Techie Tuesday: 10 Favorite Writing Lessons from Margie Lawson (and her Peeps!)

Last Friday Margie Lawson did a guest blog at Writers In The Storm called “10 Not Absurd Tips for Fiction Writing.” If you missed it, you’ll definitely want to take a moment to catch up. She gave 10 AWESOME writing tips!

A little background:

I’ve been hearing about Margie and her classes for years but it was never when I had enough time for her to hit the front of my radar. As a result, I’ve actually had very little exposure to her, even though we know LOTS of the same people.

I knew Margie’s post would be wonderful but what surprised me last Friday was the comment section. I was aware Margie had a big group of followers, but I was not prepared for the amped up tunnel of love flowing between her and her students. There were smoochie-hugs zinging all over that blog, and the warmth and generosity were beautiful to witness.

I’m already saving up to attend one of her courses.

Below are my favorite tips from the comments section of Friday’s blog – some from Margie and some not. As always, I included links where I could so you can explore some of these authors yourself.

I limited myself to TEN tips so your brain doesn’t explode from the lava flow of great writing advice!

From Margie:

You should ask these three Critical Keeper Questions [about each scene]:
1. Does it move the story forward?
2. Does it deepen character?
3. Does it carry a Humor Hit you’d kill to keep?

Keep your book’s controlling premise posted where you can see it and will think about it with every scene! (Margie recommends you put it above each chapter header.)

FYI:  A Controlling Premise is an expanded log line. It’s a story summary that is usually three to five sentences long. It includes who, what, where, and why — and shares those dynamics in a way that makes the reader care.

Kristina McMorris:

Here’s a not-absurd tip that I try to live by: Use the opening line and closing line of every chapter to raise a question, and whenever it’s feasible, end each chapter with a power word.

Margie (in response to Kristina):

I’m a big POWER WORD advocate. I vote for Power Words ending as many sentences as possible. Two words that carry no power — are IT and THAT. I vote for nixing as many IT’s and THAT’s as possible.

Louisa Cornell:
I carry a stack of index cards in my pocket everywhere I go. You never know where inspiration or your quirky characters are going to strike next. I am always jotting things down on those cards. When I get home I may rewrite them, but I always tuck them into an index card file box. I keep a box for my current WIP and for other stories running around in my head. Sometimes I have pulled entire scenes and even entire chapters from those card boxes.

Mindy Blanchard (a different take on writing it down):
Number one tip: WRITE IT DOWN! (even seemingly crazed notions can be important at some point. We always think we’ll remember it later, but we WON’T.) Keep notebooks in your bathroom We are always working on a new story. In the car, in the grocery line, etc. I don’t know what I would do without my mini voice recorder in my car. Surely you would think I could remember that juicy tidbit that will make my story rock in the 15 minutes it takes me to get home…What were we talking about?

Anita K. Greene:
A tip I’ve received: Don’t consider your editing done until you’ve read your story aloud. This will reveal tongue twisters, cadence and the ‘word of the manuscript’ – the one word that seems to be the perfect choice over and over again.

Margie (in answer to Anita):

The ‘Word of the Manuscript.’ I like that term. I refer to it as the ‘catch word’ of the book. They’re caught in the writer’s mind — and keep getting tossed on the screen. I catch them – but many writers don’t. Some of the ones I’ve caught are — muttered, seethed, irascible, shuttered, washed over (as in grief washed over her, fear washed over her, regret washed over her . . . ) snubbed, penultimate, discounted, furor.

Lorrie Thomson:
My not absurd writing tip is that I always end a scene on a hook.

Thea Hutcheson:
I learned that you should have all five senses in every 1000 words. It is a way to make sure you have setting in your work and keep your critique partners from having to say, “Setting would be nice.”

Sherry Isaac:
Have you thought about connecting with Mattel, marketing a ‘Margie’ Barbie? They could load her with pre-set Margie-isms: ‘Cliche Alert!’ ‘Write Fresh!’ “Needs more pink!’ She could have EDITS rainbow hair! And a walking stick for those hikes on the mountain.

Rose McCauley:
My one tip would be to persevere. After almost ten years years of writing, my first novella releases this September. Thanks for all the help along the way, Margie.


Margie has started something new!

From now on, she’ll teach all her online courses in a cyber classroom from her web site (using Moodle). Visit Margie’s cyber Open House for Lawson Writer’s Academy, July 14, 15, and 16. You’ll have a dozen chances to win a Lecture Packet or an online class!

To refresh your memory, Margie’s most popular packets are:

  1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
  2. Deep Editing:  The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
  3. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
  4. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life: 
    Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting
  5. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

For more information on Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, on-line courses, master classes, and the Immersion Master Class sessions offered in her Colorado mountain-top home, visit:

Note: While you’re at Margie’s site, be sure to check out her Deep Editing Analyses. You’ll find over 25 short articles that analyze several examples from authors like Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, James Scott Bell, Lisa Unger and more!

So, More Cowbell Friends…what writing advice do you have? Are there lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share? What writing teachers have had the most impact on you? Have you taken one of Margie Lawson’s courses?

I love hearing from you! To prove that love, I started the “Let’s Meet Up” Contest so we had an excuse to play together each month. Simply comment and I throw your name into the magic hat! At the end of the month, I pick out 15 names for a webinar where YOU decide the topic. 🙂

ANNOUNCEMENT: The June Webinar winners have almost chosen July 22nd for their webinar. Please email me at if you are a June winner and haven’t seen me in your inbox! We’re gonna have so much fun…

Till next time,

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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11 Responses to Techie Tuesday: 10 Favorite Writing Lessons from Margie Lawson (and her Peeps!)

  1. Stacy Green says:

    Great post! I love how the online writing community is so committed to sharing their knowledge and helping everyone improve. I haven’t taken one of Margie’s courses, but I’m currently taking an editing course from Angela James that should be really beneficial. She’s going to talk about dialogue tags (something I need to work on), blocking, things like that. Our first lesson is read aloud, and as Margie’s students said, that’s so critical. It’s amazing how different a sentence can sound in your head versus hearing it out loud.


  2. Morning, Jenny! EEE! Another Margie fan.

    I didn’t post on WITS because…

    Oh. Yeah. I didn’t post on WITS b/c I ran away from home that day. Sister on vacation (leaving empty house), cranky hubby at home b/c it was too hot to golf, cranky me at SBUX b/c someone set up shop at MY table.

    Margie Lawson is as awesome as all those cyberhugs implied.

    Sherry Isaac (of Margie Barbie Doll fame) and I met through a Margie on-line course and became faithful on-line buddies after the course ended. We finally met in person in Colorado at one of Margie’s IMC courses last September. Margie held her Dallas IMC classes at my house so I got TONS of Margie time. CP and writing buddy extraordinaire (Sherry) came to visit for two whole weeks, and I’m going to Toronto for her book launch in late August (STORYTELLER). Um. Yup. That was a plug for Sherry’s book. You can visit her at

    Unsolicited words of advice.Set up a watermelon stand in your front yard if you have to. Stop buying underwear if you have to. Talk me into paying you to design my website if you have to.

    You have to make it to an IMC class. You will love Margie and she will love your kick-butt humor and energy. Yes. She’s that good.


    • Jenny Hansen says:


      You are a fantastic friend, I can tell. I’ll bet you and Sherry spend HOURS cracking each other up. I am definitely saving up for Margie – she is giving me new impetus to “finish the damn book” because I can’t go see her until it’s finished!

      And on the Starbucks front, isn’t it hilarious that we all like to have “our” table??


  3. I read the original post at Writers in the Storm. Thanks for bringing it over and adding some tidbits to savor.

    The writing teacher with the most impact? Definitely Holly Lisle and How To Think Sideways Writing Boot Camp. J.R.R. Tolkien may have inspired me to write fantasy but Holly is the one who taught me how to write and actually get something completed. It’s a great community and I’ve met a lot of wonderul people there.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Angela! I hadn’t heard of Holly Lisle, but I’ll come back and refer to this when I’m done with Margie’s classes. She sounds wonderful. 🙂


  4. Sherry Isaac says:


    Amen to Anita (the Word) and Mindy (write it down). One of the first tips I learned over 15 years ago was to carry a notebook with me and write things down. Still don’t practise it. Someone get me the bat, I need another whack to my noggin’.

    Thanks for the recap. There were so many comments, I missed a few. Thrilled to have my Margie Barbie counted! For more details on the proposed Margie Barbie, visit:


    • Jenny Hansen says:


      You’re so funny! I’ll definitely be cruising over to read more about the Margie Barbie. I work not too far from the Mattel headquarters…you just let me know if I need to try to finagle my way into a meeting with the Barbie peeps….


  5. Jenny,
    Margie Lawson sounds like an incredible teacher. I’m copying your post into my notebook so I can leisurely investigate her workshops.

    Btw, you have a real knack for giving great recommendations. You introduced me to James Rollins (yes, I live under a rock) and I am now happily reading his entire catalog.



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I emailed her about putting a post up tomorrow with some more of her stuff – her Open House begins and there will be chances to win one of her lecture packets. 🙂

      I’m excited because I can actually enter to win at her site. It about killed me that I couldn’t win at WITS or here.


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