Monday, 31 March 2014

Word Variants

Gotta catch 'em all!

Did I know they existed? Yeah...
All right and Alright.
Accidentally and Accidently.

Stick with one and use it, they say. But there’s also a lot of say about which one is right and which one is wrong. Again, Shakespeare used to just make shit up but, alas, perhaps those days are long gone…

I suppose you can be more lenient when it comes to dialogue, but outside of that, it’s best not to get sloppy. The last thing you want are words shifting all over the place in your writing. Which is another reason you can’t rely on that red squiggly line in MSword to show up as it may consider both variants correct. Although changing your settings to English or American English will stop any pesky mistakes between words like gray (Am-Eng) and grey (Eng).

Speaking of word variants, I’ll also go on to mention we British tend to have more of a handle on American terminology than the Americans do on ours - something to consider if you’re British.
I discovered this when I sent my WIP to some Beta Readers and one couldn’t work out where I was from as I used both British and American words, and as my story wasn’t set on our planet, there really was no telling.

I used words like “off-licence” to describe what Americans might call a “seven-eleven”. To cure this, I went for the universal and self-explanatory “corner store.” Not to say I’ve never been confused by American terms. I remember growing up wondering “what the hell is a faucet? Is that some other kind of tap that I don’t know about?”

I still make these kind of mistakes today. In my recent WIP, my editor pointed out I used the word “bonnet” which looks gross anyway is often referred to as the “hood” of a car and is understood by both Americans and English speakers.

Now, there is no quick remedy to this unless you know all the variants, but you’ll pick them up as time goes by and hopefully this post will (if you haven’t already been doing so) encourage you to keep an eye out for these things. Though, if you’re in good company, beta readers or editors will come to your rescue!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Creativity and Plagiarism

It’s a known fact that for most publishers, zany authors equal high risk. If something unorthodox doesn’t take to its intended audience (or any audience) there are big loses to be had. Because of that, some things won’t be published or they are published…but in small numbers.

And this had me thinking about the whole writing and reading in a particular category and the old advice to “read widely”. It’s all quite weird. Maybe even contradicting. This occurred to me while I was sitting with my good friend Stinks  - yes, that’s her name and it is what I call her. 
(Her real name is Nadine Caesar and she sings, but like..whatever!)

So basically, Stinks was saying that after having listened to too much current pop music, her lyric writing and perhaps improvisation skills were going out of the window. Pop these days can be catchy and great, but at times it can also be quite lyrically repetitive, something that she felt might be having an effect on her ability to think past a few lines. Bear in mind, she doesn’t even sing pop…
But hey, read widely, listen widely, no?

Which brings me back to books. So you wanna write for a particular audience. Let’s go straight in at YA. You read YA, right? There are some things that simply make YA YA, like the (usually) close point of view, ages of characters and so on. Everything else is your say. But do you write what’s different and possibly risky? Or do you stick to the tropes we’re starting to see rather regularly.

How do you safely break out of a box if to continuously read in one stunts your creativity?

As much as you can read widely, aren’t those books in other cats/genres also considered safe? Where do you go to break the mold? Is it possible to say that someone who doesn’t read YA can produce a more original work from not having been influence by what’s already out there?

Yeah, it’s true, nothing is originally, we know that. But are we inducing unique creativity by reading widely? Or preventing it by allowing our brains to soak up all what’s out there? The stunt affect may have been more obvious in the beginning when you were young and wrote your first plagiarised story (you know the one I’m talking about). Back then it was easier seeing what you were influenced by; the true epitome of writing what you know. But what about now? Where other people’s ideas are thrown in our direction at every opportunity?
On our T.V’s.

Were ideas more original back in the day? One has to wonder… And be a little bit scared. Weirdly enough, the moment of our first plagiarised story was probably the true end of our creativity.
So how far do you feel you’ve come from that? Or is it just that our plagiarising ways have become more sophisticated?

What’s your thoughts?

And in the meant time, check out this video about a man who hacked a banana to play music, which, believe it or not, is heavily linked to this post regarding creativity:

Monday, 24 March 2014

Slowing Down

I hit a snag. A disgusting one. But I’ve been here before.

I remember getting stuck here last time; it lasted a long damn time and it was painful. All of a sudden every step forward was a possible break in a glass pane floor. When you’ve slipped up so bad, like so bad that whole chapters are getting demolished, characters obliterated and whole landscapes changed, moving forward is scary.

It’s scary because in the moment you realise how badly you’ve screwed up, you also feel you’ve wasted a lot of time. But pause. Nothing in writing is a waste of time. As pointed out by my best bud Stinks, it took me years to reach this point with my first story. It’s taken me a year to reach it with this one.

This can only mean I’m learning, though I just wish I could learn an easier way out of this mess! No matter how long it’s taken me to get to this point, it’s no less painful. I mean, it really burns, guys. Sometimes I feel like giving up. Or that everything I’ve written is shit. But I know none of this is true because each day my body struggles to contain its awesomeness…that’s why I sleep so much.
It’s hard being this good. (Don’t judge. I’ve mentioned my delusions already.

Anywho, just thought you should know where I’m at right now, because although I often publish my 6 posts late in the month, this time, I actually have an excuse! :D

Thursday, 20 March 2014


How much is too much?

Your mileage may vary on this one, or as they sometimes say, YMMV. (I learnt this recently!)

But how much is TOO much? 
Well, as it goes, books from way back when were full of it. Go pick one up and you’ll understand. I stay away from these books as they bore me to hell and exposition is my enemy in reading and writing anyway.

But way back when, there was a purpose for so much exposition. The description of a forest could take up a whole page, and why not? Most readers probably hadn’t left their 19th century homes and needed some heavy descriptions to understand just what a forest looked and felt like – even if it was incorrect. Take The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean, written in 1858 by R.M Ballantyne. It was apparently the story that helped inspire Lord of the Flies. But anywho, my point is, not much people in those days had the opportunity to travel the seas and visit new places…including Ballantyne himself.

But that didn’t stop Ballantyne.

He went on to describe coconuts the way he imagined them to be: soft and easily opened. And who were the audience to correct him? They hardly knew much to begin with, but not too long afterwards, well...

Now though, we have so much at our finger tips that not only will readers instantly point out incorrect information, even the right stuff might bore us. Do we really need an in depth description of a rain forest when we have the discovery channel? Or an encyclopaedia? Or even YouTube? Some of us might have even jumped on a plane to go visit and wander through one! One way or the other, we’ve either “seen” one or witnessed something close to it.
Descriptions need not go on forever, a paragraph will do. Perhaps a few words on the type of humidity the characters experience, or the sounds. Maybe a line or two on Foot Rot. Nothing more than half a page because in a way, we’ve sort of been there. Sort of done that.

Pages of description just don’t fly with readers these days. Check out some of the reviews on Moby Dick, it sounds like a painful read in most places…

But what about Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels where the worlds are often made up and completely unknown to us? It’s valid to have some exposition then, isn’t it? Yes. SOME being the keyword here. Again, YMMV, so what’s some to you may be too much for others, and getting the balance right is hard.

So far I’ve put down one novel where too much exposition and back story got in the way. A big event was meant to be happening; people were dying all over the place. I felt there was no time for flashbacks and such. So yes, YMMV on exposition, but the issue may also have to do with timing as well. Infodumping in the middle of a dramatic scene is just not the way to go. And that’s what was happening with the second novel I picked up. The timing! Dialogue was constantly being interrupted by pages of backstory and description that was - admittedly - mighty interesting…just not right now.

Alone, exposition isn’t as much of a killer as it seems. It’s not your enemy. Where you put it, I think, is more important. Get that wrong, and Infodump Landmines can blow your story to pieces.

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