Novel Writing

Scribophile Review – My First Four Weeks

Roll up, roll up, here is my review of my first four weeks of using Scribophile.

Day 1

I’ve just signed up for my Scribophile account, it’s quick and easy, and I can’t quite believe I am already trusted to review other people’s work. I’ve opted for the basic, free option which allows me to review other people’s work and earn “Karma” points through doing so which allow me to upload my own work for critiquing.

I need 5 Karma points to upload my first chapter and to get this I have reviewed two submissions. I absolutely loved the process, I chose to review the work through an “inline critique” where you type within their manuscript your comments, highlight sections and signify where words should be deleted. The two pieces I reviewed were both Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and I loved their stories, it was great fun. I tried to balance out my critique with a good number of positives, no one’s writing is perfect, and as much as we would want to improve, no one wants the bad pointed out without some encouragement!

I’ve just submitted my first chapter, and I am so nervous! My Chapter will stay in the “Spotlight” until it receives three long critiques, and I’m not sure yet what happens when that’s done. The “Spotlight” seems to be where people go to find work to review, you are automatically put into the spotlight as a new member, but after that, I think you need to pay or earn karma points to get back there. I imagine that for the next few days I will be avidly checking for comments. Good bye life…

Day 1 – an hour later

I have my first review! How quick was that? Oh my goodness, the stress I felt reading that first review was immense. The critique was detailed and well thought out, it mainly focused on sentence structure, cliches, and repetition but it also pointed out an area where my character acted out of character, something I hadn’t noticed but is now glaringly obvious!

Day 1 – A bit later on

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Critique number two written and received, this person does not mince his words!

Day 1 – Even later on

I now have my final critique, which was, thankfully much more encouraging than the second one. My work is now out of the new member spotlight and has 3o days before it is locked. Once a piece of work is locked you can’t change it or gain new critiques, but you can read the previous critiques. I’m no longer in a spotlight, so that means people won’t gain many “Karma” points if they critique me, that means I probably won’t gain any more feedback. The next step is to make the changes from my current critiques and then resubmit for it to go in the spotlight. This is a waitlist, and you need to wait until all those ahead of you have gained three reviews while in the spotlight. Complicated!

Day 2

I have received five critiques, each one very helpful in their own way. Some were quite hard to read, people found my first chapter lacked a story and enough detail about my characters. I’ve spent the last few hours completely reorganising my first chapter, tearing it apart in line with the feedback I received. I’ve critiqued another six works, which is really good fun, and I’ve earnt enough “Karma” points to get my chapter back in the “Spotlight”. Apparently, it can take some time to get my work up there are the are a set number of novels in the spotlight and a queue system.

Day 5

I have finally managed to get into the spotlight, and the reviews came in thick and fast. Some were brilliant, and others not so. I really need to make some serious changes.

Day 14

I have now completely rewritten my first chapter. It was such a painful process! At the end of the day, though, critiques are there for a reason and if you don’t listen what’s the point in even putting your work on Scrib. Up Chapter One goes… Let’s see what happens. N.B. I’ve upgraded to the paid version so I have put the chapter on straight away into a “personal spotlight” that only those who follow me can see.

Day 21

It’s taken a long time to get the 6 critiques on my chapter in a personal spotlight. I think this may be because I haven’t got many followers. This isn’t a bad thing, though, I found in the main spotlight some people critique your work to clear the queue, so they don’t enjoy the genre you are writing. In a personal spotlight, I have received some incredibly helpful and spot on advice!

Day 28

I love Scrib. It’s official. My writing has improved so much. Not only have the detailed critiques shown me areas of weakness to work on but also the process of critiquing others work has caused me to become more analytical of my own writing style. I am noticing when I start too many chapters with the word “I”, where I need to flesh out descriptions and when it would be better to use dialogue rather than exposition. All in all, it’s one of the best wrtiting decisions I’ve ever made.

Novel Writing

Character Development Quiz

Drum roll please, here is The Blissful Scribbles Character Quiz, a small quiz to help you develop your characters. Of course, I have used this quiz myself for my four main characters, but I won’t bore you with my longwinded responses. Please, give it a whirl, and see if it helps!

  • If they won the lottery how would they spend the money?character-development
  • At a party, where do they choose to sit? How do they feel in a large group at a party? Is there a difference between how they appear on the outside and how they feel on the inside?
  • What type of clothes do they choose to wear? If you went shopping with them, where would they take you?
  • What are they ashamed of about themselves?
  • What character trait, excuse the pun, are they most proud of about themselves?
  • Who do they trust and why?
  • What do they think about right before they fall asleep?
  • How do they feel when they wake up in the morning?
  • What do they hate about the life they are living at the start of the book compared to the end?
  • If they were sat in front of you right now, what would they say to you?

I hope you enjoy using the questions, although some are a bit obscure I find they help me to get into the minds of my characters. Let me know if you enjoyed the quiz I would love to hear about it! If you’d like to read more about my take on character development, click here.

Grammar · Novel Writing

Subordinate Clauses Darling

If you stopped by last week, you’d know we had a delightful time discussing Main Clauses, the cornerstones of complete sentences. Today, we will be focusing on the delights that are subordinate or dependent clauses. 

Subordinate clauses are the peppercorn sauce on your steak, the brandy butter on your Christmas Pudding, and the vanilla syrup in your latte. They are the little extras that bring joy to your taste buds, but just don’t work as a meal in themselves. I’m not ashamed to say that as a twenty-seven-year-old woman I recently ate Fruit Pastilles, Quality Street, and Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments all day long with no “proper” food alongside them. To say I felt unwell would be an understatement, and not because I ate too much but because what I ate had no substance.

Subordinate clauses are like that, they are the added extra that makes writing sparkle, but on their own, they just don’t work.

Here’s an excerpt from my work in progress, I’ll highlight the main and subordinate clauses for you.

The night air tickles my cheeks as we walk home from the hospital, and I turn to look at Annie, wrapped up in the grey, checked winter coat that she loves.

Main Clauses

  • We walk home from the hospital
  • I turn to look at Annie
  • Annie is wrapped up in a coat

Subordinate Clauses

  • Night air tickles
  • The coat is grey with a checked pattern
  • She loves the coat

There is flavour added by the subordinate clauses that would have been lost without them, we know that the night is cold, that Annie is wearing a grey check coat and that she loves it. If we had just used main clauses, we would have lost detail and interest, but if we just used subordinate clauses we wouldn’t care about the temperature or what coat she is wearing because we wouldn’t understand why it is relevant.

It’s the balance of main and subordinate clauses that makes our writing interesting, and many of us do this without even noticing it.

englishgrammarbootcamp

Novel Writing

Writing Two Books at the Same Time

I am bored of writing my first novel. Shock horror, how dare I, I’m obviously not made to be a writer! That’s how I imagined I would feel if I ever became tired of my first story. To me, the thought of having two books simultaneously taking up space in my head was akin to cheating on my husband. Just plain wrong.

At first, I saw my novel as my baby, something I would love and nurture, protect, and devote myself to until it was done and ready to fly the nest. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby crying in the cot for weeks on end, with no love, no food, no nurturing.

Well, it turns out that my novel is more of an orchid. Sure, it needs sunlight, water, attention, pruning. It doesn’t, however, need constant attention, it likes to be left alone, to grow and to settle, to become beautiful. So I’ve started planting another little “novel orchid” in my head every now and then, plan a main character here, grow a plot point here, sprinkle some intrigue over there. 

It keeps the creative part of my brain happy while the perfectionist, grammar-obsessed part of my brain can tend to the original story. In short, I’m happy, more productive and enjoying writing a whole lot more.

I wonder, does anyone else find novel writing a strange balance of generating fresh ideas and beating old ones into submission? If so I’d love to hear from you, please, comment away!

Grammar · Novel Writing

Introducing the Main Clause

Hello, lovely people of the Grammar loving (or hating) variety. I hope you are well? Good? Great. Please, may I have the honour of introducing you to my esteemed friend the Main Clause? Yes? Fantastic, let’s begin.

Without Mr. Main Clause nothing in my life would make sense, he is a standup guy, in fact, if you take him out of a long sentence he’ll just stand alone as a new sentence all by himself. Other clauses are lost without him, oh yes, he is a leader my Mr. Main Clause. The foundation of every sentence I have ever written.

Here are the main facts we need to know about Main Clauses –

  • They make sense independently of any other clause
  • Other subordinate or dependent clauses (more on these later) need main clauses to make sense
  • Main clauses are the only types of clauses that can make up one sentence without any other types of clauses within them (my goodness what a mouthful).
  • A paragraph made up of only main clauses generally sounds abrupt, staccato, and, well, rubbish

Let’s identify a couple of main clauses from my work in progress

She tenses as a contraction sweeps through her body, her painted red fingernails digging into my arms, imprinting small half moon shapes in my flesh.

  • A contraction (subject) sweeps (verb) through her
  • Fingernails (subject) dig (verb) into my arm

I could have written this with only main clauses, but where is the fun in that?

Main Clauses are the structures that we hang the details, subtleties, and descriptions from within our prose. Nothing would make sense, and everything would crumble without them. Come back next week to read about subordinate and dependent clauses.

englishgrammarbootcamp

Novel Writing

Show, Don’t Tell

It didn’t take long after starting to write my novel for me to come across the phrase “Show, Don’t tell.” As the go-to piece of advice for new and aspiring writers, I’m sure most of you have heard it as well. Why is it such popular advice? Well, because it is damn good advice!

You know that feeling of being completely submerged in a story? Where you are completely and utterly involved in the scene, and feel you understand all the nuance and subtleties going on in the story? That spark which makes reading addictive? That comes from showing rather than telling.

Experienced writers avoid telling the reader something that they could show them instead.

You could tell a reader that your main character has recently been in a fight or you could describe the colour of their bruises.

You could explain that someone is an alcoholic or your could describe the stale smell of alcohol on their clothes and the red spider veins littering their nose.

You could say that someone walked through the forest or you could describe the sound of the autumn leaves crunching underfoot and the towering trees that span for miles in all directions.

Which versions sound better to you?

It takes more effort, more imagination and more patience but the results are worth it. No one wants to read a flat, lifeless story where they are told what to think. We want to feel, smell, touch and experience a story, we want to be given a chance to live it, not just read about it.

 

Grammar · Novel Writing

How many Clauses does it take to Make a Sentence?

In last weeks Grammar Bootcamp, we looked at clauses and learned a simple definition of them. 

Clause = Subject + Verb

Easy peasy! Today we will look into clauses within sentences, and how there is no set number of clauses within a sentence.

One Clause Sentences

Some sentences are made up of one clause; they are the simple sentences that I wouldn’t recommend you use too often in your novels as they can make your writing choppy and annoying. However, when used well, they can add drama and flavour to your work. Here’s an example of a hook from my current work in progress.

Then he shot her, dead.

The subject of this clause is the person “he” is describing, and the verb is “shot.” My subject has shot someone and killed them (I’m writing a thriller can you tell?).

Multiple Clause Sentences

Sentences with multiple clauses are what we use to make up the majority of our writing. Let me show you why with another excerpt from my work in progress.

 I release the lock, and she tumbles through the door, almost knocking me to the ground.

Here we have three clauses –

  1. The lock (subject) is released (verb)
  2. She (subject) tumbles (verb)
  3. She (subject) almost knocks someone over (verb – or at least a verb describing what almost happened)

How boring will this passage sound if I rewrite it with a single clause per sentence?

I release the lock. She tumbles through the door. She almost knocks me to the ground.

I don’t know about you, but I think the original version reads better than the one clause per sentence version. 

So, as aspiring authors do we need to know the definition of clauses to write great fiction? No, not at all, but I think that in understanding the meaning of a clause I can see the beauty and variation that they bring to my writing.

englishgrammarbootcamp

Autocrit

Autocrit – A review

I have recently started using a piece of software called Autocrit. This nifty program analyses your novel and highlights any areas of your manuscript which an editor would usually pick up as bad practice. Autocrit’s website states this –

AutoCrit is an online manuscript editing tool enabling fiction writers to quickly and effectively self-edit their work anytime, anywhere.

When you import your document into the browser-based application (yes that’s right – there’s nothing to download) you are able to analyse the text on the following features.

2016-12-27

  • Pacing and Momentum
  • Dialogue
  • Strong Writing
  • Word Choice
  • Repetition
  • Compare to Fiction
  • Readability

It is a very helpful for picking up bad writing habits, for example, it has shown me that I use a lot of “Passive Voice Indicators” which it will highlight for me so that I can rewrite the sentence if I choose to. It will also show you if you are repeating a particular phrase or word, which is invaluable when self-editing. You can analyse the whole manuscript or by individual chapter.

I cannot imagine that Autocrit will ever be able to replace a human editor, not by a long shot, but for anyone looking to polish their writing before showing it to an editor this could be a real eye opener. It is certainly helping me to hone my writing skills and identify my weaknesses.

Grammar · Novel Writing

What is a Clause anyway?

Welcome to the first instalment of The Blissful Scribbles Grammar Bootcamp! Today we will be looking at clauses, yippee what fun!

A Clause is a collection of words containing a standalone piece of information that is made up of a verb and a subject.

Verb = a word or phrase that describes an action, condition, or experience: The words “run”, “keep”, and “feel” are all verbs

Subject = the thing that is being discussed, considered, or studied.

Definitions are taken from The Cambridge Dictionary.

Simple right? Here’s an example –

Amy is writing a blog post.

In this clause, I, Amy, am the subject, because we are talking about what I am doing (narcissistic or what?). The clause describes what I am doing, and that is writing, which is a verb.

Clause = Subject + Verb

Look at us, we’ve learnt something (or remembered something we’ve forgotten, which is just as good!). Now, I think I deserve a cup of coffee and a square of chocolate, don’t you agree?

englishgrammarbootcamp

Novel Writing

Changing Point of View

Towards the end of NaNoWriMo, I decided to change my point of view from the omniscient past tense 3rd person to the present tense 1st person. As I was approaching the end of my story, I realised how important the inner workings of my characters are and how integral they are to my plot, so I swapped to the 1st person. Sure, the 3rd person can show inner workings and motives of characters, but the readers are one step removed. Using the 1st person, I am able to immerse my readers in the personalities of my characters far more efficiently.

“I can’t take any more of his incessant talking.” is much more dramatic and intimate than “Florence couldn’t take any more of his incessant talking”. To me, it feels so much more fun to write as if I were the character rather than an all-knowing God-like narrator.

I have since listened to a series of fantastic lectures by James Hynes called Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques, which discusses the differences between 3rd and 1st person point of view and narration.

James states that a positive of the 1st person present tense narration are that it is much more dramatic, and as such is commonly found in thriller novels, the genre of my work in progress. It is, however, much less realistic. Would someone actually pause and describe their surroundings when running from a serial killer? No, they wouldn’t. So I’ve traded excitement for believability, a choice, which I think, is working well in my novel.

I am midway through rewriting my first, unfinished, draft from the 3rd to the 1st person, and I am thoroughly enjoying how much drama I can create that way. I will keep you posted if I come across any other pitfalls or benefits of swapping to the 1st person.