Category Archives: writing craft

Punctuating Dialogue (3) the Full Punctuation Rules?

magic bookIn this third and final part of the blog series on punctuating dialogue, we’re back in the magical, fairytale kingdom of Bel Paese with the unpunctuated Ricotta Dialogues [click to download]. There’s a link to the punctuated version later in this blog.

You can find part 2 of the series here, and part 1 is here. The latest version of The Rules is at the end of part 2 but I’ll be expanding them at the end of this blog, and providing a printable version, so you might prefer to wait for that magic rule book to be opened 😉

But first, last week’s answer?

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Punctuating dialogue (Part 2) Beyond the Basics

Lichtenstein castleLast week I introduced you to the fairytale kingdom of Bel Paese and gave you the first three rules of punctuating dialogue. Today we go beyond the basics.

If you want the recap, it’s at the end of my previous blog here. And you can still download the Ricotta Dialogues here.

This week we’re going to look at slightly more complicated punctuation of dialogue. It’s not used all the time, but it is useful to learn and apply the rules.
As before, they’re simple.

But first, last week’s answers?

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Punctuating dialogue need not be scary (Part 1)

woman tearing hairPunctuating dialogue seems to be a problem for many writers. But it need not be scary. There are conventions (rules) to apply, but once you know them, it’s straightforward. Honest 😉

Beautiful Woman Sitting At Night Forest And Reading Fairy Tale BookCome and discover the rules in the company of Princess Ricotta, her dim but impressively ripped suitors Prince Square-Jaw and Prince Six-Pack, and her conniving servants Slack-Britches and Mozarella. The fairytale kingdom of Bel Paese awaits you.

Those of you who are already confident about punctuating dialogue can read the fairytale just for fun. I hope you enjoy Ricotta’s adventures, even with unpunctuated dialogue. For those whose punctuation might need a bit of help, keep reading.

Punctuating dialogue is only convention

The conventions of punctuating dialogue have evolved over many years. Some of them seem pretty arbitrary but rules often are. We just have to accept them. Their aim is simple, though: to make it easy for readers to understand what’s going on. Continue reading

Conversation on the Page

Man and woman sit cross legged on the ground in front of a body of water, and deep in conversation.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

Conversation on the page fascinates me.

Even when I’m writing an email, describing a recent meeting to a mutual friend, for instance, I find myself overtaken by the desire to report the real words one or both of us spoke.

I hear it, of course, as I’m transposing it. Or at least, I am hearing what I remember. But does my reader hear it? And hear it in the same way?

Conversation off the Page

Apple orchard in sunlight

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Unwritten conversation very often kicks off a story of mine. I will be elsewhere, not even be thinking about writing, and my imagination will pluck something out of the whirlwind and give it to me. And I know there is more —and the more is a story.

It’s almost like eavesdropping. Even a bit spooky sometimes.

For instance – I was once dozing gently in someone else’s garden. We’d had a good lunch and lot of laughter and she had gone inside to make tea. The other two were talking and I was looking at a couple of apple trees and not paying attention to anything much.

And a voice in my head said, “I can never forget it.” Continue reading

Lies, Damned Lies and the Unreliable Narrator

Lies seem to be flavour of the month, don’t they? [Can’t think what made me light on that, can you?] I can’t match Dame Isadora on lies, but I found myself thinking about lies in fiction and what they say about the characters. And, sometimes, the readers, too.

Lies and Integrity?

Don’t know about you, but the heroes and heroines I write have to be people of integrity. Does that mean they can’t tell lies, though?

Um. Well, no. Not exactly.
It depends… Continue reading

Keeping a timeline for your book: why and how

timeline starts with "once upon a time" on typewriterWhat is a timeline? Why should you create one?

Actually, there’s no should about it. You might find it useful. You might not.

I do find it useful while I’m writing, but then I’m a pantser. If you’re a plotter or planner, you might not need it. And even if you’re a pantser, you might find it too much faff.

So, in this blog, I’m going to explain what a timeline is and the benefits I get from using one. Of course, you wouldn’t have to follow my approach. There are all sorts of permutations on a writing timeline. Once you know what’s what, you can make up your own mind, can’t you?

diverging paths, which to choose?

Image by PixxlTeufel from Pixabay

Timeline: an example

A timeline is simply a way of recording what’s happening in your book as you create it: plot, characters, timing, motivations, emotions. The lot. There are all sorts of ways of doing a timeline for your book. Continue reading

Finding appropriate images to use legally and fairly

glorious beach, north-west Scotland © Joanna Maitland

glorious beach, north-west Scotland © Joanna Maitland

How often, when you’re writing a blog or preparing something for social media, do you tell yourself you need to include an image? Most of the time, I’d guess. But finding appropriate images can be difficult.
Certainly time-consuming.

And even when you’ve found one, can you legally use it?

This one on the right, of a glorious beach in north-west Scotland, is fine because I took it myself. My copyright. No problem.

That’s my first tip.
Tip #1 Use your own pics whenever you can.
And if you’re worried about other people snaffling them, make sure you mark them as your copyright. (I don’t do that, normally, but in this instance, I have. Note to self: I probably should claim copyright routinely though I’m already partly covered by Tip #2 below.) Continue reading

Writing your Manuscript using Word Styles: The Easy Way

oops! on key on keyboardWe’ve just passed the submission deadline for the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. And I’ve heard whispers from some readers that the MSS they are being sent to read are not as professionally prepared as they should be. That’s sad. And unnecessary, too.
Professional layout isn’t difficult. Especially with Word Styles.

Some aspiring writers, I’m sure, tell themselves that the most important thing is to get their pearls onto the page. They can sort out the niceties of formatting later. But that’s a waste of effort. It means doing stuff twice when it could be done once, Right First Time. So this blog is about how to set yourself up to get your MS Right First Time, while you’re actually creating it.

This blog is long—sorry—because I’m trying to explain every step of what you need to do. But it won’t take long to do it, and you only have to set up these Word styles once, so it’s no great chore. In fact, it’s an investment. Once you’ve created them, you can keep using them in every story you write.

Easy write, right? 😉Hello I'm a Time Saver badge

What does a writer need by way of Word Styles?

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Inventive Punctuation and the Popular Novelist

exclamation mark in fireLet me start with an admission: I love inventive punctuation. Of course, you can do an awful lot, just by changing a comma into a dash. But some people go the whole hog into brackets, asterisks and the wild excesses of the exclamation mark. It all fascinates me.

Most people, of course, ignore it. Well, readers pick up the writers’ signals, I hope. But they don’t actually play around with the stuff. Why should they?

For some people, though, punctuation is a real headache, indissolubly tied to (horrors!) grammar. It’s a terrible shame.

That was the reason that, several years ago, Elizabeth Hawksley and I wrote a simple guide. Its working title was Punctuation for the Petrified, which the publisher vetoed for excellent reasons. It reflected our feelings, though. We wanted people to learn a few principles, have a source book to check things that worried them and, above all, relax and have fun. Continue reading

Weather in stories, with thanks to Snoopy

Stifling weather…

As we’re sweltering in this hot weather, I thought it might be interestng to blog about weather and writing. With a nod to the patron saint of writers, Charles M Schultz‘s wonderful Snoopy. That’s the Snoopy who longs to be a bestselling writer and who always—well, nearly always—begins his stories with his tried and tested formula about the weather.Snoopy start with weather: it was a dark and stormy nightTo be fair, there are variants and I had fun searching them out. With a grateful acknowledgement to Schultz and the Peanuts strip, here are a couple of weather variants you might enjoy. First there’s subtleSnoopy applies subtlety to the weather Continue reading