Your menu for April and May

Sorry this update is later than usual. Family matters took precedence. Back on an almost even keel now. NHS staff are wonderful, just not enough of them and the system needs an overhaul. Rant over!

  • My blog below is on punctuation
  • The writing article is how to write in SCENES
  • There are ten prompts to keep you going for a while
  • The theme for a new competition is MAGIC

Jeffery Deaver – my hero!jeffrey_deaver

Jeffery Deaver is one of the United States’ top thriller writers. He has sold 50 million books worldwide in 150 countries in 25 languages. He’s probably best known for the film The Bone Collector starring Denzil Washington as Lincoln Rhyme. I’ve just finished reading the 13th of the Lincoln Rhyme thrillers:  The Steel Kiss.

To say it was a page turner is an understatement. And to use another cliché, I just couldn’t put it down! 600+pages kept me enthralled from the opening line: Sometimes you catch a break. I read it in bed, in the bath, in my office (when I should have been writing), in the park, in the car, in hospital waiting rooms and in the garden (we have had a few nice days recently). If ever there was a writer I’d like to be, Jeffery Deaver is it (and Philippa Gregory too!).

His main characters, Lincoln Rhyme and his side-kick and partner Amelia Sachs, are SO real. We know their likes and dislikes, their habits, their moods, their speech patterns, their personality traits, their goals, their dreams, their worries, their morals – everything we know about our own best friends.

But the reason for this blog doesn’t concern his writing (clear, concise, easy to read), nor his plots (complicated, often technical, but always realistic and believable), nor the two wonderful twists at the end of the book that had me gasping, “I didn’t see that coming!”

No, the other reason for my admitted hero-worship is

Jeffery Deaver and the Dangling Modifier.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what a Dangling Modifier is.  Writers and authors can spend their lives quite happily not knowing. But once you know, you’ll always be on the lookout!

A dangling modifier is when a subsidiary clause doesn’t have the same subject as the main clause. eg Jogging in the park, a dog chased me. This implies it was the dog who was jogging in the park.

Having gained a 2.1 at university, Peter’s parents bought him a car. This infers that it was Peter’s parents who gained the 2.1.

Driving home late last night, all the traffic lights in the High Street were on green.  This actually means it was the traffic lights that were driving home.

If you use a subsidiary clause and a main clause, the subject of both clauses MUST be the same, otherwise, the subsidiary clause – the modifier – is left dangling.

There are two great twists or surprises towards the end of the Steel Kiss.  But the biggest surprise of all for me came on page 197 when one of the new characters actually admits she is using a dangling modifier!

Lincoln Rhyme is talking to his new intern, Juliette Archer:

‘Do you speak German by any chance?’
‘No, afraid not.’
‘Ah, well. I’ll find something else to occupy your time. I think there are a few projects that aren’t too boring.’
‘Well, boring or not, I’m happy to work on anything you have. And forgive the dangling modifier there.’
He gave a chuckle. True, she’d just said that whether or not she was boring, she’d be happy to work on any project. Grammar, punctuation and syntax could be formidable opponents.

Thank you, Jeffery Deaver – you are my hero!

TELEMMGLPICT000124991431-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqknWtNqbf_ggLEul4V1OoOsXBqUOBBd16DypepmHmfZsSo too is The Hooded Crusader of Bristol who goes around the city at night, painting out erroneous apostrophes on street signs and shop fronts! We’ve all seen them: Open Monday’s to Friday’s, Amys Nail’s and even Potato’s. So if you see a hooded figure around Watford, Rickmansworth or Croxley Green, you never know, it could be …………

Happy Writing!

Linda

 

 

A regular writing habit

 

Your menu for March: My blog  follows on from the quote about writing every day; I’ve had a query about writing a synopsis; there are ten new writing prompts to try,  two more book recommendations and an article on the use and misuse of Sentence Fragments.

Do you write every day? It doesn’t have to be a thousand words on your latest project! Although if it is, that novel will get written so much more quickly! And I don’t think Jane Yolen means that e-mail to your bank manager or the shopping list. But writing something connected with creative writing every day is a very good habit to get into.

            There’s a theory that to be good at anything creative or athletic, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice before really succeeding*. Using very rough maths, let’s say you’ve been writing for 30 years: that works out at one hour a day for every day of those thirty years (with perhaps a few days’ break). Doesn’t sound a lot, does it? But can you remember when you last devoted a whole solid hour to your writing?

            So often, particularly recently, my writing time gets divided into 10- or 20-minute bursts which isn’t great for continuity or flow. And I’m sure you all, with family and work responsibilities, can say you’ve been there.

            But I am certainly in agreement with that well-worn cliché practice makes perfect.

I’ve been running creative writing classes for the past 17 years and I can definitely say that I’ve seen a huge difference between those who do the weekly exercises, go in for competitions and are forever working on a writing project, and those who do sporadic bits of homework because they “just don’t have the time.”

            What it comes down to, I believe, is your desire. It really is no use saying you want to write a novel if you don’t put in the work on a regular basis. And by work, I don’t necessarily mean Hemingway’s 500 words a day. Brainstorming an idea; creating your plot points; character profiling; researching; blogging; all are areas of creative writing that will build up your skills over the days, months and years. Just like an elite athlete. Practice makes perfect.

Some authors who wrote every day: 

Arthur Conan Doyle     3000    “Anything is better than stagnation.”

Frederick Forsyth        3000    “12 pages a day, 3,000 words, 7 days a week. But it’s the research that takes the time. And yes, I have to force myself to write. Sounds ungrateful, I know.”

Graham Greene            500    “I have always been very methodical, and when my quota of work is done, I break off, even in the middle of a scene.”

Ian McEwan                  600 “I am writing 600 a day and hope for at least a 1000 when I’m on a roll.”

Lee Child                     1800    “I write in the afternoon from about 12 until 6 or 7.”

Barbara Kingsolver     1000    “I wake early with words flooding into my brain. It’s a relief to get to the keyboard and dump them out.”

Happy Writing!

Linda

*That theory came from Anders Ericsson, a professor at the University of Colorado, who wrote a paper called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. His research was based on the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin who had studied violinists.

A regular writing habit

Your menu for March: My blog  follows on from the quote about writing every day; I’ve had a query about writing a synopsis; there are ten new writing prompts to try,  two more book recommendations and an article on the use and misuse of Sentence Fragments. 

Do you write every day? It doesn’t have to be a thousand words on your latest project! Although if it is, that novel will get written so much more quickly! And I don’t think Jane Yolen means that e-mail to your bank manager or the shopping list. But writing something connected with creative writing every day is a very good habit to get into.

            There’s a theory that to be good at anything creative or athletic, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice before really succeeding*. Using very rough maths, let’s say you’ve been writing for 30 years: that works out at one hour a day for every day of those thirty years (with perhaps a few days’ break). Doesn’t sound a lot, does it? But can you remember when you last devoted a whole solid hour to your writing?

            So often, particularly recently, my writing time gets divided into 10- or 20-minute bursts which isn’t great for continuity or flow. And I’m sure you all, with family and work responsibilities, can say you’ve been there.

            But I am certainly in agreement with that well-worn cliché practice makes perfect.

I’ve been running creative writing classes for the past 17 years and I can definitely say that I’ve seen a huge difference between those who do the weekly exercises, go in for competitions and are forever working on a writing project, and those who do sporadic bits of homework because they “just don’t have the time.”

            What it comes down to, I believe, is your desire. It really is no use saying you want to write a novel if you don’t put in the work on a regular basis. And by work, I don’t necessarily mean Hemingway’s 500 words a day. Brainstorming an idea; creating your plot points; character profiling; researching; blogging; all are areas of creative writing that will build up your skills over the days, months and years. Just like an elite athlete. Practice makes perfect.

Some authors who wrote every day: 

Arthur Conan Doyle     3000    “Anything is better than stagnation.”

Frederick Forsyth        3000    “12 pages a day, 3,000 words, 7 days a week. But it’s the research that takes the time. And yes, I have to force myself to write. Sounds ungrateful, I know.”

Graham Greene            500    “I have always been very methodical, and when my quota of work is done, I break off, even in the middle of a scene.”

Ian McEwan                  600 “I am writing 600 a day and hope for at least a 1000 when I’m on a roll.”

Lee Child                     1800    “I write in the afternoon from about 12 until 6 or 7.”

Barbara Kingsolver     1000    “I wake early with words flooding into my brain. It’s a relief to get to the keyboard and dump them out.”

Happy Writing!

Linda

*That theory came from Anders Ericsson, a professor at the University of Colorado, who wrote a paper called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. His research was based on the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin who had studied violinists.

Inspiration – where does it come from?

February already! And how are the New Year Resolutions coming on?

Hopefully I can offer some help for this month: my blog below had ideas to get you inspired; the writing article is about suspense; my travel article introduces you to some feathered friends; there are 15 writing prompts plus three new competitions for you to try. Have a good month.

Some writers I know have so many ideas, they don’t know which one to concentrate on. Others are constantly asking what they should write about. We’re all different and we’re all inspired by different things.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For me, it’s largely places, particularly those with historical associations. I wander around castles, towns and villages thinking about the people who lived there. I can remember being particularly affected when visiting the incredible Roman amphitheatre at El Djem in Tunisia. Below the arena are the tunnels where the gladiators, prisoners and slaves waited before going to meet their fate. Just touching the walls they had touched was such an incredible feeling.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For others, it can be meeting a person or over-hearing a snatch of conversation or something from a dream. Taking a walk seems to be a popular way of getting your writing going: you’re away from your regular, domestic environment and suddenly an idea pops into your head.

In my classes, I frequently use picture prompts. (I think I mentioned the snooker-playing nun not so long ago.) And on one occasion last year, I gave one of my groups a selection of people-based pictures, all from different countries. I wanted to get them out of their comfort zone. Instead of basing their stories on their home environment, or a family similar to their own, with their own problems and conflicts, I asked them to do a bit of research about the people and the place they had chosen. Not too much, I stressed. Just a quick Internet search, I suggested, primarily to find appropriate names for their characters and a realistic conflict for that particular place.

And what a wonderful collection of stories they produced! Surviving an earthquake in Nepal; a girl defying her culture to become a Japanese cabaret dancer; elderly Mexicans waiting for a drug dealer; boys left in the rubble of the Amritsar riots; a rhino attack in Kenya; a miracle worker in South Africa and an honourable woman in Thailand. These will all be going in that group’s next anthology.

Then there’s another writer I know who’s taking part in a project where she was asked to write a story based on one painting from a particular artist’s collection. She researched the time and the place, created a wonderful character and made it all the more real by using just a taste of the local dialect. Wonderful!

Another writer finds she gets ideas when she’s doing laps in the local swimming pool: she’s created a whole new fantasy world, populated by mermaids and mermen – perfect!

My men writing friends are just as creative: one is writing a series of amusing stories about the cars he has owned; another is writing a book about a group of ramblers – not that his walking friends will recognise themselves! and another is researching the civil war in search of a character.

As I say, everyone has their own sources of inspiration. But you can always try others. Go on, take a chance, move outside your comfort zone, do some research and who knows what ideas may emerge.

Happy Writing!

Linda

January 2017 New Year blog

To resolute or not?

I am usually great at making New Year Resolutions. I like targets, with dates, to get me going and keep me on track. I like challenging myself (like NaNoWriMo – just the once!) and celebrating when the challenge is met.new-years-resolution-clip.png          This year? I’m not so sure. Daily, weekly and monthly writing targets I can cope with – achieving some, falling a bit short once in a while when Life gets in the way. But bigger, long-term targets I’m finding harder, especially when they involve co-operation and involvement from others.          For example, I’ve been trying to get an agent for my historical novel for the past two years.

  • How long do I carry on?
  • Do I do more editing on it?
  • Do I change the first chapter yet again?
  • Do I find yet another title?
  • Do I scroll through the Writers and Artists Yearbook again?
  • Do I carry on writing the sequel?

    Friends who have read the book say they are really looking forward to another – they want to know what happens to the characters they met and loved in the first book.

There are options, of course. I can remind myself that 16 literary agencies and 12 publishers rejected John Grisham’s A Time to Kill before a small publishing house took it on; that J K Rowling was turned down by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury signed her and that Agatha Christie spent five years trying to find a publisher.          Then there’s self-publishing. The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold more than 45 million. I’ve started looking at the multitude of companies out there offering all sorts of help for all sorts of prices. I’ve seen and read many self-published books, some as good as any from a ‘big’ publisher, others that could at least have been spell-checked at the very least before being let loose on the public.          Whichever path I choose, I know it will involve a lot of time, effort and probably money. So my first resolution is to take a little more time before deciding on my major 2017 writing objectives! I’ll still set myself a deadline – the end of February. Until then, I shall carry on with daily writing, monthly blogging, my creative writing classes and my hobbies of painting, perfume and jewellery making. 2017 is certainly going to be busy!          But there’s one thing to do before setting new resolutions and that’s to take stock of what you achieved, writing-wise, in 2016. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What were your writing successes of the year? Don’t discount any achievement, however small. Entries into competitions (whatever the results); completing tasks set by local writing groups or classes; researching a new topic for a novel; trying a different genre; editing old stories; tidying your filing cabinet; starting a picture box. Make a list and see just what you DID achieve in 2016.
  • What were the biggest challenges to your writing during the year? Life will probably have got in the way at some point. But not finishing a project or getting stuck half-way through are problems that can be faced and solved in the New Year.

    So, start with your successes of 2016 and then you might get some ideas of resolutions for 2017. If you’d like to share them, please do – then we can encourage and motivate each other.

All the very best for 2017 and Happy Writing.Linda

A New Year and a New Page!

One of my writing friends suggested that she and fellow-writers might like to have a place to go to ask writing-related questions. Naturally these cannot be too specific to one person’s work but what one writer might be puzzling over, might well apply to others. So I’ve set up a new page and hope you’ll get in touch when you have a query. I’ve started with a few ideas about punctuation that several people have mentioned to me. Click here

I look forward to hearing from you.