Thursday, 31 July 2008

Writing Mistakes That Annoy Readers

At the risk of being repetitive here is another link to Nathan's blog, You Tell Me: What Are Your Pet Peeves as a Reader? where he asks his readers what they hate most in books.

It is well worth reading the comments section, just as a reminder on some of the mistakes that are made by well known authors, let alone novices. Keep in mind through, these are pet peeves and won't necessarily alienate readers. I'm certainly guilty of some of them, but not to the extent (I hope) that would irritate any of Nathan's blog readers if they read my partially completed manuscript.

Whoo Hoo!

I've just been told my books have arrived today.

I can't wait to get stuck in to The Prefect :-)

And I've got The Ghost Brigades to look forward to.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Clichés in Query Letters

Well worth checking out is Nathan Bransford's post on Stock Phrases. It all stems from his post on Can I Get a Ruling?: "Coming of Age" and Dead Clichés, and how these need to be whittled out of queries wherever possible to avoid rejection.

Nathan goes on to point out that he wouldn't reject a query on those grounds alone, but that's not to say others wouldn't if it were their pet peeve. However, the main point of the post is to ensure authors write their queries (and their books) with as much originality as possible.

Well worth reading, as usual, especially if you are getting to the stage where you are ready to query agents right now.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Reading to be a Better Writer

I've read rather a lot of books lately to help with Bishop's Move (WIP).


A lot of writing advice centres on reading loads, and writing loads. It made a lot of sense to me, and I made sure I read plenty of books out of genre too. However, the books I read out of my usual genre, whilst they have broadened my horizons, didn't help me as much as the books that fell within the genre that I want to write in. I think that I need to read maybe 5 books in my genre and 1 book out of genre. Seems like a good ratio to me anyway!

The books that really helped me to kick things off, and these were the first books I read in genre for quite a while, were Jeff Somers' The Electric Church and The Digital Plague. Excellent books. I picked these up as they had a strong religious element. (Nothing like Phillip Pullman's books.) no, these were where a cult had a very strong, menacing influence, and in Bishop's Move there is a strong religious movement, that gains momentum through the 3 book series I have planned.

Then I picked Stealing Light by Gary Gibson, simply because I fancied it and because it is Space Opera, and I haven't read Space Opera for ages.

Next up was another fancied Space Opera in Old Man's War by John Scalzi. He's a new(ish) author and one who has made a quite few waves with his books so far. It was inevitable I would read them at some point, and they had been on my radar for quite a while, so it was a book that I wanted to read sooner rather than later.

Finally, the last book I picked up was Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet - Dauntless. I wanted this because I have a few space battle scenes and it seemed logical to read some Military Science Fiction. It certainly helped and I certainly enjoyed it.

Next (still waiting for this one) is The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds. I've been putting off buying this for a while because it has been described as a detective novel in space. Not my kind of thing, and because it is Hard Sci-Fi. Now, I kinda enjoyed the Red Mars and Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, but some of the similes he used made me go 'ugh' and 20 pages of rock collecting? That was a bit too much, although I will read Blue Mars just for completion's sake.

Hopefully, The Prefect will come soon. I'm looking forward to it for loads of reasons.

1. Alastair Reynolds is Welsh - yeah I know that's kinda childish, but hey, who cares?
2. The detective stuff should help me with parts of Bishop's Move because my protagonist has to do quite a bit of detective work himself.
3. I get all excited when I buy a book (yeah I know that's kinda childish too, but it makes me happy!) especially when it's a book that's going to give me something to noticeably help me with my own writing.

On the radar for me at the moment is John Scalzi's follow up Old Man's War - Ghost Brigades. Year of the Hyenas: A Novel of Murder in Ancient Egypt by Brad Geagley, and if I like that, Day of the False King: A Novel of Murder in Babylon. Also, Troy: Shield of Thunder and Troy: Fall of Kings by David Gemmell.

I love anything to do with the Ancient Greeks and the Trojan War, and I have an ulterior motive for reading the 2 books by Brad Geagley because Nathan Bransford is his agent. Apparently it’s quite a good idea to read books that have been represented by a prospective agent to get a feel on whether to query them or not.

You’ll notice there is a lot of Historical Fiction in there. One of the benefits of reading out of genre is discovering new genres that you enjoy, and Historical Fiction is definitely a genre that I thoroughly enjoy.

So, these are the books I've enjoyed recently, what have you enjoyed?

Anyone care to comment on what books have helped them with their writing, and why?

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Monday Morning Write-up

Word count this weekend = 0

Things achieved this weekend = 0

A bummer of weekend by all accounts! Admittedly there was some real world stuff in there like work, but that's no excuse.

Better luck this week :-)

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Writing With Emotion

How is this done?

I've had an emotionally stressful few days, and writing during this period for me was impossible. I believe I can use the feelings and memories of these emotions to write better, but damn, I can't write when I am stressed.

Is there anyone who can?

Is there anyone here able to block out real life totally and just get on with it?

Saturday, 26 July 2008

What Happened to Fridayitis?


I forgot. I was in a bit of a rush on Wednesday and I totally forgot to post it.

Sorry. Instead here is a sort of half a Fridayitis - it's Nathan's publishing news roundup, and as ever, it's good stuff to boot.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Writing a Synopsis

What is it about The Dreaded Synopsis that so many writers have a problem with?

I've not had to write one yet, and if I wrote one now I don't think I would be under the same pressure as if I were to write one for an agent/editor when submitting a novel.

I see lots of posts by agents simply stating that we are professional writers, and there shouldn't be a problem writing a synopsis, and yet so many of us have a problem with this.

Thankfully it'll be quite some time before I need to write a synopsis myself and hopefully it will be a breeze. LOL I'm a dreamer!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Story So Far...

This week, as regular blog readers will know, I've managed to complete Chapter 12.

I'm happy with that because the last few chapters have really picked up the pace, and with the next few chapters, I intend to pick up the pace even more. I've very nearly completed the rewrite of Chapter 5 using MRUs. In fact, by the time this auto posts I should well into the Chapter 6 rewrite.

I am off today and tomorrow, so after I’ve done real world stuff I am hoping that I will spend tomorrow (Friday) bringing Chapter 13 kicking, and screaming into life.

Though I'm not superstitious myself, does anyone else have problems with writing Chapter 13? My chapter 13, at least the way I've outlined it anyway, is straightforward plot wise. So, at this stage I don't foresee any issues.

Perhaps we'll see on come the Monday Morning/Afternoon Write-up...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Blogging Problems

Had a few problems with the side bar today. The Publishing Blogs section didn't have the last post info, and wouldn't load any blogs when clicked.

Easy enough to sort out though, I changed the settings, then saved it, and then I changed the settings back and saved it again.

If anyone reading this has their own blog with the same problem, hopefully the above sequence will fix it.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

More mistakes!

On Friday, Agent Kristin posted her most recent article on Beginning Writer Mistake (Take 4). This one is about info dumps, and how they can sneak in without the author realising it.

Well worth reading.

Unfortunately, it also looks like the last instalment of this impromptu series, for the moment. As for my line edits last night, there weren't nearly as many mistakes as I thought there would be. I had a feeling that I may have overused a couple of words, and I felt I was repetitively explaining the technology involved. When I went back over it, I hadn’t used the words quite as often as I had thought, and the explanations were appropriate.

I think I felt I had made the mistakes simply because of my closeness to the project, and because I had been writing that particular sequence for what seemed like ages.

It's good to take a step back sometimes and try to look over what you've written in the same way as a critique partner would.

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Monday Afternoon Write-up

We lost the Monday Morning Write-up last week to Not the Most Productive of Days.

Fortunately, this weekend was much better in terms of productivity.

I finally finished Chapter 12, although there are a few tiny edits I want to do this evening, and I'm about halfway through Chapter 5 rewrite using MRUs.

Oh, and I finished Old Man's War by John Scalzi, which has now moved into my Last Good Read section

Good stuff all in all :-)

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Some Good Links...

SF Novelists is well worth a read. (Its one of the links I've added to the Author Blogs sidebar recently).

Recent posts of note include: Write Every Day, Write in spurts and Not Writing, which are posts on how Diana Pharaoh Francis, Simon Haynes and Kate Elliott hone their writing skills. How writing works for them and how they overcome writers block.

Whilst we are on that note Holly Lisle has written two articles on the subject on her Forward Motion website. These articles are also well worth reading.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Chapter Length

Ok so what is the correct chapter length?

I've being trying to keep my chapters between 2000 - 3000 words in length. Some chapters have come in just under this, and some have slipped over.

Regular blog readers will know I've just finished Stealing Light by Gary Gibson, a book I really enjoyed. In Stealing light, Gibson's chapter length varies quite considerably. I don't have any word counts but there is one very short chapter which is just two pages in length. That puts it at about 500+ words assuming 250 words per page, and tet, another chapter was easily about a tenth of the book.

Gibson's longer chapters dealt with major events, and his shorter chapters were just small, but important scenes.

What does this tell those of us (like me) who agonise of the correct length of a chapter?

A chapter needs only be long enough or short enough to deal with the part of the story it conveys. A chapter is after all a collection of related scenes, and the length of the chapter is completely arbitrary. The best part of all this is that it is completely up to us, as the authors of the work, how long a scene or a chapter is. Yay!

There are some excellent articles on scene creation on the Web but the I find most useful are Holly Lisle's and Randy Ingermanson's.

Any thoughts on this? How long are your chapters?

Friday, 18 July 2008


First some sad news: Publishing News will publish its final issue on 25 July.

Nathan Bransford is all excited, and has just posted the mini-review of his new Kindle.

BookEnds, LLC gets in on the act with Out of Control Clients and the continuing rumblings about Moonrat's experience with a boorish author. Also on BookEnds Jessica reveals How Much to Tell when querying agents.

Agent Kristin's blog has been covering a few Beginning Writer Mistakes that she's stumbled upon recently, and Titles: Another Writer Mistake?

Continuing on the mistakes front: Rachelle Gardner on Rants and Ramblings has listed the mistakes Making it Easy to Say No.

And finally, The Rejecter has been fairly quiet of late so I thought I would mention her most recent post Amazon Rankings and Ice Fishing, which covers author obsession with Amazon's ranking system.

Have a Great Weekend!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Finally Some Work Done

But not much...

I made some small, but significant progress with Chapter 12 last night.

I had about an hour spare, and I managed get some plot points moving along in the right direction. I'm quite pleased actually, because I have sowed the first seeds of doubt between my protagonist and a stranger he has met.

There's still a whole lot more work to do on this chapter, but I'm pretty confident it will be finished this week. Yay!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Not the Most Productive of Days # No 2

It doesn't look like I'm going to have much time to write this week.

So far, it's been a washout and it's a shame as I've been champing at the bit.

I've hit upon a few ideas while at work which I want to get in motion, and I've noted them down, so I don’t forget, but I'm just not getting that wedge of time I need to get into my flow.

I may get some time tonight but then again I may not. I've stuff to do in the real world and it has to take precedence.

If I don't get the time though I am most definitely going to make it available on Thursday and Friday, and I have the weekend off.

So here's hoping Chapter 12 will be finished this week.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Cool List of Blogs

Last night, on SF Signal, I came across a list of SF and Fantasy authors who blog.
I've added it to the sidebar along with a few choice links from the site.

Conference Season

It's well and truly conference time in the US and Randy Ingermanson is running a Q&A session on his blog, about pitching.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Not the Most Productive of Days

Well yesterday wasn't as productive as I'd hoped.

I was hoping to finish off Chapter 12 of my novel, which incidentally has the working title of Bishop's Move, but I didn't. I did however, resolve a problem with that particular chapter. Yay!

I have two important conversations, along with a dogfight (the dogfight slipped it's way in unintentionally), and I felt the pacing was a bit up and down. What I had previously was battle, then a conversation - interrupted by a dogfight, followed by another conversation. Initially, I had the conversations in different order (in fact, I had just the one conversation), but I wanted a little banter, and some cat and mouse, in the first conversation, and it helped somewhat if the 2nd conversation took place first.

The first solution then, was to swap them chronologically, but this did not resolve the pacing issue. To resolve the pacing issue, I have initiated the two conversations simultaneously, with one of the conversations finishing quite early in the scene, and the dogfight, between the protagonist and antagonist, starting in the middle of the conversation.

This keeps the scene pretty hectic but with the sort of pace I am looking for, and then a nice chill-out sequel before things kick off again. Here's hoping this chapter will be finished in the next few days after work

Now, a question for the (few) readers that I have, what sort of problems have you faced with scenes, and how have you resolved them?

Please use the comments section.

Don’t be shy! :-)

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Finished Stealing Light

I finished Stealing Light by Gary Gibson yesterday. Yay! Very highly recommended.

As an aspiring author, I felt there were places it could have been better crafted. The book was written in 3rd person with several viewpoint characters, and on the whole it was very well written.

There was only one occasion when I had to double check whose head I was in, and at times it slipped into omniscient narration to describe epic events (although this was handled very well with a change of scene).

The only change I would have made would be to the last scene, which I would have left out. I thought if the ending had been left on the previous scene it would have been more powerful, but hey I'm just an aspiring author and Gary Gibson is published, and doing very well indeed.

Good luck to him, and I'll look forward to the reset of this series.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Progress and Stuff to Read

Today and tomorrow I’m hoping that in between real world stuff I’ll get the chance to write.

I’ve been champing at the bit to get my story moving again so, rather than concentrate on rewriting my previous chapters with MRU’s, I am going to a little rewriting and a little writing.

In practice, this just means I’ll do maybe a half a chapter rewrite, and then concentrate on writing new stuff.

At the moment, I am in the middle of rewriting Chapter 5 and writing Chapter 12.

Hopefully this will make it feel like I am actually achieving something.

I am also hoping to finish off Stealing Light by Gary Gibson, and move onto either Old Man's War by John Scalzi, or Dauntless (The Lost Fleet, Book 1) by Jack Campbell.

Can’t wait!

Friday, 11 July 2008


Guest Blogger Angie Fox, over at Bookends, invites you to comment about what you have discovered about your writing voice, and in the Non-hypothetical Response to the Hypothetical Question, Nathan Bransford discusses why he cannot give a straight yes or no in his responses to queries.

Rachelle on Rants and Ramblings has an interesting discussion on Craft vs. Story.

Lyons Literary LLC answers a readers question on whether it's OK to do Revisions While On Submission.

And finally, Publishing News looks at the continuing row over age ranges for children’s books.

Thou Can Have Thy Protagonist in Thy Motivation Unit

Following on from Thou Shalt Not Have Thy Protagonist in Thy Motivation Unit...

It seems you can have a reaction that is, in effect, a reaction to a reaction as in Sam’s MRUs taken from Advanced Fiction Writing's Blog.

This is good so far, but now you’re worried about the sentence that follows: “The all too familiar agita churned.” This is an emotive Reaction, but what is it reacting to?The answer is that it’s reacting to the POV character’s own interior monologue. So it has to come after the interior monologue. You’ve got the emotive response in the only place it’ll work.

Interior monologue being a potential rational thought and therefore a potential reaction in itself.

I've been struggling myself with the fact that it must be possible for the protagonist to react to internal thought. For instance, remembering something important that they had forgotten to do.

Seems only logical. Well, some of the parts of the information, in the articles, I've posted about obviously stuck with me more than other parts.

Most important of all is the fact that your character does not appear anywhere in the sentence, either by noun or pronoun. This is especially true while you're still a beginner, getting the feel of this device. For example, you do not fall into the trap of writing, “Now, Brad saw the red Jag pick up speed,” etc. The reason you shouldn’t do this is that it’s very, very easy for the inclusion of any mention of your character in a motivating sentence to transform said sentence into one of reaction; or, at least, to mix the whole thing up to the point where there’s a feeling of clutter to your sentence.

Dwight V Swain

I've quoted this before, but see the important stuff about being a beginner? Well that's me. I'll have to try and keep the protagonist out of the Motivations but where he is in there I'll have to extra vigilant it doesn't end up being a mix of Motivation and Reaction.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Follow Your Dreams

Guest Blogger over at BookEnds, LLC is Stacey Kayne, author of The Gunslinger's Untamed Bride.

She writes about the challenges she faced as an aspiring author, and how she started out. I think all of us, who aspire to become a published author, can relate with her advice, and you can read her post in full here.


Yesterday was a my day off, though I spent a lot of the day living in the real world, I did check over my previous MRU revisions on my manuscript. And, (apart from the biggie in page 1, paragraph 1, line 1, and word 1) it was all pretty much clear. Phew!

Then I noted down the major scenes of my Sci-Fi short, which is woefully bad on re-reading. The story is there though. I'm going to have to work out the PoV to tell it from, and I think I'm going to go with the baddie, but I'm not sure yet. There are only two main characters, and right now it is 1200 words, but I think it should be nearer the 5000 mark.

I'll have to sit down and have a good think about it.

The rest of my spare time yesterday was spent reading Stealing light by Gary Gibson, which is excellent so far.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Short Stories

I've decided to start scheduled posting so that I can effectively post everyday (one of the keys to a successful blog apparently). Anyway, I'm not in work today so this is my first scheduled post. Yay!

Should I carry on banging about MRUs? Nah. Much as I love to post about them (as a recent convert), there must be other things I can post about...

I've been thinking about dusting off my one and only Science Fiction short. A story I wrote a long, long time ago. It must be at least ten years ago. I'm going to give it the MRU (damn! I knew I wouldn't be able to do it) treatment, and apply everything I have learned about good writing recently. I'm getting quite excited by it actually, as I think it could be quite a nice story given the chance to shine.

Step one is finding though! I've got a rough idea where it is, so it should be too hard to track down. I may even start posting snippets.

We'll see.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Get it While it's Hot

Jenny over on Lit Soup has a post stating what sort of books she wants to see, so if you are writing anything that falls along those lines then submit!

Thou Shalt Not Have Thy Protagonist in Thy Motivation Unit

Most important of all is the fact that your character does not appear anywhere in the sentence, either by noun or pronoun.

Dwight V Swain

Well, silly me. If I didn't have my main character mentioned in the very first Motivation Unit. This is the first Motivation Unit that also happened to be not just the very first paragraph, not even just the first line, but the very first word!

Yes, this is the Chapter I've just completely rewritten using MRU's... Methinks I have a but more work to do.

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Monday Morning Write-up

Finished the rewrite of Chapter 2. Yay!

Chapter 2 was definitely easier. I'm on the search for more info on Motivation-Reaction Units. In fact, I've done a bit of digging around this afternoon, and unearthed a few more handy links.

On More Writing, there is a sizeable excerpt from Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. Everything I've read about MRU's and Swain has been positive. So I've decided to pick up a copy of the book. Not sure when I'll be able too, as I've just splurged on three books from Amazon.

There are many Top Ten lists of Mistakes made by writers on the Web, but this one covers the mistakes that are most likely to slip through revisions and critiques. Recommended.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Just a Quickie...

Finished Chapter 1 in MRUs. Yay!

Won't be long before I finish Chapter 2. Strangely, this chapter has not needed so much editing. I think it is because there were more obvious Motivation/Reaction splits. There was more going on in this chapter. There are people for my protagonist to react to. In Chapter 1 he was pretty much on his own, and it was a lot more difficult to spot the units and to separate them.

Or was it that I had gained more experience as a writer and that chapter was better written? Not sure on that, I'll have to see how the edits go on the other chapter before I decide on that.

The Jury is out.

Friday, 4 July 2008


OK so Friday is here, Finally!

Long week for me, and certainly not the best week of my life, but hey shit happens.

So, without further ado. . .

You can’t escape this one, lots of blogs have mentioned this: Moonrat over on Editorial Ass had a funny, but ultimately sad tale. When the author, and their agent were taken out for lunch by an editor, the author demonstrated their severe lack of social skills.

Janet Reid covered it very humorously indeed, with what she would have done it she had been the unfortunate agent, and how she would have dealt with the author.

Nathan has a lively comments section going, as usual, this week on new ways of marketing books. Some interesting ideas there, and let’s not kid ourselves, publishing is far from the traditional animal it once was.

With all the doom and gloom in the publishing world, there is at least some good news! Bookseller reports that HMV and Zavvi are ramping up their book offerings. And, Waterstone's is about to announce four new stores.

That’s not it for this week, I’ll be blogging on Sunday, though not an Saturday as I am off.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Short Update

Still soldiering on with a rewrite using MRUs.

Actually, I haven't had a lot of time to devote to it what with the real world n'all.

I'm still on Chapter 1, although this is nearly done.

The outlook is gloomy too -I don't expect to get much done over the weekend, but hey I'll still have time to blog tomorrow it's Fridayitis yay!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Motivation-Reaction Units

Motivation-Reaction Units can be quite tricky!

I've been wrestling with them for the last few days, and so far, I think it is a lot harder to rewrite something in MRUs than it is to write it from scratch. I'm still going to rewrite what I have already written, because I believe it will make my work much stronger. I am also a firm believer that if you learn something the had way, you'll learn it that much better.

Some scenes lend themselves to MRUs much better than others. The scenes, I am having difficulty with, are the ones where it is hard to identify the external motivation.

If you haven't read Randy Ingermanson's Writing the perfect scene Perfect Scene, or his series of blogs on MRUs then it is well worth checking out.

Let me allow Randy to explain how MRUs work.

The Motivation is external and objective, and you present it that way, in objective, external terms. You do this in a single paragraph. It does not need to be complicated.

The Reaction is internal and subjective, and you present it that way, exactly as your POV character would experience it -- from the inside. This is your chance to make your reader be your POV character. To repeat myself, this must happen in its own paragraph (or sequence of paragraphs). If you leave it in the same paragraph as the Motivation, then you risk whip-sawing the reader. Which no reader enjoys. The Reaction is more complex than the Motivation. The reason is that it is internal, and internal processes happen on different time-scales. When you see a tiger, in the first milliseconds, you only have time for one thing -- fear. Within a few tenths of a second, you have time to react on instinct, but that is all it will be -- instinct, reflex. But shortly after that first reflexive reaction, you will also have time to react rationally, to act, to think, to speak. You must present the full complex of your character's reactions in this order, from fastest time-scale to slowest. If you put them out of order, then things just don't feel right. You destroy the illusion of reality. And your reader won't keep reading because your writing is "not realistic." Even if you got all your facts right.

Now, the problems I've experienced are with internal motivation. Surely there is internal motivation - a thought for example?

Well, er, no, not that I've found anyway! So, this is where it gets tricky. Very tricky.

As a result, I've been struggling with some passages in my book.

But then, maybe I've been looking at it all wrong. Maybe I have to write it as a reaction, and just a reaction. Looking at Randy's series, it seems that way. The motivation may be obvious and therefore not written. For example, let's say my POV character presses a button. The presence of the button is the motivation, but maybe I don't have to write about the button until my character actually presses it. Otherwise we have a series of one line paragraphs, and frankly, they look pants.

Well I think I have it right anyway.

Here's hoping!
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