Thursday, 10 November 2011

Autocorrect trauma

Following on from the previous post about misspelling, I have to own up to frequent iphone autocorrect disasters, such that I'm considering not replying to messages in the future. I've tried turning off the autocorrect function but my typing on the screen is so hit and miss that autocorrect is preferable - just.

There's a website dedicated to our autocorrect messes. Just make sure you set aside plenty of time when you have a look at it!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Common misspellings: test yourself

So I did hesitate over "misspellings". Is it mispellings, mis-spellings or misspelings? Well I wasn't confused for long, but I did have to think about it. Besides, the system spellcheck suggests I got it right first time. If you fancy testing yourself on the 25 most commonly misspelt words then you can find it here. However, their maths isn't very good as there are 27 questions.

I got five wrong. How did you do?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

What happens when I take a break?

I've completed my four month self-imposed writing ban. I generally suffer the opposite of writer's block, so thought I would see what happens if I don't write.

Bottom line is I am now desperate to get going again!  I found the time useful to think through my characters in a novel I've completed and have come to some radical decisions - like removing one altogether.  Also, I read loads more novels than usual and I've had the time to take in some interesting techniques others are using.

So here goes...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Opening lines - learning from others

Last week I spent a couple of hours surfing the shelves of my local Waterstones reading the first paragraphs of novels on the tables and in the shelves marked "winners". I came away with the feeling that opening lines of a novel must be a very personal thing between the reader and the writer. When I found myself unwittingly on page two then I knew that something was sticking me to the book. Other times I didn't even bother to finish the paragraph and this is probably more a reflection of my tastes than the ability of the writer.

If you fancy checking out first lines without the hassle of lurking amongst the bookshelves then go here for the best 100 lines...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Writing about facial expressions and emotions

An entire emotion can be expressed in one lifted eyebrow and in the hard, descending lines at the corner of a child's mouth.  If you're looking for ideas or detail on the facial tweaks by emotion then this poster is a good start.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The audiobook narrator Rupert Degas is amazingly talented

I am starting to choose my audiobooks based on their narrators. Rupert Degas is my favourite and fortunately he is prolific. The six hour version of Rose Tremain's Restoration is a perfect example of his flexibility as a narrator. The hero is a seventeeth century "part-time" physician. His accent is as distinctive as Tremain's writing voice. He manages to bring each character to life with a distinctiveness that is authentic.

I interrupted by literary reading/listening over the Easter break and slipped in Wilbur Smith's latest - Those in Peril.  Rupert Degas again manages a variety of accents though some of the South African ones grated a bit to me (being an expert on this accent myself...). However, this 25 hour (yes, really) book was saved only by the narration. The plot is one of Smith's worst. He's gone for the popular and rather trashy news story approach. Gone are the African settings, the well researched locations and the characters that live with you. I've forgotten the story already, but will remember Degas's excellent performance.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Rose Tremain's Trespass audiobook is superbly narrated

I'm ever in awe of audiobook narrators who are able to add small nuances to characters' voices without getting in the way of the story. If I want a full dramatisation I will watch a TV programme or a film version. Juliet Stevenson is the narrator for Rose Tremain's Trespass. And an excellent narrator she is. The unabridged version of the book is around ten hours of recording. I'd love to know how many hours it takes to produce ten hours of perfect reading!

The book itself is well reviewed. I was glad I listened to it during sunny days while pottering about the garden as it has a rather depressing and dark feel to it. The trouble with audiobooks is you are never sure how far you are into it unless you delve into the mechanics of the audioplayer. So I was tricked a few times when I thought the ending was near. When the ending did come, it was not quite what I expected but the tinge of optimism was most welcome. Overall - an unsettling story about family relationships, set in a beautifully described part of France.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Writing Inspiration from the Archives

Writing is more than words for me. I like to have a picture or two to hand, watch a video or some other related media - to inspire me to start, keep and finish what I'm writing.  More often than not, a collection of photos is enough.

The Internet Archive is what it says it is - a collection of hundreds of thousands - thousands of thousands of moving images, texts, audio, music and the web. The "take me back" feature lets you find old cached images of any website - it was shocking to see how my business website progressed over a decade!

I'm currently exploring the audio section.... and may be some time.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Claire Tomalin at London Book Fair

I sat on an empty seat to rest my feet and found myself in the midst of a talk given by Claire Tomalin. I left the London Book Fair inspired to reread Thomas Hardy and Samuel Pepys. Though maybe reading her biographies would be a better start.

The key message for me was the importance of liking the character you're writing about - and that people tend to read biographies on people they know, rather than interesting but obscure people.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

What is a prose poem

So Kate Clanchy suggested that a piece I'd written may be more appropriate as a prose poem - after revising. I'm not exactly sure what a prose poem is so I did some research:

Definitions on the web

Interesting. I've revised my piece so there is no dialogue and the emphasis is on the imagery. And I dumped, on advise, some of the story complexity I was trying to weave in. I worry a bit whether there is a story at all, but maybe that is my prose head being a bit too analytical.

I really enjoyed this exercise.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Radio drama script editors

I've testing out whether writing radio dramas is something I'm interested in and possibly good at. One of the first steps was figuring out the format.  I thought you may be interested in my experience of the different formatting software - most of which covers other formats as well.

I use a Windows PC with Office 2010, a Windows laptop with MS Office 2007, an iPad (soon to be iPad 2) and I have an iPhone.  So compatibility an portability is important to me.  One of the reasons I don't use a a Mac for the main work is mostly due to software flexibility limitations - and far too expensive.

Final Draft
This is a gold standard in script editing software. And the problem that comes with all the bells and whistles is the learning curve is too steep. I believe software needs to be designed so the user never has to read the manual. Final Draft ended up an expensive (£140) one step too far for me. No doubt for the professional scriptwriters it works out just fine.

BBC Writersroom Scriptsmart
This is free and sort of easy to use. I did have some issues with MS Office compatibility. There is a version for the Mac though I don't know whether it works well on the iPad.

This works for me. It is free, though you can upgrade for a small fee ($14.99). There is also an iPad and iPhone version ($4.99) and you can pay a monthly fee ($4.99) so you can sync between pc, laptop, iPhone, iPad and any other format and location. I found the free version very easy to use, intuitive and got me started. If I really get into radio script writing then I may go for the sync option as I woudl find it enormously useful to have the most recent copy of my work, at my fingertips, regardless of what machine I am using.

If you've tested out or use any other radio script formatting software, then please leave the details in the comments section of this post.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Writing workshops with Kate Clanchy and Sarah Dunant

Wow! I've had an amazing two consecutive writing workshops; the first with Kate Clanchy and the second with Sarah Dunant. In the first, Kate critiqued my work along with others. Listening to both of them pick through a variety of different types and styles of writing was an excellent learning experience. I think it's a bit easier to listen and learn when it's not your own work under the spotlight.

Both of these authors are not only great writers in their own right, but also excellent teachers.

Now, back to the revisions...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Ether Books Mobile Publishing

While the world is still prevaricating over the issue whether ebooks are real books, something else is creeping up to confuse matters - mobile publishing. A large proportion of Internet users throughout the world have access only through their mobile phones. Also, many smart-phone users are accustomed to reading on their phones - emails and the like. It is a small step to read fiction on your phone.

Ether Books Mobile Publishing is one of those ahead of the curve. Poe once said that a short story is defined as a piece of fiction that can be read in an hour. Nowadays, short fiction is often something that can be read in ten minutes or so.

I thought I would test out this mobile publishing method and so far my experience has been very positive. Ether Books have two of my short stories available for a paid download and three flash fiction stories can be downloaded for free. Their free app is simple and easy to use.  Stories are filed into award winners, classics, contemporary, crime, feel good fiction, free, humour, intelligent erotica, mind-body-spirit, modern classic, new authors, noir, non-fiction, pocket poems, popular science, sci-fi, urban horror, white rabbit...

The app works well with their general website where you can find out more about the authors etc.