The month of June

Check out my exciting month of June.

There has been many exciting things happening this month, mainly in my freelance writing side of the business. However, I have made great progress with my novel. I am feeling a great sense of accomplishment and am hoping my completed first draft is not far away! The first draft is always the hardest!

Things will be getting very busy from August onwards with a new arrival to the family. However, I will still be writing and plugging away at my novels as time permits.

The month of June in blogs:

Feel free to comment, or contact me with any questions. Is there something you would like to see me write about?

 

Do you enter writing competitions?

 

Have you thought about entering writing competitions?

Have you been considering entering a writing competition but something is holding you back? Is it the time and effort of finding a legitimate competition, writing an entry, the entry fee and the wait for results that puts you off? Whilst it sounds like a lot of hard work (and it can be), I am here to tell you it is worth it!

Benefits

There are so many benefits to entering a well-reputed writing competition.

 Prizes:

Lets face it, who doesn’t love to win! When you win a writing competition, or at least place in one, you may receive a cash prize. How much you receive will obviously depend upon the competition.

Publication:

Some writing competitions may offer publication in conjunction with a cash prize, or instead of money. In my opinion publication is just as good, if not better than cash! Having your name on a written piece that won a competition is a great way to gain publicity and get your name out there!

Esteemed writer reading your work:

When you are investigating writing competitions, make sure you look at who the judges are. There may just be a writer who you have long respected and held in high esteem judging the competition. Imagine one of your literary heroes holding your story in their hands and reading it! For me, that is enough motivation to enter.

Equal footing:

In most writing competitions, your name is withheld from the entry piece. This means that even if you are competing against well-known writers you are all on equal footing. The writing piece the judge is holding in their hands is the single most important thing, not who wrote it.

Publicity:

When you win a writing competition that publishes your work, it is a great way to build your portfolio and attract attention. It is practically free publicity and marketing, if the entry free for the completion isn’t too steep! Who can say no to an opportunity like that?

 Portfolio.

Adding a winning story to your portfolio looks great and helps attract attention. It is like being able to add a prestigious job to your resume. Again, why wouldn’t you want to jump at any chance for publicity and creating a name for yourself?

Cons

Just like with anything, there is a downside to writing competitions.

Entry Fees:

There are some writing competitions out there that do not require an entry fee, however the majority will require payment to enter. To a struggling writer who wants to make ends meet, this can be a huge drawback to entering a writing competition. My advice is to screen the competitions you want to enter, make yourself a budget and make sure you stick to it.

False sense of rejection:

Due to the many submissions you often do not receive any feedback on your piece if you do not win. This can create a sense of rejection and disappointment. However don’t lose heart, it is simply because the judges cannot possible provide feedback for every single contestant.

Tips

Are you ready to give writing competitions a try? Then keep these practical tips handy:

  • Keep track of upcoming contests and their deadlines.
  • Familiarise yourself with the competitions aesthetic by reading previous winning entries, and the runners-up.
  • Ensure you read the rules and eligibility requirements of the competitions thoroughly.
  • Have a budget in mind for how much you want or can spend on entering writing competitions and ensure you do not go over.
  • Make sure you research the writing competition to ensure it is legitimate. Yes, there are dodgy ones out there!

Some writers’ love writing competitions, some don’t bother with them at all. I find that they help to improve my writing and also serve to help me shrug off rejection. And as an aspiring author I have to get used to rejection until I hit gold.

Have you entered a writing competition? How did you go? I would love to hear about your experiences, whether good or bad!

 

 

 

Should you participate in an online writing course?

Have you been considering participating in an online writing course? Are you unsure whether it is worth the time and effort to study? Keep reading for why a writing course can be beneficial to you as a novice writer.

Ways an online writing course may benefit your writing:

You should keep in mind that studying a creative writing course is not a prerequisite for becoming a writer. However, there is the belief that it can increase your odds of getting published.

  • It can improve your vocabulary.
  • You develop your creative thinking and problem-solving skills through analysis of different styles of writing and developing your own projects.
  • Many online courses that are offered can teach you how to give and take constructive criticism.
  • You can learn how to organise your ideas and write clearly.
  • Provides a community to share and debate ideas with fellow classmates.
  • It can help reignite your passion, or lead to inspiration, for writing.
  • You will meet new people who share common interests.
  • Many courses will give you tools and knowledge to plot, plan and develop your writing projects.

What kind of online writing course should you do?

This is really up to you and what you want to achieve. There are so many out there, it is a matter of reading up about the course, what it has to offer and working out if it is the one for you.

You can do anything from novels (including specific genres) and childrens’ books to screen writing and plays. What is your passion? What is your niche? You can study them all, or none. The choice is yours.

There are also courses out there for specific things like character development, plotting and using different programs such as scrivener and word for your writing projects. These can be useful if you wish to know more in-depth the tiny elements that go into a writing project and the tools that can make it easier and more time effective.

The best things about online writing courses?

Many online courses have a learn-at-you-own-pace style, where the lessons are posted on a weekly basis, and you get to them when you get to them. This is great for those people who are trying to fit their writing in around other employment, family, kids and chores.

I have taken several different online writing courses now, and can recommend them as a way to build confidence and skills. You may well be thinking to yourself, “but you still aren’t published”! And that is a very good point. I am not saying taking an online writing course is a sure way to publish your work, however due to the confidence, knowledge and tools you gain through online courses it can increase your chances. Online courses are also a fantastic way of forcing you to actually put pen to paper, rather than simply thinking about it!

You can do a simple Google search for online writing courses and you will have thousands of results pop up. I am a fan of any Australian ones, but I am sure that is no surprise seeing as I am from Australia! I personally have found that the Australian Writers Centre offers some fantastic courses, online and in person. They are generally affordable too (always an added bonus)! I am bias of course, but it is a great starting point for anyone out there looking for writing courses.

If you have found a great online writing course I would love to hear about it!

 

What is active and passive voice?

Do you constantly hear about writing in the “active” or “passive” voice? Are you confused by what this actually means and how it could impact your writing?

Read on for what the difference is between the active and passive voice and why it is important to know.

What Is Active Voice?

When you use “active voice”, the subject is performing the action.

What Is Passive Voice?

In a passive sentence the subject (or the person doing the action) is right at the end. Using passive voice tends to slow your writing down and distances your reader from the action.

Examples of active vs passive sentences:

Active: I love you.
Passive: You are loved by me.

Active: The woman read her book.
Passive: The book was read by the woman.

Active: He rode his motorbike over the jump.
Passive: The motorbike was ridden over the jump by him.

Can you see the difference in these sentences? Which sentence is more powerful?

Is it wrong to use passive voice?

It is not wrong. However, it is not the best way to phrase sentences as it can be awkward and hard to understand. Using the passive voice can also create lengthy sentences (as evidenced by the examples above).

When can you use passive voice?

In your writing it is a good idea to use the passive voice if you wish to place emphasis on the action, as opposed to the person performing the action. Many crime and mystery writers use this technique to highlight certain events that are pivotal to their story.

Example: The dog was stolen (passive).
Somebody stole the dog (active).

The mystery writer wanted to highlight the missing dog that is central to the plot, thereby used a more passive style of sentence.

How do you change your sentences to active voice?

Generally speaking, changing a sentence to be more active is easy. You simply bring whomever, or whatever, is performing the action of the sentence to the beginning. This usually fixes most issues with passive sentences.

Fixing passive sentences can happen when you are revising and editing, however it is handy to be able to spot them as you write.

Lost yet?

Try reading your sentences out loud. When you write sentences with active voice, your story moves faster. When you use the passive voice, you tend to use more helping verbs and it slows the action down. How do your sentences sound? Is it the focus you were going for?

I hope this helps you with your writing. If anyone else has advice on passive and active voice I would love to hear it!

 Useful links:

 https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-3/verbs/lesson-11/active-vs-passive-voice

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice?page=3

https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/tip-active-voice-versus-passive-voice/

https://www.dailywritingtips.com/passive-vs-active-voice/

 

 

 

 

What dialogue can do.

Writing dialogue is an important tool to add to your writing arsenal. Dialogue gives your characters a voice, can help immerse your reader in the story and develop rapport with your characters. However, poor dialogue can be jarring and frustrating. It could even see your reader put your book down and not finish reading it. So it is important to know how to write great dialogue that improves and enriches your novel.

What dialogue should do.

Dialogue moves the story forward.

Dialogue can move your plot forward in a more direct manner then having a narrator explain it. It is harder to read a whole paragraph from a narrators’ point of view, then to have dialogue communicate the same things in a few simple lines of conversation.

Dialogue can speed things along and help build suspense, tension or any other emotion. It puts your reader into the middle of a conversation and pulls them in closer to the action so they feel a part of it all.

Dialogue helps develop your characters.

Characters can evolve through dialogue, and by making your reader a participant in their conversations you provide valuable insight into how they think, feel and react.

Dialogue is a great tool to help depict your characters and how they relate to each other. The way a character speaks and their tone can provide a lot of information about the person they are. The way characters speak to each other can also reveal what kind of relationship they have and how they get along. This helps your reader to feel like they really know your characters.

Dialogue provides realism.

Dialogue shows what is happening in your novel, as opposed to telling your reader. You can portray a scene more vividly through your characters’ dialogue. It engages your readers, as there are no lengthy explanations or descriptions by the narrator.

Dialogue provides vital information.

Effective dialogue provides information about character relationships, personalities, moods, feelings and reactions.

Dialogue should also provide specific information about your plot and drive it forward. It is important to remember that most conversations in the real world often have no point to them, but dialogue in your novel is different. It must serve a purpose and enrich your novel, not make it boring! When writing dialogue, question its purpose. If it doesn’t add anything to your characters or story, then delete it.

Dialogue should have action to accompany it.

Watch people around you have conversations. It is not often they will sit perfectly still and talk to each other. Often, they will be drinking a coffee, eating, cooking dinner, or walking etcetera. The point is people will usually be doing something whilst talking, so make sure you incorporate this into your dialogue when writing a scene.

Break dialogue up.

Do you ever watch a crowd of spectators at the tennis? Their heads going left, right, left, right. By writing continuous dialogue, one line after another, your reader can feel like they are at a tennis match. This is certainly not ideal.

The simple solution is to pause the conversation and take a few sentences to interrupt that pinging back and forth dialogue. You can use this pause to insert some interior monologue, describe the actions of your character, or the setting of the scene.

Dialogue should be concise.

To write good dialogue you should be concise and to the point. It isn’t realistic, as everyday conversations in the real world we have a lot of fluff in our dialogue. However, your readers do not want to be reading a lot of empty words. They want action and emotion. Writing short dialogue sentences will make the conversations between your characters more realistic and drive the story forward.

An important tip to note is that you shouldn’t write dialogue in complete, grammatical sentences. This is not how people generally speak in their conversations.

For example:

“Do you want to go and get a cup of coffee?” – a complete sentence.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” – how people are more likely to speak.

All your characters should sound different.

Just like all your characters have unique personalities, so to should the way the talk and think when conversing. Their tone, vocabulary, voice, accent and knowledge should all be consistent with their personality and character description.

I mean, if a 5-year-old child suddenly started talking like a 60-year-old highly educated professor of physics it wouldn’t fit in with their personality or character. Be consistent, and use dialogue to build your character further.

Revise your dialogue.

Reading your writing aloud is always an effective way to edit your work, but especially so for dialogue. When you read your dialogue out loud you will get a sense of how the conversation flows and if it ticks all the boxes for great dialogue. You will hear your character’s voice and whether or not it is consistent with their personality.

Other forms of “dialogue”.

Do not be afraid to branch out into other forms of communication between your characters. In today’s age writing text messages or emails is commonplace, and can be classed as dialogue.

Just be sure that it has a purpose, and are not just empty words trying to fill space.

Useful links:

http://www.aliventures.com/writing-great-dialogue/

http://www.literautas.com/en/blog/post-675/reasons-for-using-dialogue-in-a-story/

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/writing-dialogue.html

I hope you have found this post helpful in writing great dialogue for your novel. It is an invaluable tool that will serve to enrich and develop your story. If you have any other tips around writing dialogue I would love to hear them!

Are you stifling your creativity?

What does creativity mean to you?

I believe that creativity is being open to your ideas and thoughts. It is to create a piece of writing without your internal critic constantly making you edit, judge and delete parts.

Creativity, for me, is being able to get all my thoughts out onto paper without my own head getting in the way telling me the rough draft and my ideas are no good.

 So why is creativity so important?

When writing your first draft, it is just that. A first draft; not a final copy. A first draft should be rough, unedited and uncensored. Spew forth your ideas. The challenge is to type or write fast enough to keep up with the flow of thought in your mind and capture the essence of your story before it flies away.

Your creative side is what you tap into in order to write this first draft. Don’t get me wrong; you do need a critical component as well. But that should come later, when it comes to reviewing and editing your writing project. For now, let your creative side reign free and produce that masterpiece I know is hiding in your mind.

Stifling your creativity.

Creativity is easy to suppress. More often then not, our habit is to review and judge as we write. This restricts our creativity and creates a lot of difficulty when attempting to write your first draft. You worry that it is terrible, your ideas are lame, you are anxious because you don’t know which direction your book will take and that all the effort is pointless. You constantly judge and review before you give yourself the chance to capture those great ideas.

You need to learn how to silence this inner critic and editor during the initial writing stage. You need to trust in your inspiration and ideas, instead of rejecting them before they have time to evolve into a story. You must learn to embrace that vision and let it explode out without restriction.

A great way to loosen up and learn to shut out your internal critic is to “free-write”. Give yourself 5 minutes to jot down everything that pops into your head without editing or backspacing. It is a great way to let go of your inhibitions and loosen you up.

Creative vs. Critical Side

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to suppress your inner critic forever! You will need that critical thinking when it comes time to review and edit your novel. However, once again, you need to be able to tap into that creativity. As you write and revise you will need your creative side to produce better and stronger images and words. Editing and reviewing your novel will take a fine balance between your critical and creative sides, and the only way to become better at it is to keep practicing! The more you do it, the better you will become.

 
The moral is, don’t let your own self get in the way of that great novel hiding inside of you.