Thursday, 21 April 2011

Review of The Writer's ABC Checklist

It's always nice to find good, unsolicited reviews of our book for writers. This one is from the Welsh Books Council, reproduced here with their kind permission.
Mace and Vincent-Northam have cracked it. In the space of 239 pages they have covered virtually every aspect that we writers require an answer for. As a leader of a number of writers’ workshops, involving most genres and abilities, I am delighted to have a book of manageable size at my fingertips, giving concise and easily understood information. Working on the easy formula of an A-Z index makes life simpler – Abbreviations and Anniversary Pitches to ‘ZZZ-Sleep on it’: ‘Sometimes a completely rewritten story, or article, is stronger and more vibrant than the original, but do remember to treat it as a new piece of work and when you’ve finished it, zzzz – sleep on it, before you submit it anywhere.’ Sound advice is given, whatever genre one is writing in, from newspaper articles to self-publishing, marketing and copy-writing, of which many writers have little knowledge.

One of the questions I’m continually being asked in workshops is for advice on children’s picture books, layout and illustration. It is all easily to hand here, along with publishers and serial rights.

Writing can be a lonely occupation. There are a useful couple of pages illustrating the pros and cons of both local and on-line writing groups and how to gauge which would suit your particular requirements adequately.

There is a useful section on Fees and the amounts paid to writers of different genres. ‘Be sure that any potential fee will cover the cost of researching and writing the article. Some non-fiction pieces – travel writing, for example – could see you out of pocket if the fee offered is less than the expenses incurred. Payment time can vary too, some editors paying on acceptance and others on publication.’

The Writers’ ABC Checklist is crammed full of tips and valuable advice on every aspect of writing whether fiction or fact, theatre or TV. A neat companion to have by your side, no matter if you are working as a professional or as an all-consuming hobbyist: it is a must. An invaluable investment for less than a tenner!

Norma Penfold

A review from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Monday, 18 April 2011

Word counts for children's novels

Peter from Leicester is writing a children’s novel and his question is one that many of my students ask. He says: My novel is going to be written for nine-year-old boys, but I don’t know how long I should make it. Is there a set word count for different ages?

The easiest answer is that the novel should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story, but there are approximate word count guidelines which do need to be taken into account if you want an agent or publisher to consider your work. I found the guidelines below on a large publisher’s website. They are not written in stone in that they won’t apply to all publishers, but they do give an idea of how word counts and story types vary according to the age group.

A Publishing Guide to Age Groups

Ages 6-9 need short, easy-to-read chapters, with lots of dialogue and humour. General word count 3,500-8,000

Ages 9-12 are looking for novels with strong characters and fast-paced exciting plots ranging from fantasy to tales set in schools and everything in-between. Children from this age love stories in which a bully gets some well deserved retribution, or the villain is vanquished, preferably in a horrible manner. General word count 15,000-50,000

Ages 12 and older are no longer looking for kids’ books; they want themes that have more relevance to their own lives, such as bullying, divorce and friendship. This age group also enjoys fantasy, sci-fi and humour. General word count 35,000 plus

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Writing Erotica for Women

Today we are lucky enough to get some tips from a top writer of erotic fiction for women, Barbie Scott.

Writing Erotica for Women
by Barbie Scott

It may seem obvious but erotica needs to be erotic. It must be sensual, exciting, arousing. Be brave – write about what arouses you. After all, if something turns you on, it will turn others on as well.

Never forget that an erotic story is still a story. There must be characterisation and plot. There should be tension, build-up and denouement. Of course there’ll be sex – but there must be more than this. The depiction of cardboard cut-outs banging away is not erotica.

Erotica must entertain. It must be sexy and fun– but take note that’s ‘fun’ not ‘funny’.  Amuse on the journey towards the act by all means but when your characters get down and dirty, focus on the serious business of sex. Make your reader smile, but not burst out laughing.

Let your reader enjoy the sexual exploits of a daring female protagonist. Your heroine should be sure of herself and know what she wants. She’ll be in full control of her desires and the satisfaction of them – even if she voluntarily relinquishes that control to her lover.

Write from a woman’s point of view. Though a male point of view is sometimes acceptable in women’s erotica, the focus should always be on the female – her desires and the satisfaction of them are foremost.

Read your target publications to find out what’s been done before and do something different. Some erotic scenarios have been overworked to the point of exhaustion – sex with the stranger who turns out not to be a stranger, sex with a ghost, art and theatre settings, the milkman, the postman, the meter-reader … the list goes on.  Be fresh and lively and avoid the obvious.

Check your target publication to see what level of erotic language is acceptable. Most are happy with the use of four-letter words but some prefer a less direct approach. Avoid the overuse of Latin terminology. Erotica should sizzle but it doesn’t require repeated descriptions of bodily parts.

Bear in mind that the greatest female erogenous zone is the mind. Most women prefer to read about what is going on in the characters’ heads, or their emotional states, or their heightened physical arousal, rather than about the hydraulics of the act itself. So set the scene, let your words conjure up an image, an idea, a possibility. The depiction of the brute act of sex is far less erotic than the anticipation of it.

Be outrageous. Be transgressive. At one time erotica gave off a whiff of the taboo. Now – after Sex and the City and such like – it’s out and proud. Threesomes, group sex, gay experimentation, transvestism, transsexualism, S&M, bondage – these are now the stuff of soap opera and Sunday supplements. So let your imagination fly!

There are still some absolute no-nos, however. Scenarios involving children, animals, blood-letting, and serious harm or death, should be avoided. So make sure all your characters are consenting adult humans and are there because they want to be there. Consider featuring condoms and lubrication to promote safe sex.

So keep it upbeat, entertain and above all have fun writing it!

Condensed from Writing Short Erotica: Words with JAM Feb 2010

Barbara Scott-Emmett writes women’s erotica under the name of Barbie Scott.
Her work has appeared in For Women, Scarlet Magazine and Black Lace Wicked Women anthologies.

A collection of short pieces, The Stiletto Heel and Other Stories, is now available for Kindle.

Follow Barbie on Twitter: @TheStilettoHeel

The Writer’s ABC Checklist