Wednesday 30 May 2012

Is American English Creeping Into Writing by Children ?

Earlier this week Oxford University Press (OUP) revealed the results of their analysis of the 74,074 entries into the Radio 2 (2012) 500 Words Competition, run by the Chris Evans radio show.

Now as a parent whose children are now taking GCSE's, I can confidently say that the way English has been taught in schools has changed quite a bit since they were in the primary classes- emphasis on the preferred reading scheme, regular book reading and spelling tests for words that children were expected to be able to spell by the end of the school year.

So that may explain why one of the results of the OUP's analysis was that; "Children are excellent at spelling the more unusual words (pterodactyl) while there is some confusion over more common words (does and didn’t), and construction of tenses (waked up)."

As lots of adults still have problems with spelling common words (I certainly have a few I always get wrong) and I'm sure we've all heard someone holding a conversation and mixing their tenses up.

 (I think a writer notices these more because the editing side of their brain is always alert to these issues...But not everyone is good at spelling however hard they try.)

And now to the word choices; "American vocabulary (e.g. trash can, sidewalk, candy) featured in the stories especially those written by 10-13 year olds, arguably due to the vogue for US-penned novels such as Twilight and The Hunger Games."

The fact they've ascribed that to books is good in a way, but I think they have ignored another source- children's television programmes. And the 10-13 year olds would have probably had the most long term exposure.

Making high quality children's programmes is expensive, and while there is still some drama based on children's books- Young Dracula for example, generally the number of home-grown productions has declined to be replaced with less costly, bought in programmes from the US - which obviously were made for their own market and would use their own terminology for our bin, pavement and sweets...

This article by the Guardian's education editor, Jeevan Vasagar, also highlights the regional differences in word use, and the differences in writing style between the sexes.
It's well worth reading.

And the really good news is that text-speak is not taking over...

Monday 28 May 2012

Moving Ahead...

And I mean that in many ways.

I've had my postcard acknowledgement back from Woman's Weekly, so I know my short story has arrived and is now in their system. So now I'm going to forget about it, until a yes or no letter arrives.

I'm getting very little quiet to write or even read at the moment, as my sons are taking their GCSE exams and are in and out of the house, or at home revising and relaxing, so my much valued peace during school hours is gone...

I've also got to start packing the remainder of my writing stuff up to put it into boxes ready for the weekend move. The computer will be moving position- as will some of our furniture-into different areas of the living room/dining room.

I'm hoping I can fit a filing cabinet in by the new desk area too, as I have a lot of papers that are currently sat in boxes and not accessible; likewise quite a few of my reference books are packed away and I'd like them on a shelf or at least stacked nearby.

The advantage of the new location means people moving around in the living room won't be close enough to distract me if I'm working, unlike currently.

With the Queen's Jubilee celebrations this weekend, plus the Monday and Tuesday Bank Holiday days it will give us plenty of time to get everything done.

And if that doesn't work and make me more productive, I may have to resort to a shed in the garden...

Friday 25 May 2012

What Published Writers Think About Their Publishers...

A survey was recently undertaken by The Writers Workshop that was only open to professional authors, and on Thursday Harry Bingham posted the results. You can read the piece here.

As a would-be novelist it's interesting to see how the 321 published respondents answered the questions set them.

After all they have agents and publishers already, so they should be relatively happy, right?

Well some don't seem to be when you look at the data closely- look here.

I think most of us know that writing books is not going to make us rich- though if your initials are JKR that won't apply- and any advance you are likely to get has got to go toward supporting you while you write the next book; as it can be quite a while before your latest manuscript reaches the shelves in its novel form, and starts earning back the advance, so you can then start getting royalties...

But £1,000-£5,000 seems to be the going advance rate for many authors- not much once you split it into three to reflect the different stages.

I know from discussions with other writers that marketing is very important if you want to get book sales, especially if you've self-published or have e-books for sale.

So I was quite surprised by the answer to the question on whether the authors were closely consulted on the publisher's marketing plan. 99 of those who answered opted for 'there was no attempt at consultation'.
And those who had consultation were not that impressed either (that's my interpretation).

The good news is that payments were clear and prompt, so that's good news among the less encouraging.

Nicola Morgan of Help! I Need A Publisher! has two valid points to add to the comments.

There are a lot more interesting responses to a variety of questions, so I recommend you take the time to read all the data.

Despite some of the negatives the data highlights, I doubt that many writers would turn down the opportunity to have a well-known publisher supporting them.

We just need to remember that when that happens, it's best to leave the rose-tinted glasses behind...

Monday 21 May 2012

My Short Story has Left Home...

It's been quite a few years since I last submitted a short story to a woman's magazine, so I have to admit to a few last minute jitters before I put the envelope in the post box...

I mentioned a few posts back that the story (I've been working on) was originally created in 2007 and had had quite a few revisions since then.

By last week I was finally happy and left it for a final reading this week, and to check for anything I'd missed.

Plus an objective writer/reader read through it to give me an honest opinion; they highlighted a bit of a dialogue/description issue for a minor character that needed looking at, but otherwise enjoyed it and didn't see any spelling or grammar errors.

I even gave it to one of my sons this morning to ask him what he thought- I don't usually ask family members to read my work- but he's the really creative one on my sons, so wouldn't need explanations of why I'd done such and such in the text. He said it was okay- which is as good a response as it will get...

I had the stamps and envelopes but I wasn't too sure of the final weight, as I didn't want it underpaid I went to the nearest post office and checked- 90g, so it was 10g within the large letter weight and I could use the stamps I'd bought before the late April price rise.
It was only 2,000 words, but a story with 3,000 words could probably be in the next price band.

So it's now on its way to Woman's Weekly.

I know it will now be a long wait, but my previous attempts have all been rejected by three months, even when the quoted time was four months.

I really feel confident about this story, so if it gets rejected, I think it won't be because it's a bad story, or lousy grammar and spelling. And if it is a no, it will then be winging its way to Alfie Dog Ltd, the short story download site, for their consideration.

I'm determined it will find a home.

Now I can get back to my longer projects...

Saturday 19 May 2012

Kate Walker Workshop...

My post is a little late because I've been at the Kate Walker workshop on Writing Romantic Fiction at Nottingham Writers' Club today.

Thanks to everyone who took part, especially those who travelled a long distance to attend, and of course the brilliant, Kate Walker.

I'm not telling you what I said that caused everyone to laugh or smile- I only realised what I'd said after the words had left my mouth- and it wasn't what I'd meant, but that's romance writers for you, quick witted... :-D

I can assure you it was not just a roomful of women either, we also had four men there to learn about, or improve, their romance writing skills.

We started with a few facts about getting romance published in today's markets- the words, marketing is 'cut-throat' was mentioned. And just as with genre fiction generally, the 'who can market you' is important- after all there's no point in producing a book for publication if you can't sell it.

Writing a romance  requires characters, conflict, emotion and the HEA (happy ever after). And we looked at each element in more detail.

I'd never thought about the readers expectations, but thinking about it, it makes sense. A romance wouldn't be satisfying if the two main protagonists could solve their problems easily and without any suffering.

There was even a writing exercise, and we were soon being very creative- the only sound was pens on paper and pages turning.

So here are a few of the snippets I learnt today:

Setting is not just the background, but it can also be the stage that your character has reached in their life.

'Feisty' is a current buzz word...

PTQ- Page Turning Quality. 60% dialogue and 40% narrative.

"Emotions don't have a logical basis, so can't be reasoned away."

If there's a secret involved, write it from the point of view (POV) of the one who doesn't know it, as that makes the most of the emotional impact...

BM and GM- Black Moment and Grey Moment- those points in a novel when things are looking bad, and possibly unrepairable. (I'd not heard these terms before.)

There's a lot more but you'll have to go on one of Kate's workshops to find out more...

And yes, sex did get mentioned briefly- we didn't have enough time to go into detail :-), but the scene must 'work' for you-have a purpose, as sexual intimacy can change everything (between the characters, their circumstances etc). We should also consider the emotional vulnerability of our characters at these times.

I certainly learnt a lot to add to the mass of writing information I've already absorbed.

Many of us bought books and Kate signed them for us. I got her '12 Point Guide to Writing Romance', now on it's Third Edition.

But I must also thank Mills and Boon for providing a freebie book for everyone attending the workshop- Kate signed those too.

And finally...

There's a new term that I must share with you- you've heard of the slush pile (the hard copy type) well there's even a digital pile- manuscripts loaded onto an e-reader for an editor to read- it's 'slush Kindle'...

Wednesday 16 May 2012

A Home for Short Stories...

We were talking about markets this evening during the manuscript meeting at the writers club, and I mentioned the new short story download site Alfie Dog.

It officially launched today, and among the writers who have stories on there are Linda Lewis and blogger Patsy Collins, who have both had lots of stories published in Women's magazines.

You'll find a wide variety of reading from general fiction to humour and many mainstream genres. There are children's stories and teen/young adult fiction too.

There's even a Story of the Week.

If you're a writer with stories looking for a home, even previously published ones, then have a look at the submissions details here.

The site is the brainchild of writer Rosemary Kind, who describes the site as carrying  "a fantastic group of talented writers writing in a wide range of genres. 69 authors, over 170 stories to begin with and more being added every week (we will be over 200 by the end of the month. Available in pdf, epub and mobi formats. Stories to make you laugh, make you cry, make you think. Bedtime stories to read to the kids. It's the place to be for stories."

I'll certainly be sending a story in for consideration, in a few months...

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Wednesday (16th May) Is National Flash Fiction Day...

Wednesday's post is a day early so you will be able to take part in events to celebrate the 1st National Flash Fiction Day.

The National Flash Fiction Day blog has a roundup of events taking place starting early on Wednesday morning. You can find the details here.

There's still time to enter the Flash Flood which will be posting 500 word flash stories from midnight on the 15th/16th May. You'll find the details on the Flash Flood link and you still have all of Tuesday to submit a story.

Meanwhile here's an opportunity in The Guardian online- and David Gaffney explaining the basics of flash fiction- if you're unsure of how to write such a short piece.

If you tweet, you can follow them @nationalflashfd and on Facebook

And here's a piece of mine that I posted some time ago, it won the Nottingham Writers' Club Manuscript of the Year competition in 2007, and appeared in the club magazine 'Scribe' (and preserved for posterity, or as long as the Central Library in Nottingham keeps them- they have copies going back to the early 1930's).

Positive Exposure
                                                                  (by Lola de Cortez)
When the work dried up I knew I had to do something. Who would know it was me doing the voice-over for Squeaky Clean washing-up liquid?
     I made changes, finding a nice cosmetic surgeon in Harley Street; who reminded me of my third husband. I had a face lift; botox and breast enlargement, and it certainly got me noticed.
     I was booked for Parkinson, and then invited to present a BAFTA for the best Make-Up and Hair in a movie. I'd have liked something a bit more prominent, but there's always the Oscars.
     I looked amazing on the night, three inch heels, diamonds at my wrist and ears, complimenting those sweet little gems in my beehive. And the dress...a perfect grey strapless floor length silk. It was such a shame I had to tape myself into it.
     It wasn't that it didn't fit,well it was a teeny bit loose about the chest, but I couldn't let the opportunity go- it was reduced in the sales.
     Double-sided tape was all I needed, strategically placed; I even bronzed my shoulders and cleavage to give me a glow.
     If only that silly young man doing all the talking hadn't stepped on my hem. My dress parted company with my chest, and I was bared to the world.
     The next day the tabloids were covered with my moment of exposure, and I must say I looked good for 62.
     The headline blazed '60's Siren Coming Unstuck', and I've been working every day since.

© Carol Bevitt 2007

Monday 14 May 2012

Busy Week Ahead

As you may have noticed I didn't post anything at the weekend.

I was extra busy as my OH had to take a quick trip up the motorway to see his mum who was ill, so I was holding everything together at home and celebrating most of our 28th Wedding Anniversary by myself.

Though I'm glad to say my mum-in-law is getting better, and my lovely husband did get home Saturday evening with a bunch of Sweetheart roses and a big box of Thorntons Continental chocolates for me. :-)

GCSE exams begin today, so my teenagers are going to be busy for the next month or so...Exam stressed teenagers are probably best not bothered with requests for the return of glasses, plates and assorted cutlery from their rooms (I'm going to be getting plenty of exercise going up and down stairs...).

I'll be organising the final details for Saturday's all day workshop with Mills and Boon author Kate Walker. I'm really looking forward to the workshop, and having met Kate briefly last October at an event, I'm sure everyone attending will enjoy the day and learn from it.

Meanwhile my short story is almost ready for sending out. I've just got to print it out and check for any typos, wrong spelling of similar sounding words, and any missing punctuation, or formatting issues.

I'm happy with the story as it now is, and there's nothing else I can do to it- without ruining it!

So, I'll be back to my normal blogging routine on Wednesday...

Thursday 10 May 2012

A Brief Catch Up and Yoga...

I'm not sure where this week has gone actually, but it's almost Friday again.

I've almost finished the final edit on my short story, now that I've got my formatting sorted out. Some of my new lines didn't indent to where they were set to- no idea why, but it was just one or two lines each on pages 3,4, and 5...

Even stripping all the formatting out of the document and re-doing the settings didn't sort it out- that document has been highlighted more than my hair!

Having asked some writer friends how to solve the problem, both of the suggested solutions were needed to resolve the issue.

It was only recently, when I was reading an article by Sue Moorcroft in Writers Forum magazine about presentation, that I discovered pressing the space bar five times at the beginning of each new paragraph was not a good idea. Apparently it makes extra work for an editor, so I thought I better learn how to set indents properly, and started with my short story.

(As you may have realised I'm still learning how to use the assorted options on Word 2007, so I won't be switching to the 2010 version anytime soon...)

Actually being able to sit down at the computer for a while was quite good, as I'm still aching from the yoga class that I attended on Tuesday. Now I did yoga when I was younger (much much younger) and I knew I was capable of doing the various positions, and admittedly some of them I had no problem with, but sadly the rest were not as successful.

Yes, I'd had one of those 'moments'. My brain still thought I could do it, but my body had decided that a) I'm not 20 years old anymore and b) my body is no longer that flexible...:-)

I'm sure I'll improve with time and practise, as my writing has...

Monday 7 May 2012

Competition to Find UK Romance Writing Talent-Details

Hope you're having a relaxing Bank Holiday Monday (for those in the UK).

Just seen a tweet from Piatkus Entice (a digital-first Romance imprint) about a competition to find new UK authors for their imprint. This is a great opportunity.

They are looking for " novels in three genres: romance/contemporary women's fiction, historical romance and paranormal romance and is open to all writers in the UK, including new writers and also authors who have been previously published as long as they are not under contractual obligation to another publisher."

One winner from each of the three genres to be published as an ebook by Piatkus Entice in 2013.

Closing date is midnight BST on the 30th September. The winners will be announced at the gala Festival of Romance 2012 Awards on Friday 16th November.

The submission must include a completed manuscript, so I won't be able to enter. But if you have something suitable then here's what you need to include.

  • A completed manuscript of 80,000 – 100,000 words which must be double spaced and typed in Times New Roman font, point size 12 and which must be your own original work.
  • A one-page synopsis of the plot.
  • Cover blurb (no more than 200 words).
  • Your biography and photograph.
  • Your contact information including your telephone number and email address.
Full terms and conditions are here.

And best of all submission is both free and by e-mail. But do make sure you follow the instructions, as it would be silly to get excluded because you'd not followed the submission terms they've set out.

Good luck to all who enter...

Saturday 5 May 2012

Good Housekeeping Novel Competition - Latest News

Apparently there's been an announcement on Facebook to say that the winner has been notified, as have the 14 runners-up.

The August issue of Good Housekeeping magazine will feature details of the winning author, and an extract of their entry.

7,000 entries were seen by Orion Books readers, and the judges were apparently impressed by the standards of the writing received.

So if you entered and didn't make the final cut then sympathies- competition was obviously tough.

And if you did get into that final selection, well done.

Of those writers I know who entered, none have heard anything.

So pass the news on...

Friday 4 May 2012

Novelist, Short Story Writer or Both?

Good news on the short story; I've got it down to the 2,000 words I was aiming for. It's now having a 'rest' while I finish sorting out my formatting issues.

When my story finally reaches it's destination I want to ensure that not only is the story good, but it's appearance is right too, so it gives the editor no extra work- if it gets to the accepted point...

The mention of short stories in the interview between bloggers Rosemary Gemmell and Patsy Collins, started me thinking.

Patsy has had a lot of short stories published in Women's Magazines and elsewhere, but has recently seen the publication of her debut novel 'Escape to the Country'- I read it recently and really enjoyed the heart-warming tale which left me smiling by the last page.

When asked about the transition from short-story to novel, Patsy said, " I began a short story that I couldn't seem to end. After a while I stopped trying to keep it short and turned it into a novel."

I can sympathise, that is the problem I have all the time. I come up with an idea that I think is a short story but it quickly becomes clear that it isn't. It's a bigger story with sub plots, more characters and action, that my mind knows is a novel/novella before I've consciously accepted it.

Yes, it's important to be able to write short stories, as they help you learn many of the skills you will later need for writing a novel. I realised that a long time ago.

I started a novel in 1999 and got to 40,000 words, and where I'd originally envisioned the end; but it had become obvious that a) I was only half way through the story- I had a lot of scenes in my head (they're still there too) and b) I needed to learn a lot of writing skills to do it properly.

Some writers are poets, some prose writers, while others can do both. So perhaps there is a similar situation here- some are novelists, others are content to write short stories only, and the rest can do both quite happily.

I'd like to do both, but my creative mind seems reluctant...

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Weather possibilities...

If you are in a dry part of the country/world today, lucky you. As I write the rain is continuing to fall and the wind is blowing. It's been a few very wet weeks where I am, with only the occasional day without the wet stuff dropping from the sky.

Seems if you mention the words 'drought' the dark clouds will arrive just to disagree.

So I thought I'd have a look and see what the weather was like in 1912, 1812 and 1712. Now as I don't have a time machine, I'm consulting the very interesting Agricultural Records A.D. 220-1977, by J.M Stratton (this is the 1978 second edition).

Obviously the cost of  wheat, barley and other commodities played a big part in the economy of the time, so records of prices were useful. In fact look at any microfilm of very old news-sheets and you'll see the price table for those goods that week.

If you lived in the country the weather often dictated plowing, sowing, and harvesting times.

Even nowdays I can look out the kitchen window at incoming clouds and know roughly when it's time to bring the drying washing in from the clothes line...

So 1712- a dry spring, especially during February-to Mid May (so that's different to now). Then hot weather until late June (that sounds normal for the UK summer) and then a wet autumn and winter...
But looking at the couple of years prior to 1712, there are some similarities to UK weather over this past couple of years.

Now 1812 was during the Napoleonic Wars- a wet year, which would obviously effect the eventual harvest badly- so prices would rise.
Apart from the fog in January in London, March had frosts and Scotland had mid-month blizzards (I think that may have happened this year in some areas). Rainy and cool during our two main summer holiday months-July and August. And included with the early winter, London had some October floods.

1912- the year of the Titanic disaster. Gales in January and March with a dry spell in between. April, unlike 2012, was dry. But the overcast and wet summer struck then too. A hot spell was followed by "excessive rain" over the counties in the east. 4 inches in 24 hours. After flooding in a few regions the rest of the year seems to have been standard, apart from a gale in Scotland on Christmas Eve that resulted in injuries.

When I think about it, there could be a number of stories just in some of the weather occurrences mentioned- pursuit through the London fog, someone suddenly homeless on that Scottish Christmas Eve.

So many possibilities just because of how the weather was...