The Top 50 Writing Blogs of 2015

Bryan Hutchinson from Positive Writer has announced the Top 50 Writing Blogs of 2015.

We are thrilled that Writers Write is one of them. Thank you for reading our posts and we hope that we continue to inspire, educate and entertain writers.

We must thank our contributors, Amanda PattersonMia Botha, and Anthony Ehlers who make sure that we always have excellent content to post.

If you missed this post, read The Writers Write Top 42 Writing Posts of 2014, which were essentially what put us in the Top 50. 

P.S. We were also named one of the 13 Great Facebook Pages for Writers

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

February 2015 - In Writing


Meet Barbara Kingsolver at Writers Write in Johannesburg, 10 February 2015.

Courses in February and March 2015

Course

Description

Dates

Writers Write

How to Write a Book

2-5 February

Writers Write

How to Write a Book

7,14,21,28 February

Writers Write

How to Write a Book

9-12 March

Writers Write

How to write a Book

7,14,21,28 March

The Plain Language Programme

Advanced Business Writing

17-18 February

The Plain Language Programme

Advanced Business Writing

17-18 March

The Social Brand

How to write for Social Media

27 February

Kids etc.

How to write Children’s Books

1 March

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If you want more details on any of these, please email news@writerswrite.co.za

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Social Media Explained

Have you ever thought of using #Caturday for your business. Or #throwbackthursdays?

"If content is the king of Social Media, consistency is the queen. It's about showing up when you say you will. It is a challenge when life intrudes, but there are ways to make it easier for you. Planning your posts a week or a month ahead helps. Categories and themes are all great ways to simplify your content." ~Mia Botha, How to plan your blogging week in less than 15 minutes

Source for Image

Writing for social media is all about engaging your audience, and showing your personality. It is a fun and effective way to talk about your business on your blog. If you communicate well on your networks, you will be successful.

Writers Write has more than 300 000 followers on social media. More than 80% of our business is generated via these platforms. If you want to find out more, join us for The Social Brand, our social media workshop on 27 February 2015.

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Join us on Facebook 

and Twitter

Follow @Writers_Write

and Pinterest

Pinterest

and LinkedIn

LinkedIn

and Google+

Google+

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If you enjoyed this post read:

  1. Social networks need a ‘constant gardener’ to grow and sustain them
  2. The Most Important Lesson for Building a Social Media Following - Being There
  3. Three Top Tips for Writing for Social Media
  4. Eight Invaluable Blogging Tips for Writers
  5. 40 Twitter Hashtags for Writers
  6. Seven ways to make the most of social media
  7. Six reasons social media matters to your company
  8. Effective Internet Writing
  9. Throwback Thursdays Mean Business

 by Amanda Patterson. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and  Twitter.  


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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Five Really Good Reasons To Outline Your Novel - before you write a word

Outlining isn't a necessity, but there are so many advantages to it that even die-hard 'pantsters' should think twice about rejecting it. I have taught hundreds of people to write and 90% of those authors who finish writing their books have used an outline of some sort. Most of the authors I’ve interviewed also use outlines. 

Outlines can be: 50-page detailed plans; a simple series of index cards with a list of characters, major scenes, and sequels; structured timelines; a series of character questionnaires showing development, motivations, flaws and strengths; story maps; or one-page synopses. Outlining does not mean that you have to put in every detail. (Note: There are some outliners who do include everything.) It does mean that you have a map to help you navigate and finish a first draft. 

Some authors have plotted their stories for decades in their heads, making notes in journals. As George RR Martin, creator of A Song of Fire and Ice says: 

    All the major things have been planned since the beginning, since the early 90s, the major deaths and the general direction of things. Obviously, the details and the minor things have been things that I've discovered along the way, part of the fun of writing the books is making these discoveries along the journey. But the general structure of the books has been in my head all along. 

Source for Outlining Methods

Here are five advantages tor outlining your novel before you start: 

  1. There is very little chance of writer’s block. Getting stuck in a rut or losing the plot are the most common reasons people join our course. They have tried the ‘pantser’ method and failed. None of these writers have outlined or worried about whether they have a plot that is strong enough to see them through. Once they join Writers Write, and work out that they need a plan, they are much happier and mostly more successful. If you get stuck, you simply look at the outline and move on.
  2. You reduce the number of rewrites and edits. Outlining is similar, in many ways, to a first draft. If you spend time planning the book, you will have already written at least one rough draft before you start on the manuscript. You will also be able to write more quickly because you have a plan. The freedom of having an outline allows you to be more creative when you’re writing scenes. You can use your writing skills to craft the story instead of frantically trying to think about what happens next.
  3. You spot problem areas before you begin. It is easy to write yourself and your characters into impossible situations. It might be fun, but you may have to scrap an entire book and begin again if you can’t write yourself out of it.
  4. It improves creativity. By thinking everything through and planning your story you’re stimulating the creative process. Even if you write the first draft without referring to your outline, you will have a head start with your story. You will also be able to thread ideas through the story and to foreshadow more effectively. You can’t foreshadow if you don’t know what is going to happen next.
  5. You can develop compelling characters with clear story goals. This allows you to imagine how your character will develop over the course of the story. Because you know what happens, his or her arc will never be out of step with the rest of the manuscript. 

What do you have to lose by outlining? Very little. In more than 10 years of teaching, I have never had students say that it has made their writing worse. Most of them are grateful that they do not have to waste more time on books that fall flat. 

If you enjoyed this post, read 

  1. Six Sub-Plots That Add Style To Your Story 
  2. Five guaranteed ways to bore your reader
  3. The Author’s Promise - two things every writer should do
  4. What is the difference between a commercial and a literary plot?
  5. The Top 10 Tips for Plotting and Finishing a Book
 by Amanda Patterson. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand. Follow her on Pinterest, Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and  Twitter.  

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Text © Amanda Patterson

Let’s talk dialogue – Do you say it out loud or keep it to yourself?

Last week I wrote about How to shape and structure spoken words. This week I want to talk about how interior thought works with dialogue.

We live in the age of the ‘over-share’. On meeting someone for the first time, do we blurt out things better left private – our love life, medical history or religious and political beliefs?

An example of TMI (Too Much Information) is perhaps a great way to show how spoken dialogue and interior thought works in fiction. 

Out of your character’s mouth

Imagine that a character – let’s call him Clement – is going for a job interview.

    ‘I really can’t stay too long,’ Clement said. ‘My mom’s waiting in the car for me. You see, I don’t have my own car.’
    The recruiter looked up from her clipboard. ‘We should be finished in a few minutes.’
    ‘She doesn’t like it when I’m late,’ he went on. ‘I know I should stand up to her. My therapist says I should be more assertive. What do you think?’
    She smiled. ‘I think respecting your mother is important.’

In the above example, the words were spoken by the characters – out loud, and Clement and the recruiter could hear each other. As writers, we show this by using inverted commas or quotation marks.

What's going on in her head?

Now, let’s imagine the recruiter – let’s call her Karen – in the above example has some serious doubts about Clement as a candidate – but she won’t share these with him. She’ll keep them to herself. This is what it could look like.

    Karen looked at the candidate opposite her. This one looks like a loser, she thought. Why do I always get stuck with the freaks?
    ‘I really can’t stay too long,’ he said. ‘My mom’s waiting in the car for me. You see, I don’t have my own car.’
    Karen looked up from her clipboard. ‘We should be finished in a few minutes.’ And so will your chances of ever getting this job.
    ‘She doesn’t like it when I’m late,’ he went on. ‘I know I should stand up to her. My therapist says I should be more assertive. What do you think?’
    She smiled. ‘I think respecting your mother is important.’ Especially if you’re Norman Bates.

In this example, the words in italics are Karen’s thought. Sometimes called interior thought, it’s the private voice inside your character’s head. You don’t have to use the italics to show interior dialogue or speech, but it’s a nice way to make it stand out.

When we write, we should find a consistent way to show the spoken dialogue and the interior thoughts of our characters, so that the reader never becomes confused.

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Let’s talk dialogue – how to shape and structure spoken words.

 by Anthony Ehlers

Anthony Ehlers is a reluctant blogger. A child of the 70s, he’s a late converter to the (sometimes scary) world of social media. As a creative writing facilitator, he loves sharing ideas around storytelling and the blog post is another way to reach out to fellow writers no matter their stage of the journey. He always encourages delegates with energy, humour and his insights into novels, short stories and scriptwriting. He sometimes lurks on Facebook and flits on to a branch of Twitter  when his Inbox is empty (which isn’t a lot these days).

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

How Being Specific Helps You Show And Not Tell

At the end of last year I wrote a post titled Five Incredibly Simple Ways to Help Writers Show and Not Tell. This week I want to discuss Tip 3 - Be specific - in more detail. 

As writers, we are often told to be specific. This is good advice. When you are specific, you create a clearer picture for your reader. Advice I often give students is to turn the telling part into a physical action or object. 

Look at these examples: 

Example 1

Angie sat down on the chair. She was so worried about the money. Their account was empty and the bills were piling up. The rent was due. She looked out of the window where the kids were playing in the street. Jake snored softly on the couch, surrounded by beer cans. She did not know what they would eat for the rest of the week.

Example 2

Angie slumped in the chair. Empty envelopes crunched under her feet. The opened bills spread out on the tiny table. White papers folded in three, waving with a playful cheeriness. Stamped with serious red ink: Final notice.
A soccer ball hit the side of the house with a dull thud.
“Score.” Jimmy’s voice rose above the rest. He waved as he sprinted past the window. “Hi Mom!” he yelled.
She waved back.
The couch creaked as Jake turned over. Beer cans clattered to the floor. His soft snores building up to the belch that would follow.
The table vibrated as her phone rang. She sent the call straight to voicemail. No need to speak to the landlord. She knew exactly what he wanted.
She sighed as she made her way to the kitchen. The last can of SpaghettiOs sat on the shelf.
It slurped as she emptied it into the bowl. Dinner was served.

Six simple changes in one paragraph

I made the following changes to the second example:

  1. By using the word slumped instead of sat, you were able to tell more about her mood. (Using strong nouns and verbs can really change your writing, but more about this in a few weeks.)
  2. By introducing the actual bills and making her interact with them, I have shown you her problem. You’ve opened bills before. You can relate. Right?
  3. I introduced you to Jimmy. By doing that, I created a more specific picture in your mind. Regardless of what colour you think his hair was or what t-shirt he was wearing, you saw a little boy, not just a kid. You now know he is a happy, energetic kid who likes his mom. It has a lot more impact than just saying kids.
  4. I added sensory detail to Jake. Remember the post about using senses to show and not tell? Can you tell where else I used senses to improve the second example? Do you like Jake? What questions are you asking yourself about him?
  5. When Angie ignores the call from the landlord, we see how serious her problem really is. Everything is in jeopardy. It increases the conflict and a phone call is immediate. More so than a letter. What will happen next? Will the landlord knock on the door?
  6. The can of SpaghettiOs also helps to illustrate her dire circumstance. There is nothing else after this. What will she do? We can all relate to opening a can. Almost all of us can relate to worrying about money. It is up to the writer to make it real for the reader. 

Be as specific as you can when you write. It makes your writing stronger, your images clearer and forces your reader to engage mentally and emotionally. Remember I am only using one or two elements to show. There are more and I will discuss them in detail in the following weeks. 

Happy Showing. 

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. Five Incredibly Simple Ways To Help Writers Show And Not Tell 
  2. How To Use The Senses To Show And Not Tell
  3. How Choosing a Viewpoint Character Helps You Show And Not Tell

Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Understanding Phrasal Verbs - Two word verbs with ‘get’

    'Phrasal verbs' are two word verbs with meaning beyond the individual words. This infographic illustrates phrasal verbs using 'get'.

    Source for Poster: Grammar.Net

    If you want to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    93 Extremely Bad Business Writing Habits to Break

    Simplify your writing by removing unnecessary words and phrases. We use weak, wordy sentences because we are lazy. It is easier to use the clichés than to take time to improve our writing. 

    Many great writers have commented on this problem. Here are 10 choice quotes about wordiness:

    1. The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. ~Thomas Jefferson
    2. Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words. ~Apocrypha
    3. When you wish to instruct, be brief. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind. ~Cicero
    4. Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction. ~Albert Einstein
    5. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~Leonardo da Vinci
    6. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. ~George Orwell
    7. The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity. ~Robert Stuberg
    8. I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip. ~Elmore Leonard
    9. Use the smallest word that does the job. ~E.B. White
    10. So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads. ~Dr Seuss

    How can we fix this?

    If you want to be a better writer, break this bad business writing habit. Instead of vomiting meaningless words on the page, take time to think about what you are saying. Remove unnecessary words and phrases. Your reader will probably even read what you have written.

    © Amanda Patterson

    If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:

    1. Nine Things To Avoid When You Write A Report
    2. Begin at the end - the one essential email trick every business writer should know
    3. The Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails
    4. Persuasive Writing Brainstormer Template

    If you want to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme


     by Amanda Patterson. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand. Follow her on PinterestFacebookGoogle+Tumblr and Twitter.  

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Six Sub-Plots That Add Style To Your Story

    What is a sub-plot? 

    A sub-plot is a plot that supports your main plot. Like your plot, it should have a character who pursues a story goal and encounters setbacks and conflict because of these actions. It should also reach a resolution of some kind. If your character succeeds in attaining the goal of the main plot, it could be a good idea for a failure in the sub-plot. 

    Tip: The main plot begins and ends the novel. Sub-plots should begin and end within the main plot. 

    Why should you have one? 

    Sub-plots add layers and texture to your novel, because they:

    • Show different perspectives of the central conflict in the story
    • Test your main characters’ motivations and abilities to achieve their goals
    • Show different aspects of the protagonist’s personality 

    If your sub-plot does not do at least one of these, it will feel like a stand-alone story within your novel. This will irritate most readers. A good way to see if your sub-plot adds to your book is to see if your main story changes if you remove it. If it does not, you do not need it. Save it for another book. 

    Six Sub-plots 

    1. Love. The love interest is the most common sub-plot. Remember that it does not have to be a romantic love interest. It should be a person or an animal that your protagonist loves. It could be a friend, a pet, or a family member. Writers use love interests to support protagonists and to thwart them by threatening their well-being.
    2. Growth. You can use a character’s emotional, spiritual or intellectual learning curves in this type of sub-plot. Protagonists do not always get what they want, but in a good story, they get what they need. This sub-plot shows a character’s story arc. A wizard who learns that real love is not part of a magic trick or a detective whose definition of faith changes when he or she investigates a crime committed by a religious leader, is interesting.
    3. Habits, Addictions, Traits. These can complicate matters for your main characters and make them more realistic. A ruthless politician with an interesting addiction, a corporate lawyer with an OCD, or an unfaithful wife who volunteers at a homeless shelter, becomes intriguing.
    4. Fear. If you make your characters vulnerable in some way, you can use this as a sub-plot. A soldier may be terrified of flying, but he or she has to deal with this to perform duties. An attractive forensic specialist may be unable to cope with intimate relationships because of the death of a spouse.
    5. Dreams. This sub-plot shows a hidden or delayed desire of the protagonist. He or she may want to study or visit a foreign city, or learn how to dance, paint or write. If the main plot is violent or action-packed, it is a good idea to make one of the sub-plots more reflective.
    6. Comedy. This sub-plot should only be used if you are naturally funny. There may be comic relief in a tense plot, but it usually comes from a character who is not the protagonist. If you are writing a novel with a serious theme and sombre mood, some light relief may be necessary. 

    Tip: Too many sub-plots spoil the broth. Don't overdo it. One or two sub-plots are usually enough.

    Never let the sub-plot detract from the primary plot. It should add colour and texture. If it does not, it is not the right one for your story.

    © Amanda Patterson

    If you enjoyed this post, you will love Torture your Character - The Three Most Effective Types of Inner Conflict and 17 Ways To Make your Novel More Memorable

     by Amanda Patterson. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand. Follow her on PinterestFacebookGoogle+Tumblr and Twitter.  

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    By Amanda Patterson

    Let’s talk dialogue – How to shape and structure spoken words

    I kind of like corny jokes, especially ones involving nuns. I’ll leave the dirtier ones out of today’s blog – but the great thing about jokes is that they usually have lots of dialogue. Let’s take an old joke and turn it into story dialogue.

    ‘Waitress, there’s something in my soup, I think it’s a fly,’ I complained.
    ‘That’s not a fly, it’s a burned crouton,’ answered the waitress as she chewed gum.
    ‘I’m pretty sure it’s a fly. What’s it doing in my soup?’ I demanded, pointing to the bowl.
    ‘I think it’s doing backstroke,’ the waitress said.

    The right dialogue for the right genre

    OK, it’s pretty bad, isn’t it? I mean the dialogue and the joke. After some thought, here are some ways to make it read better. (The dialogue, not the joke.)

    1. Every line is structured the same – it’s going be the equivalent of a singsong voice on the page (i.e., annoying). We need to break it up a bit.
    2. The idea of a joke is to be short and punchy. Let’s make the dialogue work for it, not against it. If you’re writing an action-packed story, your dialogue should be action-packed. If you’re writing a drama, it can be more weighted.
    3. Oops, there are no dialogue tags. These descriptors add texture to the speakers. They need to give character, movement, style, the tone of the story. We can’t just add them in randomly.
    4. And the dialogue here could be a little more colloquial ­– it needs to sound like real people talking. 

    Source for cartoon

    Waiter, there’s great dialogue in my story!

    Here is what the dialogue could look like if we structure and shape it in the right way.

    ‘Waitress, there’s a fly in my soup!’ I jabbed a finger at the bowl.
    She cracked a big piece of pink gum in the side of her mouth. ‘Nah,’ she said, ‘it’s just a burned crouton.’
    ‘It’s a fly!’  I felt my face turn red. ‘What’s it doing in my soup?’
    She peered down for a closer look. ‘Backstroke?’

    Look, don’t just listen

    Many of us tend to focus on just the words our characters are saying in the story. This is good, but we also need to pay attention to how it’s going to look on the flat surface of a page. Structure doesn’t just give us a better-looking story; it also makes the experience more enjoyable for the reader. The reader must see it and hear it in his or her imagination.

    If you enjoyed this post, you will love Five Creative Ways To Make Your Story More Powerful.

     by Anthony Ehlers

    Anthony Ehlers is a reluctant blogger. A child of the 70s, he’s a late converter to the (sometimes scary) world of social media. As a creative writing facilitator, he loves sharing ideas around storytelling and the blog post is another way to reach out to fellow writers no matter their stage of the journey. He always encourages delegates with energy, humour and his insights into novels, short stories and scriptwriting. He sometimes lurks on Facebook and flits on to a branch of Twitter  when his Inbox is empty (which isn’t a lot these days). 

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate