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Break the Writing Rules :: Confessions of a Dirty Blonde

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Confessions of a Dirty Blonde, wherein we meet. I’ll be in your inbox twice a month from here forward. Why?

To deliver the goods, naturally.

And for you to understand me and my language, we need a dinner date. But only if you want style, writing and editing tips.

I play with language, disrupt and restructure it until it fits back together. I use shocking words, making you feel like you’ve never read a combination so charged by someone so blonde and innocent-looking. I don’t feel bad for using sentence fragments. And I love a good conjunction at the beginning of a sentence and a powerful preposition at the end.

Try explaining my habits to a classroom full of kids learning formal grammar (which, by the way, leaves little room for creativity). “Capo,” they said, “why can’t I start my sentence with ‘but’?”

But they could, and I was dumbfounded because I felt I couldn’t teach the lesson without pissing off the state-standard-gods. Or parents. So I taught eight years of generation Y, feeling too dishonest for anyone’s good.

Obviously there IS a time and place for playing with language.

That’s why I’m here instead of my cinder block classroom.

When I say readers lose focus after a fifteen word sentence, you count and cut. Why? Because you want this.

You think long and hard about writing, about honing your craft and hooking your readers. I see you, you sexy thing.

How do we create the best writing? By digging under the surface. Finding the roots of our problems and passions. Extracting the bad and feeding the good. We practice. We learn. We grow. But you have to get a little dirty first.

I only learned this when I listened to myself and my editor, who told me I could write whatever the fuck I wanted at any time. Once I gave myself permission to break rules without apology, I finally finished talking about a career change and walked my terrified-yet-elated ass right out of the school building.

“Capo,” some student said, “are you insinuating teaching is a hoax?”

Not entirely. But I was a hoax. Any of you who have been around this site for more than five minutes know the truth is most important when you want readers to hear your voice. I was a good teacher. But I’m a great editor.

And I can’t wait to get to know you, because – well – you’re why I’m here, talking about the best parts of the English language instead of grading finals. And that makes you really fucking awesome.

Got writing questions for Lindsay? Email capo@rebeccatdickson.com. Confessions of a Dirty Blonde goes out every other Thursday.

Confessions of a Dirty Blonde: Capo breaks bad

Yesterday, my husband asked me to unfollow him on Twitter because he doesn’t want his followers to see how much I swear. His account is for business, after all.

So I thought, Well, fuck me.

And then I remembered the No. 1 Reason I work for myself: to avoid asshats who tell me I swear too much, obviously.

But do you know the No. 2 Reason I work for myself? I can hire anyone I want.

Welcome Lindsay Capobianco. The latest and greatest editor to pull up her skirt and break out the red pen. And our first new addition since last summer when Scott Southard came aboard. Bonus? She likes my swearing.

Capo, as I like to call her, just broke out of prison (read: former high school English teacher). She’ll be contributing to your delinquency twice a month.

Enter “Confessions of A Dirty Blonde.” It’ll hit your inbox every other Thursday, starting in June – assuming you’re subscribed to our awesomeness (upper right-hand corner of this page).

But, Becky, what the hell is ‘Confessions’?

A column. About writing shit Lindsay wishes she could have taught in the classroom. And other things – of no fucking value – she was forced to teach about writing and editing. The standard rules holding writers back and how habitually following them only makes it harder to break free. (Think misused words, the fucking thesaurus, semicolons, paragraph length, story structure, five-paragraph essays, lead ins and outs, hooks…from the perspective of someone who taught it.)

Look for it next month. And read below to learn all about her.

Lindsay says

In four weeks, I’m packing up and taking home a life I built for myself more than eight years.

Goodbye, classroom. Hello, dream job.

This move is five years in the making. Back then, I started blogging anonymously and met my friend (and cohort) the badass editor and writing coach you and I have in common. (That’s you, Beck.) She was thinkingtoohard. I was searching for my future.

And I was going awesome places.

I was a semi-finalist for a Bloggi.es.

And a Shorty Award nominee. Twice.

I edited for the now-extinct-but-totally-awesome website for writers (RIP Indieink.com).

I wrote for and was published in several books and websites under my pseudonym.

The year before Becky and I met, I left teaching to pursue a writing career. In a grey cubicle in the back of a lawyer’s office, I ghostwrote for any client I could, eating ramen noodles twice a day. I learned about SEO when it was young. I marketed myself on Facebook and Twitter.

And I feared my ability.

I didn’t trust my talent. So I ended up applying for another teaching job, hoping to regain my composure and a steady paycheck.

When the school year began and ghostwriting ended, I worked on becoming a better, more confident writer in my time outside of the classroom. Between teaching, coaching, grading and dating, I had little free time and too much stress. But I learned how to make a shitty first draft and go back to edit it (even if I could only work for fifteen minutes). I learned there’s more to life than comfort. And I learned I can’t break away from my desire to help, but I can do it outside of a high school classroom.

While I was forced to follow state standards and school policies, I learned about editing with honesty and compassion.

If you ever want to feel shitty, watch a seventeen year old football player cry because you told him his paper wasn’t up to standard.

If you ever want to make a difference, hand the dude a tissue and explain to him how he can grow as a writer.

Teaching shaped my career. My kids taught me more than I ever imagined. It’s now time for me to take those lessons and better my life with them. Which is why I started this journey with Becky more than a year ago.

Becky pushed me into her Write Raw Mastermind (only offered annually in the fall). I finished the first draft of my manuscript there, and I’m not looking back. So, when you struggle or sigh or fear your editor doesn’t understand what you’re going through, I don’t agree. I lived through it, too.

I’m a tough Italian girl, but I’m not a glutton for punishment. If I didn’t know I could do this, I wouldn’t put myself on the front line.

My first gift to you will help you save time and effort. If you Google my name, you’ll find three less-than-flattering pictures of me floating around the internet. You’ll find a handful of amateur articles I wrote in the beginning. And you’ll see my life as a teacher. I plan to continue saving you the much deserved time and effort in your writing career and our relationship.

Want to know more about me? Find me on Facebook. Or Twitter @IcedCapo. Or in Becky’s super-secret client group. We can play twenty questions. Or quarters. As long as you bring the cherry bourbon.

P.S. You’re on the list, right? Subscribe already. Jeesh. (Upper right-hand corner.)

P.P.S. Got an idea for a column? Leave it in the comments below.