Well, it was an exciting year experiencing the release of my debut novel, The Parallel World! The release was not only new for me, but it was also my first attempt at publishing and marketing a book. To be completely truthful, I’ve had my ups and downs. Doesn’t everyone? It’s the only way to [...]
If you read a lot of blog articles about writing, then you’ve probably noticed that many writers state that you should read often; read other novels that is. By reading other novels you gain insight into how other writer’s write. If you watch the masters in your genre, then you will gain insight into how [...]
Okay, I think that everyone understands where I’m going with this: How can a writer successfully make a sex scene believable or write a convincing romance scene? I wrote a few of these types of scenes in my first novel, The Parallel World, and I have to admit that I was uncomfortable. I was [...]
The other day I watched the entire series of Bellicher: De Macht van Meneer Miller (Bellicher: The Power of Mr. Miller). It didn’t take me the whole day – I was impressed that the entire story was compressed into four short episodes. You see, the main plot behind Bellicher is an ultimate conspiracy to [...]
If you read a lot of blog articles about writing, then you’ve probably noticed that many writers state that you should read often; read other novels that is. By reading other novels you gain insight into how other writer’s write. If you watch the masters in your genre, then you will gain insight into how they have been able to write best sellers or just great books.
I understand the logic behind the idea. Every serious professional needs to have a mentor or two. They need to look around them to see what their peers are doing, figure out what works and what doesn’t, especially if they want to produce best sellers. If your intent is to write a best seller, then reading today’s current best sellers is a start in figuring out what the reader likes.
I love reading novels so following this advice is easy for me. I have, however, run into a problem– how can I separate reading to learn from reading for fun? I’m reading Hour Game by David Baldacci, and I find myself now and then remembering that I also need to read to learn. If the book is good, then I get caught up in the plot and the character’s lives. I forget to study the structure, the plot, character development, description.
However, I need to do those exact things while reading if I want to improve and learn. For example, today’s readers are quite different from those 10 years ago; possibly even five years ago. I read a blog article where the author discussed “description.” That is a big topic today. If you look at what types of books the general public is reading and what comments they are making, then you’ve noticed that long descriptive passages (even minute) about the character or scenery, for example, seem to not fare well with today’s readers. The attention span isn’t the same as it was a few years ago. Are the writers of today, especially those with a fan base, cutting down on description?
Another popular writing topic is “show, don’t tell.” Some authors believe that we belittle the reader by telling them what is going on. We are insulting their intelligence. Instead of ending a quote by inserting, “…, Tom said.” We should be showing them how he felt or what he thought. Is that what authors are really trying to achieve with their writing? Is this what the general reading public is thirsty for? Some writers will state that we shouldn’t abandon description. They may even say that we’re too lacking – we need more! Others will say that we don’t have to “show” from page one to the end of the novel. Actually, after reading a few current best sellers, I might have to agree with them.
There are as many writing tips on the internet as there are opinions, and we can learn a great deal from them. I’m just not quite sure how much attention I should spend on them; besides the reading one. What I mean is – There are people that love more description, as well as people (especially with low attention spans) that love being told what’s happening. Maybe none of this matters as long as the plot and characters are interesting. Maybe what’s most important is evolving the craft of individual style…while waiting for the flock of readers that will appreciate it.
Okay, I think that everyone understands where I’m going with this: How can a writer successfully make a sex scene believable or write a convincing romance scene? I wrote a few of these types of scenes in my first novel, The Parallel World, and I have to admit that I was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable writing those scenes because:
- I had never written a sex scene before;
- I don’t read romance novels. So, I couldn’t learn from past readings; and
- My family and friends were going to read what I had written. What would they think? How could I look at them without giggling or staring at the pavement in embarrassment?
Then I realized that I was a 38-year-old adult with two children (that I hadn’t adopted). So, I have some experience in the field, and have proof as well. It should be easy to write that sex scene. It should be a breeze…not! It’s difficult to achieve that balance between subtlety and effect when it comes to showing (not telling) romance or lust in a written work. I found a few helpful websites that clarify how such intricate scenes should be written, and wanted to share them with you. I know that I’ll be using their tips in my next novel.
Happy Reading and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Twenty Steps to Writing Great Love Scenes, by Karen Wiesner
How to Write a Kissing Scene in a Romance Novel, By Mariana Wilson
How to Write a Sex Scene: The 12-step program, by Steve Almond
The other day I watched the entire series of Bellicher: De Macht van Meneer Miller
(Bellicher: The Power of Mr. Miller). It didn’t take me the whole day – I was
impressed that the entire story was compressed into four short episodes. You
see, the main plot behind Bellicher is an ultimate conspiracy to begin a war between
Christians and Muslims. A secretive group of Christians who pull their resources together are at the center of the conspiracy. In order to attain their goal, they manipulate the news that the European Union top officials receive on their government issued laptops. Of course the news states that Muslims are a threat, and are about to begin a war within Europe. Therefore, Europe, in order to protect itself, must react quickly. The plot is interesting to say the least and the characters are believable. I live in The Hague, so I enjoyed recognizing certain buildings and streets since some scenes of the movie were filmed in The Hague. Overall, I enjoyed watching this series.
There is, however, a nagging factor about the series: The main character, Bellicher, made one mistake after another. I had begun to wonder if people would continue to make the same mistakes in real life if they were in the same situation. For instance, the bad guys kept finding out where Bellicher was. They would show up within seconds. Now, The Hague is small, but I’m not sure that it’s possible to show up within seconds once you’ve figured out where your target is located. But, that’s a minor detail for now. Bellicher constantly used his electronic devices – mobile and computer. Throughout the first and second episodes, he continuously tried logging in to a certain website; a clue that would hopefully lead him to the next, well…clue. All of this even after the bad guys kept finding him, and even beat-up one of Bellicher’s friends. Maybe he had an emotional attachment to his devices? I think it
finally dawned on him in the third or fourth episode – wait a second – it dawned
on another character who was knowledgeable about gadgets that Bellicher’s
mobile and computer should be destroyed. That character was smart! Finally,
someone was using their brain!
Another problem that I had was that Bellicher, before he was forced to destroy it, left his laptop bag, on numerous occasions, in the trunk of his car. He needed the computer to log-in to the website. Wouldn’t you carry the laptop around with you if it was so important, especially if you knew that the bad guys were following you? Oh, and he left a floppy disk containing key clues on his desk at his house. Did I mention that his house had been broken into by the bad guys? The only good thing is that the bad guys weren’t that good with house searches – they missed the key floppy disk all together. At the mention of floppy disk, I should mention that the
series came out in 2010. I have no idea why this key component in the story
dated back to the 80s. Why not give the guy a USB stick or hard drive? But, I
won’t analyze that for too long because I won’t get any answers.
Although these were nagging points for me, I wonder if I am one of the few that would even notice or care about these minute details. If I was watching just for fun, then I wouldn’t have even noticed. But, I have to admit that the errors that Bellicher made are human nature, and help to make him more believable. People, in general, can relate to him. For a writer – that’s the goal. We want to write believable characters; ones that can be related to. Bellicher teaches a valuable lesson – it’s not always a good idea to think logically or even one-tracked when writing. It’s important to incorporate the hurdles, the mistakes that characters can make because real people have ups and downs in life. And they relate to both when reading a book or watching television!
I’m at the brink of finishing a research project that I’m completing for an organization for free. Yes, you read that last word – free – correctly. I volunteer my expertise to a worthwhile organization. Over the past week and a half I have sectioned out a little bit of each day for this project. All of my work has been captured onto an excel spreadsheet that now consists of over 600 rows of useful information.
Yesterday, I started to wonder how many people would offer their services for free, especially with the project that I’m currently working on; a cumbersome project that entails an eye for detail and persistence. I had also begun to wonder if volunteering my services was a real benefit for me or an anchor strapping me down in the worse way (remember that my spreadsheet now consists of over 600 rows!). I’ve come to the conclusion that my efforts are worthy for the following reasons:
- Most importantly – I’m donating my time to help other people;
- I’m honing my skills as a paralegal and writer by conducting research on the internet, compiling the data I’ve found into a spreadsheet and proofreading the document for errors and consistency; and
- By conducting this research I’m learning about a new industry.
Now, the down side of course is that I’m not getting paid for my services. That is a factor that I can’t take lightly. So, is it really worth it to volunteer my services? Good question! My answer is, for a few reasons: Yes, and for the following reasons:
- Like I stated above – I get to hone my paralegal and writer skills;
- I get to make new contacts, and increase my network, which can also bring in more (paying) work; and
- I have the chance to make a worthwhile and meaningful donation to a charity or organization.
I’ve read many blog articles from writers about volunteering, and it seems as if most writers agree that volunteering is a good thing. Now, of course I wouldn’t suggest that every writer take on the massive project that I’m currently completing, but I will advocate volunteering. It’s going to feel wonderful pushing the send button and waving good-bye to my project once I’m finished. Can I ask for anything else? Well, okay – that the next project is a paying one!
We are 22 days into a new year, and that means: a new start as well as a time for reflection. As a writer, I’m reflecting on what I’ve done in the past and what I want to do in the future. I’m also thinking about what areas need to be improved upon or tweaked. Grammar and punctuation can be intimidating for writers and non-writers alike. If you are like me, then you write in between two or three languages. In my case, I write in both English and Dutch. I have to pay close attention to whether or not I’m writing in American or British English (e.g. did I just write “analyse” or “analyze?”). There are so many differences between the languages in regards to grammar, punctuation, structure, and terminology. Therefore, you can imagine that grammar and punctuation are at the top of my list. To make things easier, I’m only going to focus on the differences between British and American English in this blog
The internet is a wonderful place to learn or refresh your grammar and punctuation skills. The only minor point is that all of this helpful information is scattered around, and not in one place. I have come across, over time, many helpful style guides and websites that have provided answers to my sometimes simple questions, and I wanted to share them with you too. Do you have any other suggestions? Let me know.
Every magazine and newspaper has its own style guide, but these are THE general style guides that roll off of every writer, reviser, editor and proofreader’s tongue when asked about style guides:
American English Style Guides
- Chicago Manual of Style (Subscription required)
- AP Stylebook (Subscription required)
British English Style Guide
- The University of Oxford Writing and Style Guide
Grammar, Punctuation and Word Usage Tips
These two websites offer invaluable advice guidance in terms of grammar, punctuation, and word usage.
Daily Writing Tips
A wonderful website with answers to everything in relation to grammar and punctuation.
This online dictionary and thesaurus contains over 300,000 words and phrases, and covers British, American, Canadian, Australian, and Asian English. WordWeb
is online, and they have an app.
Differences between American and British English
Emphasis business writing trainers
They have a wonderful comprehensive guide that can be printed out.
Grammar and Punctuation Practice Quizzes
English for Everyone
English Test Store (Differences between British and American English
Do you remember the days when a paperback cost $2.50? Well, I do. The price of the paperback – or should we just say “book” because hardcover’s have increased too – has increased more than 200% since the 1980s.
I was reminiscing about some of my favorite childhood books with my daughter a couple of months ago. I told her what types of books I read as a child. I also told her, to her delight, that I still had a few of those beloved childhood books. Of course she wanted to see them, but there was a problem. They were sitting in my parent’s dusty attic more than 3, 000 miles away. My daughter’s heart sunk. This was going to be another childhood memory that I couldn’t completely share with her. I told her that we would rummage in the attic the next time we travelled home to visit with grandma and grandpa; whenever that ever would happen. Well, that time came faster than I had expected. My father suddenly passed away on October 28 from a heart attack, and I entered the front door of my childhood home three days later on the 31st. Although my daughter couldn’t come with me, I had remembered my promise to her – in the midst of grieving and supporting my mom I was going to commence a
treasure hunt in my parent’s attic and find those books that I had been so fond of.
It took some time, but I had finally found the first crate of books. The first thing that shocked me was the cover copy. I hadn’t paid attention to how the book cover designs had changed over the years. My childhood books now looked archaic and unprofessional. The second thing that caught my eye was the price. It would be an understatement if I told you that I was mildly shocked. One book that I had held onto was The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I paid $2.95 (before taxes) for the pleasure of reading a great book. I paid $2.75 (also before taxes) to obtain a copy of Are You There God? It’sMe, Margaret, which was written by the infamous Judy Blume. Who wouldn’t enjoy reading at those prices?
Glancing over the crates and boxes of books that I had carefully pulled out of the attic, without getting too much dust in my hair and on my clothes, I had begun to become more than a little annoyed, and actually at the same time – confused. I had spent my childhood buying books. I could indulge in my hobby by walking into a bookstore with $20 and walking out with a bag full of at least five books. I didn’t have to go to the library to borrow books because they were “expensive.” Nowadays the average child can’t do that because their parents can’t afford the bill. I conducted a quick search on Amazon to see how much the new and popular books cost and the average price range was $7-$20. I even found a box set (12 books) with a whopping price of $60. Thank goodness it’s on sale for $37.79! I have a feeling that they weren’t selling a lot of sets with the $60 price tag.
I’ve been wondering if books have become too expensive. The difference between the prices of today against those from twenty odd years ago are significant. I’ve read articles concerning this very topic, and have heard arguments about the behind the scenes costs – the book cover designers, editors, printing, warehouse storage, return and destruction of non-bought books… and the list goes on. But, didn’t we have the same types of costs and middle men back in the 80’s? Is inflation over the years the problem? Greed? Maybe it was difficult to turn a profit on a $2.95 book if you think about the overhead. I haven’t made up my mind on this issue, but if you’re as interested as I am about this topic, then here are some great articles for your nightstand:
This article’s from 2002, but still an interesting read by Christopher Dreher on Salon.com:
Rick Nerwman’s article entitled, “Barnes & Noble’s Convoluted Defense of Pricey Books” on USNews.com:
Here’s an interesting article from Nathan Bransford on eBook pricing, entitled “Why e-books cost so much:”
Have you ever wanted to use events from your personal life in your own stories? Incorporate your friend or family member’s personality into one of your character’s? It’s a question that comes to my mind whenever something interesting occurs, which seems to happen on a daily basis. Ideas have popped into my head at the strangest times, such as during a conversation with a friend, listening to the radio or people watching.
In my quest to grow as a writer there are two types of characters that I would love to bring to life in a story or two. The first one involves a saucy colleague with multiple personalities (what I like to call the chameleon effect). The second character has the personality of Adrian Monk with a twist (if that can happen). These characters have been molded from my own personal experiences – bad and good. I don’t know how I’m
going to fit these characters into a story. Who knows – maybe they’ll be special
enough to become protagonists in their own right.
What I do know is that the people I converse with on a daily basis help to mold my imagination into a reality. A family member’s mannerisms, a quick chat with a stranger at the supermarket, or being a bystander watching a conversation between friends. Every single mode of communication can add fuel to my writing and help me to make my characters on paper come alive.
Although I have countless story ideas dancing around in my head, I am currently concentrating on making the characters in my next novel seem well…real. Watching the mannerisms of the people around me will get me one step closer. How do you deal with character development?
How can I make this character believable when I haven’t experienced what they’re going through? Have you ever asked yourself that question? How is it possible to write what you don’t know? I read a lot of articles about the process of writing, and even wrote a blog piece around the topic of Write What You Know. I have told myself a few times, and tried to convince myself that I can’t write a certain scene because I’ve never
experienced the emotions myself. Am I wrong for thinking like this?
Over the last few days I’ve thought about the phrase, “write what you know.” It’s such a coined and well-known phrase in our little world. It made sense to me until I started thinking about my own life experiences. I thought back to my childhood years and all of the Griswold family vacations that my family survived. We had some good times during those vacations. I remember the time that I sat in the canoe with…well those family
members remain nameless because this is more than embarrassing – we ended up
going around in circles in the middle of the lake while other vacationers
looked on in amazement. I also remember my mom (unknowingly) roasting a rat or
mouse in the oven at the log cabin that we rented. The smell was horrendous.
The looks on everyone’s faces? Beyond funny. We had yet another story to add to
the Griswold oops Henry family vacation experience. Being 38 I have so many
other stories and experiences; more than I can count.
With so many experiences under my belt, I realized that I have plenty of firsthand knowledge to write compelling content and make my characters come alive. From childhood memories to university life, to a professional career, to becoming a wife and mother. In more detail – sharing a friend’s loss, getting married, losing a job, having a baby, crying over the loss of a newborn baby, sharing pictures of your fabulous holiday,
lending your shoulder to a best friend who just lost their soul mate, or smiling
because you overcame your worse fear. Many people state that you should write
what you know. Don’t we have enough know how to do just that?