You Will Always Be Creative

WRITERS' RUMPUS

This post really resonates with me this month, so I’m sharing it again.

Recently, an old friend wrote to say that he feared his days as a writer were nearly done. It wasn’t only that for the first time in many years he was not participating in NaNoWriMo. Reflecting over the year that was ending, he realized that “Other than a few short stories, this has been a year without writing.” He’d done some blogging, plus editing and compiling of past work, but compared with previous years, this one was unproductive. He wrote, “I know for most writers there’s a point when you shut down and you stop writing. I have so much more I want to accomplish. I wonder if the shutdown is in progress, and how much time I have.”

I realized that others might want–or need–to read my response to his fears. So here it is…

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Commonly Confused Commas

WRITERS' RUMPUS

Writers of all ages struggle with proper comma usage. As a writer myself, I agree that plot, characters, and word choice are infinitely more important than grammar. But if those elements form the layers of a cake, grammar forms the frosting.

unnamed-5Consider for a moment that your manuscript has all those qualities and more, but commas are placed without rhyme or reason. Will publishers be inclined to interpret and decode your submission? If your work is especially compelling, perhaps. But in most cases, no. So crack your knuckles and roll up your sleeves. Let’s review ten useful comma rules using examples from some of my favorite books.

RULE #1:

Coordinating conjunctions are the FANBOYS of grammar: FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR, YET, and SO. When they connect two complete sentences (independent clauses) into a single sentence, insert a comma before the FANBOYS.

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From Holes, by Louis Sachar (p.95): It had been three days since the laundry was…

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Mars Mission: Danny Chaucer’s Flying Saucer 3

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Kindle edition published on Amazon 14th December

‘No-one really likes their kids being dragged off to alien worlds by mega-intelligent super-computers in galactically advanced flying saucers. Especially if they’re late home for tea.’

Danny Chaucer leaves his house one morning expecting a nice normal day out with his friends Nat and Sandy, not to mention BOB the hyper-intelligent but annoyingly smug cockney computer. (If you can call a trip on a flying saucer a normal day out, that is.)

But things quickly take a turn for the worse. For a start, why is creepy Captain Frost plotting with oily bully Chad Wilson? Of course Frosty-knickers is still after the saucer – but what exactly is her plan? And is Sandy up to something as well?

Then before long DISC’s crew are racing across the solar system on a stupidly dangerous mission. What with killer radiation, poisonous air, a monster dust-storm, a slightly depressed Martian rover and an unexpectedly troublesome hologram, it soon becomes clear that being late home for tea could be the least of Danny’s problems …

The third book in the Danny Chaucer’s Flying Saucer series is available now as a Kindle edition from Amazon (links: UK / US) and coming soon (January 2017) in paperback/ hardback.

9 Things That Cost Your Book 5 Stars – Guest Blog Post By An Amazon Top Reviewer

Useful advice here, a lot of which boils down to the usual importance of editing and proofreading (but no less worth repeating for that) along with some good points about characters and characterisation.

The editor who critiqued my first novel, Falling Girl, urged me to drop a couple of the ‘spare’ characters, and although that seemed drastic at the time it was definitely the right thing to do. Now I always look critically at all my characters, asking questions like: what are they doing in this book? What’s interesting or distinctive about them, and how does that come out in different parts of the story? (Remembering to ‘show’ more and ‘tell’ less wherever possible.) And are they even needed? If I like them that much, I can try to find a home for them in another story …

Revision: Making a Mess Less Complicated

Useful advice here. My own approach is to kind of mix things up a bit more than this, but all these elements do need attention and it can be helpful to break down the process in this or a similar way. The important things is to find an approach that works best for you, and that may vary from book to book (it has for me at least).

A Writer's Path

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by S.E. Jones

There’s a lot you can fix in a first draft. It’s why they’re first drafts. You can focus on character, world building, plot, inner cohesion, the writing, the flow, the pacing–the list goes on and on.

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How to Handle Writer Jealousy

Good, helpful post. I have to admit to feeling jealous at times. Not so much of more successful and talented writers than myself, mind you. For example, I’m envious of Frances Hardinge for winning the Costa Prize for The Lie Tree last year – but having read the book, I also have to admit she’s a seriously good writer, the kind of author in fact that I need to read more of to help improve my own craft, and the book fully deserves the accolades and attendant sales it has earnt.

No, I’m more jealous of the ‘celebrity’ authors, those people famous for something completely different but who decided to write a book (often a children’s book) for the hell of it, and of course land a publishing contract right away simply because of who they are, not because – OK I’ll stop there because I could rant a lot longer but I won’t. Suffice to say – what can I learn from this type of ‘celebrity’ author?

The chances are they aren’t any more talented at writing than I am, and most often probably less so. (I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant, but we all know how much time and effort it takes to become a better writer, and most of these celebrities simply haven’t put in that hard graft – they don’t need to.) My conclusion is that I simply have to try to ignore them. They are a fact of the publishing world and probably always will be., and it doesn’t affect my own chances or goals in the slightest – unless I let it by allowing it to discourage me.

It also depends how I measure ‘success’. Is it sales and money, or is it the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from writing and doing the best you can?

A Writer's Path

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by Kate M. Colby

We’ve all been there.

Your classmate’s story is praised in workshop, while yours is torn apart.

“Poorly written” romances dominate best-seller lists, while your science fiction novel languishes in Amazon’s 2,000,000 ranking spot.

The author you follow on Instagram posts their third cover reveal this year, while you struggle to finish your manuscript.

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Full Moons Can’t Rise at Midnight

Great article. The Bad Astronomy link is especially helpful if you happen to be writing a sci-fi series for kids …

WRITERS' RUMPUS

By Marianne Knowles

I was reading a YA romance novel set on the coast of Maine. The teen girl woke up at 5am on July 4 to sneak out and meet the guy at a dock. She described the diamond-like stars sparkling in an inky-dark sky.

BANG-THUNK-KLUNK (Sounds of a reader tripping over a detail.)

MaineNight This is how the character described 5am in Maine on July 4.

This is what 5am on July 4 on the coast of Maine really looks like. This is what 5am in Maine on July 4 really looks like.

Clearly the writer or the editor or both had never been awake at 5 o’clock on a July morning on the coast of Maine. But that’s no excuse for an error that jolts a reader out of the story, especially when astronomy mistakes are SO EASY TO AVOID.

And this isn’t the only astronomy mistake I’ve read in the past couple of years. Here are a few more:[1]

  • The full…

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