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Writing Advice

In this section, you will find a collection of blogs dedicated to writing advice. So, if your manuscript is starting to drive you crazy, or you’re not sure how to get started, read on for the push you need to create your masterpiece.

Should you ever kill off your protagonist?

I read a submission once that was very well written, if a bit bleak.  I asked to see the whole manuscript, and the overall quality was excellent, but there was a problem.  Not a single one of her characters survived.

Now I'm as fond of a dark outlook as the next moderately gloomy person, but there are limits.  I also know that unrelenting fictional misery is very hard to sell to a publisher.  (Note, I say 'fictional' - there has been a well-publicised trend for Misery Memoirs about horrendously abused children, but that seems to be waning).

I wrote to the author explaining that I loved her style, but that the plot was too dark, what did she want to do about it?  She wrote back immediately - saying she had another manuscript in her drawer, and this one was much more cheerful, did I want to see it?

I settled down to read it, feeling optimistic.  It was more cheerful.  Marginally.  The two main characters survived the ensuing blood-bath, …
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Have I read that somewhere before?

There has been a recent rash of plagiarism accusations, as reported in this BBC article.  The use of new software helps tutors spot copying, but as the article says, it takes a human eye to notice something is wrong, the variations in style and tense.

But after thousands of years of creative original thought, can there be anything that isn't - essentially - copied from somewhere?  A suspected plagiarist in the article defends herself as a 'mixer' - someone taking original words and reworking them into something new.

What do you think?  When is plagiarism acceptable?  What is your definition of plagiarism?  And have you ever read something and thought 'fishy...'?

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When do you show your work in the revision process?

One of the (many) reasons I would make a lousy writer is that I hate revision and self-editing.  This may seem contradictory when it's what I do for a job, but I cringe when I read my prose.  When I'm reading someone else's writing, I have that sense of detachment that allows me to see what is and isn't working.

Do you enjoy revising your work?  And when should you show your work to someone else for another opinion?  Or indeed - should you?

The golden rule is - don't show your work to anyone else when they are likely to come up with a list of suggestions that you are already half considering.  So if their comments are going to make you say things like 'yes, I thought that', or 'well this is only a rough draft', or 'I already know that needs changing', don't show them.

Showing a reader - whether a friend or relative, or an editorial consultant, a half-finished piece of work is frustrating for all concerned.  The reader wonders why you are asking …
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Introducing the remix

Mohana RajakumarThis being my second year as a guest blogger, we’ve covered a lot of the startup issues related to writing: what publishers are looking for, how to get a writers’ group started, why keeping at writing even during change is important, and now that skill none of us (even Hemingway) can do without: revision.

I notice that as writers we tend to make one of two errors when it comes to revision: we either think it has only to do with grammar and so do it too early, or we think it has to do with our concept, and do it too late. In this post, we’ll talk about the basic principle of revision and in succeeding entries, various aspects of revision which do involve both grammar and revisiting your general concepts. This piece begins the first in a four month series on revision.

When I taught university students I often had to explain to their disbelieving faces that a paper should have been worked at least 2-3 times before landing in my in-box or on my desk. Whatever they sat down to …
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Leaving no loose ends

I make no apologies for this blog being about Harry Potter.  My daughter, who has been a competent but disinterested reader for the last two years, has suddenly discovered the Harry Potter books.  As a direct consequence of this, she has also discovered that the 'film of the book' is never quite the same as the written text.

At least JK Rowling managed to keep editorial control over the story changes in the films - unlike most authors - so the travesty of the film of  Philip Pullman's Northern Lights - (The Golden Compass) - (where the complex and dark ending is just completely ignored) is avoided.  He is pretty terse on the subject - as you can see from his website.

You may be wondering what this has to do with you, especially if you are concentrating on your written work, not dreaming of Hollywood.  Well today we watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and decided to watch the deleted scenes on the extra disc.  It was an interesting …
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