7 Great Gifts for Writers

Everyone has a writer friend, right? That person in their life who’s never without a notebook and pen, whose head is forever in the clouds. So what do you get them for their birthday or for their graduation present? Don’t worry, we’ve got a few ideas to keep you covered.

 

A Book of Writing Prompts

Every writer uses writing prompts to help get their creativity going, so what better present to get them than a book choc full of them? There’s plenty in The Write-Brain Workbook, with great variety for different moods. Go on, have a look…

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A Magazine Subscription

Not just to any magazine, to the magazine; The Writing Magazine. It’s a must-have for all writers, full of writing tips and competitions to enter. It doesn’t have to be to this particular magazine, there are plenty of others out there, but I find that this one is cracking.

 

Story Cubes

These are amazing! They’re dice that you role to give you ideas for stories. I know many writers that use and collect them, and I’m sure your writer friends will find them super useful too. You can have lots of fun with them, in a group and by yourself. And, when you get bored of using the same set of dice, there are plenty of Story Cube expansion packs that you can buy.

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A Poetry Card

You might remember that a few weeks ago we reviewed a poetry pamphlet by the wonderful Candlestick Press. They make great substitutes for birthday cards, and with the variety of topics available there’s something for every writer. You can take a look at them here…

 

An Editing Gift Card

For a writer to submit their work to competitions and literary agents, and even publishing companies, they need to have their work edited. We offer gift cards that you can give to them to help pay towards their editing services. Take a look at them here. They’re available in different designs and at different prices.

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A Novel Writing Book

Writing a novel is hard, but this book here, Ready, Set, Novel!, is great for helping to plan the plot along with the characters. It’s a must-have for every writer, and your friend will love you forever for getting it for them. Don’t believe me? Take a look at it and see what you think…

 

A Novel Poster

These make A M A Z I N G presents! If you know your friend’s favourite classic novel, buy them a poster of it. These posters have the entire novel written on them, really small, shaped in an image relating to the book. I love this one of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea! You can read every word on it, so it’s like buying them a book that they can frame and put on their wall.

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Hopefully we’ve given you an idea or two on what to get your writer friend for their special event. Tell us in the comments below the best present you’ve ever been given as a writer to give us more ideas!

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12787359_746963148772866_1449962755_oToday, we thought we’d do something a little different. Instead of writing something ourselves, we thought it’d be great to get to know you a little. Don’t worry though, we’ll be back posting our usual tips next week!

So all we’d like you to do is tell us a little something about yourself in the comments and/or post a link to your blog for people to have a nosy at. The more writing-related it is, the better!

I’ll start you off. I’m Eleanor, and although I spend most of my time proofreading and copyediting, I also love writing crime and sci-fi. In fact, I just finished writing my first crime novel a month ago. Woop!

Now it’s your turn…

3 Programmes to Help You Write

Writing a novel is a difficult process, but it’s also meant to be a fun one with a learning curve. If you’re going to be writing on your computer/laptop, there are plenty of writing programmes to choose from. We’ve picked out our favourite three, and written you a pretty swift analysis of each.

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Microsoft Word

Although it’s not made specifically for novelists, this proves to be a great tool for writing your novel. It’s probably the simplest programme and the one that you’re most familiar with using. All you do is open a new document and type, easy. No frills, no automatic chapter layout, just a simple programme where you can type your novel. Although this programme has no benefits to you as a writer, it does provide the format that most publishers require when receiving manuscript submissions. You can easily change the language setting to numerous languages (there’s even separate settings for American English and UK English) then it will highlight for you all spelling and grammatical mistakes for that language. Also, because it’s such a widely used programme, there are plenty of online tutorials to help you become an expert at using it. Still, without this advanced knowledge you can still easily type your novel, no problem.

Scrivener

Scrivener is the dream tool for writers. It’s easy to use and has many extras that will really help when it comes to writing your novel. I love that you write your novel in sections rather than as one long document, whether that’s scenes or chapters, and all of these sections are separate to each other. This is super useful, as it makes restructuring your novel easy and effortless, especially through the use of the cork board. There’s also a really useful ‘research’ section, where you can store anything and everything you have relating to your novel. This includes things like inspirational photos, PDFs full of information, and anything else that may come in handy whilst writing. As someone who uses index cards during the planning of my novels, I love that they’re a feature in Scrivener. You just create a new index card for each section and write a small synopsis on it. It’s really easy to use as a beginner, and can be really useful for planning and writing your novel. In other words, Scrivener is the bees knees. Give it a go.

Celtx

Celtx is technically a script writing programme (and is really great if you do write scripts), but I think it can also be used pretty well for novels. It’s pretty simple to use, and free to download too. You just type on the main editor, not bothering with things like pages and word counts, so you can just write without having to worry about reaching a made up target. It has a useful chapter heading tool, so every time you start a new chapter you use the tool to highlight it, then it appears in a sidebar. You can then skip to different chapters to look back at what you’ve previously written. This programme also has an index card tool, and it’s especially useful if you’re writing a story with more than one plot. There’s a selection of seven different coloured index cards, so if you’re writing the main plot you can use yellow cards, and if you’re writing about a secondary subplot you could use blue cards. I really enjoy using Celtx. Sure, its main use is for script writing, but it does have a novel writing section that is easy to use and that has useful writing tools for any novelist.

There are many other writing tools out there, all of which have different extras to help you write your novel. It’s probably worth trying quite a few of them before settling down on one; this way you’ll find the perfect tool that will help you to finish writing your novel.

Jargon Buster 2

Whenever talking about writing here at The Writers’ Den we tend to use a lot of jargon. These specialist, writing specific words help us to explain what we mean in the best way possible, and without them our posts wouldn’t make much sense. A lot of you are beginner writers though, and might not know some of these words, so here’s a list of some writing terminology and their definitions.

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Archetype: A typical example of something.

Audience: The intended readers of a writer’s work.

Backstory: The story of what happens before your novel begins.

Cliché: An expression that has been overused.

Exposition: A direct way of giving readers information that is needed for the story to make sense.

Denouement: The final part of a story, in which everything is pulled together and explained/resolved.

Dystopian Fiction: This genre is often categorised within fantasy and science fiction, and explores social and political constructs in a darker world similar to our own.

Foreshadowing: Hints that are left early on in a story to give clues to an important event that will occur later on.

Head-Hopping: This is where numerous points of views are told in one scene. This can be very hard to achieve well.

Hyperbole: A deliberate exaggeration.

Imagery: The use of language to create an image that appeals to the senses.

Indie Author: A writer who has chosen to to have complete control over the production of their books.

Premise: A one sentence story of what your novel is about.

Proofreader: Someone who checks a manuscript for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Show Don’t Tell: A way of giving readers information that is needed for the story in an indirect way, by showing things through actions, senses or feelings rather than just saying it.

Tone: The writer’s attitude that comes across through their writing.

Has this post helped you to expand your writing vocab? If there’s any other writing jargon you can’t quite get your head around, let us know in the comments below and we’ll include it in our next jargon busting post.

How To Meet Other Writers

Writing is a solitary hobby that can leave you feeling secluded and lost. When times get tough and you’re lacking the motivation to write, being alone can result in you giving up. The best thing to do in these times is to talk to other writers, others that know what you’re going through and what to say to help you get going again. Not only can these writers give you support, they’ll also be full of great writing tips and advice, and you can give them some too. Meeting others though can be hard, so here’s a few ways to get you started.

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Conferences

I find these the best way to meet other writers. You have to pay to get into writing conferences and festivals, which straight away tells you the people you’re meeting are serious about their writing. Not only will you be meeting many like-minded people at these events, you’ll also be spending the day learning about writing and publishing. If you want to meet writers of a specific genre there are some events that do focus purely on one genre, for example crime or fantasy. Make sure you talk to people and get their contact information too; most of these people will be just as eager to meet other writers as you are.

Facebook

Facebook is full of writing groups that are open for anyone to join. These groups are for people to share their own work and give helpful critiques on other peoples. You can also ask for advice and generally you’ll get a nice, friendly response. I’ve only ever had one unpleasant experience with Facebook writing groups, so chances are you’ll be just fine.

Writing Workshops

Paying to attend workshops in your area can help you to meet lots of writers that are local to you whilst improving your writing. You’ll spend the entire workshop with people that are clearly interested in the same area of writing as you, or struggling in the same area, and this will create a bond that can keep you in touch long after the workshop is over. It can be really useful to make local contacts, as it will be easier to keep in touch or even to meet in person occasionally.

Writing Groups

There are numerous writing groups in most cities, and to find them all you have to do is look hard. These will be groups of writers that meet once a month to share and critique their writing, usually based on similar genres. It’s nice to have these face to face meetings and deadlines as it will get you to write something rather than nothing each month.

Arvon Courses/ Writing Retreats

These are pretty expensive to go on, but if you can save the money they’re definitely worth it. You go live in a cottage or a villa or something like that for a week with other writers (often with food included) and spend the entire week writing and editing with the guidance of a professional writer or editor. The course itself will help you to get your novel written, whilst the people you meet could become your writing friends for life.

 

Most of the ways of meeting other writers costs money, but it’s worth it. The writing community is huge and everyone is very supportive of each other. Not only will being a part of it help with your writing, but it will also help you make friends with people you can really connect with. And in a few years, once your novel is written and published, you can help guide the newer writers to their success too.

Social Media: A Writer’s Guide

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It is about you, but there’s other stuff too

Yes, your writers do want to know about what you’re writing and how everything is going, but they also want to know that your whole life isn’t just, well, you. Repost articles that you find interesting, but keep them relevant to what you’re doing. For example, if you’re a children’s writer you could repost an article about a current children’s book that successfully relates to transgender youths. This not only shows that you are up to date with others in your field, but also gives you the opportunity to open up a discussion with your followers.

Pictures, pictures, pictures!

Photos liven up your timeline and add variety to the text you’re writing. You should try to put an image with as many posts as possible. These don’t have to be perfect photographs, they could just be small photos of your writing space or what you’re eating/drinking, anything to break your timeline up. It also helps you appear as an actual person that your readers can relate to personally, rather than a writer who hires someone else to talk to their fans for them.

Be funny

I’m not talking Stephen Fry hilarious, but a little humour will get you a long way. People on social media tend to like and share little things that make them laugh or smile. You don’t have to make these things up yourself; there are plenty of photos and gifs out there that will brighten up your followers’ days, all you have to do is share them and add a little comment of your own. As a writer, you’ll probably get a great response to writing related jokes, about popular literature, punctuation errors and grammar Nazis.

Don’t go off topic

You’re a writer, so everything you write needs to be about writing or a topic you discuss in your books. Why go on a political rant about David Cameron when it is completely irrelevant to your novel and genre? Your followers don’t necessarily want to hear your rants, especially when they hold no connection to your writing. However, if this is something your audience would be interested in, or if it’s a topic you have written about in your novel, then feel free talk about it. Make it your job to find out what your followers want to hear and then write about that if it’s something you’re interested in too.

Sharing is caring

If you’ve just written a line that you’re really proud of, share it. See what people think. This line can be from a book you’ve already published or from your current WIP, just give them a little something to remind them why they follow you. It might also be good to share achievements from your followers too. If someone has commented on a post of yours to say congrats and then they mention their latest writing achievement, share it. Congratulate them on your page. Your online community will grow from this positivity, and they’ll appreciate you showing that you care.

Jargon Buster

Whenever talking about writing here at The Writers’ Den we tend to use a lot of jargon. These specialist, writing specific words help us to explain what we mean in the best way possible, and without them our posts wouldn’t make much sense. A lot of you are beginner writers though, and might not know some of these words, so here’s a list of some we’ve used so far and their definitions.

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Antagonist: This is the main person in the story who actively opposes what the protagonist is doing. For example, Lex Luthor, the Joker and Lord Voldemort. Think of this character as the bad guy.

Characterisation: The artistic creation of a fictional character, including the expression of them through action, dialogue and thought.

Climax: The moment in the story that has the greatest intensity, usually where the protagonist is having their final battle with the antagonist.

Dialogue Tags: These are the words that come after speech marks to describe how something has been said. For example, exclaimed and shouted.

Epilogue: A section at the end of a story that exists as a comment or conclusion to what has happened in the book.

Flash Fiction: A short story with less than 1000 words

Hook: This usually appears in the first paragraph or two of the story and grabs the reader’s attention to make them want to read on.

Metaphor: A figure of speech where a word is used to describe something when it is not literally applicable.

Novella: A short novel, usually between 10 000 and 40 000 words.

Persona: The narrator of the story.

Personification: The representation of a figure or object in human form.

Point of View (POV): Mainly in fiction, this is the angle the story is told from.

Prequel: A story that comes before an existing piece of work in the timeline of the fiction.

Prologue: An introductory section to a story.

Protagonist: The main character in your story. This is usually the hero.

Sequel: A story that comes after an existing piece of work in the timeline of the fiction.

Short Story: A story that’s under 10 000 words.

Simile: A description of something that involves direct comparison of it to another thing.

Stand Alone Novel: A book that has no prequel or sequel but that exists in its own right, as one book containing one complete story.

 

Has this post helped you to expand your writing vocab? If there’s any other writing jargon you can’t quite get your head around, let us know in the comments below and we’ll include it in our next jargon busting post.

National Novel Writing Month: An Introduction

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National Novel Writing Month is a writing challenge in which writers aim to write 50 000 words in a month (November). This equates to about 1667 words a day, which for most writers is between one and two hours of writing. If you’re not sure how long 50 000 words is, 100 000 is a pretty standard length for an adult novel, with 70 000 being about standard for a young adult novel.

NaNoWriMo is a great way to get writing. It gets you into a really good routine of writing every day, whether it’s in your work break or just before bed, and it also connects you with thousands of writers worldwide.

We know, it’s only September and NaNoWriMo doesn’t start for over a month, but there’s lots of planning and preparation to do. Being a month away means you only have one month of planning and preparing for what may well be the biggest writing challenge you’ve ever faced.

We think it’s important to plan, even if it’s only smallest bit, because otherwise what are you going to write every day? If your plan is just to do writing exercises daily that’s fine, but do you have a book of prompts to help you get going? Or maybe your plan is to write a book of short stories, do you have a theme you want to stick to or ideas that you already have for each one? Not having these things might mean that when it comes to writing you get stuck so just decide to leave it for another day. And then of course these leftover words build up until you’re left on the 29th with 20 000 words to write.

So are you up for the challenge? Follow our blog for writing advice and weekly preparation sessions, then you can sign up to the challenge on the official page here.

Great Opening Lines

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The Telegraph’s top 30 opening lines

Following on from last week’s post on how to write your first page, here is a link to the Telegraph’s 30 greatest opening lines in literature. It really is worth looking at them, to see whether you agree that they’re great or not and to think about why they made the list. They haven’t included my favourite opening line of all time though. Mine is from The War of the Worlds, written by HG Wells:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

I love this opening so much. I love that straight away you know you’re reading science-fiction, you know the story is going to be about aliens and the voice comes across really strong to set the tone for the rest of the book. The idea of humans being studied without being known is introduced quickly, making the reader feel a little on edge, and I think that’s great. To me it’s a strong start to an even stronger novel, and it’s a standard I look for in opening lines when starting to read any new book.

Is there a book opening that you really love? Or do you disagree with any of the openings given in the Telegraph’s top 30? Let us know in the comments below.