Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Back to Basics

Your: Belonging to you (possessive). Your coat, your socks, your ability to spell correctly.
You’re: Abbreviation for you are: You’re wearing socks, and you're spelling you’re correctly. 

It’s: Abbreviation for it is. It’s hot today.
Its: Belonging to it (possessive). Look at its socks. 

Their: Belonging to them (possessive). Their socks.
They’re: Abbreviation for they are. They’re wearing socks.
There: Place. Over there are the people wearing socks. Here, there and everywhere. 

Affect/Effect : Affect is a verb. Effect is a noun. You Affect an Effect. RAVEN (Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun) 

Till: A cash register, or to prepare the soil for crops to be sown
‘Til: Abbreviation for until. 

And finally, Facebook may be the mecca of all things social media but in one facet it is grammatically incorrect.
Invite is a verb. You invite someone to be your Facebook friend.
Invitation is a noun. You send them an invitation to be your Facebook friend. 

Helen Woodall

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Message to Authors: Be Nice

I was at a Romance Readers convention a few years ago, and a voracious reader said there were a few authors whose books she’d absolutely loved, but because of their behavior she never bought their books anymore.
She’d gone to a book signing on the other side of town, travelling by bus with two little kids, because she loved this author’s books so much. With her she took a cherished hardback copy of the author’s book to get it signed.
Money was tight and the reader couldn’t afford to buy the author’s new book after paying bus fares etc, but she was happy just to see the author in person, exchange a few words with her, and have this favorite book signed. It was worth the long trip and the hassle with little kids, she thought.
When she finally got to the head of the line, the author sneered at her not-new book and refused to sign it. She would only sign a book bought new from this store this day.
That author saw only dollar signs, not a reader who loved her books and had made the effort to meet her idol in person. An idol with clay feet apparently.
It would have taken the author one minute to sign the book, and she would have kept a loyal reader who would still be buying her books today.
Helen Woodall

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Power of Words

Author Anny Cook recently wrote an interesting article about the power of words, and how overuse of a word diminishes its power.

What she said was particularly relevant after a recent court case here in Australia where a man was not fined for swearing at the police, including using words like “fucking pigs” when referring to the police officers. The court deemed the words to be in “common use” and “not offensive to the ordinary person”.
Repetitive words are the bane of an author’s life. We’ve all read books where every character “moves” across a room. No one ever walks, runs, glides, hurries, marches... Nope, they all move. Boring.
But authors also need to be aware of the emotional impact words can have, greatly enhancing the power of the story. Anny suggested “abandon” as one such powerful word. It does indeed tug at the emotions.
Authors who spend a little while with a thesaurus can not only remove all those incredibly boring repetitive words, but also replace some overused words with much more powerful ones. And remember, a short word can be just as poignant as a long one. After all, haven’t you sometimes felt let down simply because the hero never said, “I love you” to the heroine?

Helen Woodall

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rules for Writers by Frank L. Visco

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is always best.
  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Have you ever suspected someone wrote a book drunk or under the influence of happy weed?

Well Samuel Taylor Coleridge was addicted to opium, of course, yet wrote some brilliant stuff. “Kubla Khan” was probably the first poem at school that I learned by heart for the fun of it, instead of to pass a test!
But yes, when I was reading submissions from the slush pile, sometimes I did seriously wonder what the author had been imbibing while writing. Books that began with a reasonable premise, then wandered off into something totally different.
In one book the first half of the story had a ghost character which was quite entertaining, then in the middle of the book the ghost just disappeared and was never heard from again. Or books where part one had absolutely no connection to part two. That type of thing.

Which is why it’s absolutely essential that authors have their book critiqued by someone with a good grasp of both grammar and story-telling. I cannot emphasize often enough that the book you submit to a publisher or agent needs to be polished as shiny as you can possibly make it. Publishers and agents read hundreds of books. Yours needs to stand out for its excellence, not for its “What on Earth?” factor.

Helen Woodall

Sunday, February 12, 2012

If you want to grow up to be an editor what should you do to enhance your chances?

Well first, if you want to be an editor you should probably get a mental health assessment as it’s not a well-paid job, and it is a lot of hard work. But having said that, you meet amazing people, (although often only “virtually” meet them), and you get to read some wonderful books. Sadly, you also get to read hundreds of not-so-good books.
You need to study grammar and literature. Your spelling, grammar and understanding of the rules must be really high. So high people make jokes about you. You need to read all the time, so you can see the difference between popular fiction, great literature, and where the two overlap. It’s a well known fact that great literature is rarely popular and doesn’t sell well. Publishers are in business to sell books so they want stories that engage ordinary people, not just literary fanatics.

Many editors begin by reviewing books, critiquing stories, and as newspaper journalists. Others go straight to editing from university English degrees. Either way, if you’re the kind of person who notices typos in newspapers, magazines and books, and is always surrounded by a mountain of books you’re reading, it may be the job for you.

Helen Woodall

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why every writer needs a proofreader

I have a spelling checker.

It came with my pea sea.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea. 

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew. 

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when I rime. 

Each frays come posed up on my screen
eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

 Bee fore a veiling checker's Hour
spelling mite decline,
And if we're lacks oar have a laps,
We wood bee maid too wine. 

Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flair,
Their are no fault's with in my cite,
Of nun eye am a ware.

Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped word's fare as hear. 

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud. 

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays,
Such soft wear four pea seas,
And why eye brake in two averse
Buy righting too pleas.

-- Sauce Unknown

Saturday, February 4, 2012


We’ve all watched movies where the six hundred bad guys line up neatly and each fights the good guy one at a time, allowing himself to be defeated. Unfortunately some fight scenes in novels are written a bit like that too. There are three or four bad guys but we read about the good guy, punching/hitting/shooting Bad Guy #1, then Bad Guy #2 and so on. Real fighting is not like that. The bad guys want to win so they get paid, and they’ll all attack at once, whenever the good guy is off guard, has his back turned, or is busy fighting already.
Choreography is important in sex scenes too. Sometimes the hero has his hand around the heroine’s waist, gently lifts her chin up to kiss her mouth, and simultaneously undoes her hair from its ponytail. Unless he’s an octopus shapeshifter, he’ll find doing all that at once tricky.
It’s even harder with a ménage scene. Count the number of arms, legs, hands, mouths. Then check to see whether the bodies really can be positioned like that. I know of a popular erotic romance author who has broken the arms and legs off several Barbie dolls while choreographing her love scenes. It’s important to get the choreography right.

Helen Woodall