Anyone Can Be a Writer by Christine Duncan

I am not usually someone who goes on and on about grammar. I am well aware that I can lapse too. But the trend to have internet articles written by whoever happens to be handy without having an editor go over the darn thing when it is done is getting to me.

I just read an entire article where the writer was apparently unschooled in the use of a and an. The upshot was he decided to use an all of the time. So he wrote about an phone, an computer and an technician. I didn’t notice any obvious spelling errors. But there was also a few extra words where they didn’t belong as though he typed the darn thing and never looked at it again.

As I stated, I can lapse. I try to go over these posts before I publish them, for example, and sometimes I miss things. But if you want to be a writer, learn to use the tools of the trade. Basic grammar is important.


Honestly, it’s ‘research’

I had every intention of writing today. I took today off to do just that.

But one of my favourite authors has a book out. I can tell just from the opening line it’s a good one. And it’s the latest in a series – so I will be reading that today.

Isn’t it wonderful? These imaginary worlds that we think exist only in our heads get put down on paper and then reach out to other people and entwine themselves into their minds too, until they feel as much a part of our imagined world as we do. And then they cannot wait to read the next instalment.

I’m reliably informed by Twitter friends that skipping writing to read is not procrastination or skiving, it’s research. So that’s what I’m doing today. Research.

Damn, it’s fun.

The ” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

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The First Couple of Pages by Christine Duncan

I slave over the first few pages of a novel. I think most of us do. We have to introduce our characters, start the plot, show the setting and the time. We have to hook the reader. It is not easy.
Lately, I have been picking up books that have not worked on some level. I haven’t liked the characters, or couldn’t figure out what universe they lived in, despite the fact that the dust jacket or blurb told me it was set in present day America.
And I set the books down. I used to give books more time. I would read a couple of chapters, or even more to see if it was just my mood. Maybe the book caught me on an off day.
I don’t do that anymore and I don’t think I’m alone. Life is busy. Books need to hit me the right way in just a few pages or I’m closing them up for good.
Time to go over that opening, just one more time.

‘That’ article

A certain author gave an interview this week in which she derided genre fiction. Apart from the fact that she herself is a genre author, this was wrong in so many way.

She called it boring and formulaic. Well, no. Genres take an idea, an impression, and interpret it in a million different ways. We play with the tropes, we obey the rules in different ways, we subvert the rules of our genre.

And genre readers are amazing. They are not as easy to please as people think. They know their genre. They know what to expect. They know the highest standards your genre can reach, and they are used to reading it. You have to write well to please them. You have to be very clever to surprise and impress them. They have expectations based on a long experience and indepth knowledge, and a genre writer has to be able to meet those expectations as well as providing something new.

When non-genre writers slip into writing genre, they often act as if they’ve done shameful. They will hope people don’t read their fantasy novel as fantasy, for example.

Perhaps because they’ve discovered genre is more than just following a formula. It requires skill and judgement, a deep well of knowledge and an understanding of complex rules and along with all that, the ability to say something new. It has to be known to happen that when a non-genre author writes a genre book, it can seem a little – formulaic. As if they’ve grasped the rules, but not the meaning and the history behind them.

Genre and non-genre authors shouldn’t snipe at each other. Both have skilled writers, both produce books people want to read. Authors should, instead, support each other, not indulge in literary snobbery. What with the closing of libraries and the drop in published books, as well as the fashion for denigrating reading, we have enough to battle against without battling each other.

The ” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

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Reading by Christine Duncan

I’m currently half way through Lisa Gardner’s book, Right Behind You. I think I know where it’s going but I’m still hanging on to see if I’m right. Sometimes, you know who done it well before the book ends and you’re bored. But the best books keep you there hoping. This is one of those.
But along with enjoying the book, I’m doing that writer game. I’m playing how did she do that. I go back to earlier sections to see how she set something up. I slow down to figure out if I would write this part this way. In some books, I do this because I hate the book and want to fix it. On this book, I’m doing it to learn.
But what a joy to have a good book to read.

Writing With A Chronic Illness

As some of you will know, I have a chronic illness (Ulcerative Colitis) This, amongst other symptoms, also causes fatigue, pain and joint pain. It’s an exhausting disease. I also have a full time job. So how to write when your chronic illness just makes picking up the pen a chore?

Write in ten minutes bursts. In five minutes bursts if necessary. Just two lines at a time if that’s all you can manage. Write a little bit, rest for a long bit, write a little bit. You can actually get a lot done writing in these tiny chunks of time for an entire day.

Keep your writing materials nearby. Normally I like to keep my latest notebook on a desk on other side of the room, and that’s my writing space. That’s no good if I’m ill, though. If I have to make an effort to cross the room, I’ll never manage it. So my latest notebook or laptop is kept within reach, so I can get to it when I feel the urge. I even have Word on my phone, so I can write on that if need be (and that is also very handy if I’m in a doctor’s waiting room or on the bus).

Don’t be afraid to just sit and think all day. So maybe you’re too tired today. You may not be tomorrow. And in the meantime, you have nothing to do but lie back and dream up your story. Even when I’m well, I find spending a day just thinking and daydreaming my story is invaluable.

Do some research. Watch a documentary. Read a book. If you’re too tired for all that, listen to an audio book. You can get all kinds of lectures and non-fiction books on audio now, and they can be very useful.

And don’t get disheartened. You’re ill today, you may be ill next week, but if you’re a long term sufferer of chronic illness, you know it comes in cycles. It’ll get better. Until then, just keep doing little bits, until you’re ready to do the big stuff. Don’t stop the work, just keep it turning over until you’re ready to hit the accelerator.

The ” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

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Just Writing by Christine Duncan

I read a great post on the business side of writing by Kameron Hurley and I wish I could just discuss it with someone.

I used to be more involved with writing groups. Sisters in Crime, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers…you know other live bodies out there writing. I don’t do those groups any more for more than one reason, but I miss the chance to discuss stuff like this with people who write. People who don’t write, don’t understand as they believe 1. Anyone can write and 2. Writers have it easy.

It isn’t easy promoting. It’s not the stuff you spend years learning to do. But just when you get good enough at the writing you spent years learning, the publishing world expects that you will get out there and promote. So then you lose the time to do the very thing you spent years trying to do. It’s a circle.