How to use the past perfect to build effective narratives

past perfect narrative useGetting back to some gritty basic English grammar, it struck me that it would be useful to publish some of the tips from The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide to help with general creative English writing. Though aimed at foreign learners of English, these fundamental building blocks of the language offer some handy tips for anyone trying to master the craft. For example, a solid understanding of the past perfect can be essential to building an effective narrative. The past perfect helps to create atmosphere, feeding new information into a narrative at crucial moments. Continue reading

How not to write movie dialogue

how to write movie dialogueHere’s a great scene from Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring that I think says a huge amount about how not to write movie dialogue. It’s the sort of forced, totally unnatural piece of dialogue that only makes sense in a script, where the writer wants to tell us something but doesn’t know how to succinctly show it. Looking at it on paper, it might not seem that bad. It apparently worked for everyone involved in making the film. But if you read a little between the lines, it’s a textbook example of how not to write dialogue.

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Sentence fragments in screenwriting: bending the rules of grammar

screenplay sentence fragmentsAny student of English language is, at some point, taught that sentence fragments should be avoided. A sentence needs a verb, or a verb needs a subject, and the lack of one or the other means the sentence makes no sense. But take a look at any half-competent screenplay and you’ll find it full of clipped sentences, which still make sense. This is because screenwriting is about communicating a plan of action, a blueprint, not a full-bodied description or a fortress of flawless grammar. Grammar does matter, but the English language is flexible – the question you have to ask is when is it okay to bend the rules? Continue reading

How my favourite authors have influenced my writing

Favourite author Joseph Heller, inspired my writing.It struck me, as I was tossing from side to side struggling to sleep after eating an ill-advised spicy burrito, that my favourite authors have a lot to answer for in the way I’ve developed my writing style. Feverishly confused about why I wasn’t sleeping, I startled to rattle off single sentences that summarised exactly what I felt I’d got from reading the works of those marvellous writers. Not the specific points of English you could learn in style guides, but the special inspiration that only a successful demonstration can drive home. And, lo, here’s the result of that sleep-deprived thought process: Continue reading

7 eBook formatting considerations

format ebookThere are plenty of different markets for books in the modern world. Including those who want print books, those who want something they can read off their screen, like a web page or print document, and those who want something they can read off an e-reader. The e-reader market is the one that requires the most universal formatting, while others have to be specifically designed for a rigid final product. Here’s a few things to consider when you’re writing a document designed to be read on an e-reader (mainly from the perspective of a Word file prepped for conversion): Continue reading

30 greetings messages: suggestions for busy souls

Greetings messages, celebrations and salutations, balloons.I’ve been writing a lot of personalised Happy Birthday messages on Facebook lately, always trying to keep things real. May this day bring you the satisfaction of a dozen flying swans defecating on a grumpy curmudgeon, that sort of thing. It struck me that having an archive of original greetings messages might prove valuable to the busy 21st Century soul. These greetings messages are optimised to be under 130 characters, to suit your Twitter or texting needs. The third list, for friendships, is particularly useful for greeting new Twitter followers. Continue reading

6 highly effective proofreading tips

A girl proofreading some writing, using my proofreading tips.This quick list of 6 proofreading tips and techniques will help improve find errors in a text and lead to better writing. I’ve learnt a thing or two about how to accurately proofread for mistakes through painstakingly picking back and forth over my own writing, and through occasional professional proofreading ventures, and mostly I’ve learnt that it’s not always easy – these tips help.

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Pronunciation of English vowels

Write right: homonyms, homographs, homophones and more word meanings.English vowel sounds: there are 20 ways to pronounce them and only five letters for writing them. So learning or teaching the pronunciation of English vowels requires a detailed table of spelling rules and examples. Continuing to teach English around Brighton, I produce handouts for the English language that don’t appear to have been catered for. I couldn’t find a complete summary or explanation of vowel pronunciation online. Pronunciation explanations or exercises are usually very basic, for young learners or beginners, and rarely show all the different sounds in a table. When I taught in the UAE the only useful resource we had was a book containing this information, and I believe it helped learners a lot. So I have reproduced the idea here, either for learners to study or as a point of reference for teachers.

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Common grammar mistakes in screenplay writing

Screenwriting, common grammar mistakes in screenwriting, scriptwriting etc.Editing and reviewing scripts, I’ve come across a number of common grammar mistakes that are worth flagging. A good script can be greatly hindered by these errors: even with a solid story, clumsy writing can lessen the integrity of the project and turn off potential investors. Some of these mistakes can change the meaning of what you write. Some are a matter of style. With so many scripts out there, readers are looking for an excuse to reject yours, though, and any one of these points could give them that excuse. However, they are all mistakes that can be avoided with some careful attention and editing. Continue reading

What a professional book editor does for writing

An editor with an idea, I suppose. Hiring a professional book editor is one of the biggest investments for the independent author, and one of the most important. I’m not talking about formatting and style issues, but copy-editing in the sense of having someone analysing the narrative for all flaws, big and small. Wixon’s Day was the first book I had professionally edited – it gave me both the confidence to publish it and the wherewithal to know that I need to edit all my books with the help of a professional. Here’s why: Continue reading