These top tips will help you maintain enthusiasm for your chosen craft and make sure you have the mindset to improve and succeed.
All writers are readers first. Writing is how we give back the pleasure we’ve experienced. Good writers don’t read less as their career progresses, they read more, because seeing what everyone else is doing is an important part of staying informed – and relevant – not to mention being entertained and often inspired.
Seems obvious I know but you’d be surprised how many would be writers don’t write daily – the simplest component to assured success. Writing every day is a discipline you must adopt to ensure your work maintains consistency, depth and vision. You need to get used to transferring all of your thoughts into words. Over time, this habit enables you to overcome all kinds of writers’ blocks and guarantee quality output.
Research and Study
You can never hear good advice too often or be so jaded you don’t have something more to learn. Read and listen to what other writers say about writing. There’s always a new perspective. But don’t be feverish about it. Don’t expect every successful writer to know all the secrets to success – there aren’t any in particular. Except perhaps dedication to the craft – that’s all you really need. Once you’re truly committed, the rest will follow.
Try New Forms
Don’t limit yourself. All forms of writing enhance your chosen genre. Learning how to write copy or good poetry can teach you much about the nature of words and their effect. Writing outside of your preferred genre can teach you a lot about structure, characterisation, mood and texture. Trying different styles will help solidify your own. Experimenting with any kind of writing will improve your overall technique.
Nurture Your Creativity
Respect your craft as though it were a physical object, worthy of your love and devotion. Be kind to yourself and your body – the engine of your mind. Eat well, shun excess and harmful influences; seek out happiness and adventure. Don’t dwell on the crass or morbid. Do everything positive within your power to ignite and fan the fire of creativity.
Never forget that the purpose of writing is for it to be read. Writing is communication – of ideas, of information and of entertainment. Having good writing that is unread is wasteful. Get your best stuff out there – and on the desks of editors, publishers and producers. Post your writing to the web – and direct people to it. Share your gift and strive constantly for publication and your reader’s feedback. It’s the only way for a writer to live. Literally.
Don’t be afraid of criticism but remember that you need to measure other people’s advice. Criticism says more about the giver than the receiver. Other writers often want to diminish your success and make you give up, to quash the competition. But creativity cannot survive in a vacuum. It needs guidance and nurturing to blossom fully. Take on board suggestions that will improve your work – and file away the rest.
Love What You Write
You cannot fully engross yourself in an activity you do not cherish. Learn to be passionate about your creativity. Savour the life you bring to your characters and the stories they have to tell. Glorify the edifice your writing manifests. Pay regular homage to the spark inside of you that makes you want to write – it’s a precious thing, not to be taken for granted.
Learn to be objective and circumspect about your creativity. No words are set in stone. Not all ideas are beyond potential for further development. Let others take what they like from your work – even if they see things you didn’t deliberately plan. Don’t be afraid to rework ideas. On request, edit, change and improve your work without angst or resentment. Don’t fret that your vision will somehow be lost. It won’t be. When asked to rewrite, don’t feel you must compromise your work, simply make it better.
Enthusiasm is infectious. Passion is a powerful influencer. Take the love you have for your work and direct it outwards – into the public arena along with your masterpieces. Writers need support, encouragement and (let's face it) financial sponsorship to survive. People want to experience your belief in yourself and your projects firsthand when they meet you. They want to be inspired too. Relate your honest and sincere commitment to your work and the people who can help will more readily feel inclined to support you.
I hope these points aid your writing. If you need extra motivation to write, my advice is to print out this article and tape it somewhere in your writing space, or perhaps on your fridge door.
And read it once a day.
(c) Rob Parnell
1. Make your goals achievable.
By achievable, we mean realistic and attainable. You might unconsciously have set a goal even others will have a hard time achieving, even if they had the means and the time to do so.
Here's what you can do: break down your goals into small, realistic goals set against reasonable time frames. Oftentimes, you'll achieve your bigger goals if you work on achieving the smaller goals leading to those. The important thing is making your goals as realistic and as achievable as you can.
2. Devise a feasible plan.
You know what you want, but do you know how to get what you want? Do you need technical or artistic training to achieve your goals? Or perhaps further studies? Do you have a set plan of action that will lead to the achievement of your goals? What things, both tangible and intangible, do you need to aid you in reaching your goals?
Take a moment to sit down and list the things you need and make your action plan. This is a good time to break them down into small, realistic goals and then tackle them one day at a time!
3. Resist spreading yourself too thinly.
Sometimes, it's better to work on one goal at a time, rather than doing and shooting for so many all at the same time. Work on so many goals at one given time and you'll find out you're nowhere near achieving even one goal. You won't be able to focus your full energy on one goal.
Prioritize your goals and start with either your top priority or your most realistic goal. You'll discover you're able to do more and achieve more using this approach.
(c) 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ
Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for free - http://writesparks.com
As a proofreader of business writing, I see many of the same errors made again and again. Errors in your writing (be they in advertising copy, correspondence, or a web site) are more serious, I believe, than most people realize.
Why? Well, the standard of your writing has always been important. Today, though, more than ever before, FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT. We are bombarded by the written word in its many forms -- books, pamphlets, magazines, signs, e-mail, websites and many other media.
We are all suffering from information overload and are forced to find ways of screening out as much as we can. We thus tend to make quick decisions on what to read and what not to. First impressions increasingly determine what we read and what we don't, and poor writing leads to a poor first impression.
The following list of tips should help you to avoid some of the most common slip-ups.
1. Capitals: Avoid the temptation to capitalize words in the middle of a sentence Just To Provide Emphasis Like This. If you want to be more emphatic, consider using bold face, italics, color or larger text.
2. Commas: The most common use of the comma is to join together short sentences to make a single longer sentence. We do this with one of the following small joining words: and, or, but, yet, for, nor, or so. For example:
We have finished the work, and we are looking forward to the weekend.
Notice that the two halves of this sentence could each be sentences in their own right. They thus need to be separated with a comma and joining word. In the next example, though, we don't need a comma:
We have finished the work and are looking forward to the weekend.
The halves of that sentence could not stand alone, so no comma was used.
3. Ellipsis: The ellipsis is a series of three -- and ONLY THREE -- full stops used to mark missing words, an uncertain pause, or an abrupt interruption. Avoid the temptation to use six or seven dots -- it looks amateurish. For example, we write:
Niles: But Miss Fine's age is only ... Fran: Young! Miss Fine's age is only young!
4. Excessive punctuation: Only one exclamation mark or question mark should be used at a time. Consider the following over-punctuated examples:
Buy now!!! Great bargains!!!!!!!!!!
Excessive punctuation looks too much like hysteria and detracts from your credibility. Avoid it.
5. Headings: For long works, establish a clear hierarchy of headings. Microsoft Word's heading styles are great for this. (They also allow you to automatically create a table of contents.)
6. Hyphenating prefixes: Most prefixes don't need a hyphen; i.e. we write "coexist", not "co-exist". There are exceptions, though. The prefixes "self-" and "ex-" are almost always hyphenated.
7. Numbers: Numbers of ten or less are normally written as words.
8. Quotation marks: Users of American English should use double quotes (" "). Users of British English should choose either single quotes (' ') or double quotes and stick with them for the whole document. Incidentally, British English usage is increasingly moving towards single quotes.
9. Spaces: Modern style is to use a single space at the end of a sentence, not two. Also, most punctuation marks (e.g. commas, full stops, question marks) are not preceded by a space.
10.Tables: Set table text one or two points smaller than the main body text and in a sans-serif font such as Arial or Verdana. Avoid vertical lines as they tend to add unnecessary clutter.
Armed with these simple guidelines, your writing should be well received every time. Good luck!
(c) Tim North
You'll find over 200 tips like this in Tim North's much applauded e-book BETTER WRITING SKILLS. It's just $19.95 and comes with a 90-day, money-back guarantee. Download a sample chapter.
The joy of being a writer is that you can spend a lot of time at home, safe in your own little world, trying to create something meaningful and communicate through the best way possible, that is: through words on a page.
Many writers choose this career because either a) they're shy or b) they prefer their own company anyway or c) the world seems a crazy mixed up place that doesn't need much of their involvement.
I've spent time in the past with large groups of people who desperately need each other's company - and often - to even begin to function.
I've known unfortunate souls that cry unceasingly when they have no friends to call on, or live in torment until they can chat with another. It's called being gregarious, apparently.
Thankfully, like most writers, I'm not so afflicted.
I've always liked my own company - even when I craved fame in my twenties. I used to forsake the local bars in preference to my guitar or my notebook. Many creative people are like that. We love humanity as a concept but aren't so impressed with the actual process of being a part of it.
So it comes as a great shock to writers nowadays that they are expected to not only write but then miraculously become a shameless self promoter, bouncing around like some Ritalin enhanced extrovert, telling the world about themselves and their work - and supposedly enjoying it!
Writers Do It In Private
Writing is not a spectator sport. If it was, we'd have Saturday Night Writing Live or somesuch on TV. Writers have no choice but to spend time alone - which has its own rewards - but that doesn't necessarily endear ourselves to the media.
So how then are we supposed to suddenly change character and go out and actively promote ourselves?
Publishers and agents, as a matter of course, ask us, "What do you do to promote yourself?" To be a writer is apparently not enough. We have to draw attention to ourselves too - something most writers actively avoid!
A famous writer said to me recently that, despite his acute shyness, he found that media people seemed to find him fascinating. "I only wish I was," he told me. "I spend all of my time writing. How interesting can that make me?"
I know what he means. You probably do too.
To the average writer, the interesting stuff is what's on the page. But the media needs people...
What's the Answer?
My feeling has always been that if writers are to do things that draw attention to themselves, it should be on their own terms
So here are some easy ways to promote yourself from the safety of your own home:
1. Use Press Releases
I use two methods. I have a list of email addresses and fax numbers of various media outlets. If I'm doing a localised press release, I'll use that. Otherwise I use PR Web, to blitz the world about something I'm doing. Either method ensures publicity without the need for me to actually speak to anyone.
2. Have a Website, Blog, MySpace, Facebook Page etc
Obvious this. A Net presence allows people to find out about you without the need to call you and ask questions. You can even thwart the media's initial intrusions by:
3. Having a Readymade Press Pack
This allows you to have all the questions anyone in the media might ask you, already answered. A press pack should also contain recent glamor shots of you and anything else you think might make an interesting angle for a news reporter. Put the link to your press pack on your website, free to download.
4. Use an Assistant
All celebrities have one. Why shouldn't you? The media doesn't have to know it's your mum or a good friend. Get someone to fend your calls and tell people you're busy, uh, writing is a good one. Either way, put distance between you and the media - they'll think you're more fascinating if you do!
5. For Interviews, use Technology
If someone wants to interview you, use the phone or Skype or a webcam. It's much easier to talk on the radio or give a lecture to a school etc if you're doing it from home. You can always use the old excuse that you're too busy to make the venue - or your chauffeur is sick, whatever - and you'll save heaps in gas too.
And if someone is absolutely desperate to interview you in person, tell them they can come to you! TV crews get paid expenses for these things and news reporters like a day out. Make them work to get you on tape and they're more likely to use your interview anyway.
Hope this helps
(c) Rob Parnell
Nobody will ever miss something you didn't write.
People don't wish they could find a genius they are unaware of, hanker after a writer to inspire them, or wish they could find the book that hasn't been written.
It's the harshest reality a writer must face.
Nobody cares whether you finish your magnum opus - or gives a toss whether you work on it at all.
A book is nothing until it's published - and even then, given the way things are, it's unlikely to sell more than a few copies.
Funny, I write for a living. Have done for the last 20 years. You can get a lot of eyes on things if you include the words: “money, fast and easy” in your marketing but write about anything else and your stuff pretty much disappears.
It’s never stopped me though, because I’m a writer, and writers write, no matter what happens… can you say that?
Writers must find their own reasons to write - and be self-motivated enough to continue without anything but selfish reasons to finish what they start. As Dorothea Brande said in"Becoming a Writer", writers create their own emergencies. They have to, because nobody else really gives a damn.
Recently I was rereading Stephen King's "On Writing" and I noticed something I'd previously missed.
He said he used to believe that writing was a craft and that it could be taught; a skill that, with enough training and guidance, anyone could master. Note, he said he used to think that.
Later in his career, after he'd written around twenty novels, he changed his mind. He realized that the urge to write consistently must be something you're born with.
Think about it - writing for no good reason (except a personal compulsion) is an urge that is so specific - even a little bizarre - that, without it being somehow hard-wired into a writer's DNA, most people, no matter how keen to learn, simply wouldn't bother.
It's not like it's easy, after all.
Some people say that if you find writing easy, you're probably not doing it right. I know from experience that authors who tell me they found writing their novel a breeze, signals that there’s usually a need for some serious editing!
Don't get me wrong. I do think that writing the first draft of a story or a book should be quick, painless, or at the very least, an exhilarating experience. That's usually how your best work feels. When you're 'in the zone' and being productive and inspired, you're a writer, just like any other Dan Brown, Emily Bronte, or Tolstoy.
But that's not all there is to it.
There's endless editing and polishing too. And having something important to say. And having the ability to hold an entire book in your mind - and get it all down on paper. And, of course, the toughest call: being able to arrange your life to find the time and inclination to write every day.
Not everyone thinks writing is glamorous. Even many professional writers have no great regard for the process, only the conviction that, to create something of value and importance, you have no choice but to do it.
You and only you.
Of course, 'value' and 'importance' are relative terms. That's the point. Only Tolstoy thought it was vitally important to write War and Peace. It had no value to his wife, most likely, and none of us would have missed it - or him - if he'd become an alcoholic and never got around to writing more than a few hundred words and threw them away, like many would be authors do.
The next time you're tempted to write a book, think it through.
Is it important you get it all down?
And are you willing to spend 80% of the process on making it perfect?
Because, like Mr King, I used to think that writing half a page of scribbled lines gave you the right to call yourself a writer.
But now, after I've written a couple million or so words, I'm beginning to think that being a writer is more involved.
It's somehow innate in a writer's makeup.
Perhaps practice is all it takes - consistent action and dedication to the art.
But more likely you need to discover the writer within - that guy or gal inside who was never going to be satisfied until you gave them free rein to take over your life.
But if the muse isn’t there, except as a vague yearning, maybe the best thing is to quit while you're ahead!
Because being a full-time writer is still one of the hardest ways to live. Ask any author. Even when you're successful, the motivation to write, stay focused, inspired and clear for long periods can be tough.
Sure, it's rewarding - and often fun.
That’s if readers find you – and like what you do…
But be clear on this: commitment to writing books is not for the faint hearted. And it’s certainly not for those who might be looking to make money fast and easily.
You need patience, and to be a little bit crazy.
Take one step at a time – walk slowly and surefootedly - but be sure you have good sturdy shoes before you start.
(c) Rob Parnell
The Writing Academy
Bungee jumping, sky diving, secret mission, Indy 500: how do these events compare to the art of fiction writing? Each one brings to its ‘doer’ an element of anticipation, exhilaration, unfamiliarity, and adventure. A pure adrenaline rush. And as a writer of fiction, this is the plateau you want your reader to experience.
Straying from the anticipated ending to a twist makes for good reading, pleasing the editor, and upping your chance of getting accepted. But be wary. Your twist should conform along the lines of the story you have crafted thus far. Not an easy task to accomplish, but plausible.
For example: fifteen-year-old John stole the answers to his exam from his teacher’s desk. Throughout the storyline, John has been portrayed as a ‘bully’ but every so often the writer has offered either flashbacks or little inconspicuous hints into John’s childhood. The reader assumes that John will either get away with it, or get caught and suspended. The author has gripped the reader into continuing the book to see where this will end up. Here comes the twist.
Because of these rare flashback insights, we’ve seen another side to John that, although subtle, it’s still there. So when John ends up placing the answers back with no one being the wiser, the reader is stunned, surprised, but content with this twist ending because it has been subliminally build into the plot.
If the writer’s portrayal of John had been exclusively ‘bullish’, mean-spirited, unfriendly throughout then the reader’s reaction would have been stunned, surprised and obviously, left cheated with an ending that holds no basis with the rest of the storyline.
This is called character reversal, when the character reacts different than what the reader expected. And to pull it off, you must have planted subtle seeds along the way.
Does this affect your plot down the line? In certain circumstances, yes. For example:
Bruce is a studious clean-cut senior high school student. He’s portrayed as the ‘geek’ for most of the story, not a main character at all. Then the writer decides to spruce things up and throws a dare at Bruce. Bruce accepts. He takes his friend’s ID and goes to a ‘Rave’. Big mistake, but a twist for the reader. The ‘Rave’ is raided, Bruce ends up in jail because his friend is wanted by the police and he’s holding the fake id. He escapes and now tries to clear his name that somehow has crept into the police files. A sedate YA high school book has now turned into a suspense novel all because of a character reversal.
When writing up your character(s) sketch, try to include opposite reactions, as well. By doing this, you can easily plot foreshadowing more convincingly ahead of the game.
Remember that fiction is often, if not all the time, crafted out of real people, real situations or real events. So think of a ‘real’ person and envision his reaction to several possible finales to a ‘dilemma’. Then start crafting the ending with one of these ‘reactions’ while dropping subtle hints to a totally different ending than what your reader is expecting. Try to use this character reversal for a completely out of this world ‘awesome ending.’
Make sure your story propels forward, making your reader want to turn the page. Bungee jump them out of a plane into a secret path that will drive them to the finish line.
(c) Lea Schizas
One of the nice things about being an author is that we can break any rule we want. (I just did.) It’s part of our job description. Language changes through usage -- definitions, spelling, grammar -- and authors can help it do this. But on the other hand, we have to have some sort of agreement on the language or we won’t be able to talk to each other.
When we as authors break a rule or two, it’s not because we’re ignorant. It’s because we have reasons to break them. That’s one of the joys of writing.
Having said that, now I’m going to explain some rules. There are two types of writing in your novel. There is your narrative and there is your dialogue. The rules for the two are not the same.
For example, comma use. In dialogue, it’s not so difficult. Put in a comma wherever your speaker pauses in his/her speaking. In narrative, you have to consult the style guides and hope that you and your editor, working as a team, can sort it all out.
A cop thriller like my Vigilante Justice has a simple set of rules for the narrative portion. Third-person, straightforward writing, light on adjectives and adverbs, easy to read and grammatically correct. Sentence fragments are acceptable if communication is achieved, and you’ll note that I use them often in this article. Why? Simply because it’s more effective that way.
To a degree the genre will help you identify what’s appropriate. For a cop drama, write in the dry style of a journalist. For horror, a bit of hyperbole may be acceptable in the most dramatic sections. For romance (not my genre), you can probably use lots more adjectives (swollen, heaving, throbbing, etc.) than you’d normally dare.
When I wrote Rising From The Ashes, the true story of Mom raising my brother and I alone, I tried to adopt a “childlike voice” early in the narrative. As the character of Michael the storyteller grew older, I abandoned that childlike quality. (An entire book of that would get old fast anyway.)
When I wrote An American Redneck In Hong Kong, the humorous sequel, I once again used first person narrative. But the narrative of Rising is first person only in that it uses “I” instead of “Michael.” It still follows all the rules of “conventional” narrative. In Redneck, I threw most of the rules out the window.
I used what one author referred to my as “conversational” tone to maximum effect in Redneck. This fellow author felt like he wasn’t so much reading my book as just listening to me tell some stories over a few beers. That’s exactly what I wanted.
In Rising, while I was the “first person” character, I wasn’t really the book’s focus. In Redneck, I am. Center stage, in the spotlight. Using more of a “dialogue” style in what should have been “narrative” allowed me to focus the reader’s attention on the first person to a greater degree than simply describing him ever could. You may love me or you may hate me, but you’ll know me and you’ll laugh at me.
If you want to see such a technique used to maximum effect, I recommend A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt. (I read it after writing Redneck, by the way.) It’s about an actor who gets drunk and does very bad things to himself and his family, and it’s amazing just how much I laughed out loud reading about it. Doesn’t sound like a funny subject, does it? It’s not, and yet it is, thanks to his unconventional narrative style.
To tell you the truth, I don’t even think McCourt “wrote” that book. I think he just said it all into a tape recorder and transcribed it later. It reads that much like “a guy at the pub telling a tale.” If he used the grammar checking function in MSWord, I bet it underlined every sentence. And, bright fellow that he is, he ignored them all and didn’t change a word.
If you’re going to use a more conversational tone in your narrative, don’t think that means you just write something down and don’t have to edit it. You still have to organize your thoughts, and that means rewriting. While your style may be unconventional, you have to make the ideas easy for the reader to follow.
(I’m not entirely serious when I say McCourt just spoke into a tape recorder, and even if he did that doesn’t mean the rest of us can get away with it.)
I originally wrote Redneck in chronological order. It worked for Rising, and it works for memoirs and novels in general, right? Well, in the case of Redneck, it was a disaster. Way too much “remember what I said before about…” and so forth. So while it was accurate, and while it was conversational, it stunk. I changed everything to more of a “theme-based” approach and that did the trick. Still conversational and accurate, but organized. The ideas are as easy to follow as the writing style, and that’s always the goal. Ease of reading.
In the case of narrative, you have the choice. If you want to spotlight the storyteller to maximum effect, you can go with first person and let the storyteller’s narrative and his dialogue read the same. If you’d prefer to “move the camera” back a bit, make the narrative conventional in contrast to the dialogue. As a rule, this reader likes contrast, because he gets bored reading the same thing over and over again unless the style is really special. Or perhaps you can find a point somewhere between the two.
Every story has a way that it should be told for maximum effect. Maximum effect in the author’s eyes, of course, as it’s a subjective thing. Keep it in mind as you write. Make the call, stick to it, change it if it’s not working. It might even be okay to be inconsistent, but only if you do so deliberately. Just keep stuff like “ease of reading” and “maximum effect” in mind and go be creative.
Have you ever read a book where the narrative and the dialogue read the same? I hope you haven’t. But as an editor I’ve seen such things, and they’re very ugly.
Do you know why they’re so ugly? Because they remind the reader of the one thing an author does not want to remind the reader of. Namely, that every character on the page is a puppet under the author’s control.
As readers, we put that thought aside so we can enjoy reading. “Willing suspension of disbelief,” to quote the phrase an English teacher used when describing the performance of Shakespeare’s plays. If the author ensures that the reader can’t suspend disbelief, the book will not be read. Stilted dialogue is one of the quickest ways to make that happen.
I’ve decided that writing dialogue is the hardest thing we do. It’s certainly not the something we can go look up in a style manual like Strunk or Turabian.
What are the rules? “Make it sound real.” But with the corollary, “not too real because people always say um and er and crap like that.” Oh yeah. That explains everything! End of my article, right?
Nope. I’m still writing it.
Ideally, the greatest of the great creators of dialogue will have every character “speaking” in a voice so distinctive that he/she need never identify the speaker. Okay, that’s enough fiction. Back to reality. None of us are writing dialogue that well, are we?
People use a lot more contractions in speech than in writing. They’re faster. More sentence fragments, too. People very often use the wrong version of lie/lay or “who” instead of “whom” in speaking. (Personally, I never use “whom” in speaking or writing because I want to see that distinction scrapped, but that’s another story.)
The dialogue portion of Vigilante Justice isn’t difficult to describe. The hero is a self-destructive cop named Gary Drake. He is based on a real-life cop, my little brother. So his dialogue was easy because, in my mind, I always heard Gary speaking in Barry’s voice.
For my other characters, I had to find some other voice. For example, the voice of Doctor Garrett Allison is, to me, that of Michael Jordan.
That’s right, people. When I write, I literally hear voices in my head.
As a beginning writer, and not a very good one, I read some advice somewhere saying you might want to cut photos out of magazines and use them when writing your physical description, in case you can’t get a mental picture together of your characters. I’ve used this technique, and with some modification I’ve extended it to voices.
As an author, you should always play to your greatest strengths while working to improve your weaknesses. I know many authors who think visually, and I envy them that. I’ve read some stuff that can make you feel you’re skiing down a snow-covered mountain when it’s actually 85 degrees in your flat and you’ve never skied in your life.
One author told me that when he writes, he literally sees movies in his head, then just has to type them really fast because that’s how they’re playing. Lucky him! My novels first come to me in snippets of dialogue. Every character has the same voice at that stage. (My voice, of course.)
Tight dialogue is one thing I enjoy when I read. Here are the characters at some sort of verbal showdown. I know them, I know their motives, I can read between the lines and know what’s being left unsaid. I can just feel the tension in the air. I’m not so much mentally picturing bulging veins and angry glares as I am just feeling the spoken words.
I also have an excellent memory of voices. I always have. Like a dog remembers scents or an artist colors, it seems, I can remember voices. If I hear an unfamiliar song on the radio but I’ve ever heard that singer before, I can tell you who it is. I can tell you that the guy doing the voice of Gomez Addams in the original “Addams Family” cartoon is now doing one of the voices in the Tazmanian Devil’s cartoon series. I can spot an actor like Andreas Katsulas no matter what species of rubberized alien he’s playing, because I recognize his voice, although really that’s no great challenge in his case.
(For the record, if you’ve read The Chronicles Of A Madman, Ahriman looks and sounds like Andreas Katsulas. Clyde Windham is Dennis Franz. Wendy Himes is some girl who sold me some horse feed about ten years ago.)
But just “hearing” the voices (if you’re able) isn’t enough. The words themselves will be different depending on who’s speaking them, even if they’re relaying the same information.
To get back to Vigilante Justice, Gary Drake doesn’t use a lot of words. He almost never describes his own feelings, and if he does he always feels guilty about it. He speaks with a Southern drawl. He tends to use a single swear word, and that word is “fuck.”
Marjorie Brooks, on the other hand, mentions feelings and uses whichever swear word is the most accurate, except that she never says “fuck.” Doctor Allison doesn’t use as many contractions as the rest of us do. These are things I kept in mind as I wrote their dialogue.
Who remembers Mr. Spock? His speech sounds like written language, very grammatical and correct, and that’s deliberate. He’s a scientist, he’s logical, and for him language is only one more tool to be used with as much precision as possible. That isn’t just a different style of dialogue; it helps define his character.
In my The Chronicles Of A Madman, Ahriman used fewer contractions than the rest of us and he avoided sentence fragments. He probably even knew the difference between who and whom or lie and lay. That’s because he’s intelligent, you see. It kinds of goes with the territory when one is evil incarnate.
During an edit I did of a sci-fi book, I saw where the author wasn’t using enough contractions. I made many suggestions that he change the dialogue of the humans to use those contractions, except when military officers were giving orders, because order-giving officers tend to be more “serious” and “thoughtful” than folks just being regular folks.
I also suggested to this author that he change nothing about the “stilted” speech patterns of his aliens. English isn’t their native language, you see, and one thing I’ve noticed from living in China is that the locals don’t use nearly as many contractions as I do. So I thought that added realism. Plus, the contrast should help keep the readers keep everybody straight even if they aren’t consciously aware of why.
I remember in one edit where I read some character saying, “I am an historian.” Oh, I hate that phrase. I hate anyone ever putting “an” in front of a word that begins with the consonant “h.” Correct or not -- and that’s debatable -- it’s terribly pretentious and I don’t like it. As I kept reading the book, I quickly learned that the character in question is terribly pretentious. Nobody else in the book was throwing “an” in front of “h” words. It was a deliberate contrast on the author’s part, and it worked quite nicely.
I suppose the point of all this is, remember the difference between narrative and dialogue.
In the case of narrative, you’re simply trying to describe what happens. There is a famous quote of some sort that says, “Great writing is like a window pane.” Stick to that maxim unless you feel you have a good reason not to. If you’ve got what it takes to make your writing style superior to the conventional, and if your story allows it, let that style be an asset of your writing. Otherwise, just stick to the rules until you master them.
In the case of dialogue, you’re trying to write something that sounds like what the characters would actually say, but a bit more organized because “real” speech can be boring. Give every character his/her/its own voice.
Am I joking when I say “its?” Not entirely. The Chronicles Of A Madman contains a short story, written in first person from my dog’s viewpoint. But then again, I would never call Daisy an “it.”
There’s a stylistic decision you can make in narrative, by the way. I always refer to animals as “he” or “she.” Some authors always use “it.”
In dialogue, you can let some characters always say he or she, and let others always say it, to contrast the feeling with the unfeeling. (My heroes never call an animal “it.”)
In the end, the goal is always the same. Make your writing as easy to read as you can. Keep that in mind, and always keep learning, and you won’t go wrong.
Copyright 2001, Michael LaRocca
Michael is an American living in Hong Kong. He has been working as a full-time author for over two years and as an editor for over a year. He has 4 novels scheduled for publication. He’s proud of the fact that he rarely writes in the same genre twice. One of his novels is an EPPIE 2002 in the Thriller category.
This week, I was interested to read about brain waves and how they work, and apply what I could glean to writing.
Here's the basic info:
In our normal waking lives our brain waves pulse quickly, at between 14 to 100 Hz. These are called Beta waves and are good at keeping us awake and attentive enough for our daily tasks - working, playing, eating, socializing and watching TV and movies.
Curiously Beta waves aren't that conducive to prolonged study or activities like factory or office work because at the Beta level, the brain is looking for more stimulation. It's as attentive as a butterfly, constantly vigilant for more stimuli and easily bored by monotony.
Gamma waves pulse at a higher rate - from 24 to around 70000 Hz and are normally associated with a 'higher state of consciousness' in that they seem to give us an increased sense of meaning and connectedness to the world around us. Commonly, during times of inspiration and joy, or playing sports, gamma waves are pulsing through our heads.
Curiously again, though Gamma waves are great for coming up with ideas and getting ourselves motivated and busy, they're not totally wonderful for sitting in a chair and writing or studying for long periods.
Experiencing long bouts of Gamma waves is ultimately tiring for us.
Now these are the cool guys.
Pulsing at around a low 8 to 14 Hz, Alpha waves kick in when we're relaxing, staring into space or engaged in long periods of gentle, soothing activities like lying on the beach or meditating.
The brain finds this state of consciousness very satisfying. Not only are you able to rejuvenate yourself during Alpha wave activity, you're also able to access the subconscious and get in touch with who you really are - and, to an extent, 'reprogram' your thinking.
For instance, if you're unhappy or depressed, Alpha wave time will help you to change your mood. Or if you're stuck on a problem or suffering from ennui, a short period in Alpha mode will help 'clear your thoughts', so that when you return to Beta, you're more able to work productively.
Theta waves are associated with REM - Rapid Eye Movement - sleep, in other words when we're dreaming. The pulsing of these brain waves is shallow, around 4 to 7 Hz per minute.
Dreaming is the brain's way of collating information, making sense of it and filing it away in the subconscious. This is all very necessary. Simply put, if we didn't dream, we'd probably go insane.
The Theta state also produces catecholamines in the brain, which are associated with learning and memory.
Because the conscious and subconscious are communicating well at this level, our creativity is probably at its most active - and many of your best ideas will probably arise at this time - though of course remembering them later is often a problem. There again, the brain probably does this deliberately so that you don't get too overwhelmed by creativity!
One digit up from dead, starting at 0.1 up to 4 Hz, Delta are very long, slow brain waves linked to dreamless sleep. During the sleep cycle, we can take anything up to two hours of REM sleep to get to this level.
Curiously, experiencing Delta waves is necessary for the production of human growth hormones that regulate our health.
This is the real reason why, when we don't sleep well, our health and mental state deteriorate.
Have you noticed how children generally sleep more deeply than adults? It's crucial that they do, in order to grow and repair their minds and bodies.
As adults too, especially when we're stressed or unwell, or indulging in drugs or alcohol, a good night's sleep, as the cliche goes, can do wonders for our health and well-being.
Preamble over. Now the important question:
How Can This Help Your Writing?
Once you understand how brain waves work, then you can use this knowledge to your advantage.
Have you ever started a writing project with a passion and then wonder why you can't get back the enthusiasm to write more later?
Simple, when you started you were in a Gamma State, which can't last that long. You need to get yourself into a more relaxed state to write well for longer periods.
Contrary to logic perhaps, the best state to write in is somewhere between Alpha and Beta. You need to be able to work steadily while your brain is in Beta (work) Mode - but also to regularly dip into the more relaxed Alpha (trance) State, where you can assimilate information, improve your focus and get access to your more creative subconscious mind.
In my Easy Writing System I recommend that you rely heavily on your subconscious to not only come up with ideas, but also, to an extent, write for you.
We all know that the conscious and logical Beta State likes to regularly criticize our writing - and undermine our confidence. That's its function. But in order to write for long periods, we need to switch off the inner critic and 'go with the flow' of the subconscious.
You can do this by relaxing, even meditating, for five or ten minutes at regular intervals during your writing.
Some people might regard this time as wasted - after all, staring into space is frowned upon at school and work. But this is to misinterpret what's going on when the brain retreats to the Alpha State.
Time spent relaxing, clearing your thoughts and essentially day dreaming is good for you - and very good for your writing.
I hope this info helps you.
(c) Rob Parnell
For many writers getting ideas is actually the easier part of the creative writing process. From overhearing a conversation on the train or bus, reading something in a magazine or newspaper, to your own life. However, taking that idea and forming a short story or a novel requires a lot more work.
There are integral aspects that must be followed if you want your short story or novel to stand a chance of being published.
So you have got an idea. It could be anything, for example a woman wanting to flee from an abusive marriage to an idea about a haunted house. The first thing you need to create is a main character that is strong enough to carry your plot/story right through to the end. This is vitally important when writing novels as it is obviously a longer piece of work than say a short story, therefore you need to keep your readers turning the pages.
It is worth spending a large proportion of your time creating the main character including as much detail as possible. Treat it as if you are constructing a real-life person, that includes personality traits, looks, family background, career, relationships, everything you can think of. The more you know about your main character then the easier it will be for you to write convincingly about them.
Once you have developed your main character then you need to create minor characters to support or oppose your main character and thus move your plot along. Although minor characters do not need to be as thoroughly constructed as your major character it will still pay off well the better you know them.
When writing a novel or short story you will need a clearly defined plot. This what your story is essentially about so it is vitally important to devise your plot before you actually start writing. More experienced writers for example Stephen King, write without detailed planning. However, for the novice writer a plan will help with the structure of your novel and will tell you before you start any major work whether this particular idea can be made into longer fiction. If you find that your idea is not strong enough to sustain a full-length novel it can be turned into a shorter piece of fiction such as a novella or a short story.
When writing fiction it may be useful if you see your main character as wanting to achieve something, but something else, usually the antagonist, prevents them from achieving this. Conflict is a vital element of all good fiction and is the reason why your readers will want to read to the end. If we use the above example of a woman wanting to flee an abusive marriage. The woman’s desire is to leave, whilst her husband wants to prevent her from doing this. What happens in between and the eventual resolution is your story and if written well, should produce an engaging piece of fiction.
(c) Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is an aspiring writer who is serious and passionate about the art and craft of creative writing. She has undertaken several courses in this field and has gained extensive knowledge of writing novels and short stories. Sharon has a keen interest in poetry and is an avid reader. Her blog is dedicated to all writers, especially the new writer: https://sharonswriterstidbits.wordpress.com/
We all have different tastes in what we like to read. Some have a particular taste for horror, while others prefer romance or fantasy or crime stories, etc. My favourite genre in short stories is horror, so once the title grabs my attention, I will enthusiastically read the story.
You may want to leave your readers in no doubt of the type of story you have written. That’s fine. You want to grab all the fans out there and/or recruit new readers into the genre you are so fond of writing.
So, how do you select a title that reflects your story?
Should the title always reflect the story?
Not always. But your title must have some sort of connection with your story.
Is There A Connection Between Your Title And Your Story?
If you choose not to have the title reflect the story that’s fine too. But there should be some relevance between them.
If, for instance, your story is about a man walking on the moon, then it wouldn’t make sense to title it, ‘Walking on Mars.’
If your story is an uplifting tale about two characters finding love, then your title isn’t going to mention death, unless of course one of the characters’ die.
At first your title may not give away the nature of your story. But once having read the story, the reader will understand the connection. Let me give you a few examples…
‘The Fire In The Sky’
This can be the title of a story in which an airplane explodes in midair or a story about a meteorite on its way to earth, etc.
‘An Angel Amongst Us’
Can be the title of a story about a person with extraordinary kindness or about an angel that leaves the heavenly realm to reside on earth, etc.
You can be ambiguous in your title if you wish. Your title doesn’t always have to reflect your story. Having more than one possible meaning intrigues the reader but remember…
There has to be a connection between your title and your story.
(c) Nick Vernon
Besides his passion for writing, Nick Vernon runs an online gift site where you will find gift information, articles and readers’ funny stories. Visit http://www.we-recommend.com