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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

No Right or Wrong Way to be a Writer

I have been thinking about this matter for a while now, so I am quite surprised it has taken me this long to blog about it. It was only after reading one of Bob Mayer's latest posts last week: that I started to give it some serious thought again.

During the past year, I have seen some poor quality arguments and some brilliant ones around the subject of being traditionally published or deciding to go the indie route. Some writers with very strong opinions argue for whichever one they believe in, while dismissing every positive point on the opposing side. I've seen the argument go both ways with traditional published authors making a fool out of themselves along with some unprofessional indies.

Now, I have started to see the same sort of arguments between writers on their opinion of what makes you a 'real' writer. Some suggest that if you don't write two thousand words a day, you are just an amateur. Other like minded individuals suggest if you don't write everyday then you're not a real writer, and so the list goes on.

I've often assumed writers to be fairly open minded individuals. After all, they have to consider things from different angles when working out their plots - it is part of our job to view things from another point. Otherwise we're going to have terrible problems when we can't get our head round a certain storyline, and the only other option we have is to come at it from a different way. Now, after seeing all these petty arguments, my opinion of some writers is definitely changing. It baffles me to think that there are certain individuals out there who would rather die than be open to another opinion, even if they know their method of doing things isn't working. Why are these people so stuck in their ruts and so afraid of change? I like to think of myself as a very opened minded individual. Yes, I have my own way of doing things, for sure, who doesn't? But I am ALWAYS open to new ideas and suggestions when things don't work out. Trying new things and making the most of opportunities is what makes us grow as human beings, and we should never criticise others for doing things differently. We should always remember what works for us won' t always work for someone else.

In my opinion, you're a real writer if you write books (any kind of book,) get them professionally edited, have a professional cover made, stick them through a publisher (self published or otherwise) and charge money for them. It can take you ten years to do this or it can take six months. You can write ten thousand words a day or just a hundred - it doesn't matter. So long as you write books and be professional about it in every single way, you're a real writer. But that's just in my opinion, others will disagree. That's fine. What I don't do is go out of my way to make everyone who does disagree with me look like a fool because that's just not nice. If they really are a fool, other people will see that too and think the same. Foolish people don't need any help from others to look foolish, they do that job quite nicely on their own.

Sometimes, people have a knack of being nasty and unkind for no other reason other than to make themselves feel better or look good. Simon Smith Wilson blogged about the tragic death of Gary Speed, and how it's cruel some people feel the need to make spiteful comments about it:

And now for my final point: Just remember if you're a writer who slags off other writers, you may have just lost yourself potential readers.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Please share.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Subplot Errors to Avoid

After my current book is written I'll be looking at writing books that are fictitious. And as the comparisons are huge between non fiction and fiction, I thought it would be a good idea to start studying what makes fiction books successful.

People say that writing memoirs is the most fiction like book out of the non fiction genre, so I guess I'm off to a head start there as I have written both books like works of fiction. But in order to make my fiction books a success, I have to study the technical issues, as well as making sure I have a good story to tell.

One of the most crucial elements that has come up time and time again is the issue of subplots, and the most common mistakes writers make when using them. So I thought it would be useful to explore these issues today and help other writers out:

#People use subplots in their novels to give the book more depth and flavour, but a common mistake is when the subplot becomes bigger and more interesting than the main story itself.

#The number of words in a subplot should never be the same or exceed the word count of the main story.

# The attention of the reader should never be distracted away from the main story so much they struggle to remember what the book is actually about.

#All subplots should be linked back to the main story otherwise separate stories give the book a dis-jointed feel to it. The sunplot should be scrapped if it doesn't link up to the main story.

#Never resolve all your subplots at once or at the end of the main story. If you have multiple subplots, make sure you resolve them one at a time. Doing this will ensure more attention from the reader on the stories that have yet to reach their conclusion.

If you struggle with the complex issue of subplotting, I hope this post helps you out. Is there any more advice you'd like to give on this issue?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tips to Improve your Writing

I'm continually making more author friends on my writing journey, and I always seem to learn a lot from them.

Here are some of the best tips they've taught me.

# Write down every word you can think of and then cut 20% out of the text. When I'm writing I usually cut out at least two words of the original sentence. Sometimes I cut it down by half depending on the length.

#Write with emotion, make people cry. You want your audience to connect and relate to you, so the best way to achieve this is to write with feeling. You want to draw your readers in and hold them to the page.

# Have a sense of humour. Certain writers have such a way with words they make even the most traumatic of situations seem light.

# Write in different shades. Balance out the funny bits with the not so funny bits. Make sure your writing handles the current situation appropriately if it's a sensitive issue.

#Drink stimulant drinks like coffee. I'm sure this tip won't work for everyone but it sure works for me, I always have to have coffee to kick start my brain.

# Write a lot, every day if you can manage it. When I've taken a break for whatever reason it can be difficult to get back into things. Keep things fresh, especially if you're in the middle of your next book. You don't want to forget where you're going.

#Bare your soul in your writing - be candid. You're more likely to draw people in if you write like this. Be honest but respect people's feelings.

# Respect readers and fellow writers. I think this is one of the most important rules to date. You never know who reads your books, so be polite and respectful to everyone. This doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say but if you start directly attacking them, the only person who looks bad is you.

# Don't be afraid of what others think of you, don't let one bad review hold you back for evermore. Just keep on writing and if you find things you can improve on, then improve on them by all means.

# Be a perfectionist. Don't let your work go online if you know there are errors lurking about. Always make sure everything is the best of your ability.

# Take risks and be determined to move forward. Listen to others and their advice but always make your own mind up at the end of the day.

Do you have any more tips to share?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How to Write Believable Dialogue

Dialogue is often hard to write because writers' often wonder how to approach it correctly. If you struggle with dialogue yourself here are some pointers that may help you.

  • Set some time aside every week to practice. Look at conversations from different angles. Have a go at working your next scene around people speaking.

  • Have a conversation with someone and listen to how you speak. It will be unlikely that you will use the correct grammar all of the time. People interrupt each other from time to time and speak in half sentences.

  • Don't use common place dialogue. Always make sure anything your character talks about is relevant to moving the story forward. Having conversations about the weather is uneccessary in the middle of a murder investigation unless there is something significant about the weather that links to the case.

  • Leave certain things out to add an element of mystery to your story. Have one of your characters make it obvious that they are holding something back as this will make them more interesting.

  • Go easy on the use of phonetic speech. It's hard work trying to read pages of text like this.

  • Make sure your readers know who is talking, especially if you have more than two people speaking. Dialogue with multiple speakers can get confusing if all you're going to put is he said/she said.

  • Be careful not to use dialogue all through one page. Break it up in parts by describing other things that are going on. What are your characters doing? It's unlikely they will be standing still throughout the entire time it takes them to speak. '' 'What are you doing, Mary?' John asked as he flipped open his wallet.'' By using lines like these you are helping to create a vital picture in your readers minds. Describe the environment that they are in.
If you do struggle with dialogue I hope you found this post useful. Are there any other points you would like to mention? Maybe you disagree with some of the comments. Whatever it is, please share.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Every Writer Should Read

For the past three months I have been saying to myself - 'You know what Laura, you should read more.'

Have I? No.

Before I started writing I used to read all the time, and I read widely. Chick lit, autobiography, memoir, crime, comedy etc...

But now it seems I don't have time to read at all.

As a writer this is extremely bad of me. The whole world seems to say - 'you can't write if you don't read.' But as a writer how can you possibly have time to read other people's work, even when you know you should? And as any writer will usually tell you, time is precious. It's very precious when all you want to do is write your next book, market and promote your current one and live your own life as well.

Sitting in front of a computer all day is very tiring on the eyes. So when I come to take a break the last thing I want to do is strain my eyes some more and force my brain to engage on something else. Most of the time I'm just screaming, 'Let me watch some mindless TV and go to sleep!'

So when I do force myself to read, my inner editor comes out in full force and I end up not concentrating on the actual story but asking myself: why didn't the author choose that word instead of this?

I guess I am also scared to read a book similar to mine in case I subconsciously copy sentences. Sometimes a thought just pops into my head and I think - Aha! That sounds good but where I have I heard it before? Was it something my neighbour said or have I actually read it somewhere else? So consequently I am paranoid for the rest of the day.

And then there's the problem of having your own life as well. People often say, and I think this myself, that to write about anything you first must go out there and experience it yourself. Ideas, thoughts and creations are not going to come if all you do all day is sit down and sleep. So people call me up and say, 'Hey, do ya fancy a coffee?' I say yes, because really I am quite a sociable person at heart, despite spending most days feeling irascible.

So I am sitting with a friend, having coffee and the world is great apart from one tiny thing - I should be at home writing, or even better reading!

Please tell me I am not the only writer who occasionally feels like this. How do you get the balance right between writing, marketing and reading?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Learn to Love Yourself

The first week of November has passed and for a lot of writers this means they are well on their way with their NaNoWriMo challenge.

During my time cruising around the Internet this week, I have seen a lot of inspirational comments regarding this challenge. Most people seem to be on track, completing just over a 1600 words a day - the required amount they need to write in order to accomplish their 50,000 words by the end of the month. But some people are definitely struggling with this task and have already fallen behind considerably. And it is these people who I want to talk about today.

Doing the NaNoWriMo is a tough challenge for any writer to do. I haven't signed up for it this year as I have too many other commitments to see to this month but I'm considering it for next year. I think any author who has taken on this challenge has a lot to be proud of but it saddens me to see so much self hatred when things don't go to plan. I have seen comments of people saying how much they hate themselves when they're struggling to keep up with the word count. People say how disappointed they are and how much of a let down they are because they see themselves failing the challenge.

Right now I have something to say to these people: don't be hard on yourselves because you are only human.

In this world far too many people are ready to criticise you for the most minor thing. Don't add to the numbers of negative people. Be kind to yourself. I am not saying it is fine to make your excuses up when you repeatedly fail to do things but I think it is important to recognise that you cannot be perfect all of the time. Recognise your accomplishments and celebrate them. Acknowledge your failings and analyse why you didn't succeed. See if you can do things differently next time. Some things are a guaranteed failure right from the start so it's important to recognise you can't win everything.

For another inspiring read please visit this link: and I am sure you'll agree these are very wise words.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How Fearful Are You?

On Halloween I watched Paranormal Activity 3, a jumpy film like its predecessors. I love films about ghosts so I thoroughly enjoyed it. But what made it even more terrifying was the atmosphere that filled the cinema, other people's tension. I soaked the fear up like a sponge and was almost beside myself during the films final moments, and afterwards it took me about ten minutes to calm down so I could feel normal again. But once outside the cinema's scary complex, I started to think just how much we are influenced by other people's emotions.

If I were to watch that movie alone I probably wouldn't find it so scary. Sure I would jump because that's the whole nature of the film, but I wouldn't be influenced by other people's negativity.

So, how much are we influenced by other people in every day to day life? And more importantly, do we let them hold us back from doing what we really want to do? If you had a teacher or a parent that forever told you you couldn't do something no matter how hard you tried, eventually you would start to believe them. Listening to repeat criticisms does nothing for self confidence and if anything it just reinforces your own lack of self belief. If you believe you can't do something, you're probably right -success is all in the state of mind. You start to tell yourself that you will do things someday but that day never arrives. And a common reason why people delay writing that book is because they are too fearful they'll never finish it. For some it seems like a insummountable task that's just too big to complete.

Bad reviews are also notorious for making writers feel lethargic. Some automatically think they can't write because someone has told them so. That's rubbish! - what about the ten outstanding 5 star reviews they have also received? Too often we just focus solely on the negative.

I think it's time we took a stand against fear because that's the biggest reason we leave so many dreams unfulfilled. During my travelling days I met so many inspirational people, people who led their lives without letting fear barricade them into a corner. If you're fearless you make the most of every opportunity because you don't let anything hold you back.

So, what's your greatest fear and does it ever hold you back?