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A New Email Newsletter for Writers
Friends! You're here!
All I can say is, I am floored, thankful, and thrilled to have you join up with this little venture. Welcome to the very first issue of SLANT LETTER! I can’t tell you how glad I am to have you here. And I hope you enjoyed your Content-Crafting Kickstart Guide that came with your subscription to kick things off!
There is so very much to say, and over each monthly issue we will get that chance, but I can think of only one place to start.
Every writer I’ve ever worked with has begun right here: the electric impulse to create. It’s a kind of urgency, like that of the prophet Jeremiah: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9).
If there is ever good cause for an editor to use a double negative, it is this: write what you cannot not write.
You can’t hold the fire in because you were never designed to.
The trick, of course, is to get your reader to spark to your fire of an idea just as much as you do, and that’s where the angle can help. That's where we practice telling it slant.
I’ve spent my career thus far investigating what makes an angle work—first as a publicist pitching media, then as a magazine editor screening such pitches, and finally as a book editor working with authors to develop their concept. So what is an angle, exactly?
At its simplest, your angle is your unique slant on how you see the world, written in your unique voice [tweet this]. It’s the boldest statement you have to make about your topic. It takes courage and creativity, hard work, and risk. And it’s the engine of all great writing.
If that sounds intimidating, just think of this: no one else in the world has your precise vantage point—the sum total of your gifts, experience, intellect, and story—and no one else has your distinct voice.
Do you see? You are already remarkably equipped for this work. You already have everything you need. From here, it’s a matter of showing up and doing the work. SLANT LETTER is here to help you show up to that blank page and blinking cursor with confidence.
Finding and refining your angle, of course, is not a lightbulb moment event. The good ones take time. As a starting point, I find three questions helpful. Because if you want to share your fire, you have to first chase the spark.
3 Questions to Chase Your Spark
What saves you?
As you think about the golden threads woven through the story of your life, what are the themes, the ideas, the truths that have saved you? What mantras, what wisdom, have rallied to your rescue? What truth has most transformed you? What good and true thing is helping you carry on right now, today? Chances are, it might just do the same for someone else.
What moves you?
We all want to be the writer with the prose that moves people. But there’s a catch. First, we must have the courage to be moved ourselves. In writing as in life, emotion must be earned. And the emotion that is earned does not merely touch us in a fleeting way; it moves us altogether. What has been such a catalyst for you?
What scares you?
What fears do you bring to the page? Where is the end of the line for you in your writing—the place where you think, “Oh, I’ll never write that. I can’t go there.”
I hear you. I really do.
But here is where the process of finding your fire comes full circle with a twist.
Because I am willing to bet that whatever you answered to the first question, whatever has saved you, is a direct result of witnessing someone else write into their fear. That’s the way it works: writing your dangerous is the only way to speak the language of your readers’ desperate [tweet this]. It is the only way to reach them. It is the only way to turn the wilderness where we thought we were so alone into sacred ground, where we find each other as family.
I’ve found far too often that when a concept appears dry or undeveloped, it’s not because the writer has nothing else to offer. It’s because they’re holding back.
Yet fire is not meant to be held back. It’s meant to be shared, gathered round, so that we all might be warmed by such generous embers.
Please don’t hold back. Do as Annie Dillard says and spend it all. We will be so enriched because you did. It is the greatest gift your words have to offer—to put yourself up as proof that we are not so alone but so fiercely tethered together after all.
Consider this your full permission. Spend it all: what saves you, what moves you, what scares you. This is how we find our fire. This is the only place I know to start. And you can bet the good stuff comes after that.
So what are you writing right now? What do you want to see covered in this newsletter? Hit reply to this email and/or tag #SLANTLETTER on Twitter and Instagram and let me know!
In the meantime...
Take heart. Write on. You got this.
P.S. // A Prayer for Writers
SLANT LETTER is for the craft and soul of what you do as a writer. So for each issue, I want to focus on an element of the craft as well as a prayer for all of us anxious, ambitious, internet-exhausted writing folk. I hope this will refresh you as it does for me. Read it, print it, share it, whatever you like.