Do Not Underestimate NaNoWriMo - Five Life-Saving Tips for Writers

I have underestimated three things in my life.

  • One: My driver’s licence test. Turns out you actually have to know how to drive. Let’s just say I did it more than once.
  • Two: Any diet I have ever been on. 
  • Three: NaNoWriMo. Seriously, this one kicked my butt all the way to Christmas and back. 
Last year around this time I wrote a very optimistic post about this annual occurrence. (Participants in National Novel Writing Month begin writing on 1 November. The goal is to write a 50 000-word novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.) You can read my post here: Five things to do before NaNoWriMo starts

    What you will notice is that my suggestions were valid, but perhaps not as concrete as they could have been. I faded in week two, granted at the end, but fade I did. Anyone who has done NaNo before will warn you about the notorious week two. Anyhow, this year my preparation will be better. As I mentioned I cannot write without direction and research shows your chances of finishing increase with planning.

    Source for Comic

    Before the first of November, I plan to have done the following:

    1. Identify my antagonist and my protagonist. Write bios for each. 
    2. Identify the protagonist's friend and love interest. Write bios for each. This will help with sub-plot development. 
    3. For 50 000 words, I need around 40 scenes. I will plot as many as I can. 
    4. Make my writing appointments for November. Put it in my calendar. Make it official. 
    5. Finish as much writing work as I can before the month starts. If you are planning to enter any of the short story competitions that are due in November make sure they have been submitted before the first. November is a busy month for writing.

    Write your heart out, but do not underestimate this project. Ignore all the planning if it is working, but go back when you are stuck. Good luck and start planning now. 

    (P.S. You can still earn how to write a novel first, on our Writers Write course on Saturdays in October.)

     by Mia Botha

    If you enjoyed this post, you will enjoy 30 NaNoWriMo Tips and November is When Your Novel Happens

    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

      Kids etc. - How to write for children

      Do you dream of creating stories for children and young adults? Do you want to write books that publishers will consider for publication? Do you want to write books that children want to read? 

      Join us for Kids etc. - How to write for children

      We can show you how to plot a children’s story, write it and prepare it for submission. This workshop will help any author of fiction or non-fiction picture or chapter books for children.

      We cover:

      1. What’s in? What’s out?
      2. Plot Ideas
      3. Cool Enough Characters
      4. Pages For Ages – story lengths, genres and language levels
      5. The ‘Once upon a time story’ to work out your plot
      6. Being There – moods, descriptions, lessons and laughter
      7. Mix it Up - dialogue for children
      8. Begin. Pause. Play. Pause. End.
      9. Rewrite. Edit. Publish.
      When? 12 October 2014
      Where? Ten Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg 
      How long? 09:00 – 16:00

      To find out more? Send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za

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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

      Demonstrative Adjectives

      Demonstrative adjectives are used to indicate specific people, places and things (nouns). 

      Source for Poster: Grammar.Net

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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

      The Coffee Club - 10 authors addicted to coffee

      29 September is International Coffee Day. The day is used to promote fair trade coffee and to raise awareness for the plight of coffee growers. 

      Authors have always had a lot to say about coffee. We took this excerpt about writers who loved their coffee from our post, Writers of Substance (Abuse) - Famous Writers and their Addictions.

      The Coffee Club

      1. Honore de Balzac used to drink 50 cups of coffee a day. He woke at 1 am each day and wrote for seven hours. At 8 am he napped for 90 minutes, then wrote again from 9:30 to 4 pm. He said: 'As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move...similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.'
      2. Søren Kierkegaard had an interesting coffee ritual. He poured sugar into a coffee cup until it was piled up above the rim. Next came the incredibly strong, black coffee, which slowly dissolved the white pyramid. Then he gulped the whole thing down in one go.
      3. Voltaire was said to have drunk 30 - 40 cups of coffee (mixed with chocolate) every day.
      4. Gertrude Stein also loved coffee.  She wrote: ‘Coffee gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.’
      5. Benjamin Franklin had high standards for his coffee. He said:  ’Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.’
      6. Alexander Pope enjoyed coffee. He said: ‘Coffee, which makes the politician wise, and see through all things with his half-shut eyes.’
      7. Jean Jacques Rousseau said:  ’Ah, that is a perfume in which I delight; when they roast coffee near my house, I hasten to open the door to take in all the aroma.’
      8. Dave Barry wrote: ‘It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.’
      9. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was an enthusiastic coffee drinker.
      10. Jonathan Swift needed coffee at least once a week to write. He said: 'The best Maxim I know in this life is, to drink your Coffee when you can, and when you cannot, to be easy without it. While you continue to be splenetic, count upon it I will always preach. Thus much I sympathize with you that I am not cheerful enough to write, for I believe Coffee once a week is necessary to that.'

      If you like this, you will love our post from last year The Top 10 Quotes About Coffee

       by Amanda Patterson

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

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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

      The Writers Write Interview - Raymond E. Feist

      We had a wonderful time with Raymond E. Feist, the American best-selling fantasy author. 

      Raymond was in South Africa to promote his latest novel, Magician's End. Writers Write has never had a more in demand author. Enthusiastic fans were desperate to meet their legendary literary hero. If we had 500 tickets, we would have sold all of them. Alas, the hotel could only accommodate 80 of us. He charmed the guests and took time to chat with every one of his supporters. Unfortunately, Amanda Patterson was ill, but Mia Botha and Anthony Ehlers took over and everything was a huge success.

      During the live interview, Raymond shared some writing advice. “The hardest thing for a writer to conquer is fear,” Raymond says. This fear is sneaky and insidious and manifests in strange ways. Instead of settling down to write, you decide to reorganise your sock drawer, sharpen your pencils or nip down to the hardware to buy some supplies to fix the garage door. “Get over it,” he says. “You’re never going to write the perfect sentence—but just get something on the page. Start writing.”

      The Writers Write Interview 

      Author: Raymond E. Feist
      Date of Birth: 23 December 1945
      Date of Interview: 23 September 2014
      Place: Big Space, Ten Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg
      The Book: Magician's End


      1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
      Robin Hood.

      2. What is your most treasured possession?
      I prefer people over possessions.

      3. Which living person do you most dislike?
      Rush Limbaugh

      4. What is your greatest fear?
      I am terrified that something will happen to my children.

      5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
      My children. 

      6. What is your greatest regret?
      Aristotle said, “A life lived without regrets is not a life worth living.” I do have regrets, a bunch, but I am kind of glad I did everything I did because it brought me to this moment. If you could guarantee that I would I have the exact same two kids, I might go back and change some things. 

      7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
      Huckleberry Finn. 

      8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
      I rarely reread, but I would have to say it is Huckleberry Finn. 

      9. What is your favourite journey?
      I am really liking this one, because it is my first visit to South Africa. But I like the journey into your own consciousness and your own personal growth in an attempt to become a better person.  

      10. What is your favourite quotation?
      “Never attribute to malice what can be satisfactorily explained by stupidity.” It is a Robert A. Heinlein take on a quote by Napoleon. 

      11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
      Cats. 

      12. What do you most value in a friend?
      Constancy.

      13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
      Keen self-awareness.

      14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
      None of them and all of them. 

      15. What are your favourite names?
      Nate for boys, and Molly for girls. 

      16. What do you do as a hobby?
      I don’t have a hobby, but I collect whiskey and sports jerseys.  

      17. Which are your three favourite books?

      1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
      2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
      3. The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain

      18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
      Who knows?

      19. What is your Writing Routine?
      I start early in the morning after a shower and a cup of coffee. I check my email and I avoid social media. The days when I play World of Warcraft with my daughter online are less productive, but I try to write 10 – 12 pages a day.  

      20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

      1. Write. Get your butt in the seat and your fingers on the keyboard. 
      2. If you are writing without action, your characters are nothing but ‘talking heads’, and if they are ‘talking heads’, they better be saying something important. 
      3. Give your reader someone to care about. 
      4. The hardest thing for a writer to conquer is fear. Get over it. You’re never going to write the perfect sentence—but just get something on the page. Start writing.
      5. Tell the story. Get the editor out of your head—turn the writer loose on the page.
      6. Don’t ever over re-write. You will never get it perfect. 
      7. Be aware of self-indulgence in description—give the reader enough information to get the picture, but don’t overdo it.
      8. When you're writing, the most important thing, your north star, is the ‎ending. Every word you write should be weighed against that, and if it isn't contributing to your ending, it's a sideline and should be omitted. Readers know instinctively when a writer doesn't have an ending yet.
      9. It’s easy and exciting to start a book, but the most important advice is to FINISH it!

      Follow this link for more photographs from the dinner with Raymond E. Feist

      Visit Raymond Feist's Website to find out more. Follow Raymond on Facebook and Twitter.

       by Mia Botha

      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

      (We have started a new interview for guests called The Writers Write Interview. This is based, in part, on Amanda Patterson's old format of 17 Questions and Answers for Authors. We've added a few more. We hope you enjoy it.)

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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

      Setting - Are we there yet?

      So often setting is overlooked by writers, when in fact it’s a wonderful colour to add to your storytelling palette. 

      Environment shapes character, informs plot and adds mood to your story. From the moral and religious background of your characters, to changing morals and weather, all of these form a crucible to forge out your narrative.

      1. Plot

      A blinding snow storm can hamper a search for a missing child. A long-held belief could prevent a woman from signing a medical release that could save her husband’s life. An impoverished country’s lack of infrastructure could help the spread of a deadly virus. You just have to scan the news to see how the world we live in changes radically every day—these changes could spark a topical new story.

      Try this: Put your characters in a car going to a wedding. List at least 10 obstacles that could stop the car from reaching its destination.

      2. Character

      Imagine a spoiled socialite forced to look after three young children. The domestic setting will be alien to her and she’ll have to learn all sorts of new rules—no pushing a stroller in stilettos for her. Or a corporate jet plunges into the Amazon and the businessmen have to learn how to survive a different jungle.

      Try this: List all the rituals, like going to the corner shop or church that shaped your childhood in your hometown. How can you use this in a story?

      3. Mood

      If you wanted to create a sense of duality or contrast in your story, you could artfully use the setting to illustrate this. Say the hero’s girlfriend has just broken up with him. Why not put him in his darkened home while New Year’s fireworks explode and paint every window?

      Try this: Take a scene from your book.  Imagine you are a painter and need to colour this scene. Is it bluesy, smoke-filled sad? Or is it sun-filled, bright and hopeful?

      When teaching Writers Write, delegates are encouraged to think of setting as a watermark that hovers in the background of every page. It adds something to your story—don’t ignore it.

       by Anthony Ehlers

      (If you enjoyed this post, you will enjoy Dire Consequences - How to get your characters into trouble )

      Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

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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

      The characters they are a changin’

      It is interesting how we immediately relate to change and uncertainty in our own lives, but we sometimes forget to do this with our characters. Character arcs are important. The person at the end of the book cannot be the same as the person in the beginning of the book. Your character has to change. 

      How can you show these changes? 

      List five or six major changes or developments your character will go through. For the purpose of this post, I will tie them to the five major plot points. Remember you must show this. Internal monologue has its uses, but you run the risk of ‘telling’. How will you show me the change?  Try an outside/inside approach. Use external change to show emotional change 

      Example One: A character who goes from being a follower to being a leader 

       

      Action

      Change

      Appearance

      Body language

      Inciting moment

      A plane crashes on a desert island. The other survivors are weak, injured or very young.

      Take away the existing leaders. He has no choice but to lead.

      Neat, short hair, clothes still clean, but becoming more dishevelled.

      Small steps, soft spoken. Limp arms. Bad at public speaking. Cannot find the words. Panics. Avoids eye contact.

      Point 2

      There is a system where the survivors vote about everything.

      He cannot make decisions without consultation.

      Longer hair, beard, dirty clothes, buttons missing.

      Forced to intervene and resolve issues. Speaking improves. Bigger steps. Uses his hands more. Learns to remain calm. Turns head to the side when listening.

      Point 3

      He is challenged by another survivor and stands up to them.

      Create a stand-off. He has a choice and chooses to lead.

      Hair even longer, thick beard, shirt with no buttons, pants cut off at knees.

      Confident speaker, gentle but firm. Strides, swings arms, folds arms. Engages and looks people in the eye.

      Point 4

      He makes decisions that affect the group without consulting them.

      He makes decisions without much thought.

      Long hair, very thick beard. Open shirt, wears only cut off pants.

      Speaks with conviction. Long strides, gestures and uses big hand movements. Creates a steeple with his fingers.

      Ending

      He can evolve into a diplomat. Instead he becomes a dictator.

      He goes too far.

      Even longer hair and thicker beard. Wears only cut off pants.

      His speech is obsessive and deranged. Requests become demands. He gestures wildly


      Source for Image

      Example Two: A woman who leaves an abusive relationship 

       

      Action

      Change

      Appearance

      Body language

      Inciting moment

      Show the abuse or her injuries.

      Show her as powerless and at the mercy of the abuser.

      Long hair, heavy make-up to cover injuries. Conservative clothes. Long sleeves. Long skirts and long pants. Tries not to be noticed.

      Quiet, shaky. Barely speaks, and if she does it is almost a whisper. Cries quickly. Small, birdlike gestures.

      Point 2

      Her will to live outweighs her fear.

      She manages to escape.

      Badly hurt, desperate. Clothes dishevelled.  

      Injured, jittery. In tears. Avoids eye contact.

      Point 3

      She moves to a different town.

      She builds a new life.

      Changes her appearance. Cuts her hair. Wears lighter make-up.

      Jumpy, scares easily. Moves quietly. Speaks more.

      Point 4

      A new friendship helps her adapt. A romantic interest may develop if enough time has passed.

      She learns to trust again.

      Wears less conservative clothes like sun dresses. Takes care with her appearance.

       

      Looks at people when she speaks. Touches people lightly. Talks more and she is louder.  Glances and makes eye contact for short periods.

      Ending

      Her abuser finds her.

      She makes a stand and is triumphant.

      She will still wear less conservative clothes like shorts and tank tops. No make-up or maybe bright red lipstick. Perhaps she will regrow her hair.

      Scared, but confident. Bigger movements. Looks her abuser in the eye.

      Everything will influence your character’s development. Some stories take place in a matter hours or days. Others take place over an entire lifetime. Some events are bigger and some smaller, but they all should affect your character.

      Happy writing.  

       by Mia Botha

      If you enjoyed this post, you will enjoy The Cell Phone Reaction – How to make the most of the scenes you already have.

      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

        Persuasive Writing - The Most Persuasive Words

        These are considered good words to use if you are advertising a product. Remember that you should not use all of them in one piece of writing.

        Join us for The Social Brand - How to write for social media on 30 September 2014 in Johannesburg

        Source for Image

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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

        October 2014 - In Writing

        Course

        Description

        Dates

        Writers Write

        How to Write a Book

        4,11,18,25

        The Plain Language Programme

        Advanced Business Writing

        14-15

        Short Cuts

        How to Write a Short Story

        19

        Kids etc.

        How to write Children’s Books

        12

        Secrets of a Memoirist

        How to write a Memoir

        20-23


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

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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

        Grey Expectations - How '50 Shades of Grey' has affected publishing

        Just when we thought the ruckus around E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy was dying down, the trailer for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie hit the internet, whipping everyone into a frenzy. Pun intended. 

        E.L. James, whose real name is Erika Leonard, calls it adult romance. News agencies have called it mummy porn. Whatever it is, there is no doubt that it is popular. By August 2012, just a little over a year after its release, Amazon had sold more copies of Fifty Shades of Grey than it had the entire Harry Potter series.

        Source for Image

        The Top of the 'Books Left Behind' List

        Unlike the Harry Potter books, many of these were not given a place on bookshelves. According to a 2012 article in the Telegraph, the budget hotel chain Travelodge reported that in Fifty Shades of Grey’s first year of sale, it was number 1 on their ‘Books Left Behind’ list. Approximately 7 000 copies of the book were recovered from their hotel rooms after guests checked out. 

        Still, it has sparked the emergence of saucy literature, like Jassy Mackenzie’s Folly and Switch. There has been a renewed demand for previously published erotic literature, leading to republication of works like Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy and Sylvia Day’s Bared to You.

        Back to the Classics

        A Huffpost Culture article reported in 2012 that Total-E-Bound Publishing, an adult fiction publisher, intended republishing some literary classics after giving them an erotic makeover.

        Their new release of Wuthering Heights (by Emily Brontë and Ranae Rose) has lashings of bondage sessions between Catherine and Heathcliff. The blurb for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (by Washington Irving and Morticia Knight) reads, ‘There is terror at every turn in the mysterious Sleepy Hollow – but there is also plenty of lustful frolicking. Can three lovers thwart the legendary Headless Horseman to be together forever?’ The publisher aims to show the reader the scenes the reader has always wanted, but was never allowed.

        What started as a little (okay, a lot of) slap and tickle has morphed into a grey area, in the un-erotic sense of the word. It raises some interesting questions.

        In true chicken-and-egg style, to what extent does the demand for sexually explicit literature reveal an existing hunger in society, versus create it? We should consider the significance of this for authors.

        The Most Important Question

        Is literary worth determined by entertainment value and resultant sales figures? One of today’s most discarded books has led to some of the classics, which are still being read generations after they were written, being deemed unentertaining. If entertainment – writing what readers want to read – is the yardstick for literary worth and is the highest value, does it follow that it is permissible to rewrite other authors’ works? 

        What do you think? 

         by Donna Radley

        Donna is a creative writer who has tinkered with words for years. She has written newsletters and online articles, translated a book, and edited a variety of documents. She also reviews books. She owned her own training business and now facilitates The Plain Language Programme for Writers Write. She is currently working on her novel, which involves drinking lots of sweet tea. You can view her profile on LinkedIn or follow her on 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