It’s National November Writing Month – the month when writers around the world join in a quick-fire effort to complete a story of 50,000 words in just 30 days. I’m marking it this month by re-posting some of the material I’ve published in past years to help writers get to that goal. ++++++++++++++++++++++ I’ve posted … More Write it now: how to make readers feel what you do when writing
One of my pet irritations with some science fiction is the way authors often succumb to the ‘recency effect’ when inserting the ‘science’ part into their stories. What usually happens is that a recent discovery, looming large and appearing to transform understanding, becomes a raison d’etre or story pivot – except, not long afterwards, that … More Why science fiction dates so horribly, sometimes
It’s possible these days for anybody who wants to publish to do so. Bung the book up on Amazon, and hey presto – you’re published. But it’s risky without proper editing. By editing, in this context, I mean ‘editing the finished manuscript’ – not the stuff an author does to go from Draft 1 to Draft … More Essential writing skills: what editors do, and why it’s essential
It was Ernest Hemingway, I think, who once remarked that he didn’t need to use the ‘ten dollar’ words in order to write well. Too true. Plain is best when it comes to writing. Hemingway didn’t mean that we must then reduce ‘plain English’ to an accounting exercise – you know, the attempt to reduce … More Essential writing skills: when plain English isn’t – and how to write simply
Over the past few weeks I’ve been looking through some of my older books, specifically to see what’s needed in order to prepare some of them for re-release. Out of which has come two thoughts. The first is, ‘wow, did I write that?’- where I’ve discovered something I have absolutely no recollection of researching. And … More Essential writing skills: how to invisibly improve your writing
Every so often I see something on social media that makes me blink a bit. Someone’s just ‘finished’ a novel – they’ve hit a word target – leaving just a spot of editing to do, and it’ll be out on Kindle in a couple of weeks. I kind of go ‘auuuugh’ when I read something … More Essential writing skills: editing ain’t simple
I have never accepted the notion that authors are supposed to only be expert in whatever their last book happened to be about, as if they are one-trick ponies. The issue was highlighted for me when I fielded a question from a journalist about my science book Living On Shaky Ground. I was known as … More Writers – one-trick ponies or polymaths?
Back when I was writing New Zealand military non-fiction, our leading local academic military historians often ended up reviewing my books for national magazines or newspapers. What followed, every time, was a trawl for anything they could construct into a denial of my professional competence in a field where I was being published on merit, and where they wrote and published competing … More Essential writing skills: getting the details right in historical fiction
You’ve spent the last thirty days on NaNoWriMo – that annual 50,000-word-in-a-month novel contest. And suddenly it’s 30 November. That arrived fast! And what counts is the doing – not the ‘winning’. Which sounds facile, but don’t forget that, whether you won or not, you’ve just joined a fairly select group. A lot of people … More NaNoWriMo – don’t dream it’s over…
One of the hardest things for writers – and especially if you’re under pressure to produce and hit a word-target – is finding the right words. Having, in short, a wide enough vocabulary to express yourself with interest and variation. It’s harder than it seems. Even experienced authors usually rely on a relative handful of words … More Essential writing skills: finding that ‘Goldilocks’ word
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