Tag Archives: writing tips

Writing Retreats : Pleasures and Pitfalls

woman reading book in hammock against dark sky

Writing retreats do NOT include this. Sadly.

I’ve been on quite a few writing retreats. And as you read this blog, I’m probably off on another one. If you’re reading this blog after 20th March, though, you’re too late. I’m back ūüėČ

This post is about writing retreats in general, and what I’m hoping to get out of this particular one. I’m also looking at some of the benefits of writing retreats and ‚ÄĒ sorry, but I won’t lie to you here ‚ÄĒ the pitfalls.

Writing retreats : what are they? what do writers do there?

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Pedantique-Ryter: Could Have or Could Of?

We could of had it all

exclamation mark in fireIf you do a web search for could of, you’ll find quite a few people searching for song lyrics. Examples of search terms include: exploding champagne as in "it could of been the champagne"It could of been the champagne

and “It could of been me.”

We could of had it all” was a search for a song by Adele, called¬†Rolling in the Deep.

And the line in question was, of course,
We could HAVE had it all“.

What’s happening here?

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Electronic Benefit and Compulsive Micro-editing

boring micro-editing Confession time: I have a problem with compulsive micro-editing; ¬†and I don’t normally believe in electronic benefits.

I am a quintessentially late adopter. Even when I have been pushed through the airtight seal into the orbiting 21st century, I’m not one who expects to find anything much good coming from the new technology at my command.

Mainly, of course, because it’s NOT at my command. It goes its own way. Sometimes it’s too fast for me and whizzes onto the next page, next program. And freezes. Or it’s too slow, so that I lose confidence and try to go back. And it freezes.

This is true of laptops, desktops, tablets, E-readers. The whole boiling. I hate ’em.

Except…

Except that they make my writing life just a little bit, well, easier.

Conviction Tiffler Addicted to Micro-editing

Micro-editing, the enemy of the finished bookYou see, I’m a conviction tiffler.

If, like Autocorrect, you don’t recognise the term, I borrowed it from a woman who was once my editor. What she actually said was ‚ÄĒ¬†in a public restaurant, quite loudly ‚ÄĒ¬† “If you don’t stop tiffling with that sodding book, I shall come round with chloroform and forceps and remove it surgically.” Continue reading

Characters In the Shadows

Characters in Shadow - people at airport, in silhouette

As a story-teller, my process begins with a character. It is then my job to bring them out into the light of day.

Sometimes I know him or her well.

Sometimes I’ve just eavesdropped on a conversation or a thought. The whole person is still deep in shadows, waiting to reveal who he really is.Characters in the Shadows + napoleon

Stage Two is when I start to think about the What Ifs.

Sometimes this will be background and setting stuff Р like what if my hero stumbles across Napoleon? Or the Hadron collider? Or an international conspiracy?

But usually it’s more personal. Characters in novels are awkward sods.

What if my character insists on making a different choice from what I expect? Continue reading

PGW and the Romantic Novelist

Just over a week ago I asked an expert why     P G Wodehouse seemed so out of sympathy with the romantic novelist. Did he know one?

romantic novelist Barbara Cartland

This is where I should probably admit that I have a sneaky image of a young Barbara Cartland pursuing him. Well, PGW was a big name when he visited London in the 20s and she was a newbie author and playwright.

If they did meet, ¬†I would put good money on him evaporating sharpish. He had perfected the technique. His family called it the Wodehouse Glide.¬†But nobody I’ve come across has offered any evidence of Wodehouse encountering a romantic novelist in real life.

The expert said, quite rightly, that PGW was pretty brisk on the subject of all sorts of pretentiousness. And, anyway, PGW handed out as many knocks to male poets as he did to female novelists. Continue reading

In Praise of Dirty Drafts

This week I have been remembering the first draft of my first book. Well, the first book I actually completed.

First draft libraryI remember that it was written by hand, mostly while I was waiting for books to be retrieved from the stack in a very famous library.

The leather-bound tomes, the scholarly hush, the dust dancing in the sunbeams, the academics concentrating all ¬†around me…. oh, I remember them as if I’ve only just walked in from that day with my book bag stuffed with notes and my head full of my characters.

First draft cafe napkinOr sometimes I wrote that first draft while I was waiting for an old friend in our favourite coffee shop.

When inspiration struck there, I sometimes scribbled the idea down on any old scrap of paper ‚ÄĒ¬†including a cafe napkin once or twice.

By now, dear Reader, you will have realised two things: Continue reading

Mnemonics: spelling and those dreaded lists

exclamation mark in fire; just right for mnemonicsMnemonics for spelling

Mnemonics, as a word, is no advert for English spelling.¬†And English spelling most certainly needs help.¬†What’s the point of that silent M at the start? (Blame the Greeks. Their spelling isn’t easy either.)

English spelling (and pronunciation) may well be the world’s worst. How many students, trying to learn English as a foreign language, have been flummoxed by:
through, thorough, cough, enough, hiccough, sough, dough?

I often have problems with words where changing the spelling changes the meaning: practise/practice and the like. The spellchecker is no help to me with that, of course.

My regular bugbear is¬†affect/effect. I have to stop to work out which is correct when I’m writing.
The Oxford Dictionary tells me that affect¬†and¬†effect¬†are quite¬†different¬†in meaning, though frequently¬†confused. (A statement of the bleedin’ obvious?) Continue reading

The Romantic Hero Revisited ‚ÄĒ Essential Hero Qualities

Revisiting the Romantic Hero Formula¬†‚ÄĒ
except that there isn’t a formula, as I tried to show in the first blog on this topic. So, instead, I’m going to explore some aspects of creating the romantic hero.

With examples from a master of the art of hero-creation¬†‚ÄĒ Georgette Heyer.

Which Qualities Make a Romantic Hero Attractive¬†‚ÄĒ to¬†Readers?

Most of us would say that our aim in writing romance is to create a heroine that our readers will identify with and a hero that they will lust after.¬†Warning: it is not easy to do and not all readers will respond in the same way. Some may adore our hero and some may hate him. As romance authors, we’re winning if we have a lot more of the former. ūüėČ

Tall Dark and Handsome?

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in "Game of Thrones."

Alan Rickman as Nottingham, Richard Armitage as GisbourneTall dark and handsome? Not necessarily. As readers we probably all have favourite heroes who are none of those. As writers, we may have created some of them, too.

Most telling recent example? Who became the abiding hero in the Game of Thrones series? Yes, Tyrion, the dwarf. Continue reading

Pedantique-Ryter : changing meanings, right and wrong

hand slicing through a stone question markEnglish usage is full of constantly changing meanings. How often do you yell at the radio or TV because some idiot presenter doesn’t know his (or her) English usage? How is it that educated people so often get fairly common words wrong?

English is a vibrant, living language and evolving all the time.

Not always changing for the better, in my pedantic view. But I know I am probably fighting a losing battle against sloppy English.

Changing meanings as words enter more common usage

Some words used to have very specific and precise meanings but have been misused so much that the original meaning has no traction any more.
So, if I say, “We underestimate the enormity of the decimation,” what do I mean? Continue reading

Right word : wrong place? Pedantique-Ryter rants

stars with text Even Illustrious Organs can get words wrong

Even the most illustrious organs get word usage wrong some of the time

Torturous or Tortuous? Right word, wrong place?

Earlier this month, the Guardian included this quote in a piece on the Cambridge Analytica data enquiry:

Ravi Naik, a human rights lawyer with Irvine Thanvi Natas, the British solicitor who is leading the case, said the decision ‚Äútotally vindicates David‚Äôs long battle to try and reclaim his data‚ÄĚ. He added: ‚ÄúThe company put him through such a torturous process over what should have been a very simple subject access request ‚Ķ “

question mark : which of a word pair to use?A torturous process? Is it really being suggested that Cambridge Analytica tortured David Carroll? Or was it a process full of twists and turns, excessively lengthy and complex?
In fact, a tortuous process?

Lots of writers confuse the two words, possibly because, in speech, it can be difficult to tell them apart. If the¬†Guardian‘s quote¬†was taken over the phone, it could be a mis-transcription. Or maybe it’s not wrong? Maybe the speaker did in fact mean that it was a process involving or causing torture?

Or perhaps¬†‚ÄĒ subversive thought¬†‚ÄĒ some of the increasingly common misuse of torturous¬†arises because writers don’t know that two different words exist? Continue reading