Tips on Style and Format from Rick Green
Don’t spend hours struggling for perfection. Simply tell your story. It doesn’t have to be an epic saga—Mark Twain wrote a timeless classic about some kids painting a fence.
Talk about yourself. “My handwriting looks like someone scribbled on the page to see if a pen still had ink…” is good. “Adults with ADHD often have poor handwriting…” sounds like something from a training manual.
Describe what happened. “My mother turned red, tore up the letter that said I’d failed Grade 3, and then swept me in her arms, sobbing,” is much better than, “School was a real struggle for me and that was quite hard on my mother.” Paint a vivid picture and readers will get that school was a struggle and hard on your mom.
It’s fine to say you’re impulsive, intuitive, or whatever. But give us an example. Bring it to life.
Avoid exclamation marks. SERIOUSLY!!!!!
Make Thesaurus.com your best friend, pal, chum, ally, helper, gal Friday, aide, collaborator. But don’t go overboard. SERIOUSLY!!!!
My Biggest Challenge? Word count
By minimizing the word count and expunging superfluous verbiage your dissertation will be more impactful for the reader who can easily become overwhelmed by excessive loquacity. In other words, ‘Keep it short and punchy.’
When I teach comedy writing I point out, “If you can tell the same joke in half the words, people think you’re twice as funny.”
Cut useless adjectives. “It was a miracle,” rather than, “It was an amazing, stunning, miracle.”
Before you submit it, let it sit for a few days. Let your words ‘cool.’
Then reread what you wrote as if you’ve never seen it before. You’ll notice what is dull, melodramatic, repetitive, confusing, scattered, repetitive, or unclear. Not to mention repetitive. (See, old jokes can still work.)
We may edit or trim what you write for length. We may correct grammar if it’s confusing. We’d rather not. (And to be honest, my grasp of the rules of Proper Grammar is tenuous at best. So I write like I talk. Be you.)
“What should I write about?”
If you’re a health care professional, you’ll probably write about your clients and patients. Without naming names of course. For the rest of us, it’s about our own situations.
It’s okay to be vulnerable. If you messed up in life, even badly, that’s okay. Share the painful stuff. It’s actually endearing and liberates readers from shame.
Speak from your heart. Humor can help, but don’t worry if your story is simply sweet, moving, sad, or dramatic.
Tell us how you had to grow, forgive, or let go of old beliefs. Your ‘message’ may become clear as you write. Sometimes I have to reread what I’ve written to figure out what I’m trying to say. Or my wife reads an early draft and sees what I cannot.
You’re asking people to spend time reading your story. Make it worth their while. Don’t feel you have to have all the answers–you may conclude with a question that can trigger a wonderful conversation in the Reader’s Comments.
“I have 1,000 ideas!’
If you have a number of ideas or stories in mind, pick the best 3 or 4, and Email a one or two sentence summary of each. Keep it simple. “I recently retired from the army and I would love to tell everyone why a job in the military can be a great fit for a person with ADHD. It provides a rigid structure, clear goals, one task after another, and lots of adrenaline.”
Allow 2 to 3 weeks for us to reply. We’ll pick the topic that seems the best fit for TotallyADD.
One Thing I Know For Sure
Writing is a process.
Writing is about rewriting. My first drafts are confused at best, as I try to capture every thought and idea. Then I rewrite and trim it down until it makes sense flows.
Composers refine, rework, play with variations. A painter doesn’t start in one corner of the canvas and work their way across and then down, line by line. Leonardo Da Vinci spent years going over and over the Mona Lisa, tweaking, adding, refining. He famously wrote, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
It will never be perfect. Nothing is. At some point it’s good enough. At that point, submit it.
Most of my Blogs go through five or six drafts before they’re ready to publish. And many will trigger ideas that I cut because they are off topic. That’s okay. Those ideas usually develop into separate blogs, rants, or videos.