Hugh Howey’s Advice to Aspiring Authors

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If you’re planning to write a novel and self-publish it, you can do much worse than checking out Hugh Howey’s post on Advice To Aspiring Authors. I’ve printed it in its entirety here but all copyright obviously rests with the man himself. It’s a great overview of self-pubbing vs. the traditional landscape and obviously (as a successful self-pubbed author) he’s a little biased. Essential reading.Continue Reading

Pesky grammar mistakes

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Everyone has their own grammar secret; I have trouble with lie/laid/lay and I used to find apostrophes (with plurals that end in s) a nightmare. Don’t tell. This is my second grammar piece (the first on frequently confused words) and it offers more specific advice on prepositions and punctuation.

Many of my examples come from dailywritingtips.com. First up is the use of “absolutely” and the way it is now used instead of a simple “yes” or used to describe something more emphatically, e.g. it was absolutely outrageous. Their point, I think, is that the use of the word is so ubiquitous that it has ceased to mean anything at all. If you need help with commas or a quick revision of colons and exclamation marks, then this is for you. Or if you need help to unpick a couple of idioms, “in store for” and “in the works” read here. Further reading of common preposition mistakes can unpick “at that moment”, “accused of murder” etc.

Finally, this is a great selection of copywriting mistakes from Benjamin Dreyer (Copy Chief) at Random House. Not only does he go over everything that’s a bit tricky (enmity vs. emnity, when it’s okay to use every day vs. everyday) but it looks beautiful too.

All clear? Absolutely.


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How to find inspiration

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A book is made up of an idea and then how you draw that idea for other people to experience. An agent told me that some people have great ideas but can’t write at all; others have the talent but little imagination. It’s the complete package and if you’re looking for ideas, you’re missing half the book. There are a ton of books and blog articles that aim to help inspire you although they always seem lame to me (“a man wins lots of money, you lose your child… write down what happens next…”). Continue Reading

Hemingway on writing; “as a writer you should not judge. You should understand”

No one could say Hemingway lived a half-life. He enlisted as a World War 1 ambulance driver, was a foreign correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War, was present at the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris, kept six-toed cats at his house in Key West, married 4 times and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. His back catalogue includes A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls as well as a trove of advice to writers (er, don’t drink as much?). I particularly love the advice he gave in his acceptance speech:

For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.”

We can all hope.


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How to start your book; opening lines

“It is a truth universally acknowledged…” that everyone has a favourite opening line. Good beginnings start in different ways. Some start big, laying out an entire character in one large paragraph that hooks you from the off (think any John Le Carré). Some do it in colourful prose that lets you smell the air,

Cars the color of melons and tangerines sizzled in cul-de-sac driveways. Dogs lay belly-up and heaving in the shade. It was cooler in the hills, where Marion’s family lived. Everyone who stayed at their ranch was some relative, Marion said, blood or otherwise, and she called everyone brother or sister.”

Marion by Emma ClineContinue Reading

Jack Kerouac on writing; “be in love with yr life”

He gave us On the road and Big Sur, but Jack Kerouac’s technique for modern prose are really lessons on life. Er, number 3, “Try never get drunk outside yr own house” is brilliant. As a list, they’re a little less prosaic than other authors’ techniques and harder to decipher as a result. “Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea” is prose itself, while “Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind” is what we’re all trying to do, isn’t it? And here’s one for everyone, “You’re a Genius all the time”. If Jack says it, it must be true. Right?


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