WRITING WORKSHOPS: 21 Steps to Fog-Free Writing

In September I had the pleasure of taking this class from Writers Online Classes, with returning instructor Don McNair.  The class advertisement read:

Publishers and agents reject 99 percent of received manuscripts after simply glancing at their first chapters.   This class shows why your own manuscript was rejected . . . and how to fix it!

Don McNair, a professional writer and editor for forty years, discovered the answers years ago while editing a manuscript on an airplane trip for a public relations client.  Months of follow-up research showed him there were twenty-one problems that “fog up” a manuscript, diminishing its clarity and power.  The big secret?  Remove one or more words from those problem sentences.  He named the solutions to these problems “The 21 Steps to Fog-Free Writing.”

The class lived up to its name.  Don was friendly, personable and approachable.  Best of all, every lesson included examples and worksheets.  For every worksheet, he included an answer sheet, so participants could see what was wrong with the submission and how to correct it.  He also included chapters of incorrectly edited materials along with the corrected material, which showed what had been changed.   And Don was available to discuss the lessons and editing recommendations.

Exercises were not to be posted to the loop.  Rather it was recommended that we complete each exercise, ‘mark it’ ourselves and then ask questions.  There was a question or two for each lesson, but it was not an email intensive course.

It was one of the most worthwhile classes I’ve ever taken.

Don’s main point was that extraneous words ‘fog’ our writing.  These words show up in a variety of ways.  In lesson 1 we were asked to “consider this sentence: ‘She started walking toward the door.’ Do we mean she got one foot into the air and stopped? No, you say? Well, the author should have said this instead: “She walked toward the door.”  Then he goes on to explain why the change is necessary and when it doesn’t apply.

Among the twenty one ways to eliminate the fog and tighten our writing, he suggests using fewer infinitives, writing in the active voice and eliminating double verbs.

Don never presses himself as an expert and doesn’t insist anyone write his way.  His goal, as I understood it was to enlighten other writers in the many ways we can write tighter prose.  I saved his lessons and worksheets, knowing I’d need to review many of his points in the future.  But I also knew that implementing just a few of his points made my novels tighter and cleaner, which means they’re easier to read.

Don offers another course EDITOR-PROOF THAT MANUSCRIPT, which I haven’t taken yet.  I will, down the road because I know the quality of his material.  Information on his courses is available at http://www.mcnairedits.com/

If your prose can use additional tightening, I can’t recommend Don’s course highly enough.  It was worth more than the cost of enrollment.


About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
This entry was posted in Louise Behiel, writing, writing classes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to WRITING WORKSHOPS: 21 Steps to Fog-Free Writing

  1. I might have to look into this. I have a draft that gained 20k words in revision, and it was long to begin with! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. So true! It’s funny that when I teach I’m constantly crossing out words on my students’ assignments, yet I still catch myself adding extraneous words in my own writing. I’m bad about unnecessary “that’s” and “had/have.” Thanks for the reminder that streamlining our writing is part of making it shine! Don’s workshops sound interesting, too. I’ll have to check them out.

  3. Debra Kristi says:

    Sounds very interesting Louise. Thanks for pointing us in the right direction.

  4. Louise, I remember you mentioning this course and how excellent you thought it was. And I liked your example from Lesson 1, mostly because it’s something I do frequently. I’m going to have to check into the class. Thanks for the great review!

    • Sheila, I can’t imagine your writing needing work – your words are so smooth, but a review never hurts, does it. And I loved that it wasn’t homework/email intensive.

  5. Coleen Patrick says:

    I am going to have to bookmark this class info–sounds great. Thanks for sharing your wisdom Louise 🙂

  6. Coleen, the class is like having a grammar notebook at hand – one that helps fiction writers immensely. Enjoy.

  7. Thanks for the info, Louise! I know I’m guilty of doing this, and other things. Especially adding far too many exclamation points in my first drafts! 🙂

    When things slow down here, I may look into one of these courses, too. Sounds like it would be good knowledge to have.

  8. Let me know what you think.

  9. Sounds amazing Louise. It’s it inspiring when we take a course or workshop and get sooo much out of it. I love it. This sounds like it’ll be right up my alley at some point so I’ve bookmarked the site for future reference. Thanks for sharing such a great resource! Woot woot!

  10. Julie says:

    Wow, and the whole class was online? Sounds quite different from other online writing courses. I’ll definitely check it out.

  11. Wow Louise, this is awesome information. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I’m going to bookmark this page. I need to know this. And if I forget, I know how to find you! LOL

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