Saturday, December 30, 2006

Creative Writing Resource for Science Fiction & Fantasy

I don't usually use this blog to recommend books, but I just finished Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. If you haven't read it, it's well worth the time.

Card deals with the specifics of writing speculative fiction, giving down-to-earth instruction and guidelines that will be helpful for the novice or seasoned writer. If you're like me, and have an interest in SF&F but have never written any, this book will open several worlds of possibility to you.

Even if you don't want to write speculative fiction, it may be worth the read to broaden your horizons and gain a few tips that will help you in other genres. You may find the brief section on the life and business of writing particularly helpful if you're a new writer. Regardless, it's an informative and entertaining read. Card is one of the stars of modern Sci-Fi writing, and when you read this book, you can see why.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"I Never Said That" -- Writing Famous Quotes Accurately

Bill Moore may go a little over the top in this article, but his main point--accuracy in research and quotes--is important. This article is also a fun and informative read.

Words Used Well - No. 4: I Never Said That

by: Bill Moore

Writers like to quote the classics and the famous. Often, though, through misinformation or poor research, they end up misquoting—and sometimes misinforming. In some cases, they attribute a statement to someone who never made it. Because they’ve heard the quotation misquoted so often, they don’t bother checking the authenticity. Everyone pretty much knows by now that Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake,” even though she gets the blame. And Sherlock Holmes, in the books, never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” (But, then, he never smoked a calabash pipe, either.) Beatrice Hall, who wrote a biography of Voltaire admitted that he never said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He did say, “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too,” but that doesn’t imply anything to die for.

In other instances, a common way to misquote is to attribute a statement to the author when it was something said by a character in a play, poem, or book. Famously, Shakespeare didn’t say, “First, let’s kill all the lawyers.” It was Dick the Butcher’s line in Henry VI, Part 2. Greta Garbo’s character in Grand Hotel said, “I want to be alone,” but Garbo never did. There are sources that quote her as saying, “I want to be left alone,” but there’s a world of difference. “Anyone who hates dogs and little children can’t be all bad,” wasn’t said by W.C. Fields. It was said about him by Leo Rosten. [For other good examples, Google Words Used Right – No. 5: An Accurate Quote Can Be a Misquote.]

Probably the most frequent way to misquote is to change the wording slightly as in Winston Churchill’s “We have nothing to give but blood, sweat, and tears.” [The line: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.] or Alfred Hitchcock’s “Actors are cattle.” [The line: Sometimes, actors need to be treated like cattle.] Lines from movies are notoriously misquoted. Many of the misquotes have become part of the culture. Bogart’s “Play it again, Sam.” [The line: You played it for her. You can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can. Play it! Play it, Sam.], Cagney’s "You dirty rat, you." [The line: Mmm, that dirty, double-crossin' rat.], Weissmuller’s “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” [The line: Jane. Tarzan. Jane. Tarzan.], and Dumbrille’s "We have ways of making you talk." [The line: We have ways of making men talk.] get cited all the time, but they’re close to the actual lines and don’t change the intent of what was being said.

When the original intent is changed along with the words, it becomes a question of intellectual honesty. This is often what happens when writers quote the Bible without actually having read it. Money is not the root of all evil. [1 Tim. 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”] And pride doesn’t go before a fall. [Prov. 16: 18-19 “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”]. Sparing the rod has nothing to do with spoiling the child. [Prov. 13:24 “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”]

This kind of misquoting also happens often when historic sources or persons are used to shore up an argument. Does power corrupt as Lord Acton is quoted as saying? Not quite. [The line: Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.] Marx wasn’t really comparing religion to drugs, so he didn’t call it the opiate of the masses. [The line: Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.] This statement is a bit more subtle than the misquote and not as damning.

The Bard certainly gets his share of being misquoted. Juliet never asked about Romeo’s location. [The line: Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?] In this usage, ”wherefore” means “why,” and putting a comma before the last Romeo totally messes with what Shakespeare meant. All Hamlet said was that he was acquainted with Yorick but not how well. [The line: Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.] And Macbeth didn’t need a guide, so he didn’t say, “Lead on, Macduff.” He wanted the fight to start [The line: Lay on, Macduff, and damned be he who first cries, Hold! Enough!]. Sometimes, the misquote seems a bit silly. Shakespeare never mentioned gilding a lily. [The line: To gild refined gold, to paint the lily.] What’s really accomplished by dropping the middle four words? In the same vein, there’s Falstaff’s actual line, “The better part of valour is discretion,” not “Discretion is the better part of valour,” and Gertrude’s real words, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” being rendered, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Why bother to rewrite Shakespeare if you’re going to say the same thing?

So, why do writers do it? For political correctness as when Congreve’s “Music has charms to soothe savage breast” gets “cleaned up” to “soothe the savage beast?” Or could it simply be ignorance and indifference? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I do know, though, that if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you need to check your sources and not rely on hearsay—no matter how many times you hear someone say it. Who knows, we may discover some day that Nathan Hale’s last words were actually, “I was misquoted.”

About The Author

Bill Moore is the author of Write Rite Right. This compendium of homophones, homonyms, and frequently misapplied words is a necessary resource for anyone who writes for others to read. (Available on,, and

Bill is a freelance writer, researcher, instructional designer, trainer, and editor with over 30 years professional experience. For writing services, contact him at

Visit his Website, for more information on words and writing.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Creative Dialogue --- with Disclaimers

I'm including this article by Steve Manning because I found much of his advice to be excellent. However, there are a couple of things with which I don't agree.

First, keeping dialogue to a minimum. This, as with many writing techniques, depends on the scene and the characters. For instance, if one of your characters is an archaeologist and one is not, it would be natural for the archaeologist to verbally describe the intricacies of an ancient ruin or artifact. The non-archaeologist may not grasp what the other person is saying, but that could become part of the story. Think Samantha Carter's constant astrophysics expanations to Jack O'Neal in Stargate SG-1. Yes, I know that's a TV show, but it holds true in print, as well. It's up to you how you handle it. The fact remains, though, that minimizing dialogue should not be a hard and fast rule regardless of situation.

Second, while he's correct that people usually don't think in complete phrases, I think they sometimes do. I can also tell you from experience that people do talk to themselves out loud. (I can't tell you how many strange looks I've received at the grocery store because I'm verbally debating with myself over which kind of squash to buy. Maybe it comes from spending too much time alone, writing.) So, while Manning's section on thoughts in dialogue is helpful, I don't believe it's entirely accurate. Take your character's personality and background into consideration when deciding how to deal with those internal dialogues.

However, while those particulars should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt, the rest, as I said, is very good. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.

How to Write Great Dialogue in Your Book

by Steve Manning

Dialogue isn’t so much read as it is heard by the reader. The eyes see the words on the page, the brain processes the thought, but then that little voice we all have in the back of our head becomes the character and actually says the words.

We immediately hear those words and decide whether the dialogue is legitimate. We decide whether the character, as we know him or her so far, would actually talk that way. If we don’t know the character at all, we use a very broad baseline and decide whether we’d accept a stranger on the street talking that way.

So to develop a winning technique for writing dialogue, you’ve got to listen to the way people speak. Family members, relatives, strangers, people on the telephone. What do they sound like?

You’ll notice that they almost all speak in short sentences. Two, perhaps three sentences at the most before they expect someone else to chime in.

Their paragraphs really do focus on just one thought or idea.

Our society abhors a vacuum, so a pause happens between speakers, not in the middle of one-person’s thought. That’s also why a pause can be one of the most powerful dialogue tools when it’s used in a play. The audience wants someone to say something, anything, to relieve the level of anticipation.

When people speak, they use simple language. Yes, I’ve know a few people who can speak wonderfully with an extensive vocabulary and make it sound totally natural. But that’s the exception. Make your dialogue very simplistic.

If you actually transcribed what people say as they talk, and then read it a few days later, you’d really have a tough time understanding what they were saying. The ums, the ahs, the tics, the embarrassed laughter, the stops and starts. They’d actually read like idiots.

But when we listen to those people, we filter out all that verbal debris. So when you write dialogue, don’t include it. You become the debris filter. Your dialogue doesn’t become more realistic simply because the character reads like an imbecile… unless you want your character to actually come across that way.

Unless you’re writing a play, keep dialogue to an absolute minimum. Don’t tell, show. Don’t have a character explain a situation if describing the scene that does the same thing.

Also, people don’t talk to themselves out loud, and their inner thoughts rarely take the form of dialogue. You’ll have to come up with a solution to that one for your story. An excellent example of this is the movie Castaway, with Tom Hanks.

It isn’t until we need some explanation that Wilson, a companion volleyball, makes an appearance.

Accents are fun, and Mark Twain received high praise as a writer who finally wrote the way people spoke.

But if you have a lot of dialogue, a heavy southern accent can become tiresome on the printed page. Tell the reader the character speaks with a southern accent and let them mentally fill in the drawl.

Finally, keep the “he saids,” and “she saids” to a minimum. At any point in great dialogue the reader should know who’s talking without much assistance from the author.

About The Author
Steve Manning is a master writer showing thousands of people how they can write their book faster than they ever thought possible. Here's your free Special Report,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More on Modeling to Learn Creative Writing Styles

Another view on modeling, by expert Angela Booth.

Freelance Writing For Absolute Beginners, Part Two-Modeling To Write
By Angela Booth

If you're a writer, and even if you've yet to sell a word, you know you're a writer. Many writers know who they are from a young age, as soon as they realize that someone writes the stories they love to read. With other writers, the love of writing, and the knowledge that they're a writer, sneaks up on them.

So here you are, a newly minted freelance writer, and of course you write, but now you want to sell your writing. As we discussed in Part One of the this article, the fundamental of freelance writing is that people make money from your words. For those people to make money from your words, the words you hope to sell must be in a certain form - a novel, a screenplay, a white paper, a Yellow Pages advertisement, a Web site - your buyers buy a bunch of words in some form or other.

The Key To Form: Audience And Response

The key to any form, is AUDIENCE and RESPONSE. As with most of the fundamentals of freelance writing, most writers write for years without becoming aware of this bedrock requirement. I managed to write successfully for at least a decade without having a clue about what I was doing. Had I learned audience/ response earlier, I'm sure I would have had an easier time of both writing and selling my writing.

Always keep audience/ response in the back of your mind. It applies to everything you write, and ensuring that your writing is laser-targeted to audience/ response ensures that any piece of writing sells.

When a piece of writing isn't working, the clue is often in audience/ response. For example, let's say you've written a mystery novel. You try to sell it, but it's rejected. You remember audience/ response. OK, the audience is people who love mysteries - they love working out puzzles. The response required is for them to read to the end of the novel by continually finding clues and solutions. Understanding this, you revise your novel. You discover how to create characters with secrets and a great mystery puzzle by modeling six mystery novels, then you create another outline for your own. When you've finished, each character in the novel has a secret for the reader to discover, and a greatly enhanced primary puzzle. Your novel sells.

Tip: Write It Down - Who's The Audience? What's The Required Response?

Don't try to keep audience/response in your head. It doesn't work. Write it down. Stick audience/ response on your computer monitor where you can see it.

You can write in any form by modeling examples of the form. You model by: collecting examples, outlining those examples, and writing practice outlines of those models.

Modeling A Form: Collect Examples, Outline Them, And Create Practice Outlines

A "model" is defined as a "system or thing, used as an example to follow or imitate".

Modeling a form works for everything you want to write. It works for novels, articles, advertisements, nonfiction books: whatever the form, find examples, and outline them. Then create your own practice outlines for your current project in that particular form.

Yes, this is a lot of work. However, it's work that you must do. Nowadays, editors don't edit - they don't have time. They expect that your article or book will be pretty much in its final form. If you're writing copy, it's also vital that you model what works (copywriters keep "swipe" files of models so they can copy forms), because your clients are counting on you.

Modeling isn't copying, per se. You're not copying words. You're copying form, structure, and voice.

I know many writers who baulk at this kind of analysis. If this is you, you can shorten the process. For example, let's say you want to write an article for a magazine. Collect six issues of the magazine. Read all the articles. Then find six example articles of the kind of article you want to write. Read those examples several times each, with close attention. Make some notes for yourself, thinking about why certain headlines were used (write this down - writing something down fixes it in your mind). Count the number of words in each article. Count the anecdotes, and count the number of people quoted. Now write your own article.

Modeling successful examples is the KEY to writing anything that you want to write. I wish you much success with modeling. I've used modeling to write many projects, from advertisements to books. You can too.

Angela Booth is a veteran freelance writer and copywriter. She also teaches writing. Visit her blogs - Angela Booth's Writing Blog at and Fab Freelance Writing at for daily writing inspiration and motivation. Subscribe to the Fab Freelance Writing Ezine at to receive "Write And Sell Your Writing: The Power-Write Report" free. It's 21 pages packed with information to help you to develop a six-figure writing career.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Fundamentals of Freelance Writing

More freelance writing advice from Angela Booth.

Freelance Writing For Absolute Beginners - How To Get Started As A Freelancer; Part One
By Angela Booth

You're an aspiring writer. You have some writing skill and talent, and want to develop a writing career. Congratulations! I've been writing for money since the 1970s, and 2006 is a wonderful year to be a writer. You've truly got unlimited options and ways to make money writing.

In Part One of this article, I'll cover the fundamentals of freelance writing. Few writers give these fundamentals much consideration, and that leads to unnecessary hiccups in their writing career. Other writers breeze along quite happily, then suddenly smash up against one of the fundamentals, and because they're blissfully unaware, they proceed to destroy their career.

If you understand the fundamentals, these fundamentals form a basis for creativity, money, and confidence, because you will KNOW how freelance writing works, and you will understand how and why you get paid, and how to set your rates.

Next week, I'll cover "modelling" which is an easy way write as a freelancer. When you learn how to model, you'll be able to write anything, for anybody.

When You Write For Money, People Make Money From Your Words

Freelance writing is writing for money. And, when you write for money, your buyer makes money from your words. A book publisher publishes your book, and makes money from the book's sales. A magazine editor buys an article, and makes money from the advertising in the magazine. A creative director at an advertising agency hires you to write the copy for a brochure, and gets paid by the client, who uses the brochure to make sales and build his business.

The More Money Other People Make, The More You Make

The second fundamental is "the more other people make from your words, the more you make". (You'll need to negotiate for the higher pay, however.)

As a freelancer, you will soon learn that some markets are not markets for you, because they can't afford to pay you. You won't get upset that some magazines don't pay except in copies, and some business owners expect writers to write for $5 an article. You will understand that these people are not making a lot of money, so they can't afford you. This is not a problem, because there's no point in putting lipstick on a pig. You need to go where the money is, not where it isn't.

Money-Potential Check - Do It First

Therefore, before you consider writing for a venue, check to see where THEIR funding is coming from, because if they're not making money, neither will you. If you don't know, ask on a writer's forum. When you're writing for a magazine, for example, check the circulation, and the advertisers in the magazine. If it's a national magazine with a large circulation (over a million copies) and international companies advertise in the magazine, they should pay well.

If you're writing for your local newspaper, check the circulation figures, and the number and size of advertisements. Find out how much the newspaper charges for a half-page display ad. If the newspaper is making money from advertising, they can afford to pay you.

As a quick rule of thumb: if there are advertisements, the publisher can afford to pay writers. This applies to print media, and online - any Web site with advertising can and should pay their writers.

Follow The Money - Consider The Money FIRST

If you remember that "writing for money equals other people making money from your words", this will guide you in choosing markets to write for. For the first few years of my freelance career (admittedly this was the 1980s, long before the Web existed), I didn't make this connection. This meant that I signed contracts that weren't in my best interest.

If you remember this simple point, it puts you in a strong position. You can now assess markets so you know whether a publication is worth spending time on, and you can also negotiate from a strong position. For example, if a publication offers you a $50 all-rights deal, and you see advertisements from airlines and high-end clothing companies in the magazine, you can feel quite secure asking for $500 for First North American Serial Rights (FNSR) only. You may not get it, but you WILL get four and five times the original offer.

Negotiate: Get Assertive

Your ability to negotiate is a vital freelancing skill. If you're shy about negotiating, don't be. Editors expect you to haggle. The first offer you get is only a first offer. "Standard pay rate" is so much nonsense - I'll repeat what I just said, you're EXPECTED to haggle. Professional writers negotiate; new writers slave for low pay until they have a light-bulb moment, and then they negotiate.

So haggle. Always. Essentially haggling is just asking for more. When you start haggling with editors, you may feel like Oliver Twist, with a begging bowl and a "please, Sir", attitude. However, the more you do it, the more fun it will be. After a few years, you'll enjoy haggling.

So there you have it - the absolute fundamentals of freelance writing. You now know how to get started - how to find markets which will PAY you, and that you must NEGOTIATE a higher rate to get paid well. You can now write and sell with confidence.

Angela Booth is a veteran freelance writer and copywriter. She also teaches writing. Visit her blogs - Angela Booth's Writing Blog at and Fab Freelance Writing at for daily writing inspiration and motivation. Subscribe to the Fab Freelance Writing Ezine at to receive "Write And Sell Your Writing: The Power-Write Report" free. It's 21 pages packed with information to help you to develop a six-figure writing career.

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Creative Images Using Creative Words -- Hyberboles, Similes, Metaphors and Personification

Thanksgiving threw a wrench in my writing routine, but I recently ran across this little gem by Pamela Beers. Hope you like it as much as I did.

Creating An Image With Words: What Would We Do Without Grammar!
By Pamela Beers

No one is crazy about grammar, except me. It's a good thing because I teach grammar. It is the basis for all good writing. So between writing and teaching, I've learned to love those pesky words called hyperboles, similes, metaphors, and personification. Oh no, not those things again! Yes, those things again. They are the work horses of figurative speech.

That's just great, but what is figurative speech? Figurative speech is what makes our speaking and writing colorful. It creates clear and vivid images for the reader and the listener.

You will often hear me say, after a day riding horses, "I could eat the backside of an elephant!" Since there are no elephants in the meat department at our local grocery store, and an elephant's backside is quite large, you have to realize that I am exaggerating to make a point of how hungry I am. This is called a hyperbole. If I just said, "I'm hungry", you'd be bored out of your gourd. Stating the exaggerated version lets you know just how hungry I really am. It also creates a bit of humor in an otherwise humdrum sentence. As a matter of fact, hyperboles are often used in humor to exaggerate a point.

Riding horses this time of year makes my hands cold as ice. If my hands were really as cold as ice, the medical examiner would be zipping me up in a body bag. Using the words like or as makes the statement a simile, comparing the temperature of my hands to ice.

Metaphors are used comparatively, as well as similes, except that metaphors do not use the words like or as in a sentence. When I rode my horses outside last week, we rode on the wings of the wind. In other words we were going pretty fast. "Wings of the wind" is much more poetic and creates a lovelier image than the words, "going pretty fast". You can change this metaphor into a simile by saying, "we rode like the wind". Using the word like makes the sentence a simile.

While going pretty fast we decided to jump some timbers. When we got back to the barn my horse turned around and looked up at me in the saddle as if to say, "Wouldn't it have easier to walk around the timbers?" This is called personification; when we give something, such as an animal, human characteristics. I always give my horses human characteristics. I need to get real. What my horse was really looking for was a treat!

Keep your prose colorful by interspersing hyperboles, similes, metaphors, and personification into your writing. It makes your prose much more colorful to your readers, allowing them to hear the real you, as you create visual images with words.

Copyright © 2006 by Pamela Beers. All rights reserved.

Pamela Beers is a freelance writer and educator. She has many helpful writing and marketing tips and can help create a professional image for you personally and for your business. Visit her website at

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