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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 15:12           13,400 subscribers           June 18, 2015
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     The Things We Are Good At
CRAFTING FABULOUS FICTION, by Victoria Grossack     
     Twisting the Plot
     Collaboration Tools, Part 2
choose the best pricing method for the job, negotiate if the 
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The Things We Are Good At

Recently a writer complimented me on my ability to do web work. 
"You're way beyond me in that," she said, and I modestly (?)
thought, yes, while I'm no design genius, I DO know my way around

Rather than vanishing into my subconscious as compliments are apt
to do, however, this one kept nagging at the fringes of thought. 
Yes, I'm "good" at HTML.  But it began to occur to me that being
"good" at something is not always, in fact, a "good" thing.

We're all good at lots of stuff, sometimes whether we know it or
not.  Often, we don't fully appreciate what we are good at, because
those skills have become second nature.  We don't think, for
example, "Wow, I'm really GOOD at washing dishes!"  We just get on
with washing the dishes.

Often, we become good at something because we had no choice but to
do it ourselves.  When I started creating my own websites, back in
the Dark Ages when Facebook wasn't even a gleam in someone's eye
(when, in fact, its founder wasn't even out of grade school), I had
little choice but to learn to do it myself.  Web designers were
something only big companies could afford.  Fortunately, HTML is
based on the same principles as a coding language I already knew:
Wylbur.  (If you remember Wylbur, let's get together sometime over
a nice hot cup of Geritol!)  Over the years, I've gotten pretty
good at it.

So, over the years, I've done a LOT of web work.  Not that this is
a bad thing, but... a couple of months ago, a "quick fix" to
Writing-World.com turned into a four-week HTML marathon.  And while
I'm pleased with the results, it occurs to me that if I weren't
"good" at HTML, I wouldn't have spent four weeks tweaking code. 
Instead, I'd have called my trusty web designer (I'd need one, if I
didn't know HTML), and simply say "make it so."  And then... I'd
have done something else with those four weeks.  Possibly,
something more important.

One problem with being "good" at something is that, quite often, we
feel this obligates us to do it ourselves.  Part of that is based
in the same sort of thrift issues that may have caused us to
develop that skill in the first place: If I can do my own HTML,
wouldn't it be silly to pay someone else to do it?  While we
generally see the logic in hiring someone to do something we CAN'T
do, it appears, on the surface, to make less sense to hire someone
to do something we CAN do.

Another problem with being "good" at something is that it's easy to
limit our efforts to those things we ARE good at -- particularly if
they produce positive results.  I was once extremely good at
writing articles about pets.  (I probably still am.)  I had
relationships with several pet magazines, which kept the
assignments and the money flowing in, so freelance-wise, that was
pretty much all I did.  Then, in the space of a few months, my best
markets got bought up or shut down or the editors moved on, and
suddenly I faced the realization that I'd better get good at
something else -- quickly!

Being good at something generally means that we're comfortable with
it.  The better we are at a particular task or skill, the less
stress it involves.  We may not particularly enjoy it (HTML is not
exactly stimulating), but it doesn't disturb our comfort level.  As
I discovered the hard way with pet writing, doing what one is
"good" at is a very good way to get stuck in one's comfort zone.

The problem with being "good at" things is exacerbated when, as is
the case with many writers, we are good at quite a LOT of different
things.  I suspect this is a problem with most creative types,
because if you're creative, chances are that you have more than one
outlet or interest for that creativity.  It's creative types who
have 15 different unfinished projects stashed around the house. 
(Think about it -- we start them BECAUSE we're creative.  People
who aren't strongly interested in "creating" are far less likely to
start a bunch of craft projects -- and so are spared this plethora
of UNFINISHED projects in their lives!)  For example, I have by the
couch a needlepoint project I started seven years ago, and I'm
trying to finish knitting a scarf I've been working on for at least
two years.  More to the point, I started this year with a lengthy
list of work-related projects -- and so many new tasks have come up
since January that I haven't even touched the original list.

Being good at a lot of things can mean that we are continually
adding those things to our "to-do" lists, based on the principle
that if we're good at it, WE should be the person to do it.  Again,
this problem often arises out of thrift.  Early in one's writing
career, one learns to become a "jack of all trades" -- because on
the limited budget of a freelance writer, the only way to get
something done is to do it oneself.  It's a lesson we carry with
us, deeply internalized, even when (a) we no longer need it and (b)
it may actually be doing us more harm than good.

One of the things that we need to learn at some point in our
writing careers is how to determine the difference between "things
I can do well" and "things ONLY I can do well."  At least, it's
something I know I certainly need to learn -- and I'm sure I'm not
alone!  Sure, I'm "good" at HTML -- but so are many other people,
including people who actually do HTML for a living.  I can hire
someone to manage my website; I can't hire someone to write my

So, as we face the fact that nearly half the year is already behind
us, we may also need to face the fact that our to-do lists are
never going to turn into "hurray, job well done" lists unless we
learn one more vital skill: The art of delegation.  We need to
learn how to hand off things, even things that we're very GOOD at,
so that we can focus on the things that we are BEST at.  

Here are some questions that I'll be asking myself as I examine my
project list for the rest of the year -- questions that I believe
every writer needs to ponder:

1) Why am I doing this?  What are the benefits of this task or
project (including personal, financial, and professional)?
2) Are the benefits of this project short-term or long-term?  I.e.,
will doing this NOW benefit my writing career in the future -- or
simply solve a short-term problem?
3) Am I the best person for this task?
4) Am I the ONLY person for this task?
5) Would finding someone else for this task free time that I could
devote to a more important project?
6) If so, would the cost of handing off this task be offset by the
benefits (see #1) of being able to work on a more important project?

Of course, we're bound to run into situations when the answer is
simply yes, I'm the best person for the job, I'm the only person
for the job, but... there just aren't enough hours in the day.  And
that's the time to take a deep breath and embrace the fact that,
for most of us, this year is not going to go down in history as
"the year I got everything done!"  Even the stuff we're good at...

Copyright 2015 Moira Allen

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:


We're pleased to announce that Devyani Borade has joined the team as
associate editor in charge of News, Write Sites and Opportunities.
Devyani is a writer and artist. A regular contributor to
Writing-World.com, her work has been accepted/published by more than
170 magazines across the world. Her favourite subjects in nonfiction
include the corporate world, technology, parenting, and writing. She
prefers her fiction to be humorous, and her vignettes have on
been compared to Erma Bombeck's.

This is not her first brush with editorship. More years ago than she
would care to reveal, Devyani was the Chief Editor of her college
magazine, which meant that she did everything from curating to
formatting to producing to selling the darn thing, chiefly because
nobody else did. The experience, thankfully, didn't scar her for
She welcomes links to anything newsworthy or of interest to writers.
Visit her website Verbolatry at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com to
contact her.

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Relieve Stress by Reading Books
We've heard how writing and keeping journals can banish negative
emotions and promote positiveness in life. Now it appears that
simply reading books can help manage stress and  make us happier.
Bibliotherapists can give you a "reading prescription"--a
recommended reading list of books that may offer unexpected
insights into the emotional state and provide guidance and healing.
These are not self-help books, but fiction. "Reading fiction is one
of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in
which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks." The
practice has been attempted with prison inmates, elderly suffering
dementia, parents, and others. For more, visit: 

Kindle Unlimited Changes Royalty Format
In a move that some authors are criticizing as unfriendly to
authors, Amazon is changing the way it pays royalties on Kindle
Unlimited and the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.  Previously,
royalties were paid only if a borrower read 10% of the book.  Now
royalties will be calculated on the number of pages read.  Authors
will be paid for the number of pages that a borrower reads, the
first time the book is read by that borrower.  Kindle has also
developed a "normalized" page count "based on standard settings
(e.g., font, line height, line spacing, etc.) to measure the number
of pages that customers read.  Many authors had complained that the
policy of paying royalties only after a borrower had read 10% of a
book penalized authors of longer books and encouraged authors to
flood the market with ultra-short books.  Many perceive that the
problem with this new formula is that authors will actually receive
less - because formerly, authors received full royalties after the
10% point had been reached, whereas now, they will receive
royalties only for the number of pages actually read.  For details
on the new payment scheme, visit

Fathers Lagging Behind in Reading to Children
A new report from Book Trust indicates that dads don't read to
their children as much as moms do. "These findings are a major
concern as a father's involvement in their child's early reading is
proven to boost academic success, leading to improved social and
emotional wellbeing." Fathers blame late working as the culprit,
tend to see reading to children as a female domain and favor
reading to their daughters over their sons. For more, visit:

Amazon Embroiled in Anti-Competition Investigation
Amazon is being investigated by the European Commission for
possible favouritism in e-book distribution terms with publishers.
The EC is concerned that beneficial terms to Amazon may mean other
sellers find it more difficult to compete in the e-book market. The
investigation will focus initially on the English and German
language market. For more, visit: 

Free Audio Books for June
Audiobooks.com is in the middle of an Audio Book Month promotion in
which the site is giving away a free download every day this month.
For more, visit: http://www.audiobooks.com/audiobookmonth

WritingCareer.com is a free online resource to find paying markets
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by Victoria Grossack

"Gosh, I wish I'd thought of that," is the usual reaction of us
authors as we acknowledge and envy an especially clever plot twist.
 Well, why shouldn't we think of that, or something just as clever?
I believe if we first understand the nature of plot twists, and
second, practice brainstorming, we can improve the twistiness of
our stories.

Old Plot Twists
Some types of plot twists have been around so long that Aristotle
categorized them.  Even if you are not familiar with Aristotle's
terminology, you have encountered these types of twists.  The names
don't really matter, but I will supply them anyway.

PERIPETEIA (also known as peripety).  This refers to a reversal of
fortune, especially in a literary work.  Often this means that
everything goes wrong, but it could be an instance of everything
going right, too.  In Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper," a
prince and a pauper, who happen to be basically identical, change
places, and end up living each other's lives for a while, which is
an example of a story using both directions in a single story. 
(The plot in the movie "Trading Places" is very similar, although
no one ever claimed that Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy were

Many plot twists fall into this category.  In "Rebecca," the second
Mrs. de Winter, by virtue of her marriage, suddenly finds herself
the mistress of a great estate.  In "Gone with the Wind," the war
destroys families and their riches.  The reversal of fortune allows
for both comedy and drama as characters adjust to their different

ANAGNORISIS.  This refers to a moment of recognition of a
character's true nature and is often a pivotal point in a story. 
It usually involves someone who has either been lying all along,
either intentionally or unintentionally.  Aristotle, who was
obviously impressed by Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex," considered the
moment when Oedipus realizes that HE is the murderer of King Laius,
as well the natural son of Laius and Jocasta (who is now awkwardly
also Oedipus' wife), a perfect example of anagnorisis.

The "unreliable narrator" is a special type of anagnorisis.  In
this case the person telling the story is not what he or she
purports to be.  Agatha Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" is
considered one of the best examples.  In fact her use of this
technique was considered so out-of-bounds by some critics that they
slammed her for it (on the other hand, it was a turning point in
her career, as well as a turning point in detective literature).

Many other stories involve anagnorisis.  In "The Sixth Sense," one
of the characters does not realize that he is dead.

DEUS EX MACHINA (note that this phrase comes from the Latin, but
the Latin is based on a Greek version).  This literally means "god
from the machine" and was a frequently used plot device to resolve
situations that could not otherwise be resolved.  An actor playing
the part of one of the gods would be brought onto the Greek stage,
using a crane (the machine).  Using divine influence, he or she
would set everything to rights.

This sort of plot twist was apparently acceptable to some members
of Greek audiences -- perhaps they liked the special effects
"spectacle" -- but it was criticized by Aristotle, who preferred
that resolutions be internal to plots.  Horace also criticized it
and said that gods should only appear in order to resolve something
if the situation is worthy of divine intervention.

Nevertheless, this sort of plot twist can be effective, even in
modern literature.  In Golding's "The Lord of the Flies," the
untenable situation on the island is "resolved" by the appearance
of an officer in uniform, who has the authority and the power to
put things to rights and to stop the boys from behaving like
savages.  (And yet the officer in uniform bringing peace and order
comes himself from a warship, and possibly from his own mad war.)

Brainstorming Plot Twists for your Story
Perhaps you find the list above discouraging, as it seems there is
nothing new under the sun.  This is to be expected.  People have
been telling stories for millennia, and some of the old bards were
pretty clever.

On the other hand, the categories above are very broad, and you can
adapt them to your own stories.  A way to do this is to brainstorm
by asking yourself lots of questions -- and then inventing answers.

For example, a reversal of fortune can encompass many possible
events.  Given your story's characters and their situations, how
can their fortunes be changed?  Remember, not everything needs to
happen to your main character, or at least not directly.  Perhaps
the villain of the story receives a promotion, putting him in
charge of your protagonist.  Perhaps the villain learns she has
cancer and only a few months to live, which could lead to her (a)
wanting to reconcile with your protagonist, or (b) wanting everyone
to suffer with her.  

Someone not being who they seem to be can happen in all sorts of
ways.  Here are some examples (spoilers follow):

* Two people who seem to be enemies turn out to be allies, or even
lovers (Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile")

* The new teacher turns out to be an agent for evil (J. K.
Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire")

* The person the hero hates most in the universe turns out to be
his father (George Lucas's "The Empire Strikes Back")

So, if you think your plot needs twisting, or you don't know what
should happen in a particular situation, then try applying the
principles above as you brainstorm.  For example, imagine that your
characters are being chased by an enemy.  Perhaps they seem to be
getting away.  You can change their fortunes by putting a river in
their way.  Then, consider the different ways you can take your
plot.  What is the first thing that they might do?  They might try
to swim.  But perhaps that is unfeasible, because the river is too
cold, too strong, full of alligators, or because for some reason or
another, they can't swim.  

What is a second possible solution?  They might try to find a way
to float across.  Perhaps they find a boat -- but it is a motorboat
that will not start because it is out of fuel.  This means climbing
into the boat but not being able to guide it.  Perhaps it is too
small to contain them all, so not all go in it.  Perhaps it turns
out to have a hole in it and starts sinking midway.  

What is a third possible solution?  Perhaps a helicopter lands, and
the pilot offers to fly them across, which can seem like deus ex
machine.  He also seems to reverse their fortune.  Yet can they
trust the pilot?  In this case you can use the old plot twist of
someone not being who he claims to be.  Perhaps he was sent by the
enemy.  Perhaps he is truly a friend.  Perhaps your characters
fight him for the helicopter, only to learn (after they kill him)
that he was on their side.

By exploring your situation from the perspectives of your different
characters, and applying Aristotle's techniques, you should be able
to generate some pretty fun plot twists.

Intensify the Surprise
Your readers will only experience a sense of surprise if you
surprise them, and that is often best done by writing what they do
not expect.  Here are some ways to intensify that experience.

RED HERRINGS. Red herrings are clues that the author inserts in a
story to mislead the audience.  A commonly used example is Bishop
Aringarosa in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," whose name, when
translated, actually means "red herring."  In a sense it is a type
of anagnorisis in which something turns out not to be what was
planted in the minds of the readers.  You are having them expect
one thing but making the real answer be another.

SUBVERT YOUR READERS' EXPECTATIONS.  Many of your readers, because
they have been exposed to so many other stories before they
encounter yours, come to your story with certain expectations.  You
can lead them on by letting them believe you will continue with the
usual formula, then surprise them with something else.  Joss Whedon
has frequently explained that the reason for his creation of "Buffy
the Vampire Slayer" was because he was tired of the blonde girl
being taken into an alley and either murdered by a monster or, if
she was lucky, playing the role of the damsel in distress and
getting rescued.  Instead, Whedon created a female blonde
protagonist who spends her time beating up monsters, rescuing
others in distress and saving the world from annihilation.

OUT OF THE BLUE.  You can also surprise your readers by having
stuff happen out of the blue, so that your readers have no
expectations.  Some examples could include a meteor striking, a
plane falling out of the sky, an army invading, or a heart attack
for one of the characters.  Not all twists have to be violent or
physical.  Perhaps officials from the government arrive and explain
that everyone is being evicted.

"Out-of-the-blue" has many variations.   Sometimes the author
writes in such a way that the characters have no idea what will
happen, but the readers are in the know.  Robert Harris's novel,
"Pompeii," is a good example of this.  The aqueduct engineer knows
that SOMETHING is wrong with Vesuvius, but cannot really comprehend
what is about to happen.  Most readers, however, are familiar with
the eruption that engulfed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum,
so in this case Harris could not expect to surprise them.

You could also create a plot twist that is somewhere in between
out-of-the-blue and completely expected, by dropping a few hints,
but in such a way that they will only be noticed and understood on
a second reading.  For example, you could mention that a bridge
swayed precariously as a car passed over it; a few words that could
be taken as mere sensory description.  However, the next time a car
passes over that bridge -- containing either the protagonist or
another important character -- the bridge could break apart and the
car could plummet into the water below.

Applying the above tactics should help you twist your plots.  May
your readers appreciate your cleverness, and may your fellow
authors wish that "they had thought of that." 

Plot Twist (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plot_twist


Victoria Grossack studied Creative Writing and English Literature
at Dartmouth College, and has published stories and articles in
such publications as Contingencies, Women's World and I Love Cats.
She is the author of Crafting Fabulous Fiction, a step-by-step
guide to developing and polishing novels and short stories that
includes many of her beloved columns. With Alice Underwood, she
co-authors the Tapestry of Bronze series (including Jocasta,
Mother-Wife of Oedipus; The Children of Tantalus; and Antigone &
Creon), based on Greek myths and set in the late Bronze Age. Her
independent novels include The Highbury Murders, in which she does
her best to channel the spirits and styles of Jane Austen and
Agatha Christie, and Academic Assassination (A Zofia Martin
Mystery). 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. 


Copyright 2015 Victoria Grossack 

This article may not be reprinted or posted without the written
permission of the author.

Link to this article here: 

Want to learn more about crafting fabulous fiction? Get one-on-one
guidance with Victoria Grossack's personal writing class; visit

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FREE STUFF FOR WRITERS: Collaboration Tools, Part 2
By Aline Lechaye

People tend to think of writing as a solitary occupation, so they
might wonder why a writer would need to use collaboration tools.
While it is true that most writers do their writing alone, the
truth is it takes a village to write any book, whether you are
seeking information from experts in relevant fields, getting
critiques from other writers, or maybe just soaking up some plain
moral support on those days when you're feeling low. 

Following on from last month, this month we'll look at more
collaboration tools. 

TeamViewer (https://www.teamviewer.com/) allows you to collaborate
with others in virtual meetings (writers could easily use this tool
to host online critique sessions). Participants do not have to
install the software to join the meeting; all they need is a web
browser and an Internet connection. You can chat using the chat box
provided or using a microphone, and you can share files by dragging
and dropping them into the file box. The whiteboard function makes
it easy to plot scenes or brainstorm or draw complex family trees.
You can take screenshots of the board at the end of each session,
saving everyone the trouble of taking notes during the meeting. The
best thing about TeamViewer is that you can share a chosen section
of your computer screen with other meeting participants (in other
words, you don't always have to show the full screen), and you can
pause the screen-sharing view at any time. Note that you can also
use TeamViewer to remotely control your computer, meaning that you
can access your home or work computer from anywhere in the world,
as long as you have an Internet connection. TeamViewer is available
for Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile platforms (Android, iOS,
Windows, and Blackberry). The software is free for non-commercial

AnswerGarden (http://answergarden.ch/) is a real-time feedback tool
that can be embedded into your website or blog. The concept of the
site is pretty simple: ask a question and get some answers. Just
type in your question (could be anything from "What is your
favorite character?" to "What would be a good title for my new
book?"), and then change the AnswerGarden settings according to
your needs. You can set the number of characters for each answer
and the number of answers given. There is a spam filter option to
weed out unwanted answers. Answers added to the AnswerGarden will
form a word cloud that can be a focal point for a website, or
provide some food for thought. 

Point (http://www.getpoint.co/) is a Chrome add-in that combines
elements of Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter for better
collaboration and information sharing. Basically, whenever you see
an interesting article, picture, or website, you can share it with
your friends by typing @[their name]. You can then all discuss the
contents of the web page through a chat window. Want to draw
attention to a specific paragraph in an article? Simply highlight
the paragraph and add it to Point. Your friends will be able find
the relevant text by clicking on your quoted note. 


Aline Lechaye is a translator, writer, and writing tutor who
resides in Asia. She can be reached at alinelechaye at gmail.com


Copyright 2015 Aline Lechaye 

This article may not be reprinted without the written permission 
of the author. 

EVERY WRITER NEEDS A HOLIDAY!  "The Writer's Guide to Holidays, 
Observances and Awareness Dates" offers 1800 events worldwide --
Instant inspiration for those days when you can't think of anything
to write about!  Holiday topics are a favorite of editors, so fuel
your inspiration and jumpstart your articles today!  Available in 
print and Kindle editions; for more information visit


Every Friday, this blog posts links to the "top ten" articles on
writing that have appeared on the Web for that week.  While we may
not always agree that these are the best of the best, it's a great
way to get a sampling of what's available out there.

The Paris Review is a literary magazine, but the interviews section
on their website contains interviews by the who's who of writing over
the last several years. One reader of the book (collection) says reading
these interviews is more inspiring than practical how-to writing advice.

This really should say "for everyone" - it's a truly comprehensive,
but also comprehensible, explanation of copyright and infringement.
 It clearly spells out what your rights are as a writer, and what
you can and can't use from other people.

Another excellent overview that will benefit any writer, especially
those who imagine that "because it's on the web, it's free to use."
Not.  In addition to issues of copying word for word, this article
explains the concept of plagiarism of "reasoning style" and of
writing style. 

This is a website featuring submission calls and contests for
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Celebrate summer with our June issue, which brings you a look at 
an orangutan who was the toast of San Francisco in the 1890's; a 
historical look at postmen of the world (including French postmen 
on stilts); excerpts from the diary of a schoolgirl in pre-
Revolutionary Boston; an Englishman's view of "Americanisms"; life 
in an American flat; plus, of course, recipes and crafts and more!  
Download it free or access the print edition at

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Editor and Publisher: MOIRA ALLEN (editors"at"writing-world.com) 
Copyright 2015 Moira Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
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For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor