Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for a Zero Draft

The theme of my a to z challenge was macro editing. Hopefully, if you have popped by from time to time you would have realised that the difference between the professional and the amateur is the revision process. 

Fifteen years ago I thought editing was checking for spelling mistakes. In reality when we sit down to write it's with an idea. We jump in happy and excited. A few problems surface, maybe a few doubts. But we plough on. 

What we have at the end is not a first draft, it's a zero draft. It is all our thoughts and feeling poured onto the page.

Revision makes you a better writer. After each session you learn more. I hope I have given you a few tools to help with that progress. 

I am finishing this challenge with a quote from David Eddings,

"Keep working. Keep trying. Keep believing. You still might not make it, but at least you gave it your best shot. If you don't have calluses on your soul, this isn't for you. Take up knitting instead."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for You!

What's going on in your own life will show up in your writing. It is a good idea to touch base with your own motivation occasionally.  What place are you coming from when you write?

Are you writing to:
Prove a point?
Express anger?
Because you are feeling insecure?

Wondering what your emotional state as to do with editing? Let's look at an example. 

A writer is unaware that deep down he is writing to prove his intelligence. If he was aware of his unconscious motivation when editing he would be able to see he has tried to overcompensate with high language, abundant references which could be off putting to the reader. Not that it is wrong to write that way! But you should be aware of your choices when putting words on the page. And be willing to cut them if they don't work!

Are you writing for revenge? Have you tried to control the reader so everyone feels the same way about a certain character? It may have helped you vent a few hurts, but if the scene lacks spontaneity or is too acidic you may need a rewrite.

Noah Lukeman points out that, 'a writers mind is a palette, and unfortunately your mind stores a lot of baggage. It is your job to clear the slate, to create a sacred space in your mind just for the writing, free from all your neuroses as a person...You must clear your mind of pride, defensiveness, the urge to control, to write with an agenda, or to hold anything back.'

So when reviewing your work have a little think about how you were feeling when you were writing the piece. Did it help or hinder your writing?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Writers Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Rosie Bird-Hawkins for tagging me into the chain for the writer's process blog tour. It's been fascinating reading writers' processes and seeing how people manage to articulate why they write and how they write.

For anyone who hasn't heard of it, the Writers Process Blog Tour is 'simply a weekly insight into and sharing of people's writing process.' So here goes...


What am I working on?

I'm currently studying for a MA in Creative Writing for Children at Winchester University and deadlines are looming... So my main focus at the moment is writing a picture book and an early reader. I must admit I've enjoyed this topic thoroughly. Our lecturers Sarah Grant and Andrew Weale have inspired me to look at this genre differently. I certainly understand that it's not the word count but a case of EVERY word counts at this age range. 

Although I'm looking forward to getting back to writing young adult and middle grade.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

 For my early reader book, aimed at five to seven year olds I have tried to stay away from 'nice.' I like humour. One of my pet hates are stories that are sermons dressed as entertainment. What is the matter with just a really good story that's enjoyable to read? Mine may be a bit silly in parts. 

Why do I write what I do?

 I honestly don't know? 

I've never had the urge to write an adult novel. I think I prefer fantasy and excitement compared to adult issues I'm currently experiencing. One of my favourite young adult writers is Garth Nix, I adored his Abhorsen series 

And I'm so excited at the prospect of building my own fantasy world.

How does my writing process work?

I write everyday. A couple of years ago I started this blog 'aiming for a publishing deal,' every time I post it reminds me what my goal is. I always call my first draft a 'zero' draft, it's a useful mind game - you expect to make changes to a zero draft. While you are hopeful that a first draft will turn out alright! I just keep plugging away. I would say that my advantage is that I'm able to take rejections and criticism. Accepting praise is harder. If you want to write you have to develop a pretty thick skin.

For the next link in the chain I pass you on, appropriately enough, to an another MA writer Tamsin Goadby.

Twitter: @TamsinGoadby

And the wonderful adult writer Lane Swift.

Twitter: @LaneSwift

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W for editing with Word Clouds

Have you ever thought of using word clouds when editing?

Using word clouds can be a good way to help writers analyse their creative pieces. By copying the text of a document into a word cloud generator you can quickly see the words that appear most frequently in that document. Word clouds can also be used to help writers see which words that they have frequently used in their own works.

Have you fallen into the trap of overusing favourite phrases and adjectives?
Then ask yourself did you intentially use those words?
Who is the story about? Their name should be biggest. This is a great way to see if you are actually writing someone else's story.
Look out for 'ly' words in your word cloud.
If you have used the same word to often think about synonyms for the word you are unhappy with. 

 Here are some good tools writers can use to create word clouds.

ABCya! offers a beautiful word cloud generator. Like all word cloud generators you simply copy and paste chunks of text into the text box to have a word cloud created. Common words like "the" are automatically excluded from your word clouds. You can edit the font style, adjust color schemes, and flip the layout of your word clouds on the ABCya! Word Cloud Generator. The one shortcoming of the tool is that it doesn't provide embed codes. You can download and or print your word clouds. ABCya recently released an iPad app for creating word clouds too.

Tagul is a free word cloud generator that offers the option to link every word in your word cloud to a Google search. Click on any word in your word cloud to be taken directly to a Google search results page for that word. Tagul creates a word cloud from text you copy into your Tagul account. Tagul will also generate a word cloud from any url you specify. Just as you can with other word cloud generators, Tagul allows you to specify words to ignore in creating your word clouds. Once your word cloud is created Tagul provides you with an embed code to put your cloud on your blog or website.

Word It Out creates word clouds out of any text that you paste into the word cloud generator. Once the word cloud is created you can customize the size and color scheme of the cloud. You can also customize the font used in your word cloud. The feature of Word It Out that I like the best is that you can choose to have Word It Out ignore any word or words you choose. Ignoring words keeps them out of the word cloud.

Tagxedo makes it very easy to customize the design of your word clouds. You can select from a variety of shapes in which to display words or you can design your shape for your word cloud. You can enter text into the word cloud generator manually or simply enter a url from which Tagxedo will generate a word cloud. As with other word cloud generators you also have options for excluding words from your word clouds.

Wordle is regarded by some as the "original" online word cloud generator. Wordle provides many options for color, shapes, and fonts for displaying your word clouds.

Using a word cloud before you post your blog

Next time you write a blog and you are wondering if you have used your keywords enough for your message to stand out consider using a word cloud. is the site that I used to create this word cloud. It is great because you don’t have to use a URL. You can actually just paste the text content of your blogs into their site and it will generate your cloud. You also have the options to change the number of words displayed, colors, font, and more, which are all great if you want to use your cloud as an image in your blog.

Friday, April 25, 2014

X is for X-Rated

IWhy is it that — as a rule — erotica is seldom taken seriously, either by writers or readers?
The following are some questions to ask if you are macro editing your  erotic fiction:

Did you bring the same attention and regard to writing about sex as you would to anything else you’d write? Did you assume the reader wants — and is capable of appreciating — something beyond a quick fix. 

Have you used too many blow-by-blow descriptions of sex acts? The mechanics aren’t what’s intriguing. The emotional dynamics between people are intriguing.

Did you use 'throbbing rod?' And other coy euphemisms for body parts? Don’t use the hero’s member, or manhood, or hard hot tool or battering ram. Don’t say that he pounded her like a jackhammer, or that she lay back, spent. 

Have you kept it real or do you have two flawlessly beautiful people having ecstatic sex?  The key to any fictional scene is tension and conflict. It’s okay for characters to feel awkward or angry or afraid within a sex scene. We are drawn to each other’s darkness, strangeness, sadness, and vulnerability.

Have you drawn on all five senses when you write a sex scene? The curve of a breast. The scent of leather. The taste of sweat. The sound of rain against the window. The texture of the grass in a secluded field. A compelling fantasy demands a certain immediacy. Put the reader where your characters are. 

 What is the fantasy these lovers are enacting? What is the power dynamic between them? What secrets, longings, grudges, insecurities, memories are in play here?

I hope today's list helped any x rated writers out there. What are your thoughts on erotica?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

V is for Villian

V is for Villian

Love her or hate her, J K Rowling can write a villain.  Imagine the teacher who always had it in for you, the one who was quickest to point out how stupid you were and slowest to see the faults of others. Now put that teacher in a greasy black wig and a long black dress and give him the power to do black magic and you have Professor Snape! But some people struggle making the villain believable.

So how can you write in a way to make sure your reader dislikes a character?

  • Make your character do something nasty, for younger children it could be something as simple as being unkind to an animal.
  • Let your character get caught doing something untrustworthy. He could be unreliable.
  • Hopefully your reader already likes your main character. So let you villain speak harshly to your hero.
  • If you don't want your villain to be sarcastic, give them no humour at all.
  • Most people hate hypocrites.
  • Is he a backstabber? Should he be?
  • Other negative characteristics include; know it alls, smart-alec's, and thugs.
It may be a good idea to do a bit of research. Which characters did you dislike? Go back to those books and see how the writer breathed life into them.

Good luck - Wa Ha Ha (evil laugh)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

W is for Warning

I'm currently studying for a MA in Creative Writing for Children. I have been doing a lot of background reading, and I have discovered what seems to be a pet hate with readers.

Authors who write with an agenda.

If you are writing a morality tale be up front about it. Ok you may have a message you want to pass on. It may be something you believe in and feel passionality about. But it is my belief that writers are artists not moralists. 

Your idea should grow with the story organically. I dislike work in which the writer has imposed their doctrine, even if it's something as simple as eating vegetables in a children's book. I don't like characters to be used to prove the writers point. 

Have you successfully dramatised your point?
Have you stated too many facts?
Does your work read like proganda? 
Does the work feel stale?
Do the characters seem flat, can't you hero be at least tempted to go against their beliefs?

U is for the Unknown

The unknown is an element in many horror novels. There is nothing more terrifying than the unknown. Anyone who has had a loved one arrive late, have experienced what the mind can do with lack of information. I think most people's imaginations are good at conjuring up the worse case scenario.

Our stress levels are highest when we anticipate the worse. 

If you are struggling writing suspense it is worth while checking out the horror genre. The unknown works well with supernatural elements. But the unknown doesn't have to be used on such a dramatic scale. Think about your first day at school or starting a new job. 

Unknown checklist

Have you let your characters stew and worry?
Remeber it's not what your characters husband is doing it's what your lead character thinks he is doing that causes the suspense.
Is your character behaving in a realistic manner to stress. Think of the cheesy horror movies, would your character really walk into the haunted house for no reason? Or do you need to rewrite to make it more believable?
Think back to stressful periods in your life, exam results, medical tests, how did you deal with it? Did you comfort eat, cry, run or speak to others? Give your character a crutch in early chapters and then take it away.
Lastly, give your work to a beta reader - ask them to write their guesses in the margins - did they get it right?

T is for Truth

'I'm not interested in facts, but truths.'
Maya Angelou 

What is the difference?

The majority of works we call timeless classics stand the test of time because they deal with truth. Each generation understand the basic 'Romeo and Juliet' story, loving someone enough that you are willing to sacrifice everything; family, approval of others, even your life is a concept we are willing to embrace. It is a storyline that has tapped into a timeless truth about love.

I write educational resources and you quickly find that works that are used year after year in schools are picked because they are open to interpretation. A class of thirty pupils can all have their own opinion on the work. 

Now I'm not saying that I'm able to write a timeless classic - but here is my checklist for those who do?

What elements of your work are timeless?
Would readers be able to identify with the themes in thirty years from now?
Is there any details which make it dated?
What is the theme of your work?

S is for Suspence

I have had members of my writers group grumble that they have read terrible books which aren't as good as theirs, but have somehow managed to get published. I look at the offending novel, and nine times out of ten I'm correct in working out what key ingredient the book contained - suspence.

It may have poor characters, a weak plot line, and even be twee.  But if there is  suspense, readers often stay with the work. Unfortunately, when they have finished the novel they feel cheated and resentful or they instantly forget the book.

So if you have tried to create suspense in your work here is a useful checklist to see if you are on track.


Have you managed to create a sense of anticipation? This is the echoey footsteps in the darkness or the clock ticking during the exam.
Have you raised the stakes? If someone has to work out a password it's not that exciting. If they have to crack the password in a certain time or before someone shoots a family member, you are raising the stakes.
Danger is a powerful way to increase suspense, this doesn't have to involve a gun. The danger must suit your characters personality. There are many types of danger, sexual danger, illness, emotional, psychological or spiritual dangers. Have you used any?
Do you have a ticking clock? Go through your work and find out how much time has passed in the story. Adding time pressure can be effective. 
Think about what happens if the clock is ticking, but your central character can't act because he's tied up with something else. Stephen King in Pet Sematary uses the mother to create suspense. She runs, but we all know that she can't get to her child fast enough to stop him being run over.
Next have you made use of the unknown? Climbing into the loft space, opening the box hidden in the wardrobe, checking the texts on the phone?
Stephanie Meyer climbed the charts with her Twilight series, what did she use? Sexual tension, will they, won't they - many TV series have used this successfully for years. 
Have you let the reader in on the secret or not? Do we the reader know about the body under the floor boards before the young couple move in? Do we know about the curse, or the shark in the water? 
Does your work contain a secret? Think about Psycho, what would the original audience have thought when they found out the truth about Norman Bate's mother?
Does your character have a flaw that can had to the suspence? Look at Indian Jones fear of snakes?

I hope this list gives you something to think about when you are reading your own work.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Religion

I have been on so many writing courses where students are given a list of questions to answer about their character, or a photograph, and they are then asked to make a fictional personality from the image. Yet I rarely see the tutor ask us what religion the character is a member of. 

I am writing from the UK. We are a multi cultured society, therefore we have disagreements over religion. I have many friends who say they don't know what they believe in. Or that religion doesn't matter. 

I say that the WRITER MUST know this about the character. I know that at this point some may disagree, but let me explain.

Despite the writers personal views, whether we admit it or not, religion is a definite factor of society. In the UK it doesn't matter what you believe, the shops are still closed on a Sunday morning, Christmas music starts playing in department stores as early as October. 

I think religion either plays a big part of someone's life or no part at all. However, it will affect how your character behaves. So today's editing checklist.

Do you know what religion your character is?

Hare Krishna

Does he or she believe? 
Are they observant? 
Do they go to confession?
Shun pork?
Wear a cross?
Pretend they are not in if Mormons come to the door or listen politely?
How does he or she feel about religion compared to the rest of the family?
Would they have a church wedding to please their Mum?
Is he on she ready to believe in something or is spiritual without going to an organised event?
Do they have guilt? Or are they rebelling? Do they dislike rituals?
Do they follow the latest New Age trends? Are they open to different beliefs?

When did they become devout or lose faith? What triggered it?

Do they have any beliefs that lurk beneath the surface that they don't know they have? 

If you spend just a few minutes thinking about your characters religious background you will gain a deeper understanding on how they will react to events in your plot! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Prole: from pub to publication

Happy Easter everyone! I was up at five to make bacon but ties for those going to the dawn service, so forgive me if my post is a little jumbled. I've been sent an email recently about a new outlet for fiction which I thought I would share.

Prole: from pub to publication

 Five years ago Prole started in the pub with a feeling that most literary journals were published for writers, rather than readers. Five years later, we’ve just published issue 13 and have four poetry pamphlets/collections under our belt.

 Our mantra is: engaging, challenging, accessible and high quality. We publish poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction with an eye for pieces that are going to connect with readers. Starting from a base of nearly zero knowledge about what was involved in creating and managing a small journal, we’ve carved ourselves a growing readership – both within the writing community, and, more importantly - what appear to be readers rather than writers.

 It’s been immense fun. We’ve learned huge amounts and continue to do so. We’ve done this with no funding from The Arts Council – nor do we seek it. If Prole is to succeed, it has to pay for itself. While there is a very strong case for some aspects of the arts being subsidised, we want Prole to support itself. We certainly can’t afford to plough our own money into it. As a part of guaranteeing covering costs, we run two competitions a year. Our current competition, The Prolitzer Prize for Prose Writing, 2014, is now open for submissions. 

If you’d like to find out more, read an issue or submit work for our journal you can visit us here:

 Brett Evans and Phil Robertson

Co-editors, Prole

News blog at: 
Twitter at:!/Prolebooks 
Reader/writer blog:

Q is for Quest

The oldest plot line is the quest. The reader follows the heroes story as they search for something. When I was younger I loved stories based on the Arthur legends.  If you want to write a quest story make sure you have all the correct elements. 

Is your story a quest?

Your central character will begin feeling incomplete in his ordinary world.
He/she must be looking for something of vital importance.
You need huge obstacles to be put in the leads journey.
Your central character must change for the better before they reach their objective, or the reader must feel gutted if the story ends in tragedy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Plot read-through

I love macro editing. To get me into the zone I always remind myself that professionals rewrite and I want to be a professional, so red pen to the ready here is my ...

...Plot read-through checklist!

Avoid starting on page one and tinkering with a sentence. You are looking at plot!

Mark the pages were you feel the story is dragging with a red felt tip mark in the corner.
If you find any confusing paragraphs, draw a line in the margin - don't start rewriting yet.
Make a mark in the margin if you find any places where more information need to be added.
Put question marks next to anything you are unsure or unhappy with.

Do not indulge yourself in self pity at this point, so it needs some work, so what!

Are there any places that surprised you or made you happy - do you need to expand these parts?
What are your characters doing in the story? If it's a scene which is dragging, are you focusing on the real issues the characters are dealing with? Are you looking at their passions and desires?
Is the plot line correct and believeable? Would an alternate plot be better?

What about structure?

Back to basics is there a beginning, middle and end?
Did you start with a disturbance to your major characters life?
What do you think about the pace of your work?
Is there enough motivation behind the characters actions?
Is your timeline correct? Does it need to be rearranged?
Are the big scenes ... big enough?

You will be left with a manuscript with writing all over it. But if you deal with the larger problems first before you focus on a spell check and grammar, your final piece will be so much better after having a good look at the foundations.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Opening Lines

Your opening line has a very important role, but how do you know it's fulfilling the opening lines requirements?

Check out today's list.

Opening lines should;

Get the reader hooked.
Establish the general tone of the novel.
Compel the reader to read on.
Something should be happening or just about to happen.

If you want to get your work published remember that your first reader will be an editor or agent. People who have a stack of manuscripts and are just looking for a reason to pick up the next manuscript. Make your first impression count.

One other thing! I recently went to an author talk by Sarah Lean. She recommends you know your first line. When she handed her manuscript to a possible agent it was the only question she was asked. Her mind went blank for a moment but then the writing angels stepped in and she remembered her all important first line.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

N is for a Writer's Notebook

I have ran a creative writing group for many years. I have tried to get writers to keep and orderly writer's notebook, ideally several for each novel.

This way you can still write and make notes when you are not 'writing.'

How you divide your notes is up to the writer, but this is how I put mine into sections. It was recommended to me years ago and I've kept it up since.

Section 1. Plot ideas. 
Section 2. Characters - descriptions, essential information, their past etc
Section 3. Research - how much you do is a person decision and depends on what you are writing about.
Section 4. Plot summaries. I sometimes try to cut and paste the first paragraph of each chapter in here. It helps me focus and make sure the story stays on track.
Section 5 . Questions, about the plot, research I need to do, what would a character need to have done in their past to make sure they are able to survive a forest fire or flood?

The best thing about a good writer's note book is that it makes you feel organised and productive.

M is for Middles

Sometimes the middle of the first draft of a novel can be too long. I've recently had to have a good rewrite of my children's book. Here are a few tips to review the middle of your work.

1. Characters. Do you have more than one character serving the same purpose or are too similiar? If so, can you cut them or combine them? If you have a minor character that isn't adding anything to the storyline, could you use them in another piece of work? Does your lead character have to many characters helping them?
2. Do the same thing with the subplots. Does the subplot add to your novel or distract the reader?
3. Look at the scenes individually. Are they dull? Are they too long? Is there too much dialogue or description? 

Be ruthless. Remember the aim is to get a leaner and meaner final draft!

L is for tying up Loose Ends

When you get to the end of your novel make sure you have tied up all your loose ends. 

First decide whether your loose story lines are major or minor. What happened to a minor characters lost cat is probably not crucial. What he did with the stolen car probably is. 

If the loose end is a major part of the novel you WILL need to create a major scene to deal with it. Yes it may need a rewrite, but that is better than a reader being frustrated at the end of the book. 

With a minor loose end you may be able to filter the information in through your characters dialogue. 
'I see Mrs Patterson's found her cat.'

The real problem writers face is finding the loose ends! This is were a good beta reader is vital. I'm not strong at micro editing, I find it difficult to spot grammatical mistakes. Now when it comes to finding plot holes and loose ends, I'm a master. 

What I would advise is finding readers who are good at micro editing and good macro editors. I have yet to find someone excellent at both.

If you are an #atozchallenge blogger! thank you for popping by. You follow by pressing the blue button, there shouldn't be any emails. Please leave your link so I can follow back. Happy blogging.

Words and Pictures Birthday - SCWBI

I awoke on Saturday with a high temperature, blinding headache and feeling rough. This is a problem that most people forget when you are self employed. There are no sick days. No one else to do the work for you. But there was no way I was missing the birthday celebration of the Words and Pictures online magazine.

So after two paracetamol I put on my glad rags and went over to the party.

I'm pleased to say that the good food and company had me feeling much better. It was wonderful being able to sit and chat with like minded individuals. 

If you are a writer or an illustrator I can't recommend joining SWCBI and following Words and Pictures highly enough!

Here are some useful information and links below.

About Words and Pictures.

Words & Pictures is the online magazine of the British Isles region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators(SCBWI) is the only international professional organization for children's writers and illustrators. Founded in 1971 by a group of Los Angeles-based children's writers, the SCBWI acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people. It serves as a consolidated voice for professional writers and illustrators the world over.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for a Knockout Ending

Writers often spend a lot of time rewriting the first three chapters of their novel. It contains the vital opening line, it is the words you send to publishers and agents.  But according to James Scott Bell in Plot and Structure, fiction readers want to see a 'knockout at the end.'

A great ending will leave readers feeling satisfied. 

While blog hopping I have seen many book bloggers ask the question, 'at what point do you give up reading a book with a weak storyline.' I've been surprised at how many readers plod on to the end because they need to know how the story ends. Most rants on review sites and Goodreads are about weak endings.

My advice? Maintain the tension in the story until the last possible. 

Follow Bell's advice for a knockout ending,

'As you near the end, it should look as if the opposition is the one who will win. He has everything going for him. The Lead is up against the ropes. Only when the Lead reaches deep within and makes her move will the knockout blow be thrown.'

Thursday, April 10, 2014

J is for JK Rowling's Editing Advice

I thought I would list some editing tips from J K Rowling, love her or hate her she's managed to buy her castle!

Instead of diving right into line 1, paragraph 1, J.K. Rowling advises taking the time to plan out the world your books will live in. She took five years to create and develop every last detail of the Harry Potter world, right down to how the Wizards and Muggles interacted (and the word Muggles, to begin with!) what the education was like, how magic helped in every day life and how the wizarding world of government worked. She also plotted out all the events of the seven books before she started writing the first.

You would think after five years, J.K. Rowling would just be able to dive right in there and write the whole of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, without much rewriting. But in fact she rewrote the opening chapter of her first book a total of fifteen times, until it was just right. It’s easy to imagine published authors writing with the greatest of ease, but actually the process is just as difficult for them.

J.K. Rowling openly talks of her struggles to get published – it certainly wasn’t easy for her.  Given that it took around a decade from ‘Harry Potter’s’ inception to being published, being patient is a crucial trait.
It is true that if you have been rejected by every publishing house in the world, it may be time to accept defeat but, equally, consider this.
An unknown Joanne Rowling, an unemployed woman living on state benefits became J.K. Rowling, billionaire author within 5 years.  ‘Harry Potter’ was rejected by numerous publishers for a year.  She waited patiently and it paid off.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I is for identifying with the lead character

Can your reader identify with your characters?

You may have the best story line in the world, but if your characters are two dimensional and unbelievable no one will read your fiction.

Good fiction contains complex and interesting characters complete with quirks. 

So today I'm sharing a, 
can the reader identify with the lead character checklist.

1. Is the lead believable? Can the reader imagine that in the right circumstances and in a similiar situation they may make the same sort of choices?
2. Does the lead appear to be a real human being? Do they struggle with everyday life problems?
3. Have you made sure they are not perfect and have fears?
4. What does your lead character do and think that makes them like real people?

If you are worried that your lead character is simply not right, how can you fix it?

Put your character in jeopardy. 
Give them hardship, think of Clarence in Silence of the Lambs, troubled childhood, desperately trying to prove herself.

Make your lead the underdog. Charlie in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, the odds of him winning were extreme. Apart from the clue to the reader that things would turn out alright because his name was in the title.

Vulnerability. Lots of Stephen Kings characters are slightly vulnerable people pushed into supernatural circumstances. Look at the children in IT, Danny in The Shining.

Lastly make them likeable by doing likeable things. I think one of the best examples of a flawed likeable lead is the central character Mike, in The Magic Cottage by James Herbert.

H is for a Hot Spots

'A good story is life, with the dull parts taken out.' 
Alfred Hitchcock

What's a hot spot?

The hot spot is the climax of the story, the most exciting part, the crescendo. 

Good writers like to create tension, either something bad is going to happen or the characters are worrying about something. Alas, sometimes our writing can fall flat. When you are worried there is nothing going on you may have missed the 'hot spot' or tension in the scene. 

Raymond Obstfeld, in Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes recommends that if your scene doesn't have a hot spot cut it! 

My edit list for 'hot spots.'

I follow Obstfeld advice and circle the hot spot in my writing. And then...

1. Read the paragraph preceding the hot spot. Is it absolutely necessary?
2. Are all the sentences needed?
3. Are there any unnecessary words?
4. Is there anything distracting the reader away from the action?
5. Are there any really long sentences, 'ly' words?
6. Read it aloud, savour it.

Hopefully, these tips will help create a tension hot spot worthy of Hitchcock!

Monday, April 7, 2014

G is for Goodread

How Goodreads Works

Goodreads is a free website for book lovers. Imagine it as a large library that you can wander through and see everyone's bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. You can also post your own reviews and catalog what you have read, are currently reading, and plan to read in the future. 

What every author should know about Goodreads?

Patrick Brown advice for authors on Goodreads

'First, they should claim their author profile and join the Goodreads Author Program. It’s free to join and requires only a valid email address. In a broad sense, the best way for an author to build a presence on Goodreads is to be an active Goodreads member. That is, they should write reviews of the books they read, participate in groups, and generally use the site as a reader might. In addition to this, they can do some very simple things to get the word out that are not intrusive. If the author is already writing a blog, they can sync that to their author profile. If they aren’t writing a blog, they can start one. They can post videos, ebook excerpts, polls, etc. All of that will end up in their friends’ and fans’ update feeds.

More specifically, the best promotional tool at a Goodreads Author’s disposal is definitely the First Reads giveaway. Giving away an advance copy (or even a finished copy) of your book is a terrific way of getting your book some attention on the site. After all, if you want people to fall in love with your writing, the best way is to give them a taste of it. On average, about 750 people enter each giveaway, and of those people, we’ve found that about 8% of them will add the book to their to-read shelf, win or lose. About 45% of the winners review the book, meaning that the more copies you offer, the more reviews you are likely to get. And reviews are really the fuel that drives everything on Goodreads. When a member reviews your book, not only do their friends see that review, but it often gets pushed to Facebook, Twitter, and their blog, too. We’ve found that about 1/5 of all Goodreads users write a book blog, and we do our best to make it easy for those users to share their reviews on their blogs.

A great way to get a little bit of bang for not many bucks is to pair a giveaway with a self-serve advertisement. Self-serve ads are easy to create and can be bought for as little as $50. You pay based on the number of people who click on your ad, and you can target it to fans of a specific genre, as well as to residents of a specific country, one gender or the other, or a targeted age range. This way, you get your giveaway in front of the people you most want to reach.

To post a giveaway, just log into Goodreads, and visit this link:

To see a list of current giveaways, go here:'

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

F for Friction in the Family

Today days list is fun generalisations about family.

If you want to write about conflict, families can be a gold mine. Lots of lovely friction points, age gaps and jealousy. Here is a list of some behaviour traits depending on where a character is placed in a family.

Only children - tend to be self-sufficient because they are on their own a lot. They find it easier to get along with adults. An only girl can sometimes be treated like a boy by her father.
Second children - are fiercely competitive with their siblings.
Third - (and middle children) are usually contrary, they have neither the assurance of the oldest nor the advantages of the babies. They have to be different to attract attention. These are the children that may cry it's not fair.
The baby of the family - the stereotype is the child that is petted and spoilt, but they can also be bullied.
Twins - children writers love them. Editors hate them! Use twins with caution.

Other family conflicts to think about: 
Mothers and daughters
Mothers and sons
In laws
Step families 
Married couples
Father and sons
Father and daughter

Things that cause the most friction;
Money - lack of, jealousy about
Attention - favouritism
Raising children - lots here!
Career - who's most successful and why?
The past - grudges and skeletons in the closest

Think about your characters family even if you don't include it in your writing.

This is a fun list. But beware of stereotypes. Make sure you differentiate characters of the same age, sex and background. 

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Emotions

Writing emotions can be hard, but it's vital if you want your reader to care about your main characters.

When you are editing your work think about what you want your readers to feel at different points during the story? How do you want your reader to feel when they finish reading? 

How do the characters in the story feel about what is happening? What type of person is your character? What would he or she would do when faced with the situation you're writing about? What's your characters body language like when they are happy or upset? Are your descriptions consistent and believable.

I've found the following resources extremely helpful.

Although this isn't a writing book I found it incrediably useful. 
'A Woman in Your Own Right Assertiveness and You' Anne Dickson

Another great book is 'Writing with Emotion, Tension, & Conflict' by Cheryl St. John 

Fellow writer and blogger Lane Swift ( swears by her copy of 'The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression' by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

D is for Dialogue

My editing list today is dialogue. 

Books need dialogue. But it's important to remember dialogue has a purpose!

1. To show character
2. To further action of plot
3. To illustrate the emotional state of the speaker
4. To convey information.

When it comes to editing makes sure you aren't repeating information in the dialogue. Does each of your characters have a particular way of speaking? Have you over done dialects or foreign accents? Have you gone OTT with a stutter?

Lastly, 'said.' It's the mark of the amateur to try and think of as many ways as possible to avoid using said. Most of the time readers don't even see it. 

My lecturer, author Sara Grant suggests once you have finished your piece of writing highlighting a characters speech and then reading just the dialogue. That way you can check that your character doesn't change their voice half way through the novel.

Quick editing tip

Read your dialogue aloud. Unnatural lines may hide on the page, but they tend to leap out when spoken.
Listen to someone else read your dialogue aloud. How do the lines sound? How do they feel to the speakers?

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