(Some of) my favorite writing advice

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Writing-wise, here is a profile I wrote for the University of Chicago on Patrick Jagoda, who is the cofounder of the Game Changer lab, which creates "games for change." I had a really nice time speaking with him. Check it out.

Tonight is the final Funny Ha-Ha of the year. Every show is of course special to me but I think tonight's will feel extra good. Talented, smart Chicagoans drinking beer in a good old bar and making each other laugh? Yes please.

On that note, I try to collect quality writing advice when it comes my way. Since tonight is a night to celebrate writers I thought I'd share some of my favorites that I've heard or read over the last few years.

From Dale Keiger of Johns Hopkins Magazine, (whom I heard at the CASE Editors Forum in 2014):

Writers can usually say it better than the source. People don't speak in quotes but we still quote them because we feel like we ought to. Too much too often sucks the momentum from the story and diminishes the source.

Chris Jones of Esquire (also at the CASE Editors Forum):

Writing is secondary to reporting. All good stories hang on a backbone of good reporting. Reporting is labor, not talent. You can catch up if you report enough.

If necessary, give interview subjects a preamble. "I'm going to ask you weird questions, but they're all going somewhere."

Start with easy, factual questions--they're relaxing.

Don't be afraid to look dumb in front of a source. Never pretend to know things you don't know.

Be the listener. Concentrate. It's the simplest thing you can do to be good (in general, at anything)

Jen A. Miller, author and reporter:

Do a "find" for all "ly" words and try to take them out. Adverbs: bad!

FIRST! Get a set fee before you start. You always always want an agreement over a fee or fee structure before you start

Pitch the next one. [Immediately after turning in a story.]

Ernest Hemingway, quoted in Max Perkins: Editor of Genius:

Always stop while you are going good. Then when you resume you have the impetus of feeling that what you last did was good. Don't wait until you are baffled and stumped.

Max Perkins, editor of Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and many more:

When you have people talking, you have a scene.

I would be much more concerned if you did not have to go through periods of despair and anxiety and dissatisfaction. It is true that a good many novelists do not, but I think the best ones truly do, and I do not see how it would be otherwise. It is awfully hard work, writing of the kind you do.

Laura Oppenheimer, to me, on Twitter: