentences

Last week, I spoke about something very fundamental—how to write complex sentences, and I’m going to continue along in that theme for what I’m now calling season three, drawing lessons from some of what I consider the greatest books about writing, and picking out ideas related to using words, sentences, and paragraphs. These are things that I’ve found that I need to work on, and I hope that that can help you too.


Write While True Episode 28: Complex Sentences

I like to sketch, mostly with pencil and charcoal on paper. One of the first things I needed to learn was how my drawing tools and the paper interacted. What kind of mark did each level of pencil hardness make, and how was that different from charcoal? What kind of paper worked best?

I did various exercises that helped me understand my own tools. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and trying to figure out what is the equivalent for this in writing. Here’s what I’ve come up with.