A Good Story Creates an Experience

14 December, 2019 § Leave a comment

A good story creates an experience and puts you in it, living and feeling it as if you were there.

Jerry Cleaver

I wonder how many books you’ve read that you’ve sat alongside and said as you were reading – this is good, or, this is bad. If you’re like me, you either get pulled into a story and carried along with it, or you struggle through for a while trying to find the point when it will grab you and if it doesn’t, you give up and put it aside.

As a writer, we tend to write from within and put those thoughts on the page. Rarely do we write from the readers’ perspective. If we stopped every few sentences and checked our writing from the view of the reader, we’d take forever to finish a book. That’s what rewriting and editing are for – to enhance the readability and engagement of the story.

Next time you sit down to read, take note of what you’re subconsciously thinking as you start a book. Consider what it is about the writing that is keeping you reading. If you’re a writer, take that information and try to emulate it in your own writing. The best teacher of craft is to read good stories and apply what you learn.

Now, go create an experience for your readers.

jerry cleaver quote

Writing Tip: Read Your Work Out Loud

21 September, 2019 § Leave a comment

It seems really naff, awkward, silly to think about reading your writing out loud. After all, unless you are a lyricist or poet, you don’t write with a view to your words being vocalised. But reading aloud works.

reading out loud

As a writer, we really do think we don’t have to read our writing. That once writ, we have created a masterpiece even if only in our own mind. Yet when we write the only next action is for that work to be read, hopefully by many other people.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve picked up a self-published book from Amazon Kindle which was in desperate need of editing. For some of them, a simple read-out-loud process would have made the world of difference to enjoying a book or stumbling through it and giving up. Don’t be that writer.

Before releasing your words into the wild, it pays to verbalise them to yourself. You’ll be surprised how well it facilitates better writing.

When you read your writing out loud, you find

  • words you trip over
    • those rambling sentences
    • the phrases that fail to roll off the tongue no matter how well they seem when written
    • the clumsy constructs of words
    • overuse of repetitive words
  • words you missed out
    • you find yourself speaking words that aren’t written
    • ask yourself ‘should they be in the text?’
  • words you don’t need
    • you find yourself skipping over words that you have written
    • ask yourself ‘are those words redundant?’

Don’t be tempted to think reading in your mind is a substitute. It isn’t. The brain works differently to process the written word when it’s spoken to when it’s silently read. Trust the process and read aloud with your voice!

The advantage is that

  • your work will present better to the final reader and create a better experience for them
  • you’ll decrease the incidence of poor reviews because of fixes that are easily applied now rather than once published (if that’s your aim)
  • you’ll increase your chances of being accepted for any competitions or submissions because these corrections help your work

Reading to yourself doesn’t take long but make sure you have a red pencil at the ready to pick up any edits you need to make.

What really helps is if you have a friend who can sit with you. Give them a printed copy of your piece. As you read they can pick up the skips, the adds, the clumsiness. With a bit of luck, they will also pick up the typos and grammatical errors as well!

If that’s not possible, record yourself reading your writing then listen back as you follow along on a printed copy, making edits as you go. The advantage here is that you can rewind and replay a section to pick up errors or stop at a certain point while you make notes. Most laptops, PCs, mobile phones these days have a voice record and playback facility.

Reading your writing out loud helps you pick up the rhythm of your story. Your ear picks up and responds to sounds that flow. How many times have you been to an author talk when they have read a passage from their book? Has the reading been easy to listen to or stilted? When it’s easy to listen to it’s a pleasurable experience and you engage with the work. When it’s stilted you mentally tune out and become disinterested.

Case in point. I’ve just read this article out loud and made around five edits to make it read better. Let me know if it can be further improved.

Aim for your work to sound pleasant to the ear. Keep editing and revising until the cadence flows. Your future readers will thank you for it.



Elmore Leonard – Writing Tips

23 August, 2019 § Leave a comment

Elmore Leonard was a prolific and successful writer who found late success with crime and mystery. In this gritty production (only 7 minutes) “Dutch” gives some clarity to writers.

This one hit home for me. His characters ‘audition’ in the first 100 pages. He names his characters. In one case, one of his characters appeared but never said a word. He changed that characters name and he “couldn’t shut him up.”

Watch it. There’s more to learn from this legend.

And if you want to learn more from him, try these (poor audio but gems of info).

Video 1 (32 mins) Part 1 of 2

Video 2 (16 mins) Part 2 of 2

“I love the sound of speech.”

That is a terrific tip for writers. Dialogue is king in Leonard’s works. It brings immediacy and reality to his work. Fall in love with the sound of speech and you’ll improve your own writing. Get comfortable writing great diaogue that moves your story forward.


Writing Advice from Anne Rice

16 August, 2019 § Leave a comment

Who’d have thought this delicate woman could write such gothic novels.

From the heart, successful author Anne Rice talks about the craft and art of writing and publishing. 12 minutes of viewing, packed with punchy advice for you as a writer. Here are just a couple of practical gems…

The only way to write is to “kick out the pages everyday“.

The only thing standing between you and realising your dreams as a writer is usually yourself.

Really good viewing – take notes!

Check out her book list – notice the periods of publication. Interview with a Vampire was first published in 1976. Be peristent! http://annerice.com/Bookshelf-AllBooksInOrder.html

If you want to indulge in more Anne Rice writing advice, go with this, even if (like me) you’re not into the gothic genre – there are gems of ideas here. 45 minutes.

Forget all the rules .. and what blocks you. You want to get your work done… do what helps you to get it done.”

Writing Tips & Advice – JK Rowling

9 August, 2019 § Leave a comment

One of our most successful contemporary authors not talking about fantasy.

In this interview post-Harry Potter, Joanne reveals her practice in developing and defining issues in a novel, creating reality, thematic approaches and the grit of real-life turned into written stories.

“Probably everything I write will be about death and morality”.

Take notes.

And, I love her laugh!

Definitely worth a viewing – around 28 minutes.

Writing Tips from Margaret Atwood

29 July, 2019 § Leave a comment

Margaret Atwood has written a broad range of work over 60 years, even though she is now especially famous as the author of The Handmaid’s Tale (based on real events in Cambodia).

She is prolific and thought-provoking in her writing. I first came across her in 1993 when she published The Robber Bride. Atwood has 17 books of poetry, 16 novels, and a plethora of short stories – many with critical acclaim. Want to know how to write? Read and listen to Margaret Atwood.

This beauty takes less than 18 minutes and worth every one.

The young interviewers in this video put professional interviewers to shame with their questions and handling of the process. I could listen to Margaret all day, couldn’t you?

Stephen King – Advice on Writing

22 July, 2019 § Leave a comment

Seven minutes spent listening to the hero of many readers will inform your writing and your practice. Did you know King doesn’t rely on plotting? See how many usable tips you get from this short video…


When you’re done, go check out his book On Writing, even if you’re not a fan of his genre. Learn from the best.

How To Create a Book

7 December, 2018 § Leave a comment

Writing is like any other endeavour if you plan to make a living from it. The most important thing in any business is to make sure you are offerring a product or service that people want and are prepared to pay for. Doesn’t matter whether you’re selling software, a rotary engine or jewellery, that rule applies. It also applies to the business of writing.

Now don’t go all ‘artist’ on me. Yes, you can write from the heart and for many people that is what the creative pursuit of writing is: forming words, phrases and sentences, telling a story that’s inside them, sharing their idea wih the world. In rare cases, the world wants what you write. In most cases they don’t. So, sure write from the heart and follow your passion in writing. My argument though is, if you want to make money from your efforts, then it is a much smarter approach to write what people want to read.

Bryce Courteney was a firm believer in this approach. After leaving the world of Advertising he ventured into the field of fiction writing. He wrote wonderful novels which sold well (and often timed the launch of a book to coincide with Christmas gift-buying season). But before he went in this direction and wrote, he researched what people wanted to read and wrote to order.

Barbara Cartland found a strong evergreen niche of Romance and became one of the most prolific authors in that genre pumping out an astounding number of novels that were read wordwide. She knew the formula that would keep readers interested and wrote to that formula.

Many writers who are prolific follow a similar vein.

Discover Profitable Book Ideas.

So your first objective is to find a book idea which is trending, which has a readership with a hungry appetite for a particular type of book. Romance is always in demand yet there are sometimes specific categories which trend as well such as rural romance. Mystery is another evergreen genre with the ever-popular thriller categories as well as crime. A walk around any bookshop will give you an idea of what is filling shelf space. A chat with the bookstore owner will give you clues on what people are buying. Reading book review sections of the newspaper will keep you up to speed. Best of all, check out the online book stores for their best selling categories. Find a niche that is selling well and read a few books in that genre to get an appreciation for how those stories work. Make sure it is a genre you’d be comfortable writing in for a period of time. Once you have a book idea clear, it’s time to research and write.

Get Your Book Written

Research the story arcs of books in the style you plan to write. How do they typcally start? How many subplots do they usually involve? Is there a similar pattern to the stories written?

Start an outline of your story. Main characters, main settings, main scenes.

Decide if you will write the story yourself or whether you will outsource it. (Believe me, many great popular writers of today have a stable of ghost writers!). If you want to get a book written fast, and you cannot personally write consistently or well just yet, then outsourcing may be the best way to start to buid a back-catalog.

To outsource you need to be clear on what you want your ghost writer to do so clear instructions are necessary. Review some of their work so you’re satisfied with the standard and style of what they write.

Whether you pen the novel yourself or hire a ghost writer, you must set a deadline. Remember, we’re treating this as a business. The more you publish, and the faster you publish, the more likely you are to profit.

While you are waiting for your work to be completed, hire a book cover designer. Unless you have a great eye for graphic design and understand the sizing requirements of the ebook publishers, avoid doing your own cover. You know that a book cover is the first thing someone sees when they look for a book. It has to impress. Go onto Amazon Kindle and look at a lot of the ebook covers being used – there is  a world of difference between a home-made job and a decent designer. Spend a few bucks and get it done. Services like Fiverr.com can get you a reasonable quality book cover made in days. Again, you will need to give them some instructions on the feel and color you are seeking for your book. Check out their past work before hiring.

Publish Your Book

Self-publishing on Amazon is technically doable and relatively easy. You will need to invest a little time in learning the process but Amazon have great guides available to help walk you through and YouTube can be your friend here as well.

Are You Ready To Write?

Many people drawn to writing as a career focus on the writing craft alone. They labour over the right way to write, the fastest way to write, how to write. That’s important but realise it’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg. After writing there’s revising, rewriting, editing, proofing, covers, blurbs, author platforms, publishing, formatting, marketing, signings, talks, and a whole host of other things on the business side of getting your words into readers hands. If you’re not ready for the arduous long-haul, stay a hobby writer and find the pleasure in improving your craft. If you want to be a writer who earns a living from their endeavours, there are profits to be made for those who go about it as a business.

In short, if you want to be a commercial writer making an income from your efforts then focus on where readers are and meet them there. Produce good quality writing with strong storylines and engaging characters. Get it written, if not by yourself then by a contracted writer. Publish it and market it.

the business of writing
Photo : Pixabay

Harry Potter Fanpic Underway

20 May, 2014 § Leave a comment

I love Harry Potter.

Yes, I know they are supposed to be children’s books but that’s the inherent success of the series, isnt it? The fact that the stories and characters have so much broad appeal to readers of many ages.

I was amused to read that a series of fanpic books are in planning starting with a biography of Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter character actor plucked from a cinema to take the starring role.



When you stop to think about it, it’s a great idea to create such a series.

How can you use that idea?

Read More Here.



Finished Your 1st Draft? Next…

4 January, 2014 § Leave a comment

There’s a great warm feeling that rushes through your veins when ‘finish’ your first draft. You type “The End”, print it out, get the satisfaction as you rap all the pages so they are all aligned and you clip it together to …

What comes next?

Lots of work. Lots.

Sadly, if you intend to publish, writing the book is actually the beginning!

You now need to have your work reviewed BEFORE submitting it to a publisher or agent, to see what’s working, what’s not and how to make it better.

Here’s a list of just some of the things you’ll need to cover off before you get it on sale.

  • What are the books strengths and weaknesses?
  • How marketable is it?
  • How solid is your plot, characterisation, pacing, structure?
  • How appropriate is it for your target market?
  • Where are the errors – grammar, mechanics, spelling, style?
  • What method and process will you use to revise the work?

What about proofreading? Sure, you’re careful, but then… grammatical errors, punctuation, capitalization, verb tense, spelling, sentence structure… Get things proofread – there are tons of people who will help you for a fee eg http://bubblecow.net/proofreading/ – or, do it yourself – http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/02/10-proofreading-tips-for-self-publishers-058/

Got a short story that needs critiquing? Know how? Try this – http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/bobtam/website/guidelines_for_writing_a_critiqu.htm

Know how to write a query letter? Research that.  For example – http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx

Know how to write a good synopsis? Look it up. For example – http://www.marissameyer.com/blogtype/6-steps-for-writing-a-book-synopsis/

Want to do your own line editing? Find out how. For example – http://www.deepgenre.com/wordpress/craft/line-editing/

Once you’ve actually written the work, the rubber starts to hit the road. How committed are you to getting it properly prepared for sale or for enjoyment by friends and family without distractions of poor style etc.

If you believe in what you’ve written, isn’t the extra work worthwhile?

How many people will read a 1st draft that collects dust in your drawer?

Don’t be THAT person. Finish the thing! Stay the course and produce your work.




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