Mastodon The Writing Desk: September 2017

16 September 2017

Tips for new writers Part Four - Consistency, by Wendy Janes #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #writing

 As a proofreader I come across the same types of errors over and over again and thought it would be helpful to group some by theme and share them. The themes are repetition, dialogue, rules and consistency, and although they’re not intended to be comprehensive guides, I hope they’ll help you improve elements of your writing.

These suggestions are things you can do when you’ve finished pouring the first draft of your story onto the page/screen and you’re revising, editing or proofreading prior to sending your work to an editor or proofreader. The more polished your work is before it goes to the professionals, the better job they can do.

Here’s the fourth post in the series: Consistency

In this post we’re venturing into nitty-gritty proofreading territory. Your work will have been edited to ensure consistency of all your characters’ descriptions, their hair and eye colour, their ages and the spelling of their names. And you’ll have ensured there are no anachronisms and that your timeline works.

I’m focusing here on the final checks I recommend authors run prior to sending their manuscript to a proofreader. They’re all things I do myself as part of a professional proofread. Using the ‘find’ facility on a Word document can help you carry out these types of checks.

Make sure you’re using the right length of dash. Unspaced en dashes are correct for number ranges. In UK English spaced en dashes should be used parenthetically (i.e. instead of brackets), and in US English, the unspaced em dash is correct. I strongly advise not using spaced hyphens.

You should either choose straight quote marks or curly ones, not both. Also, you need to decide whether you’re using single or double quotes for quotations and speech. If you’re using single quotes for speech, then you should use double quotes if there’s quoted material inside the speech. If you’re using double quotes, then you should use single inside double.

Both of these are correct:

“Marianne’s story, ‘The Visitor’, is one of my favourites,” said the teacher.
‘Marianne’s story, “The Visitor”, is one of my favourites,’ said the teacher.

There is a perfectly acceptable style where quotations and speech are presented in double quotes, but words picked out for emphasis are set in single. Some authors also put thoughts, texts and emails in quote marks. It helps to decide whether you’re going to show them in the same way as speech or choose an alternative way to differentiate them, for example, single if speech is in double, or perhaps in italics. You just need to be consistent.

I suggest you look through your manuscript to check your font. Ideally your manuscript will be in one font, but if you have than one font, make sure there’s a reason. For example, some authors put prelims (the pages before the start of the story) and end matter (the information put after the end of the story) in a different font. Others will put things like telegrams or flashbacks in a different font.

Clarify whether you’re using US or UK English. Or if you’ve chosen a mix, for example, US spelling, but UK punctuation, then use them consistently.

I’m guessing you’re probably relieved we’re now going to move on to look in more detail at words.

Some words have alternative spellings – different but both correct. The following is far from exhaustive, but I hope you’ll find it useful to begin searching your document for the following: among/amongst; learned/learnt; realise/realize; while/whilst; toward/towards.

I also recommend using a dictionary (I usually refer to the Oxford English Dictionary for UK English and Merriam-Webster for US English) to double-check words when you’re not 100% sure if they should be one word or two words or hyphenated, and then make sure you’ve been consistent. Words beginning ‘long’, ‘mid’, ‘out’, ‘over’, ‘under’ can catch you out. For example, the following are from the OED:

longhand (noun)
long shot (noun)
long-standing (adjective)

Run a check for easily confused words such as: through, though, thought; woman, women; them and then, and those that have different spellings depending on meaning, such as; there, their, they’re; to, too, two.

I find searching for repeated words is very handy too. It’s amazing how many times a word can be repeated by mistake. Here’s my quick list: the, he, him, his, she, her, that, than, an, as, at, in, is, it, of, on, no, to, up.

Focusing on this level of detail and running these types of checks might seem a little lacking in creativity for some, but your readers will really appreciate it.

Wendy Janes 
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About the Author

Wendy Janes is a freelance proofreader for a number of publishers and many individual authors. She is also a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. Author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows and a collection of short stories, What Tim Knows, and other stories, she loves to take real life and turn it into fiction. She lives in London with her husband and youngest son. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her via her Facebook author page, her website, Amazon author pages (UK/US) and Twitter @wendyproof.

Do you have some great writing tips you would like to share?
Please feel free to comment

The #AuthorToolboxBlogHop is a monthly event on the topic of resources and learning for authors. Feel free to hop around to the various blogs and see what you learn! The rules and sign-up form are below the list of hop participants. All authors at all stages of their careers are welcome to join in.

15 September 2017

Special Guest Post by Deborah Swift: Dissecting Pepys’s Diary

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Deb Willet is desperate to escape her domineering aunt and takes a position as companion to Elisabeth Pepys, Samuel's wife. Deb believes it will give her the respectability and freedom she craves - but it proves far more complicated than she could ever have imagined.

Samuel Pepys, the foremost London diarist of the 17th century, is renowned for his fly-on-the-wall descriptions of the Great Fire and the Plague. He also has a reputation as a womaniser because of his frank confessions in his diary to his many adulterous affairs. What did these women think of Pepys, I wondered? His diary tells us he had relations on more than one occasion with various married women including Mrs Lane, Mrs Martin, Mrs Pennington, Mrs Tooker, Mrs Bagwell, Mrs Burrows, Betty Mitchell and Elizabeth Knipp. He was not averse to other random encounters either, invariably taking his chances where he could, in shops, taverns, the theatre and even in church during the service.

But his most famous liaison was with Deb Willet, the maidservant who nearly destroyed his marriage. This was the character I wanted to focus on in Pleasing Mr Pepys. Deb was a well-educated young girl when she went to live at the Pepys’ house in Seething Lane, as a companion to Pepys’ wife Elisabeth. But unsurprisingly, Pepys’ roving eye soon fell on Deb, with disastrous results.

Deb has been portrayed as a sacrificial lamb to Pepys’ desires. I wondered if the tables could be reversed, and she could actually be using him to further some desire of her own. A girl who has learned several languages, who is intelligent and ‘grave’, could be useful to those who needed to know more about the British Navy, particularly the Dutch. I wanted to dissect the diary to see if I could bring her out of the shadows and into the light.

Discovering what Deb was doing out of sight of the diary was a trail that led me to discover that she had later married a ship’s chaplin, Jeremiah Wells, who was in correspondence with Pepys even after the diary had ended. Deb’s marriage to a man of the cloth added another potential conflict into her relationship with Mr Pepys, and supplied me with an unusual romantic subplot.

Writing a novel based around Pepys’ Diary presented its own difficulties, the first being that Pepys entries are so detailed. If I wanted to heighten a scene by using stormy weather, I would inevitably discover that Pepys tells us it was a sunny day. Some days are written in exhaustive detail, other days Pepys is stubbornly reticent about what went on. In vain I searched for some small telling details about Christmas Day 1668, but the entry for two days later (27th December) there is an enormous amount of detail about a meeting he had with Downing (after whom Downing Street is named) who confesses to Pepys about espionage for the Crown:
“he told me that he had so good spies, that he hath had the keys taken out of De Witt’s pocket when he was a-bed, and his closet opened, and papers brought to him, and left in his hands for an hour, and carried back and laid in the place again, and keys put into his pocket again.”
In the same entry he gives us some domestic detail about his relationship with his wife:
“my wife and I fell out a little about the foulness of the linen of the table, but were friends presently, but she cried, poor heart! which I was troubled for, though I did not give her one hard word.”
This was the joy of researching Pepys; the diary is partly the affairs of state and partly an insight into his domestic affairs. In the novel I wanted to bring the women to the forefront, to construct a life for the women in the moments they were hidden from Pepys’ view.

One of my main research books was Marshall’s ‘Intelligence and Espionage in the Reign of Charles II’. I was particularly interested in women such as Aphra Behn, who undertook some intelligence work for the Crown. The Restoration era was one in which plots were everywhere; conspiracy theories, assassination attempts and rebellion were prime concerns for Charles II, whose father had been executed as a result of such activities.

My other line of research was to look into the language of playwrights of the period. Pepys was a keen theatregoer, and reports of plays, and the new excitement of women on the stage was an ongoing characteristic of his diary. So some of the characters were drawn from playwrights of the period such as Wycherley and Dryden. Pepys comes across as ‘larger than life’ in his diaries. To match him, I needed strong, almost theatrical, characters. I hope Pepys would have enjoyed the drama of espionage and double-dealing that I have constructed from his diary, and been ‘mightily entertained.’

Deborah Swift
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About the Author

Deborah Swift lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District and worked as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV. After gaining an MA in Creative Writing in 2007 Deborah now teach classes and courses in writing and provides editorial advice to writers and authors. Find out more at Deborah's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @swiftstory.

New Book Spotlight: Heroines of the Medieval World, by Sharon Bennett Connolly

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

These are the stories of women, famous, infamous and unknown, who shaped the course of medieval history. The lives and actions of medieval women were restricted by the men who ruled the homes, countries and world they lived in. It was men who fought wars, made laws and dictated religious doctrine. It was men who were taught to read, trained to rule and expected to fight. 

Today, it is easy to think that all women from this era were downtrodden, retiring and obedient housewives, whose sole purpose was to give birth to children (preferably boys) and serve their husbands. Heroines of the Medieval World looks at the lives of the women who broke the mould: those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history.

Some of the women are famous, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was not only a duchess in her own right but also Queen Consort of France through her first marriage and Queen Consort of England through her second, in addition to being a crusader and a rebel. Then there are the more obscure but no less remarkable figures such as Nicholaa de la Haye, who defended Lincoln Castle in the name of King John, and Maud de Braose, who spoke out against the same king’s excesses and whose death (or murder) was the inspiration for a clause in Magna Carta.

Women had to walk a fine line in the Middle Ages, but many learned to survive – even flourish – in this male-dominated world. Some led armies, while others made their influence felt in more subtle ways, but all made a contribution to their era and should be remembered for daring to defy and lead in a world that demanded they obey and follow.

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About the Author

Sharon Bennett Connolly was born in Yorkshire and studied at University in Northampton before working at Disneyland in Paris and Eurostar in London. She has been fascinated by history for over thirty years and has worked as a tour guide at historical sites, including Conisbrough Castle. Best known for her fascinating blog History ... the Interesting Bits she began focusing on medieval women and in 2016 her first non-fiction book, Heroines of the Medieval World was published by Amberley Publishing. Sharon is now writing her second non-fiction book, Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest, which will be published by Amberley in late 2018. Follow Sharon on Facebook and Twitter @Thehistorybits

12 September 2017

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Strands of My Winding Cloth (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 4) by Gemma Lawrence

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Winter 1560: Elizabeth Tudor has chosen never to marry. The man she loves, Robin Dudley, has lost his wife in mysterious circumstances. Knowing that were she to marry him, it would lead to his destruction and hers, Elizabeth has made up her mind... 

But Robin does not know this yet.  Afraid to lose her favourite, Elizabeth has told Robin there may be hope. As times goes on, Robin attempts persuasion, pressure and trickery to take his place beside her on the throne of England. And it is not only with her beloved that Elizabeth is having problems... 

Cousins aplenty this last Queen of the Tudor line has, and each one determined to cause her troubles. As Mary Stewart, Queen of Scotland, returns to her native land, as Katherine and Mary Grey cause trouble at court, and as her Lennox cousin, Margaret, conspires from within, Elizabeth is surrounded by women whom others may see as viable replacements for her, as Queen.

Covering the years 1560-1567 in the reign of Elizabeth I, Strands of My Winding Cloth is the fourth volume in the Elizabeth of England series by G. Lawrence.

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About the Author

Gemma Lawrence is an independently published author living in Cornwall in the UK. She studied literature at university says, 'I write mainly Historical Fiction, with an emphasis on the Tudor and Medieval periods and have a particular passion for women of history who inspire me'. Her first book in the Elizabeth of England Chronicles series is The Bastard Princess (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 1).Gemma can be found on Wattpad and Twitter @TudorTweep.

11 September 2017

Book Review: The Art of Hiding, by Amanda Prowse

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?  Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

This is a good example of why you should read outside your usual genres. Hooked in by the blurb, I wasn’t expecting such a compelling story that would make me think about all the things we take for granted.
It’s clear from the first page that Nina McCarrick’s life is far from perfect, so it’s good that we don’t have to wait long before the phone call that changes her whole world forever. In turns, I felt incredulous at Nina’s extreme naivety and impressed by her resilience.
I would have been tempted to give this a five star review, as it became one of those books that I looked forward to getting back to but I suspect other readers will have the same issues as me.
I’m no expert but all I had to do was a quick internet search to find she would have been receiving £34.40  ($45) a week until her boys reached the age of sixteen and was entitled to several other state benefits, including housing benefit and jobseekers allowance. This should have at least been mentioned – as well as why no one, including her street-wise sister didn’t ever think of telling Nina to seek advice on her entitlements.
I was also bemused at how she enjoyed free internet access without an Internet service provider – but if you put such niggles down to creative licence, this is still a great read. Any book which makes you think about how you treat your friends and family has to be good. The Art of Hiding becomes a story of one woman’s redemption that I’ll remember for a long time.
Tony Riches 
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About the Author

Amanda Prowse is the  author of sixteen best-selling novels in dozens of languages. A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on the Channel 5 show ‘The Wright Stuff’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She makes guest appearances on BBC and independent Radio stations. Find out more at Amanda's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @MrsAmandaProwse,