Project October 2018: Week Two

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Day 8: 0
Day 9: 0
Day 10: 0
Day 11: 1,198
Day 12: 0
Day 13: 0
Day 14: 3,860
Total: 12,997

Finding the time and the motivation to write this week seemed harder than last week, although in retrospect it shouldn’t have been. I’m brimming with ideas, more than I can turn into blog posts without coming up with new ideas. The writing just didn’t flow like it did in week one. Continue reading

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Project October 2018: Week One

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Day 1: 2,723
Day 2: 0
Day 3: 0
Day 4: 1,151
Day 5: 0
Day 6: 0
Day 7: 4,065
Total: 7,939

Last year, I set out to do a Project October intensive writing month (31,000 words in 31 days) and ended up writing a grand total of zero words (you can read all about it here, here, here and here) due to a variety of circumstances. Almost immediately after that, I went back to a full-time, non-writing job that has ever since taken up an awful lot of my time, more than I ever planned for it to. And even though I’ve written a little bit here and a little bit there, compared to the three years I spent writing full-time, I feel like I’ve written virtually nothing.

As I approached the half way mark of2018, I decided it was time for another Project October. I made the decision that I wasn’t going to work on any of my fiction. I was still trying to finalise and publish my latest novel, Black Spot, and while I wanted to be writing, I didn’t want my focus pulled away from getting that book out there. Plus, I was running out of blog posts rapidly. So I decided to aim for 31 blog posts in 31 days. Not only would that fill out my blog post schedule for the next seven months, it would be a significant contribution towards finishing Project June, the third book in my series of non-fiction about the writing, editing, publishing and marketing process (since Project December, Project January and Project June are all collections of my blog posts). Continue reading

Wish You Weren’t Here: Stereotypes in Fiction

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Have you ever started reading a book and thought to yourself, “I know this character from somewhere else.” The reason might be because stereotypes exist in spades throughout fiction of all genres. The worst of the worst seem to occur in threes. Here are the stereotypical females, males, teenagers and children.

Just a word about where they come from: history. And since historical writing was dominated by men, most stereotypes are how men perceived (and to some degree still do perceive) themselves, the people in their lives and even people they didn’t know well or at all. Of course, that means they’re not very complex or even accurate but they persist in writing today. They’re best to be avoided unless you can make them unbelievably original. Continue reading

It’s a Fine Line between Pleasure and Pain: Dedicating Your Book

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All writers devote an enormous amount of time, effort and passion towards writing their books. And while finally holding a completed book in your hands is right up there, one of the other most emotional moments usually comes just before the end of the process: deciding on a dedication.

They aren’t compulsory but they appear in almost every book. As a way of showing our loved ones, our peers, our mentors, our inspirations just how much they mean to us. In recognition of a particular period in our lives. As an inside joke. Continue reading

The Rise and Rise of the Unreliable Narrator

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Whenever I meet new people in real life, I always start out with the assumption that they’re perfectly pleasant individuals. Even when I might have heard other people’s opinions about them, I figure it’s only fair to give them the benefit of a clean slate and it’s only right that I should form my own judgement based on my experience with them, not simply perpetuate someone else’s adoration or resentment, which might be completely prejudiced.

I’m the same when I pick up a book and start reading. I don’t read reviews beforehand so that I can avoid being consciously or subconsciously influenced and I begin with the assumption that the person telling the tale is telling it truthfully (not factually, because that’s a different thing, but truthfully, which means honestly to the best of their recollection). After all, why wouldn’t they? The narrators are fictional characters and will never need to worry about any reader’s judgement.

Of course, in both cases, there are plenty of instances of people who don’t always disclose the absolute truth or the complete story. Sometimes they’re frustrating as hell (in the case of real people, especially when you figure out you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes), sometimes they’re exactly what’s needed (more likely in the case of a fictional character only). In the real world, we would call them liars but in the fictional world, they’re known as unreliable narrators.

Wayne C Booth, an American literary critic, coined the term “unreliable narrator” in his 1961 book, The Rhetoric of Fiction. His obituary in the New York Times explained that he felt “literature was not so much words on paper as it was a complex ethical act” and his “lifelong study of the art of rhetoric illuminated the means by which authors seduce, cajole and more than occasionally lie to their readers in the service of narrative”. A pretty good description of what it is the unreliable narrator does. Continue reading

Euphemisms: The Politics of Words

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One of the first pieces of advice given to writers is to write from the heart, to write honestly. Most of us take it. Because it’s good advice. Honesty helps readers relate to the writer and to what is being written.

But, of course, just like anything else, words can be used to manipulate. Through the omission of facts, the selective use of facts, the use of emotive language and, perhaps the most insidious, through euphemisms.

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, a euphemism is “the substitution of a mild, indirect or vague expression for a harsh, blunt or offensive one”. Sometimes it’s to soften the blow as in the case of saying someone has passed away so that we don’t have to say that they died. More often these days, though, euphemisms are being used to protect the writer or speaker rather than the recipient of the words. Continue reading