#writingadvice

Quick Writing and Editing Tips – Capitalising Kinship Names #Writing #Editing

Kinship names are the words we use to indicate family members, like mum, mom, dad, aunt etc. 

Capitalise when the name immediately precedes a personal name, or when the name is used alone in place of an actual name. So:

Did you remember to get Mum a birthday card?

We went to see Dad when he was in hospital.

Lily and Joe loved visiting Aunt Susie’s house.

I was seven when I last saw Grandma.

Don’t capitalise when these words follow the personal name, when they don’t refer to a specific person or when they are used with possessive nouns or pronouns.

So:

The Sinfield sisters always stuck together.

There aren’t many dads who would do that.

My aunt wasn’t feeling well.

I bought a card for my mum.

Sally’s grandma lived next door.

Signing with a small publisher? Here’s what to look for. #WritingCommunity #WritingTips

Re-posting some previous posts that followers have told me they found most helpful. Today’s post was written after I had to re-edit, proofread and generally sort out a manuscript that had been published by a vanity press purporting to be a legitimate small press, who had charged the client in question thousands of pounds. In my subsequent ‘nosing about’, I discovered some authors that had been badly let done by small presses. That said, I do appreciate that there are lots of fabulous small presses out there that work incredibly hard for their authors.

I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read.

If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.

Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.

Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.

Ask:

Who are they?

How long have they been publishing?

What exactly is their background and experience? You want specifics about this. Who have they worked for? Where did they get their experience? How many years?

Who will your editor be? What experience do they have? Again, specifics here not vague assertions and statements.

Who else have they worked with? Once you know this you can see for yourself how well their books are doing.

What can they offer you? Editing? Book cover? Promotion? What sort of promotion? 

What do they expect from you?

If you get through all this and still want to go ahead, then make sure you read the contract really closely. Look for things like cover design, for example – who has the final say? And how many editors will be involved? How does the editing process work? What about copyright? What happens if you aren’t happy further down the line?

Always get a lawyer to look at your contract. Always.

Some warning signs:

Companies with very few authors on their list. OK, they might just be starting out, but wouldn’t you be better off waiting and seeing how they go?

Companies that state they don’t deal with agents or lawyers. Why don’t they? What are they afraid of? Surely it’s up to you if you want to have an agent.

Companies that insist it’s like a family. Why do they think that’s a good thing? This is a business relationship and it should be treated as such.

Staff that are vague about their experience.

Companies that approach you. If they’re any good, they will be fending off submissions.

Dreadful covers on current books.

Glowing five star reviews on current books by other authors also published by the company.

An insistence that you read and review their other authors’ books.

Reviews of other authors’ books that mention typos, grammatical errors, poor editing and poor formatting.

Any one of these things should give you pause for thought. At the end of the day it is your choice, but do ask yourself what it is exactly these publishers are doing that you can’t do yourself. OK, so they might offer editing. You can hire a freelance editor. OK, so they format and do covers. Again, you can source that yourself. You can even learn how to format and do that bit for nothing. They promote? How much? And how much will you have to do?

Now be truly honest with yourself. If you can do, or can learn to do, what they are offering, if their books aren’t really selling that well, if they’re vague about their experience, then why are you even considering it? Is it because you’re flattered? Is it because someone is actually interested in your book? I do understand, after all, we all want to be told that someone loves our work, that they value it, but unfortunately that’s what some of these companies are relying on. Don’t waste your time. And do do your research!

Writers – Respect Your Readers #WritingCommunity #WritingTips

I’ve seen a few tweets recently about the need for writers to hire professionals, be it editors, proofreaders, formatters or book cover designers. The reactions to these tweets seem to be split 50/50.

As an editor, obviously I believe that authors benefit from having their work professionally edited. I appreciate that the cost of this can be prohibitive. I’m not suggesting that authors shouldn’t write because they can’t afford to hire professionals. But that doesn’t mean you should publish.

I know this is going to be controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway. Unless you are 100% capable of editing, proofreading, formatting or design, then you should hire someone to do those things for you, because if you are expecting someone to pay for your books, then your books should be worth paying for.

Authors – the people who buy your books are not your critique group. They are not your beta readers. They are not your editors or proofreaders. They do not owe you anything. Your readers work to earn the money that they spend on your books. They deserve for those books to be worth what they’ve paid. I hear of far too many authors who say they can’t afford to pay professionals but they’ll publish anyway. I hear of far too many authors who think they don’t need advice. They think they can turn out a perfectly-formed book, without any feedback, any advice, any help. 

You don’t have some god-given right to publish a book and expect people to pay for it. And anyone in the creative fields has to expect to spend a little money. Artist have to buy their paints and canvasses. They may have to hire a venue if they want to exhibit. Musicians have to buy recording equipment, instruments, maybe hire a recording studio. They all have to work at their craft. Confectioners and bakers and dressmakers and potters and wood carvers and sculptors, they all have to invest and practise and learn. Why do some authors think they don’t?

Just because you can type a manuscript, put together a basic cover and download it onto Amazon doesn’t mean you should or that you should expect other people to pay for the privilege of reading it.

Now this might come across as if I have something against self-publishing. I absolutely don’t. I’ve self-published. I work every day with authors that self-publish. Some of them are brilliant. Most of them write gripping, entertaining, fabulous books that I would choose to spend money on – but none of them would publish a first draft. And they’re always the ones who take advice, are willing to learn, who respect their readers. 

I am heartily fed up of authors on Twitter saying that they can write what they want, how they want, and if people don’t like it, so what? Okay, that’s fine, until you expect people to pay for it. 

Getting a traditional publishing deal is hard, and often not the best way for a writer to publish anyway. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing. There are thousands of hard-working, talented, wonderful independent authors out there. They deserve to be successful, to have thousands of readers. They work at their craft. And they’re being let down by those other self-publishers who throw out sub-standard work. 

One indie author told me that she can’t afford to hire an editor, or a proof reader. So she’s publishing as many books as she can, and using the reviews as free feedback. I find such disregard for your reader and their hard-earned cash hard to fathom. 

Bad indie authors tarnish the reputation of all indie authors. Have some pride in your work, some pride in your industry. And above all, have some respect for your readers.

For $%£@*’s sake – is there any need for swearing? Warning, (obviously) contains swearing #WritingCommunity

I’ve had a bit of a shaky start with the blog this year as we’ve been having a tricky time with one of our dogs, Charlie the rescue Galgo from Spain, who is very ill at the moment. So the blog has sort of gone out the window. 

Charlie in his lovely winter jumper!

I have caught up with quite a lot of my book reviews but am aware that I haven’t really been posting anything about editing. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to post some of the posts that clients and blog followers have said have been most helpful to them.

Today’s post is about that thorny issue of swearing (something I must admit I have been doing a great deal of lately. IMHO nothing beats a really good swear!).

I never, ever once swore in front of my mum. Not once, even as an adult. She would have been horrified, even though she swore. My children (well, they’re 24 and 22) swear in front of me all the time. I swear in front of them. I’m sure some people reading this think I’m a terrible mother.

I saw a tweet the other day (bloody Twitter, causes me so much stress) asserting that using swearing in your writing meant you were too ignorant to think of another word. This lady was implying that those who swear, or whose characters swear, are stupid.

This made me f#$king furious. 

Firstly – swearing doesn’t make you stupid. This is not a brag, but I have a master’s degree. One of my foul-mouthed children has just received a distinction in his masters at King’s College, London. The other is studying veterinary medicine at the Royal Veterinary College. They are kind, compassionate, thoughtful, caring, wonderful people. And they are certainly not stupid.

Secondly – as a writer, you need to use the right word, for your character and for the situation. Not the most fancy word. Or the longest word. If your character is about to be murdered for example, are they going to say, ‘Goodness me’? If they have just found out a deadly secret, or had their inheritance stolen, been shot in the knee, or are being burned at the stake, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh dear, what a calamity.’ They’re going to swear.

And that goes for historical fiction too. Street urchins, prostitutes, shopkeepers, manservants and working class women swore. So did the gentry. And the clergy. And everyone. Apparently the first recorded use of the word ‘fart’ is from 1250! ‘Fuck’ was used in English in the fifteenth century. ‘Shit’ is one of the oldest words in existence.

Swearing has its place. Sometimes, the most filthy word is definitely the right word. If you’d been at my house on election night in 2019, the air was blue. And it made me feel much better! And as writers, we need to make sure that the words we use are the right words. Adding a ‘shit’ or a ‘fuck’ to your manuscript doesn’t make you stupid. If it’s the right word, then it’s the right word.

So put down that fucking thesaurus!

SUMMER SPECIAL OFFER – 10% DISCOUNT ON ALL EDITING SERVICES #WRITINGCOMMUNITY #WRITING #EDITING

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It’s been a busy time here in lovely Cenarth. When it hasn’t been raining, I’ve been busy growing vegetables. I’ve never grown veg before and I’ve become a bit obsessed – so much so that Belle the cocker spaniel has taken to dropping her tennis ball in the middle of the beds to get my attention!

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There are lots of lovely flowers blooming now, and the garden is looking gorgeous – I’ve never been very good at gardening so I’m feeling rather proud!

And yesterday I realised a bit of a lifelong dream – we rehomed six battery chickens! Meet Virginia, Hilary, Sylvia, Emily, Charlotte and Mary.

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They’ve already produced four eggs, and have succeeded in terrifying the dogs!

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But while I would love to spend all day pottering about watching the chickens and the river, and faffing about with the vegetable beds, I do have an editing business to run!

If you’re considering editing then this special summer offer may convince you to take the next step in making your work the best it can be. I’m offering a 10% discount on any bookings made this week, for any of my editing services. So editing packages now start at just £4.00/$5.40 per thousand words.

You can find more details about my editing services here. And there are some lovely testimonials here. 

If you have any questions at all, or would like a sample edit, then do get in touch.

 

Saturday Writing Tips: Clarity #writingtips

clarity

‘Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be said can be said clearly.’

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, proposition 4.116

The Oxford dictionary defines clarity as:

 The quality of being clear, in particular:

The quality of being coherent and intelligible

The quality of being easy to see or hearsharpness of image or sound

In fiction writing, as in any other type of writing, you need to be clear – your words, your sentences, the pictures you build, must have clarity. Otherwise, who are you writing for? As an author, you have stories you want to share, so you must bear in mind your audience, your reader and what they will do with the words you choose to give them. This doesn’t mean you can’t be clever, that you can’t be creative, that you can’t build wonderful metaphors, use fabulous imagery and weave complex, intricate plots and storylines. But you must have clarity in all you write. What are those ingenious metaphors for? They are there to help your reader understand – to tell your story. What is that beautiful imagery for, if not to help your reader imagine your worlds, your characters, your visions? And if your plot makes no sense, then why should a reader waste time with your work? You are not writing in a vacuum, you are writing for a reader and your reader must know what you are conveying with those words.

So how do you ensure clarity in your writing?

Pronouns

pronouns

One common issue I deal with all the time when editing is confusion resulting from  the use of pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘his’, ‘her’ etc. It’s crucial that the noun the pronoun is referring to is clear. For example:

The car hit the barrier but it wasn’t damaged.

What wasn’t damaged? What does ‘it’ refer to – the car or the barrier? In this sentence it could be either.

Similarly:

John gave Adam his money.

Whose money? Adam’s? Or John’s? Make sure it’s clear who the pronoun is referring to.

Passive voice

active passive

Passive voice can make your writing seem wordy and unnatural. Using active voice makes your words more immediate and gives them energy. Find out more about active vs. passive voice here.

Ditch the clichés

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Clichés don’t work in fiction because they are stale and overused. They are phrases other people have made – your story and your characters deserve fresh, new words and phrases that are all their own. Again, think of your reader. If you fill your work with stale old clichés, you give the impression that you can’t be bothered; you can’t be bothered to think of exactly the right words to use, you can’t be bothered to think of something fresh and new, you can’t be bothered to create new phrases and sentences. So why should a reader be bothered with you?

Cut, cut and cut again

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One of the most common comments I use when I’m editing is ‘do you need?’ Writers should apply this to every word they write. Do you really, really, really need it? And if not, then cut it. For example:

When she went to the shops that morning, there were crowds of people thronging the streets.

Now if every word matters, what can be got rid of here?

It might be important that she went to the shops that morning, so we’ll leave that in, but you can cut ‘there were’. These two words are hardly ever needed.

When she went to the shops that morning, crowds of people thronged the streets.

So it’s only two words – but it’s two words you don’t need.

The same goes for ‘she felt’, ‘she saw’, ‘she knew’

As she walked to the shops, she saw two cyclists coming towards her.

Why not simply –

As she walked to the shops, two cyclists came towards her.

Another particular pet hate of mine is ‘she began’ or ‘she started’. Why write ‘she began to cough’ instead of ‘she coughed’? Or ‘she began to speak’ instead of ‘she spoke’?

and what about ‘Off’ or ‘off of’?

The short answer is ‘off’.

The long answer is:

You don’t need to say:

She pushed him off of the bridge.

Just

She pushed him off the bridge.

Other words that can often be cut are ‘seemed to’ or ‘appeared to’. Be firm and clear in your writing and your meaning.

She seemed to quiver at the sight of him.

is much better as:

She quivered at the sight of him.

These are just some examples of how you can bring clarity to your work. I’d love to hear other tips and advice.

 

Saturday Writing Tips : Contractions in dialogue #writingtips

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A very quick tip here for writers struggling with dialogue.

One of the issues that I find in a lot of the manuscripts I edit is that the dialogue can seem forced and contrived. Realistic, believable and authentic dialogue is a must for a good novel, and authors need to make sure they get it right. But many new writers think they have to write ‘properly’ and they think this means eschewing contractions.

Generally, if you want to make your dialogue flow and for readers to believe in it, then you need to use contractions (there are exceptions to this, in particular types of fiction). Think about it. How many people do you know (however posh they are and however ‘properly’ they speak) who say things like this:

‘Please do not walk on the grass.’

The answer is no one. No one ever (except perhaps the queen and probably not even her) speaks like that. It sounds horrible.

So remember:

‘Don’t’ not ‘do not’
‘They’ve’ not ‘they have’
‘Should’ve’ not ‘should have’ (and definitely NOT should of)
‘I’ll’ not ‘I will’
‘Can’t’ not ‘cannot’
You get the point.

There are three things you can do to improve your dialogue:

Listen – actually listen to people talking. This has the advantage of also often being very entertaining.
Read – when you’re reading, make a note of dialogue that really works, and why it works
Speak – read your dialogue out loud. Does it sound right?
Contrived, formal, awkward dialogue is, I’m afraid, the sign of a writer still learning their craft. Get it right, and your writing will be smooth and professional and your dialogue a pleasure to read.

Saturday writing tips: Write the right word – homophones #writingtips

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I don’t often post on my blog at the weekend, but as it’s the time that a lot of writers who also have a day job might get some time to focus on their writing, I thought it would be a good idea to start a new series of writing tips on a Saturday morning. so here’s the first in the series – cracking those annoying homophones. Enjoy!

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A homophone is a word that is pronounced in the same way as another word, but has a different meaning and is spelt differently. They can cause writers, and in turn their readers, confusion.

One common example of this is ‘there’, ‘their’ and they’re’. Since I’ve been editing I’ve been surprised by how many people get this wrong. It isn’t always that a writer doesn’t know the difference, but often the wrong word has been used accidently and just hasn’t been picked up. But if you use the wrong version in your published book, readers will think you don’t know what you’re talking about (there’s another one – your and you’re) and will lose their trust in you and your book.

So, just in case:

  • there – refers to a place or is used with the verb to be: ‘There is a lion in the zoo; look, it’s over there.’
  • their – shows possession. ‘It is their lion.’
  • they’re – the contraction of ‘they are’. ‘They are looking at their lion.’

Other commonly mixed-up homophones I’ve come across are:

  • waive and wave
  • for, four and fore
  • to, too and two
  • discreet and discrete
  • wrings and ring (‘she was ringing her hands’ should be ‘she was wringing her hands’)
  • fazes and phases

A homonym is a type of homophone in which the word is spelt the same, pronounced the same way, but has a different meaning, so, for example:

homophones

One of the best ways to make sure you’re using the right word is to have someone else read over your work, whether that’s a beta reader, a fellow writer or an editor. Sometimes we’re so close to our work that we don’t notice these relatively simple errors. A fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference. and don’t rely on Spellcheck. it won’t always catch these errors.

Spotted any amusing or weird homophones? Do tell me about them by leaving a comment below.

For $%*@*’s sake – is there any need for swearing? Warning: (obviously) contains swearing #WritingCommunity

swearing

I never, ever once swore in front of my mum. Not once, even as an adult. She would have been horrified, even though she swore. My children (well, they’re 23 and 21) swear in front of me all the time. I swear in front of them. I’m sure some people reading this think I’m a terrible mother.

I saw a tweet the other day (bloody Twitter, causes me so much stress) asserting that using swearing in your writing means you’re too ignorant to think of another word. This lady was implying that those who swear, or whose characters swear, are stupid.

This made me f#$king furious.

Firstly – swearing doesn’t make you stupid. This is not a brag, but I have a master’s degree. One of my foul-mouthed children is studying for a master’s at King’s College, London. The other is studying veterinary medicine at the Royal Veterinary College. They are kind, compassionate, thoughtful, caring, wonderful people. And they are certainly not stupid.

Secondly – as a writer, you need to use the right word, for your character and for the situation. Not the most fancy word. Or the longest word. If your character is about to be murdered, for example, are they going to say ‘Goodness me’? If they have just found out a deadly secret, or had their inheritance stolen, been shot in the knee, or are being burned at the stake, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh dear, what a calamity.’ They’re going to swear.

And that goes for historical fiction too. Street urchins, prostitutes, shopkeepers, manservants and working class women swore. So did the gentry. And the clergy. And everyone. Apparently the first recorded use of the word ‘fart’ is from 1250! ‘Fuck’ was used in English in the fifteenth century. ‘Shit’ is one of the oldest words in existence.

Swearing has its place. Sometimes, the most filthy word is definitely the right word. If you’d been at my house on election night, the air was blue. And it made me feel much better! And as writers, we need to make sure that the words we use are the right words. Adding a ‘shit’ or a ‘fuck’ to your manuscript doesn’t make you stupid. If it’s the right word, then it’s the right word.

So put down that fucking thesaurus!

 

Writers – Respect Your Readers #writingcommunity #selfpublishing

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I’ve seen a few tweets recently about the need for writers to hire professionals, be it editors, proofreaders, formatters or book cover designers. The reactions to these tweets seem to be split 50/50.

As an editor, obviously I believe that authors benefit from having their work professionally edited. I appreciate that the cost of this can be prohibitive. I’m not suggesting that authors shouldn’t write because they can’t afford to hire professionals. But that doesn’t mean you should publish.

I know this is going to be controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway. Unless you are 100% capable of editing, proofreading, formatting or design, then you should hire someone to do those things for you, because if you are expecting someone to pay for your books, then your books should be worth paying for.

Authors – the people who buy your books are not your critique group. They are not your beta readers. They are not your editors or proofreaders. They do not owe you anything. Your readers work to earn the money that they spend on your books. They deserve for those books to be worth what they’ve paid. I hear of far too many authors who say they can’t afford to pay professionals but they’ll publish anyway. I hear of far too many authors who think they don’t need advice. They think they can turn out a perfectly-formed book, without any feedback, any advice, any help.

You don’t have some god-given right to publish a book and expect people to pay for it. And anyone in the creative fields has to expect to spend a little money. Artists have to buy their paints and canvases. They may have to hire a venue if they want to exhibit. Musicians have to buy recording equipment, instruments, maybe hire a recording studio. They all have to work at their craft. Confectioners and bakers and dressmakers and potters and wood carvers and sculptors, they all have to invest and practise and learn. Why do some authors think they don’t?

Just because you can type a manuscript, put together a basic cover and upload it onto Amazon doesn’t mean you should or that you should expect other people to pay for the privilege of reading it.

Now this might come across as if I have something against self-publishing. I absolutely don’t. I’ve self-published. I work every day with authors that self-publish. Some of them are brilliant. Most of them write gripping, entertaining, fabulous books that I would choose to spend money on – but none of them would publish a first draft. And they’re always the ones who take advice, are willing to learn, who respect their readers.

I am heartily fed up of authors on Twitter saying that they can write what they want, how they want, and if people don’t like it, so what? OK, that’s fine, until you expect people to pay for it.

Getting a traditional publishing deal is hard, and often not the best way for a writer to publish anyway. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing. There are thousands of hard-working, talented, wonderful independent authors out there. They deserve to be successful, to have thousands of readers. They work at their craft. And they’re being let down by those other self-publishers who throw out sub-standard work.

One indie author told me that she can’t afford to hire an editor, or a proofreader. So she’s publishing as many books as she can, and using the reviews as free feedback. I find such disregard for your reader and their hard-earned cash hard to fathom.

Bad indie authors tarnish the reputation of all indie authors. Have some pride in your work, some pride in your industry. And above all, have some respect for your readers.