Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Writing Craftsmanship

Recently I heard author Tom Glenn speak about “The Forgotten Discipline: Fiction Craftsmanship” at the Carroll County Branch of the Maryland Writers’ Association.

Craftsmanship is seldom stressed in writing classes, he said. yet it may be key to getting published, Creativity is innate and probably can’t be learned, but craftsmanship can. People think, we all learned to write as children. What else is there to learn?

Professional writers know there is so much more to learn. This program focused on the mechanics of fiction—formatting, copy editing, wording/structure, and dialogue.

He quoted Ursula K. LeGuin: “How can a reader trust a writer who seems to be ignorant of the medium she works in?”

Tom Glenn is well versed in his craft. Besides his published books, he won several writing contests, published 16 short stories and interviews authors for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

His Vietnam novel-in-stories, Friendly Casualties and novel, No Accounts are available on His newest novel, The Trion Syndrome, will be published by Apprentice House this year.

Although formatting can be dull it is important to let agents and editors see that you are serious about your business and can abide by their guidelines. Agents and editors are busy people and often discard a manuscript because of minor problems. It is important for your writing to stand out. Don’t give them any reason to discard it.

Some basic copy editing rules he discussed included using 12-point serifed point, a single space at the end of sentences and flush-left alignment of text. All make it easier to read your text.

Look for repeated words and beware of adverbs. Use italics to show internal thought. Under dialogue he recommended keeping conversations clipped and brisk.

When you finish your manuscript put it away to cool, possibly for several months. Run spell check at the end, even if you ran it periodically during the writing. Read your work aloud to check for hesitations and awkward phrasing. Also, make sure you vary sentence structure using simple, compound, and complex sentences and even non-sentences, such as short phrases. Non-sentences are especially useful in tense situations.

“Get someone who doesn’t love you to critique the manuscript,” he suggested. It doesn't help that Mom, Dad or your best friend thinks you are the world's best writer. Make sure it is ready for other eyes to view.

Besides being a writer, Tom Glenn also worked as an undercover agent, musician, linguist (seven languages), cryptologist, government executive, and caregiver for the dying. With a doctorate in public administration, he toured the country lecturing on leadership and was dean of the Management Department at the National Cryptologic School.

He is available for other presentations including:

“Healing Through Writing: Survival and Craft.” Tom Glenn joins poet Shirley J. Brewer to explore the dark world of trauma: PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury), accidental death, murder, violence. Healing takes place when the writer faces the trauma and orders chaos through writing. The presentation offers techniques to address personal traumatic experiences through writing.

“Uncertain Origins: The Battle of Dak To,” a lecture with slides on one of the largest battles of the Vietnam War. Glenn was there on the ground collecting intelligence. He warned U.S. military commanders of the forthcoming attack and wasn’t believed.

“Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon,” a lecture with slides. A speaker of Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, Glenn spent thirteen years as a National Security Agency operative trundling between the U.S. and South Vietnam, working under cover with army and Marine units on the battlefield in the collection and exploitation of North Vietnamese communications.

Readings from his Vietnam novel-in-stories, Friendly Casualties. The book relates the effects of the Vietnam war on men and women, Vietnamese and American, soldiers and civilians. Some are destroyed; others survive, however imperfectly. All are friendly casualties.

Readings from his novel published by Apprentice House of Baltimore in spring, 2014, No-Accounts. A straight college professor volunteers to take care of a gay man dying of AIDS in Washington, D.C. in the mid-1980s. The caretaker promises to be with his patient at the moment of death without knowing what lies in the dying man’s past.

For more information check out If you’d like him to speak at a gathering, email him at