Category Archives: Being a writer

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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In The Spotlight: Amanda James

Mandy James April 2017

 

I have great pleasure in welcoming the very talented Amanda James back to my blog to share her latest writing news… and to interview the protagonist of her fantastic new novel Behind the Lie that was out for Kindle on Friday.

This is part of Amanda’s busy blog tour so I am delighted she found time to pop over to mine!

Look where she’s been and where she’s going!

Blog Tour Mandy James

I met Amanda through Bridge House Publishing when we published her short story in our charity book for Born Free. It’s a collection of wild animal stories, and of all our collections remains a landmark success. We launched at the Hay Festival in 2010 with the wonderful Virginia McKenna. What a day. Amanda got to read at the festival. I have since followed Amanda’s career as she has gone from success to success.

Friday (just gone) saw the release of another novel and so I asked her to do something a little different. So we have an exclusive over here today. But first let me tell you a little more about Amanda.

 

She lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the beautiful coastline near her home. In fact, three of her novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and the new one Behind the Lie – April 2017 published by HQUK ( HarperCollins).

So in an exclusive, I asked Amanda if she would interview her protagonist, Holly, for me and this is what happened…

So to set the scene… a beach house overlooking a windswept beach in Cornwall. We are on the balcony drinking tea and watching the Atlantic waves hurl themselves at the shore. We are huddled in thick sweaters, because even though it is spring, the wind is Arctic.

So, I thought we’d have a little Q&A session, is that okay? It will be fun. Please tell me your name?

The young woman sitting opposite gives me an incredulous look, her eyes reflecting the blue of the ocean.

Humour me.

You know my name, but okay, I am Holly West.

Tell me what you’re most afraid of?

Holly sighs and takes a sip of her tea. She watches at a kite surfer but I can tell she sees something else. She wrests a strand of golden hair from the wind and tucks it behind her ear. Eventually she looks back at me.

People thinking that I’m not telling the truth, that I am still the woman I used to be.

Why so sad? What has happened to you?

There is no hesitation this time.

So much has happened in such a short time …When my childhood sweetheart left for the army, I left too. I moved from my village in Cornwall to be a model in London. Caught up in everything that goes with such a glamorous life, I was lost, alone…disgusted with the person I became. But then I met Simon and he helped me turn my life around. I was so happy when we married and I fell pregnant with twins but then my son died. Well, that’s what they told me, but I know he’s alive.

What do you want most from the world?

A sad little smile turns up one corner of her mouth.

That’s easy. To find my boy, make a life for us all back in Cornwall and to just live an ordinary life.

What will happen if you don’t get it?

Her expression grows dark and the clouds roll over the sun.

I can’t think about that… I won’t think about it.

Is there something about you the reader never finds out about you, Holly?

There are secrets about me that only you know, Amanda…

 

 

Want to know what happens? This is it…

Behind the Lie Cover

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.

Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.

Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

Buy me! 

Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Author links – Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter  @akjames61

Facebook mandy.james.33

 

I don’t know about you but this has certainly whet my appetite… so do download a copy… thanks, Amanda, and we wish you great success with this! Thanks for being in the spotlight today!

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All that Buzz

It’s Monday and it’s a day full of hope and all the excitement a new shiny week will bring. So are you ready?

We have Canvey Writers tonight when we put into action our plan for 2017, and it looks exciting. Year 3 of the group and it’s time to jazz it up a bit.

I dreamed the other night that someone stood in front of me and said to me, “If you could write a mission statement to live your life by, what would it be?”

I pointed to the one I wrote for myself; the shorter version of it — the one that sits on my wall in my office: Changing people’s lives, one story at a time.

But then the stranger in the dreamer said, “That’s great, Debz. But what about one that reflects how you live in general. And I heard myself reciting the slogan of Havens Hospices, who I collected money for recently and realised that while I can’t steal theirs, I am going to borrow it because I don’t think there is anything better. And I will leave you with that message today:

Make every day count.

Do it…

excited

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Voice

Just a really quick post this morning about voice. Some of us think of voice as our own voice as a writer and that is indeed true. This is part of style — how we narrate, the type of words we use etc. but I like to think of the other voice and that’s character.

While there are still some who favour the all-seeing omniscient narrator who is, in essence, you sitting on the outside reporting on all, contemporary literature tends to favour the character viewpoint narrator.

When I was writing lots more short stories, one of the ways I experimented was in finding different voices. Even in a novel that uses multiple narrators; and even in third-person, you still wants to create distinct and individual voices for each narrator. Remember that voice is how that character viewpoint is heard: in thoughts, feelings, reactions as well as dialogue. It is how you connect to your reader.

Think about Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads if you want to think about character voice. While your own authorial voice is in there in how you create the magic; it’s the characters we hear, not you!

That is all. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

how-to-write-a-believable-character-now-novel

 

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Friday’s Editing Tips [Formatting]

While formatting will be changed for Kindle and the like, it is good practice to get into a submission-ready standardised way of formatting your work as you write. Then change fonts and spacing if required by whoever you are submitting it to but generally most follow the same basic guidelines.

Here are some tips from a handout I like to share:

A Few Simple Tips For Formatting

 

Always check the guidelines for submission with the publisher or agent. Likewise, always check the rules and the submission guidelines when submitting to a competition or anthology. They will have their own in-house styles and rules. However as a rule of thumb the most preferred formatting is:

  • Times New Roman (Ariel sometimes)
  • 12 point
  • Double Spaced (remove extra space between paragraphs)
  • Double speech marks – although some prefer single (some even say if they want straight or curly!)

(Just make sure you are consistent.)

  • Rugged right (justified leaves gaps in the text) and editors usually prefer this as it appears too uniform otherwise. This is using the ‘align left’ tab not the ‘justify’ tab.

 

Paragraphs

The default tabs in Word are usually fine (sometimes they might ask for certain indents but not usually), set for double spacing (sometimes 1.5) and click box – don’t add extra space between paragraphs for the whole document. Start the piece or a new section to the far left, then indent for new paragraphs. Look at books as this will give you the idea:

e.g.

And so it began.

It was the summer of 1974…

 

Use an indent for a new paragraph or speaker (also includes reaction by a speaker so the reader can easily follow the conversation).

If you change scene, extra line space – no indent.

For a large time gap or point of view change also consider using asterisks for a larger scene break.

 

… She never stayed to hear his reaction. She couldn’t watch the man she loved just walk away. Not today. Not ever.

***

Peter drank. Perhaps not always the best answer but today Peter drank to forget.

 

Here we changed point of view. The formatting tells the editor/reader the switch in point of view was intentional. Again look at the way books do it and be consistent in your text. You will find your own style.

 

Dialogue

Always indent when a new person speaks unless it’s after action:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. “What the hell was that?” he said.

Avoid hanging saids like:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. He said,

“What the hell was that?”

(Move it up onto the same line.)

Again look at books. If you’re given another character’s reaction to what a speaker says start like a new paragraph.

e.g.

“It looks nothing like an alien or a lion,” said Joe blushing.

Peter dug his hands into his pockets and shook his head at Joe.

 

Thoughts are sometimes also expressed like dialogue. This is completely unnecessary for a single viewpoint character narrator when it’s clear it’s all his thoughts (so you can also lose expressions like he thought.) But excursions in a third person narrative to direct first person thoughts or with an omniscient third person narrator it is preferable to use italics. These make it clear it’s thoughts and differentiate from dialogue.

e.g.

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound, like a bird maybe. It put him in mind of a parrot screeching but longer notes, more persistent. Whatever it was it wasn’t going away – (all character thought)

It’s going to get me – (switch to first person direct thought).

Rather than:

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound. “Maybe it’s a bird,” he thought. “Maybe like a parrot but more persistent.” He stood back. “Whatever it was,” he thought, “it wasn’t going away. It’s going to get me.”

 

If you get into the habit of using the correct formatting it makes it easier when you submit and it also tells the editor you do know about writing – it’s far more professional. It also shows them you know how to follow rules which is essential if they decide to publish you. It’s surprising how many writers don’t read. Read as much as can not only do you then pick up the right way to format but you also see what works best.

 

Also make sure you use things like hyphens (-) to connect words and en dashes (–) to separate clauses and em dashes (—) for interruptions

Also for ellipses do not use three or more full stops control-alt-period (…) not (…).

 

Make sure you follow the guidelines, so if it says no identifying marks, remove your name from headers and footers. If it asks for page numbers at the bottom, insert them in the footer. If it asks for Ariel font, no indents (The Costa Prize does this!) and saved as a PDF, then do exactly as it asks.

 

Make sure you follow the rules of competitions: themes, word counts, previous submissions etc.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ready to write

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Count your blessings

I saw something on Facebook that said get a glass jar and every time something good happens write it down and fold the paper and put it in the jar. I think this is a wonderful way to think in a positive way and focus the mind to think about good things and not bad ones. I think I could count many blessings every day; that I get to do what I love, that I write lists and do everything on them; that I have the most wonderful friends, a great family, a man who tells me every day how much he loves me. I think we must all think that way.

This week as I look at it in review I have subbed Chutney with a new synopsis; finished an edit and have the report to write today, fitted in three gym classes yesterday, helped someone pass the next level of their PT course by being their guinea pig in a training session the day before, set up a JustGiving page for our gym challenge and met the lady from the charity, got banners, T-shirts and balloons and arranged a visit to the hospice; arranged to see my best mate Sunday as a pre-birthday lunch and plans with a couple of friends for lunch next week. Hopefully my poorly man will be well enough to take me out Saturday but if not then we will have to postpone the birthday celebration until he is well… that will stretch it out, right?

If we can see the good and the positive and not the negative side of life, which we all know is there, we will see that counting our blessings is a wonderful way to live and imagine the joy we will have reading those little notes in that glass jar this time next year.

That is all, have a wonderful weekend everyone… 

jar2

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Carried in Waves

Rats in the Attic is a short story that won the Sunpenny Press competition some years ago. It was never published apart from online for a short time and it has since been edited and updated but was yet to find a home. All rights mine… so…

I sent it off again finally in 2015  and it made the cut for being recorded! This has finally happened and I am delighted or share the link to the podcast. What’s interesting is that since this is an Irish Radio Station it has been recorded with a fab Irish accent by actor Adrian Scanlan. While it was written with a Yorkshire accent, hence the reference to rats in Urmston, I think he has captured the voice of the child narrator wonderfully and the humour comes across no matter what accent! I rather like the Irish voice!

So please set aside 20 mins, coffee in hand and enjoy!

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