Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Are my mum and dad capital people?

Sally-Anne from Melbourne, Australia, has a problem with family titles. She writes: I never know when to use capital letters for mum and dad when I’m writing dialogue (or maybe it should be Mum and Dad).

An easy way to remember when to use a capital letter is to determine whether or not the title is being used as a proper noun (as a name). If it is, then it needs to start with a capital letter.

So, if writing dialogue and addressing someone directly, it would be:
“How are you feeling, Mum?”
“Are you going fishing, Dad?”
"Put that bottle down, Aunt Sally. You drink too much."

However, if you’re writing about a family member and the title is modified by our/your/my/his/her/etc, then it doesn’t take a capital and would be:

“How is your mum feeling?”
"My mum is feeling down because of my aunt's drinking."
“Is his dad going fishing with your dad?”
"My dad is going, but his dad isn't."

The above rule applies in narrative, not just for dialogue:

My mum is fed up because my dad is always going fishing.

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Monday, 20 June 2011

Published, but not paid

Deena from St Ives was torn between joy and distress recently after buying a magazine. She writes: Two weeks ago I went to Asda shopping and I bought a few magazines. I have been trying to write articles for various magazines. When I was going through [name of magazine withheld by me] in the Letter and Tips section, I found my name and the letter I had written. I was happy and gutted at the same time because they did not inform me or pay me anything and they say if they print letters they pay £20. It was just by chance that day I bought the magazine, so I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’m worried now that they might publish one of my articles without paying me. Is there anything I can do?

Yes, there is something you can do. With regard to the letter that has been published, you should contact the magazine in question, quoting the issue date or number and the page where your letter appeared. I’m sure in this case it’s an oversight on their part and they will be only too happy to pay you the amount stated.

If you discover that a magazine has published an article without paying you then I suggest you make up an invoice and submit it with a covering letter requesting payment on receipt. You can either charge at the going rate offered by the magazine, or you can use the rates outlined by the National Union of Journalists (although it is highly unlikely that you would receive such a rate).

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Thursday, 16 June 2011

For the Love of it

If you've ever been inclined to pen a romance, then this post by Sue Moorcroft is essential reading.

For the Love of it

I think I write romantic fiction for many of the reasons I read it – I like the sensation of falling in love. And doing it on paper is much better for my marriage than doing it for real.

Also, romantic fiction is comforting. That’s why, during a recession, the sales of romantic fiction go up. If we feel bad, we want something that’ll make us feel good.

Do I have tips for writing saleable romantic fiction?

Yes - always be in love with your hero. If you don’t love him, how do you expect anyone else to? Your heroine needs to find him irresistible. Although many romantic novels are written chiefly or entirely from the heroine’s point of view, the hero is incredibly important. He might be damaged/naughty but he’ll generally have a broad streak of decency and, directly or indirectly, save the heroine from whatever hell you’re putting her through.

Because you are, right? Books about women living a happy and fulfilled life for whom falling in love is just the cherry on her sickly-sweet cake, tend to be low on interest/drama/emotion and all the things that make good romantic fiction compelling. If your heroine has to fight to find happiness, it will be all the sweeter. Your reader will feel exultant. Reader satisfaction is high on the list of things your romantic novel needs.

So your ending will either be happy-ever-after or hopeful. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you ‘know the ending’ when you begin that what comes between isn’t important. In fact, forget that you know the ending at all. (You probably don’t, not really.) OK, heroine and hero will end up together on some level – but there are endless ways in which that can happen. And why. And when.

And there’s the little matter of getting them there. You need a plot that will get draw the reader along without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Readers want damned good storytelling to go with the emotional punch. Maybe you’d like to give your heroine a quest – and your hero gets in her way? Or throw her a catastrophe and make him part of it? Don’t be afraid to make the stakes high and the penalties severe. Kick off your plot by putting hero and heroine on other sides of a fence – a fence both of them cares about.

Here’s one to get you started: Cathryn adores her dog, Jones. Jones has eaten a sandwich belonging to diamond smugglers – and the sandwich was where the diamonds were hidden. Marcus, a detective, and has been on the trail of those diamonds with single-minded purpose for months. Will he get them? Or, his attention diverted by the diamond smugglers trying to ‘get’ Cathryn, will she slip away?

OK, over to you. Just write the book.

Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels, short stories, articles and serials for magazines, as well as writing-related 'how to' such as LOVE WRITING – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction (Accent Press). Sue is a creative writing tutor, a past winner of the Katie Fforde Bursary Award, a long-serving committee member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the editor of LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT (Mira Books), a short story anthology.

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Monday, 13 June 2011

Go on, make us laugh

Have you noticed there’s a scarcity of humour verse competitions with decent prize money, even though there are huge numbers of people who like to write and read humour verse? So have we! Which is why we at Flash 500 have decided to launch a humour verse competition. We have a team of readers just waiting to have a chuckle and decide on which entries make it through to the final round of judging. The shortlisted entries will be judged by me, Lorraine Mace, winner of the Petra Kenney International Poetry Competition, humour verse category.

What are we looking for? Any form of humour will be accepted, in any style, but the content must be original and it has to make us smile. Anything from a limerick to a poem up to 30 lines in length is accepted.

The competition will be run quarterly with closing dates matching the Flash 500 competition: 31st March, 30th June, 30th September and 31st December. The results will be announced within six weeks of each closing date and the three winning entries each quarter will be published on this website.

Entry fee: £3 for the first poem, then £2.50 for each poem thereafter

Prizes will be awarded as follows:
First: £150 plus publication in Words with JAM
Second: £100
Third: £50

Payment options and entry instructions can be found on the

The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Friday, 3 June 2011

Ghostly Advice for Writers by Lynne Hackles

I'm thrilled to have a guest piece this week from Lynne Hackles. Lynne is an extremely successful writer, but much of her best work doesn't go out under her own name. Why not? Read her post to find out ...

Writing is a skill and as it’s a skill we - I’m assuming it’s writers reading this - possess then why not sell it? I don’t mean by writing your own stories and articles. I mean sell your skill to the man/woman in the street, the one who wants to write a book – and doesn’t everybody? Don’t forget the man who has to give a speech, has been asked to give a talk about his latest enterprise, wants to impress his girl with a romantic poem…

There are lots of people out there who can’t get what they want to say down in words or don’t have the time to do so. This is where ghostwriters step in.

Any form of writing can be ghostwritten. It’s reckoned that almost half of the titles of the New York Times bestsellers have been ghosted. You may never reach the bestsellers list and, even if you do, as a ghost no-one would know, but you can earn a living by staying in the background and turning out words for someone else. We’re not all going to have pop or soap stars as clients (and would you really want to?) but more often than not the ‘average Joe’ has a great tale to tell.

Ghostwriting is a great way of earning a little, or a lot, of extra money. Like plumbers, electricians or any other service, you need to advertise your wares. You also need to decide on how much to charge and how much of your writing time you want to turn over to ghosting.

You can do as I did and learn the job as you go along or you can take lots of short-cuts and read about my experiences and those of other ghosts (i.e. buy my book – Ghostwriting- how to write for others, Aber Books, Studymates). That way you can avoid any pitfalls such as the huge one I fell into when ghosting someone’s life story. We were halfway through when a certain person got involved. He could have made us a fortune. He’s done it for others. The decision was made, without me being there, that the book should change and my client should dish all the dirt. From writing a rags to riches and back to rags book I found myself having to cover paedophilia. Ghosts really need to find out all the details before taking on a job and, in this case, I certainly hadn’t.

There are the joys of writing a speech for a proud father of the bride, or a best man. Men who know what they want to say but don’t know how to say it. There’s the pleasure of helping someone who is virtually illiterate but has a great story to tell.  

Ghostwriting can be rewarding. Of course there’s the money but I’ve loved seeing the faces of clients when they’ve held their life story in their hands or been congratulated on giving a great speech at a wedding.

Have a dabble and see what you think.

Lynne Hackles is a butterfly writer, flitting from one aspect of writing to another. She has written over four hundred stories for the women’s magazine market, a book for pre-teens, several books and many articles about writing. Her regular columns, My Writing Day and Novel Ideas appear in Writing Magazine.

Ghostwriting – how to write for others, Aber Books, Studymates, £10.99
Writing From Life (second edition) How To Books. £9.99 
Diamonds and Pearls (Accent Press Ltd) £7.99  An anthology of short stories by many of the UK's best known magazine writers. A donation from each book will go to the charity Against Breast Cancer

The Writer’s ABC Checklist