Jana Bommersbach speaks on ‘My Secret Writing Tips’
Posted May 5, 2009on:
I first met Jana Bommersbach at the 2007 Phoenix College MicroBurst Writer’s Conference. She autographed her book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd,” for me. In the afternoon, she spoke to us about her adventures as she gathered research material for the book and met and interviewed Winnie Ruth Judd. We all became so engrossed in her talk that the conference coordinators came to get us for the closing event of the day.
Jana Bommersbach arrived in her metallic green, Mustang convertible recently to speak at an event sponsored by the Arizona Press Women. I listened to Bommersbach speak about “My Secret Writing Tips.”
During her talk, the award-winning journalist, broadcaster, author and speaker shared tips for better writing. She used an analogy of the trees and the forest and said writers should tell the whole story and make sure all of the pieces are there. She encouraged writers to find a different perspective on a story or use a story already in the media, but show inside stories associated with it: show the trees for the forest.
After researching and gathering information, says Bommersbach, I have boxes of information. I could write a book for each story.
Bommersbach obtains some of the information from public records. She goes through everything and listens to videos and tapes and reads reports and documents in their entirety to discover information.
Bommersbach plans her story by asking what is the lead, and how do I find it and how do I express it? She makes a list of salacious things she knows, otherwise, she gets lost in the inventory of research information. She makes a list of important things and then asks, “How do I tell that story?” First she writes a lead and a kicker, so she knows exactly were she starts and exactly where she goes. She lays out all of the evidence. In determining the best way to tell the story, Bommersbach wants the reader to feel a sensory reaction to the story.
Other tactics Bommersbach uses include writing simple, declarative sentences, even long sentences; limiting the use of metaphors; and using valid analogies that make sense. As important as the lead and the kicker are to the story, Bommersbach emphasizes that the story should also end with an exclamation of a good summation or an emotional quote so the reader feels the story is done.
These were a few of the “secret writing tips” Bommersbach shared with the audience. After the talk, I purchased her newest book, “Bones in the Desert,” and requested her autograph.