Month: April 2015

#AtoZChallenge: Z is for Zeugma and Zzzzzzz

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

Z is for Zeugma and Zzzzzzz

I thought long and hard about the tricky letter ‘Z’ and then stumbled upon this rather lovely word.

Zeugma comes from the Greek for ‘bonding’ or ‘yoking’. It’s a literary device in which either a single verb is used to refer to two different objects for effect, or an adjective refers to two different nouns even though the adjective is really only appropriate for one of them. Complicated? It’s one of those terms where an example is probably the best explanation.

‘Or lose heart, or necklace, at a ball,’ The Rape of the Lock; Canto 2, Alexander Pope

‘Miss Bolo rose from the table considerably agitated, and went straight home, in a flood of tears and a sedan-chair.’ The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens

‘You held your breath and the door for me.’ Head Over Feet, Alanis Morrisette

Using devices like this in your writing can add drama. However, do be careful not to confuse your reader. It really is one of those things that needs to be used skilfully.

And as for Zzzzzzz – well, it’s been a lot of blogging. I normally only post once or twice a week, so posting every day has been a challenge! But I’ve managed to do it, if sometimes by the skin of my teeth. And I’ve discovered lots of great blogs and great bloggers, fellow writers and others that blog about things that I would never have known about or thought to look for. But it has been tiring, and I have to admit it will be nice not to have that pressure – until next April anyway. So now I’m off for a little rest.

sleeping

 

 

#AtoZChallenge: Y is for Your and You’re

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

Y is for Your and You’re

It’s nearly the end of my first A-Z Challenge and I can’t quite believe I’ve managed to write twenty-four blog posts so far about writing and editing! So today I’m going to keep it short.

ryan

I’m sure you all know the difference, but just in case:

You’re: contraction of ‘you are’.

“You’re looking particularly gorgeous in this picture.”

Your: second person possessive adjective. ‘Your’ is used to describe something belonging to you. It is always followed by a noun or a gerund (a noun made from a verb by adding -ing).

“Could I please have your number?”

On a side note, ‘yours’ is an absolute possessive, and so doesn’t need an apostrophe to show possession. This is also true for ours, theirs, mine, his and hers.

Now, I wonder if I can find a picture of Ryan to use for ‘Z’…

#AtoZChallenge: X is for X-Rated

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

X is for X-Rated

erospsyche (1)

I edit a lot of erotica and romance, some of it fairly mild, some of it less so. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at my desk on a Tuesday afternoon with a cup of tea and a digestive, deleting unnecessary adjectives from a raunchy scene and I’ll think to myself how strange my job sometimes is!

But it’s not just erotica and romance that calls for X-rated scenes.  If you’re a writer, the chances are that one day you’re going to have to tackle a scene of this type. This is something that worries a lot of authors. So here are some tips on how to write a sex scene that won’t make you or your readers cringe.

  • Skip the euphemisms. Show your reader some respect. If you need some awful examples to avoid read 50 Shades (Down there? Really? What are we, eleven?)
  • Make it consensual. Obviously consensual. Non-consensual sex is not erotic or sexy. At all. It is just wrong.
  • Your characters are not porn stars. Unless they are porn stars. It needs to be hot, but not unbelievable. Don’t use clichés from terrible porn movies.
  • Stay true to your characters. As with all action scenes and as with all dialogue, your characters need to behave and speak in a way your reader can believe they would behave and speak.
  • Make sure the scene has a purpose. Like any scene or event in your book it needs to drive the story forward.
  • As with all your writing, but especially when writing about sex, use all five senses. ALL of them.
  • Often the idea of sex is more erotic than the act itself. Build up the tension.
  • Act it out! Seriously – one of my best teachers on my Masters course had written both excellent fight scenes and excellent sex scenes and she insisted that the best way to make both realistic and readable was to act them out. (That way you don’t end up having your characters do things that would take three hands each and I don’t have to sit there on a Tuesday afternoon wondering what’s supposed to be going where when I’d rather be eating a biscuit).

Once again, my top tip is to read. Shirley Conran and Jilly Cooper write better sex scenes than a certain other author mentioned above, as does Sylvia Day (sometimes). And of course you can’t beat a bit of DH Lawrence. Though in my humble opinion Flaubert did it best with poor old Madame Bovary.

#RBRT ‘My Grandfather’s Eyes’ by B A Spicer

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I read and reviewed ‘My Grandfather’s Eyes’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

grandfather's eyes

Alex Crane is the narrator of this dark, clever and extremely well-written book. This novel is completely different o anything I have read for a long time, disturbing and fascinating, Alex’s story is one that tests your sympathies to the limit.

Alex has moles. This might seem a simple thing but they, in some way, define her. She bears them proudly, refusing to be ashamed, refusing to accept the place in society that they should, in others eyes, confine her to. Her mother’s revulsion shapes her too and she grows up to love with passion, particularly her best friend Lizzie, who remains frustratingly out of reach, and to disdain, or at least discount, those who don’t rouse this passion in her – her weak father, her obliging husband, for example.

She loved her grandfather though and has a sort of grudging respect for her grandmother. It is her grandparent’s history, intertwined with her parent’s past, that becomes a source of fascination for Alex – the mystery at the heart of it revealing aspects of her grandmother that are within Alex too.

The first person narration places you, uncomfortably at times, in Alex’s world, with her skewed ideas of right and wrong. But, despite the things she does and thinks, I don’t hate her. I’m not sure that I like her, but I do, to an extent, understand her. And this is where the talent and the skill of the writer show. It’s hard to have the ‘hero’ of your story someone who should be the villain and even harder to write that character in such a way that your reader isn’t completely turned off. The author has managed to do that and the result is a book that’s hard to put down, beautifully crafted and compelling.

My only complaint? Without giving too much away, I would have liked to have known more about Alex’s grandparents and the effects of the Mexico trip. Although this was touched on, I would have liked more details.

Apart from this very minor point, I totally recommend this.

4.5 out of 5

Find a copy here.

Letter W The April A to Z Blogging Challenge #AtoZChallenge

I’m letter ‘W’ in the A to Z Challenge on Luccia Gray’s blog Rereading Jane Eyre 🙂

Rereading Jane Eyre

 April Author Spotlight 2015

Letter ‘W’ is for Alison Williams author of The Black Hours.

W

Why do I recommend The Black Hours?

The Black Hours is not an easy novel to read because it’s based on the true story of a cruel witch-finder during the English Civil War, in the 17th century.

Alison Williams thrust good and evil upon me disturbingly, because at the beginning, evil is shown to have the upper hand. I was outraged as I was taken inside the vicious witchfinder’s sick and manipulative mind, which enabled him to enlist the help of the landowners, magistrates, other members of the clergy, as well as some spiteful townspeople. I was shocked by the plight of the hopeless good people like poor Alice, who was constantly in the throes of a dreadful situation, because she was almost alone, poor, and helpless.

I was appalled and angered by the rampant…

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#AtoZChallenge: W is for Writers’ Block

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

W is for Writers’ Block

writer's block - cat

Writers’ block is something most writers will be familiar with. It may be just an hour or so of a dreadful blank mind, or it may be an inability to write that lasts for days, weeks or even months.

There are ways to kickstart your brain, and get writing again.

  • Write anything. Even if it’s absolutely terrible. A blank page or white screen can be intimidating. Filling it can sometimes be enough to break the fear and get going again.
  • Move on. If you’re stuck in a scene and you don’t know where to go, leave it. You can write in any order you want. No one will know. And writing something that happens later on in the story may help you tackle that scene you’re stuck on later.
  • Set a target for writing and stick to it, even if it’s only a couple of hundred words a day. Forcing yourself to write can sometimes be enough.
  • Go for a walk. Get out of the house and get some air. Try not to think about your writing. Sometimes a change of scene can work wonders.
  • Take a break away from the writing and read a book. Or watch a film. Stimulate your brain and you may come away refreshed and inspired.

Got any great tips for beating writers’ block? Share them by leaving a comment below.

#AtoZChallenge: V is for Verisimilitude

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

V is for Verisimilitude

The appearance of being true or real  (Oxford Dictionaries)

v

Writing is always a balancing act. You want to transport your reader, to take them on a journey, possibly have them experience things that they wouldn’t normally experience through your characters. So why the need for realism, for truth? After all, this is fiction right?

Well, yes it is, and in a way, writing fiction is lying. We writers of fiction spend our days lying. But as anyone who has ever successfully lied to their parents about where they were the night before, or to their teacher about where their homework is, or to their boss about how they were really sick the day before and just couldn’t possibly have made it to work, the secret of a good lie is that it rings true.

Fiction is just like that. You are methodically, carefully and imaginatively building a world for your characters. A world that doesn’t exist. The appearance of truth is essential to help build that world, that lie. One wrong move, one wrong word and the illusion collapses.

So how do you ensure that you keep the ‘reality’ of your fictional world intact? Here are the pitfalls to avoid:

  • Something unusual happening in your fictional world that you haven’t prepared your reader for
  • A character that notices something they wouldn’t notice in real life, says something they wouldn’t say, or does something they wouldn’t do
  • In fantasy, a character not using a skill that you have given them when they should do so
  • Unrealistic dialogue that is used to convey information
  • In historical fiction particularly, an object, custom, behaviour that didn’t exist or wouldn’t have happened in the time in which your novel is set
  • This is as important in fiction as it is in films. For example, if your character has his hands handcuffed behind his back, don’t have them in front of him two minutes later (as in Reservoir Dogs).

Much of writing is about building believable and compelling worlds, but those worlds must follow a logic that the reader can relate to, understand, and around which you can create interesting and dynamic stories.

#AtoZChallenge: U is for Unique Selling Point

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

U is for Unique Selling Point

usp

There are literally thousands of books out there, all vying for attention. Whether you’re sending your manuscript into the self-publishing market or to an agent or publisher, you need to make it stand out. So how do you do that?

Of course the writing has to be amazing, and your manuscript has to have been edited and proofread to within an inch of its life. If you’re self-publishing then the cover needs to be eye-catching and inviting. But what else can put your work above all the others?

This is really something that you need to think about BEFORE you write that novel. Make sure you are writing something new, something exciting, something that sets you apart – have in mind your unique selling point.

What is different about your book? Why should anyone want to pick it up? What does it have that no one else has?

Read the books that yours will be competing with – what does yours have that they don’t? This is at the heart of your USP. Try to condense that into one sentence. When agents are reading the six hundredth query letter they’ve had that week, or a reader is browsing Amazon for a new book, they want to know, quickly, what your book can give them. They need to know in one or two sentences. This is your chance to grab them.

It’s horribly competitive out there – and it’s very hard work. But having a unique selling point will give your book an edge.

Does your novel have a great USP? Share it by leaving a comment below.

#AtoZChallenge: T is for Transitions

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

T is for Transitions

Transitions are used to:

  • Change time
  • Change location
  • Change character viewpoint
  • To skip unimportant time periods or events

One issue I’ve seen with many writers is that they put too much detail in these transitions, showing how a character gets from one place to another – getting into their car, driving home, parking, walking up the stairs to their apartment, just like this scene from the infamous B-movie Birdemic:

The reader doesn’t need to know that. They just want to get on with the story, on to what happens next.

So how do you use transitions skilfully?

  • Start a new chapter – this easily lets your reader know the narrative has moved on
  • If you’re changing scene/time/viewpoint within a chapter use a physical sign like ***** centred on the page, or double space and then don’t indent the first line of your next paragraph.
  • Keep it short and simple – ‘that night’, ‘the next day’.
  • Jump right in – rather than say: ‘When Linda arrived at the coffee shop the next morning’ go for ‘Linda slid into the booth and took a sip of her latte’. We know where and when Linda is straight away.

Any other tips for smooth transitions? Please share by leaving a comment below.