The Most Annoying Writing Mistakes

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7 Tips From Famous Writers On Getting Started

Some days sitting down and getting started seems impossible, whether it is a fresh chapter, an edit, or a new book. Here are some tips and insights to help you get past that blank page.

  1. Mary Stewart: I sometimes sit for half an hour before a blank page, longing to get up, but if I write something, however rubbishy, that gets the wheels turning and I can go on. And the next day it is always better than I thought.
  2. Grahame Greene: In periods when I can’t write, I keep a notepad beside my bed. When I wake up in the night after having a dream, I note it down at once. I’ve discovered dreams are like serials and the instalments sometimes carry on for weeks and in the end form a whole.
  3. Arthur Kopit: I put on a big eight-cup percolator of coffee and sharpen about 35 pencils and I’m all set. I have to have sharp pencils.
  4. Ralph Fletcher: Artists develop a love for the feel of their tools, the smell and texture of clay, wood or paint. Writers are no different. Writers love words. And while some writers get excited over a particular pen or word processing programme, words remain the most important tool the writer has to work with.
  5. Stewart Ferris: Diaries make you write every day, so keep a diary. Once you’re in the habit of writing every day you become a writer. Keep going with that diary until you’re ready to start your book.
  6. Edwin C Bliss: Change your attitude towards procrastination and you will have taken a major step towards overcoming it. Your goal is to wrench some bad habits loose from their moorings and substitute some good ones.
  7. James Herbert: It’s no good asking for advice and just talking about it. You’ve just got to sit down and endure.

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

       by Anthony Ehlers

      If you enjoyed this post, read:
      1. The Inconsolable Writer - From Distraction to Inspiration in Four Easy Steps
      2. The Locked Room – A simple way to test your plot
      3. Stamp out that cliché – How clichés and jargon can ruin your writing
      4. The Power of a Series
      5. The Seasons - how to use them in your writing
      Anthony Ehlers is an author, a ghost writer, a screenwriter and a brilliant writing teacher. He also has more than 10 years’ experience in copywriting, magazine journalism, public relations and strategic communications. Visit Anthony’s LinkedIn Profile . Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook

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

      Writing Tip - Between you and me

      It is always correct to say ‘between you and me’. It is always incorrect to say ‘between you and I’. 

      Read more about this common mistake here: Between you and me.

      Email news@writerswrite.co.za to find out more about our business writing course, The Plain Language Programme. 

       by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

      © Amanda Patterson

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

      The Author’s Promise - two things every writer should do

      'The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, travelling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying. Books are written by the alone for the alone.' ~Donna Tartt

      Image by Dixie Leota

      I have read thousands of books and reviewed a lot them - 800 according to my Goodreads profile. Sometimes, I finish a book, and I think, ‘Wow! I loved that. I wonder what else the author’s written.’ Sometimes, I finish a book, and toss it aside with great force, and sometimes, I discard it without a second thought. 

      I have spent hours thinking about what makes me turn the page, pushing sleep away, determined to finish the story. I have spent just as much time thinking about what makes me want to throw the book away so that nobody else has to go through the literary torture I endured.

      I believe it’s quite simple. I think I want to be entertained, and I want to learn something. I do not want to endure a lecture. Show me the story and let me come to my own conclusions. I do not want my intelligence insulted with contrived literary manipulations, and obscure, incoherent writing. I am your reader, not your therapist. I also do not want to get lost in your unplotted stream of consciousness. I am not your editor.

      Sometimes, magic happens and writers are able to produce that special something, that novel effect. Those are the books I will keep on my bookshelf and never forget. I know most books don’t fall into this category and don’t expect them to. I do expect to feel as if I haven’t wasted my time.

      In the end, I think we’ve summed it up perfectly on our Writers Write – how to write a book - course. We offer aspiring authors this advice. We suggest writers make this promise to their readers, and try to keep it.

      The Author’s Promise
      ‘I, the author, undertake to fulfil your expectations on both an emotional and intellectual level. I will begin with this promise and I will try to overcome all obstacles in a satisfying, meaningful way through the middle of my book until I can discharge my side of the contract. I guarantee that in the end you will have either gained new insights, have your dreams confirmed or spent a thrilling vicarious journey with my characters.’

      As a writer, you enter into an agreement on two levels: 

      1. The emotional – you will provide an entertaining, inspiring story for your reader
      2. The intellectual – you will give your reader a new insight and a new outlook and takes him on a journey to another world, be it internal or external

      If I have been entertained, informed, and inspired, I am a happy reader who will gladly spend money on your next book.

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

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

      If you enjoyed this article, you will love:

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

      The Power of a Series

      The other day, I suggested a new writer develop a fiction series around a character he’d created. The poor guy almost blanched—perhaps because he had dismissed a series as too low-brow or didn’t relish the idea of spending the next 20 years writing about the same character. The truth is that series can consistently build your reputation and your royalties.

      Three Types of Series

      1. Multiple Series: This could be anything from Chris Ryan’s Alpha Force series to George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. Ian Fleming’sJames Bond franchise is a classic example.
      2. Trilogy: This format is becoming increasingly popular, such as Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, which started with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, as well as E.L. James’s erotic threesome starting with 50 Shades of Grey. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a perfect model.
      3. Quartet: A less common series structure, but is seen in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, which featured Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, as well as Lawrence Durrell’s enduringly commercially and critically successful Alexandra Quartet.

      The Backdrop
      Although most series focus on a character or set of characters, a series can also revolve around a historical backdrop, such as Bernard Cornwell’s SaxonSeries or even a place, such as Loren D. Estleman’s Detroit series. A family can be a great way to thread a series, such as Nora Roberts’s Bannion Family series, or the Santangelo novels from Jackie Collins.

      To be a series writer requires you to be focused, disciplined and prolific. Publishers and millions of staunch fans will require one or more instalment a year.

      Change or Consistency
      Some series have a definite arc in terms of plot and character, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of seven books. Others have characters that remain fairly consistent, like Hercule Poirot in the iconic Agatha Christie parlour mysteries.

      Another thing you will have to decide before starting a series is if the series will continue chronologically and fairly realistically – with characters ageing and keeping up with the time. Or if you keep them in a looped reality, where nothing changes except the challenges of the plot. 

      Four Tips for Writing a Series

      1. Make sure your character is strong enough to carry a series – and that you enjoy writing about this character.
      2. Start keeping a series bible, of characters and major plot points, from day on.
      3. Outline the series arc before you start writing – winging it will get you into trouble.
      4. Give the overall series a clear identity —and make sure you don’t change the tone, genre or central voice of the stories too much.

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

      If you enjoyed this post, read:
      1. Getting Started – Seven Tips from Famous Writers
      2. The Locked Room – A simple way to test your plot
      3. Stamp out that cliché – How clichés and jargon can ruin your writing
      4. Cut to the chase - Three ways to get your short story started
      5. The Sympathy Vote
      6. The Seasons - how to use them in your writing
      ~~~~~

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

      Writing Sex Scenes - Part Three - Six Female Archetypes

      Let’s talk about sex, baby - Part Three

      In Part One, I introduced the concept of writing a sex scene. In Part Two, I dealt with male archetypes and patterns of sexual behaviour. This week, I am writing about the female of the species.

      Over the last two weeks I have seen comments about these posts, the most frequent being “my characters are nothing like this”. Well, that is a good thing. These are extreme archetypes. Your characters will be stereotypical if they are like this. As I mentioned before, your characters will have a combination of these traits, and many more. No one is alike.

      Also, remember that damaged people create conflict and offer great opportunities for growth. Sex is base and primal. The way a character acts on this level will sometimes tell us more about who, or what, they are, than at any other time. They are, if you will pardon the pun, laid bare. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) 

      Create a similar profile for your character, even if you do not plan to have a sex scene in your book. What was their first time like? What were the circumstances? How did it influence her attitude towards sex? As I said how they react on this primal level will tell you a great deal. Have fun with your sex scenes, whether it is between sheets or between the pages. Hehe.

      (Remember: This is a cheat sheet for behavioural patterns. Feel free to disagree. There is no scientific basis for these definitions. They are a fun result of observation.) 

       by Mia Botha

      If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

      1. Writing Sex Scenes - Part One
      2. Writing Sex Scenes - Part Two - Six Male Archetypes
      3. May The Villain Be With You

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

      The Seasons - how to use them in your writing

      How the seasons add elemental vigour to your writing

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      Come rain or shine. At this time of year, we start to notice the seasons changing. Have you ever noticed how your moods often change with the seasons? The way we eat, dress, socialise – a lot of this is dependent on the weather. Use this in your writing.

      Recently, I read a detective story set in a cold New York December. The writer used the elements in a way that added to his story in a dramatic way. The bloody body found in the snow, a grey sky, the detective’s black coat and red hair all formed a frame to set the mood.
      In another romance novel, a family retreats to their island home for the holidays—but while the children run around in costumes and tan on the beach, the mother feels hot and frumpy in her dress. She yearns to be able to swim but she is self-conscious about her body. 

      For most us, we only think about the weather as a backdrop to the story. If we look at more closely, we soon see it adds a new vitality to the story—to colour emotions, to infuse the plot, to bring a character to life.

      • Play with extremes. Make it the hottest day of the year and your heroine’s car breaks down. The hero has to strip off his shirt to stay cool under the hood. What mood will this create? It’s been raining for days and the rain has washed the blood and prints from a crime scene? How will this affect a police inspector’s mood and his case?
      • A colourful palette. Each season gives a paint box to add tone and description to our stories. A bride in an ivory gown getting married on the family farm – her father has picked sunflowers from the fields; a page boy wears a gold bow tie. These touches of gold and yellow add to a theme or set piece. Think like an artist when writing. 
      • Think tradition. For many of us, we mark the seasons with traditions both big and small. It’s winter so a grandmother starts her annual blanket-for-harity collection - but slips on the ice and is forced to spend time with her estranged granddaughter. A family goes on their annual summer camping in the woods – when one of the children disappears. How has the weather added tension or helped the plot along?

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

           by Anthony Ehlers

          If you enjoyed this post, read:
          1. Getting Started – Seven Tips from Famous Writers
          2. The Locked Room – A simple way to test your plot
          3. Stamp out that cliché – How clichés and jargon can ruin your writing
          4. The Power of a Series
          5. Breaking the Blues – how to write even when you don’t feel like it
          ~~~~~

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

          Writing Sex Scenes - Part Two - Six Male Archetypes

          Let’s talk about sex, baby - Part Two

          Last week, I introduced the concept of writing a sex scene. This week, I am dealing with male archetypes and patterns of sexual behaviour. 

          There is a table with six different kinds of characters below. They are sort-of based on the Alpha, Beta, Gamma archetypes we use in genre-romance writing. The descriptions varied so greatly that I improvised and came up with six archetypes of my own. Few well-rounded characters will be 100% like any one of the descriptions. Most likely, your character will be a combination of two or even more of these. Do not shy away from the negative archetypes. They create conflict, and opportunities for growth and change in our characters. 

          (Remember: This is a cheat sheet for their behavioural patterns. Feel free to disagree. There is no scientific basis for these definitions. They are a fun result of observation.) 




          Next week, I will write about six female archetypes and their possible sexual behaviour patterns.

           by Mia Botha

          If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

          1. Writing Sex Scenes - Part One
          2. May The Villain Be With You
          3. Why Is My Word Count Too High?

          ~~~

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

          Breaking the Blues – how to write even when you don’t feel like it

          Some days you feel like you can’t write another word. You feel as flat and useless as road kill. Your writing is as dull as toothache and just as painful to endure. No amount of coffee and staring out the window is helping to summon the muse. You consider becoming a religious recluse or marrying for money. This is not a good state of mind, especially if you have a looming deadline.

          Now I’m not going to go all self-help/Dr Phil in this blog, because you’d probably want to bludgeon me to death. I’m just going to say what has worked for me in the past. Sometimes, it is a cure to those mean writing blues. Sometimes, the muse will show up, even if she is wearing her tracksuit and hasn’t combed her hair.

          1. Tidy up your working space. Take a few minutes to sharpen pencils, sort out your files, or spray some lemon furniture polish around. If you’re not too suicidal or broke, spring for some flowers and a vase.
          2. Read the newspaper. Try to get away from your computer or TV and read a printed newspaper. See if you can find a story that grabs your imagination, cut it out and keep it. It doesn’t have to be related to what you’re writing, just something that stands out as compelling, funny or sad.
          3. Pets are a great way to cheer you up. Taking a walk or playing fetch with the dog will get you out the house and into the fresh air.
          4. Take care of the basics. Make sure you’re eating decently, having enough water and resting well. When your creativity has the flu, you need to pamper it the way you would a sick child.
          5. Just put words on a page. This may sound counter-intuitive, but just start writing even if the worst junk in the world, just to feel dis-empowered. You can throw the page away afterwards if you like.

          Writing is not adding up numbers or hanging curtains or programming your PVR. There is a certain mystery to the creative process. We can sometimes find a way to short hand the process or trick ourselves into writing—but we must also not be too hard on ourselves if it doesn’t work. Just trust that it will come back to you.

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

               by Anthony Ehlers

              If you enjoyed this post, read:
              1. The Inconsolable Writer - From Distraction to Inspiration in Four Easy Steps
              2. The Locked Room – A simple way to test your plot
              3. Stamp out that cliché – How clichés and jargon can ruin your writing
              4. The Power of a Series
              5. The Seasons - how to use them in your writing
              Anthony Ehlers is an author, a ghost writer, a screenwriter and a brilliant writing teacher. He also has more than 10 years’ experience in copywriting, magazine journalism, public relations and strategic communications. Visit Anthony’s LinkedIn Profile . 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 5 Elements Of A Story

              This is an interesting way to look at the layers of a story. Many writers believe that stories begin with characters and the plot develops from them.

              This chart says that for a story to work, a character needs five things. He or she needs something:

              1. To care about. 
              2. To want.
              3. To dread.
              4. To suffer. 
              5. To learn.

              The remainder of the story will develop from these needs.

              Original Source: @DanielSchwabauer, www.oneyearnovel.com

              If you enjoyed this post, read these:

              To find out about Writers Write - how to write a book - email news@writerswrite.co.za 

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