Saturday, March 25, 2017

Naming Your Characters

You may have five friends named Leah. Each one is distinct in your mind—the blonde, the one always laughing, the one at work and so on. But you cannot do that in a book.

Think back to school days when you studied all those King Louis in France. I bet you can scarcely keep track in your mind now of which was which, apart perhaps from the Sun King.

This is what happens to readers when character names in a book are confusing. Sure, it occurs in real life, but in a book it’s a really bad idea to have a Tom and Tim, or two Freds, or even Mr. Holden and Mr. Howden. The readers will get confused and your story will lose its impact while they’re flipping back over the pages trying to get the characters clear in their mind.

And never repeat a name in a different book, unless it is the same character reappearing. A secondary character named Julie, in two different books, when they are totally different people will confuse your readers too.

There are plenty of baby name books out there. Give every character a distinct name that reflects their personality.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fascinating story about a comma, and a court case

An Oxford comma changed this court case completely.

A group of dairy drivers argued that they deserved overtime pay for certain tasks they had completed. The company said they did not. An appeals court sided with the drivers, saying that the guidelines themselves were made too ambiguous by, you guessed it, a lack of an Oxford comma.

I don’t like the Oxford comma either, but I do agree that readers need to be able to understand the point of what is being written.
And kudos to the drivers for their win.

The story is here:

Read and enjoy.

The Oxford comma may not be as quite dead as has been reported.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, March 12, 2017

21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors

For many authors, the hardest thing to face is a truly cruel rejection letter. Yet most of the great writers of our time have tried and failed and failed some more. For example, Vladimir Nabokov received a harsh rejection letter from Knopf upon submitting "Lolita", which would later go on to sell fifty million copies.

In this article, twenty-one famous authors give budding authors their harsh, but useful advice. My personal favorite is #21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

So, authors and aspiring authors, take a big deep breath, then read:

Helen Woodall

Sunday, February 26, 2017

If you're writing fast, it must be bad writing

Back in the old days, creating a book was a long, slow process.

Originally they were written by hand, the labor of a life-time with decorated, painted borders on each page, and embellished capital letters, each of which was like a tiny painting in itself.

Even when printing was invented each letter was a miniscule piece of metal that had to be physically placed in a tray, by hand, to make every word.

Times have changed, but the attitudes of some people have not. They feel that unless a book takes a very long time to write, it can’t be of value. They forget that many famous authors actually wrote their books chapter by chapter to be published in weekly newspapers. Charles Dickens pioneered this with “The Pickwick Papers” but it became the “normal” way most books were written.

In other words the huge time gap was not in the creation process by the author (he was writing a chapter a week, minimum) it was in the length of time actual physical publication took.

The “one book a year” model was also needed for the production process in many of the traditional print publishers last century. Even when the actual physical printing became faster and easier, the publisher had added many more layers and stages the book needed to pass through—cover art, marketing and more.

Some writers assumed that if they could write more than a book a year their work simply couldn’t be good enough. They wrote and rewrote, edited and reedited or lost their self confidence and stopped writing all together.

But if a reader takes a critical approach to a book, they will be unable to know which chapter an author sat down and wrote in a day, and which chapter was agonized over for a month.

Today a self publishing author can line up her cover artist, her editor, her book formatter, and her marketing team, so that the moment she types, “The End”, those people are ready to do their part. The book can be written in a month, edited in a week, and be ready for purchase on a dozen third party sellers forty-eight hours after that.

It is for the reader to decide if a book is what she wants to read or not. The length of time taken from the author typing the final sentence until the book is available for sale is not a guide to the excellence of the writing. Some authors simply are prolific.

Besides, just as Charles Dickens changed a few things between when his books were serialized in the newspapers, and before they were published as books, so, too, the twenty-first century author can make changes and digitally republish their books overnight if a lot of readers don’t like something.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, February 19, 2017

How to Write a Good Blog Post

Web designers Wix, have published a helpful article on writing captivating blogs. To me, the concept is exactly the same as writing a good book. Write what you know. Write what you’re passionate about.

Their first tip involves creating a killer headline. Just as a writer needs to hook a reader with a great first paragraph and first chapter, in the same way the headline of the blog needs to be sufficiently eye-catching to draw a potential reader in.

I won’t give away all their points, but a lot of it should make excellent sense to a writer. Quality is important (proofread your posts!), illustrations help, and so on.

The complete article is here:

Helen Woodall

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Helen is still on Vacation, and it's hot in Bendigo

Ballarat. A lot of the old buildings date back to the 1850s gold rush.

Chewton. Williamstown to Chewton is about 130 kms (81 miles).

Detail in the trunk of the tree I was sitting under in 43C (109F) heat on Thursday.

Have fun

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Helen is on vacation

Traveling around Victoria

Colac Botanic Gardens


Great Ocean Road

Eureka Stockade, Ballarat.

I'm having fun. I hope you are too.