September 2016 - In Writing

Course

Description

September

October

Writers Write

How to write a book

5-8

1,8,15,22

Writers Write

How to write a book

 

17-20

The Plain Language Programme

Advanced business writing

13-14

11-12

Blogging and Social Media Course

Write for the web

 

25-26

Short Cuts

How to write a short story

2

kids etc.

How to write for children

 

30


Email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Join us on social media:

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Writers Write on Google Website

Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 34: Spring Cleaning


Welcome to week 34 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

Goal setting
  1. Take care of you, the writer.
Breaking it down

Find your inspiration (again!)
This week’s post has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with the writer. If you take care of the writer, I believe, the writing will take care of itself.

Writers, contrary to common belief, are not immune to the realities of life. We don’t recline on a chaise lounge all day popping bon-bons and dictating our prose to our secretaries – that only works if you’re Barbara Cartland. And Barbara Cartland was as much as a myth as she was a bestselling romance writer.

Last week, at a writer’s dinner, someone was talking about inspiration. I’m probably going to get some of it wrong, but this was the gist of it.

In Michelangelo’s days, inspiration was seen as something that came from the gods above to an artist – it was an expression of something outside of the artist. In the Renaissance, inspiration was seen as something that came from inside – it was more about self-expression.

I think both are interesting angles on the mysterious process of writing. The truth is, writing is pretty mysterious – we don’t always know where our ideas come from or why we write.

What I believe is that a seed of talent – a tiny, fragile seed, I believe – is given to us as a gift. We need to look after it and not abuse it. The rest is, I think, just hard work. It’s craft.
Seven days
With spring approaching here in the southern hemisphere, I thought it would be a great opportunity for a spring clean. A ‘seven-day detox’ if you like.

This is where my journal or diary can help. It’s time to do a ‘brain dump’ or even a ‘soul dump’. Write down all the negative things – fears, anger, all of it.  What kept you awake the night before? What worries you about the future?

Then, when you’ve done that, write out all the good things that have happened to you – in your life, this year, this last week  Just free write – fill up as many pages as you can.

Finally, finish with a list of affirmations. Write down your top five strengths as a writer and as a person.  You could even do these on index cards or on bright coloured paper. Sometimes there are great inspirational quotes on Twitter and Facebook. Print these and put them up at your desk.

Enemy in the mirror
In Writers Write, we often ask delegates to dismiss their inner critic. For me, I always thought this was the old crone of a high school French teacher who told me I was ‘lackadaisical’ – a good word, I’ll give her that, and probably true of me a lot of the time even today. Other times I thought this critic was some spiny covered monster with bloodied teeth.

The other day I woke up and realised that my oldest and most persistent critic is me.  We don’t always see our ‘blind spot’ and, even when we do, we don’t do anything about it.

Even this year, when I’m so committed to, and focused on, writing my novel, the one person slowing me down is me. It’s like having a coach who doesn’t believe in you – who doesn’t want you to win gold.

If you knew an athlete who had a coach like this, you’d probably tell them, ‘Find another coach.’ That’s good advice.  We all need to believe in ourselves. That doesn’t mean we’re not aware of our faults – we just need to be even more aware of our strengths.

We have to see that mental picture: crossing the finishing line. It’s what should keep us going even on the glum days. Don’t lose your equilibrium. You can do it!
Timelock — 7 days

Spend an hour a day on your ‘spring cleaning’.

5 Quick Hacks
  1. Write down what you need as a person. Then decide what steps you must take to get what you need.
  2. Do the same for your writing. Write down what you need to make your life as a writer work. How will you make that happen?
  3. Create two columns. On the left, write down everything you hate about writing. On the right, write down everything you love about writing. Compare.
  4. Describe what qualities you’d look for in a writing coach or mentor – how can you cultivate those in your own mind?
  5. Ask someone to be your mentor or, if you have the resources, hire a life coach.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘Your characters’ lives should spiral out of control. Never your own.’ — Anthony Ehlers

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:

~~~

      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

      Why You Need To Write In Plain Language

      Plain language is writing that everyone can understand. You are only able to write this way if you understand exactly what it is that you want to say. Don’t think you are ‘dumbing it down’. You are communicating in a clear, simple manner. 

      If you read last week’s post, you’ll remember I wrote that we have 11 official languages in South Africa. This makes our use of plain language even more important. 


      What are the advantages of plain language:
      1. There is no ambiguity.
      2. It is faster to read.
      3. It is faster to write. 
      Plain language guidelines:
      1. Simplify your word choice.
      2. Shorten your sentences.
      3. Shorten paragraphs.
      4. Use the active voice.
      5. Use pronouns.
      6. Use lists.
      How to use readability statistics

      Microsoft Word has a free tool that measures the readability of your document. There are many free online tools that you can use as well. [Read Why You Should Care About Readability Statistics] The Microsoft tool calculates the number of characters per word, the numbers of words per sentence as well as the number of sentences per paragraph. At the end you will be given a passivity percentage, a grade level, and a readability percentage. Ideally you want your grade to be around 7, your readability to be above 70% and your passive voice below 10%. 


      How do you achieve this reading?  

      Averages to strive for:
      1. Word choice: If you use simple words, there will be no confusion about the meaning of the word. Strive for, on average, 4 characters per word. Remember you will use many short words such as ‘is’ and ‘a’ as well as many 6 or 8 character words to achieve this average. However, you should avoid very long words.  
      2. Sentence length: If you keep your sentences short you will find it easier to remain in the active voice. You will be able to avoid tense and punctuation mistakes. Try to use sentences that have an average of 9-13 words. Remember, it’s an average. You will use five word sentences, and you will use twenty word sentences, but when you start writing 34 or 45 word sentences you should cut them.   
      3. Paragraph length: Simple words and short sentences will help you to keep your paragraphs short. Short paragraphs help to create white space. If you keep your paragraphs between 3-5 lines or sentences, you will be able to place the emphasis on the correct information. Your first sentence should be the most the important sentence and you should keep it down to one thought or point per paragraph. 
      Plan your messages

      By planning your messages, you will be able focus your communication. If your messages are succinct and clear you will be an effective communicator. Consider your reader. Ask this question before you start writing: What do you want the reader to do after reading your message? This will help you decide what information to include.

      We’ll talk about reader habits and the importance of white space next week. 

      If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

       by Mia Botha

      If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

      1. August Writing Prompts
      2. What Writers Can Learn From The Coolest Podcasts On The Web
      3. World-Building For Every Genre: The Ultimate Setting Checklist

      ~~~

        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

        20 Writing Mistakes Even Native Speakers Make

        by Jennifer Frost from Grammar Check

        If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

        If you enjoyed this post, read:

        ~~~

        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

        The Ultimate Blogging Checklist

        We know that it's almost impossible to run a successful business today without a strong online presence. It's even more difficult to be noticed in the ever-changing social media landscape. If your business does not have a blog, it's unlikely that you will be successful on these platforms.

        I have written many times that your blog is 'your headquarters for content. It where you set ground rules, showcase your brand, establish your reputation, share your knowledge, and show your expertise.' It is from this blog that you will be able to build your online empire. [Read How Creating Content (And Sharing On Social Media) Leads To Sales]

        I've often wished I had a simplified version of everything you need to do to become a blogger in one place. When I found this post, I wanted to share it with you. Pauline Cabrera has put together everything she's learnt about building an effective blog in this useful blogging checklist.

        If you want to learn how to blog and write for social media, join us for  The Complete Blogging and Social Media Course

         by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

        If you enjoyed this post read:

        ~~~

        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

        Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 33: Beginnings, Backstory, And Other Bugbears


        Welcome to week 33 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

        Goal setting
        1. Continue writing the chapters or scenes of your novel
        Breaking it down

        The true start and the false start
        Where does your story start? What does page one look like?

        As I come to the end of my draft stage and feel ready to attack my messy and chaotic manuscript, I’m looking for a way to rework my opening scene – that scene that must pull the reader in and get them hooked on the story.

        I’ll admit I’ve had a few false starts. Like starting too far back from the inciting incident – taking too long to set up the world of the story. And, of course, starting too close to the moment of change – and not giving the reader enough context about what’s going on.

        In a novel I’m reading, the first scene takes place as a journalist interviews a man condemned to die in the electric chair. This was a powerful scene to kick off a story – it certainly had me gripped. It made me realise that those big moments – life, death, birth – are always good places to start.

        I’ve decided to start my story as close to the point of attack as possible. I’ve created a teaser that gives the reader a glimpse of what will happen just before the major climax at the end of the story.

        The good news is that I’m starting in the thick of it, in the heart of the drama – in media res, as they call it. It’s an action scene and it fairly races with action and adrenalin.

        The bad news is that it defies all the rules of writing. It’s a prologue – and prologues should always be avoided. It starts off with the weather – during a storm. It starts off with a character alone – another ‘no no.’

        However, it seems to be working. It seems like a natural hook for the story. The violent weather, I feel, is almost like another character – an element that is commenting or hinting at the violence that is about to unfold. And the character, while he is alone, is driven by a strong goal – he is on a mission for revenge.

        Sometimes you have to throw the rule book out the window and listen to your story, don’t you think?

        Building your backstory
        As I work on the earlier scenes in my book, I realise I haven’t addressed a lot of the backstory.

        For example, when I look at when Jenna and Matt – my two lovers – met, I know that it happened four or five years ago.  

        When I look at Jenna’s age, I realise that she was pretty young when she met Matt – which is either a good or a bad thing.

        But the big black hole was, of course, how they met. How did they become lovers? How did the relationship evolve? And why did it hit a stalemate or stasis as the story opens?

        As I wrote some backstory scenes and notes – none of which I liked, by the way – I realised two things. One – you have to know your characters’ histories down to how much money they have in their bank accounts and their favourite colour. Two – you as the writer have to know these things but the reader doesn’t have to know it.

        Well, at least, not all of it. If it’s important to the story in the present, yes, you may need to introduce it through the narrative or as an isolated flashback scene – but if not, I don’t see a reason for it to be in the final manuscript.

        Stories live in the ‘now’ – readers want the immediacy, the tension, the flow as if it’s unfolding in real-time. They don’t want to be hauled back into the past.
        Oh those devouring fears
        This last week has been challenging – both in my writing and my personal life. The one that causes me the most distress is, of course, my writing. I mean I can always pay my taxes some other time. But the fear that my talent has dried up and disappeared – that’s something that will cause you to curl up in a sorry heap.

        On Saturday, I sat down to write a scene and it just didn’t come. I soldiered on and what I produced was a dry, clumsy piece of writing – more like a DIY manual than a chapter in what’s meant to be an exciting thriller.

        In archaic English, a bugbear was an imaginary being invoked to frighten children, typically a sort of hobgoblin supposed to devour them. Seeing as though writers are basically children with laptops, I felt this bugbear descend on me Saturday night.

        On Sunday, I cleaned bathrooms, washed dogs, and tried not to think about that awful scene. In the late afternoon, I cautiously approached it again.  I took a deep breath and attacked it and it came out a lot better. Sigh of relief! I was safe for another day.
        Timelock — 2.5 to 5 hours

        Spend a half hour or hour a day writing your scenes or chapter.

        5 Quick Hacks
        1. Imagine your novel as a movie. What would be the scene or scenes that play over the opening credits? This could be a good place to start your novel too.
        2. Write out or roughly plan three or four possible openings – just experiment. Show these to a trusted friend or your writing group and see what feedback you get.
        3. Keep separate folders or notebooks for backstory – and consult it when you write your scenes. If there’s any opportunity to drop a piece in – then do it. You can always edit it out later.
        4. ‘When in doubt, leave it out.’ This is as good advice as any when it comes to backstory.
        5. Distract yourself when your writing isn’t going well. Clean out drawers, read, visit a friend – don’t drive yourself mad.
        Pin it, quote it, believe it:

        ‘Backstory is like creating a “connect-the-dots” picture – you just need the dots. The reader will draw the lines.’ — Jamie Ford

        Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

         by Anthony Ehlers

        If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

        If you enjoyed this post, read:

        ~~~

            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

            What Fiction Writers Can Learn From A Child's Mind


            Guest Post

            Stuck in a rut? Unable to get the next plot of your story together? All that might be missing is a little bit of creativity. 

            Writing is a passion of the heart that flows through the writer’s pen, hoping to leave an eternal mark on readers’ minds. However, growing competition in this area of creative expression has made it more difficult for writers to stand out.

            What can you do differently? One answer is to look in unusual places for inspiration. Unusual does not have to be something mystical. It can be as simple as child’s play. Fiction writers and children both have fanciful minds. Observing children in their routine games can prove to be an excellent lesson in creativity.

            Children dream. Children imagine. And children love. For a child, nothing is impossible. And that's what separates them from us. They do not think that they will fail. They invent things and they look at things differently. 

            If you're looking for a creative plot for your next story, you need to think out of the box by looking at life in a simpler, more imaginative way. 

            Here are three things writers can learn from children:

            1.  Observe children at play
            Children don’t need much to imagine a whole new world. You can learn a lot just by observing how children play. Children have the ability to create worlds and characters. They see the fantastic in the most humdrum things. When you see a cereal box, you see just that. However, when a child sees it, he sees the next mega structure in his expanding world.
            2.  Let go of mental boundaries
            When children play, nothing is out of reach. In a child’s imagination, he could be the king of the world or a wizard in a parallel universe. A child’s mind has no limits of logic, reasoning, or absurdity. For a fiction writer, this quality could be the edge you need. You can take your readers on adventures unthinkable for the ‘rational’ adult brain. Surprise yourself by not restraining yourself by the mundane. You're writing fiction, and the world's realities can be moulded any way you want.
            3.  Write without limits
            You can write about anything under the sun. Or if that is too run-of-the mill for you, then construct a whole new world from scratch. Children do exactly that. They believe in dragons and fairies and they talk about mythical worlds with no hesitation. Such unbridled creativity can prove to be a boon for your writing.
            We are easily amused by a child’s fantastical stories. However, if we take them seriously, they are a treasure trove of inspiration. Hand over your pen to the child in you, bubbling with enthusiasm to create something exciting. Do not shy away from challenging Tolkien or Rowling if you believe in your make-believe. Nothing is wrong in the world of fiction. 

            by John Cabrera. John is a freelance writer, web content writer, editor, blogger, content strategist, and ghost-writer. He is the co-founder of Freelance Writer Opportunities, a blog dedicated to writers’ financial growth. Follow John on  Twitter.

            ~~~

              Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

              From Passive Voice To Active Voice - How To Spot It & How To Change It


              We live in a country that has 11 official languages. There is a good chance that either the writer or the reader of any given document is a second language English speaker. This makes the use of Plain Language even more valuable.

              The advantages of being bilingual, or even multilingual, are endless. Your brain actually works differently, but it does mean you have to work hard to use the correct grammar.  

              Plain language guidelines encourage the use of active voice, simpler words, and shorter sentences and paragraphs. 

              You need to simplify your message, and you can only do that if you understand exactly what you want to say. There is no room for ambiguity with plain language. 

              Plain language is almost the opposite of academic writing and that is where the challenge lies. You are so used to writing and reading in this style that it makes passive voice hard to spot. Remember that it is the word order you want to change. 

              Subject-Verb-Object = Active  
              The CEO made the announcement. 

              Object-Verb-Subject = Passive 
              The announcement was made by the CEO. 

              Object-Verb = Passive 
              The announcement was made. 

              How to change passive voice to active voice: 
              1. Check sentence length. The longer your sentences are, the more likely you are to lapse into the passive voice. Reduce your sentence length. Split them, if necessary.
              2. Identify the subject. Who is the doer in the sentence? The subject should be first. Simply ask: who does what?
              3. Identify the verb. It’ll help you to identify the subject.
              4. Identify the object. If the sentence is passive the object will be first.
              5. Rewrite to follow the subject-verb-object order.
              6. What if there is no subject? At times, we do not know who did what. If there is no subject you might have to leave the sentence in the passive voice, but try to figure out who is responsible.   
              Exercise: Change these sentences into the active voice.
              The report was written by Mr Jones. 
              ACTIVE: Mr Jones wrote the report. 

              The annual results were released by the auditors on the 23rd of June and the board was relieved when the markets rallied and the share price increased. 
              ACTIVE: The auditors released the annual results on the 23rd of June. The markets rallied and the share price increased, much to the relief of the board. 

              The line managers were instructed by the CEO to re-evaluate the evacuation protocols of the factory. 
              ACTIVE: The CEO instructed the line managers to re-evaluate the evacuation protocols of the factory. 

              The Hemingway App will help to identify passive voice . You can also use readability statistics in Microsoft Word. 

              If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

               by Mia Botha

              If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

              1. August Writing Prompts
              2. What Writers Can Learn From The Coolest Podcasts On The Web
              3. World-Building For Every Genre: The Ultimate Setting Checklist

              ~~~

                Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

                Writers Write - Our Book Reviews - August 2016

                We have 36 book reviews for you this month. We hope you find one or two that you will enjoy reading in this list. If you haven't read our reviews before, we have a rating system, which is explained below. 

                Our reviewers rate books from 1–5
                1. For use as a doorstop only
                2. Keep for publishers’ and booksellers’ strikes
                3. A great holiday read
                4. You’ll remember this with enthusiasm a month later
                5. Unforgettable
                Here are the reviews:
                1. 15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Century)
                2. 50 Silk Scarves by Melanie Brummer (Metz Press)
                3. A Summer At Sea by Katie Fforde (Century)
                4. A Time Of Torment by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton) 4/5
                5. Angry Owl by Kerryn Ponter (Struik Children) 4/5
                6. Anxiety For Beginners by Eleanor Morgan (Pan Macmillan) 4/5
                7. Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (Atlantic Books) 4/5
                8. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (Walker Books)
                9. Blue by Danielle Steel (Penguin
                10. Bodyguard Target by Chris Bradford (Puffin Books)
                11. Fever At Dawn by Péter Gárdos (Doubleday) 4/5
                12. Flowers And Borders Easy Cross Stitch Designs by Maria Diaz (Metz Press South Africa) 
                13. From Whiskey To Water by Sam Cowen (MF Books) 5/5
                14. Holding My Breath by Ace Moloi (Blackbird Books) 5/5
                15. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Viking) 
                16. How To Invest Like Warren Buffet by Alec Hogg (Jonathan Ball)
                17. In The Maid’s Room by Hagen Engler (Jacana) 5/5
                18. Moskva by Jack Grimwood (Penguin
                19. My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal (Penguin Viking)
                20. Negroland - A Memoir by Margo Jefferson (Granta)
                21. Nombulelo And The Moth by Susie Dinneen (Puffin Books) 4/5
                22. Our Kind Of Traitor by John le Carré (Penguin Books) 4/5
                23. Path Of The Lion by Sandy Geyer (Allcopy Publishers)
                24. Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain (Penguin) 4/5
                25. Sigh The Beloved Country by Bongani Madondo (Picador Africa) 5/5
                26. The BFG by Roald Dahl (Puffin Books) 4/5
                27. The Dot Spot by Dorothy Black (Jacana Media) 
                28. The Girl Who Came Back by Susan Lewis (Century) 4/5
                29. The Lubetkin Legacy by Marina Lewycka (Fig Tree)
                30. The One Man by Andrew Gross (Macmillan) 4/5
                31. The Road To Soweto by Julian Brown (Jacana)
                32. The Swan Book by Alexis Wright (Constable)
                33. The Teacher by Katerina Diamond (AVON) 4/5
                34. To Catch A Star by Romy Sommer (Harper Impulse)
                35. Tuesday Nights In 1980 by Molly Prentiss (Hamish Hamilton) 4/5
                36. What Poets Need by Finuala Dowling (Kwela Books) 4/5

                If you're looking for reviewing tips, read our popular post: How to write a great book review.

                We want to thank PanMacmillan South AfricaJonathan Ball PublishersPenguin Books South AfricaRHS and Jacana Media for the review copies.

                ~~~~

                Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

                25 Simple Ways To Recycle Your Blog Posts

                Great blog posts are created with content that reflects your brand's core message. Your readers follow you because of this and they will read posts that reinforce this again and again. 

                These posts are characterised by ideas that are nurtured with research and percolated over time. Bloggers need patience and the ability to pay attention to details to create these posts.

                Writing more posts is not always better. While it is important to post regularly and to create new content, research shows that timeless posts are often more appealing than frequent, timely posts that are simply written for the sake of writing them. [Read Refreshing the evergreen to find out how recycled content never gets old]

                One of the ways to take the pressure off yourself as a blogger is to look at the popular posts your followers have enjoyed and to find ways to re-purpose them. You may need to update the post itself, or to write a response to the original post. You will also find older posts that many of your new followers will not have seen. 

                'Recycling your blog post is not about being lazy and spinning your old content. It’s about re-visiting a topic that matters with added value and to continue the dialogue,' says Jerry Low, the founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. 

                In the list below, Marko Saric, founder of HowToMakeMyBlog! has come up with 25 ways to re-purpose old content in new and different formats.

                Why don't you try some of these tips to take the pressure off your blogging schedule?

                If you want to learn how to blog and write for social media, join us for  The Complete Blogging and Social Media Course

                 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

                If you enjoyed this post read:

                ~~~

                Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.