Monday, December 26, 2016

What is Chiasmus?



“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. Many readers will recognize that John F. Kennedy quote. But I expect far fewer people will know what that style of writing is called, or where it comes from.

It’s actually an ancient literary technique called, chiasmus, Greek for “crossing”. That is, two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point. The technique is found a lot in Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Quran.

A well-known quote from Shakespeare is, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair", Macbeth 1.1


Chiasmus enables writers to create a special artistic effect in order to lay emphasis on what they want to communicate. Richard A. Lanham in his treatise, Analyzing Prose, said, “By keeping the phrase but inverting its meaning we use our opponent’s own power to overcome him, just as a judo expert does. So a scholar remarked of another’s theory, ‘Cannon entertains that theory because that theory entertains Cannon.’ The pun on ‘entertain’ complicates the chiasmus here, but the judo still prevails–Cannon is playing with the power of his own mind rather than figuring out the secrets of the universe.”

Have fun creating your own chiasmus.



Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sentence length: Too long or too short?




Could you read that? Did you understand it?

Way back in the eighteenth century, or thereabouts, sentences were long because ladies sat in their drawing rooms, while Mama read out the latest book, sentence by sentence, for the young women to dissect, also sentence by sentence, comma by semicolon, while they all discussed all the descriptions therein. It was only after a page or three they would stop to work out the actual story behind the sentences. These days an editor would put a big fat red line (or possibly a track changed red comment) on the opening sentence of this blog and say “49 words. Too long. Cut into 3 short sentences for clarity”.

Readers today want their description in bite-sized chunks. They don’t want to stop and decide whether the punctuation required an extra comma or semicolon here or there, or if the curtains on the withdrawing room windows would have been prettier with an extra ruffle of French lace. They want to know if the villain catches the hero right now.

As a fiction author, your job is to keep the reader reading right to the very last line of the book. Only then do you want them wondering about window decorations or anything other than the characters and what is happening to them.

Of course you do need to vary the sentence structure somewhat. Every sentence starting with “The hero…” gets boring fast and will not keep the reader entertained. As for the curtains, show them flapping in the breeze, the French lace billowing (or whatever). Your reader will fill the gaps to their own satisfaction.

And yes, sentences can be too short. Fragmentary. Boring. Although fragments can add a lot of tension to a pivotal scene. But don’t do it too often.
Keep writing!

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I don’t believe you




I was asked 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, or distracted, or both. 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.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dictionary.com’s 2016 Word of the Year: Xenophobia


Every year, Dictionary.com chooses a Word of the Year that they believe encapsulates the writings and actions of the previous twelve months.

2016, they have conclusive evidence, is the year of Xenophobia. This word has only been around in English since the late 1800s and translates as fear of strangers. Now, fear is not always bad. The fight or flight reaction has led to many people running away from danger and being saved. But a random and all-pervasive fear of anyone different from ourselves goes a long way beyond a sensible response.

Those "others" we fear have brought us pizza, spaghetti, most spices, coffee, and chocolate, along with a huge list of other foods. I don't know about you. but I don't plan to give up chocolate any time soon.

Meanwhile a little less fear and a lot more intelligent thought and sensible planning, might be appropriate.

Let's hope next year's word is one that brings us positive outcomes, enlightenment, and an improved world, not irrational medieval fearmongering.

The full article about Dictionary.com's studies is here: http://blog.dictionary.com/xenophobia/?param=email&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WOTY%202016:%20Xenophobia&utm_term=wordoftheday

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yes you can

Words for authors or would-be writers to live by. And everyone else as well.


There’s a four lettered word
As offensive as any
It holds back the few
Puts a stop to the many.
You can’t climb that mountain
You can’t cross the sea
You can’t become anything you want to be.
He can’t hit a century
They can’t find a cure.
She can’t think about leaving or searching for more.
Because Can’t is a word with a habit of stopping
The ebb and the flow of ideas
It keeps dropping
itself where we know in our hearts it’s not needed
And saying “don’t go” when we could have succeeded.
But those four little letters
That end with a T
They can change in an instant
When shortened to three.
We can take off the T
We can do it today
We can move forward not back
We can find our own way.
We can build we can run
We can follow the sun
We can push we can pull
We can say I’m someone
Who refuses to believe
That life can’t be better
With the removal of one
Insignificant letter.


~ words by Andy Flemming

And for visual learners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IocLkk3aYlk


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dialogue tags versus action tags



This is an area where most publishers have “house style” rules which must be followed. So if you are submitting to a specific publisher you need to follow their rules even if they aren’t what you’d prefer.

Most fiction publishers these days allow some action tags to be used as dialogue tags. By this I mean “he grunted”, “she squealed” are acceptable. Generally speaking, “he nodded” is not as it’s a silent move.

Another thing to watch is that while many literary workshops strongly encourage the use of words other than “said”, many readers of popular fiction find an endless list of “she snorted”, “she laughed”, “he groaned”, “he rasped”, intensely annoying. It pulls them out of the story. If it’s quite clear who is speaking, and if their action makes the descriptor unnecessary (they are running away from the bad guy while he speaks, so unless he is very fit, the reader can guess “he gasped”) you don’t need a dialogue tag at all. A brief section of dialogue with no tags at all can be much more dramatic and immediate than even the most creative of dialogue tags.

Which do you prefer?
“Is the bad guy still chasing us?” asked the heroine.
The hero glanced over his shoulder. “Yes, sweet one, I’m afraid he is,” the hero explained.
“Oh dear,” she replied.

“Is the bad guy still chasing us?
The hero glanced over his shoulder. “Yes, sweet one, I’m afraid he is.”
“Oh dear.”

In the second version it’s quite clear who is speaking, and the pace is faster, more appropriate for a chase scene.


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Kick-ass heroines




These days, a heroine who sits on a silken cushion, weeping gently into a lace handkerchief, her tears sparkling in her eyes, her nose never becoming red, while she waits patiently for chapter after chapter until the hero overcomes all ills and rescues her, is frowned upon.

So are long, run-on sentences like the one above. Both sentences like the above one, and heroines as described therein, used to be the mainstay of romance. No longer.

Today’s heroine is permitted to have red eyes and a nose to rival Rudolph’s if she cries. But more importantly, she is expected to be digging her way out of the dungeon with a spoon, while pretending to sit on her silken cushion. Or even better, slapping her guard upside the head with a brick inside in the cushion and escaping all by herself.

Women are no longer a man’s property, and part of that empowerment means the heroine is expected to be an active leader in the story. The hero is still Alpha, but the heroine is no doormat, or piece of property. She makes him work for everything she permits him to have and is right beside him, as they save the world together.

So answer me this riddle? Why is it so rare to have a female werewolf or vampire who turns the Alpha human male? Why do male vampires and werewolves still turn human heroines?

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy et al



Some years ago I was an amused onlooker as about twenty editors had a fierce and bloodthirsty battle over whether or not the Easter Bunny deserved a capital B for bunny.
I’d edited a book where the Easter Bunny (or possibly bunny) played a minor role. The author had given him two capital letters and that had seemed correct to me.

Little did I know.

The battle ranged back and forth for three days with references from the Chicago Manual of Style (the bible for editors internationally) being tossed like bombs into the fray.

Santa Claus gets two capital letters because that is his name, Mr. Santa Claus, just as Ms. Jane Doe or Mr. John Doe would be capitalized. But the Easter Bunny (bunny) is different. Easter is a proper noun so it’s capitalized. But a bunny is just a bunny (lower case) unless his real name is Mr. Bunny.

Then someone mentioned the Tooth Fairy (or tooth fairy). Is she Ms. Tooth Fairy, or Ms. Fairy (lowercase tooth) or… That caused the argument to reignite and continue for another couple of days.

In the end the publisher declared it too difficult to decide a winner from CMOS rules alone and directed that henceforth House Style would be two capital letters for all such characters.

I noticed even Google is sitting on the fence for the Easter Bunny with Wikipedia giving it a capital but the search engine using a lowercase b.

Writing professionals take their job of being completely accurate very seriously. Never ever get between two determined editors arguing a point of professionalism.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Grammar Guru Speaks




In dialogue, common usage (as distinct from actual bad grammar) is fine. But in narrative, it doesn’t matter whether “everyone says that”, if it’s wrong, authors shouldn’t be using it. The author needs to obey the rules of grammar.

“To boldly go” may be a catchy line in a movie, but split infinitives are incorrect.

Never say “different than”. It’s “different from”.

If you have two daughters you have an older daughter and a younger daughter. You don’t have an oldest (or eldest) daughter until there are three or more of them.

Fewer is if you can count them. Otherwise use less. Fewer chocolates in the box, but less coffee in the pot.

There is no such thing as a half a sudden, so you can’t have “all of a sudden”. The word is “suddenly”.

Facebook may say “invite” as a noun but in real life it’s a verb. The noun is invitation.

Outside of/inside of “She licked the inside of her lips” is correct. But she didn’t go “inside of” the house. She simply went “inside the house”.

Subject and verb must agree. A group noun takes a singular verb. “The flock of sheep is grazing”, “the crowd was waiting”.

These are rules. Don’t yell at me if you don’t like them. Look them up yourself in the Chicago Manual of Style: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html then obey them.


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

79 Words You’ve Been Saying Wrong The Whole Time



We have an Australian Rules Football team named Essendon (a suburb of Melbourne). Unfortunately a lot of people say “Essadon” which drives me (and many other people) crazy.

Mental Floss has produced a fun video of 79 commonly mispronounced words. Several of the ones they feature make my teeth grate as well (Hermione and Les Miserables just for starters.), although Australians do say a few of the words differently. The color mauve for example. We say the au as if it were an o as in open. Unlike the name Doris, where we pronounce the o as in orange unlike Americans who appear to say the name as Dooris.

Anyway, here’s the link. http://writerscircle.com/common-mispronunciations/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

Helen


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Have fun!


When I send edits to authors I have always signed off my emails saying, “Have fun”. No, I’m not being sarcastic or unkind, even if the edits may be rather demanding of the author. I’m stating a fact. If you aren’t getting enjoyment from what you’re doing, something is wrong.

Yes, sure, some days will be better than others. Sometimes life will be hitting you over the head with stuff that is most definitely not fun. But overall, an author needs to believe in herself and what she’s doing. Apart from the very few, an author is not going to become rich and famous, even if her book is better than some who have achieved that honor and glory. So if you aren’t having fun, at least some of the time, why not?

Relax, take a big breath, and think. You want to write, or you can’t help but write. And you are writing, so that’s all good. Now, have fun!

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ending Well



There are two main mistakes authors make with the ending of their book. And they’re complete opposites.

First we have the author who has been warned about leaving loose threads, so she goes through her book very carefully and in the final chapter she makes reference to every single character, however minor, and what happens to them, their house, their gun, their cat… The book is tied up so tightly with so many pretty pink bows that there is no possible way of ever writing a sequel, or even another book in that world.

Loose threads are bad. The reader left wondering what happened to the main characters is bad. The reader left feeling saddened that there’ll never be another book in this world because there’s nothing left to say is also bad.

The second type of mistake is the author who introduced a ghost in chapter four and forgets to mention him again, has the hero’s three best friends standing on the edge of a crumbling cliff in chapter ten, and never mentions them again, and generally has so many unfinished story threads the reader is left wondering how the heroine could ever be happy in that world.

It is fine to leave an overarching plot thread hanging. It’s not fine to have a character the reader cares about in deadly peril unless book two is edited and scheduled for release a month after book one. Even then the author’s email account may well be filled with anguished emails from readers for the next few weeks.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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



Sunday, October 2, 2016

The sagging middle



No, not yours, the book’s.

Many authors spend huge amounts of time getting the beginning of their books just right. Everyone knows an author must attract the attention of the reader/editor/publisher/agent with the opening page or they won’t keep reading. Also many writing competitions use the first few chapters as their test, so authors polish, polish, polish the start to get it perfect.

Then authors work hard on the ending to tie up all the plot threads, make sure there’s no loose ends, nothing unfinished, and satisfy the reader with the Happily Ever After. Again, they check and recheck, polishing the ending to make it fulfilling for the reader.

But the middle? Ah, that’s another story.

The author has worked so hard on the start of the book they’re relaxed by the time they reach the middle and relaxing into the story is good. But it’s not so good if the dialogue waffles, the plot meanders off here and there, and the action slows to a crawl. The entire book doesn’t have to be fast paced, but it does need to keep progressing steadily toward the denouement.

Authors, don’t forget the middle. Polish it too. Tighten up saggy storytelling. Delete unnecessary dialogue and description, keep the book moving and you’ll keep your reader happy.

Helen Woodall
Helen.woodall@gmail.com
Need help? Helen is available to critique and edit your book. Rates on application.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

An Impressive Beginning


For a book to succeed in drawing readers into the plot and characters, the beginning needs to be impressive. Polished, entertaining, catchy, something that drags the reader along until she doesn’t even realize she’s halfway through chapter two and her coffee is cold.

Often it’s an action scene. Sometimes it’s a puzzle the character begins to solve. The ways to do it are as varied as the number of books out there. What it isn’t, is long flowery descriptive phrases about people or places. Get the reader racing along with you first, and add a few scenic details briefly along the way incidentally, or as dialogue.

It’s very important that each word in these first scenes is exactly right, because one wrong word (or typo!) can throw the reader out of the story before she’s fully hooked. A reader may hate a word or typo later in the book, but once she’s invested in the story and the characters she’s more likely to keep reading. At the beginning one single error can be enough for a reader to put down that book and choose one of the other hundred in her To Be Read pile.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard


"Psychological Science" recently published a research article showing that taking notes by hand is a more effective method than typing them on a laptop when it comes to processing information conceptually. Sixty-five college students watched various TED Talks in small groups, and were provided with either pens and paper or laptops for taking notes. The students were tested afterward. While the groups performed equally on questions that involved recalling facts, those who had taken longhand notes did significantly better when it came to answering conceptual questions.

Laptop users were trying too hard to transcribe the lecture rather than listening for the most important information and writing it down by hand

Another 2012 study indicated writing is particularly important in the cognitive development of pre-literate children.

So there you are. It would appear that the pen is not yet irrelevant.

The original article is here: http://writerscircle.com/cs-longhand-benefits-research/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Writing prequels



Book Daily has published a "How To" article on writing prequels. It has some good ideas about how to make a story that captivates a reader, even when the reader already knows exactly how the story ends.

Adding a cameo and/or a plot twist, and growing the character are all good ideas. Some of the other suggestions I’m not so sure about. But this article certainly provides excellent food for thought for anyone considering a prequel or side story.

The original article is here;
http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1865666

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Writing Vivid Dialogue



Instead of adding an adverb to a dialogue tag to describe how a person speaks, consider using an action. First, some editors and publishing houses hate adverbs with the fire of a thousand suns. And secondly, an action tag can depict character so much more vividly. Does she hesitate or blush when she answers him? Does she fiddle with her cell phone, or pick at her nails, or twirl her hair? All are so much more descriptive than “shyly” or “hesitantly”.

Also consider painting some of the background into the conversation. Are they standing on a street corner in brilliant sunlight? Is it too hot? Is it winter and her toes are freezing inside her sexy pumps and she’s wishing she’d worn her boots?

Dialogue doesn’t have to be just words. The best, most fulfilling dialogue includes body language, scenery, and actions.

For more ideas on this topic check out http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1860002

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book covers



Many authors agonize over their book covers. Some drive their cover artist crazy wanting every tiny detail of their hero/heroine exactly perfect. Some publishers have a series “look” which can make an author cry when they see their voluptuous red-headed heroine portrayed as a blonde stick figure. Other authors love self publishing because finally they can get the cover of their dreams by hiring their own cover artist.

But one thing all readers and authors will relate to, is the cover that has nothing to do with the book inside it.

Bustle.com has compiled a list of the sixteen most misleading book covers of all time.
http://www.bustle.com/articles/161333-the-16-most-misleading-book-covers-of-all-time

It also has a link to another article showing book covers so bad they’ll make you laugh.
https://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/hilariously-bad-book-covers

Enjoy!


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Opposites and contronyms



English is a weird language, but that’s why it’s so much fun. A particular favorite of mine, grammatically speaking, is the contronym.

The contronym (also spelled “contranym”) goes by many names, including “auto-antonym,” “antagonym,” “enantiodrome,” “self-antonym,” “antilogy” and “Janus word” (from the Roman god of beginnings and endings, often depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. That’s how January was named – looking back to the previous year and forward to the new one).

“Dust” is a good example of a contronym. The forensic specialists dust your furniture (add dust to it) to check for fingerprints. Then you have to dust the furniture to remove the dust.

“Fast” is another one. The Olympic athlete ran very fast holding fast to his javelin, then threw it.

And how about “garnish”? You garnish the salad by adding parsley or mint to it. But if you garnish someone’s wages, you take money away from them.

For a lot more examples check out: http://mentalfloss.com/article/57032/25-words-are-their-own-opposites and http://www.dailywritingtips.com/75-contronyms-words-with-contradictory-meanings/ which has some great examples including “refrain” which can be something repeated over and over (the refrain of a song) or to not do something.

Happy reading.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Novel Written By A Computer Actually Beat Human-Made Novels In Japan…



We’ve all heard about computers that operate all kinds of household appliances, ensuring that the temperature remains appropriate, lights turn on and off, and even control window furnishings that open and close at set times. But recently technology stepped up to a whole new level.

The Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award is named after a famous, Japanese sci-fi author and it accepts non-human applicants. The 2016 prize included 1,450 novels, 11 of which were created using artificial intelligence. However, in order to criticize submissions fairly, the identity of entries (human or otherwise) was withheld from judges.

One computer-written submission made it through the first round of the competition. It was a novel called “The Day A Computer Writes A Novel”. The L.A. Times said, “Humans decided the plot and character details of the novel, then entered words and phrases from an existing novel into a computer, which was able to construct a new book using that information.”

“The Day A Computer Writes A Novel” didn’t make it to the second round of the competition, but it did freak out a lot of people with its final sentences: “The day a computer wrote a novel. The computer, placing priority on the pursuit of its own joy, stopped working for humans.”
Brilliant!!

For the full story check out, http://writerscircle.com/ai-novel/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Good News for Authors


Book Daily has offered some very sensible advice for authors and would-be authors. It’s just good plain common sense, but sometimes people fail to see the obvious.

1. There is no such thing as a perfect book.
No matter what you write or how well you write it, someone, somewhere will hate it. Also, typos slip in, formatting goes haywire, production inserts errors. So write what you want to write anyway.

2. Writing is hard.
It’s work. So work at it.

3. Save your work.
Back everything up several different ways. Technology will get glitches.

4. Write anyway.
Or, as I always say, “Go for it!” and “Have fun.”

Read the original article at
http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1853223

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The serial comma




The comma queen, Mary Norris, copy editor for the New Yorker newspaper, talks about the serial comma – with a little help from Robert Frost.
http://blog.theliteracysite.com/serial-comma-confirmed/


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Avoiding timeline glitches



Sometimes an author gets so wrapped up in writing a scene and what happens next, and what happens after that, that they lose all track of time. One hundred pages later the characters sit down to lunch, yet the reader knows it has to be the next day by now. Maybe even the next week.

Then there’s the author writing book two in a series which comments back to an event in book one, only suddenly now it took place at night instead of during the day. Leaving the reader scratching her head in confusion.

When writing about significant events, make a timeline and keep it for potential sequels, flashbacks etc.

Watch how long scenes are. Can they really do all those things in an hour/day/ or whatever. Especially be aware of travel distances. Google maps may say you can get from A to B in two hours but what about traffic holdups, accidents, bad weather or construction?

When writing historicals remember that travel in the past was mostly walking pace even on horseback. A horse can’t gallop all day!

Have fun planning the events in your story. It’s your book and can be whatever you want it to be. But if your heroine is running five miles in a pencil skirt and stiletto heels with the bad guy right behind her, be sure to mention that she’s a former Olympian distance runner. And check how long it really takes to run five miles in heels!

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, July 3, 2016

The importance of using a good editor for everyone, not just writers












Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, June 26, 2016

10 books that shaped the world



Long before there were books people sat around a fire and told stories. In some cultures story-telling is still very popular. Then there were cave paintings, papyrus scrolls and eventually books.

The “most influential top ten” list varies from list to list, but the Literacy Site has published its list of the ten they consider had most influence on today’s western world.

Several of them are easy to guess, others not so much.
Enjoy.

http://blog.theliteracysite.com/cs-lifealtering-books/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Planning a sequel



There has been a rash of serialized stories being published. The idea is take a “book”, make sure each chapter or “chunk” ends on a good hook, and then sell each chapter, or chunk as a separate mini-book.

This works fine as long as readers are invested in the full “story” and don’t get tired of paying by chapter (which usually costs more than buying the total book would cost) or stop caring about the final resolution of the entire story.

Each book (or mini-book) in a series must advance the story arc of the entire venture. Readers have to want to read more, to get to the final resolution.

A genuine series might have a different main character, or a different hero and heroine in each book, but each stand-alone story will lead the reader closer to the endpoint of the entire story arc. It’s this overall umbrella story that needs to draw in the reader so they stay buying and reading until the final episode.

Within each episode something must have happened. The characters must have grown, developed, learned something, solved some problem. With a regular book simply sliced into pieces, often this doesn’t happen. The “hook” at the end is artificial, placed there for the sole purpose of making sales, rather than advancing the characters’ journey.

If you are planning a series, ensure each volume tells a story, and that readers will want to follow the longer, higher story arc to the rest of the books.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Acronyms that became words



Some of these are obvious but others are really surprising. A few of them impressed me a lot. I would never have guessed they began life as an acronym.

Visit brain jet and see nine common words you never knew were actually Acronyms/Initialisms.

http://www.brainjet.com/x/tgg/random/1257/9-common-words-you-never-knew-were-actually-acronyms-initialisms/#page=1


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Oops: Just Made a Six-Figure Mistake


Well-known publishers Time Inc. had the clever idea of creating a new site to attract young women. As such companies do, they spent a lot of money and effort selecting and planning the stories they would publish, setting up the website and so on.

Then they spent a six-figure sum buying a full-age advertisement for their new site in the Wall Street Journal.

This is the ad they published. It appears they forgot to hire a copy editor to check it before it went to press.
Oops.



Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Understanding English from the past



This is a fascinating and brief video on how English language has changed over time. Have you read Shakespeare? How much did you understand without looking up the help notes? And what about the pronunciation?

Then go back further to Chaucer. Can you still understand him without help?

The Middle English example is particularly clever. A spoken and visual rendition of a sentence most people know but it’s still almost incomprehensible in its original form.

A fun and enlightening way to spend a few minutes.

Go here to watch the video: http://writerscircle.com/cs-olde-english/


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

How to Beat Writer's Block



A survey of 2,500 writers found that writer’s block was caused by high expectations, fear of failure, and unrealistic deadlines.

A group called Stop Procrastinating has published a list of 21 ways to beat writer’s block.
Some are obvious, like turning off the internet and breaking the task into bite-sized achievable chunks. Others are a little more off-the-wall. All of them are useful.

Here’s the link: http://blog.bookbaby.com/2016/04/21-tips-to-beat-writers-block/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

15 words you should stop using



Career advice experts at The Muse have come up with a list of words they recommend you drop from your vocabulary. Removing these words, they say, will make you sound smarter, and your writing will be more succinct, therefore more readable.

This is great advice for writers, but also for anyone else who wants to succeed in their day job.

Some of these are words you could probably guess, like “that”, and “just” and “very”.

But others are suggestions that might make you think. Words like “absolutely”, “always” and “amazing”.

For their complete list of no-nos, check out: http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/15-words-you-should-stop-using/news-story/f3583780e617575f0d3643852aa02109

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, May 8, 2016

22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing


Writing can be a very lonely career. Most people find themselves staring at a screen for hours at a time. Sometimes the words flow and fingers are pounding a keyboard. At other times the process is a slow one with far more thought than output.

Reading blogs, books, commentaries, research, can all be good and helpful, but it can also steal those precious writing hours.

Christopher Shultz has put together twenty-two one liners about writing by well-known fiction authors. They make great reading.

I particularly like, “Just about everything I learned about writing a good book I learned from reading lots and lots of good books” by Stephen King, and “Literature was not born the day when a boy crying 'wolf, wolf' came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying 'wolf, wolf' and there was no wolf behind him,” by Sylvia Plath.

You can read them all here: http://litreactor.com/columns/22-of-the-best-single-sentences-on-writing


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is “said” dead?



Recently Book Daily published a series of articles by writers about the use of the word “said”.

In the interests of full disclosure, I need to say I consider “said” the single most useful dialogue tag in fiction writing. This is because readers tend to ignore it and keep reading. That’s great news for authors trying to hook readers.
Other tags may be much more descriptive and more emotional, more arousing, more decisive and lots of other adjectives as well. But they can also pull the reader out of the story and get them thinking about the author instead of the story.

Anyhow, that’s just my opinion.

Melissa Eskue Ousley began the discussion opposing the use of “said” here: http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1771430

June Trop’s follow-up article is here: http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1819128.
There are also a multitude of comments and links attached to those articles. Go, read about it for yourself.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Sunday, April 24, 2016

When a publisher shuts its doors



Over the past decade dozens of publishers have closed their doors. Not just small digital publishers, but also some large print publishers as well. One thing I am convinced of, is that no publisher is secure, no matter what its advertising material states, or how long and illustrious its career might have been.
Therefore my first piece of advice to authors is all about eggs and baskets.

Diversity is essential. Don’t drink the company Kool Aid. Yes, the company may truly believe everything it tells you, but the only 20/20 vision is in hindsight. Submit to several publishers, two or three perhaps, or self-publish some of your work, but don’t trust any one source to pay all your bills.

My second piece of advice is to go out gracefully.

If the worst happens and the company your book is published by closes, don’t make a huge scene (or even a small scene) out in public. Always behave in a professional manner even if the dying publisher does not.

Some publishers have behaved extremely badly, absconding with money that belongs to authors, lying and cheating, possibly even behaving in a manner that is overtly illegal. This doesn’t give the author a “get-out-of-jail-free” card to copy that behavior.
Be professional. Certainly claim your rights back and any withheld property such as royalties, but always behave politely and within the law.

Everyone knows everyone in the publishing business. Maintaining your good manners in the face of adversity and trauma is your best chance of being picked up by another publisher when many people will be knocking on their doors right then.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Using Brand Names in Stories



Mark Fowler has written a very interesting and well researched article about the use of brand name items in fiction stories. It’s well worth reading and taking notice of.
http://www.rightsofwriters.com/2010/12/can-i-mention-brand-name-products-in-my.html

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Punctuation in Classic Books



Attention all Grammar Nerds, and Readers of Classic Fiction.

Wow! This is absolutely fascinating article comparing the punctuation in various classical books and how punctuation has changed over time.
A must read for every grammar nerd.
http://www.bustle.com/articles/142818-the-punctuation-in-classic-books-tells-a-story-all-of-its-own


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

7 Reasons Why Readers Hate Your Book Blurb



Book Daily has an interesting article on writing book blurbs. They list seven main fails.

The first sentence is incredibly important. A blurb is short, the shorter the better, so wasting the opening sentence with an introduction is a bad step. Jump right in with a catchy hook.

They also advise against using clich├ęs or rhetoric, and also against introducing too many characters, too many place names, or too many plot points.

From my own observation a major problem I see with blurbs is that they give away too many plot points or twists. They should hook the reader to buy the book. Why bother to read the book if the reader can already guess exactly what happens just from reading the blurb. Remember, keep it short, punchy, and intriguing.

To read the complete article go to: http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1802306


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

14 Quotes About Reading That Make All the Sense in the World


The Literary Site blog has collected fourteen quotes from authors about reading. I have to agree with Jim Rohn. “The book you don’t read won’t help.” His quote makes a lot of sense.
Or Joseph Brodsky. “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

All of them are worth a moment of your time to read. http://blog.theliteracysite.com/reading-quotes-list/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Stop was verbing



Care needs to be taken by an author using the present continuous tense (-ing verbs).
For a start, using several together frequently results in an impossible action.

John was admiring the cute frog and eating an ice cream. The frog was singing to him and he was singing back to it.

Hang on a minute. John might be able to admire the frog, eat an ice cream and listen to it sing all at once, but how does he sing back to it? Does he stop eating his ice cream first? And can he really concentrate on admiring, eating and singing all at once without losing his train of thought, or spilling his ice cream? How can he sing without choking on his ice cream?

See what has happened here? The reader is pulled right out of the story, waiting for John to choke, or trying to see if they can do all those things at once. It’s much better for the author to use the past tense here.

Writing in the past tense also avoids all the “was” verbs in the sentence. They just clutter it up making the action less fresh and immediate.

“John admired the cute frog and ate an ice cream” is a much punchier sentence than “John was admiring the cute frog and eating an ice cream”. So my advice is to ditch the present continuous tense and aim to stick with the past tense for narrative.

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How to Write a Better Query Letter



In this day of self publishing, I’m not sure how many authors still send out query letters to agents and publishers. But if you do, The Writer’s Circle has some tips on how to make your query eye-catching.

Their suggestions include personalizing your letter. Never ever send the same letter to more than one publisher/agent. Each one should be targeted directly at the company you wish to work with.

Don’t oversell yourself. Paint yourself in your best light, yes, but don’t lie.

Just as with your book, start your letter with a hook. These people are busy and get hundreds of unsolicited approaches. You need to prove you are worth reading.

Don’t talk about your kids, your cats, your garden or your hard life. Talk about the book and why it suits their company.

Finally, READ the submission guidelines and follow them absolutely. If you think they are stupid or unnecessary, chances are that’s not the right company for you or your book.

The full article is here:
http://writerscircle.com/dear-writer-5-tips-to-better-query-letters/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Overcoming Rejected Manuscripts



For hundreds of years a handful of print publishers held the lives, fortunes and careers of authors in the palms of their hands. Back then printing was a slow, painstaking and expensive business and publishers wanted to be sure their money, time and effort was expended on a book that would sell many copies.

Times changed but the publishing industry didn’t. Printing became much much faster and cheaper but still a handful of gatekeepers held rigidly to choosing only the few books they were convinced would sell many copies. They also insisted on restricting authors to releasing only one or at the absolute most two books per year, even though the editing, printing and publication no longer took anything like six months to complete.

Even the arrival of digital publishing didn’t change their stance. They insisted digital books weren’t “real” books and it wasn’t until epublishing was a multimillion dollar business that they finally began accepting that it was here to stay.

In the meantime thousands of authors had been published with small digital-first publishing houses, and a significant number of them were making a much better living than mid-list print authors. Not only did digital publishers pay authors every three months instead of perhaps only once a year, but prolific authors were able to release four or even six books a year instead of one. As an author’s backlist grew, readers discovered digital books never went out of print, and began buying the entire backlist of new authors they discovered and loved.

The advent of self publishing has added another range of choices and many print authors have released their own out of print backlists as self published digital works.

But some authors still crave the recognition of a “big” New York publisher. So for those who continue to receive rejection slips, and don’t wish to choose the digital-first method of publishing, here is a list of famous, but rejected authors.

C.S. Lewis was turned down eight hundred times before selling a single piece of writing. Then there was the San Francisco “Examiner’s” response to Rudyard Kipling. “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

For a list of other now famous rejected authors see: http://writerscircle.com/manuscript-completed-a-young-british-writer-dashed-off-his-first-novel-for-review-by-a-publishing-housethe-premise-of-his-b/

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Everything you ever wanted to know about semi colons



Semi colons have a difficult life. They’re halfway between a period and a comma, neither one nor the other. Many readers hate them with a passion. They slow reading down, and when the hero is backed into a corner and fighting off ten bad guys, the reader absolutely detests being slowed down. They also get blamed for horrible run-on, difficult to comprehend sentences. Some publishers rigorously remove every colon and semi colon from each manuscript.

All in all being a semi colon is a tough gig.

But wait. They can be helpful.

A semicolon can be used as a super comma in a list. Instead of wondering if I’m supposed to buy peas, macaroni, and cheese (three items) or peas plus macaroni and cheese (two items), I can use a semi colon to properly break up the list.

They can also replace conjunctions, making the reader see there are two separate ideas in the sentence, without constant repetition of little words like “and” and “but”, or too many short, choppy sentences.

So don’t totally disregard them. Used sparingly and with discretion, they may become your new best friend. (Unless your publisher bans them!)


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Books Readers Buy: Readers' Survey



Every year Smashwords examines sales data to extract insights about best practices that give indie authors and publishers incremental advantages in the marketplace. This data is probably the only firm facts anywhere about digital sales. The survey is based on over $25 million in actual verified ebook sales data, aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network between April 2014 and March 2015.

1. Preorders. Less than 10 percent of books began as a preorder, yet two thirds of the top 200 bestselling titles were born as preorders.

2. Series with free series starters earn more money.

3. Free still works to build readership.

4. Longer books sell better than shorter books.

5. $3.99 remains the sweet spot for full length indie fiction.

6. 99 cents is still good for building readership.

7. Bestselling authors are more likely to have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and more likely to have a blog.

8. Top Fiction categories during the period: 1. Romance. 2. Erotica. 3. YA and teen fiction.

9. Top Non-fiction categories during the period: 1. Biography. 2. Health, wellbeing and medicine

Anyone seriously interested in making a success of a writing career needs to read the full article and apply areas that relate to them. Here's the link:
http://blog.smashwords.com/2015/12/SmashwordsEbookSurvey2015.html

Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Grammar Myths Revealed



Do you know what a run-on sentence is, and how to avoid it? No, sticking in a couple of semicolons, or sprinkling it liberally with commas is not a solution!

Do you know when it is permissible to use passive voice?

How about i.e. and e.g. They aren’t the same thing. But do you know what they mean and how to use them correctly?

And then there’s one of my favorites, Never Use a Preposition to End a Sentence With.

Grammar Girl herself (aka Mignon Fogarty) explains away ten common myths on Mental Floss. You can read her article here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/61350/top-10-grammar-myths


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Words that are their own opposites



I found this article about words that are their own opposites and it absolutely made my day. Such fun!

Did you know there is actually a term to describe such words? “Contronyms”—words that are their own antonyms.

The article opens with this: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, 'Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression' or does it mean, 'Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default'?

Mental Floss lists 25 contronyms but I’m sure you can find more.

One of my favorites is Trim. It can mean either adding or taking away. Are you decorating something or taking bits of it off. And the context doesn’t always make it clear. If you’re trimming the tree are you using tinsel or a chain saw?

For all 25 contronyms go here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/57032/25-words-are-their-own-opposites?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Partner&utm_campaign=AK


Helen Woodall
helen.woodall@gmail.com

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