WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING

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For me, writing is both easy and hard. If a storyline is mapped out correctly, the story flows. But if I try to mix and match, it’s a recipe for disaster. So, here are some things I do when preparing to write:

1. Get reference material on the subject. That would include dictionaries, a thesaurus, and books that specialize on the theme of your book. This helps eliminate the desire to “make” things up and avoid lengthy explanations in order to explain your concept to readers.

2. Expand your vocabulary. This doesn’t mean you should use words one can barely pronounce or that looks really great on paper. Expanding your vocabulary beyond the obvious clichés, street lingo or one syllable. Stop and think about other possibilities when you write. Eventually they will come so fast you won’t be able to stop them from popping up.  Use your vocabulary to make it more accessible. If you want short but interesting words, then move those words to the front of your brain before you need them.  Pause before you speak. Then insert some of those good but neglected words. Look at things and pick out synonyms: example house…which could be an abode, a building, a castle, a dwelling, etc.

3. Improve spelling.

FIFTY OF THE MOST COMMONLY MISSPELLED WORDS:

acceptable                   fascinate                      orchestra

apology                       grateful                        potatoes

appetite                       hygiene                        professor

architect                      imaginable                   pseudonym

assassinate                 immediately                quarrelsome

autumn                       irrelevant                     religious

calendar                     jewelry                           reservoir

changeable                  judgment                     rhythmic

conscious                    lovable                         scissors

correspondence        miscellaneous              syllable

criticism                     mischievous                 tragedy

deceive                        mortgage                     umbrella

discernible                necessarily                   vanilla

embarrass                 occasionally                 vengeance

eminent                     occurrence                   weird

existence                   omission                      wholesome

youthful

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4. Read. If you prefer paranormal or romance books, reading books in those genres will help build your understanding of how other writer’s communicate the subject matter. Listen to what you read. And find the things that fail, too. Listen to how two similar sounds close together can cause a disturbing noise in your head. Hear how the use of the wrong word wakes you from your reading spell. Be a critical reader, and look at what you read as a lesson in good reading.

5. If possible, take a writing class specifically geared to writing novels and not journalistic or business writing courses. Remember: (1) With  a partner, you will be better able to learn what your particular faults and strengths are. (2) Knowing others are going to read your work, you are more likely to try harder to impress them. (3) Your own writing mistakes are invisible to you, but others are able to see them.

6. Listen. When surrounded by people, pay attention to their conversations. You never know when something they  say inspires you to write a novel.

7. Research. Have you been at a keyboard and just sat there staring at the monitor? It could be because you don’t have enough information to work with. Try (1) Looking up facts on the subject you’re writing about. (2) Ask someone knowledgeable on the subject your writing about. (3) Observe.

8. Write in your head. Sometimes daydreaming will help the creative juices flowing.

9. Sit down and write. Pick a time and place. Lock yourself in a place where there will be no interruptions.

Writing can be exasperating at times but if you love doing it, finding the right pattern to make things easier will make the process better.

WAYS TO AVOID GRAMMAR ERRORS

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1. Respect Grammar Rules: To succeed as a writer, respect the rules of grammar because flaws in your work are not minor, they are fatal. Grammar is a system of rules for speaking and writing, and that system was not created just so the English teachers could harass you. It exists to facilitate communications.

2. Do not Change Tenses: If you begin to write in one tense, you should not switch to another.

3. Know How To Use The Possessive Case: Most nouns are made possessive by adding ‘s. Example: The lady’s purse, a dog’s chew toy. However, if a noun ends with “s” already, and is plural, simply add an apostrophe: the dogs’ ears. A singular noun ending in “s” may be made possessive either way: The actress’s role/The actress’ role.
When joint possession is being shown, the “’s” usually is added only to the last member of the series. Example: Janet and Becky’s mother with take us there.
However, if what is possessed is not identical, each noun in the series should have an “s”. Example: Janet’s and Becky’s mothers are taking us there.
With compound nouns, the “s” is added to the final word. Example: My mother-in-law’s dress ripped.
The personal pronoun it does not use an apostrophe in its possessive form. Example: The cat scratched its owner ( right). The cat scratched it’s owner (wrong).

4. Make Verbs Agree with Subjects: Plural subjects require plural verbs; singular subjects require singular verbs. When writing a long or complicated sentence, check to be certain your verb agrees in number with its subject. Example: One of the nicest memories Sharon has are those memories of her wedding (wrong). One of the nicest memories Sharon has is the memory of her wedding (right) or One of the nicest memories Sharon has are those of her wedding (right).

5. Avoid Dangling Modifiers: A dangling modifier is a word or group of words that appears to modify an inappropriate word in the same sentence. The error occurs most often when passive rather than active verbs are used. Example: In drawing the picture, his wife was used as the model (Dangling). In drawing the picture, he used his wife as a model (Revised and correct).

6. Avoid shifts in Pronoun Forms: Be consistent in your use of a pronoun. Do not switch from singular forms to plural forms. Example: After one has written a paper, they should take a break (Inconsistent). After one has written a paper, one should take a break (consistent).

7. Avoid Splitting Infinitives: An infinitive is split when an adverb is placed between the word to and a verb. Example. She wanted to quickly run the race (bad). She wanted to run the race quickly (better).

8. Avoid Common Mistakes: Remember the difference between who and whom, lay and lie. Many grammatical errors occur because the writer tries too hard not to make a mistake.

9. Be Sensitive to Changes in the Language: Remember, grammar rules change. It grows with the times. What’s good today may be bad tomorrow so today’s rules have no better shot at immortality that thee and thou had.

10. Prefer Good Writing to Good Grammar. Keep in mind that good grammar, ever perfect grammar, does not guarantee good writing. Whenever you knowingly use poor grammar, ask yourself if (1) Is my meaning clear? If the answer is no, rewrite. (2) What am I getting in return for bad grammar? If you can’t answer that, don’t use bad grammar.

HOW TO WRITE A BACK BLURB FOR YOUR BOOK

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You pick up a book because the cover or title looks interesting. The next thing you do is read the back blurb, or if you are online, you read the first excerpt which is usually the same thing.

At basics, the back blurb is a sales pitch. It has to be almost an exaggeration of your story that entices the reader to buy, or at least download a sample to their Kindle eReaders or Apple iPad.

How do you write good back blurb?

This is a list of what featured most often from a number of bestselling thrillers reviewed as research from my bookshelf. The principles hold true for any genre although the details change for each.

  • A hint of the plot.
  • Use of words that evoke images and resonate with readers of the genre.
  • Main characters are named and characterized.
  • Idea of setting.
  • A question or a hint of mystery that draws the reader in to be solved or answered.
  • Hyperbole.
  • Quotes about the book or previous books by the author.
  • How long should the blurb be. Most seem to be 100-150 words long as the blurb text itself, not including ‘about the author’ if included. That is also a nicely spaced blurb, not a squashed one.
  • About the author.

RESPONDING TO COMMENTS, CRITICISM, AND BAD REVIEWS

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1.  Always remember that the final judgment on anything you’ve written is yours and yours alone.

2.  Consider each comment or suggestion carefully, on its own merits – regardless of who or where it came from. If it makes sense, follow it. If not, ignore it.

3.  Remember that the same person can be absolutely right about certain aspects of a piece and dead wrong about others.

4.  Never take any criticism of your work personally. Your story is being criticized, not you. People who criticize you on the basis of your work are being both rude and childish.

5.  No matter how certain some people may be about their views, and no matter how hard they may push you to accept them, you never have to do, or agree with what they say.

6.  When seeking criticism, try to get feedback from at least two different people. Ideally, these should be people you trust, as well as the kind of readers your piece is meant to reach.

7.  Keep in mind that some people’s comments, or reviews, may be downright ridiculous. Don’t take bizarre criticism, or bizarre praise seriously.

8.  Never contact the individual who criticized your work to argue with, or complain. This only makes you look petty and childish. You should, however, write to correct factual errors in the review if any exist.

9.  Try to not get angry.

10. Keep in mind that nothing you write will ever please everyone.

11. Consider the source. Are the ones criticizing your work published authors or just individuals who get off voicing their misery on you because of their inability to get where you are.

Lastly, believe in yourself and your work. In the end, be proud of what you’ve created, that you’re in the 1% of the 99% who actually published what they wrote. And to those who doubt you, tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine!

I’m sure I will get hate mail for that last statement!

WRITER’S TIP: HOW TO LIVE WITH A REJECTION

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Hopefully, these words of wisdom with help cope with rejection of your work. Remember, what one publisher rejects, another will embrace.
1. Always remember that only the piece you submitted has been rejected, not you as a person or as a writer unless you self published.

2. Never forget that getting rejected is a natural part of being a writer. I doubt there is one writer on this planet who hasn’t had their work rejected at least once.

3. Remind yourself that pieces get rejected all the time for all kinds of reasons, some of them having nothing to do with the pieces themselves. Just because an editor says “no” doesn’t mean the work isn’t well done or worth reading.

4. Don’t let rejection shake your faith in a piece, or in your writing ability in general. If you believe in your work, keep submitting it.

5. Be patient.

6. Persevere. You might submit something thirty, forty or even fifty times before finding an editor who says “yes”.

7. Encourage yourself by reminding yourself regularly of your skills and achievements as a writer.

8. If you’ve received any of the following, put them in a prominent place where you can see them to serve as reminders: acceptance letters, rejection letter that phrase your work or your writing ability, etc.

9. When a piece is rejected, don’t let it gather dust. Resubmit to another publisher.

10. Keep several, or more than several, copies of each piece in circulation at once to maximize the chances of success.

11. Don’t get discouraged. Remember, Stephen King got rejection letters too.

12. Keep writing as well as you can. The most effective sure for the rejection blues is to be the very best writer you can be.

CREATING CONVINCING CHARACTERS

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Learn how well-constructed characters can bring your manuscript to life

A book is lying open on a white background. Butterflies and a red decorative scroll are rising from the pages of the book. This symbolizes how characters come to life in a novel.

Spend some time getting to know your characters. Well-developed characters will bring your book to life.

You’re passionate about fiction writing, and you have all these great characters in your head. The trick is getting them out and onto paper. How does an author create, through word-pictures, flesh-and-blood characters that are three-dimensional—characters that make your reader say, “Oh, yes, I know someone just like that…” Our editors explain the process of creating characters for your novel.

Creating characters with care

Any seasoned writer will tell you that creating characters that are believable takes some work. It’s a little like painting a picture, stroke by stroke. Characters have to be constructed, bit by bit, until the whole, complex individual finally comes into view.

A characteristic mannerism

If you watch a very good actor performing a screenplay, chances are that one of the things you will note is a distinctive mannerism that defines the character. It can be a small thing—a way of glancing in the mirror admiringly at his own image, a way of rubbing her hands together (remember Lady Macbeth?), or maybe a certain way of speaking. It should be a mannerism that expresses the character’s inner being. If you give your character a characteristic mannerism, and use it sparingly but tellingly, that character will take on individuality and stick in the reader’s mind.

A consistent world view

When you are creating characters, you should know all about them, even if you don’t actually express every detail in the story. What does your character like to eat for breakfast? What is his favorite color? Who is his best friend, and his worst enemy? Even if these details don’t play into your plot, you, as the creator, should know them by heart, and they’ll give your character new dimensions, even if they’re not expressed. Sometimes the best approach to creating characters is through a character sketch, so you can lay out exactly what you want your character to be like from the get-go.

An inner life

All right, so your character likes to wear Armani and drink lattes and hustle ladies in singles bars. What’s going on inside his head? Does he have an inner life? You, as the author, need to express his thoughts, his way of looking at things, his inner conflicts. You can do this through dialogue with another character, or you can simply show the character’s thoughts to the reader through his own inner dialogue. When you go into a character’s thoughts, you deepen him, and he becomes more real.

A base in reality

A character also seems more real if he is based in reality. In other words, the old writer’s dictum—”Write what you know”—extends to characters. You should focus on creating characters you know. Try basing your characters on real people you have observed, or even a pastiche of people. The characters will seem more real, and you will have a wealth of material to draw on.

A few last words of advice

Do your homework! You may have to research your character, especially if you give her a particular profession or a context that requires some special knowledge. She’s a scuba diver? Then you’d better know everything you can about scuba diving. In this regard, sometimes it’s best to figure out how your character fits in with your plot structure. And, learn from the greats. A good writer is a good reader. Take a look at how the greats wrote their characters. Go back to Shakespeare’s Falstaff or Chaucer’s Wife of Bath or any more recent character in the hands of a great writer. Study how they do it. Finally, practice your strokes. You will see the results as your own characters take on more depth and dimension.

Creating characters takes plenty of time, effort, and editing. If you’re having trouble developing the personalities in your novel, don’t hesitate to send your document to our manuscript editors for their input.

Excerpt taken from: https://www.scribendi.com/advice/creating_believable_characters.en.html