10 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make

Photo credits: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Writing is something that takes a lot of practice and not everyone has what it takes to be able to sit down and write words, sentences and paragraphs in a cohesive manner. Still, that fact doesn’t stop a lot of people from trying to become a writer. If you’re determined to write, we have ten mistakes that most beginner writers make below. By avoiding them, you’ll be able to jump ahead of the pack and start to get your work recognized.

Ten Mistakes of Beginner Writers

Here’s a look at ten specific mistakes that most beginner writers make at one point or another in their writing career.

  1. Telling not Showing – This is a core rule for writers. It’s much better to show action rather than talk about action. For example, instead of simply saying two people are arguing, show their dialogue and describe their body language.

  2. Switching Points of View – The POV of a story – or even an article – is important in that you want to pick one and stick with it. Nothing is worse than a writer who tumbles from one to another.

  3. Too Many Adjectives (and Adverbs) – While a choice adjective here and there can add to your writing, it’s really easy to go overboard and include too many. Only practice will tell you where the line is for your particular writing style.

  4. Too Vague – It’s important to remember that readers can’t get in your brain. If you’re too vague, they’re not going to automatically know what you mean. Being too vague is a problem many beginner writers face.

  5. Fragments – Sentence fragments are another. Get it? Sentence fragments are another what? Be sure that each sentence you write has everything it needs to be grammatically correct.

  6. Run-ons – Just as bad as a sentence fragment is a sentence that goes on and on. Split it up to make it easier on your readers.

  7. Easily Confused Words – Using your instead of you’re is a mistake that a lot of writers make – not to mention words like bear and bare and so on.

  8. Commas – Most beginner writers usually use too many commas.

  9. No Organization – Stringing words and sentences together is easy, but making sense out of the whole is something only the very best writers can do. The masters can do it in very few words.

  10. Apostrophes – Knowing where this punctuation mark goes is easy, but it’s a mistake many writers make when they’re first starting out.

If you can manage to avoid most or even all of the mistakes outlined above, you’re going to be in a very good position as a writer. The three main things you need to succeed in writing – or in life in general – are talent, persistence and a little bit of luck. If you know of other mistakes writers should avoid, leave a comment below and let us know what’s on your mind.

The Curious Incident of the Biscuit Lost in the Tea

Biscuit about to be plunged into coffee

Biscuit Lost in Tea

Or, why the smallest details count in fiction.

I wrote a book recently. Well, I say recently, it took a while in reality. It was self-published on Amazon a few months ago and it’s slowly but surely making a sale here and there, getting snapped up on free days like you wouldn’t believe and importantly, to me at least, making people laugh.

Laugh, in a good way that is. Not just pointing and laughing at me. The book is a comedy and it’s meant to make people laugh, so the fact it is suggests it’s doing exactly what I’d planned.

You Mean People are Actually Reading It?

It’s been a learning curve though; the physical, mental and emotional hard work that goes into a book, even a light hearted effort, is something that only other writers will fully understand. By the time it’s done and dusted and ready for publication you’re not only exhausted but (perhaps not all of us) you’re also suddenly seized with an almost paralysing self-doubt.

It’s just not good enough, you’re mad, nobody’s ever going to read this tripe. Worse still, if they do, they’ll hate it, hate you and think you’re an idiot. All these, and so many more, emotions flash through your mind with increasing and unwarranted frequency. In the end, you have to be brave, throw caution to the wind and press ‘publish’. After that a terrible silence falls.

However, after a few months (hopefully) the book is getting circulated, people are reading it and, rather worryingly, having opinions. These opinions, however scary, are important. Working out what does work in your book, or what doesn’t, is much easier when you listen to what your readers have to say. Oddly, in my case, it’s taught (or reminded me) of just how important small details can be.

But, But, That Bit’s Irrelevant….

The reception has been good and some really weird things have stood out; in one particular scene at the end of the book, when all the strands are coming together, some major action is developing and a lot of secrets revealed, one character is attempting to dunk a biscuit in his tea, largely unaware of the drama unfolding around him.

It’s a small detail that took only moments to write and was hardly ever edited at all; in the whole book it’s probably one of those moments that took the least effort and lost me no sleep. It’s almost a throw-away line and it could, without any great loss to the story, indeed be thrown away. Or so I thought.

What About My Lovely, Intricate, Well-Crafted Plot?

It was only when it became apparent that reader after reader was picking up on this one, small, comedy sideline, that I began to think about what on earth this apparently insignificant second or two of action did. And why it appeared to be doing it so successfully. I mean, it’s just a biscuit getting lost without trace, something that happens every day to some of us (OK, yes hand’s up, it happens most days to me).

So what on earth makes it stand out?

The Fine (and Familiar) Art of Dunking

Red by Tim Bedford

Red by Tim Bedford

Then it dawned on me, it’s simply the fact that nearly everyone can identify with that action.

We’ve all dunked hopefully, knowing there are risks to the process but on most occasions we wing it anyway. Nine times out of ten, once you’ve become experienced, the operation goes well.

That one time out of ten, that still happens even to an experienced dunker, is familiar to us all. It’s an immediate and very annoying problem. Half the biscuit has gone, lost to history and will never be retrieved.

In addition, it’s now disintegrating in the tea into a horrible, slimy, mushy substance that transforms the beverage into something undrinkable.Given that most of us dunk at the start of a cuppa, the chances are the whole drink is done for. This requires effort on our part, a return to the kitchen to dispose of the offending drink, make another and, for the brave at least, risk another attempt with the next biscuit.

In my story, I don’t go into quite so much detail as I have here about every dunker’s nightmare; in fact, using it as only a passing comment, using so few words is what seems to make it work. It conjures up a simple, quick and easy to picture moment and helps to drop the reader right into the action of the narrative.

Terribly Human, In So Many Ways

There also seems to be another aspect to why this incident, so minor in so many ways, is important in the story.

In the book, the character doing the dunking is an outsider, he’s new to human wiles and ways. He’s attempting very hard to fit in; meanwhile around him a massively chaotic story is unfolding and being wrapped back up again. Perhaps part of the success of this moment is in describing something terribly (in several senses of the word) human.

World War Three can be breaking out around us but we often remain wrapped up in our own little worlds, concerned about minor things; a stubbed toe, a chipped nail, a biscuit dunking disaster. On this level, the incident in the book is about the character, about developing him as real person (that may be the wrong word but you’ll have to buy the book to find out) and placing him firmly in the reader’s mind as a believable character with a life of their own.

Mundane Daily Details and Epic Tales

The devil, allegedly, is in the detail. And I think this is an important lesson to learn in fiction. I’ve read it, heard it and studied it on more than one occasion but “the curious incident of the biscuit lost in the tea” has really brought it home to me. It might have been a throwaway line or two, as far as I was concerned, but it played a huge part in bringing the book, the character and the world I was creating to life.

When it comes to any work of fiction, small, silly humorous tales or great big era defining novels, day-to-day details should never be overlooked.

Electronic Publishing: Pros and Cons

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

Electronic Publishing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Electronic publishing, or e-publishing, has been emerging as a great new way to go for both authors and readers today. Though relatively young, e-publishing has definitely paved the way for communication and information technology, and there is no doubt that its continuing advance is a positive and welcome evolution.

 

In an age where everything is a click away, e-publishing fits right into the equation. Countless devices are available in the market for those who want their libraries in their pockets, and numerous services such as convert pdf to epub are available on the internet to ensure platform-to-platform compatibility. In this article, we will discuss some benefits and drawbacks, which affect the different key players in the publishing world in one way or another.

 

Opens doors for authors and aspiring authors

 

The writer of today need not be plagued by the woes of a traditional author. For one, if one had to go through the rigorous processes of publishers before the rise of e-publishing, an author may now opt to publish his own work electronically.

 

Pros of Electronic Publishing

 

  • Get out there quick and easy.

 

Manuscripts for print publication could take months to produce, but e-publishing can have a book out weeks after approval. The circulation of one’s work will also prove to be a cinch with the help of internet marketing, online selling, and even epub conversion services to guarantee compatibility with other platforms.

 

  • Compete and stay low-cost.

 

With much lower overheads, e-publishing allows authors to earn bigger royalties. Spend less, set aside larger profit!

 

  • Retain control.

 

Why succumb to the publishing food chain when a self-published author may as well be his own boss and his own editor? For authors who just want to get out there, there is freedom to allow users to download copies of their works, alter them with epub conversion services, and store them in different reading devices.

 

Cons for Electronic Publishing

 

  • Not yet on equal footing.

 

Though the reputation of e-publishing may be looking up, e-publishers have not earned the same credibility that traditional publishers carry.

 

  • Open to illegal copying.

 

Vulnerable to tweaking and hacking, electronic books may be copied and shared in seconds. There are various options, such as epub conversion services, by which readers can modify files to suit different platforms and applications, and create multiple copies in no time.

 

  • Not on display.

 

E-pub Authors cannot rely on constant exposure on shelves. Readers must dive into the vast sea of content available online to find an electronically published book.

 

Taking on the game on a different field

 

Another key player in the publishing world is the publisher who has traditionally been responsible for the issuing and publicizing of texts. Some publishers have chosen to adapt to the electronic innovation; however, the playing field is fairly different from that of traditional publication.

 

Pros for Electronic Publishing

 

  • Very easy access.

 

The publication of electronic books no longer requires distribution through a geographical space. Without the logistical nightmares of having to transport and care for paper products, publishers can make their books electronically available to readers, who can then download the texts to their devices in as fast as 60 seconds. Epub conversion services and other formatting services are available for readers to make necessary alterations to meet platform requirements.

 

  • Less production cost, more proceeds.

 

With the absence of printing and logistical costs, publishers are allowed a bigger margin for profit.

 

  • Niche audiences

 

Publishers now have the opportunity to cater to niche audiences without having to calculate all the risks.

 

Cons for Electronic Publishing

 

  • Pirates.

 

Having entire books in a single digital file opens up the possibility of duplication and illegal distribution. Many users are on the lookout for free content, and e-books are easy to alter and save in different forms with epub conversion services, as well as upload conveniently on file sharing websites.

 

  • Tactile readers.

 

Majority of readers still believe that reading is also a tactile experience, and purchasing something intangible is illogical.

 

  • Authors turned competitors.

 

Given how easy it is to be your own publisher, a good number of authors wouldn’t hesitate to migrate to self-publishing. If all goes well for them, the role of publishers may diminish.

 

The challenge of adaptation

 

After ages of being the established institution responsible for housing all sorts of recorded knowledge, the rise of e-publishing will definitely impact the existence and roles of libraries in immeasurable ways. This is not to say, however, that adaptation is not in order, as there are just as many opportunities as challenges to the task.

 

Pros for Electronic Publishing

 

  • Speedy acquisition.

 

The process of purchasing and acquiring new texts will definitely become a less laborious process. On top of this, obtaining recent releases will be more feasible.

 

  • Easy cataloguing.

 

Without the challenges of maintaining physical volumes and classifying them all systematically, organizing electronic files may prove to be a less troublesome task.

 

  • Remote access and search ability.

 

The use of resources will no longer be confined to library premises. Libraries may allow students and scholars to acquire their own copies of certain texts at a cost, and readers may use those resources at their own convenience. With the widespread utilization of online resources, growing acceptance of e-books, and surfacing functions like epub conversion services, it is very recognizable that flexibility is key.

 

Cons for Electronic Publishing

 

  • Essential upgrades.

 

Libraries must invest considerable resources to meet the demands of the digital age.

 

  • Overhauling.

 

Traditional skills of cataloguing, classification, indexing, etc., will need to be updated to accommodate the complexity of navigating through electronically published information. Search and retrieval tools must adapt.

 

  • Archiving and survival.

 

At the end of the day, everyone would want the knowledge and information to remain intact. The question is how the survival of electronically published texts can be guaranteed. Given that it is primarily the role of libraries to ensure that knowledge will keep recorded knowledge intact, the digitization of publications poses a challenge to libraries.

 

Moving forward

 

The leap from traditional publication to e-publishing may be a rather big leap, but various factors show that the migration has opened up a fair number of opportunities, not just for readers and authors, but for key players like publishers and library systems as well. Some suggest that there is no urgent need to choose one over the other at this point, because both may very well co-exist and serve specific purposes. Be that as it may, e-publishing is definitely worth the consideration.

 

 

Are You A Journalist or a Blogger?

News

News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some of you, every morning after you wake up and are done with what you need to do to feel fresh, reading a newspaper is inevitable. The advent of news channels and news websites does not take away the satisfaction of reading news in print.

Some people don’t believe a piece of news (even if it runs on channels the whole day) unless they see it in print.

Blogs, though relatively new and with seemingly similar content to that of a newspaper, carry writing styles that are very different from the ones seen in newspapers.

Journalism Vs Blogging: Showdown

1: Tone

Open any newspaper. You’ll never find a report that begins the way this post does (or all posts in any blog, for that matter).

Journalists are very formal in their writing. Blogs, on the other hand, carry content written in a very conversational tone. While reading a blog, you feel as if the writer is actually sitting in front of you and talking to you.

You do understand what I am saying, don’t you?

2: Language

 In a newspaper, you will not typically find a reporter using casual language. That is a strict no-no. Newspaper is serious stuff.

Well, so are blogs. However, bloggers believe that irrespective of the language they use, serious stuff will be serious. That does not mean that they’ll crack jokes or use humor while writing serious stuff. But, they will address YOU.

3: Purpose

Consider this – a well-known actress and a married director were seen coming out of a hotel in a disheveled state.

This is news that gives rise to the purest form of gossip – one that gossipers don’t ask to be kept secret!

A newspaper will just report the story, with all the facts – the name of the hotel, the name of the manager of the hotel, the personal history of the actress, the state of the director’s marriage, the number of the room they stayed in, the name of the bus-boy who served them – everything.

But you can trust a blogger to turn this into a piece that will have you all guffawing upon reading. A blog’s purpose is to entertain while informing. A newspaper’s is to inform – and only inform.

4: Length (or breadth)

Ever seen a newspaper article that runs for more than 500 words? You might have, but they are rare. This is how it works – if it is not a special story (they are the ones that carry the reporter’s name and are always the brainchild of that reporter), then it is an assigned story. Assigned stories are events that are covered by every newspaper, thereby making it non-exclusive. In most cases, newspapers are told of events a few days prior. The bureau chief, or the assistant news editor, or the beat editor assigns reporters to cover that event.

The conversation goes something like this:

Editor: Listen, there is this event tomorrow. You got to cover it.

Reporter: Ok. Dated or not?

Editor: Dated

Reporter: OK

Editor: I want a 300 word report on it. Not a word more.

Reporter: OK

The reporter goes, covers, and files a 300-word story that gets edited (at least thrice) and comes as a 200-odd worded piece.

A blogger, on the other hand, can write a 4,583-word blog post and no one will say a word (pun intended).

5: Topic

A blogger can write about anything that suits his fancy. His next-door neighbor’s new dog, his wife’s/girlfriend’s new hairdo, the Greek economy, the strength of the US dollar – just about anything.

When a reporter wants to do a special story for a newspaper, he has to ensure that it has some news peg.

For example, if he wants to do an in-depth story about the increase in wife-swapping cases and how it is affecting the society, he can do it if some such instance comes into light. One reporter did such a story way back in 2010 when a new show about swapping mothers was to be televised.

6: Source

Ever seen some information in a newspaper that does not say where the information was received from?

Reporters, while stating facts and information, HAVE to credit the source. Like, police inspector so-and-so, with the so-and-so police station, said so-and-so. If they have gotten information from some report, they need to name the report.

Blog writing, on the other hand, does not require any such source. Most bloggers tend to link to the source while some don’t reveal where they got the information from. Either way, blog writing does not require presenting the source (citing source increases credibility of the post though).

Over to You:

Are there any more differences you can think of? What style of writing do you prefer? Let me know via comments.

 

5 Ways to Self-Edit Your Writing

Edit Ruthlessly

Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

Editing is such an important part of writing and one that we often skip. I know I have skipped this at times. For blog posts or smaller projects, it is not feasible to hire an editor unless you are making enough money to support that luxury. Most bloggers are a business of one and self-edit their posts and article writing.

There are a few self-editing steps you can do as the first line of defense that will not cost you anything.

1. Read Writing Aloud

This is something I do often, especially with my paid writing projects. Actually, with my freelance writing projects, I use several of these steps. The last thing you want to do is send a client a writing piece filled with spelling and grammar errors. This may feel funny, but your brain can catch things when reading aloud that it overlooks when reading silently in your head.

2. Use Dragon Naturally Speaking or Speech Software

While the software does have editing features, Dragon Naturally Speaking is more of a dictation tool, but it can be helpful if you get tired of typing. The software will set you back about $50.00 on Amazon.

However, if you are a Mac user, Mac OS 10.8X, or Mountain Lion, offers a read aloud tool that will read any text on the screen when you assign a certain key combination.  I LOVE this feature.

–Go to:  Applications-> System Preferences-> Speech-> Spoken User Interface

–Under “other spoken items,” check “selected text when the key is pressed” and then select a key combination (I use Option+S).

3. Use ProWriting Aid

I use Pro Writing Aid occasionally for longer pieces or articles.  It does more than just spell check and basic grammar mistakes. Here are a few additional writing checks the free software will look for:

  • Overused words;
  • Dull paragraph structure;
  • Repeated words and phrases;
  • Consistency of spelling, hyphenation, and capitalization;
  • Clichés and redundancies;
  • Vague, abstract, and complex words from your writing;
  • Sentiment, alliteration, and writing time-line.

4. Read Writing Backwards

I have not really used this method, but other writings add it to the self-editing process. Just like reading aloud, the brain will catch writing errors when read in different way. I would love to hear feedback on this method!

5. Have Friend or Family Member Read Your Writing

Sometimes, it is difficult to let someone else critique our writing. For longer or critical pieces of writing, I would recommend this. Find someone who is helpful and offer honest, useful advice. Constructive criticism. This person does not have to be a writer, but should have a firm grasp on spelling and grammar along with a fluency in the native text.

Editing should not be something that you overlook in any piece of writing. For long projects, like books, hire a professional. However, for blog posts and articles, you can apply these self-editing tips. Make it a habit.