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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 13:12          13,220 subscribers             June 20, 2013
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THE EDITOR'S DESK: The One Rule, by Moira Allen 
CRAFTING FABULOUS FICTION: Scenes Grown in the Valley of Despair,
by Victoria Grossack 
FEATURE: Your Prose or Mine?  Have YOU Ever Been Tempted to
Plagiarise? by Devyani Borade 
THE INQUIRING WRITER: Voice Recognition Software, by Dawn Copeman
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
The Author's Bookshelf   
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The One Rule...

I've been noticing a frequent theme in the advice requests I
receive.  It's expressed in different ways, but it boils down to a
basic question: "What do you think about the fiction rule that...?"

Sometimes it's a rule someone heard in a class.  Sometimes it is
found in a book.  Sometimes it is gleaned from articles on a
particular topic.  Sometimes it's handed down by an individual --
people have often told me, "so-and-so in my writers' group says
that you must always/never..." 

The question is almost invariably followed by a statement along the
lines of, "Because even though I know you're not supposed to do X,
my story/novel/poem seems to work so much better if I do..."  From
there, of course, the writer proceeds to the fear that if the rule
is broken, no publisher will ever consider the work, and readers
will shun it in droves.

Some of the "rules" I've been asked about include writing in the
present tense, head-hopping, writing about talking animals, word
counts, and whether it's absolutely necessary (as someone was
apparently told) for romance characters to have wild monkey sex by
page 12.

So... What do I think about rules?  Listen carefully, for I'm about
to reveal a vital, all-inclusive rule of writing that COULD make
(or break) your career...

Rules are very important.  And rules were made to be broken.

There, that's settled.  Now I'll go have a cup of coffee... Oh,
that's NOT quite clear enough?  Did someone say, "Well, THAT
certainly muddied the waters nicely?"  OK, let's look at the matter
a bit more closely.

First, let's ask why fiction-writing "rules" are "invented" in the
first place.  It's important to note that such rules are not handed
down from on high, like the Ten Commandments.  Nor are they
"natural laws," like gravity.  In fact, most rules are actually
more like "fashion statements."

Note that I'm not referring to grammatical rules here.  Grammar is
a completely different issue, and though it evolves and has fashion
changes, it serves a much larger purpose than, say, a story about
talking animals.  Grammar is about enabling human beings to
communicate at ANY level (the current example being "let's eat
Grandma" vs. "let's eat, Grandma").  Grammar is essential; fiction
is (more or less) optional.

When examining any current "rule" for writing fiction, it helps to
determine where it came from.  Quite often, today's "rules" are a
reaction to yesterday's most popular styles.

Take, for example, the prevailing rule against the author directly
addressing the reader.  Dubbed "authorial intrusion," this is
generally considered, today, to be a BAD THING.  It distracts the
reader from the story, we're told.  It prevents the "suspension of
disbelief."  The reader seeks to be immersed in the words, not to
be reminded that there's an author BEHIND those words.

Well, this rule evolved as a reaction to a common Victorian (and
earlier) style of writing in which the author quite often addressed
the reader.  The classic cliché of this style is "Dear Reader," as
in, "Dear Reader, if Adele had only realized what would result from
her ill-considered decision that day..."  (Another variant, of
course, is the infamous "Had he but known...")

Now, a great deal of Victorian fiction is pretty darn unreadable by
today's standards, but NOT because an author chose to address the
reader directly.  In fact, authors who have done this are often
just as popular today as they were 100 years ago -- E. Nesbit,
anyone?  Or Mark Twain?

A century ago, it was fashionable for an author to "tell a story"
to the reader, because storytelling was still very much a popular
form of entertainment in those days before television and Nintendo.
 The storyteller was part of the story; hence the author felt no
need to pretend that he or she was not involved in the story being
written.  Today, we no longer have such a tradition of active
storytelling, and so it is no longer so fashionable to include the
author in the tale.

"Head-hopping" is another no-no, we're told.  We're firmly advised
that one scene should involve only one viewpoint (though a tale as
a whole may have multiple viewpoint characters).  In this case,
it's important to note that this is primarily an American "rule." 
British authors have head-hopped happily for years, and still do. 
The difference is, most British authors treat this as a slight
variation on author intrusion: They use a "limited omniscient"
viewpoint to view a scene, not just through the eyes of a single
character, but from a "higher" angle, dipping into different heads
to gain different perspectives.  Hence, you might be told, "When
informed that they would be spending the summer with Mad Aunt
Hattie, each child had a different reaction.  Simon felt a thrill
of excitement at the thought of exploring Hattie's supposedly
haunted halls.  Beatrice felt a twinge of alarm at the thought of
being cooped up in a dark house miles from the nearest town..." And
so on.  

Yet another source of "rules" is, to be blunt, pundits.  So-called
"experts."  There are always folks who seem convinced that they are
an "authority" on what people want to, or should (and should not)
read.  I've seen this most often in articles and books on
children's fiction, with various experts weighing in on what
children do and don't "want" to read, or shouldn't be exposed to,
etc.  This, too, is nothing new; there are loads of Victorian
articles on what children should and shouldn't read as well.  The
words change; the song remains the same.

Hence the "rules" about no talking animals, and (until J.K.
Rowling), absolutely no magic!  Today's children are too
"sophisticated" for such silliness, we're told (and many Victorian
sages said the same).  And yet, although it might be tough to sell
a new Oz book in today's market, the Oz books have never once gone
out of print...

So if rules are just "fashion statements," why do I say that rules
are important?  Simply because rules ARE a reaction to SOMETHING. 
If pundits declare that there should be no more "talking animal"
stories, just what is it about talking animal stories that is
problematic?  Rules arise when something is (a) overdone and (b)
often done badly.  If, therefore, you are yearning to write a
talking animal story, it would be wise to find out what has gone
wrong in this genre to give rise to such a rule.  

Rules are also important because, as a writer, you need to be aware
of the prevailing tastes and prejudices.  If you have written a
talking animal story, and you know that many book publishers are
convinced that "children won't read those," you at least have the
comfort of knowing that you're not being rejected because you can't
write.  And sometimes it's just a matter of waiting for rules to
change -- ten years ago it was almost impossible to sell a
paranormal romance to a print publisher, but since vampires became
cool, it's getting hard to sell anything else.

But I also said that rules were made to be broken.  Keep in mind
that you can only BREAK a rule if you understand what it is. 
Acting in ignorance is not the same thing as breaking a rule. 
Breaking a rule requires a measure of courage, conviction, and
understanding.  You must know WHAT you are doing, WHY you are doing
it, and feel that, despite what the rule-makers say, it is the
RIGHT thing to do for your story.  If you do, you may well succeed,
but only...

And here it is, Dear Reader... the One Rule...

Only if you do it WELL.

-- Moira Allen, Editor

This article may be reprinted provided the author's byline, bio and
copyright notice are retained.  (For an author bio and complete
details on reprint terms, please visit 

Link to this article here:

REGARDING THE WRITER... I've received many responses to last
issue's editorial on "The Writer."  Thus far every reader has
said much the same thing: "It goes straight to recycle."

So... I propose to put together a collection of reader responses 
to the "new" Writer.  Possibly (note I do not say "probably")
this may encourage the new editorial staff to at least consider
the possibility that they are in danger of losing a large share
of subscribers.  Then again, possibly not.  

If you would like to be included in this collection and have
not already sent a response, please send your comments to
"editors@writing-world.com."  A couple of rules: Keep it 
professional and courteous, please, and DO include your name;
I won't pass along any anonymous comments.  And remember,
there's strength in numbers, so the more comments we can pass
along, the better!

Over 400 editors contribute their unique news and views each year.
That's news and views to improve your chances to get published.
Monthly newsletter. Get an issue for FREE.  

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Visit http://www.dreamquestone.com for details on how to enter!


Scenes Grown in the Valley of Despair, by Victoria Grossack 

We have all been inspired by memorable scenes.  Some are so sublime
and so satisfying that readers return to them repeatedly -- such as
when the hero fulfills his mission -- when the heroine wins against
the odds -- when the lovers declare their feelings for each other. 
I perused the final struggle between Gollum and Frodo at the Crack
of Mount Doom in "The Lord of the Rings" so often that the pages
fell out (long before the days of e-readers).

This column will not cover these types of scenes.  Instead, this
column will address the types of scenes that people, if they have
experienced anything of the sort, would prefer to forget.  The
emotions and experiences contained in these scenes should be the
worst you can imagine or remember -- from what I call the valley of
despair.  Although they can be dreadful to live through personally,
they can provide your book with gripping entertainment and poignant

Triumphant, happy scenes as described in the first paragraph are
often found near the conclusion of books, at least when the stories
end happily.  The scenes we're examining today rarely close books,
although they may be used to end chapters or volumes in a series. 
These desperate scenes are more likely to be in the middle, and are
frequently used to increase the tension.  These types of scenes
generally should not be at the very beginning, because in order for
them to mean more, your readers may first need to spend some time
with the story, getting to know and to care about the characters,
their backgrounds and their situations.

Example from "Rebecca"
Before working on how to create a scene of despair, let's examine a
famous example, from Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca."  Here's what
happens (spoiler alert!): the second Mrs. de Winter, a young and
somewhat lower-class woman, is giving a costume party to celebrate
her and her wealthy husband's recent marriage.  Since the beginning
of the story she has felt inferior to her husband's late wife,
Rebecca, and has been convinced that her husband and everyone else
are comparing her unfavorably with the first Mrs. de Winter. The
party is supposed to be her opportunity to finally take charge --
but the novel's villain tricks her into wearing what Rebecca wore
at the last costume party before she died.  Her husband and his
closest relatives stare at her in horror, because it appears as if
the first Mrs. de Winter has come back to life.

What can you use from this to strengthen your own writing?  Let's
consider some of the elements in the "Rebecca" scene.  The event is
unexpected, at least from the perspective of the character (clever
readers -- or second-time readers -- may detect clues in the
build-up).  It is emotionally terrible instead of triumphant.  It
is unjust, as she was tricked into wearing the costume.  It appears
that she has lost what she wanted most -- her husband's love and
trust -- and has reminded him again of her rival.  She is so
depressed afterwards that she considers taking her own life.  You
do not have to use all these elements, but they are good place to

The Worst Possible Thing(s)
So, when writing your story, ask yourself this question: what is
the very worst thing that could happen to YOUR character(s)? 
Usually my first answer is a crazed killer arriving with an AK-47
or the equivalent for my story's time and period.  Of course,
killing off your main character can be inconvenient to your story. 
You may choose a slightly less story-limiting alternative by
choosing instead to INJURE your main character, or to kill or to
wound someone else, whose loss your protagonist will feel deeply.

Although violence works in many stories, it may not be the route
you want to take.  Besides the fact that it may not belong to your
genre, one problem with violence is that it is usually -- although
not always -- fairly impersonal.  If you want your readers to be
emotionally attached to a character, then you may want to choose a
different route to despair.  Here are some suggestions:
* Getting fired
* Being served divorce papers
* Learning something terrible, such as the fact that your beloved,
somewhat younger husband with whom you have four children is
actually your son from a previous marriage (see "Jocasta: The
Mother-Wife of Oedipus")
* Being sent into exile (not so common these days, but a fairly
common punishment in past societies)
* Being arrested or accused of a crime
* Learning of a serious illness
* Losing a fortune

Of course, which terrible event you choose to give to your
characters depends on the setting and where you want your story to
go.  But the list above should get you started.

Making It Worse
Now that you have come up with the dreadful, desperate event, what
can you do to make the situation even WORSE for your character? 
Here are some suggestions:

* The character could be yelled at 
* The person the character wants most to impress can witness the
* The other characters can laugh about it
* It may be based on a lie or another injustice 

We are piling it on, but right now we're brainstorming.  After you
generate many ideas about how to increase the wretchedness of the
experience for your character, then choose the set that works for
your story.  You may decide against some ideas because they're
inconsistent with other ideas.  You may decide against others
because they take your story in the wrong direction.  You may throw
out some more because there are only so many bad things that you
and your readers can handle. 

Use Your Own Memories
Once you have figured out what to write, how do you summon the
energy to write?  How do you reach a place where you are able to
empathize with your characters?

I believe that you can deepen the scenes in which your characters
despair by tapping into your own worst memories.  Many years ago, I
had a miscarriage.  Besides nearly killing me, the miscarriage
indicated that it was unlikely that I would ever bear a child of my
own.  I went to that extremely painful -- and until this column,
intensely private -- memory when I wrote the draft of the scene in
"Jocasta" in which her baby son is taken away from her, to be left
on a mountain to die.

Visiting that memory was difficult, although inevitable, as there
were enough similarities in Jocasta's and my situation.  Jocasta
and I both lost our children (of course, hers came back); we both
suffered depression when we were looking forward to life.  After
writing that scene, I was so upset that I turned off my computer
for the rest of the day.  I took a walk and visited friends.  

Yet I believe the scene in "Jocasta" is better because I allowed
myself to feel those feelings while I wrote it.  Perhaps I'm wrong.
 Perhaps for most readers, that scene is as good -- neither better
nor worse -- than the other scenes in the book.  Perhaps the fact
that it resonates so much with my own past history is what makes me
feel it more significantly.

But I think something more carried into it, because some readers
HAVE given me feedback on that scene.  One woman, describing her
reaction, tapped her chest over her heart, and said, "It gets you
right here."

I'm no therapist, but I believe that visiting your own valleys of
despair -- in a safe way -- can do more than enrich your story.  I
believe it may help you gain perspective and insight into your own

Unless you are writing a memoir, you're unlikely to have memories
that relate to ALL your characters' worst experiences.  So you will
still have to use your imagination, or borrow from other
experiences to write about some of the events you choose to

After the Worst
Assuming your characters are still alive after you write their
scenes in the valley of despair, what happens next? 

The valley of despair can provide rich material for your story. 
You can explore the repercussions and consequences.  This can be a
time for your character to grow and learn.  Your character may
receive help from an unexpected corner.  In a way it is a chance to
reassure your readers: even after the worst, life goes on, at least
for most. 


Victoria Grossack studied Creative Writing and English Literature
at Dartmouth College, and has published stories and articles in
publications such as Contingencies, Women's World and I Love Cats.
Victoria is co-author with Alice Underwood of the Tapestry of
Bronze series (Jocasta; Children of Tantalus; The Road to Thebes;
Arrow of Artemis), based on Greek myths and set in the late Bronze
Age. On her own she has written The Highbury Murders, in which she
did her best to channel the spirits and styles of Jane Austen and
Agatha Christie. Besides all this, Victoria is married with kids,
and (though American) spends much of her time in Europe. Her
hobbies include gardening, hiking, bird-watching and tutoring
mathematics. Visit her website at http://www.tapestryofbronze.com,
or contact her at tapestry (at) tapestryofbronze (dot) com.

Want to learn more about crafting fabulous fiction? Victoria now
offers one-on-one writing classes; find out more at

Copyright 2013 Victoria Grossack. This article may not be reprinted
or posted without the written permission of the author.

Link to this article here:

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Book Sales Fell in April
The US Census Bureau has released preliminary figures that show
that sales of books by bookstores fell by 5.5% in April to just
under $760 million. Until April, bookstore sales had been up by
0.5% on the previous year.  For more on this story visit: 

First Book Calls for More Diversity in Children's Books
First Book, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, used
the Clinton Global Initiative summit in Chicago to launch its new
initiative, the $3 million Stories for All Project. The goal of the
project is to "aggressively expand the market for more diverse
children's literature by fall 2015."   For more on this story

Self-Published Author has 3 of Top 10 Apple Bookstore Slots
Sandi Lynn, full-time mom and part-time author, has achieved what
many of us dream of doing.  In the past year, (yes, year), she has
written and self-published a trilogy of novels, all of which are in
the Apple bookstore top-10 list of bestsellers. For more on this
story visit: http://tinyurl.com/oc4ts4r


WRITING A MYSTERY OR CRIME STORY? Forensic Science for Writers: A
Reference Guide can help. Based on a long-running course offered
in colleges and universities, this survey shows you how to create
believable plot twists and enhance your stories with realistic
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For details visit http://forensics4writers.com/the-book


Writing Jobs and Opportunities

Writer's Magazine seeks Submissions for first edition
Cecile's Writers Magazine, which describes itself as "where
intercultural writers connect" is seeking short stories, flash
fiction and personal essays for their first edition.  For
guidelines visit: http://www.cecileswriters.com/mag/ 

Digital Americana Now Open to Submissions
Digital American is seeking submissions for its Spring/Summer 2013
issue.  They are looking for  outstanding Americana in every form:
fiction, nonfiction, poetry, spoken word, and visual art. See
guidelines for full details. 

Kenning Journal Open to Submissions
Kenning wants your page poems & your spoken word poems. We want you
to surprise us.  We want poems that are funny, ferocious,
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you to preach.  We prefer form without formality. We prefer clarity
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We want you to move us! Most importantly, don't bore us.


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FEATURE: Your Prose or Mine?  
Have YOU Ever Been Tempted to Plagiarise?
By Devyani Borade
'No! Not ever!' cry famous writers in unison when asked if they
have ever felt like using a piece of writing not their own.
'There's plenty of good writing out there, but I've never been
tempted to lift anybody else's material,' says Janet Evanovich, who
writes the popular Stephanie Plum adventure books. Fellow author
David Nobbs, famous for his Reggie Perrin series, agrees. 'I don't
think I've ever deliberately plagiarised anybody.' And Jacquelyn
Mitchard, author of the best-selling novel "The Deep End of the
Ocean," echoes the sentiment. 'Never on purpose. The only time I
wrote something that someone else wrote (it was -- 'Shut up,' He
explained), I was horrified people didn't recognize a quote from
Ring Lardner, Jr.'

'However,' continues Nobbs, 'I did once get accused of plagiarism
by my fellow writer, one-time collaborator and best friend, the
late Peter Tinniswood. In "The Better World of Reginald Perrin,"
the third book in the original trilogy, I had Reggie setting up a
commune in 'an ordinary suburban house in an ordinary suburban
street.' In his second novel, Mog, Peter wrote about a lunatic
asylum set in an ordinary suburban house in an ordinary suburban
street. I think the words he used were quite similar too though I
can't check as I have lost my copy of his book. This similarity was
entirely unconscious on my part, but of course I may have
remembered his words without realising that I did. He tried to
bring an action against me but he got nowhere with it. No proof
could be found that it was deliberate, because it wasn't. It was
many years before we became friends again.'

Plagiarism - a sad reality
Plagiarism is the act of taking someone's words or ideas and using
them as if they belonged to you. From academic papers to music
videos, no content is safe. Needless to say, the original creator
is not given credit and often remains unaware his/her work has been
plagiarised. Content is not the only thing that can be copied.
Plots or story lines, settings and locales, premises,
characterisations (or even names, think a war story with a soldier
called Harry Potter), writing style, art -- everything that appears
in the public eye is vulnerable and open to copyright violations.
While some may argue that the intent behind the act counts, the
fact remains that plagiarism, whether deliberate or accidental,
does exploit the product of someone else's time, energy and
creativity and is a crime punishable by law.

Plagiarism is a growing affliction in today's information-oriented
globalised world, and if you are someone reasonably successful in
your field, especially an author, chances are you may have even
been at the receiving end of it. However, despite knowing
plagiarism is legally and ethically wrong, the very people who
commit the offence are creative artistes, just like the rest of us.
So what provokes some to walk the wrong side of the line? And what
stops the rest of us from going the same way? Have you ever
experienced the itch to plagiarise?

Rebecca Tope, whose murder mystery books set in the Cotswolds are
widely enjoyed, believes the question is complicated. 'Actual
plagiarism is defined, I think, as wholesale copying word for word
of a substantial section of a book, so in that sense, absolutely
not. Nobody in their right senses would do it.'
Award-winning author Sarah Waters shares this feeling. 'One of the
most basic pleasures of writing is in figuring out what you want to
say, and finding your own words with which to say it.'

Debby Holt, author of "The Ex-Wife's Survival Guide," concurs.
'I've never been tempted to plagiarise, but the question isn't that
easy to answer. I don't consciously try to plagiarise stories
written by others and I don't understand people who do -- it takes
all the fun out of creating my own worlds!'

Why plagiarism happens and what to do if it happens to you
One might as well attempt to answer why some people are dishonest
and steal and cheat their way through life. Plagiarism happens for
various reasons -- looming deadlines, overwhelming workloads,
ineffective time management, lack of clarity about what is and
isn't copyrighted, underdeveloped researching skills, an inability
to find your own voice or just plain greed and weak will. However,
this is one area in life where the principle of 'know thy enemy'
doesn't necessarily help make your own position stronger. Whatever
the reason, the one person who is guaranteed to be at the losing
end is the author, the victim of plagiarism.

If your work has been plagiarised, a quick and easy way to deal
with it is to feel flattered someone thought your work was worth
re-using, and then forget about it.

Another way is to request that the plagiarised work be removed from
the medium, and consider yourself fortunate if your request is
actually complied with. This is simpler if the work appears in a
non-permanent space like a website or blog. Sometimes, the company
that hosts the online space can be approached for redressal. It
becomes tougher when the work has appeared in a more lasting medium
such as a print magazine. Then, if the matter is brought to the
attention of the editor or publisher, and you can prove the charges
of plagiarism, a correction and/or an apology may be printed in a
subsequent issue. Unfortunately, this is of little comfort,
especially if it's only a few words buried on page three where the
publication lists its subscriber and advertiser statistics!

If all this fails, the only alternative available to the writer is
a long, rocky and often expensive road to complicated legal
recourse and headache. In majority of cases, though, plagiarism
goes undetected. Increasingly there are several online tools that
claim to be able to accurately check for originality of content and
report on possible plagiaristic occurrences. Whether these work and
deliver what they promise is not something any of us would like to
put to test!

How plagiarism affects us, and how you can steer clear (or not)
Even though plagiarism is not something we consciously opt for,
most writers agree the environment does influence their writing to
some extent. We've all experienced when something out of the
ordinary will jump out at us and stick in our minds. It can be
difficult to dislodge and may end up subtly shaping our own work in
ways we may not even realise.

'I definitely have been influenced to an alarming degree by writers
I read when I was a child,' says Mitchard, as does Waters.
Holt adds, 'I go to a film and I find one of the characters very
appealing and when I write the next day, the character in the film
might influence the way I write one of my own characters. I read a
book and enjoy the way the author notices tiny details of a room. I
find myself looking out for the tiny details in my own work. What I
am trying to say is everything we watch or read has some influence
on us -- if only to make us try to produce better work of our own.'

The urge can, as most of us find out at some point or the other, be
very difficult to resist. Tope admits, 'I may use other people's
plots, in a general sort of way. The best example is Minette
Walters' "The Breaker," where I interpreted the plot as a single
question -- did he or didn't he do it? That's the central question
in my book "A Death to Record." In both instances there really
aren't any other credible suspects, and yet it's hard to believe
the central figure was the killer, and the narrative drive is
working out whether, how and why.

'I unashamedly use other writers' vocabulary sometimes, too. It's
all too easy to keep on writing from the same limited stock of
words -- everybody has their favourites, and one does get lazy. So
I actively watch out for words that wouldn't normally feature in my
prose. For example, I noticed the word 'travesty' in some book and
made significant use of it in my own novel "A Grave in the

Tope is positive she has never taken another writer's character. 'I
can't see how that might work, because characters are somehow
organic to one's own inner self. They emerge from setting and
storyline, every one unique. The [writing] process is a rich one, a
complex exchange and evolution of language. I try to keep up with
modern usages. I regard reading as an essential part of the
writer's job.'

This last sentiment has an unexpected contradiction in Evanovich.
It also conveniently turns out to be her way to avoid the
temptation to plagiarise. 'My schedule works very much in my favour
-- I'm so busy writing seven days a week, I have little or no time
to read other authors.'

Perhaps that is one way to steer away from enticement. Maybe
someday someone will come up with a better solution to immunize
ourselves from committing piracy. Until that happens, writers must
beware and be strong. If you feel the tug of temptation, remember,
this, too, shall pass.


Devyani Borade is a professional writer. She writes on the humour
and pathos of everyday life. Her fiction, nonfiction and art have
appeared in magazines across the world. She likes to eat
chocolates, read comic books and try her husband's patience!  Visit
her blog at: 

Copyright Devyani Borade 2013

Link to this article here: 
For more advice on plagiarism visit our rights section at: 

STUMPED BY YOUR PLOT?  Bored by your characters?  Wondering how to
craft a scene that sings?  "Fiction: From Writing to Publication"
offers a step-by-step guide to help you through all the perils and
pitfalls of writing a novel, drawn from the experience of the co-
authors of more than 40 published books. "The answer to a beginning
novelist's prayer, and a good refresher for others." Available on
Kindle (http://tinyurl.com/arfffct) and Smashwords


THE INQUIRING WRITER: Voice Recognition Software
By Dawn Copeman

Our question last month came from Karen Snyder, who wanted to know
about Voice recognition software.  She asked: "Do voice-recognition
programs work?  Do they speed up the writing process?  Do they have
any clear advantages or disadvantages?"

This is a question we have asked before and had no responses.  This
time, I am please to say, we did get some replies to this question,
including this full and informative response from Jerry Buerge.  

Jerry wrote: "Yes, I do use voice recognition software and I do so
for two very specific reasons. 

"The first is that it allows me to form my ideas very quickly and
comfortably without having to remember which finger should press
which key on a keyboard.  

"Also, using voice recognition also allows me to create an initial
draft of
any subject with a minimal need to correct frequent misspelling,
even considering the fact that the computer will automatically edit
my spelling as the words are manually generated.  

"Secondarily, but just as important, is the fact that most voice
applications have a built-in ability to transform the text created
into an audible recitation of what you actually said, that can be
listened to in order to assure that you have stated your ideas in
the way that you intended. 

"Yes, there are techniques to be learned that will allow you to
efficiently use the application before you will become satisfied
with the performance you can expect from your use of it, but while
you were doing so it will be comparatively much easier to correct
your mistakes when you see the text created with your vocal cords
rather than non-artistic fingers drawing them by hand or your haste
to add one proper letter after another by pressing the keys on your

I must admit, I'd never considered using voice recognition software
as a way to speed up the writing process.  I'd always thought that
the main advantages of voice recognition software were that it
enabled people who were losing their sight, or blind, to be able to
write.  I guess my view has been skewed by the fact that the only
writer I know of who uses such software is Sir Terry Pratchett, who
started to use it when he found he couldn't see the words on the
page as a result of his rare form of early onset Alzheimer's.

Our other response came from a David Russell, who takes Karen's
question further and introduced me, at least, to a whole new world
of software that I'd never even thought about.  David wrote: "I
would like to propose a twist on Karen's question and ask readers
to consider 'screen reading software' typically used by blind or
visually impaired computer users but readily available to any who
might want to access it.  Thus the emphasis shifts to hearing text
as opposed to speaking text and viewing that text on the screen.

"I am a blind person who self-published a novel last year and used
the commercially available screen reader, Jaws For Windows,
produced by
Freedom Scientific based in Florida.

"This is a reliable screen reader but is somewhat expensive even
it offers a lot of possibilities to the non-mouse computer user.

"Jaws for Windows and another screen reader called Window Eyes are
competitively priced for about $800, and there are less costly
readers such as NVDA that are also readily available but may not be
developed in reading capacity as the two mentioned.

"One still generates text with the keyboard, but screen readers
one the ability to hear text instead of relying on a visual display.

"The reading choice in most screen readers can be by letter, word,
silenced as one types.  One uses the cursor keys to listen to text
that has been prepared or is being prepared.

"A resource one can use to research screen readers further is
'Access World' published monthly through the American Foundation
for the Blind (http://www.abfb.org).

"I hope the above may be useful info to the writing world
Thank you, David. I hope so too. 

This month our question is on fiction writing.  Tim Armstrong wants
to know, "should a flashback be written entirely in the past tense,
or is it okay to segue into the present tense once the reader has
made the transition?

"In the example I'm struggling with, the protagonist is recalling
the day before, so dialogue is still clear in her mind. But writing it out
with all those 'she had said' tags robs it of immediacy and dulls down
the emotional content in a scene of conflict.

"In the earlier drafts, I unthinkingly reverted to recounting the
events in 'real time', (i.e. the present tense) after setting the stage. I
liked it better, but I fear that an editor would think it an amateurish

Can you help Tim?  Please send your replies with the subject line:
Inquiring Writer to editorial at writing-world.com

Until next time, 



Copyright Dawn Copeman 2013

Dawn Copeman is a British freelance writer, copywriter and eBook
ghost-writer who has published over 300 articles on the topics of
travel, cookery, history, health and writing. An experienced
commercial freelancer, Dawn contributed several chapters on
commercial writing to Moira Allen's Starting Your Career as a
Freelance Writer (2nd Edition). She edits the Writing World
newsletter and can be contacted at editorial "at" writing-world.com
and at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dawncopeman
This article may be reprinted provided the author's byline, bio and
copyright notice are retained.  



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Tips for Fiction Writers
This is a fantastic site by author Debbie Lee Wesselmann that
covers all the common areas that fiction writers can find
troublesome, from plot, to structure, to dialogue, characters,
themes, settings and getting published. 

Aaron Shepard's Young Author Page
I love this site even though I've just found it.  If you have an
aspiring young author at home, (as I do) or you are one yourself,
this is a fantastic site.  It has advice on story writing,  tips
for writers and lists books a young author should read.  

A drabble is a fiction story of 100 words or less.  They are not
only almost unheard of, but also incredibly popular.  Neil Gaiman
has written them, as has Sir Terry Pratchett.  If you feel like
doing so too, this is a good place to start. 


To Win" features over 1600 contest listings for writers worldwide. 
The current edition has more than 450 NEW listings.  You won't find
a more comprehensive guide to writing contests anywhere.  Available 
in print and Kindle editions.
Print: https://www.createspace.com/3778183
Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B007C98OUA/peregrine



This section lists contests that charge no entry fees. Unless 
otherwise indicated, competitions are open to all adult writers. 
For a guide to nearly 1600 writing contests throughout the 
world, see Moira Allen's book, "Writing to Win: The Colossal 
Guide to Writing Contests"
DEADLINE: July 31, 2013
GENRE: Poetry, Young Writer
OPEN TO: Authors aged 11 - 17
DETAILS: Follow the advice on the site and submit as many poems as
you can. 
PRIZES:  Publication, UK winners aged 15 - 17 will also win a
week's residential writing course at an Arvon Centre, UK winners
aged 11 - 14 will win a short residency course in their school by a
leading poet, followed by distance mentoring. Plus 100 free youth
memberships of the Poetry Society for a year, Young Writer Magazine
and a variety of books.  
URL:  http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/competitions/fyp/
DEADLINE:  July 31 2013
OPEN TO: New Zealand Citizens
GENRE:  Non fiction
DETAILS: Submit an essay of no more than 6000 words on any theme.  
PRIZE:  NZ$3,000 and publication in the literary journal, Landfall. 
URL:  http://www.otago.ac.nz/press/landfall/essaycompetition.html

DEADLINE: July 31, 2013
OPEN TO: US Authors
GENRE:   Poetry 
DETAILS:  Submit a prose poem collection of at least 48
single-spaced pages. They are looking for "hybrid work that uses
the best elements of poetry and prose."  
PRIZE:  $1000 and publication
URL:  http://www.whitepine.org/submission_guidelines.php#malexander

DEADLINE: July 31, 2013
GENRE: Non fiction
OPEN TO: Full-time students attending a US college or university
during the Spring 2013 semester (need not be US citizens)
DETAILS:  1,500 - 5000 word essay on the theme: "Lincoln and
Gettysburg: Expectations, Reactions, Consecrations" 2013 is the
150th anniversary of both the Battle of Gettysburg, and of
Lincoln's most famous speech there. Why do these events resonate so
much with Americans today? What was it about either the battle or
the speech that made them timeless?" 
PRIZES: $1,500, $750, $500
URL: http://www.thelincolnforum.org/scholarship-essay-contest.php  

DEADLINE: August 2, 2013
GENRE:  Short stories
OPEN TO: Authors aged 18 years or over on 1 January 2013 whose 
primary residence (i.e. resident for over six months of the year)
has been in the United Kingdom or Ireland since 1 November 2010.
DETAILS: Submit a previously unpublished short story of 4000 words
or less. 
PRIZES: £3,500, £1,500, £500   
URL: http://www.costabookawards.com/short-stories.aspx 

DEADLINE: August 15, 2014
GENRE: Short stories, poetry
DETAILS:  Submit up to 3 poems or 3 pieces of flash fiction (1000
words or less).  Previously published work is not accepted. 
PRIZES:  Each winner receives $50, a portrait drawn by Kari Reed, a
book, a giftcard and various other small prizes. 
URL: http://giganticsequins.com/contests/  


AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers

First Draft in 30 Days, by Karen Wiesner

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I Love My Doctor, But... by Lawrence Gold

Script to Novel: Turn Your Screenplay into a Novel, by London Tracy

Writing the Fiction Series, by Karen Wiesner

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