Proper English

One of the things most people take for granted is that a writer will be able to use proper English. Yet, especially today – when anyone can spend the money to publish anything they write – we see that this is not exactly the case.

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Many beginning writers feel that they don’t need to spend a lot of time learning the basics of language – things like proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. However, the truth is that not using proper English brands you as an amateur instead of a professional, and tells your readers that you’re just not interested in working to produce a professional product.

Don’t be that sort of writer!

Take the time to learn the rules of the language. Spell-check can only do so much, so you need to understand which word you should actually use in a given situation. There are a couple of good lists of common errors HERE and HERE – check them out and be sure you don’t get them confused yourself.

Another error is the use of the common apostrophe. Learn how to use that correctly, because there’s nothing that screams ignorance like a misplaced apostrophe.

There are plenty of good English books out there that will easily teach you the basics of the language. You might also peruse Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and Brown’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

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The important thing is this: unless you have a firm grasp of the basics, you’re not really going to be able to bend those rules to create a unique voice for yourself.

 

50,000 or Bust

As you know, I committed to NaNoWriMo again this year. I finally hit the 50K mark last night around 11pm.

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Here are some of the things I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo over the years:

  • I can crack down on myself and write every day – it’s not always easy, especially working 12 hour days, but I can scribble something down during lunch or get up early or stay up later
  • 50,000 words isn’t really a novel – mine run about 100K, I’ve learned, so completing NaNoWriMo is a great head-start, but it’s not the end of my journey
  • There’s still editing – even once I get those 100K words down, I’m going to have to set it aside for awhile to rest, then get to work editing the thing, which is the hard part for me
  • A certificate is a nice thing to have – even if I don’t have a completed novel yet, it’s nice to have that “Winner” certificate to hang on my cork board and remind me that I can do it

Blathering: Be Thankful

What are you thankful for?

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We have a lot to be thankful for in today’s world. Here are some things to think about:

  • The ability to create
  • The ability to imagine
  • The ability to dream
  • The time to follow your dreams
  • The freedom to create
  • Like-minded folks who will support your efforts

And, of course, we’re all thankful for the internet, which not only allows us to find out anything we need for our imaginary worlds, but also allows us to gather into like-minded communities and support each other!

Happy Thanksgiving

Blathering: Christmas Movies

I’m a sucker for sappy Christmas movies, and they almost always start showing them in November. I spend pretty much two months watching these things!

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Here are some of my favorites:

  • A Christmas Carol – in pretty much any adaptation
  • One Magic Christmas – cowboy angels… how much better does it get?
  • The Christmas Card – a Hallmark classic
  • The Gathering – Ed Asner as a crusty old goat? Who knew?
  • The classic cartoons: Rudolph, Frosty, Peanuts… I’m a cartoon fan
  • The Santa Clause trio – especially Chance look-alike Bernard the elf
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Most of the Hallmark movies, actually

And HERE is a list of the Top 100 Christmas Movies of all time – or you can make up your own list!

Use Your Experience

The old advice is “Write what you know.”

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That’s a misleading phrase, and it stymies many a beginning writer. The actual phrase should be “Write what are willing to learn about exhaustively.”

You don’t have to experience skydiving to write about a skydiver … but it helps. Any experiences you have that are similar or identical to what the character is going through are experiences that will enrich your book. If you’re not willing to learn skydiving, perhaps you could ride a roller coaster to feel that stomach-churning weightlessness. Or read exhaustively about the experiences of people who do skydive.

The more research you do, in other words, the better your writing. And, of course, the more research you do, the more you know. So … Write what you know.

Use the ordinary experiences you’ve had in your writing as well. How does it feel to wake up on a crisp morning in a camping tent? What do the mountains look like on a Winter afternoon? How does it feel to wear an evening dress or a wedding gown? What does a family football game feel like?

The more personal you make your character’s experiences, the more vivid they’ll be for your readers. Just don’t write exactly what happened at your cousin’s wedding, or your relatives will recognize themselves and you’ll have a family argument to include in your next novel.

Blathering: A Nibble

So at the Tony Hillman Conference, they had a session where you could put your name into the hat for a reading of your first page in front of two best-selling authors and an agent.

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I got lucky (gulp!) and my number was drawn, so I read my page, voice shaking with fear.

And they all loved it! I was so stoked, especially when I approached the agent after the session, and she said to send her the first 50 pages.

Just got an email from that agent this week, too. She wants to see the entire manuscript once she gets back from her holidays!

Wish me luck, guys!

5 Tips to Writing Emotionally

One of the areas many new writers have trouble with is emotional content. Their writing may have a lot of description, even vivid images, but there is no connection for the readers.

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Here are some tips to help you include emotion in your writing:

  • Remember – use your own memories to help you understand how your characters would feel in certain situations
  • Imagine – how would you feel if you were in the same situation as your characters are?
  • Talk – talk to your friends and family about their feelings, and ask how they would feel if that situation happened to them
  • Research – read about real people in real situations – you know how the media always asks people “How do you feel about that?” when there’s a news event? That’s so they can connect to their viewers and readers.
  • Feel – allow yourself to really feel whatever emotion you’re trying to evoke in your characters, so you know what the emotion brings

The important thing about emotion in your writing is that you must not be afraid to include it. Many writers are embarrassed by emotions, and fear that their readers may ridicule them or think less of them for having certain emotions in their writing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Readers cannot connect to characters without emotion, so the more emotions you can stir up in your characters, the better the readers identify with them.