The deadline for our Christmas Star Writing Competition is now midnight on Sunday 31st August. There’s still plenty of time to get your entries in so get scribbling for a chance to have your work published!!
By Carlie M A Cullen
I don’t know about you, but there are some grammatical errors I see in people’s writing that really make me want to pull my hair out!
Now I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect, BUT these particular gripes aren’t too difficult to wrap your head around. So I thought I’d clarify them in the hope that if it helps to improve even one person’s writing it’s time well spent.
1) YOUR v YOU’RE
The number of times I see ‘your’ used instead of ‘you’re’ is unbelievable!
YOUR – means belonging to, as in ‘your house’, ‘your car’, ‘your dog’ – you get the idea.
YOU’RE – is a contraction of ‘you’ and ‘are’, as in ‘you’re (you are) going to bed’, ‘you’re (you are) welcome’ and ‘you’re (you are) not very happy today’.
2) THEN v THAN
This is another one that tends to crop up on a surprisingly regular basis.
THEN – has three uses in grammar:
Adverb – ‘I didn’t know it then, but I know now’
Conjunction – ‘The President spoke and spoke well, then sat down’
Adjective (less common) – ‘The advice on bending the rules came from the then Minister, Paul Johns’
THEN means ‘at that time’, ‘at the time in question’; ‘after that’, ‘next’, ‘afterwards’; ‘in that case’, ‘therefore’.
Used at the end of a sentence to emphasize an inference being drawn: ‘so you’re still here then?’
Used to finish a sentence: ‘see you in an hour then’
THAN – introduces the second element in a comparison: ‘he was much smaller than his son’, ‘Jack doesn’t know any more than I do’
Used in expressions introducing an exception or contrast: [as preposition]: ‘he claims not to own anything other than his home’ [as conjunction]: ‘they observe rather than act’
[conjunction] used in expression indicating one thing happening immediately after another: ‘scarcely was the work completed than it was abandoned’
3) THERE v THEIR v THEY’RE
This is my other main gripe. It doesn’t tend to crop up as much as the two above, but is still misused regularly.
THERE – relates to ‘in’, ‘at’ ‘to a place or position’:
‘we went to Paris and stayed there seven days’
‘at the end of the day we are there to make money’
‘I’m not going in there – it’s freezing!’
THEIR – means ‘belonging to’:
‘we went to their house’
‘where are their clothes?’
‘I had a collision with their car’
THEY’RE – is a contraction of ‘they’ and ‘are’, as in:
‘they’re (they are) a good team’
‘they’re (they are) busy with decorating’
‘who do they think they’re (they are) fooling?’
I hope this makes things much clearer!
Do you have any Grammar Gripes? Please share – we’d love to read them!
By Carol Thomas
Does your child love to write?
Would they like the chance to be published?
Writebulb Writers’ Group are running a competition for all UK children aged 7-12. First prize is publication in our second children’s anthology plus a copy of the book and two runners up will also receive a copy of the book.
This book has a Christmas theme (the last was for Halloween.) It might seem too early to be thinking about Christmas but in a writer’s world it is never too early! They can write about anything Christmas related.
All entries must be in by 23rd August, so there isn’t long (It’s half way through the summer holidays so they should be bored by now!). Maximum word count is 2000 but there is no minimum. Entries can be stories or poems or both.
If you think this might be something your child would enjoy check out the competition link below for guidelines and entry form.
All proceeds from book sales go to Farleigh Hospice.
Link to competition details: https://writebulb.wordpress.com/kids-competitions/
by Carlie Cullen
Do you remember playing Chinese Whispers when you were young? It’s that game where one person whispers something to a friend who then passes it on, the next one does the same and it continues until it gets back to the person who started it, who then compares what they are told with the original version to see how different it is. I can remember having more than a few giggles with that game.
So now you’re scratching your heads wondering if I’ve lost the plot and what the heck this has to do with writing and what our group is about. Let me explain.
After spending untold months writing a book and revising it until it’s in a reasonable shape, then going through the lengthy process of editing and finally proofreading, you can now publish your book. You get the book formatted, put it on Amazon Kindle, get a few paperback versions from Createspace or Lulu and you sit back and wait for the royalties to come pouring in.
You’ve written this fantastic book which is worthy of being published by the big six and deserves to be top of the New York Times Bestseller List yet three months later you’ve sold two copies; one to your best friend and one to Auntie Flo. So what’s gone wrong? Why aren’t you selling more copies?
The answer is simple – no one knows it’s there!
You have to distance yourself from your work and the characters you’ve lovingly created and view it now as a product. As with any product, consumers can’t buy something they don’t know exists. So you need to start the game of Chinese Whispers.
Let’s take our anthologies as a prime example. We are trying to raise money for a really worthwhile charity that needs every penny they can get their hands on. As a group we plan the launch/signing event at the library, get posters placed at various venues, spread the word around friends, family, and work colleagues and then after the big day, nothing much happens. One or two of us might occasionally mention it on Twitter but that’s about it.
They key to selling any book or product is advertising. It’s not the sort of thing you can just do once, you have to keep the name in the public eye to create more sales, and you can do it without it costing you a penny!
This is where social media comes in. There are loads of sites on the web now where people interact and I would guess most of us have at least one of these accounts. Let’s just look at a few of them: Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; Pinterest; Flikr; My Space; and Linkedin. All of these sites give you the opportunity to advertise your book or product for free, so all you need is to put your creative juices to work and come up with three or four short, interesting and intriguing ads and post them on a regular basis on the sites you have accounts on. The more people see the name, the more curious they will become and eventually some of them will buy the product. If they like it, they will recommend it to their friends and now the game of Chinese Whispers begins.
It’s very difficult to keep up with all the social media sites out there and still make plenty of time to write so it’s best to stick with just a couple to begin with. If you make your ads exciting enough, people will share them on other sites for you and so your reach grows. Also, look for specific times of year where your particular book would benefit from extra advertising, i.e. if you have written a romance, good sales periods for you would be around Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, summer holidays, and Christmas, so in the weeks leading up to those periods, advertise a little extra and put in the suggestion that it would make a great/unusual/wonderful gift for, say, Mother’s Day.
So start playing your own game of Chinese Whispers – you may be surprised by the results.
By Carlie M A Cullen
When writing a story, it’s as important for the reader to be able to visualise the surroundings as much as it is for them to connect with the characters.
This doesn’t mean you have to create in-depth descriptions of every room, property or area; it can be done quite simply by using the five senses: sight; touch; smell; taste; and hearing.
Let’s imagine one of your characters is wandering through an old-fashioned market, where livestock are sold – along with hand-made crafts, fresh produce and home-made bakery items.
First of all, think about what time of year this is set as you would expect different items to be on sale dependant on the season and whether a particular holiday is coming up. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to use December.
Now, let’s take each sense in isolation.
Other than stall-holders hawking their wares, what other sounds would he/she expect to hear? Probably the gobbling of turkeys, the honking of geese, bells, carol singers, and children’s laughter as they chased and played while their mothers’ shopped. What about the crunch of frost or snow underfoot or the clatter of footsteps and hooves over cobblestones?
Apart from the odours one would expect to come from livestock, what else would your character smell? I would expect the spicy aromas of Christmas cakes and puddings, cinnamon, fresh baked bread and rolls, spiced apples, newly-sawn wood, and fresh paint.
Would any of the stall-holders be offering samples of their wares for your character to try? Were any of the aromas so strong they could taste it on their tongue? Did he/she stop for a bag of roasted chestnuts, a warm glass of mulled wine or a steaming mug of coffee?
Is your character tactile? Would he/she arrive at a stall with figurines carved from wood and run their fingers over the grain, or visit a haberdashery stall with skeins of plush fabrics that cried out to be stroked? Would there be a pen with puppies running around, eager for any show of kindness and love? Would there be stalls of horses for your character to pat?
There are so many different things your character could see, but what would stand out? Would it be the gay colours or the glossy coats of the horses? Would the stall decorations or the costumes of the carol singers attract their attention? Perhaps the beauty of some of the hand-made crafts or the intricate icing on the cakes.
The Sixth Sense:
No, I’m not going into the realms of clairvoyance here, or anything of that ilk. I’m referring to what emotions and feelings the character gets from the whole experience of using their other five senses. Do they find themselves overwhelmed by the powerful assault on all their senses? Do they love Christmas and are filled with joy? Is there a sad event in their lives which means they can’t celebrate it as the memories are too painful? Perhaps they are filled with a sense of wonder, like that of a child, if their upbringing was such that they never celebrated Christmas.
So how do we put this together without being overly descriptive or verbose?
By picking one element from each of the senses, the one which appeals to your character the most, you can craft a couple of sentences which will transport your reader to the exact location.
Sally approached the market with a sense of expectation and excitement. The Children’s Home she’d grown up in didn’t really celebrate Christmas – well the kids didn’t – the staff had lavish meals and treats while they just got the usual gruel.
She stopped just a few feet in; a cacophony of sound competed with the voices of the hawkers, but it was the melodic harmonies of the carol singers that cut through the noise, the music filling her ears. Her eyes tried to drink in everything at once. There were so many beautiful colours and decorations it felt like she’d gone to heaven. Various fragrances assaulted her nostrils yet although Sally could taste spiced apple on her tongue, it was the smell of fresh baked bread which propelled her deeper into the maze of stalls.
A pen containing a litter of puppies melted her heart completely and she knelt on the crisp snow to stroke them. They were adorable, climbing over each other as they vied for the touch of her hand. Their coats were so soft and fluffy under her fingertips, it made her long to have one. However, with nowhere to live and no way of supporting herself, let alone being able to feed and shelter one of these delicate creatures, it was nothing more than a pipe dream. A stab of sadness pierced her heart as she stood and walked away. Despite her longing, she was soon swept up in the wonder of her surroundings and continued on.
The first paragraph sets the scene for the reader (obviously if this was part of a story, most of this would have already been done, but for this exercise I felt we needed some context, hence my including it).
The next two paragraphs allow the reader to use their senses just as the character does and places them firmly in the marketplace with Sally. I could have used a lot more details and description, but I wanted to show how it could be done in just a couple of paragraphs, whilst also showing how Sally felt, thereby giving the connection to the character as well as the setting.
So the next time you sit down to write, remember the six senses – it will help your story ‘come alive’ for the reader.