The difference between a present participle and a gerund and also a participle adjective isn't immediately obvious and may seem unimportant, but when looking at sophistication in writing, it's helpful to know the difference. I've been making a bit of noise recently about the illadvised use of present participles to start sentences if we want our writing to look professional. See point one of my recent blog post and this video with 6 (+1) tips on writing better prose. However not every sentence starting with a word ending in 'ing' is problematic because not all words ending in 'ing' are present participles, some are gerunds and some, though they are still called participles, are participle adjectives not verbs. What's the difference? Both a gerund and a present participle come from a verb, and both end in 'ing'. However, each has a different function. A gerund acts like a noun while a present participle acts as a verb. A word ending in 'ing' can also act as an … [Read more...]
Search Results for: prose
8 Steps to Answering the Question, Is My Book Any Good?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay After writing 10 books myself and helping countless authors to do the same, I realise that at some point all authors ask Is my book any good? That's the point at which most authors come to me for a manuscript appraisal, but there is another way you can get a good idea of whether your book is 'any good'. When we evaluate 'good' in this context, we usually think in terms of how our book matches up to similar books. We're wondering, Is our book as good as the others out there? Here's a way to find out in 8 steps. Step 1: Take a break and read Take a break from working on your novel of at least 3 weeks (the longer the better) and read at least 3 quality books from the same genre. Choose competition winners and best sellers, books with thousands of reviews and no more than 2% of them 1 star. You're going to examine these books so you can compare yours to them. It's important that you get a feel for the quality of the prose and tightness … [Read more...]
4 Tips for Writing Dialogue.
Writing dialogue well is an important skill for novel authors because it carries so much characterisation and drives much of the story. Stilted or unnatural-sounding dialogue is something readers will quickly pick up on, and they'll also quickly put your book down. Writing dialogue is more than writing down spoken English. The important thing to understand about writing dialogue is that we don't speak the same way we write. Written English and spoken English are different, and we have to write our dialogue as spoken English, in the way that people actually speak. But at the same time, we have to prune it back a bit, because no one wants to read lots of 'well's and 'um's. Or all the little things people say in introductions, like, 'Lovely weather we're having, isn't it?' In a novel, we want the dialogue to be on point, not to wander off into general chattiness. So start by writing exactly what your characters might say, and then cut back anything that doesn't move the … [Read more...]
How Book Publishing Works
If you’re looking to publish a book, you’ll need to know how book publishing works, so you can make informed decisions. First you'll need to know what publishing options are available, so if you aren't aware of all the options, take a look at my article How to Get a Book Published. If you take the self-publishing route or try for a hybrid publisher who gives you some control of your book's publication – like AIA Publishing – you’re what’s known as an independent author. It’s vital that independent authors thoroughly understand the basics of how book publishing works. This is not only for your own edification, but also because dodgy operators in the publishing world take advantage of those without knowledge of—yes, you guessed it—how book publishing works! If you decide to self-publish, you'll need to do a lot of research to understand all the details of successfully publishing a book. But no matter which route to publication you take, even if it's the traditional route (good … [Read more...]
What’s the difference between line editing and copy editing?
Many authors think that getting their book edited means getting a copy edit. And if they've even heard of a line edit, they often think that there's no difference between line editing and copy editing. WRONG There is a difference between line editing and copy editing. Many authors think that a copy edit is all their book needs. WRONG. Both kinds of editing are important if you want your book to compete with genuinely professional authors. And you need a developmental edit as well. Developmental editing Before the copy and line editing can begin, you'll need to have your book looked at for conceptual and structural issues. This is called the developmental edit, and it can be done in a manuscript appraisal. This will tell the author what they need to do to solve structural issues like plot, pacing, world building, characterisation, dialogue and so on. It's the big-picture editing. Quality beta readers can give you this level of feedback, but they need to be … [Read more...]
5 Poor Writing Practices that Make me Stop Reading
Books that display poor writing practices make me stop reading. In this article, I look at five poor writing practices to avoid. I read a lot. I always have, but in the past my reading was limited by the cost of books. The arrival of ereaders on the publishing scene made books cheaper –especially indie books – which allowed me to indulge my passion for reading. But I read so much that I was still spending a lot each month, and so I joined Kindle Unlimited (KU) where I pay a monthly fee and can read as many books as I want without extra charge – as long as they’re in KU. This has allowed me to try all manner of books because if I don’t like them or they don’t hold me, I simply return them and find another. Cheaper but less trustworthy When I paid $25 for paperbacks, I took a long time to choose one I thought I’d like, and I always finished them. Publication by a mainstream publishing house - as they all were back then - meant that the books were at least readable even if we … [Read more...]
The Wisdom of Giving Up
What do you do when feedback on your creative work indicates that you haven’t managed what you were trying to achieve and a total re-think is required, a rethink that will require new enthusiasm and an incredible amount of work? I give up. 'Ahh!' you might exclaim, horrified by the thought. 'Doesn't that mean you've failed?' No. Giving up isn't failing; it's part of the creative process. Giving up isn't the same as failing Even if you discard a project completely and never return to it, you will have learned from your writing and struggling with it, and the best ideas from that story will emerge in a new story, a better story. Perhaps you did fail to bring a book to publication, but that doesn't make you a failure; it makes you a writer, and a sensible one. Some stories are really not worth the work to fix them up because they'll never be that great a book, and if you can admit that, then you're freeing yourself up to write something else, something that could be a … [Read more...]
Good Writing: Why the Word ‘Immediately’ Doesn’t Make Your Writing More Immediate.
Misunderstandings about what makes good writing abound. What you were taught at school may not be the best practice at all. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay Said usage is not a sin In primary school, my teachers asked us to avoid using the word said, as if that would make our writing better. It doesn’t. Fancy dialogue tags (words other than said, replied and perhaps the occasional exclaimed to indicate who is speaking) are obvious—they jump out at the reader—and so interrupt the reading experience and remind readers they’re reading. But we want our readers so totally immersed in our story that they forget they are reading. We want them to feel as if they are in the action, right there with the characters, and fancy dialogue tags do the opposite of that. Said is so ordinary that we skim over it. And this is only one of the misunderstandings I see often in beginner writers. There are far more skilful and interesting ways to avoid countless ‘saids’ than replacing them with … [Read more...]
What’s the difference between telling and showing?
Telling and showing in writing is a tricky area and one that authors need to understand in order to fully engage their readers. They need to know how to recognise telling and how to change it into showing, A lot of the writing in my first drafts are more telling than showing the story, at least in the linking scenes. I don't know if it's the same for other writers, but I figure it's natural to write it that way because you're basically trying to get the story down. The task for future drafts is to change the telling into showing. What's the difference and why not tell? Telling Telling has a narrator between the reader and the action, so the reader stands outside the action and somewhat remote from the character. Readers are constantly reminded that they are reading, because the narrator tells us that the character did, saw, heard or felt something. Telling also talks about something that happened in the past so the scene has little immediacy. … [Read more...]
The Optimal Word Count for Novels and How to Cut Words
The optimal word count for novels is no more than 100,000 words, so knowing how to cut words from a too-long manuscript is an important skill for authors to develop. If you can cut back your word count to around 100,000 words, you'll save yourself a lot of money in editing, and publishers won't automatically reject your book because it's too long. Preferred word counts Most mainstream publishers wouldn't accept a book over 100,000 words unless it was part of a very successful series. Mainstream publishers have preferred word counts for a reason. One of the reasons has to do with the economics of producing a print book against the amount you could reasonably charge readers, but the other, more important reason for digital publishers (where the word count can be anything), is that it’s extremely rare for authors to be able to hold readers for more than the recommended word count. In other words, unless you’re a really talented author with a riveting story, if your book is over … [Read more...]
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