Friday, July 26, 2013

Do I need a new name?

Writers sometimes agonize over whether or not to change names when they change genres. They worry that all their cowboy fans will hate them and stop reading their cowboy books if they start writing fantasy.

But the problem with a second name is all the promotion. A second website, a second blog, another Facebook account. Then there’s Pinterest, Twitter, Google circles and more. Since most authors also have a day job, they’d rather be writing their next book than trying to think up two totally different blogs.

There’s no right or wrong decision here. It has to be what works best for each individual writer. But I would make a couple of cautioning remarks.
If you decide to write two very different genres under the same name you must be very clear on each blurb which genre that book falls under. Your cowboy readers have little grounds for complaint if the blurb clearly says, “Prince Handsome and Princess Pretty climb on their unicorn and depart for the Magical Kingdom…”

If you decide to keep a different name for each genre be aware that unless you change your writing style some readers will work out who you are. An author’s voice seldom changes much between genres. Be prepared to be discovered and plan how you’ll deal with that.

Some writers choose a middle path. They write under two different names, but their blogs and Facebook accounts etc are all linked. They make no secret of the fact they’re the same person, and that the different name is just to keep the two genres clearly delineated.

Whatever you decide ultimately needs to be what will suit you, personally, best.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Twenty-two fascinating fact about the English Language

How many of these did you already know??

1. The most commonly used letter is E.
2. The least used letter is Q.
3. Skiing is the only word with double i.
4. Dreamt is the only word that ends in 'mt.'
5. There are only 4 words which end in 'dous': hazardous, horrendous, stupendous, and tremendous.
6. 'Bookkeeper' and 'bookkeeping' are the only 2 words with three consecutive double letters.
7. The word 'strengths' is the longest word with just one vowel.
8. The word 'testify' derived from a time when men were required to swear on their testicles. (fr. Latin, 'testis').
9. All pilots on international flights identify themselves in English regardless of their country of origin.
10. The word 'almost' is the longest with all the letters in alphabetical order.
11. The most commonly used word in conversation is 'I'.
12. Defenselessness and Respectlessness are both fifteen-letter words with only one of the vowels.
13. RHYTHMS is the longest English word without the normal vowels, a, e, i, o, u.
14. Excluding derivatives there are only two words in English that end with -shion. They are CUSHION and FASHION.
15. 12 words can be formed from the word “THEREIN” using consecutive letters: The, he, her, er, here, I, there, ere, rein, re, in, and herein.
16. There is only one common word in English that has 5 vowels in a row – QUEUEING.
17. “One thousand” contains the letter ‘A’. None of the words from one to nine hundred and ninety nine has an A.
18. Two words having all the vowels in the reverse order are SUBCONTINENTAL and UNCOMPLIMENTARY.
19. These are the only six-letter words that begin and end with same vowel and there is no other vowel in between: Asthma and Isthmi.
20. The longest English word is a 45-letter word which is the name of a disease: “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.”
21. A superlatively long word of 27 letters having 13 vowels which alternates consonants and vowels: HONORIFICABILITUDINITATIBUS. Some more examples are Antidisestablishmentarianism and Electrophotomicrographically.
22. UNDERGROUND and UNDERFUND are the only words in English that begin and end with the letters “und”.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Swear Words

In my opinion some of the worst four letter words are ones we use every day: cook, iron, bake….

But seriously there are some swear words that have been so overused they cease to hold much meaning at all. Like 140+ uses of the F-word in the movie, “The Heat”.

I am not suggesting the author swallow a thesaurus and busily add every polysyllabic adjective from A to Z to the book. But there should be a blend of the kind of word even a hero might utter when the villain drops a large rock on his head, and what he might say to the heroine about the spooky trees in the forest they’re driving through. A balance between descriptive, well-thought out language, and the kind of dirty, sexy talk a couple might use in the bedroom together.

There also needs to be a balance between what a hero who heads a construction crew might use, and what the billionaire CEO of a company might say. The words they use, the way they express themselves, are just as much a part of their character as their sparkling silver eyes. And sometimes bad language can actually be exciting and good. But don’t be misled into thinking there needs to be a swear word in every paragraph. Each word needs to be relevant and important in its own right. Always use the most appropriate word whether that is an expletive or a kinder adjective.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I don’t believe you

I was asked last weekend to explain the different needs for accuracy in fiction novels when dealing with those gray areas between fact and fiction.

The most important thing is that your reader must believe the story. You can have blue people, three purple moons and red and white striped flowers in your world, as long as they’re consistent and logical. Those people/flowers/moons must stay the same, or be logically different (the moons can set) throughout the book.

I have mentioned before in a previous blog about an author who won a major literary award for her semi-autobiographical story about how she escaped from a country by walking across the border. The problem was that the country she said she escaped to, does not share a border with the country she left. The editors, publisher, and judges all missed that point but the readers didn’t. They stopped believing her and the award was withdrawn. If only she’d made a country name up, no one would have had a problem with her story. They’d have thought she was protecting the people who helped her, not telling a lie. It turned out later after investigation the entire book was made up. Again, this would not have been a problem if she’d used imaginary place names and said it was fiction. She then would have deserved the award she won so briefly.

Which takes us back to the key point. The reader has to believe what you’re telling them. If your villain is using an automatic rifle and doesn’t hit the escaping-on-foot heroine, the villain needs to be a very bad shot, half-blind, or distracted, or all of the above. And if that heroine is running barefoot through the woods at midnight how can she see where she’s going, why doesn’t she cut her feet on rocks and what was she doing there in the first place?

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Things I learned from reading romance books

A sheik/squillionaire/CEO of a multinational corporation will have had dozens of mistresses and girlfriends, but that sweet, innocent virgin daughter of a friend/secretary/nanny/nurse will cause him to have a one-night stand with her, with no condom in sight, and she will inevitably get pregnant and decide to raise the child alone, in dire poverty, rather than tell him about the baby.
Should he happen to find out about the child, he will refuse to believe it’s his and he never demands DNA testing to prove his case. He’d rather just trust his feelings. After all that’s how he got to be a squillionnaire.
The virgin never asks him to use a condom. Of course she knows of his dozens of mistresses, but she also “knows” he’d never give her a sexually transmitted disease. (He never does either. Just a baby).
No heroine ever has a headache and no hero ever rolls over in bed and goes straight to sleep. Neither of them snore or drool in their sleep either.
No one anywhere ever goes to the toilet. Ever.
Whenever the heroine is invited unexpectedly to a party/ball/wedding no matter how poor she is, or where she comes from, she always has the perfect dress to wear to the occasion.
When the hero and heroine are running away from the bad guy, no matter how far they travel or how long the pursuit lasts for, they never run out of clean underwear or need to do a load of laundry.

And do you know why this is so?

Because it’s a romance story. It’s fiction. Fantasy. If the virgin caught genital warts from the CEO, and the hero had erectile dysfunction it’d be real life! And no one wants to read about that!

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writing Fast

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 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 popular 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 one 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 few months, edited in a week, and 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 they want 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 or - gasp - find an error.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.