Writers Write Reviewers Choose Their Top Books of 2014

We asked our regular book reviewers to send us their top five reads of 2014. It's interesting to see their choices from 2013 and 2012 as well. The choices are as eclectic as the business of publishing. 

And the winners are:

Our favourite books were The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick with three appearances, and The Circle by Dave Eggers and Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, with two appearances each.

If you want to follow our reviews, please 'like' our book review page on Facebook, The Bluestocking Review. Please share your favourite five books in the comments section below.

Our Favourite Reads of 2014

Amanda Patterson 

  1. The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (Picador). This was my favourite book of 2014. Bartholomew Neil’s mother always loved to celebrate the little things and she had a gift for making the ordinary extraordinary. She believed in the good luck of right now. How will Bartholomew make sense of her death and find meaning again? Read it. It's worth every word.
  2. Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (Orion). John Rebus has come out of retirement. Rankin, my favourite crime novelist, has crafted a brilliant crime novel with interesting topical threads.
  3. The Circle by Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton). This is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World filled with too much information, coupled with George Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ from 1984. This dark satire is thought-provoking, well-written and worth reading. The Circle is probably just around the corner.
  4. Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Penguin/Michael Joseph). This is part suburban mystery, part women’s drama and completely compulsive reading. I loved this witty, clever novel.
  5. Incognito: The Memoirs of Ben Trovato by Mark Verbaan (Macmillan). Reading this memoir felt like drowning – in a good way. I went on a journey to a place I had almost forgotten. My memories of South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s range from black and white snapshots to garish Polaroid blurs. My emotions are varied, bruised and confused, much like the author’s. Highly recommended.

Mia Botha

  1. The Circle by Dave Eggers (Hamish Hamilton). I think is my favourite book of the year. It’s like reading George Orwell’s 1984. It’s so ludicrous it’ll never happen, right? Right? When Mae is hired by the most powerful internet company she is thrilled. It is a company that celebrates transparency and connectivity. Who doesn’t want to share everything? Show everything? 
  2. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (Walker Books). Ava is born with wings. The world thinks she is an angel, but Ava is just a teenage girl. She wants love and friends and life just like everyone else’s. But with a family like hers chance of a happy heart is slim. Magic Realism, unrequited love and a yellow canary.
  3. The Good Luck Right Now by Matthew Quick (Picador) When Bartholomew’s mother dies he finds a form letter from Richard Gere. Ha begins corresponding with him. Add a drunken priest, a Girlbrarian, her weird brother and a trip to Cat Parliament. Beautiful.  
  4. Don’t Stand So Close by Luana Lewis (Bantam Press). Stella hasn’t left her house in three years. Her last case left her broken, but when a teenage girl arrives on her doorstep in the middle of a snow storm she has to let her in. Why does this girl know so much about her? And about her husband? 
  5. Fangirl by Robin Rowell (Macmillan). Cath is abandoned by her identical twin and finds herself in the unfamiliar daunting world of college. She lives for the fanfiction she writes, but then she meets Levi and he convinces there might be more to life than rewriting someone else’s story. 

Anthony Ehlers 

  1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Hutchison). This is one of the most exciting novels I've read in years, driven by an incredible story and coloured by unforgettable characters - a must for cinephiles and aspiring novelists
  2. I'm Not Your Weekend Special by Bongani Madondo (Picador Africa). This multi-viewpoint bio brought the legend that was Brenda Fassie back to life in a vivid way - she was so much more than just her music.
  3. Birdseye by Maire Fisher (Umuzi), showed a deft storyteller's touch in bringing a family saga, mystery and coming of age story to life in an evocative South African setting.
  4. Dodger's Guide to London by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday). It brought Victorian London to life in an idiosyncratic, visual way - showing the humanity and fun under the grime and poverty.
  5. The Mammoth Book of Shark Attacks edited by Alex MacCormick and Rod Green (Robinson). This is a book you shouldn't enjoy but can't put down - it's like mainlining vicarious and horrific reality TV. 

Pauline Vijveberg 

  1. Two Turtle Doves: A Memoir of Making Things by Alex Monroe (Bloomsbury Circus). My favourite book of the year. It’s all about beauty and a childhood in England. Jewellery designer Munroe describes where he finds inspiration and how he creates his collections.
  2. The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee (Macmillan). This brilliant mystery novel, inspired by the story of Korean dissident poet Yun Dong-ju, is a lyrical page-turner, full of poetry and references to western literature. It is about a murdered Japanese prison guard, found with a poem in his pocket and a young warden who grew up in the bookshop of his mother. It reminded me of The Shadow of the Wind and The Kite Runner. Highly recommended.
  3. And Then Came Paulette by Barbara Constantine (Quercus). This is a lovely, light-hearted read about a widower who opens his house and heart to new occupants. A feel good story of an almost perfect world.
  4. A History of Loneliness by John Boyne (Random House). The author most known for The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, has written a stark and unsettling book about guilt and self-deceit. It is about the exploitation of power and corruption in the Catholic Church and the consequences of one man’s silence and his inability to act.
  5. The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape). As a big fan of Ian McEwan I consider this as one of his best books. It’s about the moral dilemmas a High Court judge faces, from a decision to operate on a Siamese twin, with the inevitable result of one of the twins dying, to a case where a seventeen-year-old Jehovah’s Witness boy has leukaemia, but because of his and his parents’ religious believes he is refusing a blood transfusion that could save his life. The unexpected twist makes this a memorable book. 

Veerle Vijveberg (15)

  1. Undone by Cat Clarke (Quercus). This is my favourite book of 2014 because it is thrilling and romantic and funny and mysterious all at the same time. The cherry on top of the cake was the unexpected ending that left me jaw-dropped and thinking about the book for weeks to come.
  2. Stay Where You Are And Then Leave by John Boyne (Doubleday). I loved this book because it portrayed what the war was like for so many different characters. John Boyne is a marvellous writer; especially how he captured the emotions of wars from innocent people. It was beautifully written, and it summed up the devastation of that time in the eyes of a small young boy named Elfie, who I will never forget.
  3. Geek Girl by Holly Smale (Harper Teen). This is on my list of favourite books because it was enjoyable and relaxing to read. It was funny, and it showed life through a character’s eyes in such a way that I can relate to how she feels and how she reacts to the situations. The author made perfect use of detail and “cliff-hangers”.
  4. My Best Friend and Other Enemies by Catherine Wilkins (Nosy Crow). This was a fantastic book because it was so relatable. I loved the characters and the plot, and the story was easy to read, yet difficult to put down.
  5. Double Crossing by Richard Platt (Walker Books). I loved this book because it was packed full of action and mystery, and every decision made by the characters was completely unexpected by the reader, making the book even more exciting. 

Irene Roper 

  1. Some Luck by Jane Smiley (Mantle). I loved this book because it transported me into the olden days in rural America and into the characters’ lives so completely that I lost all awareness of the fact that I was reading a book.
  2. Eyrie by Tom Winton (Picador). This book was a surprise favourite, chosen because its haunting story of failed lives and their redeeming features has stayed with me long after the book has gathered dust.
  3. The Crazy Life of Larry Jo by Joanne Jowell (Macmillan). This fascinating, heart-rending biographical glimpse into the true rags-to-riches experiences of a musician growing up in a Cape Coloured community left me re-thinking many issues and downloading tracks of his music.
  4. A Ghost at the Door by Michael Dobbs (Simon & Schuster). This political thriller proved as intriguing as Michael Dobbs’s well-known story, House of Cards, a favourite television series.
  5. Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs (William Heineman). As a long-time Kathy Reichs reader, I could not resist this satisfying page-turner and was not disappointed. 

Amanda Blankfield-Koseff 

  1. The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puértolas (Harvill Secker). The unusual title describes the contents - an adventure story that is fantastic and unreal yet totally believable and fully entertaining
  2. How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran (Ebury Press). This is a well-written book that uses wit and humour to lighten the mood during soul-searching moments
  3. 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (Picador). This is an elegant and eloquent book written with humour and sensitivity, it is so refreshing
  4. Kalahari Summer by Robert Grogan (Struik). This is a coffee table book with beautiful photographs and paintings from the scenic Kalahari
  5. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (Picador). An engaging read with believable characters about a wedding that becomes a reunion 

Dawn Blankfield 

  1. Lies Like Love by Louisa Reid (Penguin). This is an engaging, harrowing, insightful simply written story telling how a mother would sacrifice her daughter for her own sick needs.
  2. The Long Shadow by Liza Maryland (Atria/Emily Bestler Books). The reader is drawn into the protagonist's story as though you feel her every move.
  3. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton(Picador) . The story has a magical haunting quality which is entrancing, nudging you on for more.
  4. Sister Moon by Kirsten Miller (Umuzi). Miller is a poetic writer with beautiful descriptions of places and feelings.
  5. Five Lives At Noon by Brent Meersman (Missing Ink). The novel feels like a documentary, describing truths while enhancing the story through its characters. 

Ashleigh Seton-Rogers 

  1. White Wahala by Ekow Duker (Picador Africa). Set in the township of Scottsville Soweto, this gem of a book explores the sobering differences between the different social classes in SA, which forms the backdrop for our anti-hero Cash Tshabalala.
  2. Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla (The Friday Project). A sharp and enthralling story about a young man living in the UK and his obsession with social media. 
  3. The Farm by Tom Rob Smith (Simon & Schuster). The book is a fast-paced page-turner that will mess with your mind. Who is Daniel to believe? Is his mom simply being paranoid, or is his dad really involved in some dodgy dealings.
  4. The Vacationers by Emma Straub (Picador). A holiday in Mallorca, Spain. What could be more fabulous? Unfortunately like all good intentions, a well-deserved holiday with family and friends never goes quite as planned. And if not for the drama and mini-melt downs that always occur on such occasions, life would be a beach as they say. 
  5. Of Cops & Robbers by Mike Nicol (Umuzi). I adored this book. The characters are vivid and the story relatable. Set in Cape Town we follow the trail of Private Investigator Fish Pescado. When he’s not hot on the trails of a corrupt government official, he can be found out in the bay catching waves.

Donna Radley 

  1. The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton) . 'Don't judge this book by its length. It may be short, but its message about conquest, servitude and hope is a poignant punch to the gut.'
  2. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (Picador). 'This is a heart-stirring tale of friendship and true love that stays with you long after you've put the book down.'
  3. Silencer by Andy McNab(Bantam Press). 'This fast-paced action thriller is gritty chase at its best.'
  4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. 'I was late to the party in reading this one, but am glad I did. Markus's writing is original, insightful and beautiful.'
  5. The Catcher In the Rye by JD Salinger. 'It was on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It's an experience. I fully intend immersing myself its angst again next year.' 

Ulrike Hill 

  1. The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen (Bantam Press). Enthralling heroine and an exciting storyline.
  2. Invisible by James Patterson(Century). This thriller about ‘accidental fires’ will keep you awake at night.
  3. Call it like it is by Jonathan Kaplan. South Africa’s best-loved referee tells his story and provides different insights to the game of rugby.
  4. Raven’s Gate by Anthony Horowitz (Walker Books). The beginning of a bigger story about magic and a strange town.
  5. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. I found myself trawling the bookshelves for something exciting, something that would have me reading into the wee hours of the morning. The series had me captivated although they were not new releases. 

Christopher Dean

  1. The Good Luck of Right Now by Mathew Quick (Picador). Everyone needs a Cat Parliament to run to from time to time. 
  2. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday). Rail roads, politics and magic all on the back of a world-sized turtle hurtling through space.
  3. Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb (Harper Voyager). Reading Robin Hobb is like sitting back and relaxing in your favourite chair; bad for your neck but you do it anyway.

    Liz Breet

    1. Devilskein & Dearlove by Alex Smith (Umuzi). Set on Cape Town’s Long Street, Alex Smith’s book is classed as a young adult fantasy, but it will be appreciated by anyone over the age of 12. Alex’s writing is playful and enchanting with multiple twists that keep the reader intoxicated. A sequel would be a good idea.
    2. What I know for sure by Oprah Winfrey (Macmillan). This highly inspirational book is a keepsake, meant to be picked up at any time for a little nourishment and remembrance about who you are and what you want to become.
    3. Reasons my kid is crying by Greg Pembroke (Boxtree). This is an easy read. As the mom of a baby girl, I wait in anticipation for the ‘snot en trane’ that will fill the walls of my home one day. It is also good to know that you are not the only parent whose child ‘loses it’ over the smallest things.

    Catherine Nixon 

    1. An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell (Harvill Secker). Mankell is a master of suspense and never fails to provide a riveting story with surprising sub-plots.
    2. Want you Dead by Peter James (Macmillan) - I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the book despite the alarmingly poor book cover.
    3. The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Soderberg (Harvill Secker). An international crime thriller that enthralled me from start to finish.
    4. Old Nectar - A garden for all seasons by Una van der Spuy (Jacana). A beautifully illustrated meander of a beautiful garden, written by a warm, wise and irrepressible 97-year old lady.
    5. Feeding Frenzy by Paul McMahon(Profile Books). A serious and heavy read about an important topic. 

    Deborah Minors

    1. Roof Toppers by Katherine Rundell, for sheer imagination, simple yet sophisticated story-telling, sensual language, and memorable, heart-warming characters.
    2. The Skinner’s Revenge by Chris Karsten, for its local Jo’burg setting, psychologically thrilling plot, and meticulous historical research. Plus, it’s a trilogy!  
    3. Original Skin by David Mark (Quercus), for characters whose dialogues brings them to life, and complex plots that immerse us in underworlds of sexual deviance, tattoos, gypsies, politics and police.
    4. How a Gunman Says Goodbye by Malcolm Mackay (Mantle), for masterfully creating empathy for a hardened old hit-man and thus contributing to the Tartan Noir Scottish crime fiction genre.
    5. Cold Killing by Luke Delaney (Harper Collins), for being a whodunit that combines fascinating police procedurals and psychology, with a lovable, endearing hero and a complex, baffling antagonist.

    Justine Cullinan 

    1. Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow (Penguin). Insightful, beautifully researched and referenced with charity, I have been quoting concepts and ideas showcased in this book both in social and business contexts all year.
    2. Wake up Happy Everyday by Stephen May (Bloomsbury). Such economical yet lyrical use of words that delivered maximum impact laced with mystery.
    3. Don't Film Yourself Having Sex by Emma Sadleir (Penguin). A long time coming, a valuable narrative with useful bite-size information about a very real phenomenon that has become the world in which our lives play out.

      ~~~~~

      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

      Seven Important Reasons Why Writers Should Also Be Readers

      The Mayor

      After I left university, I worked as a secretary for a mayor for a while. He had a policy of only hiring people who were university graduates – preferably those with an Arts Degree. He was not an intellectual snob; he was simply an astute politician and businessman. He knew that they were survivors who had found a way to think for themselves in a tough environment. (Yes, contrary to what you may believe, university is not easy.) 

      At the root of his philosophy, whether he realised it or not, was the fact that these people had a lifetime of reading behind them. Confucius understood this. He said, ‘No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.’ 

      The Students Without Books

      When I first thought about writing, it was because I loved to read. When I started teaching Writers Write, it came as a shock that some people who wanted to write books did not want to read them. This does not make sense. It is like an aspiring cricket player who knows nothing about the sport, and who does not like watching the game, arriving at team trials. 

      Stephen King says, ‘If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’ Reading makes you think and it teaches you how to write. 

      Source for Shirt

      Seven Important Reasons Why Writers Should Also Be Readers 

      1. Educate Yourself. I can look at an email and tell if a person spends time reading. If you want to be intelligent, you have to expose your mind to intelligent thoughts and complicated ideas. The best way to do this is by reading novels as well as non-fiction. If you can follow and enjoy a carefully crafted story, you will remember things you read in that book for the rest of your life. If you only read non-fiction, your writing becomes as sterile and dry and boring as the subject matter you consume.
      2. Develop Communication Skills. The best way to learn how to communicate is by reading books that move you. You will absorb the words that link into sentences that create paragraphs and chapters and meaning. The more you read, the more easily you will be able to call on this skill. It will improve your blogging, social media posts, business writing and creative writing techniques. Reading gives you the chance to see what works and–more importantly–what doesn’t. ‘The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one's papers and identification pretty much in order,’ says Stephen King.
      3. Empathise. Reading gives you ways to inhabit other worlds and other lives without leaving home. If you are reading a good book, you will see, hear, taste, smell and touch everything a character does. You will vicariously experience joy and sorrow. Reading allows you to observe the emotional development of a character, how he or she faces adversity and resolves problems. You are going to have to do this when you write. Learn from good writers. James Baldwin wrote, ‘You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
      4. Find Inspiration. There is nothing like reading a brilliant book to get you motivated to write. Sometimes, reading a bad book is good too. It will make you think that you can do better than that. ‘Read! Read! Read! And then read some more. When you find something that thrills you, take it apart paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, to see what made it so wonderful. Then use those tricks the next time you write,’ says W.P. Kinsella
      5. Support Other Writers. This seems obvious. If you want people to read and buy your books, it seems like a good idea to support the industry from which you would like to make a living. ‘Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them,’ says Lemony Snicket.
      6. Stimulate Your Brain. Reading exercises the most important organ in our bodies. It helps improve our memory and if we learn something new every day, we become more interesting. Studies have shown that reading fiction improves analytical thinking and enhances problem-solving skills. Lose yourself in fictional stories and give your brain an enjoyable workout. Sherman Alexie says, ‘If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.
      7. Relax. Most writers have brains that never stop. We worry. We think. We plot. We plan. We obsess. When you read, your mind is forced to focus, the tension drops away as you get involved in a story. Always read books you enjoy. If you don’t like a book, stop reading it. Start another one. Life is too short to read bad books. 

      Writers also love talking about the books they read and it follows that they should not be in a relationship with people who don’t read, or who only read non-fiction. We should heed those wise words of John Waters: 'If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.’ Ignore this advice at your own peril. 

      I hope these reasons inspire you to read. 

      © Amanda Patterson

       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.  

      ~~~~~

      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

      That Sentimental Feeling—emotion can serve or destroy a story

      One of the mistakes we make as writers is confusing sentimental writing with emotional writing.  The former is decorating the proverbial chocolate box; the latter is discovering that someone ate the last chocolate in the box.

      We want readers to empathise with our characters and their situation. We want to create that emotional connection between character, narrative and reader. That connection must be so strong and immediate that the readers see themselves in the character’s life as it plays out on the page.

      Find a specific character’s truth

      Emotion must serve the story and the character. It should never be an attempt to manipulate a response from your reader.

      For me, mawkish or flowery writing weakens that bond and diffuses the energy of a scene. It seems to try too hard by overstating the emotions, rather than digging deeper - to the character, their environment and conflict.

      Don’t cry for me, dear reader

      Let’s take a scene where a woman is crying over a break-up as an example. The tears streamed down Nina’s cheeks as she buried her face in her pillow. She clutched the picture of her and Grant as three years of memories washed over her.  We want to show Nina is upset, show her heartbreak, but we’re really just showing the front of that chocolate box, aren’t we?

      OK, let’s try to make real rather than sentimental. Nina’s throat hurt as she swallowed. She tried to breathe through the raw crush in her chest. If she let it out now, she wouldn’t be able to stop. Maybe this isn’t great, but at least we’re inside the empty chocolate box – we’re much closer to the character.

      A dose of realism, please

      Maybe we want to show a father’s love for his children. Brett watched their sweet, happy faces as they ran towards him on the beach – Sam and Nicky, the two angels Carol had blessed him with.  Now the chocolate box has become a TV life insurance commercial. And anyone who has had kids would never describe them as angelic all the time.

      Let’s try it again and make it something specific to this father’s viewpoint. Sam had melted ice cream and half the beach clinging to her ruddy face. She always dawdled behind her older sister. ‘Hurry up,’ Nicky called back to her. Nicky was like him – she liked to lead and that made her bossy. Sam was more like Carol–she could get lost in her own world for hours. The burden of the long hours at the office got a little bit lighter–it always did when he saw his girls.

      From the inside out

      Maybe overly sentimental writing is a personal bugbear, but I think to make our writing more powerful, we must make them believable. Don’t recite the emotions you want to impose on the reader. Write a character undergoing these emotions from the inside out.

       by Anthony Ehlers

      (If you enjoyed this post, you will love The Night Shift — How five famous authors found the time to write.)

      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.

      ~~~~~

      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

      A little something on the side…

      How multiple writing projects can get you out of a repetitive writing rut. 

      Some of us write for fun. Some of us write for pay. Some of us write, because it keeps the cost of prescription medication at bay. Whatever the reason, we write.

      I used to write a lot of body copy, the bit that goes at the bottom of an ad. It usually included terms and conditions and a blurb about the company or product. After a while, everything I wrote turned into body copy. I could say everything I wanted to in three to five lines and end it with a pay off line. You could almost hear the jingle in the background.

      I once taught an ex-journalist who had the similar problem. After a few years of writing a weekly, 750-word column she found it difficult to write more. She would write a piece, be it a short story or a writing prompt and end on exactly 750 words.

      Not all habits are good.

      Writing becomes a habit and that is a good thing. But we should guard against falling into a rut. If you write press releases or reports I am sure you will find yourself following a set pattern and ending with a similar result each time. That is great for business writing and saves time, but for a creative writer it becomes dangerous.

      I looked through my writing practice journals and noticed that my pieces are almost all the same length, using the same viewpoint, similar settings and structure. These are timed sessions, so obviously I write a certain number words in that time, but am I challenging myself? Has the habit become just that, a habit? Something I do blindly - without thought? 

      What can I do to change that?

      Multiple projects can help. Don’t write only one thing. Try writing a new short story. Identify your go-to style and structure and turn it on its head. Try writing a screenplay or scripting a radio drama.  This will help you to think about visuals and sounds.

      My writing practice obviously needs an overhaul. I will check to see whatever I did the previous day and makes sure to do something different. I will change the word count, try new settings and vary the viewpoints.

      Find ways to write different pieces. Challenge yourself to write something you have never written before. A project on the side might be just what you need.   

      What writing rut have you fallen into?

       by Mia Botha

      If you enjoyed this post, you will love How Seven Famous Writers Cope With Their Fear Of The Blank Page and Dealing with Deadlines.

      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

      ~~~~~

        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

        Psychopath or Sociopath - What's the difference?

        Imagine not having a conscience. 

        You would have no feelings of guilt, regret, shame or remorse. You would not be concerned about the well-being of anyone, including family members, strangers, and co-workers. The concept of being responsible for your actions does not make sense to you. You could do anything and feel nothing. 

        Jessica Page Morrell, author of Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, says, 'Sociopaths have ice in their veins and, like the Grinch, possess hearts much too small.' 

        As writers, we often use sociopaths or psychopaths as antagonists in our novels. Here are some examples:
        1. Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
        2. The Jackal from The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
        3. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
        4. Cruela de Vil from 101 Dalmatians
        5. Tyler Durden from Fight Club by Chuck Palhniuk
        6. Casanova from Kiss the Girls by James Patterson
        7. Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
        8. The Joker from Batman
        9. Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
        So, we're used to having them around. But what is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? 

        Both suffer from antisocial personality disorder and the definitions are largely interchangeable. This infographic from Psychologia explains key common traits and differences between psychopaths and sociopaths and includes some statistical data. Although the prognosis is unfavourable for both, a sociopath is more likely to respond to therapy than a psychopath is.


        UPDATE: “Both suffer from antisocial personality disorder” is in accordance with the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) 2013 release where psychopathy and sociopathy are both listed under antisocial personality disorders (ASPD).

        If you enjoyed this post, you will want to read:
        You may also enjoy Shades of Emotion - Characters and their emotions, and Writing About Characters With Phobias

        Join us for Writers Write - How to write a book - and make sure you're creating a compelling crazy villain.

         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.  

        ~~~~~

        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

        19 Examples of Redundancy

        What is Redundancy?

        Redundancy in the needless repetition of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs or ideas.

        We found this useful resource on Speak Good English Movement's Facebook Page

        Join us for The Plain Language Programme if you want to improve your writing skills.

         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.  

        ~~~~~

        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 Time-Saving Guide To 57 Microsoft Word Shortcuts

        Writers are often glued to their keyboards. However, most of us do not know that there are a lot of useful tools in Word that could save us time. These keyboard short cuts in this infographic from Edudemic will allow you to work more efficiently. 

        All 57 are  useful, but these are used most often:

        Ctrl +B = Bold
        Ctrl + I = Italic
        Ctrl + V = Paste
        Ctrl + A = Select all
        Ctrl + C = Copy
        Ctrl + Y = Redo the last action you performed
        Ctrl + Z = Undo the last action you performed
        Ctrl + Del = Delete the word to the right of the cursor
        Ctrl + S = Save

        Source: Edudemic

        ~~~~~

        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 Elements of a Story - Basically Speaking

        The Elements of a Story - For Beginners

        Source for Poster: MPM 

        • Do you love to read and write? 
        • Would you like to see your words published? 
        • Do you want to explore the world of writing, but you aren’t quite sure where to start?

        If you join us for Writers Write, you will find out if writing is something you want to pursue. You may be a complete novice or you may already have some writing experience. It does not matter. We believe we have a writing course that will suit your needs.

        Send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information on this course.

        ~~~~~

        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 Two Types Of Inciting Moments

        Every problem has a moment – a beginning point – where everything changes. Your world is off balance. You are acutely aware that something is different. You can feel it, taste it, see it, smell it. You can no longer ignore it, if that was your coping mechanism. In hindsight, it is easy to identify. If you were recounting the story to a friend, this is where you would begin.

        Every problem also has a solution. The solution is usually a process you have to go through to solve the crisis. To solve a problem you need to make a decision about what you are going to do next. You need a goal. Whether or not you reach your goal, or find another solution, is part of the journey.

        The stories we write are no different to the problems we face in real life. Something happens that changes your character’s life. The inciting moment in real life or fiction is about change that leads to conflict, or conflict that leads to change.

        This moment is interesting and important enough to create a response in you or your protagonist. It makes you act. 

        We don’t want you or your protagonist to wallow in victim mode, frozen in your inability to react. We don’t want you to be passive or indifferent. We want to find out how you solved the problem, what you faced, how you felt, and what you learnt about yourself.

        There are two types of inciting moments:

        Major – nothing is ever the same again: This inciting moment is external and can be immediately linked to the main plot. For example:

        1. An antagonist kidnaps your protagonist’s child who is waiting for a tardy parent.
        2. A sniper kills an important politician who is being guarded by your protagonist.
        3. A husband walks in on his wife who is having sex with another man.
        4. A man is told that he is terminally ill and has a few weeks to live.
        5. A teenage girl’s parents are killed. The killers tell her that she is really the heir to a fantasy kingdom and they plan to use her as leverage in a war.

        This type of inciting moment involves immediate major conflict, action, change and a reaction from a reasonable protagonist.

        Or we can go back a few scenes and start the stories here:

        Minor – a glimpse into the ordinary world before the change: This inciting moment can begin earlier. It is either internal or external, and shows us more about the characters. In older books and archaic storytelling, more time was given to this setting up of the protagonist’s ‘ordinary world’. If you want to go this route, make sure you keep it short and make sure it is important. For example:

        1. A protagonist almost has a car accident because she is distracted. She ends up being late to pick up her child.
        2. A bodyguard can’t sleep. He is having a crisis. His girlfriend has left him, his father is ill, and he wonders if he is still good enough to do his job.
        3. A man’s business flight is cancelled. Annoyed, the workaholic decides to go home and do some work from home. It’s closer to the airport.
        4. A man is fighting with his wife because her mother is interfering in their marriage. He walks out, late for a doctor’s appointment.
        5. A teenage girl is bullied by other children her age. She has always felt as if she does not belong and wishes that a dragon would spirit her away.

        This type of inciting moment involves a slower beginning with a minor conflict (bearing in mind this is relative to the storyline). This gives you a chance to get to know the characters, but don’t go back further than this. The major inciting moment must occur soon after this.

        Why does it matter?

        The inciting moment is vital because it gives your protagonist a story goal. 

        It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you get to the point sooner rather than later. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing the reader. Once the story has started, and I care about the character, I want to know what happens next. All your backstory can be woven into the rest of your story with dialogue, memories (don’t overdo these) and the occasional flashback (one per novel is plenty).

        Remember that the inciting moment is just the beginning. Everything should continue to change. Add conflict, suspense and action. Show how this changes your character until we reach the moment of crisis and ultimately a resolution.

        Did you solve your problem? Does he or she achieve his story goal? That is up to you.

        If you enjoyed this post, read Five guaranteed ways to bore your reader and The Importance of Inciting Moments

         by Amanda Patterson

        © 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

        ~~~~~
        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