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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 10:10          10,892 subscribers           May 20, 2010
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THE WRITING DESK, More Format Issues, by Moira Allen
FEATURE: The Secrets of Characterization in Fiction, by Sigrid
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
The Author's Bookshelf

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In Limbo
Every month, as soon as I've finished writing my editorial, I start
to let my brain wander over possible issues for the next editorial.
It's a process that I find works quite well.  Tell my conscious
brain I need to write so many words that are in some way related to
writing, then let my subconscious get on with it whilst I do other
things.  I also use this process for copywriting and for planning
articles.  I love the way it feels as if someone else is going to
do all the thinking, all the 'hard' work, then when it's done, the
conscious me can just sit and type it all up - it's fantastic, like

But then three months ago I got struck with chronic fatigue
syndrome.  Or perhaps I should say "suspected" chronic fatigue
syndrome because until I've had it for six months the doctors can't
officially diagnose it as such, despite the fact that the battery
of blood tests I've had show that it's none of the other illnesses
that could produce similar symptoms. 

Since the day I got struck down my brain has been in a fog. Having
a conversation with anyone is exhausting. My brain just can't seem
to find the right words.  People have to be very patient with me as
I will sometimes pause, midway through a sentence, for several
minutes as my brain desperately tries to find the words I need to
communicate. As for my subconscious brain, the ever so hard-working
and successful 'sleeping' partner that has contributed so much to
my writing success - well, all of it really - seems to have shut
down completely.  It has gone on strike and I only now realize how
much I relied on it. 

There are many problems with having CFS.  You get tired doing the
simplest things, and even when you recover enough energy to start
to do 'normal' things again, you have to force yourself to rest
even if you don't feel that tired.  If you don't rest, you risk
over-tiring yourself and setting your recovery back.  So, you do
something, you rest, you do something else, you rest.  

Normally, I would love to have such periods of enforced idleness. 
It would give my brain time to wander and I would think up article
ideas, plot ideas, snatches of dialogue for my novel, more detail
to flesh out a character, etc.  I would indulge in what I like to
think of as one of the perks of being a writer: the chance to take
daydreams and turn them into something tangible.  I loved the fact
that such 'daydreaming' was in fact working even if it didn't look
like it to anyone else. 

But it's only working if your subconscious and conscious can work
together, and at the moment mine can't.  If I try to think about
anything, and I mean anything, the headaches and tiredness just
overwhelm me.  So I'm stuck, in limbo.  I have the time to think up
ideas, far more time than I've had in years and I can't do a single
thing with it. 

And I'll tell you something else.  Writing without the input from
my subconscious is an awful lot harder than writing with it.
Everything takes twice as long. 

However, I am, slowly but surely, on the upward curve and when I
eventually get my brain working normally again I'm going to make
sure I use every opportunity I can for purposeful daydreaming. 
It's only when you lose something that you realize how useful it

-- Dawn Copeman, Newsletter Editor


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THE WRITING DESK:  More format issues, by Moira Allen
Do quotes always start on new lines?
Q: I've heard before that when a character speaks, every line in
quotations must begin at a new line. Is this so? If so, must each
line be indented? 

A: A good way to get a feel for how to write dialogue is to read
and review books that contain dialogue.  Pay attention to how the
dialogue is punctuated, how "dialogue tags" (he said, she said) are
used, etc.  Typically, a new line means that a different person is
        "I want to go to the store," said John.      
        "I'll go with you," said Mary.      
        "Count me in too!" exclaimed Rob.
However, if a single character is speaking more than one "line",
you'll generally format it as a single paragraph.  In some cases, a
character may have multiple paragraphs of dialogue, which would be
punctuated with opening quotes at the beginning of each paragraph,
but no "closing quotes" until the character has actually finished

For more information:

Punctuating Dialogue - 

Is there a program that will format short stories?
Q: Do you know of any shareware for MAC or freeware that helps
format for short stories, etc? The dedicated programs are out of my
price range at the moment. 

A: I'm not sure what you mean about "formatting" for short stories.
 I am not aware of any software that would automatically do this --
primarily because there would be no reason for it.  The format for
a short story is very simple: double-spaced, reasonable margins,
indent paragraphs.  It's also customary to start the first page of
the story (i.e., the title) about halfway down the page, and to
include your name and address in the upper left corner of that page.
You can find full details on how to format a short story or any
other basic text manuscript at 

How do I find the right type of paper?
Q: I've been looking at the different papers for printing the work
out and I had written down that you suggest -- 20lb bond minimum. 
My problem is that when I look in the shops all the paper seems to
be in 'gsm' and I haven't a clue how to find the right quality
paper and no one in the shops seems to know either.  (I'm in the
A: Ah, another example of the dangers of writing as if every writer
in the world actually lived in the U.S.!  Sorry about that...
Look for a paper that is heavy enough that it can't easily be seen
through if you put one page on top of another, but not so heavy
that it feels stiff to the touch.  That should be sufficient. 
(It's OK if you can see through it if you hold it up to the light,
but when sheets are sitting on a desk, you should only be seeing
the print on the top page.)

How do I find A4 paper?
Q: I recently read in a guide to writing that the paper used for
the manuscript should be size A4. I called the Georgia Pacific
Paper Company to ask them what this letter and number was referring
to and they said it was a metric measurement that equaled 8 and
9/32 X 11 and 11/16. But they did not know what that translated to
in U.S. measurements. I guess, in short what I would like you to
answer for me is this: What size paper do I use to write a
manuscript on? Would it be the standard 8 1/2" X 11" paper ?

A: I am assuming that whatever guide you read, it must have been
British or at least European.  A-4 paper is the standard paper size
for Europe and Britain.  It is not used in the U.S.
Thus, a guide to "getting published" that relates specifically to
"getting published in Britain" would state that you would need A-4
paper -- but this advice does not apply to anyone trying to get
published in the U.S., or anyone writing in the U.S.  Here, you use
standard 8.5x11 paper.  In addition, even if you were trying to
submit a manuscript to a British or European publisher, you would
still use 8.5x11 paper -- because folks overseas know that
Americans don't have access to A-4 paper.

Copyright (c) 2010 Moira Allen


BE YOUR OWN EDITOR, by Sigrid Macdonald, is a crash course in 
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Young Mother Earns £250,000 Advance
Marina Fiorato decided to take a leaf out of JK Rowling's book and
wrote her first novel in bookstore cafes around London with her
young child on her lap.  After being rejected by all the major
publishers, the novel was finally purchased by a small independent
firm. This book and her second one went on to be huge successes on
both sides of the pond and in Europe and thus she has been awarded
a huge advance for her third novel. For more on this story visit:

Children's Books Stolen from Washington Library
Librarians at the Port Orchard Branch of Kitsap Regional Library
were horrified to discover that some 1,348 children's picture books
have been stolen from the library.  The stolen books, which
represent 20% of their children's stock, were newly released books
or new editions of classic children's books and are worth around
$23,000.  Due to budget cuts the library is unable to replace many
of the stolen books and some of the books stolen are now
out-of-print and irreplaceable.  For more on this story visit:

US Book Sales Rising
According to the US Census Bureau, sales of books in the United
States rose in the first quarter of 2010 by 6.2%.  For more on this
story visit:  http://tinyurl.com/3xlk8kx


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feedback and revisions.  Hone your skills through online courses, 
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mentor Pearl Luke.  http://www.be-a-better-writer.com




Gumshoe Review Open to Submissions
Gumshoe Review is now open to accept short original fiction. What
we're looking for in stories is a complete mystery in 1,000 words
or less. We don't want character studies or mood pieces. We'd like
it to lean towards noir but being a mystery -- telling a story is
actually more important. 

The short stories should be no longer than 1,000 words. Pay will be
5 cents per word to a maximum of $50 (so if the story is longer you
still only get $50).

For more information visit: 

Dream of Things Seeking Creative Nonfiction 
Dream of Things is a book publisher and online retailer. They are
dedicated to producing high-quality books of creative nonfiction. 
Dream of Things is currently accepting creative nonfiction stories
for anthologies on 15 topics.

Dream of Things pays a 15% royalty on hardback books, a 10% royalty
on trade paperback books, and a 20-40% royalty on electronic books
(depending on the sales channel). For anthologies, Dream of Things
purchases one-time rights. Royalties are paid quarterly. Each
author's share of the royalties is prorated based on word count.
(Example: If you contribute a 2,000-word story to a 40,000-word
book, you will receive 5% of the royalties for that book.) Authors
also receive five free copies upon publication, and a 50% discount
on additional copies.

To find out about the topics and how to submit visit: 

Freedom Card Company Seeking New Ideas
We will consider all material; however, our current needs include
contemporary humor for the Cheers line and contemporary,
sophisticated messages for Cappuccino and DeCaf lines. Visit the
website for more details.


WRITE YOUR MEMOIR: The Soul Work of Telling Your Story from
Findhorn Press. Allan Hunter has been teaching writers the secrets
of authentic storytelling for decades. Unblock and be inspired
again. For more information go to: http://www.allanhunter.net.


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Air: A New Writer's Guide for New and Young Writers" - filled with
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FEATURE:  The Secrets of Characterization in Fiction

by Sigrid Macdonald

Characterization is one of the important components of writing a
great story.  In your mind, you can picture your characters
clearly.  You know how each one differs from the next and exactly
what you want them to do or say.  How will you convey that on the
page?  By using detail, detail and more detail.

I recommend that people think of their book as a movie; now
describe that movie to someone who is blind.  The readers of your
book do not have ESP.   They can't telepathically tap into your
head to know what you have in mind for your characters.  

Start with a specific physical description of each character.  It
doesn't have to be long and it doesn't have to occur when you
introduce the character; however, we shouldn't get to the end of
the book and discover that your protagonist has a purple birthmark
on his face, or is six foot seven and came from the planet Krypton,
unless you were trying to surprise us.

Make sure that your description is not generic.  Don't describe a
potential romantic interest as "tall, dark and lanky." Pretend that
you're reciting his attributes to a police officer who's looking
for a burglar.  Every trait is important, particularly the ones
that will make him unique.  Brown eyes or brown hair are mundane. 
A nose ring or a skeletal tattoo is not. Give your characters a
goatee, holes in their jeans, stiletto high heels, platinum hair, a
vaccination pockmark or a military crew cut. Do anything to make
them different.

After you've created a strong visual image of your characters,
devise a separate page where you can write down all the qualities
each one of them has.  This can be a biography of sorts.  What kind
of music do they like?  What's their favorite food?  Where were
they born and how do they like to spend their spare time?  Once you
have a bio on each one, add this information into various parts in
the book.  Don't put it in all at once.  Maybe in the beginning of
the story your 23-year-old graduate student is listening to "How to
Save a Life" by The Fray on her iPod while waiting for a bus. 
Later, she and her friend are munching on Chinese take-out.  You
know that she'll like General Tso's chicken and her ideal vacation
is skiing in Vail, because you have it in her bio.

How do your characters react emotionally?  Are they easily angered
or unflappable?  Are they sentimental and romantic?  Or bitter
because they've been burned?  Put this in the bio.   Maria's
parents had an ugly divorce when she was quite young.  She has
trust issues and tends to be serious.  Something has to be
hilarious for Maria to laugh out loud and she's not keen on hugging
people, especially strangers.  Maria is dating online and she's
yearning to meet a soul mate. That means that she would be easy
prey if you want to introduce her to an unsavory cad, or she could
be completely transformed, and become vibrant and lively if she
meets a great guy with whom she feels safe.

Expound on the emotional state of your characters.  By telling your
reader how your characters feel, you're making them
three-dimensional and identifiable.  If you want us to love or hate
your hero, start by telling us how he feels and why.

Then move on to what your characters believe.  What are their
ethical and political philosophies?  What motivates their actions?
Give us enough information so that we come to know and care about
your fictional creations.

Lastly, there is nothing intriguing about a character who is too
perfect. Josa Young, author of "One Apple Tasted," claims that her
hero is "beautiful, certainly (at least to begin with), and funny,
but he is deeply flawed.  Spoilt and indulged, he has no idea of
what women are thinking or feeling and is as hormone-driven and
indiscriminate as young men I knew."

Just as there can be no story without some sort of conflict or
dilemma, truly fascinating and realistic characters are imperfect. 
They don't have to be criminal or callous, but do strive to give
them some less than admirable traits.

Obviously, a 16-year-old is going to speak differently than a
46-year-old.  A grandmother talks differently from a toddler. 
Someone from Texas doesn't sound anything like somebody from
Ontario. (How ABOOT that?)  Demonstrate that in dialogue. 

Study the way people speak.  When you're out in public, listen to
people talking.  Yes, I know this won't make you very popular and I
hope that you won't be evicted from your local Starbucks, but
grasping idiomatic expressions, dialect, inflection, content and
slang will greatly enhance your writing.   As I did for my Quebec
scenes in my novel, record your impressions into your smart phone. 
Don't repeat other people's conversations verbatim.  Just absorb
the gist of what they're saying and more importantly, HOW they're
saying it.

Especially tiresome is the use of popular words like awesome,
amazing or excellent.  Remember how often you used to see the term
LOL in e-mail or on chat lines?  Finally, people became sick to
death of it and came up with alternatives like "ha ha," "he he" or
even LMAO. Instead of using the smiley icon, some people started
writing out the word "smiling."  They wanted to be different and
not bore their reader to tears. Be imaginative.  Find synonyms for
commonplace words.

Finally, be careful not to overwrite your sentences.  Use words
sparsely.  Watch for terms that are redundant like, "I'm going out
at 9 p.m. in the evening."  Nine p.m. says it all.  There is no
need to add evening.  It's like talking about "sweet chocolate."
The only time that you need to do that is to distinguish it from
dark or semi-sweet chocolate.  

Some words simply take up space and don't add value. I had a good
friend in college who ended many of his verbal sentences with the
words, "as it were."  What does that mean?  It's irrelevant and
sounds pretentious, although he didn't mean it that way. The same
is true of ten dollar words.  You don't have to impress anyone with
your extensive vocabulary.  If you naturally tend to talk and write
in polysyllables, no worries, but don't feel compelled to use the
most complicated words in the dictionary. 

If your characters swear, that's fine, but guard against the
overuse of terms, profane or not.  I just finished watching "Gran
Torino" by Clint Eastwood and quite enjoyed the movie; however, I
cringed at the repeated use of ethnic slurs, not just because they
are offensive -- which they are, but they were used deliberately to
make a point -- but also because they made the dialogue seem less
realistic.  How many times in one sentence can one person swear and
use racist terminology? Even the worst bigots have their limit.  

Where is the appropriate place to talk about how an adult lost his
mother to leukemia at age seven, and was briefly placed in foster
care because his father was an alcoholic? Find a spot where
something reminds the adult of his mother.  Maybe another woman
passes by and she's wearing Chanel perfume, instantly triggering
memories of his long-lost mom.  Perhaps he's sitting at a
restaurant and notices that the business tycoon across from him is
sipping Heineken, his father's nightly treat.

You can insert the backstory almost anywhere, as long as it has
some relation to a current reference.

The Old Maxims
Avoid using clichés in characterization.  We all know about the
prostitute with a heart of gold, or the father who goes berserk
when his son is denied medical care and holds the hospital hostage.
 It's not that you can't write about people who have those
experiences; it's done every day of the week.  Just make your
version special.  

For example, your prostitute or sex trade worker (a preferable and
gender-neutral term) is well-educated.  She hasn't been sexually
abused and isn't addicted to drugs.  Your character chooses such an
occupation because she likes the sense of power and control.  She
is psychopathic and often ties up her clients, and robs them.  Or
the father who is enraged when his diabetic child is refused
treatment kidnaps the child of the CEO of the HMO. You get the
picture.  It's fine to do something that's been done before, as
long as you give it a slightly different twist.

Know What I Mean?        
You know what you want to say but sometimes it's hard to express. 
Try to imagine your reader.  Could anything that you've written be
ambiguous?  Could it be confusing?  Don't assume that the reader
knows what you are thinking.  Step back and fill in certain details
or clarify to be as precise as possible.

Here's an example: "That ended her short life in Shadow Lakes."
What ended her life there?  Did she die or simply move?  Or did she
stay but never had a decent quality of life afterwards?  Think like
a reporter and ask yourself all of the W's: who, where, what and
why (and, of course, the non-W, how). Once you're clear about all
of those, convey them to the reader: "Marrying Stephen ended her
short life in Shadow Lakes because they moved into the city right
after their honeymoon."

Plot and Characters
Sometimes the plot for your story pops into your head all at once,
and you know even before you begin to write what you'll say and how
your tale will end.  At other times, you start out writing with
nothing but a vague, nebulous idea. Often as you continue to
develop the novel and the people in it, those people magically take
on lives of their own; THEY will tell you what they want to do or
how the book should end.

There are some important things to keep in mind about your plot:
How plausible is it?  How likely is it to happen?  Even if you're
writing science fiction, there's a way to make it believable by
creating solid characters and using as much traditional science as
possible. Every step of the way, think about the credibility of
your plot line, especially in terms of its resolution.

A crazed killer is terrorizing the neighborhood and suddenly at the
end of your book, he confesses.  There's a way to make this
believable and a way to make it ludicrous.  Make sure that you add
all the fine points that make your story real.

Setting the Tone
It's important to ask yourself before you begin, what is the
purpose of your book or article?  Do you want it to be informative,
entertaining or humorous?  Is it a drama, a comedy or a documentary?

Identify what you want your reader to feel.  Inspired?  Outraged? 
Empowered or informed?  Your answer to these questions will enable
you to set the tone for your book or article.  Obviously, if you
want the reader to feel uplifted, you don't want to present a lot
of depressing scenarios unless your ending is like that of "The
Pursuit of Happyness": ultimately triumphant.  

And you want to avoid mixed messages. My sister, Kristin, has a
degenerative retinal condition that rendered her legally blind. She
is a motivational speaker and hosts a radio show called "Second
Vision" on AIRS-LA.org, a reading service for the blind.  When she
first started her show, Kristin didn't want to bring anyone down
and would make jokes about losing her eyesight. There's nothing
wrong with being funny, but I advised Kristin against this in
certain parts of her show.  When she described falling down a
flight of stairs headfirst, joking about it diminished the impact
on the listener.  Her story was serious and frightening, and she
needed to let people feel those two uncomfortable emotions before
she moved on. If she hadn't done so, her audience would never have
understood how tragic and potentially dangerous her vision loss had
become.  Once that was established, Kristin could return to being a

So, ask yourself periodically while you're writing what it is that
you want your readers to feel, and make sure that your words are
consistent with that outcome.


Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, an editor and a freelance writer.
Originally from New Jersey, Sigrid currently resides in Ottawa,
Ontario. She has written three books: Getting Hip, D'Amour Road, and
Be Your Own Editor. A member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, The 
Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, Ottawa Independent 
Writers, and the Editors' Association of Canada, Sigrid loves 
Concerts, live comedy and watching Spanish movies, particularly 
those by Pedro Almodovar.  Visit her or drop her a line at 
http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/. This article
is excerpted from Be Your Own Editor, now available from Amazon.com.
Copyright (c) 2010 by Sigrid Macdonald

For more advice on creating characters visit: 
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/characters.shtml and


WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of 
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WIN PRIZES AND GET PUBLISHED! Find out how to submit your stories,
poetry, articles and books to hundreds of writing contests in the
US and internationally. Newly updated for 2010, WRITING TO WIN
by Moira Allen is the one-stop resource you need for contests
and contest tips. Visit Writing-World.com's bookstore for details:



A fresh site that covers all forms of writing, Writinghood is
updated regularly and has articles in the form of blog entries on
topics such as speculative fiction, poetry and calls for

Great Writing
Great Writing came into existence when the BBC decided to pull the
plug on its 'Get Writing' writer's forum and free online courses. 
Great Writing offers a supportive place for new writers to submit
work for criticism and feedback as well as lots of articles about
writing and interviews with successful authors such as Jasper

Poetry Magic
Poetry Magic is an introduction to poetry for students, amateurs
and poetry lovers. What is poetry? How does it differ from prose?
Why is poetry special, and so difficult to write? This site
provides the answers to these and other vexing questions, plus a
vast array of material to make your own poetry writing more
compelling, authentic and relevant.


This section lists contests that charge no entry fees. Unless 
otherwise indicated, competitions are open to all adult writers. 
For a guide to more than 1000 writing contests throughout the 
world, see Moira Allen's book, "Writing to Win: The Colossal 
Guide to Writing Contests" 

DEADLINE:  May 31, 2010
GENRE: Poetry
DETAILS: An ekphrasis is a poem about an existing work of art. 
Stretch your creative muscles by writing an ekphrasis poem about
your favorite artwork.  600 words max.
PRIZE:   1st place wins a $50 Amazon.com gift card, 2nd place wins
a $25 gift card.
DEADLINE: June 15, 2010
GENRE: Short Stories
DETAILS:  Complete the story which has been started on the website
in 3,500 words or less.
PRIZE:  £50
URL:  http://www.creativewriterscircle.com/index.php?p=1_3_Contests
DEADLINE:  July 1, 2010
GENRE: Nonfiction
DETAILS: This contest offers a stipend and one-month residency at
Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks for a promising new
journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom
and concern with social justice. Submit at least two articles,
preferably no more than 30 pages total, which may be published or
PRIZE:  $5,000 stipend and month-long residency at the Blue
Mountain Center, a writers' and artists' colony in the Adirondacks
in Blue Mountain Lake, New York
URL:  http://www.margolis.com/award/   

DEADLINE: July 4, 2010
GENRE:  Young Writers
OPEN TO: Student authors (grades 1-12)
DETAILS: Open themed. Submit one poem of one page maximum.
PRIZE:  C$100 in each of 5 age categories: Primary (Gr. 1-3),
Junior (Gr. 4-6), Intermediate (Gr. 7-8), Jr. High (Gr. 9-10) and
Sr. High (Gr. 11-12).
URL:  http://www.edenmillswritersfestival.ca/ 

DEADLINE: July 31, 2010
GENRE: Young Writers
OPEN TO: Students aged 11 - 17
DETAILS: Enter poems on any theme, and of any length, and in any
shape you like. Entry is completely free and you can enter as many
poems as you like, however we do advise that you concentrate on
drafting and redrafting your poems. Remember, quality is more
important than quantity. Poems should be in English. Entries
welcome from all over the world.
PRIZES:  There are 15 Overall Winners and 85 Commended Poets. For
full details of prizes see website.
URL: http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/competitions/fyp/
DEADLINE: July 31, 2010
GENRE:  Nonfiction 
OPEN TO: New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.
DETAILS: Submit one essay, 6000 words maximum. Some connection to
New Zealand culture would be a good idea, though there is no set
PRIZE: NZ$3,000
URL: http://www.otago.ac.nz/press/landfall/essaycompetition.html   


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