My Writing Improvement Plan

For this year, I intend to do some professional development for my writing.  I know I can write articles, references and reports without any problem, but the rest is simply what comes out of my head.

Good communication skills are what many of us are lacking I think.  I am well at the top of the list for needing more help with this.   I much prefer speaking to someone on the phone, as a preference to texting or e-mails for many projects as the written word can so easily be misinterpreted.

Grammar

I think a refresher grammar course would do me a LOT of good.  I’m not fond of the Internet Grammar Police who criticise and ridicule those who make small mistakes online, but I try to make mine as good as I can, as often as I can when I am not working.  I do spend far more time on it when I am working, but it would be nice to have grammatically correct terms come naturally.

Punctuation

This is where I really seem to have fallen down recently.  I seem to have forgotten many of the main rules.  I know it looks bad when we use punctuation in the wrong way, so a refresher for punctuation is also on the cards.   People make their decisions about us by reading how we write, so it’s important to show professionally edited content.

Writing Skills

We can all do with improving our skills, no matter how good we think we are.   Keeping on writing, even when we think it’s rubbish is the best way to go and work on the mechanics of it as we go.  Who knows for sure?  I’m sure I don’t.

“Time Goes By” 100 Word Challenge For Grown-Ups – 28

Flash Fiction – My entry for 100 little word challenge for grown ups.  The prompt is Alas poor Yorick. 

Time Goes By

While fluffy coats and warm breath abound, our legs stretch out in dreams gone by, chasing rabbits, running and jumping, memories still alive, while cycling paws slice the air.  Remember the days where our dreams come to heal, closed eyes, twitching nose and ears up high.  A decade of love, that we’ll never forget, swimming, playing, and chasing our tails.  In twilight years, our hearts are still willing, but alas poor Yorick, your nose to the ground, waiting, willing for dreams to become real.   A moment in time, when our turn comes around, we’ll cross the rainbow bridge, together, forever.

100 Word Challenge

What Should I Avoid As A First Time Novelist?

This is close to my heart as I am editing for myself at the moment, and that seems to be much harder than editing work that is done to a brief I’ve been given.

Finding the time to devote to editing isn’t always easy, but I’ve promised myself that by the kids summer holidays, I will be ready for an editor and beta readers to find out if it’s worth taking any further.  I’ve several drafts, but only one that I am devoting the time to editing as I suspect the others are really just fit for the trash can.

I’m trying to edit with the following in mind.  There seems to be so much advice for first time novelists, that it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I seem to have settled on this as a very short list of things NOT to do.

  1. Not to expect to get published or to make a fortune, or even ANY money from a first publication.
  2. Find a GOOD title.
  3. Think of a book as a brand and not just a book.
  4. Keep characters to a minimum as it strengthens the story.
  5. Keep the story going forward and not “jumping chronology,” or moving to and from in whichever day, scene, timescale the story is set in.   Write it in any order I feel like, but it must read as if it’s flowing, and not jumping backwards and forwards.  I find that style of writing easier to follow.
  6. Don’t write about eating food.
  7. Said isn’t the worst word in the world, it’s how we use it.
  8. Don’t use general words like, fine, good, ok.  Instead – describe why they are good, fine and ok.

Editing is likely to take a long time…..

Feel free to add any more biggies I should be taking notice of.

“Burns Nicht” (Doric Poem for Robert Burns “Burns Night”)

This is a poem I wrote one night when I was bored a few years ago.  It was close to Burns Night and I just started doodling away and this was the end result.  Enjoy.

Hive ye iver wonnered fit thon Burns Nicht wis a aboot, an fit they did.  Read oan fir hoo them that likes tae celebrate Rabbie Burns birthday wi a supper dae it.

Eence mair comes roon the 25th, the birthday o the baird
Fir Rabbie’s supper eence agin, the tartan clamored laird
A ower the warld, folk gaither wi freens, an beat thon Selkirk grace
Tae celebrate a man o words, a poet fu o grace

We start wi soup, an hud oor weesht, afor mair grub is seen
The chunter soonds the warning, thit the haggis is oan its wye
An oan a platter, fit fir a king, the beast is piped oan in
Tae an address, an pomp worthwhile, is slit frae end tae end

Wi neeps n tatties, the dish doled oot, an a dram o whiskey rare
We’ll hae a toast, tae the Queen, an then’s oor Rabbies turn
Mair thanks tae a, fa did the wirk, tae mak a crackin nicht
An then them lads and lasses joke, wi jibes tae ane an a

An efter a them tales are ower, the dancin micht begin
Or mebbe jist a tale or twa, lik Tam o Shanter playin
An fan its ower we’ll a gie thanks, and link oor airms a hither
Tae pay respects an sing a roon o Auld Lang Syne thigither

Author:  Lesley S Smith

 

“Freedom of Speech Online”

We have the right to freedom of speech don’t we?  Surely we do.  If we do have the right to freedom of speech or to be uncensored, why is there always such a furore over celebrities musings.

Sally Bercow had to pay out a fortune for muttering two words that insinuated something else.  Peaches Geldof is being investigated for naming the two women that conspired to rape their own children for the gratification of a celebrity monster, and I do think we’ve got it wrong.

My hierarchy of awareness of what we are allowed and not allowed to say.

  • At the top, there is the law.
  • To the left, there is the government and politics.
  • To the right, there are the wealthy, righteous and indignant.
  • At the bottom, there are the rest of the population.

Ridiculous law censorship.

Our Government and Lawmakers make some damned silly laws.

One week it was ok to have the name of a 15-year-old girl who ran away with a teacher splashed over all the newspapers and TV.

The next week she was found –  and nobody – was ever allowed to utter her name in public again.

Only someone forgot to tell the people, those at the bottom; that they’re not allowed to talk about her any more.  Does the law think they’re psychic?  I didn’t mention her name, but I could quite easily have done so at the time.

Now, if people are getting sued for naming the names of people they don’t know they are not allowed to name, shouldn’t they be allowed to sue the lawmakers or the government for not ensuring that they were educated in the law to start with?  The government of course can’t prove that those people actually knew the law existed in the first place.

Libel and defamation of character.

This is just more censorship of things we’re not allowed to say or write about other people.   Only a huge part of the population does not know what is ok and what isn’t.

I’ve watched Parliament in session and the way they speak to each other would have them hauled up in front of disciplinary panels and/or sacked for being downright bullies in most hard-hitting industries.  The way they use personal insults on each other is actually head-splitting, but someone saying similar in a supermarket about a fellow cashier would be working their way through a very busy HR department.  It seems our government relaxes those rules with each other and are just sheer nasty in the name of politics.

It’s just that the rest of us are not allowed to do the same.

The Internet rules.

So many people are pushing back on censorship of the Internet.  It has grown into a wonderful place for many, but it is also a dangerous and damaging place for many more.

I don’t agree with Cameron much, but I do agree with controls over the content online.   I don’t think he’s even scraped the surface with what Microsoft and Google have done, but it’s a start.  And from small acorns, grow….

I do worry about why people find it so worrying that there might be censorship online.  It wouldn’t be any different to what we have to live by day-to-day.

Does freedom of speech exist?

Why DO so many people keep banging on about our right to freedom of speech?

We do NOT have the right of freedom of speech.

It DOES NOT exist.

If it did exist, there would be no rules or laws around libel, defamation, racism, sexism, ageism and many more.

Every time I hear the term “freedom of speech” the hair goes up on the back of my neck and I lose all respect for whoever has uttered those truly drivel laden 3 words.

 

Writing “Show versus Tell”

I spent a fair while trying to figure out the show v tell debate.

I’d seen it online so many times that I had no idea what it actually meant.   I needed to understand that I wanted a reader to create a more comprehensive picture in their mind than simply giving them some words to explain what I was trying to tell them.  The picture the reader creates could be entirely different for each person and gives them the opportunity to really “see” what I tried to describe.

My dilemma is:  Do I mean to show them what I actually want them to think or tell them what I want to show them.  I think I have it right in my head now and split apart but even then, I sometimes still think I have it wrong.  Perhaps I do, but maybe some of you actually know what it means better than I do.

I suspect using descriptors that include more than just the sense of sight is the trick here and being able to describe the small, taste and ambiance while still being able to really “see” it and identify it in a picture in our heads would also help.

Here are a couple of examples of how I am understanding it.  Feel free to correct me if I have it slightly (or massively) wrong.

Show 1

“Holding the urn of ashes in his arms like a new-born baby, the sound of desperate crying in the distance sent shivers down the back of his neck.”

Tell 1

“He held the urn of ashes in his arms when he heard the faint sound of crying that scared him.”

I know the first version sounds better to me.

Show 2

“Confidently wearing her favourite floor length crimson red designer dress with a deep v neckline, Elana smiled brightly while flicking back the stray strands of long baby blonde curls that swooped across her glistening deep sapphire coloured eyes while she turned her head at the sound of infectious laughter.

Tell 2

“She was wearing a long crimson red designer dress with a v line.  Elana was smiling when she pushed back strands of her long curly baby blonde hair that fell across her blue eyes and then she turned her head after hearing laughing.”

Is this too simplistic?  Feel free to correct me.

 

 

5 Myths About Writing

Writing myths are as common as grains of rice.

I think the one thing that any of us who write tend to come across is the person standing in front of us and telling us what we should or shouldn’t do at all.  We’ve all got our own opinions on these, and they can change depending on who is doing the writing (or listening.)

Lets look at a few of the ones I’ve heard:

1 – Don’t use the word “SAID”

“Hey ho,” said the doctor…   Why are people so against this?  Yes, I know there are other words that can be used to change the terms and whack up the boring repeated terms, but some writers seem to be making it their life work to obliterate that poor little 4 letter word completely.

2 – You have to be trained to be a writer.

Most of us write, type or talk into speech recognition packages at some point of nearly every day.  E-mails, texts, notes, messages, Facebook, Twitter and more.  The online platforms for writing seem to increase exponentially year on year, so almost all of us know how to write.  The  more someone writes, the more they learn and the more they learn, the more they can share with others.  There are different skills that people can learn to increase the success of their writing and we all learn as we go, but how exciting is that journey of words?

3 – Writers Block is the END of a writer’s career.

Even we bloggers suffer from this.  We sit down and try to think of something to write as a blog post.  Nothing jumps out at us and we sit and look, and think, and look again.  For most of us, it doesn’t last for long, but it can last for long enough to have us worried from time to time.   It’s important to just keep writing something as opposed to nothing and perhaps do something different for a while and go back to it later.  It’s not an excuse to throw a childish strop and announce that we’re never going to write again.

4 – Always edit as you go along.

Why, why, why.  That’s ok for a short article or story, but if you write anything that has length and depth, doing the editing as you go can stop the story from evolving the way you planned.  I used to edit as I went and then I found Nanowrimo.  It was a good lesson to learn about writing and stopped me from editing and sentence correction that sucked the time out of writing that all important first draft.

5- Big words make your work look more intelligent.

Unless you’re writing for a specific group of people or for technical language based at professionals (think medical jargon for doctors) then throwing in lots of big words that few people understand is not going to make you popular.  We all know people who talk as if they’ve swallowed a dictionary, but real life just isn’t like that.

Big words aren’t necessarily wrong, nor uncalled for, but use them wisely and don’t add them just to make the reader think you’re clever.