Tag Archives: how to write

Pantsing or Plotting: What’s Your Poison?

Do you plot your story down to the last detail before you ever pick up a pen, or are you one of those writers who starts writing with barely a clue of where you are going and fly by the seat of your pants?

Click here to check out my thoughts about plotting versus pantsing  on writer Sherry Soule’s blog.


Conflict: How Much Is Enough?

Conflict: how Much Is Enough?
Quite some time ago, Veronica Singleton (@mauied92) asked me if I’d guest blog on a writing-related topic. I agreed, thinking November was such a long way away, and of course, as is nearly always the case, it then rolled around with incredible speed. I’d spent a month frenetically finishing Deathhawk’s Betrayal for submission to Voyager, who were accepting unagented queries for their digital imprint, when suddenly I realised I still needed a topic.

Thus it was that in the space of a few days I had to come up with a topic, write it and send it across. You can find the result, a discussion of conflict in the written story, here

In case you missed it, my short story, A Magical Melody, is available as part of the newly-released Spells: Ten Tales of Magic ebook anthology, available on Amazon and Smashwords.


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Hooking the Reader Effectively: What Is A Hook?

Hook
Hooks. How many times do you hear people ask the question – what’s your hook?

Do you know what your hook is? How many hooks do you have, and how many do you need? Are they in the right places? And for that matter, what the hell is a hook anyway?

For answers to these questions and more, check out my guest post for Sherry Soule (@WriterSherry) here.
Not this kind of hook – although I suppose it might work!

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Editing Software: Pros and Cons

Editing Software


As those of you who read this blog are well aware, I am an avid proponent of writers using editors. Real editors, flesh and blood people, with qualifications and experience in the publishing industry, who can review and edit your work with a human touch and exercise discretion in the way they apply the writing ‘rules’, such as they are, to your work. Editing software is not a replacement for a human editor. 

But that is not to say it doesn’t have its uses, as long as it is used appropriately.

I recently subscribed to the AutoCrit editing wizard, so I’ve had reason to become acquainted with the advantages of the software, and the places where it falls down – and it’s the places where it falls down that mean you still need an editor afterwards. I regard this software as a tool for use during my last set of revisions before the WIP goes to my editor. 

So what is the software good for? I recently did a workshop on the editing process which suggested using extensive checklists for each aspect of the editing process e.g, setting, characterisation, sentence structure, word use etc. I find this a cumbersome process. I can’t possibly remember to look for everything in one checklist on one pass through my manuscript, never mind everything on all the checklists. If I make one pass for each item, I’d be re-reading my 100,000 word WIP forever. 

This approach may be feasible when reviewing a ten page legal document for compliance with a dozen requirements. I don’t find it helpful for editing a 100,000 word fiction novel for dozens of requirements, many of which likely occur on nearly every page. 
I don’t know about 5 minutes… it’s a bit time-consuming!

Even when I do focus on one requirement, such as overuse of words like was, were, there, is, that etc., I miss some. I know I miss some. I know because I find some of them, but not all, on my next pass, and I sit there wondering how I missed them. 

So the CritMe software is helpful in finding some of (but not all) of these issues. It can’t find characterisation problems, plot holes, or setting problems, but it does:

  • Generate a list of overused and redundant words, like was, were, it, there, that, hear, heard, knew, know etc. and give you an indication of how many of each should be removed;
  • Identify use of clichés – and boy was I surprised to realise how many there were;
  • Identify sentence length to help you find where you’ve fallen into a rhythm that might hypnotise your reader to sleep;
  • Identify repetitious use of pronouns to start sentences so you can mix up your sentence openings;
  • Find repeated phrases – this is useful since most authors have a favourite phrase they knowingly repeat, and this can help you find them, even if the instances of repetition are quite far apart;
  • Find instances of repeated words close together – I was surprised to see I’d repeated the same word in sentences or paragraphs and not noticed;
  • Identify sentences starting with conjunctions or ‘ing’ words;
  • Identify overuse of adverbs.
This helps me to fix some of those problems before it goes to the editor. It won’t fix all of these kinds of problems, and there are other problems it won’t help with at all, but it’s a useful tool when I’m trying to weed out these issues.  

However, there are some drawbacks to the software:

  • It can’t distinguish between dialogue and narration, so it will identify words as overused or inappropriate, when they may be completely natural and fine in a dialogue context;
  • It generates a pacing report, but doesn’t explain, only marks the paragraphs it considers has a problem. I have no idea what to do with this information (such as it is) as I can’t identify the specific issue. This one I’ll leave to my editor;
  • It doesn’t distinguish between unintentional repetition and deliberate repetition to create more impact;
  • It doesn’t suggest alternatives, where an editor often will;
  • It applies rules rigidly, and can’t assess the actual impact on a human reader – only the likely impact based on its rules, which isn’t always accurate.

So while I would recommend this kind of software as a tool to help you in your final revisions, to help you weed out some of these problems, I would strongly urge you not to consider this a replacement for your editor. It’s not. It can’t exercise the discretion and judgement of your editor, and it can’t offer the advice of your editor. It’s a tool only; a kind of complicated checklist to help your limited human eye spot patterns and problems you might otherwise not discern in your own work. 

By all means, make good use of editing software; but make sure it’s good use, and use with caution. 


If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

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POV Rules: To Break or Not To Break

POV Rules
A little while ago, I did a post on POV (point of view) on my other blog, Flight of the Dragon, which was fairly well received. As a result of that post, Laura Howard has asked me to do a guest post on her blog.

You can find my guest post, POV: Playing by the Rules, here. It expands on my original post by considering what a rule is and why it is important, touching on the most important POV rules, and then discussing when – and how – it might be appropriate to break the rules.

Please do stop by and comment!