The 69 Rules of Punctuation… and More

Source: The 69 Rules of #Punctuation | Electric Literature #infographics #writing #grammar

Writing Can Be Taught

Today, I have been reading “Plot and Structure” by J.S.Bell again. In introduction, the author says that he had wasted decades of his time not writing because since childhood he had been told that to be a writer one must be born with it (the gift of writing). He had also been told that writing couldn’t be taught. J.S.Bell writes,”I started to believe it. I figured I didn’t have it and never would. So I did other stuff. Like go to law school. Like join a law firm. Like give up my dream. But the itch to write would not go away. At age thirty-four, I read an interview with a lawyer who’d had a novel published. And what he said hit me in my lengthy briefs. He said he’d had an accident and was almost killed. In the hospital, given a second chance at life, he decided the one thing he wanted was to be a writer. And he would write and write, even if he never got published because that was what he wanted. Well, I wanted it, too.”

Al this sounds sadly familiar to me, and I am sure there are thousands of other people around the world facing the same fact: they never tried writing because they did not believe in themselves, and because everybody around kept convincing them that writing is a wrong way to choose. As well as music, and arts, and any other “impractical” occupations, by the way.

Still, those who are strong enough to overcome their shyness and finally do start writing, as well as those who are quite experienced – all need to learn. My strong belief is that one CAN learn how to write, moreover, it is as complicated as every other intellectual occupation, so it MUST be learned. It is never late to learn and there is never enough of learning. To me, a picture like the one below, is not an evidence of a writer’s failure. It is the evidence of a learning process, which is awesome.

learning_writer

Choosing a Title For Your Book

A few thoughts on choosing a title for your book

As a debut fiction writer, who has spent decades teaching science methodology and writing solely in the genre of science, I have been following writers’ discussions about creative writing lately with unspoiled curiosity of a child. There are dozens of topics in the world of fiction writing which deserve most careful attention, and one of the first among them is giving your book the right name. I find it as important as having a photogenic face for a photo model. The title is the face of your book, it can either help you attract potential readers or scare them away and make them run, mumbling under their nose, “if this is the cover, I’d better not look inside!”

BookTitle

No matter what genre your book belongs to, there are a few universal things which every author should keep in mind (and here the logic of a researcher speaks loudly in me): the title is an inseparable part of the book, which means it must

1) grow out of it (be consistent with it, if you like);

2) reflect the author’s principal message; and

3) identify the genre of the book.

Within a genre, there may be other rules and commonly accepted traditions, but the three above items are the identifying, basic principles for all books. If you call a romance novel “A Midnight Death In A Tunnel”, or call a detective story “My Sweet Emma”, your readers (not to mention the book store assistants and librarians) will be misled.

The title is supposed to set a tone for your book and create a certain expectation in the reader’s mind. A strong title is the book opener, which should entice the reader to look inside.

What is the trick of selecting the right name for the book then? I believe, every writer can help himself with the task by doing the following things.

First, you need to identify the genre of your book, because depending on it, you can set the right tone, or impression, or expectation. It is always a good exercise to put it down and take a good look at it. As an example, look a this: a romance novel “Rick, Deer Hunter” Does it look right to you? To me, it doen not. If my book’s message is to offer people more love and tenderness, I would rather leave this name to writers of adventure books.

To get the taste of commonly used names for your genre, look up a dozen of popular books in the same genre as yours. You’ll need to develop a feel for the most typical names in your genre. As soon as you do this, good names will start popping up in your mind right away.

Another good exercise to do is to write a list of keywords which characterize your book. They may be nouns, verbs or agjectives; they may be short phrases. They should not be the most comonly used words or names. The main quality of a keyword is to characterize your principal idea, the mission of your book, the reason why you spent months of your life writing it.

You may also make up lists of words which describe your main characters, or an important location, or a sensation caused by a scene. Take visual words or words that bring up emotions. You may find a single word whish would perfectly fit as a title, or select a phrase (preferably easy to pronounce and remember); after surveying your lists thoroughly, pick out the words which seem to fit your content the best. Compare your resulting list of titles to those of the popular books in your genre. I hope these exercises will help you select a good name for your book.

There are a few more things which I understood about book titles both, as a reader and as an author. First of all, I realized that a good fiction title always has a touch of emotional tension in it. Compare, for example, these titles:

Bill Murray’s Life (quite neurtal and plain: everyone’s got a life), and

Bill Murray’s Return (provides expectation of an unusual story), and

Bill Murray’s Rise and Fall (gives expectation of a fundemental life story, probably with a sad end), and

Bill Murray’s Revenge (creates expectation of an emotional story with elements of detective).

Comparing book titles is a very good exercise, because it reveals for you how powerful the name of a book may be.

At the same time, the title should be short, simple to pronounce and easy to remember. It can contain a one-word description of a story in action, like- The Intervention, A Breakthrough, or Reunion. It may contain a key word and one more descriptive word (name) to clarify the general mood of the book: My Passionate Diaries, or Darkness At Noon, or The Age Of Innocence. The title may also contain a geographical name, but then, for sure, it should create an image (or a sensation) in a reader’s mind, like these names: The Maltese Falcon, Appointment in Samarra, An American Tragedy. Well, of course, there is an endless variety of names to choose, which only makes the choice more difficult. Still, every writer should keep in mind a few basic things

Whenever I need to give a name to a work of writing, I prepare a little checklist of questiond for myself, no matter wht genre my work belongs to. Here is the list:

– Is the title consistent with the contents of my work (or at least with a part of it)?

– Does the title create an expectation of a particular genre in which the work is written?

– Does the title sound (look) clear and simple, is it easy to remember?

– Can this title entice a reader to open the book?

– Is there at least one special word in my title that can attract my particular readers’ audience?

If I answer all five questions right away and am satisfied, this means I have selected a good title.

Writing In the First Person

Share love. Educate. Inspire.

I just read a nice article by Mia Botha The Pros and Cons of Writing in First Person at Writers Write. Mia feels there is no right or wrong in this question, but there are pros and cons, which depend on the writer.

I agree: full responsibility for deciding how to write the book lies on the writer.

Ernst_writing

On the one hand, it gives you as an author unlimited access to the character’s thoughts and feelings, but it also limits you in describing thoughts and feelings of other characters. Writing in the first person sets out the main character, opposes him/her to everyone else. It is up to the author to decide whether to allow this to happen or not.

In her article Mia notes, and this is a great observation, that writing in first person gives the author a deeper insight into the main characters’ thinking process, but at the same time, it limits the…

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Writing In the First Person

I just read a nice article by Mia Botha The Pros and Cons of Writing in First Person at Writers Write. Mia feels there is no right or wrong in this question, but there are pros and cons, which depend on the writer.

I agree: full responsibility for deciding how to write the book lies on the writer.

Ernst_writing

On the one hand, it gives you as an author unlimited access to the character’s thoughts and feelings, but it also limits you in describing thoughts and feelings of other characters. Writing in the first person sets out the main character, opposes him/her to everyone else. It is up to the author to decide whether to allow this to happen or not.

In her article Mia notes, and this is a great observation, that writing in first person gives the author a deeper insight into the main characters’ thinking process, but at the same time, it limits the writer in a few other things: “your character can’t be everywhere and he can’t hear everything” and “your character shouldn’t be alone for too long,” and also it is necessary to “be careful of starting every sentence with I.”

I agree with every word of the article, I just want to add a few more. It must be the scientist inside me that is making me write this now, but- well, here is what I think.

As every other element of fiction writing, the choice of the story’s narrator must be reasoned. The one who tells the story shows the reader his/her world in a unique, individual way.

When an author finds a bright individual who can see the world in a very attractive (unusual) manner, plus if there is an event which causes a change in this person’s life, then it makes perfect sense to tell the story in the first person (remember Holden Caulfield from The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger?). in such case, the whole book aims to show development of one personality; all the world around this person exists to make these changes possible. Every scene takes place in this person’s mind, and the author must see with this character’s eyes as if they were his own. This is a very hard task, unless the author is telling a story from his own life.

If a story has many solutions and it looks like it makes full sense to show how different people (creatures) see the same chain of events, then the author sets a different goal: to show the world in its development, where people are just observers of its dynamics. Their visions are different, their lives move on, but the world remains unchanged. In such stories, the protagonist is still in focus of attention; his vision seems the most important, but the author would rather write in third person, because other characters’ opinions matter, too. The protagonist cannot be opposed to them, because he is on their side, he is one of them, and all of them are struggling against the antagonist’s power (take Neil Gaiman’s The American Gods, for example).

Well, this is the way I see it. The point is, there must be a reason for everything. Once you have decided to write in the first of in the third person, this is dictated by the core idea of your book, by the book’s mission.

One Easy Tip To Help You Edit Better

Source: 1 Easy Tip To Help You Edit Better

What makes a woman beautiful?

“Things are beautiful if you love them.” Jean Anouilh

Is female beauty an inborn gift? Is it genetics that makes a woman charming? Well, I really doubt it. Some women, of course, are born with lucky genetics, but I strongly believe that it takes effort and time to really be one.

I used to meet hundreds of women when I actively worked as a relationship counselor. Some of my female clients were gorgeous, other were classically beautiful, some were just pretty, and even a few who looked kind of indifferent to how they looked- All women belonged to very different genetics types, but somehow I often caught myself on making mind notes: This woman is gorgeous, while that one is just pretty. Every time in such moments I was wondering: How could I identify beauty? And also, what secret makes this woman look gorgeous, while that one is just good looking?

Konstantin Razumov - (29)

I started reading about the topic. First of all, I learned with surprise that what makes all people agree about female beauty is- facial averageness! Multiple experiments brought cientists to a conclusion that the common factors producing the “sense” of female beauty are: facial averageness (how much/little a woman’s face deviates from traditionally accepted norm), facial sexual-dimorphism (how traditionally “feminine” a woman’s face is), facial maturity (how young the face looks), and facial fluctuating asymmetry (how inherently symmetrical the face is). The faces most consistently rated as “prettiest” by both men and women were the most symmetrical.

Sounds quite boring, doesn’t it? According to science, the best thing to do for a woman who wants to look beautiful is to learn what is accepted as an average “norm of beauty”, and start from there. Still, I believe that it is a woman’s unique image that makes her really attractive. A beautiful woman has charm. And charm is uniqueness. It may be a little birth mark on the upper lip, or a curly strand of hair falling on her forehead, or a peculiar shape of her eyebrows – something that pushes her out of the norm rather than keeps her in the crowd. A woman who managed to find her peculiar trait and knows how to use it to her advantage, will certainly hear behind her shoulder some day, “Oh, what a beauty! She’s gorgeous!”

A comment on commenting

Just read Amanda Patterson’s tips about commenting on Writers Write. Her list is simple and clear:

  1. Be kind. Be polite.
  2. Leave it alone if you don’t like it.
  3. Don’t preach. 
  4. Leave religion and politics out of it.
  5. Think before you ask.
  6. If you like it, say it.

I agree with them completely. I tought that in fact, most of us never take commenting seriously. I mean, we quickly look through an article, grasp the general idea and move on. Excuse me for this ugly comparison, but it is identical to dogs marking territory. We have no time to think over what we just read because there are so many other articles out there, so we leave a couple of words here and there and never care to slow down.

mark_your_territory

Whenever we write anything, we should keep in mind that our mind droppings may not look nice for everyone. Opinions – especially strong ones – are for personal blogs, while commenting is just like wagging your tail, meaning to say, “Well done, thank you, keep on writing!”

Happy Cartoon Dog Wagging Tail

 

What Women Want

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin

woman-in-red

There is little to add to this. Just one thing: once it started expanding, there is no way back.

What Women Want

I thought it might be interesting to create a collection of famous quotes about women, so I am going to publish little notes and quotes about women now and then here. This is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, which I have always found very witty:

A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water

This is so true. Sometimes we, women, don’t know how strong we are until life tests us really hard. When life is smooth, a woman does not have to show her power; she is fine with the reputation of being a weaker one. Moreover, some wise women enjoy displaying their weakness.

The gift of real gracefullness is not given to us by nature; it is developed with time, it should be acquired like education. Real grace is a result of a long self-study, and like every other gift, it makes an individual unique. The women who understand the power of being weak are always smart and strong. I would not dare to test such a woman: she may be as strong as any man, and even stronger.

rob-herreran - a woman

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