Monday, November 26, 2012

Resume for a writer and editor

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    •    Currently work as freelance editor and writer; have edited novels and non-fiction books, articles, business writing, lawyer’s work, a doctoral dissertation, even an ebook on hand, feet and nail care.

    •    Good writer, better editor.

•    Comfortable with telecommuting and deadlines.

    •    Self-starter; need little supervision.


    •    Usually work remotely; my clients have included, among others, a lawyer from Virginia, a doctoral candidate from Canada, and an Australian businessman. I’ve also worked as an independent contractor for two Canadian businesses, a magazine and a comic-book company. I have even laid out newspaper pages remotely.

    •    Have freelanced for the  Metro, Sports, Features, Zones and Niche Publications departments for the Winston-Salem (NC) Journal. Among my stories: a man who survived the Battle of the Bulge; Olympic gymnasts/professional speakers Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci; the best wine lists in Winston-Salem; a 19-year-old proposing to his girlfriend during a carriage ride at Tanglewood Park, and features on Olympic speedskaters Joey Cheek and Dan Jansen.

    •    Lately, have been writing for the Journal's Niche Publications department and for its Relish section. Also, have written for Winston-Salem Monthly, another product of the Journal.
    •    Have written three books (and co-wrote a fourth) and several comic-book scripts on auto racing. In 2007, wrote Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr. (Cumberland House, 2008). In 2012, became a co-author of Then Junior Said to Jeff... for Triumph Books.
    •    In 2006, wrote captions for MBI Publishing's book on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    •    In 1999, wrote chapters for Beckett Publishing books on Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    •    Have written freelance stories for various magazines, among them Winston-Salem MonthlyNASCAR SceneThe Sporting News' 1999 and 2000 preseason auto-racing editions, Performance Racing News (Canadian)Sports Illustrated, Racing for Teens, Circle Track, Stock Car Racing and more. For Sports Illustrated, I wrote a short basketball feature.

    •    Have written freelance stories for the Miami Herald (basketball), the Washington Post (auto racing), the Baltimore Sun (college football) and many other daily newspapers.

    •    Wrote stories for the Ultimate College Football Annual from 2003 to 2008.

    •    Freelanced for the Charleston (S.C.) Regional Business Journal and The Business Journal of the Triad.
    •    Wrote for the iRace, SpeedNet,,, the Indianapolis Star's site, and other web sites.

    •    Have worked at nine newspapers as a writer, copy editor and page designer (and sometimes photographer).
    •    Was sports editor at three newspapers, most recently at the now-defunct Surry Messenger in Mount Airy, NC.

    •    From February to May of 2008, was the editor of The Racing Journal, covering short-track racing in the Piedmont of North Carolina and southern Virginia. Handled the writing, editing and photography; also did page design (QuarkXPress) when needed.
    •    Have worked as the sports editor for one daily newspaper — Surry Messenger — and two non-daily newspapers — Seneca (SC) Journal and Easley (SC) Progress.

    •    Worked as a sports copy editor and writer at daily newspapers in Hendersonville, NC; Wilmington, NC; Charleston, SC; High Point, NC; Winston-Salem, NC, and Mount Airy, NC (Surry Messenger).
    •    Was editor for The Racing Journal, a product of the Winston-Salem Journal.


    •    BA degree in journalism (3.2 GPA), Radford (Va.) University.

    •    News writer for the college newspaper, junior and senior years.

    •    Writer, Radford (Va.) University Office of Information and Publications.

    •    Intern, Christiansburg-Blacksburg News-Messenger.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

An editor's views on powerful writing

Tom Gillispie's resume
I hate wishy-washy words. Throw out the "to be" verbs and give me something active, something powerful.

And take "made his way." Please. I once was reading a chapter in a novel and noticed "made his way" eight times on one page and 40 times in the chapter. The protagonist didn't walk, strut or stroll. He didn't move, slide, wend or walk. He didn't even matriculate or hurry. Or stumble and fall.

He just made his way, over and over and over. Gag.

It works the same way when writers use tons of modifiers. Saturn is massive; it can't be very massive or hugely massive (yes, I'm exaggerating to make a point). A locomotive is powerful. Very, extremely and all of the modifiers in the world won't change or add to that.

If a woman is beautiful or stunning or enchanting, will a modifier make her more so?

He is certainly a wise man; or, he is a wise man. What’s the difference?

Shakespeare wasn't famous or revered because of his wordiness. He cut his writing to the core and made every word count. (And, of course, he was one heck of a writer.)

I really hate it when writers use whom all of the time. If this keeps up, Pete Townshend's band will be The Whom.

I also have problems with attribution in a novel. I can stand exclaimed as a verb to replace said, and whispered is perfect. He whispered, and she exclaimed. Great.

But then a novelist will write, "I haven't felt right in years," Julia sniffed. Julia may have sniffed before or after she said it, but she didn't sniff it. She said it. A better way: "I haven't felt right in years," Julia said. She looked away and sniffed into a handkerchief.

I hate it when a novelist uses no attribution at all -- it's tough to tell who's saying what. And I really hate it when the novelist expects me to remember Sally, Joan, Martha and Lula Belle without a scorecard. I probably can remember Lula Belle for obvious reasons. It might help to occasionally remind us that Sally and Joan are cousins, and Martha is Sally's next-door neighbor.

A woman is pregnant, not very pregnant (I'd be tempted to say that she's hugely pregnant, though). And a one-of-a-kind diamond is unique. Very won't boost it a bit.

In fact, you can pretty much kick the word "very" out of your vocabulary and use powerful words. Mark Twain suggested that we change every “very” in our writing to “damn.” The editor will take out the damns, and the writing will be as it should be.

Smart man, that Twain. Very smart.


Tom Gillispie can be reached at or at

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Advice for be and would-be novelists

•  Tom Gillispie's resume
Even long-time novelists can learn, or they need to be reminded. Here’s a quick primer on novel writing.

Don’t tell us that your lady fair is pretty or beautiful. Let us see her through your eyes. Show us the russet tresses flowing over bare shoulders, her green eyes, her wicked (or demure) smile. Or her pink, fuzzy sweaters. You're already getting visions, aren't you? And I'm just throwing out ideas.

As Antov Chekhov said so well, “Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Always give the reader something to see, hear, taste, smell or feel, something to remember. An old car is better if it's green and white, if its fenders are a darker shade of green and its tires are shiny whitewalls. Or it has noxious fumes belching from the tailpipe. Do you see?

Give your writing room to breathe. Don't have pages and pages of blah, blah, blah without switching paragraphs. It's hard to read, and you're not Shakespeare. In fact, Shakespeare wouldn't have been so unkind to his readers.

You don't need attribution for every bit of dialogue, but occasionally help the reader and say who's speaking. Remind your reader who Bessie Mae and Big John Jones are. Be courteous.

Give us drama. Don't give your hero a happy childhood, a happy tour of military duty, a happy marriage and an even happier work life. Make him suffer or worry a bit. Let your reader empathize with him. Give us a reason to read your writing.

Use active verbs. Don't have your hero make his way here and there. Let him amble, stroll, bumble or slither. And occasionally use an interesting word like sumptuous or persnickety (which means placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details).

If you’re writing action, write short, snappy sentences. If you want to put your reader to sleep (or you’re writing about a sleepy winter scene), long, flowing sentences are fine.

Let your reader laugh occasionally. Stephen King saw humor in horror and J.K. Rowling saw something funny or frightening in magic, and it worked for them. And I suspect that Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett found humor in murder, too.

Remember that it’s almost impossible to come up with something new. Writers wrote about feuding families long before Shakespeare penned the story about the Montagues and the Capulets.

Don’t fall in love with long-winded monologues or soliloquies. Elmore Leonard always said that he cut out the stuff that readers skip (And, yes, readers do skip the chapter in “Moby Dick” that explains harpooning. I did.). Learn something from it.

Don’t be like Michael Douglas’s character in “Wonder Boys.” When you're done, quit writing. Then edit, edit, edit. Remember this: Your finished product is not pristine. Agents and publishers will suggest changes. So will good editors.

Listen to your editor. I became a better writer when I worked with better editors; in fact, I probably became a better editor as well.

Finally, find an agent or a publisher. The world is awaiting your book with bated breath.

Tom Gillispie can be reached at

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Monday, October 15, 2012

A desperate writer working in the dark

Tom Gillispie's resume
In the fall of 2006, I was covering a high-school football playoff game in southwest North Carolina; actually, I was trying to cover the game. They turned the lights off in the pressbox, and I couldn't see to write my notes. And since my computer didn't have a backlit screen, I couldn't write on the computer, either.

To make matters worse, they had about 20 people in a pressbox meant for 15 people, and it was impossible to work. So at halftime, I went into the stands. I figured I'd have room to work, and I'd have enough light to write. I could write on my notebook, true, but the batteries didn't work in the computer.

After the game, I called the paper and gave them the score and stats. I told them I'd write on the bus back.

The problem was that I couldn't plug the computer into an outlet on the bus, and the bus driver wouldn't turn the lights on so I could write. So, desperate, I asked the coach if we could switch places. "Rudy" was playing on the monitors around the bus, and in the flickering lights of the football movie I wrote the game by long hand on a yellow notepad. About 15 minutes before deadline, I called the paper and read the story to an editor.


Oh, there's a postscript to this story. The next week, my wife bought me a small light with a head piece, so I could type and write when the game was blacked out. Naturally, the next pressbox didn't have lights, either, but my little Borg light worked perfectly. After the game, I did my interviews and went back to the pressbox to finish writing. The pressbox folk locked me in and left; I finished, sent my story via email, locked the pressbox, walked to my car and drove home.

Piece of cake.

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