Jun 13, 2022 - News

3 tips to become a better writer from the Archer City Writers Workshop

Ben and Selene behind rusty jail bars
Ben and Selene in the drunk tank at the old Archer County Jail. Photo courtesy of Rachel Williams

🤠 Howdy from Archer City, Texas, y'all.

We came over for the Archer City Writers Workshop, in the high plains hometown of novelist Larry McMurtry, who died last year at 84.

  • We studied writing Friday and Saturday with a group of Texas journalists, and McMurtry's sister, Sue, joined us for public readings.
  • We toured the old jail, hit a Wichita Falls brewery and met a horse whisperer named Jackie, whom McMurtry called the last American cowgirl.

We wanted to share some of the tips we picked up, because most of us could stand to be better writers.

  • Keep it short: You can probably say it with fewer words. Respect your reader's time by cutting redundancy. Reading your work out loud can help identify the fat. Here's an example of what you can do with 300 words.
  • Fold information into the narrative: You'll lose a reader's attention with thick paragraphs loaded with stats and data, and no action. Here's one where the writer weaved figures into the story.
  • A story about place is really a story about people: These profiles of idyllic Lipscomb, Texas, an objectively happy place, and El Paso after the 2019 mass shooting show us that the story of a town only comes into focus when readers get to meet its residents.
Ben and Selene pose in front of a blue old VW bug
Ben and Selene with a car featured in the film "Texasville." Photo courtesy of Jerry Phillips
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