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Writing is fun; good writing is phenomenal fun. I am offering the benefit of ten years' experience in which I've managed to get 12 novels published. You can be successful too...


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HOPEFULLY…

Posted on October 10, 2011

There is a distressing tendency (there are many such tendencies, but this one distresses me muchly) to use the word ‘hopefully’ into a sentence, meaning ‘it is to be hoped’. For instance, ‘Hopefully, we will arrive by six tonight’. What that sentence actually says is, ‘We will arrive by six tonight, in a hopeful manner’.

Hopefully is an ADVERB; this is a word that describes an action, that is offers a description of the action implied by the verb. Adverbs usually (but no exclusively) end ‘-ly’; their first part is usually an adjective. Thus ‘hopefully’ is derived from the adjective ‘hopeful’ The suffix ‘-ly’ means ‘in the manner of being’, and the meaning of the word as a whole is ‘in the manner of being hopeful’ or ‘in a hopeful manner’.

Language changes all the time, and English is especially plastic, but

Tags: Misuse of 'hopefully'





SEMI-COLONS

Posted on October 9, 2011

So I would advise you don’t use too many commas in a sentence. Why not use semi-colons? Semi-colons can be used to link sentences or phrases that, by their content or meaning belong together. They are weaker than full stops and, in the mind of the reader, do not induce such an abrupt feeling of change in the course of the text; they are stronger than commas (which should not themselves alter the direction of the narrative to any great degree).

It is rare to read a modern sentence with more than one semi-colon (indeed, it is rare to read a modern-day sentence with even one). If you read Dickens, he was quite prone to write sentences that had two, three, four or even more.

I like semi-colons. They add to the variety of language.

Tags: semi-colons; Dickens; linking sentences; an alternative to commas





PARENTHESES

Posted on October 8, 2011

When a writer puts something in brackets, what is he or she doing?

Effectively, what goes into the parentheses (ie between the brackets) is usually either a comment on the text. or a digression from it. I usually use it to try (not always successfully, it must be admitted) to introduce (one hopes) a witty aside about the action. It is another example of adding some ‘seasoning’ to the writing. Be warned, though, because it can break up the narrative flow, and therefore interrupt the all-important rhythm of the prose. Don’t do it too often (unless one is making a point).

Tags: breaking the rhythm, Parentheses, uses of brackets





HOW LONG SHOULD A STORY BE?

Posted on October 7, 2011

A good question and an impossible one to answer. It should be as long as it needs to be, and no longer, would be the facile answer; trouble is, the writer is often the person least qualified to judge that. I read too many books in which the story has been told and then the author feels the need to write a few more pages about what happens to every major character, so that the story seems to end at least half a dozen times. It engenders a feeling a boredom and detracts from one’s overall enjoyment of the book. It is yet another reason why no single person writes a story; until the story has been read, it is just words on a page, and all but meaningless.

Tags: boredom, Judging how long the story should be





COMMAS

Posted on October 6, 2011

Without commas, a text becomes unreadable because it is tedious and because it will become confused to the point of irrationality. With too many, a text becomes stuttering and without all-important rhythm. A useful rule of thumb is that if you have two commas in a sentence and think you need to add a third, look carefully at removing one of the first two. If you feel you can’t think about converting one to a semi-colon or even colon. More about those in the future.

Tags: Commas





YET MORE PLOTTING

Posted on October 5, 2011

During the course of the protagonist’s journey, he (or she) has to undergo some sort trial; it is this that proves him in the mind of the reader, that allows the reader to accept him as a suitable person in which to invest emotional currency; in short, allows the reader to ‘fall in (possibly heterosexual, possibly homosexual, possibly Platonic) love’ with him (or, as I have already said, her). The trial may be of any kind – emotional, intellectual, physical – and it may involve one or characters, or a situation, an animal, or even a psychological state.

Tags: fall in love with the hero, Plots, trials





CLAUSES

Posted on October 5, 2011

So now we have simple active sentences (subject – ‘does something to’ – object) and simple passive sentences (object – ‘has something done to it by’ – subject). We can begin. Well, yes, we could, but it would be fairly boring (and, remember, it is your duty NOT to be boring . It would have a short, staccato rhythm that didn’t vary, and an important part of being a readable writer is to vary the rhythm according to the mood, to use it as another weapon your arsenal .

The next step to achieve this is to make sentences more complex by the use of phrases. By this I mean to use CLAUSES. A clause is inserted into the simple sentence (usually between commas). There are many different types of clause (relative clauses, noun clauses, comment clauses, conditional clauses, and many others), but in general, you may consider clauses as ways of adding extra information about either the subject, or the verb, or the object of the sentence.

For instance, the basic sentence might be Kate loves Jim; we can then add a clause giving some more information about Jim, such as Kate loves Jim, who is red-headed. Or Kate loves, and has done for many years, Jim.

 

Tags: ALWAYS BE INTERESTING, Clauses, Predicates





PREDICATES

Posted on October 5, 2011

I don’t want to sow confusion, but another way of thinking about simple sentences to think of them as divided into subjects (about whom the sentence is about) and predicates (a description of what happens to the subject). This is important when we get to CLAUSES.

Tags: Predicates





GENRES

Posted on October 3, 2011

Human beings like to classify things, to put them into boxes and label them; that way they feel better about the world, and it gives them the impression that they have some sort of power over it. After all, everyone knows that ‘names are power’.

So stories and novels get put into boxes such as ‘science fiction’, ‘romance’, ‘literary fiction’ or ‘mystery’. Sometimes, modern ones are invented – ‘chic lit’ would be a prominent recent innovation – but, generally speaking, stories are shoe-horned into the same old compartments.

There is a reason for this – it allows publishers to market the book at the target demographic group (and thus maximise return) – but it means that should you write a story that doesn’t fit neatly into one of the accepted classes (the publishing term – and it’s a dirty one – is ‘cross-genre’), then you’re going to have a tough time getting it published.

Tags: cross-genre, literary genres, writing genres





PASSIVE VERBS

Posted on October 3, 2011

You don’t need me to tell you that a passive form of a verb is effectively the opposite of the active form; instead of the verb taking the form of doing, it takes the form of is done to. The consequence of this is that the word order changes and no longer does the subject precede the verb; now it comes after, in contrast to sentences with an active verb .

So what?

It is your job, your duty almost, to make what you write interesting; if you don’t, no one will read it and you’ve wasted your time. A narrative written entirely in the active mode will become boring; occasional use of the passive breaks the monotony. Not too much, though. The passive mode is like proper seasoning of food – too much spoils the food, too little and it is tasteless.

Tags: interest, Passive mode, seasoning the text







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