PLEASE NOTE: The September maximum word count is 1000 - The October contest maximum word count will be 1500

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Why Does Fiction Matter?

There are some strange folks out there who say they don’t like fiction. 

Or rather, they perhaps just don’t understand its purpose.

Many people say they never read fiction because it’s not TRUE, so what’s the point?

To any budding novelist this attitude is as heinous as it is incomprehensible. 

Unfortunately it is also surprisingly common.

My Dad, for one, thinks that reading novels is just too hard so he’s never bothered with them.

When I asked him to read one of my books once he said, “Son, just tell me what happens.” 

One of his favorite lines about books is, “If it’s any good, they’ll make a movie out of it.”

How many times have you heard this?

Often I’m sure - not least because it’s true!

The implication here is obvious. 

To non-readers, it’s not the writing that’s important. 

It’s the story.

While great writing might profoundly impress writers like you and me, most people just want the message, rather than the medium.

I would say people like stories for four main reasons:

Entertainment

Enlightenment

Validation and,

To gain hope & salvation

These reasons have been the ‘point’ of telling and listening to stories since the beginning of time.

As a species, we need them.

They divert our attention from the mundane and take us out of ourselves for a while.

They can show us things we didn’t know about ourselves and others. 

We may gain valuable new perspectives to help us to better understand our neighbors, foreigners, even our enemies.

We need stories to make us feel better about ourselves--as human beings, as well as personalities. 

That’s why we like to identify with heroes and warriors--indeed, anyone who can show us how to overcome obstacles.

We need stories to help us make sense of life and the world around us.

In real life, there are no beginnings and endings, just infinite sequences.

You know how it is. 

You listen to the news. 

Everything is a segment, a teaser, a sample of every day life. 

Nothing makes sense because there’s no structure.

Without the confines that fiction offers us, we are drowning in a bewildering sea of actions and feelings and urges with no meaning.

And no end in sight.

Stories ‘frame’ real life into manageable chunks that have tangibility, involvement and purpose, whether for us individually or as a race.

Surely that’s what we were placed on this earth to do!

To make sense of who we are and why we are here.

And THAT'S why fiction matters!

Keep writing!

(c) Rob Parnell

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Common Writing Mistakes

Most books aren't rejected because the stories are "bad." They're rejected because they're not "ready to read." In short, minor stuff like typos, grammar, spelling, etc.

I don't mean places where we, as authors, deliberately break the rules. Those are fine. That's part of our job. Language always changes with use, and we can help it on its way. No, I'm referring to places where someone just plain didn't learn the rule or got confused or overlooked it during the self-edits.

I've been editing novels for over three years. Looking back at my experiences, I feel like sharing the most common mistakes I've seen. If you'll go through your manuscript and fix these before you submit it to a publisher, your odds of publication will increase dramatically.

Once you've found a publisher who publishes what you write, you want to present yourself in the best way possible. Submitting an unedited manuscript is a bit like going to a job interview wearing a purple Mohawk, no shoes, torn jeans, and a dirty T-shirt. Your resume may be perfect, and your qualifications impeccable, but something tells me you won't get the job.

The publisher is investing a lot in every book it accepts. E-publishers tend to invest loads of time,
and print publishers tend to invest an advertising budget and the cost of carrying a large inventory.
Why ask them to invest hours and days of editing time as well? If the publisher gets two or three or ten nearly identical books, you want yours to be the one requiring the least editing.

The first thing you need to do, and I hope you've already done it, is use the spelling and grammar
checkers in your word processor. This will catch many of the "common mistakes" on my list. But I've been asked to edit many books where the author obviously didn't do this, and I confess that I may well have been lazy and let a couple of mine get to my editors unchecked. Bad Michael!


Here's a list of the mistakes I see most often.

* Dialogue where everyone speaks in perfect English and never violates any of the bullet points below. Okay, I made that up. That's not really a common problem at all. But I have seen it, and it's a
terrible thing.

* It's is a contraction for "it is" and its is possessive.

* Who's is a contraction for "who is" and whose is possessive.

* You're is a contraction for "you are" and your is possessive.

* They're is a contraction for "they are," there is a place, their is possessive.

* There's is a contraction for "there is" and theirs is possessive.

* If you've been paying attention to the above examples, you've noticed that possessive pronouns never use apostrophes. Its, whose, your, yours, their, theirs...

* Let's is a contraction for "let us."

* When making a word plural by adding an s, don't use an apostrophe. (The cats are asleep.)

* When making a word possessive by adding an s, use an apostrophe. (The cat's bowl is empty.)

* A bath is a noun, what you take. Bathe is a verb, the action you do when taking or giving a bath.

* A breath is a noun, what you take. Breathe is a verb, the action you do when taking a breath.

* You wear clothes. When you put them on, you clothe yourself. They are made of cloth.

* Whenever you read a sentence with the word "that," ask yourself if you can delete that word and still achieve clarity. If so, kill it. The same can be said of all sentences. If you can delete a word without changing the meaning or sacrificing clarity, do it. "And then" is a phrase worth using your word processor's search feature to look for.

* Keep an eye on verb tenses. "He pulled the pin and throws the grenade" is not a good sentence.

* Keep an eye on making everything agree regarding singular and plural. "My cat and my wife is
 sleeping," "My cat sleep on the sofa," and "My wife is a beautiful women" are not good sentences. (I
exaggerate in these examples, but you know what I mean.)

* I and me, he and him, etc. I hope no editor is rejecting any novels for this one, because I suspect
that most people get confused at times. In dialogue, do whatever the heck you want because it sounds more "natural." But for the sake of your narrative, I'll try to explain the rule and the cheat. The rule
involves knowing whether your pronoun is the subject or object. When Jim Morrison of The Doors sings, "til the stars fall from the sky for you and I," he's making a good rhyme but he's using bad grammar. According to the rule, "you and I" is the object of the preposition "for," thus it should be "for you and me." The cheat involves pretending "you and" isn't there, and just instinctively knowing "for I" just doesn't sound right. (I think only native English speakers can use my cheat. For the record, I have great admiration for authors writing in languages that aren't their native tongues.)

* Should of, would of, could of. This one can make me throw things. It's wrong! What you mean is should have, would have, could have. Or maybe you mean the contractions. Should've, would've, could've. And maybe 've sounds a bit like of. But it's not! Of is not a verb. Not now, not ever.

* More, shorter sentences are better. Always. Don't ask a single sentence to do too much work or advance the action too much, because then you've got lots of words scattered about like "that" and "however" and "because" and "or" and "as" and "and" and "while," much like this rather pathetic excuse for a sentence right here.

* On a similar (exaggerated) note: "He laughed a wicked laugh as he kicked Ralphie in the face while
he aimed the gun at Lerod and pulled the trigger and then laughed maniacally as Lerod twisted in agony because of the bullet that burned through his face and splattered his brains against the wall and made the wall look like an overcooked lasagne or an abstract painting." Now tell me this sentence isn't trying to do too much.

* Too means also, two is a number, to is a preposition.

* He said/she said. Use those only when necessary to establish who's speaking. They distract the reader, pulling him out of the story and saying, "Hey look, you're reading a book." Ideally, within the context of the dialogue, we know who's talking just by the style or the ideas. When a new speaker arrives on the scene, identify him or her immediately. Beyond that, keep it to a minimum. Oh yeah, and give every speaker his/her own paragraph.

* Billy-Bob smiled his most winning smile and said, "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like
this?" I don't like this. Use two shorter sentences in the same paragraph. Billy-Bob smiled his most
winning smile. "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" Same effect, fewer words, no
dialogue tag (he said).

* In the previous example, I don't like "smiled his most winning smile," because it's redundant and also cliched. Please, if you find yourself writing something like that, try to find a better way to
express it before you just give up and leave it like it is. During the self-edit, I mean, not during the
initial writing.

* "The glow-in-the-dark poster of Jesus glowed in the dark." This editor won't let that one go. Much too redundant, and it appeared in a published novel.

* Lie is what you do when you lie down on the bed, lay is what you do to another object that you lay on the table. Just to confuse matters, the past tense of lie is lay. Whenever I hit a lay/lie word in reading, I stop and think. Do that when you self-edit. (Note: Don't fix this one in dialogue unless your character is quite well-educated, because most people say it wrong. I do.)

* Beware of the dangling modifier. "Rushing into the room, the exploding bombs dropped seven of the soldiers." Wait a minute! The bombs didn't rush into the room. The soldiers did. To get all technical about it, the first part is the "dependent clause," and it must have the same subject as the "independent clause" which follows. Otherwise it's amateur, distracting, and a real pain for your poor overworked editor.

* If you are able (many readers are not), keep an eye out for missing periods, weird commas, closing
quotes, opening quotes, etc. When I read a book, be it an ebook or a printed book, I can't help but spot every single one that's missing. They slap me upside the head, which makes me a great editor but a lousy reader. If you're like me, use that to your advantage. If not, that's what editors are for!

(c) Michael LaRocca


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Kick Start your Short Fiction Stories

Is writing a novel something you’ve always wanted to do? Do you not have the faith in yourself to finish it? It’s very common amongst budding writers but is easily cured. A good way to start is by writing a short story rather than going straight into a full length novel.

When you start writing your short story you may find that it ends up being more of a full length novel but it’s a good place to start. Short stories are also a good way to get your profile started – short fiction is often published in magazines. Short stories is definitely the way to start your writing career and it will probably give you the confidence to tackle a full length novel before you know it!

Short fiction is based purely on the word count of your story and is therefore structured quite differently. For a full length novel or story you have plenty of time to reach the crux of your story but when writing short fiction you need to get to your climax as soon as possible and then work in the background around it. Readers are nearly always hooked straight away and you can then bring all the parts of your story together as the rest of your story is written. This is a way of writing used by many short fiction writers and is certainly a great place for you to start.

Once you have written what you want to say put it away for a day or two. Go back to it with a hammer and smash out every word not needed. Start taking out the word "that" and carry on from there. You have to be ruthless. You cannot afford to fall in love with every word or sentence. You will end up with a crisper story.

There is another form of short story writing which is a brand of storytelling using 6 word sentences. Writers who write this form of story telling take their work very seriously and strive to make their work exactly ‘short’! It is a form of storytelling not suited to most people and is not really a good place to start. You should however make sure that you keep your short fiction just that...short! Don’t waffle on and on and end up with something in the middle of a short fiction story and a novel! The number one priority for you is to keep your readers interested.

When you have made a start it may be difficult to keep your work to a short or moderate size. If you find you are able to write so much additional information and have so much detail to add it may be that you just carry on and write that novel after all!


(c) Barry Sheppard

Publishing pro and author/filmmaker Barry Sheppard has written and published many books with hundreds of reviews in newspapers, TV and radio.
Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

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