8x NATJA prize winner; #TBINchat host; pericarditis patient. Found on: Newsweek, Cruise Critic, MSN Travel. Writer’s Toolkit https://melindacrow.substack.com/

Your brain, your fingers, and your eyes are your enemies

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Photo by Jonas Zürcher on Unsplash

Your brain is proud of the words it spewed onto the page for you. How dare you have the audacity to question its authority? And what makes you think it will let you see its minor mistakes? It can blind you to anything it deems important. If “just” happens to be your brain’s favorite justification, a simple proofread will not help you catch them all. Grammarly is your friend; it should not, however, be your only friend.

As much as I love the idea of letting my work rest, we don’t always have that luxury. Deadlines beckon, self-imposed writing goals loom, and well, sometimes we are too excited to wait for our brains to remove the blinders preventing us from spotting its mistakes. Luckily, there are shortcuts that may help you speed up the process. …


In case you missed my weekly series on The Writing Cooperative

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Photo by Canva. Graphics by Author

It’s hard to believe that week number six is here. I have been having so much fun working on this ongoing series for The Writing Cooperative. The goal is to help you explore specific tools — whether they are books, websites, apps, or language itself, not just from a review perspective, but to decide how to put them to work.

Here’s what we’ve covered so far.

Week 1:

We kicked off the series with a subject we all fret over —when, where, and how often should we use the pronoun I? …


Writer’s Toolkit

Building on the traditional power of 3's

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Photo by Andre Furtado on Unsplash

Strange as it sounds from someone who grew up in the Panhandle of Texas, I was a child hockey fan. It may have only been minor leagues, but all that action on the ice was fascinating. Plus, having a hockey team in town meant there were opportunities to ice skate — something practically unheard of in most of Texas in the early seventies.

I remember seeing my first hat trick and will never forget the excitement it generated in both the audience and the team. For the hockey uninitiated, a hat trick is when one player scores three goals in the same game. …


Writer’s Toolkit

And do you really have to analyze every damn one?

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Photo by Gallery DS on Unsplash

The obvious answer is there’s no one making you check anything you write. If your name is Chrissy Teigan (who recently used the one-word headline, Hi. here on Medium), you can use whatever lands on the top line of your story. We’ll read it and love her for it. But since only one of us fits that category, let’s pause to say “hi” back to Chrissy, then move forward in our work of being better writers.

Self analyze first

Headline tools are great, but they don’t know what’s included in your post. Only you know what’s in there, so that’s your starting line. If you wrote the headline before the post, backtrack to ensure you stayed on point. …


And, yes, I know we aren’t supposed to worry about curation anymore

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Photo by Erica Nilsson on Unsplash

But here’s the deal. Writers who make their living putting words on a page (and those who plan to) should worry about who is reading their work. Everything we write professionally needs to target a specific audience, otherwise, we’re simply journaling.

Not only should we target that audience before our fingers strike the keys, we absolutely must analyze how well our work performed with that audience.

The purpose of this story is not to be one of those curation humblebraggers, but to break down the process of effectively writing for specific audiences — in this case, four diverse audiences.

Here’s the completed story. You may need to refer to it as we analyze it. …


And why it may help us earn more money

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Photo by BP Miller on Unsplash

Admit it, you loved playing the game. Who in your Facebook group got curated today? Was their story better than yours that didn’t make the cut? Some of us love competition. Maybe a little too much.

And that’s probably one reason Medium took away our toys (or at least hid them at the back of the closet.) But I suspect it’s not the biggest reason. Follow my thinking and decide for yourself.

Curation means we’re playing for their audience

The harder we worked at pleasing the curation gods, the less we focused on our audience. Curation means we are handed a slice of Medium’s pie. They built the topics homepages, they built the app and the personalized homepages. …


From raunchy to rom-com, what you watch affects both what you want and what you get

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Photo by Pars Sahin on Unsplash

There’s a very real possibility that whatever you’re bingeing right now is having an effect on your love life. It’s basic brain-washing psychology. Immerse yourself (and/or your partner) in enough hours of the same sexual scenarios and characters, and you can’t help but experience change.

The evils of watching too much TV have been debated ad nauseam for half a century, but there is general consensus regarding television’s ability to influence our behavior, if even in tiny increments. Non-believers need only consider beer commercials in the Super Bowl for evidence. Budweiser doesn’t spend those millions without proof of performance.

We have ample information regarding how children and teens are affected by extensively watching programming containing sex, primarily that they are more likely to engage in sexual behaviors at a younger age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. …


Writer’s Toolkit

Edit, critique, read, and teach your way to better writing

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Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

Historical romance is so far off my reading plate, even my cat wouldn’t be able to find a trail of crumbs to my long-forgotten teen reading habits. And yet, I am currently spending time almost every day reading and critiquing a romance novel set in the middle ages. It has horses, sword fights, and castles, plus mysterious words I have to look up and names I cannot pronounce.

And far beyond the history lessons, it has been one of the most educational activities of my year. The novel is the work of my online critique partner. She reads my chick-lit thriller and I read her romance novel. …


CHOSEN FOR FURTHER DISTRIBUTION IN WRITING

Straight from the Twitter feeds of the presidential candidates

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Photo by Basil James on Unsplash

Must you manipulate your readers? There are times when you must not: journalistic reporting tops that list. But in almost all other fiction and non-fiction, the answer is a resounding yes. Blog posts, sales funnels, commercial content, novels, and short stories all improve with your ability to move the reader both emotionally and logically through your words.

So in the final days of the 2020 presidential campaign, I’ve spent hours scouring both candidates’ Twitter feeds. (Because where else would I find the most manipulative words?) I then narrowed my list of power words to twenty-seven.

Keep in mind that reader manipulation is best accomplished through subtlety, never forgetting the words of a political master of manipulation from another era — Teddy Roosevelt, who said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Consider these twenty-seven words your big stick. …


Writer’s Toolkit

Writing hurts. Here’s how to survive some of the aches and pains.

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Photo by Jane Boyd on Unsplash

To celebrate the publication of my first guidebook, friends bought me a beautiful executive-style desk chair, that to this day is one of the most uplifting gifts anyone has ever given me. I loved that chair and the sentiment behind it. I was a real writer, and that justified a real chair. I wrote every word of my second book while seated in the gift chair. And when it was done, I spent the following year struggling with back pain.

At first, I blamed everything except the chair. It was cushy and comfortable and made me feel invincible. Through physical therapy, medical procedures, emergency room visits, and all that goes with chronic back problems, the chair was still my place of power. …

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