So You Want To Be A Masonic Writer Pt. 2: Avoiding the Slings and Arrows

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

As all of us "Midnight Freemasons" have experienced, it's a rewarding thing to draft an article, hone it and have it published. Sometimes those articles fly off the keyboard at the speed of light. Most times, however, it's a lot of work. I'll bet each one of us has a few tips and tricks to help make things easier; and I wouldn't be surprised if those tricks differ from individual to individual. Here, in no particular order, are some of mine:

Good writing starts with good research. OK, maybe there is, in fact, some sort of order to these tips. Research comes before writing. It's a real shame that, in order to speak as an authority on a subject, you have to know something about it. Sarcasm aside, some enjoy the research while some find it tough. Either way it's usually the most time-consuming part of writing. Still, you've got to do it — two corroborating sources for every fact. Oh, and, by the way, Wikipedia doesn't count. Don't make me take the next 1,000 words saying why. Just take my word for it.

Get a handle on grammar. It sometimes seems everyone thinks they are… uh… I mean he or she is better at grammar than everyone else. The grammar police are all over the Internet. If you don't believe me, just post something like, "Your right if you think the Lodge had performed there best degree work last night." That sentence just screams for a visit from the grammar police. Check out Grammarly ( or the Grammar Girl ( for your grammar police get-out-of-jail-free card.

Give credit where credit is due. Never, never, never quote another author or source without giving credit. The thing is, if you quote another author and cite his work, it actually makes you look better and smarter. I had so many footnotes in my first book one Brother called it "very academic." I'm no academic. What's more, someday you may be on the other end of things. A few years back some creep (it's not name-calling if it's true) in Texas was plagiarizing the Midnight Freemasons almost on a daily basis. It's infuriating.

Get a personal editor. Any publication you write for will have its own editor — Robert Johnson, for example, in the case of the Midnight Freemasons blog. However, it's a good practice to have someone you can rely on to review your work before you submit it. I can honestly say I've never had someone look over my work and suggest changes that it didn't turn out to be a better piece. My wife Carolyn does this for me. She's so smart I figure if I write something she can't understand then no one will understand it. Other than that, the fact she's smarter than me usually works to my disadvantage.

Develop a thick skin. You will be rejected, criticized, even maligned. At some point, all writers suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous… readers. If you make a mistake admit it, correct it and move on. I once made the heinous mistake of calling a destroyer a battleship. I've heard from everyone but the Secretary of the Navy about that. If you get unwarranted criticism, don't let it get to you. I once wrote a Scottish Rite article… subject withheld so we don't get anyone riled again… that drew nuclear criticism from a pretty important member. The whole kerfuffle went to my Personal Rep, SGIG and finally to someone at the House of the Temple. In the end I came out OK. Why? Refer back to the advice on good research.

Write a little in order to write a lot. I don't suffer much from writer's block. If I get stuck I just tell myself, "Write a paragraph… even a bad paragraph. You can change it later." Usually, once I have that sticky paragraph out of the way things begin to flow again. This little trick, however, goes further than getting articles done. I also use it to write books: write a chapter, turn it into an article and publish it. That's how I got my first book out the door. Almost every chapter was revised from an article I published. For my second book, Tales From the Craft, I wrote one "tale" per day and published it on my blog. After a couple years of that, I had a book's worth of material.
And finally… For God's sake, write in the active voice. If you don't know what that is, your next assignment is to look it up and embrace it.

Remember, these are just some of the personal tricks I use when I write. Everyone is different and may have different ways of accomplishing the same thing. Maybe my final tip is to talk to other writers and find out what works for them. Then apply what you've discovered to see what works for you; and when you find something, let us all know. The learning process never stops.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on


  1. Great Tips!

    I'd add one more to the list: If at all possible, have peer reviewers who know the topic well enough to provide suitable feedback on the content.


  2. Fantastic advice! I really enjoy your work.