Hints, Tips and Information

Researching For A Story

Okay. I just want to warn you all that my latest story idea has lead to my google search history looking stranger than it has ever been and, naturally, I am going to talk about it here.

(more…)

Advertisements

Alpha/Beta Reading – What I Will Look For In Your Stories

I’ve begun to receive fairly regular requests to alpha/beta read some stories and it worried me a tad. I am well aware that critical analysis of one’s work can be a touchy subject – I know my favourite beta reader has suffered some silent treatment from me as I sulked about the things he said about my magnificent creations, so I was a little concerned about exposing myself to the receiving end of the process. Ultimately, I decided that my passion for writing and desire to help and support others on their journey to publication was worth the potential silent treatment (or worse) that I may get from those I read for.

So now I have taken the plunge (and suffered my first bout of silent treatment) I thought I’d write about what I will look at when being an alpha or beta reader.

  1. The First Line. – The first line in a story should be the first ‘hook’ to encourage your readers to keep reading. It needs to be engaging and, more importantly, it needs to be relevant to the story. There are many different ways to write a great first line, as Joe Bunting explains in his excellent article ‘7 Keys To Write The Perfect First Line’
  2. Continuity. – The longer your work, the more difficult it is to keep up with what your characters have been saying and doing, where they have been going and why they have been behaving a certain way. I’m sure we have all seen examples of continuity errors on TV and in movies, I’m sure many people have found them in books too. I once wrote a story where I described a character as wearing leggings and then later on in the same scene mentioned a tattoo that could be seen through the slit in her skirt. I’d changed what my character was wearing halfway through a scene and not noticed. A beta reader pointed it out to me. These things might seem small and insignificant sometimes, but they can pull a reader out of the little world you are conjuring up for them and they will escape from the thrall you, as a writer, work so hard to develop. For information on how to avoid the more common continuity errors, check out this post on continuity by author A J Humpage.
  3. Pacing. – The pace of your story should ebb and flow depending on what is happening in your story at the time. If your story is too slow throughout, your readers will become bored and may abandon the story altogether. If your story is paced too fast, they may wind up feeling mentally exhausted at the end and this could put them off reading more of your work. I will look at sentence length and regularity and whether your action and connecting scenes are paced appropriately to allow the readers to get swept along in the right places, but also allowed time to reflect on what they have read. For more information on effective pacing, check out this Readers Digest post.
  4. Repetition. – Repetition in literature is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it can help to really underline a particular message. Most of the time, however, it’s insignificant words which are repeated all the time. When words are repeated, we often notice the repeated word… (See what I did there?)  It can drag a reader out of their story and back into the real world. That is not where you want them. You want to create an atmosphere around your readers so they almost forget that they are reading words and instead find themselves in this strange kind of reading trance where they can see the story unfolding around them. For more information on repetition, check out this post by Fiction Editor Beth Hill.

Hopefully these links will be useful to you and will help reduce the number of things I or any other alpha/beta readers will pick up on.

 

The Many Ways To Name Your Characters

I haven’t written an article for a while because I’ve been focused on CampNaNo and getting some short stories written for people to enjoy. However, I have read a few things on various websites recently that have prompted me to look at how I build up my characters. Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting ideas about how to make your characters realistic, three-dimensional and memorable.

british_baby_names_2009

Name

I have a really bad habit of naming my characters with names that mean something. It’s all fine and well for when you want to add something special, J K Rowling did a fabulous job with all the meanings behind her character names, but when you aren’t writing about wizards and werewolves it isn’t always necessary to name the bad girl of the story something like Maelani (which means dark) and the good girl something like Aurelia (which means light). That is, however, what I have done with two of my characters in my novella. The twins are called Dany (which means dark) and Zane (which means light).

Whilst googling name meanings recently I came across a Yahoo question where the most popular answer to someone trying to find the right meaning for their character’s name was: “Just give her a normal name. Parents choose names because they like them, not necessarily because they think their child will grow up to be the meaning of that name.” This is a very good point and actually kinda makes life a little easier. Especially when trying to find names for your bad guy/girl characters, it’s not easy to find names out there that mean things like deceitful, two-faced or cruel.

The reply also suggested the possibility of using a name that means the opposite of the characters personality. Take Angelica from Rugrats, for example. She was always being mean to the babies and rarely ever behaved in an angelic fashion.

I rather like this idea. It offers many story suggestions just by turning the name meanings on their heads. How about a call girl called Chastity? A benefit cheat called Charity? An atheist called Faith? Cliff who is afraid of heights? Lake who can’t swim? Oh, the Irony!

You could always go all Bond Girl or Iron Man with names like Pussy Galore or Pepper Potts: A small joke thrown in to your writing to make it more memorable and to give your readers a small smile.

Maybe your characters all have surnames that depict their job like Cook, Smith and Harper. Then again, Bin-man, Lawyer and Waitress might be slightly unusual…

Of course sometimes you just need to be that little bit wacky. We all know celebs love to name their poor kids unfortunate things like Fifi Trixabelle, Lettuce and Phoenix Chi. It’s not just celebrities though. My friend is a teacher and I happen to know she taught a kid called Awesome and there was a lot of social media attention about that girl who called her kid Hashtag.

baby_name

Ethnic names are good if you want to give that well-rounded feel for a character’s ancestry, but names are becoming rather more universal these days so you want to be careful not to stereotype at the same time.

There are some clever ways to use names in all the ways described here and more, but try to not to get stuck in a cycle of doing it all the time. I named a character without looking up the meaning the other day. I nearly went crazy about it and had to talk myself down:

‘Step away from the google page Naomi’

But I did it. It works just as well, and a lot of the time people probably don’t even notice clever naming unless you tell them anyway. I know I don’t look up name meanings for things I read.

 

I’m not even going to mention the characters from the kids TV programme Captain Pugwash…

100 Blog Followers!

MORE than 100 followers, actually. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

 100_Logo

Picture borrowed from Shut Up & Read

Eeek! I’m so excited! When I started my blog earlier in the year, I thought it would take me forever to reach 100 followers.

I am delighted that you all enjoy my writing enough to want to keep coming back to read more. I know my stories are often a little gruesome, but evidently that’s how we like them.

(I apologise for the minor case of neglect to my blog in the last two weeks. Camp NaNoWriMo has taken over my life and I have been spending all my time on it. I promise I will be a good little blogger from now on and not neglect you.)

Now, to celebrate having over 100 followers, I have poached some facts about the number 100 from Wikipedia.

100 (one hundred) (Roman numeral Ⅽ, reinforced by Latin centum) is the natural number following 99 and preceding 101.

 

In mathematics

100 is the square of 10 (in scientific notation it is written as 102). The standard SI prefix for a hundred is “hecto-“.

100 is the basis of percentages (per cent meaning “per hundred” in Latin), with 100% being a full amount.

100 is the sum of the first nine prime numbers, as well as the sum of some pairs of prime numbers e.g., 3 + 97, 11 + 89, 17 + 83, 29 + 71, 41 + 59, and 47 + 53.

100 is the sum of the cubes of the first four integers (100 = 13 + 23 + 33 + 43). This is related by Nicomachus’s theorem to the fact that 100 also equals the square of the sum of the first four integers: 100 = 102 = (1 + 2 + 3 + 4)2.

26 + 62 = 100, thus 100 is a Leyland number.

100 is an 18-gonal number. It is divisible by the number of primes below it, 25 in this case. It can not be expressed as the difference between any integer and the total of coprimes below it, making it a noncototient. It can be expressed as a sum of some of its divisors, making it a semiperfect number.

100 is a Harshad number in base 10, and also in base 4, and in that base it is a self-descriptive number.

There are exactly 100 prime numbers whose digits are in strictly ascending order (e.g. 239, 2357 etc.).

100 is the smallest number whose common logarithm is a prime number (i.e. 10n for which n is prime).

In science

The atomic number of fermium is 100.

On the Celsius scale, 100 degrees is the boiling temperature of pure water at sea level.

The Kármán line lies at an altitude of 100 kilometres above the Earth’s sea level and is commonly used to define the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

In religion

There are 100 blasts of the Shofar heard in the service of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

A religious Jew is expected to utter at least 100 blessings daily.

In politics

The United States Senate has 100 Senators.

In money

Most of the world’s currencies are divided into 100 subunits; for example, one euro is one hundred cents and one pound sterling is one hundred pence.

The U.S. hundred-dollar bill has Benjamin Franklin’s portrait; the “Benjamin” is the largest U.S. bill in print. American savings bonds of $100 have Thomas Jefferson’s portrait, while American $100 treasury bonds have Andrew Jackson’s portrait.

In other fields

One hundred is also:

The number of years in a century.

The number of pounds in an American short hundredweight.

In Greece, India, Israel and Nepal, 100 is the police telephone number.

In Belgium, 100 is the ambulance and firefighter telephone number.

In United Kingdom, 100 is the operator telephone number.

The HTTP status code indicating that the client should continue with its request.

In entertainment

The 100 (TV series), science-fiction television series broadcast on the CW Network, beginning in 2014.

In sports

The number of yards in an American football field (not including the end zones).

The number of runs required for a cricket batsman to score a century, a significant milestone.

The number of points required for a snooker cueist to score a century break, a significant milestone.

The record number of points scored in one NBA game by a single player, set by Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors on March 2, 1962.

Patience and Commitment – Where Can I Find Them?

I keep seeing all these amazing writers on WordPress with their published novels, or talking about Camp NaNo and their finished/almost finished first draft and I can feel the excitement bubbling inside me and threatening to spill out. I want to write a novel! The problem is, I only have one or two vague, half-formed ideas on what I could write a novel about and I want to just jump right in and start writing. The over-excited little girl in me is jumping out and down, squealing and clapping her hands. All the while, she is telling me “We’ll find the plot line as we go. We’ll make up the characters as we go. We’ll work out if its a good enough idea to become an actual novel as we go…” I see a pattern emerging. She’s impatient and over excitable and needs to be reigned in. A lot.

Yoda Patience

Image found online here.

I am new to the whole writing ‘thing’, I only started writing in January with the exception of one or two made up stories on the fly. Because that is what I did when I didn’t take writing seriously, that is what my inner child wants me to do now. The thing is, I take my writing rather seriously now. I don’t want to go at this half-baked, I want to do things properly. That means making preparations. So my over-excitable inner child needs to be subdued a little and I need to look at this in the most organised way possible.

I have just started Module 5 of my creative writing course which conveniently looks at novel writing. Modules 6 and 7 are also dedicated to the subject. That alone lets me know that there is a lot to cover. The basics of story writing was covered in previous modules regarding writing a short story, and there are STILL 3 more modules to do with turning that into “How to write a full blown novel”. The first part of the module is all about commitment. What do I define as commitment? How do I stay committed when I realise just how long it can take to get from an idea to a full blown fully written, re-written, re-written again, edited, edited more, edited to within an inch of it’s life manuscript that is ready for publishing? What will I do when my famously impatient inner child gets bored of waiting and starts jumping up and down, clapping her hands and telling me all about this other great idea she’s had for me to do?

My answer so far is….

 

I don’t know. I have never attempted anything of this magnitude before so I don’t know how I will handle it. I suspect it will involve arguing with myself, alcohol, chocolate, and some lovely nagging encouragement from my new writing friends to make sure I keep moving in the right direction. How do YOU keep yourself motivated during the long and arduous process of plotting, planning, writing, re-writing, editing, crying in frustration, marketing and publishing your precious work of literary art?

Writing Process Blog Tour

 

Hello! I have been asked to write this post for the Writing Process Blog Tour by the lovely Kate Loveton. (My apologies for being slightly late.) Kate has this fantastic description of herself on her blog that says:

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I’m a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are ‘Once upon a time… ‘

If you haven’t already taken a peek at her blog, then you can find it here.

Before I get to answering the questions given to me about my writing, There was another part of the deal. Nominate three other writers to also write a post about their own writing process.

Writer Number 1 is the fabulous Bethanie Hardie from the UK who has two blogs on the go. She has her usual blog here, and also a second blog where she posts diary entries from the point of view of the main character in her ‘An Immortal In London’ Series. She’s left-handed and proud of it (as all lefties should be; we are the best.), she’s a law student, and she runs a business with her fiancé. Thats a heck of a lot to be getting on with but she seems to handle it all magnificently. To find out more about Bethanie, take a look at her blogs, and make sure to check out her blog post.

Writer Number 2 is the blonde haired beauty, writing from Germany, H. M. Brooks. This lady claims to love writing over talking, and maybe even over reading too. She has been writing since she was eight (She wrote a story about a girl called Chelsea), with more focus on writing from the age of fourteen. She has recently celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday. You can find her blog here.

These ladies will be posting on (or around) the 19th May.

Writer Number 3 is technically someone else’s victim as she has already posted her Writing Process post, and I am cheating slightly by including her on my post. Unfortunately pretty much all the other writers I follow seem to have already posted too. American writer E. B. Thompson’s twitter profile describes her as a “Reader, Writer, Dreamer and unashamed nerd”. Her book ‘Starling’ was published on January 1st 2014. You can check out her blog (and her Writing Process post) here.

So! Onto the questions. I have never had more trouble answering questions in all my life. I feel like I should have studied for this first. Anyway:

What am I working on at the moment?

Well I started writing a short story for the creative writing course I am studying. I had to write a 1,500-ish word short story and make sure I had all the points I had just learned in the previous module. In my own typical style, my story escalated. Apparently I ‘lack discipline’. My short story became a not so short story with 6,500-ish words at the end of draft 1. Since then I have extended it to just over 12,000 words. That’s not a short story, that’s a Novella! Oops! That is now in the stages of editing, finding plot holes and fixing errors (there’s bound to be loads) and generally tidying it up. It’s with a critique partner at the moment. I am taking this quite a bit more seriously than I ever thought I would this quickly. I am also researching for an up-coming joint project with another writer which I am pretty excited about. I have been reliably informed that you can never have too many projects. On top of that I try to come up with at least one post a week for my blog so I don’t leave all my lovely readers hanging. And I have a few half formed plotlines in my notebook for other stories I could be writing already if I wasn’t so good at procrastinating all the time. Ooh! A butterfly! Preeeettyyyyy…

How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?

This is really hard for me to answer because I don’t think I know yet. I have only been writing since January after starting a creative writing course. “Ooh look! Amazon Local has a creative writing course. That sounds like something that could relieve my intense boredom. Let’s give that a go.” I never imagined I would be blogging, making friends and getting myself over 60 followers in just a few (what feels like very short) months, let alone have a novella on the go!

I also haven’t really fully settled into any particular genre. My writing tends to lean towards Horror, Psychological Thrillers, and Fantasy, but I can’t help adding my sarcastic sense of humour into almost everything I do. The quick comedic comment cutting through the suspense adds a little shock all of its own, and sarcasm is a character trait I admire so I like my characters to use a little wit whenever they can.

Why do I write what I do?

When I first started writing, it was just about the course. I very quickly realised that my stories tend to revolve around something very personal: Feelings. Most of my stories are about different feelings and how people deal with what they feel. Loss, love, loneliness, attraction, fear, hatred. The feelings are the theme that runs through my stories, more than a specific event. Basically, everyone has ‘issues’. They are often the same, just experienced in different ways. I like to explore these experiences in my fiction and lets face it; writing stories sure beats sitting in front of some stranger who’s asking you “How does that make you feel?” I am honoured that you all enjoy reading my work and sharing in the little snippets of me that I leave in each piece.

How does my writing process work?

The first thing my creative writing course taught me, was the importance of a writing process. It is important that I write every day, so that I get into the habit. It also taught me to have a particular place to write so that I know when I am in that place, that I should be writing. I have a number of notebooks which I keep with me so I can write down anything that inspires me or takes my fancy, and I do write almost every day. Almost, because sometimes I like to go out and pretend to have a social life. I don’t really have a place to write. I am at my dining table right now, but sometimes I will be on my sofa, or, more often than not, in my bedroom, cross legged on my bed, getting sore shoulders because I am slouching. I know, I am a very bad girl and I need to look after myself better (aka get a desk). My bedroom is my sanctuary. I write nonsense, look at pictures, go for walks, people watch and write things about random people I find in cafe’s and shops until I stumble on something I want to explore, then I will write about that. That is how I first came up with the plot for my Novella and all the other half formed stories in my notebook.

So that’s it. Thanks for stopping by to read my baffled wafflings. Make sure to keep a look out for the posts belonging to my first two nominees and take a look at all the blogs I have linked. I promise it will be worth your while.

Naomi

 

Homonyms Explained

Homonyms Explained

For a long time i had wondered how we managed to have words in the english language which are spelled exactly the same, but have different meanings. Were we just deliberately trying to make life difficult for ourselves? Recently I decided to google it and found the website i have linked above.

Thank You Internet!

The explanation given on this helpful website as to why these words exist in the first place, is that English is an invaded language. The Romans, and vikings etc have all influenced the english language in different ways. Slang will often do the same. Old words are given new meanings on websites such as The Urban Dictionary. Sometimes these new meanings and slang terms become so popular that they make it into the dictionary and are made ‘official’.

This website lists the double meanings of around 150 words. It makes for an interesting read. Go take a look!

There are a few not currently included on the website, like ‘live’ and ‘does’. “To live your days live on TV must be awful.” “Does a stag get his pick of the does?”

Can you think of any others?

 

International English

When I am not working, reading or writing, I like to waste away a little time with online multiplayer games. I think it’s a great way to meet people all over the world and you can learn a lot about other cultures just by talking to people from other countries. A lot of the people I have met are American. Talking to them has taught me a lot about how the English language differs on the other side of the pond.

I decided to write about this after one of my American friends messaged me asking “If I said I wanted to snog you, would that be a compliment or an insult?” He had found a British programme on YouTube called Snog, Marry, Avoid and didn’t know what snog meant. (For all you readers who may not know either, it’s a British term for french kissing.) That got me thinking about, and talking to my friends about, how English and American English differs.

In 1806, 30 years after The Declaration of Indepedence, Noah Webster published America’s first Dictionary. Webster introduced American spelling of words like customise (customize), colour (color) defence (defense) and centre (center). The idea was that they were no longer British, they were American. They wanted an American language.

As the two countries developed they created their own words to describe things. For example:

Sidewalk – Pavement
Trunk – Boot (of a car)
Hood – Bonnet (of a car)
Sneakers – Trainers
Fall – Autumn
Traffic Circle – Roundabout
Diaper – Nappy (interestingly, the word diaper originates in England. It’s use died out in Britain but continues to be used in America).

Then there are the words which are the same, but have different meanings.

Jello/Jelly/Jam
This is an example of English and American English just confusing everything. Jello in England is known as jelly. The wobbly stuff you have with ice cream at parties. Jelly in England is known as jam. That’s the fruity stuff you put on toast. America then has a jam all of it’s own which is like English jam only more runny.

Pants
Pants in America are what British people called Trousers. Pants in England are underwear. It’s what the Americans call panties; only in Britain pants works for male underwear too.

Bangs
In America bangs is the term used to describe the hair covering your forehead. In England we call it a fringe. Bangs are loud noises/the sound of explosions.

A lot of American slang has made it’s way into the British language and vice versa over the decades. Sometimes these words are introduced through literature. Take Harry Potter for example. Now these books were translated into American English which is how ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ came to be released in the US as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’. Some British words slipped through however. More and more Americans are now using the term ‘ginger’ to describe redheads. A term largely introduced by the Harry Potter books to describe the hair colour of the Weasleys. Another British word left in the Harry Potter books; bringing me full circle; is snog. It would appear that it is not so popular as a new slang word though as it hasn’t really been taken up in America.

I hope this post has been interesting to read. I just want to leave you all with this. Stick with your writing and maybe someday you will have an effect on the language of a country in a small way with one of your stories.